Democracy V Politicians. Who or Which is more stupid?

My wife suggested I sign the petition. I thought about it. Then signed. Reluctantly. Why, given my recent posts and obvious disappointment with the result, the reservations?

The first point to make is that there is no intelligent argument to justify moving the goalposts after the game is over and that, if the Remain side had won by a similar margin and the Leavers had launched a similar attempt to overturn the result (as Farage threatened before the vote), they too would have been met with howls of derision. Hypocrisy isn’t restricted to the other side. That held me back for almost five seconds. Then I remembered that Politics has buggerall to do with Intelligent Argument whereas hypocrisy is it’s bread and butter.

My second objection, however, is the naïve wording of the petition. It demands “a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum.”

This hints at what might be a reasonable principle – that for important decisions, nothing less than support from an absolute majority (of the electorate, not just the voters) should be required before anything changes – but still leaves the possibility that the decision could be carried by as little as 45% of the electorate (75% of 60%=45%) which isn’t, philosophically, any more defensible than what has actually happened (37.5% of the Electorate voted to leave).

It’s no surprise, of course, that the political class didn’t even consider the “true majority” question when framing the relevant Referendum law as, were they to concede such a principle for this issue, they might find themselves having to defend their own elections, which have NEVER achieved true majorities. Last year, for example, the present Tory Government achieved power with the support of less than a quarter of the Electorate. But so wedded are they to the need to be able to claim “mandates” on the basis of winning a corrupt electoral game with mediocre participation, that they are obliged to concede that, under similar “first past the post” rules, the Leave camp can now claim a mandate (50% bigger than their own) for our departure from the EU.

It’s not that they don’t understand the need for much more credible levels of democratic support. It’s just that they don’t think such restraints should apply to themselves. They should only apply to lesser mortals, like striking workers, whom the Tories would like to force to require a minimum 40% (electorate) support for any strike action.

In other words, shutting down London’s transport system or the Power Stations, or whatever, is regarded as so potentially disruptive that the workers should not be allowed to do it unless at least 40% of those entitled to vote support the call for (in)action. That, in my view, is actually a perfectly reasonable proposition and I have long been critical of my Trade Union friends for not treading the more democratic path.

But it is hypocrisy (or stupidity) on a truly gargantuan scale to suggest that shutting down the London Underground should require a democratic hurdle higher than shutting down the most important Political, Economic and Social Alliance in British history.

So that condition should have been part of the Referendum bill when it was enacted. And let’s just emphasise how little consideration was given to this aspect of the problem. There isn’t even a MINIMUM participation level specified in the Act. In other words, in principle, if just one person had bothered to turn up and cast their vote, that person could have, legally, at least, decided the referendum. And even that doesn’t plumb the depths of inanity in the legislation. Despite passing a law to enable the Referendum to take place, they deliberately excluded any obligation to obey the result.

Yes that’s right, it’s not even legally binding! (although they clearly don’t dare to hide behind that escape non-clause)

Now, you could argue that this was their backassed way of protecting themselves against the ludicrously low turnout scenario imagined above, but it’s not like they haven’t thought about such things. As you’ll read in that link, in 2011, when they held the referendum on the “Alternative Vote” proposal, it contained the explicit instruction for the Government to act on the result.

And it’s been interesting to hear how vociferously the Petition has already been rubbished by at least one member of the Leave campaign, Charles Walker, chairman of the Tory 1922 committee, who said on the “World this Weekend” (relevant snippet starts at 34 mins 20 seconds)

”That petition is not going to have any chance, whatsoever, no matter how many people sign it, of impacting the result that we heard about on Friday morning” [emphasis added]

Really?

As of 5 minutes ago that petition had gathered just over 3.2 million votes. This is already, by far, the largest ever response to an official Parliamentary Petition, since the scheme was set up a few years back, as a sop to make voters believe they can actually influence the political process WITHOUT something truly democratic like a referendum.  If you sit and refresh the page a few times, you can actually see the total shooting up at the rate of between 50 and 100 signatures per second.

It’s not going to happen, of course, but just suppose that reached a total of 18 million votes in the next few days. On what intellectually coherent basis could any politician argue that it should not be heeded?

Indeed, that’s the basis on which I finally decided to sign it. I would love to see the bastards wriggle to get off that hook! So, if you’re a UK voter and would be similarly entertained by the sight of wriggling politicians, pop along to the petition and add to the pressure.

But the overall conclusion we must reach is that the whole debacle is merely another illustration of how tenuous is the public or political grasp of the true meaning of “Democracy”.  Nothing since the Athenian model, has come close. The political class is fully aware of this and would rather like to keep it that way. Indeed, ironically, one of the biggest objections to edging back in the direction of true Democracy is the derogatory term “Tyranny of the Majority” – particularly in the USA, whose constitution was explicitly designed to AVOID Democracy in favour of Liberty (which they obviously perceived/perceive as natural enemies).

As the United States demonstrates better than most, the consequence of this historical and ongoing Patriarchal and Paternalist dictat, is that we all continue to suffer “Tyranny of the Minority”, which is exactly what Athenian Democracy was explicitly designed to avoid.

Manufacturing Consent: Anti-Zionism NOT= Anti-Semitism

Rarely have I seen such a blatantly artificial storm in a teacup and I am stunned by how pathetically the Labour party and leadership has caved in and run away from the controversy. What a bunch of spineless cowards. This faux furore is (one of many) clearly designed to equate Anti-Zionism with Anti-Semitism. Hence the appropriate reference to “Manufacturing Consent” in the title.

Let’s get some relevant credentials on the table here. I’m genetically Jewish, and my family lost some 46 members in the holocaust. So even though I’m atheist, I’m not remotely inclined to sympathise with anti-Semitism. But I’ve looked long and hard at what evidence is still in the public domain and I have failed to find any plausible trace of anti-Semitism in what Naz Shah posted on her Facebook page. Unfortunately, we can’t be absolutely certain about that because the coordinated bleating of the sheeple has intimidated her into removing the post.

So all we have to go on is the tory activist Guido Fawkes “exclusive” from which I gathered this image:

So check it out for yourself. Yes, it’s obviously an attack on Israel and its right to exist where it currently does. That makes it anti-Zionist. So what? Millions of us are, including me.

I don’t believe the proposal is rational or practical and, if it involved coercion, I’d be as opposed to it as I am to all other examples of political or social coercion. But there is nothing in it that, as a Jew, I or any other Jew could justify being “offended” by, however much we might disagree with the policy.

But the way in which Fawkes has managed to twist this not just in his own mind, but somehow in the public perceptions of the UK political classes is by emphasising the use of completely appropriate words (in the context of the policy) as though they are deliberately designed to invoke a recommendation to repeat the holocaust. Take a look at the comment beneath the image on his website:

The post argued the “solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict is to “relocate Israel into the United States”, claiming the “transportation costs” of deporting Israelis would be “less than 3 years of defense spending”. Shah agreed, arguing it would “save them some pocket money“. You don’t have to be a history expert to see how incendiary these comments are…

So, presumably, “solution” can no longer apparently be used as a term in any discussion of the plethora of problems caused by Zionism, in case it implies “final solution”, while  “transportation” can’t be used in case it reminds us of the Cattle trucks.

What a pile of pusillanimous bollocks. Even Fawkes displays the ACTUAL usage within his own argument!

“solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict”

just google that phrase on its own. I just did and got a little under 80,000 results. Are you going after that lot as well Fawkes?

And I guarantee – though I can’t be arsed to prove it – that if you refine that search to add in the names of arbitrary British politicians, you’ll find – at least – dozens. So that phrase is clearly uncontroversial, among grown-ups at least.

What about “the transportation cost will less than 3 years of defence spending”?

It is not completely clear as to which countries defence spending they’re talking about. There are, presumably 3 options, UK, Israel and USA. The smallest of those budgets is Israel’s, with a modest $18.5 billion. 3 years worth of which gives us $54.5 billion. Which works out at a little over $9k per person to get each of the 6 million Jews in Israel over to the USA. So even the budget option certainly ain’t talking about Cattle Trucks! And, of course, if the defence budget in question was the USA’s ($597 billion) then each Israeli could be ferried across in their own private jet. The worst case scenario (which, after my bit of fun, is probably what they really meant) is that they’re referring to 3 years worth of annual US subsidy of Israel which does knock it down to a mere $9 billion, and thus only $1500 each, which, given bulk purchasing power, should at least get ’em all Business class one way tickets…

In any case, are we supposed to imagine for a single microsecond, that words like “solution” and “transportation” are not routinely used in Israel itself? Of course they are.

So how has anyone with an IQ in excess of their shoe size allowed themselves to be bullied into submission by the spurious accusation that this post was somehow anti-semitic? This really is “political correctness gone mad”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authoritarians Attempt Coercion Against 45,000 Doctors

The imposition of a new contract by the Hunt responsible for NHS Policy is the single most authoritarian action by a western government since Reagan’s dismissal of 11,345 striking Air Traffic Control staff in 1981.

I never figured out how he got away with that. If there was ever a case for citizens owning and using guns, that was a true Casus Bellum.  But then I’m just a woolly liberal, woddoIknow?

The labour movement has all too often been led by donkeys who have the strategic comprehension of a parking meter, so it is not unusual for them to lose the fight against their capitalist overlords.

The BMA – the junior doctors “trade union” – might be a different proposition. Qualifying as a doctor does require above average intelligence and ability to focus. So perhaps we can expect a more intelligent response to the government diktat in this instance.

Here’s my suggestion for what it’s worth.

Every junior doctor who is not prepared to toe the employer’s line should, in planned coordination with every other similarly minded junior doctor, hand in their conditional notice to quit in, say, 3 months time, and simultaneously lodge a formal complaint at an industrial tribunal, for compensation in respect of their constructive dismissal. (For those unfamiliar with that term it is a charge against the employer that the employee was forced to resign on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour by the employer)

40,000+ simultaneous Junior Doctor resignations and tribunal cases would, I suspect, bring the Hunt gently jogging back to the table.

 

Ignorant White Bitch Blames Black Culture For Police Attacks On Blacks

I make no apologies for the headline. That was my second and more restrained choice of language. The Faux News “journalist” is referring to this incident, in case you haven’t seen it

in which a white cop (Ben Fields – now “ex cop” I’m delighted to observe) assaulted a black female teenage school kid in front of her own class when she failed to comply with his demand to accompany him after he’d been called in because she was disrupting the class.

Such is US Authoritarian culture that the brainless morons who form their world view through the corrupt prism of  Faux News actually think that enforcing school discipline is an appropriate use of the Police force. And such is US Police Culture that it doesn’t even occur to the uniformed bullies that physical attacks are only justified in the course of either self-defence or 3rd party defence. Violent coercion is considered a routine and acceptable policing method.

Hence, far from Black Culture causing such routine abuse by the police, it is far more appropriate and accurate to argue that Police Culture is a major factor in shaping US Black Culture which has to come to terms with the fact that the State permits its enforcers to treat black citizens as “suspects by default” to the extent that black men are

twice as likely to be killed by police than white men

twice as likely to be unarmed when the Police kill them

6 times as likely to end up in jail as white men – even though for some of the main crimes they are jailed for, like drug possession, they’re actually less likely to commit

and more likely to be in prison than in paid employment.

I am continually amazed at the relatively passive acceptance by the black American community of this centuries old racist aggression by the State and its agents – which has, if anything, slightly worsened under the “control” of a black American President. Among the oppressed minorities with a strong case for armed insurrection, American blacks are definitely in the Premier League.

David Anderson takes a Step In the Right Direction

With David Anderson’s report, we finally look like we may be moving in the right direction.

However, his solution to over-reach is aiming at the wrong target. Prior authorisation by his proposed new judicial body is really no more than a band-aid on the amputated limb.

The 2800 authorisations issued last year are enough to illustrate the limitation of “control by authorisation”

There is no way that serious consideration of the facts and arguments underpinning any relevant surveillance request can possibly be conducted, at that rate, by the small organisation implied by a Judicial Commission. In fact, as David Davies argued on Radio 4, it’s not credible that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, even with the resources of the Home Office, can give genuinely appropriate levels of attention to such requests at the rate of 7 a day. Especially on top of her day job.

Frankly, however, we shouldn’t really care who signs off the authorisation for any given task. All they need to authorise is that the new rules I’m about to propose are being followed to the letter. That, in short means that a new digital case file has been opened and that everything related to the case will be stored in that file and made available, on demand to the independent oversight body and/or political authorities.

What matters far more – and is absolutely vital to ensuring true democratic control of the State’s surveillance apparatus – is the complete and routine data-capture (to an immutable audit trail) of the entire surveillance decision-making process and subsequent implementation of those decisions. In other words, nobody should be watched more closely and comprehensively than the watchers themselves. Think helmet cams, body cams, discreet microphones, Smartphone and GPS location tracking, Google glass and a host of similar technologies. Think ubiquitous CCTV and Webcam coverage in all secure areas and offices.

These are the experts in surveillance. They know exactly how to ensure that everything they say and do, in the line of duty, is captured to that immutable audit trail. They know how to keep their own data safe and secure and available only to those who have legal authority to access it. (If they don’t, they have no business keeping ours) It would probably be cost neutral or slightly beneficial.

Most importantly it will facilitate precisely the democratic oversight which is needed to ensure that everything the authorities do is on the record (or is automatically a criminal offence) and available for review by whatever oversight body we determine is necessary to earn the Trust of the British People.

That body must have untrammelled authority to inspect ANY relevant data at ANY time from the moment of authorisation forward. Indeed, it must even have authority to conduct spot inspections of anything relevant to their oversight with the sole and reasonable limitation that they can watch but not impede an ongoing operation. They must also be allocated resources which permit independent and trusted expert evaluation of what they find.

The technology will allow them to rewind any operation and see for themselves what evidence justified the operation and whether the implementation of the operation was entirely necessary and proportionate. Note, I don’t even insist that it was “legal”.

What matters is that We The People would agree that it was justified. Not that a “here today gone tomorrow” politician – with a potentially hidden agenda – asserts that it was justified and demands that we trust them.

The oversight body would be empowered to disclose whatever they thought necessary to the British Public. We need to be completely confident that if they say the operation was clean and justified, but that the details need to remain secret, we would probably have agreed with them if we were in possession of all the facts.

By the same token, where they clearly uncover illicit behaviour, we must be equally confident that they are able to disclose everything we ought to know, however embarrassing for the State, that disclosure may be.

Personally I don’t trust unelected Authoritarians, even relatively tame ones like most Judges, to wield that disclosure against the elected Authoritarians and I would much prefer that Oversight body to take the form of a Standing Jury with a few dozen members selected randomly from a national pool of civic-minded volunteers.

I don’t think we should object if the Security services wanted to Vet those volunteers and weed out any that might be a threat to the necessary discipline and security that such a Jury would have to work under. But the Jury itself would be the final arbiter on any such exclusions from Jury Service.

Such an arrangement would render the process truly democratic.

We should, perhaps, have no objection to a tribunal of experienced judges being available to advise and guide the Jury on all points of law and precedent, but the Jury itself should be sovereign and make the final judgements.

With all that in place, you can perhaps see why we needn’t care so much about who authorises the actual operations.

Provided we can see, after the event, who was asked, why they were asked, why they agreed, what the consequences were and how it was handled, frankly I don’t give a give a damn what it is they actually authorise – up to and including the assassination of a fellow citizen – or even an attack on a wedding party in Pakistan. There are potential legitimate reasons for any of these activities.

But where the consequences are that extreme, nothing less than a Jury of our peers, taking an entirely uninhibited look, on our behalf, at what went on and why, will satisfy any rationally sceptical citizen that the decisions were reasonable and rationally based on reviewable evidence; or that the implementation of those decisions was carried out in the least destructive and damaging way possible in the circumstances.

To be blunt; how many of the USA Police brutality incidents we have been bombarded with for the past few decades would have survived that level of scrutiny? Or, to put it another way, how much of that brutality would we have eliminated, how many lives would we have saved, had they been under that level of scrutiny?

Yes, the American Police are a far easier target for our opprobrium than the British Security Services.
We’d rather like to keep it that way!

Scottish Independence – Promo For Democracy & Non Violent Politics

Holding a rally in Trafalgar Square to demonstrate England’s passionate desire to keep the Scots on board would have been a brilliant idea, if the passionate desire had actually been on show. Had a million people shown up, screaming in support of the Union, it’s possible that such a powerful demonstration of emotional support for our Caledonian Cousins would have swung a few percent of teary eyed waverers in the direction of voting against Independence.

In the event a derisory 5,000 showed up and politely applauded a few of the usual celebrity suspects. How would you read that tepid reaction from north of the border? If I were Scottish, I’d be taking that as confirmation of English indifference and make me more inclined to think “well fuck you too”.

I wish I’d placed a large bet on a Pro-Independence vote a couple of years ago when the odds were more favourable. Still, I have just managed to get odds of 11-4 on a small bet which, given the obvious momentum in the “Yes” camp, actually looks pretty generous to me.

It’s taken me almost as long as a large lump of the Scottish electorate to make up my mind but my excuse is that I don’t have a vote. Nevertheless, I’ve finally come down in favour of Scottish Independence. The turning point for me was actually a throwaway line from Dara O Briain on last week’s “Mock The Week”.

As he implies, we can’t imagine the fathers of the Irish Free State, gearing themselves up for a run-in with the world’s then biggest Empire, being deterred by the mundane issue of what currency they might be stuck with after their victory!

That hits the nail on the head. What has been going on up in Scotland for the last couple of years – and reaches its conclusion in just a couple of days time – is vastly more important than Money.

For the UK, it is the first opportunity for genuine democracy (where “We The People” decide the Issue rather than elect dictators to make decisions on our behalf) since the 1975 referendum on continued membership of the Common Market – as we used to call it when that’s all it was.

One of the major consequences of this prime democratic exercise is likely to be a demand for more of the same. The Scots have been truly “engaged”, on a completely unprecedented scale and it is widely agreed that, as a result, the politicians have paled into the insignificance they deserve. If and when this revolution takes place, Alex Salmond and the SNP can rightly claim a considerable degree of credit for starting the ball rolling and keeping it on course despite some forgivable wobbles; but the credit for putting the ball in the back of the net will belong entirely to the people of Scotland.

That’s a high they’re likely to develop a taste for.

And, if the prospective Scottish democratic revolution “works”, it could drag the rump of the UK along with it. With a thriving democratic and independent Scotland it will be much easier to make the wider case for Democracy. Why on earth (citizens will increasingly ask) should we continue to tolerate elective dictatorship when our immediate neighbours are so obviously benefitting from the practice of putting politicians in their place (advisors, campaign starters, critics, drafters) and “We The People” in our place (Decision Makers) .

And it won’t stop there. Successful secession from such a globally elite Union will embolden those with similar ambitions elsewhere. Which is why, for example, Spain is already so hostile to the notion of Scottish Independence. After all, if it works for the Scots, why not for the Basques? But have you any idea how many separatist movements there are in Europe alone? I gave up counting after 50…

Moving farther afield, have you seen how many American secessionist groups there are? That page lists a couple of dozen. And, as we learn here, some of them are already watching the Scottish experience with considerable interest.

And, famously, north of the US border, we’ve had the long running Québécois campaign. But they’re not unique even in Canada. There are another 8 Canadian campaigns in various states of array – which most of us have never heard of.

Not to mention more than 50 in China, Indonesia, India and elsewhere in Asia, most recent of which are the universally loathed Islamic State, who, like history’s long chain of extreme authoritarians, have convinced themselves they can bully people into long-term compliance with their brutal regime. They’ll learn. Eventually. After another couple of hundred thousand martyrs have fallen to their cause.

We have to hope, for the sake of that extreme example, amongst others, that Scottish Independence will be a Triumph for Democracy and demonstrate to the world at large that really significant change can take place through peaceful means. The worst possible outcome is that they vote themselves free of the United Kingdom and, ten years down the line, have nothing to show for it. That would send exactly the message we don’t want the authoritarians to be able to retweet.

And Dara highlighted the significance of that too:

Scotland has to prove, to all the doubters and doom-merchants that Secession can be Sexy and Democracy can displace Violence. So bugger the Currency, that’s a dream worth voting for.

Today is October 10th, 2012 and I am ready to go to prison.

Thus spake Leah Lynn Plante just over a year ago.

The Empire obviously broke her spirit because they let her out again a few days later, while the other two refuseniks who were kidnapped by the State at the same time, were only released five months later, when the judge admitted that the State bullying had failed to break their spirits and that he could see no further point in detaining them.

Leah, it is rumoured, co-operated with the grand jury and has thus, apparently, since been shunned by her erstwhile anarchist companions. I, for one, salute her bravery. Not many of us would dare to confront the Bully State to the extent she did and the fact that their bullying and intimidation appears to have frightened her into compliance is certainly no basis for condemnation or even disdain.

But I’d be fascinated to know what she revealed. I’m betting it was buggerall because she obviously isn’t any kind of terrorist – unlike the state employed thugs who broke into her home, kidnapped her and locked her up in the name of the scandalous “War on Terror”

So…read the statement, watch the video, then ask yourself, “who, exactly, are the terrorists in this story?”

here’s a more detailed discussion of the implications of what the modern McCarthyites are up to:

now consider the irony of the source of that video. And in case you distrust the message because you might distrust the messenger, remember that the story is on the public record because at least one “proper” newspaper did report the facts and even the negative and seditious comments by Neil Fox, president of the National Lawyer’s guild. It’s also quite well summarised, with references,here as usual. So we know it really happened. Yet hardly any of us DO know…

I was, initially, concerned that this was old news. A year old to be almost precise. Then I thought, well I didn’t know about it before I “stumbled” it tonight and it’s right in my target zone. Then I looked around for other coverage of what ought to have been fairly major police state outrage and found almost nothing. Fewer than 150 people have watched that video before now, so you’re an early adopter. I couldn’t find any evidence of more than a few thousand views of other versions of the same thing and, as for the mainstream, as usual, nada… Indeed just google “leah-lynn plante” “grand-jury” which terms ought to appear in any serious reporting of the story. It returned a little under 37,000 results, none of which included, in the first five pages, any recognisable commercial or state media. Bizarrely not even that Seattle Times piece appears in the early pages and it definitely contains those search terms!

Somehow they’ve managed to hide the story in plain sight. Which is why it’s probably as much news to you as it was to me.

I find this particular disturbing. One of the observations I made, back in 2005, in the first comment I wrote for my original “Police State of America” collection was that one feature that gave us “hope” for the American condition was that – at least – all its problems were being reported by other Americans, revealing a considerable level of resistance and dissent.

Will we now have to start relying on the Russians to host discussion of the continuing American descent into State brutality against its own citizens?