Why We Fight (Eugene Jarecki)

depressing to find that this has just 5 “likes” on Stumbleupon and has only been viewed 80,125 times on youtube despite having been available, free, for over a year. This degree of apathy explains how they continue to get away with it. They are immune because “We The People” are indifferent. Sad, sad, sad…

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The first major breach in the Police State?

The American Judicial System might be about to demonstrate that it isn’t completely broken. A Federal Judge has just had the balls to speak Truth to Power. A major plank of the USA PATRIOT Act has just been struck down and ruled unconstitutional. Which bit? The totalitarian rule they made to protect themselves from public scrutiny; the bit which gives the FBI and other security related organs of the State, the right to issue “National Security Letters” (NSLs). Yeah, that bit.

(In passing, why did I spot this first on The Register? This is historic news the mainstream media should be bleating from the rooftops. Just did a google for [“national security letters” unconstitutional] and the only “mainstream” entity on the first result page was this Fox News coverage! Who said the Americans don’t do irony?)

You tend to get one or more of these letters if you run any decent sized organisation in the United States. They are unethical, illicit and intrusive demands for information about a citizen; ostensibly on the grounds that there is good reason to believe that the citizen may be pursuing some kind of activity of which We disapprove. Oh, and if you ever get one of these letters, you’re not allowed to tell the “target” citizen, or anyone else, ever.

“We”, they would like us to believe, being “We The People”.

And if the relevant activities being enquired about were exclusively those which aided or abetted military attacks (from any source) on civilians (in any location) there is no doubt that We The People would approve of such well targeted surveillance and would expect to see evidence for this focussed diligence on our behalf in the form of steadily diminishing military attack on civilians. At the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, we do not see any such evidence.

What we see are increasingly widespread brutal paranoia among governments. You can create your own league table but China and the USA are both Premier League teams, converging on the same level of pseudo-liberty. We are all gradually being pulled back towards Roman Law.

Wot that?

Roman Law is the historical precedent and basis of so-called “Civil Law” under which it is held that Laws don’t exist unless explicitly created by the Civil Authority. In contrast, UKUSA law is based on the “Common Law” tradition where we make it up as we go along. Neither is perfect, obviously. But the notion that Law doesn’t exist until a properly constituted authority creates it might look eminently sensible. But its real meaning, or at least interpretation by the relevant Civil Authorities, has always been sinisterly nuanced.

Rule One was that, as a citizen, you are obliged to act, at all times, within the law. The absence of a law did not, as you might naively expect, confer liberty. By definition, if you were acting in some way not already described by the law, you could not possibly be acting within it and were, therefore, in breach of Rule One.

This elegant totalitarian concept – that ALL action is forbidden unless I Caesar permit it – is beautifully efficient as a control mechanism. It means you can arrest and prosecute citizens on a whim. Virtually every second of the day you are bound to be doing something I Caesar have not explicitly permitted. For example, I didn’t give you permission to think what you just thought.

Roman Law hasn’t died out. It’s been kind of absorbed and blended with the less authoritarian, but often equally arbitrary, Common Law tradition that we “enjoy” in UKUSA. That’s supposed to mean that unless behaviour is explicitly forbidden by the Civil Authority, then it’s permitted.

Problem with that – if you’re a Civil Authoritarian with Totalitarian tendencies – is that too many damn citizens want to do too many things that I Caesar (elect) disapprove. They want to enjoy themselves, for example, in all sorts of ways that we can’t possibly permit. Buggers want sex all the time. Not to mention Drugs and Rock And Roll. Some of them even want to undermine our right to rule! Which is why we’ve been obliged to create this massive list of prohibited behaviours.

How they get away with it is the interesting bit. Chances are you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t already familiar with much of the explanation for that so I’m not going to teach you to suck eggs. But on the off-chance that these thoughts are new to you, you could do worse that starting with the Manufacturing of Consent.
No, I’m afraid it’s not an exciting video, just informative.

We The People will, of course, endorse a certain number of Prohibitions. Who doesn’t agree with the prohibition of Murder? Rape? Violence against the Person? Theft? Fraud? and a few other obviously antisocial activities we all wish to abolish. Deliberate or negligent harm to a third-party, without their informed and freely given consent, is universally recognised as criminal.

All other prohibitions are steps towards Roman Law. The more they can get away with forbidding, the greater their chances of arresting you on a whim. The greater the chance that you will have been doing something explicitly illegal sometime in the immediate past or present.

This will become especially relevant when they start including Thought Crime – which they are increasingly nudging towards both here in the UK and, of course, over there in the USA. It is, of course, long-established tradition in China and a few other places.

After all, what human has never contemplated an illegal act? Most admit to having at least wanted to murder at least one other person at least once in their lives. Reckon I’m up to a couple of hundred myself. Including a large number of senior American and one or two senior British Politicians.

I guarantee there are people employed to look out for sentences like the two previous; and to make some kind of judgement as to whether such sentiments constitute a “Terrorist Threat”. And I guarantee some of them will conclude that it does. They’re the sort of people who send out NSL letters. (or spend four weeks looking for the author of a Facebook quip about wanting to “Egg Cameron” [added 25/3/2013])

They, at least, will see this legal judgement as marking a very sad day for their cause.

For the rest of us, it’s high fives all round…

“Anonymous” Takes Aim At The Wrong Target

I’ve only just stumbled across it but a few months back, Anonymous issued some bizarre guidance on avoiding face recognition technology:

For a bunch of skilled hackers, they’re being oddly naive. Every single countermeasure they suggest will be defeated by the authoritarians within a few months or, at most, a few years. Tilting your head more than fifteen degrees is one of the more ludicrous examples. First off, although the software might currently have a little difficulty spotting a face at that angle, to a human observer, such behaviour would stick out like a sore thumb and prompt much more detailed attention. But, in any case, it’s not going to take them a huge amount of time to improve the software to the point where it’ll easily recognise a face even if it’s carried under your arm and upside down!

And “so what?” if they have difficulty spotting your face? They’re already working on things like gait recognition (even from satellites ferchissake!) and earlobe recognition not to mention the FBI’s well advanced research into the use of voice recognition for both surveillance and forensic purposes, which, given their already illegal but ongoing (and ignored by congress) practice of warrantless wiretapping, and the medieval law they’ve passed which allows them to detain citizens indefinitely without trial (habeas corpus? habeas bollocks!). Or the recent acknowledgement of the growing use of Drones to watch their own citizens. Or the (previously) secret Trapwire program itself – which raised the face recognition issue in the first place but goes much deeper and wider than that – and so on and so on…

Are we smelling the coffee yet? Do you really think that pulling a few ridiculous stunts to make face recognition a little more awkward is any part of the solution? If so, I fear you don’t yet understand the true scale of the problem.

What we’re up against here is the most powerfully equipped authoritarian menace in human history. These people make the STASI look like well-meaning amateurs. They are enthusiastically creating the infrastructure required to police a Totalitarian State in which your every movement, contact and, ultimately every belief and even thought can be logged, analysed and risk assessed with a view to “mitigation”.

One of the few things we’ve still got going for us is that they haven’t yet figured out a way to hide the consequences of (some of) their actions or their involvement. As a result they still feel a trifle constrained to operate within some kind of limitations which would pass, at least, the rigorous investigative probing of the “Journalists” at Fox News. That gives them a fair amount of leeway but god help us if they ever turn nasty.

The solution to this problem is not to confront the enemy in the battlefield of their own choosing. This war requires the classic strategy of the martial artist. We need to use the enemy’s energy against them. For example, at least 1% of those in sensitive posts will be as horrified as we are about the increasing tyrannical nature and potential of the activities they are engaged in. We need to ensure they have secure channels through which to leak the crucial evidence. And if and when we ever win this war, we need to reward and honour those who had the courage to blow the whistles when it most mattered.

I’ve been blathering on for some years now about the (increasing) need for a Trusted Surveillance program which will wrest control from the Authoritarians by making them genuinely and unavoidably accountable. Here, for example, is part 1 (all 8 parts are on youtube) of my 2007 attempt to explain how it might work in the context of the prescient movie “Enemy Of The State” (the movie was made back in 1998 – so this isn’t just a post 9-11 problem)

Implementing Trusted Surveillance will be partly technical and partly political. It requires the abolition of many existing laws and the implementation of new ones. Some of the new laws are genuinely revolutionary and we can expect major resistance from all parts of all establishments as they fight to maintain their hold on power. But, as I hint in various places, the battle we are now engaged in is the final battle for the human soul. It will determine whether, in the coming centuries, our species consists of largely free individuals or regimented hordes required to conform to and service the demands of their rulers.

A battle on this scale requires much more than brute force (which, in any case, the enemy has a near monopoly on, despite the relaxed gun laws in the USA). It requires creative intelligence, in which weapons such as subversion, satire and sedition will play a much greater role than bombs and bullets. We need to make the enemy a laughing-stock. We need to get to the point where even the most ignorant sheep-like citizens are too embarrassed to support their patronizing shepherds. In this regard, the likes of Jon Stuart and Stephen Colbert are every bit as important as, say, Wikileaks and whistleblowing.

I may, of course, be wrong in every detail of my proposals but I am utterly certain that I am at least focussed on the right target and that the problem is every bit as far-reaching as I describe in my various rantings. So if you don’t agree with my solution, fine, but you’d better start coming up with an alternative while we’ve still got the freedom and scope to implement it. Meanwhile remember:

Citizen – Innocent Until Proved Guilty
Authority – Guilty Until Proved Innocent

Dawkins on good form at Al Jazeera

Can’t embed the video but that link will take you there. Mehdi Hasan puts up a good fight trying to expose weakness or prejudice in Dawkins argument. He fails of course, because what weakness exists in Dawkins argument is not one a religious believer is inclined to perceive or accept.

Hasan’s arguments, by contrast, were excellent illustrations of the weakness of religious argument, though far more coherently delivered than is usual. For instance, he challenges Dawkins objection to teaching children that their recently deceased friends, being of the wrong religion, will inevitably go to hell, where they will suffer in agony for the rest of time – a terrifying image which Dawkins argues is a serious form of Child abuse; arguably more serious even than ad hoc priestly sexual molestation.

Hasan’s attempt to undermine this “radical” position is to ask: “To teach children that there is one god, or that god created the world in 6 days That IS Child Abuse?”

If you want to understand the religious mindset, you need to understand why even intelligent believers – like Hasan obviously is – do not understand why his question is so badly off target.

But Dawkins, perhaps being uncharacteristically restrained, didn’t take the opportunity to expose the stupidity of the question. So let me try.

Dawkins actual argument is based on the anecdotal evidence of a 40+year-old woman who was both sexually and religiously abused as a 7-year-old, probably by the same catholic priest. He sexually molested her and, on learning that her 7-year-old (protestant) friend had died, he told her that the friend was condemned, by her protestant status, to roast in hell for the rest of time. She obviously didn’t consent to or enjoy the sexual attack but she got over it fairly soon after the event. But it took years for her to recover from the psychological damage caused by nightmarish visions of her friend burning in hell, planted in her vulnerable psyche by an evil priest.

Hasan’s first challenge to that tale was on the basis that, as an empiricist, Dawkins shouldn’t be relying on one-off anecdotes; which suggests that Hasan believes that the example IS a one-off, which would itself be an extraordinary belief. But then Hasan does profess a literal belief in the story that Mohammed flew to heaven on a winged horse and challenged Dawkins to prove that it didn’t happen, so his grasp of empiricism isn’t quite complete.

In any case Dawkins’ real objection, shared, I would hope, by ANY humane human, religious or not, is that putting nightmarish images into the minds of children who are not able to defend themselves against such literal psychological Terrorism, is a clear, unambiguous grossly indefensible attack and abuse of a young child. In contrast, telling them that Father Christmas is going to leave presents for them under the Christmas tree, though it might be as equally factually implausible as the visions of eternal hellfire and damnation, doesn’t do any HARM.

It could, of course. If the Santa Claus doctrine was applied with the same fanatical rigour as the hellfire and damnation meme, and, for example, children were made to learn the names of the reindeer by rote, punished for getting them wrong, and warned that anything less than total compliance with parental or religious instructions would result in Santa not just leaving them out of the annual distribution jamboree but possibly even sending nasty goblins in the night to take away some of their existing toys, then the Santa Claus fairy story could start to become as damaging as some of the classic religious fables.

Dawkins is making the charitable assumption that Hasan’s teaching of stories from the Quran is closer in spirit and effect to the Father Christmas end of the meme market than to the eternal hellfire end. I’m not sure I’d have been that charitable but it was an entertaining debate. I was particularly encouraged by the audience reaction. Two thirds agreed that just being taught catholic doctrine, as a child, was as bad or worse than being sexually abused by a priest. That’s a step in the right direction…

When did they make Public Sexual Molestation and Humiliation Legal?

This story OUGHT to provoke a wave of revulsion on a par with the reaction to the senseless slaying at Sandy Hook. Will it? Don’t hold your breath…

Full credit to the Daily Mail. I kick them often enough, but, as far as I could tell, at the time I came across this story, they were the only mainstream news source anywhere in the world to have published it.

Ironically (given it was their own dash cam which has implicated them) it illustrates the increasingly urgent need for Trusted Surveillance to record the criminal activities (or, I should say, “activities which, in a civilised country, ought to be criminal”) routinely committed by the Forces of Internal Repression

Remember:
Citizen – Innocent Until Proved Guilty.
Authority – Guilty Until Proved Innocent.

The Global Problem Summarised


We Have More Than Enough And Not Enough
News Truth
Conviction Humility
Reaction Analysis
Morality Reciprocity
Gullibility Scepticism
Ignorance Curiosity
Hate Recognition
Corruption Accountability
Groupthink Rationality
Hierarchy Equality
Militarism Security
Punishment Justice
Climate Change Time
Population Planet
Government Democracy
Authority Agreement

Hillsborough: Why Conspiracy Theories Thrive

So now we KNOW the truth. Up until today, it was just another conspiracy theory. Think about that…
And then address the question of how we might determine which of the other million or so conspiracy theories floating around the web are also entirely (or at least mostly) true.

I’ll expand on this later. (he threatened…)