Thoughtcrime - 31 Jan 2013

In a political sense, I no longer fear the obtuse, headstrong robber barons, who do as much to antagonize the lower classes - opening them up to organization and activism - as they do to oppress them.  Given the tools available to activists today, the backlash against the brutal austerity policies these blood-sucking leeches apply is likely to be strong enough to at least put the fear of the people back in politicians' hearts.

What I do fear are the wolves in sheep's clothing - the smooth-talking, charismatic 'populists' who are just as sinister (if not more) as anyone, yet understand the mentality of those who want to change the world for the better, and can effectively bottle that energy up into token reform which placates the masses while preserving the status quo.

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Thoughtcrime - 30 Jan 2013

Regarding Nature vs Nurture:

If the correct position to take is closer to the argument for nature, and yet we as a society embrace nurture instead, we have at least done the best we can do, and know our limits.

But if, on the other hand, the correct position is closer to the nurture argument, and yet we embrace the idea that nature controls most of who humans are, we end up condemning people to death for faults society has imprinted upon them.

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Is Free Speech Really Free Speech?

The Rancid Honeytrap (ohtarzie) has a great post today regarding free speech extremists who ignore factual reality in subservience to ideology.

In it, he mocks a letter to the editor written by Norman Siegel, "former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union", and Saralee Evans, "a former acting justice of the New York State Supreme Court", who were upset that members of Congress spoke out against the treatment of torture in Zero Dark Thirty.  The letter includes this laughable passage:
We, as a country committed to open and robust freedom of expression, should have learned that the concept of an open marketplace of ideas means that we allow all viewpoints to be expressed in the belief that the good ideas defeat the bad ideas. We have learned that censoring ideas that some find offensive, inappropriate or wrong-minded is antithetical to democratic principles.
The better course would be to encourage all citizens to see “Zero Dark Thirty” and to encourage them to make their own decisions about the validity of the film, including the scenes involving torture.

Thoughtcrime - 29 Jan 2013

If every American had access to either a quality job or free higher education upon completing high school, how would the volunteer military fill ranks for their overseas adventures?

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Thoughtcrime - 28 Jan 2013

"The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation."
                       - George Orwell, 1984

What does it say about our society that we don't even need a Ministry of Love for so many to accept torture?

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War is (Still) Peace

Yesterday, Bob Woodward - American journalist of journalists - joined the chorus of the new paradigm, embracing the 'Obama the Nobel Peace Prize winner' image, and depicting the president and Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel as "soul mate[s]" out to apply what you would think was a fundamentally antiwar policy.

Of course, it will be nothing like that at all, but the facts on the ground won't dissuade beltway journalists from calling it how they want to see it.

Woodward has long mastered this art, throwing in what seem like amazing revelations from behind the scenes, and little anecdotes that make you feel like you're getting a true inside story.  But this is only a distraction, and comes off as completely self-serving when you see through the facade - or when he comes to a laughable conclusion like this one:

When I interviewed President Obama in the summer of 2010 for my book “Obama’s Wars,” his deeply rooted aversion to war was evident.

Yes, even though Obama has continued to prosecute Bush's wars, increased the suffering in Afghanistan through the "surge", bombed Libya to bits, and regularly kills people with drone strikes in at least six different countries, Woodward believes he has a "deeply rooted aversion to war".  How is this possible?  Well, Woodward seems to think that "war is sometimes necessary" - unironically quoting from Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech - and thus it's enough that a president claims to be against it.  This is a classic form of fetishization of 'the weight placed on powerful minds, who must partake in some form of evil, and not be torn apart in the process'.  As usual, no peaceful option is ever considered - either you want to war and you war, or you don't want to war and you war.

And the usual, standard-fare apologetics that avoid the heart of the debate are everywhere:

"..the Afghanistan war has been mismanaged and the Iraq war unnecessary."

"..quagmires like Afghanistan should be avoided."

"War is an option, but very much a last resort."

Then there's this gem:

"Avoiding war is tied directly to the credibility of the threat to go to war."

..which seems to be saying that a country needs to war every now and then, so that it can adequately threaten war to get what it wants, so that it doesn't have to go to war.  Brilliant.

Throughout, Woodward uses the word "war" 20 times, but fails to mention drones, air strikes, assassination, special forces raids, or indeed any type of killing, slaughter, or destruction whatsoever.  It's all about management, policy, and a sterile philosophy which serves only to justify the crimes committed within.

All in all, just another day in the campaign to obfuscate and redefine basic concepts to the point where 'reluctantly' justifying war becomes the utmost of moral positions one can take.  In other words: Obama's America.

Thoughtcrime - 27 Jan 2013

If people can be tried for crimes against the state, why can't the state be tried for crimes against the people?   Isn't the state the people?

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Why Is Jon Stewart Peddling Drones?

On Friday, I wrote about the ongoing effort by American foreign policy elites to redefine war to the point where nearly any violent action abroad goes by some-other-name.  The goal is to add air strikes, assassinations, and special forces raids to the list of 'normal' operations the U.S. government can undertake in other countries - to stand alongside 'diplomatic' threats and bullying, limitless spying, trade sanctions, black ops, and the like.

Because drone strikes fit into this category (in fact, they may be the prime example), and because the government cannot sweep them under the rug as they would like to thanks to popular outcry, there's now an intense campaign to alleviate concerns over their use, making them more palatable to the American public.

Last week, Jon Stewart had Missy Cummings, an ex-fighter pilot and current Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, on The Daily Show to discuss drones and their various applications.  Cummings was, on the same night, featured in a NOVA documentary entitled Rise of the Drones, which was given as the rationale for having her on the show to indulge in a complete whitewash of the U.S. drone program.  You may know the drill:  drones are more precise than humans, they keep The Troops safe from harm, the government couldn't possibly sift through all that surveillance footage they take, etc.

Thoughtcrime - 26 Jan 2013

If everything in our lives revolves around money - how we acquire it, how we decide to use it, how we can become more financially secure - why would it be any different for those in the political sphere, who drive policy and governance?  Why pretend they first consider benevolence?  Do they not live under the same economic order the rest of us?

Is is because they are well off?  Have the rich shown anything other than being even more likely than the average person to seek to accumulate wealth?

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Thoughtcrime - 25 Jan 2013

If you support and enact the maximum of covert and strategic operations aimed at either bringing down or absolutely isolating every single country that trends toward socialism or communism, can you really later claim 'communism [as an ideology and movement] failed' when most of those countries fall apart?  Is this not a self-fulfilling prophecy?

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Perpetually Redefining War

Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report:
History may record Obama’s greatest crime against peace as changing the definition of war. According to his unique doctrine, the U.S. cannot be in a state of war, or even “hostilities” with another people or country, unless Americans are killed in the process. Thus, Obama refused to report to the U.S. Congress under the War Powers Act following eight months of bombardment of Libya, claiming no state of war had existed since no Americans had died. By this logic, the U.S. is empowered to bomb anyone, anywhere on the planet at will, without the constraints of national or international law, as long as care is taken to protect the lives of U.S. personnel. 
Obama rhetorically abolishes war while promulgating a doctrine of general immunity from the rules of war. Armed with such a concept and vocabulary, he can proceed with the militarization of Africa policy, his “pivot” to contain the Chinese in the Pacific, the terror campaign in Syria, the virtual state of war against Iran, and update of his Kill List in perpetuity. What, then, is the president’s meaning when he tells hundreds of thousands on the National Mall that “enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war?” This, from a man who makes war on language, itself.

Lest we get the idea that this is just hype and exaggeration, it's important to take a look at the atmosphere in the wake of Obama's inaugural speech:  one where 'neutral' observers applaud his speech in a faux-objective manner ("Oh, it was just so much better than his first inaugural speech - he was so presidential this time!"), Democrats are enraptured having heard exactly what they wanted to hear, and Republicans complain about how it didn't offer them the olive branch they were promised.  Only a few commentators on the fringe are willing to point out that the majority of Obama's words stand in stark contrast to his actions.  Everyone else simply accepts the new paradigm, fitting it to their agenda and running with it.

Thoughtcrime - 24 Jan 2013

Who are the uncivilized savages: those who hold women as mere subjects of their fathers and husbands, or those who condition them (as men are) to become compulsive liars in pursuit of political power, thieving investment bankers consumed by their own greed, and professional killers in service of an imperialist agenda?

Where is the third alternative?

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Thoughtcrime - 23 Jan 2013

Are newspapers ruining society, or are the stories in newspapers ruining society?  Are the stories in newspapers just a reflection of society?  If so, is society ruining society?

Is radio ruining society, or is what is on the radio ruining society?  Is what is on the radio just a reflection of society?  If so, is society ruining society?

Is television ruining society, or is what is on television ruining society?  Is what is on television just a reflection of society?  If so, is society ruining society?

Are video games ruining society, or is the content in video games ruining society?  Is the content in video games a reflection of society?  If so, is society ruining society?

Is the internet ruining society, or is what is on the internet ruining society?  Is what is on the internet just a reflection of society?  If so, is society ruining society?

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The Emperor's Coronation

via Photo Phiend
Remember that feeling you got when you saw masses of people in North Korea wailing over the death of Kim Jong-il?  You know, where you were amazed that people can be so brainwashed that they believe everything good that happens to them is due to their benefactor(s) in the state?

That's similar to what hits me when I see the usual displays of American political fanfare.

They're everywhere, if you're paying attention.  A few weeks back, people were celebrating dead Richard Nixon's 100th birthday.  Yes, that Richard Nixon.  The most hated president in American history, long after his corpse had rotted into the ground (not burned in a trash bin, much to Hunter S. Thompson's dismay), still got one up on the rest of us.  I could at least understand Ronald Reagan's centennial a couple years back - not that it was any more deserving, mind you, but that his legacy and cult following are at the very forefront of the mass delusion Americans call democracy.  He was a star, and his flowing words and affable demeanor distracted the public from the fact he was every bit of a crook as the rest of them, if not more so.

Thoughtcrime - 22 Jan 2013

I am not worried we will consume until there is nothing left to consume, I am worried we will consume until there is nothing left of us.

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Thoughtcrime - 21 Jan 2013

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Can We Talk About Obamacare Now?

Whole Foods' CEO John Mackey really isn't very good with definitions.

It all started a few years back when he attempted to label the Affordable Care Act, 'Obamacare', as socialism, even writing a Wall Street Journal op-ed that fittingly began with a completely incoherent Margaret Thatcher quote on the subject.  Given that Whole Foods - as a 'healthy living' type grocery aimed at more conscious (read: well-off) consumers - tends to attract the same type of people who support Democratic policies, there was noticeable backlash over the issue.  But that didn't seem to bother Mackey all that much, as he again discussed the healthcare bill on a recent NPR program, saying:
"Technically speaking, it's more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn't own the means of production, but they do control it — and that's what's happening with our health care programs and these reforms."

And, again, it sent many liberals into shock.  Apparently having been convinced that a business which caters to their dietary sensibilities would by default support their political economic views as well, they were amazed to see that its CEO was, like most capitalists, a true believer.

Thoughtcrime - 20 Jan 2013

The world could use more people who are so fed up with it - so convinced that what we call life today is but an exercise in compromising our morality, our sense of justice, our humanity - that they really can't stand living in the first place. 

If you look around yourself and think "I want off this planet!", then you're exactly the type of person we need on it.

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Thoughtcrime - 19 Jan 2013

As an FBI agent or informant, if you're going to go through the trouble of putting on a persona for months at a time, engaging disaffected persons you believe might become terrorists, and continually prodding them to see if they'll eventually be willing to commit some sort of violence, couldn't you just as easily go through the whole process as a moderating force instead, turning them away from that path instead of goading them toward it?

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Thoughtcrime - 18 Jan 2013

If the government of a particular state puts you on trial for "aiding the enemy", and a judge rules defense of your motive inadmissible, has that judge just declared that you were indeed "aiding the enemy"?

If not, and you can "aid the enemy" without meaning to do so, am I "aiding the enemy" by asking this question?  Or am I just "aiding the aider of the enemy"?

Bonus:  Who is the enemy?

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Opes Imperialis

This is the introduction / first part in a planned series, wherein I document some of the more egregious misuses of time, energy, and resources in society, always keeping in mind the intense injustices and suffering so often ignored in these discussions.

There is a diseased thought which has spread among us; a vile, backwards idea which stifles progress and destroys hope.  It is the mentality of the so-called realist, who proclaims loudly to the world: "It can't be done."

But the 'realist' is a fraud.

I'm not talking about reversing gravity or breaking the speed of light here.  But even if I were, just about any physicist out there would be open-minded enough to at least try.  Why should we hold sociology - far from a hard science - to a different standard?  Why do we let people tell us we can do no better, especially when all the evidence points to the fact we can?

As a society, we spend countless resources in areas which range from questionably worthwhile to certainly worthless.  And despite their uncertain value, many of these are so ingrained in our daily lives that we consider them necessary evils.  It's easy to fall into the realist's trap when you unwittingly accept the 'necessity' of the greater part of the insurance, advertising, and intelligence/surveillance industries (among others); the excesses spent on weapons of war (that is, resources used primarily to destroy other resources); and the many inefficiencies that we blind ourselves to when accepting the lie that bureaucracy is the only inhibitor of progress.

Thoughtcrime - 15 Jan 2013

If 'you' are a corporation which is required by law to focus on making money for its shareholders, and some individual or organization is - if only through the simple action of intellectual discourse - negatively impacting you in that effort, does it then follow that it is your duty to silence them by whatever means necessary?

MIT Supports OpenCourseWare, Condemns Aaron Swartz

The motivations of OpenCourseWare (OCW) and Aaron Swartz should have been in absolute alignment. The two should have collaborated on efforts to help enlighten those in the world who have little or no access to education, placing knowledge previously relegated to the world of academia into the hands of millions.

But that never happened. The university at the head of the OCW movement, the one that first granted it serious relevancy, had other plans. It placed its emphasis instead on helping to sustain the unjust criminal charges against Swartz that eventually led to his suicide on Friday.

No one seems to know why it did this, but in doing so it has showcased what can only be described as a prime display of institutional cognitive dissonance.

If This is Justice, I Don't Think I Want Any

(If you don't know who Aaron Swartz is, Glenn Greenwald summarized his story earlier today.  Personally, I find myself torn between his usual sober-yet-campaigning approach, and the anger that I feel when reading some of the other responses, which invoke a sterile grief, too eager to err on the side of caution.  I side with my emotions here.)

I grieve for Aaron Swartz, as I grieve for all who have lost all hope in a world which consistently acts in opposition to our universal humanity.

I grieve, and I feel even more desperately called to action than usual.

But at the same time I have nothing but pity for those who feel the need, so steeped in the grubby brew of capitalist law that the meat boils off their bones, to condemn someone for the 'crime of stealing information' or 'holding information with intent to distribute', to suggest that some sort of justice could ever be served by prosecuting acts that do far more for the public good than they ever could against it.  No appeal to convoluted logic or intellectual property rights can justify the warped discretion of those who utilize the law as a mace against the skulls of anyone who dares subvert power.

What Do You Mean "Diversity"?

Yesterday, the New York Times' Annie Lowrey set the snares for the latest media trap, meant to distract well-meaning political observers from the real issues at hand.

Obama's new cabinet is likely to be less diverse than in his first term, she notes.  And to be clear, by 'diverse' she means that of race and gender, not ideology.  There is very little concern - unlike that expressed during the Bush administration - that the president isn't being challenged enough on his positions, or that his cabinet picks continue to reinforce dangerous authoritarian precedents.  The message seems to be: if only there were more women and people of color implementing Obama's policies, everything would be okay.

This simple, easy-to-digest version of events is the perfect fodder for our increasingly superficial media, which is why it comes as no surprise to see them eagerly lapping it up.  Nearly every major news outlet has run a story on it in the past 24 hours, and even clueless idiots on the far-right like Mike Huckabee are chiming in.  To her credit, Lowrey's story does better than most, at least hinting at the fact a lack of diversity at the top only reflects deeper problems in society.  But it only took a few hours for that idea to become lost in the sea of headlines.

In focusing on the more strict definition of "diversity", not only do the talking heads by and large miss the point, they also ignore the news media's own horrible track record on the same issue.  But that much is to be expected from an profession whose definition of being self-critical is usually limited to posting corrections in a tiny box weeks after the fact.

The Latest in Four-Letter Fascism

In a series of New Year's gifts to the ghost of George Orwell - who every year at around this time haunts us with a resounding "I told you so." - President Obama last week signed into law both Congress' recent FISA extension and the 2013 NDAA.  Thanks to the gigantic distraction known as the "fiscal cliff", which was mostly an argument over a couple percentage point differences in tax brackets (manufactured to conceal the fact that the leadership of both parties are intent on slashing benefits), the media almost completely ignored the greater controversy regarding civil liberties.

If (Only) Obama Were a Socialist

If Obama were a Socialist, maybe he'd make the most of his
power and appropriate
a better world for all
not sell out to the bankers for a momentary favor
or mandate things so cankerous as dictates of an Emperor
whose blatant lust for legacy
overrides the call
for a society less self-serving, respect for those deserving
some dignity
'tis of thee
only some of us recall

But if even he were conditioned in Hegelian tradition and
could synthesize his positions
in aid of Marx's cause
he could make no supposition on how he hasn't the ambition to
back the one-percenter coalitions
and pass all of their laws

If Obama were a Communist, maybe he'd stop bombing this
world in-to a bloody mist
and send away the drones

He'd take the tortured "terrorists", manacles on hands and wrists
release them from his iron fist
and leave well enough alone

And then he'd - all on top of this - shun the military-industrialist
embrace his inner pacifist
and throw us all a bone

But he's certainly no humanist, has no respect for habeas
and his business
of a kill list
asses kissed
chance missed
Constitution 'twist
and that's just
the gist of it

If Obama were a Panther, maybe he'd have an answer
for the cancer on America
that carves away our soul
y'know we can't have equality with hierarchy to the T
just can't say "it's fine with me" - "a post-racial society"
as if emancipation, litigation
and (certainly not) desegregation
actually achieved the goal
no - a proper functionality was never a reality
when poverty's compulsory, oligarchy's running free
terribly destructively
and all we teach our children
is power and control

The facade of democracy covers corporatocracy
we've a monopoly of parties with money as their policy
and from everything that I can see, our participatory self-robbery
is running down the rickshaw
and shining up the gold

If (only) Obama were a Socialist, everything might not be amiss
it'd certainly be nice to exist
in a world where that were true

But since reality's a travesty, and he's as capitalist as can be
you're going to have to excuse me
while I find another view