Dictator Logic

I’m fascinated to watch how the world’s media is heaping posthumous praise on Lee Kuan Yew and compare it to their depiction of his contemporaries, like Fidel Castro they took power in the same year and are about the same age. Despite many similar aspects of their countries – a clamp down on political dissent, effectively single party rule, harsh treatment of homosexuality, limits on the right of assembly, nepotism, limits on freedom of the press, etc – LKY gets praised, mostly because he turned Singapore into a beacon of capitalism. Castro, on the other hand, has been the subject of continual criticism for 50 years because he threw the capitalists out of the country.

In a glowing obit, the NYT says LKY was “efficient, unsentimental, incorrupt, inventive, forward-looking and pragmatic” and has little negative to say about his authoritarian rule. Instead: “His leadership was sometimes criticized for suppressing freedom, but the formula succeeded. Singapore became an international business and financial center admired for its efficiency and low level of corruption.”

Politicians from around the world are singing his praises.

The lesson? Authoritarian capitalism = good. Authoritarian communism = bad. Even though they both rank highly in the UN Human Development Index, only one of them has been the subject of economic sanction for 50 years. It’s not the authoritarianism that the Western elite have a problem with – it’s what you do with it. If you’re a capitalist, everything else doesn’t matter apparently.

 

 

The End Of Terrorism

I, for one, am so glad we’ve been fighting over there in the Middle East to end terrorism for the past fifteen years. It seems to be going very, very well, I must say.

 

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Former US Soldier Breaks It Down

This is a pretty powerful post by Dan Crimmins (aka /u/mopecore), a former American soldier who says he was deployed in “11B from 2002 to 2008. Iraq in 2005, then again in 2007-08, during the Surge. Both tours, we were at distant outposts, (Fob Wilson in 2005, PB Eagle, COP Cahill, and COP Carver in 2007-8)”.

You grew up wanting so bad to be Luke Skywalker, but you realize that you were basically a Stormtrooper, a faceless, nameless rifleman, carrying a spear for empire, and you start to accept the startlingly obvious truth that these are people like you.

His follow up post from a few days ago is also worth reading:

It didn’t occur to me, at the time, that maybe some of their grievances might be legitimate, that they were acting out of fear and a sense of powerlessness as much or than out of hatred. That I bought into the narrative without applying really any critical thought, by giving over to emotional outrage masquerading as righteousness, by assuming the cartoonish media that I consumed had any relation to the real world, I made a mistake, and people died because of it. I’m painfully aware of the man’s tendency towards tribalism, what you describe as the hivemind, the tendency to view everything as my team against your team.

He’s now unemployed, suffering from PTSD, and trying to raise some support funds via GoFundMe.

Drone At Home

Apparently the Australian and US governments are convinced that we each have homegrown terrorists who are planning on carrying out some nefarious deeds on our respective countries.  What I want to know is – why aren’t the U.S. drone-bombing Australian and American homes? It’s apparently a perfectly good solution for suspected terrorists in other countries, so why not start with us? Sure – for each suspected terrorist (and it’s important to remember that these people have had no trial to determine their guilt or innocence) they target, somewhere between 15 and 30 innocent civilians are killed. But that’s just acceptable collateral damage, right? As someone said to me on Facebook a couple of days ago, it’s just unfortunate. It’s just unfortunate that we have to kill innocent civilians to save innocent civilians from being threatened by a terrorist who one day might kill… innocent civilians. Right?

Of course, the U.S. aren’t drone bombing suspected terrorists at home or in Australia or the U.K. or Canada. It would be totally immoral to justify killing innocent civilians in order to kill someone who might, one day, kill innocent civilians. Can you imagine scenes like this on our home turf?

drone bombing

So if it is immoral to kill innocent civilians in the hope of hitting a suspected terrorist at home, why is it acceptable to do it overseas?

Because they aren’t us. Because they aren’t white. Because they have a religion we don’t understand. Because they are inferior to us.

If you think it’s acceptable to kill their civilians, but not to kill our own with the same justification, then you must think we are superior to them. We have more rights than they do. And I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of racism.

 

 

Seriously. You Couldn’t Make This Stuff Up.

troops afghanistan

According to The Age, the Defence Minister says Afghanistan will “never again”  be a safe haven for terrorists.

And on the very same day, The Independent says they already have a foothold.

By the way, Prime Minister, the reason soldiers were maligned after Vietnam wasn’t because they didn’t have a welcome home parade – it was because that war was immoral and unjust.

The PM also thinks Afghanistan is a better place now.

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It seems like he hasn’t been keeping up with the news.

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Chris Hedges On How The Corporations Have Won

Chris Hedges, a much respected journalist, wrote this speech which he intended to deliver at a conference on Toronto recently but his plane was delayed due to weather. It’s worth reading in full, but here’s a taste:

The elites and their liberal apologists dismiss the rebel as impractical. They brand the rebel’s outsider stance as counterproductive. They condemn the rebel for being inflexible, unwilling to compromise. These elites call for calm and patience. They use the hypocritical language of spirituality, compromise, tolerance, generosity and compassion to argue that the only alternative is to accept and work with systems of despotic power. The rebel, however, is beholden to a moral commitment that makes this impossible. The rebel refuses to be bought off with government and foundation grants, invitations to parliament, television appearances, book contracts, academic appointments or empty rhetoric. The rebel is not concerned with self-promotion or public opinion. The rebel knows that, as Augustine wrote, hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage — anger at the way things are and the courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. The rebel is aware that virtue is not rewarded. The act of rebellion defines is its own virtue.

 

Thanks to Duncan Strong for the link.

Why You NEED To Be Worried About Mass Surveillance

I’ve seen a number of posts on Facebook today where people say things like “I don’t care, I’ve got nothing to hide”. I used to think like that too. But the bad news here is that it isn’t you they care about.

Let’s think about a couple of scenarios.

A journalist or an activist is trying to build a story around government or corporate corruption. The government or corporation in question gets wind of it. They can use this mass surveillance to dig up any embarrassing details about this person’s life and threaten to destroy them if they proceed. Let’s say the person has been having an affair or just talking shit about their boss in an email. When the security state has unfettered access to everything you’ve ever written or said on the phone or searched for online, they can destroy anyone who poses a threat to them.

A politician is trying to push through some major changes to, let’s say, election funding or corporate fraud or cutting back on the military. Again, this kind of unfettered access means that any past mistake or screw-up in their lives can be used against them, to stop them from pursuing their agenda of change.

This isn’t a crazy theory. If you read about what has happened in the last 100 years of history when the security state got out of control, you can see this kind of thing in action.

The Stasi in East Germany.
The KGB under Stalin.
The FBI under Hoover.
The CIA under …. well just the CIA forever.
Hell, even the NSA today.

The more access we give security agencies to have unfettered access to our personal information, the more damage they can do – not to you or I, we don’t matter – but to the people who are trying to curb their power or change the system.

That’s why it matters.

 

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Mexican Bond-age

What’s the world coming to when you can’t trust a Bond film to tell you the truth? Apparently Sony accepted $20m in bribes to rewrite the new Bond film in order to improve Mexico’s image. Why didn’t Kim Jong Un think of that?

Obama Admits: The US Invasion Spawned ISIL/ISIS/Daesh

If I said something like this on Facebook, I know for a fact certain folks (you know who you are) would attack me with comments like “oh here we go again, everything is always American’s fault”.

Well it looks like Obama agrees with those of us who have been saying for the last year that the US-lead invasion of Iraq in 2003 indirectly lead to the creation of Daesh. In this VICE NEWS interview, he says (at 11’50”):

“Two things: One is, ISIL is a direct outgrowth of Al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion, which is an example of unintended consequences, which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.”

That’s pretty bold for a sitting American President to admit. He continues to make sense:

What I’m worried about” he said, “is even if ISIL is defeated, the underlying problem of disaffected Sunnis around the world – but particularly in some of these areas including Libya, including Yemen – where a young man who’s growing up has no education, has no prospects for the future, is looking around and the one way he can get validation, power, respect, is if he’s a fighter.”

“That’s a problem we’re going to have, generally. And we can’t keep on thinking about counterterrorism and security as entirely separate from diplomacy, development, education.”

He goes on to talk about why it is in the best self-interests of the US to fund education in the Middle East. I agree. Unfortunately he didn’t go the final step and connect the US’ desire to control to oil of the Middle East, and it’s long history of interfering in the politics of the region to control that oil, with the rise if Sunni and Wahhabist extremism – but it was a good and surprising start.

But then he says legalisation of marijuana shouldn’t be young people’s top priority. Really? When the US has the world’s largest prison population and much of that is being driven by the drug laws? I definitely think legalisation of all drugs, not just marijuana, should be a top priority of American’s youth.

 

Read John Ashton’s Shell Smackdown

shell desert

John Ashton, who served as Special Representative for Climate Change at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) from 2006 to 2012, delivered a speech last week at the Conseil Francais de L’Energie 4th European Energy Forum in Paris where he took apart both the CEO of Shell and the fossil fuel industry in general. It’s also an interesting depiction, from someone who has spent decades on the front lines of the climate battle, of how these fossil fuel megacorporations operate.

Here are some of my favourite excerpts:

You are not detached, and in reality your authority is compromised by your obvious desire to cling to what you know, whatever the cost to society.

The psychopath displays inflated self-appraisal, lack of empathy, and a tendency to squash those who block the way. All these traits can be found in your text. There is a touch of psychopathy in the story of your face.

I have lived in a period when politics has been linear, and therefore predictable. You are skilled at navigating linear politics. Corporations became ever more skilled at rigging the choices made by linear politics for their profit against the public interest. That is one reason why linear politics ending.

 

Read the whole speech here.