Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Voting: It's Pointless

We hear a lot these days from our “liberal” or “progressive” friends about the electoral system. How we should support this candidate, or that incumbent, or oppose one party by favoring another. If you haven’t realized it by now, such pleas to engage in the electoral system are ridiculous. Aside from—perhaps—local elections, voting will never change anything of significance in the United States. It simply is not how the American system is set up.

This was true since the first days of the American Change in Management (formerly the American Revolution™), when one group of wealthy, white, slave-and-land-owning men established a society to free people exactly like them from the oppression of other men exactly like them but with slightly different accents. No nation built on the backs of slaves (black people and white women and “indentured servants” ie. the working class), that didn't enfranchise those same groups for hundreds of years, that continues to oppress them by legal and extralegal means, could ever be called “free” or “democratic.” Certainly no nation guilty of sustained genocide on its indigenous population would ever merit such labels.

 No, friends, this government is not yours and it never was. But again and again even the most well-meaning activists, protesters, and politically aware/passionate people will engage themselves in our quadrennial circus, clinging desperately to the bankrupt notion that their ballots matter in the least to the outcome of the election. Ignoring the obvious fact that electronic voting machines exist only to facilitate easier falsification of election results, at most the vote may determine which flavor of cryptofascist narcissists butcher children abroad and throw our friends and family members into cages for offenses against the King’s Laws. The electronic machines do not, under any circumstances, determine which policies will be followed. We are a society bathed in blood and tears and misery and your votes do not matter.

But discuss it they shall. Tens of millions of people will continue to debate the finer details of our national stage production of Natural Born Killers while the criminals continue to stomp on the desiccating corpse of our humanity. The cognitive dissonance to maintain this fiction is at once fascinating and terrifying. The number of fictions we must not only absorb, but internalize, reinforce in others and create for ourselves is truly staggering.

Even I fall victim to this trap, with invective after invective cascading from my finger tips on blogs and facebook and in loudly, trenchantly vocalized thoughts about this unreality and how it poisons every aspect of our lives. Perhaps the best strategy is to simply ignore all of it. But with hundreds of millions of people still bought into that system no evolution seems possible.

The “outcome,” theoretically at least, is not who wins and who loses, but what laws and policies those persons produce. But as anyone can plainly see (if they aren’t lying to themselves), those outcomes are never actually discussed because they never change.

That festering, rotted, dark heart on the Potomac is not now, and has never been anything other than your jailer. It wraps you in endless restrictions and regulations, appropriates your labor, and reserves the right to murder you and everyone you’ve ever met should the mood strike it. Voting doesn’t matter. It never mattered. It never will matter so long as our collective consciousness remains shackled to this dreaming state of nightmare unreality.

If we have any hope for survival we have to shake things up, and that cannot be done within the confines of “acceptable” or “legal” political action. Georgia is about to make picketing a felony punishable by a $10000 fine and a year in jail, while at least Tennessee and Arizona have similar legislation in the works. If anything marginally effective is illegal and the legal means are ridiculous scams, what are we left with? It is not a question I ask rhetorically, with a ready answer in my pocket. Rather I ask because it is a question which I myself am struggling with every day. My only advice is to have an answer for yourself before the question is moot.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday's war day

[updated below]
If---no, when-- the United States engages in the next full-scale conflict (likely, it appears, with Iran*) I expect America's domestic situation to dramatically worsen. The violent crackdowns on Occupy protesters will look like Halcyon Days of tranquility. It is obvious that the government is intent on waging a war on whistleblowers and "material supporters of Terrorism." This could mean a much greater degree of state and federal ire directed at dissenting voices (let alone people in the streets), because such voices could properly be deemed to be "aiding the enemy". This is not without precedent in this country.

I hope for (and will be directing my psersonal efforts towards) as large a war opposition movement as can be conjured. I expect the exceedingly valuable connections made between activist of all stripes through the last six months will lead to large and sustained protests this spring and summer, even if the war has not started by then. Whether peaceful protesters loudly voicing their dissatisfaction against a state already willing to suppress them with brutal aplomb will be any more effectual once The War is On is the obvious question. It is a question, I think, which answers itself.

It is not at all beyond consideration that Syria, and not Iran, will be the next target of our murderous globalist elite.

*The author of this Economist piece "opposes" starting a war against Iran. However, they accept all the premises of the globalist warmongers and their imperial functionaries: "many say", "Some analysts, especially in Israel", "Iran’s intentions are malign...". At least the author acknowledges the obvious result of starting a war with Iran (massive destruction and the serious likelihood of an regionally expanded conflict). But it makes no mention of Israel's large stockpile of nuclear weapons, or the fact that the United States is the only nation to have ever used them. As it stands, a rejection of war based on these premises can be reversed just as soon as "new intelligence" or "changes on the ground" can be manufactured to justify it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

some ideas

A few thoughts for today:

If you are ever called to jury duty:
1)      Go. It isn’t worth the trouble for not showing up
2)      Remember that by getting on a jury you might be able to help someone
a.       There are quite a few people (likely tens of thousands of people) ever year that get charged with crimes they did not commit. Don’t let the State railroad them.
b.      You also have the opportunity to spoil convictions on victimless crimes and crimes against the state (think drug possession charges, and protesters who “resisted arrest”). It’s called “Jury Nullification”  and it is a Constitutional right that you hold as a member of a jury.
3)      If you happen to be one of the few people who are ever empanelled for a capital case, do not under any circumstances admit that you would be incapable of applying the death penalty. If you live in a state without the death penalty (and most of you don’t), then consider the implications of placing a person in a cage for the rest of their natural life, which is nearly as terrifying.
a.       If you admit that you are morally oppose to the death penalty under any circumstance—even the precious laws of the state—you will be dismissed from the jury selection almost immediately.
b.      This practice is not only common, but has been repeatedly approved by the Supreme Court. Thus it becomes one’s moral duty to, in my opinion, to get on such a jury if the opportunity arises and prevent a death sentence.

Also, the march to war against Iran continues apace, as any cursory glance at corporate media (and its faithful “dissenting” voices) will tell you. Truly a monstrous crime against humanity approaches should we be unable to avert this conflict. Prospects for avoiding it do not look good, I think.

One more thing; if you are serving jail time and the police take you out of your cell, “ask” to interview you in a locked room with two armed officers in the middle of the night and you fear for your safety if you decline to be questioned, the Supreme Court does not think you were “in custody” enough to have rights. 

Yes, just yesterday, in Howes v. Fields, the eminent scholars of the court ruled unanimously on a patently false technicality and then rejected the idea that there is no obligation to read Miranda warnings to a prisoner taken from his cell and subjected to intense interrogation about a completely separate alleged offense for “5 to 7” hours in the middle of the night. Rights-shmights I will cover this case in more detail later, once I finish reading the 6th Circuit opinion the Court reversed. Aren’t police states just wonderful?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

the specter of war and those who might give voice to its prevention

Chris Floyd has a comment on Glen Greenwald's latest piece, echoing a theme that has been kicking around for ages and that I have begun thinking about quite a lot recently:

"And so I read the Greenwald piece looking for, hoping for, that pivot beyond the customary criticism, the laying out of evidence (which, let me add, is really all that I do here). Hoping, I suppose, that someone who commands a far larger reach than a relatively marginal site like mine or Silber's would at least reference something like the Silber idea, if only to say: "Hey, here's a thought -- why don't we try something like this?" Or "What do people think of this?" Or even, "Silber suggests this, but I have an even better idea. "
The idea in question is a series of simple but cutting advertisements in popular media (and the few remaining newspapers) in an effort to present ideas countering the heavy-handed push for war. The corporate media, known propaganda arm of the ruling class, faithfully reports American and Israeli claims about the grave Persian Menace, even seemingly take a leading role in preparing the populace for the conflict .

Certainly, as I think is plainly evident at this point, a war with Iran will happen if the ruling elites want it to. This fact has been made clear by recent events; Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, the global Special Operations wars and the War on the Implacable Noun are all proof their effectiveness in creating conflicts. The austerity measures being enforced against popular will or interest across the West and police reactions to mass protests demonstrate not only how secure is their control, but also how confident they are in their position. The power is wielded with impunity. The law and its enforces are set to guard the corporate/media/political classes as they ravage our societies for resources.

Floyd's point is one that we are faced with and have been for some time: what do we do about it? Chronicling the devastating effects of our wars of aggression and documenting the never-ending lies of our media are valuable endeavor, but they simply are not enough. Greenwald's criticism is unmatched in these areas. His voice is vital to exposing the truth to his many, many readers. But that is exactly the point. His voice is loud and it reaches far - he could offer a major platform to concrete strategies to oppose this march to war. After the better part of a decade documenting the ruling class' crimes, seeing now the full-speed push for a war that could cost millions of innocent human lives one wonders why he has not yet.

Beware of information gatekeepers and half-measure dissidents. The West will soften Iran and its people with destructive sanctions, and then war will follow, if not soon, then in the near future. We must marshal ourselves to oppose this course of events - if that is even possible - we must try.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Debt; cognitive dissonance

Over at The New Inquiry, Aaron Bady has a long, but excellent review of David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years. I plan to acquire and then read this book, and hope it does what Graber set out to do:
If the heart of neoliberal doctrine is that a particular kind of economic reality is what must be and to which we must consign ourselves, then Graeber’s re-narration of how this economic reality was created – out of a dense field of historical alternatives which it subsequently tries to obscure and downplay – is an effort to make available, visible, and viable the intuitive morality of those alternatives, a standard by which we could judge what neoliberal orthodoxy sees as simple realism.
It is imperative that more people in the United States recognize that the present iteration of the economy and nation-state are primarily (now, at the least) designed for and controlled by the ruling class. Most people are never exposed to the idea that other options truly exist (remember how virtually no one knows the actual definition of socialism). I endorse none, and am merely using as example a relatively old but at one time quite popular political/economic philosophy that propaganda turned into a punchline. 

The word "troubling" scarcely describes the unreality that permeates thought in our culture. The drastic over-spending on empire and economic collapse brought about by massive criminal enterprise (Wall Street) leads to an "obvious" answer of Austerity Measures; government officials receive tens of millions in campaign funds and later land well-paying corporate jobs but in no way is this influence corrupting we are told; American armies invade countries--slaughtering civilians with all manner of high-explosives and burning metal--and then the spokesmen and their media stenographers call the people who oppose brutal American occupation of their countries terrorists or militants or insurgents. 

Unreality pervades and it will eat our civilization (and all of us with it) if we let it. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

On the "Justice" System

America operates a terrifying system of gulags. Cross the State and find yourself in its ghastly, dehumanizing embrace. Millions are arrested every year on drug possession charges, hundreds of thousands are incarcerated based on like convictions. These are crimes against the State, crimes that only exist because the State says an activity that affects only the actor is illegal.

And god help you if you are a political dissident, which anyone who’s participated in the Occupy movement should well know by now. When the State decides to take you into its increasingly for-profit “justice” system for your political beliefs it will start with sending in militarized cops to crack the skulls of you and your like-minded friends. Then they charge you with resisting arrest for getting beaten. If you are one of the unlucky few to get hospitalized by police violence, expect several felony counts of resisting arrest or assaulting an officer to be charged against you.

Even if these charges don’t land you in prison for years (and give you all the wonderful collateral consequences of a being a convicted felon, like never being hired for a job again, or being unable to vote), you still have to deal with possible confinement before trial if you cannot make bond for release, an overworked and under-resourced public defender’s office, court fees, fines, the time it takes out of your day-to-day life and the intense stress born of facing a possibly long stint in prison.

Increasingly people are punished by Peace Officers for the brazen act of not showing the proper amount of deference or respect – park police tazering people walking their dogs without a leash, arresting people who document police activities on public streets, murdering teenagers in their homes over a tiny quantity of marijuana – the use of force is wide-spread and encouraged.

And the numbers of innocent people convicted of crimes (or forced to take plea "bargains" where they admit guilt to avoid the maximum sentence possible from an unsuccessful defense at trial) is truly staggering:

Extrapolating from the 281 known DNA exonerations in the US since the late 1980s, a conservative estimate is that 1 percent of the US prison population, approximately 20,000 people, are falsely convicted.
 And of course the excuse given at the beginning of that article that no true number can be found because the court system is a "patchwork of federal, state, county, and municipal" institutions, and thus the numbers are not kept and cannot be combined. If only some machine could be invented to put all this data in one place, maybe in a format that is easily transfered between different machines of the same or similar type. What a world that would be.

Alas, we are consigned only to "conservative" estimates the governments do not want the data to be compiled, because, I imagine, the numbers would be much higher if proper data was kept on the subject.

The justice system of this country could be called a joke, but given how many innocent humans are chopped up and devoured by its dark, gaping maw I would call such a characterization callous.

Oh and don’t be fooled by the notion, however tempting, that this is the result of a mistake, or well-intentioned failure. For all intents and purposes, and by all rational observation, it operates well within its intended range and effect. But more on that another time

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A small reflection on the coming storm

Glenn Greenwald has a new post today about a lawsuit filed by the ACLU regarding the Obama Administration's refusal to release the legal standards by which the executive will decide whether or not to murder you at any moment the mood strikes him; it can be found here.

He then reiterates an important point that comes now only as an aside (I've changed his emphasis somewhat to highlight it):
In other words, if the President discloses classified information, then it’s inherently legal, even if he does not declassify the information (a slight variation on President Nixon’s infamous if-the-President-does-it-then-it’s-legal decree). But this is exactly the opposite of what President Obama said when he publicly decreed Bradley Manning guilty: “If I was to release stuff, information that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law.” Clearly, that’s exactly what President Obama did when he discussed drones this week — and what he did before that by boasting of the classified Awlaki killing on The Tonight Show – but that’s the point: secrecy powers (like the law generally) is merely a weapon to protect and advance the interests of government officials. 
 That he mentions this casually, almost as an afterthought, does not exactly reflect poorly on him, but rather reinforces the (entirely correct) notion that that fact is to be readily assumed at all times. That is the state in which we live, not under the rule of law, but the rule of men, of corrupt and evil individuals actively engaging in brutal, human-devouring empire at home and abroad to serve the interests of a small ruling elite.

The law has no other meaning than the will of the powerful, and its application, particularly in the criminal context, is now only to suppress the domestic population or shield ruling class accountability. My only quibble with Greenwald's use here is that he has not fully acknowledge the extensive and dire implications of this fact, including all of its eventualities, most of which are horrifying. I plan to expand on the latter idea much more in the coming weeks--though I make no promise of daily updates--suggesting only that if you would like to read more of my thoughts on the current state of affairs, it encumbrances you not at all to add this to your RSS feed or even give me a full bookmark.

Take care, my first reader(s), these are dangerous times.