Archive for the ‘ Commentary ’ Category

More Encryption Is Not the Solution

I’m always pleased to see the recognition that, ultimately, politics is just people with lots of weapons doing what they want. In this instance, Poul-Henning Kamp, highlights the fact with respect to encryption as a “solution” to revelations about “government” spying.

INCONVENIENT FACT #1 ABOUT PRIVACY:
POLITICS TRUMPS CRYPTOGRAPHY

Nation-states have police forces with guns. Cryptographers and the IETF Internet Engineering Task Force do not.

Several nation-states, most notably the United Kingdom, have enacted laws that allow the police to jail suspects until they reveal the cryptographic keys to unlock their computers. Such laws open a host of due process and civil rights issues that we do not need to dwell on here. For now it is enough to note that such laws can be enacted and enforced.
. . .
Any person can have the right to privacy removed through whatever passes for judicial oversight in their country of residence, so that authorities can confirm or deny a suspicion of illegal activities.
. . .
if a nation-state decides that somebody should not have privacy, then it will use whatever means available to prevent that privacy.

via More Encryption Is Not the Solution – ACM Queue.

The article is short and worth reading. The author is clearly not an economist, “In the past quarter century, international trade agreements have been the big thing: free movement of goods across borders and oceans, to the mutual benefit of all parties. I guess we all assumed that information and privacy rights would receive the same mutual respect as property rights did in these agreements, but we were wrong.”

He also has an unhealthy optimism that the guys with the guns can be persuaded to dismantle the spy agencies (who, I’m sure, have lots of dirt on the guys with the guns); all -in-all the conclusion section is the weakest part of the paper.

Overall, his point is important: as long as institutions exist that are overwhelmingly recognized to have the right to do whatever they please up to and including caging and killing anyone who doesn’t obey, encryption will, at best, protect small handfuls of people. For people generally, a general solution is necessary, which is a delegitimization of the use of force by “government.”

The Limits of Science

Apropos of Kevin’s and my recent podcast, an article on the limits of science.

No rulers! Except for measurement! Science is pretty sweet, though.

In the podcast, we discuss logic as an essential tool in determining how one’s beliefs track reality. However, perfect Aristotelian logic can generate perfectly crafted non-sense given incorrect premises.

Similarly, science is the best means of testing hypothesis and incrementally bringing beliefs about reality in line with the natural universe (a.k.a., the universe).



Regardless of how rigorously one pursues knowledge with the correct application of the methods of science, and regardless of how large the body of scientific understanding becomes, it can never answer the questions it is so frequently purported to answer:
“Is this new drug safe?” “Is that amount of pollution too high?” “Are wages for those workers too low?” “What’s the minimum number of days of paid vacation that workers should get annually?”

Read more

These questions are not, exclusively, about the objective world. They incorporate the subjective; they can’t be answered except by each individual for her own circumstances. Appeals to evidence can be made to persuade someone to take action, but there is no amount of evidence that legitimizes coercion in these matters. Any appeal to science in the name of politics, or any other form of violence, is an appeal made on false premises and an indication of intellectual, if not moral, corruption.

Update: I just figured out that I could do this, here’s an embed to Kevin’s and my podcast on the limitations of logic.

Play

NSA, NDAA and the Relative Risk of “Terrorism”

You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than a terrorist attack. You are 12,570 times more likely to die from cancer, 1000 times more likely to die in a car crash, 87 times more likely to drown, 12 times more likely to accidentally suffocate in bed.

Each day, we fend off death in ways both large and small, we expend our time and energy gathering resources to prevent hunger, thirst, and to protect from the elements. We invest in things to make our houses and transportation safer and more reliable. We buy healthier food and exercise to reduce the likelihood of disease. We choose to spend the “health and safety” portion of our resources on those things likely to threaten our health and safety.

We needs 3/4 million concrete bunkers because . . . TERRORISTS!

There is a vanishingly small chance that you will die from a terrorist attack. More specifically, there is virtually no chance at all that you will die in an attack that would be prevented by military expeditions, national intelligence agencies, domestic surveillance, increased policing powers etc. Almost entirely none. Barely non-zero.

It’s not a new thought and is probably best presented by master of all things security Bruce Schneier, but I find it especially striking with something like this recent NSA “scandal” pops up how much money is going to defend against a complete non-threat.

Putting aside for the moment the epic loss of life and the hyper-Orwellian annihilation of privacy and human rights, the squandering of precious, finite resources is simply staggering.

The amount of wealth that is just being “pissed away,” as my dear old dad would put it, is beyond the mind’s capacity to fathom. Trillions of dollars spent doing abso-fucking-lutely nothing. Just piles of money set on fire in the name of preventing something that doesn’t happen anyway.

The worst part of this epic destruction of wealth is that it comes from people who actually have real things they need to spend money on! People who have actual health and safety concerns are prevented from using their labor to improve their chances at a long and healthy life. Their money is taken from them and spent on multi-billion dollar NSA data centers and Homeland Security headquarters, which will help the citizens of the country not at all.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, the country of Albania built 750,000 concrete bunkers seemingly randomly around the countryside. They were lead by a lunatic, Enver Hoxha, who had everyone convinced that foreign invasion was just around the corner so this tiny piss-poor country build these useless structures instead of anything that would be of any benefit to anyone. That makes no less sense than the absurd, do-nothing, ongoing, “defensive” boondoggle, that is defended at every turn by both political parties and the media.

Seriously. Seriously. This shit is ridiculous. People have real problems to deal with and real dangers to avoid (police are 8 times more likely to kill you than terrorists). I understand that nothing’s going to change–anybody who decides to do something useful with their money instead of funding this worthless police state will be surrounded by well paid and heavily armed men and taken one of the ample prisons that are currently being filled up.

But can we please drop the pretense that it does anything? Can we at least be honest with each other about the value of the “service” we’re involuntarily subscribed to? Listening Harvard educated millionaire (from defense contracts) government functionaries tell me about how scary the “bad guys” are and how we need money to help the “good guys” protect us is beyond insulting.

Now that I’ve matured, I understand that people have deep-seeded emotional needs for safety and protection and that the bullshit illusion of the national security state fills that need. I understand that verbal abuse isn’t helpful and that a peaceful dialog that respects their human desires is what is required to have a win-win conversation.

But between us, this is one of those things where I just want to be like, “YOU’RE FUCKING WRONG AND SHIT IS FUCKED UP BECAUSE YOU’RE SOOOOO FUCKING WRONG!” Alright, alright. I know that’s over simplifying, the inability to see the fucking painfully obvious is only one aspect of a complex and multi-faceted problem . . . deeeep breaths . . . and dialog. Baby steps. We’ll get there. Thanks for reading.

The Supreme Court and Marriage

Is there anything more pathetic than having a panel of geriatric neo-scholastics as society’s self-proclaimed ultimate arbiters of right and wrong?

We should be immediately suspicious of this black-clad gang as they are supposed to use sane first principles, the facts of reality, and reason to arrive a just decisions, and yet not one of them is an atheist. In fact the currently represented religions (6 Catholic and 3 Jewish, I think) are demonstrably expert and ginning up internally consistent bullshit whirlwinds that can avoid, dismantle and adapt to any reality based objection–other religions aren’t slackers in this department either, but certain religions have truly raised this nonsense to an artform, or more aptly, an academic pursuit.

Supreme Court deliberations also sound remarkably similar to the early-bird dinner hour at Luby’s.

Reading the court transcript has much in common with reading a sci-fi forum about who would win in a fight between the Enterprise and a Star Destroyer. In both instances, the participants have powerful intellects that can make coherent, compelling arguments about anything, no matter how fanciful the context. In both instances a baseline fantasy story is held by all the participants, each then adds a few individual fantasy premises and then the reasoning process begins. In both cases, the conclusions are meaningless outside of their fantasy settings and nothing about reality has been decided at all. To be fair to the sci-fi folks, only the Supreme Court has millions of armed brutes enforcing their arbitrary conclusions.

As a quick demonstration of what a reality-based court transcript might look like (courtesy of a friend’s Facebook post):

I don’t know what kind of vaguely legitimate arguments anyone could make in defense of the DOMA. I take an adult’s right to enter into a contract of any kind–marriage or other– with another adult as so much of a given that trying to explain myself would be like trying to explain why slavery is wrong. If you’re still one of those people who believes that a Bronze Age collection of stories justifies you imposing your hangups on others’, I got nothing for you. Please go fuck yourself in the most hetero way you please.

Case closed.

Control of One’s Body (or, Freedom of Conscience Part le Deux)

Another quick (probably not that quick) example where people’s freedom of conscience is most obviously violated comes to us from science magazine. Briefly, it’s one of those reports of a drug that successfully fights cancer (in this call, *all* forms) in petri dishes an mice. I have no expertise to evaluate the claim–though it is coming from *science* magazine. It’s an interesting article and compelling enough that the top level comments are from folks desperate for a miracle cure. This shit is tragic, so don’t read any further if you’re having a down day:

Husband and father of 3, age 31, high grade spindle cell sarcoma, stage 4 with mets- help! [email address] or find me (spouse) on fb, Heather Cimino in Fort Myers, Fl, willing to travel anywhere, just save my husband!

my wife has tumor that are killing her will you hurry up and get this sorted – is there anyway one can volunteer for a trial
[email address]

where do i sign up I have colon cancer i am 24 and it sucks I do not wanna go to the bathroom in a bag for my life!!!


Soooo, I get the feeling there are plenty of willing participants for a study; most of whom are facing death in the very near term. They have full access to all sorts of non-cures (I’m a skeptic) in the forms of crystals, charged water, intense prayer, tinctures and the like, but they can’t get access to prototypes of drugs that, by definition, can’t make them worse off and have already been shown to be effective against human cancers in test mammals (mice).

It’s fucking tragic, tragic and awful, and frustrating, and infuriating.

The comments on this page are mostly a fight over some particular alternative healer. At Hacker News, where I read the story–and where very few alternative healing folk hang out, you can get a sense the frustration at this obvious and heinous injustice. Providing the foil are the usual apologists claiming that

. . . exemptions will invite snake-oil salesmen . . . the rules weren’t created in some blind bureaucratic power-grab. They’re responses to actual problems that existed in their absence. They aren’t without their downsides, but they remain better than the alternative on balance

I found among the comments, an acronym that I hadn’t seen before, FUD, or “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt”, have no doubt I plan to use it liberally in the future. The identification of this reactionary strategy when it was deployed was a highlight of the HN comments. A large number of people clearly grasp that the final word on what does or does not get done to a body should be made by the “owner” of that body; nobody else can legitimately intervene with force to compel a forfeiture of conscience.

And that is heartening. Clearly a growing number of people “get it.” Overriding the exercise of control a person has over their body is instinctually repellent in a healthy adult human. Beyond what should be an obvious moral case is the practical one. The idea that a tiny clan of self-aggrandizing control freaks can access and weight the subjective experiences and priorities of millions of complete strangers is ludicrous. The notion that they thereafter can craft a single set of rules that do anything other than confound the daily lives of the subject of those rules is, uhhh, even more ludicrous.

Add to that the fact that these petty tyrants are bought and paid for by entities who profit from illness and from having a monopoly on all manner of healthcare resources and it becomes clear that the purpose of the FDA and similar agencies can’t possibly be the health and well being of the subjects.

What is laughable and sinister becomes heartbreaking when these sorts of forces prevent people from seeking solutions to life threatening medical conditions. And let’s be sure I beat this dead horse deader, the FDA and it’s enforcers are so completely certain that they know categorically what all 300 million of us should consume/not consume, that they are willing to kill people, if need be, to prevent them from harming themselves. Shit, sometimes I can’t believe how fucking loony this all is.

Freedom of Conscience

I’ve had an idea bouncing around in my head to little effect. I’m going to disgorge it here just to see what it looks like written down and also to drop a March post for my weird Archive column length vanity thing.

I don’t know the origins of the concept of “freedom of conscience.” I associate it with 17th/18th century enlightenment authors writing about religious freedom. The topic was hot after hundreds of years of “religious” warfare based on the premise that a monarch or government could discern which of a number of unprovable, highly subjective religious experiences were true and which weren’t. I haven’t heard the phrase in use much lately, but it is a good stand in for a whole category of problems/decisions that belong in the hands of the individual–which is all of them.

You should be able to believe any ol’ crazy thing.

Nobody really knows *exactly* how dangerous Waziristani goat herders are to the health and well being of a westerner. My estimation is that I endure nearly 0 risk from said goat herders. My conscience says that it’s wrong to kill somebody like that–somebody who poses absolutely no risk to my well being. If I were allowed the freedom to follow my conscience, I would spend 0 dollars attempting to kill the goat herders and their coreligionists on the far side of the planet. However, I am not allowed such freedom and my future labor has been used as leverage to incur trillions of dollars in debt (well, not just *my* labor) by people who supposedly believe they’re protecting me from some awful menace. On the flipside, other than denouncing you for a dangerous lunatic, I’ll not stand in the way of your spending however many 10s of thousands of dollars you wish trying to exterminate the muslim menace on your own.

Nobody knows how important a building-code compliant structure is to a given person. Sure, it’s nice to live in a safe structure with modern electrical and plumbing, but there are costs associated with doing so. I might find it more important to eat healthier food and save money for my child’s education than to spend money ensuring that my windows are the appropriate distance off the ground or to build a fence around a camper in my driveway. Maybe another person would prefer precisely the opposite for their own reasons. We should both/all be granted the freedom to follow our own consciences in these matters–the idea that a rule can be made that enforces the correct priorities for thousand or millions of people is laughable on its face.

Nobody knows when life begins, there’s a near consensus that, after being born, a human should be given a shot at living. Except under situations of extreme large scale deprivation, there are people willing to take custody of a child that would otherwise die. Before birth, however, this is a matter of debate and each person has their own opinion about “when life begins.” Each person should be allowed the freedom of their conscience in this matter. Nobody should be compelled to give birth or to abort a fetus against her will. It seems silly to even have to say it.

Always remember the alternative. I can honor your freedom of conscience in a matter, or I can compel you to go against it through force or threat of force. Of course there are circumstances, however rare, when I my conscience may dictate that I violently intervene to override your freedom of conscience (maybe you’re walking drunk into traffic, maybe you’re sleepwalking with a loaded gun). Currently, our rulers intervene as soon as we choose to purchase beverages that are too large, or to buy unpasteurized milk, or to visit a un-permitted wilderness camp. People who are brave/foolhardy enough to attempt to withhold their resources from the imperial prison/surveillance/warfare state can have any or all of their possessions taken from them and spend some or all of the rest of their lives in cages.

Of course there are complex and mind-bending rationales for all of these and other crimes against humanity carried out by those calling themselves “government”–just as there are complex and mind-bending rationales for an omnipotent, yet omniscient, god that allows humans free will. The simple truth is, no such god exists, and “government” is simply a group of humans who wish to rule over other humans. A simple litmus test of whether a human relation is just and equal or unjust and hierarchical is whether the freedoms of conscience of all the participants are being honored.

Selfishness, the Individual, and the Collective

This post was inspired by a conversation with Jim Rigby who I follow on facebook. It started with a short conversation-provoking post, and the follow up highlights the resulting discussion. I recommend following Jim (on facebook, not in real life) and/or reading his blog, he’s a thoughtful and stereotype busting guy and never shies away from debate.

“We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society.”

I recently learned of this old quote from Hillary Clinton (circa 1993). At first glance, it seems to follow the aesthetically pleasing moral’ish guideline of “don’t be a greedy bastard, there are other people to think about.” Reminders to put perspective on one’s own wants and desires and to balance them with the wants and desires of your fellow human beings are all to the good, in my opinion.

But notice, that’s not really what’s being said. The quote doesn’t read, “stop thinking of yourself and start thinking about what is best for society.” The purpose of the quote isn’t to check the listeners greed, it’s to check the listeners concern for other individually recognizable people.

All of us humans have a subjective experience of being part of a larger whole. In a physical, this is clearly the case. Every physical part of our body is interacting with every other material object in the universe; we absorb and exchange material from all around us; we are literally composed of star dust; and every physical speck of each one of us will exist until the end of . . . well, existence.

On a social level, we belong to a species whose every advance is based on collective action, peaceful cooperation. To quote Jeffrey Tucker slightly out of context:

Without it, our world would fall apart. All progress is due to it. All order extends from it. All blessed things that rise above the state of nature are owed to it…. [W]e need ever more . . . to make the world a more beautiful place.

Speaking of “society” or “community” or “humanity” is entirely reasonable as a shorthand for the collection of individuals being discussed. The politicians trick which perverts the concept (and, secondarily, turns non-violent people into seeming lunatics stuck on the idea of individuality) is to talk about the collective concept–I’ll use “society”, but all have been used–as if it were an actual entity apart from the individuals that make it up with its own measurable level of well-being.

Once that fiction is in place, any number of individuals can be harmed in pursuit of the good of the society–as if there’s something somewhere that’s doing better even though the individuals that supposedly comprise it have been hurt.

As a quick, concrete example, 1 in 3 African-American men are entangled with the criminal justice system–mostly as part of the war on drugs. Thousands of people have been murdered on the border. Thousands more are threatened by various armed agencies, kicking down doors (sometimes even the intended ones), breaking up families and shooting anyone who resists or is slow to comply. Millions of individuals have clearly been aggressed against in a whole variety of ways. No individual can be identified as a beneficiary (other than the prison-industrial-complex and police state). The political argument is that drug suppression is for the greater good. It benefits society. We should, after all, stop worrying about the individual so much.

Another great example is the “liberation” of [name of American occupied country here] where whole civilizations have been destroyed, countless persons killed, millions of refugees created, in the name of improving the state of the social abstraction that is supposedly comprised of the victims of American aggression.

It’s possible, of course, that there’s some citizen who is better off because of the drug war. There are certainly people better off under one political regime than another. It’s impossible to coherently argue that the “greater good” is being served, or not served. It doesn’t have a physical existence and it’s well-being can’t be measured.

This makes talking about abstractions an ideal way to manipulate people into supporting aggression against other people. Part of the politician’s trick is to speak for the “greater good” the way the Pope speaks for God. We’re meant to believe that we common folk can only access our own subjective state, while political leaders can calculate any number of weighted sums of millions of individuals’ subjective experiences and then determine which weighting to maximize with each policy decision.

It’s nonsense on the face of it. Politicians do what they want, or what their patrons want, and call it the “common good,” just as the Pope does whatever he and/or his patrons want and call it the “will of God.”

When you hear somebody lamenting collectivist thinking or championing a world-view where the individual is exalted over the collective, it’s possible you’re listening to some selfish asshole who just wants to do what he wants and to hell everybody else.

It’s also possible that you’re talking to somebody who has noticed the pattern by which individuals are being harmed, on an epic scale, in the name of some abstraction and always for the gain of the advocates of said abstraction.

One more caveat and I’m out: there are obviously good people in the world who would self-describe as serving the common good/greater good/society. This doesn’t bother me at all, though they may be adopting political language beyond the convenience of using collective nounts–I have no evidence of this at all, mind you.

The litmus test for whether or not someone is using abstractions manipulatively is whether they are advocating violence against certain individuals in the name of the abstraction. If not, they may still be trying to manipulate you personally (into donating money, time, etc), but they’re certainly not violating any core moral principle. If their devotion to the “greater good” *does* require the harming of individuals, then they’re either delusional or criminal; they should be shunned by all good people and their duplicity should be exposed as far as possible.

Salman Rushdie and the “Innocence of Muslims”

Salman Rushdie has some harsh words for President Obama and other western leaders:

I think if we wish to live in any kind of a moral universe, we must hold the perpetrators of violence responsible for the violence they perpetrate. It’s very simple. The criminal is responsible for the crime.

Oh no, wait. He’s talking about the US armed militants that turned on their masters and killed 4 Americans . . . in a country where the United States indiscriminately bombed 1,000 civilians (very conservatively) out of existence in the previous year.

I hesitate to tell someone who grew up Muslim about the recent history of the Muslim world, but anybody who says:

. . . in the last half-century, these cultures seem to have slid backwards into medievalism and repression is one of the – I think it’s one of the great self-inflicted wounds. And out of that comes the rise of this new, much harsher Islam . . . the readiness to believe that it’s OK to kill people if you declare yourself offended by something. This is the mindset of the fanatic, the mindset of the tyrant. And it’s a real shame that it seems to have spread so widely across the Muslim world,

needs, perhaps a quick refresher.

The “slide backwards into medievalism” wasn’t a “self-inflicted wound.” The people of the muslim world were dragged into the torture chambers of medievalism by colonial secret police; were herded into medievalism by western armed and supported dictators; and were finally bombed into medievalism by 30 years of relentless aggression from western militaries and their proxies.

Yes, Islam is awful and stupid and can be a rallying point for hostilities that are boiling over. The same is true for any Abrahamic religion. The idea that some 13 minute Youtube clip is really actually driving the entire Muslim world in a batshit firebombing rage is remarkably stupid. I’m sure Salman Rushdie is not remarkably stupid. He sort of sounds like it in this interview though.

Which brings me to point #2:
The idea that some 13 minute Youtube clip is really actually driving the entire Muslim world in a batshit firebombing rage is remarkably stupid.

And yet, that’s the story–at least the headline–nearly universally across all media. Man those people are crazy! They’re going nuts over an offensive Youtube clip? Another round of bombing is too good for them!

I *have* actually heard a couple of reports that at least hint at the fact that perhaps, just maybe, daily drone attacks, constant military occupation and the propping up of a whole chain of awful governments against the will of the population have *something* to do with the recent violence. Literally, like 2–maybe 3–in a solid week of coverage.

Pepe Escobar of Asia Times makes a convincing case that the Libya attck was “blowback” from the killing of Abu Yahya al-Libi, an ally of the United States in the fight against Gaddafi who was then assassinated. The death was announced on 9/11:

An immediate effect of al-Zawahiri’s video was that an angry armed mob, led by Islamist outfit Ansar al Sharia, set fire to the US consulate in Benghazi. The US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed. It didn’t matter that Stevens happened to be a hero of the “NATO rebels” who had “liberated” Libya – notoriously sprinkled with Salafi-jihadis of the al-Libi kind.

This isn’t conclusive, of course, but it’s infinitely more likely than a crowd of would-be peaceful muslims driven into a lunatic rage by a Youtube clip.

Which brings me to point #3:
Does anyone thinks it’s strange that this movie trailer isn’t actually associated with a movie? I checked the Googles, Amazon, even Ebay. There is no movie “Innocence of the Muslims.” I’m not trying to spin a conspiracy yarn . . . not yet anyway . . . but this is just a true statement. The movie does not exist. The clip on Youtube can’t really be a trailer for a movie, then can it? Where did this story even come from?

Segueless jump to point #4:
Guess what, almost no muslims are protesting at all. Even given the occupation, the appropriation of their resources, the secret police, the constant surveillance, the desecration of everything . . . sacred, etc., there are a few hundred up to a couple thousand people engaged in protest at each of these events.

In one of those rare instances in which something on the Internet gets lost, I can’t find a site I saw yesterday that had the size of the protests vs. the populations of each country. Suffice it to say that the burner/rioters represent tens-of-thousandths of percents of the population (i.e 00.0001%)

Take a look at the #MuslimRage Twitter hashtag. It’s adorable. Here are 13 pictures of Muslim rage. Take a look. Just like you, amazingly enough, almost everybody else in the fucking world just wants to live their lives and be left alone by the lunatic %00.0001 percent of busy bodies and psychopaths that ruin it for everyone.

To conclude:
This story in which cultures are clashing and a mad and unfathomable “other” is just waiting to destroy you and your happiness is bullshit. It’s just a story–completely fabricated by people who will take your money, at gunpoint if necessary, to kill and enslave innocent human beings, just like you and your family, all around the world.

It’s just a story to blind you like Salman Rushdie is blind–who can look at a history of the last 50 years and not see that the murderers who need to be held accountable are the leaders of the western powers?

Don’t believe the stories. Don’t become blind to evil. Let’s leave the stone age relics of religion and rulers that the 00.0001% would have us cling to behind and forge a new path for humanity. A path that most of us have been on this whole time.

More Things We Should Know By Now

In a post from last month (probably the post from last month), I was thinking about ignorance as an excuse for poor and/or immoral choices. There’s a category of ills (racism, homophobia, misogyny) that have become decreasingly acceptable by society at large. While we might excuse the racist ramblings of great-aunt Edna, a member of our peer group with the same beliefs is willfully ignoring the evidence against 19th century theories of racial hierarchy; or is aware of them but wants to be a racist anyway.

The main thrust of the previous post: only a willing dupe still believes in government as a force of positive social change. Given a goal, no matter how universally laudable, writing it down on paper and handing it to a pack of unaccountable and heavily armed goons to carry out will never go well. It will rarely turn out otherwise than awful.

The same principle applies to police, military, and other members of the enforcement arm of the United States government. I’m not sure if it was ever the case that people trusted in the police or if Mayberry and Officer Friendly are just straight-up 1950s post-war propaganda. In any case, nobody in their right mind trusts in the police now.

This has several important ramifications (that we should all know by now):

1. Unless you want someone shot or in jail, do not call the police. Since we live in a largely disarmed and submissive society, there are many time and places where a person’s only recourse against violations of person or property is a government thug. In those instances, by all means, engage the police.

Necessary or not, it’s often a terrible and lifechanging ordeal. If you’re lucky, the casualty will be a family pet–either yours or one belonging to a neighbor. Otherwise, you may have unintentionally called in a hit on someone–maybe a member of your own family.

To reiterate, I’m not passing judgement on anyone who calls the police in self-defense. It should be an absolute last resort and you shouldn’t be surprised to find yourself, a loved one, or a neighbor shot or put in a cage. That’s what police do. Everyone should understand this by now.

2. If someone signs up to be an enforcer today without the full understanding that they’re accepting money to obey orders, no matter how immoral; they can’t reasonably claim to care about the possibility of having to murder, torture, or imprison innocent human beings. That’s what the job of law enforcement *is*.

If you sign up to “enforce the law”, you are not a hero. People don’t respect you, they are afraid of you. If you find yourself in harms way, it’s probably because you’re employed to be a thug who orders people around at gunpoint–or would if they didn’t comply with your barked orders. Some people don’t have the right psychological makeup to debase themselves and submit when bullied[1].

The time has past when anyone who wants to be police can be considered anything other than a brute. If you really want to help or protect people, there are a million other avenues that will fulfill those needs. The only reason anyone is police today is that they are willing to do anything to anyone in order to get a paycheck. Most probably, they enjoy doing it–the pay isn’t *that* great if you have any marketable skills at all.

3. The same thing goes for “our troops.” Soldiers are mercenaries who will kill anybody they’re ordered to regardless of context. Sadly, for those who acting out of financial necessity, enough people still exist who blindly “honor the troops,” to provide a shadow of moral sanction. Countless souls on the margin have been tipped to the side of obeying evil for pay by the omnipresent message that their “fellow citizens” will “honor their sacrifice”.

The true nature of the United States military is willfully ignored by a huge number of Americans. As with all of our above examples as well as the the effects of smoking and the theory of evolution, the evidence is ample, universal, and unequivocal. 40 years of incontrovertible evidence plus an additional 180 years of less mainstream history indicates that the purpose of the military is to kill for the advantage of bankers, plantation owners, mineral extractors, and weapons manufacturers.

It’s time we stopped pretending that there’s anything positive about being a gang enforcer. Even if the gang is the biggest one on the planet.

  1. [1] For the record, I totally do. Don’t shoot me.

Those Crazy Egyptian Infowarriors!

I’ll try to keep this one quick, though I could really go on for hours about it.

Apparently, Hillary Clinton was recently in Egypt, where her motorcade was the target of tomatoes, shoes, and other signs of “anti-american” behavior.

The New York Times (blog, I think) and Rachel Maddow (citing the Times), blame American right wing “conspiracy theorists” (Glen Beck, Michelle Bachman, two other people I’ve never even heard of) for riling up the Egyptians. Said riling took the form of said theorists claiming that the United States meddles in Egyptian politics.

You can watch/read if you want a reasonably convincing argument, source to “several protestors,” in support of this supposition. I’ll offer the following arguments against it.

The government of Egypt has been a creature of the United States for almost 60 years. The series of long ruling dictators were less than beloved by the Egyptian people who were well aware that the United States was providing the arms and intelligence that prevented them from any degree of political self-determination.
The Egyptians have watched several hundred thousand of their co-religionists starve to death, die from embargoes of medical goods and be vaporized and disappeared to concentration camps by various US lead coalitions. These atrocities happened in countries in extremely or relatively close proximity. Somewhere north of 30,000 were killed in a neighboring state just a less than a year ago. Outside of the US propaganda sphere and a handful of particularly callous western european commentators, these deaths are rightly seen as cold blooded murder by an invading empire.

I have less evidence for this last point, but I just can’t imagine too many Egyptians watch Glen Beck. I didn’t even know Michelle Bachman was still in congress.

Now, every person living in Egypt is, of course, an individual. I’m sure there are a couple who believe that Obama is secretly a Muslim bent on the creation of a neo-caliphate because Michelle Bachman told them so. Who knows, this entire protest could actually have been peopled by an unlikely seeming Egyptian Glen Beck meetup group.

Allow me to assure you, though, that the average Egyptian is not indulging in conspiratorial thinking along the lines of lizard people and alien visitations by thinking that the US might–just might–be fucking with their political system. It’s akin to one of us hypothesizing that Exxon or Goldman Sachs might be, in some way, trying to influence the outcome of American elections.

There’s a good deal of really, really well founded anger directed at the American ruling class by a whole world of victims of American foreign power. The anger would be universal except for soothsayers like Maddow and the New York Times (and the rest of the media establishment for that matter) insisting that everyone else in the world’s anger is directed at our government because of “our freedom,” “our prosperity,” or because they’ve fallen victim to zany tinfoil hat conspiracy theories.

Update: Jon Stewart makes the point funnier.