Everything’s Cool in Libya Though, Right Steve?

My opinion, that NPR is a particularly insidious source of propaganda, is not new. As psychologists continue to demonstrate (behind paywalls, for the most part, the bastards), smarter people don’t hold a world view more in line with reality, rather they are better able to rationalize whatever worldview they happen to hold. Arguments with religious scholars about the tenets of their respective faiths demonstrate this amply.

Given the time pressures and competing political agendas, most smart people want to believe that things are going, at least passably well in some part of our sprawling empire. An ongoing series, “The Revolutionary Roadtrip,” by Steve Inskeep gives a 5 minute daily balm to any concerns the NPR audience might have.

I should interject, now that you’re three paragraphs in, that this isn’t some outstanding specimen of NPR state-narrative reinforcement. It’s pretty pedestrian actually. I just happened to hear it right before I read this counter-punch article which covered similar topics. I thought the comparison was fairly striking. To wit, Steve Inskeep:

Orwell came to mind for me as we traveled through Libya, because it was Orwell who said, “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”

For forty-two years, Moammar Gadhafi controlled the present, rewrote the past to suit his ends, and seemed likely to hold on into the interminable future.

Now Gadhafi is gone, killed by rebels in his home city last October, and Libyans are still finding fresh and original ways to display the bloody images of his final moments on Facebook.

His death finally released Gadhafi’s grip on Libya’s recent history, and his people are just beginning to revise the record.

He goes on to talk about visiting the national museum, where all of the Gadhafi related installations have been removed.

And now, Counterpunch’s treatment of narrative-control in Libya:

It was decided long ago that no supporters of Gaddafi would be allowed to stand in the upcoming elections, but recent changes have gone even further. Law 37, passed by the new NATO-imposed government last month, has created a new crime of ‘glorifying’ the former government or its leader – subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment . . . Even more indicative of the contempt for the rule of law amongst the new government . . . whose only power base remains the colonial armed forces – is Law 38. This law has now guaranteed immunity from prosecution for anyone who committed crimes aimed at “promoting or protecting the revolution”. Those responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Tawergha – such as Misrata’s self-proclaimed “brigade for the purging of black skins” – can continue their hunting down of that cities’ refugees in the full knowledge that they have the new ‘law’ on their side.

Counterpunch also highlights the 50,000 killed by NATO forces, the necessity of removing Gadhafi before the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) could operate freely on the continent–until now AFRICOM was headquartered in Germany; and the US combat troops now engaged in South Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic. Counterpunch addresses the topic of Libya repeatedly and in depth, the archives are a phenomenal resource.

The rest of “the Revolutionary Roadtrip,” thus far, has highlighted North Africa’s favorite hot-sauce, camel meat as food, and a scare story about the danger of radical Islam derailing NATO’s “democratic reforms.”

It’s indicative that the very tippy-tip of the left-leaning mass media can’t even so much as hint at the return of brutal colonialism on an already tortured continent. It’s disinformation at it’s worst to highlight the brutality of the previous regime without mentioning that the current one has retroactively and in perpituity legalized death squads It’s the height of dark irony to allege Orwellian control by a very weak dictator from the gobal platform of the state radio of the most powerful and narrative dominating empire the world has ever seen.

It’s an illustration of the power of the human intellect. Such a flimsy and transparent touchstone will suffice to shield the public conscious from the blatant, deep evil of our rulers.

Excerpted David Brooks Describes A True Civilization

I don’t think I’ve ever been able to agree with a higher percentage of physical content in a David Brooks article than today. With just a few minutes of editing, his words describe the conditions under which all of humanity could live and thrive in a state of cooperation and peace.

We live in a culture that finds it easier to assign moral status to victims of power than to those who wield power.

Then there is our fervent devotion to equality, to the notion that all people are equal.

Those “Question Authority” bumper stickers no longer symbolize an attempt to distinguish just and unjust authority. They symbolize an attitude of opposing authority.

The common assumption is that elites are always hiding something. Those people at the top are [not] smart or as wonderful [or] pure.

The World War II memorial is a nullity. It tells you nothing about the war or why American power was mobilized to fight it.

The Vietnam memorial is about tragedy.

You end up with movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Parties that try to dispense with authority altogether. They reject hierarchies and leaders because they don’t believe in the concepts. The whole world should be like the Internet — a disbursed semianarchy in which authority is suspect and each individual is king.

[It’s understood that] power is built on a series of paradoxes . . . Democratic followership is also built on a series of paradoxes

Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions.

Not bad, eh?

I recommend against reading the original (and yet I link to it. Yeah go read it, and understand he wrote it at the behest of power). It’s literally the worst, over the top, lick-spittle toadying I’ve ever read from an adult. Or a child for that matter, unless they’re talking about their favorite comic book characters.

Austin Cops Add “Preserve Life” to Official To-Do List

From the Onion-or-Real-Life dept, Austin Police Department has “altered its guiding set of policies by adding a ‘preservation of life standard’ that tells officers that their main responsibility is to preserve human life.”

Thanks, local activists, for getting “not killing people” on the APD todo list. I’m guess dogs are not included in the radical new life preservation policy. It’s too bad, APD is missing out on an opportunity to drastically reduce its munitions budget.

Another new addition says, “We must realize our main responsibility is the protection of the community, and the preservation of human life and dignity.”
Mannix [ Assistant Police Chief ] said police officials have discussed adding the standard for about three years.

I wonder if the implementation phase will take as long the discussion phase. It doesn’t go into effect until July 1st, so keep any people or animals you love away from the police for a few more weeks.

Mannix said that the spirit of the policy has always been followed in the department’s culture, code of conduct and training procedures. He said the department’s goal in adding the standard is to help residents understand that this is the case.

I’m no public relations expert, but I’m pretty sure the best way to help residents understand that the police intend to preserve life would be to have the police stop shooting people, animals, and other living things.

You’ll want to void your bladder before you read this next part:

Mannix said preservation of life goes beyond shootings. He said he feels a good example of the policy in action came in April, when 35-year-old Ahmede Jabbar Bradley was fatally shot during a confrontation with an officer . . . after Bradley was shot, police attempted to revive him with CPR, Mannix said.
“The concept of preservation of life is not just about use of force,” Mannix said. “It’s about everything our officers do, like pulling a kid from a burning car or performing CPR on someone.”

You read that correctly: Mannix feels a “good example” of preserving life is a case where police fatally shot someone and then performed CPR. I wonder if the kid-from-a-burning-car example occurred after the police shoved the kid into the car and set it on fire.

On second reading: you’ll probably want to continue to avoid the police at all reasonable costs even past the July 1st implementation of life preservation, “he [Mannix] said he doesn’t think it will affect the way officers perform their duties”. Yeah, I bet it won’t.

Intentional Killing of Strangers Called “Murder” by Rogue Media Person

Jeremy Scahill will surely reap a Chris Hayes style whirlwind of condemnation for his Chris Hayes style stating of the obvious (on Chris Hayes’ show, oddly enough).

Of course ordering the death of strangers on the other side of the world is murder. Intentionally killing people who can’t possibly harm you is what murder *is*. Scahill is willing to cut the administration some slack and keep the strangers that have been secretly “kill listed” out of the murder tally. He’s only counting up the thousands of women and children–the administration considers all males to be combatants–vaporized by presidentially authorized attacks.

President Obama and all those that follow his homicidal orders are murderers. It’s not a wild claim. The declaration requires only a cursory review of the facts and an objective viewpoint.

One might retort that by my definition (not necessarily Scahill’s), every war president–which is all of them, I believe–is a murderer. That’s true, and they are. I understand that most historical narratives carve out special exceptions for rulers because they are working on behalf of God or the motherland or democracy or something. If the mystical bullshit is put aside and we observe the facts of history, 44 American men have taken successive turns sending armed men and machines around the world butchering millions–rivals for power and innocents alike. That, again, is what murder is.

Someone incapable of abandoning the political process can make the claim that a particular murderer is better or worse than another. Perhaps one president murdered more reluctantly than another or helped more or fewer people with his murders and threats of murder. I respect the realistic favoring of a particular murderer on the basis of the perceived alternatives. Though I will continue to advocate for alternatives to murder as a central organizing principle of society; I understand, in many cases, the reasons for pleading one’s case the to the current ruler or trying to replace him with another.

It’s contrary to reality, however, to claim they aren’t murderers. It negates the humanity of their victims, and, frankly, indicates a lack of humanity–or ability to observe the glaringly obvious–on the part of the claimant. If we can’t start the conversation with the understanding presiding over the killing of innocent human beings is murder, we’re not operating in the same moral universe.

The Cart and the Horse

Amanda Marcotte makes note of a study that indicates religious homophobia is the primary force driving the young out of the church, with 60% quitting religion when they leave home. The claim, she concludes, that morality comes from religion is precisely backwards:

The church needs people in the pews to survive, and while those people are constantly told their role is to submit and obey, if they just decide they don’t want to, the church is shown to be an emperor with no clothes. Thus, religion throughout history has had plenty of takebacks. The churches that used to preach segregation and white supremacy don’t do so anymore, at least as openly. A lot of churches, especially more mainstream ones, are giving up on the argument that women are just support staff, and many are even letting them be ministers and priests. Either they get with the times on gay marriage, or they find their ability to exert power diminish. Since churches are about power, most of them will adjust over time. That’s why they’re freaking out now; they know what’s coming.

While the “common wisdom” is that the church creates and maintains a moral code, the reality is that the chuch adapts the moral code of the majority in order to maintain the largest cohesive flock (for continual fleecing).

Religious doctrine is simply the encoding of popular morality, both the good, doing unto other an’at; and the stone evil, usually sanctifying existing hierarchies. As Amanda observes:

the historical purpose of religion is not to comfort but to control. Religion’s primary function is, if you look at the whole of history, about creating rationales for unjust power hierarchies. Kings have used “god” as their excuse for absolute power, and religion is the primary reason that men in a diverse array of cultures over cite as the reason they should be the lords of their wives and daughters. Even liberal Christians are tied to the long history of power-grabbing through religion, using the language of submission and calling believers a “kingdom”.

As humanity shakes off the various barbaric hierarchies of our past, religion has had to adopt. It gets dragged kicking and screaming into modernity. In the future, of course, religious adherents will highlight the work that some christians somewhere have probably done to advance gay rights and claim that christianity and its message of all encompassing love lead the way to a more perfect equality.

Most of us–the historically literate anyway–will call bullshit. We can cite the nearly infinite counter-examples where red faced douchebags stomped around waving the bible around and screaming about the evils of homosexuality.

Like the myths that the German catholic church opposed Hitler, or that American churches opposed slavery, only believers will, well, believe.

The timing of this article is interesting. Coming, as it does, the day after Barack Obama publicly supported gay marriage. Government is the other stone-aged human superstition that humanity has dragged along through the centuries. Very much like religion, it has always claimed to be a bringer of order in the midst of chaos.

Rest assured that, like future religious hagiographers, future historians will tell a convincing tale of how the government, with its commitment to civil liberties, boldly legislated marital freedom for everyone–in between pacifying the borders and protecting the world from terrorists. We’re hearing the first draft of the story right now. The one your grandkids learn, should they fall into the hands of government schools, will be far more epic.

Which really is the only difference between the chuch and the state in this regard. I’d wager it’s the only reason there are more atheists than anarchists: the state has 15,000 more hours to propagandize children than the church. The state’s stories aren’t remarkably more believable, and a few hours of research on a particular issue will reveal the nature of both church and state as reactionary anchors against human progress.

The Bikecast Episode #55: Chit-chatting About the Patriarchy

Th Bikecast is back, albeit without the bike this time. I’ll transition to another name when I think of a good one.

In this reboot premier episode, I’m thinking through the history and nature of patriarchy and how its position as the fundamental organizing principle of the various and myriad institutional hurdles to human happiness and flourishing. Good stuff!

PS. I have no idea why the embed is doing that. The Internet Archive has changed up some stuff since last year.

The Law, She is Simple

Law, along with economics and politics, is a relatively comprehensible subject about which the ruled are systematically kept ignorant. It’s an intuitive subject made ridiculously and artificially complex.

Here’s a necessary axiom of any civilized legal system: if there’s no victim and/or nobody complaining, nobody can be charged with a crime. To put it positively, if an action doesn’t hurt anybody else, it can’t be illegal.

That leaves room for complexity–situations where there it’s hard to tie together bad actors and victims, like, for example polluters or financial criminals.[1]But let’s put those aside for the moment and talk about the cases in which there is clearly, inarguably no victim at all.

If we were to go prisoner-by-prisoner and ask everyone in the country: “Did this person ever harm you in any way? If not, we’re letting them go,” somewhere north of 80% of people would walk free.

Those 1.5+ million people are typically in cages for one of two reasons. Most frequently, they’ve done something that is “wrong” in someone’s opinion, usually to do with buying or selling non-patented drugs. The second category of prisoner are those who someone (usually the same someones from the first case) thinks might engage in an actual crime with actual victims in the future–usually poor people with BAC higher than .08 or those who don’t enthusiastically follow orders from a cop.

That’s over 1.5 million people in cages in the US because nobody–at least not enough people–understand the most basic legal premise: no victim, no crime. I’ve never had a discussion with a lawyer about this subject that made any sense to me[2] That in itself doesn’t disqualify the legal-system-that-is as being something that does make sense, of course–I don’t understand quantum physics or space-time either. I feel like I’m willing to admit what I don’t know.

But when an expert in the field tries to help me get my mind around 4 dimensions or particle physics, I can see–usually via analogy or some simplification–the gist of what they’re trying to convey. It also helps that their explanations start with universal principles that are veritably true, or at least are very probably true.

When a legal expert attempts to explain why actions without victims (again, putting aside fringe cases) are crimes, things get absurd very quickly. There is no analogy or model or motivating example that leads to even a glimmer of sense. Yet every lawyer, every judge, and most politicians are trained in this way of thinking; this notion of the law as opinion given violent force. If you manage to stay in the conversation long enough, the rationale usually disolves down to: “it’s the law,” or some twist on the social contract–a fantastic unseen document that seems to under-gird most of the gawdawful things that rulers do to everyone else

And so, men, women and children are locked up. Their lives are destroyed based on legal principles that can’t be clearly explained other than to say that they exist because they do or because magic.

Not unrelated, but for another post: most of the people whose actions *do* have thousands or millions of victims–bailed out bankers, polluters, violent cops, “private abusers”/rapists, mercenary/imperial armies, etc.–are never held accountable. And so the law as we experience it is sort of the opposite of how law is supposed to function, which is kind of a pattern you may have noticed around other apologies for violence.

I am optimistic that 10 or 20 years from now, and increasingly as I age, I’ll be able to talk about law with people who weren’t raised with physical punishment or by parent who thought “because I said so” was a reason for anything. With more and more children being raised in safe, sane and loving households the nonsense that currently passes for a legal system doesn’t stand a chance.

  1. [1] two crimes with tons of victims and almost no one held legally accountable are polluting of the environment and financial fraud.
  2. [2] Granted, I don’t hang out with lawyers that often.

The Straw Man of Collective Guilt

In response to a previous post:

“Women are oppressed by men” is so large and grandiose and vague as to be useless.

That may be true, but then so are: “taxation is theft,” “The police have always been thugs who protect the moneyed,” or “Any unarmed people are slaves, or are subject to slavery at any given moment.”

Most taxpayers self-report as willing; most police want to serve the public and very few unarmed people (in the United States) feel like slaves. To note the abstract relationship isn’t to express a universal as expressed by each and every individual, it’s to highlight the fundamental dynamic. The core truth of taxation is that, if one were to resist it, one would find oneself mugged. Any policeman who wants to be a thug won’t likely be stopped and anyone who attacks the infrastructure of wealth will find themselves fighting police. Unarmed people every day find themselves fighting heavily armed state agents and are forced into an obedient role (or find themselves dead).

Most men don’t rape women, many men may not ever use their physical presence to dominate a woman. The fundamental reality of sex, however, is that almost any man can physically overwhelm almost any woman at any time. Importantly to the day-to-day reality of women, that worst-case scenario plays out more frequently than the federal take-down of tax resisters, instances of police brutality, or the rounding up of disarmed civilians.

Show indicia of THIS MAN oppressing THAT WOMAN and you begin to show clarity.
I’m not shouldering blame for what some other man did to a woman I don’t know.

Indicia? You have furthered my education with your comment, sir! This is, I think, the crux of the issue. The conversation about the realities of existing power dynamics does not damn or entitle any individual. We’ve been conditioned to believe:

Wherever human beings engage in direct discourse with one another about their mutual rights and responsibilities, there is a politics. I mean politics in the sense of the public sphere in which discourse over rights and responsibilities is carried on, much in the way Hannah Arendt discusses it. …. The force of public opinion, like that of markets, is not best conceived as a concentrated will representing the public, but as the distributed influence of political discourses throughout society.
Johnson and Long, Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

That refusal doesn’t make me a co-oppressor.
It merely makes me someone who will accept blame when it is accurately placed


Certainly no one should be blamed for the actions of a third party and refusing to “shoulder the blame for what some man did to a woman I don’t know” is absurd. In discussions about the crimes of government, kindergarten teachers aren’t widely considered to be co-oppressors. The state can be the object of critique without everyone who is in some way connected to state power feeling the need to come screaming in to stop the discussion. The same should be true of critiques of other power disparities.

At issue is not the need for collective guilt, but rather to honor the subjective experience of people giving their account of oppression. To return to the parallel, anarchists bristle when their subjective accounts of state oppression are dismissed and when they are chided to remain within the cultural confines of “their place in society” in order to remain unmolested by state agents. We, of all people, should stand in solidarity with others whose experiences are similarly dismissed–those who are told to fit sex, gender, and any other social norm in order to remain unmolested by whoever claims the authority to trespass against them. That solidarity should be extended no matter who the claimed oppressor is, even if it’s not the state.

The State and Other Oppressors

I’ve said it before, and I doubt you’ll be spared me saying it many times again: for most people on this planet, the state isn’t the primary impediment to their freedom and happiness.

Not to downplay the millions of victims on the receiving end of US “foreign policy,” or caged in global or domestic gulags–the withering away of the state will mean life instead of death or imprisonment and that is, of course, a very good thing.

A component of that withering, both underestimated and inestimable, is the recognition and dismantling of systems of oppression besides those enshrined in state institutions.

While the parallels between the violent nature of the state and the violent nature of other power structures are striking, they’re hard to address because, like state violence, their pervasiveness makes them difficult to identify. Highlighting the true nature of these systems to someone who has grown up within them is nearly impossible. Enlightenment, if and when it happens, usually comes when the “violence inherent in the system” manifests itself on the soon-to-be-enlightened, or perhaps a loved one thereof.

The other path to seeing the previously unseen is repeated exposure to the idea that the system is based on violence, founded on inequality. This requires profound patience on the part of all involved and a waiting out of the bluster and bombast and whatever other defense mechanisms are in place to prevent one seeing what is in front of one’s nose.

Anarchists get that the state relationship is based on violence: not just the wars and the prisons, but every law. The proof of this is trivial and it’s an axiom, literally, of all post-highschool political science, yet most Americans refuse to see the violence in the system. They believe that they are voluntary participants in institutions necessary for civilization when the truth is actually the opposite.

Outside of the persistent targets of state violence: immigrants, the poor, and racial minorities, only the disobedient get a taste (or more, depending on how quickly they relent) of what stands behind every law, every ordinance, every statute.

I have some rudimentary insight into a particular non-state parallel that I’ve written about before. Prepare to detect in yourself the defense mechanisms that will attempt to force your mind away from a very clear and obvious truth: women are oppressed, not primarily by the state, but by men.

Yes, there are exceptions; yes, the state historically supported the dominance of me; no, not all men are violent oppressors; no, not all women are victims of physical violence. Neither are all citizens victims of state violence and neither are all state agents perpetrators of violence. As Charles Johnson and Roderick Long point out in their must-read paper, Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved? regarding a common non-feminist reaction to the claim that we live in a rape culture:

Libertarians rightly recognize that legally enacted violence is the means by which all rulers keep all citizens in a state of fear, even though not all government functionaries personally beat, kill, or imprison anybody, and even though not all citizens are beaten, killed, or imprisoned; the same interpretive charity towards the radical feminist analysis of rape is not too much to ask.

The analogy I’ve used is the experience of being approached by a policeman. In a given encounter, it’s very unlikely that the cop will beat, cage or kill you. The anarchist analysis, felt in the gut of virtually everyone even if it can’t be put into words, is that the policemen could beat, cage or kill you and would almost certainly get away with it.

If he wants your name or ID or for you to disclose the contents of your pockets, it’s considered by most to be a normal social interaction. Your resistance to his desires is considered unnatural and potentially risky. Anything that happens to you if decide to break with the social norm is going to be seen by most people as your own fault, by one twisted rationale or another.

Women are in an analogous position vis-à-vis an encounter with a man. A woman is expected to make conversation and be cordial if approached and can reasonably be asked her name, phone number, and what she’s doing this weekend. None of this is considered socially invasive. It place in a context where violence could very well be the result of refusing to participate. In most cases, barring sufficiently enlightened witnesses, alot of people will bend over backwards to blame the woman for whatever ills visit her as a result of the encounter.

Denying that this is the case, especially denying it to people who have had that very subjective experience, is, well, fucked up.

I’ve got alot more to say about this, but in the interest of actually posting something, I’ll break it off here. This feels rambly anyway, so I’d be happy if somebody focused my thinking on some aspect of the above.

Nothing New in the National Defense Authorization Act

The National Defense Authorization Act (HR 1540) was signed on the last day of 2011. The bill, now law, has been in the non-mainstream news lately because of several clauses that “allow” the indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens without trial.

As always, discussion and skepticism about the claimed authority to cage human beings forever, without a stated reason, and without any recourse is extremely healthy and I applaud anyone who brings the topic up at all[1].

That said, the belief that this power hasn’t always existed under the Constitution is patently incorrect. The indefinite detention of the seditious without trial is as old as “the republic” itself. A typical American lifetime has seen multiple instances of indefinite political mass-detention cloaked in the claim of national defense; ours is unlikely to be any different.

The root of the problem isn’t that the current government is becoming tyrannical, it is already demonstrably so. The root is that the government has always been tyrannical. It has always used prisons and the military/police to kill or cage anyone[2], foreign or domestic, who challenges the existing power structure in a meaningful way. What we’re currently witnessing is simply the increase in numbers of domestic subjects who recognize, to some degree, the nature of the existing structures and who are compelled to challenge them.

The NDAA, then, is just a reminder that you too are subject to indefinite, trial-free detention; or indefinite military detention; or trial-free military detention. You will not, however, be held indefinitely in military detention without a trial, they promise.

Besides not being worth the paper it’s written on, the signing statement will not protect anyone from disappearing whom the government deems to be a threat to “business as usual.” Even the party hacks for the democrats concede that point. Their focus is on the fact that the NDAA claims not to expand current executive power . . . aaand that the executive can currently do whatever it wants to anyone in the world. History, both mainstream and revisionist, reminds us in no uncertain terms that government has always claimed and exercised this power.

Simplistic, though thoroughly sufficent, evidence is offered by the Injustice Everywhere’s worst police misconduct of the year poll[3].
Here you will see a sampling of the thousands of instances of government killing, detaining, and caging human beings without trial.

You could argue that the killers aren’t from the military–not even the federal government in most cases. I would like you to reexamine the trees and keep an eye out for the forest. Putting aside uniform colors and the jurisdictional questions of whose cages/bullets belong to whom, your rulers will not let you disobey in any meaningful way. Even movements as mainstream as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are threatening enough to provoke fear-mongering about domestic terrorists and reminders, like the NDAA, of the price of dissent.

To sum up: the NDAA is a reiteration of the relationship between the subjects and the rulers. The rulers can beat, cage and kill anyone they want at will. There is no systemic recourse to speak of. There are no legal nor practical limits to their power over you within the nation-state framework. Until this observable fact is . . . observed by a critical mass of the ruled, we will continue to exist and live our lives at the pleasure of the power structure.

Update: Glenn Greenwald and Mike Adams do wonkier and better written analyses of NDAA but come to similar conclusions.

  1. [1] I’m definitely not trying to use the “This has always been a problem, so shut up,” technique. Rather, I’m going for, “let’s talk about how f’d up it is that this has always been and continues to be the case.
  2. [2] It will also, without hesitation, kill or cage anyone in the vicinity or of the same race or religion.
  3. [3] I originally misattributed the poll to Copblock.org, another great, illuminating website. Thanks Ademo for the correction