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Authoritarian Regimes (Like the U.S. and Britain) Treat Reporters Like Terrorists Washington’s Blog

Authoritarian Regimes (Like the U.S. and Britain) Treat Reporters Like Terrorists Washington’s Blog.

The U.S. Government Condemns Authoritarian Regimes Which Use Anti-Terror Laws to Stifle Journalism

It is widely known that authoritarian regimes use “anti-terror” laws to crack down on journalism.

But this extreme tactic is becoming more and more common.  The Committee to Protect Journalistsreported a year ago that terrorism laws are being misused worldwide to crush journalism:

The number of journalists jailed worldwide hit 232 in 2012, 132 of whom were held on anti-terror or other national security charges. Both are records in the 22 years CPJ has documented imprisonments.

The American government has rightly condemned such abuses.  For example, the U.S. State Department noted last April:

Some governments are too weak or unwilling to protect journalists and media outlets. Many others exploit or create criminal libel or defamation or blasphemy laws in their favor. They misuse terrorism laws to prosecute and imprison journalists. They pressure media outlets to shut down by causing crippling financial damage. They buy or nationalize media outlets to suppress different viewpoints. They filter or shut down access to the Internet. They detain and harass – and worse.

The State Department condemned Burundi in 2012 for treating journalists as terrorists.

The 2012 State Department human rights report on Turkey criticized the country for imprisoning “scores of journalists…most charged under antiterror laws or for connections to an illegal organization.”

The State Department rightly announced in 2012:

We are deeply concerned about the Ethiopian government’s conviction of a number of journalists and opposition members under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. This practice raises serious questions and concerns about the intent of the law, and about the sanctity of Ethiopians’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

The arrest of journalists has a chilling effect on the media and on the right to freedom of expression. We have made clear in our ongoing human rights dialogue with the Ethiopian government that freedom of expression and freedom of the media are fundamental elements of a democratic society.

As Secretary Clinton has said, “When a free media is under attack anywhere, all human rights are under attack everywhere. That is why the United States joins its global partners in calling for the release of all imprisoned journalists in every country across the globe and for the end to intimidation.”

Last October – in response to respected Moroccan journalist Ali Anouzla being arrested under an anti-terror law for linking to a Youtube video – the State Department said:

We are concerned with the government of Morocco’s decision to charge Mr. Anouzla. We support freedom of expression and of the press, as we say all the time, universal rights that are an indispensable part of any society.

U.S. and U.K. Do the Exact Same Thing

Unfortunately, the American and British governments are doing the exact same thing.

The British High Court just ruled that Glenn Greenwald’s partner could be treated like a terrorist because he was trying to deliver leaked documents to reporters.

Amnesty International writes:

It is clearly deeply troubling if laws designed to combat terrorism can be used against those involved in reporting stories of fundamental public interest. There is no question the ruling will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the future.

Indeed, the British government considers the following activities to constitute terrorism:

The disclosure, or threat of disclosure, is designed to influence a government [or] made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause.

The ACLU’s Ben Wizner satirically writes:

Relax, everyone. You’re not terrorists unless you try “to influence a government.” Just type what you’re told.

The U.S. government is targeting whistleblowers in order to keep its hypocrisy secret … so that it cankeep on doing the opposite of what it tells other countries to do.

As part of this effort to suppress information which would reveal the government’s hypocrisy, the American government – like the British government – is treating journalists as terrorists.

Journalism is not only being criminalized in America, but investigative reporting is actually treated liketerrorism.

Veteran reporters and journalists say that the Obama administration is the most “hostile to media” of any administration in history.

The government admits that journalists could be targeted with counter-terrorism laws (and here). For example, after Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing aboutbad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge

After the government’s spying on the Associated Press made it clear to everyone that the government is trying to put a chill journalism, the senior national-security correspondent for Newsweek tweeted:

Serious idea. Instead of calling it Obama’s war on whistleblowers, let’s just call it what it is: Obama’s war on journalism.

Moreover:

  • The Bush White House worked hard to smear CIA officersbloggers and anyone else who criticized the Iraq war
  • In an effort to protect Bank of America from the threatened Wikileaks expose of the bank’s wrongdoing, the Department of Justice told Bank of America to a hire a specific hardball-playing law firm to assemble a team to take down WikiLeaks (and see this)

And the American government has been instrumental in locking up journalists in America (and here),Yemen and elsewhere for the crime of embarrassing the U.S. government.

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: How to Make a Million: Extortion Creates its own Antidote

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: How to Make a Million: Extortion Creates its own Antidote.

The problem is its own solution. Whether we try to stop the Status Quo, or let it stop, it WILL stop.

Longtime correspondent Eric A. has a new essay describing a key dynamic of the years ahead: Extortion and skimming create their own antidotes. As the costs of skimming, extortion and corruption reach new heights, the savings to be gained by bypassing the Status Quo systems also increase.

Here are a few of Eric’s previous essays:

A Brief History of Cycles and Time, Part 1 (May 13, 2013)

A Brief History of Cycles and Time, Part 2 (May 14, 2013)

Generation X: An Inconvenient Era (May 23, 2013)

The essence of my key analytic concepts, neofeudalism and neocolonialism, is that debt and other state-cartel schemes enclose and imprison the bottom 90% while leaving the illusions of liberty, democracy and “prosperity” intact so the debt-serf inhabitants of the home-country neocolonial plantations love their servitude.

Eric’s point is that the incentives to escape the home-country plantation are rising in parallel with the skimming of the state-cartel Elites.

Here’s is Eric’s provocatively insightful essay:


Concerning the Middleman-Skimming Economy, I’m here to tell you, it’s not all bad! The oppressive system you describe of graft, fraud, theft, and extortion creates its own antidote.
Banking, for instance. Problem: they have created an enormous skimming operation, and one that puts users at personal and financial risk, as well as annoying the heck out of customers for no reason. But that means the problem, stated simply is, “they make too much money.”

But that means that ANY ONE who goes around them in ANY WAY, has enormous payoff. Also creating a solution, like micro-loans, digital clearing, etc, has enormous incentive.

Simply put, so long as the out-sized pay exists, the out-sized incentive to avoid them, ignore them, go around them, re-think them, will always exist. Every minute, to every participant. So they’re really creating the solution as fast as they can.

Same with these other issues. Health Care? The kickoff of ACA (Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare) was the starting gun for cash-only medical care which until now only lived in the slimmest shadows. Since basically the co-pay alone is more than paying in cash–and the entire premium is 110% of direct welfare to the health lobby (a business model usually called “extortion”)– there’s no possible incentive not to ignore the system entirely and pay cash. The penalty would have to be 2x, 3x, 5x higher to come anywhere near tipping the balance. And thanks to a decade of previous screwing, the young people don’t actually HAVE the money, so even if the penalty were raised, it would have no practical effect.

Although college, with their 3x more admins, paid 2x more is a clear example, it’s the same with military, government, all these. All we have to do to save 50%, 90% or more is ignore them and let them collapse.

What do you think Detroit is doing for their present residents? As far as I can tell, basically nothing–and that’s true for cities nationwide. All we have to do is tell them to cease existing, go bankrupt, for-the-love-of-God stop helping, and we’ll all save 50% of our money and scarcely have a lower level of service. I mean, you can hardly exceed abominable.

The NYC school system is a great example: something like 66% of students drop out, while many of the remainder are uneducated and illiterate. What possible harm would it be to close the school system and stop paying for it altogether? With rates that bad, basically only the students who would study at home and pass anyway are passing now. Teachers, administration, programs, are therefore measurably providing ZERO benefit over the baseline. So it’s easy to see that we can’t possibly do worse, BUT WE CAN SAVE 100% OF OUR MONEY.

That’s incentive. Especially when most of us haven’t got a nickel to spare. By demanding ALL THE THINGS, they have only destroyed themselves.

Unfortunately, they’ve taken most of us with them.

Just for anecdote, a friend of mine works for a group home. They had a resident with a 105-degree fever who had been to the E.R., but had returned as his heart was racing–a thing easily noticed by pre-nurses and healthcare-oriented staff.

This patient had chest pains as well, and although hard to quantify it was worrisome stuff. So they took him back to the E.R. and waited 2 hours to be seen because there were… wait for it… two patients that evening.

The doctor prescribed Motrin. … I didn’t skip over a part there, the doctor heard the healthcare employee say the patient had chest pains with an irregular heartbeat, refused to hear it, refused to examine, said they’d seen the patient yesterday and they had a cold. Yes, they’d been in already. Because they didn’t diagnose it the first time. The hospital then forgot to fill the prescription Motrin and issued an empty envelope, releasing the patient on a Sunday, presumably to DIE OF HEART ARRHYTHMIA, and/or fever, and/or whatever it was they might have had, which they didn’t know, because they never looked.

If we were in a log cabin, in 1820 Kentucky, and I spent 2 hours walking my sick Pa down to the neighboring cabin and said, “Well Billy-Joe, Pa’s been sick and now his heart sounds funny,” what do you think you would do? You’d probably say, “let me listen and see if you’re right.” We’ve descended below the level of instinctual primate behavior here, and are into some sub-basement reserved for PhD’s.

Doctors and mis-prescriptions are now a leading cause of death–26x more deadly than firearms, 800,000 vs. 30,000/yr.

Death by Medicine (Estimated Annual Mortality and Economic Cost of Medical Intervention)

Gun violence in the United States

Granted that as people see doctors when already ill, the numbers are not neatly comparable. However, medicine is considered “safe” or “exemplary”, we are encouraged to use it, while guns are often considered the standard for “unsafe” and “dangerous.” While many would die without medicine, this suggests the baseline is that 800,000/year would be saved by banning medicine altogether. In short: We’re doing it wrong. Considering we pay twice (on a per person basis) what other developed nations pay for care, net-net could we really do much worse by having no doctors or medicine whatsoever?

Not really an unusual case either. They tried to kill someone a few weeks earlier and a different patient that weekend. They have tried to kill family members several times. I’m sure most readers have a similar scare stories. But death by neglect is still fatal, the fault of just not giving a damn.

Surely I exaggerate?

800,000 people were statistically killed via paid-for quack science that incorrectly (and illegally) promoted statins in Europe.

Medicine Or Mass Murder? Guideline Based on Discredited Research May Have Caused 800,000 Deaths In Europe Over The Last 5 Years (Forbes)
The earlier paper demonstrated the potentially large and lethal consequences of the current European Society of Cardiology guideline recommending the liberal use of beta-blockers to protect the heart during surgery for people undergoing non cardiac surgery. There is, it has now become clear, a general lack of concern and response to evidence of scientific fraud and misconduct.

This was quickly followed by a few thousand probable deaths of blood clots due to a newer configuration of the Pill.

Have 800 women been killed by the Pill? The alarming dangers of taking so-called third generation contraceptives (Daily Mail, U.K.)

(Note that 800 deaths are only the U.K.) –Just two random articles in the last few days, probably hundreds of others with millions of deaths if I looked. The over 60,000 deaths from provably corrupt research authorizing Vioxx comes to mind.

I somehow feel that if I killed 800,000 people through fraud, abuse, or neglect, that the police would be –I don’t know– MAD at me or something. Or killed even one group home patient by refusing to lift a finger. There were once quite a number of laws concerning it: neglect, reckless endangerment, manslaughter–murder even.

But that’s so 20th Century. Consequences, I mean. Laws and enforcing them. Like so many, we’re now considering flying out of the country for healthcare, but unlike so many we don’t have money for 5-star hospital spas in Goa or Singapore. So we were thinking maybe the Belgian Congo for better medical care than rural NY. I hear they may have stethoscopes there.

THAT’S what I mean when I say you could close the whole system and have it be a measurable benefit to mankind.

The problem is its own solution. Whether we try to stop, or let it stop, it WILL stop.Because anything that can’t go on, won’t. When you’re at 100% costs and 0% benefits, congratulations, you’ve reached the Singularity.


Thank you, Eric, for an insightful look at the benefits of bypassing or ignoring the Status Quo systems, and the benefits that will accrue from their inevitable collapse. The idea that the next arrangement will be better, cheaper, more equitable and sustainable is not yet dominant, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

8 Logical Fallacies That Misinform Our Minds | DeSmog Canada

8 Logical Fallacies That Misinform Our Minds | DeSmog Canada.

Imagine coming across a piece of reliable information that contradicts everything you’ve ever believed about, say, global warming or the war on terror. It would likely prompt the question: if you were wrong about such an important issue, what else could you be wrong about? What’s more, if you’ve been wrong about a bunch of things, then perhaps you’re not quite as well-informed as you had previously believed.
Thoughts like these are jarring ones because they threaten our sense of self — making us feel stupid, empty, even worthless. Unsurprisingly then, most people’s willingness to open up to new information depends largely on how this information will challenge or coincide with their preconceived notions of what is good or bad, right or wrong, true or false.
According to a study by researchers at the University of Waterloo, called Self-Affirmation and Sensitivity to Argument Strength, when people are presented with corrective information that runs counter to their ideology, those who most strongly identify with the ideology will intensify their incorrect beliefs. And as such, the greater the challenge new information poses to a person’s self-worth, the less likely it is to have any impact at all on them.
If there’s something positive to draw from these uncomfortable realizations of our purposeful ignorance, it’s that if we take the time to better understand why and how people think and feel the way they do, these inherent biases can be successfully mitigated and controlled.
And with this aim in mind, what follows — keeping in mind that I have likely succumb to a few of these during the writing of this piece, as you will during the process of reading it — are eight of the most commonplace logical fallacies that misinform our minds every day.
1. Backfire effect: As mentioned above, the more a piece of information lowers self-worth, the more likely it is to be rejected outright. Therefore, new information can create such ideological insecurity that people will manufacture counterarguments to the point that they overcompensate and become more convinced of their original views. Hence, instead of convincing someone to question an invalidated belief, fresh information can actually ‘backfire’ by strengthening the grasp a refuted opinion has on an individual.
Monkey see, monkey do. Image Credit: danmachold/Flickr
2. Status quo bias: We tend to be apprehensive of change, and this often leads us to make choices motivated by the desire to keep things as familiar as possible. This is because for most people the current baseline is taken as a reference point, and any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss. Needless to say, preference for the status quo represents a core component of conservative ideology – militarism, austerity and environmental exploitation are all-too-familiar attempts to hold on to the status quo.
3. Confirmation fallacy: We love to agree with those who agree with us. We visit websites that re-express our political opinions, re-read literature that reaffirms our cultural upbringings, befriend people with likeminded attitudes and form cohesive social circles based around similar key viewpoints. At the same time, we practice a reactive reasoning in that we undervalue, scrutinise and dismiss arguments, figures, and people that challenge our entrenched worldviews — after all, we are our own biggest censors.
4. In-group fallacy: Similar to the confirmation fallacy, due to our innate desire to be socially accepted, we tend to favour the thoughts, ideals and sentiments of those with whom we racially and culturally identify with most. And conversely, this means we are suspicious, fearful and ignorant of the preferences, wants, needs and values of groups and peoples that we have difficulty identifying with — this goes a long way toward explaining why racism remains so rampant in liberal-democratic countries.
5. False consensus bias: As we cannot really experience anything outside of our own consciousness, we tend to believe most people think like we do. In group settings, false consensus biases cause us to accept that the opinions, preferences and values of our own group reflect the larger population. And since groups tend to reach a consensus and avoid those who dispute it, they believe everyone thinks that way. This is the sort of groupthink that convinces political extremists they have widespread support.
Put a stop to groupthink by jumping off the bandwagon. Image Credit: caffeina/Flickr
6. Bandwagon Effect: Opinions and viewpoints spread infectiously among people, meaning we are very likely to adopt a belief merely because lots of other people believe it too. In other words, people are both socially insecure and cognitively lazy. We don’t want to think for ourselves, and we often assume that if someone else has already adopted something, it can’t be bad. Even though the popularity of an argument has little bearing on its validity, we disregard our own judgements in an attempt to assimilate.
7. Current moment fallacy: A cognitive tragedy of the commons, we have a hard time imagining ourselves in the future and altering our behaviours accordingly. As such, most opt for gratification now, saving discomfort for later. This lack of self-control, where most people would rather exchange serious troubles in the not-to-distant future for more trivial pleasures in the moment, personifies the impulsive decision-making that is responsible for the financial meltdown, political corruption and developments that harm the environment.
8. Blind Spot Bias: Ironically enough, if you read this article thinking that these biases don’t apply to you, you might suffer from this logically fallacy, which makes us think that while biases may apply to others, we are immune to them. This is because when we assess ourselves for irrationality, we look inward, searching through our thoughts and feelings for bias. But biases operate unconsciously, so while we have little trouble pointing out the biases in others, it is exceedingly difficult for us to take note of our own.
But why go through all this trouble to point out the logical fallacies that seem to be driving ignorance and close-mindedness in our society? Well, the political implications of this sort of self-reflexive psychoanalytic exercise should be pretty obvious…
In the past year alone, Canadians have borne witness to half a dozen Senate corruption scandals, a spying agency that’s quietly collecting and sharing our personal information, the actual burning of priceless scientific archives and a relentless war on science and knowledge — all of which serve to demonstrate just how ideological our government has become.
So as we inch closer to the 2015 federal election, it is our responsibility as democratic citizens to take note of the ways these logical fallacies — and the dozens of others we succumb to — can misinform our minds, and those of our political leaders, each and everyday. For if we work at becoming a more cognizant and well-informed citizenry it will spill over into the polling station, and with any luck, onto Parliament Hill as well.
Title Image Credit: Andrew Mason/Wikimedia Commons

Election reform bill an affront to democracy, Marc Mayrand says – Politics – CBC News

Election reform bill an affront to democracy, Marc Mayrand says – Politics – CBC News.

By Susana Mas, CBC News Posted: Feb 08, 2014 7:00 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 08, 2014 7:00 AM ET

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand says the government's proposed Fair Elections Act puts severe restrictions on the information he is able to communicate to the public.Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand says the government’s proposed Fair Elections Act puts severe restrictions on the information he is able to communicate to the public. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The government’s proposed overhaul of the Elections Act includes elements that constitute an affront to democracy, according to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand.

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio’s The House, Mayrand said “my reading of the act is that I can no longer speak about democracy in this country.”

“I’m not aware of any electoral bodies around the world who can not talk about democracy,” Mayrand told host Evan Solomon.

The Fair Elections Act says it “limits the chief electoral officer’s power to provide information to the public.”

Under the proposed bill, the only role of the chief electoral officer would be to inform the public of when, where, and how to vote.

Elections Canada would be forbidden from launching ad campaigns encouraging Canadians to vote. Surveys and research would be forbidden under the new bill, Mayrand said.

“Most of the research will no longer be published because these are communications to the public.”

The chief electoral officer and the commissioner of Canada elections would also no longer be allowed to publish their reports, Mayrand said.

“These reports will no longer be available. In fact, not only not available. I don’t think it will be done at all.”

Voter turnout and legitimacy

At a time when voter turnout appears to have stagnated around the 60 per cent mark, this bill would take away efforts to increase voter turnout from the agency’s hands and leave it to would-be politicians to figure out.

Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre, who introduced the bill in Parliament on Tuesday, said candidates are better placed to get the vote out.

“Political candidates who are aspiring for office are far better at inspiring voters to get out and cast their ballot then are government bureaucracies,” ​Polievre told the Commons on Wednesday.

Persistent and declining voter turnout could undermine the legitimacy of an election’s outcome, warned Mayrand.

“Nobody owns [voter] turnout. I think it requires a collective, collaborative approach of the whole society.”

If [voter] turnout continues to decline at the pace it has been declining over the last 40 years… we’ll have questions about the legitimacy of our government and how representative they are,” Mayrand said.

Putting limits on the chief electoral watchdog, would also mean the end of Elections Canada’s participation in outreach programs for youth.

Mayrand said he would no longer be able to take part in Student Vote, a national program that allows 300,000 students who are not yet of voting age to vote in a parallel election.

All these limitations ought to give Canadians pause for concern, Mayrand said. “It’s something that should be worrisome.”

“I don’t think it reflects a model democracy that Canadians aspire to.”

Creating an independent commissioner

Polievre defended the bill, telling the Commons it would give a new independent commissioner “sharper teeth, a longer reach, and a freer hand.”

Mayrand said he would have liked to see the bill give the elections watchdog the power to compel witnesses to testify, a problem Elections Canada faced when investigating robocalls made during the last federal election.

“It’s a bit disappointing,” Mayrand said.

He also would have liked to see the bill give the chief electoral officer the authority to compel political parties and their riding associations to provide Elections Canada with financial documentation to support their financial returns.

“It would make it easier to follow the money in the system.”

“Right now we get an overall report stating expenditures of parties during campaigns… we don’t have the supporting documents that attest to those expenditures, for example. So it makes it very difficult to carry a complete compliance review of those returns,” Mayrand said.

Mayrand, who says he was not consulted on the bill, hopes members of Parliament will take the time necessary to study it at committee and consult with Canadians.

On Thursday, the government invoked time allocation, putting a limit on the amount of time members of Parliament can spend debating the new bill.

Mayrand publicly spoke about the bill for the first time on Thursday, when he defended himself against accusations of partisanship, following a committee meeting on Parliament Hill.

The chief electoral officer, like the auditor-general or the privacy commissioner, reports directly to Parliament and as such is independent of the government of the day and all political parties.

We the People… » Golem XIV – Thoughts

We the People… » Golem XIV – Thoughts.

The fact that the phrase sounds antique should warn us of the scale of our folly. We have lost, given away, pawned the power we once claimed. We have ceased to be who we once were. Or at least who we claimed and hoped to be – The People. Now who are we? The Consumer?  The Unemployed. The Unwanted?  ”We, the Unwanted” does not have the same ring about it does it? And yet that is what we are fast becoming. It is time to chose. Sit in front of your television or computer screen and let it sooth you, until one day you too find you have have become one of the unheard, unlamented, Unwanted. Or reach out to others and grasp hold.

It is surely time that we re-assert what the phrase “We, The People” once meant. It is symbolic I know. But symbols are powerful. And the powerful fear them.

For too long now we have been supine, docile and cowed. There have been sputterings of resolve when a million people took to the streets to oppose the War in Iraq. But the rulers of the day ignored us and ‘the people’ simply went home vaguely disquieted, perhaps a little hurt at being ignored but mainly just confused as to what to do next – if anything.

For decades now we have let others have the initiative, let others define what was acceptable and legitimate. When it was never their position to do so. This must stop.

Once, a certain people declared, “No taxation without representation.” It was and still is a simple idea. You may not tax me unless you represent my interests. Only those with my interests in mind may ask me for taxes. Today that definitiion of democracy has withered and been quietly replaced by another similar sounding but actually radically different version – I would say perversion – of democracy. Today we are taxed by people who represent every interest but ours. They are still representatives but not of our interests. Democracy has now become a kind of opera – more and more lavish in direct proportion to its separation from ordinary people and their lives.  Every four or five years we get to chose between two teams who represent some interest which is not ours. They may represent the interests of bankers, or global corporations, or militarists and the industrial complex which gets rich from their adventures, or some other grouping within the machinery of the State, or the intersts of a powerful global 1% – whatever interest they serve it is never yours and mine. For those who will clamour and say the Democrats or Labour or La Gauche represent the interests of the labour unions, WAKE UP!  It’s been decades since that was even partially true. Labour under Blair and Brown was Thatcherism by another name and ignored a million people who said very clearly and en masse, that the Bush/Blair war was unjust, illegal and unwanted. The Democrats under Obama followed the same financial and economic ideology as Bush, even chosing the same people to run things, and was as warlike and arrogant as well. Change? Tell it to a moron. He might believe you.

Democracy is broken. No one represents us. We are allowed only to chose between different teams of The Entitled who, once chosen, ignore us completely. The whole idea of a mandate has mutated. Once that idea meant that a government could do what it had said it would do when it was trying to win our votes. Beyond those things, it had to consider ‘The People’.  Today all parties consider that being elected means to be handed absolute power to do whatever they feel like doing, whatever they can ram through the tattered remains of accountability and oversight.

Elected dictatorship in installments is what we have today.  And when each installment, no matter the different names and colours of the teams, is almost indistinguishable from the last, what is representative democracy if not a street parade of oversized cartoon characters and their pantomimed arguments. Are we not amused?

If we do not speak up soon we will find when we finally do, nothing is heard but grunting and bleating. We are, to borrow a phrase from the brilliant Roberto Callaso, already walking through a vast slaughter house. And those who run it have no good intent.

It is past time when we must revivify what We the People means. We must stop reacting like frightened animals and take the initiative.We cannot allow those who presume to rule over us to continue to tell us what ‘must’ be done and to over-rule all debate by  insisting ‘there is no alternative.’ We must state what We the People will accept and what we won’t, what we regard as legitimate and what is not. It is for us to decide these things not them. It may seem like just words and on one level of course it is. But it was only words when it was said the first time. What those words did the first time and can do again, is to stop our rulers’ proclamations always being against a blank and passive background. Simply by declaring what We will and won’t tolerate or accept we force their proclamations to appear as what they are – aggressive, partisan and debateable.

You might say that it will still be just words and that blood would still have to be spilt upon the ground before their point had force. Which may be true. But still, simply by re-stating that there IS a “We the People” we take a stand, and are heard.

 

So here is my suggestion, for what it might be worth – What matters is that we state what WE will and won’t accept, what WE do and do not recognize as legitimate. What matters is how many of us sign. It does not matter that we may not all agree or that we may have differing lists. What matters is that they are not so different, that we can all stand together, and all take back what is ours – the power to DECIDE for ourselves what powers we lend and what powers we do NOT.

We the People:

Will not accept taxation for the purpose of paying off, even temporarily, private banking or other financial debts.

We will not accept the rulings of international arbitration panels on which our interests are not represented and which are convened on the basis of Bilateral Investment Treaties about which we were not consulted.

We will do not recognize the right of bond holders of ANY standing to be given seniority over the tax payers and people of a nation. We will NOT bail them out.

We reserve the sovereign right to decide in the event of another finacial crisis, who does not get paid, whose wealth is anulled. It is not for the unelected market and its experts to tell us.

We, the people do not accept the right or authority of private or unnaccountable State organizations to collect, hold or use private data gathered by any means that the law and courts have not specifically and publically granted.

We do not accept the legitimacy of any private law enforcement body.

We do not accept that there is any justification for secret or unaccountable bodies to hold any power over us. We simply do not recognize they have any legitimacy.

We will not tolerate military actions taken in secret without any parliamenary and public accountabilbity and permission.

We reserve the absolute right to hold to public and legal account any leader who takes actions which disregard the above. No elected official is above the law and no leader has the power to aquit those the courts have proceeded against.

No organization is above or outside the law.

We the People do not accept that any organization is too big to prosecute or too big to fail. Any organization that becomes so or remains so depsite this clear instruction, and then fails, forfeits its entire worth to the public purse at a post bankruptcy price.

I offer this as a start only. Others will no doubt be better informed and able to formulate a far clearer, better and sharper declaration.

If they do, I would like to sign it and offer it to as many others as technology will permit me to reach, for them to consider signing. The internet gives us this chance, to put up a document that any number of ordinary people can chose to sign. People might wish to have a seperate version for each Nation. Or, in a global world, perhaps we need to remain together as the global 99%. What matters is that enough of us sign so we can really say with a single voice – WE THE PEOPLE serve you notice that we are back!

Activist Post: Wolf Blitzer Gets SCHOOLED on Syria: ‘Do you think there’s real democracy in the US?’

Activist Post: Wolf Blitzer Gets SCHOOLED on Syria: ‘Do you think there’s real democracy in the US?’.

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Tunisia PM resigns as part of transition plan – Africa – Al Jazeera English

Tunisia PM resigns as part of transition plan – Africa – Al Jazeera English.

Larayedh’s exit comes as Tunisia’s national assembly works on approving a new constitution [Reuters]
Tunisia’s prime minister has resigned, in line with an agreement aiming to end months of political deadlock in the country.

Ali Larayedh, of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party, announced on Thursday that he had handed his resignation to President Moncef Marzouki.

“As I promised to a short while ago … I have just submitted the government’s resignation,” Larayedh said.

His resignation comes as part of a blueprint to put the democratic transition in Tunisia back on track after the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi, an opposition MP, last year.

Under the plan, Larayedh is set to be replaced within 15 days by Mehdi Jomaa, the prime minister- designate, at the head of a government of technocrats that will lead the country to fresh elections.

“The president will appoint the new Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa shortly, and he will present his new cabinet in the next few days,” Larayedh said.

“I hope the country will be a model for democratic transition.”

Mounting pressure

Ennahda has been under mounting pressure to relinquish power after it was elected in 2011 following a popular uprising that deposed long-time President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisia’s national assembly is in the process of approving a new constitution, and elections for a new government are due to be held later this year.

An independent authority was established on Wednesday to oversee the upcoming elections, a requirement that Ennahda had set as a condition for stepping down.

The approval of a new constitution, which Ennahda had also demanded in exchange for handing over power, is on track to meet an agreed deadline of January 14, the Tunisian uprising’s three-year anniversary.

The new charter had been delayed for months by the withdrawal of opposition assembly members in protest at Brahmi’s killing in July.

Recent steps towards political reconciliation come against a backdrop of increased social unrest across the country, however.

Central Tunisia in particular, where a young street vendor touched off the 2011 uprising by setting himself on fire in protest at his impoverished daily life, has seen a number of protests in recent days.

Kasserine clashes

A new vehicle tax, which came into force this year, has also prompted nationwide protests with demonstrators blocking major highways.

Several hundred protesters attacked a tax office, a police post, a bank and a municipal building on Wednesday in the town of Feriana, in the central Kasserine region, according to AFP news agency.

Al Jazeera’s Youssef Gaigi, reporting on Thursday from the capital Tunis, said: “There were protests in different parts of the country because of new taxes imposed by the government.

“Tunisia is going through difficulties in terms of the economy. And most of [the] rural areas where the revolution has started initially, three years ago, did not see much development. And that’s what they want now. They want jobs.”

Growth was less than three percent last year across Tunisia, and the country’s unemployment rate exceeds 30 percent among people who haven’t finished school.

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Pimping the Empire, Progressive-Style

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Pimping the Empire, Progressive-Style.

Supporting the central state to protect your favored cartels is simply pimping for the Empire.

The central illusion of both Left (so-called Progressives) and Right (so-called conservatives) is that the Central State’s essentially unlimited powers can be narrowly directed to further their agenda.

(I say “so-called” because the “Progressives” are not actually progressive, and the “Conservatives” are not actually conservative. Those labels are Orwellian double-speak, designed to mask the disastrous consequences of each ideology’s actual policies.)

Let’s begin by stipulating that ideology, any ideology, is an intellectual and emotional shortcut that offers believers ready-made explanations, goals, narratives and enemies without any difficult, time-consuming analysis, study or skeptical inquiry. This is the ultimate appeal of ideology: accepting the ideology relieves the believer of the burdens of analysis, skeptical inquiry, uncertainty/doubt and responsibility: all the answers, goals and narratives are prepackaged and mashed together for easy consumption.

This is one of the core messages of Erich Fromm’s classic exploration of ideology and authoritarianism, Escape from Freedom.

And what is the essential foundation of authoritarianism? A central state. This is not coincidental.

What few grasp is the teleology of the centralized state: by its very nature (i.e. as a consequence of its essentially unlimited powers), the central state is genetically programmed to become an authoritarian state devoted to self-preservation and the extension of its reach and power.

The central illusion of Progressives is that an all-powerful central state will not become a self-serving expansive empire, but will be content to wield its vast powers to protect its favored cartels/monopolies and distribute money skimmed from the citizenry to Progressive constituencies such as public unions, healthcare and education.

This is an absurd fantasy. Once you give a central state essentially unlimited power to stripmine income and wealth from its citizens, create and/or borrow essentially unlimited sums of money, protect private (and politically powerful) cartels from competition and project military, financial and diplomatic power around the globe, the state will pursue Authoritarianism and Empire as a consequence of possessing those powers.

You can’t cede unlimited, highly concentrated powers to the central state and then expect the state not to fulfill its teleogical imperative to protect and extend its powers. The state with unlimited powers will be ontologically predisposed to view any citizen that seeks to limit its expansion of power as an enemy to be suppressed, imprisoned or marginalized.

The state with unlimited powers will be ontologically predisposed to protecting its powers by cloaking all the important inner workings of the state behind a veil of secrecy, and pursuing and punishing any whistleblowers who reveal the corrupt, self-serving workings of the state.

The state with unlimited powers will be ontologically predisposed to view any other nation or alliance as a potential threat, and thus the state will pursue any and all means to distrupt or counter those potential threats.

The state with unlimited powers will be ontologically predisposed to create and distribute propaganda to mask its self-serving nature and its perpetual agenda of extending its powers, lest some threat arise that limits those powers.

Democracy and a central state with unlimited powers are teleologically incompatible.

Progressives worship the central state and cede it essentially unlimited powers because they want that state to be powerful enough to impose their agenda on others and reward their constituencies.

But it doesn’t work that way. Once you cede unlimited, highly concentrated power to the central state, you get an authoritarian empire that is driven to protect itself from any threat at all costs–including democracy, though the state may maintain a facade of carefully managed “democracy” as part of its propaganda machinery.

You cannot have a state with essentially unlimited power and not end up with cartel-capitalism. So-called Progressives defend their favored cartel-fiefdoms of healthcare and education (and the “conservative” banking and defense cartels, too, to insure banks fund their campaigns and to protect their political flank with a “strong on defense” carte blanche to the National Security cartels), yet these cartels are busy bankrupting the nation and destroying the very programs Progressives claim to hold dear.

You can’t have it both ways, Progressives: if you support a central state with essentially unlimited power to protect and fund your constituent cartels, you end up with self-liquidating cartel-capitalism, a state bent on protecting itself from the uncertainties/risks of democracy and a global Empire that is teleologically driven to expand its reach and power by any and all means available.

Once you choose to cede essentially unlimited powers to the central state, all decisions after that are made in service of the state. The idea that the state can be limited to helping the needy is illusory.

The only legitimate duties of the state are limited: 1) protect the commons from destruction and exploitation; 2) protect the citizenry from exploitation or oppression by those with superior power or resources; 3) maintain transparency in all governance and 4) maintain a system of sound money.

The so-called Progressives will learn what the teleology of the state means in the real world when the state comes after them. Once you cede unlimited power to the central state, any attempt to limit that power marks you as an enemy.

War at Home: Covert action against U.S. activists.

Supporting the central state to protect your favored cartels and protect your political power over the state’s tax revenues is simply pimping for the Empire. You can call it “progressive,” but it’s still pimping for the Empire.

Violence mars controversial Bangladesh polls – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English

Violence mars controversial Bangladesh polls – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English.

Violence has marred controversial general elections in Bangladesh, leaving at least 18 people dead in clashes between opposition supporters and police.

Thousands of protesters firebombed polling stations and stole ballot papers as deadly violence flared across the South Asian nation during Sunday’s elections, which was boycotted by the BNP, the main opposition party, and its allies.

Polls closed at 4pm (1000 GMT) after eight hours of voting and final results were expected in the early hours of Monday morning.

Police said more than 200 polling stations were set on fire or trashed by mobs in a bid by the opposition activists to wreck the contest.

AFP correspondents said there were no queues to vote, while local television reported that only a single person voted in the first three hours at one station.

The BNP is protesting against the decision by Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s government to scrap the practice of having a neutral caretaker government oversee elections.

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from Dhaka, said: “The government did everything it could to bring the opposition on board, and blames the opposition entirely for the violence. The opposition, on the other hand, says it will accept nothing less than a neutral caretaker body and this government to step aside.”

Low turnout

With the opposition trying to enforce a general strike as part of a strategy to wreck the polls, government officials acknowledged the turnout was significantly lower than usual.

“The turnout was low, partly due to the boycott by many parties,” Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, the election commission head, said without immediately giving a figure.

Two of those killed on Sunday were beaten to death while guarding polling stations in northern districts which bore the brunt of the violence.

“We’ve seen thousands of protesters attack polling booths and our personnel at a number of locations with Molotov cocktails and petrol bombs,” Syed Abu Sayem, police chief of the northern Bogra district, told AFP news agency.

“The situation is extremely volatile.”
He described how thousands of ballot papers had been ceremoniously set on fire.

Most of the other victims were opposition activists who were shot by police, while a driver died of his injuries from a Molotov cocktail attack on his lorry.

“We were forced to open fire after thousands of them attacked us with guns and small bombs,” Mokbul Hossain, police chief in the northern Parbatipur town, said

“It was a coordinated attack. They managed to seize some ballot papers and they tried to steal our weapons.”

In Dhaka, police confirmed at least two petrol bomb attacks on polling stations.

Tens of thousands of troops were deployed across the country after around 150 people had been killed in the build-up, but they failed to halt the bloodshed.

The Awami League-led government has accused the BNP of orchestrating the violence and kept its leader, Khaleda Zia, confined to her home for a week.

Outcome not in doubt

The outcome of the contest is not in doubt as voting is taking place in only 147 of the 300 parliamentary constituencies.

Awami League candidates or allies have a clear run in the remaining 153.

The government said it had to hold the vote after parliament’s five-year term expired, but the BNP said it was a joke.

“Yes, the festive mood is missing but this election is essential to ensure constitutional continuity,” Quamrul Islam, deputy law minister, said.

Hasina’s government amended the constitution in 2010 and decided to hold elections under an all-party government.

However, Zia argued that such a government would in effect be headed by the governing party which would undermine the fairness of the process.

More violence feared

Many fear that the election is likely to stoke violence after the bloodiest year of unrest since Bangladesh broke free from Pakistan in 1971.

The former East Pakistan is the world’s eighth most populous nation but also one of the poorest in Asia, and more turmoil will undermine efforts to improve the lot of its population of 154 million – a third of whom live below the poverty line.

A local rights group says more than 500 people have been killed since January 2013, including victims of clashes that erupted after the conviction of Islamists for crimes dating back to the 1971 liberation war.

The main Islamist party was banned by judges from taking part in the election, and its leaders are either in detention or in hiding.

Alarmed by the violence, the US, EU and Commonwealth all declined to send observers.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday, Amena Mohsin, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, said: “The election has not been democratic. It was an in-house election. The government could have held a more inclusive election and the election commission could have delayed the vote further.”

War on Democracy: Spain and Japan Move to Criminalize Protests | A Lightning War for Liberty

War on Democracy: Spain and Japan Move to Criminalize Protests | A Lightning War for Liberty.

As might be expected as political and economic policy failures pile up and citizens become increasingly mad, the status quo is becoming increasingly authoritarian (recall blogger “Mish” was just fined 8,000 euros for a blog post).

In the latest disturbing news from a desperate power structure, the conservative government in Spain has passed an Orwellian bill titled the Citizens’ Security Law, which allows for fines of up to 600,000 euros ($816,000) for “unauthorized” street protests, and a 30,000 fine for merely having signs with “offensive” slogans against Spain or for wearing a mask.

This law is a perfect example of the increasing neo-feudalism being implemented across the globe by a corrupt, decadent and depraved status quo. Such laws must be immediately resisted or they will only get worse, much worse. It is quite obvious what the power structure in Spain in trying to do. It is putting into place an egregious punishment framework that could bankrupt a person by merely protesting. Such a threat is intended to make people not even consider their rights as human beings to express grievances to a crony government.

Instead of eye for an eye, it is like 25 eyes and a limb for an eye. If this does’t tell the Spanish people all they need to know about their government I don’t know what will. Below are some excerpts from a Reuters story covering the law:

(Reuters) – Spain’s conservative government agreed on Friday to toughen penalties for unauthorized street protests up to a possible 600,000 euro ($816,000) fine, a crackdown that belies the peaceful record of the anti-austerity protests of recent years.

Street protests and strikes have became increasingly frequent in recent years following huge cuts to education and health spending aimed at shrinking Spain’s public deficit to adhere to European Union demands.

But in contrast to Greece and elsewhere, where many similar protests have turned violent, Spain’s have remained largely peaceful, despite unemployment of 26 percent, rising poverty, and changes in labor laws that make firing easier.

Among other measures, protesters who cover their faces at demonstrations could be fined up to 30,000 euros while “offensive” slogans against Spain or its regions could reap a similar sanction.

The government also plans a new law restricting labor protests.

“This law … attempts to criminalize the act of protest,” said United Left lawmaker Gaspar Llamazares, questioning whether it complied with Spain’s constitution. “The government is trying to turn its political opponents into delinquents.”

 ”Compare events in Spain with those of other countries around us,” wrote conservative columnist Jose Antonio Zarzalejos on the website El Confidencial. “This security law … will add the stigma of authoritarianism to the political failure of the PP.”

It’s not just Spain though. This sort of panic attack from desperate members of the status quo is popping up elsewhere. Japan is another example, and over the weekend I read that Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba compared demonstrations to “acts of terrorism.” From the Japan Times:

Citizens demonstrating against the controversial state secrets bill are committing “an act terrorism,” according to Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba.

In a blog post Friday, he wrote: “If you want to realize your ideas and principles, you should follow the democratic principles, by gaining as much support as you can. I think the strategy of merely shouting one’s opinions at the top of one’s lungs is not so fundamentally different from an act of terrorism.”

My take is that people worldwide will not stand for such nonsense. Increasingly citizens have very little to lose and if they all say no together, there is not much the state can do. Just look at how Ukrainians responded to a ban on protests. Hundreds of thousands of them filled the streets in defiance. Below is a video of just one of the many incredible street scenes from over the weekend. In this case we see demonstrators using a tractor to break police barricades.

Interesting times indeed.

In Liberty,
Mike

 

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