Providing Aid and Comfort to the Enemy

This is a post of ideas to aid the fight for democracy. Another commenter participation post, please add links of anything good you’ve seen and check back – it will get a lot bigger.

The Little

Promote democracy. Amnesty, Democracy Now, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Glenn Greenwald, Human Rights Watch, Iraq Body Count, Iraq Veterans Against the War, John Pilger, Wikileaks, Wikileaks Central,
Protect victims. Bradley Manning, Omar Khadr,
Comment in the media.
Argue with your friends.
Say really smart things. Quotes I Love,

The Big

Write music. Another Brick in the Wall, Democracy, Die Gedanken Sind Frei, C’mon Everybody, Comfortably Numb, Freedom, Games, I Don’t Wanna Be The One, Imagine, People Got to be Free, Read About It, Revolution, Somalia, Soobax
Write poetry. America
Write books: Underground
Make videos.  Anonymous, Arts&Crafts, Coldcut vs TV Sheriff, JuiceRapVideos, KnowledgeIsFree, The Social Leak,
Make websites Julian Assange Fanciers’ Guild, So Why Is Wikileaks A Good Thing Again?,
Make posters. Agents of Chaos, lolcat
Write comedy. George Carlin
Make art. Lisbon street art,
Write your own manifesto. The Free and The Unashamed
Take it to the streets. Anonymous?, Sandwich, The World Can’t Wait,
Refuse to comply. National Opt Out Day
Risk your career. Sinead O’ Connor,
Be brave and cool and powerful. Danny MacAskill,

The Biggest

Become the government. Dwight Eisenhower, Birgitta Jonsdottir, John Kennedy,
Become the legal system. Dennis Edney, Michael Ratner,
Leak the secrets we need to know.

Get healthy, get strong, get educated and informed, and start contributing to your own governance.

The New Social Register

Once upon a time, the citizens of  a country looked up to the members of its ruling class. What they wore, what they said, who they married, who they were friends with and who they fought with. If someone was overlooked for a favour, there would be conversations behind hands about a woman they both loved, or a piece of land in dispute. Gossipy, yes, but useful information, especially in a dictatorship where it paid to know who was in and who was out. Who has the ear of the king, could indicate this year’s laws. Very useful.

Gossip hasn’t gone anywhere. It still fills every media outlet almost to the complete exclusion of anything else. But it is no longer remotely useful.

The US media became suddenly fascinated by the story of Bernie Madoff after his escapades did their bit to help bring the country into economic collapse. But why on earth did everyone not know all about this man all along, considering the depth of his influence? And would the media have ever jumped on the story as they did, if it had not been the rich and powerful who were affected by his actions? Even in a country as small as Canada, it amazes me how little connecting the dots the people do. To hear Jean Chrétien call himself “a little guy” who stuck up for little guys like himself and hear no one point out the Paul Desmarais connection. Or the connection between Desmarais and any other politician. What about Prescott Bush, who made his fortune funding Hitler and using slave labour from Auschwitz? If these were the old days, the public would all have known how that family felt about war, and morals in general. It’s not like it is actually difficult to find out about Tony Blair’s investments in Iraq. Considering the information that actors find impossible to keep secret, it is child’s play to find out about major investments.

The trouble is, we have been trained to look elsewhere for our gossip now. In the years that the military industrial complex has been acting as the shadow government, they have kept a very firm hold on the press. From William Randolph Hearst, to Rupert Murdoch to Lord Conrad Black and many more, the media has been a propaganda machine and a distraction. They feed the public’s desire for gossip, but convince them that reality television “stars” are more interesting than the people who rule the world.

There are still diligent journalist authors, digging for these connections and writing great long books full of names and dates and events. Often these books are published at great personal risk, with threats of lawsuits and personal repercussions. The trouble is, almost no one has read these books. It is so much easier to pick up a magazine with a picture of two people at the same party, or turn on the TV and see who is getting married to whom. And gossip is so much more interesting when we know who is being talked about because it is a name that has been served to us for breakfast every day.

But we no longer bow to the controlled media. We can and do gather our own information now. Gossip is not dead, but it is still aimed in the wrong direction. We need a new social register of people to gossip about, people whose activities actually matter, who affect our lives in a very real way. Then, once again, who is dining on a yacht with whom, will actually be information we need to know.

They Act With Impunity Now

The US president orders the assassination of a US citizen without a trial. The Canadian prime minister signs Canada up for another three plus years of war, after explicit promises not to, and says he does not have to ask parliament. The Swedish justice system, in full view of the eyes of the world, railroads a private foreign citizen through a kangaroo court with no due process. What on earth is going on, you may ask, if you haven’t been paying attention.

Why are the world’s leading democracies looking so indistinguishable from fascist states? Because we didn’t listen all those years ago when US president Eisenhower told us about the military industrial complex. In 1961 he said, “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists … We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Apparently, we weren’t up to the task. Benito Mussolini said, “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power”. Yes. When the state is forcing it’s citizenry like cattle through radiation and violations of their personal and human rights and dignity and fining them if they refuse, all to award billions to a military industry, we are there. When the armies we once loved and respected have turned into an international gang of marauding mercenaries and professional killers, we are there. When trade has nothing to do with what people need or want and all to do with what industry can force on a populace for a profit, we are there. Unpredictable and ever changing legal systems, police that fight the people and guard the criminals, media that advertise the lies instead of the truth, food, shelter, safety, communication, and even sex controlled by industry, military and government, we are there. Look around and say hello to the worldwide corporate fascist government.

The next time you look at a trial and think, oh, that isn’t right, I’ll sign a postcard, the next time you watch a country fight each other about which of two identical dictators will be terrorizing them for the next four years or so, as if the choice was a choice at all, the next time you wonder why everything in the entertainment industry is mindless porn and violence and where did all the intelligent, beautiful  art go, remember. The world is being run by the mafia. In the immortal words of George Carlin, they don’t care about you.

But they don’t have to. Get healthy, get strong, get educated and informed, and start contributing to your own governance. The point of fascism is the few are controlling the many. That only works until the many wake up. I wish George could have been here to see it.

Privacy, Sex and Democracy

We’ve talked about the reversal lately between the rights of public organizations and the rights of individuals to privacy in a democracy. But I didn’t realize we actually needed to take a serious look at the rights of public organizations and the rights of individuals to have sex in a democracy.

But apparently we do. Sweden has proposed the most progressive law ever governing sex between private individuals. And if this is progress, we need to talk. Apparently, in the 667 pages, these are the key points:

– Each person must give explicit consent to everything. Quiet consent shall not be allowed. “The idea is that anyone who commits a sexual act without consent shall be punished regardless of whether the coercion or exploitation has occurred or not.”

– Those who find themselves not only in a helpless state but otherwise have special difficulties safeguarding their sexual integrity, could be raped, even if they have given explicit consent. No, that state and those difficulties are not defined at all. Remember, this is Sweden, where sex with someone who is in a helpless state (drunk, asleep) is already considered rape.

– The victim does not decide whether she gave meaningful consent or not, the court does. Claes Borgström, the plaintiff’s lawyer in the case against Julian Assange, said when asked why his client did not feel she was raped, “She is not a lawyer.”

Let’s ponder this for a minute. We know that industry has a right to have sex. Sex is a huge international industry, and the industry frequently does not have the true consent of the participants, especially if we factor in financial difficulties, substance abuse, etc. The US military has the right to have sex provided it’s in the line of duty. Two adult men cannot have consensual sex, but they are permitted to rape people or have them raped as part of an enhanced interrogation technique. Or for fun.  As long as it is not consensual, because that would be giving comfort to the enemy or something. Many other countries have military that are permitted to rape children, men, women, whatever, but the private citizens are not allowed to have adult consensual sex because god wouldn’t like it. In most countries the government does not actually have sex yet, but they are certainly allowed to regulate everything about it. They can dictate who has sex, who they have sex with, what forms they have to fill out to have sex, and what officials have to approve them having sex. In the US, they have gone farther, and the government now employs people to sexually assault and make nude films of people of all ages, including children.

But private individuals, at least in Sweden, will not be allowed to have adult consensual sex. That’s adult, heterosexual, non-violent, married, consensual sex. If they do, there is really no way to protect themselves against being charged with a crime.

Make war, not love?

Obama’s Children

Hope and change. Two words almost synonymous with childhood. What great hope we had for change for the world’s children when Obama took office on January 20, 2009.

In 2008, then US president Bush’s government passed the Child Soldiers Prevention Act which prohibits financial, training or defense assistance to countries which use child soldiers. If this seems an odd step for the government that legalized torture, note that the US, along with only Somalia, a country in a state of anarchy, have failed to ratify the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child treaty. This is very in line with the US policy of replacing international law with its own laws. The advantage to this became obvious recently when Obama issued a waiver to the above law, allowing the US to carry on business as usual with 4 of the 6 countries accused of using child soldiers. According to Obama’s memo to his secretary of state, this was in “the national interest”. Therefore, morals and laws be damned. According to the Pentagon NY Times the countries excused also played a “crucial role in global counter-terrorism efforts”. And as we’ve seen, war crimes are only illegal when committed by the other side. The countries not given a pass were Somalia, and Myanmar, which already receives no aid from the US.

According to a quote from the Pentagon NY Times, Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman said, “Our intention is to work with them over the next year to try to solve this problem — or at least make significant progress on it — and reassess our posture towards them next year, depending on the progress they have made.” The NYT interprets this as “the four countries are effectively being given a year to change their ways.”  The most liberal use of the word ‘effectively’ I’ve ever seen. Writer Brian Knowlton informs us that ‘the Congo’ (the DRC for those of us not writing for the NYT) “was exempted because United States-backed programs were helping its military become more professional and fight rights abuses”. That would be Blackwater and friends, the same people who fought all those abuses and helped the military become more professional in Iraq.

Speaking of US laws replacing international law, Omar Khadr was imprisoned in July of 2002, as a 15 year old child soldier. His trial was delayed throughout the Bush administration as they scrambled to find a law and a court or set up new ones so that they could try a child who had committed no crime. When Obama took office with his claims that the Guantanamo torture camp would be closed, we thought then 22 year old Khadr’s release was imminent. The first step Obama took was to order a 120 day adjournment of all trials. That means 120 bonus days without a trial, incarcerated in a torture camp. In actuality, the adjournment was much longer, and Khadr did not get his day in court until 21 months after Obama took office. That’s 21 bonus months, not counted as time served. In late October, 2010, Khadr was finally tried, a civilian in a US military kangaroo court being tried for an invented crime supposedly committed when he was a child, with rigged evidence and trial. The resulting eight year sentence sees him back in Guantanamo solitary confinement for at least a year, with his rights to legal counsel removed and the most extraordinary terms to his plea deal. Under Obama, the US has become the first country to try a child soldier since world war II, not to mention all of the other shameful aspects of this trial.

Given the state of the US at the moment, it is understandable that the populace has little understanding of the special status the rest of the world accords to child soldiers. This is a country where one in 28 of its own children have a parent imprisoned. Where corporal punishment is still used in schools. And where a May decision that children cannot serve life in prison without parole for non-homicide crimes is hotly contested. The prisons the children are serving life sentences in have been compared to US torture camps such as Guantanamo and the justice system which put them there is reminiscent of Khadr’s kangaroo court trial. And the societal conditions which they are raised in are similar to a civil war. These are the US children with citizen’s rights. Life is even harsher for the illegal immigrant children in the US, and that too, will probably be getting worse soon with pressure from public opinion.

I am still hearing from people who tell me this is not Obama’s fault, there is nothing he can do, he would like to do things very differently. But I have never heard him say so. I have not seen him step down from his position. I have not seen him attempt to protest. He, like Bush before him, is signing his name to his legacy. Like Bush, his legacy includes war crimes and crimes against children.

The 30 IQ Point Bridge

For decades we in North America have watched anything intelligent viewed with deep suspicion. From high school clichés, to ‘charisma’ politicians, the mainstream has marginalized the intelligentsia.

The years from the 60’s and 70’s till now have become even more dumbed down, the effect of an educational system and media that refused to acknowledge dissent or accommodate debate. Pierre Trudeau, a man with great intellectual resources and strong debating skills, was considered vaguely effete, unsympathetic, and just not a guy you could trust. Jimmy Carter gave way to George Bush, Pierre Trudeau to Stephen Harper. Firmness in policy was respected far more than any intellectual debate about that policy. The news media stopped even attempting to look intelligent, with covers of the most respected papers and magazines devoted to voyeuristic prying into personal, not public information. We now have more specific words, ‘Asperger’s’, ‘sociopaths’ and ‘narcissists’, and these words are thrown out at intelligent people with as little regard for applicability as the old words were.

Lately, there have been hopeful signs. Many felt that the election of Barack Obama to the US presidency was a strike for intelligence. That has not proved to be the case, but the very fact that the people voting thought they were voting for intelligent, participatory governance is a huge step in the right direction. Canada’s wistful fondness for the son of Pierre Trudeau is an even sadder manifestation. But for every hopeful sign, there seems an even more violent backlash against intelligence and a bigger outpouring of fear and hatred. What is going on?

According to Leta Hollingworth’s research, to be a leader of his contemporaries a child must be more intelligent but not too much more intelligent than them. A discrepancy of more than about 30 points of IQ does not allow for leadership, or even respect or effective communication. Hollingworth notes: A lesson which many gifted persons never learn as long as they live is that human beings in general are inherently very different from themselves in thought, in action, in general intention, and in interests. Many a reformer has died at the hands of a mob which he was trying to improve in the belief that other human beings can and should enjoy what he enjoys. This is one of the most painful and difficult lessons that each gifted child must learn, if personal development is to proceed successfully. It is more necessary that this be learned than that any school subject be mastered. Failure to learn how to tolerate in a reasonable fashion the foolishness of others leads to bitterness, disillusionment, and misanthropy [3, p. 259].

It is definitely the case that some intelligent people deserve the fear and hatred they inspire, though they may not share that view. Too many intelligent people debate like cats batting around a new shiny toy, looking, not so much for information and idea exchange, but rather for soft spots that they can swat for their own amusement. It is very natural that people with inferior knowledge or debating skills will then refuse to attempt to communicate. It is not fun to have a conversation with someone who is obviously bored with your ideas and must appear invincible at all times. Listening skills are essential for communication and both sides must not only be able to change their minds, but they must be seen to be able to change their minds.

Invincible seeming intelligence has been a means of workplace survival for many. Politicians are completely given over to a listening style that includes eye rolling, head shaking and tolerant smiling, all miming the inferior intelligence of their opponent. People who enter into a debate with someone of greater intelligence will frequently ape those mannerisms to cover for a lack of content in their argument. If the audience does not understand the argument anyway, the mannerisms may convince them that the wrong side has presented the best arguments.

While superior intelligence is not an indicator of inferior morals, neither is it a guarantee of superior morals. Intelligent people must have their actions reviewed for ethics just as everyone else must, and this may also contribute to mistrust and fear. If the public does not understand the actions taking place, they have no reason to trust that those actions are above reproach. Sometimes it is easier to just vote for the person you understand.

This is the way it has been. But this is not the way it has to remain.

There is no one more intelligent than the internet. The internet is more than capable of reviewing the facts, logic and morals of everyone in a position of power, if we can get the information we need to review. There is no one less intelligent than the internet. There is every level of discourse on absolutely any topic. Everyone can choose the company they enjoy debating with. There is no one more trusted than the internet. Despite all efforts by established ‘fact’ holders to discredit everything that goes on here, we all know, there is nothing we haven’t already ripped apart ourselves and discredited if necessary. Wikipedia may have errors, but it also has links, and anyone can click on history to view the fighting that supported the information they see.

For the first time in history, we have a working model that will enable us to use our most intelligent resources effectively in our governance. We just need to build the bridges.

Raising Awareness

Some days I really miss George Carlin.

Today, at my gas station, I was offered a blob of sugar, red food dye, preservatives and artificial flavours in the shape of a ribbon on a plastic stick. My department store wanted me to buy a nitrate and who knows what stuffed wiener in a sugar and extra gluten plus preservative laced bun, with some brightly coloured condiments that did not look like they had ever met a tomato or a mustard seed. And my neighbour wanted me to buy some pink plastic crap from Avon.

Why? The same reason in all cases. To ‘raise awareness’ of cancer. Yes, George, that’s what they said. I guess the theory is, if we all have cancer we will all be aware of it?

Sometimes it’s not just awareness they are raising. Sometimes they are raising money. For organic farms, you ask? Environmental groups? Natural health advocates? Ah, no, George. After we’ve raised so much cancer to be aware of, it’s a little late for all that. They are raising money for the pharmaceutical companies. The ones who helped bring the cancer and block research into cures. Now that you already have cancer, they will help put you out of your misery with all of the drugs they develop with your research money. For a small fee.

Rest in peace, George, master of the ridiculous. You are missed.