• "God invented war so Americans could learn geography" -- Mark Twain.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dripping Honey

   
A mere month after Pope Francis exhorted the Church to fuss less over homosexuality and focus more on the causes of homelessness, the Archdiocese of Seattle fired a well beloved high-school principal for marrying his long time same sex partner.

The Church drips honey from its snarling fangs.

.

Friday, October 11, 2013

More From the Hologram Department

   
An illusory progressive president being embattled by an illusory grass roots reaction and now... just when you think you've had enough of holograms... an illusory arrival of the dead.

Turns out that all those solemn, tear-jerking, closure-enabling ceremonies honouring our returned fallen were ... "The Big Lie" ... as it is called by the troops detailed to carry the coffins.  The Pentagon prefers to speak of "symbolism." [NBC]  [Daily Mail]

In all events, transports on the tarmac, fluttering flags in the wind, chaplains in waiting, reverent spectators at a distance, the coffins were empty.




Gee... makes one wonder.  Do you suppose the Resurrection was a "symbolic" ceremony as well? 


"The Departure" by Piandello

Who knows...


Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Political Hologram

    
A friend of ours, a fairly typical Yankee liberal, was complaining about the government shutdown which he blamed on Confederate voter suppression and Tea Party activism. It was 1860 all over again and why don't they just secede.

Actually they tried that once....

But we chipsters think the MoveOn types are wrong to blame "the South" and its mentalities for the current political stalemate.  We are congenitally wired to believe in conspiraciones and will not rest until we find one. 

I am quite certain that the dough-heads in the South are incapable of organising the trash in their trailers, much less gerrymandering anything.  No.  Cherchez le banquier is what i say; and searching i come up with Ahmanson, Coors, Mellon-Scaife and Koch.  The same folks who -- strange to say -- funded the schismatic "traditionalists" within the Anglican Communion.  Why?  They were very frank about it.  They wanted to destroy (yes, hack to pieces) "liberal" institutions like the Episcopal Church USA.

Who funds the "Tea Party"?  Are those overweight, Cheez-Oh munching, flag-waving knuckle-heads capable of anything beyond finding their way to NASCAR races?  It is absurd to talk about "the Tea Party" as if it were an object in itself as opposed to a mere political hologram

One last example.  Who was it who just today said on Pox News that he wanted to "punish" federal employees?  None other than Stuart Varney.  And where is this fellow from?  Macon Georgia?  Yazoo City, Mississippi? Nope. London, England. And where did he go to school?  London School of Economics.  The only worse place he could have gone to was Harvard.

These people are from nowhere. They belong to the country of Capital.  They have an agenda known as Destroy the Beast and they simply use the South because it's cheap and easy.  But that does not mean that they won't, can't and haven't used California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire -- reputedly "blue" states which are yeehaw red once one moves an an hour or so away from the the cities or any college town.  Nor is there anything particularly "southern" about the Anglican Communion. In fact most of the South is Baptist, not pseudo-Catholic.

The fact is -- as de Tocqueville discussed at great length -- that Anglo-Americans have certain credal and intellectual habits which make them exceptionally prone to certain types of polemical pogey bait.  It is a bait made from various flavours which boil down to self-serving, self-satisfied egotism  -- what de Tocqueville coined as individualism.  This is nothing particularly Southern, it permeates and stains the entire country.

The problem with "sensible" and "mainstream" people who don't believe in conspiracies is that they refuse to look beyond the "obvious" and  fall a-sucker for surface appearances... for the political hologram.

In fact, politics in the USA is so full of holograms fighting holograms that it might as well be described as Nightmare on the Holodeck.

Will someone please pull the plug?



©WCG, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Israel's Drummer Boy on 42d Street

       
It is always a sight to watch the New York Times slant the news to suit Israeli imperatives. 

Brazil's president Rousseff gave an important and diplomatically arresting address to the General Assembly, in which she denounced U.S. electronic snooping and called upon the world to erect electronic barriers to the overweening power of the US imperial security apparatus.

In what the Guardian characterised as a "scathing" and "blistering" speech, Rousseff denounced U.S. snooping as an affront to the Comity of Nations and a violation of international law.  She also spoke out, for the civil rights of ordinary people.

"As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country"

 Nor was this simply a Brazilian concern.  As reported by RT News

US relations with all of Latin America have recently soured. In addition to Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia and Venezuela have all voiced anger with the US over the NSA’s surveillance of their countries this year. Bolivia has been especially bitter.
 Even the USophile BBC carried the report of Rousseff's speech on its front page

 And the Times?  On the Times... it was nowhere to be found. Not on the front page, not on the World page, 

 

not even on the America's page ... 

 


until the very bottom in small print, after stories on drug hauls and the like.



In short, the news was suppressed, albeit with the usual and tiresome buried, fine-print exception designed to give a colour of good faith to hypocricy.

Of course as the US flagship propaganda organ, it stands to reason that the Times would wish to suppress how disgusted  -- desde las pelotas hasta las cejas --  the rest of the hemisphere is with United States bullying arrogance -- or prepotencia as it is called in Spanish.

But of equal note is what the Times considers to be "fit to print" --



Iran, Iran, Iran, and more Iran.

Now Iran's alleged nuclear arms programme is certainly not not news.  It does indirectly affect U.S. interests to the extent that any proliferation of nuclear arms impacts U.S. interests and the stability of world.  As indeed, Israel's "illegal" (non-signatory) acquisition of nuclear weapons has destabilised the Middle East.

But Iran's possible acquisition of nuclear weapons is really only an urgent concern to Israel  whose destabilising and imbalanced nuclear hegemony in the region is upset by a challenge.

The true interests of the United States, from a national perspective would be to make the Middle East nuclear free and to induce Israel to destroy it's nuclear weapons.

Oh but mum on that.  Instead endless dross on Iran, Iran, Iran, Iran.

Qui bono?









Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Figure of Speech

    
In an interview reported by the U.K. Guardian, Hilarity Clinton admitted that she "wrestles with running" before adding, "But I'm both a pragmatist and realistic. I think I have a pretty good idea of the political and governmental challenges that are facing our leaders..."

Huh?

"Both,  a. or pron. [OE. bothe, bae, fr. Icel. bāir; akin to Dan. baade, Sw. båda, Goth. bajs, OHG. beid, bd, G. & D. beide, also AS. begen, bā, b, Goth. bai, and Gr. , L. ambo, Lith. abà, OSlav. oba, Skr. ubha. &root; 310. Cf. Amb-.] The one and the other; the two; the pair, without exception of either.  ....   Both, as adj.:  Two, considered as distinct from others or by themselves; the one and the other.   This word is often placed before the nouns with which it is connected."

Does Clinton really think this way?  When used as an adjective, "both" presupposes a difference of kind or degree in the substantives it connects.  As in,

To judge both quick and dead.  (Milton.)
A masterpiece both for argument and style. (Goldsmith.)
To whom bothe heven and erthe and see is sene.  (Chaucer.)
He prayeth well who loveth well Both man and bird and beast. (Coleridge.)

If Clinton had wanted to emphasize with surplus redundancy that she was a hard-nosed, tough-as-nails, realistic, pragmatist she ought to have omitted the "both". Otherwise she is "dis-confusing" two things which are basically the same.  That does not bespeak a well-ordered mind.

In the interview, Clinton followed up with:

"I will just continue to weigh what the factors are that would influence me making a decision one way or another."

and

"The election is more than three years away and I just don't think it's good for the country."

Well... both for ill or good she at least has three years to decide what factors will guide her decision.


Political speech in the U.S. resembles a disordered mosaic of rough-cut, verbal chips which increasingly disconnect from one another and fail to reflect any cohering image or concept.   The vocalisations of our ruling class (oh grief!)  are incompetent to enable "decisions about the just and the unjust or the expedient and the inexpedient." (Arist. Politics, Bk I.)

©

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Unclean Tongue


The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere. We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children.   -- Barack Obama,  (14 Sept. 2103.)


Vietnam 1972
Uhuh...  Now,  Barack Obama wasn't born when the prize-wining photograph made the world news but we are not interested in Obama as a private golfer.  As president of the United States he is the official voice of the country he represents; and the country he represents is the very stuff of loathsome hypocricy.


Nor is it relevant that other countries may also commit atrocities.  At least they do so without pretending (with "humble exceptionalism")  that they are Jesus Christ or Eternal Victims. 


The United States argues that napalm and white phosphorus are not "asphixiating gasses" and are therfore perfectly legal.   However they are chemicals and are perfectly horrible.


&



©

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Glenda's Fault

     
The definitive story behind Obama's Syria venture will be written by diplomatic historians in years to come. It seems to us chipsters, however, that the unsung hero of the denouement is neither Putin nor Lavrov but rather Glenda Jackson,


erstwhile Elizabeth R. for Masterpiece Theatre, now MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.  For it was Ms. Jackson who, from her backbench seat, directed incisive questions at Prime Minister Cameron during the House of Commons debate on Syria on 29th August last making it rather evident that Ms. Jackson was agitating the pot against intervention while her party's leader, Ed ("Egg") Miliband was playing "all chaps together" with his opposite number who ended up calling him a "fucking cunt" when Miliband turned out not to be  quite as much the chap as he had led the Government to believe. 

In truth, Miliband had exacted a rather nominal amendment to the motion (providing for a second vote) by way of face-saving appeasement to opposition within his own party against military intervention in Syria. If he then voted against his own amended motion it could only be because he would rather Cameron suffer defeat in the House than that he should suffer defeat as leader within his own party.

But if defeat as leader was in the air, it could only have been on account of MPs outside the Shadow Cabinet and it seems to us, from her spirited questioning, that the off stage agitator has to have been the erstwhile Elizabeth R.  

If this analysis seems convoluted it is not as convoluted by half as that of those apologists who are now arguing that the Administration's pulling back from blowing Syria to smithereens was part of a ultra devious, cunning and clever strategy by the President to do exactly the opposite of what he gave every appearance of wanting to do in very earnest.

Everything the Obama Administration said and did in the week preceding the House of Commons vote indicated that it had resolved on war and counted on an Anglo-French phalanx to lend an aura of "internationality" to the aggression. 

To those of us who have seen Washington in war-woop mode, it was more than evident that the military-industrial jocks like  John McCain and the AIPACOIDS like  Barbara  Boxer were raising the roof to flatten Syria out of existence.  The biggest woop was given by the Obama himself on August 31st when he declaimed:

This attack is an assault on human dignity.  It also presents a serious danger to our national security.   ... This menace must be confronted.  ....  After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.

A president simply cannot say that national security is at stake and then do nothing.  Obama's tone and language, not to mention his military orders, were the coda to the finale. Had the House of Commons joined in the wooping the booming finale was a done deed.

Instead Her Majesty's Government politely but irrevocably  excused itself from the party.  Obama was left running in place on a mound holding a rather limp flag.  Not quite the stuff of Capitol Rotunda canvasses.

The House of Commons vote put a stumble into the rumble and forced a change of tack.  Not being able to count on the Brits to do the "democracy bit" for him, Obama had to bifurcate his war wooping with a sudden concern for constitutionalism and, given the scepticism from isolationists in the House, to modify the call for blood with assurances of pinpricks (later disavowed) and shots across the bow. 

What the nation heard on August 31st was a scrambled up Plan B or, more accurately, a Plan A-1, rev. (b); but the only really important thing here is that the scrambling interjected a pause in the events. Pause for doubts; pause for second thoughts, and time for the Russians to finally move their boats into position.

As they say, the kaleidoscope of history can change overnight.  From pushing aside all opposition, Obama now found himself crying for a horse to get him out of the mess he had got himself into.  He got one from Russia, but for the unravelling of his plans, which made the getting necessary, we have Glenda Jackson to thank.

And it was no small matter. Right-thinking people know the difference between one state protecting its client by supporting the rule of international law and another state promoting the interests of its client by degrading the rule of law.

©

Friday, September 13, 2013

Humble Exceptionalism & Other Stupidities

      
Obama's speech on Tuesday night was a tour-de-force in disconnects and contradictions all of which, as La Rochefoucault might have said, served to illustrate the "tours et retours insensibles" of tyrannical self-love.

The premise of Obama's speech was that "Assad" -- that is, the Government of Syria -- had deployed sarin gas against civilians.  The speech offered no new evidence of this assertion but simply repeated the now familiar rhetorical mix-n-match of ambiguous circumstantial facts.

In case anyone wonders what i mean by ambiguous: "In the days leading up to 21 August, ... Assad's chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area they where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops."   Yes indeed, commanders do tend to distribute gas masks when there is a danger of being attacked by gas.  Yes indeed, the precaution taken was near a chemical weapons depot but that is not the same as alleging that those troops were mixing sarin at that time.  As premise for a casus belli this was shabby stuff more in keeping with a prosecutor pushing a cheap case. 

But the argued case for war was shabbier still, beginning with the moronic remark that "[b]ecause these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant..." the world "has spent a century working to ban them." Actually, U.S. and British "area bombing" during the World War made "no distinction" between soldiers and infants and the distinction between gas and DIME bombs which riddle the body with microscopic shrapnel and which the United States supplied to Israel for use against civilians in Gaza and Lebanon is mostly choice of carnage and taste in melodrama.  Indiscriminate killing certainly presents a problem for international law but the choice of indiscriminate means is a collateral issue. 

When Obama stated that "civilised world has spent a century working to ban" chemical weapons, he was technically correct.  But he conveniently ignored the fact that the United States actively pursued a policy of indiscriminate aerial  killing "on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant" during the World War and that it was near 75 years before the United States formally ratified the Geneva Protocol on chemical weapons. As Georges Clemanceau famously said, "Wilson talks like Jesus Christ, but he acts like Lloyd-George."

However, thinking like Lloyd-George, Obama was actually rather clear-headed.  He said more than once that the "Assad regime" did not present a threat to American national security: "the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military," it is "not a direct or imminent threat to our security," and "[n]either Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise. And our ally Israel can defend itself with overwhelming force;" and "so there is no threat to our security."  Got that?  Neither the Assad regime, nor its possession of chemical weapons presents a direct or imminent or reasonably foreseeable danger to the United States ... or even ... sacrosanct Israel. 

Given that finding, Obama's answer to his own question "what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do" about Assad's supposed use of gas against civilians ought to be, "Nothing."  After all, if there is no likelihood that Syria will use gas against the United States or Israel, there is even less likelihood that it will use it against the United Kingdom, Russia, France or Argentina.  The rule of international law is that, absent self-defence, a resort to violence is permitted only when authorised by the Security Council.

But instead of coming to that logical conclusion, Obama did a volt face and repeated several times that a military strike was necessary in order to "to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime's ability to use them and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use."  A failure to do so, he said, would mean that "other tyrants will have no reason to think twice" about using chemical weapons and would embolden Assad's ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path"... as surely our devoted ally, Israel, has done. Surely this qualifies as a "massive disconnect." 

This very massive disconnect is the fundamental axiom of neocon geopolitical strategy.  True national security is not achieved by heaping conjectural possibility upon possibility and then preemptively reacting to them.  Nevertheless, neocon  policy is premised on the idea that America's "preeminence" needs to enhanced and enforced by "power projection" operations around the globe aimed at "deterring" potential threats and dissuading potential enemies from aspiring to challenge America's Alpha Maleness.

In other words Obama's power projection against Syria has nothing at all to do with its chemical weapons or with the horror of babies "foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath." It has everything to do with American and Israeli hegemony.  Surely this qualifies as a "massive hypocrisy" albeit one which Obama sought to obfuscate in lofty froth: "Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria..." 

Having previously stated that Syria did not present a threat to U.S. national security, that left "ideals and principles" at the stake.  Obama did not say what these were and one was left to suppose that he meant those tried and true ideals which his hackneyed perorations have repeatedly fallen back on: "the true genius of America, a faith...  a faith in simple dream" that all men (and women too) "are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, ...." etc. etc.  (Address to Democratic Convention (2004); see also 2013 Inaugural.)  Snore.

The ideals and principles actually at issue are those which concern international law, the simple premise of which is that war between states is the summum malum which embraces all subsidiary evils and that, therefore, no nation state shall resort to force against another except in  self-defence against an actual or clearly imminent attack.

There is a reason for this principle and it is called "World War II" the destruction, depredations and slaughter of which ought not to be forgotten.  That horror was not a result of the "appeasement" American and British politicians are so fond of harping on.  What is called "appeasement" was a policy of affirmatively supporting anti-communist dictatorships by way of cordon sanitaire.   The war was a result of every nation becoming a law unto itself --  casting to wind all and any conventional restraints.  Who started the war and who provoked it are not as germane as the fact that 60 million dead and massive physical destruction are what happen when nation states get tired of sitting and talking.  It was that result which led to the forming of the United Nations and to the principle that henceforth, nations would not be the judges in their own cases; a non-defensive resort to force was allowed only when its necessity was so clear as to command a consensus among the major powers. 

Obombo side-stepped this fundamental ideal and principle by a naked resort to Penis Pride: "Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn't do pinpricks." 

Oh well, in that case project ahead! 

Here too, Obama again spoke out of both sides of his mouth: "[S]everal people wrote to me, we should not be the world's policeman. I agree."  Even so, "it falls to the United States to enforce international agreements.  The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world's a better place because we have borne them."

As Obama must surely know from his law school days, the heart of all law is procedure not substance.  The primary issue is not what needs to be enforced but how.  Totally contrary to Obama's implied assertion, no one has ever given the United States a standing mandate to enforce whatever, whenever it deems it expedient and necessary.  It falls to the United States to enforce some international agreement only when the international community specifically authorises it. If a consensus cannot be reached the answer is: "tuff!"

The United States seems to think that the failure of a consensus becomes a justification for dispensing with the requirement.  But, as any child can see, such a justification destroys the rule and sets the world back into that mode in which every nation becomes a law unto itself.

Within and behind the maze of contradictions, Obama's speech stood as a stunning example of international, imperial arrogance.  But it did not stop there. Obama went on to assert an imperial prerogative even within America's borders.  Acknowledging the need for a national consensus, Obama grandiloquently stated that he had submitted the matter to Congress.  But by "consensus" Obama simply meant an opportunity to agree with him.  If aggreement was not forthcoming -- if a democratic consensus could not be reached -- fuck it; he had the "authority" to act on his own.

In sum, Obombo's address to the nation was nothing over and above a declaration of tyrannical prerogative at home and abroad.  To cover the stench, he resorted to more treakle and to one final absurdity.  In order to make "our own children safer over the long run... we should act. That's what makes America different. That's what makes us exceptional. With humility... let us never lose sight of that essential truth."

Yes! Yes! In all humility, let us confess that we are exceptional!

Alexis de Tocqueville would no doubt  remark that the notion of "humble exceptionalism" aptly encapsulates the warped American psyche ever at war with itself.  To that extent Obama's speech could be viewed as completely honest.

© WCG, 2013
.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Point of Comparison

           
Obombo's delivery last night was such a shabby piece of work it seems a shame to waste good grammar on it.  But we wonder... has anyone bothered to look up the Geneva Protocol?  In the Age of Wiki it ought not to be that hard.  Well, let Chipster do the chipping.

The Geneva Protocol signed in 1925 and ratified by the United States fifty years later binds the signatory nations from "the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices."  The treaty prohibits the use of "gas" in wars between nation states.  Syria is a non-signatory party to the convention; the United States is a signatory party with stated reservations. [ Link ]

The Protocol is an inter-national agreement and does not prohibit the domestic use of gases against civilians whether or not armed.  For prohibitions against a State's gassing of its own citizens, reference must be made to the so-called Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court.

The Court was established as a forum for the prosecution of the "most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole": i.e.,  genocide, (Art. 6) crimes against humanity, (Art. 7) and  war crimes, (Art 8).  "Employing asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and all analogous liquids, materials or device" is a classified as a war crime. (Art 8 (b)(18).) 

As such it is a crime only as between one belligerent nation against another.  Article 8 (e) prohibits several "serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in armed conflicts not of an international character;" but the list does not include the use of asphyxiating gasses.

In 2010, an amendment to Article 8 was proposed which would as the use of gasses to Article 8, resulting in a prohibition of their use against domestic protesters or insurgents.

The amendment has been ratified by Botsawana, Estonia, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Samoa and Trinidad/Tobango.  Not only has the United States not ratified the amendment, it does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court at all.

So... it took the United States 50 years to ratify the treaty against the use of chemical weapons.  It nevertheless supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons and claimed that it's own use of napalm in Vietnam and white phosphorus in Falluja were "exempt" from the prohibition.  The United States does not submit to the jurisdiction of the International Court and has not even signed the amendment which would prohibit the domestic use of gas weapons. 

And yet Obambi mounts his podium and with Wilsonian Self-Righteousness intones,

"The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it,  ....  a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction  ... This is not a world we should accept. This is what's at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, ... " I propose to bomb the shit out of Syria.



Saturday, September 7, 2013

Senator Boxer's Shilling for Israel shows Why the Senate should be Abolished

      

In her allocution on Syria during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Obama's war request, California Senawhore Boxer explained her yes vote by saying that it was important to "send a signal" to those brutal and dictatorial regimes, "like North Korea," who "might be inclined" to use chemical weapons or to "terrorists" who "could obtain them or use them, on America or our allies or our troops, or for example against Israel..."

Isn't that wonderful... the United States should go to war against Syria because chemical weapons might be used by North Korea.  If Boxer thinks this is logical she should be checked into a sanatorium

But her ensuing blather reveals the senawhore's true agitating motive.    To urge that the United States embark on war against Syria in order to protect Israel from a hypothetical resort to chemical weapons borders on treason.  It urges great expense and risk to the United States for some threat that is not only not imminent but not likely to anyone, even precious Israel.

How does Boxer overcome the fact that, in all the past decades and even during outright war, Syria has never used chemical weapons against Israel?  She cannot.  So instead she hypothesises some possible use by terrorists. She would have us believe that the way to prevent "some terrorists" from getting hold of Syrian Government stockpiles is to attack the Syrian Government and "degrade" its military capability.  This sort of reasoning is not only insane it is psychotic.

But Boxer is not a psychotic... at least of that sort.  She is simply a senawhore for Israel.  

Let's cut to the chase.  Syria is one of the few nations which has not signed the Chemical Weapons Ban Treaty.  Why not?  The plain-as-day answer is because Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.  In the absence of a nuclear deterrent to Israel's massive stockpile of nuclear arms, Syria plainly wishes to maintain an equivalent but cheaper counterbalance.  Syria's chemical stockpile is simply the poor-state's alternative for Mutually Assured Destruction.

Is MAD mad? We all know it is.  But it is the fulcrum on which states -- regional and global -- maintain their hegemonic balance.  Israel upset the regional balance by refusing to refrain from developing nuclear weapons. Syria compensated by stockpiling sarin. 

The race to maintain power parity is the product of one party's attempt to achieve destructive upmanship. The chest thumping exercise is costly and risky. Negotiated mutual arms reduction is the only way to reverse the spiral.  But Boxer is not interested in that.  She is shilling -- at great cost and risk to the United States -- for Israel.  Failure to act against Syria, she cried,

"makes it more likely -- and this is key -- that Iran will view us as a paper tiger when it comes to their nuclear program and this dangerous not only for us, and our friends but for the world." 

This is crap.  There is no "risk" that Iran will ever view the United States as a paper tiger or that its nuclear programme will present a global military threat.  Fukushima is a far great clear and present danger.

What Boxer is really advocating is for the United States to go to war against Syria in order to give Israel a regional power-edge over Iran.  Gasping babies has nothing to do with it.   Boxer was mum indeed when Israeli-deployed white phosphorous caused babies in Gaza to gasp. 

Boxer is not only a whore, but a hypocrite as well.  Someone might want to remind Boxer that she is supposed to represent California not Israel's contingency planners.

Once again the sordid spectacle that played out in Committee shows the need to abolish the Senate.  Boxer is impervious to the public clamour against an invasion of Syria.  She is in her eighties, will not run again and has five years left on her term.  Quite frankly my dear, she could give a rats ass what anyone member of the California Republic thinks. 

The idea that whores who are effectively insulated from public reproach or control should have the power to plunge the nation into war with all its attendants costs and risk is intolerable.  But this is precisely what the present constitution of the Senate allows.

There is no need for an organ that can override the public will in this manner.  Britain does well enough with a House of Commons as the effectively sole legislature of kingdom.  The House of Representatives is equally capable of discharging that political function. If the Senate is to be retained at all, the term of its service whores should be shortened to four years and not  staggered so that the entire Senate is up for reelection every four years. 

©WCG, 2103


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Obamination in Syria

        
It is difficult to believe that anyone would fall for the razzle dazzle that the Obama Administration is serving up in support of its desired intervention in Syria.

The Government's case that "Assad" used chemical weapons against civilians does not amount to anything more than alleging he had the capacity and opportunity to do so.   That is certainly the case, but any moron ought to understand that opportunity does not equate with commission.  The Administration has proffered no evidence (far less proof) that Syrian forces deployed the weapons on the dates in question.

That some kind of chemical attack took place appears to be undeniable.  The question of who mounted it depends on an antecedent issue; namely, the capacity and opportunity of the rebels to deploy such an attack themselves.  Curiously enough, the Administration did not argue that the rebels were incapable of mounting such an attack, although the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, did.  Still, as Cameron stated to the House of Commons, the evidence that the Syrian Government deployed chemical weapons was a "judgement."

In the absence of objective factual evidence going beyond circumstances of opportunity, one is left with arguments over motives.  On this plane, it is clear that the argument tips in favour of the Syrian Government, which could have had no reasonable motive for triggering international outrage by mounting a chemical attack.  That the rebels would wish to mount a false flag operation is equally obvious on the other side.

At best, there is simply no reliable evidence or credible argument that the Syrian Government is responsible for the attack.    But the issue of who smoked out whom is a red-herring in any event.

Assuming for the sake of argument that there was a government use of chemical weapons, the question becomes whether there is any legal basis for doing anything about it.  Given this assumption (that the Syrian Government is guilty as charged), there are three modes of reaction: political, economic and military. 

There is no question but that any and all nations have a right to shun Syria on whatever grounds and to the extent they deem expedient.  They may refuse to trade with Syria, they may exclude it from reciprocal treaties and engagements.  They need not even proffer a reason for doing so, but if they wish to assert  a  moral aversion to the use of gas, that would provide ample justification for responsive conduct which is in all events within national prerogative.

However, once a state proposes invasive measures, the question passes as to its legal authority under conventional international law to proceed in a violent manner.   Here, the premise for all further discussion is that no state has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of another.  The entire structure of international law is built on the premise of sovereign autonomy which accords to each and every nation a right not to be attacked by any other state.   This axiom ought not to be discarded with jejune cynicism because the alternative is simply ongoing chaos and war.

Clearly, all states reserve the right of self-defence and this includes retaliation after an attack.   The right arguably includes pre-emptive self-defence at least in cases where there is clear and convincing intelligence of an imminent attack.  To this extent the allowed conduct of states is analogous to the law of self-defence among individuals.

However, the extension of pre-emptive defence to include attacks aimed at degrading or destroying a potential enemy's capacity to attack is nothing but a polemical perversion put forward by those whose secret aim is to undermine the entire structure of international law.

It is important to penetrate the sophistries underlying this perversion.  An adversary is a state which has opposed interests of one sort or another and which may harbour hostile designs.  An enemy is an actor who has declared or embarked on acts of war.  The competitive and adversarial nature of international relations is both undeniable and contemplated.  But the entire point of international law is to keep the competition pacific and on this side of aggressive acts.  A potential enemy is merely an adversary  -- a state which is not subservient to, or aligned with the interests of the potential aggressor.  To argue for preemptive defence against "potential enemies" or mere adversaries is none other than to assert a "right" to make war at will.

Equally vague is the asserted right to defend against a "capacity" to attack.  International lawyers are currently quibbling over the distinction between "capacity" and "capability."  The quibble is beside the point.  All states have some capacity to make some kind of war, even if only with bows and arrows.  Most states have varying degrees of capability to make effective modern war.  Any state with a modern industrial base has a significant capability to make effective war.   Defence against a capacity or capability is another word for destroying an adversary's civil, economic and military infrastructure.   This was why, in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, fertiliser factories  were alleged to be weapons sites. 

When a U.S. administration speaks of deterring "potential threats" (that is, a  potential, possible harm) it is not referring to any imminent aggression or actual harm but rather to using "forward presence operations" to "preclude the development of any potentially hostile entity" and for the sake of "deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role," as Dick Cheney's  Defense Planning Guide put it. (Ibid,  Cover Letter, 18 Feb. 1992, I 91/28291, pp. 2, 26   [1].)

This double conditional phraseology has become entrenched in Washington's strategic lingo which routinely casts geopolitical issues in terms of "maintaining U.S. preeminence" by means of "power projection operations" aimed at "precluding" and "deterring" "potential rivals" or "potential enemies" or "potentially powerful states" which might seek to "expand their own  influence" or "that may threaten America's ability to exercise its dominant military power." (See e.g., P.N.A.C's  September 2000 White Paper, entitled Rebuilding America's Defenses [2] ).

While the public's general indifference to English grammar might make it tone deaf to what is being said, Government statements and memoranda invariably conceive national defence in terms of ongoing "power projection" or, in plain Anglo-Saxon, bullying.

With this summary in mind, it can be seen that the neocon doctrine of preemptive defence against the capacity of potential enemies to present a threat (i.e. a possible harm) to the United States in unspecified ways is nothing less than advocacy of ongoing chaos and destruction.   To label such policy, "satanic" is hardly an exaggeration, for that is what Satan is about.

There is, in the present situation, no assertion, yet, that the use of gas in Syria constituted an attack or presented a true and imminent threat to the United States.  In the world of phantasmagorical (or pathological) abstractions, Syria might possibly attempt a gas attack on some United States installation or craft.  The likelihood of her doing so, without provocation is, zero.   There is simply no basis for asserting national self-defence on the assumed basis that the Syrian Government deployed chemical weapons against its own domestic insurgents.

President Obama might intone that Syria's use of chemical weapons implicates "core national security interests" but he does not even attempt to explain how other than to fall back on the neocon doctrine that the potential of any state to possibly present a threat qualifies as a "clear and present danger" which justifies a pre-emptive attack.   Within a more rational construct of reality, it suffices to say that a U.S. attack on Syria simply cannot be justified as self-defence.

Nevertheless,  the use of chemical weapons against domestic insurgents or a civil population does give rise to a conundrum in international law.  For, while the resort to such weapons, as a substantive fact, may be universally condemned, there is no universally agreed upon or satisfactory procedure for responding to their use.

After the Great War, virtually all nations signed a convention against the use of chemical weapons during war.  The idea was that, by whatever means nations might obliterate their young men, the use of gas was not one of them.  Since no attack at all against civilian populations is permitted, it went without saying that the use of gas against an enemy's non-combatants was also prohibited. 

If such an attack takes place, during war, the aggrieved belligerent party is entitled to take such proportionate retaliatory measures it deems fit.  In this context, "proportionate" typically means a tooth for a tooth, and maybe one more for good measure.

What happens, however, when a country uses chemical weapons against its own population, or "gasses" them in large numbers by other means?   This was the conundrum which presented itself at the Nuremberg Trials after the World War.  Germany and Germans could be tried and convicted for war-crimes against nations with whom it had been at war and against civilian populations under occupation.  But there was no basis for prosecuting anyone for crimes Germany committed against its own citizens, in particular against German Jews.  Horrendous as it might have been, it was not a war crime but rather a moral outrage which had occurred within the temporal framework of a war.

It was the Victors' determination to punish such conduct which gave rise to the newly-minted doctrine of "Crimes against Humanity." Accordingly, the Nuremberg Tribunal did the legal equivalent of a skip-and-shuffle, ruling that "insofar as the inhumane acts charged in the Indictment, and committed after the beginning of the war, did not constitute war crimes, they were all committed in execution of, or in connection with, the aggressive war, and therefore constituted crimes against humanity." [3]   In other words, non-prosecutable crimes against a belligerent's own citizens were piggy-backed onto the war-in-general.

As it evolved after Nuremberg, the doctrine of "Crimes Against Humanity" applies without more to any country's own civilian population, but the conduct in question must be  part either of a government policy or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority.  Isolated or sporadic events simply do not qualify. (Article 7, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, (2002).) [4]   Sporadic events may be violative (and prosecutable) as violations of the traditional laws of war but absent systematic practice they do not constitute crimes against humanity.  

Historically speaking, the requirement of  a "widespread or systematic"  practice had its genesis in the fact that the concept of  "crimes against humanity"  arose in reaction to ongoing practices such as the slave-trade, the reduction of entire populations to slavery and genocide.   The practical purpose of the systemic requirement, was to set a fairly high threshold for responsive action.  

The limitations of the concept are implicit from the circumstances out of which it evolved.  They presuppose an ongoing practice of multiple, successive horrors and they envision after the fact prosecution by some victorious agency.  In other words, the deterrence lies principally in the fact that if the perpetrator(s) loose the conflict they will be punished.

Recognising the weakness of the beer, the United Nations Charter did provide a mechanism for intervention against presently ongoing atrocities, provided the intervention was authorised by the international community as  represented by the Security Council.  The obvious and practical purpose of this requirement was to preclude the chaos which would ensue from individual states unilaterally assuming the prerogatives of Lord Protector of the World. 

The problem with this mechanism was that the Security Council itself was merely the formalisation of rival world hegemonies.  Unanimity among the major powers in the Council was unattainable with respect to any country in which a major power had a protective interest.  

This deadlock is a reflection of the actual scepticism countries harbour with respect to humanitarian crimes.  The deadlock not only reflects one major power's venal desire to shield crimes by its own, it also reflects the rival power's equally venal desire to promote its own interests under the pretext of a humanitarian intervention.

The U.S. media is prone to harping on Soviet vetoes of Council resolutions.  But the United States has not been laggard itself.  It has consistently vetoed resolutions adversely impacting on its own interests and in 2011 both the Obama Administration and the House of Representatives signalled a U.S. veto of any resolution condemning Israel for "systematic and deliberate" war crimes against the civilian population of Gaza (including the use of white phosphorous) which were determined to have occurred by  United Nation's independent Goldstone Commission. [5]

Removing the requisite authorisation for intervention from the Security Council to the General Assembly would constitute an obvious and actual democratisation of the ideal of "international consensus."  However, the United States has been the principal opponent of any such improvement.

The ineffectiveness of existing mechanisms to interrupt and put a stop to "crimes against humanity" has recently given rise to the related doctrines of "humanitarian intervention" and "responsibility to protect" aggrieved populations ("R2P").   Generally speaking, these doctrines expand the scope of crimes against humanity so as to include various forms of civil discrimination and, at the same time lower the authorisation required for intervention.  [6]  [7]   [8]

Despite the veneer of politically correct moralising, the purpose of  these doctrines is simply to provide a supposedly "objective" set of standards for unilateral state action.  But legality is always less a matter of substance than a question of procedure.  The issue is not "what" but who determines "when". 

Humanitarian Intervention is simply the canard which accompanies the chaos of unilateralism.  In the 19th century, it was routinely invoked as a cover for  European colonial enterprises launched under the banner of the White Man's Burden to protect the native from his own. 

It is important to grasp that the concept of humanitarian intervention presupposes that national self-defence is not at issue.  There is no threat whatsoever to the intervening nation which supposedly acts solely for the good of others.

With this in mind, it can be seen that the doctrine is far older than modern colonialism.  It has its genesis in the christian doctrine of "just war" which was first explicitly put forth in 851 by St. Cyril of Constantine who argued  that while a Christian was affirmatively forbidden to resort to violence in order to defend himself it was laudable and requisite for him to come to the defence of others.  

This convenient doctrine was enthusiastically taken up by Pope Urban II in defence of the First Crusade, launched he said, to defend the helpless Christians of Jerusalem and to avenge the barbarities and sacrileges committed upon them,

They circumcise the Christians, and the blood of the circumcision they either spread upon the altars or pour into the vases of the baptismal font. When they wish to torture people by a base death, they perforate their navels, and dragging forth the extremity of the intestines, bind it to a stake; then with flogging they lead the victim around until the viscera having gushed forth the victim falls prostrate upon the ground. Others they bind to a post and pierce with arrows. Others they compel to extend their necks and then, attacking them with naked swords, attempt to cut through the neck with a single blow. What shall I say of the abominable rape of the women? To speak of it is worse than to be silent."  (Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 1:2, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1895), 5-8.)  [9]

The modern, enlightened age has been no less ornate in its rhetoric.  During the Great War, British soldiers were urged to their own slaughter with fabricated stories of the Huns roasting babies on bayonets and of the Kaiser's infernal  Kadaververwertungsanstalten or corpse-rendering factories, where bodies of the battle-slain were allegedly turned into soap.  [10]

The most recent incarnation of the interventionist doctrine was the  Canadian R2P  proposal put forward in 2001 which sought to establish a set of clear guidelines for determining when intervention is appropriate  and how the intervention itself should be carried out.  The proposal recommends a conceptual shift from a "right to intervene" to thinking in terms of "a duty to protect." 

The proposal is correct in its understanding that "a non-defensive right to intervene" is to all intents and purposes a contradiction in terms.  But casting the issue in terms of a duty to protect is simply a modern day resurrection of St. Cyril's doctrine -- although the authors of the report were undoubtedly ignorant of first millennium orthodox moral theology. 

The critical question is not what constitutes a humanitarian violation nor how the intervention is to be carried out.  The only way to provide a truly disinterested procedure for determining when intervention is necessary and appropriate is to put the matter before the international community as a whole.

Unfortunately, any present-day discussion of humanitarian intervention gets burdened with what lawyers call "a parade of horribles" or an invocation of "The Holocaust" which, supposedly, trumps all argument and serves as a trumpet for any  intervention.   Argumentum ab horibilis is a species of rhetoric that passes into dramatic spectacle the purpose of which (as Aristotle pointed out) is to suspend credulity and to equate caution with acquiescence. The spectre conjured up is  that of babies being tossed into the flames or a reburnished  Kadaververwertungsanstalten  in which millions were lined up for gassing, incineration and recycling into soap, slippers and lamp shades.  "How," it is asked, "how can one do nothing in face of such unspeakable horrors?!?!?"

The flaw in the rhetoric is that, by definition, "widespread and systemic" crimes do not take place as they are unitarily depicted after the fact.  There is, as it were, no there, there.  This is illustrated by the  genocide of European Jews itself, which, as the most serious "non-revisionist" historians concede,  was the result of a confluence of often separate and unrelated actions always taken under cover of war or cover of production.  Two impeccable sources provide examples of what was known:  Rafael Lemkin, the Polish Jew, who analysed Nazi Occupation policies and who coined the word "genocide" which until then did not exist ( [11] [12] ) and Pope Pius XII who, in 1942, denounced the "progressive extermination" of the Jews which, he said, was taking place. [13

Both men saw the situation up close;  Lemkin from a first row seat and Pius through the thousand eyes of clerical reports.  At the same time, neither man saw the whole phenomenon but rather myriad pieces only some of which involved mass "executions." What both came to understand was that the Nazis had deployed policies the cumulative and ultimate effect of which would be the erasure of Jews from society as an intellectual, social, and physical phenomenon. 

But the fact that distinct and dispersed policies might unite in a common result does unify those policies in their actual execution.  The singularity of the term "holocaust" misleadingly suggests a singularity of event -- that a genocide took place, like a murder.  However, genocides and systematic crimes against humanity do not take place in the unitary singular but through a multiplicity of instances. They may be united conceptually by plan, purpose or confluent effect, but "the crime"  occurs severally and distinctly. 
 
Thus, against what precisely were the Allies supposed to intervene and how were they to do so?  At the time, alleged "gas chambers" were little more than a rumour and even if accepted as true left open the question of where exactly they might be located.  When President Roosevelt stated that the best way to stop the depredations then being committed against Jews and others was to win the war, he was not making excuses but rather an completely correct assessment based on what was reliably known. A pervasive crime could only be stopped by an equally pervasive solution.

This brief digression into a particular historical issue has been necessitated by the polemical arguments of those who advocate "humanitarian intervention" and who cite The Holocaust  as a trump card  to shame and silence any and all opposition.  But when the facts are objectively analysed the argument is void of substance. 

The conceptual defect of "humanitarian intervention" to prevent "crimes against humanity" is that it is not possible to take "tailored"  action against a "system" or to  target something that is widespread. Analyzed with practical logic,  the doctrine of humanitarian intervention is simply a pretext for general war. 

If on the other hand, the crime in question is some isolated non-systemic horror, then there is no legal authority for one state to violate the sovereignty of another in order to act as a prosecutor ad litem for what is, essentially, a discrete criminal act.

The attempt to fashion a doctrine of "responsibility to protect" simply wipes aside the difficulties with a moral bromide that  subjectively gratifies our inner sense of righteousness without providing any check, either substantive or procedural, against the abuse of morality in pursuit of nefarious national interests.

The intervention into Syria contemplated by the United States suffers from all the defects of the R2P protocol.  Even assuming that the Government of Syria is responsible for an incident of gassing its own civilians and assuming further that this incident constitutes a systemic crime against humanity or a violation of accepted humanitarian modes of conduct, there is simply no international consensus warranting an intervention. 

Instead, President Obama falls back entirely and fully on Cheney's neocon doctrine of preventive power projection.  In his request to Congress, Obama scores "Syria's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction" which he declaims, "threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States."   Accordingly he, requests authority "to deter disrupt, prevent and degrade the potential for future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction"  in order " to protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons."  [14]

The game is given away by the "or."  Obama does not limit the request to destroying existing arsenals of chemical weapons but wants approval to destroy any weapon of mass destruction on the ground that their mere existence is a "threat" to the United States "or" Israel.  Dick Cheney could not have said it more bluntly.

In his previous statement on 31 August, President Obama sought to sharpen the bluntness by a rhetorical pitch worthy of Urban II, in which he spoke of "young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government" which constituted "an assault on human dignity" and which made "a mockery" of international law.  "What message will we send," he asked, "if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight... What does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules?  To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorist who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide?"  [15]

The statement bespoke its own hypocrisy.  International norms require international approval for an "intervening" attack on a sovereign nation.  The Administration has presented no pretence of a claim that the Syrian "rebels" constitute anything like a recognisable de facto rival belligerent and government.  The only state in the region who has chosen to build nuclear arms is Israel.  If any party has a record of "spreading" biological weapons in the region it has been the United States which supplied them to Iraq, condoned their use in the 1980's and deployed white phosphorous  in Fallujah in 2004.

The Administration has obliquely referred to the fact that dastardly Syria has refused to sign the protocol against biological weapons.  What the Administration omits to note is that Israel has refused to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.  When the two facts are viewed together what is more than obvious is that Syria's refusal is made to counter-balance the hegemony of the Israeli nuclear threat. 

In 2004, Obama loftily intoned his hope for an emergence from the "long political darkness" into which the Bush Administration had plunged the country.  In 2013, with a "righteous wind" coming from his mouth, Obama  seeks to extend the long night of darkness even further.  


©Woodchipgazette, 2013

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfowitz_Doctrine

[2]http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Defense_Policy_Guidance_1992-1994

[3] http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/judlawre.asp

[4]http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/romefra.htm

[5]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Fact_Finding_Mission_on_the_Gaza_Conflict

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanitarian_intervention 

[7]http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsibility_to_protect

[9] http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2-5vers.html)

[10]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kadaververwertungsanstalt

[11]http://www.preventgenocide.org/lemkin/americanscholar1946.htm (links to original works)

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raphael_Lemkin

[13]http://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?did=0200-cavalli

[14]http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/31/us/obama-authorization-request-text

[15]http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/31/statement-president-syria

Thursday, May 16, 2013

From Boston to Fatah

      
In Zeitgeist for a New Century, we again argued that the war on terror "over there" of necessity entailed a war on terror "in here" and that the images of the war in Baghdad and Guantánamo would become the images of "security" in Boston and San Diego. 

As the fates would have it, once again, the Government confirms what people wish to disbelieve.  Testifying before a Senate Sub-Committee  Assistant Secretary of Defence for Special Operations, Michael Sheehan, told lawmakers that the war on terror would last "at least 10 to years."  Te scope of America’s counterterrorism program, Sheehan said, stretches “from Boston to the FATA,” (a part of Pakistan considered to be a hotbed of terroris.)

From Boston... and if from Boston, then too from Chicago and if from Chicago, then too from San Diego. 

Got it? 

Monday, May 6, 2013

LBJ played Politics, not Golf





A press foto of President Obama chumming it up with GOP Senator Crocker triggered another memory in our chipster mind,



one of several fotos showing LBJ leaning into and squeezing Republican and Dixiecrat opponents of the Civil Rights Act.

Now no one can fault a politician for shmoozing with the opposition.  No one can fault him for making nice and praising a creepture who otherwise makes him vomit.  Politics is the disgusting art of the possible.  

But when all is said and done, people expect those with power to use their power to get their avowed results.   Everything about Obama's shit-eating, I made it grin, tell us that he is not putting muscle into being the champion of Seniors, Students, the Sick, the Unemployed, the Homeless, the war-torn, the ecologically devasted.    Why should anyone think otherwise when he has in fact accomplished nothing that is anything  more than public relations chicken feed.

We have previously posted a synopsis of Teddy Roosevelts, Osawatomie Speech.  Likewise the video of Franklin Roosevelt's  Economic Bill of Rights.   We post now an interesting blog link [HERE] with transcripts and audios of Lyndon B. Johnson, squeezing the political flesh where it hurts -- amusing and admirable examples of cajoling Congress instead of doing  nothing and letting  it arrive at a consensus which inevitably subserves corporate interests.  We also post a link to his 1965 Address to Congress on the Civil Rights Act.




Johnson was no silver tongued speaker.  He was leaden and halting.  He could not hold a candle to Obama's silky, pre-vetted,  kneaded clichés.  But  what Johnson said in conclusion  was something Obama might well ask himself.

"What shall a man profit if he gain the whole world and loose his own soul?  .... There is no Negro problem.  There is no Northern problem.  There is no Southern problem. There is only an American problem."


©

Thursday, May 2, 2013

America's Image



J.F.Kennedy's Motorcade Entering Zocalo 1962

We thought it would be interesting to contrast Mexico's welcome and the impression the United States makes in two different epochs.   



Obama's Security Limo Traversing Evacuated Zocalo 2013


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Miranda as Prophecy - A Better Subversion


Along with news of the Marathon Bombing, the F.B.I. disclosed that an unknown person had mailed letters containing suspected ricin powder to the president and senator Wicker.  Far more important than the tittle-tattle risk which neither of the "intended victims" came close to incurring was the more ominous inference, which could be deduced from the incident, that the country has been taken into custody.

Within hours, it was reported that the F.B.I. had detained a man "in the area" with a backpack in which sealed envelopes had been found. (BBC) [1] Aha!  Sealed envelopes.  Q.E.D.

What area? we wondered; and how did the agents know that that backpack on that person had contained suspicious "sealed envelopes"?  The reports were devoid of such details -- the question of probable cause apparently is of no interest to the Fourth Estate.  Well they must have had something.... Indeed, but what?  Apparently nothing because the man with the suspicious envelopes was released. 

However, the following day it was reported that the F.B.I. had located a suspect on the basis of tell-tale word patterns.  As it turns out, both letters had used the phrase "I am KC and I approve this message."  The suspect, Kevin Curtis,  had also used the identical phrase in an online comment on a blog post in 2007, the only difference being the use of his full name.  (REUTERS) [2]

The speed and efficacy of the F.B.I. was breathtaking.  They had managed to obtain and serve warrants on an untold number of I.S.P's in a plethora of jurisdictions and plow through six years of global chat in order to discover the telltale needle in a heaping haystack of billions upon billions of chitter in the chatter.

Or, had they merely flipped a switch in a massive datamine of internet traffic filtering bytes through algorithms in search of a phrase?  In either case: Chill out dude -- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. 

Although the press was content to repeat whatever facts F.B.I. news releases presented to them, they appeared oblivious to the disturbing inferences which might be drawn from the facts the authorities saw fit to disclose.

If the incriminating phrase had been retrieved from a massive datamine of all our on-line (and telephone) communications, then the Government should at least give all of us  the proverbial Miranda warnings.

As a legal matter, Miranda warnings are required only upon being taken into custody. By the same token, the giving of them implicates being in custody.  But equally significant is the fact Miranda states; i.e. that anything said will be used against the declarant.  When anything we say "can and will" be used against us we are no longer free.

It is no doubt true that any statement anywhere can be used to a person's detriment.  But statements made in the open air of freedom get disbursed and lost.  There is a natural haphazardness to their being remembered or, just as likely, forgotten.  In contrast, statements made in custody are recorded. They are taken down as much as the suspect is locked up and this applies equally to statements made during interviews or personal telephones calls.  There is no privacy in custody; and where there is no privacy, there is no freedom.

Most people think of "custody" as a restraint of movement -- of being locked up in a tight space.  But that is only a derivative meaning.  More primarily the word custody means: "A keeping or guarding; care, watch, inspection, for keeping, preservation, or security." (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913), p. 358.)

It is necessary to distinguish confinement as punishment and custody as a precaution.  Accused miscreants were locked up in earlier times because it was next to impossible to keep watch over them otherwise. But it is not always necessary to lock up in order to watch over. Black slaves in the United States and collared Roman slaves in Rome were allowed to roam with an appearance of freedom because their colour or their collar rendered them under watch and inspection automatically.  No one would argue that these slaves were not in custody.  On the contrary their status was their detention.

Similarly, the fact that our words are being taken down for keeping and inspection means that we ourselves are being watched for security and are therefore ipso facto in custody even if we are allowed every appearance of free roaming.

The elimination of privacy -- that is to say, the taking custody of a nation -- was most irreversibly the creation of the Patriot Act.  But the ideological underpinnings which allowed the Act to be rationalised under an appearance of logic go back to California v. Greenwood (1988) 486 U.S. 35, which held that there is no expectation of privacy in garbage. Having deposited one’s garbage “in an area particularly suited for public inspection and, in a manner of speaking, public consumption,” a person “could have had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the inculpatory items that they discarded.” (Ibid.)

Yes, the High Court, actually said that.  They said it on the precedent of Smith v. Maryland (1979) 442 U.S. 735 which had held that dialled telephone numbers were not private. Entrusting garbage, the Greenwood Court intoned, was no different than dialling telephone numbers and “we doubt that people in general entertain any actual expectation of privacy in the numbers they dial.”   To be sure they did not; for, after all, the most very High Court had told them they did not.

We reported on Greenwood back in 2006 because we felt that it was significant in view of the Security Actions being taken by the Government at the time.  (And the Lord will not hear You on that Day )  But little heed was taken of chips in the wind as the Nation moved with determination to eliminate all potential dangers (as they have been called).

The vice of Greenwood is that it perverts our concept of privacy and, doing so, degrades our understanding of freedom.  The premise of Greenwood was that a person has no privacy in public because in public one is exposed to general view.  But, to say as much is to resort to a tautology masquerading as an argument.

It is true that "in public" a person is "in general view" but these two terms are not interchangeable with "no privacy."  What the tautology overlooks is the equally salient fact that "general view" and "surveillance" are not the same thing.  The former is haphazard and indifferent and it is these qualities which create the  space for freedom.  In public, others may notice what we do but for the most part are indifferent to our doings. Because passers-by are not keeping us under watch we are  able to go about our private business in public being left alone.  In contrast, ongoing, purposeful surveillance is the very core definition of custody because it does not leave one alone but rather follows, tracks, records one's every move with the very opposite of indifference.  What Greenwood allows is for the Commons to be turned into a jail and for freedom to be confined to the privacy of one's closet.

To say as much is not a sophistical switching of terms between "privacy" and "freedom."   It is an interchanging of terms which reflects the true meaning of "custody".  Freedom is not simply a question mobility and action.  It is, most essentially, a question of being not under guard.  We are free in public because we are not being watched and, not being watched, we are about our private business in the open.

The roots of Greenwood's misnformed constitutionalism lie in an 1890 Harvard Law Review article by Samuel D. Warren, Louis D. Brandeis entitled, and inceptionally defining, The Right to Privacy.  Not atypically, Brandeis' quill cut both ways.  While the article is credited with birthing the concept of "the right to be left alone," it used medieval English property law as a paradigm and analogised the right of privacy to the fee simple absolute.  In a much quoted paragraph, Warren and Brandeis wrote,

"The common law secures to each individual the right of determining, ordinarily, to what extent histhoughts, sentiments, and emotions shall be communicated to others.  ... [H]e can never be compelled to express them.  ...  The right is lost only when the author himself communicates his production to the public, -- in other words, publishes it. ... [But]  the common-law right is lost as soon as there is a publication."

In so stating, the authors analogised "privacy" to "curtilage" and "publication" to "conveyance." While the analogy suited the article's overriding purpose of delineating the contours of intellectual property it did not deal with and thus provided only a defective basis for assessing privacy in a constitutional context.

In that context, the focus must as much be on the limits of governmental power as on the individual's supposed choice to "disclose" himself.  Between the privacy of one's curtilage and ambit of restrained governmental power lies that in-between space known as "public freedom". 

The concept of voluntary "exposure" may be an adequate foundation for assessing the extent of commercial rights granted or retained in remainder.  But it is not adequate for determining the political contours of freedom. The idea that civic privacy is "lost" by a decision to "expose" one's self (or to "publish" one's garbage) tacitly assumes that everywhere else, not hidden, is government's unimpeded domain to do whatever it wants.   Likewise, it  implicitly converts public conduct to  an at-risk activity.

Taken to extremes, as it has been by the Government's asserted "right" to monitor and record e-mail and social chats, the ambit of privacy gets reduced to the curtilege of our skin.  Any contact outside of one's self becomes an "exposure" subject to surveillance, search, seizure.  Society is effectively atomized and the individual is left to what the Germans once called "inner emigration."   Life is turned into loneliness.

From all time, the world has understood how the existence of spies and delatores (professional snoops and denouncers) chills and snuffs out freedom. The Roman historian Tacitus called them  "a class invented to destroy the commonwealth." (Annals of Imperial Rome  Bk IV,  ch. 30)  But the United States Supreme Court has been impervious to the obvious.  While it has prohibited direct and specific infringements on freedom of expression it has consistently bent over acutely to affirm the Government's prerogative to gather intelligence.

Thus, in Laird v. Tatum (1972)  408 U.S. 1 the Supreme Court famously rejected a claim that  First Amendment rights were chilled "by the mere existence, without more, of a governmental investigative and data-gathering activity."  The information gathered, the Court intoned, was "nothing more than a good newspaper reporter would be able to gather by attendance at public meetings and the clipping of articles from publications available on any newsstand."  Previously in Uphaus v. Wyman, (1950) 360 U.S. 72 the high Court upheld a State's prerogative to "gather and publish information on a person's potentially subversive associations."

Laird's reasoning was beyond specious. Reporters do not have the power to prosecute, imprison and execute.  Government does not investigate to inform but to suppress.  State activity can simply never be analogised to private conduct.  In fact, because of what the State is as such, government participation in or open access to data-gathering of itself transforms the nature of the process. A billing error can be corrected, a libel can be sued; but no imprisoned dissident has successfully sued his government for malicious prosecution.

Equally specious is the argument that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. Because all meaning is contextual a speaker who is being recorded is forced to pre-check and reconsider anything he says for possible misinterpretation and use against him in the future.

Specious as it is, the High Court's doctrine could be summarised as, "Far be it from us to second-guess the Government's legislative purposes; if you don't like it, stay at home."  We may now add, "And avoid chat or email."

Historically speaking, the very most High Court is in the highest of company.   Tacitus reports that when the Senate sought to prohibit the use of roving, undercover spies, Tiberius "with a harshness contrary to his manner, spoke openly for the informers, complaining that the laws would be ineffective, and the state brought to the verge of ruin if their use were abolished 'Better,' he said, 'to subvert the constitution than to remove its guardians.'" (Annals   Bk. IV, ch.30.)

Hail Caesar! 


©Woodchip Gazette 2013

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22190031

[2] http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/04/18/uk-usa-obama-letter-idUKBRE93G0OW2013041

[3] http://wcg-journal.blogspot.com/2008/12/and-lord-will-not-hear-you-on-that-day.html

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Die Volk Gefühlschaft


Why, we have wondered, do people from coast to coast emote over the "tragedy" in Boston?  Although the press churns out one trivial-detail after another, blaming the emote-fest on the press falls short.  People needed little prompting to fill walls on social networks with poster pictures of the little boy... of the hero who... of flickering candles on the pavement and the full detritus of sentimentality.   We stand by you, Boston! Like. The press simply feeds what it knows the people want.

What then do the people want?  It occurs to us that what people want is a sense of community, of belonging and social empathy which we otherwise lack. But it is the same absence of social empathy, community and belonging which gave rise to the bombing in the first place.  In the end, we are trapped in a circle of anomie which feeds on itself.

There is no doubt that those who were directly impacted by the explosion suffered true and grievous losses which will stay with them for a long time.  There is nothing false or superficial about loosing one's child or an arm or a leg.

Those who were present at the event but who were not injured will suffer a psychological impact which arises from a consciousness of uncertainty and vulnerability.  Most humans live within a hermetic bubble of confidence, acquired from the time we take our third, fourth and fifth baby steps.  We could not live otherwise if we were paralysed by intimations of danger and misfortune lurking at every pass.  From time to time,  however, some event brings upon us an awareness  of our mortality and this fills us with hesitancy until we regain our forgetfulness.

But as for the vast rest of us -- are we affected?  No.  We have not lost a leg or a loved one and any danger of a like bombing on our own morning jog is far more remote than that of being struck by an impatient and inattentive motorist.

We are not affected but we want to be. Or, more precisely, we want to feel as if we are because that feeling is the type of feeling we would feel if we were family, neighbours and friends with those who did suffer.

True community arises out of shared experience in work, success, suffering and defeat.  We feel as one because we have felt together in living our common experience.  Even enemies in battle have a sense of community because they have both felt the common experience of war, as the meeting between Priam and Achilles so exquisitely symbolised.  The aged father and the young warrior were able to weep together and share their sorrows because they had each suffered grief at the hand of the other.  

"So the two men there both remembered warriors who’d been slaughtered. Priam, lying at Achilles’ feet, wept aloud  for man-killing Hector, and Achilles also wept  for his own father and once more for Patroclus. The sound of their lamenting filled the house."  (Iliad, Bk 24.)

This was not forgiveness but it was compassion.  The two men shared meat and drink.  They shared rest.  And Achilles gave Priam 12 days to fittingly bury Hector before resuming the war. 

There are happier communions but, howsoever they are, they all arise from real work and proximate living together.  In contrast, the shared experience and interests San Francisco has with Boston are remote and abstract.  The two cities are united by a vast economic engine and a shared deluge of consumer brands, styles and motifs.  But if either were to disappear from the map, the other would not be affected any more than the rest of the country was affected by the swamping of New Orleans.  The connections are real but they are not essential.

The same communal disconnect between Boston and San Francisco exist even between the denizens of Boston itself.  It is, after all, hardly a secret that mass industrial societies suffer from anomie; and it is the individual's estrangement from a society which denies him a connection that nurses and ultimately triggers the despaired reactions of suicide or homicide.

It is thus that the marathon bomber's act serves to remind us that we are estranged from ourselves.  If we were not, then such alienated crimes would not arise, as they do, among us.  To repeat: the bomber's destructive act reminds us that it is we who are alienated - not just him.  This is why in ancient Rome, for example, when a murder occurred within the walls, the entire city had to be evacuated and purified before being reoccupied.

The ancients acknowledged, in this manner, that there is in truth no such thing as an "individual crime."  The alienation that manifests itself in crime is a hole in our social fabric and it is the fabric which requires mending.  In contrast, the intense atomisation of American society (going under the brand of "individualism") masks the alienation which it itself produces so that we do not see the we in the matter.

But we do feel its absence -- that is, we sense our own lacking -- which is why the alienated action of the bomber(s) triggers an immediate and equally alienated reaction: the junk compassion of feeling as if we were affected.

Since the symptom was diagnosed by Durkheim, Western societies have struggled to deal with the problem of anomie.  For the most part, they have relied of "symptom relievers."  The most direct and candid attempt to deal with societal anomie was mounted by Germany's National Socialists whose Volk Gemeinschaft sought to create a palpable and real sense of "national community" without abolishing the industrialised, mechanised, regimented means of production which engendered the feeling of metropolitan isolation in the first place.

The United States has not been lacking in the attempt. The difference is in the style of the kitsch.  And although we do crowd masses onto the Mall on Independence Day where they can sit, eat and listen to insipid speeches and equally bad music, the Miracle of Television has allowed us to create all manner and layers of false community without having to jam people onto a field. 

But the fact remains: we are an alienated non-community and all the sympathetic emoting from coast to coast only serves to underscore that fact.  

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