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Notes From Underground #4: Emergency Democracy

Notes From Underground #4: Emergency Democracy

It’s late in 1940, six months since the fall of France. Still a year to go before America joins the war. Meanwhile, Britain soldiers on alone – or so it likes to tell itself, the vastness of Empire folded conveniently into the background. Through the crackling of the wireless, the prime minister’s voice is unmistakable.

‘Every endeavour must be made to use the time available to produce the greatest volume of food of which this fertile island is capable. We shall all have to make changes to the way in which we eat and each household must now play its part in the way in which that food is grown. We have to look a long way ahead in this sphere of the war. We have to think of the years 1970 and 1971 and of the tonnage programmes which we shall be able to move and which we shall have to move across the oceans then.’

The mistake is glaring, absurd – yet this was the voice I heard in my head as I read the summary of the EAT–Lancet report on climate change and food, published in January, with its conclusions about the changes called for in our diets. In North America, an 84% cut in the average intake of red meat; for Europeans, a fifteen-fold increase in the amount of nuts and seeds we eat. All of this is to be achieved by 2050: a timeline based on reasonable assumptions and ambitious behaviour-change goals, for sure, but it doesn’t sound like a response to an existential threat.

The speech which Churchill actually gave that autumn, part of which was printed on the leaflets that launched the Dig For Victory campaign, urged Britain to ‘think of the years 1943 and 1944’.

* * *

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We’re Asking One Question In Assange’s Case: Should Journalists Be Punished For Exposing War Crimes?

We’re Asking One Question In Assange’s Case: Should Journalists Be Punished For Exposing War Crimes?

This is a speech I gave yesterday at a demonstration for Assange with the Socialist Equality Party Australia.

Tomorrow in the UK a judge will start the process of answering a very important question. It’s a question that many of us knew was the heart of this debate back in 2010, ten years ago, when this all started. It’s a question that they have been obfuscating, bloviating, huffily denying, smearing, gaslighting, and distracting from–basically doing anything they can to hide it from view.

It’s a question that they don’t want the public to know that we are answering. A question that goes to the heart of democracy, and to the heart of the role of the fourth estate, journalism. And that question is this:

Should journalists and publishers be punished for exposing US war crimes?

And, ancillary to that question: should we allow them to be punished by the very people who committed those war crimes?

Is that something that we want for our world, ongoing? Because our answer to this question is going to shape our society, our civilization, for generations to come.

There is no coming back from this for a very long time should the answer be, “Yes! Yes, it’s fine, war criminals should go ahead and punish journalists for publishing true facts about their war crimes.”

If we allow the answer to be yes, then we’re stuck with the endless stupid wars that everyone wants done with, from Melbourne to Kabul, from Sydney to Syria–right across the world people are done with these stupid wars for profit.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Poetic Justice Coming For The 1%

Poetic Justice Coming For The 1%

To understand just how grim the coming decade is likely to be for the world’s super-rich, let’s start with three premises:

1) Capitalist democracy — defined as free individuals managing their own property and periodically electing new leaders — is the only system of social organization that’s consistent with human nature and is, therefore, sustainable. 

2) Capitalism inevitably produces inequality as a few participants — through energy, creativity, and (frequently) luck — do extremely well while the vast majority do okay and a few do very badly. 

3) Since the big winners — now commonly known as the 1% — are vastly outnumbered by the rest of society, they can only keep their exulted position if they convince the 99% to let them be. If the rich fail to make their case, everyone else will simply vote to expropriate the most visible fortunes. 

If you accept these assertions, it follows that enlightened elites would be all about fostering upward mobility, because when people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder know that by working hard and following the rules they can move their families to the next higher rung in a reasonable amount of time, they focus on their on improving prospects and don’t much care if a few billionaires live like princes and kings. 

But that’s emphatically not the case these days. The current generation of corporate and political winners have blatantly and systematically exploited nearly everyone else. Amazon, for instance, staffs its hellscape warehouses with RV caravans of migrant senior citizens working long, hard days for subsistence wages. Apple makes its high-margin phones in Chinese sweatshop factories where suicide is the biggest occupational health hazard.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Dissatisfaction with democracy reaches all-time high

Dissatisfaction with democracy reaches all-time high

Dissatisfaction with democracy reaches all-time high

A new report by the recently established Centre for the Future of Democracy at the University of Cambridge has found that dissatisfaction with democracy has reached an all-time global high. Westminster-style democracies (the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US) typically fare particularly badly in terms of democratic faith, with the proportion of citizens dissatisfied with the performance of their democracy doubling since the 1990s. In the UK, this proportion increased by around a fifth since then.

The global financial and economic crisis and growing within-country regional inequality are of course important factors behind decreasing satisfaction with democracy. But the Centre’s report also suggests that ‘satisfaction with democracy is lower in majoritarian “winner-takes-all” systems than in consensus-based, proportionally representative democracies’. The antagonistic and adversarial mentality inherent in the outdated First Past the Post voting system found in majoritarian, Westminster-style democracies contributes to polarisation and tribalism, making citizens less willing to compromise and to accept the mandate of rival political parties or viewpoints. By contrast, New Zealand is the only Westminster-style democracy to have avoided the trend of ever-increasing public discontent, likely as a result of having introduced a fairer voting system in the 1990s.

These findings highlight the perilous state of our democracy, with ever-deepening citizen dissatisfaction and disengagement

These findings highlight the perilous state of our democracy, with ever-deepening citizen dissatisfaction and disengagement, but sadly they do not come as a surprise. Edelman’s annual trust barometer found that trust in institutions is the lowest it’s ever been in the UK – we’re penultimate in their league table of trust, just one spot ahead of Russia. Similarly, a BMG poll for the ERS in December 2019 found that 85 per cent of people thought democracy could be improved ‘quite a lot’ or ‘a great deal’, with 80 per cent of people feeling they have ‘not very much’ or ‘no influence’ over decision-making.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

40 Privacy Groups Warn That Facial Recognition is Threatening Democracy

40 Privacy Groups Warn That Facial Recognition is Threatening Democracy

We must take action and guard what little privacy remains before it’s too late. 

(TMU) — On Monday, forty organizations signed a letter calling on an independent government watchdog to recommend a ban on U.S. government use of facial recognition technology.

The letter was drafted by the digital privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and signed by organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Color of Change, Fight for the Future, Popular Resistance, and the Consumer Federation of America. The letter calls on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) to “recommend to the President and the Secretary of Homeland Security the suspension of facial recognition systems, pending further review.

The PCLOB was originally created in 2004, as an independent agency that advises the administration on privacy issues. “The Congress specifically found that new surveillance powers ‘calls for an enhanced system of checks and balances to protect the precious liberties that are vital to our way of life and to ensure that the Government uses its powers for the purposes for which the powers were given’,” the letter states.

The organizations challenge the PCLOB to “examine the more significant public concerns about the use of facial recognition in public spaces.” They also call on the board to address concerns that facial recognition software can be used by “authoritarian governments to control minority populations and limit dissent could spread quickly to democratic societies.

The letter from EPIC mentions a recent New York Times investigation of a facial recognition service used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies across the country.  As the Mind Unleashed recently reported, Manhattan-based Clearview AI is collecting data from unsuspecting social media users and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) is using the controversial facial recognition tool to pinpoint the identity of unknown suspects.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Primary Mechanism Of Your Oppression Is Not Hidden At All

The Primary Mechanism Of Your Oppression Is Not Hidden At All

I write a lot about government secrecy and the importance of whistleblowers, leakers and leak publishers, and for good reason: governments which can hide their wicked deeds from public accountability will do so whenever possible. It’s impossible for the public to use democracy for ensuring their government behaves in the way they desire if they aren’t allowed to be informed about what that behavior even is.

These things get lots of attention in conspiracy circles and dissident political factions. Quite a few eyes are fixed on the veil of government opacity and the persecution of those brave souls who try to shed light on what’s going on behind it. Not enough eyes, but quite a few.

What gets less attention, much to our detriment, is the fact that the primary mechanism of our oppression and exploitation is happening right out in front of our faces.

The nonstop campaign by bought politicians, owned news outlets, and manipulated social media platforms to control the dominant narratives about what’s going on in the world contribute vastly more to the sickness of our society than government secrecy does. We know this from experience: any time a whistleblower exposes secret information about the malfeasance of powerful governments like NSA surveillance or Collateral Murder, we see not public accountability, nor demands for sweeping systemic changes to prevent such malfeasance from reoccurring, but a bunch of narrative management from the political/media class.

This narrative management is used to shift attention away from the information that was revealed and onto the fact that the person who revealed it broke the law or misbehaved in some way. It’s used to convince people that the revelations aren’t actually a big deal, or that it was already basically public knowledge anyway. 

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Lying Politicians Are Killing Our Democracies

Lying Politicians Are Killing Our Democracies

Weak watchdogs and lax social media bred a pandemic of dishonesty. We need new laws.

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Liar inspo. Photo by Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0.

If anything takes us out before climate change, it will be the triumph of lying in government.

Having spent a lifetime digging out facts to reveal the truth, I have to acknowledge it — the compulsive liars running countries are winning the communications war.

The only issue now is whether the liars can be stopped. If Canada wants to side with truth, it should start by regulating political advertisements. We know Facebook won’t do it. And that the nation to our south has become a laboratory for mad scientists of propaganda.

But if a Canadian finds a straight-up whopper in a political ad from a politician or party, there is nobody to file a complaint with. Politicians here can lie with immunity and impunity.

Which makes us part of a global pandemic. Official government lying from the top has gone viral. It kills democracy as surely as the Spanish flu, which in 1918 claimed 50 million lives and afflicted 10 times that number. False, weaponized and dysfunctional information will wreak even more havoc, literally affecting everyone on the planet.

This week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, freshly indictedon criminal counts of fraud, bribery and breach of trust, accused police and prosecutors of staging a “coup” against him. U.S. President Donald Trump used the same word to describe his confrontation with the constitution and the law. Like Trump, Netanyahu is accusing his accusers — without evidence — and whipping his followers into a frenzy against the justice system. The key prosecutors on the case now have bodyguards.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Democracy Is the Ideal Distraction

Democracy Is the Ideal Distraction

democracy

In the days of yore, there were kings. Everybody could agree to hate the king because he was rich and well-fed, when most of his minions were not.

Then, a more effective system was invented: democracy. Its originators had in mind a system whereby the populace could choose their leader from amongst themselves – thereby gaining a leader who understood them and represented them.

In short order, those amongst the populace who wished to rule found a way to game the new system in a way that would allow them to, in effect, be kings, but to do so from behind the scenes, whilst retaining the illusion of democracy.

The formula is to create two opposing political parties. Each is led by someone who’s presented as being a “representative of the people.”

You then present the two parties as having opposing views on governance. It matters little what the differences are. In fact, you can have the differences be as obscure and arbitrary as, say, gay rights or abortion, and they will work as well as any other differences. What matters is that your two parties object to each other strenuously on the declared issues, working the electorate into a lather.

Once you have each group hating the other group “on principle,” you’re home free. At that point, you’ve successfully completed the distraction. The electorate now believe that, whatever the trumped-up issues are, they’re critical to the ethical governance of the country.

Most importantly, the electorate actually believe that their future well-being depends on the outcome of the next election – that it will decide whether their own view on the issues will prevail.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Boris Johnson’s destruction of democracy is making it easier for the hard right to ruin our planet

Boris Johnson’s destruction of democracy is making it easier for the hard right to ruin our planet

The vision that Boris and his clique represent is plain (for some of us) to see. They appear to be unabashed authoritarians, and their grand scheme consists of austerity for the poor, welfare for the wealthy and marginalisation for minorities

The struggle in parliament is about far more than Brexit. It is about protecting the very heart of democracy itself from a dangerous authoritarian demagoguery that threatens the entire planet.

Boris Johnson’s regime seems to be openly at war with planet earth. When Green Party MP Caroline Lucas challenged the prime minister to distance Britain from Brazilian leader Bolsonaro due to his “acceleration” of the devastating fires in the Amazon, Boris refused to rule out a trade deal with Brazil. 

Johnson’s intransigence is no surprise. The parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee has warned that precisely due to the Conservative government’s own policies, Britain is on course to miss its own legally-binding target for net-zero emissions by 2050.

Meanwhile, industry trade body Oil and Gas UK has just called for oil and gas production to continue at maximum levels. British investment giant Schroders warns that such a scenario, if pursued worldwide, could lead global average temperatures to rise by as much as 8 degrees Celsius within 80 years – creating a catastrophically uninhabitable planet.

But Johnson’s government is, in my view, the least willing to take any action against climate change. Apart from Johnson himself, both his environment minister Theresa Villiers and his business secretary Andrea Leadsom have previously supported the ramping up of shale gas fracking.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Breaking The Media Blackout on the Imprisonment of Julian Assange

Julian Assange feature photo

Breaking The Media Blackout on the Imprisonment of Julian Assange

The same media that has spent years dragging Assange’s name through the mud is now engaging in a blackout on his treatment. If you are waiting for corporate media pundits to defend freedom of the press, you’re going to be disappointed.

The role of journalism in a democracy is publishing information that holds the powerful to account — the kind of information that empowers the public to become more engaged citizens in their communities so that we can vote in representatives that work in the interest of “we the people.” 

There is perhaps no better example of watchdog journalism that holds the powerful to account and exposes their corruption than that of WikiLeaks, which exposed to the world evidence of widespread war crimes the U.S. military was committing in Iraq, including the killing of two Reuters journalists; showed that the U.S. government and large corporations were using private intelligence agencies to spy on activists and protesters; and revealed how the military hid tortured Guantanamo Bay prisoners from Red Cross inspectors. 

It’s this kind of real journalism that our First Amendment was meant to protect but engaging in it has instead made WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange the target of a massive smear campaign for the last several years — including false claims that Assange is working with Vladimir Putin and the Russians and hackers, as well as open calls by corporate media pundits for him to be assassinated. 

The allegations that Assange conspired with Putin to undermine the 2016 election and American democracy as a whole fell completely flat earlier this month when a U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed this case as “factually implausible,” with the judge noting that at no point does the prosecution’s “threadbare” argument show “any facts” at all, and concluding that the idea that Assange conspired with Russia against the Democratic Party or America is “entirely divorced from the facts.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How To Make Sense Of Foreign Protests, Conflicts And Uprisings

How To Make Sense Of Foreign Protests, Conflicts And Uprisings

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, our government-funded media outlet, has published an article titled “Australian expat living in Hong Kong throws off business suit to join protest movement“. The entire story is in the headline: some random guy, who ABC keeps anonymous but for the name “Daniel”, has joined the protests in Hong Kong. That’s it. That’s the whole entire bombshell newsworthy news story.

“In Australia we have proper democracy but in Hong Kong, democracy is being slowly eroded away and I’ll try to do whatever I can to try and help the cause,” the anonymous guy told ABC.

This sort of enthusiastic empty non-story cheerleading is typical for western media coverage of the Hong Kong protests so far, while these same media outlets consistently ignore or downplay protests against the government of France, Israel, Honduras, India, Indonesia and any other region that happens to fall within the US-centralized power alliance. It’s an amazingly reliable pattern: the entire western political/media class finds protests and uprisings endlessly fascinating when they are in opposition to governments which haven’t yet been absorbed into the imperial blob like China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, pre-collapse Libya, or then-Moscow-aligned Ukraine, but any protests or uprisings within that empire are ignored at best or demonized at worst.

If dissidents in the United States began donning yellow vests and holding aggressive demonstrations in the current media environment, you could safely bet your bottom dollar that they would be ignored for as long as possible and then smeared as fascists, antisemites and/or Russian pawns thereafter. This would happen with absolute certainty.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Demonocracy: The Great Human Scourge!

Demonocracy: The Great Human Scourge!

Review: Christophe Buffin de Chosal, The End of Democracy, Translated by Ryan P. Plummer.  Printed in the U.S.A.: Tumblar House, 2017.

Introduction

One cannot speak too highly of Christophe Buffin de Chosal’s The End of Democracy.  In a fast paced, readable, yet scholarly fashion, Professor Buffin de Chosal* demolishes the ideological justification in which modern democracy rests while he describes the disastrous effects that democratic rule has had on Western societies.  He explodes the myth of Democracy as a protector of individual liberty, a prerequisite for economic progress, and a promoter of the higher arts.  Once Democracy is seen in this light, a far more accurate interpretation of modern history can be undertaken.  The book is a very suitable companion to Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s iconoclastic take down of democracy in Democracy: The God That Failed, released at the beginning of this century.  Buffin de Chosal has spoken of a follow up which will be eagerly awaited for.

Democratic Governance

The idea of rule by the people is a scam, one perpetuated by those who, in actuality, are in control of the government.  Through the “democratic process” of voting and elections, a small, determined minority can impose its will despite majority opposition:

We often hear it said that ‘in a democracy,

it is the people who rule. . . .’  Rule by the

people is a myth which loses all substance

once confronted with the real practice in

democracy.  [13]

Quoting from a Russian philosopher, Buffin de Chosal continues his criticism:

    The best definition [of democracy] was

given by the Russian philosopher Vasily Rozanov. 

‘Democracy is the system by which an

organized minority governs an unorganized

majority.’  This ‘unorganized majority’ is the

people, aggregated and individualistic,

incapable of reaction because disjointed.  [28]

He expands upon Rozanov’s theme:

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is Protest Good for Democracy? And Does It Work?

Is Protest Good for Democracy? And Does It Work?

When certain conditions are present, huge change is possible. So get out there.

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‘If concerned citizens did not mobilize to demand their rights, the politically powerful would not grant them.’ Photo by Dexter McMillan for The Tyee.

Do protests constitute a danger to the legitimacy and stability of the political system, or do they foster greater democratic responsiveness? And, most importantly, do protests really create long-term political change? 

To answer these questions, you only need to think of some of the greatest achievements of the last century: civil and political rights for people of colour, women, Indigenous peoples, members of the LGBTQ+ community, alongside workers’ rights and students’ rights. 

If concerned citizens did not mobilize to demand their rights, the politically powerful would not grant them. 

The key to fostering a positive link between protest levels and democratic quality is the openness of political institutions to protesters’ demands and the willingness of protesters to engage with those institutions. 

When these conditions are present, protest movements complement or reinforce conventional political participation by offering a measure of direct representation for those who perceive mainstream politics to be unresponsive to citizen concerns. 

When governments ignore protesters or attempt to repress them, protests tend to become radicalized and directed against the political system. 

We are currently witnessing a global uptick in protest activity, with some of the largest protests in world history. The 2011 global protest cycle, which began with the Arab Spring and expanded to include Europe, Latin America and North America, was the largest and most influential since the classic protest cycle of the 1960s. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Socialism Rises Due To The Great American Economic Growth Myth

Socialism Rises Due To The Great American Economic Growth Myth

There is little denying the rise of “socialistic” ideas in the U.S. today. You can try and cover the stench by calling it “social democracy” but in the end, it’s still socialism.

Since 1775, millions of Americans have given their lives in defense of the American “idea.” The tyranny and oppression which arise from communism, socialism, and dictatorships have been a threat worthy of such sacrifice. I am sure those patriots who died to ensure the “American way of life” would be disheartened by the willingness of the up and coming generations adopt such ideals.

But such shouldn’t be a surprise. It is the cycle of all economic civilizations over time as we “forget our history” and become doomed to repeat. it.

Scottish economist Alexander Tytler, who, in 1787, was reported to have commented on the then-new American Republic as follows:

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been about 200 years. These nations always progressed through this sequence:

  • From Bondage to Moral Certitude;
  • from Moral Certitude to Great Courage;
  • from Great Courage to Liberty;
  • from Liberty to Abundance;
  • from Abundance to Selfishness;
  • from Selfishness to Complacency;
  • from Complacency to Apathy;
  • from Apathy to Dependency;
  • from Dependency to Bondage.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Microsoft’s ElectionGuard a Trojan Horse for a Military-Industrial Takeover of US Elections

ElectionGuard | Voting Machines

Microsoft’s ElectionGuard a Trojan Horse for a Military-Industrial Takeover of US Elections

“The fact that we are handing over the keys of American democracy to the military-industrial complex — it’s like giving the keys to the henhouse to a fox and saying, ‘here come in and take whatever you want.’ It’s obviously dangerous.” — Investigative journalist Yasha Levine

Earlier this month, tech giant Microsoft announced its solution to “protect” American elections from interference, which it has named “ElectionGuard.” The election technology is already set to be adopted by half of voting machine manufacturers and some state governments for the 2020 general election. Though it has been heavily promoted by the mainstream media in recent weeks, none of those reports have disclosed that ElectionGuard has several glaring conflicts of interest that greatly undermine its claim aimed at protecting U.S. democracy. 

In this investigation, MintPress will reveal how ElectionGuard was developed by companies with deep ties to the U.S. defense and intelligence communities and Israeli military intelligence, as well as the fact that it is far from clear that the technology would prevent foreign or domestic interference with, or the manipulation of, vote totals or other aspects of American election systems.

Election forensics analyst and author Jonathan Simon as well as investigative journalist Yasha Levine, who has written extensively on how the military has long sought to weaponize public technologies including the internet, were consulted for their views on ElectionGuard, its connections to the military-industrial complex and the implication of those connections for American democracy as part of this investigation.

In January, MintPress published an exposé that later went viral on a news-rating company known as Newsguard. Officially aimed at fighting “fake news,” the company’s many connections to U.S. intelligence, a top neoconservative think tank, and self-admitted government propagandists revealed its real intention was to promote corporate media over independent alternatives.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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