Anarcho-splainin’ the election

In a guest post, I posed some questions over at Ordinary Times toward participants in tomorrow’s ceremonial pretending-like-you-matter event. Particularly, I’m testing of the more alarmed among them what they plan to do beyond voting, and whether there’s any point at which radical measures would be accepted to them (in the context of a hypothetical win by the guy that’s been called Literally Hitler).

Comments are going briskly. Check it out if you’d like.

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Flushing the Sovereign

It’s an impossible thing. Time running backwards, water flowing uphill, cats and dogs mating… Congress passing legislation that an opponent of government even existing can be cool with…

Yes, you read that correctly.

See, there was a bill in the US congress recently — the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act — which would allow people harmed by acts of terrorism in the US to sue states they see as responsible for them in federal court, a goal obviously inspired by reports & long held suspicions about collusion between the 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi Arabian government. The bill passed both houses of congress, and Obama vetoed it Friday.

Well, today while I was at work, they overrode his veto. By huge margins even:

The House voted 348-77, well above the two-thirds majority needed. The final vote tally in the Senate was 97-1. Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., cast the lone dissenting vote.

“In our polarized politics of today, this is pretty much close to a miraculous occurrence,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said. Democrats and Republicans in both chambers agreed, he said, that the bill “gives the victims of the terrorist attack on our own soil an opportunity to seek the justice they deserve.”

So, despite my usual opposition to laws, here’s why I’m actually OK with this one. A certain, widely held doctrine of global law is called “sovereign immunity”, the gist of which is that people cannot sue the government of one nation in the court of another nation. The functional purpose of this is to hold governments blameless for what they do or facilitate away from their home bases. That bill, by becoming law against the will of the president, rips a gaping hole in that concept.

The fear of sovereign immunity being attacked, specifically of this triggering a Domino Effect of other nations allowing the same and thus opening up US government officials for transnational lawsuits by the victims of their wars, was actually brought up by opponents of the bill, both Obama himself as well as former Bush administration UN ambassador John Bolton:

“The United States relies on principles of immunity to prevent foreign litigants and foreign courts from second-guessing our counter-terrorism operations and other actions that we take every day,” he wrote.

Former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and former U.S. Attorney Michael Mukasey, both of whom served under President George W. Bush, have echoed similar concerns in recent weeks.

An errant drone strike that kills non-combatants in Afghanistan could easily trigger lawsuits demanding that U.S. military or intelligence personnel be hauled into foreign courts,” Bolton and Mukasey wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this month. (emphasis mine)

To which I say: GOOD! Not only do I look forward to such happening as a result of cascading rips in the concept of sovereign immunity, I hope it even leads to the president catching lawsuits. I hope it means every bomb dropped, every missile launched, every bullet fired at people in other countries draws court cases around the world. I hope it leads to a day where current and former government officials can’t travel abroad without being constantly served if they so much as harmed a fly in another human being’s homeland.

I hope the global ruling class ends up at each others throats so hard after this snowballs that they cancel each other out.

When sovereign immunity dies, I hope to be there to defile its grave.


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Political Footballs

Prompted by 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick’s demonstrations during the national anthem at games, and the subsequent screaming about it, plus the joining in of other players, I had a hypothetical pop up about it (well, more than one in a way):

Say that a head coach — let’s assume they’re a new head coach of a team with a relatively young roster core announced that their players would go back to the typical practice prior to 2009 (and bribery from the Pentagon with your money…) and not even leave the locker room until such displays were over, perhaps explaining “Hey, that’s valuable strategy  time we’re wasting on photo ops”. What would be the reaction to that?

Alternate considerations: would the reaction be different if the coach were a white person vs if they were black? Or if they actually mentioned in their announcement (perhaps at a press conference) how the displays of team fealty to The Magic Cloth & The Oh So Wonderful Troops were bought to begin with?

(On a less serious note, it’d be super delicious if the 1st team this was done with just happened to be a post-Belichek New England Patriots…)

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The hit squad flexes its muscles

While quite possibly the silliest campaign season ever rolls along, peppered with such  Serious Questions as whether Donald fucking Trump is a baby-hating puppet of Putin* or if Hillary(‘s staffers) can keep Sanders fans with Twitter disses and tone-deaf cultural pandering, the current president has decided to show off the process behind his flying death robots — somewhat:

The Obama administration has released a previously secret 18-page policy guidance document that lays out how potential drone targets may be chosen and approved and the President’s role in the decision-making process.

The policy document, known as the President Policy Guidance, or PPG, says counterterrorism operations, including lethal action against designated terrorist targets, “shall be discriminating and precise as reasonably possible” and says “direct action” against “high value targets” “will be taken only when there is near certainty that the individual being targeted is, in fact, the lawful target and located at the place where the action will occur.”

“High value targets”.  As in a 16 year old boy in Yemen?

(Sad thing here is since then the US has started happily helping the Saudi royal regime murder basically everyone else in Yemen with all kinds of ammunition. Maybe that was a test, a heat check of sorts. )

Among the guidelines, such information as the counterterrorism objective, duration of time for which the authority remains in force, the legal basis and the strike assets that may be employed must be included. Conditions must include a near certainty that the high value target or other lawful terror target is present and near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed. (emphasis mine)

“Near certainty”. As defined by the party doing the killing. The mob has investigated itself & found itself not guilty. The piles of dead civilians must have been planted by someone else. The majority of people killed in the strikes not being the target? Kremlin propaganda, of course!

Let’s go back to that kid the CIA killed. Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was both a US citizen and not on US soil, keep that in mind while eyeballing the next part:

However, when dealing with lethal action against a previously designated high value target, a different procedure can be followed. If the target is a US citizen or someone living in the US, or if there is not unanimous agreement among the President’s key national security officials regarding the nomination of the target, it will be submitted to the President for a decision. (emphasis mine)

They’ve claimed and exercised the “right” to kill US citizens without trial overseas, now they’ve opened the window to firing a missile at you in the US. And this was written three years ago, which makes the use of a robot against Micah Johnson in Dallas last month a much less innovative thing than previously thought.

Such a bold demonstration of how meaningless any claims of “rule of law”, “limited government” or any other buzzwords are, as the state goes beyond even royal powers. No, this is more like claiming to be God, smiting people that displease you and expecting the world to love you for it. But it will barely draw a blink, because such subjects as the arbitrary administering of death can’t hold a candle to bumbling an email server or having a spouse that posed naked.

Continue reading

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Fear versus the odds

When there’s a lack of sports on TV I tend to watch a lot of travel & food shows, being an enthusiast of both subjects. I’ve even said that were I to come into wealth I would take up traveling the world and embracing various cultures including their food — basically Anthony Bourdain’s gig minus the cameras. Speaking of whom, I’ve been a fan of every iteration of his food & travel show over the years (yes, even “A Cook’s Tour”), I remember that, though one different thing about Parts Unknown vs the others is since it’s on a news channel he can bring up harder subjects in the process.

I saw a recent episode where he was in Cologne, Germany. In an example of the broader focus of the show, he discussed the New Years Eve attacks that happened there & the backlash against acceptance of refugees since then. As the type of event that those opposed to letting in those fleeing warzones point at as if it explains their entire position, I decided to look up some numbers:

  • The summer prior, the German government had let in over a million  refugees, mostly from Iraq & Syria.
  • The broadest count of people involved in committing these acts I’ve seen is a thousand, across multiple cities.
  • If you were to be deliberately as uncharatable as possible, you could assume that every single one of those thousand people were from that class of refugees from the summer — which would place the rate of blame towards refugees for the attacks at 0.001 . That’s 1/10th of a percent.
  • Since the attacks, arrests have been made of suspects, which gives a real world comparison for worst case scenario number. Well, so much for that scenario, because most of the suspects were actually not from Iraq or Syria, and many had been in Germany for years.

So, in the face of how disproportionate the fear is of the refugee population, what is the incentive for that fear? Some European newspapers have some hints for you on that, happening to rhyme with “Beanophobia” & “Nacism”…

Oh yeah, one more thing about the refugee situation: how about not sowing chaos in their home countries in the first place?

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Briefly considering Polanyi

Some thoughts I had a bit ago, sharing here for posterity & maybe discussion.

BTW: it looks like I’ve found a workaround for Storify: export the HTML!

Some thoughts about a comparison raised by Dissent Magazine

  1. Spotted on Twitter a link to an unexpected comparison of Karl Polanyi — author of The Great Transformation — to the current competitors for the Democratic party presidential nomination. Normally I’d laugh at such a thing, but having heard of Polanyi in passing, though unfortunately not having much chance to read in depth, I figured I’d at least look. Link was here:
  2. So I read it, and the gist was an observation about the construction of the existing market, as in Polanyi in his time seeing the market as having been constructed to begin with, which contradicts talk about the “free market” in reference to existing economy. I’d agree with such despite not going along with any electoral support unlike the authors of the piece (at least as far as I could tell.
  3. #lrt I’m not a supporter of anybody. But going by the summary there, I’d be close to Polyani to an extent.

    Market as we know it is structured by state, & yes ppl will rebel against all things being a matter of prices. >

  4. > The thing is, these don’t mean IMO that *nothing* being priced is possible, or that no market exchange can exist without gov’t. >
  5. That is, outside of a deliberately primitive society cost of some sort is a fact. Also, exchange isn’t something that inherently requires the violent arbiter known as the state — the current structure does not justify itself merely by existing.
  6. > Rather, a significant chunk of the scarcity & inequality that exists is because of the rules imposed, the assumptions operated under. >

    > There are things that currently are matters of price that if not for that imposition would not be. >
  7. This is to say that in my opinion Polanyi’s observation about the penetration of market logic has a point. An environment that maximizes the amount of interaction that involves prices isn’t something that sprouts up naturally.
  8. > There’s other things that the imposition makes artificially expensive for the benefit of ruling class that would otherwise be cheap.

    Meanwhile, other parts of the imposition make labor for others both artificially cheap & ultra necessary when it otherwise wouldn’t be.

  9. Both Sanders & Hillary see current market as inevitable, they just have slightly different responses to it. >

  10. > Bernie is like “remove X & Y from price mech. & we’re good”. Hillary goes “don’t remove anything, just subsidize”. >
  11. This gets to the point of the original piece. The authors say Bernie Sanders questions current market structure as inevitable, but IMO they’re offbase on that. If he truly thought it wasn’t inevitable then he’d be arguing its restructuring in terms of entirely different starting assumptions, rather than about regulating behavior that arises naturally — “unfettered capitalism”.
  12. If Sanders *were* questioning from the ground up, then it’d be acknowledged that “unfettered capitalism” is a contradiction: capitalism is itself a set of fetters. What him & Hillary are talking about is degree of amelioration.
  13. > An actual capital L Left in comparison would acknowledge how everything was constructed & call for *deconstruction*. >

    > Divide then would be between Rebuild in whole other form vs Don’t Build Jack Shit.
  14. In other words, state vs no-state. Marx vs Bakunin.
  15. Sanders vs Clinton has nothing to do with this.

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Billionaires with Rainbows

Recently, two state legislatures made US national headlines when they sent to the governors desk new bills meant to generally take yet another dump on LGBTQ folks. North Carolina’s governor signed it, while Georgia governor Nathan Deal vetoed it. As both bills were coming up, and as now continues for the law in North Carolina, I can’t help but notice that a prominent part of the public opposition has been in the form of large corporations saying they would withdraw & refrain from business in those states.

The targeting of LGBTQ people for harassment & constant attempts to shove them back in the closet (or eliminate them altogether) is always troubling. I’m surprised that Nathan Deal was the one to reject it, since Georgia is the redder of the two, but glad that was done. That said, the dwarfing of any grassroots boycott threats by corporate heavy hitters, the seeming dependency on the ones with large amounts of money to be at least on this basic social issue Not Assholes (while they feel free to be assholes in other ways, of course) strikes me as a reminder of just how much power the biggest wallets have. Such basic issue, and we really mean jack shit unless we run a business that’s on the stock exchange, so we’re subject to the mercy of whatever some billionaires think.

That even with the tide of tolerance shifting like it has been, all the rest of the system that abuses us & the world as a whole hums along as usual… I’d suspect that’s not a coincidence. Elites can change their aesthetics, but they’ll never stop being the ruling class; they like those cops & tanks & bombs. Oh, look, Officer O’Malley has a rainbow sticker on his helmet, never mind the club he’s beating protesters with…

Update 041316: Well, turns out that the same companies raising indignation about that bill in North Carolina funded the politicians that voted for it. The most charitable conclusion one could conceivably have to this would be that they don’t quite realize how the game works on the further Right wing: see, big business gets state favors, and then the base gets to throw bricks at those who they don’t envision in their ideal society — immigrants, poor people, gays, y’know. But while that’s how it operates on the legislature level, I doubt that those companies were fishing in the checkbooks blind. They more likely didn’t care beyond the favors & afterwards saw an opportunity to polish their brands, to have their coke and snort it too.



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