Archive for Orwell

Empiricism and Dogmatism

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2015 by jtoddring

Or,

Evidence-based opinion versus ideological fundamentalism

There is a major difference between evidence-based opinion and opinion-based evidence. The former is empirical, and sane, the latter, dogmatic, and either insane or dishonest.

There are always a few people, many in fact, who adopt an ideology first, then mold the facts to fit their ideology. This is called fanaticism when it is a sincere and honest mistake of simply irrationality, and Orwellian or Machiavellian cynical deceit when it is a conscious distortion of the truth.

There will always be zealots, ideologues and liars in the world. The key is to speak the truth as best we understand it, question all dogmas and assumptions, and reveal the actual evidence, so that saner, clearer, and more honest minds may prevail. The challenge is on-going, especially in a culture pervaded by propaganda and distraction, but it is essential work, and cannot be neglected.

JTR,

October 18, 2015

CNN lies, distorts, while its own polls tell the truth: Bernie won the debate

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2015 by jtoddring

CNN’s own polls show Bernie Sanders won the Democratic presidential debate last night, Tuesday, October 13, 2015, hands down. When CNN polled, and asked “Who won the debate?” 83% of people said Bernie Sanders. 83%. Yet, CNN headlines are splashing the big, bold message, Hillary wins debate by landslide. Can the media be any more Orwellian – and blatant about it? Better said, and more to the point, can they be any more disgusting?

Not only is CNN completely distorting, misrepresenting, and flatly lying about the public response to the debate, proclaiming, utterly deceitfully, that Hillary won – when their own polls show the opposite is undeniably true; but they are shamelessly and blatantly slathering support on Hillary, in an open demonstration of extreme bias. The corporate spin in favor of the (Democratic) candidate for corporate America could not be more stark, or more brazenly obvious.

This is why, by the way, CNN has been hemorrhaging viewers, along with the rest of the corporate media – because more and more people see through the propaganda, spin and distortion, and are sick of it.

By the way, C-SPAN also reports that its own polls indicate Bernie won the debate by a landslide.

So it is clear: Bernie has a tremendous and rapidly growing support from the people – far more so than Hillary, who is widely viewed with suspicion, and deep skepticism, and as a Wall Street hack – which, of course, she is; but the corporate media, surprise surprise, don’t support the populist candidate who has declared a war on Wall Street, and the billionaire class who have taken over the political process (as well as 90% of the US media). The network media supports the candidate most favored by big business and corporate America, the candidate who is awash in corporate political “donations”, Hillary Clinton.

None of this should be surprising, but the popular support which is confirmed, and unequivocally confirmed by the public response to last nights debate, for Bernie Sanders, is heartening, and hopeful; while the pathetic display of manipulation, spin, and sheer corruption of the media, is dismal indeed, and in fact, deeply sickening.

The Republican candidates are fringe candidates, frankly, and it is hard to deny – they are lunatics from the extreme right wing of (corporate-driven) American politics. And they have only a slim support among the people. On the Democratic side, three of the candidates have now destroyed their chances of winning after last night’s debate, leaving only Hillary and Bernie, effectively, in the running.

83% of Americans feel strongly about the need to get big money out of politics. It is the single hottest issue in the country. And that includes an overwhelming majority of both Republicans and Democrats who feel this way. Bernie’s central message, and his central campaign platform, is to reign in Wall Street, break up the “too big to fail” banks, which the great majority of the American peole also support, and get big money out of politics. So Bernie is resonating with the American people in a deep and broad, powerful way – and with people from across the political spectrum, including liberals, conservatives and progressives. Meanwhile, Hillary is widely viewed as just another politician: a poser, a mouth piece, a shill, a PR machine with a hair-do – not all that dissimilar to Donald Trump (another hawkish war-monger and cheerleader for the agenda of corporate America the billionaire class), but more polished, and with a better hair stylist and PR handlers.

“We have seen a rapid movement in this country toward oligarchy, toward a government owned and controlled by a handful of extremely wealthy families. We need public funding of elections [as Norway has, for example], which will enable any candidate to run for office without being beholden to powerful special interests.” – Bernie Sanders

Hillary has picked up a good deal of Bernie’s talking points, and is now trying to paint herself as a progressive, but the polls show that people remain sceptical about her – and rightly so. Hillary is awash in corporate money. Any talk she makes about getting big money out of politics would be supremely hypocritical and hollow, and everyone knows it. As the Christian Science Monitor said, prior to the debate, all the candidates have something to prove. Hillary had to prove she has integrity and honesty, Bernie, that he is electable. Well, the polls showed clearly, after the debate, that Bernie is definitely electable, with 83% of CNN poll respondants saying Bernie won the debate. Hillary, on the other hand, blurted out in the midst of the debate, “I represented Wall Street”. Her credibility and integrity in the eyes of the people remain shaky at best, and more likely dwindling.

As I say, Bernie’s message of getting big money out of politics is resonating with the people across the nation, while Hillary’s trustworthiness is seen as questionable at best. This is why Bernie’s support has soared, from him being virtually unknown across the US just six months ago, to leading Hillary in key primary state polls of Iowa and New Hampshire, to clearly winning the Democratic debate by a landslide, according to CNN and C-SPAN polls, while Hillary loses ground the more she opens her mouth, and the more the people get to know who Bernie Sanders is.

The tide is turning. I would say, in fact, that it has already turned. The first true populist President of the United States in a very long time, the first true President for the people, and not for Wall Street and the super-rich, in a very long time, is about to arrive. His name is Bernie Sanders.

Go Bernie. The groundswell of popular support will not be stopped, no matter how hard the corporate media tries to kill it.

J. Todd Ring,
October 14, 2015

Update, October 22, 2015: CNN has now deleted its own poll from its website

Who actually won last night’s debate? It’s difficult to tell because for every poll you see showing Bernie had a massive win, you have a headline on a newspapers saying Hillary won.

Did Media Declaring Hillary Won Debate Influence Polls?

What Bernie Sanders ‘Won’ in the Debate:

The news media consensus is that Clinton came out on top. Here’s why she didn’t.

ISIS and Terrorism – A Reality Check

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2015 by jtoddring

“The responsibility of intellectuals is to speak the truth and expose lies.”

– Noam Chomsky

“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

– George Orwell

According to a February 2015 Gallup poll, a majority of Americans consider the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — abbreviated as ISIS or ISIL — and the international terrorism they support to be the greatest threat to the United States’ vital interests.

This is really quite amazing, when you think about it. Not global warming, not record droughts and crop failure, not de-industrialization, massive and rising unemployment and poverty, soaring inequality and the demolition and razing of the middle class, not catastrophic ecological destruction, not the poisoning of our food, air, water, soil, our bodies and children, not disastrous “trade” deals (read, corporate rights deals), not a ravenous and criminal Wall Street cabal that rules the nation and is pillaging and plundering the middle class and the poor – no, it’s a few armed thugs half a world away, with no tanks, no battle ships, no air force, no ICBMs, and the military power of one ten thousandth, at best, of that of the US, which is the greatest threat to “America’s vital interests.”

Holy delusional.

Former National Security Adviser, and chief intellectual and geopolitical strategist in residence to the Western elite, Zbigniew Brzezinski, recently scoffed at such delusions, and said, “What are they going to do, swim here?” But the hysteria has been manufactured, and fear is a powerful weapon, as the BBC documentary, The Power of Nightmares, clearly showed, and Orwell and other observers have also recognized and noted.

The “war on terror” is a campaign that is being used to justify wars over oil, and geopolitical power and empire abroad, and a full frontal assault on democracy, freedom and civil liberties at home, in order silence the people, and to protect and consolidate the powers and the interests of the currently ruling corporate elite. It has nothing to do with fighting terrorism.

It’s time we got real. We are being lied to.

The US wants to impose a regime change in Syria – and that is flatly in defiance of international law, and is defined as a war crime under international law. As Chomsky said, if the Nuremberg trials were held today, every US president since WWII would be hanged for war crimes – and the war crimes continue to this day. And they are war crimes, regardless of how they may be justified.

Because the US is trying to topple the Assad government in Syria, the CIA has been arming, funding and training terrorist groups in that country – just as it did in Libya, Afghanistan and other countries. So we’re fighting terrorism by arming terrorists. That makes sense.

And why does the US want to topple the Assad government? Is it because Assad heads a brutal regime? No – the US was friends and allies with Saddam Husein when it suited their interests, even though Saddam headed an even more brutal regime.

Saddam was targeted for regime change only when he stopped obeying orders from Washington. The same has happened many times, and always for the same reasons: brutal regimes are fine – so long as they cooperate with the masters in Washington; and when they don’t, they are either brought under control, or taken out: either through bribery, economic and financial extortion, or by covert, or overt use of violent force.

And why does the US want to take out the Assad regime, if it’s not for human rights reasons? For oil, most likely – as with Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan…. There is a proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline that “could radically alter Europe’s energy supplies, diminishing Russia’s fossil fueled prowess in Europe” – and Assad opposes it. So he has to go.

“These strategic concerns [of the US, to control oil and gas in the Middle East], motivated by fear of expanding Iranian influence, impacted Syria primarily in relation to pipeline geopolitics. In 2009 – the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria – Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.”

It is this – the problem of establishing a pliable opposition which the US and its oil allies feel confident will play ball, pipeline-style, in a post-Assad Syria – that will determine the nature of any prospective intervention: not concern for Syrian life.”

– The Guardian, August 30, 2015, Syrian intervention plans fuelled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concerns, by Dr Nafeez Ahmed, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It

Now, not only is Syria spiraling further into crisis and chaos, with the US intervention only making matters worse, but it has also generated a refugee crisis in Europe, with refugees pouring out of Syria, and 4.5 million people displaced – a refugee crisis that the US and its allies actively helped to create. All for the sake of oil and gas profits for the US and its allies – and the corporate interests which they serve.

Russia on the other hand, wants to protect the Assad government, because Assad is a Russian ally, and because Assad opposes the pipeline deal which would radically reduce Russia’s fossil fuel super-power status in Europe – which is most likely the real reason Russia just started bombing in Syria, and not because it wants to fight terrorism.

With the US and its allies fighting and bombing in Syria, and Russia now entering the conflict, and bombing in Syria, and for the other team, the US trying to oust Assad, and Russia trying to prop him up, we are now literally faced with the very real threat of an outbreak of WWIII. And all this, for the control of oil and gas money. This is clearly insane.

So the motives are all twisted, when we’re talking about the major players, in both the West and in Russia, and it is the people who are suffering, while the military actions, the bombings and the regime changes simply serve to foster ever greater hatred and ever more terrorism – exactly as the US intelligence services warned they would do.

“Let’s see…. The resort to violence, to war, bombing, and forced regime changes – read, coups – didn’t work, and has instead sown chaos, hatred, further hostilities, greater instability, and more terrorism. So let’s redouble our efforts, and try the same methods again.

As Einstein said, “Repeating the same actions and expecting a different outcome is the very definition of insanity.”

But fighting terrorism and creating peace were never the objectives. It’s about controlling the flow of oil and gas, and the astronomical profits, and power, that derive from it.

The Guardian is quite unreliable in terms of the consistency of its quality of reporting and commentary – sometimes it does a great job, and sometimes a poor one, or even a terrible one – but they got it right here, with regards to Syria and war in the Middle East:

“The 2011 uprisings, it would seem – triggered by a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes – came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited. Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.”

So what was this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria and Iran all about? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years”, starting with Iraq and moving on to “Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.” In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources.

Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008 US Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War (pdf). The report noted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource.” As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has “motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states”:

“The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”

– The Guardian, August 30, 2015, Syrian intervention plan fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapon concerns

If we are serious about reducing hate, violence, war, conflict and human suffering, then we should, among other things, be racing to get the world off its deadly addiction to fossil fuels, and end the wars over oil, pipelines, and the politics of fossil fuel addiction, and switching as rapidly as possible to clean, renewable energy.

How about diverting half or three-quarters of the obscenely bloated US military budget to massive investments in solar, wind and other renewable energy industries and technologies, and kick-starting the economy and providing millions of jobs in the process?

Nope. Can’t do. The oil and arms corporations require that we continue with business as usual, so that is simply not possible. The wars, therefore, must continue – and the people and the earth be damned.

How about this for a proposal? End the wars in the Middle East, and use the money saved to buy a fully electric Tesla Model S for every home in the United States over the next 20 years. That would cost approximately $5 trillion. By comparison, the wars in the Middle East have cost an estimated $6 trillion – so far. So this is completely feasible.

There are probably better, more effective ways to invest in clean, renewable energy, and to break our addiction to oil and fossil fuels, but this was meant simply to make a point. How about ending the wars and spending the war budget to install solar, wind and geothermal heating, cooling and power systems for every home in America, making them fully off-grid and energy self-reliant, as well as being powered by clean energy? This would cost about the same amount, roughly $5 trillion, and could be done over the next 20 years, if the wars are ended now. That would also cause the economy to soar, and millions of jobs to be created. And this is not even mentioning the lives that would be saved and the suffering averted by ending the bombing and the wars.

By ending the wars, we would do more to halt terrorism – by not participating in it, and not fueling it – than by anything that has been done so far. Certainly the “bomb-em-to-bits” strategy has been a complete disaster, and has only increased terrorism, exactly as US intelligence services said it would do. And the money saved could be used to rebuild the US economy, create full employment, shift the nation to renewable energy, break the dependency on oil and other fossil fuels, and halt our race toward ecological cataclysm and collective suicide.

But we can’t do that, because the oil and arms corporations are making a killing, both literally and figuratively, off our addiction to fossil fuels and war.

*

Here are some startling figures to contemplate. Official terrorism – which means, terrorism carried out by official enemies, and not by Washington and its allies in Canada, the UK and France – accounts for roughly 20,000 deaths a year. Meanwhile, over 20,000 children die every day from hunger. Poverty is the far greater killer, but where is our war on poverty? There is lip service, rhetoric, but no serious action, as poverty continues to rise globally, and also in the United States, the richest country in the history of the world.

But even more people now die from over-eating and obesity than from hunger – with millions dying every year from heart disease and stroke alone, primarily due to poor eating habits. But are we launching a war on MacDonalds and fast food? No, we’re fighting ISIS – supposedly – even though the fast food industry kills far more people every year than ISIS could ever dare to dream.

We should be launching major public health campaigns, and anti-poverty campaigns, and stopping the Wall Street war on the middle class and the poor, because the death toll from that, and the toll in terms of human suffering, is vastly greater than that caused by official terrorism, which is positively dwarfed by comparison.

The real terrorists are in Wall Street and Washington, where the financial and conventional bombings are coordinated, and the global looting is orchestrated and carried out. You want to fight terrorism? Start at home, and start with Wall Street.

Please see my recent essay, also on my blog, entitled, Danger and Delusion, from ISIS To Ebola, for a deeper look and some critical perspective on the real dangers that face the United States and the world today. It’s time for a reality check.

We need to remember that the media are overwhelmingly controlled either by corporations or the government. In the US, six corporations control 90% of the media. We should not expect anything other than propaganda, considering these facts.

Fortunately, according to another recent Gallop poll, roughly 40% of the people have virtually no faith left in the media – and the corporate and government controlled media continue to lose credibility, and their audience, at a rapid and accelerating pace.

So while the majority of the people, a slim majority, continue to believe the lies and the propaganda, the tide is changing, and the people are waking up. This is happening none too soon. All we can say is, we had better accelerate the awakening, because the world is in serious peril – and peril, above all, due to the lies and illusions which are being propagated daily, and which need to be cut through, and demolished.

J. Todd Ring,
October 3, 2015

And this just in:

U.S. Military Bombs Doctors Without Borders Hospital, Killing At Least 19.
Doctors Without Borders’ statement suggests more than just collateral damage. The Afghan trauma center “was hit several times during sustained bombing and was very badly damaged.” The hospital reportedly had 105 patients and caretakers, and more than 80 staffers from all over the world.
According to the aid group, U.S. forces continued bombing for 30 minutes after receiving phone calls telling them the hospital was being bombed. “All parties to the conflict, including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location [GPS Coordinates] of the M.S.F. facilities – hospital, guesthouse, office,” the statement said.
October 3, 2015
http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/10/03/3708837/doctors-without-borders-bombed/
Who is fighting terrorism? And who are the terrorists? Are we really so certain?

As Chomsky has repeatedly said, the leading terrorist centre in the world is Washington, DC – and global polls show that the great majority of the people around the world agree.

The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria

Noam Chomsky: US, Not Iran, [Nor ISIS] Poses Greatest Threat To World Peace

http://www.democracynow.org/2015/9/22/noam_chomsky_the_united_states_not

On Civil Obedience

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2015 by jtoddring

“Laws control the lesser man…

Right conduct controls the greater one.”

– Mark Twain

Never be obedient. Obedience is for dogs. No offence to dogs – I love dogs, and dogs are very admirable, as well as lovable, and there is much that we can learn from dogs. But we are not dogs, and we should not behave like dogs – or cattle, or sheep. Be cooperative, yes – at least, when it is intelligent to do so, and when it does not compromise our integrity or our principles – but never be obedient.

Be respectful, be compassionate, be cooperative when and where it is ethical and intelligent to do so, but never be obedient. The world is filled with obedient men and women, and it is because of this, that the world is also filled with horrors and terrible acts, committed by a few individuals who are mad with greed, hate, ego mania or power-lust. It is precisely the apathy, and the obedience of the many, that allows the sociopathic few to get away with murder – and often literally so.

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

~Albert Einstein

Stop being obedient. Never be obedient. First, be a man, be a woman, be human – then decide for yourself how to act.

Obedience is deadly. Sever all habits of it, and now. To paraphrase Thoreau, our first loyalty should be to our own conscience. All else follows from that, and not before.

*

To be clear, I am talking here about adults being overly obedient to whatever powers happen to be dominant or ruling in a given society at a given time, not children, who do not yet have enough awareness to make every decision for themselves. If children were allowed to decide their own meals, for example, they’d be eating chocolate bars and pizza-pops all day long; so clearly, children need guidance. But adults being overly obedient to authority is a problem. I would say that it is due to such an undue obedience to authority that it took so long, for example, to abolish slavery, or child labour, or to bring in the universal right to vote, or end racial segregation or apartheid. And I would say it is because of an excess of obedience and conformity that the severe social and ecological problems which we still face today, are not being resolved at anywhere near the speed they need to be. This is a very serious problem. This obedience may cost us our survival as a species.

It is worthwhile here to quote Henry David Thoreau, On Civil Disobedience, for there has never been a more lucid essay or literature of any kind on the subject of obedience to authority versus obedience to one’s own conscience.

I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have…..But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.

– Henry David Thoreau, On Civil Disobedience

Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others, as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders, serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

I think we would do better if we were more obedient to our own conscience, and less obedient to social authorities. In that, I side with Thoreau, and his great essay, On Civil Disobedience – which inspired Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement, the movement to end the war in Vietnam, the environmental movement, and other, very positive social movements, right up to today.

Einstein said it best: “The world is a dangerous place, not because a few people do terrible things, but because millions of people let them.” The great sociologists C. Wright Mills and Erich Fromm would agree, as would Aldous Huxley, Chomsky and Orwell. Many people are rebellious in foolish ways, in ways that lead nowhere, but are passive and timid and deferential, and excessively obedient, when and where it counts. That, I think, is a real problem.

There is a time for casting the money changers from the temple. And sometimes, that means challenging, and even defying, authority. And we have good precedents and examples to follow in that.

J. Todd Ring,

September 18, 2015

For further reading, see:

The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, by Etienne de la Bottie

On Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau

And my recent book, Enlightened Democracy: Visions For A New Millennium, on Amazon now.

The New Blackberry 10 – Time to ditch Apple and Google both

Posted in tools and technology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2013 by jtoddring

The Blackberry 10 has just been unveiled, and the question returns: Blackberry, iPhone or Google-based Android smart phone? Here are some thoughts, techno-weenie talk aside. We’re talking pure functionality and ethics here, not who has the best gizmo-gadgetry whiz-bang for the buck.

Google is a partner in evil, willingly collaborating with the super-creepy NSA’s deeply Orwellian global surveillance state, so Android phones are out for me because of that link. Google is also a parnter in creepiness and crime in its willing support of Chinese censorship.

Apple has apparently evil production and labour practices, so Apple is not a company I want to support at all. And as good as their technology is, ethics still matter. Blackberry is equally as good for phones in any case – if you don’t need the children’s toys of an iPhone – and Linux is superior to Macs as well.

Besides, I just want a phone – I don’t want my phone to bake bread, polish my shoes, walk my dog, or have a million largely useless apps that I’ll never use. And I’m not interested in wasting time playing games on my phone either. I just want a phone for calls, texts, email and web browsing, and maybe a note pad, alarm and calendar. The rest of the bells and whistles are of no interest to me. I’m not twelve years old, and they don’t impress me in the slightest. I want a straight-up, no-nonsense business-minded phone, not a toy.

And I’d rather support a Canadian company in any event, and definitely not support one of the global corporate giants, such as Apple or Google.

Blackberry wins for all these reasons, in my mind. Google and Apple can go stuff themselves.

“Do no evil?” That was Google’s mantra and motto, but that went out the door when it partnered with the NSA and the Chinese commissars. (Maybe Google should look up “Tiananmen Square.”) Apple is not much better. I’d rather boycott them both, along with notoriously sleezy Microsoft, and go with Blackberry and Linux instead.

The Blackberry I’m already on, and have used it for a few years now. I’ve had zero problems with it, and love it. I hate touch pads as well, by the way, now that I think of it, and I love that I can use a keypad or touch pad with a Blackberry.

Linux I’m planning on switching to, as Apple has serious ethics problems across the board, and Microsoft is, well, garbage.

But Blackberry? Definitely. Hands down.

On Libertarianism: Right & Left

Posted in anarchism, Bakunin, Bertrand Russell, capitalism, Chomsky, communism, conservative, corporate rule, corporatism, crisis of democracy, democratic deficit, Eric Fromm, fascism, globalization, Hobbes, Jefferson, Kropotkin, left, Lenin, libertarianism, Marx, neoliberalism, philosophy, Plato, political theory, politics, right, social theory, socialism, Thoreau, war on democracy, World Economic Forum with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2007 by jtoddring

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

~Albert Einstein

Libertarianism is a term that has come to be identified with the right, with limited government, ideals of freedom, free market capitalism and laissez fair economics, however, the term originally meant libertarian socialism, a libertarianism of the left. The distinction of two kinds of libertarianism, or more appropriately, a spectrum of views within what is called libertarianism, is important. Both right and left libertarianism have a deep skepticism about excessive concentrations of state power, encroachments of government power in the lives of individuals and communities, and a belief that ultimately, “That government is best which governs the least.” Beyond this agreement, there are considerable differences between libertarianism of the right and that of the left. But before the distinctions between left and right libertarianism can be discussed, we need to clarify just what is essential to a libertarian perspective, and also, to distinguish between the ideal and the immediate in terms of advocating or working towards specific goals for human society.

Thoreau expresses a very clear and lucid view of the subject, recognizing the ideal, yet also the immediate reality: ideally, and “when men are ready for it,” no government, which we shall have, and which shall be a degree of liberation not yet seen or imagined; but in the immediate sense, not “no government, but at once, a better government.” In other words, work toward and keep in mind the ideal – freedom from state power messing up and intruding on the peoples’ lives, liberty and communities, but also seek more limited victories in the short term: a better government.

I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have…..But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.

– Henry David Thoreau, On Civil Disobedience

Bertrand Russell also came to the same conclusion. His cool, rational conclusion, after a very fair-minded and objective analysis, was that anarchism – from the Latin, an-archos, meaning absence of an over-arching power, not chaos – is likely the best form of human society (as well as the full and self-consistent application of libertarian values), but we are not likely ready for it; in the short term, what he called libertarian socialism is the best order for society to which we can aspire. By that he meant limited government, with all government power kept as close to the community as possible, and as close the hands of the people as possible – as Jefferson urged – but also with strong values of voluntary free association and human cooperation for mutual aid and benefit (a la Kropotkin). Ideally, and in the short term, he recommended we work toward a society where power lies primarily, not in the hands of a few bureaucrats and lobbyists in a far away capital where power is centralized, but in the hands of the people at the level of community, with federations or networks of human cooperation and solidarity, trade and communication between and among communities and individuals for their mutual benefit and protection. Jefferson would certainly agree in spirit if not in all details.

Chomsky clarifies the distinction between long-term ideals and short-term goals within a reasonable and clear-headed perspective which is skeptical of concentrated political power, or any form of social power for that matter:

“Classical anarchist thought would have been more opposed to slavery, feudalism, fascism, and so on, than it would have been to parliamentary government. There was a good reason. Classical liberal thought, and anarchism coming out of it, were opposed to any concentration of power, that is, unaccountable concentration of power. It is reasonable to make a distinction between the more accountable and less accountable. Corporations are the least accountable. So, against the corporate assault on freedom and independence, one can quickly turn to the one form of social organization that offers … public participation and … that happens to be parliamentary government. That has nothing to do with being opposed to the State. In fact, it’s a sensible support for the State.” – Noam Chomsky

This is precisely why I can admire a democratic socialist like Hugo Chavez, who was democratically elected in closely monitored free and fair elections, who has introduced and held public referenda on every major decision faced by the people of Venezuela – a thought inconceivable to the elitist politicians of Washington, Ottawa, London, Paris or Berlin – and who is presently utilizing, with great popular democratic support, the institution of constitutional parliamentary democracy to protect the people of Venezuela from the greatest threat to human freedom and well-being on the planet today: the tyranny of unaccountable private empires – the global corporate raiders. It is no contradiction, therefore, to support libertarian socialism, or left libertarianism, while admiring a social democrat like Chavez. As Chomsky put it, it’s sensible support for the state – under certain limited conditions.

Chomsky as well expresses a view of libertarian socialism, and advocates for a society based on libertarian socialist principles of freedom along with voluntary cooperation and mutual aid. And Chomsky, as well or better than any other, clarifies the distinction of right and left libertarianism. Libertarians across the spectrum are opposed to excessive concentrations of political power, as it is viewed that such high degrees of concentrated political power in society have more often than not created more harm than good – a view that is shared among Jefferson, Thoreau, Bertrand Russell, Kropotkin, Chomsky and many others.

The history of the world shows that this view is the most realistic perspective on government and political power. The opposing view, that government is the saviour and redeemer of humanity, has brought about Stalinism, Nazism, fascism, Maoism, and lately, neoconservatism, among other evils. The view that is opposed to the libertarian desire to keep political power firmly in check, sees government as a kind of benign big brother, a paternal or maternal figure, a parent that treats citizens like children, who need to be coddled and scolded, controlled for their own good. It is a dangerous elitism, breeding naturally authoritarianism. It comes from a fear of freedom, as social psychologist Eric Fromm correctly pointed out, and not just megalomaniacal dreams of power.

Plato was the most famous and influential of the “government as saviour” camp. The philosopher kings, the wise few, would rule with benign despotism over the hapless and ignorant many. Sounds desirable, maybe, until you reflect that if you do not trust people to govern themselves, how can you possibly trust them to govern others? (A flaw of basic logic which was not missed by Jefferson.)

Hobbes furthered the view, presenting the anthropologically ignorant and incorrect view that life before civilization, by which he meant life before centralized government, was “evil, nasty, brutish and short.” The revolution in anthropology that occurred in the 1970’s with the discovery of new and conclusive evidence about our human history prior to the age of empires, refutes Hobbes unequivocally. Hobbes knew nothing of anthropology, of course, and the data would not be revealed for another few centuries, but he was wrong, and we know that now – or at least, we can know that now, although almost no-one is aware that such a revolution has occurred in anthropology and our knowledge of human history: we live in a pre-Copernican time with regard to the general culture’s understanding of anthropology and human history; most still believe the sun revolves `round the earth, though the evidence to refute this fallacy has been made clear.

In any case, Hobbes was engaging in a kind of rational self-deceit. Hobbes view of human beings was jaundiced and pessimistic in the extreme. He felt, as many do, that if there was no powerful over-arching force to restrain human beings, they would instantly rip each other’s throats out, and everything would descend into a war of “all against all.” Again, the anthropological data refutes this terrified view, but even if one were to accept it for sake of argument, it simply begs the question. If you do not trust people, then why would you give a few people extraordinary power? Would this not seem even more dangerous? Who did Hobbes expect to govern us, aliens? Hobbes did not trust people, so he argued that some people have an all-powerful position in order that these people protect people from people. This should strike us as immediately self-contradictory, ridiculous and absurd.

As Jefferson said, “If you do not trust people to govern themselves, how can you trust them to govern others?” It is therefore not idealistic and utopian to think that government should be kept to a minimum of centralized, concentrated power, but on the contrary, it is a healthy and prudent skepticism that informs such a view.

(When you combine Plato, Hobbes and Machiavelli, you get the neoconservatives – or their mirror image, neoliberalism. You get wildy elitist, authoritarian, ruthless, predatory, self-delusional, megalomaniacal empire fetish. That is what we are experiencing now.)

Thoreau demolishes Hobbes’ fantasy-scape with a few strokes on the pen:

Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others, as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders, serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

Libertarianism: Right and Left

The libertarianism of the right has a view of power that does not keep to its own self-consistency. It views political power as potentially dangerous, having the great potential to be abused, and therefore needing to be kept in close check. But it does not recognize economic power as a power in society, which is an oversight that is hard to fathom, such power being so plainly obvious. Because libertarians of the right tend not to recognize economic power as a form of power in society, they are unconcerned with its concentrations – even when concentrations of economic power become staggeringly large, as they have over the past twenty or thirty years. This is an oversight that is frankly dangerous, if not delusional.

Libertarians of the left share the skepticism of highly concentrated political power, but, naturally, recognize the potential for harm and abuse from excessive concentrations of economic power. Thus, in the present order of things, corporate power is to be addressed equally, along side state or governmental power. To do otherwise is to contradict oneself, and worse, to leave the door open to serious and extreme abuses of power, and also, to fascism, which, as Mussolini said, is rightly called corporatism, since it is the merger of business and the state (and that is exactly what is happening now, and on a global scale) due to the lack of foresight to correct and put in check all forms of great concentrations of power in society.

Right libertarianism questions, challenges, and repudiates high levels of concentration of political power in society – and rightfully so, I believe – yet it is, or at least has been until recently, unwilling to question the role and nature of high levels of concentrations of economic power.

This is, once again, frankly, a gross oversight, and one that makes right libertarianism a contradiction in terms: you cannot advocate limitations on powers that unduly constrict human freedom and pose threats of tyranny in a self-consistent, coherent, or even rational manner, if you are only willing to look at one form of power in society, and remain blind to others. Economic power is every bit as real as political power – some would say more so.

The 500 biggest corporations on earth now have combined revenues that total three times the GDP of the world’s biggest national economy – that of the United States. If this does not constitute power in society, I’m not sure what would.

OK, well, corporations have immense power, but that does not mean it translates into political power – does it? They are competing with one another. Yes, they are competing with one another, and they also share common interests: drive labour costs and wages down, eliminate or circumvent labour and environmental standards, find the cheapest source of labour and resources and move there, then dominate them, open borders to free flow of capital, but not to labour…..The commonalities are pretty clear.

And do they meet, discuss common interests, work together cooperatively? Of course. Wouldn’t you if you were in their position?

Do teachers join together to pursue common interests, such as decent pay, pension plans, etc.? Do janitors get together to pursue common goals of better pay and working conditions?

It is obvious, or should be, that there are common group interests – or, heaven forbid we use the term, class interests – that bring otherwise competing parties together to pursue common goals. The corporate elite are no different. This is not a conspiracy, but simply common sense.

The world’s corporate elite gather, among other places, at Davos Switzerland, every year for the World Economic Forum, and there seek to push governments to their will, to advance common interests among the elite global investment class, the billionaire class, or the class of ruling oligarchs, to every extent that they are able to do so – and that is a considerable length.

The billionaires, and the large corporations they control, do not control the world – but they certainly dominate it, and they dominate virtually every nation and government on earth, as well as dominating the global economy, the financial system and most of the media. This is, by any sane or reasonable definition, hegemonic power: corporations and the billionaires who control them, now effectively rule the world. The only way to properly define such a system or order of things, is not democracy, certainly, but oligarchy – or plutocracy, or neo-feudalism, or most starkly, and what we are fast approaching in its full, ugly form: global, neo-feudal, corporate fascism.

It is impossible to deny the very real power of corporations in society without digressing into ideological fundamentalism and willful blindness. Refusing to challenge economic concentrations of power while espousing a libertarian philosophy is self-contradictory: right libertarianism is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

Would a laissez-fair, free-market capitalist, who supports only limited government – a libertarian as it is known on the right – be considered an oxymoron or a self-contradiction if he was also a slave owner? Of course. But it is not very different if a libertarian advocates checks and balances on political power, yet does not question the giant corporate monopolies and oligopolies that now wield more power than democratically elected governments.

Right libertarianism is truly a contradiction in terms, unless by that you mean a conservative libertarian, who also questions and challenges excessive concentrations of corporate, economic and financial power, and not only state or governmental power. U.S. Congressman and 2008 Presidential candidate Ron Paul, for example, I would describe as a conservative libertarian in this sense. He has his head on his shoulders when it comes to corporate powers, as far as I can tell. He is not stuck in ideological dogmatisms.

The left is equated – wrongly – with heavy-handed, bureaucratic, if not totalitarian government – or at least this is the view of the left that we get from the right wing; however, there are, broadly speaking, two wings or schools of thought within what has been called the left, and only one of the two fits the above description.

In the socialist movement of the 1800’s there was a definite rift, and a fierce debate, between the two very different currents of thought within what is loosely described as the political left. Marx led the wing we are most familiar with, Bakunin the other. Bakunin and the libertarian socialists were ousted, lost the battle, and were to some considerable degree eclipsed from history – at least until very recently. Bakunin warned that Marxist ideas would lead to a new form of tyranny – and of course he was right. The Soviet Union was the prime example, and Bakunin predicted the tyranny long in advance.

Now, with the Marxist-Leninist school of thought being in full disgrace within the left, as well as within the broader community of humanity world-wide, and with global neoliberal corporate capitalism experiencing a deep and profound, and rapidly growing crisis of legitimacy world-wide, with rapidly rising popular discontent, people are beginning to look for alternatives – and the alternative is becoming clear to many. That is, in the short term: a freedom-loving and anti-authoritarian, democratic socialism in the short term; and libertarian socialism in the longer term. I would say they deserve our thoughtful attention, and merit respectful consideration, at the very least, and to put it most mildly.

The War on Democracy: Unchecked Power Out of Control

Under what we should more honestly call monopoly capitalism, the era of the small shop owner being the primary economic player having long ago vanished, corporate power has become so concentrated – that is, economic power has become so enormously concentrated – that it now threatens to engulf and eviscerate all remaining democratic power of societies world wide. We should be concerned. Jefferson warned of this 200 years ago. We did not listen. We are now facing the results of our lack of foresight.

Those on the right and the left with a libertarian perspective would do well to communicate. There is a natural alliance here, if we can learn to speak in ways that are mutually understandable. There is no time for bickering or ideological warfare. We need to get together to protect the basics: decent, although flawed, human, imperfect limited government, within the framework of constitutional democracy and basic human rights and freedom.

If we do not come together, and not just right and left libertarians, but more traditional liberals, conservatives, social democrats, greens and progressives, and all who oppose the, by now undeniable, drift into oligarchy and corporate fascism, and stand together for constitutional democracy, civil liberties, human rights and freedom, all other considerations will become merely abstract, and we will find ourselves living in a brave new world, and a very dark age,  leading rapidly to ecological collapse and the end of human life on earth.

Jamie Brownlee sums up the current, central challenge to humanity at this time, in one brief and extremely lucid passage:

“At present, the state is the only institution large enough to act as a counterweight to corporate power; therefore, short-term goals should involve defending, even strengthening, those elements of the state that are accountable to public input (which are the ones constantly under attack by private power.) Opening up the state to democratic participation and improving the effectiveness and accountability of state regulation are the most realistic interim strategies for dealing with the corporate threat and the practical problems of tomorrow—problems on which people’s lives depend. In the short-term, then, political activism that directly targets corporate power should be complimented by efforts to re-democratize the state and government.”

– Jamie Brownlee, Ruling Canada, Corporate Cohesion and Democracy, 2005

As constitutional lawyer Joel Bakan, author of, The Corporation, has said, if the typical corporation really was a person, then by an exact psychological definition, it would have to be labelled as a sociopath. Even if we did not have grave misgivings about excessive concentrations of power in human society, as we should, these are not the kind of powers which we should wish to govern and rule our nations or the world. Clearly, it is time for a change – a real change, and now. The urgency cannot be overstated, or emphasized enough.

First things first – let us recapture, reclaim and renew our democracy, and “crush in its infancy”, as Thomas Jefferson said, the oligarchy, the new empire, and the excessive powers of “the new moneyed aristocracy,” which now threaten, not only democracy and freedom, but all life on earth. Then we can decide where to go from there. On this point, we must be clear.

We must gain the clarity that is urgently needed at this time, and unite and inspire, and empower the people. And we must act decisively, and now.

J. Todd Ring

April 15, 2007

Further reading:

Writings of J. Todd Ring

Amazon.com: Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Dover Thrift Editions): Books: Henry David Thoreau

Amazon.com: Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism & Syndication: Books: Bertrand Russell

Amazon.com: The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future: Books: Riane Eisler

Amazon.com: The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy: Books: Murray Bookchin

Amazon.com: Escape from Freedom: Books: Erich Fromm

Amazon.com: The Power Elite: Books: C. Wright Mills,Alan Wolfe

Amazon.com: The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power: Books: Joel Bakan

Economist’s View: You’ll Miss Us When We’re Gone

Economist’s View: Can Democrats and Libertarians Find Common Ground?

“Their Libertarianism and Ours” – from:

Amazon.com: Don’t Think, Smile!: Notes on a Decade of Denial: Books: Ellen Willis