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Friday, February 24, 2012

Let Your Life Be a Friction to Stop the Machine

 SOTT.net

An excellent summation, at least from the political point of view, of where we are right now, how we got here, and the fact that the masses of humanity MUST wake up to the reality of the situation if the worst is to mitigated.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The State Is a Firing Squad

Strike The Root

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by JGVibes.

 Although the common perception of human nature is very negative, the truth is that most people who aren’t mentally ill have a very difficult time committing acts of violence. Usually it takes a sizeable payment and a fair amount of manipulation to convince someone to act violently, and even then a tremendous amount of guilt typically follows regardless of the circumstances. This factor of personal guilt always came into play in executions, so over the years, they devised different ways of killing people that allowed for the executioner to become more and more detached from the physical violence. On a greater scale, we see this same kind of mentality today in the development of drone warfare.

As far as executions are concerned, one of the most effective methods of detaching the executioner from the act of murder is the firing squad. In a firing squad, a line of executioners unload their firearms on the prisoner, but some of the weapons are filled with blanks and others with live ammunition, so no one can be sure who it was that delivered the deathblow. Personally, I can’t even imagine taking part in one of these, but the anonymity seems to allow people to divert the responsibility in their own conscience, at least temporarily.

Interestingly enough, if we look at the compartmentalization that takes place within government agencies, they work in very much the same way. Everyone performs a specific task that is designated to them, and that task plays a minor role in a greater act of violence. Many times this role is so minor that the greater violence goes unnoticed by those who are carrying it out. I understand that the following analogy is not going to work exactly like a firing squad, with a line of shooters and one bullet. However, the idea is still the same: dispersing responsibility throughout a collectivized group, in order to downgrade the burden of guilt in the minds of those individuals who are carrying out acts that they know in their hearts are wrong.

Imagine a giant gun that has thousands of different gears and mechanisms, all of which require a team of people to manage. This gun is of course representative of the government. Every person in every team isn’t really sure of the big picture or the final consequences of their actions, but they get paid to do their very specific task, so they do so without asking too many questions. Very few of these people realize that they are playing a small but significant role in firing a bullet at an innocent person, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s what’s actually happening.

When comparing this description with how our government operates, we can see how extreme compartmentalization detaches people from the greater aggression that their job plays a part in committing. The endless paper trails, waiting periods, and various different bureaucratic offices act as the different gears and mechanisms in the giant gun from our earlier analogy. These different offices and tedious procedures work to distribute responsibility between so many different people that everyone is able to pass the buck onto someone else without ever coming to terms with the consequences of their actions.

When someone gets arrested for violating one of the thousands of preferential laws that put nonviolent people behind bars, they are handled by people who accept no responsibility whatsoever for results of their actions. Every step of the way from the arresting mercenary to the final executioner, every bureaucrat says the same thing, “I’m just doing my job.” They are not allowed to have an opinion about the moral values of the laws that they are enforcing and they are not trained to use their discretion when dealing with nonviolent code breakers.

This process of compartmentalization ensures that there will be no mercy for anyone who happens to be caught up in the system and allows for enforcers and bureaucrats to psychologically disengage with the effects that their everyday actions are having on the lives of others. When it comes down to it, not one victim of war, the police state, or the tax code has the liberty of being able to point out an individual who is responsible for their situation. Although there seems to be so many different people in charge of different things, no one is truly held accountable. When there is praise to receive, everyone in government lines up for their reward, but when something goes wrong, there is no one to be found, aside from those who are blaming and pointing fingers.

For the most part, everyone who keeps that state well-oiled and in working order is able to maintain a safe and healthy distance from all of the violence that is taking place. Most people are involved in filing paperwork, sending out letters and things of that nature. These people are very much still a part of the violence, but they aren’t directly on the front lines where they can see what’s going on. I’m not at all saying that all state employees are evil, I’m simply saying that their contribution is helping a violent machine run. Maybe they feel that they have no other options, maybe they think they are doing a great thing, but the fact still remains that they are accomplices to violence, whether they realize it or not.

Most of the people who are in these secondary roles sustain very little psychological trauma as a result of their involvement with government, but those on the front lines aren’t so lucky. This firing squad scenario may allow those on the front lines to deny personal responsibility for their actions, because unlike those with secondary roles, they are actually coming in contact with the people they are hurting, so they have a harder time escaping the shame and guilt that accompanies their position.

Even though the enforcers on the front lines always rationalize their actions or blame their transgressions on supervisors and legislators, deep down they usually have an extremely difficult time coping with the violence that they are forced to inflict on others, day in and day out. Eventually many of these people end up with severe depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, narcissism and other extreme psychological problems as a result of the physical encounters that they have had with other human beings.

This enforcement element of state power can be compared to the executioners in a firing squad who are packing live ammunition. Imagine being one of the executioners who feels that extra kick from the end of his rifle, which gives him the subtle indication that he has just taken a human life. Think about how you would spend the rest of your days attempting to rationalize and repress the reality of what you have done.

By allowing some the ability to commit violence without consequence for the sake of “solving problems,” we are simply setting a standard that problems actually can be solved with violence. On the other hand, if we hold everyone to the same standard of non-violence and handle disputes on a case by case basis, we will actually be encouraging peaceful interactions. Without the nebulous justifications of the state to fall back on, everyone would be forced to rely on their own conscience to make decisions and they would actually be held personally responsible for their actions.

If certain behaviors and social customs lead to psychological trauma and require a great deal of mental acrobatics to justify, then they are obviously unnatural and most likely detrimental to human health and wellbeing. The state itself is one of these erroneous social customs that are actually holding the human race back from a world of abundance and peaceful interactions. If new tactics are constantly being developed to shield people from the shame and guilt that comes along with their day-to-day activities, then there is obviously something very wrong about the way we are doing things.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dawn of the Drones: The Realization of the Total Surveillance State

Information Liberation

By John W. Whitehead


“To be governed is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonoured. That is government; that is it's justice; that is it's morality.” – Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, 19th century French philosopher
Imagine a robot hovering overhead as you go about your day, driving to and from work, heading to the grocery store, or stopping by a friend’s house. The robot records your every movement with a surveillance camera and streams the information to a government command center. If you make a wrong move, or even appear to be doing something suspicious, the police will respond quickly and you’ll soon be under arrest. Even if you don’t do anything suspicious, the information of your whereabouts, including what stores and offices you visit, what political rallies you attend, and what people you meet will be recorded, saved and easily accessed at a later date. It is a frightening thought, but you don’t have to imagine this scenario. We are only a few years away from the realization of this total surveillance society.



   Congress has just passed a bill, the FAA Reauthorization Act, mandating that the Federal Aviation Administration create a comprehensive program for the integration of drone technology into the national air space by 2015. The FAA predicts that there will be 30,000 drones crisscrossing the skies of America by 2020, all part of an industry that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year. This mandate is yet another example of the political power of the military-industrial complex, Congress’ disdain for the privacy of American citizens, and the rampant growth of government. With this single piece of legislation, Congress is opening the floodgates to an entirely new era of surveillance, one in which no person is safe from the prying eyes of the government. This may prove to be the final nail in the Fourth Amendment’s coffin.
 
Attempts to integrate drone technology into the national air space were underway long before Congress put its stamp of approval on the FAA Reauthorization Act. In fact, the FAA authorized 313 certificates for drone operation in 2011, 295 of which were still active at the end of the year, although the agency refuses to say which organizations received the certificates and for what purposes they were used. However, we do know that the FAA had already approved drones for use by the Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Patrol (which uses the drones to conduct surveillance and counternarcotics missions), and certain state and local law enforcement operations. For example, in June 2011, a family of cattle farmers accused of stealing some cows were spied on with a Predator drone before being apprehended by police.

The fact that drones—pilotless, remote controlled aircraft that have been used extensively in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to assassinate suspected terrorists, as well as innocent civilians—are coming home to roost (and fly) in domestic airspace should come as no surprise to those who have been paying attention. The US government has a history of commandeering military technology for use against Americans. We saw this happen with tear gas, tasers, sound cannons and assault vehicles, all of which were first used on the battlefield before being deployed against civilians at home.

Thus, while 83% of Americans approve of the use of drones abroad, and 65% approve of using drones to assassinate suspected terrorists abroad, even if they are American citizens, it remains to be seen how those same Americans will feel when they are the ones in the sights of the drones. Needless to say, they won’t have to wait too long to find out.

While there are undoubtedly legitimate uses for drone technology, such as locating missing persons, there is no legitimate reason for the government to collect a constant stream of information on the whereabouts of Americans. However, if this drone program is implemented in the way that Congress intends, we will have drones armed with “less-lethal” weaponry, including bean bag guns and tasers, flying over political demonstrations, sporting events, and concert arenas. Eventually, these drones will be armed with the lethal weaponry that is currently being used overseas in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The power of these machines is not to be underestimated. Many are equipped with cameras that provide a live video feed, as well as heat sensors and radar. Some are capable of peering at figures from 20,000 feet up and 25 miles away. They can also keep track of 65 persons of interest at once. Some drones are capable of hijacking Wi-Fi networks and intercepting electronic communications such as text messages. The Army is currently developing drones with facial recognition software, as well as drones that can complete a target-and-kill mission without any human instruction or interaction. They are the ultimate killing and spying machines.

In addition to the privacy concerns, the safety of drone technology has been called into question. There have been a handful of high-profile crashes involving American drones abroad, including in Iran, the island nation of Seychelles, and most recently in Somalia. The Iranian government claimed they brought down the drone flying in their territory via a computer hack. This is two years after Iraqis were able to hack into the live feed of a few drones using “$26 off-the-shelf software.” Mind you, back in October 2011, the US military admitted that their drone fleet had been infected by a ‘mysterious virus.’ The faultiness of the drone technology and the fact that amateur hackers can access the controls and camera feeds are reason enough to ground these devices indefinitely.

Unfortunately, with the wars abroad winding down, America has become the new battleground in the war on terror, to the delight and profit of the military-industrial complex. In fact, with companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin making their influence felt among members of Congress (Boeing spent over $12 million lobbying in 2011, and Lockheed spent over $11 million), you can be sure that their technologies will continue to be purchased by the government, even when there is no need for them. Thus, in the same way that our domestic police forces are now armed with mini-tanks and grenade launchers taken from the military’s armory, it was simply a matter of time before drone technology made its way back home.

While most Americans are unaware of the electronic concentration camp which is slowly enveloping our society, a select few groups are working to push back against government control. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the FAA, demanding the records of the drone certificates which the FAA has issued to various agencies, but it is unlikely that the implementation of this technology can be stopped. Based upon the government’s positions on wiretapping, GPS tracking devices, and Internet tracking technologies, it is also unlikely that our elected officials will do anything to protect the American people from the prying eye of the American government.

We can sit around waiting for some member of Congress with a conscience or some judge concerned about the coming tyranny to push back against the drone empire from within. However, until the American people succeed in raising their collective voices against this technological tyranny, the powers that be will continue on the path to total control, and the condition of our civil liberties will become more dire with every passing day.
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Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He is the author of The Change Manifesto (Sourcebooks).