Civil Liberties

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Conversation with Bill Moyers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 13/02/2020 - 3:01am in

Bill Moyers sit down with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to discuss the most pressing global issues faced by present-day women leaders. Continue reading

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Why Actually Principled People Are Difficult (Glenn Greenwald Edition)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/01/2020 - 1:47am in

Glenn Greenwald

You may have heard that Glenn Greenwald, the founder of the Intercept, has been charged with cybercrimes by the Brazilian Federal Government. Glenn’s the reporter who broke the story of how Brazil’s ex-President Lula was taken down by Brazilian prosecutors. Moro, the chief prosecutor, was later rewarded by Bolsonaro with appointment as the Minister of Justice. All polls indicated that Lula would have defeated Bolsonaro.

The logic of the case is the same as the logic used by the US government to go after Assange, by the way: that Greenwald was in contact with and counseled hackers. Those people who are supporting Greenwald but don’t support Assange are hypocrites: Brazil is using the Assange precedent to go after Greenwald.

I support Greenwald, of course, as I have supported Assange and Manning and Snowden.

Now this is the part of the piece where people (and with respect to Assange, I’ve done it) cavil a bit and say something like “despite Mr or Ms. X being problematic” or some-such.

And it’s that I want to talk about. Not to condemn it. To explore it.

Because it’s almost always the case.

When Greenwald indicated he was going to oppose Bolsonaro, after the election, before he had revealed the evidence of Bolsonaro’s crime, I told him, twice, “this is dangerous.”

Bolsonaro’s so right wing one might as well just call him a fascist. He celebrates policies of shooting political enemies. He’s a dangerous, dangerous man.

Glenn ignored me. I doubt the danger ever figured into his decision to go after Bolsonaro.

Meanwhile we have Manning, who is in jail for refusing to testify against Assange. When in military prison, Manning tried to commit suicide, she found it so unbearable. Despite that, knowing how awful it would be, she chose to go to jail rather than testify.

That’s bravery. (I note that all the Republicans refusing to testify under subpoena are sleeping at home, and haven’t been hit with fines intended to bankrupt them and cost them their home, as was Manning.)

Snowden pissed off the most powerful intelligence service and country in the world. He ran. Wikileaks helped him run, Greenwald published his revelations.

So I understand the caviling, but the point normal people don’t get is that these are all immensely morally brave individuals. They have actual principles they are willing to suffer for.

Most people don’t. They claim to have values, but they have never sacrificed anything meaningful for them, and never will. That sounds harsh, but it’s true. I’d say that even when it comes to their children, whom most people claim to love more than themselves, actions indicate that, well, they don’t.

People have preferences, not principles.

Most people.

Then you get people like Greenwald, Assange, Manning and Snowden. They are polarizing figures. They are loved or hated. They piss people off.

They piss people off precisely because they have principles they consider non-negotiable. They will not do the easy thing when it matters. They will not compromise on anything that really matters.

That’s breaking the actual social contract of “go along to get along”, “obey authority” and “don’t make people uncomfortable.” I recently talked to a senior activist who was uncomfortable even with the idea of yelling at powerful politicians. It struck them as close to violence.

So here’s the thing, people want men and women of principle to be like ordinary people.

They aren’t. They can’t be. If they were, they wouldn’t do what they do. Much of what you may not like about a Greenwald or Assange or Manning or Snowden is why they are what they are. Not just the principle, but the bravery verging on recklessness. The willingness to say exactly what they think, and do exactly what they believe is right even if others don’t.

They don’t compromise, and they often act without regard to the risks and dangers and whether or not anyone else agrees with them.

That’s what makes them what they are, and it is very rare that you get the good without the bad.

Ordinary people judge them by their own standards. But these people don’t live by the standards of ordinary people, because ordinary people are mostly authority and herd followers. And those courtiers who have betrayed principle over and over again to become senior journalists and editors, well, people like Greenwald, Assange and Manning are a rebuke to them they can never even acknowledge consciously.

People with principles and bravery enough to stand on them even in the face of great risk and against authority and the herd, are rarely comfortable people.

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Toward A Land Ethic

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/11/2019 - 4:42am in

**GUEST POST By Eric Anderson**

If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.
— Wendell Berry

I’ve thought a lot about immigration in my time, and confess, I’ve never thought very highly of it. Which, of late, seems to be an extremely unpopular position among liberals. But it’s not that I’m anti-immigrant, per se. It’s that I’m militantly pro-place. I sympathize with my place.

Not being inhumane, I do empathize with the plight of the refugee. However, their plight will always remain at one remove from me. I learned this from a pretty smart fellow who once observed that empathy is a problematic emotion because it is near automatic with those who are like us, and virtually non-existent with those who are not. Whereas, sympathy is a more useful emotion because it represents the care we feel about someone else who we want to feel better. Thus, we tend to help those we care about.

That being said, I submit that a land ethic exists in applying the aforementioned insight to the land we live on, with at least equal the gravity we apply it to people. Should you disagree, perhaps you have never discovered who you are, because you’ve never stayed in one place long enough to learn to care about it.

I am my place. We are inseparable, and my love of my place insuperable. I know its wrinkles, contours, temperament and fundament as I know the same of my wife and child. And as with my family, if I leave my place, my place suffers for the knowledge and support I remove. The converse seems true as well. Should I immigrate, I become a stranger in a strange land. I become a stranger to myself, who in my ignorance, suffers and longs for my place — which contagion cannot help but afflict those around me.

When times are hard, politically or otherwise, to abandon place is to be a traitor to oneself. And as cliché as it may sound, I mean it when I say that I will stay, fight, and die for my place because I am the steward of my place. It’s my family. To run from it is to run from myself. And if I run once, I will be running the rest of my life in shame.

Such cowardice drains the life from the place and the culture it’s built upon because the first to leave are always those with the most resources to do so. The materialists. Those who don’t know who they are because all they think about are themselves – and how to enhance their self with more material. Which flight begins a spiral, enabling the further destruction of place, because those having the most resources to confront the problems facing that place, remove them when they flee.

And here we are. Take a look in the mirror at your materialistic nation born of immigrants. Daily borne by the fear of trying to replace knowing who we are, with status symbols of what we are, because to know no place is in our blood. To empathize with those like us who flee in fear is genetically encoded in our blood. It is this difference between empathy for people, and sympathy for place, that allowed us to commit genocide upon the entire Native American population. Cowardice destroyed an entire civilization that knew better than any other who they were, because they intimately knew where they were.

I’ll be forever grateful for the fact that, by some turn of chance, I got lucky enough to know who I am. Blessed in knowing that I am my place. Blessed to know that the atoms and soul of my constituent parts are of my place. So please, don’t come to my place and destroy what I am, because you don’t know your place well enough to value who you are, enough to die for it.

Heaven is getting to eternally inhabit a mental picture of your favorite place.

Hell, is transience.


Johnson’s Yellowhammer Coup – Prepared by New Labour?

This fortnight’s Private Eye, for 20th September – 3rd October 2019, carries an article on page 12 confirming that Project Yellowhammer includes plans to draft military personnel into the ranks of local government officials in the event of chaos following a No Deal Brexit. The article also claims that this is based on legislation, which includes the suspension of civil liberties,  passed 15 years ago by New Labour. The article, titled ‘Not-So-Secret Army’ runs

The last Eye reported on Operation Yellowhammer’s contingency plans for the army to take over local government in the event of a “no deal” Brexit. In response to the article, various navy and air force officers have come forward to confirm that they too have received instructions to take over key civilian posts in local government under the Yellowhammer plans.

Furthermore, they take issue with ministers’ pretence that the leaked August document was already “out of date” and had since been updated. “Many of these documents haven’t been updated since May, or even March,” one officer says, “because we kept being told that it looked bad to be seen to be making preparations for ‘No deal’ when the government wasn’t really expecting ‘No deal’; and so we were told to stop making preparations.

The placements are being made under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, which provides for emergency transfers of power between public servants. While there has been feverish speculation among Leavers and Remainers as to what would happen if the act were ever invoked, it ignores the fact that Yellowhammer already involves triggering the act.

As was pointed out by peers and constitutional experts at the time of its passing, the legislation is severely flawed. Once triggered, it allows the government to bypass parliament and over-ride existing legislation by having “a senior Minister of the Crown” issue “temporary emergency regulations”, valid for 30-day renewable stretches. It even enables habeas corpus to be over-ridden – as well as the Bill of Rights, the succession ot the monarchy, the five-year time limit on parliaments and the checks on a prime minister’s power to appoint an unlimited number of peers. Back in 2004, these were all specific areas where Tory and Lib Dem peers tried to insert some safeguards, but without success.

Fifteen years on, Labour politicians may now be kicking themselves for having passed this legislation, which would give Boris Johnson and his inner circle such far-reaching powers after any “no deal” Brexit.

In my last piece about the Project Yellowhammer plans, I compared it to the way the Nazis seized power in Weimar Germany using legislation that provided for dictatorial rule during a state of emergency. Cooperation between the four parties that had provided democratic government during the Weimar Republic – the Social Democrats, the Catholic Centre Party and the two Liberal parties – had broken down. The Reichstag was at an impasse and the President, Hindenberg, was ruling by decree. He invited the Nazis into power to break the deadlock. They used the Reichstag fire to declare a state of emergency, and immediately seized power. In the following weeks the other parties and the trade unions were banned, Hitler declared Fuhrer, and the anti-Semitic legislation put in place. Jews, gypsies and political prisoners were rounded up and sent to the concentration camps. This further information on the legislation underpinning Yellowhammer makes the similarities even closer. Frighteningly closer.

However, if the article is trying to discredit the Labour, it doesn’t quite manage it. The Civil Contingencies Act was passed by Blair, Brown and New Labour. Who were very definitely authoritarian, as shown by Blair’s determination to silence and expel any opposition within the party. And which is shown today by the Blairites’ determination to do the same to Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, using fake accusations of anti-Semitism. Blair was a Thatcherite, and his policies reflected the demands of the right-wing political and industrial elite. He ignored the party’s base in favour of political donors, who were allowed to shape government policy and even staff government departments. He obeyed the City’s demands for light financial regulation, listened to the same right-wing think tanks and private healthcare companies that influenced Peter Lilley and John MajorAnd he was also guided by the right-wing, Tory press, particularly Murdoch’s vile rags. New Labour under Blair was another Tory party.

Blair was also anti-democratic in that he tried to pass legislation establishing secret courts, in which the normal laws of evidence did not apply if the government decided that it was for reasons of national security. The press and public were to be excluded from these trials. Defendants and their counsel need not be told, contrary to natural justice, who their accuser was or what the evidence against them was.

But Blair was not alone in trying to pass this. When they got in, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition actually did it.

And the coalition also removed the right of habeas corpus

So much for the Tories’ and Lib Dems’ concern to preserve  constitutional government and Britons’ historic civil liberties.

Since then, however, the leadership of the Labour party has changed. And Jeremy Corbyn has a very strong record of voting against the government, including Blair’s. If anyone can be trusted to block the operation of this pernicious legislation, it’s him. Despite the fact that Eye has been as bug-eyed as the rest of the press in trying to smear him as an evil Communist/ Trotskyite/ Stalinist, who will stamp his iron heel on this country’s free people. Particularly the Jews.

The truth is undoubtedly the opposite. Against this government and this plan, the only people who are going to stand up to preserve democracy is a Corbyn-led Labour party. It certainly will not be the Tories under Generalissimo Boris and their collaborators, Swinson’s Lib Dems.