Posted by TheMaji on

WAR: SOME POCKET PARADIGMS

Sam Smith

War is the joint exercise of things we were trained not to do as children.

War is doing things overseas that we would go to prison for at home.

Anyone can start a war. Starting a peace is really hard. Therefore it is much harder to be a peace expert than a war expert.

The media treats war as just another professional sport.

War has rules, which means that we can change the rules.

Murder, rape and slavery still exist. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have banned them. The same is true of war.

Telling a country we won’t negotiate with it until it does what you want is like saying you won’t play a game unless you are allowed to win.

There is no evidence that supporting war, or telling presidents to do so, improves your testosterone level, so Ivy League professors are better advised to stick to tennis.

There is one way to deal with guerilla warfare and that is to resolve the problems that allow it to thrive. The trick is to undermine the violence of the most bitter by dealing honestly with the problems and complaints of the most rational.

Of course, there can be peace with so-called terrorist organizations; it’s just a matter of whether one waits the better part of a century, as the British did in Northern Ireland, or whether you start talking and negotiating now.

Three thousand people is, of course, far too many to die for any reason. But it is also far too weak an argument for the end of democracy.

Peace is a state of reciprocity, of trust, of empirically based confidence that no one is about to do you in. It exists not because of intrinsic goodness or rampant naivete but because of a common, implicit understanding that that it works for everyone.

Implicit in the “what about their violence?” argument is the idea that what we do wrong is excusable because it has been matched by the other side. Of course, the other side sees it the same way so you end up with a perfect stalemate of violence. When I raised a similar argument as a kid, my mother’s response was, “If Johnny were to jump off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff, too?” I never could come up with good answer to that and so eventually had to concede that somebody else’s stupidity was not a good excuse for my own.

From the moment we commence a moral intervention we become a part of the story, and part of the good and evil. We are no longer the innocent bystander but a full participant whose acts will either help or make things worse. Our intentions become irrelevant; they are overwhelmed by the character of our response to them. The morality of the disease is supplanted by the morality of the cure. In fact, every moral act in the face of mental or physical injury carries twin responsibilities: to mend the injury and to avoid replacing it with another

One of the reasons America is in so much trouble is because it happily makes all sorts of compromises in order to get along with large dictatorships such as Russia and China, but thinks it can handle smaller operations like Hamas, North Korea, and Iran by simple obstinacy and belligerence. In other words, it is happy to talk with big terrorists, but not little ones. In fact, most of these small entities – and those who lead them – suffer from extreme inferiority complexes. By threatening war, imposing massive embargos and so forth, America merely feeds the sense of persecution and encourages the least rational reaction. A more sensible approach would be to constantly negotiate with these leaders and edge them towards reasonable participation in world affairs.

Imagine if we had told Israel and Palestine a few years ago that if they would just make nice we would give them enough money to equal Israel’s GDP for one year and Palestine’s for three. Take the time off, go to the Riviera or the Catskills, forget about productivity, and just party on thanks to the American taxpayer. Or if Israel and Palestine wanted to be really sensible, they could have invested in their countries’ future instead. Think how much safer we would be today. . . But where would such a large sum of money come from? Well, all we would have had to have done was to cancel the invasion of Iraq and used the money as a carrot rather than as a bludgeon. For that is just what it has cost us so far. (2007)

The people who built castles and walled cities and moats are all dead now and their efforts at security seem puny and ultimately futile as we visit their unintended monuments to the vanity of human presumption. Like the castle-dwellers behind the moat, we are now spending huge sums to put ourselves inside a prison of our own making. It is unlikely to provide either security for our bodies nor solace for our souls, for we are simply attacking ourselves before others get a chance.

Empires and cultures are not permanent and while thinking about the possibility that ours is collapsing may seem a dismal exercise it is far less so than enduring the dangerous frustrations and failures involved in having one’s contrary myth constantly butt up against reality – like a boozer who insists he is not drunk attempting to drive home. Instead of defending the non-existent, we could turn our energies instead towards devising a new and saner reality.

Places like Harvard and Oxford – and their after-school programs such as the Washington think tanks – teach the few how to control the many and it is impossible to do this without various forms of abuse ranging from sophism to corporate control systems to napalm. It is no accident that a large number of advocates of war – in government and the media – are the products of elite educations where they were taught both the inevitability of their hegemony and the tools with which to enforce it. It will, therefore, be some time before places such as Harvard and the Council on Foreign Relations are seen for what they are: the White Citizens Councils of state violence.

Castro, in his early days, spoke at the UN. But the hotels of New York refused him space. The result: Malcolm X found him a hotel in Harlem and a key early step was taken in the alienation of a man who, with just a little respect and effort, might not have tormented every American president since by refusing to die or fade away. Respect is important because it is a door wide enough for peace to enter. We need to try it more often.

Posted by TheMaji on

ANOTHER REASON TO BOYCOTT THE RECORDING INDUSTRY

(note from maj-) Buy direct from the artist wherever possible…

WIRED – A federal appeals court is ordering a university student to pay the Recording Industry Association of America $27,750 – $750 a track – for file sharing 37 songs when she was a high school cheerleader.

The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a Texas federal judge who had ordered defendant Whitney Harper to pay $7,400, or $200 per song. The lower court had granted her an “innocent infringer’s” exemption to the Copyright Act’s minimum of $750 per track because she said she didn’t know she was violating copyrights and thought file sharing was akin to internet radio streaming.

The appeals court, however, said the woman was not eligible for such a defense — even if it was true she was between 14 and 16 years old when the infringing activity occurred on Limewire. The reason, the court concluded, is that the Copyright Act precludes such a defense if the legitimate CDs of the music in question provide copyright notices.

Harper, now 22 and a Texas Tech senior, said in 2008 interview that she didn’t know what she did was wrong when she file shared Eminem, the Police, Mariah Carey and others as a teen.

“I knew I was listening to music. I didn’t have an understanding of file sharing,” she said.

Scott Mackenzie, the woman’s attorney, said Friday that “She’s going to graduate with a federal judgment against her.” The RIAA, which has sued thousands of people for infringement, labeled Harper as “vexatious” when she refused to settle the case.

Only two RIAA cases against individuals have gone to trial, both of which earned the RIAA whopping verdicts.

Posted by TheMaji on

THE SILENT SURRENDER

Sam Smith-One of the scariest things about living in America these days is how few – especially in government and the media – seem to care about the things that used to define the place. Thus there is hardly a murmur as the Senate approves by a voice vote the extension of the despicable Patriot Act or when Bush and Obama wreck the Fourth Amendment or as the latter increasingly treats the U.S. like a corporation he has taken over in a merger deal – with those who used to be considered citizens now just employees wondering how much longer they’ll have a job. What we have now is a silent surrender. No terrorists, no war, no revolution, just incremental capitulation led by those supposed to guard our rights and our freedoms. A case in point is the mandatory mandate in the Democrat’s health plan. The idea that the government can order how you spend your money in the private sector is unprecedented. No, auto insurance is not a parallel, since you don’t have to drive a car on a public road. You do, – if you want to be human, that is – have to live. There is one reason for this extraordinary plan: to avoid having to admit that the government would be raising taxes. In fact, the mandate is a tax on some of those least able to pay it and it would be one of the great tax increases in American history. To understand the madness, consider that if the government can order you to pay a badly administered, fiscally irresponsible, avaricious corporation for some health insurance, that same government could order you to buy a computer for each of your children so they will be properly educated or purchase a condo for your aged parents. It could even close all public schools and fire stations and require you to pay tuition to corporate beneficiaries of its plan. But the greatest madness is that no one is talking about this. Once again, as we have done so often in recent years, we are simply giving up our rights because there is no one in power to tell us what is really going on.