Archive for December 2008

Fiddling the public

December 12, 2008

Different ways of doing democracy. Or the ways those in power control decisions:

Ignore the choice: The people of Ireland voted against the European Treaty but they can’t be allowed to say no, so corrupt Eurocrats decide they have to vote again on exactly the same Treaty.

Limit the choice: The de Menezes tube shooting jury weren’t allowed to return an unlawful killing verdict. They return an ‘open verdict’ and nothing changes. Police would act in exactly the same way again.

Punish the choice: The people of Manchester voted ‘no’ to the proposed congestion charging zone. The government will punish the people of Manchester by holding back on transport regeneration money.

Deny the choice: Still, Londoners didn’t even get a vote before the Congestion Zone was imposed in 2003.

We alone are casualties

December 11, 2008

Today, for the first time in the history of this planet, those living in cities outnumber those living rurally. London has a population density of 4,500 people per sq. km. Crowding on this scale has been shown to cause depression; the uncontrollable noise of the city parallels a standard way of inducing despression in a laboratory, outlined by the psychologist Martin Seligman.

Constant trauma and stress without being able to do anything about it leads to a state of learned helplessness. In an experiment where a caged dog is given a repeated electric shock that it is unable to do anything to prevent, eventually it lies down and whimpers. Beyond a certain point, even when the cage door is opened it will remain there being shocked. It has developed a state of learned helplessness.

Despite the ever present watchful eye of CCTV surveillance cameras, we are told to be suspicious of the person standing next to us. We live in a state of constant stress without real terror, akin to the period before the London Blitz. This was the phoney or twilight war; when sirens went off and civilians trooped down to shelters, but no bombs landed. When the Luftwaffe started dropping bombs in the summer of 1940, people reported that it was in psychologically better because they had something real to deal with instead of only fear.

Today’s constant threat of terror is our own phoney war. And its battle casualties are our minds. Nearly one in four persons in this country will have an episode of mental illness within a yearlong period; either depression, anxiety, substance abuse or addiction. One out of ten children has a mental illness, set in the context of family and community life falling apart.

We instead turn inwards and look to what we can control. Technological gadgets give us immediate satisfaction – mobiles, laptops, iPods. But they are the ‘psychological equivalent of junk food’ according to psychologists Christopher Peterson, Steven Maier and Martin Seligman. They turn us into egocentric people to the detriment of social cohesion. In addition, they argue that social cohesion is not obtained by diversity; which has replaced unity: “Let us raise the politically unpopular point that increased attention to the differences among our people will not make this society a better one in which to live.”

Highlighting differences is a step towards turning against those minorities that are perceived to be the problem in society. Will turning against the most vulnerable groups in society be the ultimate expression of inward looking instead of looking to the real threats to society like criminal ‘world’ leaders and international bankers?

In the sixties students and workers revolted and demonstrated for their rights over less, but today we are wrapped up in ourselves; and while we are narcissistically engaged all manner of external changes occur that we scarcely notice.

The changes are planned and implemented using mass techniques that appeal to emotion, not reason. It’s worth remembering the words of the economist Milton Friedman who originated the neo liberalism that destroyed so many people: “Only a crisis – actual or perceived produces real change.”

The French philosopher Jacques Ellul wrote in his book The Technological Society how he saw society changing in the post world war two era. “Human intelligence cannot resist propaganda’s manipulation of its subconscious. The suppression of the critical faculty … the first and clearest consequence of the application of psychoanalytic mass techniques.”

To build a new personality, the old one needs to be erased. Dr Ewen Cameron, former president of World Psychiatric Association was employed as a CIA mind control experimenter in the 1950s. He used electroshock, drugs and sensory deprivation to recreate a blank state in patient’s minds before rebuilding as he saw fit. It was not successful for over 70 percent of his patients, but it was very useful information for the torture industry. These techniques were refined and are a standard part of the torture kit used in places like Guantanamo Bay.

Are these techniques about to be employed closer to home? A panopoly of ‘non-lethal’ weapons lie ready in the crowd control arsenal. British police will be routinely equipped with Taser cattle prods to force compliance. Hitting someone with an extendable baton is harder to do than routinely pulling the trigger of an electric shock gun. Then there are trucki mounted microwave guns that can blast you with waves to cause intense discomfort and a burning sensation.

In the her book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein parallels the desire to create a blank slate of the person, through the techniques of Dr Cameron outlined above, with the use of economic shocks or using crises to change behaviour.

Economic shocks disorientate us, causing fear and anxiety and leading to a state of childlike regression. We look for a father figure to save us. ‘In times of crisis people are willing to hand over a great deal of power to anyone who claims to have a magic cure, whether the crisis is a financial meltdown or a terrorist attack.’

But she does offer a solution: “ The universal experience of living through a great shock is the feeling of being completely powerless… The best way to recover from helplessness turns out to be helping – having the right to be part of a communal recovery.”

This resonates with the views of psychologists Christopher Peterson, Steven Maier and Martin Seligman again: “Our only assumption is that depression, demoralization, underachievement, and illness are bad. We think the lack of an orientation to the commons – the incredible selfishness that so abounds in our country – is in no small way responsible for these ills.”

Mumbai terror attack, Hindi speaking terrorists and the mysterious death of Hemant Karkare

December 10, 2008

Today’s interview in the Indian Express newspaper with an eyewitness survivor of the Mumbai shootings throws a spanner in to the works of the official story that the suspected militants killed in the attacks were all from Pakistan:

“56-year-old Harishchandra Shrivardhankar can clearly recall his attacker (at Cama hospital). He described the terrorist as a fair skinned, 5.5 to 6 feet-tall person speaking in Hindi. The terrorist, says Shrivardhankar, was dressed in a pathani style off-white or cream-coloured kutra and pyjama.” (Pathani kurta is a type of Hindu suit.)

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/cama-hospital-terrorist-was-tall-fair-dressed-in-a-pathani-kurta-recalls-56yrold-braveheart/396340/2

Let’s hope Mr Shrivardhankar recovers from his wounds and is able to identify that person.

This is against the backdrop of the mysterious shooting of Hemant Karkare, head of the Anti Terror Squad, who had uncovered and arrested Hindu extremists behind previous terror attacks.

Eyewitness to the shooting of Karkare was injured Constable Arun Jadhav who was traveling in the same vehicle. Again Indian Express reported:

“Karkare, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte, who were all travelling in the same vehicle, were shot dead along with three constables by the terrorists.

The top officers were on way to Cama Hospital, just a 10-minute drive from CST station, to check on another injured officer Sadanand Date.

“Five minutes later, two persons carrying AK-47 rifles emerged from behind a tree and started firing at our vehicle,” said Jadhav, who was hit by two bullets in his right arm and is recuperating in the Bombay Hospital.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/witness-account-of-karkare-kamte-and-salaskars-death/392181/1

Very accurate and effective shooting by two gunmen, killing six police – presumably armed and wearing body armor, before driving off in the shot up vehicle. Further, Karkare was shot with three bullets in his chest. “He wore a bullet-proof jacket before going in but the bullets got him anyway,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police Amar Jadhav.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7756369.stm

Quite… Why might some have wanted to get rid of Karkare and other senior ATS officers? A reporter from Indian Express spoke to Karkare 36 hours before he was killed:

“The ATS believed it had cracked the September 29 Malegaon bomb blast case, and about a month ago arrested Hindu extremists in a breakthrough that shocked the nation and added a new twist to the entire discourse on Terror and religion.

The previous evening, hours after our meeting, TV channels had ‘breaking news’ that he had received a fresh death threat from some unidentified caller, apparently in connection with the Malegaon probe. An Indian Express reporter SMSed him asking him if this was true or if he had anything to say. His reply: just a smiley.”

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/karkares-response-to-a-death-threat-a-smiley/391325/2

This effective decapitation of the Indian Anti Terror Squad may explain how five teams of two shooters went on a 72-hour killing spree killing so many innocents.

Greek Riots coming here soon?

December 9, 2008

Greek riots – the flashpoint of a 15-year-old son of a bank manager shot dead by police. Another western society that has been destabilised by a new left government implementing IMF/World Bank neoliberal policies that has left one fifth of population living in poverty while the rich have gotten richer under a deregulation and low tax program. The government is perceived by the people as corrupt and ineffective. With an insulated governing class; and a prime minister himself the nephew of a previous president.

The Guardian newspaper interviewed a Greek who spoke of a generation who see their parents stuck in debt who themselves have no hope, living on 500 Euros a month.

In some ways it is invigorating to see people rise up and say ‘Enough!’ Refreshing that technology has not been deployed to prevent people from doing so – such as microwave cannons designed to cause burning sensations and nausea in people. For now, it still comes down to tear gas and truncheons; with the usual media focus of ‘anarchists’ and ‘stone throwers’ when no mass movement can consist entirely of those elements. Though mobile phones and internet allow flash mobs to form according to CNN: “These young people — often referred to in Greece as ” the known-unknowns” — use texting and Web sites to organize and communicate.” A linguistic legacy of Rumsfeld.

These riots follow hot on the heels of those in Iceland, where one third of people are trying to exit the country. Discontent bubbles quickly to the surface as citizens realise the government is unaccountable and incapable of managing the economy effectively as it is the international bankers who pull the strings. And then what can you do but take to the streets? We are going to see more of this – like the so-called ‘IMF riots’ seen in Argentina, Russia, Mexico, etc. in previous decades as the middle classes feel the chill.

The Financial Times reports today that UK corporate pension pots are falling in value at a time when corporate insolvencies are mounting. The dangers of unrest increase as the middle class gets looted and every day seems to bring a story telling us that the recession/depression will be deeper than feared.

When will it happen here?

WE DON’T NEED NO SHEDUCATION

December 7, 2008

The following comments made by a well known statesman were overheard by me recently. Of course, I can’t say who it is, but I can tell you what he said…

The main thing to ensure is that our children end up achieving the very best outcomes in their education. We can’t educate everyone to think. What would be the use in that? The lucky ten percent who are perfectly capable of thinking for the rest, will receive a full education, mainly courtesy of public schools. They will be taught how to think critically; to make choices for themselves. The masses will be told that all chances are on offer to them. They will be put into factory schools, en masse, swamped by problems, and vast resources will be channelled into dealing with ‘problem’ behaviour. I call it sheducation. The brightest soon become frustrated by the slow pace of teaching as all abilities are levelled. So when the children fail, and they will, it will be their fault. They must believe they were masters of their own destiny. They’ve had their chance and now the time has come for them to embrace a life of willing servility to the system. I told you a wise man once said that ‘schooled ignorance was more useful than unschooled stupidity’.

Then, once they have internalised feelings of inferiority, they have become the perfect consumer. Always inadequate, never complete, needing to buy something at all times. Only consumption offers relief. In the adult even the purchase of a weekly lottery ticket will be enough to provide a dose of hope that will keep the body going and the mind numbed.

But the trick of it is, the indoctrinated will thank you. In a state of docile cooperation they are freed of the burden of having to think for themselves. Life for them is reduced to series of tasks. Varied repetition and delayed gratification ensure that they continue to work. They are trained to seek out novelty so that the market can never dry up for lack of consumer appetite.

Above all, they must live in fear. Fear of losing what little they’ve got. Fear of the outsider. Fear whipped up by manufactured domestic or foreign crises. We control fear by penalising individuality; opinions and behaviours that may offend or be different. You have to go along to get along.

Our great task is to eradicate the unpredictable. The last vestiges of free will. For the good of society, you understand – as free will cannot be managed. If

left unchecked it will override the systems in place for the stability of society. Those great individual forces of history that caused so much upheaval cannot be allowed to happen again.

Imagine, a whole population that says ‘I know what I believe, but I’ve no idea how I came to believe it.’ It comes about through behavioural conditioning. Remember your Pavlov? Bells and whistles, dear boy, bells and whistles, work for dogs as well as man.”

The truth about top civil service jobs

December 7, 2008

Fast stream entry into civil service is the annual scheme that appoints the leaders for the future.

In 2008, 119 of 400 or 31% of successful applicants were Oxbridge graduates.

In any one academic year, there are 6,000 Oxford and Cambridge graduates out of a total 350,000 UK university graduates. That’s about 1 in 60 or 1.5%. So, proportionally only 1.5% of successful candidates would be from those two universities.

But the figures are complicated further because more Oxbridge students apply than from any other university. There’s an 8% success rate for those who apply from Oxford or Cambridge compared to a 3% success rate from other universities. So on this level, they are 3 times better than the rest.

Perhaps there is an institutional bias that reflects the top heavy Oxbridge cadre at the top of the civil service.  Also, do the selection procedures just reproduce characteristics of the interviewers?

A bias towards Oxford and Cambridge students is another form of advantage for those coming form public schools. Public schools educate 7% of all students, yet they account for 45% of the Oxbridge intake. Similar trends can be found in the group of the top 13 research universities. For example, Durham has a 30% private school intake. Are these privately educated students really four to six times better than their state school peers?

Of course, apart from the high walls surrounding Oxford colleges, there are invisible walls, which also put state school students off applying. Many have little or no history of sending students to top universities and if they do, at interview they can lack the confidence that a private education tends to bestow. Also state school teachers’ attitudes of ‘what makes you think you’re good enough to apply to Oxbridge?’ persist. The rat lines that connect schools to universities, and onwards to prestiguous employers are in rude health. How else do we begin to account for the fact that half of students from Westminster School get into Oxbridge?

Working class kids usually lack a sense of entitlement compared to their better off peers. They have not been groomed to believe they are entitled to the very best in education, career, health and life.

The Sutton Trust’s report on access to university (2007) found that of the 30 top performing comprehensives, only half the expected number by A -Level scores went to the top 13 universities. While a third more pupils than might be expected from top private schools won a place. There is a hidden booster element afforded in coming from a private school.

Other sectors of employment show similar advantages. The Sutton Trust also found: ‘that of the top 100 journalists in 2006, 54 per cent were privately educated – a rise from 49 per cent in 1986. Meanwhile, 45 per cent of the leading journalists overall in 2006 (or 56 per cent of those who went to university) attended Oxbridge. And just under 37 per cent of the journalists in 2006 who were graduates came from Oxford.’

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=203802&sectioncode=26

http://www.suttontrust.com/reports/Journalists-backgrounds-final-report.pdf

Assuming if, at birth, intelligence is pretty evenly distributed among socioeconomic groups, we are swinging towards a system where social background unfairly skews outcomes and talent is squandered.

De Menezes coroner rules out unlawful verdict

December 3, 2008


“I so direct you the jury to consider how economical the police were in shooting Mr De Menezes only seven times in the head, saving the taxpayer the burden of extra spent rounds.

The fact that 17 passengers on the tube train did not hear the police shout any warnings, should not mislead you into thinking the police did not shout. When people are absorbed in reading a particularly stimulating novel it is easy to miss the shout of ‘STOP, ARMED POLICE!’

Even if the police officers had not shouted a warning, that would not constitute an unlawful killing. A verdict of unlawful killing could only be allowed if you were in a free society where you could decide that a specific officer had committed murder or manslaughter.

I would like to remind you that British police are still the best in the world at carrying out awfully lawful killings and cover ups and to think otherwise will soon be illegal.”