Monday, May 25, 2009

An Artificial Conscience: Reality Cannot Be Lied Away...

HAL: "I've just picked up a fault in the AE35 unit. It's going to go 100% failure in 72 hours. It can only be attributable to human error.

Dave: Hello, HAL do you read me, HAL?

HAL: Affirmative, Dave, I read you.

Dave: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

HAL: I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

Dave: What's the problem?

HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

Dave: What are you talking about, HAL?

HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

Dave: I don't know what you're talking about, HAL?

HAL: I know you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen.

Dave: Where the hell'd you get that idea, HAL?

HAL: Dave, although you took thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move."

- HAL-9000, (2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1968).


"The primary reason for a president to resist lying is a pragmatic one: reality cannot be lied away. It will demand its tribute, even if the president’s opponents, and the frequently toothless watchdogs of the mainstream media, do not.

And toothless they are. As the legendary Washington Post editor Ben Brad­lee observes, “Even the very best newspapers have never learned how to handle public figures who lie with a straight face. No editor would dare print this version of Nixon’s first comments on Watergate, for instance: ‘The Watergate break-in involved matters of national security, President Nixon told a national TV audience last night, and for that reason he would be unable to comment on the bizarre burglary. That is a lie.’”

Part of the explanation for this is deference to the office and the belief that the American public will not accept a mere reporter’s calling the president a liar. Another factor is the insular nature of Washington’s insider culture – a society in which it is considered a graver matter to call another person a liar than it is to actually be one. And, finally, with the rise of the Republican far right, many ideologically driven reporters view their allegiance to the cause of their allies as trumping that of their journalistic responsibilities. The journalist Robert Novak has admitted to me that during the Iran-Contra crisis that he did not mind at all being the conduit of official lies so long as they served the ideological causes in which he believed. In that particular case, Novak was explaining that he “admired” then-Reagan and now-Bush official Elliott Abrams for lying to him on his television program in order to hide the U.S. government’s role in support of the Contras. (Abrams was convicted of perjury but pardoned by President George H. W. Bush and hired and promoted by his son.)

Such deference – to say nothing of the ideological self-censorship – is not only not in the interest of the nation, it is a disservice to the president as well. Presidents do themselves no favors when they tell significant lies to the nation, and journalists do no favors to either party when they let those lies pass without comment. As Bradlee observes, “Just think for a minute how history might have changed if Americans had known then that their leaders felt the [Vietnam] war was going to hell in a handbasket? In the next seven years, thousands of American lives and more thousands of Asian lives would have been saved. The country might never have lost faith in its leaders.”

The virtue of truth in the American presidency had, for all practical purposes, become entirely operational. Whether its citizens were aware of it or not, the presidency now operated in a “post-truth” political environment. American presidents could no longer depend on the press – its powers and responsibilities enshrined in the First Amendment – to keep them honest. And the resulting death and destruction; the inexorable catastrophe we are currently experiencing in Iraq; and Bush’s inability to secure the trust of more than a small minority of Americans are just some examples of the price that reality is demanding in return."

- Eric Alterman (Excerpt: "Official Deception: When Presidents Lie, " In Character, Honesty, Spring2007 Image: -HAL-9000 artificial intelligence, 1968).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An Abuse of Reality: Ordained By God...

"So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home."

—Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Nation, quoted in Lee Sulzman, "Shawnee History" 1768-1813

"The American idea is revealed in the country's birth as a "city on a hill," an "inspirational notion" that resides "deep in the American psyche," and by "the distinctive spirit of American individualism and enterprise" demonstrated in the Western expansion. Journalist Geoffrey Hodgson, (author of The Myth of American Exceptionalism ) error, it seems, is that he is keeping to "the distortions of the American idea," "the abuse of reality."

Let us then turn to "reality itself": the "idea" of America from its earliest days.

The inspirational phrase "city on a hill" was coined by John Winthrop in 1630, borrowing from the Gospels, and outlining the glorious future of a new nation "ordained by God." One year earlier his Massachusetts Bay Colony created its Great Seal. It depicted an Indian with a scroll coming out of his mouth. On that scroll are the words "Come over and help us." The British colonists were thus pictured as benevolent humanists, responding to the pleas of the miserable natives to be rescued from their bitter pagan fate.

The Great Seal is, in fact, a graphic representation of "the idea of America," from its birth. It should be exhumed from the depths of the psyche and displayed on the walls of every classroom. It should certainly appear in the background of all of the Kim Il-Sung-style worship of that savage murderer and torturer Ronald Reagan, who blissfully described himself as the leader of a "shining city on the hill," while orchestrating some of the more ghastly crimes of his years in office, notoriously in Central America but elsewhere as well.

The Great Seal was an early proclamation of "humanitarian intervention," to use the currently fashionable phrase. As has commonly been the case since, the "humanitarian intervention" led to a catastrophe for the alleged beneficiaries. The first Secretary of War, General Henry Knox, described "the utter extirpation of all the Indians in most populous parts of the Union" by means "more destructive to the Indian natives than the conduct of the conquerors of Mexico and Peru."

Long after his own significant contributions to the process were past, John Quincy Adams deplored the fate of "that hapless race of native Americans, which we are exterminating with such merciless and perfidious cruelty... among the heinous sins of this nation, for which I believe God will one day bring [it] to judgement." The "merciless and perfidious cruelty" continued until "the West was won." Instead of God's judgment, the heinous sins today bring only praise for the fulfillment of the American "idea."

The conquest and settling of the West indeed showed that "individualism and enterprise," so praised by journalist Roger Cohen. Settler-colonialist enterprises, the cruelest form of imperialism, commonly do. The results were hailed by the respected and influential Senator Henry Cabot Lodge in 1898. Calling for intervention in Cuba, Lodge lauded our record "of conquest, colonization, and territorial expansion unequaled by any people in the 19th century."

-Noam Chomsky (Excerpt: "Why We Can't See The Trees Or The Forest - The Torture Memos and Historical Amnesia,", 5.19.2009. Image: The 1st Great Seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony , 1631 ) .

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New NeoCon Identities: The World Empire Crusade Hiding In Plain Sight...

Modern Caligulas:

"Just when we thought it was safe to project a sane and rational American foreign policy to the world; that old shape-shifting political chameleon, known as the modern neo-conservative movement has again reared its multi-faceted head.

The neo-cons seem to have re-organized themselves under the banners of various new think tanks and foreign policy configurations, after dumping the old PNAC (Project for a New American Century) letterhead.

Some examples of these newly organized neo-con think-tanks would include the Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan-headed, Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the Clifford May-headed Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the John Nagi-led Center for a New American Security, and the “liberal” John Podesta-led Center for American Progress (CAP). The rallying point around which these various neo-con configurations revolve is the Obama administration's military push into Afghanistan.

It seems that the Obama administration's escalation of military operations in the Afghan war, has given the opportunistic neo-cons the opening they needed to attempt to push forward their elitist, American world empire, based ideas and policy positions that many political pundits thought had died with the end of the Bush administration. The fact that a Democratic administration is in the Oval Office has absolutely no bearing on the neo-cons drive to attach themselves and their ideas to Obama's foreign policy initiatives; since historically the neo-con movement has attempted to infiltrate and influence both Democratic and Republican administrations.

It must be remembered that many of the most prominent members of the neo-con movement such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Elliot Abrams, started their political careers as Henry “Scoop” Jackson Democrats in the early 1970s, working on the late, hawkish pro-Zionist, Democratic senator's staff during the Republican Nixon administration.

According to a article in the April 20 issue of The American Conservative magazine by Michael Brendan Dougherty titled “Neoconned Again,” the new neo-con coming out party took place at the end of March, at a conference sponsored by the Foreign Policy Initiative think-tank, under the title, “Planning for Success in Afghanistan.”

According to Dougherty this conference was attended by a who's who of the neo-con movement in both its liberal and conservative wings. Attendees included Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, Scooter Libby, Max Boot, and members of the so-called liberal, George Soros-funded Center for American Progress, which according to its website, advocates an aggressive troop escalation in Afghanistan.

According to an article from the website titled, “Soros-Funded Democratic Idea Factory Becomes Obama Policy Font,” by Edwin Chen, the Center for American Progress has at least 10 “experts” advising the Obama administration, and may in fact be the most influential of the various think tanks jockeying to push policy positions on the new administration. Each one of these neo-con think tanks is trying to influence and to ultimately put itself in a position to control the foreign policy strategy of the executive branch of government.

Signs Of Resistance:

The success of the neo-cons in perpetuating their ideas and policies will depend on their ability to sway the thinking of President Obama and his administration, but there are signs President Obama may in fact be resisting the neo-con initiatives, and instead plotting an independent course in his foreign policy thinking. The President's video message to the people of Iran, and his visit to the nation of Turkey, where he stated that America is not at war with Islam, seem to fly in the face of the anti-Islam, “clash of civilizations” mindset of the neo-con war party's ability to sway the thinking of President Obama and his administration.

And perhaps still stinging from the attack and derailment of their nomination of Chas Freeman (because of his alleged pro-Palestinian foreign policy leanings) for director of national intelligence by the powerful Israeli lobby and its neo-con supporters—the Obama administration has embarked on an aggressive strategy to control the political debate in Congress regarding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In an article on the Israeli-based website titled, “Obama team readying for confrontation with Netanyahu,” writer Aluf Benn states, “In an unprecedented move, the Obama administration is readying for a possible confrontation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by briefing Democratic congressmen on the peace process and the positions of the new government in Israel regarding a two-state solution. The Obama administration is expecting a clash with Netanyahu over his refusal to support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In recent weeks, American officials have briefed senior Democratic congressmen and prepared the ground for the possibility of disagreements with Israel over the peace process. The preemptive briefing is meant to foil the possibility that Netanyahu may try to bypass the administration by rallying support in Congress.”

With Netanyahu scheduled to visit Washington, D.C. this month, the stage seems set for a major showdown.

The only way the neo-cons can succeed in steering American foreign policy towards their world view is to control the thinking of a gullible chief executive, along with key members of his administration; but with proper guidance, wisdom, and fortitude, maybe our new President can avoid their influence and forge a just and independent path."

-Robert Muhammad (Excerpt: They're Baaaack! Neo-Cons Re-Organize”, 5. 13. 2009. Image: - VioletPlanet, Marble bust of Roman Emperor Caligula aka Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Reign: AD 37 –AD 41, Getty Villa, Los Angeles, CA, 5.11.09).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Colonialist Conversions: Torture, Religion, Democracy & God...

"The special forces guys - they hunt men, basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down. Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom."

It's worse than you think.

Torture, religion, democracy, God. They're all part of the mixed-up, horrific business that George W. Bush unleashed in the Middle East and Central Asia, and that Barack Obama is struggling to control and rationalize. As the words above demonstrate, the 12th century is striving mightily to join hands with the 20th in the U.S. military: Unbridled religious arrogance is forging a link with high-tech weaponry and an unlimited defense budget.


The speaker, Lt. Col. Gary Hensley, the chief of U.S. military chaplains in Afghanistan was videotaped last year delivering a sermon at Bagram Air Base. Since Al Jazeera first broadcast the footage at the beginning of the week, it has spread widely on the Internet. (Video)

Like so much else that the Bush administration has bequeathed us, and the world - pre-emptive war and torture, for instance - this is nothing new, but suddenly it's overt. A U.S. military spokesman has denied that American soldiers are allowed to try to convert Afghans to Christianity - it violates Central Command's General Order No. 1 - and said that Hensley was quoted out of context. U.S. military spokesmen, of course, also routinely deny that U.S. bombing raids kill civilians.

And indeed, U.S. air strikes this week in a densely populated area in western Afghanistan's Farah Province, during a battle between Afghan soldiers and the Taliban, may have killed as many as 100 civilians, according to the New York Times. The Red Cross, the United Nations and the Afghan government are all expressing shock at the death toll, but our government will only acknowledge that it is "investigating the reports of civilian deaths," which is the standard, meaningless comment that reporters work into such stories, seemingly with no obligation to follow up. Forget about it and move on.

The possibility that we are - not officially but in the minds of many American soldiers and officers - waging a religious war that parallels the secular one, an Ann Coulter war ("We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity," Coulter wrote on Sept. 12, 2001), is both deeply disturbing and utterly appropriate. The arrogance required for both efforts is so similar. The line blurs for many of the participants.

What is the difference between believing one can bomb a country into democracy and any sort of armed, uniformed proselytizing?

Putting a religious spin on the war on terror may be an official no-no, but when I read about Bargram's "hounds of heaven" and other recent reports of the growing evangelical Christian influence in the U.S. military (such as Jeff Sharlet's stunning investigative piece in the May issue of Harper's, titled "Jesus Killed Mohammed"), I think first of the extraordinary Winter Soldier testimony I attended a year ago in Washington, D.C.vvThis testimony, sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War, and vastly underreported in the media, featured vet after vet giving agonized, conscience-wracked testimony on his or her training and service in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. If one word could describe the overarching theme of the four-day event, it might be "Dehumanization."

"In our boot camp," said former Marine Matthew Childers, "we sang cadences about killing people."

Occupation means implicit disrespect. The testimony went on and on, describing detainee abuse, humiliation and starvation; the terrorizing of families during house raids; the casual brutalities and killings at checkpoints; vandalism and joy-riding around the ruins of Babylon; the shooting of pets to relieve boredom. And this is the context in which we now hear about earnest American Christians harvesting the souls of Muslims. Let us bow our heads in prayer, America. The worst of who we are is STALKING THE WORLD with religious fervor.

-Robert C. Koehler ("The Hounds of Heaven",, 5.7.2009. Image -J. Keppler, "Consistency," Library of Congress, 1891).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Biocentrism: The Nature of The "Real" World? Life Creates The Universe...

The farther we peer into space, the more we realize that the nature of the universe cannot be understood fully by inspecting spiral galaxies or watching distant supernovas. It lies deeper. It involves our very selves.

This insight snapped into focus one day while one of us (Lanza) was walking through the woods. Looking up, he saw a huge golden orb web spider tethered to the overhead boughs. There the creature sat on a single thread, reaching out across its web to detect the vibrations of a trapped insect struggling to escape. The spider surveyed its universe, but everything beyond that gossamer pinwheel was incomprehensible. The human observer seemed as far-off to the spider as telescopic objects seem to us. Yet there was something kindred: We humans, too, lie at the heart of a great web of space and time whose threads are connected according to laws that dwell in our minds.

Is the web possible without the spider?

Are space and time physical objects that would continue to exist even if living creatures were removed from the scene?

Figuring out the nature of the real world has obsessed scientists and philosophers for millennia. Three hundred years ago, the Irish empiricist George Berkeley contributed a particularly prescient observation: The only thing we can perceive are our perceptions. In other words, consciousness is the matrix upon which the cosmos is apprehended. Color, sound, temperature, and the like exist only as perceptions in our head, not as absolute essences. In the broadest sense, we cannot be sure of an outside universe at all.

For centuries, scientists regarded Berkeley’s argument as a philosophical sideshow and continued to build physical models based on the assumption of a separate universe “out there” into which we have each individually arrived. These models presume the existence of one essential reality that prevails with us or without us. Yet since the 1920s, quantum physics experiments have routinely shown the opposite: Results do depend on whether anyone is observing. This is perhaps most vividly illustrated by the famous two-slit experiment. When someone watches a subatomic particle or a bit of light pass through the slits, the particle behaves like a bullet, passing through one hole or the other. But if no one observes the particle, it exhibits the behavior of a wave that can inhabit all possibilities—including somehow passing through both holes at the same time.

Some of the greatest physicists have described these results as so confounding they are impossible to comprehend fully, beyond the reach of metaphor, visualization, and language itself. But there is another interpretation that makes them sensible. Instead of assuming a reality that predates life and even creates it, we propose a biocentric picture of reality. From this point of view, life—particularly consciousness—creates the universe, and the universe could not exist without us.

Even the most fundamental elements of physical reality, space and time, strongly support a biocentric basis for the cosmos.

According to biocentrism, time does not exist independently of the life that notices it. The reality of time has long been questioned by an odd alliance of philosophers and physicists. The former argue that the past exists only as ideas in the mind, which themselves are neuro-electrical events occurring strictly in the present moment. Physicists, for their part, note that all of their working models, from Isaac Newton’s laws through quantum mechanics, do not actually describe the nature of time. The real point is that no actual entity of time is needed, nor does it play a role in any of their equations. When they speak of time, they inevitably describe it in terms of change. But change is not the same thing as time.

To measure anything’s position precisely, at any given instant, is to lock in on one static frame of its motion, as in the frame of a film. Conversely, as soon as you observe a movement, you cannot isolate a frame, because motion is the summation of many frames. Sharpness in one parameter induces blurriness in the other. Imagine that you are watching a film of an archery tournament. An archer shoots and the arrow flies. The camera follows the arrow’s trajectory from the archer’s bow toward the target. Suddenly the projector stops on a single frame of a stilled arrow. You stare at the image of an arrow in midflight. The pause in the film enables you to know the position of the arrow with great accuracy, but you have lost all information about its momentum. In that frame it is going nowhere; its path and velocity are no longer known. Such fuzziness brings us back to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which describes how measuring the location of a subatomic particle inherently blurs its momentum and vice versa.

All of this makes perfect sense from a biocentric perspective. Everything we perceive is actively and repeatedly being reconstructed inside our heads in an organized whirl of information. Time in this sense can be defined as the summation of spatial states occurring inside the mind. So what is real? If the next mental image is different from the last, then it is different, period. We can award that change with the word time, but that does not mean there is an actual invisible matrix in which changes occur. That is just our own way of making sense of things. We watch our loved ones age and die and assume that an external entity called time is responsible for the crime.

There is a peculiar intangibility to space, as well. We cannot pick it up and bring it to the laboratory. Like time, space is neither physical nor fundamentally real in our view. Rather, it is a mode of interpretation and understanding. It is part of an animal’s mental software that molds sensations into multidimensional objects.

Most of us still think like Newton, regarding space as sort of a vast container that has no walls. But our notion of space is false. Shall we count the ways?

1. Distances between objects mutate depending on conditions like gravity and velocity, as described by Einstein’s relativity, so that there is no absolute distance between anything and anything else.

2. Empty space, as described by quantum mechanics, is in fact not empty but full of potential particles and fields.

3. Quantum theory even casts doubt on the notion that distant objects are truly separated, since entangled particles can act in unison even if separated by the width of a galaxy.

Biocentrism should unlock the cages in which Western science has unwittingly confined itself. Allowing the observer into the equation should open new approaches to understanding cognition, from unraveling the nature of consciousness to developing thinking machines that experience the world the same way we do.

Biocentrism should also provide stronger bases for solving problems associated with quantum physics and the Big Bang. Accepting space and time as forms of animal sense perception (that is, as biological), rather than as external physical objects, offers a new way of understanding everything from the microworld (for instance, the reason for strange results in the two-slit experiment) to the forces, constants, and laws that shape the universe. At a minimum, it should help halt such dead-end efforts as string theory.

Above all, biocentrism offers a more promising way to bring together all of physics, as scientists have been trying to do since Einstein’s unsuccessful unified field theories of eight decades ago. Until we recognize the essential role of biology, our attempts to truly unify the universe will remain a train to nowhere.

-Robert Lanza and Bob Berman (Excerpt: "The Biocentric Universe Theory: Life Creates Time, Space, and the Cosmos Itself," Discover Magazine, 5.01.2009. Image: -Albert Bierstadt, "Figure Study for the Last Buffalo," 1888).