Monday, December 13, 2010

NEW REVELATIONS : Eisenhower's Military-Industrial Complex & The Absolute Psychosis Of Some.....

"A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both." -President Dwight D. Eisenhower

THE SEEDS: ( 1st correspondence between President Eisenhower's assistants).

"The White House
Washington
April 5, 1960

Memorandum To: Mac Moos

As the time for the President’s (Eisenhower) retirement draws near, I recommend to your re-reading the “Farewell Address” of George Washington. It is a beautifully wise and modest piece by a faithful public servant who loved his country.

I was struck by its relevance to our day: the call for Constitutional obedience; the warnings about sectionalism; the dangers of “over grown military establishments” but the necessity of maintaining a “respectable defensive posture.” the realistic attitude “that the love of power and the proneness to abuse it which dominate the human heart”; the unhappy tendency of mankind “to seek security and repose in the absolute of power of an individual”; the necessity for an enlightened public opinion; the ungenerous habit of one generation to spend beyond its means and to throw “upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear”; the broad diplomatic advice. And much more.

This address could furnish some fine ammunition over the year and perhaps serve as a guide for a final statement in January 1961? "


Frederic Fox"

THE DISCOVERY:

A few months ago, Grant Moos was closing his boathouse, near Hackensack, Minnesota, as he does every summer, tying up loose ends, sweeping up debris. This year, though, his sister Kathy insisted that it was finally time to do something about six cardboard boxes that for decades had been stacked in a corner next to a 7.5-horsepower Evinrude engine.

The boxes belonged to their father, Malcolm Moos, a journalist and academic who was a speechwriter for President Dwight Eisenhower. When Moos left the White House, in 1961, he donated some of his papers to the Eisenhower Presidential Library, in Abilene, Kansas, but he kept some, too.

The boxes were full of pine needles, acorns, and mouse droppings, and smelled of campfires. As Moos looked through the contents, he came across a batch of folders marked “Farewell Address.” He looked up the Eisenhower Library, and sent the boxes off to Abilene.

At first, the library did not know what it had. As archivists began to go through the papers, however, they discovered a trove of drafts, memos, and research materials that had long been missing from the record of one of the twentieth century’s most important speeches. For fifty years, Americans have regarded Eisenhower’s Farewell Address with a mixture of awe and bewilderment.

Speaking three nights before the end of his Presidency, in 1961, Eisenhower warned of a “scientific-technological √©lite” that would dominate public policy, and of a “military-industrial complex” that would claim “our toil, resources, and livelihood.”

In the decades since, Eisenhower’s warning has seemed prescient. The convergence of American military might and a powerful arms industry has characterized wars from Vietnam to Iraq, and the web of power that he described seems present in American society today. Still, generations have wondered what prompted the most celebrated general of the Second World War to leave the White House with a warning about the military. Eisenhower’s grandson David writes in a new memoir that Ike “developed a kind of split personality about the most controversial speech of his life,” downplaying its significance to old military and business friends while professing pride in it to others.

Some historians have regarded the Farewell Address as an afterthought, hastily composed at the end of 1960 as an adjunct to the 1961 State of the Union. Others have regarded it as the soulful expression of an aging President who was determined to warn the American people of dangers ahead. But the Moos papers make clear that the address, far from being an afterthought, was among the most deliberate speeches of Eisenhower’s Presidency. Regarded in his day as inarticulate and detached, Eisenhower in these papers is fully engaged, grappling with the language of the text and the radical questions that it raised.

Contrary to what some historians have speculated, it was not Moos or his assistant, Ralph Williams, who suggested a farewell address. On May 20, 1959, Moos was meeting with the President, when Eisenhower proposed an idea for “one speech he would like very much to make.” It was to be, Moos recorded, “a ten-minute farewell address to the Congress and the American people.” Moos deemed the idea “brilliant” and began making notes.

Eisenhower was a rigorous editor. Major speeches such as the State of the Union might be refined ten or twelve times. Even by those standards, however, the Farewell Address was special. Eisenhower personally rewrote the opening passages, and his brother Milton overhauled the entire speech. It was batted back and forth for months; in the end, it underwent twenty-nine drafts (21 previously unknown drafts were found in the boathouse papers).

The papers also debunk a myth. Some historians have credited Norman Cousins, the editor of The Saturday Review, with helping to shape the speech, in December of 1960. It’s true that Cousins called the President on December 14th, but “the idea of trying to get anyone like Norman Cousins working on it would be dreadful,” Eisenhower’s secretary wrote to Moos. “How in the world do we diplomatically thank him, but say No?”

One core idea dominates every version: the first draft described “the conjunction of a large and permanent military establishment and a large and permanent arms industry.” Policing it would require “all the organizing genius we possess” to insure “that liberty and security are both well served.” It added:

“We must be especially careful to avoid measures which would enable any segment of this vast military-industrial complex to sharpen the focus of its power.”

Through scores of revisions, that idea persisted. As delivered, the speech memorably read, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

At the library, the staff is ecstatic about the find. Karl Weissenbach, the director, predicted that the new documents will “change the history and interpretation of the most famous farewell address in American history.”

It’s also a reminder of the contingency of historical research. Had Moos vacationed in Florida rather than in Minnesota, the documents might have disintegrated. Instead, the memos and drafts survived, snug in a boathouse corner, rejoining history just in time for the fiftieth anniversary of Eisenhower’s address.

THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS HERE

CREDITS:

- Memo from (Eisenhower's chief speech writer) Malcolm Moos to ( Staff Assistant to the President) Frederic Fox re: the content of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s future Farewell Address: " Military-Industrial Complex" Speech, 1960. Article: -Jim Newton, Ike’s Speech, New Yorker Magazine, 12.10.10. Image: President Dwight D. Eisenhower's handwritten edits of final speech, NARA, 1960).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Every Government Is Run By Liars: Fairy Tales from High Places Does The Trick...

"Hope knows that unless we physically defy government control we are complicit in the violence of the state. All who resist keep hope alive. All who succumb to fear, despair and apathy become enemies of hope. They become, in their passivity, agents of injustice. If the enemies of hope are finally victorious, the poison of violence will become not only the language of power but the language of opposition. And those who resist with nonviolence are in times like these the thin line of defense between a civil society and its disintegration." -Chris Hedges, 11. 29. 2010.

"Compared to the kind of secret cables that WikiLeaks has just shared with the world, everyday public statements from government officials are exercises in make-believe. In a democracy, people have a right to know what their government is actually doing.

In a pseudo-democracy, a bunch of fairy tales from high places will do the trick.

Diplomatic facades routinely masquerade as realities. But sometimes the mask slips -- for all the world to see -- and that's what just happened with the humongous leak of State Department cables:

"Every government is run by liars," independent journalist I.F. Stone observed, "and nothing they say should be believed." The extent and gravity of the lying varies from one government to another -- but no pronouncements from world capitals should be taken on faith.

By its own account, the U.S. government has been at war for more than nine years now and there's no end in sight. Like the Pentagon, the State Department is serving the overall priorities of the warfare state. The nation's military and diplomacy are moving parts of the same vast war machinery. Such a contraption requires a muscular bodyguard of partial truths, deceptions and outright lies. With the USA's ongoing war efforts at full throttle, the contradictions between public rationales and hidden goals -- or between lofty rhetoric and grisly human consequences -- cannot stand the light of day.

Details of Washington's transactional alliances with murderous dictators, corrupt tyrants, warlords and drug traffickers are among its most closely guarded quasi-secrets. Most media accounts can be blown off by officialdom, but smoking-gun diplomatic cables are harder to ignore. With its massive and unending reliance on military force -- with a result of more and more carnage, leaving behind immense grief and rage in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere -- the U.S. government has colossal gaps to bridge between its public-relations storylines and its war-making realities.

The same government that devotes tremendous resources to inflicting military violence abroad must tout its humane bona fides and laudable priorities to the folks back home. But that essential PR task becomes more difficult when official documents to the contrary keep leaking. No government wants to face documentation of actual policies, goals and priorities that directly contradict its public claims of virtue. In societies with democratic freedoms, the governments that have the most to fear from such disclosures are the ones that have been doing the most lying to their own people.

The recent mega-leaks are especially jarring because of the extreme contrasts between the U.S. government's public pretenses and real-life actions. But the standard official response is to blame the leaking messengers.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information," the White House said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph Lieberman denounced "an outrageous, reckless and despicable action that will undermine the ability of our government and our partners to keep our people safe and to work together to defend our vital interests." For good measure, he twittered: "WikiLeaks' deliberate disclosure of these diplomatic cables is nothing less than an attack on our national security."

But what kind of "NATIONAL SECURITY" can be built on duplicity from a government that is discredited and refuted by its own documents?

CREDITS:

Norman Solomon (“WikiLeaks: Demystifying “Diplomacy,” CommonDreams.org, 11.29.2010. Image: Artwork for the Stephen King Dark Tower series: The Crimson King).

Monday, November 15, 2010

HELEN THOMAS SPEAKS: "There Is No Real Freedom of Speech In The U.S.A."

If we care about the children, the grandchildren, the future generations, we need to make sure that they do not become the cannon fodder of the future. - Helen Thomas, (Journalist, White House Press Corps, 1943-2010).



VIOLETPLANET SAYS: "Abuse of The 1st Amendment is alive and well... but...not only in regards to the above subject matter. I ask you ALL just to turn on the television and watch the 6:00 pm INFOTAINMENT broadcast disguised as NEWS. Glenn Beck comes immediately to mind. Propaganda is a scourge. Question everything ! It is our responsibility as American Citizens to ensure we know fact from fantasy. SEEK and YE shall FIND. You only have to SEEK to FIND. As Robert McNamara once said ( Post-Vietnam War no less) : "Belief and Seeing Are Both Often Wrong." What matters is "reality" which in this case can be interpreted as simple human decency whether you like it or not.

CREDITS: Real News Network,
November, 2010.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

American De-Evolution: Tribalism, Extremism & The New Normal...

“We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.” - H.P Lovecraft.

The “animal spirits” of which Keynes spoke are on the prowl across the United States. Their mood is ugly. The spirits are wary and troubled. Corporations and individuals are hoarding cash, when they have any, because they’re not buying into the recovery.

On a weeklong visit, I found a mood of deep unease in an America that seems to have descended into tribalism — not ethnic, but political, economic and social. Uncertainty is pervasive. The government’s rescue of Wall Street combined with the acute difficulties of a middle class struggling to get by on stagnant or falling incomes has sharpened resentments.

This is not a momentary phenomenon. Nobody seems to think unemployment is going to fall significantly from 9.6 percent — a level more often associated with France — in the near future. Get used to the new normal.

I spoke to a retired Wall Street executive who got out a few years back and set up a small business where he had to make payroll (sobering), but was freed from the debilitating short-termism of financial institutions that, over his career, had become dominated by traders “who look at economic opportunity rather than economic conditions.” He said the final straw came in 2002. Top executives at the bank where he worked gathered to discuss their bonuses. The issue before them was whether to maintain those bonuses in a time of economic contraction, which would require firing 5 percent of the workforce, or take a 25 percent bonus cut, which would allow those jobs to be kept. “The guy running the meeting asked for a show of hands on who would accept a reduced bonus,” he said. “There were 30 of us in the room. Three raised their hands. I was one of them.”

The job losses went through, this executive left, and the bank today is still trying to claw out from its uncontrolled excess.

America is a land of associations. Solidarity has not vanished from the land. But it’s in retreat. None of those guys who wanted all their yummy money was anything but rich. Fragmentation holds sway. The stock market used to be a fair proxy for the state of the economy. Now it’s a market of traders, not investors. They want to know what the spread is today and tomorrow; they can make money on the way up or down; they care far less about U.S.A. Inc.

So the market goes where it goes — up of late but largely directionless (which makes it harder on those up-or-down traders) — while out on Main Street the struggle to make family payroll continues. People work longer hours, they juggle how to cover their kids’ needs, how to de-leverage just a little — and they’re still meant to “consume” for the economy’s sake.

The share of national income held by the top 1 percent of American families has doubled in recent decades to 20 percent. That’s a huge shift. I spoke to Doug Severance, a Vietnam vet who’s a hotel employee in Aspen, Colorado. “When I moved here in 1984 we were all family,” he said. “Now either you arrive in a Lear Jet or you’re a servant.”

Obama hope has dissipated in short order. He’s not entirely to blame and he’s not blameless. The exclamation from Velma Hart, a black Obama supporter, at a recent town hall meeting — “I’m exhausted of defending you,” — struck a national chord because so many people feel the same thing.

The policy debate in the United States is head-spinning. Nobody knows if there’s going to be more fiscal stimulus, after the first $787 billion, or how a row over taxes will end. Under an Obama proposal, Bush-era tax cuts are due to expire at year-end for affluent couples and small business owners earning over $250,000. Republicans are digging in, saying it’s crazy to raise taxes in a faltering economy.

It’s not crazy. Ending the tax cuts for the rich is a minimum signal for a divided land, a statement that the two Americas are acquainted with each other. But with Obama facing a stinging midterm defeat, it looks like a long shot. What is needed above all is some clarity and sense of direction — the kind Cameron has given in London and booming China consistently applies.

Without that expect the animal spirits to keep on hoarding, an inward-looking America bent on retrenchment, and a new normal that lasts and lasts...

VIOLETPLANET SAYS: ...and nothing lasts forever. Extremism is on the rise from religion to politics. The public education system ? A travesty of epic proportions. The news media is no longer news but a cross between "infotainment" and blatant propaganda which the majority buy into without question and... finally, according to the Supreme Court, corporations are people now. The end ? At this rate, it will not be a happy one. Soon...time to fly.

CREDITS:

-Roger Cohen, (Excerpt: “The New American Normal,” New York Times, 9.27.10. Image: -Oakland_Kate, "Hominids Out For A Stroll," 2010 ).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Stick To The Devil, To The Gods Of The Market Place, The Fire Would Certainly Burn....

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race, I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.

Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall, And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all. We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn

That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn: But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind, So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,

Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshiped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbor and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wobbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.

CREDITS:
-Rudyard Kipling (“Gods of the Copybook Headings”, 1919. Kipling: 1865-1936: Best known for his works of children's fiction: "The Jungle Book" (1894) Also, many short stories, including "The Man Who Would Be King" (1888). Image: -George Yoshitake: capturing an atomic explosion at a test site in the Nevada desert in 1957. Much of these photographers work has been declassified since 1997).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

From Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama: Tinkerbell, Warrior Kings & A Rotating Cast of Hacks...

The devices employed in U.S. election cycles and its national politics, in general, are akin to the dramatic conventions of children's theatre. Every two to four years, voters are instructed to clap their hands and believe in Tinker Bell. "Children, you have to believe -- you really, really have to believe in Tinker Bell." But behind the stagecraft is oligarchy. President Obama took millions from Goldman Sachs, et al. If there is a Captain Hook in this show, it is those Wall Street pirates who threw the global economy to the crocodiles for their ill-gotten gains.

Of course, this is a tired, old show, riddled with shopworn devices, performed by a rotating cast of hacks.

Ronald Reagan set the fool's gold standard of a president playacting the role of populist, matinee hero -- Clinton, Bush, and Obama all learned from him -- as, all the while, he, in reality, went about the business of protecting and enhancing the holdings of the moneyed elite.

In Reagan's case, this con game was both an act of inspired career advancement and banal casuistry. Reagan, B-grade actor that he was, was never deep enough to harbor any belief he wasn't paid to evince. By professional necessity, he convinced himself he believed those bright and shining lies and polished platitudes he pitched to a public of credulous marks; for this is the mode of mind of effective salesmen and good showmen ... having the ability to conflate shallow self interest with the good of all.

Such self-deception -- played out as public legerdemain and state stagecraft -- is now the modus operandi of media age presidencies. The effect of this transformation, from executive gravitas to virtual playacting, has been somewhat less than salubrious for the health of the republic. When, for example, an American city drowns in floodwater and Americans are drowning in economic woes, U.S. presidents know how to act like a president -- but not act as president. The soundbites make the man; not the man makes the soundbites.

Thus far, Obama's role has been to front the status quo. Whose interest do you think he had in mind when he picked Larry Summers and Tim Geithner as his top economic advisors? Hint: not those who clutch a subway strap nor sit stranded in freeway traffic, in bank-financed motor vehicles, on their daily commute to and from work.

Presidents, as is the case with all people, internalize the social and cultural architecture of their times. Reagan, the actor, had to find a way to believe what movie industry scriptwriters and film directors wanted from him insofar as the creation of character -- and, during the cold war and McCarthy era witchhunts, when G.E. and other defense industry giants started writing his checks (after his movie career died a lackluster death) he performed his role as resolute cold warrior as requested. And he, as has every president since, became a shill and enabler of the national security state.

Barack Obama's transformation from progressive hope-monger to status quo water-carrier should not come as a shock. It would be nearly impossible for the US populace, chief executives included, not to have internalized the tenets of the corporate capitalist/consumer empire. This corporate structure is as pervasive internally as it is extant. It exists as both outer architecture and inner psychological imprinting.

Therefore, corporatism is as real to us as the deep forests and its woodland gods were to European pagans and The Church and its dogma was to the peasants of the Dark and Middle Ages.

The circumstances of the present era, like the ancient belief in the acts of self-involved gods whose doings were heedless to the fate of mere mortals, are larger than us and will not cede to our demands to behave with compassion or even sanity.

This unease contributes to a desperate fantasy of the presidency as deus ex machina. The right's deification of Reagan cast the fantasy into the realm of bughouse raving: The dead president as savor zombie. The belief that Ronald Reagan brought down the Soviet Union with 1940's era movie jibes and bromides is such a preposterous fantasy ... that it evokes one of my own:

Ronald Reagan, endlessly imprisoned in a soundbite loop in Hell, throwing back his shoulders, doing that portrayal of manly resolve he wore out during his time in office ... then bandying into the indifference of eternity, this variation of his patented platitude, "Mr. Devil, tear down this wall of fire."

What is the emotional toil taken by the reality that in life, unlike theatre, there will be no sudden plot reversal brought about by a device of deus ex machina? In these desperate imaginings, we demand our president both lay on hands to heal the wounds inflicted by capitalism and smite our perceived enemies abroad. We insist he be not only a steely eyed warrior-king but our collective killer Christ.

Democratic presidents, and their handlers and advisers, become possessed of this errant archetype as well. Hence, according to the fantasy, to be viable as commander-in-chief, they are driven to prove their toughness, preferably, in some he-man display of resolute stupidity. They must prove they have a pair of killer/redeemer god balls -- which might be termed, Christesticles -- by bombing somebody -- anybody. At present, it appears this fraternity of hubris-blinded killer clowns has Iran in their cross hairs.

The act of imagining enemies serves as distraction from the angst arising from the vast economic inequities of life in the contemporary US. This is the good versus evil, dramatic conventions of the children's theatre of our politics: We boo the villains -- and are instructed to clap our hands to bring about an intervention by supernatural forces ... In this case, in the form of an action hero/magical being to do our killing: a deity -- who is part Tinker Bell, part predator drone.

But our situation is closer to that of the flawed protagonists in Waiting For Godot -- Samuel Becket's brilliant take on the self-deception at work within the alienated hearts of those who believe their suffering will be assuaged by the arrival of a god-like being. The last lines and final stage instructions of the play are emblematic of the Obama presidency:

VLADIMIR: Well? Shall we go?

ESTRAGON: Yes, let's go.

(Stage direction: They do not move.)

Obama and the Democrats do not move. They do not act. They do not govern. They do not serve their constituents.

Although, in reality, they do serve their true constituents ... the corporate elite -- the forces behind the rising level of authoritarian control over the lives of the people of the nation, both of ordinary citizens and the political class. In situations of veiled coercion, where unspoken threats to one's economic security and social standing are the primary motivating factors determining an individual's response to an exploitive system, there is no need to threaten potential dissenters with crude, old school totalitarian methods of repression such as forced deportment to labor and reeducation camps. In the class stratified, debt shackled US work force, where the personal consequences of financial upheaval are devastating, the implicit threat of being cast into the nation's urban gulag archipelago of homelessness coerces most into compliance with the dictates of the corporate oligarchs.

The effects are insidious. In such an environment, there is no call for the Sturm und Drang of mass spectacle, replete with blazing torches and blown banners hoisted by serried ranks of jut jawed, jack-booted ubermensch: corporatism establishes an authoritarian order by way of a series of overt bribes and tacit threats. This social and cultural criteria causes an individual to become cautious. A Triumph of the bland reigns. Obama's bland, non-threatening charm was cultivated in this hybrid, corporate soil.

As is the case with Obama, corporatism demands employees (and Obama is first among us underlings) render themselves fecklessly pleasant. This is the mandatory mode of being demanded of corporate hires -- self-annihilation by habitual amiability. And Barack Obama has perfected the form.

In his memoir, Dreams From My Father, Obama stated that he learned early: Never scare old, white people ... that is a good description of how he has dealt with BP and the banksters, and all the other old white men in their perches of privilege and power.

Obama, as was the case with Bill Clinton, will not challenge the corporate oligarchs. Both he and Clinton are gifted, intelligent men, but are products of their time. They are men of, what was once termed, "modest birth" who -- out necessity to rise past the circumstances of their origins -- studied, internalized, and made allegiance to the corporate structure. Why? Because, in the age of corporate oligarchy, they knew the only way to rise to power would be to serve its interests. In contrast, FDR came from the ruling class; he knew their ways ... wasn't tempted by the rewards and adulation that come with privilege. He was born into it, could never lose its advantages, and it held no novelty for him.

I'm not positing Clinton was simply a shallow narcissist, as was a fashionable invective aimed at his hulking frame and over-sized persona during his tenure as POTUS ... such palaver was so much shadow projection on the part of the vampiric careerists of the Washington-New York nexus of blood-sucking media undead. Rather, Clinton was a big talent. He was Byronic in his expansive nature. And like Byron he could claim, in all honesty, he could love a thousand women (and not only women, but varieties of constituents) in a thousand different ways, all at once. He was a romantic at heart in an age of crackpot realists. He was a large presence in a small-minded time. And this is how his trouble in the 1990s, and ours, in the present time, began.

When the Cold War ended, and the arrogant fantasies of neoliberal capitalism were ascendant, virtuoso of the zeitgeist that Clinton was, his prodigious wings caught those heady updrafts and he took the nation on an Icarian flight of Reaganesque economic deregulation, that would, later, contribute to the spiraling fall -- known, at present, as "the economic downturn."

Clinton could have used some saturnine apprehension regarding the dark side of capitalism, rather than the intoxication gained from the provisional, mutually serving alliances he made with his Wall Street bubble salesmen buddies, Rubin, Summers, and Geithner.

Clinton's periodic, erotic contretemps were not the problem; it was his and his advisor's flights of economic fancy that had real consequences for those of us who live at ground level among the debris and ash resultant from the inevitable fiery crash of their vanity and cupidity.

Enter Obama when the bubble burst. The stage is set for sweeping reform. Instead, we have received faux populist bromides, as all the while, behind the scenes, he has gone about the business of accommodation, capitulation, and general lickspittle boot-buffing of the corporate class.

If you listen closely, you might hear, all the way from the realm of the damned below, Ronald Reagan cackling in glee over it with his lower order demon companions from within their eternal prison of flames.

CREDITS:

-Phil Rockstroh ( "Part Tinker Bell, Part Predator Drone: The Fantasy of the Presidency as Deus ex Machina," CommonDreams.Org, 8.17.2010. Image: -Eugene Lerner, "On the 6th day", 2008 ).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

HISTORY REPEATING: U.S. Justice & The CIA - American Angels Of Death...

"The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it." Dr. Josef Mengele (1945 ).

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that physicians with the CIA's Office of Medical Services (OMS) played an even greater role in facilitating the torture of detainees than was previously recognized.

As described in the study, "In 2003, partially in response to a CIA Inspector General investigation that questioned the use of enhanced interrogation methods and criticized the agency’s failure to consult with OMS about the risks to detainees of waterboarding, OMS physicians assumed another role, providing opinions to the agency and lawyers whether the techniques used would be expected to cause severe pain or suffering and thus constitute torture."

This advisory function came in addition to the physicians' previous involvement in the torture of detainees through performing medical evaluations before and after interrogation, monitoring waterboarding sessions, and collecting information on the effectiveness and risks of various techniques.

The study, titled "Roles of CIA Physicians in Enhanced Interrogation and Torture of Detainees," was authored by Leonard S. Rubinstein, the president of Physicians for Human Rights, and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, a former Army psychiatrist who is now with the Center for Public Health and Human Rights. It is based on a previously secret document from 2004, laying out OMS guidelines for detainee interrogation, which was released by the Obama administration.

In an article for Harper's, human rights lawyer Scott Horton notes that the JAMA study makes it apparent that the OMS physicians did not merely offer a medical opinion as to what constituted torture:

"gave their bosses exactly what was expected of them: a green light to torture."

The study emphasizes that even though OMS approved the use of enhanced interrogation methods subject to "medical limitations," those limitations took no account of actual pain and suffering and were merely calculated to minimize the chances of doing permanent physical damage.

They "included durational limits for exposure to a specified temperature, either up to the time hypothermia would be expected to develop or on evidence of hypothermia; body weight loss of 10% or evidence of significant malnutrition as a result of dietary restrictions; and exposure to noise just under the decibel levels associated with permanent hearing loss. Stress positions were permitted for up to 48 hours provided the detainee’s hands were no higher than the head, weight was borne by lower extremities, and preexisting injuries were not aggravated. ... The OMS guidelines also advised that emergency resuscitation equipment be available when waterboarding was used."

Although the guidelines specify they: "the detainee's physical condition must be such that these interventions will not have lasting effect," they IGNORE professional literature on the potential health risks of the techniques, citing instead such sources as "'Wilderness Medicine' 4th Ed., Ch 6 -- Accidental Hypothermia."
"The duplicity in this affair is amazingly circular.," Horton writes. "The Justice Department’s torture lawyers relied on the CIA’s torture doctors for the conclusion that specific techniques did not produce 'severe pain' that ran afoul of the criminal law prohibition on torture; the CIA doctors relied on the Justice Department lawyers for the same conclusion. It looks like a compact, and an alert prosecutor would no doubt call it... A JOINT CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE. It’s hard to see at this point whose behavior was the more ethically odious, though evidence suggests that both engaged in professional misconduct so egregious as to warrant formal disciplinary proceedings."

"The torture doctors expect to have their identities protected, and thus to ESCAPE the natural consequences of their gross professional misconduct," Horton concludes: "This helps us understand why senior figures in the intelligence community are today ferociously pressuring the Justice Department to criminalize anyone who attempts to discover the identities of those involved. They assert that those identified would be terrorist targets. In fact, those who are unmasked face likely professional ethics proceedings, as well as the long-term risk of criminal prosecution, particularly if they ever venture beyond the borders of the United States."

-Muriel Kane (Study: CIA doctors ‘gave green light to torture’,RawStory.com, 8.5.2010. Image: Dr. Josef Mengele in his laboratory, 1945 ).

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Israeli Neocon Fantasy: A Paroxysm of U.S. Military Violence at the Promised Land's Bidding...

"The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war that we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living." -General Omar Bradley, U.S. Army Field Commander, Battle of Normandy, WWII 1944.

Reuel Marc Gerecht's screed justifying an Israeli bombing attack on Iran coincides with the opening of the new Israel lobby campaign marked by the introduction of House Resolution 1553 expressing full support for such an Israeli attack.

What is important to understand about this campaign is that the aim of Gerecht and of the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu is to support an attack by Israel so that the United States can be drawn into direct, full-scale war with Iran.

That has long been the Israeli strategy for Iran, because Israel cannot fight a war with Iran without full U.S. involvement. Israel needs to know that the United States will finish the war that Israel wants to start.

Gerecht openly expresses the hope that any Iranian response to the Israeli attack would trigger full-scale U.S. war against Iran. "If Khamenei has a death-wish, he'll let the Revolutionary Guards mine the strait, the entrance to the Persian Gulf. It might be the only thing that would push President Obama to strike Iran militarily...." Gerecht suggest that the same logic would apply to any Iranian "terrorism against the United States after an Israeli strike," by which we really means any attack on a U.S. target in the Middle East.

Gerecht writes that Obama might be "obliged" to threaten major retaliation "immediately after an Israeli surprise attack."

That's the key sentence in this very long Gerecht argument. Obama is not going to be "obliged" to join Israeli aggression against Iran unless he feels that domestic political pressures to do so are too strong to resist. That's why the Israelis are determined to line up a strong majority in Congress and public opinion for war to foreclose Obama's options.

In the absence of confidence that Obama would be ready to come into the war fully behind Israel, there cannot be an Israeli strike.

Gerecht's argument for war relies on a fanciful nightmare scenario of Iran doling out nuclear weapons to Islamic extremists all over the Middle East. But the real concern of the Israelis and their lobbyists, as Gerecht's past writing has explicitly stated, is to destroy Iran's Islamic regime in a paroxysm of U.S. military violence.

Gerecht first revealed this Israeli-neocon fantasy as early as 2000, before the Iranian nuclear program was even taken seriously, in an essay written for a book published by the Project for a New American Century. Gerecht argued that, if Iran could be caught in a "terrorist act," the U.S. Navy should "retaliate with fury". The purpose of such a military response, he wrote, should be to "strike with truly devastating effect against the ruling mullahs and the repressive institutions that maintain them."

And lest anyone fail to understand what he meant by that, Gerecht was more explicit:

"That is, no cruise missiles at midnight to minimize the body count. The clerics will almost certainly strike back unless Washington uses overwhelming, paralyzing force."

In 2006-07, the Israeli war party had reason to believed that it could hijack U.S. policy long enough to get the war it wanted, because it had placed one of its most militant agents, David Wurmser, in a strategic position to influence that policy.

We now know that Wurmser, formerly a close adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu and during that period Vice President Dick Cheney's main adviser on the Middle East, urged a policy of overwhelming U.S. military force against Iran. After leaving the administration in 2007, Wurmser revealed that he had advocated a U.S. war on Iran, not to set back the nuclear program but to achieve regime change.

"Only if what we do is placed in the framework of a fundamental assault on the survival of the regime will it have a pick-up among ordinary Iranians," Wurmser told The Telegraph. The U.S. attack was not to be limited to nuclear targets but was to be quite thorough and massively destructive. "If we start shooting, we must be prepared to fire the last shot. Don't shoot a bear if you're not going to kill it."

Of course, that kind of war could not be launched out of the blue. It would have required a casus belli to justify a limited initial attack that would then allow a rapid escalation of U.S. military force. In 2007, Cheney acted on Wurmser's advice and tried to get Bush to provoke a war with Iran over Iraq, but it was foiled by the Pentagon

As Wurmser was beginning to whisper that advice in Cheney's ear in 2006, Gerecht was making the same argument in The Weekly Standard:

"Bombing the nuclear facilities once would mean we were declaring war on the clerical regime. We shouldn't have any illusions about that. We could not stand idly by and watch the mullahs build other sites. If the ruling mullahs were to go forward with rebuilding what they'd lost--and it would be surprising to discover the clerical regime knuckling after an initial bombing run--we'd have to strike until they stopped. And if we had any doubt about where their new facilities were (and it's a good bet the clerical regime would try to bury new sites deep under heavily populated areas), and we were reasonably suspicious they were building again, we'd have to consider, at a minimum, using special-operations forces to penetrate suspected sites."

The idea of waging a U.S. war of destruction against Iran is obvious lunacy, which is why U.S. military leaders have strongly resisted it both during the Bush and Obama administrations. But Gerecht makes it clear that Israel believes it can use its control of Congress to pound Obama into submission. Democrats in Congress, he boasts "are mentally in a different galaxy than they were under President Bush." Even though Israel has increasingly been regarded around the world as a rogue state after its Gaza atrocities and the commando killings of unarmed civilians on board the Mavi Marmara, its grip on the U.S. Congress appears as strong as ever

Moreover, polling data for 2010 show that a majority of Americans have already been manipulated into supporting war against Iran - in large part because more than two-thirds of those polled have gotten the impression that Iran already has nuclear weapons. The Israelis are apparently hoping to exploit that advantage.
"If the Israelis bomb now, American public opinion will probably be with them," writes Gerecht. "Perhaps decisively so." Netanyahu must be feeling good about the prospects for pressuring Barack Obama to join an Israeli war of aggression against Iran.

It was Netanyahu, after all, who declared in 2001, "I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won't get in the way."

-Gareth Porter ("The Real Aim of Israel’s Bomb Iran Campaign, CommonDreams.Org, 7.30.2010. Image: -Kumar Corcoran, Jesus With A Sniper Rifle, 2010 ).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

ON JOURNALISM: HELEN THOMAS - She Dared To Question & The Hypocrisy Of The News Media...

"You don't spread democracy through the barrel of a gun. " -Helen Thomas, Journalist & White House Correspondent, 1960-2010.

By now you’ve heard: pioneering Washington journalist Helen Thomas has, thanks to a viral video interview, been pilloried for offensive comments about Israel and ousted from the press corps’ inner sanctum. Her words were definitely incendiary: Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Europe and America.

But the reaction suggests that the Rabbilive ambush was just a catalyst for a gathering storm of political enmity. She was after all, one of the few hard-nosed reporters (and women) in the briefing room who ruthlessly challenged the White House on foreign policy issues.

To George W. Bush’s former press secretary Ari Fleischer comments were tantamount to a call for genocide: “She is advocating religious cleansing. How can Hearst stand by her? If a journalist, or a columnist, said the same thing about blacks or Hispanics, they would already have lost their jobs.”

Getting fired for bigoted words? Somehow that fate has not befallen the cabal of right-wing Bloviators who have literally built their careers pushing the propaganda war against Latinos, other people of color, gay people, liberals and anyone else they disagree with. They’re not journalists in the formal sense, but their frothing tirades, word-for-word, arguably wield more influence over the corporate news cycle.

In contrast to Thomas-Gate, though, Limbaugh and friends don’t need to be ambushed and exposed by rogue YouTube muckrakers. They’ve spewed their venom to millions daily on television and radio, backed by advertisers, media executives and an audience that happily blinds itself to political hypocrisy

At the Huffington Post, some cooler heads have spoken in Thomas's defense while criticizing her remarks, noting a double standard in how Americans talk about who should “get the hell out.”

On moral relativism, Paul Jay of Real News argues:

“The obvious comparison is asking all European Americans to "get the hell out", and leave the land to its rightful owners, Native Americans. One could argue Mexican Americans might have an argument to stay in certain parts of the country. The European migration to America isn't such a stretch if one thinks about
it. Colonialism makes use of people fleeing religious persecution to populate their new possession . . .”

At any rate, we all know what's going on here. The hyper-pro-Israel lobby, in both parties, hasn't much liked the fact that Helen Thomas dares to speak up and question that most sacred of topics, and right from the front row of the White House Press Gallery.

James Zogby of the Arab American Institute puts Thomas's comments in perspective and calls out the right-wingers, embodied in the character assassination of Ari Fleischer, for its far more virulent rhetoric against people of color, gays, and, oops, yes, Jews:

“Where was their indignation when Rush Limbaugh was making disgraceful and insulting comments about African Americans, gays, Muslims, and women and then was hosted and toasted at the White House? And did they speak out when Pat Robertson was making bizarre pronouncements connecting the devastation of Katrina or Ariel Sharon's stroke with God's justice? If I thought they understood shame, I would advise them to feel some.”

When Lou Dobbs, Glen Beck and company have likened immigration to an illegal invasion of America's God-given dominion, they're just brandishing their patriotism, right? As opposed to the misguided journalists who dare question an actual occupation perpetuated by the U.S., in another part of the world. Granted, it's hard to tell who's blaming who for what sometimes, as right-wingers tend to employ the same terminology when debating immigration and America's Muslim and Arab adversaries: invaders, terrorists, conquerors, and the occasional fascism reference.

Language is a funny thing. With all her experience in the White House press corps, Helen Thomas should have known what words are off limits. There are some lines you just can't cross in the media... unless ( of course ) you're the one who gets to write the rules.

CREDITS: -Michelle Chen ("Helen Thomas Pays for Crossing a Line Others Trample", RaceWire.Com & The Applied Research Center, 6.9.2010. Image: - Photographer Unknown, President John F. Kennedy interviewed by Helen Thomas, 1960s).

Monday, May 31, 2010

21st Century Society: The Empathy Deficit, Children & The Rise of Narcissism...

"A morality practiced without empathy squanders the conscience." -Howard Hall

College students who hit campus after 2000 have empathy levels that are 40% lower than those who came before them, according to a stunning new meta-analysis presented to at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science by University of Michigan researchers. It includes data from over 14,000 students.

Although we argue in "Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential--and Endangered" that modern child-rearing practices are putting empathy at risk, this is the largest study presented so far to quantify the decline.

Previous research done by psychologist Jean Twenge had measured what she labeled a "narcissism epidemic," with more students showing selfish qualities and with increases in traits that can lead to a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. That is a condition in which people are so self-involved that other people are no more than objects to reflect their glory.

But I was less than convinced by that data because some of the measures of narcissism--statements like "I am a special person," might reflect a lifetime spent in classrooms aimed at raising self-esteem rather than a true increase in self-centeredness. The survey on empathy used in this study--which you can take for yourself: HERE however, is another matter.

While it so obviously measures empathy that you could easily game it to make yourself look kinder and nicer, the fact that today's college students don't even feel compelled to do that suggests that the study is measuring something real. If young people don't even care about seeming uncaring, something is seriously wrong. Another survey in the research found that people also think that others around them are less compassionate.

Why might today's students be less empathetic than their elders?

One of the culprits we identify in "Born for Love" is the way that they spent most of their time early in life. Today's kids play outdoors much less, and they spend far less time in unstructured activity with others than prior generations.

Without unstructured free time with playmates, children simply don't get to know each other very well. And you can't learn to connect and care if you don't practice these things. Free play declined by at least a third between 1981 and 2003, right when the kids who hit college in 2000 and later were growing up.

Worse, much of the time that used to be spent playing outdoors is now spent in front of screens. Television, obviously cannot teach empathy. Even nonviolent kids' TV, research finds, is filled with indirect aggression and linked to increased real-world bullying. Though social media is an improvement on passive TV viewing and can sometimes aid real friendships, it is still less rich than face to face interaction. This is especially important for the youngest children whose brains are absorbing social information that will shape the way they connect for the rest of their lives.

Another factor is the "self esteem movement" and its pernicious notion that "you can't love anyone else until you love yourself." Today's kids grew up with parents who were taught by therapists and self help groups attended by millions that caring too much for other people or having your happiness tied to theirs was "co dependence," and that people should be able to be happy on their own, needing no one.

In reality, we need each other to be both mentally and physically healthy. Solitary confinement, in fact, is one of the most stressful experiences someone can undergo: this wouldn't be true if most people were happy without social contact. Normal people kept in complete isolation can become psychotic in as little as a few days.

Further, unless you have been loved well from infancy, loving others is difficult--children who are resilient to early trauma are those who find others to care for them to make up for abusive or neglectful caregivers. If the only love they get is from a therapist or teacher who tells them to love themselves before trying to make other connections, they are extremely unlikely to recover.

Perhaps an even larger factor is the merging of the left's "do your own thing" individualism with the right's glorification of brutal competition and unfettered markets. You wind up with a society that teaches kids that "you're on your own" and that helping others is for suckers. A country where the mystical new age "Secret" is that the rich deserve their wealth and got it by being positive and good--while the poor, too, get what's coming to them because they didn't try hard enough.

At the same time, deregulation and reduced taxes on the wealthy from Reagan onwards produced massive growth in economic inequality, which is probably also a critical part of empathy's decline. Empathy requires an ability to understand others--it's easiest to do this when you spend time them regularly and know how to read them.

Economic inequality, however, by radically separating the rich from the poor and shrinking the middle class, literally physically isolates us from each other and provides few opportunities for connection or understanding. If you spend your time in limos and gated communities and first class, you aren't likely ever to meet poor people who aren't there to serve you; outside that context, you won't know how to relate to them.

And then, if you know nothing about someone's real situation, it's easy to caricature it as being defined by bad choices and laziness, rather than understand the constraints and limits the economy itself imposes. Seeing yourself doing so well and others doing poorly tends to bolster ideas that "you deserve your wealth," simply because guilt otherwise becomes uncomfortable, even unbearable.

In reality, self esteem doesn't come from thinking positive or telling yourself that you are special or worthy, though telling kids they are rotten and selfish can surely destroy it. And, sadly, you can be optimistic all you like in an economy with 20% unemployment and still not get a job through no fault of your own.

So what can be done about what President Obama as a candidate presciently labeled the "empathy deficit"?

The key thing is to recognize the value of relationships and the fact that we are not independent but interdependent. We all need each other. We're actually both happier and healthier if we're kind.

Countries with high economic inequality tend to have high crime, high corruption, low levels of trust, high infant mortality and lowered life expectancy-- as well as difficulty growing their economies. In contrast, those with lower inequality have higher happiness, greater health, lower crime, better growth and longer life.

And so, if, say, health care for all or better unemployment benefits or higher quality schools means that those lucky enough to have well-paying jobs have to pay higher taxes, well, is that really so terrible?

If we continue to believe that it is, if we continue to split into "us" v. "them," "haves" v. "have nots," the empathy decline will undoubtedly continue and we will face a meaner, nastier world in which ideas about humans being selfish and competitive rather than caring become a self fulfilling prophecy by crushing the tendency toward kindness with which we are all born.

CREDITS: -Maia Szalavitz, ("Shocker: Empathy Dropped 40% in College Students Since 2000", Psychology Today, 5.28.2010. Image:- LitteredGlass, "Children Playing Marbles, Flickr, 1970).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

THE GOD OF WAR: "Not With A Bang But A Wimper...

THE GOD OF WAR doesn't dine on raw shank bone or bellow orders quite like he used to. When he talks to Congress, it goes more like this:

"And, oh, while you're up, I'm going to be needing, uh. . . $159 billion this go-around, you know, for the troops. Thanks."

It works.

With the war on terror in its 9th year and disappearing from even the pretense of national debate, let alone outrage and protest, and with the President of Hope prosecuting it so quietly most of us no longer notice, we could be at an eerie national transition point, beyond which war is no longer controversial or a big deal but just the way things are: "normal," like background noise. And the enormous transfusions of cash it requires - well, nice people don't talk about it.

Oh Lord.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Then along comes Alan Grayson freshman congressman from Florida, who has some fresh ideas about how to forestall this Orwellian transition. He introduced one of these ideas in the House last week. It's called H.R. 5353: The War Is Making You Poor Act. It's steeped stunningly in common sense and common knowledge, appeals in a blatant, teabagger sort of way to self-interest and everyman's taxation phobia - and strikes me as the focal point, almost Gandhiesque in the clarity of its outrage, of a reborn movement to end our wars in Asia and halt the spread of American hubris.

"The purpose of this bill is to connect the dots, and to show people in a real and concrete way the cost of these endless wars," Grayson wrote. "War is a permanent feature of our societal landscape, so much so that no one notices it anymore."

H.R. 5353 directly addresses the war's current "emergency" spending bill, which is about to come up for a vote and will - of course! of course! - pass as usual, with little debate, with perfunctory media mention. The current White House request, part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2011, is for $159.3 billion.

The War Is Making You Poor Act plucks that number out of anonymity and screams, "Wait a second!" This is an enormous amount of money, almost beyond calculation, and we must not make a decision about it transfixed in financial numbness.

The bill mandates that our operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan be funded out of the regular Department of Defense budget, which in 2011 is $549 billion. The $159.3 billion in special funds would be used instead to eliminate the federal tax on every American's first $35,000 of income (or $70,000 for married couples). And that still leaves $16 billion for paying down the national debt.

Yeah, I know, it's crazy. You can't mess with the system like this. The War God's funding machine grinds with bipartisan inevitability. I've watched the process over the years in mounting despair. Our elected reps are, at best, helplessly polite in the face of this inevitability. Dissent is token. We're on a permanent war footing in this country and will be till hell freezes over. Thus it is written. Read the New York Times.

Grayson's bill comes from so far outside the Beltway consensus I felt instant enthusiasm for it. My guess is that others will, too. Within a few days of the bill's introduction, nearly 24,000 people had signed the congressman's online petition endorsing it. For starters, I'd like to see that number hit six figures. Why not seven?

The bill right now has seven co-sponsors: Dennis Kucinich, Lynn Woolsey, John Conyers, Barbara Lee, Bob Filner and two Republican mavericks, Ron Paul and Walter Jones. Call your rep and urge him or her to support it as well. This is the only way it's going to happen, folks - we have to make our numbers felt on Capitol Hill. We have to break the unwritten rules that make even honest debate over these hellish wars impermissible.

Mainstream coverage of Grayson's bill has been skimpy and dismissive. The big news outlets crossed over long ago into Orwell's nightmare and, at their privileged remove, fully embrace it. As Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald notes: "The decree that we are ‘at war' has been repeated over and over for a full decade, drummed into our heads from all directions without pause, sanctified as one of those Bipartisan Orthodoxies that nobody can dispute upon pain of having one's Seriousness credentials immediately and irrevocably revoked."

I submit that it's time to reclaim our country - $159 billion at a time.

-Robert C. Koehler, "Stopping Orwell's Nightmare", CommonDreams.org, 5.27.2010. Image: "The Monolith" from "2001: A Space Odyssey," directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1968 ).

Monday, May 10, 2010

THE PATRIOT GAME: America's Perceived Invulnerability Is Gone Forever....

"With Faisal Shahzad's failed plot, we got lucky. Again. But sooner or later, our luck is going to run out.

Faisal Shahzad, the 30-year-old Pakistani-American charged with attempting to blow up a carload of explosives in Times Square, is the latest of many 9/11-II hopefuls. He left a trail of clues about his intentions, many missed by those charged with keeping America safe and secure.

He bought the car with cash, spent five months in Pakistan (probably for terrorist training) and reentered the States without inquiry. Headlines naively ponder whether he is part of an "international plot." This is like wondering if the oil spill in the Gulf is related to offshore drilling.

Shahzad is -- formally or informally -- tied to millions who hate America for what they see as military aggression and religious bigotry. They want to destroy the U.S., city by city, bridge by bridge, tunnel by tunnel. And they will do whatever it takes: kill our children, destroy our physical, economic and technological infrastructure, poison our food/water supplies -- anything.

Just remember:
  • On Jan. 4, an unidentified and unauthorized man was seen returning from a secure area at Newark Liberty Airport into the public area. All passengers in the secure area were rescreened. Delays of flights lasted more than six hours. The man who caused the alarm disappeared.
  • On April 8, LAX flights were delayed when a man selected for secondary screening grabbed his bag and vanished into the terminal.
  • On Christmas Day, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a plane he intended to destroy after his father warned U.S. officials, and after paying $2,800 cash for airfare. He never made the no-fly list.
  • On Jan. 7, New York Post reporter Lorena Mongelli, testing metal detectors that failed to recognize a passenger's 14-inch titanium hip replacement, took an 8-inch rod of titanium (used in knives, guns and brass knuckles) through security at Terminal 7 at JFK -- twice
More chilling is the alarm sounded in February by CIA chief Leon Panetta, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee that another terrorist attack on U.S. soil is inevitable. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked if the next attack might come within six months: Panetta and the other intelligence officials with him agreed with Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, who called such a timeframe "certain."

America needs to face this reality. No agency or individual can permanently halt the boundless opportunities for successful attacks that today's technology provides. Experts say we were fortunate to thwart several close calls, but every gambler knows luck doesn't last forever.

Our vulnerabilities, like our enemies, take many forms. Radicalized Muslims, enraged by a American disrespect for Islam, by U.S. foreign policy, and by wars and occupations in their homelands, are now most likely to blow up our dreams. But they are not alone: They have the support (and sometimes sympathy) of those who hate the U.S. for other reasons.

In 2009, Pew researchers counted 1.57 billion Muslims in 200 countries -- 23 percent of the world's population, mainly in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, a short 10- to 15-hour flight from New York or Los Angeles. If only a tiny fraction of them become radicalized against the United States, it could spell serious trouble.

Americans, so many of them focused on being a "Christian" country and wrapped in their flag, are often blind to their country's image in the world. Enormous foreign debt threatens to destroy our economy and sovereignty; the World Health Organization ranks the U.S. healthcare system at 37th in the world -- behind Saudi Arabia (26th), Morocco (29th) and even Colombia (22nd) -- and security in U.S. airports is worse than in Israel, Canada or India. Still, Americans speak of U.S. "superiority" and reject that their country could be flawed and hated.

But today's playing field has been leveled by technology, and no amount of patriotism will restore U.S. invulnerability. It's gone forever, if it ever existed. America's survival depends on its willingness to accept the world as it is now, reject xenophobia and develop foreign policies that rein in extremists worldwide while returning the U.S. to a position of global respect, rather than disdain."

-Mary Ann Sorrentino ( EXCERPT: “In This Era, "Homeland Security" is an Oxymoron,” Salon.com, 5.6.2010. Image: -Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, (A Humbler) "Captain America," Created in 1941 during WWII, Captain America served as an effective propaganda tool).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pythagoras: Mysticism: The DNA Of Economics...

“As soon as laws are necessary for men, they are no longer fit for freedom.”

“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.” -Pythagoras

THE PHILOSOPHY:

"The Pythagoreans: the main difficulty in life to overcome: the body and its necessities which subdue man. It is necessary to free oneself from these. The body is a tomb -- one must triumph over it, but not lose it. To so so requires that one attain the state of enthusiasm (en- theos). In this way, one attains a self-sufficient, theoretic life -- a life not tied to the necessities of the body, a divine life. Such a man is a wise man, a sophos. (The term philosophia, "love of wisdom," is first used in Pythagorean circles.)" -K&R, pp. 257ff.

THE IDEA:

The Greek philosopher and mystic Pythagoras was born around 570 BC. He spent his youth traveling to Egypt, Syria and Babylon, where he immersed himself in the mystical teachings of the East. At the age of 40, he established his own quasi-religious cult in Crotona, southern Italy. His teachings attracted hundreds of followers, some of whom suffered severe privations – including a five-year vow of silence – to become a part of his inner circle, known as the Mathematikoi.

The cult’s philosophy was based on reason and number. To the Pythagoreans, number was all. Each number had a special, almost magical meaning. The monad, unity, represented the original unity from which the universe was created, and was associated with divine intelligence. The dyad, two, represented the division of this unity into duality. (The even numbers, which contained the number two, were therefore seen as representing weakness and mutability.) Three represented all things with a beginning, middle and end. Four represented completion – like the four seasons.

The most perfect number was the decade, ten. The sum of one, two, three and four, it represented the totality of forces that make up the universe. In reference to the decade, the Pythagoreans compiled a list of ten opposing principles, which divided phenomena into two classes:

good • evil
limited • unlimited
odd • even
one • plurality
right • left
MALE • FEMALE ( remember this philosophy stems from the male point of view).
at rest • in motion
straight • crooked
light • darkness
square • oblong

By aligning themselves with the qualities in the first column, the Pythagoreans believed they could achieve purity and become closer to the gods.

The reasons why they chose these ten pairs has puzzled scholars from Aristotle on, but some can be guessed at. In Pythagoras’s philosophy, for example, the universe consisted of two components: the Limited, which signified order, and the Unlimited, which represented chaos and plurality. The former was associated with the monad and odd numbers, the latter with the dyad and even numbers. Pythagoras’s biographer, Iamblichus, wrote:

“The right hand he called the principle of the odd number, and is divine, but the left hand is the symbol of the even number and of that which is dissolved.”


The right hand is controlled by the left side of the brain, which we now associate with linear, logical reasoning of the sort championed by the Pythagoreans. This preference for the right hand has passed on through language – the word “sinister” comes from the Latin sinestra, meaning left.

THE CONCLUSION:

So what does this ancient mysticism have to do with the hard, cold logic of neoclassical economics – which views humanity as a mere aggregate of rational, self-interested actors? The model for economists has long been Newtonian, mechanistic physics, which, in turn, is explicitly based on Pythagorean thought. So this list of pairs is like two complementary strands of the DNA of economics.

Consider that neoclassical economics:

* is based on the idea of scarcity and emphasizes limited resources like oil at the expense of unlimited resources like wind;

* rejects uncertainty and duality (symbolized to the Pythagoreans by evenness);

* is based on the primacy of the individual (one) over society (plurality);

* values right-handed logic, ignoring emotion and left-handed thought;

* is based on a male paradigm that undervalues things like childcare;

* sees the economy as a static system, maintained at rest by the invisible hand of capitalism;

* uses a simplistic, linear (straight) approach to model complex, nonlinear (crooked) phenomena;

* attempts to shine the light of reason and observation over the economy, rejecting the indeterminacy (darkness) of human systems;

* reduces complex and often strongly biased social and political systems to the simple symmetry (squareness) of mathematics.

Neoclassical economists are Pythagoreans. They still think that number is all. And they are still trying to find good and attain Utopia by aligning themselves with the first column of this ancient list. Since the 1960s, a number of new sciences have emerged that directly challenge the Pythagorean paradigm. Fuzzy logic, fractals, network theory and nonlinear dynamics deal with systems that are indeterminate, crooked, plural and in motion. Feminists and ecologists have also pointed out the defects in the neoclassical system. As economists incorporate these voices and developments, we will come nearer to an economics that is not just post-autistic, but post-Pythagorean.

-David Orrell ( "Post- Pythagorean Economics", Ad Busters, 7.15.09. Image: -Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel, The Vatician, Rome, Completed: 1512 ).