Monday, July 28, 2008

Prophecies of Presidents: Dwight D. Eisenhower & Ronald Reagan...

"Government is not a solution to our problem, Government is the problem."
- President Ronald Reagan (Inauguration Speech, 1.20.1981).

"President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the idea of the “military-industrial complex”to the public in his farewell address of January 17, 1961:

“Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime or indeed by the fighting men of World War II and Korea… We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions… We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications… We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Since 1961, there has been too little serious study of, or discussion of, the origins of the military-industrial complex, how it has changed over time, how governmental secrecy has hidden it from oversight by members of Congress or attentive citizens, and how it degrades our Constitutional structure of checks and balances.

In the formative years of the military-industrial complex, the public still deeply distrusted privately owned industrial firms because of the way they had contributed to the Great Depression.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Roosevelt’s use of public-private “partnerships” to build up the munitions industry, and thereby finally overcome the Great Depression, did not go entirely unchallenged. The leading Italian philosopher of fascism, the neo-Hegelian Giovanni Gentile, once argued that it should more appropriately be called “corporatism” because it was a merger of state and corporate power.

Some critics were alarmed early on by the growing symbiotic relationship between government and corporate officials because each simultaneously sheltered and empowered the other, while greatly confusing the separation of powers. Since the activities of a corporation are less amenable to public or congressional scrutiny than those of a public institution, public-private collaborative relationships afford the private sector an added measure of security from such scrutiny. These concerns were ultimately swamped by enthusiasm for the war effort and the postwar era of prosperity that the war produced.

Beneath the surface, however, was a less well recognized movement by big business to replace democratic institutions with those representing the interests of capital. This movement is today ascendant. Its objectives have long been to discredit what it called “big government,” while capturing for private interests the tremendous sums invested by the public sector in national defense.

Perhaps the country’s leading theorist of democracy, Sheldon S. Wolin, has written a new book, Democracy Incorporated, on what he calls “inverted totalitarianism." He warns of “the expansion of private (i.e., mainly corporate) power and the selective abdication of governmental responsibility for the well-being of the citizenry.” He also decries the degree to which the so-called privatization of governmental activities has insidiously undercut our democracy, leaving us with the widespread belief that government is no longer needed and that, in any case, it is not capable of performing the functions we have entrusted to it. Wolin writes:

“The privatization of public services and functions manifests the steady evolution of corporate power into a political form, into an integral, even dominant partner with the state. It marks the transformation of American politics and its political culture, from a system in which democratic practices and values were, if not defining, at least major contributory elements, to one where the remaining democratic elements of the state and its populist programs are being systematically dismantled.”

The military-industrial complex has changed radically since World War II or even the height of the Cold War. The private sector is now fully ascendant. The uniformed air, land, and naval forces of the country as well as its intelligence agencies, including the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), the NSA (National Security Agency), the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), and even clandestine networks entrusted with the dangerous work of penetrating and spying on terrorist organizations are all dependent on hordes of “private contractors.” In the context of governmental national security functions, a better term for these might be “mercenaries” working in private for profit-making companies.

Tim Shorrock, an investigative journalist and the leading authority on this subject, sums up this situation devastatingly in his new book, Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing. The following quotes are a précis of some of his key findings:

“In 2006… the cost of America’s spying and surveillance activities outsourced to contractors reached $42 billion, or about 70 percent of the estimated $60 billion the government spends each year on foreign and domestic intelligence… [The] number of contract employees now exceeds [the CIA’s] full-time workforce of 17,500."

“To feed the NSA’s insatiable demand for data and information technology, the industrial base of contractors seeking to do business with the agency grew from 144 companies in 2001 to more than 5,400 in 2006… At the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the agency in charge of launching and maintaining the nation’s photoreconnaissance and eavesdropping satellites, almost the entire workforce is composed of contract employees working for [private] companies..."

“If there’s one generalization to be made about the NSA’s outsourced IT [information technology] programs, it is this: they haven’t worked very well, and some have been spectacular failures…"

In 2006, the NSA was unable to analyze much of the information it was collecting… As a result, more than 90 percent of the information it was gathering was being discarded without being translated into a coherent and understandable format; only about 5 percent was translated from its digital form into text and then routed to the right division for analysis.

“The key phrase in the new counterterrorism lexicon is ‘public-private partnerships’… In reality, ‘partnerships’ are a convenient cover for the perpetuation of corporate interests.”

Several inferences can be drawn from Shorrock’s shocking exposé. One is that if a foreign espionage service wanted to penetrate American military and governmental secrets, its easiest path would not be to gain access to any official U.S. agencies, but simply to get its agents jobs at any of the large intelligence-oriented private companies on which the government has become remarkably dependent. These include :

Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), with headquarters in San Diego, California, which typically pays its 42,000 employees higher salaries than if they worked at similar jobs in the government;

Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the nation’s oldest intelligence and clandestine-operations contractors, which, until January 2007, was the employer of Mike McConnell, the current director of national intelligence and the first private contractor to be named to lead the entire intelligence community;

CACI International, which, under two contracts for “information technology services,” ended up supplying some two dozen interrogators to the Army at Iraq’s already infamous Abu Ghraib prison in 2003.

Remarkably enough, SAIC has virtually replaced the National Security Agency as the primary collector of signals intelligence for the government. It is the NSA’s largest contractor, and that agency is today the company’s single largest customer. As David Bromwich, a political critic and Yale professor of literature, observed in the New York Review of Books:

“The separate bookkeeping and accountability devised for Blackwater, DynCorp, Triple Canopy, and similar outfits was part of a careful displacement of oversight from Congress to the vice-president and the stewards of his policies in various departments and agencies. To have much of the work parceled out to private companies who are unaccountable to army rules or military justice, meant, among its other advantages, that the cost of the war could be concealed beyond all detection.”

Euphemisms are words intended to deceive. The United States is already close to drowning in them, particularly new words and terms devised, or brought to bear, to justify the American invasion of Iraq — coinages Bromwich highlights like “regime change,” “enhanced interrogation techniques,” “the global war on terrorism,” “the birth pangs of a new Middle East,” a “slight uptick in violence,” “bringing torture within the law,” “simulated drowning,” and, of course, “collateral damage,” meaning the slaughter of unarmed civilians by American troops and aircraft followed — rarely — by perfunctory apologies.

The wholesale transfer of military and intelligence functions to private, often anonymous, operatives took off under Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and accelerated greatly after 9/11 under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Often not well understood, however, is this:

The biggest private expansion into intelligence and other areas of government occurred under the presidency of Bill Clinton. He seems not to have had the same anti-governmental and neoconservative motives as the privatizers of both the Reagan and Bush II eras. His policies typically involved an indifference to — perhaps even an ignorance of — what was actually being done to democratic, accountable government in the name of cost-cutting and allegedly greater efficiency. According to Shorrock:

“Bill Clinton… picked up the cudgel where the conservative Ronald Reagan left off and… took it deep into services once considered inherently governmental, including high-risk military operations and intelligence functions once reserved only for government agencies. By the end of [Clinton’s first] term, more than 100,000 Pentagon jobs had been transferred to companies in the private sector — among them thousands of jobs in intelligence… By the end of [his second] term in 2001, the administration had cut 360,000 jobs from the federal payroll and the government was spending 44 percent more on contractors than it had in 1993.”

After 2001, Bush and Cheney added an ideological rationale to the process Clinton had already launched so efficiently. They were enthusiastic supporters of “a neoconservative drive to siphon U.S. spending on defense, national security, and social programs to large corporations friendly to the Bush administration.”

The Privatization — and Loss — of Institutional Memory

The end result is what we see today: a government hollowed out in terms of military and intelligence functions. The costs — both financial and personal — of privatization in the armed services and the intelligence community far exceed any alleged savings, and some of the consequences for democratic governance may prove irreparable.

On November 14, 2002, the New York Times published a column by William Safire entitled “You Are a Suspect” in which he revealed that DARPA had been given a $200 million budget to compile dossiers on 300 million Americans. He wrote, “Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every web site you visit and every e-mail you send or receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book, and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as a ‘virtual centralized grand database.’” This struck many members of Congress as too close to the practices of the Gestapo and the Stasi under German totalitarianism, and so, the following year, they voted to defund the project.

However, Congress’s action did not end the “total information awareness” program. The National Security Agency secretly decided to continue it through its private contractors. The NSA easily persuaded SAIC and Booz Allen Hamilton to carry on with what Congress had declared to be a violation of the privacy rights of the American public — for a price.

The most serious immediate consequence of the privatization of official governmental activities is the loss of institutional memory by our government’s most sensitive organizations and agencies.

This means that the CIA, the DIA, the NSA, and the other 13 agencies in the U.S. intelligence community cannot easily be reformed because their staffs have largely forgotten what they are supposed to do, or how to go about it. They have not been drilled and disciplined in the techniques, unexpected outcomes, and know-how of previous projects, successful and failed.

As numerous studies have, by now, made clear, the abject failure of the American occupation of Iraq came about in significant measure because the Department of Defense sent a remarkably privatized military filled with incompetent amateurs to Baghdad to administer the running of a defeated country. Gates believes that we are witnessing a “creeping militarization” of foreign policy — and, though this generally goes unsaid, both the military and the intelligence services have turned over far too many of their tasks to private companies and mercenaries.

Nonetheless, the current situation represents the worst of all possible worlds. Successive administrations and Congresses have made no effort to alter the CIA’s role as the president’s private army, even as we have increased its incompetence by turning over many of its functions to the private sector. We have thereby heightened the risks of war by accident, or by presidential whim, as well as of surprise attack because our government is no longer capable of accurately assessing what is going on in the world and because its intelligence agencies are so open to pressure, penetration, and manipulation of every kind."

-Chalmers Johnson ( Excerpt: "The Military-Industrial Complex It’s Much Later Than You Think," 7.28.08. Image: Military Industrial Complex:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

On Reason: Magic, Religion, Decency & Kindness...

"He had, in fact, got everything from the church and Sunday School, except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and reason." -Sinclair Lewis ("Elmer Gantry", Novel: Chapter II-1, p. 34, 1927)."You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion.... Dogs do not ritually urinate in the hope of persuading heaven to do the same and send down rain. Asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence from cat's meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, quite intelligent enough."

-Aldous Huxley(1894–1963,“Amor Fati,” Texts and Pretexts, 1932. Image: Burt Lancaster from the Oscar winning film"Elmer Gantry", directed by Richard Brooks, 1960).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mirror Reflection: The Doppelgänger On The Other Side...

"For the bubble-headed young Narcissus of myth, the mirror spun a fatal fantasy, and the beautiful boy chose to die by the side of a reflecting pond rather than leave his “beloved” behind. For the aging narcissist of Shakespeare’s 62nd sonnet, the mirror delivered a much-needed whack to his vanity, the sight of a face “beated and chopp’d with tann’d antiquity ”underscoring the limits of self-love.

Whether made of highly polished metal or of glass with a coating of metal on the back, mirrors have fascinated people for millennia: ancient Egyptians were often depicted holding hand mirrors. With their capacity to reflect back nearly all incident light upon them and so recapitulate the scene they face, mirrors are like pieces of dreams, their images hyper-real and profoundly fake.

Mirrors reveal truths you may not want to see. Give them a little smoke and a house to call their own, and mirrors will tell you nothing but lies.

To scientists, the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of mirrors make them powerful tools for exploring questions about perception and cognition in humans and other neuronally gifted species, and how the brain interprets and acts upon the great tides of sensory information from the external world. They are using mirrors to study how the brain decides what is self and what is other, how it judges distances and trajectories of objects, and how it reconstructs the richly three-dimensional quality of the outside world from what is essentially a two-dimensional snapshot taken by the retina’s flat sheet of receptor cells. They are applying mirrors in medicine, to create reflected images of patients’ limbs or other body parts and thus trick the brain into healing itself. Mirror therapy has been successful in treating disorders like phantom limb syndrome, chronic pain and post-stroke paralysis.

“In a sense, mirrors are the best ‘virtual reality’ system that we can build,”
said Marco Bertamini of the University of Liverpool. “ The object‘inside’ the mirror is virtual, but as far as our eyes are concerned it exists as much as any other object.” Dr. Bertamini and his colleagues have also studied what people believe about the nature of mirrors and mirror images, and have found nearly everybody, even students of physics and math, to be shockingly off the mark.

Other researchers have determined that mirrors can subtly affect human behavior, often in surprisingly positive ways. Subjects tested in a room with a mirror have been found to work harder, to be more helpful and to be less inclined to cheat, compared with control groups performing the same exercises in non-mirrored settings. Reporting in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, C. Neil Macrae, Galen V.Bodenhausen and Alan B.Milne found that people in a room with a mirror were comparatively less likely to judge others based on social stereotypes about, for example, sex, race or religion. Dr. Bodenhausen said.

“A byproduct of that awareness may be a shift away from acting on autopilot toward more desirable ways of behaving.”

Physical self-reflection, in other words, encourages philosophical self-reflection, a crash course in the Socratic notion that you cannot know or appreciate others until you know yourself.

The mirror technique does not always keep knees from jerking. When it comes to socially acceptable forms of stereotyping, said Dr. Bodenhausen, like branding all politicians liars or all lawyers crooks, the presence of a mirror may end up augmenting rather than curbing the willingness to pigeonhole.

How can we be so self-delusional when the truth stares back at us? “Although we do indeed see ourselves in the mirror every day, we don’t look exactly the same every time,” explained Dr. Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. There is the scruffy-morning you, the assembled-for-work you, the dressed-for-an-elegant-dinner you.

“Which image is you?”

“Our research shows that people, on average, resolve that ambiguity in their favor, forming a representation of their image that is more attractive than they actually are.”

What is it about our reflected self that it plays by such counter-intuitive rules? The important point is that no matter how close or far we are from the looking glass, the mirror is always halfway between our physical selves and our projected selves in the virtual world inside the mirror, and so the captured image in the mirror is half our true size.

When we gaze into a mirror, we are all of us Narcissus, tethered eternally to our doppelgänger on the other side."

-Natalie Angier (Excerpt:"Mirrors Don’t Lie. Mislead? Oh, Yes", NY Times, 7.22.2008, Image:- Parmigianino (1503-1540), Self-Portrait From A Convex Mirror, Oil On Convex Panel, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 1524).

NOTE: "In order to investigate the subtleties of art Parmigianino set himself one day to make his own portrait, looking at himself in a convex barber's mirror." The painting stunned Renaissance Italy. It shows the artist at the age of about 21, romantic, his unkempt face unmanly, even feminine. It emphasizes the fantastic nature of his talent, of his right hand that draws and makes a world. As a celebration of the artist as a young man. The painter looks at us, at the mirror, boldly - this is the artist as hero. But what makes the painting unique is its gimmick. Spectacularly, Parmigianino has not only studied himself in a convex mirror but reproduced what he sees." -Jonathan Jones, (GuardianUK 1.18.2003).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The McNews Hour: "And That's The Way It Is..."

The tentacle-like growth of clandestine advertising in American TV shows in the form of product placement has taken another controversial step with the introduction of McDonald's products into regional news programs.

Several TV outlets have begun to sell the fast-food giant the right to place cups of its iced coffee on to the desks of news anchors as they present morning current affairs shows.

Typical is Fox 5 News in Las Vegas, an affiliate of Rupert Murdoch's Fox television network. Two cups of coffee, their cubes of ice glinting in the studio lights, now daily stand before the channel's morning presenters. The presenters conspicuously do not drink from the cups, which is just as well - the cups contain a bogus fluid and fake ice to prevent the cubes melting.

The New York Times has reported that similar deals to place McDonald's products in news shows are up and running in TV stations in Chicago, Seattle and New York.

Product placement has become a huge branch of advertising in the US, creeping into all areas of entertainment television. Not only are products seen on camera, they also make their way into drama scripts, such as an episode of the popular soap, The OC, which had one character talk about having "'d" a friend on the day the internet search company A9 launched a Yellow Pages service of the same name.

Advertising and broadcasting content have become increasingly blurred, with new reality TV show, What I Like About You, pitting young women against each other to compete for an acting slot on an advert for Herbal Essences. The ad is then broadcast in a break during the show.

This is the first time product placement has percolated through to news broadcasts. Journalism ethics groups have protested it is another erosion of standards.

"There has been in broadcast journalism certainly, and arguably in all journalism, a drifting away from the standards of straight news in the direction of entertainment,"
said Roy Peter Clark of the school for journalists, the Poynter Institute.

Fox 5 News has declined to reveal how much it is being paid by McDonald's for the six-month promotion. The station's news director, Adam Bradshaw, said that the product placement was only allowed in programs that were appropriate, including later morning shows with an accent on lifestyle.

"I would not put it on a straight newscast like my 5 or 10pm news," Bradshaw said.
The other potential difficulty with the new trend in TV news was conflict of interest. Bradshaw said the McDonald's deal would in no way impede the station broadcasting negative news concerning the food chain.

"News is news. Sales is sales. If there's a story about McDonald's we would report on it just like anyone else," he said.

He added that in such cases he would remove the coffee cups from the newscasters' desks, in a similar way to the pulling of adverts for airline companies during newscasts that report an air crash. TV stations across America are suffering from a downturn in advertising, partly due to the challenge of the internet and partly due to the country's more recent economic troubles.

In a harsh financial climate, many are turning to new cash streams, such as Fox 5 News's latest innovation.

- Ed Pilkington ("McMorning Las Vegas, Here's The News," The Guardian UK, 7.23.2008, Image: -mcdowalla22,, 2007-08).

The News That's Not Fit To Print...Our Post-Literate World...

The decline of newspapers is about the rise of the corporate state, the loss of civic and public responsibility on the part of much of our entrepreneurial class and the intellectual poverty of our post-literate world, a world where information is conveyed primarily through rapidly moving images rather than print.

We live under the happy illusion that we can transfer news-gathering to the Internet. News-gathering will continue to exist, as it does on this Web site and sites such as ProPublica and Slate, but these traditions now have to contend with a new, widespread and ideologically driven partisanship that dominates the dissemination of views and information, from Fox News to blogger screeds. The majority of bloggers and Internet addicts, like the endless rows of talking heads on television, do not report. They are largely parasites who cling to traditional news outlets. They can produce stinging and insightful commentary, which has happily seen the monopoly on opinion pieces by large papers shattered, but they rarely pick up the phone, much less go out and find a story.

Those who rely on the Internet gravitate to sites that reinforce their beliefs.

The filtering of information through an ideological lens, which is destroying television journalism, defies the purpose of reporting.

Journalism is about transmitting information that doesn’t care what you think. Reporting challenges, countermands or destabilizes established beliefs. Reporting, which is time-consuming and often expensive, begins from the premise that there are things we need to know and understand, even if these things make us uncomfortable. If we lose this ethic we are left with pandering, packaging and partisanship. We are left awash in a sea of competing propaganda. Bloggers, unlike most established reporters, rarely admit errors. They cannot get fired. Facts, for many bloggers, are interchangeable with opinions. Take a look at The Drudge Report. This may be the new face of what we call news.

When the traditional news organizations go belly up we will lose a vast well of expertise and information. Our democracy will suffer a body blow. Not that many will notice. The average time a reader of The New York Times spends with the printed paper is about 45 minutes. The average time a viewer spends on The New York Times Web site is about 7 minutes.

The rise of our corporate state has done the most, however, to decimate traditional news-gathering. Time Warner, Disney, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., General Electric and Viacom control nearly everything we read, watch, hear and ultimately think. And news that does not make a profit, as well as divert viewers from civic participation and challenging the status quo, is not worth pursuing.

This is why the networks have shut down their foreign bureaus. This is why cable newscasts, with their chatty anchors, all look and sound like the “Today” show. This is why the FCC, in an example of how far our standards have fallen, defines shows like Fox’s celebrity gossip program “TMZ” and the Christian Broadcast Network’s “700 Club” as “bona fide newscasts.” This is why television news personalities, people like Katie Couric, have become celebrities earning, in her case, $15 million a year. This is why newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune are being ruthlessly cannibalized by corporate trolls like Sam Zell, turned into empty husks that focus increasingly on boutique journalism.

Corporations are not in the business of news. They hate news, real news. Real news is not convenient to their rape of the nation. Real news makes people ask questions. They prefer to close the prying eyes of reporters. They prefer to transform news into another form of mindless amusement and entertainment.

A democracy survives when its citizens have access to trustworthy and impartial sources of information, when it can discern lies from truth. Take this away and a democracy dies. The fusion of news and entertainment, the rise of a class of celebrity journalists on television who define reporting by their access to the famous and the powerful, the retreat by many readers into the ideological ghettos of the Internet and the ruthless drive by corporations to destroy the traditional news business are leaving us deaf, dumb and blind.

We are cleverly entertained during our descent. We have our own version of ancient Rome’s bread and circuses with our ubiquitous and elaborate spectacles, sporting events, celebrity gossip and television reality shows. As the Roman philosopher Cicero wrote:

"Societies in decline see their civic and political discourse contaminated by the excitement and emotional life of the arena. And the citizens in these degraded societies, he warned, always end up ruled by a despot"... a Nero or a George W. Bush.

-Chris Hedges (Excerpt):"So Goes the Newsroom,the Empire and the World,", 7.21.2008. Image: - A. Hoan,"The Burning Of Rome," Historic Sheet Music Collection, Duke University, 1903).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

You Say You Want A Revolution? We'd All Love To See The Plan...

Detroit, the once-proud capital of industrialization is now the paragon of de-industrialization and urban decay.

“We are at a stage in human history that is as monumental as changing from a hunter/gatherer society to an agricultural society and from an agricultural society to and industrial society. Where we’re headed now will be different because we have exhausted planetary space and human space for us to continue to look at things through the Cartesian measurement of material things.” -Grace Lee Boggs, Ph.D

In other words, a new epoch is emerging that emphasizes relationships and communities more than the accumulation of things — and the counting of profits.

A trip to Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, a mere 30 minutes from downtown Detroit, illustrates how the nineteenth century Industrial Revolution grew into the twentieth century consumerist society, which was plush with inventions and conveniences that raised the living standards of middle class Americans. People could afford these products because so many of them left their farms and took higher-paying factory jobs in the cities. However, those good wages came at a price: people became mindless cogs in a giant machine, as Charlie Chaplin depicted in the film, “Modern Times.”

Industrialization was a far cry from the first American Revolution of 1776, which was about people giving of themselves for the larger community. That sentiment yielded to a European colonial mentality that justified taking natural resources from Africa, Asia and Latin America in order to manufacture products and sell them at huge profits.

“We need to face the way we used the world for our gains, pleasures, satisfactions. This is the way we evolve to a higher stage of humanity. And unless we want to live in terror for the rest of our lives, we need to change our view about acquiring things.”

The industrial society also skirted social justice concerns by focusing on jobs and paychecks as a means of keeping the economy going and the people happy. It didn’t face the fact that the workers were demeaned and deskilled or that some of the products they made (like military equipment) or some of the processes they used (which involved dangerous chemicals) could be harmful.

Actually, people have only had “jobs” for the past 100 years. These jobs had nothing to do with being productive, making products essential for living or deriving personal growth or the enjoyment of life. Jobs led people to believe that anything they did for pay was good — no matter how destructive it was to the person, the community or the environment.

Now, in the twenty-first century after hundreds of thousands of jobs have been moved offshore and collapsed many local economies, Grace believes that the way has been cleared for the next American revolution, especially since a number of other factors make the need for change both obvious and necessary:

* Occupation of Iraq

* Environmental degradation, species extinction and global warming

* Polarization of the rich and poor in the United States and in the global North and South

* Economic instability with trillions of dollars of debt, housing foreclosures and the loss of local small
businesses and farms

The turning point occurred in 1999 when protesters’ demonstrations effectively closed the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting held in Seattle. A worldwide movement was kicked off to challenge the rapacious global economy that was shifting the labor market to the lowest bidder in a kind of race to the bottom.

“We usually think of revolution as violence, However, revolution is more about envisioning what is possible when it appears that things are changing.” She believes that Detroit, in particular, is fertile ground for this next revolution because it is such a devastated city.

Detroit has 70,000 vacant lots where neighborhoods and commercial properties once stood. And although the city looks like it has been bombed, Grace sees a silver lining: the city no longer has to adhere to the usual capitalist mantra of growth and expansion because it is absolutely clear that the industrial system is finished. This fact allows citizens to respond by starting something new all over again.

This revolution urges citizens not to stand around and wait for leaders to initiate needed changes. Instead, individuals are learning that they can enlist others to help them rebuild their communities. Interestingly, it’s the young who are especially stepping up to this challenge through local service programs, college projects, and the creation of small businesses and organizations.

“What we’re witnessing is a national government that is incapable of solving the questions of our society and our world because politicians are so subject to lobbyists and corporations that fund their campaigns, that they can’t do what needs to be done. We have the opportunity to take a great leap forward in these very challenging times, We need to change our institutions and ourselves. We need to seize opportunities. We need to launch our imaginations beyond the thinking of the past. We need to discern who we are and expand on our humanness and sacredness. That’s how we change the world, which happens because WE will be the change.”

-Olga Bonfiglio, (Excerpt: "You Say You Want a Revolution?," CommonDreams.Org, 7.20.2008 Image: -Constitutional Convention: United States Constitution, Government begins operations under document on 3.4.1789).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

BushCorp: History Repeated...History Deleted...

After watching wholesale lots of the Bush administration’s most important e-mails go mysteriously missing, Congress is trying to legislate against any further damage to history. The secrecy-obsessed White House is, of course, threatening a veto — one more effort to deny Americans their rightful access to the TRUTH about how their leaders govern or misgovern.

The House approved a measure last week that would require the National Archives to issue stronger standards for preserving e-mails and to aggressively inspect whether an administration is in compliance. The Archives needs spine stiffening. Congressional investigators found that its staff backed off from inspections of e-mail storage after the Bush administration took office.

We fear we may never find out all that has gone missing in this administration, although we urge Congressional investigators to keep trying. What we do know is that the Bush gaps of missing e-mails run into hundreds of thousands during some of the most sensitive political moments. Key gaps coincide with the lead-up to the Iraq war — and the White House’s manipulation of intelligence — as well as the destruction of videotapes of C.I.A. interrogations and the outing of the C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame Wilson.

Missing e-mails include entire blank days at the offices of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Also mysteriously wiped from the record are e-mails from Karl Rove, the president’s political guru, and dozens of other White House workers who improperly conducted government business on Republican Party e-mail accounts. The White House now claims that nothing has been lost, though officials previously acknowledged large-scale purging, claiming they were accidental.

An administration with nothing to fear from the truth would be in the forefront of protecting the historical record. The Senate must stand with the House and ensure that at least future administrations are stopped from doing wholesale damage to history.

New York Times Editorial, ("History Deleted At The Whitehouse,"7.13.2008, Image: Artist Unknown: George Washington, Anti-Censorship Group,, 2008).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Military Mind MEDUSA: Purification With A Whisper...

"A US company claims it is ready to build a microwave ray gun able to beam sounds directly into people's heads. Bankrolled by the US Military, the device – dubbed MEDUSA (Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio) – exploits the microwave audio effect, in which short microwave pulses rapidly heat tissue, causing a shockwave inside the skull that can be detected by the ears. A series of pulses can be transmitted to produce recognisable sounds.

The device is aimed for military or crowd-control applications, but may have other uses.

Lev Sadovnik of the Sierra Nevada Corporation in the US is working on the system, having started work on a US NAVY (Small Business Innovation Research or SBIR) contract.

MEDUSA involves a microwave auditory effect "loud" enough to cause discomfort or even incapacitation. Sadovnik says that normal audio safety limits do not apply since the sound does not enter through the eardrums. "The repel effect is a combination of loudness and the irritation factor," he says. "You can’t block it out."

Sadovnik says the device will work thanks to a new reconfigurable antenna developed by colleague Vladimir Manasson. It steers the beam electronically, making it possible to flip from a broad to a narrow beam, or aim at multiple targets simultaneously.

James Lin of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois in Chicago says that MEDUSA is feasible in principle."I would worry about what other health effects it is having," says Lin. "You might see neural damage. There are health risks, he notes. But the biggest issue from the microwave weapon is not the radiation. It's the risk of brain damage from the high-intensity shockwave created by the microwave pulse.

Clearly, much more research is needed on this effect at the sort of power levels that Dr. Sadovnik is proposing. But if it does prove hazardous, that does not mean an end to weapons research in this area: a device that delivered a lethal shockwave inside the target's skull might make an effective death ray.

Dr. Sadovnik also makes the intriguing suggestion that, instead of being used at high power to create an intolerable noise, it might be used at low power to produce a whisper that was TOO QUIET TO PERCEIVE CONSCIOUSLY but might be able to SUBCONSCIOUSLY INFLUENCE SOMEONE. The directional beam could be used for targeted messages, such as in-store promotions. Sadovnik even suggests SUBLIMINAL ADVERTISING (THOUGHT CONTROL, BEAMING INFORMATION THAT IS NOT CONSCIOUSLY HEARD (a notion also spotted on the US Army's Voice-To-Skull web page which was removed after this article's publication)." -David Hambling, (Excerpt:,7.6. 2008)


"In Greek mythology, Medusa (Greek: Μέδουσα (Médousa), "guardian, protectress, queen", a sea nymph, was one of three gorgon sisters, and the most beautiful. She was courted by Poseidon, and made love to him in a temple of Athena. Furious, Athena transformed Medusa into a monstrous chthonic beast with snakes instead of hair, whose frightening face could turn onlookers to stone. She was beheaded while sleeping by the hero Perseus, who thereafter used her head as a weapon until giving it to the goddess Athena to place on her shield." -Wikipedia

"Medusa has historically been seen as the archetype of the nasty mother, however she is far more complex. She symbolizes the following:

Sovereign female wisdom. The female mysteries. All the forces of the primordial Great Goddess: The Cycles of Time as past, present and future. The Cycles of Nature as life, death and rebirth. She is universal Creativity and Destruction in eternal Transformation. She is the Guardian of the Thresholds and the Mediatrix between the Realms of heaven, earth and the underworld. She is Mistress of the Beasts. Latent and Active energy.

Connection to the earth. The union of heaven and earth. She destroys in order to recreate balance. She purifies.

She is the ultimate truth of reality, the wholeness beyond duality. She rips away our mortal illusions. Forbidden yet liberating wisdom. The untamable forces of nature. As a young and beautiful woman she is fertility and life. As crone she consumes by devouring all on the earth plane. Through death we must return to the source, the abyss of transformation, the timeless realm. We must yield to her and her terms of mortality. She reflects a culture in harmony with nature."

-Alicia Le Van, (Excerpt: Final Paper-"Women in Antiquity", 5.7.96. Image: Perseus and Medusa. Benenuto Cellini. Bronze, 18 feet high. Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence, Italy, 1545-54.).

Saturday, July 5, 2008

On Clowns & Coulrophobia: The Terror Of Bozo

"There is nothing laughable about a clown in the moonlight." -Lon Chaney, Sr.

Coulrophobia is defined as an extreme fear of clowns. Coulrophobia was conceived during the 1990s and originates from the Greek words Koulon (limb) and Kolobathristes which translates as"one who goes on stilts." The central fear trigger is the clown's appearance which masks the identity of the wearer and suggests a hidden and/or potentially sinister personality.

- VioletPlanet, Image: -Larry Harmon as Bozo The Clown (Mr. Harmon was one of a few Bozos but not the original. Bozo The Clown was created by Capitol Records executive Alan Livingston for recordings in 1946. The late Vance "Pinto" Colvig was the first person to play the clown and Bob Bozo Bell was one of the most popular and prolific Bozos. -International Clown Hall Of Fame/AP).

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fritz Lang: Metropolis Rediscovered...

Last Tuesday Paula Félix-Didier traveled on a secret mission to Berlin in order to meet with three film experts. The museum director from Buenos Aires had something special in her luggage: a copy of a long version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, including scenes believed lost for almost 80 years. After examining the film the three experts are certain: The find from Buenos Aires is a real treasure, a worldwide sensation. Metropolis, the most important silent film in German history, can from this day on be considered to have been rediscovered.

Fritz Lang presented the original version of Metropolis in Berlin in January 1927. The film is set in the futuristic city of Metropolis, ruled by Joh Fredersen, whose workers live underground. His son falls in love with a young woman from the worker’s underworld – the conflict takes its course. At the time it was the most expensive German film ever made. It was intended to be a major offensive against Hollywood. However the film flopped with critics and audiences alike. Representatives of the American firm Paramount considerably shortened and re-edited the film. They oversimplified the plot, even cutting key scenes. The original version could only be seen in Berlin until May 1927 – from then on it was considered to have been lost forever.

Those recently viewing a restored version of the film first read the following insert: “More than a quarter of the film is believed to be lost forever.”

In 1928, Adolfo Z. Wilson, a man from Buenos Aires and head of the Terra film distribution company, arranged for a copy of the long version of “Metropolis” to be sent to Argentina to show it in cinemas there. Shortly afterwards a film critic called Manuel Peña Rodríguez came into possession of the reels and added them to his private collection. In the 1960s Peña Rodríguez sold the film reels to Argentina’s National Art Fund – clearly nobody had yet realized the value of the reels. A copy of these reels passed into the collection of the Museo del Cine (Cinema Museum) in Buenos Aires in 1992, the curatorship of which was taken over by Paula Félix-Didier in January this year. Her ex-husband, director of the film department of the Museum of Latin American Art, first entertained the decisive suspicion: He had heard from the manager of a cinema club, who years before had been surprised by how long a screening of this film had taken. Together, Paula Félix-Didier and her ex-husband took a look at the film in her archive – and discovered the missing scenes.

Among the footage that has now been discovered, according to the unanimous opinion of three experts, there are several scenes which are essential in order to understand the film: The role played by the actor Fritz Rasp in the film for instance, can finally be understood. Other scenes, such as for instance the saving of the children from the worker’s underworld, are considerably more dramatic. In brief: “Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s most famous film, can be seen through new eyes. The material believed to be lost leads to a new understanding of the Fritz Lang masterpiece.

-ZEITmagazin (, 7.2.2008. Image: -Jósef Bottlik, "Metropolis," UFA poster, designed for film's release in Hungary, Berlin, 1927).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In Space: The Presence of Divinity...

"The biggest joy was on the way home. In my cockpit window every 2 minutes I saw the earth, the moon, the sun and the whole 360 degree panorama of the heavens. It was a powerful overwhelming experience.

Suddenly, I realized the molecules of my body and the molecules of the spacecraft and the molecules in the bodies of my partners were prototyped and manufactured in some ancient generation of stars. It was an overwhelming sense of oneness...a connectedness. It wasn't THEM and US. It was...That's me!...That's all of it! It's all one thing! This was accompanied by an ecstasy...a sense of "Oh My God!" Wow! Yes! epiphany. The presence of divinity became almost palpable, and I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes. . . . The knowledge came to me directly."

-Edgar D. Mitchell, Ph.D ( Former member of NASA Astronaut Corps from 1962-1972. Piloted the lunar module during the Apollo 14 mission, from January 31 to February 9, 1971 and is the 6th man to have walked on the Moon. The capsule touched down on the Moon on February 5, 1971, at 8:37 GMT in a hilly area called Fra Mauro. The Apollo 14 crew was also made up of Admiral Alan B. Shepard and Colonel Stuart A Roosa. In 1973, freshly retired from the space program, he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), an organization created to initiate and finance research programs on the nature of consciousness. IONS is an organization renowned worldwide. -Institute for Research On Extraordinary Experiences (INREES) Image: -L.Gordon Cooper: Pilot Charles Conrad Jr. photgraphed inside Gemini 5 cockpit while orbiting Earth, 1965).