Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Under Arrest: Santa Claus

Santa Claus is destroying the planet. We need to make a choice; Santa or humanity or rather, Santa or the ecosystems that support humanity. We need to really consider what goes in to bringing you, or me, a Christmas present.

We live inside extremely large and wasteful systems and those systems are destroying the planet. Considering the volume of those systems, it's not enough to re-cycle. Our party of consumption has to come to an end and that party reaches its peak once a year, at Christmas time. Most retail sales occur during the Christmas season.

A typical Christmas present requires a monumental effort that happens behind the scenes. The materials to make the item is shipped to the factory from the resource providers. This requires ships, trucks and forklifts. It is packaged in a way that requires cutting trees and processing the paper. The paper is then packed and shipped. It is then made into the specific packaging material for the item. The item itself may depend on various parts shipped from all over the planet. And on Christmas morning we will open it, first by removing the bow and card, then the paper, then a box, another box, perhaps some plastic etc. This insanity happens all year round however. Little by little by little, every day, every week and every year the earth and the eco-systems provide their micro treasures for our macro systems so we humans can consume. We are addicted to hair conditioner and cigarettes and fat. And as the eco-systems offers up their treasures to us we flush them down toilets and burn them and contaminate the source of our existence.

We must abandon our multitude of petty addictions. We have to abandon our spoiled comfort. We have to stop the madness of having toys and convenient snacks and repairing our snack damage with rides to the gym to work off our guilt and excessive fat. We have to stop packing goods inside of packages that are inside of packages. We have to stop cutting tress to make paper to advertise to tell people they must consume what they don’t need and what will make them sick. We have to learn to eat from the local soil, to drink water from our local ground and to stop all the shipping and flushing and burning.

Have an Ivan Pavlov Christmas

As children we are trained by Santa Claus to become hopelessly addicted to junk. As adults, our addiction doesn't fade and we are hell bent to ensure our children are even more addicted than we were. The addiction brought so much joy and we love our children. Each and every year the same stimulus; Christmas carols, the tree and decorations and food are replicated from our own childhood. Our parents had us overwhelmed with a month of carols, decorations, and shopping. All the characteristics of Christmas from 50 or 100 years ago still remain. The very same stimulus and the very same responses are on an endless loop in the culture. On Christmas morning the family scene breaks a month of anticipation into a day of hedonism and gluttony.

As adults we salivate in a similar way to Pavlov's dog. Ivan Pavlov developed the theory of classical conditioning (conditioned reflex). Pavlov measured the rate of salivation when he would present a dog with food. He discovered the dog would learn to salivate with only the sound of a bell once the dog learned to associate the sound with the food. The food was no longer necessary to produce the saliva response. The Christmas spirit is the same conditioned response to stimuli. It has nothing to do with the spirit of Christ - on the contrary. The Christmas spirit is the spirit of selfish giving. We give yes, and we expect as much joy from the gifts we give. As children we got packages of crack, toys that would buzz our minds for hours. Now we get bathoil beads and soap. We get socks, ties, and maybe a book. Our stimulus was once alive, buzzing with excitement. It isn't the same for us anymore and our gifts are listless and drab. We remain responsive to the sound of Pavlov's bell however. We swallow back our dissatisfaction and live vicariously through the children; children that couldn't be happier.

In this spirit we walk past homeless people in the Christmas rush. We are carrying far too many packages to give a beggar a coin. We step by them without really noticing. We are far too busy gathering large volumes of material we will re-cycle. We are, after all, concerned about the environment.

In our defense we provide joy and happiness for family and friends and they do the same for us. This is the time of year we forget about the troubles of the world and we celebrate with family. Sharing the Christmas spirit with family is what its all about.

The point here is, Christmas has been hijacked by crass consumerism and it is the wasteful and excessive orgy of hedonistic materialism that is harmful to the planet. Sharing Christmas time with family and friends does not require multiple trips to Wal Mart.

Our addiction to consumer Christmas has to come to an end. The planet cannot survive with the direct impact Christmas has on the environment nor can can it survive as long as we are addicted to advertising, packaging, and items we don't need. The whole attitude has to change. It is not only climate change that is hurting the earth. Our selfish destruction of ecosystems is poisoning the land, the sea, and the atmosphere. If we gave a damn about our children and their children, we would not addict them to junk. We would pass on to them an environment where they could could survive and where they can enjoy a sane, non addicting Christmas with their families.

Resistance

Not only individuals addicted to Christmas want to keep the party raging. Corporations depending on Christmas sales have some stake in this as well. Together, they make a formidable team. And besides, nobody is going to make you give up Christmas. Environmentalists and left wing loonies can say what they want but you will have a much or as little Christmas as you choose. And this is the key point. This is your choice.

When we consider that even something as minimal as the Kyoto Protocol and opposition from those that are most addicted to the party, we know that we have to win a huge battle before we arrest Santa Claus. Our children and grandchildren and their kids have an enemy in our midst and that enemy is us. This enemy is equal to any coward that puts his own pleasure ahead of the survival of others. They are the selfish and comfortable cowards that we think of as shareholders. They are them and their million lackeys and they are the enemies of humanity and the earth.

In the 21st century, everybody doesn’t have to work to distribute and produce wealth. That idea is archaic and part of capitalistic indoctrination. Capitalism has given us many gifts of technology, know-how, and toys. Thank you capitalism, we appreciate it. But it has come at a price and the sooner we start paying it back to the earth, the less expensive it will be. We have to change our economic systems, our production systems and our distribution systems if we want to save the eco-systems that support us.
We will crush resistance to the detoxification of Christmas even though Santa's fifth column is deep among us. It is a matter of time. Christmas must be restored to its true meaning which is 180 degrees contrary to greed and addictions to bath oil beads. We need to crush the spirit of Santa and replace it with the attitude of Jesus. When that happens we will produce most of what we need locally and we will start living with each other in communities again. We won't walk by the beggar. We will sit and talk to him. We will say good-bye to our alienated lives in front of television sets. We will produce what we need and we will distribute what is needed as it is needed. We may need bicycles and buses, we don’t need cars. We need to distribute water where it isn’t locally available. We don’t need Coke. We don’t need useless items in multiple packages.

We live inside big wasteful production and distribution systems but we also live inside many other systems. We live inside eco-systems and we are destroying them. We cannot continue to abuse the earth because we are as much a part of the earth and the nutrients we put in our mouths and flush down the toilet. As we destroy the earth, we destroy our grandchildren. They are the earth and they will come from the earth long after we return to it.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Calculus of Revolution

We are powerless. The threat of revolution is all we have. Not so long ago we could negotiate but today, established power does not see human needs as a calculation. Yesterday, the corporate/political establishment showed a measure of respect. Today, it is absent. The important message for today is, that respect was earned.

We may have some expectation that we are going through a rough patch and things will get back to normal. What is happening however is the driving force for production, trade, and employment has changed its nature. That driving force is capitalism itself. Even if people with power wanted to, it is very likely the greater capitalist system does not have capacity to turn back the clock to restore adequate pensions, decent wages, and a humane social safety net. That is not to suggest these things are out of reach. Under the status quo however, they are.

Another ongoing change is not a change as much as manifestation as a result of the environment in which it operates. In times of luxury and growth, capitalism is naturally liberal. Liberalism facilitates growth and flexibility. During times of scarcity and fierce competition however, capitalism has a distinct and necessary brutality to it. It becomes increasingly fascistic.

While there is no shortage of individuals, organizations, and even nations wanting to alter the system to be more humane, there is an obvious shortage of respect for those with their hand out. On the other hand, any serious discussion of what wealth is, of how it is created and who owns it will get respect. Actually taking steps to restore social programs and public wealth will turn that respect to fear.

The bottom line is, wealth is not what they think it is. We create it and they take it. If they have seduced you into believing that they create it, read on.

The Bankruptcy of Reform

Reform minded movements and individuals are barely fighting to increase minimum wages and restore social programs. Our collective powerlessness including the powerlessness of the union movement is obvious. Aside from begging we have no strategy at all. Collective begging that consists of complaining to lawmakers, signing petitions, protesting, and various other means garners no respect, nor should it. These tactics are utterly toothless. Our voices of discontent are not treated with respect and all our good, rational, and compassionate arguments are simply ignored.

Reform had been granted in the past as a result of building class consciousness among citizens. In 1936 and 1937 workers in the United States began sit down strikes all over the country. The Communist Party in the United States reached a membership of 50,000. The capitalist class were insecure. They were terrified of revolution and they were cognizant of the power of poorly fed citizenry. Russia revolted twenty years ago and the same thing could happen again.

It wasn't only Roosevelt and the United States that were concerned with the possibility of revolution. Internationally, intellectuals, economists, politicians and business leaders themselves strategized ways to stem the tide. They found those ways and it was articulated by John Maynard Keynes.

Fear of the citizenry and the possibility they may be attracted to communism, which would end their dream completely, compelled changes to mitigate that risk. Joseph Kennedy said of that time, “In those days I felt and said I would be willing to part with half of what I had if I could be sure of keeping, under law and order, the other half”.

Reasonable middle class expectations are that 'they' will do it again. The posture of the citizen beggar and the dynamics of the master/slave mentality that exists between established power and the rest of us must change and we are responsible to make that change happen. Corporate interests and their politicians have done their part; they have shipped our jobs abroad, they are tearing the social safety net to shreds, and they are proceeding to militarize the globe including domestic police forces. The 1% are clearly as class conscious as any Marxist and have shown absolutely no loyalty to workers, consumers, or nations. Our first great revolutionary act is to simply look.

The mess we are living through is not a matter of evil and greedy people becoming ever more callous as they grow. It is not a matter of capitalists or politicians being evil and selfish. The problem is much more serious. The problem is systemic and even if we jailed all the capitalists and the politicians today, the system would run exactly the same way tomorrow.

The system is rapidly changing due to the nature of capitalism itself. This is an energy that has a revolutionary life of its own. Its nature is dynamic and focused. That focus itself is one large problem for human beings. So is its dynamism.

Notwithstanding the depression and World War 2, past reforms were carried out during a period of relative global stability. Even responses to those world shaking events didn't change the nature of the beast. Its nature has been to evolve faster as it matures and today, it has successfully morphed to an inhumane feeding machine that can in no way be satisfied. Part of this monstrosity is due in part to emerging economies that had not been factors in earlier times. In the past, national capitalisms had some domestic control. When it comes to economic matters that is no longer the case.

A substantial factor that has been changing is its efficiency. The invention of new technologies aimed to increase production is changing the very nature of capitalism and its relationship with human beings. Today, those inventions are rapidly reducing and replacing the need for human input for a given volume of goods produced or services rendered. Paradoxically, these efficiencies have a negative influence on the aggregate real profit margin.

Arguments against neo-liberal policies may conclude that extremists like Thatcher or Reagan have ruined our standard of living. They assume a return to standards and regulations and general sanity will right the ship and so, it is a matter of getting the right politicians elected. Somethings amiss however. No matter what social democratic party or good guy politician is elected, like Obama, they always govern for the banks and the corporations and against Main Street. It isn't that the politicians are cruel or cowardly as much as politicians do not govern. They merely sit in a given seat and are told what to do. That is a more serious matter than if we were simply dealing with opportunists and self serving oafs. The best example of this is Obama's Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton. He may be blamed for the deregulation of international capital when he repealed the Glass–Steagall Act, an Act that was passed in 1933 in response to widespread financial fraud and abuse by investors. Under the Act, banks could take deposits and make loans while brokers could sell securities. No entity could do both due to the obvious conflicts of interest. In 1999 Clinton and the GOP controlled Congress were directed by the big banks to repeal the legislation. We may ask ourselves why a leader of the left side of political spectrum would repeal an act that has been a source of safety and financial security for business and ordinary Americans. And we can look at the current Democratic President of the United States and ask ourselves the similar questions. Again, it isn't personal. These are not necessarily evil people. They are simply immersed in a system they barely understand and they are powerless.

After Glass Steagall was repealed, financiers behaved exactly as they did in the 1920s and 30s. Banks created a system of fraudulent lending and sold packages of dirt to their customers in the form of securities. We can see that in many ways the nature of capitalism is exactly as it was almost a century ago. The differences will be most salient when the inevitable reform movements to come try to repeat history in terms of recreating generous social programs and restoring the old Keynsian order. The New Deal is not only old, it is dead.

As we remain bogged down in economic stagnation (notwithstanding the stock market bubble) and danger of another serious financial crash, reformist economic policies are a logical choice. But where is Obama's New Deal or anything like it? It makes perfect sense. The more spending power the consumer has the more the consumer will demand goods and services and this is naturally good for business. Here we are seven years after the shock of 2008 and our great salvation of reform, of change, the heroic Community Organizer, Constitutional Law Professor and President of the United States cannot do anything to stimulate the economy or, apparently, anything else he wants to do. Obama himself is clear evidence of Presidential castration. If he did build another Hoover Dam and if he repaired public infrastructure in the United States, he would lift America out of its financial misery. Main Street would be hopping again. Yet there is no new Hoover Dam or large infrastructure developments while America's streets and bridges continue to crumble. Instead, there is war. From Main Street, it makes no sense whatsoever. From Wall Street, it makes perfect sense and from there, he is directed not to stimulate the economy.

The Pragmatics of Revolution

There are two aspects to the notion of revolution and depending on the temperment and beliefs of an individual, one is more vital than the other. Those two aspects are sincere proletarian revolution with the aim of taking control of production, distribution, and government. The other is the threat of sincere proletarian revolution. The latter has been a governor in Western nations for the past century and we were not even aware of it. The USSR as well as legions of radicals in the 1930s threatened Western capitalism in the USA and abroad. Leaders of the day were forced to throw crumbs to the peasants lest they revolt.

Today, competition for legitimacy from the USSR has disappeared and we are increasingly dominated by Washington. Pressure on ordinary people stemming from vital human needs will continue to increase and at some point a critical mass will be unable to take it anymore. Revolutionary movements will spring up. Although that may seem remote and obscure, there is no overestimating the fickleness of crowds with starving children.

Until that threat is real, until we have a critical mass calling for full revolution against capitalism, we will remain weak, pathetic, and servile as we beg for table scraps from the omnipotent master. If you'd like some crumbs, you ask. If you want the whole cake, you take it. If you want reform, demanding the whole cake might not be a bad idea.

Wealth distribution from the 1% to the rest of us seems like a logical remedy. Problems with that as a remedy are deep however. First of all, the wealth owned by the 1% is empty of substance. If they had to cash it in it wouldn't be available. It is mirage created by bankers and the IMF and its rot will soon be in full view when the stock market bubble bursts and the whole illusion comes crashing down.

Real wealth is usable stuff or services. Money is merely a representation of that wealth. Wealth is created when minerals are removed from the ground, when timber is cut and when fish are caught. It is created when we manufacture, when we cure the ill, and when we build a bridge. And it is ordinary human beings that create that wealth. We seem to think we need our masters to tell us what to do; when to build bridges, when to manufacture medicine for human suffering, when to work and when to beg. The most revolutionary of all realizations is that we do not need the investors. We can build and distribute all we want and need. Simply seeing the truth of that statement is potent and it is revolutionary.

As long as we remain mired in out master/slave mentality we will not be anything more than beggars and slaves.

Look upon hard core radicals with the respect they deserve. Anarchists and communists and left wing radicals of all stripes will demand, they won't ask, what is rightfully the property of the people. It is the threat they present to the comfortable bourgeios nest that forces change. Begging is neither helpful or respectable.

The first step here is to understand the nature of wealth.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Robert Kagan: The Fool on the Hill

To look inside the mind of Brookings Institution Scholar Robert Kagan is to look into the minds of the most powerful and dangerous people on the planet. Kagan has many influential followers including John McCain, Mitt Romney and generally the who's who of right wing hawks. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are also disciples of his. In fact, in 2012, Obama was waving one of Kagan's works around telling the world that this is clear justification for his apparent fetish for endlesswar. The name of Obama's prize article is, “Not Fade Away: Against the Myth of American Decline”.

In his 2012 election campaign Obama stated, “The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe…. From the coalitions we’ve built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we’ve led against hunger and disease, from the blows we’ve dealt to our enemies, to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back. Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.” Obama drew his new bold face from the article. He was impressed enough that he discussed the article at length with journalists in the midst of the election campaign against Mitt Romney while Kagan was an advisor to Mitt Romney.

Kagan's views of the USA and the world are extremely dangerous due to both their content and most especially to who is influenced by him. The fact that this man and his ideas are gospel to both Democrats and Republicans on the highest levels should get our attention. He is also married to Obama's Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Asia, Victoria Nuland, the woman that betrayed America's involvement in Ukraine as they pushed Russia into a deep and dangerous corner. This all reflects a realm of insiders, realpolitik, and conspiracy.

Obama's Gospel – The Article

The article itself is surprising in its weak base, unsupported assumptions, and its flawed logic. At its very base it assumes supreme sovereignty for all all nations belongs to the United States of America. That base is not a base but reflects Obama's cavalier attitude when to comes to law, especially international law.

The question leading into this article: “Is the United States in decline, as so many seem to believe these days? Or are Americans in danger of committing pre-emptive superpower suicide out of a misplaced fear of their own declining power?” Kagan's answer is that the current liberal world order, a creation of American foreign policy, could end up on the ash heap of history but with a correct view and through constant vigilance the current world order will be maintained.

Kagan cites three measures that may help us analyze the current condition of America's power in the world. They are, the size and influence of the nation's economy, the magnitude of its military, and, redundantly, the degree of political influence it has internationally. Kagan points to the perception that recent problems with the economy or foreign policy indicate the decline of the greatest superpower the world has known. Kagan compares this with the British Empire at the end of the 19th century. His easy juxtaposition of current American world domination and the British Empire does not go so far as replace the term 'superpower' with 'empire', it's merely implied. This starting point is telling. And the fact that it the starting point in the minds of many that have control of the American state indicates contempt for other nation's sovereignty and rule of law. Kagan exposes an unapologetic militarist and authoritarian world view.

His view is about power and not much else. Kagan points out that relative to other economies in the world the USA is holding its position, more or less. He argues that the rapid rise of the Chinese economy is not a crucial factor pointing out the “sheer size” of a given economy isn't a good measure of a nation's position in the world. China can be contained with effort. He points out that China will remain well behind both the US and Europe in terms of per capita GDP.

While the importance of an economy is important to Kagan and presumably anybody that aims to control the world, military strength is vital. He points out that military strength underpins hegemony. This point isn't consistent with the mainstream narrative however; that the USA intervenes in other parts of the world for the benefit of those that are attacked. While the notion of humanitarian intervention is obviously aimed to curry domestic and international support for its many wars, the calculations in Washington's back rooms are adjusted to the metrics of power, not to the wishes of the UN. Kagan's point here is that when it comes to military expenditures, the USA is in another league altogether, vastly outspending everybody else. And there is no doubt about that.

Kagan seems to be oblivious to economic considerations that are not related to military spending. He downplays the importance of a healthy economy and does not relate the economy's poor health to military expenditures. To detach the inconceivable sums that are military spending from the faltering nation's economy is not a simple blind spot. It is one of several of America's Achilles heels.

On the relative rise of other economies such as Brasil and China, he points out, “just because a nation is an attractive investment opportunity does not mean it is a rising great power”. What he does not mention however is the importance of manufacturing to a given domestic economy. These investment opportunities have shifted much of America's substantial tax base offshore. His assuredness that this simple opening of investment opportunities in other nations has no impact at home reflects a serious disconnect.

He points out the decline of the British Empire was not a result of poor economic performance. The British economy grew as it's global status shrank and that was due, in part, to the comparative rising strength of the American economy. It wasn't economic performance but militarily strength that diminished the standing of the United Kingdom. Kagan points to growing German military strength as they aimed for European supremacy as the reason for the British Empire's decline. He fails to say why. Perhaps it is because to Mr. Kagan, relative military strength is the supreme consideration; that on it's own is the measure of measures.

The article points out that as friendly nations rise, they pose no threat to America's position in the world. They are strategic partners and, as Kagan alluded earlier, under the umbrella and protection of American hegemony. Kagan identifies the growing Chinese economy and its concomitant capacity to grow its military as the only realistic threat to American dominance.

Kagan writes at length about the false nostalgia in notions of American popularity and superiority in the 1950s and 60s. Opposition to American imperialism was strident both at home and abroad. He points to a number of colossal failures in the 70s regarding American foreign policy and its economic standing in the world. These were bleak times and prophets like Henry Kissinger and Paul Kennedy were foretelling the demise of American dominance. Back then Kennedy suggested “imperial overreach” and military spending as Achilles heels that would cripple American power in the world. Kagan assert they were wrong pointing to America's overall consistency in terms of America's share of the world's GDP remaining steady. Kagan's overall point here is that much of the sense of American decline is based in nostalgic illusions of power and influence the USA has in the world that it simply didn't have; the subtext being, we are in a better position now than ever.

In the past, detractors that were critical of America's reach in Europe and throughout the world suggested that the USSR and not the USA was in a better position to win over global governments and populations. The USA, in competition with the USSR, was forced to maintain alliances, many of them strained. The USSR just had to wait them out. Kagan points to victory here for the USA and is attributing its expensive strategy of “containment” (of the USSR) as the crucial item.

Kagan's implication in this article that China is America's natural enemy is shocking. Fortunately, this article and its adherents do not see China as an immediate threat but they see continued containment of China as the reason why it isn't. The United States dominates China's backyard and Kagan points out that the USA has China surrounded with military bases. Even if China wanted to be a regional hegemon, it would need to remove Taiwan from America's pocket and they would need to usurp the USA from all the other nations surrounding China.

Kagan questions the notion of 'overreach' by comparing numbers of military personnel today with other times when the numbers were higher. His implicit suggestion is, we have capacity for much more. On the economic side of military spending, he quotes former budget czar Alice Rivlin, “the scary projections of future deficits are not “caused by rising defense spending,” much less by spending on foreign assistance.” Kagan asserts it is “runaway entitlement spending” that is compromising America's future. Presumably, boatloads of money being funneled into defense contractors bank accounts is not entitlement spending.

Kagan lists costs that the USA would incur should American taxpayers cut back on defense spending. They are, the costs associated with unraveling the economic order built and maintained by the American military, costs associated with insecure water routes kept open by the American military machine, costs associated with wars that would break out if the USA didn't keep nations from waging war against each other, costs associated with American allies that have lost the protection of the American military, and costs associated with “the generally free and open nature of the international system”.

Kagan is suggesting a 'pay now or pay later' scenario. This open and shameless display of circular logic has to be either a display of audacity or idiocy. There is no third option.

Kagan warns that world domination is a choice and a choice Americans themselves must make. Failure to maintain dominance would compromise its capacity to emerge from crisis to emerge stronger and healthier than other nations (as it has in the past). Americans may feel compelled, Kagan asserts, to back away from its “moral and material burdens” that have weighed on the USA since World War 2. To agree with diminished military spending is to believe the present 'world order' would persist without American dominance. To maintain the benefits of the current world order with its “widespread freedoms, its general prosperity, its absence of great power conflict”, requires American leadership and commitment.

Again, his presupposition that the status quo are the alpha and omega, that any risk to American dominance in the world is a disaster is utterly baseless and the platform for much of the logical failures that energize this article.

To finish off, Kagan again alludes to the term 'empire' and argues that while all empires do die, the question of when is key. The USA may have hundreds of years to go.

Conclusion

This article, touted by the President of the United States as justification for more war and increased militarism does not bode well for our collective futures. The article is dated and does not address recent sword rattling in the wake of Putin's disobedience dealing with Snowdon, Syria, the Ukraine and so on. Since that article was written, Russia may have replaced China as Robert Kagan's long term project. And since that time, Obama has turned to bay with the dogs of war. Probably as a result of Kagan's influence scores of human beings are now dead in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, and other places. And the more and the longer people like him enjoy the influence they do, the more people will die needlessly.

One thing is for sure. The United States has war on its mind and many human beings are not alive today as a result, many more will be dead tomorrow. That consideration however isn't even hinted at. As we read an article like this, as influential as it has been, it is devoid of humanity. Its as if Kagan and Obama are sitting in front of a board game like Risk and human considerations are not part of it. To them power and position on the game board and winning are all that count. Deaths and disabilities, human catastrophe and displacement, the health of other nations are not factors in Kagan's metrics. They would only factor in if they had some impact on power.

It is not the article on its own that is alarming. Kagan isn't alone in his lust for world domination. The fact that the Democratic President of the United States even takes this article seriously is crucial. It suggests that the President of the United States is not very intelligent and worse, he is as affected by whatever psychological condition is affecting Kagan. That condition shows an indifference to human suffering, glib charm, lack of sincerity with an ability to lie seamlessly, grandiose self worth, poor judgment, no consideration of consequences for other people, utilizing human beings as if they are objects and so on. They indicate a serious mental health issue.

Wouldn't it be remarkable if we found those with the most power and influence in this world are not there because they are smart or humane or wise, they are there because they are utterly ruthless. Wouldn't it be remarkable if we discovered that this world, at the very top, is run by psychopaths?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Remembrance Isn’t Enough

On November 11th Canadians commemorate the fallen, the lost lives of the men that have been killed in service to the nation in World War 1 as well as wars since then. We thank them for what they have done in their efforts to preserve freedom and democracy.
Remembrance on its own however isn’t enough. It isn’t enough because the mentality that has pushed millions of men into trenches to mindlessly slaughter each other 100 years ago is still in place. Moreover, the war to end all wars has started pretty much every war since that time; World War 2 included.

In 2014 We need to become more objective and critical when it comes to war. Through history, the individual fought on the side he or she was born on, more or less. The state demands it.

World War 1 was not about either freedom or democracy. It was about power and wealth. In fact, Germany had universal male suffrage at the time. Britain qualified about 40% of males to vote. At that time, the United Kingdom brutally ruled the globe at the point of a gun. This is not to suggest German imperialism was better or worse; both were employed by very wealthy people aiming to maximize profit and this factor is war's genesis; it is the reason why all this carnage occurred and still occurs. The nature of empire is a nature of violence and oppression and to the extent we bolster that tradition and mentality with Remembrance Day celebrations, we should examine and analyze these processes very carefully. If Remembrance Day ceremonies militarize the population and shore up future support for offensive war against other nations, we need to critically examine what we are doing. If it is truly about reflecting on the deaths of so many, then we should do so.
Remembrance Day must be more than a day to support unquestioned support for the state, for the powers that make war happen. Unquestioning the motives of the state is more than dangerous, it is immoral. This should be a day to actually remember and analyze the mistakes of the past to not repeat them. If waging war is a mistake that results in the deaths of thousands or millions of human beings, it is not merely a mistake. It is a crime of the highest order and we, the cannon fodder for future wars, must do the analysis. The people that actually send us to war will not.

Bush’s apparent mistake by waging war in Iraq occurred in a climate of nationalist jingoism and insecurity after 9 11. Mistakes like that may occur when a population is in fear, when a population is desensitized to the plight of foreign individuals, and when popular media notes all the reasons for going to war while burying the myriad of reasons not to. Although Bush’s push to war was not as much a mistake as it was a planned and thought out bid for oil control as well as America’s strategic placement on the world map, it was a mistake in the analysis of the population. Otherwise, popular opposition may have interfered with war planning and possibly stopped an invasion. This venture has only resulted in far more instability and carnage than could have been possible otherwise. As we can see in 2014, that war is far from ending.

One Thread of Legacy

With an upheaval as massive as World War One, it would be impossible to list the threads of legacy that have spun from that carnage. Perhaps the most relevant one that is impacting people today is the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. That legacy runs this way: the Balfour Declaration in 1926 set scaffolding for the Israeli state, the Treaty of Versailles set up a frightened and dangerous mood in Germany. Germany, under Hitler, killed 6 million Jews and many more including communists, socialists, gypsies, gays and so on. Naturally, the Jewish people wanted their own state and security for themselves as a people. Today, the people of Israel do not feel secure; they are not.

War feeds on insecurity and fear and in turn, creates more of the same. World War 1 created acute insecurity among the German people; a very dangerous condition. Germans became suspicious and frightened of everybody and xenophobia ran high. Conditions like this empower the state to its dangerous and violent extremes.
Jewish people had been living in Palestinian lands prior to 1948 and the creation of the state of Israel. They lived with some tension with local Arabs but both populations managed to get along. Western powers callously created a state that is based on religious or ethnic attributes necessarily creating a society of exclusion as opposed to working toward inclusion and peace. The exclusion or lowering of the status of the local people that had been living there all along is itself is an act of violence, of war. As a result, the people of Israel live in a sea of hatred where individuals and groups of individuals would like to eradicate the state of Israel and individuals living as Jewish people in Israel. It is an extremely volatile and ongoing situation and it is directly tied to the war to end all wars; World War 1.
The current bombing of ISIS may not tie as directly to World War 1 but the artificial drawing of boundaries throughout the Middle East by Western powers has set up conditions for conflict and mutual distrust. This, along with a widespread acceptance of dominance by imperial powers is a certain recipe for disaster. The latter point is a crucial in terms of remembrance. It is the end we collectively hold up.

What is it we bring to mind when we remember? The reality is; not much. If we did we would stop repeating the same mindless carnage over and over and over again. Today, in 2014, Western powers, led by the USA are dropping bombs on ISIS after the USA intervened in Iraq and upon their departure, set up certain civil war between the Sunnis and the Shia by stripping power and wealth from one population and handing it over to the other. The British did exactly the same thing to Protestant and Catholic populations in the British Isles.

The West and NATO have attacked and bombed Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya in recent years with an aim to overthrow those dictatorships. A kind and forgiving attitude toward Western intervention would need to admit, at least, that these regime change ventures have created more terrorists and have increased hatred against the West and against Israel. They have boxed many millions of ordinary Muslim citizens into a corner where they have little choice but to fight against violent domination by foreign forces. We are creating not only terrorism but turning whole populations against the West. This reaction will extend to an unknown extent to include antipathy toward Western style democracy, individual freedom, and legal frameworks based in rationality. We are not only perverting modernity, we are turning people against it and against ourselves as people in the existing unwieldy climate of fear and violence.

Cavalier About War

Unlike Europeans and much of the world, North Americans have not seen war directly on American or Canadian soil in living memory. Perhaps this explains the cavalier attitude about war that fills media and political circles. That same attitude is well established within the population. And from North America, war is pushed through the world. Allies are pressured to take part, to join in with what Washington calls, ‘the community of nations’.

Unlike 1914, war today is directed toward civilian populations. The dropping of bombs in settled areas is the ultimate act of cowardice, not unlike terrorist bombings of civilians. It is meant to collectively punish disobedient or resistant populations. The Sunnis in Syria and Iraq are the latest enemy suffering under this ongoing war crime. ISIS are slaughtering innocent people that even hint at defiance. Civilians have paid a heavy price as a result of vague targeting of leaders of Taliban, Al Qeada, ISIS; collateral damage is the euphemism intended to sterilize indiscriminate carnage. The Western Frankenstein known as ISIS advertise their brutality like a badge of honour. They are not unique in this regard.
The commencement of bombing on CSIS is met with the same apathy as when Libya was attacked by NATO. Stephen Harper starts a war and it barely raises an eyebrow. Obviously we are not remembering much. We are at a point where the start of a war is received with a collective shrug of the shoulders or, a cheer reminiscent of a great sports event. Then on November 11th we stand in parks and monuments to remember. The world is getting ugly and we are at a point where we need to ask ourselves: What are we remembering?

Do we remember 158 Canadians that have died in Afghanistan? Those that know them remember them but what about the rest of us? What is it we are supposed to remember?
Perhaps when we remember those that died, we also remember political mistakes or planned conspiracies to start wars. We must remember the death and carnage and the destruction of whole societies. We remember the lies that have been delivered to us through media and political sycophants. We should remember the way war veterans have been treated and the way they continue to be treated. We must remember the millions of lives lost on and off the battlefield and we should remember that armies have lined up against each other for thousands of years with a willingness to kill those born on the other side of the border should some Dear Leader demand it. Maybe we are not above the barbarians we aim to kill. Perhaps if we really remember, we will put an end to it.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Unacceptable Cowardice: The Killing Fields of Gaza

The latest slaughter of the people of Gaza aims to normalize massacres against civilians as an accepted response to a disobedient population. Western politicians and media have given Israel a gentle scolding for a specific massacre of children but quickly return to their script saying 'Israel has a right to defend itself', or, 'blame Hamas'.

This particular war crime (collective punishment) is not new or unique to Israel. For example, on August 5th four civilians were killed in Afghanistan by NATO warplanes. This follows the killing of an American general. Killings in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere although under-reported, have been continuous under Obama. Collective punishment against civilian populations is obviously illegal and will never be admitted but the frequency with which this happens suggests that this is a tactic that is heavily relied on by Western and Israeli forces.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/world/asia/afghan-civilians-killed-in-airstrike-by-american-led-coalition.html

Typically, abusers will minimize their crime, they will deny it, or they will blame the victim. One way or another, they will rationalize it not only for the audience but for their own mental health. They convince themselves that they were justified. This is true of the man that beats his wife or children and it is true of Israel and its all too loyal voice in the world, Western mainstream media.

These massacres appear to have created a significant crossroad for public consciousness due to the exposure it was given. If we turn away, as is our collective custom, we are marching in step with Israeli brutality as surely as CNN does. This is not a moment in history where we can afford to remain silent. If this passes the acceptability test under the scrutiny it has received, it will give a green light not only to Israel. It will also embolden future despots and tyrants to crush dissent with unbridled military force. We have already wandered way too far down that path.

Jackboots on the Throat of Palestine

In 2005 and 2006 Hamas won elections to the dismay of Israel and the United States. Their contemptuous treatment of democracy when the wrong party is elected has been on full display in Egypt the Ukraine and elsewhere but the electoral success of Hamas has resulted in multiple massacres of Palestinian voters. Israel and the West have no wish or desire to make peace in Palestine. On the contrary. As former US President Jimmy Carter points out:

“This tragedy results from the deliberate obstruction of a promising move toward peace in the region, when a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinian factions was announced in April. This was a major concession by Hamas, in opening Gaza to joint control under a technocratic government that did not include any Hamas members. The new government also pledged to adopt the three basic principles demanded by the Middle East Quartet comprised of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia: nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and adherence to past agreements. Tragically, Israel rejected this opportunity for peace and has succeeded in preventing the new government's deployment in Gaza.

Two factors are necessary to make Palestinian unity possible. First, there must be at least a partial lifting of the 7-year-old sanctions and blockade that isolate the 1.8 million people in Gaza. There must also be an opportunity for the teachers, police, and welfare and health workers on the Hamas payroll to be paid. These necessary requirements for a human standard of living continue to be denied. Instead, Israel blocked Qatar's offer to provide funds to pay civil servants' salaries, and access to and from Gaza has been further tightened by Egypt and Israel.”
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article39352.htm

Israel and the United States aim is to fracture Palestinian solidarity. Severing the West bank and Fatah from Gaza and Hamas would further isolate Gaza. It is a crucial war aim for Israel. This violence is in response to increased Palestinian cohesion. On June 2 the Palestinians formed a unity government under Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel responded by saying Israel will approve 1,500 new housing units for Israelis on Palestinian land. "I congratulate the decision to give a proper Zionist response to the establishment of the Palestinian terror cabinet," Minister Ariel said. "The right and duty of the State of Israel to build across the country to lower the housing prices is unquestionable, and I believe these tenders are just the beginning."
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.597084

Media Complicity and Shocking Cowardice

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” -Joseph Goebbels

The series of massacres that Israel has carried out against the innocent people of Gaza is obscured with large, blatant, in your face lies. The spectacle of the Israeli war machine grinding the people of the Gaza ghetto into living hell and death is shocking. Western support of the lies that make it possible is crucial. Western politicians and media are not only giving Israel the message they can carry on with impunity, they are providing a green light to future atrocities not only for Israel; they are generally normalizing the wholesale slaughter of human beings.

The Israeli/Western narrative is not a twist of the truth or an exaggeration. They use blatant lies in full public view. The obvious contempt that Israel, Western politicians, and CNN (MSM) have for the audience follows a decade of American war and atrocities where war crimes have silently passed the court of public opinion. They believe they can take the commission of war crimes in public view up a notch. And they have.

The Western narrative informs us that Palestinian children are caught in the 'crossfire' after children are targeted and murdered in cold blood. That is why they make so much of human shields allegations. It bolsters the notion of 'crossfire'. Civilians are actually targets and Israel's pat response is, 'we do not target civilians' or 'Hamas did it' or, 'we are investigating'.

Cheerleaders for Israel make the claim, repeatedly, that if projectiles, Hamas fighters, or missile firing occur at a location, no matter how many children may be present, it is a legitimate target. The question Western media avoid as much as possible is: Why? Why are those specific Hamas fighters, projectiles, or hot spots sufficiently important to warrant the wholesale murder of 2,000 human beings? In reality, Israel's destruction of projectiles, Hamas fighters, or a hot spots will make no difference whatsoever to resistance fighters military fitness. On the contrary. The more they kill the more they legitimize resistance and the more they kill, the less secure Israel is.

Another scenario would be more consistent with US foreign policy (collateral damage) in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past decade. That is, Israel punishes the local population for its support of Hamas through mass murder and destruction of public infrastructure and after the air strikes kill innocent men, women, and children they brazenly claim the enemy was utilizing human shields. This particular lie has no rational merit. Those that use it must have the intellectual wherewithal to imagine the absurdity of Hamas fighters standing before the sophisticated American weaponry of the IDF in an open field to shoot glorified firecrackers at Israel.

The large lies, the little lies, the demonization of Hamas and Palestinians in general all serve to kick up sufficient dust and smoke so that at the end of the day, observers tire of trying to figure out who is truthful and who is lying. CNN will pack away their cameras, the world will focus on Iraq or the Ukraine and again, Israel will get away with murder. The people of Gaza will hunker down in their open air prison and we will forget about them. And that is exactly what Israel, the USA, and CNN are counting on.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Crack Between the Worlds: Judge Pauley vs. Judge Leon

The 9 11 attacks on the USA have exposed a previously hidden but dangerous crack running through the current nominal free world. On one side is freedom; the other, security.

On December 27 Judge Pauley (ACLU vs. Clapper) ruled in favour of the NSA security apparatus spying activities against the citizens of the United States. In his decision, he made the claim that the choice between liberty and security is a false dichotomy. Pauley makes this statement after his nation has fought wars for freedom, ostensibly, and against nations and notions of buttoned down security. Wars have been fought to defend the USA against ideologies that may compromise the free individual. It is certainly not a false dichotomy. While this question will always be on a spectrum, there is a clear divide between secure societies (especially where everybody is monitored) and a free society.

Earlier this month, Judge Richard Leon ruled in favour of freedom. And there it is; the crack that separates federal judges. It also shows up in broad ideological terms. It separates conservatives from libertarians, liberals from liberals, and socialists and anarchists from so called communists. It is a crack that runs through philosophy, religion, and history. It probably runs through most individuals.

Pauley argues that “National security investigations are fundamentally different from criminal investigations. They are prospective – focused on preventing attacks – as opposed to the retrospective investigation of crimes.” Pauley aims to take due process into a nebulous realm where slippery pro fascist arguments may hold sway with fascistic minded individuals. He moves the locus of interest offshore to foreigners that are not protected under the Constitution. Then he uses that to justify pre-emptive strategies to stop the crime before it happens. Not only is Judge Pauley being disingenuous with the law pertaining to the fourth amendment, he is also on the wrong side of the Magna Charta and the basic legal principles that have been underlying planks to freedom for centuries. Preventing crime before the crime happens sounds good, we can then lock up anybody that will probably commit a crime before he commits the crime. Unfortunately, there is no way to live in a free society with this kind of security. To live in a free society, we need to tolerate the pedophile down the street and, we need to live with the possibility of being killed by violent people whether they are deemed (however arbitrarily) by the state ‘terrorist’ or not.

This is not about terrorism. It is about you. The state is not spending the time and money on the security state as it is in order to keep Al Qaeda from killing citizens. If fear, death, or any other types of citizens suffering were important to policymakers, they would address the fear, death, and suffering they directly cause in decisions where big money win out over human health and well-being. It isn’t terrorism they are afraid of. They are afraid of you.

A society where the state places the individual in a high tech goldfish bowl is a society where the state lords itself over, above, and against the population. It is a state aiming for total knowledge and control over the individual. While NSA activities may not result in jackbooted fascists storming through your door in the middle of the night, the differences are really cosmetic. We are moving to a paradigm you may remain marginally free compared to Germans under Hitler, Russians under Stalin, or Saudis under their current monarchs but, it is important to recognize that American society has crossed the aforementioned crack. Once that line is crossed, it is much easier for future explicit fascists and tyrants to rule with arbitrary power.

Judge Pauley makes much of the possibility that another terrorist attack may occur against the USA. What is much more devastating to the USA and indirectly to many other nations is the sustained decade old attack on individual freedom, an attack where Pauley himself is a guilty party. Individual physical attacks are one thing, attacking the fundamental legal and political basis of the nation is far more serious.

We can easily imagine the divide where on one side stand Madison and the American revolutionaries that brought the USA and the free world to modernity. Behind them stand millions of dead soldiers and citizens that have died for freedom. With them are countless intellectuals, philosophers, and revolutionaries the world over and throughout history; on the other side – a totalitarian nightmare.

Historically, the political left and right have been comfortably at each other’s throats – and we like it that way. On this occasion however, the left may find allies on the libertarian right and vice versa. No matter what we think and believe on other issues, the issue of freedom is the battle du jour and we need to win it. Together we may rise up against the cowards on both our sides of this existential crack in time.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The War on Children

The impact of Western military attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya have been catastrophic. Aside from people directly killed in the attacks, the physical, economic and social infrastructure of these nations has been ruined. Aside from Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, Western meddling has killed, displaced, and ruined the lives of countless others in Syria and many other nations in the Middle East and Africa. Aside from the reprieve granted by Putin's intervention in Syria, there is nothing to suggest the Western war machine is anywhere close to slowing down.

This is a very serious situation and it is time that we, the supposed employers of Western politicians, do something about it.

The Impact of War on Children

Much has been said to address post trauma stress suffered by veterans of those wars. While that is a festering wound on its own, we will consider what it is like for the individuals that happen to live in a war zone. For them, the war only ends when the war ends and even then, it doesn't end. War karma will drag on and on well into the future. The society must live with the consequences that war has for young people that are in the midst of their mental and emotional development. The consequences have ramifications not only for the affected individual but for their society as a whole. For the domestic population, there is no going home from the war. When war ends, it really doesn't.

Western nations have child protection services to intervene where children are at risk of being harmed by caregivers. Agencies tend to address problems by providing services to a family where children are at risk of harm. Should those responsible for the children present significant harm to the children and they cannot or will not reduce the risk, parents are stripped of their default authority over the children and children may be removed from the home. Citizens generally become quite disturbed when a local child is being harmed. Yet, brown skinned children in foreign lands may suffer as a direct result of their elected leaders decisions but citizens tend to ignore that suffering. On the other hand, we are rarely exposed to information about this brutal reality.

It is imperative that we develop a means to strip authority away from politicians that kill and injure children.

Brain development process are sequential and build on previous development. A secure and predictable environment is crucial to healthy development. On the other hand, an environment where children are 'incubated in terror' will lead to a myriad of developmental problems that will require even more security, stability, and child skilled parents than can be provided in typical homes in a secure environment. Add in the conditions that war brings both in its duration and afterward, and the prognosis is poor. Children affected this way will be prone to suffer from PTSD, attachment disorders, and a wide range of neurotic disorders.

Some stages of development of the growing brain are more critical than others. Children are vulnerable and some stages of development are more crucial than others. Generally speaking, the younger the child the more vulnerable he or she is. "Disruptions of experience dependent neurochemical signals during these periods may lead to major abnormalities or deficits in neurodevelopment, some of which may not be reversible. "Disruptions of critical cues may result from "extremes of experience". Experiences that affect the development of the lower areas (brainstem and mid-brain) "...necessarily alter the development of limbic and cortical areas because critical signals these areas depend on for normal organization originate in these lower brain areas." - See more at: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/5335-the-children-of-iraq.html#sthash.Rd8O0qgn.dpuf

Chances for these children, where their nation has been devastated, are slim. Not only are their own parents impoverished, affected by PTSD, and coping with problems safe citizens can't imagine, the whole neighbourhood has been and remain in crisis due to the exponential nature of problems created by problems that have been created by the terror of war.

Recent studies on the effects of the environment on brain development indicate that environmental influences can “determine how genes are turned on and off and even whether some are expressed at all.” While children inherit both the brain's hard wiring as well as the genetic software that goes with it, it is the epigenome (operating system/software) that determines “which functions the genetic “hardware” does and does not perform.”
http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/reports_and_working_papers/working_papers/wp10/

“Because early experiences can alter the
epigenome and influence developing brain architecture, policies affecting the life circumstances of pregnant women and young children
can have enormous implications for all of society. The varied effects of environments on the
epigenome are evident from the time of early
embryonic development and extend into the
early childhood years. Science tells us that children can be helped to reach their full potential
through both appropriate experiences in the
earliest years and the reduction of sources of
toxic stress that can alter the epigenome and increase the risk of long-term problems in physical and mental health. Thus, public policies that
harness the basic principles of neuroscience
and epigenetics to address the needs of young
children are likely to also generate long-term
benefits, such as healthier communities and a
more prosperous society.
” (Ibid)

The Damage Done

The damage that has occurred and continues to occur in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and all societies victimized by war may be difficult to assess considering this type of 'collateral damage' and its ripple effects that go on into the future. However, it is a task that must be carried out. It is information that is important for those affected but it is also crucial that an informed citizenry demand an end to the ongoing wars.

Recently, the American war machine was primed to enter Syria. Thankfully, that stage of 'Western intervention' has been averted. What we are left with however are policymakers silently breathing a sigh of relief having discovered Al Qaeda waging war against it's proposed proxies. The apparent whimsical and caprice nature of making decsions about going to war is disturbing on many levels, not least of which is the callous disregard for the impact that war has on those affected. Even short of an invasion in Syria, Western meddling has prolonged and bloodied a civil war that probably has reduced living conditions to that of Iraq, Afghanistan, or Libya. Currently, 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, two million have fled the country and another four million are displaced inside Syria. The real suffering that these numbers reflect is inconceivable.
http://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/syria-dashboard/

Although you wouldn't know it from Western media reports, or lack thereof, Iraq has been suffering through war since the Americans left. In their wake, the USA has left behind a civil war that rages on. In 2013, 8,000 to 9,000 people have been killed in the ongoing civil war.
http://data.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/a-wave-of-violence-sweeps-iraq


Western intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya has been catastrophic for these nations. The consequences will live on for decades and perhaps even longer. These massive crimes against humanity have occurred, are occurring, and will continue. This is an outrageous situation and what makes it much worse is that so called 'Western intervention' continues and will continue and will likely spread through Africa and possibly even Asia.

And we, the people, are apparently powerless to do anything about it.
That is what the war party wants you to believe.