A satellite survey of Egypt has uncovered lost treasures including 17 pyramids and more than 1,000 tombs. Three thousand ancient settlements have also been located by scientists who studied infrared images which allowed them to see underground buildings.thanks, Presurfer, original great article appears here in the Daily Mail UK
Astounded researchers on the ground have already confirmed that two of the pyramids exist - and they believe there are thousands more unknown sites in the region. Researchers from the University of Alabama, USA, believe that there are many more buildings buried deeper than those already spotted, the most likely location being under the banks of the River Nile.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Monday, May 30, 2011
Spanish designer Martín Azúa created the Bios Urn. The Bios Urn turns you into a tree after you die. When your remains have been placed into the urn, it can be planted and then the seed germinates and begins to grow.
The Bios Urn project reintroduces the human being to the natural circle of life. It is the profaine ritual of regeneration and the return to nature. Bios is a mortuary urn made from biodegradable materials: coconut shell, compacted peat and cellulose.Thanks, Presurfer
Inside it contains the seed of a tree. Once the urn is planted, the seed germinates and begins to grow. The seed can be changed for a different type of seed or plant more adequate to the chosen planting place, if need be.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
A belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a "fairy story" for people afraid of death, Stephen Hawking has said.Thanks, BoingBoing
In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain's most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time.
Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21, shares his thoughts on death, human purpose and our chance existence in an exclusive interview with the Guardian today.
The incurable illness was expected to kill Hawking within a few years of its symptoms arising, an outlook that turned the young scientist to Wagner, but ultimately led him to enjoy life more, he has said, despite the cloud hanging over his future.
"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first," he said.
"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," he added.
Hawking's latest comments go beyond those laid out in his 2010 book, The Grand Design, in which he asserted that there is no need for a creator to explain the existence of the universe. The book provoked a backlash from some religious leaders, including the chief rabbi, Lord Sacks, who accused Hawking of committing an "elementary fallacy" of logic.
The 69-year-old physicist fell seriously ill after a lecture tour in the US in 2009 and was taken to Addenbrookes hospital in an episode that sparked grave concerns for his health. He has since returned to his Cambridge department as director of research.
The physicist's remarks draw a stark line between the use of God as a metaphor and the belief in an omniscient creator whose hands guide the workings of the cosmos.
In his bestselling 1988 book, A Brief History of Time, Hawking drew on the device so beloved of Einstein, when he described what it would mean for scientists to develop a "theory of everything" – a set of equations that described every particle and force in the entire universe. "It would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God," he wrote.
The book sold a reported 9 million copies and propelled the physicist to instant stardom. His fame has led to guest roles in The Simpsons, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Red Dwarf. One of his greatest achievements in physics is a theory that describes how black holes emit radiation.
In the interview, Hawking rejected the notion of life beyond death and emphasised the need to fulfil our potential on Earth by making good use of our lives. In answer to a question on how we should live, he said, simply: "We should seek the greatest value of our action."
In answering another, he wrote of the beauty of science, such as the exquisite double helix of DNA in biology, or the fundamental equations of physics.
Hawking responded to questions posed by the Guardian and a reader in advance of a lecture tomorrow at the Google Zeitgeist meeting in London, in which he will address the question: "Why are we here?"
In the talk, he will argue that tiny quantum fluctuations in the very early universe became the seeds from which galaxies, stars, and ultimately human life emerged. "Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in," he said.
Hawking suggests that with modern space-based instruments, such as the European Space Agency's Planck mission, it may be possible to spot ancient fingerprints in the light left over from the earliest moments of the universe and work out how our own place in space came to be.
His talk will focus on M-theory, a broad mathematical framework that encompasses string theory, which is regarded by many physicists as the best hope yet of developing a theory of everything.
M-theory demands a universe with 11 dimensions, including a dimension of time and the three familiar spatial dimensions. The rest are curled up too small for us to see.
Evidence in support of M-theory might also come from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva.
One possibility predicted by M-theory is supersymmetry, an idea that says fundamental particles have heavy – and as yet undiscovered – twins, with curious names such as selectrons and squarks.
Confirmation of supersymmetry would be a shot in the arm for M-theory and help physicists explain how each force at work in the universe arose from one super-force at the dawn of time.
Another potential discovery at the LHC, that of the elusive Higgs boson, which is thought to give mass to elementary particles, might be less welcome to Hawking, who has a long-standing bet that the long-sought entity will never be found at the laboratory.
Hawking will join other speakers at the London event, including the chancellor, George Osborne, and the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
Science, truth and beauty: Hawking's answers
What is the value in knowing "Why are we here?"
The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can't solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.
You've said there is no reason to invoke God to light the blue touchpaper. Is our existence all down to luck?
Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.
So here we are. What should we do?
We should seek the greatest value of our action.
You had a health scare and spent time in hospital in 2009. What, if anything, do you fear about death?
I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.
What are the things you find most beautiful in science?
Science is beautiful when it makes simple explanations of phenomena or connections between different observations. Examples include the double helix in biology, and the fundamental equations of physics."
Saturday, May 28, 2011
By Greg Guma, Maverick Media
After his End Times prediction failed last week millionaire radio prophet Harold Camping eventually came up with an excuse. During his show "Open Forum" in Oakland on May 23, he explained that the world will still end in October. It’s a process and we’re just getting started. That’s a relief. At first I thought millions of people had just wasted days of time and energy fussing over some hairbrained idea.
There are so many theories out there. Obama is a secret Muslim – millions of people believe that, secular humanists want to repress religion, and liberals are plotting to confiscate people’s guns and push a “gay agenda.” At the opposite end of the political spectrum, there's the assertion that 9/11 was an inside job and all that this entails. No offense meant. I’ve been called a “conspiracy nut” myself, specifically for saying that we should know more about the attack on the Twin Towers. Still, a modern-day Reichstag fire at multiple locations does qualify as a radical conclusion.
I usually resist the urge to challenge the controversial theories of fellow travelers, at least in mixed company. The other night, for example, during a discussion about Al-Qaeda after Osama, a speaker casually asserted that President Roosevelt knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor in advance and let it happen. No one said a word. I considered questioning the notion but let it pass.
Anything’s possible, right? Why be rude? But some theories and predictions are too important. They are widely accepted as indisputable and part of an overall world view, usually linked with an anti-establishment ideology. They have practical consequences for social action, can spark deep divisions, and influence how people see and treat others. In some groups, if you question the conclusions of a prevailing theory you’re either a dupe or a collaborator.
Deep skepticism is often at the root, a good thing in general. After all, so much of what we once believed has turned out to be a lie, or at least a very selective version of reality. But still, shouldn’t there be standards? Also, why do some theories get all the attention while others, perhaps more credible ones, get buried? And can’t we at least call people to account when their claims repeatedly lead down false trails?
In 2004, when friends claimed that George W. Bush would invade someplace – probably Cuba – before the election, I was skeptical but said nothing. Four year later, when colleagues embraced the idea that either a) there would be a pre-election invasion – Syria this time, or b) federal troops would be used to install Bush as dictator and block Obama’s election – in short, Martial Law was imminent – I took bets.
Last October word spread in activist circles that the rise in US Drone strikes and NATO helicopter attacks inside Pakistan were harbingers of something bigger. The war was going to be extended into Pakistan with the ultimate goal of seizing that nation’s nuclear weapons. Turns out they went after Osama, although many people believe that is also a lie and bin Laden was killed years earlier. These death conspiracies sound like the classic one about a fake moon landing – we never went there, right? – including phony video and a staged photo of the National Security brain trust looking at…what? Seal Team Six on a Top Secret movie set?
People were also predicting last year that Billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg would run for president (as an independent) in 2012, peeling off enough votes and states to hang the electoral college and deliver the White House to Sarah Palin. But while we now know that the prediction about Bloomberg's run (and Palin's victory) was based on nothing people can still plausibly claim that the US is preparing to invade Pakistan. Unfortunately, too many rumors of war begin to sound like crying wolf. On the other hand, by next year who will remember?
It’s easy for an extreme, often paranoid theory to circulate these days. In January, for example, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a press release to pilots saying that the Department of Defense would be testing the GPS system off the southern Atlantic coast. Cyberspace soon erupted with rumors that the Defense Department was hiding something, perhaps maritime war games, scientific experiments in the Bermuda triangle, or a plot to make GPS more accurate for government to track people in cars.
What actually happened? GPS is an outgrowth of space exploration and became public in 1983. The Defense Department remains in charge of software upgrades and satellite maintenance, and the Air Force has experienced some signal losses. The tests were part of an upgrade and took 45 minutes, followed by a 15-minute blackout. That’s basically it. Yet for some it was evidence of a secret government plot.
Speaking of plots, depopulation has been getting some attention lately, specifically related to the use of covert technology to allegedly cause earthquakes and tsunamis. The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, known as HAARP, is a joint military program involved in classified experiments involving the ionosphere. The basic claim is that it has been involved for decades in developing various types of weather-based and environmental warfare capabilities. It doesn’t help that the military has a name for this kind of thing – weather modification.
Still, using HAARP to cause earthquakes, wipe out regions and thin the herd is something else. Supporters of the depopulation theory say Haiti was a transparent example, claiming as evidence that a US task force was ready to invade before the earthquake occurred. Before that came the Indian Ocean tsunami, where people weren’t warned as soon as possible. Afterward came Fukushima, a full-scale assault not only on Japan, but on the oceans and atmosphere.
“The established pattern, with disasters and invasions, is incremental escalation,” explains a friend who supports the theory. Nuclear reactors in the US are therefore sitting ducks, just waiting for a HAARP attack. “And they have made it clear that an 80% reduction in world population is their goal,” he writes. Who made it clear? The overseers of the New World Order. Oh, Them.
Just before last Thanksgiving came news that China had briefly hijacked the Internet. I was skeptical at first, maybe burned out by too many theories and rumors. But there was evidence that the People’s Republic had cyber attack capabilities. No less than The Christian Science Monitor had reported that a Chinese group was linked to attacks on several US oil companies. The companies themselves didn’t realize the severity of the problem at first. The hijack rumor came from a report to Congress that said 15 percent of global Internet traffic had been briefly routed through Chinese servers earlier in the year. This included encrypted government mail.
Dmitri Slperovitch, a threat analyst at McAfee, called it “one of the biggest” hijacks ever. Somehow, for a brief period, all that digital information was re-routed at a small Chinese ISP and passed on to China Telecom. Nothing definite yet on how, why, or if it matters. For some reason, however, this story didn’t have legs, perhaps not resonating sufficiently with the current narrative of either the Right or the Left. Maybe it’s too abstract a problem, or too scary to consider for long.
Early in 2011 a rumor began circulating that Wikileaks is a CIA plot. The idea was that the leaks actually supported the US imperial agenda around the world. In short, Wikileaks was a big US intelligence con job that would be used to crack down on the Internet and advance a long-standing anti- civil liberties agenda. Evidence used to support this idea included the shutting down of Wikileaks servers in the US and the 2009 introduction of S. 773, The Cybersecurity Act, which if passed would give the president the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.
The problem here is that, while the Wikileaks-CIA plot looks like a distraction, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun to seize and shut down web domains without due process or trial. The initial focus has been sites that supposedly “violate copyrights” but the risk is that cyber censorship may be extended to, let’s say, combat alleged cyber terrorism. It’s a slippery slope.
Last Monday, after several more websites were shut down, DHS held a hearing on the move to give the President more authority over the Internet during an emergency. Senate Homeland Security Committee Chair Joe Lieberman noted that China “can disconnect parts of the Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too.” Similar discussions are underway in Europe. In this context, the Wiklieaks-CIA story was most likely an attempt at disinformation, one that didn’t go viral.
In early February the FCC voted to require that TV and radio stations, cable systems and satellite TV providers participate in a test involving the receiving and transmitting of a live code including an alert message by the president. It’s part of an update of the Emergency Alert System and complements other warning systems, including FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert System and a Commercial Mobile Alert System. In the future people will be able to get alerts through smart phones, blackberries, and so on. Personally not a priority, but many people want to be informed in the event of real crises.
For some, however, the test is proof positive that the President will soon commandeer every phone any time he wants, and for any reason the government deems necessary. If they want to scare us about a bombing, goes the logic, someone will call your cell phone or appear on your TV, no matter what you are watching. It boils down to this: Do you believe that Obama (or the National Security State, if you prefer) is “taking over” the Internet?
Here’s some background: The Broadcast Message Center, created by Communications company Alcatel-Lucent, will allow government agencies to send cell phone users information in the event of an emergency. Under the Mobile Alert System phones will apparently receive emergency alerts. Meanwhile, the FCC is looking at how wireless broadband can enhance emergency announcements. Does that represent a government plan to break into computers and wireless devices at will? In the end, the answer depends mostly on your level of distrust.
Perhaps the strangest development lately is Homeland Security’s “If you see something, say something” campaign. It’s a new public-private partnership between DHS and hundreds of Walmart outlets around the country. Seriously. What’s worse, it sounds ominously like asking people to inform on each other. There you have it – a big government, big business surveillance merger, and worse yet, a giant threat, the Walmart-Intelligence Complex. I’m kidding, but not entirely.
In short, some theories may be distractions or even deliberate deceptions, but others are worth considering, as long as we stipulate that they aren’t necessarily facts and resist exaggeration. The problem is that it’s becoming more difficult to tell the difference in an era when facts have been devalued. There are so many possibilities, the standard of proof appears to be getting lower, and theories tend to evolve, expand and mutate rapidly in unexpected ways as they circulate through cyberspace. As yet, there is little follow up to see whether new facts reinforce or discredit a particular idea or prediction. Corruption of truth meanwhile contributes to social division and civic decay. Yet there are apparently no consequences for stoking paranoia, intentionally confusing speculation with fact, or perpetrating a premeditated hoax.
So, how about some accountability for the false prophets, gross opportunists, and irresponsible rumor-mongers who threaten society with truth decay? Here’s a suggestion: Call them out publicly, post their names on some Wall of Shame, and then stop listening – it only encourages them.
This is adapted from Greg Guma's Rebel News Round Up, broadcast live on The Howie Rose Show at 11 a.m. Fridays on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington. Greg lives in Vermont and writes about politics and culture on his blog, Maverick Media (http://muckraker-gg,blogspot.com).
© 2011 Maverick Media All rights reserved.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life which was five years in the making has won the Palme D’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Personally, I’m thrilled. I am a huge Malick fan and the film’s trailer suggests something quite magical. The reviews confirm my sense that this movie may be one of the few contemporary American films that aspire to the kind of consciousness raising that has been all but abandoned since Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey and Peter Weir’s Fearless. Gaspar Noe’s Enter The Void stands alone among recent films that recognize cinema as a form of alchemy.
With Sean Penn and Brad Pitt in starring roles and the Palme D’Or, it is conceivable that a pure art film may find an audience in the USA.
Tree Of Life opens next weekend in New York and L.A. and expands to other cities on June 3rd.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
from New Scientist:
A DIVER carrying a computer that tries to recognise dolphin sounds and generate responses in real time will soon attempt to communicate with wild dolphins off the coast of Florida. If the bid is successful, it will be a big step towards two-way communication between humans and dolphins.
Since the 1960s, captive dolphins have been communicating via pictures and sounds. In the 1990s, Louis Herman of the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory in Honolulu, Hawaii, found that bottlenose dolphins can keep track of over 100 different words. They can also respond appropriately to commands in which the same words appear in a different order, understanding the difference between "bring the surfboard to the man" and "bring the man to the surfboard", for example.
But communication in most of these early experiments was one-way, says Denise Herzing, founder of the Wild Dolphin Project in Jupiter, Florida. "They create a system and expect the dolphins to learn it, and they do, but the dolphins are not empowered to use the system to request things from the humans," she says.
Since 1998, Herzing and colleagues have been attempting two-way communication with dolphins, first using rudimentary artificial sounds, then by getting them to associate the sounds with four large icons on an underwater "keyboard".
By pointing their bodies at the different symbols, the dolphins could make requests - to play with a piece of seaweed or ride the bow wave of the divers' boat, for example. The system managed to get the dolphins' attention, Herzing says, but wasn't "dolphin-friendly" enough to be successful.
Herzing is now collaborating with Thad Starner, an artificial intelligence researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, on a project named Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT). They want to work with dolphins to "co-create" a language that uses features of sounds that wild dolphins communicate with naturally.
Knowing what to listen for is a huge challenge. Dolphins can produce sound at frequencies up to 200 kilohertz - around 10 times as high as the highest pitch we can hear - and can also shift a signal's pitch or stretch it out over a long period of time.
The animals can also project sound in different directions without turning their heads, making it difficult to use visual cues alone to identify which dolphin in a pod "said" what and to guess what a sound might mean.
To record, interpret and respond to dolphin sounds, Starner and his students are building a prototype device featuring a smartphone-sized computer and two hydrophones capable of detecting the full range of dolphin sounds.
A diver will carry the computer in a waterproof case worn across the chest, and LEDs embedded around the diver's mask will light up to show where a sound picked up by the hydrophones originates from. The diver will also have a Twiddler - a handheld device that acts as a combination of mouse and keyboard - for selecting what kind of sound to make in response.
Herzing and Starner will start testing the system on wild Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) in the middle of this year. At first, divers will play back one of eight "words" coined by the team to mean "seaweed" or "bow wave ride", for example. The software will listen to see if the dolphins mimic them. Once the system can recognise these mimicked words, the idea is to use it to crack a much harder problem: listening to natural dolphin sounds and pulling out salient features that may be the "fundamental units" of dolphin communication.
The researchers don't know what these units might be. But the algorithms they are using are designed to sift through any unfamiliar data set and pick out interesting features (see "Pattern detector"). The software does this by assuming an average state for the data and labelling features that deviate from it. It then groups similar types of deviations - distinct sets of clicks or whistles, say - and continues to do so until it has extracted all potentially interesting patterns.
Once these units are identified, Herzing hopes to combine them to make dolphin-like signals that the animals find more interesting than human-coined "words". By associating behaviours and objects with these sounds, she may be the first to decode the rudiments of dolphins' natural language.
Justin Gregg of the Dolphin Communication Project, a non-profit organisation in Old Mystic, Connecticut, thinks that getting wild dolphins to adopt and use artificial "words" could work, but is sceptical that the team will find "fundamental units" of natural dolphin communication.
Even if they do, deciphering their meanings and using them in the correct context poses a daunting challenge. "Imagine if an alien species landed on Earth wearing elaborate spacesuits and walked through Manhattan speaking random lines from The Godfather to passers-by," he says.
"We don't even know if dolphins have words," Herzing admits. But she adds, "We could use their signals, if we knew them. We just don't."
Editorial: "The implications of interspecies communication"
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Speaking at the 25th anniversary celebration of the national media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, world-renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky analyzes the U.S. response to the popular uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. "Across the [Middle East], an overwhelming majority of the population regards the United States as the main threat to their interests," Chomsky says. "The reason is very simple... Plainly, the U.S. and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people. If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out."AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the 25th anniversary of FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the media watch group in New York, which just celebrated the 25 years of the reports they’ve come out, documenting media bias and censorship, and scrutinized media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.AMY GOODMAN: World-renowned political dissident and linguist, Noam Chomsky, speaking at the 25th anniversary of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
One of those who addressed the hundreds of people who gathered to celebrate FAIR was the world-renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky. This is some of what he had to say.
NOAM CHOMSKY: The U.S. and its allies will do anything they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. The reason is very simple. Across the region, an overwhelming majority of the population regards the United States as the main threat to their interests. In fact, opposition to U.S. policy is so high that a considerable majority think the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons. In Egypt, the most important country, that’s 80 percent. Similar figures elsewhere. There are some in the region who regard Iran as a threat—about 10 percent. Well, plainly, the U.S. and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people. If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out. So that’s obviously an intolerable result.
In the case of WikiLeaks, there was an interesting aside on this. The revelations from WikiLeaks that got the most publicity—headlines, euphoric commentary and so on—were that the Arabs support U.S. policy on Iran. They were quoting comments of Arab dictators. Yes, they claim to support U.S. policy on Iran. There was no mention of the Arab—of the Arab population, because it doesn’t matter. If the dictators support us, and the population is under control, then what’s the problem? This is like imperialism. What’s the problem if it works? As long as they can control their populations, fine. They can have campaigns of hatred; our friendly dictators will keep them under control. That’s the reaction not just of the diplomatic service in the State Department or of the media who reported this, but also of the general intellectual community. There is no comment on this. In fact, coverage of these polls is precisely zero in the United States, literally. There’s a few comments in England, but very little. It just doesn’t matter what the population thinks, as long as they’re under control.
Well, from these observations, you can conclude pretty quickly, pretty easily, what policies are going to be. You can almost spell them out. So in the case of an oil-rich country with a reliable, obedient dictator, they’re given free rein. Saudi Arabia is the most important. There were—it’s the most repressive, extremist, strongest center of Islamic fundamentalism, missionaries who spread ultra-radical Islamism from jihadis and so on. But they’re obedient, they’re reliable, so they can do what they like. There was a planned protest in Saudi Arabia. The police presence was so overwhelming and intimidating that literally nobody even was willing to show up in the streets of Riyadh. But that was fine. The same in Kuwait. There was a small demonstration, very quickly crushed, no comment.
Actually, the most interesting case in many respects is Bahrain. Bahrain is quite important for two reasons. One reason, which has been reported, is that it’s the home port of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, major military force in the region. Another more fundamental reason is that Bahrain is about 70 percent Shiite, and it’s right across the causeway from eastern Saudi Arabia, which also is majority Shiite and happens to be where most of Saudi oil is. Saudi Arabia, of course, is the main energy resource, has been since the '40s. By curious accident of history and geography, the world's major energy resources are located pretty much in Shiite regions. They’re a minority in the Middle East, but they happen to be where the oil is, right around the northern part of the Gulf. That’s eastern Saudi Arabia, southern Iraq and southwestern Iran. And there’s been a concern among planners for a long time that there might be a move towards some sort of tacit alliance in these Shiite regions moving towards independence and controlling the bulk of the world’s oil. That’s obviously intolerable.
So, going back to Bahrain, there was an uprising, tent city in the central square, like Tahrir Square. The Saudi-led military forces invaded Bahrain, giving the security forces there the opportunity to crush it violently, destroyed the tent city, even destroyed the Pearl, which is the symbol of Bahrain; invaded the major hospital complex, threw out the patients and the doctors; been regularly, every day, arresting human rights activists, torturing them, occasionally a sort of a pat on the wrist, but nothing much. That’s very much the Carothers principle. If actions correspond to our strategic and economic objectives, that’s OK. We can have elegant rhetoric, but what matters is facts.
Well, that’s the oil-rich obedient dictators. What about Egypt, most important country, but not a center of—major center of oil production? Well, in Egypt and Tunisia and other countries of that category, there is a game plan, which is employed routinely, so commonly it takes virtual genius not to perceive it. But when you have a favored dictator—for those of you who might think of going into the diplomatic service, you might as well learn it—when there’s a favored dictator and he’s getting into trouble, support him as long as possible, full support as long as possible. When it becomes impossible to support him—like, say, maybe the army turns against him, business class turns against him—then send him off somewhere, issue ringing declarations about your love of democracy, and then try to restore the old regime, maybe with new names. And that’s done over and over again. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always tried—Somoza, Nicaragua; Shah in Iran; Marcos in the Philippines; Duvalier in Haiti; Chun in South Korea; Mobutu in the Congo; Ceausescu is one of Western favorites in Romania; Suharto in Indonesia. It’s completely routine. And that’s exactly what’s going on in Egypt and Tunisia. OK, we support them right to the end—Mubarak in Egypt, right to the end, keep supporting him. Doesn’t work any longer, send him off to Sharm el-Sheikh, pull out the rhetoric, try to restore the old regime. That’s, in fact, what the conflict is about right now. As Amy said, we don’t know where it’s going to turn now, but that’s what’s going on.
Well, there’s another category. The other category is an oil-rich dictator who’s not reliable, who’s a loose cannon. That’s Libya. And there, there’s a different policy: try to get a more reliable dictator. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Of course, describe it as a humanitarian intervention. That’s another near historical universal. You check history, virtually every resort to force, by whoever it is, is accompanied by the most noble rhetoric. It’s all completely humanitarian. That includes Hitler taking over Czechoslovakia, the Japanese fascists rampaging in northeast China. In fact, it’s Mussolini in Ethiopia. There’s hardly any exceptions. So you produce that, and the media and commentators present—pretend they don’t notice that it has no—carries no information, because it’s reflexive.
And then—but in this case, they could also add something else, which has been repeated over and over again, namely, the U.S. and its allies were intervening in response to a request by the Arab League. And, of course, we have to recognize the importance of that. Incidentally, the response from the Arab League was tepid and was pretty soon rescinded, because they didn’t like what we were doing. But put that aside. At the very same time, the Arab League produced—issued another request. Here’s a headline from a newspaper: "Arab League Calls for Gaza No-Fly Zone." Actually, I’m quoting from the London Financial Times. That wasn’t reported in the United States. Well, to be precise, it was reported in the Washington Times, but basically blocked in the U.S., like the polls, like the polls of Arab public opinion, not the right kind of news. So, "Arab League Calls for Gaza No-Fly Zone," that’s inconsistent with U.S. policy, so that, we don’t have to honor and observe, and that disappeared.
Now, there are some polls that are reported. So here’s one from the New York Times a couple days ago. I’ll quote it. It said, "The poll found that a majority of Egyptians want to annul the 1979 peace treaty with Israel that has been a cornerstone of Egyptian foreign policy and the region’s stability." Actually, that’s not quite accurate. It’s been a cornerstone of the region’s instability, and that’s exactly why the Egyptian population wants to abandon it. The agreement essentially eliminated Egypt from the Israel-Arab conflict. That means eliminated the only deterrent to Israeli military action. And it freed up Israel to expand its operations—illegal operations—in the Occupied Territories and to attack its northern neighbor, to attack Lebanon. Shortly after, Israel attacked Lebanon, killed 20,000 people, destroyed southern Lebanon, tried to impose a client regime, didn’t quite make it. And that was understood. So the immediate reaction to the peace treaty in Israel was that there are things about it we don’t like—we’re going to have to abandon our settlements in the Sinai, in the Egyptian Sinai. But it has a good side, too, because now the only deterrent is gone; we can use force and violence to achieve our other goals. And that’s exactly what happened. And that’s exactly why the Egyptian population is opposed to it. They understand that, as does everyone in the region.
On the other hand, the Times wasn’t lying when they said that it led to the region’s stability. And the reason is because of the meaning of the word "stability" as a technical meaning. Stability is—it’s kind of like democracy. Stability means conformity to our interests. So, for example, when Iran tries to expand its influence in Afghanistan and Iraq, neighboring countries, that’s called "destabilizing." It’s part of the threat of Iran. It’s destabilizing the region. On the other hand, when the U.S. invades those countries, occupies them, half destroys them, that’s to achieve stability. And that is very common, even to the point where it’s possible to write—former editor of Foreign Affairs—that when the U.S. overthrew the democratic government in Chile and instituted a vicious dictatorship, that was because the U.S. had to destabilize Chile to achieve stability. That’s in one sentence, and nobody noticed it, because that’s correct, if you understand the meaning of the word "stability." Yeah, you overthrow a parliamentary government, you install a dictatorship, you invade a country and kill 20,000 people, you invade Iraq and kill hundreds of thousands of people—that’s all bringing about stability. Instability is when anyone gets in the way.
Monday, May 23, 2011
I mean, come on, honestly, is there any other way to interpret the news that over half of all Republicans are STILL unsure—if not hostile to the idea—that President Obama was born in the United States? That’s right, a new poll out today from Public Policy Polling (which is a Democratic polling firm) found that an incredible THIRTY FOUR percent of Republicans still believe that Obama was not born on domestic soil. Another 18 percent didn’t know where he was born or were unsure.
This is some stupid, stupid, low IQ shit going on here.
And this is the Republican BASE. Over half of ‘em! Who can argue with that?
My easy to reach, rather unavoidable conclusion: More than half of the Republican party are fucking idiots.
From Slate:Those numbers are a far cry from the percent who questioned where Obama was born before the White House released his long-form birth certificate last month.It’s…ah… telling which of the current crop of GOP midgets presidential hopefuls circling around the early primary states these flatearthers afterbirthers support:
Still, when those who answered the question, “Do you think Barack Obama was born in the United States?” with either a “No” or a “Not Sure” are taken together they represent more than half of those surveyed and, obviously, make up a formidable bloc of primary voters that can’t be discounted in a wide-open GOP primary contest.
Mitt Romney looks to be the candidate most likely to be hurt by the persistent “birther” faction. He placed second in the PPP poll with 18 percent, trailing Mike Huckabee by one point. But if you remove those who remain unconvinced that Obama was born in the U.S., Romney leads Huckabee and the rest of the field with 22 percent. (Huckabee remains at 19 percent.)Meanwhile, the candidates who appear to be benefitting most from the remaining birthers are Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachman and, ever so slightly, Donald Trump. All of those candidates fare better among those who answered “No” than they do overall with GOP voters.
Palin support moves up from 12 percent to 17 percent, Michele Bachman support increases three points to 10 percent, Gingrich climbs two points to 15 percent and Donald Trump inches up from 8 percent to 9 percent.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
from The New York Times
Life and the Cosmos, Word by Painstaking Word
By Claudi Dreifus
TEMPE, Ariz. — Like Einstein, he is as famous for his story as for his science.
At the age of 21, the British physicist Stephen Hawking was found to have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease. While A.L.S. is usually fatal within five years, Dr. Hawking lived on and flourished, producing some of the most important cosmological research of his time.
In the 1960s, with Sir Roger Penrose, he used mathematics to explicate the properties of black holes. In 1973, he applied Einstein’s general theory of relativity to the principles of quantum mechanics. And he showed that black holes were not completely black but could leak radiation and eventually explode and disappear, a finding that is still reverberating through physics and cosmology.
Dr. Hawking, in 1988, tried to explain what he knew about the boundaries of the universe to the lay public in “A Brief History of Time: From Big Bang to Black Holes.” The book sold more than 10 million copies and was on best-seller lists for more than two years.
Today, at 69, Dr. Hawking is one of the longest-living survivors of A.L.S., and perhaps the most inspirational. Mostly paralyzed, he can speak only through a computerized voice simulator.
On a screen attached to his wheelchair, commonly used words flash past him. With a cheek muscle, he signals an electronic sensor in his eyeglasses to transmit instructions to the computer. In this way he slowly builds sentences; the computer transforms them into the metallic, otherworldly voice familiar to Dr. Hawking’s legion of fans.
It’s an exhausting and time-consuming process. Yet this is how he stays connected to the world, directing research at the Center for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge, writing prolifically for specialists and generalists alike and lecturing to rapt audiences from France to Fiji.
Dr. Hawking came here last month at the invitation of a friend, the cosmologist Lawrence Krauss , for a science festival sponsored by the Origins Project of Arizona State University. His lecture, “My Brief History,” was not all quarks and black holes. At one point, he spoke of the special joys of scientific discovery.
“I wouldn’t compare it to sex,” he said in his computerized voice, “but it lasts longer.” The audience roared.
The next afternoon, Dr. Hawking sat with me for a rare interview. Well, a kind of interview, actually.
Ten questions were sent to his daughter, Lucy Hawking, 40, a week before the meeting. So as not to exhaust her father, who has grown weaker since a near-fatal illness two years ago, Ms. Hawking read them to him over a period of days.
During our meeting, the physicist played back his answers. Only one exchange, the last, was spontaneous. Yet despite the limitations, it was Dr. Hawking who wanted to do the interview in person rather than by e-mail.
Some background on the second query, the one about extraterrestrials. For the past year, Lucy Hawking was writer in residence at the Origins Project at Arizona State University. As part of her work, she and Paul Davies, a physicist at Arizona State, started a contest, “Dear Aliens,” inviting Phoenix schoolchildren to write essays about what they might say to space beings trying to contact Planet Earth.
Q. Dr. Hawking, thank you so much for taking time to talk to Science Times. I’m wondering, what is a typical day like for you?
A. I get up early every morning and go to my office where I work with my colleagues and students at Cambridge University. Using e-mail, I can communicate with scientists all over the world.
Obviously, because of my disability, I need assistance. But I have always tried to overcome the limitations of my condition and lead as full a life as possible. I have traveled the world, from the Antarctic to zero gravity. (Pause.) Perhaps one day I will go into space.
Q. Speaking of space: Earlier this week, your daughter, Lucy, and Paul Davies, the Arizona State University physicist, sent a message into space from an Arizona schoolchild to potential extraterrestrials out there in the universe. Now, you’ve said elsewhere that you think it’s a bad idea for humans to make contact with other forms of life. Given this, did you suggest to Lucy that she not do it? Hypothetically, let’s say as a fantasy, if you were to send such a message into space, how would it read?
A. Previously I have said it would be a bad idea to contact aliens because they might be so greatly advanced compared to us, that our civilization might not survive the experience. The “Dear Aliens” competition is based on a different premise.
It assumes that an intelligent extraterrestrial life form has already made contact with us and we need to formulate a reply. The competition asks school-age students to think creatively and scientifically in order to find a way to explain human life on this planet to some inquisitive aliens. I have no doubt that if we are ever contacted by such beings, we would want to respond.
I also think it is an interesting question to pose to young people as it requires them to think about the human race and our planet as a whole. It asks students to define who we are and what we have done.
Q. I don’t mean to ask this disrespectfully, but there are some experts on A.L.S. who insist that you can’t possibly suffer from the condition. They say you’ve done far too well, in their opinion. How do you respond to this kind of speculation?
A. Maybe I don’t have the most common kind of motor neuron disease, which usually kills in two or three years. It has certainly helped that I have had a job and that I have been looked after so well.
I don’t have much positive to say about motor neuron disease. But it taught me not to pity myself, because others were worse off and to get on with what I still could do. I’m happier now than before I developed the condition. I am lucky to be working in theoretical physics, one of the few areas in which disability is not a serious handicap.
Q. Given all you’ve experienced, what words would you offer someone who has been diagnosed with a serious illness, perhaps A.L.S.?
A. My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.
Q. About the Large Hadron Collider, the supercollider in Switzerland, there were such high hopes for it when it was opened. Are you disappointed in it?
A. It is too early to know what the L.H.C. will reveal. It will be two years before it reaches full power. When it does, it will work at energies five times greater than previous particle accelerators.
We can guess at what this will reveal, but our experience has been that when we open up a new range of observations, we often find what we had not expected. That is when physics becomes really exciting, because we are learning something new about the universe.
Q. I’m wondering about your book “A Brief History of Time.” Were you surprised by the enormous success of it? Do you believe that most of your readers understood it? Or is it enough that they were interested and wanted to? Or, in another way: what are the implications of your popular books for science education?
A. I had not expected “A Brief History of Time” to be a best seller. It was my first popular book and aroused a great deal of interest.
Initially, many people found it difficult to understand. I therefore decided to try to write a new version that would be easier to follow. I took the opportunity to add material on new developments since the first book, and I left out some things of a more technical nature. This resulted in a follow-up entitled “A Briefer History of Time,” which is slightly briefer, but its main claim would be to make it more accessible.
Q. Though you avoid stating your own political beliefs too openly, you entered into the health care debate here in the United States last year. Why did you do that?
A. I entered the health care debate in response to a statement in the United States press in summer 2009 which claimed the National Health Service in Great Britain would have killed me off, were I a British citizen. I felt compelled to make a statement to explain the error.
I am British, I live in Cambridge, England, and the National Health Service has taken great care of me for over 40 years. I have received excellent medical attention in Britain, and I felt it was important to set the record straight. I believe in universal health care. And I am not afraid to say so.
Q. Here on Earth, the last few months have just been devastating. What were your feelings as you read of earthquakes, revolutions, counter-revolutions and nuclear meltdowns in Japan? Have you been as personally shaken up as the rest of us?
A. I have visited Japan several times and have always been shown wonderful hospitality. I am deeply saddened for my Japanese colleagues and friends, who have suffered such a catastrophic event. I hope there will be a global effort to help Japan recover. We, as a species, have survived many natural disasters and difficult situations, and I know that the human spirit is capable of enduring terrible hardships.
Q. If it is possible to time-travel, as some physicists claim, at least theoretically, is possible, what is the single moment in your life you would like to return to? This is another way of asking, what has been the most joyful moment you’ve known?
A. I would go back to 1967, and the birth of my first child, Robert. My three children have brought me great joy.
Q. Scientists at Fermilab recently announced something that one of our reporters described as “a suspicious bump in their data that could be evidence of a new elementary particle or even, some say, a new force of nature.” What did you think when you heard about it? A. It is too early to be sure. If it helps us to understand the universe, that will surely be a good thing. But first, the result needs to be confirmed by other particle accelerators.
Q. I don’t want to tire you out, especially if doing answers is so difficult. But I’m wondering: The speech you gave the other night here in Tempe, “My Brief History,” was very personal. Were you trying to make a statement on the record so that people would know who you are?
A. (After five minutes.) I hope my experience will help other people.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
from Richard Metzger at DangerousMinds
I sincerely hope there is a video camera trained on Robert Fitzpatrick’s fool face when he wakes up alive—and broke— [this] morning. From The New York Daily News:Robert Fitzpatrick is so convinced the end is near he’s betting his life savings on it.Yeah, well… let’s see who’s laughing come Sunday when Robert realizes that he gave his retirement money back to the place he worked for his entire life! I hope he still thinks this was money well spent, but I sorta doubt it…
The retired MTA employee has pumped $140,000 into a NYC Transit ad campaign to warn everyone the world will end next Saturday.
“Global Earthquake! The Greatest Ever - Judgment Day: May 21,” the ad declares above a placid picture of night over Jerusalem with a clock that’s about to strike midnight.
“I’m trying to warn people about what’s coming,” the 60-year-old Staten Island resident said. “People who have an understanding [of end times] have an obligation to warn everyone.”
His doomsday warning has appeared on 1,000 placards on subway cars, at a cost of $90,000, and at bus shelters around the city, for $50,000 more. Fitzpatrick’s millenial mania began after he retired in 2006 and began listening to California evangelist Harold Camping’s “end of days” predictions.
Using head-spinning numerological calculations, Camping has determined that the world will end on Saturday, May 21. He’s used similar biblical math to pinpoint when Abraham was circumcised (2068 B.C.) and when earth was created (11,083 B.C.).
Camping has predicted the end of world once before - on Sept. 6, 1994. When the sun rose on Sept. 7, Camping admitted he might have had that one wrong.
Still, Fitzpatrick remains convinced the beginning of the end is coming next week.
“It’ll start just before midnight, Jerusalem time: It’ll be instantaneous and global,” he said. “There are too many scriptures talking about ‘sudden destruction.’”
While Jesus Christ returns to Earth and all non-believers burn in eternal hellfire, Fitzpatrick says he and all those in the know will be saved in the rapture.
“My sister doesn’t believe it,” Fitzpatrick admits. “I’ve tried to tell her. But that’s pretty much the story with most people.”
That should have been your first fucking clue, Robert.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Born yesterday in 1925, Malcolm X, aka Malcolm Little, and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. To celebrate his birthday, here is a an excellent and culturally important film, which looks at the great man’s life.Narrated by James Earl Jones, this 1972 documentary about Malcolm X was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary. It is based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, written by Alex Haley between 1964 and 1965, as told to him through conversations with Malcolm conducted shortly before his death. Made with the help of Malcolm’s wife Betty Shabazz, this documentary recounts the life and ideas of this controversial leader. In addition to clips of Malcolm X in public interviews and speeches, numerous important civil rights figures are featured, as well as important public officials from the period.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
I remember seeing this in the theater way back then, very heavy, especially for 1984.
Streetwise. Directed by Martin Bell and shot by his wife Mary Ellen Mark, it was inspired by an article on homeless youth from Life magazine written by Cheryl McCall. At times it’s harrowing, but it’s really very good, and was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1984.
It follows the exploits of a few different children living on the streets of Seattle, at that point apparently the States’ “most livable city”. There’s the tough, smart Rat and his older mentor Jack, who live in an abandoned hotel, sell drugs, scam pizzas and raid dumpsters. There’s teenage prostitutes Kim and Erin, waiting to get picked up off the kerb by older johns and discussing which local pimp is better to work for. Erin is also known as “Tiny” and has a troubled relationship with her alcoholic mother, who knows she is a prostitute but describes it as a “phase”. She thinks she may be pregnant after having unprotected sex with a john - that’s her in the picture above. Like Paris Is Burning this film deals with people society regards as the lowest of the low - and what on paper looks like being a major celluloid bummer is actually funny, insightful, tender and at times uplifting. Surprisingly a lot of these kids are still alive, though not kids anymore.
Mary Ellen Mark was also the photographer for the original Life magazine article, and has built up a large portfolio of stunning photographs of these kids, like the one above. She and her husband still see them occasionally too. From Steve Lafreniere’s excellent interview with Mark for Viceland (well worth reading as she’s a brilliant photographer who’s had an extraordinary career):
I’m still in contact with Tiny. A few years ago, Martin and I went back to Seattle and we updated her life. And I’ve been photographing her—I haven’t been back there in three years—but I have been photographing her. I photographed her after she had her ninth baby but we couldn’t make it out there for her tenth.
Here's Streetwise - in 11 parts .
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
By Bruce E. Levine, Chelsea Green Publishing
The following is an excerpt from Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite (Chelsea Green, 2011) by Bruce E. Levine.
How many Americans believe that their voice matters in determining whether giant banks, insurance companies, and other “too-big-to-fail” corporations get bailed out? How many Americans older than twelve believe that they have any influence over a decision by the US government to invade another nation?
There are a slew of books and articles out there providing analyses of the profound problems of American democracy and offering recommendations aimed at improving matters. However, these analyses and recommendations routinely assume that Americans have sufficient personal energy to take action. Instead, what if many Americans have lost confidence that genuine democracy is possible? When such fatalism sets in, truths about economic injustices and lost liberties are no longer enough to set people free.
While a charismatic politician can still garner a large turnout of voters who are angry with whichever party is in power, the majority of Americans appear resigned to the idea that they have no power over institutions that rule their lives. At least that’s what I see. I was curious if what troubled me also was troubling others, so I wrote an article titled “Are Americans a Broken People?” It was republished on numerous Internet sites, and I read more than a thousand reaction comments (some of which are included in this book). I was swamped with e-mails and received several media interview requests to discuss the article, which had apparently touched a nerve among those who identify themselves as progressive, libertarian, or populist. They too wondered why so many Americans have remained passive in the face of attacks on their liberties and their economic well-being. Some of the questions that I first raised in that article and will answer more fully in this book are:
• Has “learned helplessness” taken hold for a great many Americans? Are many Americans locked into an abuse syndrome of sorts in which revelations about their victimization by a corporate-government partnership produce increased anesthetization rather than constructive action?
• What cultural forces have created a passive and discouraged US population? Have so-called right-wing and so-called progressive institutions both contributed to breaking people’s resistance to domination?
• And most important, can anything be done to turn this demoralization and passivity around? Is it possible for people to rebuild their morale and forge the connections necessary to support a truly democratic populism that can take power away from elite control?
Elitism—be it rule by kings or corporations—is the opposite of genuine democracy. It is in the interest of those at the top of society to convince people below them that (1) democracy is merely about the right to vote; and (2) corporations and the wealthy elite are so powerful, any thought that “regular people” can achieve real power is naive. In genuine democracy and in real-deal populism, people not only believe that they have a right to self-government; they also have the individual strength and group cohesion necessary to take actions to eliminate top-down controls over their lives.
If people lose sight of what democracy really is, or if they lose hope of the possibility of attaining it, then they lose their energy to fight for it. The majority of us, unlike the elite, will always lack big money, so we depend on individual and collective energy to do battle. Without such energy, the elite will easily subdue us.
Get Up, Stand Up is, in large part, about regaining that energy. There exist solid strategies and time-tested tactics that people have long used to battle the elite, and these will be detailed. However, these strategies and tactics are not sufficient. For large-scale democratic movements to have enough energy to get off the ground, certain psychological and cultural building blocks are required. With these energizing building blocks, it then becomes realistic—and not naive—to believe that large numbers of people can take the kind of actions that will produce genuine democracy. The belief that their actions can be effective provides energy to take actions, taking actions strengthens the faith, and an energizing cycle is created.
Historian Lawrence Goodwyn has studied democratic movements and written extensively about the Populist Movement in the United States that occurred during the 1870s through the 1890s, what he calls “the largest democratic mass movement in American history.” Goodwyn concludes that democratic movements are initiated by people who are not resigned to the status quo or intimidated by established powers, and who have not allowed themselves to be “culturally organized to conform to established hierarchical forms.” Goodwyn writes in The Populist Moment:Democratic movements are initiated by people who have individually managed to attain a high level of personal political self-respect . . . In psychological terms, its appearance reflects the development within the movement of a new kind of collective self-confidence. “Individual self-respect” and “collective self-confidence” constitute, then, the cultural building blocks of mass democratic politics. [emphasis added]Without individual self-respect, people do not believe that they are worthy of power or capable of utilizing power wisely, and they accept as their role being a subject of power. Without collective self-confidence, people do not believe they can succeed in wresting power away from their rulers.
What today, culturally and psychologically, has destroyed individual self-respect and collective self-confidence? One goal of this book is to examine this question. The good news is that answers to it provide, within the ordinary daily events of people’s lives, a road map of opportunities to regain individual self-respect, collective self-confidence, and real power.
The elite who maintain a hold on power are few; even with the support of some non-elites who share an ideology of hierarchical control, this group is a small minority. Those of us who believe in genuine democracy—of, by, and for the people—far outnumber the elitists, but we are divided. The elite’s strategy of “divide and conquer” is one that routinely works, but not always. Their strategy fails when we recognize that the divides among us pale in significance compared with a common desire to have our fair share of power. And so Get Up, Stand Up is also about unifying people who oppose elite control so as to focus on our common desire for genuine democracy.
Forging an Alliance among Populists
The corporatocracy uses its money and power to try to persuade Americans that it is “populist demagoguery” to even bring up the subject of a class war, and that populism means pandering to destructive prejudices. Fortunately, despite the corporatocracy’s great efforts here, many don’t buy it.
In March 2009, a Rasmussen Reports poll reported that “55% of Americans Are Populist.” They defined populist as trusting the American people’s judgment more than America’s political leaders, as seeing government and big business as political allies working against the interest of most people, and as seeing the federal government as one more special-interest group that is primarily looking after its own needs. While 55 percent of Americans were populists, only 7 percent trusted an elite ruling class. According to this measure, 52 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Republicans, and 51 percent of those not affiliated with either major party were populists.
Today in the United States, unlike the end of the nineteenth century, there is confusion about populism. While all self-identified populists continue to reject control by the elite, there are different views of exactly who the elite are and what form of anti-elitism would be best. There are populists who most emphasize “liberty and freedom,” and there are those who most emphasize “social and economic justice.” And a major difference among many modern populists is their view of “government” and the “free market.”
Today some self-identified populists—unlike nineteenth-century Populists—believe it is naive to trust any government, including one created in the name of the people, because such a government will be taken over by an elitist cadre. In contrast, other modern self-identified populists—similar to those nineteenth-century agrarian Populist rebels—believe it is naive to trust the unbridled free market because concentrated economic power (inevitable in an unregulated market economy) can be just as dangerous as concentrated political power, in no small part because those holding concentrated economic power can too easily acquire undue political power for themselves; and therefore, the people must take control of government to counterbalance economic power run amok.
Populists also differ on what’s most important to wrest away from the elite, and they can differ on their views of human nature. Some self-identified libertarians are more focused on liberty and autonomy and believe that people are essentially competitive and motivated by self-interest. Some self-identified leftist populists may also care deeply about liberty and autonomy but stress more the need for economic and social justice, and they believe that human beings are essentially cooperative and altruistic.
In the late-nineteenth-century Populist revolt, insurgent farmers would have seen it as “plumb silly” to debate whether people are essentially competitive or cooperative. As historian Lawrence Goodwyn notes, “Populists thought of man as being both competitive and cooperative,” though they tilted toward cooperation as they desired a generous rather than a selfish society. In a democratic, non-elite society, people would respectfully listen to one another’s views of human nature and ideas about the kind of society that brings out the best and worst of people.
A large divide between populists has to do with their views of the US government. Libertarians see the US government as the tyrant, and they seek to drastically eliminate the government’s power so that “We the People” can regain liberty. Left populists see giant corporations as the tyrants, and short of eliminating this corporate elite, they seek freedom and social and economic justice by taking back control of government and using it to ensure that the corporate elite will not tyrannize them. While some self-identified libertarian populists rail only against “governmental tyranny,” and some self-identified left populists rail only against “corporate tyranny,” other populists get that, in the corporatocracy, Americans are being ruled by a corporate-governmental partnership.
Real-deal populism is hurt by those self-identified populists who ignore the reality that the US government is the junior—not the senior—partner of the corporate elite in the corporatocracy. The corporate elite relishes the role of the US government being seen as the tyrant. Every tyrant wants to demonize some other entity—be it an institution or a people—so as to deflect rebellion against itself. In reality, one major role of the US government in the corporatocracy is to serve as a scapegoat to deflect rebellion against the corporate elite.
All anti-elitists need to realize that what they share bonds them much more than anything that divides them. It is true that not all anti-elitists have the same views of human nature or the same exact solutions to self-government. In genuine democracy and real-deal populism, people will continue to disagree on issues. However, if we want to defeat the elite, we must come to realize that listening to one another and ironing out differences can be individually strengthening as well as galvanizing for us as a whole. I encounter real-deal populists across the political and ideological spectrum, and I believe it is quite possible for us to learn from one another and work together. In my experience, as long as I listen and speak with respect, other populists and I almost always find more to agree about that is substantive than remains between us as difference—and sometimes we can iron out our differences.
In addition to agreeing on the general principle of opposition to elite rule, both left and libertarian populists agree on many specific issues. Both opposed the Wall Street bailout; and similar to most left populists, many libertarian populists oppose the US government’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well its war on drugs.
There are of course issues that divide many left and libertarian populists, but I believe it’s possible to have discussions around these issues that create greater unity. To do so, we must keep in mind that some of these issues are fairly emotional ones that need to be addressed with sensitivity.
Gun control is one such personal issue that divides populists to their detriment. Many libertarian populists will tell you something like, “Hang out in rural America, and you’ll see that a gun is just a tool, no different from a hammer or a chain saw, and even among those of us who have stopped hunting, we have fond memories of hunting with our family and buddies, and gun-control liberals are screwing with something very personal here.” For many left populists, gun control may also be a very emotional issue, and they might tell you something like, “My dad killed himself with a gun when the bastards took away the job he’d had for twenty years, and I have two close friends who have had family members who also did themselves in with a gun when they probably would still be alive without such an easy way of committing suicide, and, not living in rural America but in urban America, what I see is people using guns not to hunt deer but to hunt one another.” However, when both sides stay respectful, I have also seen them reach agreements on reasonable gun policies that don’t deprive people of either liberty or life.
Often the most emotional divide between left and libertarian populists is the divide I noted earlier on their view of human nature. All of us have a tendency to focus on one aspect of human nature at the expense of others. Not only can respectful communication on the multiple dimensions of our humanity help unify populists, but it can also strengthen individuals, marriages, families, and communities.
Hillel, the great Jewish scholar who lived around two thousand years ago during the time of the Roman Empire’s domination, respected both the libertarian and left understandings of human nature and, in a sense, challenged people to respect both aspects of their own humanity and unify them so as to gain strength. Specifically, Hillel said:If I am not for myself, who will be for me?So libertarian populists are right when they say, “If I don’t financially take care of myself and my family, then I will not only lose my self-respect but will be a burden to others.” But left populists are also right when they say, “If I am only for myself, then I am some kind of sociopath, like a Wall Street banker ripping off everybody, and if everybody acted completely selfishly, we could never have the cooperation necessary to defeat the elite.”
If I am only for myself, what am I?
And, if not now, when?
It’s my experience that when individuals follow Hillel’s advice to care about both self and others, they gain greater wholeness and strength, and they are more capable of uniting with others.
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Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist. His Web site is www.brucelevine.net.
© 2011 Chelsea Green Publishing All rights reserved.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
"The Nazis killed tens of MILLIONS. They got a trial. Why? Because we're not like them. We're Americans. We roll different." – Michael Moore in an interview last weekfrom michaelmoore.com
Last week, President Obama fulfilled a campaign promise and killed Osama bin Laden. Well he didn't actually do the killing himself. It was carried out by a very brave and excellent team of Navy SEALs. Not only does Mr. Obama have the overwhelming support of the country, I think there are millions who gladly wish it could have been their finger on the gun that took out bin Laden.
When I heard the news a week ago Sunday, I immediately felt great. I felt relief. I thought of those who lost a loved one on 9/11. And I was glad we finally had a President who got something done. This is what I had to say on Twitter and elsewhere on the internet in that first hour or two:I want to point out that Barack Obama took two years to do what Bush couldn't do in over seven. That's the difference between STUPID in charge and SMART in charge. STUPID pursues two reckless wars, lets OBL escape from Tora Bora, keeps looking for him in caves and invades the wrong country. He bankrupts us to the tune of $1.2 trillion for the Iraq War (it will eventually actually be over $3 trillion), and worse, he cost us the lives of almost 5,000 of our troops, not to mention hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan – and, after all that, he STILL couldn't bring the perp to justice. In fact, in 2005, Bush closed down the CIA station that was devoted to looking for bin Laden! What does SMART do? He sends in a small elite strike force, no troops are killed, and the perpetrator is stopped for good.I was thrilled that the Osama bin Laden era was over. There was now an end to the madness.
Being near Ground Zero that night, I decided to head over there and join with others who saw this event as a chance to have some closure. On 9/11, Bill Weems, a good and decent man I knew and worked with (we had just recently completed a shoot together in Boston), was on the plane that was flown into the Twin Towers. I dedicated 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' in part, to him.
But before leaving to go to the former World Trade Center site, I turned on the TV, and what I saw down at Ground Zero was not quiet relief and gratification that the culprit had been caught. Rather, I witnessed a frat boy-style party going on, complete with the shaking and spraying of champagne bottles over the crowd. I can completely understand people wanting to celebrate – like I said, I, too, was happy – but something didn't feel right. It's one thing to be happy that a criminal has been captured and dealt with. It's another thing to throw a kegger celebrating his death at the site where the remains of his victims are still occasionally found. Is that who we are? Is that what Jesus would do? Is that what Jefferson would do? I was reminded of the tale told to me as a kid, of God's angels singing with glee as the Red Sea came crashing back down on the Egyptians chasing the Israelites, drowning all of them. God rebuked them, saying, "The work of My hands is drowning in that sea – and you want to friggin' sing?" (or something like that).
I remember my parents telling me how, on the day it was announced that Hitler was dead, there was no rejoicing in the streets, just private relief and satisfaction. The real celebration came six days later at the announcement that the war in Europe was over. THAT'S what the people wanted to hear – not just the demise of one evil madman, but the end to all the killing.
When the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, people didn't pour into the streets to whoop it up. Yes, people were happy that it might help end the war, but there was not a public display of "Yippee! A hundred thousand Japs have been fried!" If they had done that, well, who could have blamed them after so many tens of thousands of their sons and fathers had been lost in the war (including my uncle, a paratrooper, killed by a sniper near Manila). But the sailor kissing the girl in Times Square was on August 14th, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered and the war was officially over. That's when America went crazy with joy – not over a killing, but over an announcement of peace.
We are a different people now, aren't we? Well, sorta. There was no bloodlust euphoria on the day Timothy McVeigh was executed. We were silent. The families of the Oklahoma City dead were silent, relieved. What is the difference between McVeigh and bin Laden, other than the number they slaughtered? I wonder. I think we know the answer.
Though bin Laden is dead, we are told that Orwell's Permanent War – the "War on Terror" – must continue! Not allowed to have our V-J day and run into Times Square with exhilaration! No, there could be terrorists there. So all we're left with is to cheer the death of one evil man, and that is supposed to make us feel powerful and good. There can be no celebration for the end of the Afghanistan War because the war isn't ending. The war must continue! Even though our own CIA tells us there are no more than a few dozen al Qaeda left in Afghanistan. We still have 100,000 troops there fighting a few dozen crazies? We say we're fighting the Taliban, too, but the Taliban are Afghan citizens, not an invading force, and, for better or worse, they seem to enjoy the support of many of the common people throughout Afghanistan. (If you don't believe that, ask any soldier who has served there and seen it. Every day is like Apocalypse Now. Poppies, anyone?)
Meanwhile, we – me, included – get lost in the weeds of how this one madman was killed. The official story from the Pentagon changed four times in the first four days! It went from OBL firing on the troops with one hand and using his wife as a human shield with the other, to, by the fourth day, not single person in the main house, including bin Laden, being armed when killed. Instantly, this created a lot of suspicion about what really happened, which itself was a distraction.
Here's my take: I know a number of Navy SEALs. In fact (and this is something I don't like to talk about publicly, for all the obvious reasons), I hire only ex-SEALs and ex-Special Forces guys to handle my own security (I'll let you pause a moment to appreciate that irony). These SEALs are trained to follow orders. I don't know what their orders were that night in Abbottabad, but it certainly looks like a job (and this is backed up in a piece in the Atlantic) where they were told to not bring bin Laden back alive. The SEALs are pros at what they do and they instantly took out every adult male (every potential threat) within a few minutes – but they also took care to not harm a single one of the nine children who were present. Pretty amazing. This wasn't some Rambo-style operation where they just went in guns blazing, spraying bullets. They acted swiftly and with expert precision. I'm telling you, these guys are so smart and so lethal, they could take you out with a piece of dental floss. (And in fact, one of my ex-SEAL guys showed me how to do that one night. Whoa.)
In a perfect world (yes, I would like to reside there someday, or at least next door to it, in Slightly Imperfect World), I would like the evildoers to be forced to stand trial in front of that world. I know a lot of people see no need for a trial for these bad guys (just hang 'em from the nearest tree!), and think trials are for sissies. "They're guilty, off with their heads!" Well, you see, that is the exact description of the Taliban/al Qaeda/Nazi justice system. I don't like their system. I like ours. And I don't want to be like them. In fact, the reason I like a good trial is that I like to show these bastards this is how it's done in a free country that believes in civilized justice. It's good for the rest of the world to see that, too. Sets a good example.
The other thing a trial does is, it establishes a very public and permanent historic record of the crimes against humanity. This is why we put the Nazis on trial in Nuremberg. We didn't do it for them. We did it for ourselves and for our grandchildren so that they would never forget these horrors and how they were committed. And we did it for the German people so they could see the evidence of what their elected leaders had done. Very helpful. Very necessary. Very powerful.
And for those who wanted blood back then – well, the majority of the Nazis all hanged in the end. So, it doesn't mean the bad guys get away – they still swing from the highest tree.
My own spiritual beliefs do not allow for capital punishment, and I was raised in the state (Michigan) that in the 1840s was the first government in the English-speaking world to outlaw it. So, I'm just not inclined that way. I don't believe in "an eye for an eye." I know the old book said that, but I like its sequel better (a rare case in which the sequel – like Godfather II, Star Trek II, Terminator II – is better than the original). If you don't believe the way I believe (it's also the official position of the Catholic Church, for whatever that's worth these days), then that's your right, and I understand.
Perhaps there was no way to bring him back alive – I sure as hell wouldn't want to be in that dark house trying to make that snap decision. But if the execution was ordered in advance, then I say we should be told that now, and we can like it or not like it.
For nine years I wrote and I said that Osama bin Laden was not hiding in a cave. I'm not a cave expert, I was just using my common sense. He was a multimillionaire crime boss (using religion as his cover), and those guys just don't live in caves. He had people killed under the guise of religion, and not many in the media bothered to explain that every time Osama referenced Islam, he wasn't really quoting Islam. Just because Osama said he was a "Muslim" didn't make it so. Yet he was called a Muslim by everyone. If a crazy person started running around mass-killing people, and he did so while wearing a Wal-Mart blazer and praising Wal-Mart, we wouldn't automatically call him a Wal-Mart leader or say that Wal-Mart was the philosophy behind his killings, would we?
Yet, we began to fear Muslims and round them up. We profiled people from Muslim nations at airports. We didn't profile multi-millionaires (in fact, they now have their own fast-track line to easily get through security, an oddity considering every murderer on 9/11 flew in first class). We didn't run headlines that said "Multi-Millionaire Behind the Mass Murder of 3,000" (although every word in that headline is true). You can say his wealth had nothing to do with 9/11, but the truth is, there is no way he could have kept Al Qaeda in business without having the millions he had.
Some believe that this was a "war" we were in with al Qaeda – and you don't do trials during war. It's thinking like this that makes me fear that, while bin Laden may be dead, he may have "won" the bigger battle. Let's be clear: There is no "war with al Qaeda." Wars are between nations. Al Qaeda was an organization of fanatics who committed crimes. That we elevated them to nation status – they loved it! It was great for their recruiting drive.
We did exactly what bin Laden said he wanted us to do: Give up our freedoms (like the freedom to be assumed innocent until proven guilty), engage our military in Muslim countries so that we will be hated by Muslims, and wipe ourselves out financially in doing so. Done, done and done, Osama. You had our number. You somehow knew we would eagerly give up our constitutional rights and become more like the authoritarian state you dreamed of. You knew we would exhaust our military and willingly go into more debt in eight years than we had accumulated in the previous 200 years combined.
Maybe you knew us so well because you were once one of our mercenaries, funded and armed by us via our friends in Pakistan to fight the other Evil Empire in the last battle of the Cold War. Only, when the killing stopped, the trained killer, our "Frankenstein," couldn't. The monster, you, would soon turn on us.
If we really want to send bin Laden not just to his death, but also to his defeat, may I suggest that we reverse all of that right now. End the wars, bring the troops home, make the rich pay for this mess, and restore our privacy and due process rights that used to distinguish us from any other country. Right now, our democracy looks like Singapore and our economy has gone desperately Greek.
I know it will be hard to turn the clock back to before 9/11 when all we had to worry about were candidates stealing elections. A multi-billion dollar industry has grown up around "homeland security" and the terror wars. These war profiteers will not want to give up their booty so easily. They will want to keep us in fear so they can keep raking it in. We will have to stop them. But first we must stop believing them.
Hideki Tojo killed my uncle and millions of Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos and a hundred thousand other Americans. He was the head of Japan, the Emperor's henchman, the man who was the architect of Pearl Harbor. When the American soldiers went to arrest him, he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest. The soldiers immediately worked on stopping his bleeding and rushed him to an army hospital where he was saved by our army doctors. He then had his day in court. It was a powerful exercise for the world to see. And on December 23, 1948, after he was found guilty, we hanged him. A killer of millions was forced to stand trial. A killer of 4,000 (counting the African embassies and USS Cole bombings) got double-tapped in his pajamas. Assuming it was possible to take him alive, I think his victims, the future, and the restoration of the American Way deserved better. That's all I'm saying.
Good riddance Osama.
Come back to your ways, my good ol' USA.