Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Appropriate Technology, Narcissism and the Savior Complex

Over the last year or so, I've been discussing the narcissism of First World culture, and especially of Anglo-American culture.  I've noted how that narcissism drives many members of this dominant culture to cast themselves as the saviors of the world, and to cast the rest of the world as either unredeemable villains or unteachable idiots.  (It also hinders that culture from accepting the reality of a world of limits.)  But this week I realized that I had touched on these themes nearly seven years ago, in a series of posts I wrote on the topic of "appropriate technology."  Here is a link to one of those posts, titled, "The Distasteful Truth."  Some of the links in that post no longer work, so here, here, and here are links to the story of Mr. Mohammed Bah-Abba and his original invention of the zeer, or pot-in-pot refrigerator.  And here is a link to the story of a British "savior of the world" who "invented" Mr. Bah Abba's invention ten years after he invented it.  Aren't we so blessed that Emily Cummins arose as a savior of Africa?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Night Terror Of A Multipolar World

I was recently listening to a podcast from a blogger who has a strong knowledge of foreign affairs.  A subscriber had asked him what he saw as the future of the United States over the next 20 or 30 years.  The response of this blogger was that there was no question that the power and grandeur of the United States will diminish during that time frame, like it or not.  He also said that, "...the United States is still big, is still powerful, and if it is a mentally challenged giant, it's still a big one. So the entire issue for...the planet is, how do you defuse that ? How do you get that power to transform itself ? Because the real task in historical terms is to make the United States a country. A normal country. This is the process that others had [to go through] before.  You know you go from Empire to normal country."  He gave examples of countries that had gone from proud centers of expansive empire to a smaller, humbler "normal," stripped of toxic imperial ambitions. 

As he named these countries, I noticed that almost all of them were European nations.  Some of the names surprised me, particularly Great Britain.  I had to ask myself whether Britain had ever been "normal."  It is true that over the last 100 years or so, Britain went from a globe-spanning empire to a political entity ostensibly and nominally centered on one island nation.  But there is plenty of evidence that the aristocrats and politicians of Britain bitterly resented every step of the journey from "empire" to "normal," and that they fought against it at every turn (and are still fighting).  It also seems obvious to me that Britain is living vicariously through the exploits of the United States, and that its status as one of the "Five Eyes" is the vehicle of its vicarious life, and that if Britain could once again make itself the center of an empire, it most certainly would.  I also thought of the resurgence of an almost fascist nationalism in many European countries, fueled and financed by American and British government agencies and NGO's (some of them religious) with deep pockets.  The result of that resurgence is the emergence of several nations who desperately want to believe that they are All That And A Bag Of Chips, and the creation of a climate in which, sooner or later, they'll get around to trying to smash each other's chips as they have throughout most of their history.  Indeed, some have already been hard at work at it.  (Talk about the outworkings of damnation!)

I thought of what a "normal" nation would look like, and the first word that came to mind was "humble."  I thought of the ingredients that seem to be required in most cases to bring a nation to humility.  One hugely necessary (but, unfortunately, not sufficient) ingredient seems to be suffering.  That made me think of Germany in the decades immediately after World War Two, and the periphery nations (Spain, Portugal, Greece, and, to an extent, Italy) who are being squeezed by the power center of the EU right now.   I also thought of the many nations on earth whose history is not grandiose, people who have accomplished very little more than "being quiet, and working with their own hands, and minding their own business."  (Maybe they knew something the more grandiose nations missed?)

And that led me back again to considering the Big Kahuna, the United States of America, as I asked myself, "Can the United States actually make the journey from empire to 'normal' without cracking up like a drug-crazed perp flailing around on the ground and needing to be physically restrained?"  I thought of another podcast I heard this past week in which Professor Ama Mazama, a Black homeschooler who is also a university dean described the harmful effects which an Anglo-centric school curriculum has, not only on minority students and students of color, but also on the students of the majority culture.  For such a curriculum wrongly inflates such students' views of themselves and their culture, and prevents such students from understanding the true place of themselves and their nation in the world, as it hinders them from preparing for the inevitable emergence of a multipolar world in which bullying and throwing one's weight around simply will not work.

That is the curriculum by which generations of Americans have been brainwashed, and, together with American mainstream media, it has created a kind of American "citizen" who is peculiarly unable to comprehend present realities.  This "citizen" therefore is still conditioned to look at the world in the same way that a cowboy of the late 1800's would have looked at an unconquered wilderness.  And this is the reason why the dominant culture in the United States can't seem to get along with anyone else in the world.  Nor can it adjust to the obvious signs that it is losing its empire.  One of those signs is that because of the current crash in commodity prices, it is no longer economically viable to station U.S. troops in resource-rich regions of the world.  An empire whose armies cost more to station in faraway places than the empire can "earn" from those faraway places will, sooner instead of later, lose its claim on those faraway places.  There are many other signs, but I don't have time this week to go into them.

Returning to the blogger whom I quoted at the beginning of this post, I was struck by a question he asked: "When is the last time the United States showed leadership in anything?  I don't mean bullied somebody to applaud or agree with the United States. I don't mean this. I mean actual LEADERSHIP.  Where you don't force people, you actually inspire them and you make it possible for them to do  something. To get something done."  If we're going to ask about leadership, let's ask where the world ought to be led.  The world that is emerging is a world in which the natural resources and raw materials needed for the kind of global industrial economy we have enjoyed are in short supply.  Rather than wrapping ourselves in ever more consumerist junk as a display of "status," the task will be to learn to live well on less.  That will be the material part of a higher task, namely, to learn what we were brought into the world for.  The outcome of that kind of wisdom is that we learn how to properly relate to one another as fellow human beings, and not as one group of people trying to turn other groups of people into property or into toilet bowls into which the first group of people can vomit their unresolved hostility.

The thing is, the United States has had repeated opportunities to demonstrate that kind of actual leadership, and has blown them all.  One recent chance for genuine leadership came with the publishing in 2009 of a "National Strategic Narrative," a policy document which advocated a shift of U.S. international policy along the following lines (sourced from Wikipedia):
  • From control in a closed system to credible influence in an open system
  • From containment to sustainment
  • From deterrence and defense to civilian engagement and competition
  • From zero sum to positive sum global politics/economics
  • From national security to national prosperity and security
Now, I must confess that I have not read the entire document, but from what I do know, it seems to advocate a shift from "leadership" by coercion and the threat of force toward leadership by example and positive engagement with the rest of the world that results in mutual benefit for all.  Leadership by example, in turn, depends on setting an example that is worth imitating, and this depends on wisdom, a willingness to learn, and hard work.  And the amazing thing is that this document was prepared by a team of Navy and Marine Corps officers!  You who are astute students of the history of the last 6 years, tell me whether our government or the wealthiest members of our society actually followed this advice.  But other nations have followed advice very much along these lines, and they are emerging as the new world leaders, whose leadership is very much by example. 

In the United States, however, instead of wisdom, we have a society containing many members who are in mortal terror of the world that is now emerging.  They are reacting to the terror by choosing for their leaders a cadre of extraordinarily creepy characters, with Gollum's half brother being a chief among them.  Thus they have become a terror to the rest of us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Drama of A Special People

Here is a link to a post I wrote a year ago, in which I described the religious and psychological roots of the grossly oversized American grandiose self.  By reading it, you can gain a bit of insight into the desperate crash that may come when that grandiose self is taken apart, and you can understand the desperation of the leaders and many of the common people of American society as they try to keep that grandiose self intact.  (That grandiose self is being taken apart both domestically and internationally, as I and others have been reporting for a while.)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Deep Fiction and Hip Boots

It's been interesting to read much of what has been written within the last three months about Syria and the Western "fight against terror," both from the mainstream media and from those American bloggers whom Walter M. Miller would have described as a "fine patriotic opinionated rabble."  The mainstream media line began with an insistence in September and October that Russian intervention in Syria was killing "moderate Syrian rebels opposed to Assad".  Later, after several bloggers cited mainstream media sources and Wikileaks documents showing that the "moderate rebels" funded by the U.S. were one and the same as ISIS, the line shifted to statements that, "well, we made some mistakes.  But while ISIS may have arisen from groups originally funded by the West, it has taken on an identity of its own.  We have lost control of it.  It is self-funded and self-supporting, and is therefore really the bogeyman we have made it out to be!  Support our fight against ISIS!!!"

So many mainstream outlets are spouting that line nowadays that it's becoming increasingly hard to go back to the primary sources which show that all that noise is in fact a pack of lies.  But if one is determined and has the time for it, one can still dig out the truth.  This weekend, I have a rare bit of spare time, and that is exactly what I've been doing with my time.  Today's post is designed to equip you, the reader with a sturdy, leak-proof pair of hip boots so that you may be able to wade through piles of "deep fiction" without being sullied and without losing your footing on the firm ground of truth.  Let's go for a walk, shall we?

First, then, let's discuss the origins of the movement now known as ISIS.  Those origins go back to the late 1970's, when a pro-Marxist government came to power in Afghanistan, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security advisor,  proposed a program of fomenting armed rebellion against the new regime.  In an interview later, Brzezinski admitted that one of his goals was to draw the Soviet Union into a bloody armed conflict in Afghanistan.  Unfortunately, the Soviets fell for the gambit, and sent in troops in December 1979.  The Soviets found themselves facing an armed opposition which was largely drawn from radicalized Muslims who were foreign to Afghanistan, who had been recruited by the United States or its proxy countries.  These warriors were at first deemed by the CIA to be more reliable for American interests than the native Afghans.  However, a program was begun to radicalize the Afghan population, and this program reached even into Afghan schools with the supply of very violent propagandistic textbooks to Afghan children.  (See this also.)  The documents to which I have linked also show that U.S. funding of jihadist groups continued even after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and into the 1990's.

From 1992 until circa 2005, the trail of money and arms becomes somewhat harder to trace.  I am sure that it could be traced, but it would take me quite a bit longer than a weekend to do so.  (Here's a homework assignment for some adventurous soul, if you want it.  And here is a good starting place.)  However, the trail becomes easy to pick up again if we look at the last decade and a half.  The trail is crystal-clear in Syria.

For instance, we now know without a doubt that a major goal of U.S. policy from 2005 onward has been the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  The chosen pretext for this overthrow has been concern that President Assad stood in opposition to "human rights" and "democracy" in Syria.  (Bloody hypocrites!  If you're so concerned about "human rights," why are so many of you silent in the face of the abuses perpetrated by the prison-industrial complex, the police and the schools against people of color and dark-skinned immigrants right here in the U.S.?  Serpents!  Brood of vipers!)  So starting from 2005 onward, various foreign actors (including Israeli and Turkish special operatives) staged "incidents" which "proved" that Assad was "abusing his people" and had to be removed.  (There's also this, this and this.  Note that the Turkish journalists who reported the role of Turkey in Syria are now in Turkish jails.)

So it was that the U.S. found it desirable to create, fund and grow an "opposition" movement in Syria, a movement which quickly became an armed rebellion with arms supplied by the U.S.  As it was in Afghanistan, so in Syria also this movement is largely composed of fighters who are foreigners to Syria, fighters who are loyal to al-Qaeda, who was the bogeyman du jour prior to the emergence of ISIS (and whom the U.S. blamed for the 9/11 attacks, thus starting the American "War on Terror").  Here is a list of sources who trace the direct funding and equipping of these fighters by the United States from 2013 onward:
As to my assertion at the beginning that we know with dead certainty that many, if not all of the "moderate rebels" who were trained and equipped by the U.S. to overthrow Assad are one and the same as ISIS, see this, this and this.  The last link in that previous sentence shows that the Pentagon saw ISIS as a strategic asset to weaken Shia influence in the Mideast.

So then, what exactly has the U.S. been doing in its "fight against ISIS"?  First of all, the U.S. has been knowingly fighting a bogeyman of whom it is well known that it poses no threat to the U.S.  The fight has also been a sham fight, in which after Obama's public vow to "crush ISIS," ISIS managed to overrun more than 70 percent of Syrian territory and large swaths of Iraq while U.S. warplanes destroyed infrastructure (oil refineries and other petroleum facilities, power plants, water treatment plants, and the like) located in territory belonging to President Assad, thus helping to create the current refugee crisis.  Note also that U.S. warplanes recently bombed Syrian troops under the pretext of "fighting terror," then lied about it.  Meanwhile, the U.S. was, until very recently, very sparing in its attacks against known ISIS targets - until the Russian intervention in October, which targeted, among other things, ISIS convoys illegally smuggling oil out of Syria and into Turkey.  The fact that Russia is genuinely trying to crush these terrorists and is not playing games became a major embarrassment to the U.S., which responded by delivering an airstrike of its own against an ISIS oil convoy - but not without dropping leaflets warning ISIS truck drivers of the attack nearly an hour beforehand.

As for that stolen oil, it is also well known that ISIS has been benefiting the West by providing illegal sales of stolen Iraqi, Libyan and Syrian oil at less than half the fair market value, and that one of the major beneficiaries of this oil has been Turkey.  (See this also.)  This illegal oil trade has been known for at least a year, by the way.

So there you have it - ISIS as a bogeyman who is also a secret teddy bear of some well-placed, powerful interests in the West, and specifically in the United States.  You can see how ISIS the bogeyman has been used as an instrument to divide and break strong sovereign states into failed states that are easily controlled and looted by the West.  (You can also see the parallels between the uses made of ISIS and the use by the West of a bunch of foreign mercenaries and thugs of the worst type to break up the Ukraine.  Too many of our "revolutions" have relied on "lewd fellows of the baser sort.")

You also have a bit of history to put the ISIS bogeyman into proper perspective.  Out of that history I have fashioned a sturdy pair of hip boots.  Yet I know that there are those, both great and small, in America who would rather wade through fields of deep fiction without any protection for their feet, because, while the truth will set a person free, it will also smash any patriotic narcissistic "grandiose self" he or she may have erected.  There are those as well who want you to wind up with stinky feet, as the mainstream media engages in a frenzied effort to distort and bury the history of the last several years.  (This is why, for instance, after the beginning of Russian military action, there were ludicrous assertions in mainstream outlets that U.S. efforts to train and arm "moderate Syrian rebels" were really for the purpose of training these "rebels" to fight ISIS.  What a bunch of - er, um, ahem, "deep fiction"!)

The trouble is, lying to oneself and distorting one's personal history are the marks of a personality-disordered person.  And some suggest that the longer a disordered person engages in such a game with himself, the more likely he is to wind up in a permanently demented condition.  (See this and this also.)  I am thinking of President Reagan, who testified during the Congressional hearings into the Iran-Contra affair that there were some things he simply couldn't remember.  A few years later, he began to suffer from an actual inability to remember anything.  Maybe he is a warning.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

BMNT/EENT As A Dangerous Time

Once again, I find myself writing about a gruesome subject, in the aftermath of the mass shooting in San Bernardino.  I certainly do not wish to make light of the loss of life or of the pain being endured by the survivors and the relatives of the deceased.  Yet I believe that the best way to honor the victims is to look at this incident dispassionately and analytically, in order to discern those factors which may reduce the likelihood of similar incidents in the future.

So I thought it good to discuss ISIS again, since this incident is being treated by authorities and the mainstream media as an ISIS attack.  As I have pointed out in a previous post, inciting fear in Western populations by raising up a bogeyman like ISIS is very convenient for those now in charge of Western governments, particularly the United States government and various State governments now controlled by Republicans.  It also bears mentioning that the "moderate rebels" and "freedom fighters" whom the United States has been supplying with money and arms in the Mideast have turned out to be one and the same as the supposed ISIS whom the United States is supposed to be fighting.  (See this and this also.)

Also, there are the similarities between the San Bernardino massacre, the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the Paris massacre, such as:
  • The deaths of all immediate witnesses to the attack;
  • The use of a getaway vehicle by the attackers;
  • A very public attempt to link the attackers to ISIS, the Mideast, and Islam (or to any other party whom the United States deems to be a convenient enemy);
  • The fact that all the attackers are eventually killed by police, and thus are never brought to a public trial;
  • And the fact that the attacks make no tactical or strategic sense, but only serve to provoke and justify increasingly fascist and destructive responses from the very nations who are supposedly being attacked.
Lastly, it bears mention that there is an increasing backlash of an unexpected kind against such "terror" attacks: namely, the rise of an increasing number of people who refuse to believe the official government/mainstream media narrative of the incidents, and who choose instead to believe that these are false flag operations.  Such people increasingly believe that those who run Western governments, Western media and Western economies are manufacturing external enemies who are actually bogeymen created to keep Western populations in line and to justify Western resource wars.

The point of view which therefore doubts the official mainstream narrative ought therefore to be publicly examined and logically discussed.  Until recently, this has not been done.  Instead, the dominant voices in American and Western society have sought to silence the doubters by ad hominem attacks, asserting that to doubt the official narrative was somehow a distasteful, improper and uncouth act in and of itself, regardless of the evidence.  It's sort of like the people in the story of the Emperor's new clothes who were cowed into believing that it would be ill-mannered and utterly uncouth to accept or point out the visual evidence that the Emperor was actually naked.

Therefore, I think it would be good to have a very open and public discussion of the belief that the "War on Terror" has been marked by a number of false flag incidents perpetrated by the very governments who are supposed to be "fighting terror."  We should openly discuss the evidence for and against this belief, and should discuss the criteria by which people would be able to accurately judge the evidence.  This is particularly important now, because the United States is losing its reason du jour for meddling in the Mideast, as Russia is systematically destroying ISIS in Syria, and has been invited by the Iraqi government to do the same thing in Iraq.  Thus we are now living in a dangerous twilight time.  By this I mean that if the U.S. were really corrupt enough to stoop to the level of false flag attacks to get its way, we'd be faced with three possible outcomes.  First, if the U.S. was at the moment enjoying having everything its way, false flag terror attacks would be unnecessary, and thus the likelihood of such attacks would be greatly diminished.  (Only idiots do things which are totally unnecessary.)  Similarly, if an overwhelming majority of American citizens responded with jaded cynicism to supposed terror attacks, there would be no point in perpetrating false flag terror, and again, the likelihood of further attacks would be greatly diminished.  (Only the insane do things that clearly don't work.)

But it is the territory between these two extremes which is so dangerous, as an increasing number of people begin to very publicly question the official narrative, and as a result, those who would benefit from false flag operations are motivated to push those operations into overdrive in order to "prove" to the skeptics that the bogeymen whom we have been taught to fear are for real (and are distinct from us).  Thus it would not surprise me if there was an escalation of terror attacks in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West in coming days.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Mirror Image Of A Certain Hairstyle

My intuition was piqued after a Turkish Air Force F-16 shot down a Russian fighter-bomber within Syrian airspace.  As I read about the Turkish response to the downing of the Russian jet, and to Moscow's protest of the incident, a pattern began to emerge.  For Turkey refused to apologize for the incident, insisting instead that the Russian jet had violated Turkish airspace for 17 seconds without identifying itself.  But along with that excuse came a few Freudian slips as Turkish President Recep Erdogan revealed some of the true reasons for his anti-Russian animosity (and his probable true motives for downing the jet), namely, that he is upset that Russia is helping Syria oust foreign fighters who are being financed by the West to overthrow the government of Syrian President Assad.  It appears that when Washington enlisted Turkish help to cannibalize Syria, Erdogan was promised a rib or a thigh from the cannibal feast, and now he is seeing his chances of chowing down evaporating before his eyes.

Erdogan's response - his dishonesty and the impunity of his actions - reminded me of none other than Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination to represent the Republicans in the next presidential election.  Both men are narcissistic, reckless and impulsive, men of very strong ambition who boldly assert their right to do whatever they please and who show utter disregard for any possible consequences of their actions.  In this they are like the heads of many nations which have been Murdochified, NATO-ized, or neoliberalized by the West.  Men like Stephen Harper and Tony Abbott also come to mind.  But when I heard of what Erdogan had done, I immediately thought of Trump.  It seems that I am not the only one who sees similarities between the two.  Certainly, I am not the first.

So if anyone is wondering what life in the U.S. might be like under a Trump presidency, he or she would do well to study what's been happening in Turkey over the last several years.  Note especially the ways in which President Erdogan has tried to amass unilaterally overwhelming state power to himself, as well as his extreme intolerance to criticism.  Note also how in letting his grandiose self run amok, he has brought on himself consequences which he refused to foresee.  One of those consequences may be that Turkey faces a very cold winter without access to Russian gas.  Another consequence may be that the southern part of Turkey becomes a no-fly zone - as in, any unidentified Turkish aircraft that gets too close to the Syrian border may be standing into danger, even if it's still inside of Turkey.  Alternatively, consider that, with people inside of Turkey comparing Erdogan to Gollum, a wise and skillful agent outside of Turkey (such as another nation) could easily win the hearts and minds of Turks who are finding Erdogan to be rather burdensome just now.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Holiday Ruminations For A Benighted World

It's that time of year again when millions of turkeys are losing their lives in order to fuel a feast of consumption here in the U.S., and retailers and manufacturers of gadgets, trinkets and toys (many of them for adults and many of them electronic) are using every enticement known to man in order to lure  adults with fattened wallets to financial slaughter at various Black Friday and pre-Holiday sales and movie theaters.  Only, there are not many adults with fattened wallets this season - and their numbers are rapidly diminishing.  (Maybe there's an economic "plague" among the "cattle.")

Me, I am again abstaining from spending money this season.  My reasons include the unresolved reasons of last year, and the knowledge that the owners of the present economic and political order would like to use my participation in that order in order to expand their robbery and oppression not only people of color here in the U.S., but citizens of poor nations abroad.  So this year end, as I did last year end, I am not buying anything for Christmas except food, unless a critical thing (like a refrigerator or water heater) breaks and I have to replace it.  (No "upgrades" either.)  And no movies or any other form of paid entertainment.  Whoever reads this can join me, if you'd like (and even spread the word, if you feel inspired).  Let your conscience be your guide.

To help guide your conscience, if you're open to guidance, I am also providing a link to some entertainment you can download for free.  Here is a complete audio dramatization of A Canticle for Leibowitz, a Roman Catholic science fiction novel written by Walter Miller, Jr., back in the 1950's and published in 1960.  It nicely and powerfully illustrates the role that original sin plays in the behavior of nations.  Its ending makes me think of these present days, when the governments and great and wealthy men of a number of nations are employing every weapon including outright lying to try to hold onto their endangered power and prestige.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

For The First Time In Respectable Company...,

Regarding the recent terror attack in Paris, the term "false flag" has finally made it into respectable mainstream discourse, via a senior official in the German government.  According to the Huffington Post, "In Germany, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters in Berlin that a Syrian passport found with one of the Paris attackers with the name Ahmad al Mohammad may have been a false flag intended to make Europeans fearful of refugees. (Just as I said.)  The passport showed registrations in Greece, Serbia and Croatia, which he described as 'unusual.'"  The publishing of this statement also marks the first time I know of that the concept of a false flag operation has been discussed in a mainstream media outlet in anything other than a dismissive tone.

So if elements of the German government are now admitting that the perpetrators may not be the agents named by the French government in the first minutes after the attack, why is France still extremely hot on bombing Syria and taking over the Sahel in West Africa?  I can't give a definite answer, but I want to point out that there is oil there - and China has already established a presence in Chad, where the Sahel is located.  There are also other minerals there.  Something to think about as stressed people watch the remains of their counrtries' resources seized and their infrastructure destroyed to feed Western rage.  Pray that some of these may be able to find a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Munchausen's Empire: A False Flag Primer

France is using last Friday's "terror attack" exactly as I predicted in my most recent two posts.  Indeed, they seem to be almost exactly copying the script the U.S. followed after the 9/11 "terror attacks", except that they are more rabid and vehement and less interested in appearing to be "compassionate" conservatives.  They intend to target "ISIS" in West Africa as well as Syria, Libya and Iraq.  This should lead the serious student of world affairs to ask what natural resources, and especially mineral resources reside in the Sahel of West Africa.  That will give students a clear idea as to why France decided that ISIS is a "threat" there.  (Serious students can also look at Haiti's natural resources and the percentage of that country owned by foreign interests, and decide what the U.S. was really trying to "protect" when it sent thousands of troops there after the devastating earthquake in 2010.)

I have noticed that there are two audiences of this blog.  The first consists of those who have studied the impact of resource depletion on industrial societies and the global economy.  I am flattered by your readership, especially since many of you know much more than I do about these things.  The second audience is more recent, and consists of those who have been interested in my analysis of the dysfunctional psychology of an empire in decline.  Some in the second audience may be unfamiliar with terms familiar to the first group.  One of those terms is "false flag operation."

For those of you who want to know what that means, and why it matters (especially why it matters whether the Paris attack was a false flag operation), here are a few links to help introduce you to the subject.

This Wikipedia article defines the term, and provides historical examples of false flag operations.

This article examines some disturbing characteristics of the Paris massacre.  (Language warning.)

This article provides testimony from a retired member of the U.S. military concerning American uses of false flag operations.

This article provides background information on the origins of Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Here and here are articles listing several admitted false flag operations that were either planned or planned and executed by various governments.  See where the U.S. is in this list.  Here is an article describing Turkey's role in false flag operations in Syria.

And lastly, here is an article describing Munchausen syndrome, a serious personality disorder.  (Munchausen's by proxy is even worse.)

These sources should provide a few hours of riveting, yet macabre, reading.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Guess At Motives, Part 2

After yesterday's post, I thought about further information on the Paris attacks.  This was information I had not considered while writing yesterday's post.  One item of information is that Syrian refugee passports just happened to turn up near the attack scene.  It has also been revealed that these passports are probably fake.  The second is that the attack occurred during efforts by Russia to negotiate a political settlement to the Syrian war.  The third is that French attack aircraft have stricken Raqqa, which is in a major oil-producing region in Syria.  It may well be that Washington, Paris and Brussels, who have been intent on overthrowing Syria since 2006, may have "found a reason" to launch a retaliatory fight against "terror" which will conveniently also secure (or at least destroy) Syria's oil production, as well as derailing Russian efforts to stabilize the region.  The "Empire" seems hell-bent on seizing and smashing Syria, no matter what it has to do to engineer a pretext for doing so.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Trying To Win A Fight By Punching Yourself In The Face

A co-worker ran into me yesterday afternoon in the office kitchen. “Did you hear what happened in Paris?,” he gravely asked. “I can't hear a word you're saying,” I replied, and groped to turn down my headphones. (Headphones are a sanity saver in an open office environment.) Once my co-worker saw that I could hear him, he proceeded to tell me about a supposed terror attack in France that had killed 27 people. That was the only information I received at the time about the attack; yet it got me thinking about a few things. (Today I see that the death toll has gone up.)

One of the first things I thought of was intuition and the role it plays in helping people formulate an accurate mental picture of the world. I will define two types of intuition. Taking things backward, I call the first “Type B intuition”, and the second I call “Type A intuition.” By Type B intuition I mean the very natural ability to make a complete mental picture out of incomplete parts. A simple example of this is answering the question “2 + x = 4. What is x?” Type A intuition is what we arrive at when we ask a person to make a complete mental picture of a situation out of fewer and fewer parts. Those who are able to form accurate mental pictures as the number of parts approaches zero are either prophets or magicians. Prophets are Divinely appointed, and magicians are playing with fire and in danger of getting burned. My interest in this post is with neither, so I will not write further of Type A intuition here.

Type B intuition, on the other hand, arises out of the interplay of left-brained and right-brained thinking. It can be honed and sharpened by experience and practice (although it can be dulled and short-circuited by prejudice). It often plays a key role in the practice of medicine, engineering and the sciences. The reason it can be honed with practice is because a major part of this kind of intuition consists of the art of pattern recognition. A very important application of pattern recognition, and hence of intuition, lies in learning to recognize human predators. Unfortunately, the development of this kind of intuition usually involves repeated exposure to painful experiences.

As I trace the development of this aspect of my own intuition, I think of how I was exposed to an abusive church many years ago when I was young and inexperienced, and how reluctant I was to see the pattern of abuse and hypocrisy in that church. But once my eyes came fully open, it became easy to see the same pattern repeated in other settings, both sacred and secular. One element of the pattern I saw was a leader who was roundly praised by his lieutenants and sycophants as a man of unquestionable virtue who just happened by accident to be the head of an organization that somehow wound up hurting people for reasons that no one in charge seemed to be able to figure out. The shattering of our leader's virtuous picture came when the evidence of the dirty dealings of the leader and his family was unearthed. Then I began to see that church for what it was: a whitewashed tomb full of folks who put on a beautiful public face, yet whose leader and lieutenants had a hidden and hurtful agenda.

That knowledge stayed with me during the middle years of the last decade, and began to have an unsettling effect on some of my political convictions. I had become a Christian many years ago, and while I am still most definitely a Christian, I have to say that my initial faith was tainted by teaching, books and “Christian” media which reflected a white American cultural captivity. So I was groomed to equate patriotism with godliness, and to be a good little Republican. Therefore, I was overjoyed by George W. Bush's capture of the White House. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I was glad that we had such a strong leader to guide this nation through “dangerous times.”

But then the Iraq war happened, and a funny thing happened along with it, namely, that no evidence of weapons of mass destruction was ever found in Iraq. And the threat of WMD's had been a main reason for Bush's decision to invade Iraq. And after that came the resignation of Colin Powell, the uncovering of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison, and the shooting deaths of unarmed Iraqi civilians by Blackwater. As these things came to light, the nation was treated to a recurring spectacle of a President who seemed to be all heart and all sincerity, yet who just happened by accident to be the head of an administration that somehow wound up hurting people for reasons that no one in charge seemed to be able to figure out. Repeatedly, we all kept hearing that he “just wanted to get to the bottom of things, to just get the facts,” and that he would most certainly fix things so that people didn't keep getting hurt by Americans working to make the world “safe from terrorism.”

And it kept getting better, as 2005 rolled around, and Hurricane Katrina rolled around with it, and the world saw what a train wreck the Bush administration made of the disaster response effort. We also got to see how severely people of color suffered as a direct result of the guidance and direction of National Guard troops and FEMA officials whose guidance and direction seemed deliberately designed to hurt these people. Once again, we all saw Bush's mug on TV screens and newspaper front pages as he praised his FEMA director for doing a “heckuva job” while promising to get to the bottom of some unfortunate lapses in FEMA's performance. But I began to get the uncomfortable feeling that I was seeing a repeat of a whitewashed tomb full of folks who put on a beautiful public face, yet whose leaders had a hidden and hurtful agenda.

So it was that in the fall of 2006, as I was traveling on business, I finally began to question allegiances that had heretofore been unquestioned, and to entertain the voices of critics whom I had heretofore dismissed as being part of “the liberal media.” And so I spent a couple of very late nights in a hotel room reading Wikipedia accounts of the run-up to the Iraq war (including the yellowcake uranium story (see this also) which was debunked by the husband of Valerie Plame, and the Bush administration's retaliation against her), and I read about how Lewis Paul Bremer, appointed by George Bush as the provisional governor of Iraq after the U.S. invasion, helped the United States to steal everything that wasn't nailed down (and a great deal that was nailed down) from the Iraqi people during his “reign.”  (There's this also, but unfortunately, it's behind a paywall.)  The Wikipedia articles I read all contained publicly available knowledge, including documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

That information helped to complete a mental picture for me – a picture of the true motives and the actual agenda of the United States concerning Iraq and the Mideast from the beginning of the Bush presidency onward. For I saw that the rape and plunder of Iraq were the result of deeply laid plans, and not some spur-of-the-moment reaction to external events. I saw how 9/11 had been used as a tool for implementing those plans, and thus 9/11 fell into perspective as well. As a result, I became deeply suspicious of the official narrative concerning the 9/11 attacks – and this happened without any input from the “truthers”.

That same mental picture has guided my view of the destruction of Libya (whose leader was murdered by NATO) and the attempted destruction of Syria. For in the case of Libya and Syria, I saw a repeat of the same pattern that led up to the destruction of Iraq by the U.S. Key elements of that pattern were the branding by the U.S. of the leaders of Libya and Syria as “supporters of terrorism” who “opposed democracy” and thus “had to go”. This branding was used as the justification for U.S. and NATO intervention which destroyed the infrastructure of those countries and made much of their oil available for seizure by the U.S. and Europe. In the case of Syria, incidents were conveniently manufactured by certain “actors” in order to demonize Bashar Assad and to mobilize popular support for U.S. efforts to overthrow him. Those efforts began as long ago as 2006 – four years before the onset of the Syrian civil war, by the way.

So then, with this mental picture in place, how should I interpret this most recent terror attack? What kind of mental picture should my intuition create? I think the answer to that question is that there are now so many verified pieces to this picture that intuition is no longer necessary; instead, we have moved to the realm of analysis which engineers call “trending.” Intuition is as superfluous here as driving in broad daylight with your headlights on. (Consider for instance the evidence that ISIS and the “moderate Syrian opposition” are one and the same entity, funded willingly and knowingly by U.S. dollars.) So I think the picture that is emerging is influenced by certain factors, listed below:

What's at stake now in the Mideast and Europe
The situation: We now have three and a half smashed countries (not to mention the sub-Saharan African countries which have been perennial targets of exploitation), hundreds of thousands of victims now turned into refugees, and a number of vampire nations on a couple of vampire continents which have benefited from the smashing. As the victims of the smashing seek refuge in the countries that did the smashing, many of the vampire citizens of these vampire nations are loudly declaring that they want no part in helping the refugees and victims they have created. But there is one Mideastern country now being rescued by Russia from further smashing and exploitation, and this rescue is a situation which threatens to upset the balance of power in the Mideast and possibly lead to the rescue of other smashed nations from the vampires now feeding on them.

Patterns: Note the similarities with 9/11, the Charlie Hebdo attack, and the Boston bombing. One such similarity is that either the accused are never brought to trial because no bad guys are taken alive, or that if suspects actually are arrested, they are subjected to secret, non-televised trials, the results of which are reported to us by word of mouth from monopolistic mainstream media outlets. There is no publicly available evidence for examination by members of the public who might want to decide on their own the guilt or innocence of accused parties. The mainstream media outlets always cast the supposed perpetrators as a monolithic Hollywood stereotype bad guy entity whose soul and inner workings we never get to see, except that it ontologically “hates our freedoms!!!” and speaks with a foreign accent. Once that Hollywood bad guy has done his work for the day, he is pulled back behind the stage curtain until his next required appearance.

Motive: So whose interests benefit from a supposed Islamist terror attack in Europe now? To answer that question, you have to ask whether the perpetrators of the attack are really as stupid as they're being made out to be. If, as many right-wing racist neo-Nazi types would have us believe, the attacks were perpetrated by Arab Muslim terrorists who sneaked into Europe with the wave of Syrian, North African and Afghan refugees, what would they stand to gain from such an attack? The answer is obviously nothing. Such an attack would only hurt their interests by making it easier for right-wing elements in Europe to justify inhumane treatment and expulsion of refugees, and by making it easier for Western war-hawks to justify the ongoing destruction of the home countries of these refugees. I don't think that the Arab refugees, Muslim or otherwise, are stupid enough to start a fight that they cannot win. On the other hand, consider how much the racist elements in Europe and the warmongers leading the West have to gain from such an attack. Especially given that some of them were predicting that just such an attack would arise from allowing Arab refugees into Europe.  Ever heard of a guy named Nero?

Objective: So what use will be made of this terror attack? Here, I will let informed intuition guide me. I think we will see (and are already beginning to see) loud calls for retaliation against ISIS by the leaders of France, NATO and the United States. Iraq will be identified as the place where the targets of retaliation should be located. This will be for two reasons: first, that expanded Western intervention in Syria cannot be justified due to the denial of Syria as a target by Russian and Syrian forces; and secondly, in order to try to seize enough of the assets of Iraq to prevent Russia, Syria and Iran from removing Western agents from Iraq. I think this attack will also be used by wealthy Westerners such as Rupert Murdoch and his European counterparts to mobilize an intense racist backlash against the refugees now seeking to enter Europe. This makes the deaths of people in yesterday's attack all the more tragic, yet not nearly as tragic as the suffering which the West is about to unleash against people who are not guilty of any crime against the West, yet who have already suffered horribly at the hands of the West.

The picture that emerges, then, is not some sinister attack by a radicalized, non-European savage race of impure souls, but rather, a narcissistic empire so overcome by fear at its impending demise that rather than accepting that demise gracefully, it seeks to rally its citizens to a last unjust fight by creating a last outburst of self-inflicted drama. And that's what that picture looks like.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Resilience, Healthcare and Cooperation

Here is a link to a post I did over five years ago concerning the Cuban health care system and the ways in which it is both different from and better than the U.S. health care system.  That post also contains an audio interview I conducted with Rachel True, who is a member of the staff at MEDICC, a health care education cooperative group which has partnered with Cuba to train doctors for the developing world and for underserved communities in the United States.  In that interview we discuss the Latin American School of Medicine, a medical school founded by the Cuban government under Fidel Castro to provide free medical education to prospective students from poor countries and communities who would not be able to afford tuition at medical schools in developed countries such as the U.S.

The Cuban medical system is a prime example of the good that can arise in a society that is founded on cooperation and collaboration and not on ruthless Calvinist cut-throat competition.  For that reason, such an arrangement is not likely to arise in mainstream Anglo-American society unless that society undergoes a radical change.  Until then, we in the U.S. will have to content ourselves with window-shopping (or, for the richest among us, with medical tourism.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Not Just An Anglo-American Disease

Many Europeans are becoming quite upset at the refugee crisis in Europe.  There is increasingly violent rhetoric being directed against the refugees, along with increasing acts of violence.  The perpetrators conveniently forget that the refugee crisis is the result of by Europe's collusion with the United States in the destruction of Iraq and Libya, and the attempted destruction of Syria.  In other words, Europe has brought this on itself.

Europe is finding out (as the U.S. is also finding out) that you can't wreck other people's countries and steal their resources without eventually having them show up at your doorstep. Do "pure" Europeans (especially the northern Europeans) and "pure" White Americans want to curb their "immigration problem"? Then let them live within their means. If you leave other people alone and don't enslave them, wreck their homelands or conquer them in order to steal their stuff, they won't feel any pressure to migrate to your homeland. It really is that painfully simple. When Europe participated in the wrecking of Syria, Libya and North Africa, they knew that the present crisis would be a likely outcome.

We are indeed heading toward a future in which a small minority of the world's population will no longer be able to command the lion's share of the world's resources.  When that happens, at least one reason for mass migrations will go away.  This is resulting in a fair amount of existential fear in many members of the privileged small minority, and the fear is being expressed as a rabid ferocity which seeks to demonize those who are different from the members of the minority.  Today I found two refreshing antidotes to the demonizing voices:
Take them by eye, as often as needed, for relief from selfishness, willful blindness, and xenophobia.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

For Those Who Want To Take Charge Of Their Own Growth

I am very busy with grad school just now, so I won't be able to write a new post this week.  However, grad school (and self education in general) line up nicely with a post I wrote a few months ago, a post which I have decided to share again with interested readers who are trying to improve themselves in the midst of a society that is trying to scapegoat and destroy them.  Here then, for your enjoyment and edification, is Not Someone Else's Bonsai.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Iraq Redux, Reflux, Upchuck

Many of you may not know this, but the United States has resumed combat operations in Iraq.  It seems that the US is deathly afraid that it will lose its fragile hegemony in Iraq and Syria which it won by breaking one of those countries and attempting to break the other.  (Oops, I mean, the U.S. is ramping up its efforts to achieve its "elusive" goal of destroying ISIS.)  Oh, and by the way, I made another mistake.  The U.S. isn't actually using the words "U.S. troops in combat."  Unless, that is, they are asked the sort of direct questions that leave no wiggle room.

I am greatly comforted in knowing that our great military is "defending our freedoms!!!" in such a selfless way, just as our brave policemen are fighting a rising tide of violent crime brought on by the fact that citizens have been posting YouTube videos of police being unnecessarily violent against innocent people.  If only we could ban those videos!  Then the police could really do their jobs.  And it's comforting to know that the folks who run things now are serving us a second helping of a war for which most sensible people have lost their appetite.  (The Iraqis certainly did not ask for a second helping.)  It's also interesting in a perverse sort of way to realize that many of the American patriots who are now joining the military are likely to suffer the consequences of a really bad decision.  Willful blindness is not helpful for survival when you've decided to play on a freeway.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

This Is How You've Lost Me

Many years ago, just for fun, I took a creative writing class at a community college.  In that class we read an excerpt from a story which was part of Drown, an anthology written by Junot Diaz.  (The part we were assigned was the part where Yunior, the protagonist, got carsick while riding in a van with his father.)  A long time after that, I read that Junot Diaz had written another anthology titled, This Is How You Lose Her, in which Yunior was again the main character.  That anthology was an examination of the life of a young man, inwardly sensitive and looking for genuine love, yet outwardly macho, whose machismo led him to sabotage all his relationships with women by using them as objects and cheating on them.  At the end of the road, the pain of multiple rejections caused him to introspect and face the reality of his character and cultural influences, and to own the consequences of his actions.

Here's a disclaimer: The summary I have just sketched is a condensed version of other summaries of the book.  I haven't read it personally, other than skimming excerpts of a couple of its stories, because although I could see the strength and talent of Diaz in the story I read for the creative writing class, I found his style a bit too gritty for my taste.  Yet the central premise of This Is How You Lose Her is intriguing in light of current events.  I am thinking of "The Cheater's Guide to Love," and wondering how widely a cheater's reputation spreads among his potential victims once one of them catches on to the fact that he's a cheater.  I am also thinking of how rare it is that people who look at others as objects to be exploited ever come to the point where they are genuinely, healthily sorry for their actions.  I am also thinking of the perspective of the characters who were cheated by Yunior: were there ever any instances in which two or more of them met and began to compare notes on him as a way of making sense of their own experiences?  (In order to find out, I guess I'd have to read the book.)

That last question is central to today's blog post.  Each of us deals with diverse characters in the course of day-to-day life.  And sometimes those dealings involve conflict between individuals.  Each side in such conflicts has his or her own story, and frequently each side tries to recruit a "jury" of his or her peers to render a favorable judgment on his or her side of the conflict.  But if you're a member of such a potential jury, and you have been trashed by one of the parties in the conflict, your experience will color your judgment of each side's claims in the present conflict.  Let's say then that a few of Yunior's exes met by chance, and that they all knew a woman who was currently involved with him (and being cheated on by him).  If she complained to her acquaintances about his cheating, whom would they be more likely to believe?  Her or him?

In the same way, there now exists a dispute which involves more than individuals.  It now involves entire nations.  I am referring to the struggle between the West and those nations who have refused to submit themselves to Western economic domination.  The United States is the chief protagonist for the West, and Russia has begun to emerge as the chief protagonist for the other side.  The two most recent conflicts between these sides have involved the Ukraine and Syria.  In these conflicts, in addition to armed combat, there has been an information war.  In the early months of 2015 it became clear that Russia is winning the information war, and that the United States is none too happy about this.  Concerning military action in Syria, Russia has strongly extended its winning streak, with an increasing number of people ready to believe the Russian side of the story even here in the United States.

What is the American side of the story? It is that Syrian President Bashir Assad is a threat to peace and democracy who has committed horrible atrocities against his own people and who has sought to suppress the birth of genuine democracy in his own country.  Therefore the United States felt compelled to involve itself in Syria by arming rebel groups and bombing Syrian forces loyal to Assad.  Oh, and by the way, there was also this terrible Islamic threat that sprang up out of nowhere and was guilty of great atrocities, so we had to bomb them as well.

And what is the Russian side of the story?  Namely that the United States intervention in Syria was an illegitimate action designed to topple a legitimate government in order to gain geopolitical advantage, that ISIS was a threat manufactured entirely by the United States to destabilize the entire Middle East for American economic and geopolitical advantage, and that the real objective of American and NATO use of force ostensibly against ISIS was to destroy targeted Middle Eastern countries in order to facilitate the installation of puppet governments favorable to American economic and geopolitical interests.

Which side to believe? And on what basis does one make the choice?  Making the choice might involve much research, including reading Wikileaks documents authored by the governments in question.  It might also involve much tedious analysis of evidence.  But one thing would help greatly to shorten the process: if you as a potential juror in the court of public opinion had ever been trashed by one side or the other, remembering your experience would help you to arrive at a speedy verdict.  So if we look at Russia's claim that the intervention and use of force by the United States in the Mideast, and especially now in Syria, has nothing to do with the stated aims of the United States to "protect and promote democracy" and to "fight terrorism," we can ask whether the United States has on any other occasion used force for ulterior purposes which had nothing to do with its ostensible stated objectives.

The answer to that question is a resounding "Yes!"  I am thinking of the "War on Crime" and the "War on Drugs," wars which have been waged ostensibly to protect American citizens from supposed violent threats within its borders, wars whose actual effect has been to destroy lives, families, neighborhoods and communities by locking up a disproportionate number of people of color for very petty and nonviolent offenses, and in far too many cases, to lock up people who never committed any crimes in the first place.  As far as locking up innocent people, the following links should be an eye-opener:

Minorities (especially African-American) make up a disproportionate number of those incarcerated or sentenced to death in this country, yet the available data seems to indicate that the majority of prisoners of color in the United States are innocent. It is a real challenge for the innocent to prove their innocence and to obtain release from prison, because the criminal justice system purposely makes it hard for convicted prisoners to prove their innocence. Indeed, in 2009, the United States Supreme Court ruled that prisoners have no constitutional right to DNA testing that might prove their innocence.  And there is the continued slaughter of unarmed people by American police, who have killed 928 people so far in 2015.

It is also true in this country that most of the mainstream media is being used to spread lies and misinformation about the prevalence of crime among minorities and the necessity of harsh policing of minorities.  In this weekend's New York Times is a piece in which FBI Doofus (Oops! I mean, "Director") James B. Comey insinuates that scrutiny, criticism and video recording of police misconduct is leading to a rise in crime in "certain cities" which he refuses to name.  Another paper ran an article a few weeks ago in which chief pigs (Oops, I mean "police chiefs") at a national convention expressed frustration that citizen scrutiny and the threat of Youtube video footage of police brutality were hindering cops from "fighting crime."  My question is, if the police are fulfilling their ostensible goal of "fighting crime," then why should they object to scrutiny?  They should have nothing to hide, should they?  Unless, of course, they themselves are criminals, and their "ostensible goal" is really a pretext for destroying the designated scapegoats of a narcissistic country.

This country keeps trying implacably to trash certain scapegoated populations within its own borders.  (And I am a member of one of those scapegoated populations, being a Black male.)  So it's easy - oh, so easy! - for me to believe Russia's assertion that this country would trash other nations on a lying pretext, and that American media is full of lies.  It's also easy to believe that the United States would spend over $500 million to train mercenaries and thugs to overthrow a foreign government while refusing to spend any money to help the poorest of its own citizens or to clean up injustices within its own borders.  (Don't you wish you had a brand new ISIS Toyota truck?)  Doofuses like Republicans Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce are trying to recapture my "heart and mind" by spending U.S. tax dollars for better, louder media to fight Russia's "weaponization of information."  They refuse to do the one thing that might change my mind concerning this country and its real aims, and that is to start treating its own citizens differently.  In this they are utterly lacking in the humility and introspection that enabled Yunior to own his mistakes.

And this is how they've lost me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Export of Hedonism

The Russian military intervention in Syria has produced a lot of interesting fallout.  It is now becoming clear that the militants whom Russia is targeting were financed by the United States (via the CIA) for the specific purpose of overthrowing the legitimate Syrian government, and that most (if not all) of these militants are one and the same as ISIS, who have been responsible for much of the havoc wrought on the Syrian nation and surrounding regions over the last few years.  It is also becoming clear that the one of the goals of U.S. intervention in Syria over that same time frame was delusional, for the U.S wasted over $500 million trying to raise an independent militia (and state) who were "moderate".  The word "moderate" should be understood to mean, "friendly to the interests of the United States."

What are those interests?  They are, by and large, corporate commercial interests.  The goal of American foreign policy seems to be to create a world which is friendly to a economic order ruled by the United States, a world which doesn't mind being exploited by the United States, a world whose citizens come to resemble the citizens of the United States in their consumerism and utter dependence on the commercial networks established by the corporate masters of the United States.  Consumerism is but a facet of hedonism.  Temptations to hedonism are therefore used by the United States to export "democracy" to "markets" closed by national leaders unwilling to sacrifice their sovereignty to the United States.  The "opposition" movements which spring up in such countries are often composed of people whose hedonism has been successfully awakened, and who are thus enticed to grumble against their existing national order because of the lack of "fleshpots, leeks and onions and garlic."  Thus they are led to grumble against regimes which were often quite successful at meeting the basic needs of their citizenry.

We can see the export of hedonism in the British empire, where Britain legalized and fought to protect the opium trade in China during the 1800's.  We can see it now in Afghanistan, in that the growing of opium - forcibly ended by the Taliban prior to the U.S. invasion - is back in full swing, thanks to U.S. involvement.  These are but two of the fruits of the foreign policy of nations which have at one time or another called themselves both "Christian" and "defenders of freedom."  What they really meant, it seems, was the "freedom" to be made into addicts.

I think the export of hedonism by Anglo-American society deserves much more research, and even several well-informed blog posts providing further elaboration.  However, I am fighting for my life right now in grad school.  So if anyone else wants to take up the topic, please feel free.  If you wish to write on the subject, I ask that your focus be on the role of the Anglo-American export of hedonism in the fomenting of revolutions and attempted regime change by the U.S. and its allies, focusing especially on the time from the beginning of the Cold War onward.  Thanks, and have a good day.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Sunk Costs of Stinkin' Thinkin'

Certain characteristics are common to all families who are characterized by substance abuse and addiction.  The central character is, of course, the addict, whose addiction and behaviors regularly cause damage to himself and to his family unit.  The pain of the damage caused is the sort of stimulus that would cause reasonable people to try to get to the root cause of the damage and to effectively fix it.  However, a family marked by substance abuse is not reasonable, for as the addiction of the addict progresses, so do his efforts to "train" the members of his family to avoid squarely and honestly facing the root cause of the damage.  Instead of looking for an honest, effective remedy, the family is therefore trained simply to try to control the damage caused by the addict while ignoring the root causes.

A straight-up discussion of root causes is usually off-limits in such families.  These families are not marked by very much honest self-appraisal and self-reflection.  Such self-reflection might provoke an existential crisis, otherwise known as "decompensation," so it is usually avoided like the plague.  Instead, when the family experiences the pain of a fresh episode of damage, they are also trained to look for scapegoats on whom they may project their frustration and anger for the pain they are suffering.  When the family encounters any honest outsider who is willing to openly name the root cause of the family's pain, the family will often unleash a barrage of blaming, scapegoating, projection, and creation of drama in order to deflect attention from the actual "elephant in the room."  As the damage caused by the addiction increases over time, so energy spent in damage control and blame-shifting also increases over time.  This energy and effort represents a sunk cost, that is, it represents resources spent in an activity that yields no genuinely productive results, resources which, once spent, can never be recovered.  Sooner or later the cost of damage control increases to the point where it can no longer be sustained, where the cost of further damage control exceeds the necessary pain of repentance.  At that point, in many cases, both the family and the addict can be said to have "hit bottom."

America's addiction to guns and violence reminds me of the dynamics of a family controlled by substance abuse.  Our fascination with guns and violence springs from the original sins which led to the founding of the United States, sins which this nation has enshrined and glorified rather than acknowledging them as sins.  Moreover, throughout our history, this addiction has led to regular episodes of ever more frequent damage, and ever-increasing pain.  Yet the discussion of the root causes of that pain is off-limits for many members of American society, who will react by blame-shifting, scapegoating, projection and drama creation whenever the subject of root causes is mentioned.

So there was another mass shooting last week; so we also see the attempt to honestly discuss root causes drowned out in yet another flood of drama and blame-shifting by people who would rather die than give up the "freedom" of their addiction.  But there is no discussion of the sunk costs of that addiction.  Yet people who seek to behave as adults should be aware of those sunk costs.  And people who have adult responsibilities involving the safeguarding of life and property have to be aware of those costs.

I am thinking now of the vast number of people addicted to right-wing Kool-Aid in this country who even today deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change, who are unaware that some of the adults who care for them are required to take the effects of man-made climate change into account.  They watch Fox News and listen to their favorite talking heads in environments whose air conditioning was designed by members of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and they don't realize that for the last few years, ASHRAE handbooks and design guides have begun to address design of HVAC systems for a changing climate.  Why has ASHRAE done this?  Because they are part of design teams who have to design built spaces to withstand the damage done to our climate by our addiction to materialism.  If their designs are inadequate, this results in legal liability.

In the same way, those who design the built environment have, for the last several years, been forced to begin to design built spaces which mitigate the effects of this nation's addiction to guns and violence.  This can be seen in certain building codes such as NFPA 72 (authored by the National Fire Protection Association), which, several years ago, added a section dealing with requirements for mass notification systems in service buildings used by the public.  There is also the increasing attention to architectural design responses to the growing "active shooter" threat (see this, this, and this).  If active shooter incidents continue to increase in this country, I am sure that we will begin to see changes to State building codes requiring explicit design measures for all buildings in which people congregate, whether public or privately owned.  Some of these codes will require expensive retrofits of existing buildings and structures.  There will also be the increased costs of insuring and indemnifying such spaces.  This will greatly increase the cost borne by your average Joe Sixpack as he undertakes a journey to any built public space in his Chevy truck with his Confederate flag flying from the bed and his NRA sticker on his bumper.  He will grumble at the increased cost of going to places (and especially of being allowed entry into those places), yet he won't be likely to make the connection between his enjoyment of "freedom" and the increased cost of that freedom.  Meanwhile citizens like him who live in some of the other "developed" countries won't have to pay such costs, because they aren't all armed to the teeth and most of them aren't unstable.

Perhaps the discussion of monetary costs might actually persuade the masters of our addicted society to take a good look at themselves, because the human costs of our addiction to guns and violence has not had any effect so far.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

An Unexpected End to Uninvited Guests?

Graduate school is starting again, and I am enrolled in coursework on top of working nearly full time.  Therefore, I can't really do a lot of the research and analysis which has typically gone into many of my blog posts.  I can only formulate opinions based on cursory glances at things of interest.

One thing that has caught my eye over the last four years is the Syrian "crisis", which was manufactured by the United States and its allies in order to secure and maintain American economic hegemony in the Middle East.  It had nothing to do with "human rights violations" or "democracy."  The results of the insurgency which the United States fomented and financed have been ISIS, a partially wrecked country, and a refugee crisis which has exploded into Europe.  The refugee crisis has evoked much hand-wringing in the West, along with the pointing of Western fingers at the Syrians as a nation and a people and accusing them of not being able to manage their own affairs.  This has also been accompanied by the usual round of horrified xenophobia at the thought of pure Europeans having to extend neighborly hospitality to people with dark skin and dark hair from the Middle East.  (Some of that hand-wringing and xenophobia have crossed the Atlantic to the United States.)

But now Russia is rapidly building a military presence in Syria, to the tune of thousands of troops and large amounts of tanks and warplanes.  I don't know what the Russians are planning, and they haven't volunteered to tell me.  (Only fools openly discuss their strategy.)  But what if Russia (along with China, Iran and Iraq) is about to solve the problem of "uninvited guests" in Europe by kicking uninvited "guests" out of Syria?  What if the result of such an action is the immediate cessation of the current refugee "crisis"?  (If outside interests are stopped from further tearing apart the Syrian homeland, why would Syrians choose any longer to be refugees?)  What if a further result is another huge step toward the complete loss of the legitimacy of the West, and particularly of the United States?  What if the United States begins to learn that you can't loot other people's countries and wreck other people's homelands without consequences showing up at your doorstep?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Кошка

I have owned only two houses in my life, and both houses sooner or later included cats – un-asked for, and uninvited, yet accepted as “family” in the end. My first involvement began one Saturday afternoon in 2005 in Southern California. I heard a knock on the front door, and opened it to find one of the neighborhood kids standing on the front porch. “Mr TH,” he said, “Can you please take a cat? If you don't, it's gonna die.”

“Er,...what am I supposed to do with a cat?” I asked.

“Feed it...take care of it...its mother is dead and it's just a kitten. If you don't take it, it's gonna die.”

 “Let me think about it,” I said. “I'll get back to you if you can't find anybody else to take it.” And with that the kid disappeared for a while.

As time passed, I began to believe that I had dodged a feline bullet. But after about an hour, there was a second knock on the door. “Oh, no!” I groaned, then opened the door again. There was the kid, of course. He was so sad-faced that I felt compelled to follow him to a dumpster about a block away from my house where we found the kitten in question. It did indeed look pathetic in its calico fur. “What are you gonna name it?” the kid asked. It was an interesting question. I had just seen the movie “The Sixth Sense” on DVD for the very first time, having missed its release in movie theaters by several years. The cat's face reminded me of the kid in the movie. “I think I'll name it Haley,” I answered.

That animal may have looked pathetic at the first, but with care and feeding, Haley turned into quite a ferocious and wild kitten. (The kind that would shred you without warning if you petted it too much.) As Haley was maturing into adult cat-hood, I found out that Haley was actually female. Her pregnancy gave her away – along with the arrival of two baby kittens. Her mean streak went away for a while as she nursed, then re-appeared as her kittens matured into adult cats. It was with only mild regret that I bid farewell to her when I moved from So. Cal.

In my new neighborhood a thousand miles away I lived comfortably pet-free for almost three years. Then one day, I got a phone call from a former neighbor of mine, who asked if he could come over to talk with me for a few minutes. “Sure,” I answered. After he arrived, as he was getting out of his car, I saw that he was holding something small, gray and furry in one hand. “What's that?” I asked. “A kitten,” he replied. “My cat had kittens and I'm giving them away. Want one? You like cats, don't you?”

“What am I supposed to do with a kitten?” I asked, surprised by this unforseen “gift,” as he handed me the kitten. It seemed rather ill at ease, yet it nestled in my hands without protest. I held it for a few minutes, as doubtful in mind as the cat probably was. After a long silence, I said, “Well, because it's you who gave it to me, I think I'll name it Кошка.” (My neighbor was Russian.) “But what if it's a male cat?” he asked. (The kitten was too young for either of us to reliably tell its gender.) “Doesn't Кошка work for both sexes?” I asked. Thus Кошка became a member of my household.

                         

Кошка
As that kitten grew, two things became apparent. First, he was incredibly rambunctious. I had been under the impression that kittens were supposed to be cute and cuddly; yet every time I tried to pet that cat, he would attack my hands. When I took him into the backyard, he would sneak up on me and attack my hands as I was weeding my vegetable patches. In his mind, he was a prizefighter and the whole world was a mixed martial arts ring. He attacked furniture, string, electrical cords, dust bunnies, curtains, screen doors and everything in between. The second thing that became apparent was that Кошка was in fact male. (Later I learned that in order to be grammatically correct, I should have named him Кот.)

Daily I tried to hold him in my lap and pet him; almost daily he turned our “bonding” sessions into a wrestling match. One day I turned in desperation to a colleague at work, a woman who volunteered in her spare time to put cats up for adoption. She had turned her office into an extension of her hobby, so anyone who visited her usually saw various cats being fed or petted or sleeping. All of her cats were cuddly. I told her about my cat and his extreme rambunctiousness.  (Нехорошо Кошка!)  “TH,” she said, “your cat is so rambunctious because he has no one to play with. He thinks you're a kitten. You need to get him a companion. It would really help with his socialization.”

So it was that I called my former neighbor after a few months and asked, “Say,...do you have another kitten? Preferably a male.” Half an hour later, he showed up with another gray striped fur ball. My neighbor said, “This one's name is Вася.” (Вася is short for Василий, by the way.) Once he let him go, the kitten promptly disappeared under the backyard deck and I did not see him again for nearly two days. Вася's timid temperament was nearly the polar opposite of that of Кошка, even though Васия was a strongly built, rather stocky kitten. Because I misheard the pronunciation of Вася's name, I corrupted it to Вашка, and that cat has been Вашка ever since.

                                  
Вашка

Several months later, spring came, and Кошка disappeared for a few days, not even bothering to show up for meal times. I had not dealt with cats for a very long time, so this took me by surprise. I thought he might be lost or might have been hit by a car, not realizing that he was actually randy and out sowing wild oats, or, in his case, a crop of little котята. I was sufficiently worried about him that I made a bunch of bilingual posters and started to put them on telephone poles throughout the neighborhood. I ran out of staples while putting up posters and returned to my house to reload, and there – in the backyard – was Кошка, looking none the worse for his long absence. The little doofus! (Непослушны Кошка!)
                          


 Can you find the misspelled words in the second half of the poster?

As time passed, Кошка mellowed out considerably (with the exception of one incident about two years ago in which he thrashed the next door neighbor's dog). In fact, he became far calmer than Haley had ever been. He is now sociable and even quite pleasant, at least toward me, as seen from the habit he developed this last summer of snuggling against my legs as I watered my sunflowers.  (Немножко Кошка!)  He has grown, changed and matured in such an amazing way that I believe it's time for him to seek a position of supreme responsibility in this world.

This is why I have decided to announce Кошка's decision to run for the Presidency of the United States. You may ask, “Why a cat for president?” The answer to that question involves comparison of the current batch of presidential candidates to animals of a rather different sort. To me, it seems more obvious than ever that not only in the United States, but throughout the industrialized West, the political process has degenerated into a choice between wolves and characters who pretend to be shepherds but are actually in league with the wolves. The role of the wolves is obvious, namely, to turn the rest of us into lamb chops.

The role of the ersatz shepherds is also obvious, as can be seen from the behavior of the Democratic Party in the United States, the Labor Party of the United Kingdom, and the Syriza Party of Greece. That role is to provide a distraction and a harmless outlet for the frustrations of sheep who are feeling the pain of being munched by wolf teeth. So it is that every so often (two to four years in the United States), we get a number of candidates who promise to dismantle the power of the wolves in charge of society and to fight for the poor, the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the marginalized. Once the ersatz shepherds are elected, they reliably fail every opportunity that arises to protect the sheep from the wolves. Cases in point include Barack Obama, unfortunately, who has allowed the continuation of the “War on Terror” started by a former Wolf-in-Chief, and whose administration has persecuted such whistleblowers as Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden. There is also former British Prime Minister Tony Blair of the British Labor Party, who allowed himself to get too cozy with wolves during the last decade, and because of whom Britain helped to destroy at least two countries without just cause from 2001 to 2008. There is (perhaps soon-to-be former) Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, who allowed a miscarriage of justice concerning the murder of Michael Brown, and unarmed Black teenager, by the Ferguson Police Department. And there is Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister of Greece and head of the Greek Syriza Party, who capitulated to European Union demands to turn Greece into a nation of debt slaves. Basically, ersatz shepherds seek to win elections by promising to be “tough on wolves,” yet when they are elected, they almost always end up spreading their hands, shrugging their shoulders, and saying to the sheep, “Ya know, wolves gotta eat too.”

The political strategy of the wolves, on the other hand, is to try to convince us sheep that a liking for lamb chops is a good thing. So we have American mainstream media outlets which are all starting to sound alike, because they are owned by the same small handful of pathologically rich people. Their united message is that greed is good, unbridled competition is good, “freedom” is good (as long as freedom is defined as indulging any craving that crosses one's mind), war is good (because it kills those who “hate our freedoms!!!”), predation is good, and any restriction on one's freedom is BAD, especially when such restrictions are proposed as a means of protecting others from being hurt by one's exercise of “freedom.” In other words, “We wolves have it pretty good, and that's a good thing. And you can be just like us if you're willing to embrace your 'inner wolf'.”

One way this is seen is in the perpetual, universal efforts of the Republican Party (yes, every last one of them, including Ron Paul), to create “out-groups” who can serve as scapegoats for deluded sheep who are frustrated because they through their own fault are being continually fleeced. (“Cats, sheep, goats, wolves – you're not planning to add lions, tigers and bears, are you?” Rest assured, the answer is no.) So the brown-skinned (or dark-wooled, if you will) are routinely targeted, whether they be citizens, foreigners or immigrants. And anyone who benefits from “socialism!!!” as defined by the wolves also becomes a target. But those who are taken in by the politics of identity, supremacy and division often find themselves in surprising situations as a result. Consider the state of Wisconsin, which in 2010 elected a Republican majority to the state legislature and elected Scott Walker as Governor. Oh, the wonder, shock and surprise they experienced when Governor Walker and his legislative allies began to cannibalize the very constituencies who voted for him!

(“Бабушка..., почему у вас такие большие зубы?”

“Это чтобы съесть тебя, маленькая девочка!”

“Ои!...Ои! Ты волк! Я Боюсь!”

“Вы также являются волк, маленькая девочка!”)

So it goes with wolves, that there are actually cases in which the strongest wolves in a pack will kill and eat their brethren. If a Republican wins the presidency, things should become very interesting for mainstream American society, many of whose members will be found saying, “I thought they couldn't do (you fill in the blank) to us. After all, we're Americans!”

Given this sort of electoral menu, why not vote for a cat? I can vouch that Кошка will never lie to you. Indeed, he cannot lie, for he knows how to say only three things: “meow,” “purr” and “hiss.” Nor will he try to turn anyone into a lamb chop. A vote for Кошка may well be the sanest vote you could cast in 2016, as it will show that you regard the Western political process with all the seriousness it now deserves. Кошка за президент!