Monday, December 26, 2016

The Arrival of Name and Blackeneth

You should never argue with a crazy ma-ma-ma-ma-man,

You oughtta know by now…

– Billy Joel, Movin’ Out

“ ‘And so it was in those days,’ said Brother Reader:

that the princes of Earth had hardened their hearts against the Law of the Lord, and of their pride there was no end. And each of them thought within himself that it was better for all to be destroyed than for the will of other princes to prevail over his. For the mighty of the Earth did contend among themselves for supreme power over all; by stealth, treachery and deceit they did seek to rule...”

– Walter M. Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz, “Fiat Lux

Donald Trump created a bit of a stir over the last few days with some tweets expressing his desire to expand and modernize the U.S. nuclear weapon arsenal. As his aides tried to downplay his words, he countered by offering additional words of “explanation” which increased the alarm of his hearers. Among the things he said are the following:

  • He intends to “greatly” expand the number of warheads and delivery systems.
  • He does not care whether this action provokes a renewed arms race between the United States and other nations. In his words, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.” And as his soon-to-be White House spokesman said, “I think it’s putting every nation on notice that the United States is going to reassert its position in the globe.”
  • Some have recalled his earlier assertions that the United States should not necessarily prevent other nations from acquiring nuclear weapons, and that they should no longer expect to rely on the United States for protection from nuclear threats. (See this and this.)

While the Donald’s words contain plenty of cause for alarm, I have to say that I don’t necessarily view his words in the same way as some of the alarmed voices see them. For many of these voices are the voices of regretful players on the losing end of empire who have pointed to the stabilizing role the United States has played for several decades as the center of empire. Their lament that this stabilizing role is about to come to an end seem to me to be a veiled plea for that empire to continue, a veiled justification of that empire. But while it is quite true that the United States has played a pivotal role in nuclear non-proliferation, and while the work that has been done in that role has been unquestionably good, it is also true that the United States has made a lot of people suffer by reason of its imperialism. Most of those sufferers have been citizens of the “developing world,” a world kept in a continual state of brokenness in order that five percent of the world’s population might consume over 40 percent of the world’s resources. It won’t hurt my ego at all if someone else assumes the role of global leadership for a while – provided, of course, that the next leader is sane, rational and moral.

Trump is not sane, rational or moral. I agree with the alarmists that the Donald’s words are cause for great alarm – for the following reasons.

First, his intention to “greatly strengthen and expand [the U.S.] nuclear capability” would almost certainly be a direct repudiation of the second pillar of the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (or NPT) which was ratified in 1970, and to which the United States was one of the signatories. (It seems that Russia may already have repudiated the second pillar.) There is no doubt that the NPT has made the world safer by greatly reducing the risk of nuclear war. Yet even now, there are non-nuclear nations which have long-standing frustrations with the five major nuclear powers (the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France) because of the refusal of the major powers to adhere to the same standard of behavior to which they hold the non-nuclear nations. A decision by the United States to abandon disarmament in favor of increasing the total count of weapons would provide these other nations with ample justification for turning their own backs on the NPT.

Second, the tone of Mr. Trump’s nuke language, combined with many of his previous statements, shows his need to approach his interactions with other nations as the dominator with the biggest stick, rather than as a humble, genuine peacemaker seeking the greatest good for all. This is not likely to go over very well in the world at large, many of whose nations may soon come to feel themselves to be under existential threat because of the actions and attitudes of our incoming Narcissist-In-Chief. And when people feel that their very lives are threatened, they will be prepared to fight back. Maybe that’s why the Donald, who campaigned on an ostensibly isolationist platform, is nonetheless seeking to drastically expand U.S. military spending, and to eliminate budget caps on future military spending. The U.S. military budget is already bigger than the next fifteen largest national military budgets combined. If Trump really is a peacenik, why do we need more troops and hardware?

Third, the creation of a global political climate in which nations felt that they were not significant or were vulnerable to domination unless they each had nuclear weapons would produce the same results on an international level that the massive promotion of gun ownership has had in the United States. (See this also.) The U.S. is not safer as a result of massively increased gun ownership and concealed or open carry laws. Instead, we have found that certain kinds of hotheads gravitate toward gun ownership, and that the fact that these people have guns has greatly increased the chances that the guns will be used – and not for good purpose! How do you feel about having a world of nuclear-armed nations whose leaders say things like, “Why do we make [nukes] if we’re not going to use them?”, or, “You want to be unpredictable [in your potential use of nuclear weapons]”? (Quotes paraphrased from source cited in paragraph.)

Fourth, Mr. Trump has promised to build a “serious missile defense system” to protect the United States from nuclear threats. Perhaps he is hoping that the U.S. could hide itself behind such a system.  However, intercepting nuclear missiles is much harder than it has been made to seem by proponents of missile defense systems.  There are three stages in the flight of a ballistic nuclear missile where the missile could be intercepted by a defense system: boost, ballistic and reentry. But trying to intercept a missile during the reentry phase is, in many respects, waiting until it’s too late. And U.S. attempts to build systems that could intercept a missile during the boost and ballistic phases have uniformly failed. (See this, this, and this.) Is Trump promising to build a system that would actually and reliably work against a modern ICBM? Fuhgeddaboudit.

To me, Trump’s recent military statements can be taken in two ways. First, I think he will treat the United States – with all of its various peoples – as nothing more than a narcissistic extension of himself. Now that he has, by means of a rigged election, graduated to the biggest of the big leagues, he will try to display the biggest persona of them all. At present he receives a great deal of narcissistic supply from his association with Vladimir Putin, who has distinguished himself as another Big Man on a Big Stage. But I suspect that there is also in Trump a feeling of rivalry and envy in his association with Putin and with Russia – an envy with Freudian overtones. A buildup of the U.S. military may be one way by which Trump seeks to resolve that envy and prove to himself that he is the bigger man. Indeed, there are already signs of instability in the relationship between these two narcissists, as indicated in Trump’s response to the thoughts expressed toward him in a recent letter from Putin: “In response to Mr. Putin’s letter, Mr. Trump said that a failure by either side to ‘live up to these thoughts’ would require the United States to ‘travel an alternative path.’” I remember reading how last year, Mr. Putin publicly lectured the West concerning American intervention in the Mideast, pointedly asking, “Do you realize what you’ve done?” However, Mr. Putin’s solution to American imperialism has been to support the political ambitions of a man who is morally unfit to be the President of the United States. Therefore Putin’s “cure” will almost certainly be worse than the disease for which it was intended. A day may soon arrive in which other heads of state pointedly ask Putin, “Do you realize what you’ve done?”

(I used to have a great deal of respect for Putin and his version of Russia, but unfortunately, his mask has slipped. Even though many of his criticisms of the West have validity, I no longer view him as the doctor to be writing prescriptions for anything.)

The second way to look at Trump is to see that deliberately sowing consternation (and confusion) is part of his overall style. He seems to take great pride in being unpredictable. Indeed, he seems to see this unpredictability as a strength. Others don’t necessarily agree. (See this, this and this.) I also have a few thoughts on Mr. Trump and unpredictability, which I will disclose in a future post. In that post, we’ll be climbing back out onto the skinny branches again.

Aggressiveness, insecurity, unpredictability, and nukes – oh, my!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

When The First Amendment Is Revoked

A troubling development has surfaced in the preparations being made by the Trump team to seize the White House which they "won" in a rigged election this past November.  It appears that the Trump team issued a list of 74 questions to Department of Energy personnel, asking them to identify which employees and contractors worked on climate change initiatives under President Obama.  Among the items in the questionnaire are the following:
  • "Can you provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon meetings?  Can you provide a list of when those meetings were and any materials distributed at those meetings, emails associated with those meetings, or materials created by Department employees or contractors in anticipation or as a result of those meetings?"
  • "Can you provide a list of Department employees or contractors who attended any of the Conference of the Parties (under the UNFCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change)) in the last five years?"
  • "Which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan?"
  • "Can you provide a list of the top twenty salaried employees of the lab, with total remuneration and the portion funded by DOE?"
  • "Can you provide a list of current professional society memberships of lab staff?"
  • "Can you provide a list of all other positions currently held by lab staff, paid and unpaid, including faculties, boards, and consultancies?"

These questions are being asked by the transition team of a President-elect who has vowed to dismantle Obama's climate action policies and who has publicly said that "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."  It is therefore understandable that the scientists in the Department of Energy are looking at the questionnaire from the incoming Administration in the same way that a flock of chickens might look at a fox who is asking for each chicken's name and address.

However, the point of my post today is not to argue whether climate change is real, or whether, if real, it is being caused by human activity.  (On these two points, the science is indisputable.  As to the consequences we are now reaping, see this, this, and this for instance.)  My point is, rather, whether the scientists who are seeking to do objective, fact-based work at the DOE have good reason to be worried about what a hostile incoming Administration might try to do to them.  For it is well known that Donald Trump is a classic narcissist, and we can also be reasonably certain that most of his inner circle shares his disease.  One of the rules for survival in proximity to a narcissist is this: Don't ever disagree with him.  If you break that rule, be prepared for retaliation.  And if the narcissist not only controls your employment, but also knows all your professional associations and positions held outside of your regular employment, he can majorly ruin your chances of finding any kind of employment in your particular field.  There are many stories around just now of people whose careers were ruined by narcissists or bullies. 

So it will be interesting to see how dissenting scientists fare in the DOE under a Trump administration.  That will tell us how the Trump administration will respond to dissent in general.  Early reports are not encouraging, as seen here, here and here, for example.  I think that it is very likely that we will have to endure an extremely thin-skinned President who is determined to live in the narcissistic bubble of his own fantasy, a President who will explode in narcissistic rage at any fact, reality or person who dares to burst that bubble.  He will be Nixon on steroids.

And for that reason, I think it is prudent for those of us who will have to live under such a President to consider two of Gene Sharp's Methods of Nonviolent Action (from his book How Nonviolent Struggle Works), under the heading of Social Intervention: creating alternative social institutions, and creating alternative communication systems.  What is more, these alternative social institutions and alternative communication networks must be tough, survivable, and able to function even when they are denied access to the resources available to official institutions and communication networks.  It might be a very good idea to ask how you would form a network of people you can rely on when your power to form networks is being interdicted by the State.  It might be a good idea to ask how you can communicate with a wider audience or an audience spread over a wide geographic area when you can't use Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Blogger, or any other electronic Web-based social media - either because access to these media is denied, or because dissenters who try to use them might wind up getting arrested.  Message in a bottle, anyone?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Present The Grinch Gave Himself

The post-election "fallout" is getting interesting...First, may God bless Jill Stein for forcing the issue of Donald Trump's illegitimate election victory.  Unfortunately, there are not enough independent recount observers to guarantee a fair recount.  It appears from some reports that Donald Trump's supporters have succeeded in seriously gumming up the works in a number of recount efforts, and have succeeded in getting recounts halted in at least one state.  It also appears that both the CIA and FBI are reporting unmistakable evidence of Russian involvement in influencing the outcome of this election.  However, the Donald remains closed to any such evidence.  Therefore, he is about to enter his Presidency without a shred of any legitimacy in the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans.  That's skating on some thin ice, if you ask me.  Let's see how long he lasts before the ice cracks.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Black Hole At The Imperial Center

Warning: This will be a blatantly spiritual post, so you can decide whether you are interested enough in that subject to keep reading.  I will begin with an analogy from astronomy.  Observations of stellar motion near galactic cores explain much about what holds galaxies together.  Scientists who have observed such cores have gleaned a great deal of information about a thing that can be observed only indirectly, namely, the super-massive black hole that lies at the heart of a typical galaxy.  Those observations have enabled them to estimate the probable mass of many black holes at galactic centers and the radius of their event horizons.

Here's a question: can observations of empire tell what lies at the center of earthly empires?

A clue came to me recently.  For the last several months I've been listening to audio recordings of the Bible that I downloaded from the LibriVox website.  For some reason, I found myself obsessively listening to various readings of the Book of Daniel for several days last month, and that led me to an effort to try to figure the book out.  I am not going to give you some grand exposition today, but I will comment on a couple of things that I noticed.

First, the main theme of Daniel seems to be summarized in Daniel 4:17 - that God Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He will, and sets up over it the lowest of men - and that one day, all earthly kingdoms and their kings will be superseded by a King from Heaven whose reign will be over all, and will never end.

But before that everlasting Kingdom comes, there will be one last earthly empire.  That empire will rule the earth for a time, and will be evil.  One interesting observation is the power and motivation behind that last empire, whose ruler will "do that which his fathers have not done, nor his fathers' fathers."  (Daniel 11:24)  In other words, he will be an exceptional conqueror having an extraordinary degree of cunning.  What will be the secret of his success?  This: "He will not regard the gods of his fathers, or the desire of women, or regard any god, for he will magnify himself above all.  But in his place he will honor a god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know; with gold, silver and with precious stones and pleasant things.  He will deal with the strongest fortresses by the help of a a foreign god; he will give great honor to those who acknowledge him and will cause them to rule over the many, and will parcel out land for a price."  (Daniel 11:37-39, various translations)

To put it plainly, behind the empire of the final earthly king will be the worship of a "god of fortresses..."  In other words, the power and foundation of this empire will be from an occult source.  This is also indicated in Daniel 8:23-24, "And in the latter period of their kingdom, when the transgressors have finished, a king will arise strong of face and skilled in ambiguous speech (or intrigue, or enigmas).  And his power will be mighty, but not by his power (emphasis added), and he will destroy (or corrupt) to an extraordinary degree and prosper and perform his will; he will destroy (or corrupt) mighty men and the people of the saints.  And through his shrewdness he will cause deceit to succeed by his influence..."

Thinking of these passages led me to formulate a hypothetical question: what if the power and foundation of every earthly empire throughout history has come from an occult source?  This seems especially likely if the empire was an extraordinarily violent and successful conqueror, and/or a severe and cruel oppressor.  What if, moreover, every conspiracy to create an earthly empire has an occult inspiration?  Where would one look for evidence to confirm or contradict such a hypothesis?  Over the last few weeks, I have been looking at the last five hundred years of the history of the Global North (Europe, the Five Eyes, and Russia), and I came up with some very interesting findings.  I will divide those findings into "historical imperial examples" and "present-day conspiratorial examples."

Under the heading of "historical imperial examples" were some obvious cases, such as Nazi Germany under the reign of Hitler.  (See this, this, this, and this for instance.  However, the author of the last source cited seems to hint that occult fascinations merely colored, and did not cause, certain aspects of National Socialism.)  There is also the case of Italy under Benito Mussolini, whose reign was influenced to some degree by occultist Julius Evola, who was also virulently racist,  According to one source, his writings have had a major impact on the development of the global far right.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

There is also at least one questionable example, namely that of Napoleon Bonaparte of France.  The limited investigation I have done has turned up no hard link to the occult in Napoleon's empire.  However, he is an ambiguous character who proclaimed his allegiance to several religions in order to facilitate his rule over the diverse peoples he conquered.

But there is also an unexpected example, namely that of Elizabethan England, where the Queen had a court astrologer and advisor named John Dee who was also the inspiration and architect of the formation of the British Empire.  Throughout his adult life he had a strong and increasing fascination with the occult (which is one thing actually that led to his eventual ruin).  There is also the example of Cecil Rhodes, who, according to Carroll Quigley, was the mastermind behind attempts by certain wealthy British interests to reconquer some of the possessions lost by the British Empire.  According to Quigley, one of the institutions arising from the activities of Mr. Rhodes is the Society for Psychical Research (The Anglo-American Establishment, p. 32).

There is also the example of the United States, if one cares to take the time to find reputable and scholarly articles concerning the faith of the Founding Fathers.  (Hint: most of them were not fundamentalist Christians.  See this also.)  Note also the significant role played by secret societies in American history. (See this and this for instance.)  Lastly, consider the hidden agenda and esotericism of certain examples of American-made religion, such as Mormonism and Dominionism.  And there is the example of Federal funding for research into the use of psychic phenomena for military purposes!

Under the heading of "present-day conspiratorial examples", the biggest and most obvious case I found was Russia and its involvement with the burgeoning far-right, white supremacist movements now at work in the Global North.  Those who are intimately familiar with Russian culture know of the prominent role of the occult in pre-revolutionary Russia, as well as the Soviet research in attempts to use psychic phenomena for Soviet governmental objectives.  (See this, for instance.)  But what is even more interesting is the place of the occult in the resurgence of post-collapse Russian society and of post-collapse Russian geopolitical strategy.  Consider, for instance, Aleksandr Dugin, the chief architect of modern Russian geopolitical strategy.  Consider the occult roots of his political philosophy, and of Dugin's fascism.  (See this and this also.)  Dugin, it seems, wants to build a global empire centered on and run by Russia.  Indeed, he believes that Russia without empire would cease to exist.

And part of his strategy (a strategy we have seen implemented quite effectively over the last two years) involves the financing and political support of far-right groups in Europe and the United States.  (For an example of involvement in Europe, see this.)

I would also say that the widespread evidence of occult involvement in the global far-right groups today transcends any individual country.  It is truly an international phenomenon.  (See this, this and this for instance.)  There is evidence, moreover, that these far-right groups are actively creating a white supremacist youth culture.  (See this, this and this also.)

So then, based on my initial findings, I think I can state that the answer to my initial hypothetical question is most likely "Yes, the foundation of earthly empires and imperialist conspiracies is occult."  Therefore I submit that thus we who are members of those people groups who have been oppressed and exploited by the Global North for the last five centuries or so can begin to understand the power and motives behind the cruelty dealt to us by our oppressors.  And we can begin to estimate the future trajectory of our oppressors, as well as understanding how we should respond to the oppression dealt to us.

As a Christian, I boldly state that our response must not be to attempt to wield the same power now wielded against us by our oppressors!  For those who wield that kind of power run the risk of losing their souls "on singularly unfavorable terms" (to quote C.S. Lewis), regardless of the earthly results they achieve.  Rather, for the Christian, it is much more relevant that, "...for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we for Him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we through Him."  (1 Corinthians 8:6)  And, "A glorious throne on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.  O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake Thee will be put to shame..." (Jeremiah 17:12-13). 

My assessment also agrees with the words of Soong-Chan Rah in his book Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice In Troubled Times, where he says, "American Christians operate under the delusion that success and power provide the answer to the world's problems.  In Scripture, we see that powers and principalities are not necessarily a positive expression.  Moses stands against the powers and principalities of his time.  The prophets boldly speak against the powers, including their own king.  Jesus rejects the temptation of secular power.  Ephesians 6 portrays powers and principalities as demonic forces.  Should we seek the same type of power that the world seeks?"

Some readers may be curious as to the results which can be expected from the seeking of occult power by the far-right supremacist groups I have cited.  Some may also be curious as to the timing of the final end of the trajectory of these supremacists.  I will not comment on such matters today.  (I think I have spent quite enough time behind a keyboard this weekend!  And some of you who read today may be thinking, "He's really climbed far out onto the skinny branches with this post!")  However, I will end with a sociological question.

The quest for empire is essentially a quest for power, and the bigger the imperial dream, the greater is the underlying thirst for power.  The empires of the 19th and 20th centuries enjoyed exponentially greater power than any empires that preceded them, thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the resources - particularly, energy resources - that supplied that revolution.  Now those resources are coming to an end, and their end signals a mortal threat to the narcissistic quest for imperial power by those who have long enjoyed the fruits of that power.  Could it be that the surging interest in the occult in the Global North - especially among the supremacist elements - signifies a desperate search for another kind of (blatantly evil) power?  And will the quest for that power intensify in the months ahead?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Please Don't Buy Anything Except Gasoline and Food This Holiday Season

To those who are regular readers of this blog, I extend a hearty "Thank You!"  I'd also like to ask a huge favor.  As I consider this holiday season of 2016, I think of the relatives of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, and many other people murdered by the police over the last several years.  These relatives won't have a Merry Christmas.  Neither will those of us who have been disenfranchised by crooked voter suppression laws, hackable electronic voting machines, and other implements of election fraud.  In fact, I would wager that by the end of 2017, almost no one in this country will be able to enjoy a Merry Christmas. 

This state of affairs is very un-satisfying, especially to those of us who feel particularly powerless just now.  Yet there is always power in nonviolent resistance, and there are many techniques of nonviolent resistance.  Please join me this holiday season in implementing one such tactic - namely, a boycott of holiday shopping.  Let's send a painful message to those who now own our country.  Thank you very much.