Saturday, April 19, 2014

"Liberal Fascism" is an Oxymoron. It Doesn't Exist Except in Right Wing Brains!












The term "liberal fascism" has become increasingly fashionable to bandy about but mostly in right wing circles because this enclave of under-educated folk don't know the difference between any of the historical political-economic systems, whether fascism, socialism, or Neoliberal capitalism. Hence, it's no surprise the term would be misused.

What prompted the Right to inject the boogeymen of liberal fascism into the ongoing cultural wars? Well, a sequence of incidents. First you had the way most of us in the liberal spectrum came down like a ton of bricks on Nate Silver for hiring climate denier Roger Pielke Jr on his Fivethirtyeight blog. Then there has been the massive criticism of the Right - as in the 'Hobby Lobby' case, trying to exploit the specious "religious liberty" theme to justify aborting the contraceptive sections of Obamacare. Finally, there was the Brandeis University announcement that it would rescind an honorary degree it planned to award to Ayaan Hirsi, a best selling author and critic of Islamo-fascism.

Brandeis’ decision to cave has been described (even in liberal quarters like salon.com)  as arising from pressure by the left-wing/Islamofascist militants and thus canceling Hirsi Ali’s honor has been castigated by champions of freedom around the world..

Here, we need to back up and explain that there is no such thing as a "left wing Islamo-fascism"  no matter what the militants call themselves. This would have about as much "left wing" bona fides as Hitler's National Socialist Party would have socialist bona fides. (Leading to the continued confusion that remains today between genuine socialism - which is wholly left wing - and Hitler's Right wing version). IF "left" is synonymous with Liberal, then no kind of fascism can be permitted. Fascism is a creature of the Right, not the Left, and has been since the days of Hitler and Mussolini.

 
It is instructive here to consult Douglas Rushkoff's  Chapter Four ('Individually Wrapped').  in  his  book, Life Inc. - How Corporations Conquered the World and How We Can Take It Back.   He
 
observes (p. 109):

"American corporatists saw in fascism a counterbalance to FDR's strong-handed tactics and aggressive social welfare programs.....Henry Luce, a co-founder of TIME magazine, put Mussolini on the cover five times and traveled the country arguing that corporations - not government - were really in charge of America.  Luce convinced many business people that fascism might be corporatism's best hope for organizing and influencing people."



One is led to question why  American corporatists would want to invoke fascism to offset FDR's pro-government programs. There are several reasons, all of them tied to the historically accepted characteristics of fascism and germane to Rushkoff's point, as well as mine, i.e. that liberalism and fascism are counterpoised:

Corporate Power is Protected -- The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation are often the ones putting government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and a power elite.  This automatically sets domestic non-military and social insurance programs in opposition, and at risk - from the nascent pro-corporate economic structure.


Labor Power is Suppressed -- Because the organizing power of labor is the only real remaining counterbalance to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely or are severely suppressed. We have seen this happen progressively in this country as unions have all but vanished from the landscape and are mightily resisted where they might find new places to begin.


Supremacy of the Military -- Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.  This is deliberate in all fascist nations-systems, given their opposition to providing domestic social insurance for the masses. Thus, if the military spending can be made large enough it can deplete the tax commons to the extent that inadequate money is available to support social -domestic needs.

Obsession with National Security -- Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses and special attention is focused on those who complain about inadequate domestic resources, say because they are at the mercy of increased military spending and inciting wars by which to validate such spending.  If then a "boogeyman" can be created and sustained it can also be used to mute the demand for addressing domestic needs.  Create a system of color -coded alerts or 'warnings' then you keep most people in tow, and also the critics at bay.

The 1983 American Heritage Dictionary defined fascism as:

"A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."

The U.S.-based  dictionary definition has gotten somewhat squishier since then, as all the larger dictionary companies have been bought up by multinational corporations (e.g. Bertelsmann AG, NEWSCorp etc.), who would be more invested in obscuring key definitions to align with their corporatist bias.

Benito Mussolini, however, was quite straightforward about all this. In a 1923 pamphlet titled "The Doctrine of Fascism" he wrote,

"If classical liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government."

But not a government of, by, and for (We)  The People - instead, it would be a government of, by, and for the most powerful corporate interests in the nation. In 1938, Mussolini brought his vision of fascism into full reality when he dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the "Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni" - the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Corporations were still privately owned, but now instead of having to sneak their money to folks like John Boehner and useful idiots like the Tea Partyers, they were openly in charge of the government.

The above preliminaries are useful in parsing salon.com writer Alex Pareene's take:

 All of these seemingly unconnected incidents can be understood with one simple word: fascism. Liberal fascism. “Fascism” as a term has been abused by leftists over the decades, but it is a definable and concrete thing. Essentially, fascism is when a bunch of people criticize something they disapprove of or are offended by, and ask that the thing or person that offends them not be rewarded in some fashion."

But as we've seen,  fascism is a lot more complex than merely a "bunch of people criticizing something they disapprove of or are offended by, and asking that the thing or person that offends them not be rewarded in some fashion." 

This is what I would call the "elementary school version" of fascism.  Comprehensible to those at the fourth grade level - i.e. grasped easily in the personal antagonism 'he said-she said' domain, but unfitting for an adult of even moderate intelligence to really grasp what fascism is about.

As for "liberal fascism" it can only make sense in the cartoon context Pareene describes, but not in the formal definitional sense.

If you're at a cocktail part and engage in a political debate (not advised), don't interject "liberal fascism" unless you want to be thought of as an over-sized, ill-informed 4th grader!
    

No, You Don't Want To Do 'Aftersex' Selfies

Photo: Photo-shopped  aftersex selfie.
You really want your aftersex selfie to have Newt Gingrich's mug photo-shopped onto it then circulated with your gf?

There are so many reasons not to do "aftersex" selfies that it shouldn't be necessary to enumerate them. Start with the smug, solipsist nature of the "selfie" itself which embodies all the gratuitous self-infatuation that is poisoning this country - causing it to mutate into a bunch of navel-grazing zomboids with faces pushed into assorted small screens - whether of smart phones or iphones.  Let us also recall what Krimhilde, my sister-in-law and Eck spiritualist said:

"These are the creations and obsessions of the immature human, which remains steeped in narcissism, in self-absorption. No truly advanced or advancing human on the path to a higher spirituality takes a selfie. Our true motivation and mission in this life is instead to embrace selflessness. That means placing one's body in proper relation to one's spirit."

Wonder what she'd think of the 'aftersex' selfie?  It isn't difficult to imagine and the clue is in the last line of her comment.

But perhaps one isn't spiritually inclined. Then there are other reasons not to traverse the route of this benighted form of selfie:

1- Any instagram, any selfie can go onto the larger web, and can also be used in ways never intended by the original senders.  One such is displayed above with the aftersex selfie twisted into a mocking caricature by having photo-shopped the visage of Newt Gingrich into the guy's face. The poor girl friend is then stuck being seen with this GOOPr goober along side her, while the delirious face of the cat who sent the selfie is nowhere to be found.  (Let's also bear in mind a truly malicious person would use programs superior to photo-shop to superimpose the face of a terrorist onto the selfie, instead of Newt's!)

2- The GCHQ, NSA's Brit cousin, can snatch it up - as it does millions of instagrams, via its 'Optic Nerve' program. As the Guardian noted (Feb. 27), having gobbled up and storied millions of such images, including "sexually explicit" ones it's become increasingly difficult to keep them from the prying eyes of staff. While aftersex selfies are usually not explicit, one can picture GCHQ staff having some good yucks at the assorted ones captured that they gawk at before permanent storage. Besides, do you really want your aftersex selfie stored in some spook outfit's system for decades?

3- This ought to go without saying, but sheesh, if you actually have to post an 'after sex' visual maybe you aren't getting enough in the first place.  I mean why would you need the selfie? To remind yourself for the next 'dry' six months of what you haven't been getting regularly?  So then you can stare freely at the captured sex-satisfied smile and engrave it in memory until the next time?  Oh wait, it's not that at all, it's that you want to rub it in to your friends' faces how much you're getting and they're not! Again, a fool's errand! Most perspicacious people will still perceive you have to "prove" you are getting at least what THEY are getting! And they'll still end up believing that because you had to post it then you ain't getting what they are!

4- The aftersex selfie is gauche and uncool. No really cool person, at least  from a 60s perspective, would have to advertise having had sex.  A hippie couple from the 60s would view this manifestation not so much with disdain or judgment, but look at the senders with a mixture of pity and sympathy.  They'd also kind of tie it in with the perspective in (3).

5- Sexual relations, as Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts once pointed out ('Does It Matter?') are still a basic form of human intimacy. This extends not merely to the sex act itself but to the prelude to it (foreplay) and the post-coital phase which ought to include light banter, snuggling, cuddling - but not dispatching "selfies" to the digital world of 2 billion staring, peering, judgmental eyes.

6- The person who would violate the  boundaries of social propriety by taking an after sex selfie (also according to Watts) would be blind to what constitutes the off-scene or the "ob-scene" in human relations and situations, and hence would also be likely to send a selfie of him (or her)- self sitting on the crapper taking a dump.  Since the person lacks the social perceptions to see what ought to remain private in one domain (sexual), they'd likely lack it in another (bodily elimination) for which privacy is also warranted. (Of course, the exact analogy here would be the "post-dump selfie").

These are just some of the reasons the wise and mature person avoids taking aftersex selfies. Of course, the really wise and mature person avoids taking any selfies, period!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Jesus- Was He Really The 'Son of God'? Do Christians Want the Truth - Or Myth?

The historical Jesus was a common eating and healing Rabbi  who would have been appalled at being identified with God, or being called 'Son of God'.


Today, Good Friday, Christians celebrate around the world as the day their Savior, Jesus Christ, was put to death on the cross. Most believe, as per gospels, churches, priests and ministers, that he was really the 'Son of God' hence the only route to "salvation". But are they correct or the victims of myth?

It is true that Jesus claims to be divine in the last of our canonical Gospels to be written, the Gospel of John. Here it is enough to note that in that Gospel Jesus does make remarkable claims about himself. In speaking of the father of the Jews, Abraham (who lived eighteen hundred years earlier), Jesus tells his opponents, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am” (8:58). This particular phrase, “I am,” rings a familiar chord to anyone acquainted with the Hebrew Bible. In the book of Exodus, in the story of the burning bush, Moses asks God what his name is, and God tells him that his name is “I am.” Jesus appears to be claiming not only to have existed before Abraham, but to have been given the name of God himself. His Jewish opponents know exactly what he is saying. They immediately take up stones to stone him.

Later in the Gospel, Jesus is even more explicit, as he proclaims:  “I and the Father are one” ( John 10:30). Once again, the Jewish listeners break out the stones. Still later, when Jesus is talking to his disciples at his last meal with them, his follower Philip asks him to show them who God the Father is; Jesus replies, “The one who has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9). And again later, during the same meal, Jesus prays to God and speaks about how God had “sent him” into the world and refers to “my glory that you gave me . . . before the foundation of the world” (17:24).
 
Jesus is not claiming to be God the Father here, obviously (since when he’s praying, he is not talking to himself ). So he is not saying that he is identical with God. But he is saying that he is equal with God and has been that way from before the world was created. These are amazingly exalted claims.
But examined  from a historical perspective, they simply cannot be ascribed to the historical Jesus. They don’t pass any of our criteria. They are not multiply attested in our sources; they appear only in John, our latest and most theologically oriented Gospel. They certainly do not pass the criterion of dissimilarity since they express the very view of Jesus that the author of the Gospel of John happens to hold. And they are not at all contextually credible. We have no record of any Palestinian Jew ever saying any such things about himself. These divine self-claims in John are part of John’s distinctive theology; they are not part of the historical record of what Jesus actually said.

Perhaps no serious theological group has shed more light on the real, historical Jesus than the Jesus Seminar, and particularly the works of one of its luminaries, John Dominic Crossan.

My own ability to ferret out the key research of the Jesus Seminar via Exegesis was no doubt aided by my having attended a Jesuit-run university  (Loyola) in New Orleans ca: 1964-67. So, I'd already taken courses in biblical exegesis, Quadriform Gospel analysis and Comparative Religion. My mind was therefore already open to the possibilities John Dominic Crossan presented in his masterful book: The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant .

Crossan's conclusionary take on Jesus is perhaps best summarized on p. 422:

"His strategy, implicitly for himself and explicitly for his followers, was the combination of free healing and common eating, a religious and economic egalitarianism that negated alike and at once the hierarchical and patronal normalcies of Jewish religion and Roman power.

And lest he himself be interpreted as simply the new broker of a new God, he moved on constantly, settling down neither at Nazareth or Capernaum. He was neither broker nor mediator but, somewhat paradoxically, the announcer that neither should exist between humanity and divinity or between humanity and itself. Miracle and parable, healing and eating were calculated to force individuals into unmediated physical and spiritual contact with God and unmediated physical and spiritual contact with one another.

He announced, in other words, the borderless kingdom of God."


Jesus as a historical person, in other words, entirely fit within the egalitarian Gnostic scheme - as opposed to the Pauline 'god-man/Savior' theme. (The Gnostics, as biblical scholar Elaine Pagels notes in her book, The Gnostic Gospels, considered anyone who identified with God as committing a sacrilege and blasphemy).

What or who was Jesus, at the end of the day? From the weight of Crossan's arguments and insights - not to mention the consensus of The Jesus Seminar Project- he was an extraordinary man. But a flesh and blood human nonetheless.

In Crossan's final conclusion - with which I wholeheartedly concur from everything I've seen- Jesus was a "peasant Jewish Cynic". As Crossan points out, p. 421, a 'Cynic' embodied:

 "a life-style and mindset in opposition to the cultural heart of Mediterranean civilization, a way of looking and dressing, of eating and living and relating, that announced its contempt for honor and shame, for patronage and clientage. ....Hippies in a world of Augustan yuppies.")

Little wonder then that Jesus' habits would infuriate not only Jewish orthodoxy but the Roman government. Leading ultimately to execution for what they'd have perceived as "subversion" of the Empire.  Geza Vermes, a scholar of ancient Judaism concurs with this take. He is a Jewish Studies professor at Oxford University. According to Vermes, Yeshua (Jesus) was crucified because he "clashed with Jewish and Roman leaders" and was regarded as a "potential threat to law and order and consequently to the welll being of the Jewish people".

They thus decided he "had to be eliminated for the common good."

Vermes goes on to note the 'spark' that ignited the hostility was probably Yeshua doing the "wrong thing" by tossing out the money changers, "in the wrong place" (the Temple). At the "wrong time" (Passover).

Vermes' (like Crossan and other researchers) thus rejects implicitly the facile explanation that the dispute involved the claim of being a unique Son of God who "exercised divine powers".
Vermes doubts seriously (as scholar Elaine Pagels of Harvard notes vis-a-vis the Gnostics) that those 'Savior' beliefs and words were part of the original message.

They were added later on, most of the additions from bastardizations of the Latin Vulgate in its transciption to the King James Bible - which is probably the worst version of the bible available- though it reads the best! 

Neither Crossan's or Vermes' work is unique either,  as the weight of modern textual analysis comes down  firmly on their side. We have numerous earlier sources for the historical Jesus: a few comments in Paul (including several quotations from Jesus’s teachings), Mark, Q, M, and L, not to mention the finished Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In none of them do we find exalted claims of this sort. If Jesus went around Galilee proclaiming himself to be a divine being sent from God—one who existed before the creation of the world, who was in fact equal with God—could anything else that he might say be so breathtaking and thunderously important? And yet none of these earlier sources says any such thing about him.

The central problem for the conventional Christian believer inevitably arises: how to reconcile his/her faith in a literal 'God-Man/Savior' Jesus, with the actual historical person. Who was more a radical, "liberal" freedom-fighter against the Roman state. (Again, imagine a well spoken 60s radical, like Yippie Jerry Rubin, alive and well in the Middle East and dissing all the antiquated Jewish and Roman customs like he dissed the "establishment" in the 60s)


Crossan offers a hint ('Epilogue', p. 423):

"Is an understanding of the historical Jesus of any permanent relevance to Christianity itself? I propose that at the heart of any Christianity there is always, covertly or overtly, a dialectic between a historically read Jesus and a theologically read Christ. Christiany is always, in other words, a Jesus/Christ/ianity."


and finally (ibid.)

"This book challenges the reader on the level of formal method, material investment, and historical interpretation. It presumes there will always be divergent historical Jesuses, that there will always be divergent Christs built upon them, but above all, it argues that the structure of a Christianity will always be: this is how we see Jesus as Christ now."

For anyone with patience and a truly open mind, Crossan's research (embodied in his book) is a worthwhile excursion into the intricacies of textual analysis, and diligent comparison of ancient scrolls, sources. Its intellectual journey is breathtaking, and its conclusions even more so.


All things to bear in mind today, Good Friday!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

WaPo Neocons Despise the Pulitzer Prize and Snowden's Role - Can You Believe It?

Ordinarily in the realm of human affairs and especially journalistic achievement, a media source or newspaper would have all its denizens aboard giving resounding accolades for its win. Such was supposed to be the case earlier this week as the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service was awarded to the Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper for disclosing the NSA transgressions of the Fourth Amendment.  Alas, not all the little scribes of the WaPo are on board with the award. Some have rebelled and even "staged their own demonstrations" against the award, if you can believe it.

One such malcontent is Post columnist Marc Thiessen who on Wednesday, pitched a hissy fit about the Post getting the award and Snowden being responsible. Thiessen, who writes a weekly online column for The Post, hosted an event at the American Enterprise Institute devoted in large part to denouncing the Guardian, The Post and the Pulitzer committee for their actions.

All you need to know here is that Thiessen is also an AEI "fellow". And we know AEI is a rat's nest for neocons as well as for liars about climate change. Recall that AEI sponsored a propaganda program a few years back whereby any "researchers" would be awarded $10,000 each for writing anti-climate change articles and getting them into major newspapers. I counted at least 12 who got success in this dubious outcome, once more causing delays for action. 

Anyway, in terms of the recent Pulitzers, this little rat Thiessen said journalists at The Post — “my newspaper,” as he put it — "should not have published the articles and had done something incredibly damaging to national security."

Thiessen had previously written that The Post’s actions "broke the law"  (if you regard the existing law that legalized the Bushie illegal wiretaps as a proper law), . Meanwhile, Thiessen’s guest, British member of Parliament Liam Fox, went further.

What sort of world do we live in where that gets a Pulitzer Prize for public service?”

he asked the AEI audience.

An award for public service for possibly the greatest betrayal of our national secrets of all time strikes me as quite bizarre. ... I do think that there is a real danger of a very cozy media world patting itself on the back without fully understanding the consequences.”

Of course this is irredeemable rubbish. The so-called "national secrets" were in fact illegal mass searches that violated the much more fundamental law of the land embodied in the U.S. Constitution. The heart of which is putatively the 4th amendment with its proscription on the use of mass warrants and mass searches without cause. That this Brit doesn't get that is perhaps understandable, as he's not an American, but then the AEI ought not have had him bloviate about national secrets and bogus laws. But then Fox himself doesn't seem to be able to tell dog shit from chocolate.  Fox didn’t seem to know much about the Snowden dispute on this side of the Atlantic — at one point he actually  confused The Washington Post and the New York Times — and, in any event, he was much more aggrieved by what Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian had done than anything else. Clearly, the dope probably never even read the words of the Fourth Amendment - so why should he give two shits about preserving its basis?


The two miscreants then kicked around the idea that journalists "might be to blame" for future terrorist attacks. Thiessen actually asked:

If there is another 9/11, another London subway bombing, how is this debate going to look in retrospect?”

His nincompoop Brit pal  Fox then babbled:

The next time you get a bomb going off in the subway or a marathon, when someone’ s child is abducted by a pedophile ring, you might want to thank those who made it easier for those people to do those things.”

Oh please! Put a freakin' sock in it! The sober realist could retort here that we have tens of thousands of deaths by gun each year and basically snooze about it, and maybe we prevented 50 deaths from terrorists - if that- and yet we go batshit crazy and extirpate all our 4th amendment rights on the possibility of an attack that may take barely a tenth of the lives?

These wimps - Fox and Thiessen - need to get a life, and a pair of balls! If we can tolerate thousands of gun deaths each year and do squatto about it, I say we can tolerate huge risks to preserve our precious liberties. Journalist Robert Scheer in a blog last summer (‘The Terror Con’) has referred to “threat inflation” by which the security state keeps weak-kneed "citizens" panting for more protection like screaming school girls petrified of spiders. They will dangle any kind of threat out to try to scare the bejeezus out of wimpy Americans, the better to make them give up their 4th amendment rights.

Scheer also referenced a June 11, 2013 column by Thomas Friedman  with similar fear overtones to the shtick of Fox and Thiessen. Friedman warned that if there was a second 9/11-type attack, "we would lose all of our civil liberties, so we should be grateful for this trade-off".

WHY lose our civil liberties? Because a bunch of zealots take out maybe thousands of lives? Fucking LESS than lost each year to gun violence! Shit, we who lived through the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis – minutes from nuclear annihilation - find this preposterous! That a nation priding itself on freedom could give up all rights like a bunch of screaming sissies just because of a limited attack! NY Times columnist Bill Keller also seemed to support the “Screaming sissy” hypothesis as when he writes:

“Tom’s important point was that the gravest threat to our civil liberties is not the NSA but another 9/11-scale catastrophe that could leave a panicky public willing to ratchet up the security state, even beyond the war-on-terror excesses that followed the last big attack.”


A panicky public? How about a bunch of pusillanimous pussies that don’t deserve freedom? A bunch that really wants their asses kicked to wake them from their scarified terrorist-bogeyman coma....which has repercussions on the rest of us (real citizens - not consumers) who value liberty over security! But maybe Fox and Thiessen - like Keller and Friedman - are on to something as when Friedman wrote on June 11:

I believe that if there is one more 9/11—or worse, an attack involving nuclear material—it could lead to the end of the open society as we know it,”

Yeah, so the deep politics citizen must ask: What isn’t he saying Maybe that he knows COG (continuity of government)  will come into play and under its mandates, martial law will be permanent and we’ ll inhabit a full Nazified police state. How quickly that freedom went! Barely lasting 230- odd years!

As Scheer puts it:

No nation in history has ever possessed such an imbalance of military superiority and the ability to ward off foreign threats without sacrificing its core values. Never has this country been as vulnerable to foreign attacks as when the founders approved our Constitution with its Fourth Amendment and other protections of individual sovereignty against an intrusive government. They did so out of the conviction that individual freedom makes us stronger rather than weaker as a nation. In short, they trusted in the essential wisdom of the people as opposed to the pundits who deride it.”


But evidently, as soon as too many citizens became mostly consumers they devolved into crying infants and fucking babies who needed the Pappy Spy State’s protections.

"WAAAAHHHHH! Please Gen. Alexander, hold me widdo hands! I don't wanna die from dem dere  t'errists!"

More important to get that new X-box, Ipad or Notebook than to tend to one’s liberties, after all. Gotta make the country safe for shopping! In this case it may be too late, and the nonchalance evident now amongst the 48 percent will mutate into memory loss of the seventy percent in another few months, evoking Bradley Manning’s and Edward Snowden’s greatest fears: that their leaks won’t have made a difference at all.

Fortunately for us, most other sensible WaPo columnists believe Thiessen is an asshole, which he is. But then anyone ensconced at a place like the American Enterprise Institute has to be at least part asshole.

Then there is Thiessen's female counterpart, a harridan and Neolib tool and fool named Ruth Marcus who I've raked over the coals before, e.g. http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2011/12/of-tweets-and-twaddle.html

 Evidently, she's none too pleased about the attention Snowden has received, and had to spout off in one of her columns about it, writing:

" Time has not deflated Edward Snowden’s messianic sense of self-importance. Nor has living in an actual police state given the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower any greater appreciation of the actual freedoms that Americans enjoy.

Insufferable is the first adjective evoked by Snowden’s recent interview with Barton Gellman in The Post, but it has numerous cousins: smug, self-righteous, egotistical, disingenuous, megalomaniacal, overwrought.

The Snowden of Gellman’s interview is seized with infuriating certitude about the righteousness of his cause. Not for Snowden any anxiety about the implications for national security of his theft of government secrets, any regrets about his violations of a duty of secrecy."

Why should he have regrets?  And how in hell can this overpaid harpy dare say Snowden lacks " any greater appreciation of the actual freedoms that Americans enjoy" ? Obviously, if he leaked files on how American freedoms were being undermined, violated and devalued he had more than ample appreciation!  The other fact to which Miss Marcus is oblivious is that the U.S. was a signatory and primary defender of the Nuremberg Principles (first laid out after the Nuremberg War Crimes trials). The U.S. insisted (given all the Nazis in the dock had "followed orders")  that violating a government order was mandated by Nuremberg Principle VI that clearly states: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to orders of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

Note this Principle’s injunction is exactly analogous to what Edward Snowden followed. He had allegedly binding orders and “oaths” by which the government found it expedient to limit his actions, but he saw (as the U.S. military leaders did at Nuremberg) that the option of a higher moral choice dictated he inform the American people – whose liberties were at stake and threatened – of what was being done in their name. As Robert Scheer noted in his June 25, 2013 blog: ‘The Good Germans in Government’):


Read the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and tell me that Edward Snowden is not a hero in the mold of those who founded this republic. Check out the Nuremberg war crime trials and ponder our current contempt for the importance of individual conscience as a civic obligation.

Marcus, the NSA toady, is also oblivious to the fact that Snowden didn't "steal government secrets" but rather exposed Government misdeeds and violations of the 4th amendment. But then, such a narrow-minded little toady wouldn't see that anyway - hence she is the classic "Good German". In the Nazi era she'd have easily been one of the millions who reported on those fellow citizens hiding Jews  and she'd have been the first in line to volunteer on providing the Gestapo any information on her neighbors. Oh, she'd also have been amongst the first to declare she knew nothing about any concentration camps.

She'd also have been among the first to be led by the neck to the scene of the camps, by a U.S. military escort - to have her nose rubbed in it, lest she miss it. 

But Marcus isn't content to provide us with clues that she's the ultimate "Good German" in American guise, she sets out to prove it by writing:


" The whistleblower personality is rarely an attractive one. Whistleblowers tend to be the difficult ones, the sort who tend to feel freer to speak out precisely because they don’t fit in. So perhaps it is not a surprise that the biggest whistleblower of all time has an unpleasant personality to match. And personality would not matter — at least it would not be so grating — if Snowden’s behavior were more upstanding and his actions more justified.

On behavior, if Snowden is such a believer in the Constitution, why didn’t he stick around to test the system the Constitution created and deal with the consequences of his actions? "

Of course, we know and have learned from history - especially the German experience-  that whistle blowers are indeed a special type. But this is understandable to those of us who have personalities that "don't fit in" - because we are enabled the opportunity to perceive things from without, by altering our perspective, which our compatriots seem unable to do. Because we can do this, we are more apt to detect things that are amiss and hence feel obliged to report them. But that doesn't mean Snowden has an "unpleasant personality" as Marcus portrays it, only that she - as a toady 'Good German' type, can't abide it. Can't abide his forthright moral honesty and adherence to higher principles, which she is so prepared to sacrifice (as a paid propagandist) at the drop of a hat.

As for her ridiculous question about Snowden not sticking around to "test the Constitution" - well obviously because given what he unearthed he knew the Constitution had been perverted by a gangster state - prepared to undermine basic principles to achieve its own lawless outcomes.  Hence, he wouldn't be able to properly defend himself or his principles. (At least until the Constitutional principles are restored - which was the purpose of his leaks.)

He would be in an analogous position to a whistle blower German -exposing the Nazi riff raff- brought before the Reich Courts - which also had twisted the (Weimar) laws to fit their agendas.  But recall that in the Nuremberg War Crimes trials, it was those Reich Courts and Reich laws, that were on trial as well.

What we learn from the likes of Ruth Marcus and Marc Thiessen is that the archetype of the Good German lives on in the modern U.S. of A. These people will easily don the garb of patriotism, just like the Nazis of old did, but we know it's all a sham designed to advance their own despicable agendas. After all, patriotism is the "last refuge of scoundrels" in the words of Doctor Samuel  Johnson.

 

Could the U.S. Alone Defeat Russia in a Conventional War? NO!

Photo: One stage of the game of 'GO'.

One stage of a recent game of GO.  The black markers could represent NATO,  expanded (via U.S. pressure)  to try to surround the white (Russia). All responses are merited therefore which are in the interest of the defense of white.

Our President, alas, continues to babble on the mounting Ukraine crisis from a perception that is more in line with Neocon thinking than that of a rational person who is geopolitically informed.  This is not surprising because the meme of American exceptionalism and hubris contaminates the thinking of most of our leaders - who seem - after a time, to just parrot each other's talking points. Thus, last night in a CBS interview (CBS Evening News) Obama - when asked about the current crisis - replied that Russia is "responding from a position of weakness".

This is, of course, Neocon drivel. If Obama understood even the basics of the strategic game of 'GO' (an ancient and complex game of oriental origin that predates chess) he would never have made such a dumb remark. In 'GO',  you see, the object is not to capture pieces, but to prevail by virtue of effectively surrounding the opponent's pieces. (Pieces are in the shape of black and white circular, or roundish discs.)  At the point of maximal surround, the hapless opponent either has no legal moves left, or he loses pieces (usually in the center of the board) because the encircling is so effective it allows them to be removed from play (not the same as capture, since they are effectively useless so are redundant).

Indeed, the image presented above shows white backed against the side of the board by an ever more aggressive black. For the purposes of illustration, I identify the U.S.- instigated NATO expansion as the black force. Meanwhile,  Russia - backed against the side of the board (or it would be if it allowed NATO to take Ukraine as one its puppets)-  is identified with the white force-pieces. This presentation or situation is totally in line with what I formerly described in terms of game theory . See e.g.
http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2014/03/a-game-theory-perspective-on-ukraine.html

As I observed in that post, in terms of the game theory context of 'spheres of influence':

In this game context, I look at a 20-plus year sequential game played by the U.S. vs. Russia and for which the subtext and most basic assumption is the “sphere of influence”.  This is taken to mean the geographic and geo-political domain in which a nation’s actions are justified and wherein it exhibits maximal latitude to determine its own self-interest especially in matters of national security.

The most thoroughly studied solution concept is the Nash equilibrium (see e.g. the book, The Essential John Nash, Princeton University Press, 2002,  Ch. 6 ‘Non-Cooperative Games’ – facsimile of Nash’s Ph.D. Thesis, and Ch. 7, presented in regular book font format). This is the outcome that results when the players maximize their own payoffs – taking the other player’s behavior as given.

In the game space graphic shown, I place the Nash equilibrium for the U.S.Russia contest just 2-3 yrs. past the point where in 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev refused to use force to keep the Soviet Union together and allowed Germany to peacefully reunify. In exchange, US President George H.W. Bush agreed not to expand NATO’s borders east, and certainly not to Russia’s borders.

This translated into a credible 'win-win' (analogous to both persons in the classic "Prisoner's Dilemma" refusing to rat on each other), and I argue that this equilibrium – if it had been preserved- would not have led to the current U.S. – Russian standoff.

Alas, the U.S. broke faith and began to play the “dominant” game (i.e. changing strategy to grab a seeming payoff and benefit  - breaking the then Nash equilibrium), egged on by its defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and others to grab former Soviet States like Latvia, Estonia etc. – suck them into NATO, and ply them with weapons sales.  The reason for adopting the dominant posture is still up for discussion, but according to blogger Eric Margolis, “Washington regarded Russia as a broken-down, third world nation beneath contempt”.


Thus, it is clear - as I also noted - the U.S. -NATO had "too many payoffs" and Russia had no choice other than to respond in aggressive fashion. But this response in the context was from one of defensive strength - not "weakness" - as Obama described it.

Obama was next asked about the buzzing of the U.S. destroyer in the Black Sea by the Russian SU-24 jet, and again delivered a clueless, Neocon -biased, American exceptionalist reply:

"They did that for display but they don't want to get into a war with us. They'd be defeated in a conventional war."

Really, Mr. Prez? You think so? I don't!  You need to stop ingesting those MJ 'edibles'. Here are some reasons why Obama is dreaming and the U.S, would be 'smoked' in any conventional engagement:

- After eleven plus years of  futile "wars" in which the U.S. couldn't even defeat a ragtag rabble in either Iraq or Afghanistan, the American military is spent, demoralized and literally crippled in mind and  body. Hell, the vets returning from these occupations can't even obtain the medical and other disability benefits they sorely need! The military, meanwhile, has featured the highest suicide rate of any group in this country for the last five years, and the brain-damaged toll (from IEDs, etc.) is estimated at possibly as high as 50 percent. That is 50 percent of all vets coming back with some type of PTSD or actual brain damage. You think these guys would be able to face off against a totally revamped Russian military on their turf?

- The sharp reduction of the American defense inventory over approximately the past twenty-five years has been predicated on two basic assumptions. First, that Russia, Washington’s chief Cold War adversary, was no longer a substantial threat following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Second, that no military force or collection of forces on the planet had the technological sophistication to rival the United States.   These assumptions are no longer valid.

Russia has already nearly completed a $723 billion modernization program that includes procuring 1,700 warplanes, including cutting edge fighters and new air defense batteries. Reliable German defense reports also note that  Russia has revamped its air force with many new craft, including some, like the T-50, that surpass America’s latest fighter, the F-22 Raptor..

- Acting on those concepts, America’s armed forces were substantially reduced. The Navy shrunk from 600 ships to 286, the Air Force from 37 combat air wings to 20, and the Army from 17 divisions to 10. Under the Obama administration, this process has deepened and accelerated. The President has also pursued a course of significant and, in large part unilateral, nuclear arms reduction.

- The costs of the two futile occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq are still being tallied but already best estimates put the total at over $4 trillion.  There is no way the American people - certainly the sensible, thinking ones - will go for another major ground war that could empty the Treasury in one fell swoop. Where will the U.S. get the money from such a venture? China? Not too likely!  (It is possible, however, that the hypocrite warmonger 'pukes would allow the debt ceiling to be raised past $20 trillion to enable this dubious move.)

-  According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London Russia is now firmly established as the world’s third-largest military spender, behind the U.S. and China. According to IISS, Russia now operates one aircraft carrier, five cruisers, 18 destroyers, nine frigates and 82 coastal warships as well as 64 submarines — 11 carrying ballistic missiles.

- From all points of view, given the U.S. the last 12 years hasn't been in a major conventional war defined by actual  battle lines, air attacks from the opponent, tank combat, facing targeted sophisticated missiles (as opposed to IEDs) and facing well trained troops - as opposed to rag tag goobers, it is doubtful whatever forces Obama lines up will last even one major battle. Most savvy observers see a rout like Dien Bien Phu all over again.   And where will these troops come from to fight the Russkies?  From the battered and bruised lot already mending wounds and mental pain after multiple tours in Eye-rack? Please.  They'd have to be pulled from South Korea (leaving N. Korea free to attack the South) and Afghanistan, where again, they've only faced the Taliban - not exactly the equivalent of the Russians.

-  The Russians would be fighting for and IN their own sphere of influence, so would be stoked to the max to defend their interests. In many respects it would be analogous to the massive wave attack of the Chinese after the U.S. -NATO forces pushed too far north in the Korean War.  With the advantage of nearby supply lines and forces, the U.S. would have to retreat .

The conclusion here is that the U.S. alone - given its demoralized, PTSD-wrought and diluted forces - would be no match for the vastly superior and improved Russian military which is no longer the 'joke' of the world as blow-dried moron Rob Lowe tried to portray on Bill Maher's Real Time last week. ("These guys couldn't even get locks on the doors of the hotel rooms in Sochi or keep dogs out of the halls!") That is an antiquated view the West and its PR lackeys best get rid of before it engages Russian troops anywhere in their sphere of influence.

The U.S. therefore would need to recruit all its NATO puppets to assist in any conventional ground attack on Russia. The problem with that is that the Russians have retained a “limited use" nuclear doctrine by which they reserve the right to employ nuclear weapons if they feel overwhelmed by conventional outside forces, say NATO’s, see e.g.

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/russ-wellen/54873/russia-still-addresses-conventional-weapons-gap-with-u-s-via-nukes

As noted therein:
On March 13, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ran a piece by Nikolai Sokov with the paradoxical title Why Russia calls a limited nuclear strike “de-escalation.” He writes, “In 1999, at a time when renewed war in Chechnya seemed imminent, Moscow watched with great concern as NATO waged a high-precision military campaign in Yugoslavia.” It became concerned both that “the United States would interfere within its borders” and that the “conventional capabilities that the United States and its allies demonstrated seemed far beyond Russia’s own capacities.”

In response, Russia:

… issued a new military doctrine whose main innovation was the concept of “de-escalation”—the idea that, if Russia were faced with a large-scale conventional attack that exceeded its capacity for defense, it might respond with a limited nuclear strike.

In the unnerving 1983 film ‘Threads’ such a scenario played out in a future Iran, after the U.S. and NATO allies bombed a nuclear plant at Isfahan. The Russians used tactical nukes to even the score and halt advancing NATO forces, the U.S. did likewise, and within days the exchange could no longer be controlled and had escalated into a full scale nuclear war. Is this what Obama really wants? Then he better be careful what promises he makes and how he wields his rhetoric.
 
Here's an even better recommendation: Maybe the Prez ought to first learn the game of GO before he next babbles again in an interview about the Russians "acting out of weakness" or that "the U.S. can take them in a conventional war."
Give the American people the truth, Mr. Obama, not a bunch of bollocks and Neocon codswallop!
See also:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/walter-c-uhler/55436/dear-nato-are-you-lying-about-russia-or-simply-incompetent

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/robert-parry/55402/ukraine-through-the-us-looking-glass

and: http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/john-stanton/55413/fido-and-general-wes-clark-in-ukraine-us-advisors-on-the-ground-deadly-messenger

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why Cliven Bundy And His Far Right Defenders Are Totally Wrong

"As long as millionaire Cliven Bundy gets to graze his cattle on public land for free, in contempt of three court orders and in violation of the law, this is not over.

Bundy and the suckers he brought in from the militia movement think they’ve won a huge victory against federal “tyranny,” and will only be more aggressive about breaking the law in the future." -   Thom Hartmann on smirkingchimp.com


The problem with the secessionist - Confederate South and the Far Right in general, is they fail to identify with  the right causes when they manifest and too often back the wrong ones. (Flash to the Confederate States of America demanding secession and the "right" to exist as an independent nation.)  Or flash a bit backward to the aftermath of the 2012 re-election of Obama when millions actually signed petitions online to secede from the United States.

Now, the far Right's minions, including "militias" who've traveled from as far as Florida,  are working themselves into a froth over one Nevada rancher named Cliven Bundy (any relative of Ted Bundy?) who they claim has been shafted by the federal government. As usual,  facts and truth are the first casualties of hysteria, and it's no different in this case.

First let's get a few of the facts out there:

- Bundy does not recognize federal authority over land where his ancestors first settled in the 1880s, which he claims belongs to the state of Nevada.

- . The Bureau of Land Management (BLM)  disagreed and took him to federal court, which first ruled in favor of the BLM in 1998.

- After years of attempts at a negotiated settlement over the $1.2 million Bundy owes in fees failed, federal land agents began seizing hundreds of his cattle illegally grazing on public land last week.

- After footage of a BLM agent using a stun gun on Bundy's adult son went viral in far-right circles, hundreds of armed militia supporters from neighboring states flocked to Bundy's ranch to defend him from the BLM agents enforcing the court order.

- The states'-rights groups, in echoes of Ruby Ridge and Waco, came armed and prepared for violence. "I'm ready to pull the trigger if fired upon," one of the anti-government activists told Reuters.

- Not eager to spill blood over cattle, the BLM backed down Sunday and started returning the livestock it had confiscated. The agency says it won't drop the matter and will "continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially."

Now, let's start clearing up the muddied landscape.

First, there is no such thing as "states' rights".   (Which anyone who's taken a proper U.S. Government course in H.S. would know).   States have prerogatives, not rights, because states exist as governmental entities not as persons-individuals. Prof. Garry Wills (‘A Necessary Evil: A History Of American Distrust of Government’, Simon & Schuster, 1999) further reinforces this point in his chapter ‘Constitutional Myths’(p. 108). He notes that citizens alone possess rights, which neither the states nor the federal government share. Both the latter retain powers and prerogatives, but not rights. Hence, the subtext is that rights can only accrue to human individuals.  As he puts it (ibid.)

“The states have no natural rights. Their powers are artificial, not natural – they are things made by contract.”

One of the things made by contract in this case inheres in Article 1, Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution:


All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it. But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and no power exists in the people of this or any other State of the Federal Union to dissolve their connection therewith or perform any act tending to impair, subvert, or resist the Supreme Authority of the government of the United States.

 

The Constitution of the United States confers full power on the Federal Government to maintain and Perpetuate its existence, and whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority.

The paramount-allegiance clause, a product of the era in which Nevada gained statehood, originated in Nevada's first (and unofficial) constitutional convention of 1863. Some 3,000 miles to the east, the Civil War raged between the federal government in the North and West and the rebellion that had swallowed the South.

The preceding citation and excerpt is critical because it bears directly on rancher Bundy's claims. This is something all right wing, anti-fed supporters of his would do well to process.

According to Bundy, "I believe this is a sovereign state of Nevada." However, Bundy said in a radio interview last Thursday. "I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing." 

The problem is that this position directly contradicts the contractual document I already cited from Article 1, Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution - which most certainly DOES recognize the United States government as existing and even having hegemony to the extent that:

The Constitution of the United States confers full power on the Federal Government to maintain and Perpetuate its existence, and whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority


So right wingers need to re-read that very carefully before getting their panties in a twist.

This means Bundy is also off the wall as when he told Sean Hannity in an interview last week (emphasis added): 

"Well, you know, my cattle is only one issue—that the United States courts has ordered that the government can seize my cattle. But what they have done is seized Nevada statehood, Nevada law, Clark County public land, access to the land, and have seized access to all of the other rights of Clark County people that like to go hunting and fishing. "
 


In fact, the feds did no such thing! The embrace and recognition of the federal government's powers and state prerogatives in reference to it was already enshrined in the state constitution. READ IT AGAIN!  

Secondly, it is clear that what Cliven Bundy is really all about is secession. He doesn't even want to be regulated by the state (as per its federal gov't references) so basically wants it to secede from the Union. I guess he also wants it to shelve its Article 1, Section 2  and re-do its constitution. Not bloody likely!

Getting back to the actual legal issue, Bundy's claim that the land belongs to Nevada or Clark County didn't hold up in court, nor did his claim of inheriting an ancestral right to use the land that pre-empts the BLM's role. "We definitely don't recognize [the BLM director's] jurisdiction or authority, his arresting power or policing power in any way," Bundy told his supporters, according to The Guardian.


But again, this contradicts Article 1, Section 2  of the Nevada constitution that he professes to hold so dear.  The state constitution's framers, who were overwhelmingly Unionist, retained the clause in solidarity with the Union when they gathered in July 1864.The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled in Texas v. White in 1869 that secession had been unconstitutional and that "the Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible states."


Now, if the people speciously standing with Cliven Bundy really want to get on the right side of a cause, as opposed to merely being wrong and strong, they'd do better to stand with the besieged ranchers of Pinon Canyon, in Colorado. They now face another land grab by the U.S. Army for not only training exercises, but drone testing! At stake is nearly 235,000 acres of land they currently call their own. See e.g.
http://www.military.com/daily-news/2014/04/01/ranchers-remain-wary-of-armys-pinon-canyon-plans.html

and
http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2012/08/army-to-ranchers-we-need-yer-land-or.html

In other words, if you're going to pick a fight with the feds, do it for the right reasons  (and in the right places!) not the wrong ones. Standing with Cliven Bundy in Nevada is the wrong cause and the wrong place. Lining up with the Pinon Canyon ranchers in Colorado is the right cause and in the right place. Think before you become all hysterical at who's right and who's wrong - oh, and it also helps to read the relevant state constitution!


See also:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/thom-hartmann/55416/nevada-ranch-stand-off-was-one-big-promo-for-rustic-right-wing-millionaires