Saturday, May 31, 2014

Why Harvard Students' 'Black Mass' Act-Out Is A Dumb Idea
















The Inquisition's torture of heretics, alleged witches, and unbelievers led directly to 'Sabbats' conducted for Satanic 'favors'

By now, virtually everyone not living under a rock is aware of the plan by a student group at Harvard University to conduct a "black Mass."  Even a letter from the vaunted university's President hasn't appeared to halt their determination.  As might be expected, the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club, ignited a furor by announcing that they were planning an educational program of ceremonies from different belief systems around the world, and that one of these ceremonies, in partnership with the New York-based Satanic Temple, was going to be a Satanist black mass.

The only problem? "Satanism" is a myth, a hoax perpetrated on those ignorant of the history of the "Satan" meme, and "black Masses" constitute a manifestation of the myth.  A salon.com columnist came close to exposing this nonsense in a column two days ago by noting:

"Because this is an easy mistake to make, it should be emphasized that most Satanists don’t literally worship the devil. They’re atheists who treat the figure of Satan as an inspiring piece of mythology, a symbol of individual freedom and resistance to oppressive orthodoxy."


But "atheists" is the wrong term to use. The accurate term would be anti-theists, and most specifically anti-Catholics. As I've taken pains to note in earlier posts, atheism is the simple withholding of belief in any claimed deity or supernatural domain or entity. Anti-theism, meanwhile, is active hostility to any claimed belief.  To therefore assert "atheists" in any remote way would even exploit "Satan" as a piece of mythology to work up Xtians is bare balderdash.

Did I dabble in black Masses? Sure! As I noted in my post of May 14 on exorcisms. But none of the dozen or so who attended took these affairs as anything more than a lark, a riff on Anton LaVey's "Satanic Bible' and humbug. Yes, we used sliced Snicker bars as eucharistic wafers, and burned 'curses' in a metal pan as prescribed by LaVey. Hell, I even donned a black cloak and "Satan" goat mask, but no one regarded it seriously. (They pretended to, but only to acknowledge the whole exercise at root was theatrical, like a play- and they were 'extras') It was a bunch of college students doing something besides getting pissed drunk on a Friday night.

This brings up the next remark from the salon.com columnist:

"What drew the most outrage is that, in a true black mass—to the extent that such a thing exists, and isn’t just the invention of medieval heresy hunters—there’s a prop representing a Eucharist wafer that’s symbolically desecrated, perhaps stepped on. A rumor, subsequently denied by the Satanists, that they’d be using a real consecrated wafer drove Catholics to new heights of frenzy"


This is where it gets almost like 'Alice through the looking glass' in separating psycho-drama from reality. I refer to the writer's reference to being an "invention of medieval heresy hunters". Indeed, this is the closest he comes to the truth. "Satanism" was invented and promulgated by the Church's demon-witch hunters themselves to further their warrant and reach and condemn even more hapless innocents to their fires, racks, leg breaking blocks, anal  spike seats and other devices.

Even before this we know that the 250,000 -odd women burned as witches were mainly anti-social elderly females or younger, single ones deficient in appearance - who also often kept cats as companions. Because the women - or their habits, odd behaviors and appearance- antagonized those around them, they were accused of "witchery".  The next step was merely to identify a painless spot or the symbol '666' on their bodies, and they were headed for the fires. The witch hunter's bible, the Malleus Maleficarum provided the template to use needles to probe flesh and excavate the evidence needed.

Other victims were simply practitioners of ancient beliefs that predated Christianity - as embodied in assorted rites of paganism. The collective suffering from the Inquisition's tortures had to be endured for centuries before some relief and reaction emerged. As observed by Peter Stanford ('The Devil', p. 183):

"For the most part the ancient traditions and beliefs that survived the torturer's rack took many decades, even centuries, to reassert their presence"

This "reassertion" he goes on to write, took the form of Catholic religious ceremonies "parodied by 'Satanic' hellfire clubs in the early eighteenth century."  The 'Black Mass' thus evolved as part of this parody idiom via deliberate invention, i.e. as the inverse of the normal Catholic Mass.  Hence the Eucharistic wafer stomped on before ingestion, crosses turned upside down and other inverted props. In other words, the whole phenomenon arose from a psychological reaction to centuries of tortures and dispossession of property. There was no genuine, self- consistent belief system.

Author Lauran Paine ('The Hierarchy of Hell', p. 113) takes even greater pains to describe what transpired:

"Ecclesiastics filled entire libraries and spent whole lifetimes proving people worshipped Satan. They influenced ten generations of more or less rational human beings, in Christendom alone...to believe this monumental fallacy.....The great hoax of witchcraft, which was as uniquely Christian as it was being incapable catalogued as mythology, folklore or anthropology, but which lay in the exclusive province of theology, arose from the concept of Devil worship. In Christendom was found the epitome of this belief which despite its longevity, was fallacious from beginning to end.

Those gloomy devout who imagined the black rites of Devil worship throughout Europe created an entire black theology based on their knowledge of Christian dogma and ritual - and no one accused them of perpetuating the most unforgiveable of all heresies - yet in fact this is exactly what they did."

 Lauran Paine's point is clear:  that the whole Satanic worship shtick is bull crap - a monumental hoax perpetrated by the religionists themselves. Hence, to re-enact a "black Mass" is merely to play into the original ecclesiastic hoax and emulate their rituals - only inverted. It is not, as the Harvard students believe, to demonstrate or replicate a ritual from an independent belief system. In other words, the Harvard students are merely going to carry out a phony rite invented by the Church's own Satan-mongering lot.

This is not to dispute that as the Inquisition wound down, 'Sabbats' of a sort were conducted - as Stanford notes - but this was not out of faith but to elicit favors. For example, recovery of bodily health, or property seized by the Inquisitors. Bear in mind the travails that millions had to endure while the Inquisition reigned.

In his revealing book The Peril of Faith, Martin L. Bard estimates that counting all such executions, plus deaths directly following from extreme tortures, plus witch burnings (which killed over 100,000 in Germany alone) more than 3 million perished over all the years of the Inquisition - from its start in the 13th century, to when the Spanish Inquisition finally folded in the 19th century. By proportionate statistics, this represents a comparative number of innocents slain that is roughly a factor three greater than all the Jews incinerated in the Holocaust. (Taking into account the population statistics during the inquisitional centuries vs. the global population statistics from 1940 on). Uncounted are all those innocents who suffered cruel, barbaric tortures, and then were released - only to die subsequently from tetanus, gangrene or other severe bacterial infection. If then you were such a victim-  maimed at the hands of "holy Mother Church"- why wouldn't you seek surcease from your physical or mental plight via begging "favors" from the Church's enemy, "Satan"?

Numbered among the victims were many women, who were branded as aiding and abetting "familiars" or discoursing with heretics and demons. Note it was Urban's Bull ('Ad extirpanda' ) that officially sanctioned torture at the discretion of the Inquisitors, and left open the degree to which it could be carried out.

Let's return to the salon.com author who writes:

"The Harvard Satanist fracas shows the immense hypocrisy of the Catholic church and its spokesmen. In their battle against the contraception mandate, they’ve made religious liberty their watchword, arguing that a believer’s right to follow the tenets of his faith is sacrosanct and must never be infringed, even if it causes harm or inconvenience to others. But when it comes to a belief system that the church doesn’t like, they claim, two-faced, that those beliefs can and should be stifled and their practice barred."

The problem again, is that "Satanism" constitutes no independent, self-consistent belief system as I noted above. It is a fraud, invented by the Catholic hierarchy itself, as Lauran Paine points out. Hence, the exercised Boston Catholics are railing against the Harvard students for replicating the Catholics' own Satanic fallacy and fraud. The students, meanwhile, are being played by actually thinking they're demonstrating a genuine belief system, when they're enacting a parody of one  -engineered within the Catholic Church itself.

Sadly, the bottom line in all this is that supernaturalism remains too prevalent in our supposedly advancing world.  Even the allegedly progressive and kindly Pope Francis—is pushing a major resurgence of belief in a literal Satan and literal demonic possession. This is appalling especially coming from a guy who used to study a natural science (chemistry) - but my hope is he's just mouthing this BS to not appear to diverge too much from Catholic codswallop. (Remember he took lots of heat from the Vatican's Curia for saying "atheists can get to heaven") So he doesn't want to press his luck too much.

What we need to do is extirpate supernaturalism from the modern landscape, and this especially pertains to the misbegotten "Satanist" meme.

To assist in this objective, the Harvard students' best option is to leave its "black Mass" out of its educational program of  belief ceremonies .

Friday, May 30, 2014

Anti-fracking Kid Crusader Merits Kudos And Our Support!

Roske-Martinez, with mom-activist Tamara Roske, says he’s been criticized for his views, "but this is why I speak on issues that directly
Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, anti-fracking crusader - with his Mom in Boulder, Colo.

Let us accept as an opening proposition that at the rate we are despoiling the planet to get temporary supplies of energy via fossil fuels, we will leave no habitable planet for the next generation. Many young people - kids from elementary school on to high school - understand their future and living capital is being destroyed right before their very eyes - but very few are prepared to actually do something about it.

Not so with young crusader  Xiuhtezcatl  (pr. Shu-TEZ-caht) Roske-Martinez  who is determined to fight for his world and that of his peers, acknowledging that passivity is not an option, especially now as the gas frackers destroy the water in our state and across the country, and the air too. He understands that 10 million frack wells - whether for oil (kerogen) or natural gas, simply can't be accepted if his generation is to inherit a livable world.

Some might say this youthful advocate for the Earth has activism in his genes, since both parents are seasoned activists. (His mother Tamara Roske, founded Earth Guardians in Hawaii.)   Residents of Boulder know him because of his action and campaigns on their behalf. He helped stop the use of pesticides in city parks, and was among the fiercest advocates for a fee on plastic bags. His was a key voice in a project to contain coal ash, and to end a 20-year contract with Xcel Energy, allowing the city to pursue renewable energy as its primary resource.

Of course, the Reich wingers in the state, invested only in its destruction for shale oil or natural gas, believe he is more a puppet of his mother than an authentic advocate speaking on his own behalf.  From one post in the conservative Colorado Peak Politics blog:

 "His mother claimed she did not indoctrinate him — that he chose to be an activist," and "within far- (and we mean faaar-) left environmental groups, Roske-Martinez is something of a legend."

That may be so, but let us bear in mind the phenomenon of child activism is not unusual. We've actually had recent cases of kids mounting campaigns for clean water in Asia and Africa, as well as dolls and toys for homeless kids. So it's not as rare as the conservo poster and his ilk (his fellow anti- Xiuhtezcatl  posters) try to make it appear.


The conservative Scrooge's post went up shortly after Xiuhtezcatl and his younger brother, Itzcuauhtli, performed "What The Frack" at Evergreen Middle School last year. Their appearance sparked a counter protest by oil and gas industry activists, who posted hostile comments on the Earth Guardians' Facebook page and Roske-Martinez's Web page, and called the Martinez home with threats.

Threats? Are you kidding me? He's a kid trying to make his voice heard in a land supposedly devoted to "free speech". But perhaps it's true now that the only free speech left in this forlorn,  misguided country belongs to money. The implication, however, was that Xiuhtezcatl and his family and other protestors need to back off.  According to the courageous youthful activist who has Oikonomia (see e.g. http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2011/03/market-economy-how-about-life-based.html ) in his veins:

"It was scary, but this is why I speak on issues that directly determine the kind of world we will inherit,"

And GOOD for you, kid! Because right now, unless the gas frackers and fossil fuel-crazed drillers are stopped, the world you and your peers will inherit will be one giant shithole: mounds of raw Earth excavated for fracking sand, water despoiled with methane and other pollutants  - where there's any water left, skies full of unbreathable air, oh - and a planet in the throes of a runaway greenhouse - where blackouts will be the norm and no amount of a/c can keep you cool, assuming any is available after all the power grids collapse.

The kid knows this, which drives his mission. He goes on to say in a recent Denver Post piece:

"I share facts about our environmental and climate- change crises. We are fighting for the survival of our generation and the health of the waters, the air, our community. We are fighting for kids everywhere."

He's absolutely right that he's fighting for kids everywhere, because in another 20-30 years this will be THEIR planet. While we suspect an "Earth v 2.0" exists, and may even have a breathable atmosphere and fairly decent climate, it is 500 light years distant. There is no way that world will be colonized any time soon - if ever- so this is the only Earth left. This is what kids like Xiuhtezcatl  understand that most adults don't: It is literally do or die for them,

"Threats" from arrant pipsqueaks and cowards? Those are nothing compared to what Xiuhtezcatl  and his generation will face, in terms of mass destruction of their world, if the fossil fuel fiends aren't halted.  Sam Schabacker of Colorado's Food and Water Watch has perhaps put it best:

"He and the other Earth Guardians represent the best, brightest and most engaged young people in the state,"

And we need many more, in all the other states, even as the degenerate frackers have already sprung gas fracking on the unsuspecting state of North Carolina yesterday. This was pointed out on Chris Hayes' All In last night, speaking to a state rep from NC. While residents had fully expected safety issues to be vetted first, they weren't. The Reepo renegades - all likely in the pockets of big oil and gas - simply sprung it on people and oh -along with a "law" that prescribed 4 months in prison for anyone who reveals what's in the fracking liquid!

This is a war, people, make no mistake. A war for the future of this country and the planet - or at least the future generations who must live on it. If one is not fighting on the Earth Guardians' side then he or she is part of the problem, not the solution!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Snowden Gets His Say And the Traitors, Weasels and Neolib Cowards Go Nuts

Snowden video 2013 10 12

WHO are you gonna believe? A patriot defending your 4th amendment rights like Ed Snowden, or a weasel and cowardly 4th amendment traitor like 'Lurch' Kerry?

"Those who would sacrifice an essential liberty for the purpose of a temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

"In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover and wickedness insensibly open." - Thomas Jefferson, in 'Notes on Virginia'.

Last night, Edward Snowden finally had his say on network American TV ('Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden', NBC) in a prime time interview by Brian Williams. Even before the interview aired, Williams - on NBC Nightly News - in previewing the interview, noted many viewers had written the network expressing their disgust and they may never watch it again. They also labeled him a "traitor".

My reaction? These are mock Americans who don’t  deserve liberty. These are what I call sheeple as opposed to free-thinking people. (Brian Williams at the end of his interview said:  "Many Americans are upset at Snowden because they can no longer sleep soundly at night" - on account of terrorists now getting the better of us.  Awwww....boo hoo hoo, poor little babies! Give 'em a sippy cup and a change of diapers!) They’ve meekly followed and imbibed the propaganda spewed by the corpora-media and the security state which is the real culprit in terms of trashing the 4th amendment. As Snowden pointed out to Williams,  in a real democracy we ought not be tolerating any "security state" - the two are mutually exclusive. So again, as Ben Franklin posed it - do we want liberty or security?

Anyway, it's the whining,  infantilized wusses who’ve followed the lead of the American puppet media by making Snowden and his travails, asylum seeking and persecution the story instead of the vile overreach he disclosed – which as others have pointed out – leads the way to tyranny (especially via the COG program).


What does that make these mock Americans? In my book it makes them “Good Germans”. Go back to the end of World War II and the American occupation of Germany in the years after 1945. We assailed the “weak” German people and mocked them for not standing up to the growing metastasis of Hitler’s Reich which they obviously saw but did nothing about. These vermin actually praised the Gestapo and helped rat out their neighbors to them, usually for speaking against Hitler or hiding Jews.

Who would have believed 80 years later, a coterie of weak-blooded, meek, pseudo-patriot,  pussified "Americans" (and I use that term very loosely - hence the scare quotes) would emulate the Gestapo-loving Germans of the 1930s? But there it is!

Then there was the weasel, coward and 4th amendment traitor John Kerry, mouthing off on the same news segment and bellowing about the "damage" Snowden caused (he likely meant more the embarrassment at being caught out) and calling him a "coward and traitor".  Imagine Kerry's nerve calling Snowden a "coward" when he essentially burned all his bridges to leave a comfortable life behind to alert too many underserving 'Muricans what was being done in their name.

Meanwhile, the real coward is Kerry, who in the 2004 Presidential election ran with his tail between his legs - instead of standing and fighting - when the 'Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' unloaded on him.  Then, after the violations of voting rights were disclosed in Ohio (including suppressing minority voters by limiting polling places and making many use "provisional" ballots), this weasel never followed up and demanded a full -on investigation. He just punked out like the punk he is.

Kerry is also a hypocrite and 4th amendment traitor. Recall back in March Lurch's boffo performance in actually claiming:

"It is really a stunning, willful choice by President Putin to invade another country,” Kerry said on Face the Nation.

Kerry clearly displayed  NO historical memory at all.  In a blog post at the time I had to give this delusional chump a hint about this nation's  "willful choice to invade another country" and using a "completely trumped up pretext" as in "WMD" to do a shock and awe in Iraq. A "war" and invasion which was illegal from the get go.

But Kerry's treachery, as well as that of most of congress, inheres in changing the law (the 1978 FISA law) originally there to protect us from overweening surveillance, following the exposure of illegal wiretapping by Bush. The latter was then rendered "legal" via a revised FISA law,  effectively  gutting the 4th amendment and paving the way for dragnet NSA surveillance.  As Robert Scheer noted in a June 25, 2013 blog post on smirkingchimp.com, ‘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”

How important is that individual conscience in terms of ethics? At the Nuremberg War Crimes trials we informed the Nazis it trumped all else, even government regulations, laws and orders! The operating Principle (VI) came to be known as the Nuremberg Code and 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.

Moreover, Snowden has since been vindicated. Judge Richard Leon, in a 68 -page ruling issued in Washington December 17, 2013, vindicated Snowden by arguing that the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records by the National Security Agency is likely to violate the U.S. constitution,  Judge Leon also declared that the mass collection of metadata probably violates the fourth amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and was "almost Orwellian" in its scope. In a judgment replete with literary swipes against the NSA, he said James Madison, the architect of the US constitution, would be "aghast" at the scope of the agency’s collection of Americans' communications data.

This remark alone shows Snowden is not the villain the Neolib traitors make him out to be but a fuckin' HERO!  Now, add to that - if that wasn't enough -  the issuance of  a  300-page report  by a commission appointed by Obama himself - not any screwball, terror loving commie symps. The report made 46 recommendations including that the NSA be stripped of its power to collect phone records in bulk.  In addition, the panel advised that the NSA be banned from attempting to undermine the security of the internet- themes pounded by tech companies when they met with Obama last December. (Which makes a mockery of what one talking head "national security" specialist said on CBS' Early Show this morning, i.e. Snowden "hurting tech companies" - when he in fact revealed how the NSA had done so, by unraveling their security systems!)

Even Jim Sensenbrenner, who helped write the Patriot Act, declared that the intent of the law was never to allow the NSA the latitude of mass surveillance that Snowden revealed.  I was also delighted to see Colorado Senator Mark Udall, a leading critic of the NSA overreach who said - in his own words:

"The  (Leon) ruling underscores what I have argued for years: [that] the bulk collection of Americans' phone records conflicts with Americans' privacy rights under the US constitution and has failed to make us safer,"

The problem with the NSA and its troglodytes is they think that because they have the techno tools to spy into every nook and cranny of the world, they are mandated to do it, 'cause otherwise them 'thar terrorists win! Which is utter horse pockey.  You can't use the terrorist bogeyman as an all encompassing excuse to rob people of their rights.

Besides which, the odds of any such attack are slim and none.   Gideon Rachman in a Financial Times piece two years ago, i.e.
observed that the number of Americans killed by terrorists since 1960 is "about the same as the number killed over the same period in deer accidents".

 He also  showed "the average American had only a one in 500,000 chance of being killed in a terrorist attack".  By way of comparison, the chance of dying in an airline crash is one in 346,000 and the chance of being annihilated by a large asteroid (> 0.5 km dia.) in its collision with Earth, is the same, according to Sir Martin Rees ('Our Final Hour'). 

So why have so many of our compatriots mindlessly branded him a traitor? Because those forlorn consumers have lost track of their rights as well as obligations as citizens, and basically surrendered them to the state. They may also be deliriously ignorant of the warp and woof of the rights inherent in the Fourth Amendment - and we know that polls taken after 9/11 disclose 3 of 5 Americans couldn't name three of the Bill of Rights. The 4th amendment is VERY clear that specific warrants must be issued, not mass warrants! I don't give a fuck how "inconvenient" it is or how long and arduous that process might be. Tough shit! Either adhere to the principles or admit you're traitors to your constitutional oaths. People can read the words of the Fourth for themselves below:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Read it slowly and carefully, especially the emphasized portions over again. Clearly, the NSA MASS-grabbing of data embodied in PRISM, 'Boundless Informant', XKeyscore, etc.  directly violate the 4th amendment, and yeah, I'm as much a stickler about the 4th as the gun people are about the 2nd.

Am I a civil liberties “extremist”? Damned right if that means a citizen who understands that the Constitution is not just “a piece of paper” (as Bush once called it) and that the rights inherent in the Bill of Rights are real, apply to individuals, and not mere “compromise abstractions” but rather hold the key to American identity – what truly sets us apart. And once those rights are gone, believe me they won’t be coming back! Once they are gone we will cease to be the nation my ancestor,  Conrad Brumbaugh,  envisaged and fought for in the Revolutionary War as one of the Pennsylvania Regiment.

We all owe Snowden a debt of gratitude and those who say otherwise have no business calling themselves patriots or Americans. They belong to the same class of vermin as Joseph Goebbels, Herman Goering, and the other Nazi scum who used (via the Gestapo) their own extensive methods to grab up power more than 70 years ago.

As for 'Lurch' Kerry, he isn't even fit to lick the bottom of Snowden's shoes. Kerry, a Neolib punk who wouldn't even stand up for himself against a torrent of abuse in an election - doesn't  belong in the same room with a real patriot and hero.  The fact Kerry could brand Snowden a "fugitive" and demand he "man up" (to turn himself in and face Kangaroo court justice) shows how little he grasps of the core issues at stake here. But if this fool, tool and hypocrite couldn't even grasp that the U.S. violated international law when it illegally invaded Iraq (while branding Russia the bad guy for occupying Crimea) then we see what a poseur he is. It's Neoliberal weasels like John Kerry who will spell the end of this Republic, not red-blooded American heroes like Edward Snowden!

-----------
Footnote: The NSA claims it's only been able to recover "one email" of Snowden's to the effect he made any effort to bring his concerns to the attention of higher ups. Now, if anyone really believes that this is all the spooks could really turn up, well, I have some prime beach front property in Barbados to sell you for a song!

See also:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/alfredo-lopez/56122/usa-freedom-act-has-nothing-to-do-with-freedom-phone-surveillance-reform-bill-passed-by-the-house-is-

http://www.salon.com/2014/05/29/watch_highlights_from_edward_snowdens_interview_with_brian_williams/


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Richard Haas and Michael Hayden - Two Nitwits Who Don't Get It

President Obama made almost the exact right call yesterday in terms of  announcing the troop drawdown in Afghanistan - leaving 10,000 by the end of the year (I believe it ought to be ZERO), half that number by 2015 and all out by 2016. As Obama put it, almost echoing the words of JFK in Sept. 1963 on Vietnam, ultimately it is their country and they have to use their own forces to defend it - the U.S. can't be the cop of the world.

Bingo!

But the militarists and their sycophants don't get that, and don't want it. This morning on MSNBC ('Morning Joe'),  Richard Haas called it "policy by calendar". Well, uh duh - yuh think! Ultimately, not so much "by calendar" but the understanding by Obama that this country doesn't have the infinite resources to keep troops all over the damned planet forever (we currently have 4,417 bases worldwide at a cost of nearly $1 trillion annually).  In a low- tax nation, that refuses to even pay for the two wars of choice instigated over 10 yrs. ago,  how does this make sense? It doesn't.

The fact is we simply can't afford nation building as Haas wants us to keep doing, nor does he have a clue of the ongoing costs. Maybe he needs to look more closely at how the VA can't even care for the mass of existing vets, because of the lack of resources, money to fund doctors, staff - and then he wants many more thousands to remain in harm's way? And who will ensure they get the care they need when they return maimed or with PTSD?

Gen, Michael Hayden (Ret.) is also not much better as he chimed in this morning on the same program arguing that the number remaining is "at the low end of what should be" and compared Obama's Afghan drawdown plan to leaving zero troops behind in Iraq (forgetting that Iraq was an illegal war to begin with and we had no business barging in there.)

Hayden complained - as pertaining to Iraq:  "You don't have the Americans as a dampening effect. You can't guarantee that the worst won't happen."

Well, maybe it will! But again - we can't control the world, or what happens in every nation - nor should we try to! We can't control what happens in the Central African Republic with hundreds of thousands already slaughtered there - but then we never ever considered barging in. Why Iraq and not the Central African Republic? Well because there are no oil fields in the latter!

Hayden's argument that Obama is about to make the same mistake in Afghanistan as in Iraq is just plain bollocks and balderdash on its face. His premise is that we will have to leave a troop presence there, come hell or high water. The other nitwit, Haas, agreed -  asserting that troops "ought to be left in  place so long as conditions merit."

So long as conditions merit? Hello! Conditions will always merit because the Taliban isn't going away any more than the Viet Cong were going away in 'Nam. You can't just try to control an entire nation in perpetuity when our own is falling apart at the seams. Hence, Haas'  blather about staying on to provide security and "nation building" is plain nuts. No sane person is going to take you seriously about "nation building" when your own country is coming apart and you've manifestly shown you can't even nation build at home!

MSNBC's Willie Geist actually asked Haas if he was really prepared to "keep troops in Afghanistan in perpetuity", given if they're even left there until 2016 it will have been 15 years which "ought to be long enough" and "besides I don't think at any point we leave it will ever be a perfect place".

Haas, moron that he is, actually replied "As long as it made sense. We've kept troops in Korea now for 60 years and Americans are comfortable with that."

But no intelligent American should be comfortable with that because it means accepting a diversion of badly needed resources away from domestic needs to outposts that have no direct impact on our own security - no matter what the hyper-militarists claim. For perspective, South Korea now has all the wherewithal it needs to fend off any North Korean attack, so we are effectively redundant.

"Oh but wait, if South Korea needs us we have to wade in".

No, because then China will weigh in and we're in no more shape to take on China than we are Russia no matter what pissants like McCain or John Bolton claim. We have to leave the Koreas to resolve their issues just like we have to leave Ukraine to resolve its, and Europe to resolve its -  hence the need to get U.S. bases out of Germany that have been there since the end of WWII. As my German friend Reinhardt put it: "We Germans no longer need American babysitters!"

People need to grasp that the military overstretch we see is directly connected to economic misfortune and regression at home. The terribly low minimum wage, the massive student debt, the growing inequality, the VA's inability to care for vets are all tied to our overwhelming military presence around the world consuming precious resources - and basically, something has to give. If we aren't prepared to cut back our yen for empire, we will see ever more suffering at home....and even....as author David Cay Johnston put it in a recent salon.com interview, civil distress so severe it might even incite a revolution  that will be "the bloodiest the world has ever seen".

(See: http://www.salon.com/2014/05/22/bloodiest_thing_the_world_has_seen_david_cay_johnston_on_inequalitys_looming_disaster/

Is this what we really want? To go the way of Rome? If not, we better get control of the military bullshitters and their lackeys soon....very soon...and put this nation back on its own path to nation building for the future instead of squandering blood and treasure trying to be the cop of the world.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Barbados Link to Mercenaries in Ukraine? Let's Hope Not!

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As if Barbados doesn't have enough to occupy its 'plate', Bajans are now confronted with the possibility of links of a local company (Greystone Limited) to hiring mercenaries for a U.S. outfit (Academi) formerly known as Blackwater when it was raising hell during the Iraq war. Needless to say, most Bajans are not amused by this news - which first blared across 2-inch headlines on the front page of the island's premier newspaper not even five days ago.

The Bajan Prime Minister (Freundel Stuart), quoted in the piece, confirmed earlier in the week that "some concerns had been expressed" that the island was being linked to the recruitment of mercenaries to fight on behalf of the U.S. puppet government in Kiev, against the Russian separatists.

According to the Nation report:

"At the center of the controversy is an international business company registered here called Greystone Limited, described as a subsidiary of the infamous American outfit once known as Blackwater, which was investigated in the United States Senate for questionable military activities in Iraq."

Those activities including pouncing on friendlies, kicking the doors to assorted domiciles down, and putting boots on Iraqi innocents heads while they tore the homes apart looking for guns, weapons etc. These characters also stopped Iraqi vehicles at check points and were markedly indiscriminate in who they searched and how. Basically, they were renegades, as one expects mercenaries to be.

The Nation asked Attorney General Adriel Braithwaite about the connections and he replied it had not "been brought to the attention of the Cabinet" so he wasn't aware of details. He added, however, that some information had been brought to the attention of Donville Inniss, the Minister of International Business earlier in the week. (He was unable to say how Inniss responded).

A well-placed source, according to the Nation, observed that if the activities of Greystone were found to infringe the provisions of its international business corporation license, the Minister had the power to revoke its license without reference to Cabinet. In other words, its plug could be pulled without having to bring it to a vote.

Meanwhile, the Nation also reported:

"The government in Moscow has accused the Barbados -registered company of recruiting the mercenaries. Sources have also suggested that Greystone is nothing more than a CIA front for U.S. Central Intelligence Agency activities."

Lest anyone laugh, let us recall - those of us alive in the 1960s- that Operation Mongoose was also run by the CIA and this was behind a private front  company (based in Miami) called 'Zenith Technical Enterprises, Inc.'.

On top of the Nation article, the Austrian media source ORT had already reported that "400 elite mercenaries from the notorious U.S. private security firm, Academi. were taking part in Ukrainian military operations against anti-government protestors". Disturbingly, an earlier report - quoting the Russian Foreign Ministry- identified Greystone Limited  "which is currently registered in Barbados and is a part of Academi Corporation."

The specific Foreign Ministry release, quoted in the Nation (p. 4) stated:

"Among the candidates for the role of gendarme is the Barbados-registered company Greystone Limited, which is integrated with the Academi corporation. It is an analogue and probably an affiliated body of the Blackwater private army, whose employees have repeatedly been accused of committing grievous and systematic human rights abuses in different troubled regions."

Evidently, the White House - or some person in it- declared the assorted reports (including from ORT, the German sources Bild Am Sontag, and Der Spiegel,  "rubbish" - but I am not so sure. You know, where there's smoke, there's fire. And in Barbados last week there was plenty of smoke and Greystone is under the microscope. It also isn't a leap to believe a frustrated U.S. administration - under fire by the Rightie nuts for being "weak" on  Putin,  might resort to a private band of mercenaries to release some steam. And we know, it's recorded, CIA honcho Brennan was in Ukraine when those 50 odd Russian protestors were fire bombed into a crisp in Odessa several weeks ago.

The Nation provides a historical reference:

"Greystone's parent company Academi Corporation was formed out of what used to be known as Blackwater, that attracted worldwide notoriety for the role it played in the Iraq war as a contractor for the U.S. government. Immediately after a series of international fiascoes Blackwater was renamed Xe Services, but in 2011 again changed its name (to Academi)."

Hmmmm.....looks like after this expose they might have to do another name change. But you know - whether you call en entity 'shit', 'crap', or feces, it's still basically the same. The substance doesn't change. A 'rose' (or 'shit") by any other name and all that..

Of course, Academi came out with a barrage of obfuscatory PR  nonsense in response to all the mercenary claims, including - get this - it "was not connected to Blackwater" and that its principals had simply bought the company's training facilities and "given it a new name". Whatever!

The bottom line here is that Barbados needs this like a hole in the head. Hence, the faster the DLP government gets to the bottom of the Greystone role in Ukraine and any links to Blackwater and-or Academi or other mercenary sources (including Satelles Solutions Inc.) the better. The primary goal for the island now is to get on top of its unraveling economic situation - not get indirectly involved in foreign adventures or conflicts.

The VA Scandal: It's About Too Many Long 'wars', Not Enough Gov't Employees

 As the Republicans continue screeching outrage and pique  - now about the VA hospitals that left dozens of vets on "secret waiting lists"- it is important (as with most things the 'pukes scream about, like Benghazi) to get a perspective.  The Republicans and their vocal media mouthpieces (like Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh) are all about how Obama and his administration left those patriotic vets hanging waiting for care, until the bitter end.

But polls show people don't buy it, at least the sensible ones. One poll cited yesterday (by Bill Maher)  disclosed only 17% blame Obama for the fiasco at the VA, but truth be told this should even be lower. It is, in fact, the Republicans who dispatched the country into two, extended wars of choice - that were totally unnecessary. Bush, Cheney and their minions then are to blame for launching these wars, while also CUTTING taxes instead of raising them.

This budgetary myopia showed they were more interested in starting unnecessary conflicts than looking ahead to the formidable costs, in medical and psychological terms. They wanted the pseudo-glory and bravado, such as trotting Dumbya Bush out in his flight suit to the "Mission Accomplished" idiocy, as opposed to constructing all the hospitals and hiring the VA staff that would be needed to care for the maimed vets they dispatched into harm's way ......on false pretexts.

The Reeps never talk about having been able to vote on a $24b bill that would have opened 27 new VA hospitals but punted. They felt it was "too much money" going to fuel "big government". Well, you get what you pay for.  The Reepos have also overseen the downsizing of VA staff - in tandem with their yen to "sink government in a bathtub" .

 Currently then, only 20,000 VA workers are there to take care of 100 million appointments a year - which is an outrage. There ought to be at least double that number, as there ought to be more Social Security offices (and workers too), instead of shuttering hundreds of S.S. offices across the nation - to make it much more difficult for seniors to get benefits.

The moral of the story in all this? Don't instigate or incite wars where you don't belong, and keep them going for a decade (or more) if you're not willing to pay for the projected medical costs. Don't cut taxes and call what you're engaging in a "war" if you don't increase taxes so that all citizens share in the sacrifice. Don't tell 98% of the nation to "go shopping" and tell the others they must "fight for the 98 percent's freedoms" - unless you want to make an ass out of yourself.

Sadly, Obama, in his visit to Afghanistan over the weekend, still doesn't seem to have gotten the message - indicating the Afghan conflict "must end responsibly" - meaning troops will remain there in harm's way past this year. WHY? There is no reason to keep them there, and doing so will not secure Afghanistan's future any more than staying in 'Nam would have secured its future from the North Vietnamese. As Sun Tzu would have put it, that war was lost before even begun. (His actual statement in 'The Art of War' is "Wars are lost or won before they begin").

The wise move here, given the unfolding VA crisis in inadequate medical care, is to pull those troops - ALL of them - by year's end. Then, there is some smattering of a chance (not much!) that the VA personnel needs can catch up to the urgent care and waiting vets. But it is clueless to risk many more injured vets - from Afghanistan- when the under-staffed and underfunded system obviously can't handle them.

Mr. Obama, end the Afghan fiasco now! Take note of Thomas Friedmann's words that it makes no sense to do nation building overseas if we don't do nation building in our own country first.

Our own country cries out for repair (of its infrastructure) and also creation of millions of new jobs not affiliated with weapons manufacture or warring. Not to mention, healing its own citizens-  from students' inundated by debt, to families barely eking by on food stamps.

Let us take care of our own country now, and the existing vets awaiting care, as opposed to adding thousands more that the downsized (thanks to Reepos) government  and VA simply cannot handle.

Just my two cents!


Monday, May 26, 2014

In Memory of a Real Warrior And Father



Five years ago my dad, a World War II vet, passed away from pneumonia. Today, he's remembered for not only his war service (36 months in the Pacific Theater) but also his steadfast raising of a large family. Dad's military combat was waged on two fronts: against the Japanese Empire in the Philippines and New Guinea on the one hand, and against malaria on the other - with no fewer than five hospitalizations.

On the war front, Dad fought in the Battle of Buna, which was even bloodier than Guadalcanal, but which gets little attention from WWII historians these days. Several months ago, after an irate right winger unloaded on the "anti-war Left" in the local Indy paper, I had to respond by noting that the Left is not uniformly against all wars, taking note of World War II which saw the U.S. fighting a real, formidable foe in the Axis powers - as opposed to bleeding blood and treasure for a rag tag bunch of terrorists lacking planes, ships or tanks.  Thus, the right winger's claim that "if the Left had its way Hitler would have won" is nonsense, because comparing Afghanistan - for example, with WWII -  is absolute bollocks. It's like chalk and cheese since the Taliban haven't been dropping 2,000 pound bombs from planes like my dad faced at Buna from Japanese Zeros.

Much of the battle at Buna Gona was captured by dad (when he had the time) in a colorful war diary he kept.  That remains one of the best repositories of a battle that no one should forget, certainly anyone interested in the history of WWII.

The ravages of the war also followed dad home. Even on being discharged from the Army in April of 1945, the after effects of malaria remained and he'd often come down with severe chills. As we know, the malaria parasites are never finally eliminated but stay in the bloodstream over a life time.

As I recall Dad's sacrifices today, I also recall two of the last contacts I had with him, one in April of 2009 (in which he sent his last email from his email machine) and then for Father's Day, on the phone in June, 2009.

His email (of April 19) lamented that his youngest son had 'gone off the rails' into hardcore fundamentalist Christianity and his I-Net church website was thrashing others in the family by use of a false self-righteousness. He expressly deplored the attacks he'd seen against family members and he regarded ANY attacks against Catholicism as attacks against his own beliefs (especially as he'd converted to Catholicism from being a Southern Baptist).

His final hope, at the end of the email, was that his hardcore fundie son would give it a rest and realize that life is too short to "carry on" waging crusades even in the name of trying to "save" others. He himself seemed to finally realize and appreciate that salvation is a relative thing, and possibly for that reason, refused to condemn his fundie son to Catholic Hell for abandoning the religion in which he was raised. In the end, each will believe as he or she sees fit, and all efforts to undermine, shame, or intimidate others into one's own fold are doomed to failure. All one really accomplishes is alienation, hatred and further isolation. His one wish was that if he did pass away, we'd come together as a family not pull farther apart via false causes, agendas or beliefs.

In my last contact with him on Father's Day, his voice was rasping and he appeared to sense the end might be near. We talked briefly about my latest book project, on the Kennedy assassination, and I mentioned that I had dedicated it to him. He expressed thanks and after I briefly summarized it for him, expressed hope that the book would finally "release Lee Harvey Oswald from being falsely accused" as the assassin. He always had believed there was a conspiracy, and thought the 'Oswald did it' narrative was "crap".  

These days, especially around Memorial Day, and near his birthday (May 25) I often find myself going back to read his old emails from 2007-009 which I have kept stored in my 'old' email folder. None of them are very long, except the one from April 19, 2009, when he expressed the hope that a son would soon find his way back to the light and family solidarity. The others were mainly recollections about past events, and current ones. In one, he inquired after my wife Janice's health and gave some advice on car repair after my wife was involved in a serious car collision in central Colorado (hit broadside by a reckless driver who went through a red light).

Dad, was a genuine warrior who fought in a real war, not one of choice or one waged without national sacrifice (as in raising taxes to pay for it).  He will be sorely missed, but always remembered, especially on this day - for the extraordinary service he gave to his country.

NO! You Don't Get to Kill People Because Girls Rejected Your Advances!

Elliot Rodger, 22, was mightily miffed, because he "couldn't get no respect" during his assorted forays onto the UC- Santa Barbara Campus, including the town of Isla Vista. Worse, there were "the blonde girls" who rejected his advances in favor of the "big brutes who walked on the beaches"-  and in his ego-inflated mind this merited "punishment".  In a blathering 140 page manifesto this little scion of privilege (his father was an assistant director for 'The Hunger Games') wrote:

"All of my suffering on this world has been at the hands of humanity, particularly women. It has made me realize how brutal and twisted humanity is as a species."

He then went on to bawl and whine about how his life "has been a dark story of sadness, anger and hatred. It is a story of war against unjust cruelty."

A war against unjust cruelty? Are you kidding me? If he wanted to make war against unjust cruelty he could have pulled his head out of his ass and helped feed the homeless, or maybe helped organize protests on the growing inequality in this country thanks to the Neoliberal rats. Instead, he vowed a "day of retribution" writing:

"On the day before the 'day of retribution' I will start the first phase of my vengeance, Silently killing as many people as I can around Isla Vista by luring them into my apartment through trickery and violence."

And the little miscreant followed it up by first cowardly knifing his three apartment roommates then going outside on a killing spree including opening fire on three women near the Alpha Phi sorority house,  killing two of them, and firing on others from inside his BMW. All in all the aggrieved punk left six dead and wounded five others before offing himself.

Law enforcement and others are now going through his writings trying to make sense of them - but it's likely a lost cause. When unjustified grievance and hyperbolic victimhood trumps reason, reason exits and all that's left is unjustified rant and BS. Clips of his video babble published in assorted papers over the weekend disclose one deluded, sick puppy. At one point he whines how "the last eight years of my life I've been forced to endure an existence of loneliness and rejection and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me. Girls gave their affection and love to other men, never to me."

Hmmmmm....did he ever try to make himself loveable?  But, of course, an entitled twerp wouldn't see it that way. He'd only perceive that he's the son of some big shot so merits respect and love without effort. He can be whatever he wants and demand love and affection but need not be loveable or even remotely likeable.. But alas, reality doesn't work that way. The females of our species - most of them - have especially canny emotional radar and are able to detect selfish, self-involved twerps from a literal block away. Of course, sometimes they're temporarily blinded and let the exterior  'package' obscure the loser inside and pay the price later, but the choice remains theirs and no one coerces them into desiring or loving someone they have no wish to.

Rodger's mistake was in demanding the women he encountered forego any choice and instantly kowtow to him. In other words, he fancied himself a demigod, worthy of demigod-style worship - not normal human affection. He was also saddled with a monumental inferiority complex because the blonde women he fancied, desired "beach brutes" instead. He was prepared again to deny them their choice on the basis of what he - the all-seeing demigod- deemed to be infatuation with the wrong types. He, of course, was the only "right type" for them.

But his bellyaching about girls not being attracted to him really takes the cake:

"You girls have never been attracted to me. I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it."

Again, note the grandiosity and level of self-delusion. He's all important so all those who don't fall on their faces in front of him have to pay the price. A demigod for sure.

Had the little twerp invested more time in his books, he'd likely not have come to such a sorry end, or ended the lives of others.  Instead of pursuing girls who had no interest in him he'd have done better to do some serious exploration  toward self-awareness, or better, escaped his self-imprisonment by joining organizations specifically  to help others. He could have joined Alpha Pi Omega - the national service fraternity. Instead of seeking to have others kowtow to his needs he ought to have sought to attend to others' needs.

He also had the wrong idea about college, writing "college is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure."

Uh, no, that's not what college is all about. College is about testing the extent of one's intellectual and emotional growth not merely wallowing in self-gratification.  In other words, if "sex, fun and pleasure" are part of the college experience they occur as coincident with it - during occasional events - not as ends in themselves.

The words of Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts again ring true ('The Wisdom of Uncertainty',  p. 131):

"Released from the circle of attempted self-love, the mind of man draws the whole universe into its own unity as a single dewdrop seems to contain the entire sky.  This, rather than any mere emotion, is the power and principle of free action and creative morality."

Being worthy of love, then, comes before  receiving love from others. To be worthy of love, one must break the bonds of exclusive self-love which  corrupts perceptions and is self-limiting. Self-love to the extent of self-worship (such as Rodger evinced) forecloses choice and free action - on the part of the person imprisoned, as well as the objects of his attention - which remain objects and never are seen as persons.

The sad fact is that although Elliot Rodger demanded affection and love from others, he was never capable of giving it himself.  Could he have been severely mentally ill? Undoubtedly, and this would explain the self-delusion to the point of murdering in response to feeling "unloved".  The other tragic aspect is that though the evidence disclosed a sicko lurking in Santa Barbara, the authorities never searched his apt. If they had they would have turned up his purchased weapons. But like all sociopaths Rodger's smooth demeanor convinced the authorities (who contacted him 3 times)  he was no threat.

Now, six people have paid for it, even as the gun lobby continues to turn a blind eye to their own role in this latest tragedy.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Are the Neolibs Determined To Get Barbados - Or Is Barbados' Own Gov't To Blame?

Professor Eudine  Barriteau of the University of the West Indies, was blunt and to the point in her recent Coppin address, summarized in the Business Report of the Barbados Advocate (May 19, p. B3) Prof. Barriteau noted that despite efforts by Bim's present administration to correct the country's economic ills the global (Neoliberal) financial institutions "will stop at nothing until Barbados fixed rate of currency exchange is adjusted."  In other words, the vultures are circling and don't believe that even higher VAT (value added taxes) and terminating the economic lives of 3,000 citizens is enough.

Prof. Barriteau recalled that following the last Article IV Consultation on Barbados by the International Monetary Fund, the Government embarked on the retrenchment of public sector employees and the introduction of other measures to demonstrate its seriousness to the IMF regarding stabilizing key economic sectors. But after all the painful measures imposed, the Neoliberal Axis - including rating agencies - still remained unimpressed.

Perhaps a better analogy is to refer to the Neoliberal wolves at the door, ready to pounce on innocent Bajans and tear them to shreds like so many docile sheep. One must probe then what's at the bottom of the yen to devalue. And perhaps, just perhaps, there is more at work here than meets the eye.

The article 'Disappointing Performance' in an earlier Barbados Business Report Section of the Advocate News perhaps gave a few clues. Evidently the island nation has been hit from multiple angles at all its most vulnerable points.

Tourism, for example,  was expected to lead the way to pre-2014 optimism but it was hit in the cruise ship as well as air travel domain. We learned, for example,  that both long stay and cruise ship passenger arrivals fell by one percent. What was to blame? According to Central Bank Governor Dr. Delisle Worrell, a major contributor was the cancellation of direct flights out of New York by American Airlines and the reduction in seating capacity by Air Canada. In tandem the two moves caused arrivals from both markets to decline.  Neither of these has anything to do with Barbados itself, but shows the island at the mercy of the airlines.

What about the layoffs of thousands of public sector workers which was expected to free up money? Actually, according to Finance Minister Chris Sinckler, it was essentially a wash given "separation benefits",  He did say some savings would be seen in the "medium term". Well, one hopes some national benefit would accrue with so many sent packing- but not to the IMF, World Bank, and rating agency 'wolves'.


Then there is the sugar cane sector, which now is geared mainly to produce the molasses used to make Barbados rum. The problem? The cane crop was to have begun February 24 and surpassed last year's by 2,000 tons. The facts? The start of the crop was not only delayed until March but there was a crippling strike that resulted in several acres of canes being left in the fields and at transfer stations - contributing to financial losses the industry can ill afford - and a rebuke from a major Rum manufacturer for wasting time and resources for a critical industry.  This one was definitely in Barbados' court but ought not to have been any deciding factor on pushing for a devaluation.

Now add to that the ongoing recessionary trend which saw a 0.6 percent contraction in the island's economy between January and March this year - following on from a 0.6 percent contraction between January and September last year and a 0.2 contraction between October and December last year.

Despite all this the outlook is for a 0.5 percent growth this year - not too shabby if it comes to pass. Will the Neoliberal finance monster be kept at bay? I doubt it., According to Prof. Barriteau:

"It seems the international financial institutions and other financial structures such as the rating agencies will only be satisfied when they force Barbados to abandon a fixed rate of exchange rate - and after it has been forced to dismantle the key components of its economic model of development."

Let's note that this model of development has been the ideal for the rest of the Caribbean as it has promoted social justice as well as less inequality than manifested in any of the industrial (OECD) nations.  Prof. Barriteau's most stinging observation was that "none of the international policies that regulates financial and economic activities are designed to enable the private sector in the Caribbean to flourish."

She attributed this to aggressive trade protectionism and subsidies (such as in the U.S. for its own rum) that make it extremely difficult for Caribbean exports to compete. This means that NO amount of devaluation - even 50% or more - making Barbados' exports cheap (say its rum relative to U.S. rum) will incept more export sales.

Meanwhile the Barbadian people will suffer because a devaluation will reduce the value of their money but not the value of imported goods, including food, or the fuel that keeps vehicles running. Indeed, a 50 percent devaluation would likely be followed by a 100 percent increase in all food prices and likely more for fuel. People already struggling will be hurled into poverty and destitution because even the most draconian effort of gov't could not appease the vultures (or wolves) of the Neoliberal Reich.  Why not?

Prof. Barriteau believes it mainly is from a jaundiced view that presumes money laundering and tax evasion, though "the Caribbean people don't want the Caribbean to be the epicenter of either."

She emphatically stated (ibid.):

"We never have and we never will be because it existed in other places. The Caribbean is not the epicenter of money laundering or tax evasion."


Is There Another Side to the Story?


But what if the Neoliberal predators are merely lying in wait for an already savaged-ravaged nation?  This is the other side of the story, which is now making the rounds on the island and in its news media, especially the Barbados NATION. According to former Sen. Frances Chandler, writing in the Nation ('Sinckler's Leaking Glass') the current government - run by the DLP - and with Chris Sinckler at the helm, is raiding the National Insurance scheme (analogous to our Social Security) to the tune of $40m a month and replacing it with commercial paper (call it fiat money) at high interest. As she asks:

"What is the point, minister, when we sacrifice to help fill up the glass, but your administration seems bent on boring holes in bottom of said glass and emptying it?"

Sen. Chandler also referenced Central Bank governor De Lisle Worrell's comment that the recent Credit Suisse loan (at an exorbitant interest rate which saw B'dos bonds degraded) "wasn't needed and wasn't being used- it was only borrowed because people were panicking."

HUH?

Worrell himself has said the Central Bank will stop printing money (read: finance some of government's operations) once the deficit reduces to 6 percent of GDP from its current 11.3 percent. Meanwhile, another letter writer (John M. Robb, 'Destroying Barbados' Model', The Nation, 21 May, p. 10A) has basically accused the gov't of "destroying Barbados' economy" and putting it on a path to certain devaluation. In his words:

"Due to government's expenditure exceeding revenues there has been a sustained deficit the past six years - which some experts believe is too large and cannot be substantively reduced that easily.

In an effort to finance this deficit, which was the result of government's poor policies, government has encouraged the Central Bank of Barbados to print money to meet its obligations. This is a very treacherous practice which will put downward pressure on the Barbados dollar and if prolonged, could lead to a devaluation."

The sad fact is we may be even closer to seeing a devaluation than most believe. And if it occurs, the Barbados currency will never be revalued again higher. It will be forever in the maw of the Neoliberal jackals and vultures - picking over its bones endlessly.

That any government of the island nation could have been responsible for this sorry end is more than most of us can even contemplate. But we have to recall the same gov't was at the forefront when the last crisis hit - in 1991- in the wake of trying Reaganomics in 1986.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Militarism is a Disease And Needs to be Stamped Out

A remarkable article appeared in the June 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.  (Also available as free PDF here.)


The authors, experts in public health, are listed with all their academic credentials: William H. Wiist, DHSc, MPH, MS, Kathy Barker, PhD, Neil Arya, MD, Jon Rohde, MD, Martin Donohoe, MD, Shelley White, PhD, MPH, Pauline Lubens, MPH, Geraldine Gorman, RN, PhD, and Amy Hagopian, PhD.


One of the highlights that struck me was the finding that "since the end of World War II, there have been 248 armed conflicts in 153 locations around the world. The United States launched 201 overseas military operations between the end of World War II and 2001, and since then, others, including Afghanistan and Iraq. During the 20th century, 190 million deaths could be directly and indirectly related to war -- more than in the previous 4 centuries."


Such facts, footnoted in the article, are especially useful now in the face of a current myopic  academic trend in the United States proclaiming the death of war. How did this magic trick get accomplished? By re-categorizing many wars as other things, and minimizing death counts, as well as viewing deaths as proportions of the global population rather than of a local population or as absolute numbers. Using such perverse statistical devices and much artifice,  various authors have thereby claimed that war is vanishing. (One supposes they likely get most of their grants from the Pentagon.)   Obviously we all wish - at least most of us - that war should vanish, but that is only likely to happen if we find the drive and the resources to make it happen. We also need the politicos with enough balls to stand up to the Military Industrial complex as opposed to rolling over for them at every turn and after each election cycle.


:What exactly is this disease of militarism? According to the article:

"Militarism is the deliberate extension of military objectives and rationale into shaping the culture, politics, and economics of civilian life so that war and the preparation for war is normalized, and the development and maintenance of strong military institutions is prioritized. Militarism is an excessive reliance on
a strong military power and the threat of force as a legitimate means of pursuing policy goals in difficult international relations. It glorifies warriors, gives strong allegiance to the military as the ultimate guarantor of freedom and safety, and reveres military morals and ethics as being above criticism. Militarism instigates civilian society's adoption of military concepts, behaviors, myths, and language as its own. Studies show that militarism is positively correlated with conservatism, nationalism, religiosity, patriotism, and with an authoritarian personality, and negatively related to respect for civil liberties, tolerance of dissent, democratic principles, sympathy and welfare toward the troubled and poor, and foreign aid for poorer nations. Militarism subordinates other societal interests, including health, to the interests of the military"


And how, exactly, does the U.S. suffer from it malignant presence?

"Militarism is intercalated into many aspects of life in the United States and, since the military draft was eliminated, makes few overt demands of the public except the costs in taxpayer funding. Its expression, magnitude, and implications have become invisible to a large proportion of the civilian population, with little recognition of the human costs or the negative image held by other countries. Militarism has been called a 'psychosocial disease,' making it amenable to population-wide interventions. . . .


"The United States is responsible for 41% of the world's total military spending. The next largest in spending are China, accounting for 8.2%; Russia, 4.1%; and the United Kingdom and France, both 3.6%. . . . If all military . . . costs are included, annual [US] spending amounts to $1 trillion . . . . According to the DOD fiscal year 2012 base structure report, 'The DOD manages global property of more than 555,000 facilities at more than 5,000 sites, covering more than 28 million acres.' The United States maintains 700 to 1000 military bases or sites in more than 100 countries. . . .
"In 2011 the United States ranked first in worldwide conventional weapons sales, accounting for 78% ($66 billion). Russia was second with $4.8 billion. . . .

"In 2011-2012, the top-7 US arms producing and service companies contributed $9.8 million to federal election campaigns. Five of the top-10 [military] aerospace corporations in the world (3 US, 2 UK and Europe) spent $53 million lobbying the US government in 2011. . . .

"The main source of young recruits is the US public school system, where recruiting focuses on rural and impoverished youths, and thus forms an effective poverty draft that is invisible to most middle- and upper-class families. . . . In contradiction of the United States' signature on the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict treaty, the military recruits minors in public high schools, and does not inform students or parents of their right to withhold home contact information. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is given in public high schools as a career aptitude test and is compulsory in many high schools, with students' contact information forwarded to the military, except in Maryland where the state legislature mandated that schools no longer automatically forward the information."

The preceding synopsis discloses a nation without vision, in meltdown mode - or certainly in rapid decline. When militarism holds all the cards and is the central organizing principle of a society, then that society is essentially dead. (Think of 'Oceania' in Orwell's '1984') In effect, the preceding description embodies Eisenhower's January, 1961 Farewell address warning concerning the spread of the Military-Industrial complex.

The analogy to a malignant cancer is spot on because all funds plowed into military BS, whether Raptor jets, new F35 fighters, tanks or drones is essentially money not going to space exploration, education and health care. Not to mention infrastructure repair. Hence, those of us who perceive a massive collapse on the way - in very literal terms - and just like that for the Roman Empire. The worst perversion, obviously, is mandating military indoctrination in high schools and allowing recruiting there. Is it any wonder the U.S. is 26th in math and 37th in science in world wide assessments for proficiency?

Not at all when you consider how the military meme has poisoned the educational well, and moreover enticed tens of thousands to settle for the lowest common denominator in pursuing a military career. As if conceding there are no other jobs they could ever get, or want.

Obviously, none of the above is what these kids are told. Oh no. They're pumped full of BS on how they are "protecting our freedoms" and defending liberty with other nonsense like "Freedom is not free". No, of course not! That's why taxes have been demanded of the people and PAID in real wars! Whereas when Bush Jr. launched Afghanistan and Iraq he told Americans to "just go shopping" and actually CUT taxes!  Can you say derelict? How about insane?

But see, you never get real freedom, or peace, by fighting endless wars - most just to test new weapons for which billions have been spent, OR.... to grab resources (like oil) for the Neoliberal markets. Or better, to keep precious resources expended for endless massive destruction so the population approaches destitution- even if gradually via creeping inequality.

Does the one percent worry about militarism? Of course not! They likely have stocks in defense contractors like Raytheon or Lockheed. They will get rich off weaponry and war even as the rest of us sink. 

The politicians, meanwhile, are all the same with few exceptions (e.g. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren) because the military knows how to intimidate them and shake them down to cooperate with the national perdition. They too, are eventually cajoled into wearing their little American flag lapel pins that stand for allegiance to the military mavens and their tools. 41 percent of the world's military spending and 201 interventions since WWII is the sure sign of a nation off course, and too invested the economic destruction of resources as opposed to their useful management for their citizens.

Alas, as post-Peak Oil conditions progress in tandem with global warming, the economic losses and privation from militarism will grow worse - to the detriment of all except the richest. This is exactly why militarism is named as such a health problem.  The longer it is allowed to progress and wreak havoc on our country, the worse it will be for us all.  Militarism - military thinking and domination - must not be permitted to metastasize to the point its eats away the nation's innards like a cancer.

For every kid bamboozled by a recruiter to join this cancer, we need to be ready to disclose reality and open a chasm in the victim's brain to see the light. And that a military "career" is a dead end and not the boundless future the liars make it out to be!


Friday, May 23, 2014

Yes – People Need to Work Less and Live More!

Read that header again. It has often been said that those who retire early are more likely to die within months of such a choice. Of course, this is nonsense spun by proto-Calvinist  Neoliberal morons. The fact is that so long as one is committed to an enduring activity, or hobby or objective, he or she will remain active and far from croaking due to aimless laziness. It is the ones who are unfocused and just sit in front of their TVs 12 hours a day that have much to worry about.

 
But we aren’t talking retirement here, but rather enhancing the life quality of American workers, so that family life can be more rationally balanced with work. In an earlier blog post, indeed, I had pointed out that the problem of work-life balance could equitably be solved along with the current entrenched under-employment and unemployment. (And the BLS has forecast millions FEWER jobs over the next 20 years owing to automation, out-sourcing overseas, especially if the TPP goes through etc.) I call the current tendency and condition Neoliberal-incited job "anorexia" and it requires a “supply side labor” solution. What it means basically is reducing everyone’s work hours to enable more people to be hired – while raising the minimum wage to $20 an hour at the same time.


Let us say there are 25 million unemployed or under-employed and 40 million full time employed. By use of the supply side labor solution we can increase the jobs to at least 80 million by halving all work hours across the board (from the executive level – say 66-70 hrs. week to 33- 35) to the ordinary worker (say 40-44 hours a week to 20  -22).  Then pay everyone a starting base scale of $20 an hour, with increased pay for those workers who display increased talents.  Thus, for example, a high profile computer engineer or programmer would earn more than a file clerk or secretary – the increase coming by way of adding the non-committed hours to their work week.

 
For example, if 80 million jobs can be created by initially halving work hours, and 25 million were initially unemployed or under-employed, then the practical spare job capacity would be: 80 million -  (40 million + 25 million) = 15 million. These  spare ‘jobs’ units can then be parceled out according to providing more of them to the workers who display higher skill levels, say like computer programmers or engineers.  In this way greater talent or skill would be rewarded in a pared down work wage per hour system.

 
As startling as this sounds, it’s on the minds of more people – influential people—than just me. Consider then the book, Time on Our Side: Why We Need A Shorter Working Week, by The New Economics Foundation.   The change to a shorter work week will no doubt be fought tooth and nail, especially by those who already feel secure and hence have the least reason to change, but change they must. As per a review in the March/April issue of SIERRA:

 
In the last century public opinion has shifted from deeming a 40-hour work week scandalously short to hailing it a triumph of modern labor. Now, with a faltering global economy and human population projections creeping toward 10 billion by 2050, some researchers are calling for a change that might be considered blasphemous: a 20 to 30 hour full time work week.”

 
This is in reference to the NEF book. But the numbers don’t lie and whether anyone thinks the prescription is “blasphemous” or "insane" – the fact remains it is realistic. An 80 million increase in human population per year is far beyond the job replacement level by at least three times, maybe closer to four.  Meanwhile, problems of low aggregate demand continue to plague the global economy and even in the most productive companies fewer and fewer jobs are being created – especially with benefits. This is just a numerical fact of life, as companies opt to go with more automation and fewer flesh and blood workers.


Given these conditions the only solution is to manufacture more jobs by the process of division. You may rail at it, scream 'Loopy!' but it will come….hopefully sooner than later.  As U.S. World watch senior fellow Erik Assadourian puts it:

 
If we had a livable wage and could each work a 20-hour week, we’d have time to choose more sustainable options that are also better for ourselves.”

 
Anna Coote, one of the co-authors of the NEF book concurs, and notes that we should work less and “use that time to find a more joyful life.”  She asks:

 
Why do we work? What do we do with the money we earn? Can we begin to think differently about how much we need?”

 
She has a point, since Juliette Schorr earlier showed how much we just waste on junk to fill up our homes to the point we need to rent out storage huts. Whereas with fewer work hours and less money to blow, we’d be forced to spend less on throwaway crap and do the environment a huge favor.

 
Of course the whole problem of affordable housing remains and that must be solved before we can consider chopping work hours.  Communal style living situations are possible, but also there will have to be much more clever thinking about sustainable housing.

 
Erick Assaodourian notes we also will need:

 
-        A more progressive income tax

-        A much higher minimum wage (a no brainer)

-        Healthcare not dependent on a 40-hour work week

 
The last is coming onstream with Obamacare and we need to implement the first two. We also need, as another no-brainer, to cease trying to be cop of the planet and starting wars of choice which eat up our resources along with criminal defense budgets.

 
It also goes without saying this new world of work will benefit young people, who now find themselves mainly looking from without as older workers stay at it to try to make up for money and time lost after the 2008 financial meltdown.

 
Stay tuned!