Saturday, November 24, 2007
I want to recommend two other sources for personal growth and inspiration today.
1) The Hoffman-Quadrinity process - read this essay about freeing oneself from the past and one's "false" conditioned self.
2) The book "Big Mind, Big Heart" by Dennis Genpo Merzel, a simply written and profoundly transformative book and CD.
Friday, November 23, 2007
The true response is a growth in SPIRITUALITY. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of Western paths. There are some, like gnostic Christianity, "A Course in Miracles", contemplative Christianity (although that's hard to find).
Christianity got "stuck" at the mythic-membership level in the 17th century, because the European enlightenment (The Age of Reason) threw the baby of spirituality out with the bathwater of dogmatic pre-rational (and corrupt, then) religion.
There are lot of Eastern paths through and beyond ego, yoga, Buddhism, meditation. One must work on one's shadow first - the great contribution of Western psychology. (You have to be a whole SOMEBODY before you become a trans-personal NOBODY).
If you find people who use The Bible as a manual, they're medieval, and there are a lot of them in the U.S., unfortunately.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Big shots mentality - 50s. The karma of OIL is bad. The face that Green can't wake up and tame big orane in China and India, and other growing fiants (Russia, but that's a more contentious story) - is because green has not been allowed to bud in these reactionary necon ORANGE fat greedy stupid mfers out of CIA power oil imperialism - white men's burden - skull and bones - WASP superiority - elitism 50s - yech!
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Big shots mentality - 50s. The karma of OIL is bad. The face that Green can't wake up and tame big orange in China and India, and other growing giants (Russia, but that's a more contentious story) - is because green has not been allowed to bud in these reactionary necon ORANGE fat greedy stupid mfers out of CIA power oil imperialism - white men's burden - skull and bones - WASP superiority - elitism 50s - yech!
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Wednesday, October 31, 2007
any second-tier I do/am in will be able to view ALL parts of a situation
too see things from all points of view read
third tier sees things from NO point of view the
I don't know what fourth tier does but observe the arising and passing and rest in love-bliss ? book
11:58 PM 10/30/2007 "Big
The Holland Taylor-narrated "something trust" commercial (and having seen her act, am hoping that she stoops for cash here), is so emblamatic of the sour-egoism le sourgeousie? and contracted false = the status place to be has become - not enlightened
consolation-ville- well I didn't get the enlightenment, but I'm going to enjoy the best sensual diversions...boomers with their five homes and trust accounts and guarded communities and pretend you're happy suffocating but it's better than the regressed semi-tribal wild west out there guns and people without enough work.....tempers flaring with global heat - chaos and street justice or heavy law enforcement presence and incipient fascism - awful both - on the blend line as now I imagine for another 20 years - who knows? Heart,
****RE-WRITE ABOVE **** Big
It's all about getting dough and finding a most comfortable retreat to rest out the storm that seems to be the end of the boomer generation - the next 30 years or so, and the x'ers are getting the message and doing the same in their forties - and I guess everyone is scrambling or just has given uP? or down to a sour stressed level of a big mythic "community" church that's more like a country club for the nouveau upper middle with sadly not much choice to progress unless they come upon yoga and meditation. Mind".
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
And this is what our best and brightest are being educated for and aspire to? O brave new pathological orange world that's FLATLAND.
The soul shrivels (contracts) - there's not room for it in the boardroom or the bedroom.
I'm watching (parts of) CNN's "Planet in Peril". Pre-rational Chinese medicine is decimating endangered species including many higher mammals like bears and tigers. Pre-green industrialisation along with blue totalitarian anti-democratic government and corrupt orange economic structure is polluting China and the planet enormously. On and on....
"All of us are products of our environment" Anderson Cooper just said. Yes, and our envirnment is a "product" of us, also.
This new awarenewss of INTERdependence "uncoils", moves upward on the spiral, and awakens a new awareness and spirit of HOLISM that dramatically alters all our interactions: business/economic, artistic/interpersonal, conservationist/ecological, spiritual, inner/outer growth, loving energy replacing fear, -- I could go on - I've visualised it since 1969.
This simply can't be a first tier shit fo green from orange vMeme/levels, (which is) the traditional designation of environmental awareness.
It must be second tier (or yellow), because it recognizes the new tier of interdependence that is all-encompassing and that can see the first tier in all its levels.
I must be missing in my awareness/analysis some of the gradations in growth from green to yellow (first tier to second) - I know there's a quantum leap, also. I also know that I made that leap years ago, but haven't stayed there with all my lines certainly (and never got there with some of them, such as my 2nd chakra [sexual development]).
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I just went over to see what was up lately at "welcome to pottersville" blog. "On strike". Did JP get his knickers in a twist again, 'cause some progressive bigger-daddy blog rejecte another of his pieces? I wish he'd have more confidence in his abilities. I love reading and commenting at his blog. Hope he re-starts it. Maybe he's working on his novel, but "on strike" has the call of the wounded ego to it, unless there's a general intellectual strike against the coup I'm not aware of today.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
But enough blaming the conservatives - I do that plenty. I want to get back to considering the poverty of our lives spiritually in this culture now, and I want to say that a new modern/postmodern spirituality is desperately needed. Not a program for those who are ready for second-tier, but something to fill the gap between mythic and integral. New Age had elements; the pre-trans fallacy mucked it up, and Wilber would say part of that confusion was boomeritis narcissism which infected progress along the spiral.
I must find I.S. and read the chapter on the unfortunate (monumentally) void left when the European Enlightenment threw the baby of reglion/spirituality away with the bathwater of pre-rational dogma and orthodoxy.
But I want to get back to saying how alienated I think people are now, even the "Richistans" (the new rich class) with all their quality-of-life consolations.
Just saw that Russia is becoming an imperialistic militaristic plutocracy (they did the "shock economic" medicine, and millions are impoverished now, with a small but very rich plutocratic elite) - just as we are (from highly different places) - of course our democracy, mixed economy was so much better than communism (that's a blue level system). But things are going backwards with the great powers.
Joel Osteen's new book is coming out - I'm getting ready to watch his interview on "60 Minutes" - I think he is a self-esteem therapist healer, which is the orange spiritual project, actually - or a good part of it. It's what we were trying to do in t-groups in the 70s; now people get it from mega-churches, if they're not fundamenalist. Fine with me.
I'll edit the above later - I'm sure I'll need to.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
I'm alligned with this mission - they say it can be achieved or substantially begin within a decade - I certainly hope so -
The Center for Human Emergence (CHE) will function as a global facilitator of the conscious evolution of the human species.
The Center for Human Emergence will be a major international force for encouraging and facilitating a conscious or "directed" cultural evolution in the world. It will operate on a number of levels, including understanding - in a far more comprehensive way than in the past - the cultural underpinnings that drive human behavior, and will be focused on unification rather than fragmentation, presuming that cooperation is more in line with the future we need than competition. CHE will thus find innovative solutions for some of the most complex problems facing the world today, encouraging the development of new tools for making sense of the change that surrounds us, as well as actively helping humanity to embrace new values and perspectives that could provide the framework for significant change.
The (CHE) will provide the foundation of a new international framework for facilitating the transition toward a new era for humanity that better addresses the most fundamental problems that we confront.
For centuries humanity has largely been reactive rather than proactive: focused on the present and the immediate future, responding to problems, providing only what was then presently required. Now, for the first time in history, humanity is confronted with potential events that are global in scope and too disastrous to allow happen. The only way to assure that these catastrophes do not transpire is to become different people with different tools. We must see ourselves and the world around us in fundamentally new ways and then approach our tasks with new, less intrusive tools.
There is a rapidly growing awareness that these are unique times - that global trends now in place will collide in the near future producing extreme uncertainty for humanity unless we quickly learn how to scan the horizon, see problems holistically and from a cultural perspective, choose the future we want, and move quickly in that direction. What is required is directed human cultural evolution moving us to a new level of awareness, with a new set of values.
State-of-the-art new tools and theories can be brought together for the first time to provide some of the key requirements for encouraging large-scale social change both in terms of understanding human behavior and in anticipating potential futures.
The Center for Human Emergence will comprise a collection of functions – some of which represent profound breakthroughs in human knowledge and capability – which will, in concert, represent a potential watershed for our species. CHE will, as global cartographers, generate electronic maps designed to monitor the deepest level waves of chaos and order, change and stability, and progress and regression within our collective selves. CHE will be unique in that it will focus on the deeper codes that lie beneath our worldviews, belief systems, and behavior patterns.
By connecting individual projects, in an integrated center, many different groups working on aspects of the larger problems can be coordinated in a commitment to fundamental change.
Centers : Copenhagen and USA
Additional nodes for Phase One – London, Vancouver, Boulder, Singapore, Cape Town and Jerusalem.
“A new emergent ‘Turquoise’ worldview (see Spiral Dynamics Integral), the perspective on which CHE is conceptualized, could be summed up as including:
* A WholeView perspective, with the world perceived as a delicately balanced system of forces in jeopardy at humanity’s hands
* Self is part of a larger, conscious whole
* Emergent selfless motivation, in order that all can thrive
* Experiential ‘collective individualism’, blending and harmonizing
* Expanded mind capacity, deep intuition, consciousness
* Synergize, macromanage, and act together for significant, big picture impacts for the good of all
* Planetary concerns rank above narrow group interests
* An ordered world with new meanings – the synergy of all life forms and forces
* Organized as a holistic, unified organism
* Synthesis oriented”
- Dr. Don Beck
music - Stuart Davis
imagery - Alex Grey
direction/editing - ?
writing - ?
Wonderful and insightful, of course. I've been a student and fan of Ken Wilber for many years. I've been commenting in blogs and online news and opinion articles for years now, pointing to Ken Wilber and Spiral Dynamics to get the conversation away from the flatland understanding that almost always prevails when people in the mainstream media (or even the edge media) discuss religion and spirituality. Now I have an open source video to put on my blog to point to, not just a name to look up at Amazon.
One more point - because of the European dissociation (threw religion totally out in the 17th century) modern (rational) and post-modern (pluralistic) spirituality is more difficult to "find". I am going to research where the existential and post-existential spiritual thinkers line up here (I'm thinking of Barth and others) - I think the options of seeing peak experiences as only brain firings or ("well it's purely subjective") are anemic, and I think KW probably does too.
One more point: I'm "always" harping on this (well, sometimes strumming) - The War in Iraq is not only a religious ethnocentric war (it certainly is very much in its Shia-Sunni civil war aspect), but also very much an imperialist/economic war. (It may be an ethnocentric fundamentalist [regressive medieval] war for some Muslims and for the alarmlingly [according to more than one poll] large number in the U.S. population who are at a mythic-literalist view of the Bible/Christianity, and perhaps this is a part of "W", (Shrub, to you who demand more respect), but I don't see it in others in the administration or elite class, mostly, of course, I'm talking about the Cheney-Rummie-Carlyle Group neocon cabal, including Perle, Kristol, et al. The only "religious" motivation for the neo-cons is to protect Israel as a secular state not much religion there that I've found).
Very pointedly, see the post below - Naomi Klein - "The Shock Doctrine - The Rise of Disaster Capitalism"
One of my hopes / projects is to put Ken Wilber, Spiral Dynamics Integral, Saving the planet environmentally, and Naomi Klein's macro-economic insights into political and economic equity and justice together in an integral, AQAL study/ group of studies in the future.
Second tier vision is about how we can achieve the healthiest, most equitable, win-win-win-win structures for all cultures on the planet as they live and progress along the Spiral of Development.
Interdependence and clarity (which is second tier and higher) are crucial in the leaders of the nations of the planet now. Who can doubt that?
from Already Perfect/nothingness thou art that Ground of Being to all that arises is perfectly void and full at the same time Ground of Being, i.e. along the always/already Kosmic Joke. Everything is "God" already, playing hide-and-seek with itSelf / ourSelf[ves]. Love and LoveLightLife is the "fuel" of all that is. It simply is the 'I AM THAT I AM" THAT IS ALL THAT IS AND IS NOT AT THE SAME TIME AND NEITHER. Fear is an illusion.
In practical terms, it's time to move to green and to yellow second tier. Orange pathological ''free market" capitalism is red greed in disguise and its carbon energy fuel is producing a planetary problem to say the least - time to move to an interdependent clean energy "fair" trade - full valued (not just military might and filthy lucre hoarding - we knew this in the 60s, but the reactionaries like Cheney and Reagan intervened) planet.
I like Blogs - they can be messy, and they're easy (should I say a bit lazy, in that one can ramble and not document one's positions, if one doesn't feel like it). Sometime, I'll write some disciplined papers ;-).
Live in the LoveLight. Let go of the contraction of your bodymind and realize that you are already living in it and ARE it. Amen. (That goes for me, too).
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
part 1 -
part 2 -
This is very important and quite brilliant in its analysis of what's been going on for the last 7 years (and longer) -
The book -
The Shock Doctrine by Alfonso Cuaron and Naomi Klein -
Friday, October 05, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Valuing short term shareholder value, short term profit, money to the exclusion of all other values (lip service perhaps) - is the disaster of pathological capitalism - rampant now.
unregulated "free market" corporate Capitalism - it is structurally designed to have no value(s) other than short term bottom line profit / shareholder monetary return,
and therefore, progress/growth/evolution is not old left socialism, which is
invariably a return to central patriarchal authority rule/role central leader BLUE
(see AQAL) level. (mythic-membership level), so the more we move from orange to healthy whole green we can have values driven businesses that are not into a
simple market but are into the health of the total environment, social, cultural,
environmental (natural)....more to come....:-).
See Ken Wilber and Spiral Dynamics - google them for explanations of color vmemes (levels) -
Someone said that
Capitalism minus liberty = fascism
Socialism minus liberty = communism
Too simple, (i.e. simplistic), but there is some truth there.
The dovetailing of Rove and Cheney in 1999 was the year that the U.S. had a soft far right coup, one that wanted to "drown the government in the bathtub", except for plenty of tax and deficit money for military might to imperially grab world energy resources and make money on military industries, also, of course.
Filthy lucre, The Substitute Immortality Project, (See Ken Wilber's book "The Atman Project" - not to mention Norman O. Brown) is at the root.
How banal and how sad.
There might be a true belief motivating some of these corpocrats, a chauvinistic ethnocentric belief that the USA-is-a-lone-cowboy of enlightenment in a sea of danegerous barbarism, but the cynical nature of the coup, especially exemplified by Rove, pts for the bank account motive.
Edit note - 101007 - Now that I've understood the ideas in Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine - The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" and understood the Milton Friedman school of economics (see post above dated 101007) - I am more informed about the motive(s). Scary.
The big taboo of the MSM - getting near the truth that the war is for the benefit of the oil and gas investor elite sector, for the oil (and for the fortunes of the oil and gas and certain defense contractor shareholder upper class elites), for 70% ownership and control of the Iraqu oil for U.S. hegemony in the region, including rights-of-way for piplines to the Caspian (oil and gas) region.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Saturday, September 01, 2007
You know you’ve stepped into a different universe when you hear a major American labor leader saying matter-of-factly that employer-based health insurance and employer-based pensions are relics of a bygone industrial economy.
Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which has 1.9 million members and is the fastest-growing union in the country, is not your ordinary union leader. With Labor Day approaching, he was reflecting on some of the challenges facing workers in a post-20th-century globalized economy.
“I just don’t think that as a country we’ve conceptualized that this is not our father’s or our grandfather’s economy,” Mr. Stern said in an interview. “We’re going through profound change and we have no plan.”
The feeling that seems to override all others for workers is anxiety. American families, already saddled with enormous debt, are trying to make it in an environment in which employment is becoming increasingly contingent and subject to worldwide competition. Health insurance, unaffordable for millions, is a huge problem. And guaranteed pensions are going the way of typewriter ribbons and carbon paper.
“We’re ending defined benefit pensions in front of our eyes,” said Mr. Stern. “I’d say today’s retirement plan for young workers is: ‘I’m going to work until I die.’ ”
The result of all of this — along with such problems as the mortgage and housing crisis, and a domestic economy that is doing nothing to improve living standards for ordinary Americans — is fear.
“Workers are incredibly, legitimately scared that the American dream, particularly the belief that their kids will do better, is ending,” said Mr. Stern. He is trying to get across the idea that in a period of such profound change, the old templates, the traditional ideas and policies of even the most progressive thinkers and officeholders, will not be sufficient to meet the new challenges.
“We can’t be the only country on earth that asks our employers to put the price of health care on its products when a lot of our competitors don’t,” he said. “And job security? Even if you want to stay with your employer, as in the old economic model, we’re seeing in many industries that your employer is not going to be around to stay with you.”
A comprehensive new approach is needed, but what should that approach be? Franklin Roosevelt always hoped to inject a measure of economic security into the lives of ordinary Americans. But the New Deal was seven decades ago. Workers are insecure now for a host of different reasons and Mr. Stern wants the labor movement to be part of a vast cooperative effort to develop the solutions appropriate to today’s environment.
He told me, “I’d like to say to the Democrats that we are as far today from the New Deal as the New Deal was from the Civil War.”
He wants more people to pay attention to the big issues that affect not just union workers but all working families: How do you bring health care to all? What do you do about retirement security? How will the jobs of the 21st century be created?
And what about schools, energy, global warming, the environment?
Mr. Stern tends to see the nation as a team and wants the team to pull together to develop a creative vision of what the U.S. should be about in the 21st century. A cornerstone of that vision, he said, should be adherence to the “primary value” of rewarding work.
“We’re a team in the 21st-century period of rapid change and competition,” he said. “And right now, we don’t have leadership, and we don’t have a plan. At the same time, a group of people are enriching themselves far beyond anything that’s reasonable.”
What he would like to see, he said, is a large group of thoughtful people from various walks of American life — business, labor, government, academia and so forth — convened to begin the serious work of cooperatively developing a real-world vision of a society that is fairer, healthier, better educated, better prepared to compete globally, and more economically secure.
“I think you’re already seeing the beginnings of odd formations of people who appreciate, issue by issue, that we have to do something different here,” he said.
The kind of effort Mr. Stern would like to see would logically be initiated at the highest levels of government, preferably the White House. But if that’s not in the cards, someone else should take up the challenge. And there should be a sense of urgency about it.
The fears of America’s workers are well founded. “There’s something wrong with the system right now,” said Mr. Stern, “and we can’t just say, ‘Well, it’s all going to work out.’ It’s not.”
Spot on, Bob Herbert and Andy Stern!
God, sometimes I wish I'd emigrated to Sweden or France, as I seriously considered doing when the Gipper got elected in '80, and the country lurched rightward (backward), while Europe progressed.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
A Second Look at the Saudis
My comment there (in the guest book) -
Thank you for your valuable and intrepid reporting on this most important subject. The lies Cheney and co. are promulgating to start a war with Iraq must be fought with truth. Of course Bushco and the oilpatch friends want the public to see the Saudis as allies because they make so much money off their oil. Can you say "The Carlyle Group"?
Thursday, August 23, 2007
From Afghanistan to Iraq: Connecting the Dots with Oil
By Richard W. Behan, AlterNet
Posted on February 5, 2007
In the Caspian Basin and beneath the deserts of Iraq, as many as 783 billion barrels of oil are waiting to be pumped. Anyone controlling that much oil stands a good chance of breaking OPEC's stranglehold overnight, and any nation seeking to dominate the world would have to go after it.
The long-held suspicions about George Bush's wars are well-placed. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not prompted by the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. They were not waged to spread democracy in the Middle East or enhance security at home. They were conceived and planned in secret long before September 11, 2001 and they were undertaken to control petroleum resources.
The "global war on terror" began as a fraud and a smokescreen and remains so today, a product of the Bush Administration's deliberate and successful distortion of public perception. The fragmented accounts in the mainstream media reflect this warping of reality, but another more accurate version of recent history is available in contemporary books and the vast information pool of the Internet. When told start to finish, the story becomes clear, the dots easier to connect.
Both appalling and masterful, the lies that led us into war and keep us there today show the people of the Bush Administration to be devious, dangerous and far from stupid.
The following is an in-depth look at the oil wars, the events leading up to them, and the players who made them possible.
The Project for a New American Century, a D.C.-based political think tank funded by archconservative philanthropies and founded in 1997, is the source of the Bush Administration's imperialistic urge for the U.S. to dominate the world. Our nation should seek to achieve a "...benevolent global hegemony," according to William Kristol, PNAC's chairman. The group advocates the novel and startling concept of "pre-emptive war" as a means of doing so.
On January 26, 1998, the PNAC, sent a letter to President William Clinton urging the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The dictator, the letter alleged, was a destabilizing force in the Middle East, and posed a mortal threat to "...the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's oil supply..." The subjugation of Iraq would be the first application of "pre-emptive war."
The unprovoked, full-scale invasion and occupation of another country, however, would be an unequivocal example of "the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of another state." That is the formal United Nations definition of military aggression, and a nation can choose to launch it only in self-defense. Otherwise it is an international crime.
President Clinton did not honor the PNAC's request.
But sixteen members of the Project for a New American Century would soon assume prominent positions in the Administration of George W. Bush, including Dick Cheney, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage and John Bolton.
The "significant portion of the world's oil supply" was of immediate concern, because of the commanding influence of the oil industry in the Bush Administration. Beside the president and vice president, eight cabinet secretaries and the national security advisor had direct ties to the industry, and so did 32 others in the departments of Defense, State, Energy, Agriculture, Interior, and the Office of Management and Budget.
Within days of taking office, President Bush appointed Vice President Cheney to chair a National Energy Policy Development Group. Cheney's "Energy Task Force" was composed of the relevant federal officials and dozens of energy industry executives and lobbyists, and it operated in tight secrecy. (The full membership has never been revealed, but Enron's Kenneth Lay is known to have participated, and the Washington Post reported that Exxon-Mobil, Conoco, Shell, and BP America did, too.)
During his second week in office, President Bush convened the first meeting of his National Security Council. It was a triumph for the PNAC. In just one hour-long meeting, the new Bush Administration turned upside down the long-standing focus of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Over Secretary of State Colin Powell's objections, the goal of reconciling the Israel-Palestine conflict was abandoned, and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was set as the new priority. Ron Suskind's book, The Price of Loyalty, describes the meeting in detail.
The Energy Task Force wasted no time, either. Within three weeks of its creation, the group was poring over maps of the Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, tanker terminals, and oil exploration blocks. It studied an inventory of "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts" -- dozens of oil companies from 30 different countries, in various stages of negotiations for exploring and developing Iraqi crude.
Not a single U.S. oil company was among the "suitors," and that was intolerable, given a foreign policy bent on global hegemony. The National Energy Policy document, released May 17, 2001 concluded this: "By any estimation, Middle East oil producers will remain central to world security. The Gulf will be a primary focus of U.S. international energy policy."
That rather innocuous statement can be clarified by a top-secret memo dated February 3, 2001 to the staff of the National Security Council. Cheney's group, the memo said, was "melding" two apparently unrelated areas of policy: "the review of operational policies toward rogue states," such as Iraq, and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields." The memo directed the National Security Council staff to cooperate fully with the Energy Task Force as the "melding" continued. National security policy and international energy policy would be developed as a coordinated whole. This would prove convenient on September 11, 2001, still seven months in the future.
The Bush Administration was drawing a bead on Iraqi oil long before the "global war on terror" was invented. But how could the "capture of new and existing oil fields" be made to seem less aggressive, less arbitrary, less overt?
During April of 2002, almost a full year before the invasion, the State Department launched a policy-development initiative called "The Future of Iraq Project" to accomplish this. The "Oil and Energy Working Group" provided the disguise for "capturing" Iraqi oil. Iraq, it said in its final report, "should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war ... the country should establish a conducive business environment to attract investment in oil and gas resources."
Capture would take the form of investment, and the vehicle for doing so would be the "production sharing agreement."
Under production sharing agreements, or PSAs, oil companies are granted ownership of a "share" of the oil produced, in exchange for investing in development costs, and the contracts are binding for up to 30 years. What would happen, though, if the companies' investments were only minimal, but their shares of the production were obscenely, disproportionately large?
This is hardwired. According to a UK Platform article titled "Crude Designs," production sharing agreements have now been drafted in Baghdad covering 75 percent of the undeveloped Iraqi fields, and the oil companies, waiting to sign the contracts, will earn as much 162 percent on their investments. And the "foreign suitors" are not quite so foreign now: The players on the inside tracks are Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, BP-Amoco and Royal Dutch-Shell.
The use of PSAs will cost the Iraqi people hundreds of billions of dollars in just the first few years of the "investment" program. They would be far better off keeping in place the structure Iraq has relied upon since 1972: a nationalized oil industry leasing pumping rights to the oil companies, who then pay royalties to the central government. That is how it is done today in Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC countries.
Production sharing agreements, heavily favored by the oil companies, were specified by George Bush's State Department. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority drafted an oil law privatizing the oil sector, and American oil interests have lobbied in Baghdad ever since then for the PSAs. Apparently successfully: The Oil Committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih is said currently to be "leaning" toward them.
With the capture of Iraqi oil resources prospectively disguised, the Halliburton company was then hired, secretly, to design a fire suppression strategy for the Iraqi oil fields. If oil wells were to be torched during the upcoming war (as Saddam did in Kuwait in 1991), the Bush Administration would be prepared to extinguish them rapidly. The contract with Halliburton was signed in the fall of 2002. Congress had yet to authorize the use of force in Iraq.
So a line of dots begins to point at Iraq, though nothing illegal or unconstitutional has yet taken place. We are still in the policy-formulation stage, but two "seemingly unrelated areas of policy" -- national security policy and international energy policy -- have become indistinguishable.
The strategic location of Afghanistan can scarcely be overstated. The Caspian Basin contains up to $16 trillion worth of oil and gas resources, and the most direct pipeline route to the richest markets is through Afghanistan.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the first western oil company to take action in the Basin was the Bridas Corporation of Argentina. It acquired production leases and exploration contracts in the region, and by November of 1996 had signed an agreement with General Dostum of the Northern Alliance and with the Taliban to build a pipeline across Afghanistan.
Not to be outdone, the American company Unocal (aided by an Arabian company, Delta Oil) fought Bridas at every turn. Unocal wanted exclusive control of the trans-Afghan pipeline and hired a number of consultants in its conflict with Bridas: Henry Kissinger, Richard Armitage (now Deputy Secretary of State in the Bush Administration), Zalmay Khalilzad (a signer of the PNAC letter to President Clinton) and Hamid Karzai.
Unocal wooed Taliban leaders at its headquarters in Texas, and hosted them in meetings with federal officials in Washington, D.C.
Unocal and the Clinton Administration hoped to have the Taliban cancel the Bridas contract, but were getting nowhere. Finally, Mr. John J. Maresca, a Unocal Vice President, testified to a House Committee of International Relations on February 12, 1998, asking politely to have the Taliban removed and a stable government inserted. His discomfort was well placed.
Six months later terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and two weeks after that President Clinton launched a cruise missile attack into Afghanistan. Clinton issued an executive order on July 4, 1999, freezing the Taliban's U.S.-held assets and prohibiting further trade transactions with the Taliban.
Mr. Maresca could count that as progress. More would follow.
Immediately upon taking office, the new Bush Administration actively took up negotiating with the Taliban once more, seeking still to have the Bridas contract vacated, in exchange for a tidy package of foreign aid. The parties met three times, in Washington, Berlin, and Islamablad, but the Taliban wouldn't budge.
Behind the negotiations, however, planning was underway to take military action if necessary. In the spring of 2001 the State Department sought and gained concurrence from both India and Pakistan to do so, and in July of 2001, American officials met with Pakistani and Russian intelligence agents to inform them of planned military strikes against Afghanistan the following October. A British newspaper told of the U.S. threatening both the Taliban and Osama bin Laden -- two months before 9/11 -- with military strikes.
According to an article in the UK Guardian, State Department official Christina Rocca told the Taliban at their last pipeline negotiation in August of 2001, just five weeks before 9/11, "Accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs."
The Great Game and Its Players
The geostrategic imperative of reliable oil supplies has a long history, arguably beginning with the British Navy in World War I. First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill repowered the British fleet -- from coal (abundant in the UK) to oil (absent in the UK), and thus began the Great Game: jockeying by the world powers for the strategic control of petroleum. (Churchill did this to replace with oil pumps the men needed to shovel coal -- a large share of the crew -- so they could man topside battle stations instead.) Iraq today is a British creation, formed almost a century ago to supply the British fleet with fuel, and it is still a focal point of the Game.
The players have changed as national supremacy has changed, as oil companies have morphed over time, and as powerful men have lived out their destinies.
Among the major players today are the Royal family of Saudi Arabia and the Bush family of the state of Maine (more recently of Texas). And they are closely and intimately related. The relationship goes back several generations, but it was particularly poignant in the first Gulf War in 1990-91, when the U.S. and British armed forces stopped Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, before his drive reached the Arabian oil fields. Prime Minister John Major of the UK, and President George H.W. Bush became the much esteemed champions of the Arabian monarchy, and James Baker, Bush's Secretary of State, was well regarded, too. (Years earlier, Mr. Baker and a friend of the royal family's had been business partners, in building a skyscraper bank building in Houston.)
The Carlyle Group: Where the Players Meet to Profit
After President Bush, Secretary Baker, and Prime Minister Major left office, they all became active participants and investors in the Carlyle Group, a global private equity investment firm comprised of dozens of former world leaders, international business executives (including the family of Osama bin Laden); former diplomats, and high-profile political operatives from four U.S. Administrations. For years, Carlyle would serve as the icon of the Bush/Saudi relationship.
Carlyle, with its headquarters just six blocks from the White House, invests heavily in all the industries involved in the Great Game: the defense, security, and energy industries, and it profits enormously from the Afghan and Iraqi wars.
In the late 1980s, Carlyle's personal networking brought together George W. Bush, the future 43rd U.S. president, and $50,000 of financial backing for his Texas oil company, Arbusto Energy. The investor was Salem bin Laden (half-brother of Osama bin Laden) who managed the Carlyle investments of the Saudi bin Laden Group. (After the tragedy of 9/11, by mutual consent, the bin Laden family and Carlyle terminated their business dealings.) George Bush left Carlyle in 1992 to run for governor of Texas.
Ex-President Bush, Ex-Prime Minister Major, and Ex Secretary Baker, in the 1990's, were Carlyle's advance team, scouring the world for profitable investments and investors. In Saudi Arabia they met with the royal family, and with the two wealthiest, non-royal families -- the bin Ladens and the bin Mahfouzes.
Khalid bin Mahfouz was prominent in Delta Oil, Unocal's associate in the Afghan pipeline conflict. He was later accused of financing al Qaeda, and named in a trillion dollar lawsuit brought by the families of 9/11 victims. (It was Mr. bin Mahfouz who had been Mr. Baker's business associate in Houston.)
Carlyle retained James Baker's Houston law firm, Baker-Botts, and Baker himself served as Carlyle Senior Counselor from 1993 until 2005. (Other clients of Baker-Botts: Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Texaco, Shell, Amoco, Conoco-Phillips, Halliburton, and Enron.)
Mr. Baker has long been willing to put foremost the financial advantage of himself, his firm, and his friends, often at the expense of patriotism and public service. As President Reagan's Secretary of the Treasury, he presided over the savings-and-loan scandal, in which S&L executives like Charles Keating and the current President's brother Neil Bush handed the American taxpayers a bill to pay, over a 40-year period, of $1.2 trillion. His law firm willingly took on the defense of Prince Sultan bin Abdul Azis, the Saudi Defense Minister sued by the families of 9/11 victims for complicity in the attacks.
We will encounter Mr. Baker again soon.
September 11, 2001
In September of 2000, the Project for a New American Century published a report, "Rebuilding America's Defenses." It advocated pre-emptive war once again, but noted its acceptance would be difficult in the absence of "some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor."
President Bush formally established the PNAC's prescription for pre-emptive, premeditated war as U.S. policy when he signed a document entitled "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America" early in his first term.
Still nothing illegal or unconstitutional had been done.
But the rationale and the planning for attacking both Afghanistan and Iraq were in place. The preparations had all been done secretly, wholly within the executive branch. The Congress was not informed until the endgame, when President Bush, making his dishonest case for the "war on terror" asked for and was granted the discretion to use military force. The American people were equally uninformed and misled. Probably never before in our history was such a drastic and momentous action undertaken with so little public knowledge or Congressional oversight: the dispatch of America's armed forces into four years of violence, at horrendous costs in life and treasure.
Then a catastrophic event took place. A hijacked airliner probably en route to the White House crashes in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon was afire, and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were rubble.
In the first hours of frenetic response, fully aware of al Qaeda's culpability, both President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld sought frantically to link Saddam Hussein to the attacks, as we know from Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies. They anxiously waited to proceed with their planned invasion of Iraq.
If the Bush Administration needed a reason to proceed with their invasions, they could not have been handed a more fortuitous and spectacular excuse, and they played their hand brilliantly.
9/11 was a shocking event of unprecedented scale, but it was simply not an invasion of national security. It was a localized criminal act of terrorism, and to compare it, as the Bush Administration immediately did, to Pearl Harbor was ludicrous: The hijacked airliners were not the vanguard of a formidable naval armada, an air force, and a standing army ready to engage in all out war, as the Japanese were prepared to do and did in 1941.
By equating a criminal act of terrorism with a military threat of invasion, the Bush Administration consciously adopted fear mongering as a mode of governance. It was an extreme violation of the public trust, but it served perfectly their need to justify warfare.
As not a few disinterested observers noted at the time, international criminal terrorism is best countered by international police action, which Israel and other nations have proven many times over to be effective. Military mobilization is irrelevant. It has proven to be counterproductive.
Why, then, was a "war" declared on "terrorists and states that harbor terrorists?"
The pre-planned attack on Afghanistan, as we have seen, was meant to nullify the contract between the Taliban and the Bridas Corporation. It was a matter of international energy policy. It had nothing to do, as designed, with apprehending Osama bin Laden -- a matter of security policy.
But the two "seemingly unrelated areas of policy" had been "melded," so here was an epic opportunity to bait-and-switch. Conjoining the terrorists and the states that harbored them made "war" plausible, and the Global War on Terror was born: It would be necessary to overthrow the Taliban as well as to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.
(In retrospect, the monumental fraud of the "war on terror" is crystal clear. In Afghanistan the Taliban was overthrown instead of bringing the terrorist Osama bin Laden to justice, and in Iraq there were no terrorists at all. But Afghanistan and Iraq are dotted today with permanent military bases guarding the seized petroleum assets.)
On October 7, 2001 the carpet of bombs is unleashed over Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai, the former Unocal consultant, is installed as head of an interim government. Subsequently he is elected President of Afghanistan, and welcomes the first U.S. envoy -- Mr. John J. Maresca, the Vice President of the Unocal Corporation who had implored Congress to have the Taliban overthrown. Mr. Maresca was succeeded by Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad -- also a former Unocal consultant. (Mr. Khalilzad has since become Ambassador to Iraq, and has now been nominated to replace John Bolton, his PNAC colleague, as the ambassador to the UN.)
With the Taliban banished and the Bridas contract moot, Presidents Karzai of Afghanistan and Musharraf of Pakistan meet on February 8, 2002, sign an agreement for a new pipeline, and the way forward is open for Unocal/Delta once more.
The Bridas contract was breached by U.S. military force, but behind the combat was Unocal. Bridas sued Unocal in the U.S. courts for contract interference and won, overcoming Richard Ben Veniste's law firm in 2004. That firm had multibillion-dollar interests in the Caspian Basin and shared an office in Uzbekistan with the Enron Corporation. In 2004, Mr. Ben Veniste was serving as a 9/11 Commissioner.
About a year after the Karzai/Musharraf agreement was signed, an article in the trade journal "Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections" described the readiness of three US federal agencies to finance the prospective pipeline: the U.S. Export/Import Bank, the Trade and Development Agency, and the Overseas Private Insurance Corporation. The article continued, "...some recent reports ... indicated ... the United States was willing to police the pipeline infrastructure through permanent stationing of its troops in the region." The article appeared on February 23, 2003.
The objective of the first premeditated war was now achieved. The Bush Administration stood ready with financing to build the pipeline across Afghanistan, and with a permanent military presence to protect it.
Within two months President Bush sent the armed might of America sweeping into Iraq.
Then came the smokescreen of carefully crafted deceptions. The staging of the Jessica Lynch rescue. The toppling of the statue in Baghdad. Mission accomplished. The orchestrated capture, kangaroo court trial, and hurried execution of Saddam Hussein. Nascent "democracy" in Iraq. All were scripted to burnish the image of George Bush's fraudulent war.
The smokescreen includes the cover-up of 9/11. Initially and fiercely resisting any inquiry at all, President Bush finally appoints a 10-person "9/11 Commission."
The breathtaking exemptions accorded President Bush and Vice President Cheney in the inquiry rendered the entire enterprise a farce: They were "interviewed" together, no transcription of the conversation was allowed, and they were not under oath. The Commission report finally places the blame on "faulty intelligence."
Many of the 10 commissioners, moreover, were burdened with stunning conflicts of interest -- Mr. Ben Veniste, for example -- mostly by their connections to the oil and defense industries. The Carlyle Group contributed to Commissioner Tim Roemer's political campaigns. Commission Chairman Thomas Kean was a Director of Amerada Hess, which had formed a partnership with Delta Oil, the Arabian company of Khalid bin Mahfouz, and that company was teamed with Unocal in the Afghan pipeline project. Vice-Chairman Lee Hamilton serves on the board of Stonebridge International consulting group, which is advising Gulfsands Petroleum and Devon Energy Corporation about Iraqi oil opportunities.
The apparent manipulation of pre-war intelligence is not addressed by the 9/11 Commission, the veracity of the Administration's lies and distortions is assumed without question, and the troubling incongruities of 9/11 are ignored: The theories of controlled demolition, the prior short-selling of airline stock, the whole cottage industry of skepticism.
The doubters and critics of 9/11 are often dismissed as conspiracy crazies, but you needn't claim conspiracy to be skeptical. Why did both President Bush and Vice President Cheney pressure Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to forego any investigation at all? Failing in that, why did the President then use "Executive Privilege" so often to withhold and censor documents? Why did the White House refuse to testify under oath? Why the insistence on the loopy and unrecorded Oval Office interview of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney simultaneously?
There is much we don't know about 9/11.
The Iraq Study Group
Viewing the carnage in Iraq, and seeking desperately to find a way out of it, the U.S. Congress appointed on March 15, 2006 the Iraq Study Group. It was also called the Baker-Hamilton Commission after its co-chairmen, the peripatetic problem-solvers James Baker and Lee Hamilton. It was charged with assessing the situation in Iraq and making policy recommendations.
The Commission assessed the situation as "grave and deteriorating" and recommended substantive changes in handling it: draw down the troop levels and negotiate with Syria and Iran. These recommendations were rejected out of hand by the Bush Administration, but those about the oil sector could hardly have been more pleasing.
The Commission's report urged Iraqi leaders to "... reorganize the national industry as a commercial enterprise." That sounds like code for privatizing the industry (which had been nationalized in 1972.) In case that wasn't clear enough, the Commission encouraged "...investment in Iraq's oil sector by the international energy companies." That sounds like code for Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, Conoco/Phillips, BP/Amoco and Royal Dutch Shell. The Commission urged support for the World Bank's efforts to "ensure that best practices are used in contracting." And that sounds like code for Production Sharing Agreements.
Mr. Baker is a clever and relentless man. He will endorse pages and pages of changes in strategy and tactics -- but leave firmly in place the one inviolable purpose of the conflict in Iraq: capturing the oil.
A Colossus of Failure
The objectives of the oil wars may be non-negotiable, but that doesn't guarantee their successful achievement.
The evidence suggests the contrary.
As recently as January of 2005, the Associated Press expected construction of the Trans Afghan Pipeline to begin in 2006. So did News Central Asia. But by October of 2006, NCA was talking about construction "... as soon as there is stability in Afghanistan."
As the Taliban, the warlords, and the poppy growers reclaim control of the country, clearly there is no stability in Afghanistan, and none can be expected soon.
Unocal has been bought up by the Chevron Corporation. The Bridas Corporation is now part of BP/Amoco. Searching the companies' websites for "Afghanistan pipeline" yields, in both cases, zero results. Nothing is to be found on the sites of the prospective funding agencies. The pipeline project appears to be dead.
The Production Sharing Agreements for Iraq's oil fields cannot be signed until the country's oil policies are codified in statute. That was supposed to be done by December of 2006, but Iraq is in a state of chaotic violence. The "hydrocarbon law" is struggling along -- one report suggests it may be in place by March -- so the signing of the PSA's will be delayed at least that long.
The U.S. and British companies that stand to gain so much -- Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, Concoco/Phillips, BP/Amoco and Royal Dutch Shell -- will stand a while longer. They may well have to stand down.
On October 31, 2006 the newspaper China Daily reported on the visit to China by Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani. Mr. Shahristani, the story said, "welcomed Chinese oil companies to participate in the reconstruction of the Iraqi oil industry." That was alarming, but understated.
Stratfor, the American investment research service, was more directly to the point, in a report dated September 27, 2006 (a month before Minister Shahristani's visit, so it used the future tense). The Minister "... will talk to the Chinese about honoring contracts from the Saddam Hussein era. ... This announcement could change the face of energy development in the country and leave U.S. firms completely out in the cold."
The oil wars are abject failures. The Project for a New American Century wanted, in a fantasy of retrograde imperialism, to remove Saddam Hussein from power. President George Bush launched an overt act of military aggression to do so, at a cost of more than 3,000 American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and half a trillion dollars. In the process he has exacerbated the threats from international terrorism, ravaged the Iraqi culture, ruined their economy and their public services, sent thousands of Iraqis fleeing their country as refugees, created a maelstrom of sectarian violence, dangerously destabilized the Middle East, demolished the global prestige of the United States, and defamed the American people.
Richard W. Behan lives and writes on Lopez Island, off the northwest coast of Washington state. He is working on a new book, To Provide Against Invasions: Corporate Dominion and America's Derelict Democracy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (This essay is deliberately not copyrighted: It may be reproduced without restriction.)
© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/47489/
For more on this, see the archives here (early posts).
From the book:
"Even in Mexico, Clinton's behavior seemed odd. Jorge Castaneda, who later became Mexico's foreign minister noted, "Clinton's voters were either indifferent or frankly hostile to NAFTA. Instead of a universal and accessible health care system, Clinton gave them the Mexican market, with the blessings of Henry Kissinger."
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
"America's Jacobin Ideologues" by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
I've never looked at Lincoln this way, but there's no denying the truth in a lot of points he makes about the Neo-Con Gang.
Monday, August 06, 2007
It’s been a good Democrats, bad Democrats kind of week. The bill expanding children’s health insurance that just passed in the House makes you want to stand up and cheer. Reports that Senator Charles Schumer opposes plans to close the hedge fund tax loophole make you want to sit down and cry.
Let’s start with the good news: The House bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says would provide coverage to five million children who would otherwise be uninsured.
The bill is so good that it has Republicans spluttering. “The bill uses children as pawns,” declared Representative Pete Sessions of Texas. Yes, the Democrats are exploiting children — by providing them with health care.
The horror, the horror!
What’s especially encouraging is the way House Democrats were willing to take on the insurance companies. The bill pays for children’s health care in part by cutting subsidies to Medicare Advantage, a privatization scheme that yields big profits for insurers, but that the budget office estimates would cost taxpayers $54 billion in excess payments over the next five years.
Earlier this year I worried that many Democrats would be taken in by the insurance industry’s disinformation campaign in support of its subsidies, which included the pretense that Medicare Advantage offers big benefits to minority groups. In the end, however, House Democrats refused to be rolled.
All in all, the bill is both a fine piece of legislation and a demonstration that Democrats can stand up to special interests. Happy days are here again.
Or maybe not.
The hedge fund tax loophole is a crystal-clear example of unjustified privilege. Because of a quirk in the law, the people who run these funds don’t pay taxes like ordinary mortals.
For example, the salaries that pension fund employees receive for managing other peoples’ money are taxed as ordinary income, at rates up to 35 percent. But if that money is invested with a hedge fund — and 40 percent of the money in hedge funds comes from public, corporate and union pension plans — the fees the hedge fund manager receives for his services are mainly taxed as capital gains, with a maximum rate of 15 percent.
The arguments usually made on behalf of this unique privilege make no sense. We’re told that the tax rate on hedge fund managers has to be kept low to encourage risk-taking. But the managers aren’t risking their own money. The only risk they face is the uncertainty of their fees — and as any waitress who depends on tips or salesman who depends on commissions can tell you, most people with uncertain incomes don’t get any special tax breaks.
We’re also told that management fees would rise, reducing returns to investors, if the privileged status of fund managers is eliminated — as if someone with a $100-million-a-year hedge fund job would walk away if his take-home pay fell from $85 million to $65 million.
And we’re talking about a lot of lost revenue here. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the hedge fund loophole costs the government $6.3 billion a year — the cost of providing health care to three million children. Of that total, almost $2 billion a year in unjustified tax breaks goes to just 25 individuals.
If being a Democrat means anything, it means opposing this kind of exorbitant privilege. Yet according to a report in The Times earlier this week, Mr. Schumer says that he opposes any increase in hedge fund taxes unless tax breaks for the energy and real estate industries are also eliminated, and pigs start flying. Seriously, his claim that he really would support closing the hedge fund loophole if other, deeply entrenched tax privileges were eliminated at the same time is a fig leaf that hides nothing.
Mr. Schumer, who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, insists that the large financial contributions that hedge funds make to his party aren’t influencing him. Well, I can’t read his mind, but from the outside his position looks remarkably like money-driven politics as usual. And that’s not acceptable.
Look, the worst thing that could happen to Democrats is for voters to conclude that there’s no real difference between the parties, that when you replace Republicans with Democrats, all you do is replace sweet deals for Halliburton with sweet deals for hedge funds. The hedge fund loophole is a test — and it’s one that Mr. Schumer is failing.
By Paul Craig Roberts
As the Bush Regime outfits B-2 stealth bombers with 30,000 pound monster "bunker buster" bombs for its coming attack on Iran, the US economy continues its 21st century decline. While profits soar for the armaments industry, the American people continue to take it on the chin.
The latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the real wages and salaries of US civilian workers are below those of 5 years ago. It could not be otherwise with US corporations offshoring good jobs in order to reduce labor costs and, thereby, to convert wages once paid to Americans into multi-million dollar bonuses paid to CEOs and other top management.
Good jobs that still remain in the US are increasingly filled with foreign workers brought in on work visas. Corporate public relations departments have successfully spread the lie that there is a shortage of qualified US workers, necessitating the importation into the US of foreigners. The truth is that the US corporations force their American employees to train the lower paid foreigners who take their jobs. Otherwise, the discharged American gets no severance pay. [See, for example, BofA: Train your replacement, or no severance pay for you By David Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle, 2006 ]
Law firms, such as Cohen & Grigsby, compete in marketing their services to US corporations on how to evade the law and to replace their American employees with lower paid foreigners. As Lawrence Lebowitz, vice president at Cohen & Grigsby, [send him mail] explained in the law firm’s marketing video, "our goal is clearly, not to find a qualified and interested US worker."
Meanwhile, US colleges and universities continue to graduate hundreds of thousands of qualified engineers, IT professionals, and other professionals who will never have the opportunity to work in the professions for which they have been trained. America today is like India of yesteryear, with engineers working as bartenders, taxi cab drivers, waitresses, and employed in menial work in dog kennels as the offshoring of US jobs dismantles the ladders of upward mobility for US citizens.
Over the last year (from June 2006 through June 2007) the US economy created 1.6 million net private sector jobs. As Charles McMillion of MBG Information Services reports each month, essentially all of the new jobs are in low-paid domestic services that do not require a college education.
The category, "Leisure and hospitality," accounts for 30% of the new jobs, of which 387,000 are bartenders and waitresses, 38,000 are workers in motels and hotels, and 50,000 are employed in entertainment and recreation.
The category, "Education and health services," accounts for 35% of the gain in employment, of which 100,000 are in educational services and 456,000 are in health care and social assistance, principally ambulatory health care services and hospitals.
"Professional and technical services" accounts for 268,000 of the new jobs. "Finance and insurance" added 93,000 new jobs, of which about one quarter are in real estate and about one half are in insurance. "Transportation and warehousing" added 65,000 jobs, and wholesale and retail trade added 185,000.
Over the entire year, the US economy created merely 51,000 jobs in architectural and engineering services, less than the 76,000 jobs created in management and technical consulting (essentially laid-off white collar professionals).
Except for a well-connected few graduates, who find their way into Wall Street investment banks, top law firms, and private medical practice, American universities today consist of detention centers to delay for four or five years the entry of American youth into unskilled domestic services.
Meanwhile the rich are getting much richer and luxuriating in the most fantastic conspicuous consumption since the Gilded Age. Robert Frank has dubbed the new American world of the super-rich "Richistan."
In Richistan there is a two-year waiting list for $50 million 200-foot yachts. In Richistan Rolex watches are considered Wal-Mart junk. Richistanians sport $736,000 Franck Muller timepieces, sign their names with $700,000 Mont Blanc jewel-encrusted pens. Their valets, butlers (with $100,000 salaries), and bodyguards carry the $42,000 Louis Vitton handbags of wives and mistresses.
Richistanians join clubs open only to those with $100 million, pay $650,000 for golf club memberships, eat $50 hamburgers and $1,000 omelettes, drink $90 a bottle Bling mineral water and down $10,000 "martinis on a rock" (gin or vodka poured over a diamond) at New York’s Algonquin Hotel.
Who are the Richistanians? They are CEOs who have moved their companies abroad and converted the wages they formerly paid Americans into $100 million compensation packages for themselves. They are investment bankers and hedge fund managers, who created the subprime mortgage derivatives that currently threaten to collapse the economy. One of them was paid $1.7 billion last year. The $575 million that each of 25 other top earners were paid is paltry by comparison, but unimaginable wealth to everyone else.
Some of the super rich, such as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, have benefitted society along with themselves. Both Buffet and Gates are concerned about the rapidly rising income inequality in the US. They are aware that America is becoming a feudal society in which the super-rich compete in conspicuous consumption, while the serfs struggle merely to survive.
With the real wages and salaries of American civilian workers lower than 5 years ago, with their debts at all time highs, with the prices of their main asset--their homes--under pressure from overbuilding and fraudulent finance, and with scant opportunities to rise for the children they struggled to educate, Americans face a dim future.
Indeed, their plight is worse than the official statistics indicate. During the Clinton administration, the Boskin Commission rigged the inflation measures in order to hold down indexed Social Security payments to retirees.
Another deceit is the measure called "core inflation." This measure of inflation excludes food and energy, two large components of the average family’s budget. Wall Street and corporations and, therefore, the media emphasize core inflation, because it holds down cost of living increases and interest rates. In the second quarter of this year, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a more complete measure of inflation, increased at an annual rate of 5.2% compared to 2.3% for core inflation.
An examination of how inflation is measured quickly reveals the games played to deceive the American people. Housing prices are not in the index. Instead, the rental rate of housing is used as a proxy for housing prices.
More games are played with the goods and services whose prices comprise the weighted market basket used to estimate inflation. If beef prices rise, for example, the index shifts toward lower priced chicken. Inflation is thus held down by substituting lower priced products for those whose prices are rising faster. As the weights of the goods in the basket change, the inflation measure does not reflect a constant pattern of expenditures. Some economists compare the substitution used to minimize the measured rate of inflation to substituting sweaters for fuel oil.
Other deceptions, not all intentional, abound in official US statistics. Business Week’s June 18 cover story [The Real Cost Of Offshoring, by Michael Mandel] used the recent important work by Susan N. Houseman to explain that much of the hyped gains in US productivity and GDP are "phantom gains" that are not really there.
Other phantom productivity gains are produced by corporations that shift business costs to consumers by, for example, having callers listen to advertisements while they wait for a customer service representative, and by pricing items in the inflation basket according to the low prices of stores that offer customers no service. The longer callers can be made to wait, the fewer the customer representatives the company needs to employ. The loss of service is not considered in the inflation measure. It shows up instead as a gain in productivity.
In American today the greatest rewards go to investment bankers, who collect fees for creating financing packages for debt. These packages include the tottering subprime mortgage derivatives. Recently, a top official of the Bank of France acknowledged that the real values of repackaged debt instruments are unknown to both buyers and sellers. Many of the derivatives have never been priced by the market.
Think of derivatives as a mutual fund of debt, a combination of good mortgages, subprime mortgages, credit card debt, auto loans, and who knows what. Not even institutional buyers know what they are buying or how to evaluate it. Arcane pricing models are used to produce values, and pay incentives bias the assigned values upward.
Richistan wealth may prove artificial and crash, bringing an end to the new Gilded Age. But the plight of the rich in distress will never compare to the decimation of America’s middle class. The offshoring of American jobs has destroyed opportunities for generations of Americans. Never before in our history has the elite had such control over the government. To run for national office requires many millions of dollars, the raising of which puts "our" elected representatives and "our" president himself at the beck and call of the few moneyed interests that financed the campaigns.
America as the land of opportunity has passed into history.
COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.
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Sunday, August 05, 2007
"In a recent talk with liberal journalists, Nancy Pelosi offered a second kind of prudential reservation: impeachment or censure, of either Cheney or Bush, would "divide the country." That is the same species of wisdom that prevailed with Al Gore when he withheld his support from the late petitions charging voter fraud in Florida in the election of 2000. He was choosing not to divide the country.
The trouble is that Cheney and Bush are happy to divide the country. They mean to play their terrible hand to the end; and they do not take no for an answer. Compromise with them, and you are the one who is compromised. The statement by Dick Cheney in January 2007, about the impact of the election on his plans for the Middle East, showed the curious streak of frankness that marks his political character. "It won't stop us," he said.
Now, in a constitutional democracy, there are two ways of stopping the claims of a leader out of control. One is by an appeal to the voters; the other is by an appeal to the laws. The vice president (and, therefore, the president) having declared his independence of the people, it would seem that the best remaining protection is the laws. If, on the other hand, the opposition are unwilling to resort to the laws--if, from a combination of timidity and tactical reasoning, they refuse to defend their own function as lawmakers--for what purpose do they exist?"
Thursday, August 02, 2007
"Ron Paul is one of those “free market” zealots (a scary breed of faith-based politician) who honestly believe unregulated capitalism is the cure for all of society’s ills. We tried that in the late 1800’s and we ended up with the Gilded Age, steel monopolies, children working
in factories, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, etc. This “Invisible Hand” bullshit would lead us back to that awful time. Ron Paul’s rhetoric sounds good when you’re trying to get a crowd of people to pump their fists, but in terms of actually solving problems, it’s lunacy."
Amen. Nicely put.
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Tuesday, July 31, 2007
One of the greatest artists of the 20th century.
One of the six greatest filmakers of all time. Artist of alienation and the pain of the mind body schizm in modern times. Transcendent camera as with all six great ones.
From his greatest work IMO, "The Silence" - genius of cinema, a still contemplative witnessing camera - poet of mid-20th century modernist alienation: mind divorced from body.
A landmark film - pure breakthrough cinema from Bergman - not just depicting, but living inside the existential dread-abyss of Modernity and its loss of mythic meaning. Two sisters' polarized answers to that dread - one deadens herself - the other seeks escape in mindless sensuality - while the son is abandoned to wander in an empty hotel with only absurd characters to play with, all in a stifling, gray, nameless, tank-ridden, Soviet-Kafkaesque-Eastern block industrial- waste, oppressive city. (I'd be very surprised if this film wasn't a seminal influence on David Lynch.) Brilliant performance by Ingrid Thulin as the cerebral, repressed sister. Startling and beautiful imagery and montage (visual and aural), brilliantly depicting the alienated inner and outer worlds.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Alternet - link -
Two Trillion Spent on Healthcare Each Year: A Sick Way to Prop Up an Ailing Economy -
I had kind of given up on Carlin, or, at least hadn't been paying much attention to him, but he's baaaack, with a vengenace - get 'em George!
Sunday, July 22, 2007
hatha yoga in the modern world -
When you a) re-connect the body to the mind, i.e. repair/heal the European dissociation of the 17-18th cent. enlightenment, and b) focus on the body on TOP of the mind, which is already on top of the body, you are now learning to be aware of your BODYMIND, which is a higher actualized form - a snyergy (you're higher, biigger and deeper) - you are growing and transforming in your the potential always already.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Saturday, July 07, 2007
She is dipping, coasting, and soraing into , pre- , modern, and trans- - it's the usual muddle that's unfortunate but the trans- asepcts are great. For instance, she said all these differences have opporessed us - we are all AMERICANS - that chauvinism is pre-pluralistic - but of coursethere is integral pluralistic that's the real vision. She also said "sexual preference" not orientation.
Her populism and emphasis on truth is good enough for me, now.
Watching Alicia Keys perform - some sentimentality from the low orange level - that's ok - but more sincerity in the high orange would be nice - it really depends on your kosmic address - Ken Wilber's system of mapping levels, etc. It sounds dry, but it's anything but...and Alicia is a near gem - very nice passionate warm voice - a solid B+. I can't help the critic in me - shoulda been one.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
A Letter On
America and Iraq
As I write this America is reeling from two shocking events. The revelation of the extent of abuse of Iraqi prisoners and the beheading of Nicolas Berg in retaliation. How did it get to this?
As we enter the second year of the war we now know that it was based on lies and myths.
- We now know that there was no imminent threat and no WMD. The main coalition governments (the US, UK and Australia) have been rocked by allegations of a general intelligence failure and of particular concern, intelligence agencies distorting information to suit the political ideology of their conservative leaders.
- We also now know that rather than defeat terrorism the war in Iraq has actually helped fan the fire. The US claimed that the war was a necessary part of the more general war against terrorism. Instead terrorists have flocked to Iraq to attack coalition troops. Spain has suffered a devastating attack and attacks continue within Saudi Arabia.
- Now the US has lost the moral high ground. As the extent of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners is revealed we find that the US has systematically breached the Geneva convention. The US was supposed to be rescuing Iraq from tyranny. Now we find that Abu Ghraib, the prison used by Saddam, is now notorious for abuse at the hands of the US.
At the beginning of the war I was one of the many who protested. I did not protest to protect Saddam. I was well aware of the nature of his regime. I protested because I did not trust the US. I protested because I feared that the US's unilateral action would make things worse for Iraqis, the Middle East and the world.
I know it sounds like hubris – I told you so. But I did tell you so. In previous articles I raised doubts about the WMD argument and the lie of the connection of Saddam to the events of 9/11. Why did I know this a year ago? This is the real issue. The reason I was able to predict the outcome was that we have seen it all before. There is an often quoted maxim – those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it. What I did was extrapolate from the past performance of US foreign policy and understand what Bush was really about. It wasn't difficult.
The question is why wasn't Wilber able to see this? Integral theory ought to be a clarifying lens. There were warning signs all over the place.
The nature of the Bush presidency
Both Wilber and Beck have mentioned that there have been consultations with Bush's people, including consultations with Jeb Bush. I don't know the extent or nature of these consultations, or why they thought it important to mention the fact. However, we can surmise by the outcome that these consultations had no effect.
It was probably worth a try but unfortunately at the same time Bush was also consulting with the Christian right. In the lead up to his nomination it has been revealed that George Bush attended a secret meeting chaired by Tim LaHaye and attended by several luminaries in the fundamentalist Christian political movement known as Dominionism.
Tim LaHaye is an interesting character. He is the religious authority behind the 'Left Behind' series of novels. LaHaye believes in the literal truth of the Bible and that the literal reading of the Book of Revelations means that the world will face an end times 'tribulation'. Yes folks, Satan will arise – where? Babylon. And then Jesus will return for the much predicted and anticipated second coming.
At this point we need to pause and realize that this is crazy - this is plain irrational. But the really scary part of this lunatic narrative is that George Bush, the president of the US, met with a crazy man to seek his approval. That alone should have been reason to dismiss Bush out of hand.
The way to find out what constituencies are being appeased by a president is to look at the nature of his appointments. When you investigate the Bush administration you find it peppered, not with integral thinkers, but with right-wing, even fundamentalist, Christians. John Ashcroft and Condolezza Rice are perhaps the most high profile, but there are others, particularly in the health field, as part of a pro-life campaign to reverse Roe vs Wade. Politicians are also recruiting interns from colleges that openly promote fundamentalism.
But really, none of this should be surprising. Recent Gallup polls show that around 46% of the US population describe themselves as 'born again' Christian. Some of this is copy cat behaviour. There is a trend in America to embrace God. Celebrities and aspiring stars on reality shows thank God and remark that He has answered their prayers – as if winning American Idol is something God would take a personal interest in (let alone select one believer over another – or is it all about how hard you pray?).
The USA is a schizophrenic place. It was colonized by a range of religious refugees. In Salem they burnt witches. Joseph Smith claimed to be visited by angels and to be given a golden tablet – thus founding the Mormon religion. In the Appalachian mountains a small sect handles serpents, and despite several being bitten and some dying, continue to argue that their faith protects them. In other parts of the country the Amish reject modernity and travel by horse and buggy. Yet the nation was founded by men who embraced the ideals of the European Enlightenment, a movement that rejected the types of stupidities that spawned a hundred religious cults.
But rather than defeat religious quackery in the US and establish a solid secular, Enlightenment culture, American culture created a strange, hybrid creature. A creature that mythologized democracy.
This was brought home to me as I was contemplating writing this. I was up early one morning and turned on the TV. To fill the space at that hour one of our commercial channels broadcasts the televangelist Benny Hinn. This particular morning he was interviewing Pat Robertson. Pat Robertson is connected to the Bush family and is one of the leading figures in the fundamentalist political movement. His father was Senator Willis Robertson who was a friend and mentor to Prescott Bush, Dubbya's grandfather. This particular morning Robertson and Hinn were waxing lyrical about how God had given America a sacred purpose – and then Hinn dropped the real bombshell. Hinn is an immigrant and he began to talk about how impressed he was with the Constitution. Then he said rather emotionally, that when he reads the constitution he sees the hand of Jesus. Again we need to pause and reflect on that statement. The Constitution was not the work of the Enlightenment and secular values, it was really the work of Jesus.
This is what is happening in the US today. It's culture and history is being reinterpreted through mythic eyes. A personal God answers contestants prayers and ensures they win everything from boxing matches, lottery prizes and reality television games – and he directs the US in His quest to bring 'freedom' to the rest of the world.
The problem is that this is all mythic thinking. The problem is that the world's hyper power has a significant percentage of its population still at the mythic level – they haven't ever, really engaged the Enlightenment and the rational stage. Dangerously significant numbers of the American population are still pre-rational.
The real culture wars
Certain sections of America have always wrestled with modernity. The only place that seriously challenged Darwin's theory of evolution was America. The Scope's monkey trial is infamous. The problem is that this conflict is still raging. The US is the home of creationism and fundamentalists still continue to argue that it should be given equal standing to evolutionary science.
This still continues to amaze me. Why aren't people falling about laughing? Evolution is a fact. The last nail in the coffin of creationism was genetic mapping. Both the human and chimpanzee genome have now been mapped and the results show that we share about 98% of the same sequencing. Genetic mapping is now revolutionizing taxonomy and we are able to show with greater accuracy the family tree of each species.
But mythic thinking, despite all the evidence to the contrary, persists. And it has always fought modernity. The concern of the fundamentalists has always been what they regard as the corrupting influence of secularism. In the US the religious conservatives quite happily conflate secularism with a range of so-called corrupting influences such as liberalism, communism and minority rights. In the most outrageous rhetoric secularism is seen as Satanic.
All of this would be laughable if it wasn't actually affecting the way Americans perceive themselves and the rest of the world. Unfortunately many rational and post-rational people turn a blind eye to just how powerful and influential pre-rational thought really is.
Throughout his work Ken Wilber has commented on what he calls the culture wars. This is the marked battle between conservative and liberal worldviews, particularly in academic circles. Wilber has chosen in particular to cast a critical eye over the clear excesses of postmodernism and the fads that permeate cultural studies. His has been one of many voices now rightly declaiming the excesses and stupidities.
The excesses of postmodernism are now in retreat and a new conservatism permeates the US.
And while all this was happening the religious conservatives have been growing in strength. The number of fundamentalist colleges and universities in the US have been growing. The advances of a positive liberal and progressive agenda are in fact being wound back.
The real threat to Enlightenment values is in fact not an aberrant post-modernism but a resurgent pre-modernism.
Saudi Arabia, oil and the US
There are a complex set of links between the Saud dynasty, capital derived from oil profits and the Bush family. The links are public knowledge. There are even financial links between the bin Laden dynasty and the Bush dynasty.
This is nothing surprising. The oil industry needs capital to invest in new explorations and the Saud dynasty was awash with spare cash. Why wouldn't Dubbya seek Saudi capital to help float his oil business?
It's one of the ironies of history that a president captured by the 'born-again' narrative is waging a crusade against fundamentalist Islam.
As I have argued before the origins of Islamic fundamentalism lie within the narrative of Arabic culture. The Saud family made an alliance with Mohammed Abd al-Wahhab in 1745. The Arab tribes have always embraced a strictly puritan Islam. When the modern Saudi state was rebuilt in the early 20th Century it was due to the military strength of the combined tribes known as the Ikwhan. But after the Saudi state was established the Ikwhan campaigned against the introduction of modernity, including, of all things, the telegraph – an infidel technology (some Wahhabi clerics taught that the earth was flat up until the late 1990's). The Saud dynasty had to turn against the Ikwhan – but the deep puritanism of the desert tribes never left Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden is simply the latest manifestation of a long standing tendency of Islam that dates as far back as the assassination of Ali at the hands of Kharijite fanatics. The real agenda of radical Islam is to overthrow the decadent Saud dynasty and establish a true Islamic state.
As is well known today the Wahhabi sect have used Saudi wealth to establish a missionary network throughout the Islamic world building mosques in places as far away as Cambodia and funding fundamentalist Islamic schools, madrassas, in every Muslim community. Part of that money has gone to the al Qaida network to fund jihad. When the planes attacked the WTC it was a direct attack on the symbol of the financial system that links Saudi capital with western investment and the oil industry. It was an attack on the Satanic system of capitalism – and here it must be noted that the Koran forbids usury, the charging of interest.
So here we have the US as the source of Christian fundamentalism, funding missionary activity throughout the world, in a strange alliance with Saudi Arabia, the main source of Muslim fundamentalism, similarly funding missionary activity throughout the world.
But if Saudi money is funding the expansion of terrorism why didn't the US invade Saudi Arabia? After all, al Qaida fought alongside the Taliban and if they succeeded in toppling the Saud dynasty then they would establish an even harsher form of Islam than already exists. The reason they would not, and could not, invade Saudi Arabia is simple – oil. During the embargo of the 70's the US learnt a harsh lesson, they were dependent on keeping Saudi oil flowing. Plans were made by Kissinger to invade but fortunately the Saud's were persuaded to stop the blockade. Since that time Saudi capital has become an integral component of the world oil industry.
The US knows that oil is running out. In 1999, when he was chairman of the oil company Halliburton Dick Cheney warned about the looming oil crisis stating that,
“The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil, is still where the prize ultimately lies…Even though companies are anxious for greater access there, progress continues to be slow.”
The reason Saddam was a target was because he was perceived as a long term threat to Saudi Arabia and its precious oil fields. During the first Gulf war he was poised to invade Saudi Arabia. If the US conquered Iraq then it would have control of alternative oil fields and to have removed a threat to the Saud dynasty.
The crazy plan of the end times
I don't believe that American foreign policy is based on crazy ideas. It is based on the age old system of national self-interest. America is not alone in this – it's the same game the French, Germans and Russians played in opposing the war. But there is a background of pure craziness to this all – a nagging whisper in the cultural gestalt.
Whilst the followers of Islamic fundamentalism are playing out their violent narrative the followers of American Christian fundamentalism are playing out their own lunatic fantasies. According to the prevalent 'end times' doctrine as interpreted by Tim LaHaye, the Antichrist will rule from a restored Babylon.
We need to pay attention to this nonsense because fundamentalist Christians are supporting conservative Jews in the hope that the Third Temple will be restored. When it is restored the Messiah will come. I have covered this before, but now the Iraq war adds an additional, perverse twist to this modern myth. In the first Gulf war Saddam was able to launch scud missiles into Israel.
Some Americans, those most caught up in the fundamentalist narrative will be supporting the war because they see it as fulfilling prophecy.
Could it be that Dubbya, who was vetted by Tim LaHaye, is influenced by this mythic narrative, at least in the back of his mind?
Isn't it dangerous to have such crazy people so close to the White House?
America in Iraq
I said at the beginning that many people protested against the war simply because they did not trust the US. It would seem that they were right – the US seems to have botched the job.
A good part of the reason is that the US believes it's own myth. It believes that it has a manifest destiny to bring democracy to the world. They have an inflated view of their capabilities and an inflated view of the importance of their version of democracy. One of the myths of this war is that the US believed its troops would be welcomed as liberators, welcomed with flowers. Instead they have been welcomed with road side bombs and a mounting death toll.
I had thought to call my first article on the war 'Poking a Stick in the Hornet's Nest', because I thought that was exactly what the US was doing. And now the hornets are swarming all over the place stinging the US.
There is no doubt that Saddam was evil and nasty. He was truly the epitome of the Terrible Father archetype. But what must replace a Terrible Father is a Good Father. The Good Father would then start the steady transition to democracy and individualism. But the US has simply removed a Terrible Father, disrupted civil society and offered no viable replacement. The Iraqi Governing Council has little credibility – it is full of opportunists who fuelled the misinformation campaign.
Before the US invaded they should have had a popular figure ready to take control. They should also have invested more money and more troops in the rebuilding effort. Instead the rebuilding effort has been slow and tainted by accusations of corruption, involving a subsidiary of the vice-president Cheney's former company, Halliburton.
What has happened is what I feared would happen.
I don't know what will happen in Iraq. Like many I fear a civil war and the rise of fundamentalism. The worse case scenario is a unified Shi'ite state (Iran and southern Iraq) and a collapsed Saudi state falling into the hands of Ikwhan fanatics. This would mean that fundamentalists will control the worlds three largest oil fields.
I hope that moderation finally wins. – and it still has a chance.
After the attacks on the WTC many good Americans asked, why do they hate us? After the revelations about Iraq, the absent WMD, the increase in terrorist activity and the atrocities of Abu Ghraib – that question should now be answered.
Walking in the shadows
The great achievement of the US was the adoption of Enlightenment principles and the creation of a powerful Constitution and Bill of Rights. Along with the French revolution the American revolution inspired the growth of democracy and the spread of Enlightenment ideals.
The shadow side of that achievement was the steady corruption of that same rational ideal at the hands of mythic America. The idea that the US was the promised land invaded US thinking and created the myth of a manifest destiny, a special, God given purpose for the US, and a cultural arrogance. This doctrine has reappeared as the Neocon fantasy that Iraq would embrace the US as liberators and that they will be able to bring democracy to the Middle East. This is increasingly becoming conflated with some truly disturbing and insane religious doctrines.
A year ago I happened to watch a program in which the well known journalist Larry King interviewed the children of the fundamentalist preacher, Billy Graham. King referred to Graham as a great American and not once did he question Graham's fundamentalist doctrine. He should have. In fact he should have avoided having them on his show.
The problem here is that the Enlightenment principle of freedom of religion has been replaced with a simple minded acceptance of plain stupidity. Religious tolerance has come to mean tolerating stupidity. Wilber has correctly drawn a distinction between genuine compassion and idiot compassion. It is time Americans made a distinction between genuine tolerance and idiot tolerance.
It's about time we realized that large sections of the American population are yet to undertake the Enlightenment. This is the major project in the decades ahead.
The world cannot afford a hyper power that is influenced by mythic thinking. It cannot afford to have a president who gives legitimacy to crazy people.
Ray Harris, May, 2004
June 11, 2007
Authentic? Never Mind
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Rich liberals who claim they'll help America's less fortunate are phonies.
Let me give you one example -- a Democrat who said he'd work on behalf of workers and the poor. He even said he'd take on big business. But the truth is that while he was saying those things, he was living in a big house and had a pretty lavish summer home too. His favorite recreation, sailing, was incredibly elitist. And he didn't talk like a regular guy.
Clearly, this politician wasn't authentic. His name? Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Luckily, that's not how the political game was played 70 years ago. F.D.R. wasn't accused of being a phony; he was accused of being a ''traitor to his class.'' But today, it seems, politics is all about seeming authentic. A recent Associated Press analysis of the political scene asked: ''Can you fake authenticity? Probably not, but it might be worth a try.''
What does authenticity mean? Supposedly it means not pretending to be who you aren't. But that definition doesn't seem to fit the way the term is actually used in political reporting.
For example, the case of F.D.R. shows that there's nothing inauthentic, in the normal sense of the word, about calling for higher taxes on the rich while being rich yourself. If anything, it's to your credit if you advocate policies that will hurt your own financial position. But the news media seem to find it deeply disturbing that John Edwards talks about fighting poverty while living in a big house.
On the other hand, consider the case of Fred Thompson. He spent 18 years working as a highly paid lobbyist, wore well-tailored suits and drove a black Lincoln Continental. When he ran for the Senate, however, his campaign reinvented him as a good old boy: it leased a used red pickup truck for him to drive, dressed up in jeans and a work shirt, with a can of Red Man chewing tobacco on the front seat.
But Mr. Thompson's strength, says Lanny Davis in The Hill, is that he's ''authentic.''
Oh, and as a candidate George W. Bush was praised as being more authentic than Al Gore. As late as November 2005, MSNBC's chief political correspondent declared that Mr. Bush's authenticity was his remaining source of strength. But now The A.P. says that Mr. Bush's lack of credibility is the reason his would-be successors need to seem, yes, authentic.
Talk of authenticity, it seems, lets commentators and journalists put down politicians they don't like or praise politicians they like, with no relationship to what the politicians actually say or do.
Here's a suggestion: Why not evaluate candidates' policy proposals, rather than their authenticity? And if there are reasons to doubt a candidate's sincerity, spell them out.
For example, Hillary Clinton's credibility as a friend of labor is called into question, not by her biography or life style, but by the fact that, as The Nation recently reported, her chief strategist -- a man Al Gore fired in 2000 because he didn't trust him -- heads a public relations company that helps corporations fight union organizing drives.
And where do you start with Rudy Giuliani? We keep being told that he has credibility on national security, because he seemed so reassuring on 9/11. (Some firefighters have condemned his actual performance that day, saying that rescue efforts were uncoordinated and that firemen died because he provided them with faulty radios. ''All he did was give information on the TV,'' said a deputy fire chief whose son died at the World Trade Center. ''He did nothing.'' And the nation's largest firefighters' union has condemned his handling of recovery efforts in the weeks following 9/11.)
But he's spent the years since then cashing in on terrorism, and his decisions about Giuliani Partners' personnel and clients raise real questions about his seriousness. His partners, as The Washington Post pointed out, included ''a former police commissioner later convicted of corruption, a former F.B.I. executive who admitted taking artifacts from ground zero and a former Roman Catholic priest accused of covering up sexual abuse in the church.''
The point is that questions about a candidate shouldn't be whether he or she is ''authentic.'' They should be about motives: whose interests would the candidate serve if elected? And think how much better shape the nation would be in if enough people had asked that question seven years ago.