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Monday, September 30, 2013

The Banality of Systemic Evil

The Banality of Systemic Evil

By Peter Ludlow
The New York Times
September 30, 2013

In recent months there has been a visible struggle in the media
to come to grips with the leaking, whistle-blowing and hacktivism
that has vexed the United States military and the private and
government intelligence communities.

This response has run the gamut.

It has involved attempts to condemn, support, demonize,
psychoanalyze and in some cases canonize figures like
Aaron Swartz, Jeremy Hammond, Chelsea Manning and
Edward Snowden.

In broad terms, commentators in the mainstream and corporate
media have tended to assume that all of these actors needed to
be brought to justice, while independent players on the Internet
and elsewhere have been much more supportive.

Tellingly, a recent Time magazine cover story has pointed out a
marked generational difference in how people view these matters:

70 percent of those age 18 to 34 sampled in a poll said they
believed that Snowden “did a good thing” in leaking the news
of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program.

So has the younger generation lost its moral compass?

No. In my view, just the opposite.

Clearly, there is a moral principle at work in the actions of the
leakers, whistle-blowers and hacktivists and those who support
them.

I would also argue that that moral principle has been clearly
articulated, and it may just save us from a dystopian future.

In “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” one of the most poignant and
important works of 20th-century philosophy, Hannah Arendt
made an observation about what she called “the banality of
evil.”

One interpretation of this holds that it was not an observation
about what a regular guy Adolf Eichmann seemed to be, but
rather a statement about what happens when people play their
“proper” roles within a system, following prescribed conduct
with respect to that system, while remaining blind to the moral
consequences of what the system was doing, or at least
compartmentalizing and ignoring those consequences.

A good illustration of this phenomenon appears in “Moral Mazes,”
a book by the sociologist Robert Jackall that explored the ethics
of decision making within several corporate bureaucracies.

In it, Jackall made several observations that dovetailed with those
of Arendt.

The mid-level managers that he spoke with were not “evil” people
in their everyday lives, but in the context of their jobs, they had a
separate moral code altogether, what Jackall calls the fundamental
rules of corporate life:

(1) You never go around your boss. (2) You tell your boss what he
wants to hear, even when your boss claims that he wants dissenting
views. (3) If your boss wants something dropped, you drop it. (4)
You are sensitive to your boss’s wishes so that you anticipate what
he wants; you don’t force him, in other words, to act as a boss. (5)
Your job is not to report something that your boss does not want
reported, but rather to cover it up. You do your job and you keep
your mouth shut.

Jackall went through case after case in which managers violated
this code and were drummed out of a business (for example, for
reporting wrongdoing in the cleanup at the Three Mile Island
nuclear power plant).

Aaron Swartz counted “Moral Mazes” among his “very favorite
books.”

Swartz was the Internet wunderkind who was hounded by
a government prosecution threatening him with 35 years
in jail for illicitly downloading academic journals that were
behind a pay wall.

Swartz, who committed suicide in January at age 26 (many
believe because of his prosecution), said that “Moral Mazes” did
an excellent job of, “explaining how so many well-intentioned
people can end up committing so much evil.”

Swartz argued that it was sometimes necessary to break the rules
that required obedience to the system in order to avoid systemic
evil.

In Swartz’s case the system was not a corporation but a system
for the dissemination of bottled up knowledge that should have
been available to all.

Swartz engaged in an act of civil disobedience to liberate that
knowledge, arguing that “There is no justice in following unjust
laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition
of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private
theft of public culture.”

Chelsea Manning, the United States Army private incarcerated for
leaking classified documents from the Departments of Defense and
State, felt a similar pull to resist the internal rules of the
bureaucracy.

In a statement at her trial she described a case where she felt this
was necessary.

In February 2010, she received a report of an event in which the
Iraqi Federal Police had detained 15 people for printing “anti-Iraqi”
literature.

Upon investigating the matter, Manning discovered that none of the
15 had previous ties to anti-Iraqi actions or suspected terrorist
organizations.

Manning had the allegedly anti-Iraqi literature translated and
found that, contrary to what the federal police had said, the
published literature in question “detailed corruption within
the cabinet of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government
and the financial impact of his corruption on the Iraqi people.”

When Manning reported this discrepancy to the officer in charge
(OIC), she was told to “drop it,” she recounted.

Manning could not play along.

As she put it, she knew if she “continued to assist the Baghdad
Federal Police in identifying the political opponents of Prime
Minister al-Maliki, those people would be arrested and in the
custody of the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police and
very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time,
if ever.”

When her superiors would not address the problem, she was
compelled to pass this information on to WikiLeaks.

Snowden too felt that, confronting what was clearly wrong,
he could not play his proper role within the bureaucracy of
the intelligence community. As he put it:

[W]hen you talk to people about [abuses] in a place like this
where this is the normal state of business people tend not to
take them very seriously and move on from them. But over
time that awareness of wrongdoing sort of builds up and you
feel compelled to talk about [them]. And the more you talk
about [them] the more you’re ignored. The more you’re told
it’s not a problem until eventually you realize that these things
need to be determined by the public and not by somebody who
was simply hired by the government.

The bureaucracy was telling him to shut up and move on (in accord
with the five rules in “Moral Mazes”), but Snowden felt that doing
so was morally wrong.

In a June Op-Ed in The Times, David Brooks made a case for why
he thought Snowden was wrong to leak information about the
Prism surveillance program.

His reasoning cleanly framed the alternative to the moral code
endorsed by Swartz, Manning and Snowden.

“For society to function well,” he wrote, “there have to be basic
levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and
deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak
secret N.S.A. documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things.”

The complaint is eerily parallel to one from a case discussed in
“Moral Mazes,” where an accountant was dismissed because he
insisted on reporting “irregular payments, doctored invoices,
and shuffling numbers.”

The complaint against the accountant by the other managers of his
company was that “by insisting on his own moral purity … he eroded
the fundamental trust and understanding that makes cooperative
managerial work possible.”

But wasn’t there arrogance or hubris in Snowden’s and Manning’s
decisions to leak the documents?

After all, weren’t there established procedures determining what
was right further up the organizational chart?

Weren’t these ethical decisions better left to someone with a
higher pay grade?

The former United States ambassador to the United Nations, John
Bolton, argued that Snowden “thinks he’s smarter and has a higher
morality than the rest of us … that he can see clearer than other
299, 999, 999 of us, and therefore he can do what he wants. I say
that is the worst form of treason.”

For the leaker and whistleblower the answer to Bolton is that there
can be no expectation that the system will act morally of its own
accord.

Systems are optimized for their own survival and preventing
the system from doing evil may well require breaking with
organizational niceties, protocols or laws.

It requires stepping outside of one’s assigned
organizational role.

The chief executive is not in a better position to recognize systemic
evil than is a middle level manager or, for that matter, an IT contractor.

Recognizing systemic evil does not require rank or intelligence,
just honesty of vision.

Persons of conscience who step outside their assigned organizational
roles are not new.

There are many famous earlier examples, including Daniel Ellsberg
(the Pentagon Papers), John Kiriakou (of the Central Intelligence
Agency) and several former N.S.A. employees, who blew the whistle
on what they saw as an unconstitutional and immoral surveillance
program (William Binney, Russ Tice and Thomas Drake, for
example).

But it seems that we are witnessing a new generation of
whistleblowers and leakers, which we might call Generation W
(for the generation that came of age in the era WikiLeaks, and
now the war on Whistleblowing).

The media’s desire to psychoanalyze members of Generation W
is natural enough.

They want to know why these people are acting in a way that they,
members of the corporate media, would not.

But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; if there are
psychological motivations for whistleblowing, leaking and
hacktivism, there are likewise psychological motivations
for closing ranks with the power structure within a system,
in this case a system in which corporate media plays an
important role.

Similarly it is possible that the system itself is sick, even though
the actors within the organization are behaving in accord with
organizational etiquette and respecting the internal bonds of trust.

Just as Hannah Arendt saw that the combined action of loyal
managers can give rise to unspeakable systemic evil, so too
Generation W has seen that complicity within the surveillance
state can give rise to evil as well, not the horrific evil that
Eichmann’s bureaucratic efficiency brought us, but still an
Orwellian future that must be avoided at all costs.



Peter Ludlow is a professor of philosophy at Northwestern
University and writes frequently on digital culture, hacktivism,
and the surveillance state.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/the-banality-of-
systemic-evil/?_r=0

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Survival of the...Nicest?

Survival of the...Nicest?

A new theory of human origins says cooperation, not competition,
is instinctive.

By Eric Michael Johnson
Yes Magazine
September 28, 2013

A century ago, industrialists like Andrew Carnegie believed that
Darwin’s theories justified an economy of vicious competition
and inequality.

They left us with an ideological legacy that says the corporate
economy, in which wealth concentrates in the hands of a few,
produces the best for humanity.

This was always a distortion of Darwin’s ideas.

His 1871 book The Descent of Man argued that the human species
had succeeded because of traits like sharing and compassion.

“Those communities,” he wrote, “which included the greatest
number of the most sympathetic members would flourish best,
and rear the greatest number of offspring.”

Darwin was no economist, but wealth-sharing and cooperation
have always looked more consistent with his observations about
human survival than the elitism and hierarchy that dominates
contemporary corporate life.

Nearly 150 years later, modern science has verified Darwin’s early
insights with direct implications for how we do business in our
society.

New peer-reviewed research by Michael Tomasello, an American
psychologist and co-director of the Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has synthesized
three decades of research to develop a comprehensive
evolutionary theory of human cooperation.

What can we learn about sharing as a result?

Tomasello holds that there were two key steps that led to humans’
unique form of interdependence.

The first was all about who was coming to dinner.

Approximately two million years ago, a fledgling species known as
Homo habilis emerged on the great plains of Africa.

At the same time that these four-foot-tall, bipedal apes appeared,
a period of global cooling produced vast, open environments.

This climate change event ultimately forced our hominid ancestors
to adapt to a new way of life or perish entirely.

Since they lacked the ability to take down large game, like the
ferocious carnivores of the early Pleistocene, the solution they
hit upon was scavenging the carcasses of recently killed large
mammals.

The analysis of fossil bones from this period has revealed evidence
of stone-tool cut marks overlaid on top of carnivore teeth marks.

The precursors of modern humans had a habit of arriving late to
the feast.

However, this survival strategy brought an entirely new set of
challenges: Individuals now had to coordinate their behaviors,
work together, and learn how to share.

For apes living in the dense rainforest, the search for ripe fruit
and nuts was largely an individual activity.

But on the plains, our ancestors needed to travel in groups to
survive, and the act of scavenging from a single animal carcass
forced proto-humans to learn to tolerate each other and allow
each other a fair share.

This resulted in a form of social selection that favored cooperation:

“Individuals who attempted to hog all of the food at a scavenged
carcass would be actively repelled by others,” writes Tomasello,
“and perhaps shunned in other ways as well.”

This evolutionary legacy can be seen in our behavior today,
particularly among children who are too young to have been
taught such notions of fairness.

For example, in a 2011 study published in the journal Nature,
anthropologist Katharina Hamann and her colleagues found
that 3-year-old children share food more equitably if they
gain it through cooperative effort rather than via individual,
labor or no work at all.

In contrast, chimpanzees showed no difference in how they
shared food under these different scenarios; they wouldn’t
necessarily hoard the food individually, but they placed no
value on cooperative efforts either.

The implication, according to Tomasello, is that human evolution
has predisposed us to work collaboratively and given us an
intuitive sense that cooperation deserves equal rewards.

The second step in Tomasello’s theory leads directly into what
kinds of businesses and economies are more in line with human
evolution.

Humans have, of course, uniquely large population sizes, much
larger than those of other primates.

It was the human penchant for cooperation that allowed groups
to grow in number and eventually become tribal societies.

Humans, more than any other primate, developed psychological
adaptations that allowed them to quickly recognize members of
their own group (through unique behaviors, traditions, or forms
of language) and develop a shared cultural identity in the
pursuit of a common goal.

“The result,” says Tomasello, “was a new kind of interdependence
and group-mindedness that went well beyond the joint
intentionality of small-scale cooperation to a kind of collective
intentionality at the level of the entire society.”

What does this mean for the different forms of business today?

Corporate workplaces probably aren’t in sync with our evolutionary
roots and may not be good for our long-term success as humans.

Corporate culture imposes uniformity, mandated from the top
down, throughout the organization.

But the cooperative, the financial model in which a group of
members owns a business and makes the rules about how to
run it, is a modern institution that has much in common with
the collective tribal heritage of our species.

Worker-owned cooperatives are regionally distinct and organized
around their constituent members.

As a result, worker co-ops develop unique cultures that, following
Tomasello’s theory, would be expected to better promote a shared
identity among all members of the group.

This shared identity would give rise to greater trust and
collaboration without the need for centralized control.

Moreover, the structure of corporations is a recipe for worker
alienation and dissatisfaction.

Humans have evolved the ability to quickly form collective
intentionality that motivates group members to pursue a
shared goal.

“Once they have formed a joint goal,” Tomasello says, “humans
are committed to it.”

Corporations, by law, are required to maximize profits for their
investors.

The shared goal among corporate employees is not to benefit their
own community but rather a distant population of financiers who
have no personal connection to their lives or labor.

However, because worker-owned cooperatives focus on maximizing
value for their members, the cooperative is operated by and for the
local community a goal much more consistent with our evolutionary
heritage.

As Darwin concluded in The Descent of Man, “The more enduring
social instincts conquer the less persistent instincts.”

As worker-owned cooperatives continue to gain prominence
around the world, we may ultimately witness the downfall
of Carnegie’s “law of competition” and a return to the
collaborative environments that the human species has long
called home.



Eric Michael Johnson is a doctoral student in the history of science
at the University of British Columbia. His research examines the
interplay between evolutionary biology and politics.

http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/how-cooperatives-are-driving-
the-new-economy/survival-of-the-nicest-the-other-theory-of-evolut
ion

Friday, September 27, 2013

Christianity’s Contradictions On War

Christianity’s Contradictions On War

“The church could lead the world toward peace if every church
lived and taught as Jesus lived and taught.” - Every Church A
Peace Church

By Dr. Gary G. Kohls
Consortiumnews.com
September 27, 2013

Though based on the pacifist teachings of Jesus, Christianity has
been an accomplice to more wars and genocides than any other
religion, a paradox reflected in the contradictory views of 16th
Century protestant reformer Martin Luther and 20th Century civil
rights martyr Martin Luther King Jr.

Like the vast majority of Christian religious leaders of his era,
Martin Luther, the Father of the Protestant Reformation, met the
definition of a, “Constantinian” Christian, that is a Christian who
espoused theological teachings that were tolerant of violence and
accepted non-democratic, authoritarian and male-dominant practices.

Those teachings represented the theological framework of the
Christian church that became the state religion starting with
the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the early Fourth
Century.

Luther also was an Augustinian Monk, an order named after
Augustine of Hippo, who died in 430 and was later canonized
by the Roman Catholic Church.

St. Augustine regarded the nonviolent ethical teachings of Jesus
in the Sermon on the Mount as simply metaphorical and therefore
irrelevant in times of crisis.

Augustine epitomized Constantinian Christianity, and Luther
was a good student of Augustine.

Indeed, most of the influential religious leaders of the 1500s
including Luther, John Calvin, Henry VIII and the various popes,
seemed to have an unwritten ecumenical agreement that you
could kill one another and still be following Jesus.

A cursory reading of the Reformation and Counter Reformation
Wars that drenched Europe in the blood of Christian killing
Christian in the 16th Century will attest to that statement.

Constantinian-type Christianity, in stark contrast to Sermon on the
Mount Christianity, which was the original form of that religion and
the norm during the first few generations of its existence, follows a
number of aberrant, anti-gospel, violence-tolerant church teachings
that had been blessed by the murderous Emperor Constantine.

Many of those teachings were made doctrinal by Augustine.

Constantine, it should be pointed out, was a ruthless military
dictator who had rivals and even had members of his family
killed.

He was never a Christian in his lifetime and only consented to
being baptized when he was on his deathbed.

Augustine shaped his theology to be in conformity with the
authoritarian, obedience-demanding, pro-violence, justified-
war politics of the emperor; and Luther followed suit.

The Lutheran Church

Luther’s reformation attempts created great schisms in
Christianity when he tried to reform a corrupted Roman
Catholic Church by endorsing violent means and therefore
predictably failed to bring any peaceful Christ-like
transformation to the “reformed” church.

The horrific details of the massacres in the Peasant’s War of 1525,
that Luther endorsed and that ruthlessly put down a peasant’s
liberation movement.

I was born and raised Lutheran but have always been uncomfortable
with Lutheranism’s tendencies towards conservative politics,
conservative theologies, flag-waving patriotism and teachings that
tend to justify (or be silent about) American war-making.

Those tendencies are also prevalent in other American Protestant
churches.

After considerable study of the history and theology of the earliest
form of Christianity, I now know that the Protestant church’s
simplistic acceptance of their nation’s wars is totally contrary to
the ethical teachings of the nonviolent Jesus which was faithfully
taught by the earliest communities of faith.

After being confronted with these truths about the early pacifist
church, my theology and politics have both moved to the opposite
end of the theological spectrum of the church of my birth, toward
the left-wing, pacifist, anti-fascist, nonviolent teachings of Jesus
and Martin Luther King, Jr. and away from the traditional violence
justifying doctrines of Augustine and Martin Luther.

In Luther’s defense however, he did make three insightful
statements which resonate with me and which give me some
hope that the Protestant churches might wake up some day
and start teaching what Jesus taught.

As has been the experience of so many other non-violent, and
therefore anti-war, Christian activists, King’s commitment to
the Sermon on the Mount ethics of Jesus has shaped my response
to America’s current Bush/Obama foreign policies of aggressive
militarism and perpetual war, and the inevitable civilian deaths,
refugeeism, starvation, pestilence, and the spiritual and economic
bankruptcy of the nations that participate in war.

Failing To Preach The Gospel

Here are three statements from the writings of Martin Luther,
which Martin Luther King Jr. would have approved:

"The church that preaches the gospel in all of its fullness, except
as it applies to the great social ills of the day, is failing to preach
the gospel.”

"War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity; it destroys
religions, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge is
preferable to it.”

And then this profoundly important exchange, in which Luther
taught one of his followers to trust the ethics of the gospel
rather than the threats from his war-making government and
courageously become a selective conscientious objector to war.

The questioner asked: “Suppose my lord was wrong in going to
war?”

Luther: “If you know for sure that he is wrong, then you should
fear God rather than men (Acts 5:29), and you should neither fight
nor serve. For you cannot have a good conscience before God.”

Questioner: “Oh, no, you say, my lord would force me to do it; he
would take away my fief and would not give me my money, pay and
wages. Besides I would be despised and put to shame as a coward,
even worse as a man who did not keep his word and deserted his
lord in time of need.”

Luther: “I answer: You must take that risk and, with God’s help, let
whatever happens, happen. He can restore you a hundred fold as he
promises in the gospel…”

I suspect that Luther’s wisdom in those statements developed in
his later years, for surely a more spiritually mature Luther would
have recognized the suffering of the impoverished and oppressed
peasants that ultimately led to the Peasant’s War of 1525, as one
of the great social ills of his day.

In the years immediately prior to 1525, the peasants, inspired by
Luther’s anti-church/anti-establishment revolutionary teachings,
were finally rising up against their perennial oppressors: the ruling
elite, the wealthy landowners and the authoritarian Catholic Church.

Initially the peasants protested nonviolently.

They submitted written demands that they be granted their
human rights.

Tragically, as is still happening in these modern times, the protest
movement was brutally put down by the establishment’s obedient
soldiers and the peasants were compelled to resort to defensive
violence, which ended badly for them, shades of the recent
nonviolent protests in Egypt and Syria.

Luther’s Betrayal Of The Peasants

Luther shocked the peasants when he betrayed them and sided with
the one percent ruling elite, whose well-armed soldiers slaughtered
them in that brief war.

Luther forever lost the support of the peasantry when he actually
called for their annihilation. Luther wrote in a tract:

“These are strange times, when a prince can achieve heaven by
killing peasants more assuredly than other men can with prayer.”

The reality that the briefly optimistic peasants hadn’t
comprehended was that their oppressors were the very
ones that had protected Luther from being hunted down
and killed by the soldiers of the pope.

Any thoughtful, fair-minded, ethical American must conclude
that the Bush/Cheney administration’s stated 2001 foreign
policy of perpetual war and the continuation of unaffordable,
bloated military budgets are two of the great social ills of our
time.

But war, despite the rape, pillage, starvation, and destitution
that inevitably goes along with it, seems to be a taboo subject
in most of the churches of which I am familiar.

Modern wars can justifiably be described as organized mass
slaughter that mostly kills and maims innocent civilians.

It is a sobering reality that 80 to 90 percent of the casualties of
modern warfare are unarmed non-combatant civilians, largely
women and children.

The failure to protect non-combatants in war, according to the
Christian Just War Theory, makes that war an unjust one, and, in
terms of the teachings of moral theology, that makes the killing in
that war murder.

And that, of course, makes the planners, perpetrators and
participants in such wars murderers or accomplices to murder.

Martin Luther King Jr. Echoed Jesus

The heroic martyr Martin Luther King Jr., whose prophetic work
was modeled after the pacifist Jesus, and the pacifist Gandhi, and
not, despite his name, the war-justifying Luther, often commented
on what was expected of faithful and ethical Christians in their
response to injustice.

King’s views are best summarized by these profound but simple truths about silence in the face of evil:

"It may well be that the greatest tragedy of this period of social
change is not the glaring noisiness of the so-called bad people,
but the silence of the so-called good people."

"The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the
servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It
must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.
If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become
an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority."

"Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the
question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular?
But conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes
a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor
politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right."

Luther’s three insightful observations above are as clear as could
be, as are the statements of King.

The church of Jesus Christ should be paying attention to all of these ethical statements simply because they are corollaries to Jesus’s
Sermon on the Mount commands to, “love your enemies” and, “do
unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

If the follower of Jesus takes these statements seriously, violence
against “the other” is impossible.

A few months before his assassination on April 4, 1968, King said
he didn’t want all his achievements mentioned at his funeral.

What he wanted said instead was this:

“Say that Martin King tried to feed the hungry, clothe the naked
and that he was right on the war question.”

The vast majority of American Christian churches are silent, and
therefore wrong, on the war questions.

Even Luther’s statements on war justifiably indict them for failing
to preach the full gospel.

Most of the Lutheran, Catholic and Reformed churches of the Third
Reich were equally silent, and wrong, about the wars of both Kaiser
Wilhelm and Hitler.

And, of course both the Catholic and Protestant Churches in
Christian Germany were silent, and therefore wrong, on the
Jewish question.

It seems to me that true peace churches should be modeling
themselves after the primitive, pacifist church of the first two
centuries by courageously speaking out against wars and the
inevitable cruelty, torture and slaughter that always occurs in
wartime.

True peace churches should be warning about the deadly spiritual
consequences for both the warriors and their victims.

True peace churches should be teaching what Jesus taught about
violence (forbidden) and advise their members to refuse to
participate in homicidal violence of any kind.

Idealistic peace churches, sadly, represent only a tiny fraction of
the churches in America, and they have no choice but to be vocal.

To be silent would make them complicit with evil.

When Silence Is Betrayal

Martin Luther King Jr. understood the consequences for whistle-
blowers and prophets if and when they speak out for peace and
justice.

He said:

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal…but the calling
to speak is often a vocation of agony.”

King believed in the truth and practicality of the nonviolent
teachings of Jesus, and, like Jesus, lived that way.

And, contrary to the objectives of their assassins, neither
their spirits nor their teachings died with them.

Both are very much alive, and their spirits and inspiring words
live on.

And for those who claim discipleship to the Jesus of the gospels,
it should be ethically impossible to adopt the pro-violence stances
of the multitude of non-peace churches, whose punitive politics
and harsh theologies over the past 1,700 years have tragically
dominated the Christian Church.

Jesus often taught about the coming of the Reign of God,
which was all about the unconditional, nonviolent love of
friends and enemies.

He taught his disciples how they should live, how they should
love and how they should respond when they were tempted
to participate in or be silent about forms of violence such
as militarism, racism, economic oppression, torture, cruelty,
hunger and killling.

It is clear what Jesus taught.

In so many words, he was saying that “violence is forbidden
to those who wish to follow me.”

The planet and the creatures trying to survive on it are in peril
if the church of Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus
of Nazareth continues to fail in its sacred duty to actively and
nonviolently resist and courageously speak out against war and
violence.



Dr. Kohls was a founding member of Every Church A Peace Church,
which has recently merged with the Church of the Brethren’s Living
Peace Church organization. ECAPC is a 13-year-old international
ecumenical movement to recover gospel nonviolence as a norm for
all churches.

http://consortiumnews.com/2013/09/25/christianitys-contradict
ions-on-war

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Made For TV

Made For TV

By David Glenn Cox
Leftist Review
September 24, 2013

What began as an event has become an era.

What began as a concussion has become a cancer, a societal mental
illness, collective amnesia, seeing but not seeing, knowing, while
knowing nothing, all the symptoms of the illness are present, still,
we claim to be all right, pretending it’s not so, when it is so.

We’re expected to believe the made for TV reasons with corporate
rerun understanding.

Behold the media colossus, standing straddled over the left and
right of self-generating public opinion. The truth is… whatever
they say it is, because Winston, two and two make five, do you
understand?

From Business Insider Feb 11, 2011 – “Looks Like Ross Perot Was
Right About the ‘Giant Sucking Sound’”:

Perot is famous (among other things) for his statement during
the 1992 presidential campaign that if NAFTA (North American
Free Trade Agreement) was not a two way street it would create
a “giant sucking sound” of jobs going south to the cheap labor
markets of Mexico.

Both of Perot’s opponents (George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton)
argued that NAFTA would create jobs in the U.S. because of
business expansion.

Both Republicans and Democrats wildly supported these swindles
and the swindles which have followed.

These alleged Free Trade articles codify into law, favorable
business arrangements, claiming the right to these conditions…
forever!

It reminds me of a story about a small town out west and someone
was rustling a rancher’s cattle.

The ranchers banded together and hired themselves a sheriff to
find these rustlers.

Yet despite the sheriff’s efforts, he always seemed to be at the
wrong place at the wrong time and the rustler’s always managed
to get away.

The ranchers held a secret meeting and came to a decision.

It seemed the ranchers thought the rustlers were always a bit
too lucky and the sheriff, always a bit too unlucky.

So to prove their point, the ranchers hung the sheriff and the
rustling stopped.

The Business Insider’s admission of “Gee, 30 million jobs lost and
I guess, you guys were right, and the rustlers got clean away!”

We’ve witnessed a decade of financial mismanagement and fraud,
along with a decade of military adventurism.

As the corporate media explain, “Gosh, we really thought there
were WMDs; boy, is their egg on our face. Gosh, who would have
thought Wall Street executives were crooked? Gosh, who could
have known, mortgage lenders would game the system?”

January 1, 1994 – NAFTA takes effect

January 1, 1995 – World Trade Organization opens for business

1997 – The Tax Payer Relief Act, allowed homeowners up to
$500,000 in tax-free Capital Gains every two years from the
sale of a home.

1999 – The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act allowed Commercial and
Investment Banks to merge

2000 – Contested Presidential Election

2001 – Bush passes out tax rebate checks

2002 – Federal Reserve lowers interest rates to a historical
low of 1%

2005 – Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Prevention
Act changes the laws in regards to real property in bankruptcy.

“If a filer acquired their home less than 1,215 days (40 months)
before filing, or if they have been convicted of security law
violations or been found guilty of certain crimes, they may only
exempt up to $125,000 (adjusted periodically), regardless of a
state’s exemption allowance.”

October 6, 2008 – Stock markets crash 1,280 days later.

A generation pushed through the cattle chutes, skinned and
made into hamburger.

By May of 2009, 40% of borrowers who took out a mortgage in
2006 were underwater.

One year later, banks had seized over 1 million properties and
were reimbursed for their losses by the tax payers.

Kind of like hiring a hit man to have yourself killed, the banks sold
these properties at the height of the bubble and were reimbursed
for their losses in full and then bought the properties back, for
pennies on the dollar.

Now, here’s where it gets sweet.

The banks got to pick and choose which properties they wished
to repurchase.

Lilly white subdivisions near the Interstate, sure pick’em up for
.22 cents on the dollar.

Inner city Cleveland or Youngstown, or inner city anywhere, let
the tax payers worry about it.

The contested presidential election is all part and parcel of this
economic coup d’├ętat.

The fix was in, Florida was flipped and the media was used to
cover their tracks.

The Supreme Court intervened in the case, a case where it held
no jurisdiction.

Two justices with immediate family members employed by one
of the candidates voted anyway, as if there’s nothing wrong or
inappropriate about that.

Bush begins with tax cuts, but to make the bad medicine go down,
comes up with the free money, courtesy of Santa George, rebating
taxes, everybody gets a check!

The working couple’s rebate check is just enough to cover that
nothing-down, adjustable rate mortgage, being advertised
relentlessly on TV, ’round the clock.

Then September 11th and the new Reichstag Fire.

Section V of Rebuilding America’s Defenses, entitled “Creating
Tomorrow’s Dominant Force”, includes the sentence:

“Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings
revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some
catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor”

This is what the Project for the New American Century was
all about.

These are their “Core Missions” from their 1997 Statement
of Principles;

Defend the American homeland;

Fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater
wars;

Perform the “constabulary” duties associated with shaping
the security environment in critical regions;

Transform U.S. forces to exploit the “revolution in military
affairs”;

Unspoken, but just as much a core mission:

Undercut American workers wages;

Export the industrial base, while fostering a housing bubble;

Use the collapse as a profit center to expropriate wealth and
as a chance to redefine the American economy;

Use the economic hard times created by design to break municipal
unions, to de-fund public education, to pare social programs;

It really all comes into perspective when we see John McCain
playing video poker on his iPhone during the Senate hearings
on Syria.

You see, if you play ball with the rustlers, life is good.

Bill Clinton played ball; when he left the White House he was a
million dollars in debt. Today, Clinton is worth over $125 million.

Al Gore played ball, he knew when to shut up and knuckle under
and he’s worth over $200 million.

John Kerry conceded his Presidential campaign before the votes
were even counted and Kerry is probably the most unlikely of the
bunch, with a net worth $194 million.

As an American, it is embarrassing to watch the Secretary of State
and the President flopping around like dying fishes upon the world
stage, trying to sell us this tired old clunker, about WMDs and
terrorists, one more time.

Like a painted-up whore trying to look pretty, the presentation is
far too gritty to be believable.



David Glenn Cox is a senior staff writer for TLR and an award
winning author and musician; he is the author of the novel,
“The Servants of Pilate.”

http://www.leftistreview.com/2013/09/12/made-for-tv/davidcox

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Shameful Exceptionalism

Shameful Exceptionalism

We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers
destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments
destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion
destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy.
- Chris Hedges

By Paul Balles
Information Clearing House
Sunday, September 22, 2013

Paul Schied, commenting in the Harvard Political Review writes,
"American Exceptionalism argues that the United States is the
best at everything.

This isn’t true. Therefore, American Exceptionalism is bunk"

Many Americans express pride in American exceptionalism;
but much of that is nothing to be proud of.

We’re ignorant and indifferent, deceived and deceptive,
warmongers, and empire builders.

Ignorant and Indifferent:

Rick Shenkman, Editor-in-Chief of the History News Network,
published a book entitled Just How Stupid Are We?.

He demonstrates, among other things, that most Americans
are:

(1) ignorant about major international events, (2) know little
about how their own government runs and who runs it, (3) are
nonetheless willing to accept government positions and policies
even though a moderate amount of critical thought suggests
they are bad for the country, and (4) are readily swayed by
stereotyping, simplistic solutions, irrational fears and public
relations babble.

Deceived and Deceptive:

Jean Bricmont and Diana Johnstone describe America’s deceivers:

“In its zeal to serve what it considers Israel’s interests, AIPAC and
its affiliates practice deception concerning the issues at stake. The
lobby misrepresents the interests of the United States, and even
ignores the long term interests of the Jewish people whom it often
claims to represent.”

MSNBC Rachel Maddow and other news anchors boast about how
they "bring the news from all angles and all points of view."

I'm not sure what the difference is between all angles and all
points of view to them; but the network anchors do neither.

Anyone who’s been following the fate of whistleblowers Bradley
Manning and Edward Snowden has surely become frightfully
aware of how deceptive the NSA (National Security Agency)
has been spying on people, companies and governments around
the world.

Warmongers and Empire Builders:

Bishop Desmond Tutu, on the leadership that got America into a
murderous war with Iraq, asks “If it is acceptable for leaders to
take drastic action on the basis of a lie, without an acknowledgement
or an apology when they are found out, what should we teach our
children?”

According to Paul Craig Roberts, “The US is the only country in
the world that has attacked 8 countries in 12 years, murdering
and dispossessing millions of Muslims all on the basis of lies.
This is not an exceptionalism of which to be proud.”

Comments Chris Hedges:

”Many of us who are here carry within us death. The smell
of decayed and bloated corpses. The cries of the wounded.
The shrieks of children. The sound of gunfire. The deafening
blasts. The fear. The stench of cordite. The humiliation that
comes when you surrender to terror and beg for life. The loss
of comrades and friends. And then the aftermath. The long
alienation. The numbness. The nightmares. The lack of sleep.
The inability to connect to all living things, even to those
we love the most. The regret. The repugnant lies mouthed
around us about honour and heroism and glory. The absurdity.
The waste. The futility.”

Observes James Petras:

“The decisions to militarize US global policy requires vast budgetary
re-allocation, slashing social spending to fund empire building;
shredding public health and social security to bailout Wall Street.
These are policies which greatly enhance profits for bankers and
corporations while imposing regressive taxes on wage and salaried
workers.”

It’s high time for America to replace its shameful exceptionalism
with exceptional behaviour it can be rightly proud of.



Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and
freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article36299.htm

Friday, September 20, 2013

Has Capitalism Failed?

Has Capitalism Failed?

By Ron Paul
Lew Rockwell.com
September 20, 2013

Congressman Ron Paul Before the U.S. House of Representatives,
July 9, 2002:

It is now commonplace and politically correct to blame what is
referred to as the excesses of capitalism for the economic problems
we face, and especially for the Wall Street fraud that dominates the
business news.

Politicians are having a field day with demagoguing the issue while,
of course, failing to address the fraud and deceit found in the
budgetary shenanigans of the federal government — for which they
are directly responsible.

Instead, it gives the Keynesian crowd that run the show a chance
to attack free markets and ignore the issue of sound money.

So once again we hear the chant: “Capitalism has failed; we need
more government controls over the entire financial market.”

No one asks why the billions that have been spent and thousands
of pages of regulations that have been written since the last
major attack on capitalism in the 1930s didn’t prevent the
fraud and deception of Enron, WorldCom, and Global Crossings.

That failure surely couldn’t have come from a dearth of regulations.

What is distinctively absent is any mention that all financial bubbles
are saturated with excesses in hype, speculation, debt, greed, fraud,
gross errors in investment judgment, carelessness on the part of
analysts and investors, huge paper profits, conviction that a new era
economy has arrived and, above all else, pie-in-the-sky expectations.

When the bubble is inflating, there are no complaints. When it
bursts, the blame game begins.

This is especially true in the age of victimization, and is done
on a grand scale.

It quickly becomes a philosophic, partisan, class, generational,
and even a racial issue.

While avoiding the real cause, all the finger pointing makes it
difficult to resolve the crisis and further undermines the principles
upon which freedom and prosperity rest.

Nixon was right — once — when he declared “We’re all Keynesians
now.”

All of Washington is in sync in declaring that too much capitalism
has brought us to where we are today.

The only decision now before the central planners in Washington is
whose special interests will continue to benefit from the coming
pretense at reform.

The various special interests will be lobbying heavily like the Wall
Street investors, the corporations, the military-industrial complex,
the banks, the workers, the unions, the farmers, the politicians,
and everybody else.

But what is not discussed is the actual cause and perpetration of
the excesses now unraveling at a frantic pace.

This same response occurred in the 1930s in the United States
as our policymakers responded to the very similar excesses that
developed and collapsed in 1929.

Because of the failure to understand the problem then, the
depression was prolonged.

These mistakes allowed our current problems to develop to
a much greater degree.

Consider the failure to come to grips with the cause of the 1980s
bubble, as Japan’s economy continues to linger at no-growth
and recession level, with their stock market at approximately
one-fourth of its peak 13 years ago.

If we’re not careful, and so far we’ve not been, we will make
the same errors that will prevent the correction needed before
economic growth can be resumed.

In the 1930s, it was quite popular to condemn the greed of
capitalism, the gold standard, lack of regulation, and a lack
government insurance on bank deposits for the disaster.

Businessmen became the scapegoat.

Changes were made as a result, and the welfare/warfare state
was institutionalized.

Easy credit became the holy grail of monetary policy, especially
under Alan Greenspan, “the ultimate Maestro.”

Today, despite the presumed protection from these government
programs built into the system, we find ourselves in a bigger
mess than ever before.

The bubble is bigger, the boom lasted longer, and the gold price
has been deliberately undermined as an economic signal.

Monetary inflation continues at a rate never seen before in a
frantic effort to prop up stock prices and continue the housing
bubble, while avoiding the consequences that inevitably come
from easy credit.

This is all done because we are unwilling to acknowledge that
current policy is only setting the stage for a huge drop in the
value of the dollar.

Everyone fears it, but no one wants to deal with it.

Ignorance, as well as disapproval for the natural restraints placed
on market excesses that capitalism and sound markets impose,
cause our present leaders to reject capitalism and blame it for
all the problems we face.

If this fallacy is not corrected and capitalism is even further
undermined, the prosperity that the free market generates
will be destroyed.

Corruption and fraud in the accounting practices of many
companies are coming to light.

There are those who would have us believe this is an integral part
of free-market capitalism. If we did have free-market capitalism,
there would be no guarantees that some fraud wouldn’t occur.

When it did, it would then be dealt with by local law-enforcement
authority and not by the politicians in Congress, who had their
chance to “prevent” such problems but chose instead to politicize
the issue, while using the opportunity to promote more Keynesian
useless regulations.

Capitalism should not be condemned, since we haven’t had
capitalism.

A system of capitalism presumes sound money, not fiat money
manipulated by a central bank.

Capitalism cherishes voluntary contracts and interest rates that
are determined by savings, not credit creation by a central bank.

It’s not capitalism when the system is plagued with incomprehensible
rules regarding mergers, acquisitions, and stock sales, along with
wage controls, price controls, protectionism, corporate subsidies,
international management of trade, complex and punishing corporate
taxes, privileged government contracts to the military-industrial
complex, and a foreign policy controlled by corporate interests and
overseas investments.

Add to this centralized federal mismanagement of farming,
education, medicine, insurance, banking and welfare.

This is not capitalism!

To condemn free-market capitalism because of anything going on
today makes no sense. There is no evidence that capitalism exists
today.

We are deeply involved in an interventionist-planned economy that
allows major benefits to accrue to the politically connected of both
political spectrums.

One may condemn the fraud and the current system, but it must be
called by its proper names, Keynesian inflationism, interventionism,
and corporatism.

What is not discussed is that the current crop of bankruptcies
reveals that the blatant distortions and lies emanating from
years of speculative orgy were predictable.

First, Congress should be investigating the federal government’s
fraud and deception in accounting, especially in reporting future
obligations such as Social Security, and how the monetary system
destroys wealth.

Those problems are bigger than anything in the corporate world
and are the responsibility of Congress.

Besides, it’s the standard set by the government and the monetary
system it operates that are major contributing causes to all that’s
wrong on Wall Street today.

Where fraud does exist, it’s a state rather than federal matter,
and state authorities can enforce these laws without any help
from Congress.

Second, we do know why financial bubbles occur, and we know
from history that they are routinely associated with speculation,
excessive debt, wild promises, greed, lying, and cheating.

These problems were described by quite a few observers as the
problems were developing throughout the 90s, but the warnings
were ignored for one reason.

Everybody was making a killing and no one cared, and those who
were reminded of history were reassured by the Fed Chairman
that “this time” a new economic era had arrived and not to worry.

Productivity increases, it was said, could explain it all.

But now we know that’s just not so.

Speculative bubbles and all that we’ve been witnessing are a
consequence of huge amounts of easy credit, created out of
thin air by the Federal Reserve.

We’ve had essentially no savings, which is one of the most
significant driving forces in capitalism.

The illusion created by low interest rates perpetuates the bubble
and all the bad stuff that goes along with it. And that’s not a fault
of capitalism.

We are dealing with a system of inflationism and interventionism
that always produces a bubble economy that must end badly.

So far the assessment made by the administration, Congress,
and the Fed bodes ill for our economic future.

All they offer is more of the same, which can’t possibly help.

All it will do is drive us closer to national bankruptcy, a sharply lower
dollar, and a lower standard of living for most Americans, as well as
less freedom for everyone.

This is a bad scenario that need not happen.

But preserving our system is impossible if the critics are allowed
to blame capitalism and sound monetary policy is rejected.

More spending, more debt, more easy credit, more distortion of
interest rates, more regulations on everything, and more foreign
meddling will soon force us into the very uncomfortable position
of deciding the fate of our entire political system.

If we were to choose freedom and capitalism, we would restore
our dollar to a commodity or a gold standard.

Federal spending would be reduced, income taxes would be lowered,
and no taxes would be levied upon savings, dividends, and capital
gains.

Regulations would be reduced, special-interest subsidies would
be stopped, and no protectionist measures would be permitted.

Our foreign policy would change, and we would bring our troops
home.

We cannot depend on government to restore trust to the markets;
only trustworthy people can do that.

Actually, the lack of trust in Wall Street executives is healthy
because it’s deserved and prompts caution.

The same lack of trust in politicians, the budgetary process, and
the monetary system would serve as a healthy incentive for the
reform in government we need.

Markets regulate better than governments can.

Depending on government regulations to protect us significantly
contributes to the bubble mentality.

These moves would produce the climate for releasing the creative
energy necessary to simply serve consumers, which is what
capitalism is all about.

The system that inevitably breeds the corporate-government
cronyism that created our current ongoing disaster would end.

Capitalism didn’t give us this crisis of confidence now existing
in the corporate world.

The lack of free markets and sound money did.

Congress does have a role to play, but it’s not proactive.

Congress’ job is to get out of the way.



This article is excerpted from Part I of "Pillars of Prosperity" an
economic manifesto by Ron Paul.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/1970/01/ron-paul/has-capitalism
-failed

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Dead Rhetoric of War

The Dead Rhetoric of War

By Chris Hedges
Truth Dig
September 18, 2013

The intoxication of war, fueled by the euphoric nationalism that
swept through the country like a plague following the attacks of
9/11, is a spent force in the United States.

The high-blown rhetoric of patriotism and national destiny, of the
sacred duty to reshape the world through violence, to liberate the
enslaved and implant democracy in the Middle East, has finally
been exposed as empty and meaningless.

The war machine has tried all the old tricks.

It trotted out the requisite footage of atrocities.

It issued the histrionic warnings that the evil dictator will turn
his weapons of mass destruction against us if we do not bomb
and “degrade” his military.

It appealed to the nation’s noble sacrifice in World War II, with
the Secretary of State John Kerry calling the present situation a
“Munich moment.”

But none of it worked.

It was only an offhand remark by Kerry that opened the door to a
Russian initiative, providing the Obama administration a swift exit
from its mindless bellicosity and what would have been a humiliating
domestic defeat.

Twelve long years of fruitless war in Afghanistan and another ten
in Iraq have left the public wary of the lies of politicians, sick of
the endless violence of empire and unwilling to continue to pump
trillions of dollars into a war machine that has made a small cabal
of defense contractors and arms manufacturers such as Raytheon
and Halliburton huge profits while we are economically and politically
hollowed out from the inside.

The party is over.

The myth of war, as each generation discovers over the corpses of
its young and the looting of its national treasury by war profiteers,
is a lie.

War is no longer able to divert Americans from the economic and
political decay that is rapidly turning the nation into a corporate
oligarchy, a nation where “the consent of the governed” is a cruel
joke.

War cannot hide what we have become.

War has made us a nation that openly tortures and holds people
indefinitely in our archipelago of offshore penal colonies.

War has unleashed death squads, known as special operations
forces to assassinate our enemies around the globe, even
American citizens.

War has seen us terrorize whole populations, including populations
with which we are not officially at war, with armed drones that
circle night and day above mud-walled villages in Pakistan, Yemen,
and Somalia, as well as Iraq, and Afghanistan.

War has shredded, in the name of national security, our most
basic civil liberties.

War has turned us into the most spied-upon, monitored,
eavesdropped and photographed population in human history.

War has seen our most courageous dissidents and whistle-blowers,
those who warned us of the crimes of war and empire, from Chelsea
(formerly Bradley) Manning to Edward Snowden, become persecuted
political prisoners or the hunted.

War has made a few very rich, as it always does, as our schools,
libraries and firehouses are closed in the name of fiscal austerity,
basic social service programs for children and the elderly are
shut down, cities such as Detroit declare bankruptcy, and chronic
underemployment, and unemployment, hover at 15 percent, or
perhaps 20 percent.

No one knows the truth anymore about America.

The vast Potemkin village we have become, the monstrous lie that
is America, includes the willful manipulation of financial and official
statistics from Wall Street and Washington.

We are slowly awakening, after years on a drunken bender, to the
awful pain of sobriety and the unpleasant glare of daylight.

We are being forced to face grim truths about ourselves and the
war machine.

We have understood that we cannot impart our, “virtues” through
violence, that all talk of human rights, once you employ the industrial
weapons of the modern battlefield, is absurd.

We see through the Orwellian assertions made by Barack Obama,
and John Kerry, who have assured the world that the United States
is considering only an, “unbelievably small limited” strike on Syria
that is not a war.

We know that the Pentagon’s plan to obliterate the command
bunkers, airfields or the artillery batteries and rocket launchers
used to fire chemical projectiles is indeed what the politicians
insist it is not a war.

We know that the launching of several hundred Tomahawk missiles
from destroyers and submarines in the Mediterranean Sea on Syrian
military and command installations would be perceived by the
Syrians, as we would should such missiles be launched against us,
as an act of war.

A Tomahawk carries a 1,000-pound bomb or 166 cluster bombs.

One Tomahawk has appalling destructive power. Hundreds mean
indiscriminate death from the sky.

We have heard the careful parsing that does not preclude,
should the Pandora’s box of war be opened and chaos envelope
Syria, the possible deployment of troops on the ground.

We have listened to Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, concede that “there is a probability for collateral
damage.”

We know this means civilians will be killed to prevent the regime
of Bashar Assad from killing civilians.

Only the circular logic of war makes such a proposition rational.

And this circular logic, no longer obscured by the waving of flags,
the bombast of “glory and honor,” the cant of politicians, the
self-exaltation that comes with the disease of nationalism, means
that Barack Obama, and the war machine he serves, are going to
face a wave of popular revulsion if he starts another war.



Chris Hedges is a former Middle East bureau chief for The New York
Times and he is the author, with Joe Sacco, of “Days of Destruction,
Days of Revolt.”

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_dead_rhetoric_of_war
_20130916

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Black Death

The Black Death

By David Glenn Cox
The Leftist Review
September 12, 2013

In the year 1347, the Black Death arrived on the shores of Europe.

Chances were, if you fell ill, you’d die within the week.

Fatality rates ranged from 25% to 50% of the infected population.

The Black Death ended Feudalism and undermined the people’s
faith in the church.

But it did something else, which is far more relevant today.

It illustrated that civilization and society are voluntary organizations.

There are no requirements to join; we do so for the common good, the collective good.

An eye-witness to the Black Death, the Florentine writer
Giovanni Boccaccio, put it this way:

[S]uch fear and fanciful notions took possession of the living
that almost all of them adopted the same cruel policy, which
was entirely to avoid the sick and everything belonging to
them. By so doing, each one thought he would secure his own
safety.

Some thought that moderate living and the avoidance of
all superfluity would preserve them from the epidemic.

They formed small communities, living entirely separate
from everybody else.

They shut themselves up in houses where there were no sick, eating
the finest food and drinking the best wine very temperately, avoiding
all excess, allowing no news or discussion of death and sickness, and
passing the time in music and suchlike pleasures.

Others thought just the opposite.

They thought the sure cure for the plague was to drink and be
merry, to go about singing and amusing themselves, satisfying
every appetite they could, laughing and jesting at what happened.

They put their words into practice, spent day and night going from
tavern to tavern, drinking immoderately, or went into other people’s
houses, doing only those things which pleased them.

This they could easily do because everyone felt doomed and had
abandoned his property, so that most houses became common
property and any stranger who went in made use of them as if
he had owned them.

And with all this bestial behaviour, they avoided the sick as
much as possible.

In our modern society, husbands abandon wives and children,
children abandon parents.

Some Americans think working hard and keeping their noses
to the grindstone will protect them; others fall into hedonism;
morals, laws and social conventions collapse, because the people
feel they are all doomed.

Now look at any major city in the United States.

In Baltimore, Maryland, there are over 7,000 abandoned, derelict
homes.

In Detroit, 50% of the adult population is chronically unemployed.

Then there is Youngstown, Toledo and Cleveland Ohio; cities in
ruins with only enclaves of the financially healthy, adopting
the same cruel policy to entirely avoid the sick and everything
belonging to them.

By so doing, each one thought they could secure their own safety.

Currently, there are at least 34,700,000 unemployed, underemployed
and displaced Americans.

The number of family members living with relatives is now nearly
20% of all American households. The largest increase has been in
the 25 to 34 yrs age group, making up two-thirds of the total number.

"The plight of the lower and most of the middle classes was even
more pitiful to behold. Most of them remained in their houses,
either through poverty or in hopes of safety, and fell sick by
thousands. Since they received no care and attention, almost all
of them died. Many ended their lives in the streets both at night
and during the day; and many others who died in their houses were
only known to be dead because the neighbours smelled their decaying
bodies." - Giovanni Boccaccio

Someone tell me, please, how is this different from our current
American life?

“In this suffering and misery of our city, the authority of human
and divine laws almost disappeared, for, like other men, the
ministers and the executors of the laws were all dead or sick
or shut up with their families, so that no duties were carried
out. Every man was therefore able to do as he pleased.”
- Giovanni Boccaccio

A generation of Americans see no future for themselves,
a generation who see themselves as doomed.

Recently, in a Bloomberg article about Detroit’s bankruptcy, the
most common explanations given for Detroit’s financial woes by
the audience were: Democrats, Unions and Black mayors.

Post-racial America…give me a break.

A plague such as this must have a reason, God’s wrath over man’s
sinful nature, perhaps, but it’s too abstract and nothing could be
done about it.

So instead, let’s find a scapegoat!

To the learned minds of 1348, the answer was obvious; it was the
Jews causing this plague.

Under torture, many Jews confessed to poisoning Christian wells.

To the learned minds of 2013, it is equally obvious, it's, "Black
Mayors,” Unions, Democrats, and of course, the Jews.

Across Europe in 1348, the Jews were burned, incarcerated or
expelled by the thousands, much in the same way African-American
youth are treated in America today.

One in three Black men will go to prison.

Under New York City’s stop and frisk policy, being a person of color
is reason enough to be stopped and searched.

How do people pull themselves up by their boot straps when they
have no boots?

The student loan debacle proves this point and what conclusion for
the future should be drawn by the students, inner city dwellers and
people of color?

“Since they received no care and attention, almost all of them died.
Many ended their lives in the streets both at night and during the
day;” - Giovanni Boccaccio

Does this sound at all familiar?

“A dozen people were killed and at least 62 wounded in gun violence
that rang out across Chicago over the long Fourth of July holiday
weekend.” - Huffington Post

When you’re young and you have nothing, pride becomes pretty
important.

You have no future; most of your role models have abandoned you
or are either in prison or dead.

What does life mean, when you’re doomed from the start?

“Others thought just the opposite. They thought the sure cure
for the plague was to drink and be merry, to go about singing
and amusing themselves, satisfying every appetite they could,
laughing and jesting at what happened." - Giovanni Boccaccio

This is the new Black Death, a deadly plague, afflicting tens of
millions of Americans.

The wealthy lock themselves away in gated communities, while
millions more are powerless, locking themselves away, fearing
the plague reaching their door, the next step down.

With less than 5% of the world population the United States
incarcerates 2.3 million people; China has 1.6 million prisoners
with four times our population.

I want you to understand, if you’re poor or a person of color, and
you’re arrested by police, you will be convicted of the charge.

Robert Leone was arrested in 2010 for failure to stop.

The Pennsylvania state troopers then beat Leone senseless,
charging him with a litany of crimes to cover up the beating.

One of the charges against Leone was for assaulting an officer.

Leone had used his face, while handcuffed, to break a state
trooper’s hand and was charged accordingly.

Chained to a gurney in the emergency room, Leone begged for help
from the hospital staff, explaining his beating at the hands of police.

Overhearing Leone, police ordered the examination room
emptied and proceeded to beat and taser Leone again.

How is one persecution any different from any other?

You’re best hope is to live through the beating and not be
sentenced for too long a prison stay.

In Leone’s case, the goal was to keep him incarcerated, until the
statute of limitations had run out, preventing Leone from suing
police.

This plague, which afflicts us, is man-made.

The disease is Capitalism; it is responsible for the deaths of
thousands of Americans every year, both directly and indirectly.

It is responsible for the health care crisis, the banking crisis,
the mortgage crisis and the drug problem.

It is responsible for crumbling cities and unemployment; it’s
responsible for junk food and GMO crops.

It is responsible for fracking and every other form of industrial
pollution.

Capitalism isn’t an economic system; it’s a disease, a plague,
the Black Death.

“For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great
mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would
become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and once
they’d done this, they would sooner or later realize that the
privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away.”
- George Orwell



David Glenn Cox is a senior staff writer for TLR and an award
winning author and musician; he is the author of the novel,
“The Servants of Pilate”.

http://www.leftistreview.com/2013/08/06/the-black-death/
davidcox

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I Am Not 'War-Weary'

I Am Not 'War-Weary'

By Kelly Rae Kraemer
Common Dreams.org
September 8, 2013

I am not ‘war-weary’; I’m angry

… angry at those who used sarin in Syria
… angry at those who think more killing is the answer
… angry at all presidents with blood on their hands
… angry at the talking heads who distinguish worthy,
from unworthy victims
… angry at politicians who care more about ‘credibility’
than about human life
… angry at those who call for war any time the flag is waved
… and angry at the endless headlines that claim we’re just
‘war-weary’, as though one good head-clearing nap would
make Americans see the wisdom of killing to punish killing.

I am not ‘war-weary’; I’m sick

… sick at the sight of so many dead from breathing poison in Damascus
… sick at the thought of so many dead or damaged by uranium
in Fallujah
… sick at the thought of Afghans massacred in Kandahar
… sick at the memory of Japanese vaporized in Hiroshima
and Nagasaki
… sick at the memory of all the young soldiers sent to kill
and die
… sick at the thought of all those shot, bayoneted, bombed,
gassed, and nuked in war
… and sick at the thought of those who will die in a US attack
on Damascus, because a ‘limited’ attack is still an attack.

I am not ‘war-weary’, but I am tired

… tired of peace prizes going to warmakers
… tired of politicians who play games with people’s lives
… tired of presidents and legislators who ignore the laws
they’ve sworn to uphold
… tired of war drum beating that passes for journalism
… tired of the claim that war can be ‘humanitarian’
… tired of indoctrination into the false belief that war
can bring peace
… and tired, so tired of hearing there will be “no boots
on the ground”, as if a war that only kills foreigners is
morally acceptable.

I am not ‘war-weary’; I am anti-war

… because war is always a failure
… a failure of diplomacy and understanding
… a failure of will and effort
… a failure of imagination and creativity
… a failure of ingenuity and investment
… a failure of compassion and morality
… a failure to invent and practice real,
nonviolent humanitarian action.

I am not ‘war-weary’; I’m hungry for peace.



Kelly Rae Kraemer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Peace Studies
at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University in Central
Minnesota.

http://www.commondreams.org/further/2013/09/05-2

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Criminal Insanity of US Regime

Criminal Insanity of US Regime

By Finian Cunningham
Information Clearing House
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely.

That adage applies more than ever to the president of the United
States, his administration and the Wall Street flunkeys that sit in
Congress.

But the corruption extends beyond the usual meaning of
a dysfunctional moral compass to include the incapacity
for intelligent reasoning and self-reflection.

The political class of most powerful country on earth has been so
over-indulged in arrogance and hubris that it is no longer able to
realize how ridiculous it appears to the rest of the world.

In short, criminal insanity seems to be the condition of US rulers
and their puppets, including those in the mass media.

The American president and his cronies on Capitol Hill preen and talk
as if into a charmed mirror that reflects loveliness to the beholder,
yet the rest of the world sees ghastly, frightening clowns, loaded up
on self-righteousness, delusion, inordinate firepower and a reckless
ease for squeezing the trigger.

Indeed, such is the ridiculous posing by Washington that the US,
the world’s number-one terrorist state, seems to have added a
new weapon to its arsenal of planet-destroying armaments, one
that induces uncontrollable laughter in victims to the point of
death from asphyxiation or from a busted gut.

President Barack Obama may have been testing out this new
“mass laughter” weapon last weekend when he announced that
he was seeking approval from Congress to launch military
strikes on Syria.

This was after his administration accused the Syrian government of
“murdering over 1,000 of its own people” with chemical weapons in
the suburbs of Damascus on 21 August.

The death of hundreds of innocent civilians, including women
and children, is certainly no laughing matter.

But it is a cruel mockery to their memory that the US president
should try to use these deaths as an excuse to escalate his
transparent and criminal agenda for regime change in Syria.

While the Americans huff and puff that they have “high confidence”
in their secret allegations against the Syrian government of President
Bashar al-Assad, the rest of the world is more convinced that it is the
US-backed mercenaries who committed mass murder with chemical
weapons supplied by Washington’s ally Saudi Arabia.

So out-of-control is the delusional US president that it took his
Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to make a telephone call
and remind Obama that he is a Nobel Peace Laureate and should
act accordingly instead of playing with fire that might engulf the
region and the entire globe.

“I would like to address Obama as a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Before using force in Syria, it would be good to think about future
casualties,” Putin said, as if he was addressing an imbecile, which
he was.

“Russia is urging you to think twice before making a decision
on an operation in Syria.”

Apart from the world’s most reactionary and lawless regimes,
Saudi Arabia, and Israel, the rest of humanity is also urging
the American government to think twice before it murders
countless more people in a region already teetering on the
brink of conflagration.

Even the normally gung-ho British have backed away from such
reckless adventurism.

Obama says that he “only” intends “limited missile strikes” on Syria
as a “punitive” measure to deter the future of chemical weapons.

In his address from the White House Rose Garden on Saturday,
Obama spoke with words scented with cloying hypocrisy.

“What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of
children to death in plain sight and pay no price? We are the United
States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye.”

This is from the leader of the same terror state that supplied
former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with chemicals weapons
and the coordinates to gas thousands of Iranians and Kurds
during the 1980s; it is the same United States of terror that
dropped white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah and
others in 2005-2006 during its genocidal war of illegal
occupation; it is the same terror state that poisoned Iraq and
generations of children with depleted uranium; the same terror
state that supplies Israel and other allies such as Saudi Arabia
and Bahrain with a plethora of toxic chemicals that are then
fired into civilian homes every day of the week.

Nobody in their right mind believes a word that the US rulers
are saying about chemical weapons in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted how the US says
it has “super convincing” evidence that the Syrian government
is responsible yet the Americans won’t present the supposed
intelligence.

Lavrov also hinted at the lunacy of official American thinking by
pointing out the contradiction in Washington’s claims to support
the elusive peace conference in Geneva but not before unleashing
a blitzkrieg on the country.

“And after they bomb Syria, they will be ready for convening the
conference called Geneva II,” said the Russian diplomat, as if
describing a bloodthirsty psychopath, which is actually appropriate.

The US stands virtually alone in the face of humanity with its
self-righteous regard to bomb any one it wants to based on its
own outrageous self-serving lies.

Even its plaything puppets like UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon,
Canada’s Prime Minster Stephen Harper, the pathetic Arab League
and NATO’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen have all distanced themselves
from the proposed US military attack on Syria.

“I'm comfortable going forward without the approval of a United
Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed
and unwilling to hold Assad accountable,” said Obama.

Comfortable?

With committing a war of aggression by launching hundreds of
cruise missiles on a sovereign country that has not and does not
threaten the US?

What Obama means by the UN Security Council being paralyzed is
that it refuses to bend over backwards to satisfy Washington’s
criminal bloodlust and state terror.

Part of this terrorism is to put a gun to the head of Syria and the rest of the world as the next few days go by waiting for the US Congress
to deliberate on whether or not to grant itself the right to bomb
another country, premised on its arrogant delusions of grandeur and
raving fabrications.

To this end, Obama said:

“Our military has positioned assets in the region. The Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs [General Martin Dempsey] has informed me that we
are prepared to strike whenever we choose. Moreover, the Chairman
has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not
time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one
month from now. And I'm prepared to give that order.”

Such crazed, self-indicting ranting would be funny, if it weren’t
so appallingly criminal.



Finian Cunningham, is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. For many years, he worked as an editor and writer in the mainstream news media, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article36082.htm