My Platform

Assuming I were to run for public office – let’s say President since we’re being ambitious – these would be 12 of my major tenets. (Needless to say, I am not running for any kind of public office.) Some of these may seem rather extreme, but it’s just a function of our present societal situation in which poor people face heavy penalties for crimes they commit and rich and powerful people face virtually no penalties whatsoever, despite the fact that rich and powerful people can do much more damage.

1. Legalize all drugs under the present California model; i.e., licenses and federal oversight. All drug offenders will receive immediate release. All non-drug offenders shall be moved to federal prisons. All private prisons shall be closed. No person or corporate entity shall ever be granted the power to make profit from the imprisonment of others. Addicts will be hospitalized, of course.

2. Ban all drug advertisements, to include alcohol, in all media. No drug companies (which includes alcohol) can sponsor sports stadiums or anything of the like. They can stay in business – I like a Long Island myself from time to time – but the playing field is completely equal and we want to reduce the all-encompassing nature of alcohol in our society a bit.

3. All presidential candidates must pass a basic skills test, including general knowledge questions in economics and geography. There will be essays and an oral exam. It need not be excessively difficult – we could perhaps use a general knowledge exam designed for English public school students, for example. We just want to make sure anyone who runs for office isn’t a complete fucking toolbag. They need to know the Earth goes ’round the Sun. The question of whether a magical snake talked to Adam and Eve should not be something that requires heavy thought.

4. The death penalty will be federally mandated, with several important provisions and limitations:

  1. All people of color must be convicted by a jury of their peers; that is, the jury must be composed of at least 50% people of color as well. In certain areas in the South, this is raised to 75%. All current death penalty cases will be re-examined by independent investigators to determine the evidence used to obtain their conviction, and will be stayed until approval to move forward is received. The manpower to do these independent investigations shall be found in the local communities and there will also be more people available because all drug cases are going away.
  2. The death penalty will be greatly expanded to include white-collar criminals. For example, attempted bribery of a public official, whether by direct or indirect means, will be punishable by death. The CEO of any company whose products result in even one person’s death as a result of malfeasance or disregard shall be charged with murder and put to death. Any executive who can be demonstrated to be knowledgeable of any hazardous material being placed in an area such that it directly or indirectly causes the death of a single individual shall be charged with murder and put to death. Any CEO or executive who knowingly participates in a scheme wherein funds are mismanaged to a degree that 1,000 or more people are put out of work shall be put to death. Any less than that number is merely life in prison with no possibility of parole. All higher-ups shall be responsible for every accountant, so that they are held accountable for their employee’s actions; the “I was unaware” defense is invalid.
  3. With regard to war-making, any member of any government body, whether in the legislative, executive, or judiciary branch, who agrees to commit troops to any war under false pretenses shall be put to death. The “I was unaware” defense will also be invalid in this case. It is their responsibility to be aware.
  4. Any police officer convicted of using excessive force which results in the death of a person, accidental or not, shall face the death penalty. Police officers will receive no special protections in prison and will be among the general population; however, it will be made known to the other prisoners who among them was formerly an officer. Any police officer who is found to have committed perjury in the trial of any person, under any circumstances, will face the death penalty. Any police officer who is found to have planted evidence or otherwise aided the false prosecution of any person will face the death penalty.

5. All anti-sodomy laws are hereby repealed. All private sexual activities are legalized as long as they are between consulting adults.

6. Any public relations firm who is found to have knowingly provided disinformation or lied on the behalf of any individual or corporation shall be broken up and the funds used to rebuild infrastructure in the communities of the affected persons.

7. Corporations are no longer persons and have no person-specific protections. Executives must be responsible for their own actions under penalty of law.

8. The “three strikes” law is hereby dissolved.

9. Prostitution is legalized. Federal case centers are set up so that prostitutes can get health care, regular medical checkups, work standard shifts, and obtain their licenses.

10. All medical patents last for 5 years maximum. Minor changes in “medicines” which do not alter their constituent elements do not count for purposes of re-patenting. Anything naturally occurring shall not be patentable; i.e., animals, plants, and people are not patentable, and neither are their cell structures or DNA. Viruses are considered “living” for purposes of non-patentability. Terminator seeds are hereby banned and all patents to that effect are revoked. Any further experimentation along those lines will be punishable by death.

11. Investments can only be in tangible entities and for a tangible productive purpose. All derivatives-based gambling is hereby banned. Any funds invested in that manner and lost cannot be re-collected and all such debts are considered null and void. All companies who solely trade such entities shall be broken up and the monies gained used to rebuild infrastructure in the communities most affected.

12. Companies whose businesses are in the United States but whose primary holdings are in banks other than the United States shall be subject to increased taxation. Those tax burdens are lessened to the extent that the monies stay in U.S. banks. Those tax burdens are eliminated if those same monies are used to rebuild infrastructure in the communities they serve or fund programs that serve the inner cities. Small profits will be allowed in the operation of these programs for businesses who use this money in such a productive capacity. Businesses would also be allowed to discuss their funding of these programs in their advertising, so there would be an incentive to have the best and most productive assistance programs so as to engender people to buy their products generally.

Anyway, these are just a few of the ideas. It’s a start…

Things That Keep Me Up at Night

I am monstrously lucky.

Sure, I have a tough time making ends meet sometimes and have the usual worries of a modern person in 21st century America, which is to say that I am better off than 99% of the world’s population.

Anyone who can read these words is lucky. Anyone who has all of their senses and resides in that part of the world’s population centers having sufficient technology to access the Internet (far less than 50% of the planet) is lucky.

We all know this, and we internalize it and move on, and bitch about our status anyway. But the “lucky” aspect of this is just the beginning.

There are two ideas that nag at me:

(1)    All of the terrible suffering endured in the world is entirely capricious and it is therefore literally true that it would have been better had no one ever been born. No consciousness, no pain.

(2)    Our moral imperative is to help others to whatever extent we can without regard to our personal means or geography, and when we do anything that is not directly assisting others we are egregiously immoral.

These may seem in opposition, but in actuality these ideas are mutually supportive. If we find ourselves in the midst of a war, once we moved past our own survival, would we not tend to the wounded around us? Suppose we disagreed with the reasons for the war. Suppose we found ourselves in a remote country, where we did not speak the language, and couldn’t even begin to understand the motives for war. We should still help the wounded, shouldn’t we?

If not, why not? What possible argument could there be to support our desire to (1) do nothing in the face of the war around us, or (2) take some other action that involves not helping others?

We are not (or, at least, most of us capable of reading this at the moment) in the middle of a war. However, we are on planet Earth, and the atrocities taking place at this very second are too numerous to mention. We all know these are going on around each second of every day and we limit our horizons to those in a small circle around us. And if we ever do think about the problems of the world, we quickly assure ourselves that our resources are such that we could never really make a difference.

Is that relevant? Suppose I can only, by expending the totality of my energies of my lifetime, reduce total universal misery by some pathetic, barely existent fraction of 1%. Does that mean I shouldn’t do it? What possible argument could be levied against using my life in this way? That it could be better used in some other way? Then it becomes a matter of calculation, and possible disagreement, but this would be a choice of possible alternatives within the structure of helping others. One possibility that would definitely be excluded would be, for example, to eke out a comfortable existence for myself and my family and friends, and buy a television and two cars and all the various accoutrements of modern life. All those resources could be better used in alleviating misery.

You might want to punch me at this point, and I don’t blame you. Please tell me where I’m wrong.

Every time I decide to share a laugh with a friend, or pick up Richard II and curl up in my favorite chair, or write in this blog, instead of volunteering at a homeless shelter, I am fit to be damned.

If this isn’t true, then why isn’t it true?

“You can’t be expected to live your life that way.”

“Being with friends makes you a good person, not a bad one.”

“First do no harm. You are not expected to bring evil into the world, but you can’t ask that everyone in the whole world dedicate their lives to bettering one another.”

These are not arguments.

Let’s take another example.

Everyone recognizes overindulgence. We might disagree about where the line lies, but everyone understands the concept and agrees that it would apply to one situation or another.

Let’s pick one: A man buys a Porsche.

Without judging in any way whether this action is good or bad, we can all recognize that there is no practical reason to ever buy a Porsche. Unlike, say, an SUV, wherein people talk themselves into believing they “need” one because they have kids, no such rationale can ever be given for a Porsche. There is no important reason to ever buy one. People like them because they are cool, or because they go very fast, but not because they aid in the assistance of others.

So that’s overindulgence.

Now look at the world. We see monumental universal misery all around us.

Is it an exaggeration to say that, in the face of universal human misery, that it is an overindulgence to treat oneself to an ice cream? Every time one is faced with the desire to have an ice cream, one would have to weigh its benefits against the global benefits of using those resources to help a starving person, for example. Will your desire for ice cream ever outstrip the need of the destitute?

“Well, I have to provide for my kids.”

Does providing for one’s kids mean buying expensive presents and sending them to expensive schools or even buying them clothes at some place other than Goodwill? If we’re serious about the simple principle of assisting others, then every dime we have that could be used for help and isn’t used for that renders us morally repugnant.

In Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons, Thomas More has been imprisoned for refusing to sign the Act of Succession. His friend Norfolk attempts to get him to comply and sign the act, and they have the following exchange:

NORFOLK: Oh, confound all this…I’m not a scholar, as Master Cromwell never tires of pointing out, and frankly I don’t whether the marriage was lawful or not. But damn it, Thomas, look at those names…You know those men! Can’t you do what I did, and come with us, for fellowship?

MORE: (Moved) And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?

More’s God is a fascinating entity who lays traps for the learned. More’s intelligence enables him to be more in danger of Hellfire than Norfolk, whose simplicity assures his ascension even if he is in the wrong. Remarkable.

Of course I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell, which one could argue makes everything pointless. I am myself haunted by the possibility that this play has been run again and again in a mindless eternity for no one’s amusement. But, as I noted at the beginning, this amplifies our responsibility rather than reducing it. The difference is that the damnation is entirely within the limitations of our own consciences.

I’m not saying I have any answers, or that I’m right. I don’t know. That’s the reason I’m up.

Daniel Schorr, 1917-2010

Christian Science Monitor story on Schorr’s career

Schorr was a key figure in the Congressional investigation into CIA abuses that began in 1975. It began when Gerald Ford was engaged in an off-the-record discussion with Arthur Sulzberger and other big shots at the New York Times and let it slip that the U.S. had been involved in conspiracies to assassinate heads of state. One of the reporters immediately asked “Domestically?” to which Ford replied, “Foreign!” This was supposed to be an off-the-record talk, as noted, but the story was leaked to Schorr, who was at CBS News at that time. (Schorr had been recruited by the great Edward R. Murrow in 1953.)

“Ever since the investigation of C.I.A. plots began, there has been a growing question of whether United States activities might in some way be connection with the shooting of President Kennedy.”

“Ford Seeks Curb on Data on Plots”, New York Times, 3 November 1975

Schorr’s report led directly to the Pike Report and the Church Committee, whose documents showed that the CIA had been implicated in the assassination of such figures as Patrice Lumumba and others. When Frank Church started getting too hot to handle, Ford intervened and appointed his Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, to head up an “independent” investigation. The Rockefeller Commission included such luminaries as Operation Northwoods author Lyman Lemnitzer and former Joe McCarthy supporter Ronald Reagan, and it produced a report that naturally whitewashed a great deal of this activity. (Besides the obvious, journalist Seymour Hersh had already shown during Rocky’s confirmation hearings that he had made large “donations” to people in the government’s sphere of influence, such as  Henry Kissinger.) However, the report was forced to disclose that the CIA had forced LSD trials on U.S. citizens, done aerial spraying over San Francisco, run a private bordello (I have some of the receipts, which are hilarious), and started the MK-ULTRA project to attempt mind control for the purpose of creating agents for targeted assassination.

A good example of the conflict created by this tug of war is this telephone call between Senator Inouye (who would become the first head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a post created by the Church Committee) and Henry Kissinger:

Henry Kissinger and Senator Inouye: 12 November 1975

I: Sorry I didn’t return your call earlier. I just found out about it.

K: That is alright. I am sorry this has turned into a test of manhood. I am not trying to keep anything from you. I am not going to let you have these documents. We are not trying to maintain that our aid is based on the Sinai agreement. I trust you and your associates but the way our classified information is being handled is getting to be a dangerous thing for the country. I can cope with it but my successors will suffer.  I have the highest regard for your committee, but my worry is how will I handle the other Committees. My Committee leaks more than yours. Some day come over for a drink and I will explain what worries me. I want you to know it has nothing to do with you and I will send you these documents as official documents.

I: OK. And I accept your invitation.

K: Any documents we give to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee appear in the newspapers. We have a problem on how to conduct diplomacy when this happens and how to conduct matters with the Congress.

I: That is a problem.

K: We will talk about this but not on the telephone. You won this one and I will send the documents.

I: It is not a matter of winning.

K: OK.

(Oh, incidentally, while all this was going on, the head of the CIA was William Colby. Colby had been criticized internally for being too cooperative with the various committees and confirming too much of what the CIA had been doing. Colby was let go and replaced by…drumroll…George H.W. Bush. The same George H.W. Bush who allegedly had zero experience with the CIA, despite the fact that he now has a building named after him. Bush ended all cooperation.)

“From the outset I had been, of course, aware that many in the administration did not approve of my cooperative approach to the investigations, and I had felt myself increasingly isolated from the White House team as the year progressed. I had been criticized for not categorically denying Hersh’s story at the very beginning; I had been criticized for turning material on Helms over to the Department of Justice; I had been chided for being too forthcoming to the Rockefeller Commission; I had been scolded for not stonewalling at every Congressional hearing.” (443-444)

“But I would not and could not change my basic approach. I believed in the Constitution; I believed in the Congress’ constitutional right to investigate the intelligence community; and I believed that, as head of that community, I was required by the Constitution to cooperate with the Congress.” (444)

William Colby, Honorable Men (Simon & Schuster: NY 1978)

Note the difference in attitude. DCI Richard Helms had lied to Congress about CIA involvement in the Chilean coup of Salvador Allende and was proud of it. His CIA friends paid his ridiculous $2000 fine.

Although this has been disputed, it hardly seems possible to argue that Bush did not replace Colby in order to carry out a coverup.

“Then, on November 3, Church was approached by reporters outside of his Senate hearing room and asked by Daniel Schorr about the firing of Colby and his likely replacement by Bush. Church responded with a voice that was trembling with anger. “There is no question in my mind but that concealment is the new order of the day,” he said. “Hiding evil is the trademark of a totalitarian government.” Schorr said that he had never seen Church so upset.

Church’s former speechwriter Loch Johnson is quoted as saying:

“The nomination of George Bush to succeed Colby disturbed him and he wanted to wind up the speech by opposing the nomination…Church wanted me to stress  how Bush ‘might compromise the independence of the CIA – the agency could be politicized.’”

Webster G. Tarpley & Anton Chaitkin, George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography (ProgressivePress: 2004), 292.

The Times noted Bush’s background in the article describing the so-called “Halloween Massacre.”

“Mr. Bush is an Eastern elitist who has prospered in a Republican Party that has largely turned its back on such persons.  The son of Prescott Bush,a Republican Senator from Connecticut, he was educated at the Andover School and at Yale before heading for Texas to make his fortune in the oil business.

“He was twice defeated in attempts to win a seat in the United States Senate, but that did not prevent his appointment as chief American representative at the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee and United States representative in China.”

“Ford Discharges Schlesinger and Colby and Asks Kissinger to Give Up His Security Post,” New York Times, 3 November 1975

In February of 1976, a month after Bush was appointed, the House voted to suppress the report. Schorr obtained an advance copy and leaked it to the Village Voice, which published it. Schorr was suspended from CBS. (Paley had already tried to censor Schorr’s reporting on Watergate, which had landed the latter on the White House Enemies List.) He was also investigated by a House ethics committee, who eventually cleared him in a split vote.

Needless to say, Schorr left CBS.

One footnote: William Colby was found dead in May of 1996, after deciding to go on a canoeing trip, by himself, without a life jacket. It was apparently a sudden decision, as he also left the lights on in his weekend home, his dinner uneaten on the table, his radio on, and the front door unlocked.

Nominated as Director of Central Intelligence by President Richard M. Nixon in May 1973, Mr. Colby led the nation’s espionage services through two of their most turbulent years. On his watch, the Central Intelligence Agency came under fire as never before, accused by Congress and the press of a range of misbehavior that included spying on Americans and plotting to assassinate foreign leaders.

In many cases Mr. Colby chose, in effect, to plead guilty with an explanation. Much of what is now known of the C.I.A.’s history became public because he disclosed it. For his candor and cooperation with Congress, he was dismissed by President Gerald R. Ford in November 1975. A future President, George Bush, succeeded him in January 1976.

“Body of William Colby Is Found on Riverbank,” Tim Weiner, New York Times, 7 May 1996

Capitalism and the Public Good

There was a recent story that illustrates one of the many problems of the hard-right free-market capitalism strategies espoused not only by Thomas Friedman but seemingly the conventional wisdom of everyday Americans. Even in an era where the Gulf Oil spill, a direct result of these policies, is having genocidal effects on sea life, people still cling to the notion that the American capitalist society is best.

I don’t necessarily want to argue (at this moment) that it isn’t. In fact, let’s say all the things defenders of capitalism say about it are true. It stimulates innovation; it creates prosperity; it evens the playing field so that any person can succeed on their own terms and become rich if only they work hard enough. These things are not true, of course, (or rather they are true in a very limited sense) but let’s assume they are for a moment. Even given this, a totally unregulated capitalism (which is what free-marketeers and, incidentally, libertarians such as Ron Paul promote) has destructive effects on our society.

The story I want to discuss concerns the increasing lack of antivenom to certain types of poisonous snakes. What has happened is that the general lack of snakebites, and poisonous snakebites in particular, has made it unprofitable to produce antivenom:

Unfortunately, after Oct. 31 of this year, there may be no commercially available antivenom (antivenin) left. That’s the expiration date on existing vials of Micrurus fulvius, the only antivenom approved by the Food and Drug Administration for coral snake bites. Produced by Wyeth, now owned by Pfizer, the antivenom was approved for sale in 1967, in a time of less stringent regulation.

Wyeth kept up production of coral snake antivenom for almost 40 years. But given the rarity of coral snake bites, it was hardly a profit center, and the company shut down the factory that made the antivenom in 2003. Wyeth worked with the FDA to produce a five-year supply of the medicine to provide a stopgap while other options were pursued. After that period, the FDA extended the expiration date on existing stock from 2008 to 2009, and then again from 2009 to 2010. But as of press time, no new manufacturer has stepped forward.

In theory, goods and services are produced to meet the demands of society, creating a situation which benefits both the producer and the consumer. The consumer benefits from the goods and services and the producer generates a profit for him or herself. Simple enough. However, the key word in all of this is profit.

Capitalism is to human organization as Nietzsche’s ubermensch is to humanity itself.  In other words, the pursuit of profit divorced from other concerns trumps social values, and indeed it creates social values. For any business model to work, it must operate based on the desires of others. Those desires tend to be generated by the businesses themselves. Do we need cheese puffs? Do we need Disney television programs? Do we need nuclear weapons? No, but we can have as much of those things as we want, because those things are associated with profit.

It is not inherently profitable to promote human community. Businesses do not benefit from people giving their labor to others for their benefit, or sharing vehicles, or giving clothes away when they no longer fit, or any of a million other human behaviors that do not involve production.

The end result is a situation where people may die of a snake bite because it isn’t cost-efficient to make antivenom.

Obviously, there are other social effects as well. People now take it for granted that of course businesses have a right to monitor, for example, one’s messages on the internet even on private time. It could affect their business, which is what’s really important, not the rights of the individual. That is explicitly a capitalist meme. It is the thought process of the employee. And it infects all similar discussions like this, because people have gotten so used to thinking this way that it becomes a reflex.

Truth, Justice, and the American Way, as Superman (the ubermensch) likes to say.

Viola Liuzzo & Gary Rowe

These two names may be unfamiliar, but they are connected to an incident which occurred in 1965. It’s a grim story and very reminiscent in some ways of the 9/11 story, in particular with respect to the Able Danger revelations.

Viola Liuzzo was a civil rights activist in Alabama who was shot and killed while driving another activist, Leroy Morton, home from a protest. The shots were fired from a passing car with four men in it.

Gary Rowe was one of these four men, and he would testify later that although all four of them had guns, he had only pretended to shoot. He did admit to participating in the planning and, of course, put himself at the scene. He did nothing to stop the incident, and we only have his word that he did not actually fire the gun he held in his hand – although even if true, this hardly seems exculpatory.

Gary Rowe was working for the FBI. He had been working for them since 1960, allegedly as an informant undercover in the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1975, wearing a bizarre cotton hood that resembled a Klan headpiece without the point, he told a Senate committee that the F.B.I. had known of and condoned his participation in violence against black people and had ordered him to sow dissent within the Klan by having sexual relations members’ wives.

He admitted to taking part in a baseball bat assault on Freedom Riders in Birmingham in 1961 and told the Alabama police that he had fatally shot a black man, never named, in a riot in 1963 and that Federal authorities knew about these incidents. As late as 1983, Mrs. Liuzzo’s children brought an unsuccessful $2 million suit against the F.B.I., charging that through its negligence in recruiting, training and controlling Mr. Rowe, it bore responsibility for the killing.

(NYT, “Gary T. Rowe Jr., 64, Who Informed on Klan In Civil Rights Killing, Is Dead,” By Michael T. Kaufman, 4 October 1998)

So Gary Rowe says that the government knew about the fact that he had murdered a black man in 1963, and he nevertheless continued working for them and receiving paychecks from them. He then participated in the murder of an activist who happened to be white, which is why this particular case received national attention. Once this happened, somebody must have told LBJ that Rowe was important:

The US President, Lyndon B Johnson, had intervened in the case from the very beginning.

The day after Mrs Liuzzo’s murder he announced on television that four members of the KKK had been arrested, including Gary Rowe – later revealed as an undercover FBI agent and who testified against the other three.

1965: White Jury Convicts Ku Klux Klansmen (BBC)

He must have done a terrific job of informing. The FBI probably gained a whole lot of intelligence from this guy, which they used to destroy the KKK forever, right? After all, if they are paying a guy to beat and kill people, one would hope that it’s for a damned good reason.

Unfortunately, the answer is no. The FBI has a long history, under J. Edgar Hoover and through COINTELPRO, of being a racist organization willing to try and induce Dr. Martin Luther King into committing suicide (at minimum), and murder Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, among other Black Panther leaders.

Across from the U.S. Justice Department to this day, there is a statue of Albert Pike – the only Confederate soldier to have a statue in Washington, DC. Pike was many things, but one of them was the Chief Justice of the Ku Klux Klan. Gives us some idea about what kind of justice the DOJ is talking about.

Categories

It might do well to remember that all categorization – all understandings – are inevitably simplifications, attempts at deciphering what cannot be deciphered in a holistic way. Life is short; we cannot read everything; and so we select specific works, read them, to find our taste; and then, from there, we pick and choose what will define us. Once we reach a certain quantity of books, and/or a certain age, we determine what our taste is, and thereby eliminate whole categories of books from the competition of our interest. A new book by a known novelist appears, and we treat it as if it were the new Harry Potter. We know all about it. But it is perhaps interesting to realize that later Harry Potter books differed in substantial ways from their predecessors – even as direct sequels, as opposed to simply further examples from the same author. (In other words, there is an extension of continuity implied by a new Harry Potter book that does not automatically exist in looking at, say, Lolita, and Ada, or Ardor, from Vladimir Nabokov, although in fact the similarities between the latter books may be more apparent than in the former.)

And, of course, human beings do not cooperate with the categories to which we assign them – not even ourselves.  The specimens in our personal petri dishes are too squirmy, too independent, for that. And still we do it. For this issue of mortality comes again, and we must be something. We must be liberal, or conservative, communist, atheist, fundamentalist; we must prefer Sontag to Paglia, or Cortazar to Amado, or bananas to spinach. So we deselect (and preselect) our interests and rely on the summaries of experts for the rest; summaries by people who are, by definition, alienated from us by their dedication to their own preoccupations – preoccupations that do not interest us enough to delve so deeply ourselves.

Of course, it isn’t just books. It’s everything. We always find ourselves immensely complex and others readily diagnosed; without this principle, not only psychotherapy but advice would cease to exist. This is the paradox of categorization, however necessary the process might be.

And for all that, we are ultimately reducible to a single category: that of stardust contemplating itself.

Parallelism

Polls show that a majority of the public disapprove of Obama’s handling of the BP oil spill. This shouldn’t be terribly surprising, since the feds have essentially done nothing and the spill continues; indeed, some scientists are speculating that this is an extinction-level event.

It’s not clear that Obama or the federal government can do much about this, but we’ll see. My concern is how this reaction has been seized upon by the Right to show that the president has made some sort of disastrous error, on par with the Iraq invasion.

I have no particular investment in Obama, but this is not the case.

Now, suppose Obama declared: “Citizens of America, I strongly believe that the terrorists are hiding 5,000 feet below the surface in the Gulf of Mexico, dressed as dolphins. We have clear evidence, which Robert Gates has presented to the United Nations, showing that dolphin costumes and oxygen tanks are amassed off the coast. In order to deal with this problem, we must ask British Petroleum to blow a hole in its piping to release oil, thus blinding our attackers. True, oil will be spilling into the ocean, but the end result of our actions will be to bring democracy to the region.”

In that case the situations would be parallel. Such is not the case.

Bertrand Russell

As we have discussed many times the world is a complex place; and over time, I have come to realize that someone like Noam Chomsky is very probably a plant whose job at MIT is not accidental.  Chomsky’s analyses are perfect as far as they go, but stop at a crucial point, never going below the surface of a structural interpretation — which, crucially, enables him to explain events without ever discussing real human motivation.  H.G. Welles worked for MI6 and supported eugenics programs his whole life.  Margaret Sanger hated blacks and participated in mass sterilization programs.  Gloria Steinem owes her entire career to CIA funding.  Alduous Huxley gave a famous speech in 1962 in which he said that Rome fell due to the lack of bread and circuses and that he didn’t see why a perfectly managed scientific dictatorship shouldn’t last forever.  Many large-scale popular culture changes in our society have been orchestrated, with one example being the move away from representational art and toward postmodern or pop art.  This change was funded by, among others, the Rockefellers, because in nonrepresentational art forms one can only comment about the aesthetic of popular culture, and not social injustice, as had been done by Diego Rivera, for example.

Funding two sides of an argument is a known and accepted technique practiced by the elite.  Amy Goodman gets her financing from the Ford Foundation (incidentally, control of this was wrested from the Ford family many years ago – it’s an interesting story but a diversion from the present subject) and thus a line is drawn to what subjects Democracy Now will cover – and how.  The same American and British financiers (in some cases literally the same names) financed the rise of Bolshevism and the rise of Hitler.  The Communist Party in the United States was so infiltrated that more than 50% of its adherents were FBI agents.  The British government, in a more recent scandal, was found to have so seriously infiltrated the IRA that it was virtually run by the Brits (shades of “Brazil”).

Now to Russell.  This is a real hero of mine; perhaps my first intellectual hero, even before Borges.  I convinced my parents to buy me Why I Am Not a Christian for a Christmas present when I was 13, to the amusement of my father and the anger of my mother.  And many of his pronouncements are good common sense.  He was a master of English prose and he protested the Vietnam War in his 80’s.

And yet…

He was greatly influenced by Welles as a young man, and spent a great deal of time with T S Eliot, who of course was an American poet who turned himself British, adopting a ridiculous accent and writing a poem, “The Hollow Men,” making the case that the world was doomed if the world did not become Anglican.

Many times during his life Russell spoke openly of a first-strike nuclear attack against the Soviets.  And then there are his views on eugenics.

Here are some quotes that you may be less familiar with, taken from his 1952 book The Impact of Science on Society:

“Scientific societies are as yet in their infancy. It may be worthwhile to spend a few moments in speculating as to possible future developments of those that are oligarchies.

It is to be expected that advances in physiology and psychology will give governments much more control over individual mentality than they now have even in totalitarian countries. Fichte laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished. But in his day this was an unattainable ideal: what he regarded as the best system in existence produced Karl Marx. In the future such failures are not likely to occur where there is dictatorship. Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible. Even if all are miserable, all will believe themselves happy, because the government will tell them that they are so.” (61)

“A scientific world society cannot be stable unless there is a world government… unless there is a world government
which secures universal birth control, there must from time to time be great wars, in which the penalty of defeat is widespread death by starvation… Unless, at some stage, one power or group of powers emerges victorious and
proceeds to establish a single government of the world with a monopoly of armed forces, it is clear that the level of civilization must decline until scientific warfare becomes impossible – that is until science is extinct.”  (117)

“To deal with this problem [increasing population and decreasing food supplies] it will be necessary to find ways of preventing an increase in world population. If this is to be done otherwise than by wars, pestilence, and famines, it will demand a powerful international authority. This authority should deal out the world’s food to the various nations in proportion to their population at the time of the establishment of the authority. If any nation subsequently increased its population it should not on that account receive any more food. The motive for not increasing population would therefore be very compelling. What method of preventing an increase might be preferred should be left to each state to decide.” (124)

He appears to have swallowed the propaganda that is Malthusianism whole in these pages, and his writings parallel the views of such notables as Cecil Rhodes.  He had a number of highly questionable associations in his life, and one wonders about this…it certainly gives me pause.  I still treasure some of his writings (and his one-volume History of Western Philosophy is just a great read) but it is entirely possible that he, like so many others in our time, is part of the managed opposition.