Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Moment of Joy

"All my life I have been lying. Even when I told the truth. For I never told the truth for its own sake, but only for my own sake."
--Dostoyevsky, The Devils

Albert Jay Nock argued that studying the classics as an undergraduate was far and away the best educational program a young person could adopt, because "the literatures of Greece and Rome comprise the longest and fullest continuous record available to us, of what the human mind has been busy about in practically every department of spiritual and social activity; every department, I think, except one — music. This record covers twenty-five hundred consecutive years of the human mind's operations in poetry, drama, law, agriculture, philosophy, architecture, natural history, philology, rhetoric, astronomy, politics, medicine, theology, geography, everything. Hence the mind that has attentively canvassed this record is not only a disciplined mind but an experienced mind; a mind that instinctively views any contemporary phenomenon from the vantage-point of an immensely long perspective attained through this profound and weighty experience of the human spirit's operations."

count their blessings

"In preparation for the 2010 census, state employees even took GPS readings for every front door in America so that individuals can be located with computer accuracy."

"When Union General William Tecumseh Sherman made his notorious "scorched earth" march through Georgia, he used census data to locate the farms he looted for provisions. During World War I the Justice Department used census data to locate males within a certain age-range who had not registered for the draft; during World War II the data were used to locate Japanese-Americans and target them for internment. More recently, the IRS has compared census data to privately purchased lists to detect tax evaders."

--Wendy McElroy

nuanced airstrike kills nuanced civilians

Kunar province, Afghanistan

"Gen. Stanley McChrystal's nuanced Afghanistan war plan took a hit on Sunday when a convoy of suspected insurgents targeted by a coalition airstrike turned out to be civilians."
--Feb 21, 2010 Christian Science Monitor
Elder Levi Savage

Levi Savage, of the Willie handcart tragedy of 1856, was captain of the second hundred, one of only four among that company of 400 emigrants who had been west before, and the only one of them all who raised his voice in opposition at the meeting in Florence, Nebraska, in August when the company considered whether or not to go on to Utah that late.

According to the narrative of John Chislett, who was in the company and left the Church after barely surviving the ordeal and before writing his account, the other leaders, including G. D. Grant and William Kimball, Church agents at Florence, favored their going on. They prophesied in the name of God the company would get through in safety, even that the weather would be arranged for their good. But Levi Savage used his common sense and his knowledge of the country. According to his journal:

"I said to him that if I spoke I must speak my mind, let it cut where it would. He said certainly to do so. I then related to the Saints the hardships that we should have to endure. I said that we were liable to have to wade in snow up to our knees and shovel at night, lay ourselves in a thin blanket and lie on the frozen ground without a bed. I said that it was not like having a wagon that we could go into and wrap ourselves in as much as we like and lay down. “No,” said I, “we are without wagons, destitute of clothing and could not carry it if we had it. We must go as we are. The handcart system I do not condemn. I think it preferable to unbroken oxen and experienced teamsters. The lateness of the season was my only objection to leaving this point for the mountains at this time. I spoke warmly upon the subject, but spoke truth, and the people, judging from appearance and expressions, felt the force of it. "

Elder Savage was rebuked by the other elders for want of faith, one elder even declaring that he would guarantee to eat all the snow that fell on us between Florence and Salt Lake City. The majority of the Saints decided to make the journey.
A few weeks later, when apostle Franklin Richards, who had optimistically advocated the handcart plan in England, passed them on his way to Salt Lake, he stopped for a night and, being advised of Brother Savage's earlier opposition, "rebuked him very severely in open meeting for his lack of faith in God." According to Chislett, Elder Richards gave us plenty of counsel to be faithful, prayerful, obedient to our leaders, etc., and wound up by prophesying in the name of Israel's God that "though it might storm on our right and on our left, the Lord would keep open our way before us and we should get to Zion in safety."

More than fifty (one in eight) of the Willie Company died in the storms that overtook them in Wyoming, over 150 (one in four) of the Martin Company that was two weeks behind them. Chislett points up the painful irony that, according to all the old settlers in Utah, "the fall storms of 1856 were earlier and more severe than were ever known before or since. Instead of the Mormons' prophecies being fulfilled and their prayers answered, it would almost seem that the elements were unusually severe that season, as a rebuke to their presumption."

According to Chislett, "It was the stout hearts and strong hands of the noble fellows who came to our relief, the good teams, the flour, beef, potatoes, the warm clothing and bedding, and not prayers nor prophecies, that saved us from death." He, of course, had forgotten that it was prayers and prophecies that had saved these English millworkers from Europe, from Babylon, and would make them into Saints, despite the costs, that it was the love and conviction built on prayers and prophecies that moved those he called "noble fellows" to risk their lives in the rescue, including G. D. Grant and William Kimball.

These two, who in their zeal had been partially responsible for the plight of the handcart pioneers, had traveled to Salt Lake with Elder Richards, Chislett notes, and immediately, at Brigham Young's direction, turned around to come to their aid:

"May God ever bless them for their generous, unselfish kindness and their manly fortitude .... How nobly, how faithfully, how bravely they wanted to bring us safely to the Valley—to the Zion of our hopes." Indeed, William Kimball, who spent an entire day carrying women and children through floating ice on a crossing of the Sweetwater, according to the journal of one of the survivors, "staid so long in the water that he had to be taken out and packed to camp and he was a long time before he recovered as he was chil[le]d through and in after life he was allways afflicted with rheumatism."

These originally overzealous and now bravely self sacrificial rescuers, I believe, understood the paradox of integrity and obedience better than the apostate Chislett did, and Brigham Young understood it better than Chislett or Elder Richards: He severely and publicly chastised the apostle for not having had the common sense to stop the rear companies in Florence and for encouraging the emigrants to rely on miraculous intervention to protect them from needless folly in a practical decision that could be made rationally—something Brother Brigham would never do.

And Brigham Young, better than Chislett, understood that other paradox, of faith and works: When he was informed that some of the Martin company were arriving on Sunday, November 30, he dismissed the day's meetings and sent the Saints home to prepare to feed and nurse the survivors rather than stay there and pray. "Prayer is good," he said, "but when baked potatoes and milk are needed, prayer will not supply their place."

But perhaps Levi Savage understood better than any of them the paradox of integrity and obedience. After Savage was defeated in his lone opposition at the Florence meeting, he informed his fellow Saints:

"Brethren and sisters, what I have said I know to be true; but, seeing you are to go forward, I will go with you, will help you all I can, will work with you, will rest with you, will suffer with you, and if necessary, I will die with you. May God in His mercy bless and preserve us. Amen."
And according to Chislett: "Brother Savage was true to his word; no man worked harder than he to alleviate the suffering which he had foreseen, when he had to endure it."
--Eugene England

at least there's a Book of Mormon on the nightstand

Porn mogul Jay Quinlan really hates when people on the Internet steal his intellectual property.

At a panel this week at the “XBIZ State of the Industry Conference,” Quinlan, tattoo-covered vice president of a company that owns three adult entertainment pay Web sites, struggled to contain his anger over seeing videos from his pages being illegally posted on YouTube-esque porn hubs.

“The people stealing this stuff should be brought out to the back room and shot,” he said. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch free porn? So every year that goes by now, there are new people – especially younger people – watching adult content who think that porn is free. And it’s not good.”

Reports on the state of the industry prompted Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis to state last month that the porn business deserved a $5 billion bailout.

But while speaking at the conference at the Warner Center Marriott on Tuesday, Flynt admitted the request was ludicrous.

--The Wrap

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Historic: Mahan principle reversed!

U.S. Army units fighting the Taliban in Helmand province have a compensation system for any death, injury or damage to crops and buildings caused by American forces to Afghan civilians and their property.Financial compensation in desperately poor Afghanistan is at least one way to alleviate distress and show good intentions, military commanders say.

The American units carry a list that gives guidance on payouts:

The death of a child or adult is worth $1,500-$2,500, loss of limb and other injuries $600-$1,500, a damaged or destroyed vehicle $500-$2,500, and damage to a farmer's fields $50-$250 [after fillingn out the required federal forms].

The Alpha Company of 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment of the 5th Stryker Brigade has paid out nearly $500 so far.
--(South Carolina) State

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Martin Luther: "Marriage is the school of love"

This is how Michael Novak, speaking specifically of the bonds of marriage, describes the paradox and its transcendence:

Marriage is an assault upon the lonely, atomic ego. Marriage is a threat to the solitary individual. Marriage does impose grueling, bumbling, baffling, and frustrating responsibilities. Yet if one supposes that precisely such things are the preconditions for all true liberation, marriage is not the enemy of moral development in adults. Quite the opposite ....

Being married and having children has impressed on my mind certain lessons, for whose learning I cannot help being grateful. Most are lessons of difficulty and duress. Most of what I am forced to learn about myself is not pleasant....

Seeing myself through the unblinking eyes of an intimate, intelligent other, an honest spouse, is humiliating beyond anticipation. Maintaining a familial steadiness whatever the state of my own emotions is a standard by which I stand daily condemned. A rational man, acting as I act?...

My dignity as a human being depends perhaps more on what sort of husband and parent I am, than on any professional work I am called upon to do. My bonds to them hold me back (and my wife even more) from many sorts of opportunities. And yet these do not feel like bonds. They are, I know, my liberation. They force me to be a different sort of human being, in a way in which I want and need to be forced.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It Is Now Official: The U.S. Is a Police State

Americans have been losing the protection of law for years. In the 21st century the loss of legal protections accelerated with the Bush administration’s "war on terror," which continues under the Obama administration and is essentially a war on the Constitution and U.S. civil liberties.

The Bush regime was determined to vitiate habeas corpus in order to hold people indefinitely without bringing charges. The regime had acquired hundreds of prisoners by paying a bounty for "terrorists." Afghan warlords and thugs responded to the financial incentive by grabbing unprotected people and selling them to the Americans.

The Bush regime needed to hold the prisoners without charges because it had no evidence against the people and did not want to admit that the U.S. government had stupidly paid warlords and thugs to kidnap innocent people. In addition, the Bush regime needed "terrorists" prisoners in order to prove that there was a terrorist threat.

As there was no evidence against the "detainees" (most have been released without charges after years of detention and abuse), the U.S. government needed a way around U.S. and international laws against torture in order that the government could produce evidence via self-incrimination. The Bush regime found inhumane and totalitarian-minded lawyers and put them to work at the U.S. Department of Justice (sic) to invent arguments that the Bush regime did not need to obey the law.

The Bush regime created a new classification for its detainees that it used to justify denying legal protection and due process to the detainees. As the detainees were not U.S. citizens and were demonized by the regime as "the 760 most dangerous men on earth," there was little public outcry over the regime’s unconstitutional and inhumane actions.

As our Founding Fathers and a long list of scholars warned, once civil liberties are breached, they are breached for all. Soon U.S. citizens were being held indefinitely in violation of their habeas corpus rights. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui an American citizen of Pakistani origin might have been the first.

Dr. Siddiqui, a scientist educated at MIT and Brandeis University, was seized in Pakistan for no known reason, sent to Afghanistan, and was held secretly for five years in the U.S. military’s notorious Bagram prison in Afghanistan. Her three young children were with her at the time she was abducted, one an eight-month old baby. She has no idea what has become of her two youngest children. Her oldest child, 7 years old, was also incarcerated in Bagram and subjected to similar abuse and horrors.

Siddiqui has never been charged with any terrorism-related offense. A British journalist, hearing her piercing screams as she was being tortured, disclosed her presence. An embarrassed U.S. government responded to the disclosure by sending Siddiqui to the U.S. for trial on the trumped-up charge that while a captive, she grabbed a U.S. soldier’s rifle and fired two shots attempting to shoot him. The charge apparently originated as a U.S. soldier’s excuse for shooting Dr. Siddiqui twice in the stomach resulting in her near death.

On February 4, Dr. Siddiqui was convicted by a New York jury for attempted murder. The only evidence presented against her was the charge itself and an unsubstantiated claim that she had once taken a pistol-firing course at an American firing range. No evidence was presented of her fingerprints on the rifle that this frail and broken 100-pound woman had allegedly seized from an American soldier. No evidence was presented that a weapon was fired, no bullets, no shell casings, no bullet holes. Just an accusation.

Wikipedia has this to say about the trial: "The trial took an unusual turn when an FBI official asserted that the fingerprints taken from the rifle, which was purportedly used by Aafia to shoot at the U.S. interrogators, did not match hers."

An ignorant and bigoted American jury convicted her for being a Muslim. This is the kind of "justice" that always results when the state hypes fear and demonizes a group.

The people who should have been on trial are the people who abducted her, disappeared her young children, shipped her across international borders, violated her civil liberties, tortured her apparently for the fun of it, raped her, and attempted to murder her with two gunshots to her stomach. Instead, the victim was put on trial and convicted.

This is the unmistakable hallmark of a police state. And this victim is an American citizen. Anyone can be next. Indeed, on February 3 Dennis Blair, director of National Intelligence told the House Intelligence Committee that it was now "defined policy" that the U.S. government can murder its own citizens on the sole basis of someone in the government’s judgment that an American is a threat. No arrest, no trial, no conviction, just execution on suspicion of being a threat.
--Paul Craig Roberts

Monday, February 8, 2010

One should not try to console either those who lost their eyes, or those who have suffered other losses--of money, health, or a loved one. It is necessary instead to show them what their loss brings them, to show them the gifts they receive in place of what they have losst. Because there are always gifts. God wills it so. Order is restored; nothing ever disappears completely.

We wish to force our own conditons on life; this is our real weakness. We forget that God never creates new conditons for us without giving us the strength to meet them... By all this, I learned at the same time that we shoule never give way to despair, no matter what brutal and negative events occur in our lives [because] just as quickly the same sum of life is given back to us.
--Jacques Lusseyran, Buchenwald prison camp survivor, blinded at age 7.

truth in advertisng

Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products spun out from the manipulative world of corporate advertising, we are being duped into doing and supporting a lot of things that are not in our interest.

An image-based culture, one dominated by junk politics, communicates through narratives, pictures and carefully orchestrated spectacle and manufactured pseudo-drama. Scandalous affairs, hurricanes, earthquakes, untimely deaths, lethal new viruses, train wrecks—these events play well on computer screens and television. International diplomacy, labor union negotiations and convoluted bailout packages do not yield exciting personal narratives or stimulating images. A governor who patronizes call girls becomes a huge news story. A politician who proposes serious regulatory reform, universal health care or advocates curbing wasteful spending is boring. Kings, queens and emperors once used their court conspiracies to divert their subjects. Today cinematic, political and journalistic celebrities distract us with their personal foibles and scandals. They create our public mythology. Acting, politics and sports have become, as they were during the reign of Nero, interchangeable.

The old production-oriented culture demanded what the historian Warren Susman termed character. The new consumption-oriented culture demands what he called personality. The shift in values is a shift from a fixed morality to the artifice of presentation. The old cultural values of thrift and moderation honored hard work, integrity and courage. The consumption-oriented culture honors charm, fascination and likability. “The social role demanded of all in the new culture of personality was that of a performer,” Susman wrote. “Every American was to become a performing self.”

The junk politics practiced by Obama is a consumer fraud. It is about performance. It is about lies. It is about keeping us in a perpetual state of childishness. But the longer we live in illusion, the worse reality will be when it finally shatters our fantasies. Those who do not understand what is happening around them and who are overwhelmed by a brutal reality they did not expect or foresee search desperately for saviors. They beg demagogues to come to their rescue. This is the ultimate danger of the Obama Brand. It effectively masks the wanton internal destruction and theft being carried out by our corporate state. These corporations, once they have stolen trillions in taxpayer wealth, will leave tens of millions of Americans bereft, bewildered and yearning for even more potent and deadly illusions, ones that could swiftly snuff out what is left of our diminished open society.
--Chris Hedges

Monday, February 1, 2010

--Lecompte Stewart

--Maynard Dixon