Friday, December 30, 2011

Would you sacrifice your firstborn son to establish a democracy in country that had a dictatorship? How about giving up your son to effect a regime change? What about exchanging your son to end the oppression of minorities? How about trading your son in return for a country holding elections?

I don’t know of any American mother or father that would do such a thing. I wouldn’t give a finger from one of my sons to do any of these things. Some Americans, however, wouldn’t mind it if some other American’s son came back from some foreign war in a box with only a finger that was recognizable – just as long as it wasn’t their son.

The next time some armchair warrior, some warvangelical, some member of Congress, some reich-wing nationalist, some bloodthirsty conservative, some warmongering Republican, some red-state fascist, some neocon, or some theocon beats the drums for war – like they are doing regarding Iran right now – tell him to put his son in uniform, put him on the first plane overseas, and tell his son what a noble cause it is that he is being sent to die for. Let him tell his son how much his death will be worth it. And if he doesn’t think it worth the death of his son, then it is not worth the death of any other American’s son either.
--Laurence Vance

Friday, December 23, 2011

I have explored other religious and philosophical paths, in part to discover what God is doing outside Mormonism and to give me context for my affirmation of following Jesus to achieve the joy of eternal life—or, as Joseph Smith so wonderfully described, eternal lives. What better way to live now than to anticipate that the experience of eternal life will expand all our souls together with the God of love so as to describe it as abundant and multiple? Who has a more compelling story than that one of social resurrection into divine peerage? Who told it better than Joseph Smith?

Nietzsche and Marx don’t even get close! They claim no views into heaven and tell us to enjoy what we can here because there is nothing better to come. The eastern way leads us to another story that is restful; and for those who prefer eternal rest, the way of the east is more likely to inspire a life of peacefulness if not enthusiasm. Where are words of eternal life? Human evolutionists are getting closer to sensing the power of the story of human ascent as a race, but lack the witnesses of divine messengers who affirm the personal continuity of each soul. There is more social power in the hope for personal life after death than in the hope for general human progress that will be annihilated when the sun goes cold. When I look at the alternatives to the Latter-day Saint grand narrative, I ask, where is your glory? (See Moses 1:9-18.)
--Randy Paul
It is said that we cannot choose three things: our parents, our birth, and, because they are thrust upon us in tender years, our attitudes toward religion. That is as it may be. But in another sense I, and many like me, have chosen all three. I have been reawakened to and reclaimed my Divine parentage and have come to realize that it is as inescapable as my DNA. By submitting to what our people call “the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel” (fourth Article of Faith), I have chosen the time and extent of my rebirth. And with my family I choose regularly to seek out environments charged with light and godliness—among them the sacrament table and the temple. And I choose to bring them into the daily din and into my home.

In short, I, my wife, and my children—a family, we are assured, that can be as immortal as any individual—have embraced to our depths the religion of Jesus Christ, which transforms all of our loves and all of our lives.
--Truman Madsen

Saturday, December 17, 2011


In March 2003, the United States of America launched an entirely unprovoked act of military aggression against a nation which had not attacked it and posed no threat to it. This act led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. It drove millions more from their homes, and plunged the entire conquered nation into suffering, fear, hatred and deprivation.

This is the reality of what actually happened in Iraq: aggression, slaughter, atrocity, ruin. It is the only reality; there is no other. And it was done deliberately, knowingly, willingly. Indeed, the bipartisan American power structure spent more than $1 trillion to make it happen. It is a record of unspeakable savagery, an abomination, an outpouring of the most profound and filthy moral evil.

Line up the bodies of the children, the thousands of children -- the infants, the toddlers, the schoolkids -- whose bodies were torn to pieces, burned alive or riddled with bullets during the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. Line them up in the desert sand, walk past them, mile after mile, all those twisted corpses, those scraps of torn flesh and seeping viscera, those blank faces, those staring eyes fixed forever on nothingness.

This is the reality of what happened in Iraq; there is no other reality.

These children -- these thousands of children -- are dead, and will always be dead, as a direct result of the unprovoked act of military aggression launched and sustained by the American power structure. Killing these children, creating and maintaining the conditions that led to the slaughter of these children, was precisely what the armed forces of the United States were doing in Iraq. Without the invasion, without the occupation, without the 1.5 million members of the American volunteer army who surrendered their moral agency to "just follow orders" and carry out their leaders' agenda of aggression, those children would not have died -- would not have been torn, eviscerated, shot, burned and destroyed.

This is the reality of what happened in Iraq; you cannot make it otherwise. It has already happened; it always will have happened. You cannot undo it.

But you can, of course, ignore it. This is the path chosen by the overwhelming majority of Americans, and by the entirety of the bipartisan elite. This involves a pathological degree of disassociation from reality. What is plainly there -- the evil, the depravity, the guilt -- cannot be accepted, and so it is converted into its opposite: goodness, triumph, righteousness. The moral structures of the psyche are eaten away by this malignant dynamic, as are the mind's powers of perception and judgment. Thus depravity and evil come to seem more and more normal; it becomes more and more difficult to focus on what is really in front of you, to perceive, judge and care about the actual consequences of what you've done or what is being done in your name. Unmoored from reality, you become lost in a savage nihilism that cloaks its unsifted rage and fear and chaos in the most threadbare pieties. And thus you drift deeper and deeper into evil and meaninglessness, singing hosannas to yourself as you go.

And so Barack Obama, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the self-proclaimed inheritor of the mantle of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, went to North Carolina this week to declare the act of aggression in Iraq "an extraordinary achievement." He lauded the soldiers gathered before him for their "commitment to fulfil your mission": the mission of carrying out an unprovoked war of aggression and imposing a society-destroying occupation that led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. These activities -- "everything that American troops have done in Iraq" -- led to "this moment of success," he proclaimed.

He spoke of suffering, he spoke of sacrifice, he spoke of loss and enduring pain -- but only for the Americans involved in the unprovoked war of aggression, and their families. He did not say a single word -- not one -- about the thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Iraqis killed by this "fulfilled mission," this "extraordinary achievement," this" success." These human beings -- these sons and daughters, fathers, mothers, kinfolk, lovers, friends -- cannot be acknowledged. They cannot be perceived. It must be as if they had never existed. It must be as if they are not dead now.

The divorce from reality here is beyond description. It is only the all-pervasiveness of the disassociation that obscures its utter and obvious insanity. There is something intensely primitive and infantile in the reductive, navel-gazing, self-blinding monomania of the American psyche today. Think of the ancient Greeks, who constructed their psyches and their worldview around an epic poem, the Iliad, that depicted their enemies, the Trojans, with remarkable sympathy, understanding and insight -- while depicting their own leaders as a band of shallow, squabbling, murderous fools. Here was a moral sophistication, a cold-eyed grasp of reality -- and a level of empathy for one's fellow human beings -- far beyond the capacity of modern American society, and infinitely beyond the reach of the murderous fools who seek to lead it.

The Iraq War has not ended. Not for the dead, not for their survivors, not for the displaced, the maimed, the lost, the suffering, not for all of us who live in the degraded, destabilised, impoverished world it has spawned, and not for the future generations who will live with the ever-widening, ever-deepening consequences of this irrevocable evil.
--Chris Floyd

Friday, November 11, 2011

newest WMD

Plastic Bottle Prompts Airport Evacuation

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- An evacuation of the lobby at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids is over after authorities determined a suspicious item found in a trash can posed no threat.

Airport Manager Tim Bradshaw said about 200 people were evacuated around 10:30 a.m. on Thursday after a passenger reported the item to authorities.

A robot from the Cedar Rapids police department removed the item, and the all-clear was given around noon.

Bradshaw described the item as a plastic bottle wrapped in duct tape.

Passengers who had already gone through security were held in place, while passengers getting off planes were bused to an area outside the terminal. Bradshaw says less than six flights were affected.

Bradshaw says several agencies are involved in the investigation, including the Transportation Security Administration.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The British medical journal, The Lancet, estimates the total death toll from the Iraq war at nearly 700,000. When the war began, Pentagon experts estimated the cost of the war at about $60 billion. They underestimated by 8,000%. But if the war were to stop tomorrow…and if Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s estimates of total cost were close to correct…each Iraqi killed (let’s hallucinate that he was an “enemy combatant”) would cost about $8 million.

You have to wonder why America would want to kill even a single Iraqi, let alone at a cost of $8 million each. But WWII was a real war, not a zombie war. The real goal of a zombie war is neither to kill people…nor even to win. It is to transfer wealth from the real economy to the zombie industry, in this case, defense.
--Bill Bonner

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Joe Bageant's(RIP) letter to John Ashcroft

"John, goddammit, we are going to have to thrash this thing out! Thanks to you, my librarian wife, who is pretty much the stereotypical, quiet, matronly archivist down in the basement of the local scriptorium, can be fined and sent to prison if she refuses to hand over library records and public internet logs to federal agents. In fact, under the USA Patriot Act, she can be prosecuted if she tells anyone at all, including coworkers and me, that the government came snooping around. And YOU, Mr. Ashcroft, made wisecracks about the National Library Association's objections to this spying on citizens, calling the librarians' concerns "baseless hysteria," and a "hissy fit over Tom Clancy novels."

And only last weekend I learned that the Department of Homeland Security has put restrictions on what genealogists can request. Genealogists for god's sake! For the record Mr. Ashcroft, I am being neither paranoid nor having a hissy fit. I am asking a simple question. And this time none of your arrogant, smart-assed replies. How does preventing some old blue-haired genealogist from looking at my aunt Gertrude's baptismal certificate prevent terrorists from blasting me and old Bingo out of this garden shed? And exactly how does surveillance of the reading habits of an aging redneck pud like me make this nation one bit safer?"

(signed) Ready to rumble,
Joe Bageant

I've not heard back from the attorney general, but it's only been a week. So during the wait, I've put aside for the moment this Mexican standoff between me and the attorney general in order to contemplate the larger picture. Maybe the problem is that I am not a "big picture guy." It could very well be that aunt Gertrude's baptismal certificate is somehow related to the war on terror and events in Baghdad, via a strange web of connections far too vast for me to comprehend. After all, I have seen stranger political events happen during my lifetime, things with mysterious connective tissues far beyond my humble grasp -- chief among them being an Alzheimer’s victim shaking his fist at the Berlin Wall and bringing down the entire Soviet Union. I still haven't figured out how Reagan did that, whether it was an optical illusion or just another example of chaos theory, wherein the butterfly flaps its wings causing a tornado in some other part of the world.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Terry Tempest Williams can also remind us powerfully of our special connections to God as his chosen people. She tells of when her mother first had breast cancer, with only a twenty percent chance of living. At a stake conference to change the presidency, her father, a member of the high council, is interviewed by Apostle Thomas S. Monson:

He asked him, if called would he serve as stake president? My father’s reply was no....
“Brother Tempest, would you Like to explain?”

My father simply said it would be inappropriate to spend time away from his wife when she had so little time left.

President Monson stood and said, “You are a man whose priorities are intact.”

After conference President Monson calls Brother Tempest aside and says,“Brother Tempest I feel compelled to tell you your wife will be well for many years to come. I would like to invite you and your family to kneel together in the privacy of your home at noon on Thursday. The Brethren will be meeting in the holy chambers of the Temple, where we will enter your wife’s name among those to be healed.”

Williams continues:

That Thursday, my brothers and I came home from school to pray. We knelt in the living room together as a family. No words were uttered. But in the quiet of that room, 1 felt the presence of angels.
--from "Refuge"

Thursday, October 27, 2011

From the journal of Joseph Millett, who tells of his name being read out as a missionary in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in 1852, of making his way as a nineteen-year-old, alone and mainly on foot, across the continent to Nova Scotia, learning the gospel and making converts essentially on his own, choosing one of them as a wife and making his way with a group of Saints back to Utah and then on to a colonizing mission in Spring Valley, Nevada. Near the end of the journal, he records a crucial, self-defining experience from the first days in Spring Valley when his daughter had died and many suffered great sickness and hunger:

"One of my children came in, said that Brother Newton Hall’s folks were out of bread. Had none that day. I put . .. our flour in a sack to send up to Brother Hall’s. Just then Brother Hall came in. Says I,“Brother Hall, how are you out for flour.” “Brother Millett, we have none.” “Well, Brother Hall, there is some in that sack. I have divided and was going to send it to you. Your children told mine that you were out.” Brother Hall began to cry. Said he had tried others. Could not get any. Went to the cedars and prayed to the Lord and the Lord told him to go to Joseph Millett “Well, Brother Hall, you needn’t bring this back if the Lord sent you for it. You don’t owe me for it.” You can’t tell how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew that there was such a person as Joseph Millett."

This sense of being special, of God knowing us by name, favoring us with his voice and special direction and responsibility, is crucial to the Mormon identity and central to our best literature from the beginning. But in my view, the quality of this passage is more than doubled by the way it opens out to the other meaning of chosen—called out of the world to bless the world. God knew Joseph Millett’s name not because he was partial to him, but so God could, with perfect confidence, tell his neighbor Brother Hall to go specifically to Joseph Millett for help.
--Eugene England

Thursday, October 20, 2011

the world has no use for a drone...

Drone technology is advancing faster than the public or the legal system has time to catch up to their now ubiquitous use in America’s many war zones. US troops in Afghanistan will soon be able to deploy what’s called the Switchblade, a miniature drone that can be stored in a backpack and be launched from the ground to surveil or kill targets.

A California-based company, AeroVironment, Inc., developed the Switchblade to be fired from a small tube and can transmit wireless live color video, confirm a target, and arms itself at the operator’s demand, and shoot. The company’s website says it “is designed to provide the warfighter with a ‘magic bullet,’” that is “difficult to detect, recognize, and track even at very close range.”

Drones are fast becoming the weapons of choice for America. In the first nine months of 2011, US-led spy drones conducted nearly 23,000 surveillance missions in Afghanistan. The unmanned aerial vehicles are being sold to various governments all around the world.

Ominously, military drone technology is increasing for domestic use as well. Expecting budget cuts, the defense industry has begun to shift the sale of the high tech drones from the Pentagon to local police departments.

The use of drones has dangerously permitted the government to disregard the sovereign borders of other countries and skirt their legal obligations to inform the American people of their aggressive actions abroad. Drones have eased the process of making war, and it doesn’t bode well for targeted countries, or for the US.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


The first of the rescued reached Salt Lake on November 9th, a day of tears and thanksgiving. For many days afterwards the others were straggling in, some riding the wagons, some still grimly hauling their battered carts, still defiantly on their own legs. Margaret Dalglish, that gaunt image of Scotch fortitude, dragged her pitiful handful of possessions to the very rim of the valley, but when she looked down and saw the end of it, safety, the City of the Saints, she did something extraordinary. She tugged the cart to the edge of the road and gave it a push and watched it roll and crash and tumble and burst apart, scattering down the ravine the last things she owned on earth. Then she went on into Salt Lake to start the new life with nothing but her gaunt bones, her empty hands, her stout heart.
Wallace Stegner, Ordeal by Handcart.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An article at AlterNet asks: "Mental Illness Rates Are Up. Could Climate Change Be to Blame?," by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd. For example, it seems to have unhinged Prof. Dr. Algore. (See:

For the mental-illness theorists, a few real tests:

Will they still want to stop climate change if it turns out that it makes people more liberal?

How about if it makes them less Christian?

How about if it makes them less likely to oppose abortion?

Suppose it makes them less violent?

Or more likely to be vegans?
--Nick Strakon

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Some Lessons of 9/11

1. Killing one or many innocents, regardless of one's grievances, is monstrous. This elementary principle would seem to apply to George Bush, and now Barack Obama, as much as to Osama bin Laden. Can someone say why it doesn't?

2. Despite all its guarantees -- contrary to its ideological justification for existing -- the state can't protect us -- even from a ragtag group of hijackers. Trillions of dollars spent over many years built a "national security apparatus" that could not stop attacks on the two most prominent buildings in the most prominent city in the country -- or its own headquarters. That says a lot. No. That says it all. The state is a fraud. We have been duped.

3. The shameless state will stop at nothing to keep people's support by scaring the hell out of them. (Robert Higgs writes about this.) That people have taken its claims about "why they hate us" seriously after 9/11 shows what the public schools and the mass media are capable of doing to people. But the people are not absolved of responsibility: They could think their way out of this if they cared to make the effort.

4. Blowback is real. Foreign-policy-makers never think how their decisions will harm Americans, much less others. They never wonder how their actions will look to their targets. That's because they are state employees.

5. As Randolph Bourne said, getting into a war is like riding a wild elephant. You may think you are in control -- you may believe your objectives and only your objectives are what count. If so, you are deluded. Consider the tens of thousands of dead and maimed Iraqi and Afghanis (and dead Pakistanis and Yemenis and Somalis and Libyans). What did they have to do with 9/11?

6. No one likes an occupying power.

7. Victims of foreign intervention don't forget, even if the perpetrators and their subjects do.

8. Terrorism is not an enemy. It's a tactic, one used by many different kinds of people in causes of varying moral hues, often against far stronger imperial powers. Declaring all those people one's enemy is criminally reckless. But it's a damn good way for a government to achieve potentially total power over its subjects.

9. They say the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Maybe, maybe not. But it seems abundantly clear that the enemy of my friend is also likely to be my enemy. See the U.S.-Israel relationship for details.

10. Assume "your" government is lying.

11. Politicians will stop at nothing to shamelessly exploit the memory of the American victims of blowback if it will aggrandize their power. No amount of national self-pity, self-congratulation, and vaunting is ever enough.

keeping my yuan in the U.S.

The evil dragon used to be Japan. Now it's China. India will get its turn soon enough. Americans are supposedly out of work because of China.

The fact is, Chinese imports are marginal to the U.S. economy. How marginal? You tell me. (Then I will tell you.) What percentage of Americans' personal consumer expenditures (PCE) is met by imports from China? Take a guess. Here was the correct answer in 2010.

Chinese goods account for 2.7% of US PCE, about one-quarter of the 11.5% foreign share. Chinese imported goods consist mainly of furniture and household equipment; other durables; and clothing and shoes. In the clothing and shoes category, 35.6% of US consumer purchases in 2010 was of items with the "Made in China" label.

Obviously, if a pair of sneakers made in China costs $70 in the United States, not all of that retail price goes to the Chinese manufacturer. In fact, the bulk of the retail price pays for transportation of the sneakers in the United States, rent for the store where they are sold, profits for shareholders of the US retailer, and the cost of marketing the sneakers. These costs include the salaries, wages, and benefits paid to the US workers and managers who staff these operations.
--gary north

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sigrid Undset as a young girl

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Artist Alexa Meade paints real people to look like paintings.

Contract With Atrocity

Amazing news story: The Guardian reports on a remarkable case of private contractors who flew American Terror War captives to various sites around the world to be tortured now coming to blows in court over a grubby dispute over expenses. Unbelievable that the details were allowed to come out in a routine civil case for unpaid invoices.

The mass of invoices, receipts, contracts and email correspondence – submitted as evidence to a court in upstate New York – provides a unique glimpse into a world in which the "war on terror" became just another charter opportunity for American businesses.

They reveal how a single plane, Richmor's N85VM, ferried dozens of captives -- seized and held in secret, without charges, without representation, outside any legal process, even the "laws of war" -- to grim fates in the far-flung gulag:

Over the next three years, this plane flew at least 55 missions for the US government, to Guantánamo Bay, Kabul, where the CIA ran the notorious "Salt Pit" prison; Bangkok, where Abu Zubaydah was first taken and used as a guinea pig for "enhanced interrogation techniques"; Rabat, where prisoners were kept incommunicado and tortured by Moroccan agents who passed information to the US and Britain; and Bucharest, one of the European secret jail sites.

Some of the most chilling aspects of the case concern the "human cargo" the profiteers were shipping for the torture bosses back in Washington. Not only did they willingly transport men who had been tormented, tied up, drugged and humiliated, they referred to the victims by the truly Orwellian term, "invitees."

What to do in the face of this grim reality? Many things; but as a general rule, I come back to the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, voiced by one of the characters in his novel on the theme of moral complicity with a system given over to pervasive evil:

"It impossible that evil should not come into the world; but take care that it does not enter through you."
--Chris Floyd

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre—
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
--T.S. Elliot, "Little Gidding" No. 4

reflections on the rioting

Only the wilfully blind could have been surprised by the scale or ferocity of the riots that have engulfed Britain in the past week. Unfortunately, most of the country’s political and intellectual class have been wilfully blind for years, in a state of the most abject denial; a brief walk in any of our cities should have been enough to tell them all that they needed to know.

How anyone could have missed the aggressive malignity inscribed in the faces and manner of so many young men in Britain is a mystery to me. Perhaps, like Dr Watson, our political and intellectual class saw but did not observe; and they did not observe because they lacked the moral courage to attempt anything but appeasement.

The vulpine lope or swagger, the face that regards eye contact with a stranger as a challenge to be met, the adoption of fashions that are known to signify aggression and dangerousness, the grotesquely inflated self-esteem combined with a total incapacity for doing anything constructive: all could and should have sounded an alarm in our politicians. Not only is our population ageing, but a significant proportion of such young people as we have engendered are like this, which no doubt helps to explain why we have had to resort to the importation of foreign unskilled labour while maintaining high levels of domestic unemployment, especially among the young. It is as difficult to employ a hoodie as to hug him.

No one has paid serious attention to the mentality and culture of these young men (using the word culture in its broad, anthropological sense). The morality is that of Satan on his expulsion from heaven: evil, be thou my good. The aesthetics follow the morality. Ugliness, be thou my beauty.

Terms such as ’unrest’ and ’disaffection’, which trip so lightly off the tongue of those who do not want to face a far more disturbing reality, do not explain the behaviour of the rioters. It is obvious, for instance, that if there were any justice in the world — at least if justice is the right return for voluntary effort and conduct — the young rioters would be much worse off than they are. Their problem is not that they have been given too little, but that they have deserved nothing.

The evident glee of the rioters, celebrating and smiling triumphantly among the devastation they wrought, as if in victory, is testimony not to their outraged feelings, but to the strength of the destructive urge that lies within us all and has always to be kept under firm control.

I remember as a child the sheer joy of smashing a radio on our lawn with a croquet mallet, a joy that was quite unrelated to any personal animus against the radio, which could not possibly have done me any harm. I loved the destruction for its own sake and wanted it to continue for as long as possible, smashing the parts into dust long after there was no possibility of repair, feeling that I was almost performing a duty in being so thorough in my annihilation of them.

And the first riot, in Panama, that I ever attended — reporting on it for this magazine — taught me that rioting is fun, that the supposed reason for it is soon forgotten in the ecstatic pleasure of destruction. Talleyrand said that no one knew how sweet life could be who had not lived under the Ancien Régime; one might add that no one has known unalloyed joy who has not heard the tinkle of plate glass, or seen flames lick up a building, in the alleged furtherance of a cause. Incidentally, part of the sweetness of life under the Ancien Régime was the knowledge that it was far from sweet for everyone; and the imagined distress of the owners of the property that rioters destroy is part of the joy of rioting.

The urge to cruelty is not much different in this respect. I doubt there are many people who have never in their lives experienced the pleasure of inflicting some kind of pain on others, physical or mental, from sheer malice and delight in doing so. It is an urge that we overcome first by effort and then by habit.

It is one of the tasks of civilisation to tame our inherent savagery. But who, contemplating contemporary British culture, would recognise in it any civilising influence, or rather fail to recognise its opposite? It is a constant call to and celebration of degradation, not only physical but spiritual and emotional. A culture in which Amy Winehouse, with her militant vulgarity and self-indulgent stupidity, combined with a very minor talent, could be so extravagantly admired and feted, is not one to put up strong barriers against our baser instincts, desires and urges. On the contrary, that culture has long been a celebration of those very urges. He who pays the savage never gets rid of the savagery; and this is only the beginning.
--Theodore Dalrymple

FBI: Nation's largest terrorist organization

A recent report put together by Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkley analyses some striking statistics about the role of FBI informants in terrorism cases that the Bureau has targeted in the decade since the September 11 attacks.

The report reveals that the FBI regularly infiltrates communities where they suspect terrorist-minded individuals to be engaging with others. Regardless of their intentions, agents are sent in to converse within the community, find suspects that could potentially carry out “lone wolf” attacks and then, more or less, encourage them to do so. By providing weaponry, funds and a plan, FBI-directed agents will encourage otherwise-unwilling participants to plot out terrorist attacks, only to bust them before any events fully materialize.

The FBI has used those informants to set-up and thus shut-down several of the more high profile would-be attacks in recent years. The report reveals that the Washington DC Metro bombing plot, the New York City subway plot, the attempt to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower and dozens more were all orchestrated by FBI agents. In fact, reads the report, only three of the more well-known terror plots of the last decade weren’t orchestrated by FBI-involved agents.

The report reveals that in many of the stings, important meetings between informants and the unknowing participants are left purposely unrecorded, as to avoid any entrapment charges that could cause the case to be dismissed.

"The problem with the cases we're talking about is that defendants would not have done anything if not kicked in the ass by government agents," Martin Stolar tells Mother Jones. Stolar represented the suspect involved in a New York City bombing plot that was set-up by FBI agents. "They're creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror." For their part, the FBI says this method is a plan for "preemption," "prevention" and "disruption."

The report also reveals that, of the 500-plus prosecutions of terrorism-related cases they analyzed, nearly half of them involved the use of informants, many of whom worked for the FBI in exchange for money or to work off criminal charges. Of the 158 prosecutions carried out, 49 defendants participated in plots that agent provocateurs arranged on behalf of the FBI.

Intelligence and Affection by Parley P. Pratt

Man, (and woman) know thyself, -study thine own nature, -learn thy powers of body, -thy capacity of mind. Learn thine origin, thy purpose and thy destiny. Study the true source of thine every happiness, and the happiness of all beings with which thou art associated. Learn to act in unison with thy true character, nature and attributes; and thus improve and cultivate the resources within and around thee. This will render you truly happy, and be an acceptable service to your God. And being faithful over a few things, you may hope to be made ruler over many things.

Some persons have supposed that our natural affections were the results of a fallen and corrupt nature, and that they are "carnal, sensual, and devilish," and therefore ought to be resisted, subdued, or overcome and so many evils which prevent our perfection, or progress in the spiritual life. In short, that they should be greatly subdued in this world, and in the world to come entirely done away. And even our intelligence also.

So far from this being the case, our natural affections are planted in us by the Spirit of God, for a wise purpose; and they are the very mainsprings of life and happiness- they are the cement of all virtuous and heavenly society-they are the essence of charity, or love; and therefore never fail, but endure forever...

What then is sinful? I answer, our unnatural passions and affections, or in other words the abuse, the perversion, the unlawful indulgence of that which is otherwise good. Sodom was not destroyed for their natural affections, but for the want of it. They had perverted all their affections, and had to give place to that which was unnatural, and contrary to nature. Thus they had lost those holy and pure principles of virtue and love which was calculated to preserve and exalt.

Know then, O man, (and woman) that aided and directed by the light of heaven the sources of thy happiness are within and around thee. Instead of seeking unto God for a mysterious change to be wrought, or for your affections and attributes to be taken away and subdued, seek unto him for aid and wisdom to govern, direct and cultivate them in a manner which will tend to your happiness and exaltation, both in this world and in that which is to come. Yeah, pray to him that every affection, attribute, power and energy of your body and mind may be cultivated, increased, enlarged, perfected and exercised for his glory and for the glory and happiness of yourself, and of all those whose good fortune it may be to be associated with you.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A few years after Henry Bennion Eyring became president of Ricks College (now Brigham Young University–Idaho), he was offered a high-paying, prestige-filled job in southern California.

“It sounds like a great opportunity,” President Spencer W. Kimball told him as Henry described the offer and its benefits. “If we ever needed you, we would know where you were.”

Henry had expected President Kimball, his uncle, to ask him to stay on at Ricks. Instead, it became obvious that Henry and his wife, Kathleen, were to pray and fast about their decision, which they did. Within a week, the Spirit whispered to Henry that he would have the privilege of staying at Ricks College “a little longer.”

He called Jeffrey R. Holland, then Commissioner of the Church Educational System, and told him that he had turned down the job offer. That evening Henry received a phone call from President Kimball.

“I understand you’ve decided to stay,” said President Kimball.

“Yes,” replied Henry.

“Do you think you’ve made a sacrifice?” asked President Kimball.

“No,” said Henry.

“That’s right!” President Kimball assured him. With that, President Kimball ended the conversation.

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be either good or evil.
- Hannah Arendt

called to serve

I have had [many] experiences feeling of the Holy Ghost…But I’ve never felt what I have felt as I have…participated in the assigning of missionaries…Because of technology, it is possible for us to have your picture and the information about you displayed. And then quickly, on that same screen, all the missions of the Church with all of their needs are displayed. Within minutes, and sometimes less than a minute, the impression comes so powerfully that it would be, if it were a single instance, something that you would never forget. Can you imagine sitting there for hours at a time, having that happen time after time without interruption? I testify to you that it is real…[The Lord] somehow not only knows you but loves you enough to ensure that your call is where He needs you to go to teach the children of our Heavenly Father.
--Pres. Henry B. Eyring

Rules for Radicals

In 1971, Saul Alinsky wrote an entertaining classic on grassroots organizing titled Rules for Radicals. Those who prefer cooperative tactics describe the book as out-of-date. Nevertheless, it provides some of the best advice on confrontational tactics. Alinsky begins this way:

What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.

His “rules” derive from many successful campaigns where he helped poor people fighting power and privilege

For Alinsky, organizing is the process of highlighting what is wrong and convincing people they can actually do something about it. The two are linked. If people feel they don’t have the power to change a bad situation, they stop thinking about it.

According to Alinsky, the organizer — especially a paid organizer from outside — must first overcome suspicion and establish credibility. Next the organizer must begin the task of agitating: rubbing resentments, fanning hostilities, and searching out controversy. This is necessary to get people to participate. An organizer has to attack apathy and disturb the prevailing patterns of complacent community life where people have simply come to accept a bad situation. Alinsky would say, “The first step in community organization is community disorganization.”

Through a process combining hope and resentment, the organizer tries to create a “mass army” that brings in as many recruits as possible from local organizations, churches, services groups, labor unions, corner gangs, and individuals.

Alinsky provides a collection of rules to guide the process. But he emphasizes these rules must be translated into real-life tactics that are fluid and responsive to the situation at hand.

Rule 1: Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.

Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people.
The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.

Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

Rule 4: Make opponents live up to their own book of rules. “You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.

Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”

Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag. Commitment may become ritualistic as people turn to other issues.

Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period for your purpose. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this that will cause the opposition to react to your advantage.”

Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself. When Alinsky leaked word that large numbers of poor people were going to tie up the washrooms of O’Hare Airport, Chicago city authorities quickly agreed to act on a longstanding commitment to a ghetto organization. They imagined the mayhem as thousands of passengers poured off airplanes to discover every washroom occupied. Then they imagined the international embarrassment and the damage to the city’s reputation.

Rule 10: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Avoid being trapped by an opponent or an interviewer who says, “Okay, what would you do?”
--Bill Buppert

Friday, July 8, 2011

The great Sheldon Richman

About that Debt Limit
Maxing out the credit card panics the politicians.

What’s the point of a debt ceiling if raising it is a mere formality?

As the U.S. government neared its $14.29 trillion debt limit, the congressional vote to raise it was expected to be uncontroversial. That’s pretty much how it’s been in the past. In the first decade of this century, the limit was raised a half-dozen times. But this time it’s different. The public is worried about the inconceivably large budget deficits and a total national debt that approaches 100 percent of GDP. Politicians, opportunistically and otherwise, decided to cash in — pun intended – on the public’s concern: There would be no raising the debt limit without a deficit-reduction plan.

At first this position was treated as outrageous. Grownups, the “serious” pundits said, don’t act like this. Grownups would simply raise the limit – enabling the government to incur new debt in order to pay the interest on old debt. It’s an odd idea of what grownups do. But the public was in a deficit-reducing mood, so the demand for a “clean” debt-ceiling bill softened.

So here we are. The debt limit technically was reached in May, but Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner engaged in some accounting maneuvers to pay the bills, extending the de facto deadline to early August. That leaves just a few weeks to come up with a deal.

Catastrophe in the Offing?

The message from Washington – and from most pundits – is that if the debt ceiling is not raised, great catastrophe will befall the United States of America and its people.

Is it true? Consider the source. The people telling us this are the same people who think government spending and tax revenues are never high enough. These are the people who measure “national greatness” in budgetary terms. Of course they’d panic at the news that their credit cards are maxed out.

Would the sky fall if the government couldn’t borrow another penny? Robert Higgs addresses the question:

Have governments defaulted in the past? Of course, they have, on hundreds of occasions over the centuries. Have these defaults triggered “catastrophic economic and market consequences”? No. When a government defaults, there are consequences, of course, including heightened reluctance of lenders to lend to the deadbeat government in the future or at least to lend at such favorable interest rates. Often partial payments of principal and interest are arranged or debts are restructured. The world keeps spinning.

Yes, but we’re not talking just any nation. We’re talking about the United States — American exceptionalism and all that. Writes Higgs:

Has the U.S. government ever defaulted before? Yes, in 1933, by refusing to honor the gold clauses in its bonds, the Treasury engaged in a massive default. Ironically, for mainstream economists and economic historians, the government’s abandonment of the gold standard, along with its associated default on its gold obligations, is seen as the decisive government action that stopped the Great Contraction and set in motion a recovery from the Depression.

Religious Tones

Peter Klein, another excellent economist, notices what I’ve noticed. Pundits and politicians talk about the government in almost religious tones. Its word is sacred, and thus default would be an unspeakable sin.

In following the debates over raising the US debt ceiling I’m struck by the frequent claim that defaulting on public debt is unthinkable because of the “signal” that would send. If you can’t rely on the T-Bill, what can you rely on? Debt instruments backed by the “full faith and credit of the United States” are supposed to be risk-free, almost magically so, somehow transcending the vagaries of ordinary debt markets. The Treasury Bill, in other words, has become a myth and symbol, just like the Constitution.

I find this line of reasoning unpersuasive. A T-bill is a bond, just like any other bond. Corporations, municipalities, and other issuers default on bonds all the time, and the results are hardly catastrophic. Financial markets have been restructuring debt for many centuries, and they’ve gotten pretty good at it. From the discussion regarding T-bills you’d think no one had ever heard of default risk premia before. (Interestingly, this seems to be a case of American exceptionalism; people aren’t particularly happy about Greek, Irish, and Portuguese defaults but no one thinks the world will end because of them.) So, isn’t it time to de-mythologize all this? Treasuries are bonds just like any other bonds. There’s nothing magic, mythical, or sacred about them. A default on US government debt is no more or less radical than a default on any other kind of debt.

Chris Matthews would be screaming, “Heretic!” right about now.

But come on. Really. The fate of the world hinges on the U.S. government’s credibility? That’s a joke, right? Have you followed WikiLeaks? Why are financial obligations more sacred than human rights obligations?

$750 Billion

Yet another wise economist, Robert P. Murphy, puts in all in perspective.

Debt service currently consumes about one-sixth of incoming revenues….

[I]f the government merely returned to its 2003 spending levels, then the current revenue stream would be enough to pay for everything — including interest on existing debt. I personally don’t remember the country falling apart in 2003 from lack of federal-government expenditures.

That would mean cutting $750 billion from the nearly $4 trillion budget. (One item, the war in Afghanistan, costs $10 billion a month.) Murphy suggests that if the politicians don’t want to cut spending, they could sell off government assets to get the money. No need to raise the debt ceiling.

Those are moderate solutions that would leave no lasting reforms. Default would bring lasting benefits. For one thing, it would make people less eager to lend to the U.S. government, and how could that be bad? Debt, among other evils, makes government bigger. As Jeffrey Rogers Hummel says, default would be a balanced-budget amendment with teeth!

The government should indeed give up its land and other assets, but I don’t see why its voluntary creditors should be first in line for payment when there are so many coerced creditors around, including Social Security recipients, who had their potential savings stolen throughout their lives.

Consenting creditors – people who chose to buy T-bills – count on getting repaid with stolen property, aka tax revenue, which in my book taints the contract. If justice is the standard, the State’s victims should get restitution first.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

First Muscle Lady speaks

“But I think that the last four years have shown us the truth of what Barack has always said: That if any child in this country is left behind, then that matters to all of us, even if she’s not our daughter, and even if he’s not our son. If any family in this country struggles, then we cannot be fully content with our own family’s good fortune, because that is not what we do in this country,” she said.
The Schusters’ event was planned by Bryan Rafanelli, who also planned two state dinners for the Obamas, as well as the reciprocal dinner they hosted recently in London for Queen Elizabeth II.It was held outside, under a tent erected against a backdrop of rhododendrons.The white tent and white fabric draping the poles was enhanced by brilliant, lime-green patterned tablecloths with white leaf-like designs.
The flowers were by Winstons: peonies, hydrangeas and orchids.

The menu, by The Catered Affair, consisted of a crab stack; avocado, tomato, cucumber and mango; a salad of baby mixed lettuces; and cilantro lime vinaigrette.
Dessert was a selection of tartlets.

The first lady wore her hair up, with what appeared to be a white or cream-colored dressed with a black-fleck pattern. She wore high heels. Asked to help a reporter better describe her dress, Rafanelli said simply, “Fabulous.”

When she spoke, the towering first lady eschewed the platform that had been placed behind the microphone for Elaine Schuster’s introduction.Yet while Schuster spoke from typed notes, the first lady used a TelePrompTer, despite the relatively small and friendly audience.
--Boston Globe, June 30, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

this is your brain on leeches

Maggot therapy is an example of a medical approach called biotherapy--the use of living animals to aid in medical diagnosis or treatment. Leeches are another example.

In ancient times, leeches were used to treat everything from headaches to ear infections to hemorrhoids. Historians think Egyptians used leech therapy 3,500 years ago. The treatments were back in vogue during the Middle Ages, and again in the 1800s.

Nowadays, leeches are routinely used to drain blood from swollen faces, limbs and digits after reconstructive surgery.

They are especially useful when reattaching small parts that contain many blood vessels, like ears, where blood clots can easily form in veins that normally drain blood from tissues. If the clots are severe, the tissues can die -- drowned in the body's own fluid -- because they are deprived of oxygen and other vital nutrients.

Scientists are also looking at using leeches to treat other ailments. Studies led by Andreas Michalsen, a researcher at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, suggests leech therapy may lessen the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, a debilitating disease where bones can grind against one another because the cartilage has been worn down.

Maggots and leeches are so effective that the FDA last year classified them as the first live medical devices. The treatments can be relatively inexpensive, according to the National Institutes of Health. A container of 500-1,000 disinfected maggots last year cost $70.

Scientists have not figured out exactly how either critter works, but quite a bit is known. Maggots eat dead and infected tissue and other infectious organisms, which are later killed in maggots' guts. They secrete enzymes that break down dead tissue, turning it into a mush they can then slurp up.

Leech saliva is made up of a potent cocktail of more than 30 different proteins that, among other things, helps to numb pain, reduce swelling and keep blood flowing.

Patients are rarely repulsed by the leeches and instead take a morbid interest in the creatures. "They feel sympathy for the leeches," he said.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

disappearing species

A hat tip to our peripatetic animal rights reporter, Thelonius Royal, for calling our attention to this latest outrage: our animal friends thinly disguised by inscrutable Orientals as...animals. See for yourself and weep (Visine drops).
Can you guess what these are? Don't feel bad, I couldn't either.

Or how about this furry creature? Can you spot the hidden schipperke?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

lest we forget

Stephen Glass perpetrated one of the great journalistic frauds in modern American history. In 1998 Glass, a 25-year-old rising star at the New Republic, was caught making up one of his stories. An internal investigation by the magazine followed, and the number of discredited stories ballooned to 27, in addition to major pieces he penned for Rolling Stone, George and Harper's, whose editors were also duped by Glass' wonderfully lurid tales of drug-abusing young Republican activists.

My favorite described a bond-trading firm that had turned its offices into a shrine to Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, complete with a glass case containing "two Bic pens Greenspan supposedly used in 1993." Traders, reported the magazine, would come in to gaze at his photograph and meditate throughout the day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

the besetting sin

Moral theology classifies the sins or faults of man in various ways. It is a discipline with its own taxonomy.

One kind of fault that pastors and spiritual directors must address is what is called the "besetting sin." One spiritual director of my acquaintance calls it one's "favorite sin." This is the sin, or fault, that one falls into time after time. It shows up in nearly every examination of conscience. Those who seek forgiveness of their sins find themselves confessing it over and over. We marvel that we dare to seek forgiveness for it; we marvel even more greatly that forgiveness can be obtained.

The fault differs from man to man. For most, it takes a form that modern society is pleased to call an "addiction." But it is not just those common attachments. It may be an easy resort to anger and violence. It may be small vanities or an excessive delight in the praise of others. This list goes on and on. I trust I have said enough on this subject: the reader is perhaps ahead of me and has already identified the fault in himself that seems most resistant to correction.

I postulate that societies, that cultures, bear this resemblance to men: that they are prone to a kind of besetting fault. And that the besetting sin of the West is the resort to the organized use of force. We call this organization the state.

I advance this postulation for two reasons. The first is that it is precisely the opposite of what we in the West so often aspire to, to wit, freedom. None of us wants to be a slave, even to another Westerner. We are not a docile people, and we chafe when we are commanded to use our time, our talents, our property in ways that we find repulsive, offensive, or simply inconvenient. We call this chafing the desire to live as free men. And by freedom we do not mean obedience to the law. We do not mean doing what we are told. We do not even mean doing what is right. We mean something altogether different, and most of us give it up only under protest. Alas, most of us do not protest very long, and after a while we forget to protest at all.

But the chafing, even when it does not actually occur, survives in our myths, in the way we read our history, even in our rationalizations. White Westerners now allow themselves to be treated as a conquered people in many of their home countries, but they insist that the infringements on their liberty are somehow an expansion of their "civil liberties." They accept the most ludicrous claims that government impositions on them are no violation of their liberty at all.

Another reason for my postulate is that the West has been so very good at creating institutions for organized force. Like other civilizations that have had their monarchies and their priests, the West came up with its distinct — and to some extent more robust and all-embracing — forms of tyranny. Where other civilizations experienced monopolies of resources, it was the West that perfected the central bank. Where other civilizations experienced war and battle, it was the West that perfected the military that trains and fights as a unit, not for personal glory, not for spoils. Glory and spoils themselves accrue to the state.

That sort of skill typifies a besetting sin; it stands to reason that a man who finds himself angry at his wife over and over and who beats her will construct not just rationalizations for having done it, but will construct occasions for doing it. We get good at satisfying our lusts, our power-seeking, our pursuit of vanities. And the West has gotten good at statecraft.

Like a man's besetting sin, the culture finds occasions and rationalizations for resorting to the state. It constructs political philosophies that contain the veriest stupidities and transparent euphemisms ever concocted. Not one man in 10,000 would swallow the arguments if they were applied to his own affairs. I am speaking not only of political philosophers: we pay thousands of teachers, of newspaper editors, of think-tank professionals, of propagandists, of novelists, of songwriters, of historians, of newsreaders, all to tell us over and over again how much we need the state, how much we need for it to be more powerful, how helpless we should be without it. They speak virtually with one voice when they find a new way for it to intrude into our lives. And we, as though possessing the deadened conscience of a shoplifter or a child molester, nod our heads and echo it all back to them.
--Ronn Neff

Saturday, June 18, 2011

cool news story

Reporting from Washington— After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the George W. Bush administration flooded the conquered country with so much cash to pay for reconstruction and other projects in the first year that a new unit of measurement was born.

Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that U.S. officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time.

This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials STILL CANNOT SAY WHAT HAPPENED TO THE $6.6. BILLION IN CASH.

For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be "THE LARGEST THEFT OF FUNDS IN [U.S.]HISTORY."

The cash was carried by tractor-trailer trucks from the fortress-like Federal Reserve currency repository in East Rutherford, N.J., to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, then flown to Baghdad. U.S. officials there stored the hoard in a basement vault at one of Hussein's former palaces, and at U.S. military bases, and eventually distributed the money to Iraqi ministries and contractors.

But U.S. officials often didn't have time or staff to keep strict financial controls. Millions of dollars were stuffed in gunnysacks and hauled on pickups to Iraqi agencies or contractors, officials have testified.

House Government Reform Committee investigators charged in 2005 that U.S. officials "used virtually no financial controls to account for these enormous cash withdrawals once they arrived in Iraq, and there is evidence of substantial waste, fraud and abuse in the actual spending and disbursement of the Iraqi funds."

Pentagon officials have contended for the last six years that they could account for the money IF GIVEN ENOUGH TIME TO TRACK DOWN THE RECORDS. But repeated attempts to find the documentation, or better yet the cash, were fruitless....

L.A. Times, June 13, 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

a prayer

Heart weeps.
Head tries to help heart.
Head tells heart how it is, again:
You will lose the ones you love. They will all go. But even the earth will go, someday.
Heart feels better, then.
But the words of head do not remain long in the ears of heart.
Heart is so new to this.
I want them back, says heart.
Head is all heart has.
Help, head. Help heart.
— Lydia Davis

Friday, May 20, 2011

Not in the Loop?

In Tuscaloosa, Obama said he's never seen such devastation. Doesn't the Pentagon show him the bombing reports?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bush rejects Taliban offer to surrender bin Laden (10/15/01)

"After a week of debilitating strikes at targets across Afghanistan, the Taliban repeated an offer to hand over Osama bin Laden, only to be rejected by President Bush.

The offer yesterday from Haji Abdul Kabir, the Taliban's deputy prime minister, to surrender Mr bin Laden if America would halt its bombing and provide evidence against the Saudi-born dissident was not new....

The move came as the Taliban granted foreign journalists unprecedented access to the interior for the first time. The reporters saw clear evidence that many civilians had been killed in the attack, though they could not confirm the number of deaths. "I ask America not to kill us," pleaded Hussain Khan, who said he had lost four children in the raid. In the rubble of one house, the remains of an arm stuck out from beneath a pile of bricks. A leg had been uncovered near by.

Another old man said: "We are poor people, don't hit us. We have nothing to do with Osama bin Laden. We are innocent people." Washington has not commented on the bombardment.

But as American warplanes entered the second week of the bombing campaign, Washington rejected the Taliban offer out of hand. "When I said no negotiations I meant no negotiations," Mr Bush said. "We know he's guilty. Turn him over. There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When “Mormonism” finds favor with the wicked in this land, it will have gone into the shade; but until the power of the Priesthood is gone, “Mormonism” will never become popular with the wicked. (JD 4:38)

They would come now by thousands and thousands, if the Latter day Saints were only popular. “What, these honorable men?” Yes, they would say, “I want to be baptized. I admire your industry, and your skill in governing. You have a system of governing that is not to be found anywhere else. You know how to govern cities, territories, or the world, and I would like to join you.” But take care if you join this people without the love of God in your soul it will do you no good. If they were to do this, they would bring in their sophistry, and introduce that which would poison the innocent and honest and lead them astray. I look at this, and I am satisfied that it will not do for the Lord to make this people popular. Why? Because all hell would want to be in the Church. The people must be kept where the finger of scorn can be pointed at them. Although it is admitted that we are honest, industrious, truthful, virtuous, self denying, and, as a community, possess every moral excellence, yet we must be looked upon as ignorant and unworthy, and as the offscouring of society, and be hated by the world. What is the reason of this? Christ and Baal can not become friends. When I see this people grow and spread and prosper, I feel that there is more danger than when they are in poverty. Being driven from city to city or into the mountains is nothing compared to the danger of our becoming rich and being hailed by outsiders as a first class community. I am afraid of only one thing. What is that? That we will not live our religion, and that we will partially slide a little from the path of rectitude, and go part of the way to meet our friends. (JD 12:272.)
--B. Young
Students in our colleges and universities live constantly in a tension between two authority systems: one more or less vaguely associated with science and the other with religion. Both systems are “blind” in the sense that the edicts they impose on thought and behavior are never, for the vast majority of people, reduced to anything close to understanding, verification, or proof. An illustration comes from a recent experience reported by one of my students.

This student was walking across campus with a professor whose field is religious studies. In their conversation, the student happened to mention the resurrection of Christ. The professor's response: The resurrection is inconsistent with the laws of physics. Now, in fact, the laws of physics lie at a considerable conceptual distance from phenomena such as human death and decay and their possible reversal. This particular professor in any case, would have little if any idea where to begin showing that resurrection conflicts with physics—or why it matters, if it does conflict. Indeed, who would? Very few, I would imagine. "Science" was vaguely invoked to end the discussion, just as in other contexts, "religion" is used for the same purpose.

But then the professor probably will never be confronted with the task of actually demonstrating how the resurrection is inconsistent with the laws of physics. The student in question, an extremely bright as well as devout young man, was too gracious (and perhaps stunned) to force the issue; and certainly he would have found it difficult to show that the resurrection and physics are not inconsistent or why it doesn't matter if they are.

It is painful to observe that our culture provides no friendly meeting place for the authorities of science and religion to engage in good‑faith efforts to understand the truth about our life and our world. How many people seek or find the preparation required to deal profitably with issues such as resurrection and the laws of physics? To be genuinely open to truth and able to seek it effectively is surely one of the greatest human attainments. I am convinced that it can come only as a gift of grace. It implies faith in a cosmic context where one no longer feels the need to hide, to invoke explanations that really explain nothing at all but simply enable one to hold a position with an appearance of reasonableness.

The professor who invoked physics is surrounded constantly with things and events for which no physical explanation yet exists, nor even the beginnings of one. Just look at the physics texts and see. A most obvious case is the existence of the physical universe itself, as well as of life and human consciousness. When confronted with the de facto inability of physics in this respect, the academically sanctified dodge is to invoke chance, along with huge spans of time, for everything to "work," and further, to invoke the promise of what science (really, physics) supposedly will be able to explain in the future as it continues to make progress. But chance is not something that can produce or explain anything. Rather, it is invoked precisely at the point where there is no known explanation or cause. And if something is, indeed, impossible, it will not help to have more time to get it done. We need a demonstration of the possibility, for example, of life's emerging from the inorganic, and then we can talk about time. But the assumptions of this "scientific" evasion are so complicated and culturally protected that most people confronting it do not realize they have been handed intellectual sawdust instead of bread.

Unfortunately, religion frequently invokes its own non‑explanations as a means of holding its ground. Usually these involve the idea that God's power is so great that we can say with reference to anything simply that He did it and thus have an explanation that protects us. There's no need to look further or think further.

Now God's act as an explanatory principle has an advantage over chance in that we all know something of what it is like for an act or choice to bring something about. Nothing comparable can be said of chance. Personality is a source of energy and causation with an intelligible structure. It simply is not a physical structure. But there is no good reason it should be, and once you think about it, every reason it should not. For if it were, the fundamental feature of human life and consciousness would be destroyed or reduced to illusion. As long as we recognize that knowledge does not reduce to physics, and as long as we understand that science is just knowledge, we have every right to speak of the possibility of a science that encompasses consciousness in divine and human forms along with the physical and whatever else there may be.
--Dallas Willard

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In recent years I have felt, and I think I am not alone, that we are losing the ability to correct the course of the church. You cannot appreciate how deeply I feel about the importance of this present opportunity unless you know the regard, the reverence, I have for the Book of Mormon and how seriously I have taken the warnings of the prophets, particularly Alma and Helaman.

Both Alma and Helaman told the church in their day. They warned about fast growth, the desire to be accepted by the world, to be popular, and particularly they warned about prosperity. Each time those conditions existed in combination, the church has drifted off course. All of those conditions are present in the church today.

Helaman repeatedly warned, I think four times he used these words, that the fatal drift of the church could occur in the space of not many years. In one instance it took only six years. (Helaman 6:32; 7:6; 11:26) (Boyd K. Packer, “Let Them Govern Themselves,” Reg. Rep. Seminar, March 30, 1990)

Friday, April 8, 2011

peanute butter--better than the segue

Plumpy'nut is a peanut-based food for use in famine relief which was formulated in 1997 by André Briend, a French paediatric nutritionist. It is a registered trademark of Nutriset, the manufacturer. UNICEF purchases 90% of its supply of Plumpy'nut from Nutriset factories in France for humanitarian aid.

OverviewInspired by the popular Nutella spread, Plumpy'nut is a high-protein, high-energy, peanut-based paste in a foil wrapper. Plumpy’nut requires no water, preparation, or refrigeration and has a 2 year shelf life, making it easy to deploy in difficult conditions to treat severe acute malnutrition. It is distributed under medical supervision, predominantly to parents of malnourished children where the nutritional status of the children is compromised. It is manufactured by Nutriset, a French company based in Rouen for use by humanitarian organizations for food aid distribution.

The ingredients are peanut paste, vegetable oil, powdered milk, powdered sugar, vitamins, and minerals, combined in a foil pouch. It tastes slightly sweeter than peanut butter. Plumpy'nut contains vitamins A, B-complex, C, D, E, and K, and minerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, iodine, sodium, and selenium.

The paste is administered in 500 kilocalories packets, twice daily, for two to four weeks, in combination with Unimix, a vitamin-enriched flour for making porridge, and will reverse malnutrition in severely malnourished children.

How it worksPlumpy’nut is frequently used as a treatment for emergency malnutrition cases. It helps with rapid weight gain, which can make the difference between life and death for a young child. The product is also easy for children to eat since they can feed themselves the soft paste. The fortified peanut butter-like paste contains a balance of fats, carbohydrates and proteins (macronutrients), and vitamins and minerals (micronutrients). Peanuts contain mono-unsaturated fats, which are easy to digest. They are also very high in calories, which means that a child will get a lot of energy from just small amounts, important because malnutrition shrinks the stomach. They are rich in zinc and protein — both good for the immune system and to aid long bone growth in reversing stunted height, while protein is also needed for muscle development. Peanuts are also a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps to convert food into energy.

the little things you do

A really good toss-out screener never gets caught. We
can only judge among those toss-out screeners who get
caught. There is no question who the greatest one was:
Stanislov Petrov. No one else comes close . . .

You say you've never heard of him. This indicates the
power of government. There are some stories that
governments do not want to get out.

Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov (born c. 1939) is a
retired lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air
Defence Forces who deviated from standard Soviet
protocol by correctly identifying a missile
attack warning as a false alarm on September 26,
1983. This decision may have prevented an
erroneous retaliatory nuclear attack on the
United States and its Western allies.
Investigation of the satellite warning system
later confirmed that the system had

There are varying reports whether Petrov actually
reported the alert to his superiors and questions
over the part his decision played in preventing
nuclear war, because, according to the Permanent
Mission of the Russian Federation, nuclear
retaliation is based on multiple sources that
confirm an actual attack. The incident, however,
exposed a flaw in the Soviet early warning
system. Petrov asserts that he was neither
rewarded nor punished for his actions.

The Wickipedia article describes what happened. The USSR relied
on satellite systems to warn the military of a missile
attack by the United States. The computer system sounded an
alert. The attack had begun.

Think of this as the most important piece of junk mail
in history.

Shortly after midnight, the bunker's computers
reported that an intercontinental ballistic
missile was heading toward the Soviet Union from
the U.S. Petrov considered the detection a
computer error, since a United States first-
strike nuclear attack would be likely to involve
hundreds of simultaneous missile launches in
order to disable any Soviet means for a
counterattack. Furthermore, the satellite
system's reliability had been questioned in the

It is the task of screeners to assess the accuracy of
junk mail, and then decide: send it up or toss it out.

Petrov dismissed the warning as a false alarm,
though accounts of the event differ as to whether
he notified his superiors or not after he
concluded that the computer detections were false
and that no missile had been launched. Later, the
computers identified four additional missiles in
the air, all directed towards the Soviet Union.
Petrov again suspected that the computer system
was malfunctioning, despite having no other
source of information to confirm his suspicions.
The Soviet Union's land radar was incapable of
detecting missiles beyond the horizon, and
waiting for it to positively identify the threat
would limit the Soviet Union's response time to

He decided to toss it all out. You and I are alive
because he made the correct decision.

While he was investigated for not acting as ordered,
no charges were brought against him. It would have been bad
publicity. "Soviet Air Force officer sacked for not
starting World War III."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

They Know More Than We Do

(click to expand)

On NBC's Meet The Press, US Secretary of Defense explains the sophistication of our enemy in Afghanistan:

Tim Russert: The Times of London did a graphic, which I want to put on the screen for you and our viewers. This is it. This is a fortress.... It's a very sophisticated operation.

Donald Rumsfeld: Oh, you bet. This is serious business. And there's not one of those. There are many of those. And they have been used very effectively. And I might add, Afghanistan is not the only country that has gone underground. Any number of countries have gone underground.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The modern state – the state birthed in the Protestant Enlightenment – possesses two very important monopolies. The first is on the moral and lawful use of violence and coercion. The state alone can compel human action and punish human beings for actions against the law or for failing to act. This is "moral" because many (perhaps most) human beings through time have viewed state violence (violence done by those who have been appointed agents of the state) as having a moral legitimacy that mere individual violence does not have. And this is a trait of the state for as long as human beings have lived together. This is not new, and it will not go away. This monopoly on lawful and moral violence is what makes the state the state.

The other monopoly the state possesses is that of meaning. The state alone, especially from early 19th century through to about the middle of the 20th, took to itself the sole or primary right to construct the narrative through which human life within (and often outside) the state would be valued and given purpose. The state would author the story and create the ideas that would determine the purpose and meaning of individual and collective human life, what human beings would live for, contribute for, sacrifice for and die for. The state would accept no alternative narratives, no different meanings – all were considered threats to the creation of a state-centered society (society being that community contiguous with the nation-state). The state was the sole creator and sustainer of human purpose, and would accept absolutely no dissent.
--Charles Featherstone

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

good advice from blogger

In response to a pessimistic political affairs blog by Chris Floyd, a disheartened reader wrote to ask: "I try to be noisy about this stuff. I incessantly remind my progressive friends what [Obomba]is doing is merely the latest manifestation of the fact that our entire civilization is intractably toxic and unconscionable. I've lost friends. I've insulted my own family.

So, what then? Are capitulation and self-destruction really the only options? What is there for us?"

Floyd's reply:

You have to remember that politics is a toxin. It will make you sick, taint your mind, poison your soul, blight your life if you let it. One has to deal with politics as a form of waste management, just as you need to have some kind of sewage system in your home or community to prevent disease.

Politics-the machinations of the stunted, damaged souls and third-rate minds who hanker for power-is just a small part of life. It entirely lacks the tragic element; nothing tragic or depthful about politics and power, it's just brute force, greed, ignorance and spite. So there is no deep meaning to be found in it. No tragedy; no real joy either. Even the greatest moments, the epiphanies-and they do happen in politics on rare occasions, one must admit-will lead very quickly back into the sewage. And that's OK, that's the way it is; sewage, waste management-it's part of life. But it's not where meaning, joy, tragedy, the salt and savor of existence can be found. So why let the evil done by third-rate goobers drive you to despair of life itself? By hook, crook, lies and murder they've already amassed all kinds of power; why give them power over your very soul?

It's sad to hear that you've been driven to the margins of your own life, mocked or marginalized by friends and family because of your political beliefs. I must confess I've never tried to press my beliefs on anyone close to me. I don't have political arguments with them, and I never try to convince anyone of anything. If someone asks me a political question, I'll answer honestly, and calmly, in an informational way, saying, Here's a little bit of what I think about that, and here's why I think it. If I'm with someone who seems vaguely simpatico, I might let a little more passion into it. But I've never felt the urge to bring politics into personal relationships. Of course, sometimes it can forced on you, I suppose; maybe your friends and family are in your face about it all the time. In that case, it would be harder to avoid conflict. But even when I find myself in that situation, most of the time I simply think: "Well, if you don't see it, you don't see it, and I'm not going to be able to make you see it; not in an argument, anyway."

I always keep coming back to the words of Italo Calvino, which I've used here many times. I found this passage years ago, quoted in an essay by Gore Vidal.I don't know if it's any help to you in your situation, but I believe there is genuine wisdom here, especially in a despairing time:

"The inferno…is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."

For you see, I disagree with you, and others, who say that "doing nothing" amounts to "complicity in abuse, oppression and exploitation on a thousand levels." I don't think that's true in many respects; certainly not in every respect. Yes, there are many other things a person can do; and yes, it is part of the tragic element of human existence that no one can completely escape levels of complicity with the evils of the systems they happen to be born into. But simply refraining from active evil can be a first step toward the light. It can also serve as an example to others.

And anyway, to "see the inferno" -- to look at reality clearly, to see what is actually being done behind all the political rhetoric and national mythology, to try to glean nuggets of genuine information from a mountain of bullshit -- that is not "doing nothing." That is the only way we can begin to see "what is not inferno," and begin to help it endure, to carve out space for it.

Are you really going to kill yourself, or nuke your brain with heroin, because you can't snap your fingers and make everyone see the world the way you see it, if you can't rag them into changing their minds -- or because you can't magically and instantly change a system that fills up grocery stores with the products of corruption and violence? This kind of feeling -- which I understand all too well -- is the result of sitting too long in the toxic swamp of politics yourself, of believing that's all there is to life.

What do you really know of the world, of reality -- of literature, history, science, thought, music, art? How deeply aware are you of the million daily interactions of your body and brain with the physical world, with nature, with other human beings? How much of the universe have you yet called into being by becoming conscious of it, by expanding your comprehension? I've been trying to do this -- oh, in a fitful, pathetic, half-assed way, of course -- for almost half a century, and I've scarcely brought a grain, a molecule, a photon of the depth and vibrancy of Being into my comprehension. But even the small amount that I've been able to dimly discern shows how vastly, incomprehensibly more to life there is than the machinations of power-grubbers.

But if you give yourself over to the uttermost despair -- the longing for self-obliteration -- because of their actions, because of their primitive, witless obsession with shit, then what a pointless waste you will make of your own, your only life. You will have thrown away the whole universe -- and for what? Because you have allowed your view of life to be circumscribed by the machinations of a bunch of third-rate goobers. You have let them -- these sinister, jabbering, blabbering fools -- convince you that their crimes and atrocities are all there is to life, that nothing worthwhile exists outside the narrow, blinkered inferno that they have made.

"What is there for us?" you ask. I'll tell what there is for us: the whole wide universe. And yes, it contains oceans of toxic political shit. And yes, it contains degrees of complicity, compromise, and moral failures for all of us, even the best of us, at every turn. But it contains so much more than this, so much more that we ourselves can bring into being by becoming aware of it. Each individual creates the entire universe -- creates all of the universe that he or she will ever know -- by what they bring into consciousness, both directly, with active reason, and indirectly, in the deeper, more diffuse and holistic intimations of meaning that an active, questing consciousness can begin to comprehend.

So the choice is yours, really. What would you rather do? Create the universe, accept its tragic dimension and the infinite moments of meaning it can supply -- or lie down in a ditch full of toxns and slurp the poison until you die? It doesn't seem like a tough call to me.

And by entering into the political debate -- even if your intention is not to push one faction or another but to "inoculate the world with disillusionment," as Henry Miller put it -- do you end up fighting on power's turf, speaking its language, having the argument defined in its terms? I don't know. These are questions I now grapple with on a daily basis. I generally end up believing that disillusion is a worthy goal and that waste management of this sort is a necessary task. But I also feel more strongly all the time that there must be a better way to break out of the sinister dynamic of politics, to reach people -- to alter consciousnesses -- in some more effective, profound manner, rather than simply adding another howl to the echo chamber.

Is it not time to be done with lies at last? Especially the chief lie now running through the world like a plague, putrescent and vile: that we kill each other and hate each other and drive each other into desperation and fear for any other reason but that we are animals, forms of apes, driven by blind impulses to project our dominance, to strut and bellow and hoard the best goods for ourselves. Or else to lash back at the dominant beast in convulsions of humiliated rage. Or else cravenly to serve the dominant ones, to scurry about them like slaves, picking fleas from their fur, in hopes of procuring a few crumbs for ourselves.

That's the world of power – the "real world," as its flea-picking slaves and strutting dominants like to call it. It's the ape-world, driven by hormonal secretions and chemical mechanics, the endless replication of protein reactions, the unsifted agitations of nerve tissue, issuing their ignorant commands. There's no sense or reason or higher order of thought in it – except for that perversion of consciousness called justification, self-righteousness, which gussies up the breast-beating ape with fine words and grand abstractions.

Beyond the thunder and spectacle of this ape-roaring world is another state of reality, emerging from the murk of our baser functions. There is power here, too, but not the heavy, blood-sodden bulk of dominance. Instead, it's a power of radiance, of awareness, connection, breaking through in snaps of heightened perception, moments of encounter and illumination that lift us from the slime.

It takes ten million forms, could be in anything – a rustle of leaves, the tang of salt, a bending blues note, the sweep of shadows on a tin roof, the catch in a voice, the touch of a hand, a line from Sappho or John Clare. Any particular, specific combination of ever-shifting elements, always unrepeatable in its exact effect and always momentary. Because that's all there is, that's all we have – the moments.

The moments, and their momentary power – a power without the power of resistance, defenseless, provisional, unarmed, imperfect, bold. The ape-world's cycle of war and retribution stands as the image of the world of power; what can serve as the emblem of this other reality? A kiss, perhaps: given to a lover, offered to a friend, bestowed on an enemy – or pressed to the brow of a murdered child.

Both worlds are within us, of course, like two quantum states of reality, awaiting our choice to determine which will be actuated, which will define the very nature of being – individually and in the aggregate, moment by moment. This is our constant task, for as long as the universe exists in the electrics of our brains: to redeem each moment or let it fall. Some moments will be won, many more lost; there is no final victory.