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Past Quotes of the Month
The war tried to kill us in spring. As grass greened the plains of Nineveh and the weather warmed, we patrolled the low-slung hills beyond the cities and towns. We moved over them and through the tall grass on faith, kneading paths into windswept growth like pioneers. While we slept, the war rubbed its thousand ribs against the ground in prayer. When we pressed onward through exhaustion, its eyes were white and open in the dark. While we ate, the war fasted, fed by its own deprivation. It made love and gave birth and spread through fire.
Then, in summer, the war tried to kill us as the heat blanched all color from the plains. The sun pressed into our skin, and the war sent its citizens rustling into the shade of white buildings. It cast a white shade on everything, like veil over our eyes. It tried to kill us every day, but it had not succeeded. Not that our safety was preordained. We were not destined to survive. The fact is, were were not destined at all. The war would take what it could get. It was patient. It didn’t care about objectives, or boundaries, whether you were loved by many or not at all. While I slept that summer, the war came to me in my dreams and showed me its sole purpose: to go on, only to go on. And I knew the war would have its way.
Both liberty and equality are among the primary goals pursued by human beings throughout many centuries; but total liberty for wolves is death to the lambs, total liberty of the powerful, the gifted, is not compatible with the rights to a decent existence of the weak and the less gifted.
But what about the other side [literary intellectuals]? They are impoverished too—perhaps more seriously, because they are vainer about it. They still like to pretend that the traditional culture is the whole of ‘culture’, as though the natural order did not exist. As though the exploration of the natural order was of no interest either in its own value or its consequences. As though the scientific edifice of the physical world was not, in its intellectual depth, complexity and articulation, the most beautiful and wonderful collective work of the mind of man. Yet most non-scientists have no conception of that edifice at all. Even if they want to have it, they can’t. It is rather as though, over an immense range of intellectual experience, a whole group was tone-deaf. Except that this tone-deafness doesn’t come by nature, but by training, or rather the absence of training.
As with the tone-deaf, they don’t know what they miss. They give a pitying chuckle at the news of scientists who have never read a major work of English literature. They dismiss them as ignorant specialists. Yet their own ignorance and their own specialization is just as startling. A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?
I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question—such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, Can you read?—not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had.
Just one more of those quesions, that my non-scientific friends regard as being in the worst of taste. Cambridge is a university where scientists and non-scientists meet every night at dinner. About two years ago, one of the most astonishing experiments in the whole history of science was brought off. I don’t mean sputnik—that was admirable for quite different reasons, as feat of organisation and thriumphant use of existing knowledge. No I mean the experiment at Columbia by Yang and Lee. It is an experiment of the greatest beauty and originality, but the result is so startling that one forgets how beautiful the experiment is. It makes us think again about some of the fundamentals of the physical world. Intuition, common sense—they are neatly stood on their heads. The result is usually known as the contradiction of parity. If there were any serious communication between the two cultures, this experiment would have been talked about at every High Table in Cambridge. Was it? I wasn’t here: but I should like to ask the question.
I am an old man now, and when I die and go to heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment. One is quantum electrodynamics, and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather optimistic.
To calibrate the unit to your specifications, follow these steps:
The process takes forty-three to forty-four seconds, depending on factors such as body mass, natural hair color, and degree of self-knowledge.
When the calibration is complete, your vehicle will have the same limits that you do.
You can’t build a car that violates the laws of physics. Same goes for a time machine. You can’t go anywhere, only to places it will let you go. You can only go to places that you will let yourself go.
If elections could change things, they’d be illegal.
The Republican vision is that 20 white male billionaires will own everything and rule the world with an iron whip. The Democratic vision is completely different, in that not all the billionaires will be white men.
Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow. I call this process belief-dependent realism, where our perceptions about reality are dependent on the beliefs that we hold about it. Reality exists independent of human minds, but our understanding of it depends upon the beliefs we hold at any given time.
My confidence is unshaken that we are taking all the precautions which legislation can prudently take against the recurrence of a monetary crisis. It may occur in spite of our precautions, and if it does, and if it be necessary to assume a grave responsibility for the purpose of meeting it, I dare say men will be found willing to assume such a responsibility.
I would rather trust to this than impair the efficacy and probable success of those measures by which one hopes to control evil tendencies in their beginning, and to diminish the risk that extraordinary measures may be necessary.
Don’t submit to stupid rules
Before [the French revolution], a privileged class that made the rules — rules favouring itself — overspent on a foreign war and then tried to stabilise the nation by overtaxing the already ruinously taxed populace. Confronted with protest, the aristocrats responded with inflexibility and prevarication, and dedicated themselves to preserving their own advantages at the expense of everyone else. If this sounds in any way familiar, it may be bracing to recall that before long, heads were being sliced from necks, blood was running in the streets…
A common myth most of us intuitively accept is that there is a negative correlation between intelligence and belief: as intelligence goes up belief in superstition or magic goes down. This, in fact, turns out not to be the case, especially as you move up the IQ spectrum. In professions in which everyone is above average in IQ (doctors, lawyers, engineers, and so forth), there is no relationship between intelligence and success because at that level other variables come into play that determine career outcomes (ambition, time allocation, social skills, networking, luck, and so on). Similarly, when people encounter claims that they know little about (which is most claims for most of us), intelligence is usually not a factor in belief, with one exception: once people commit to a belief, the smarter they are the better they are at rationalizing those beliefs. Thus: smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons.
The April night is still and sweet
My peace is hidden in his breast
To sum up, in five days the New York Times, the
Herald Tribune, the American, the
Evening Journal, the Sun, and the
World-Telegram—all those great molders of public
opinion—have had no opinion on the largest bank scandal
under their noses since the failure of the Bank of United
States. It all recalls that ancient music-hall quip:
The first language humans had was gestures. There was nothing primitive about this language that flowed from people’s hands, nothing we say now that could not be said in the endless array of movements possible with the fine bones of the fingers and wrists. The gestures were complex and subtle, involving a delicacy of motion that has since been lost completely.
During the Age of Silence, people communicated more, not less. Basic survival demanded that the hands were almost never still, and so it was only during sleep (and sometimes not even then) that people were not saying something or other. No distinction was made between the gestures of language and the gestures of life. The labor of building a house, say, or preparing a meal was no less an expression than making the sign for I love you or I feel serious. When a hand was used to shield one’s face when frightened by a loud noise something was being said, and when fingers were used to pick up what someone had dropped something was being said; and even when the hands were at rest, that, too, was saying something. Naturally, there were misunderstandings. There were times when a finger might have been lifted to scratch a nose, and if casual eye contact was made with one’s lover just then, the lover might accidentally take it to be the gesture, not at all dissimilar, for Now I realize I was wrong to love you. These mistakes were heart-breaking. And yet, because people knew how easily they could happen, because they didn’t go around with the illusion that they understood perfectly the things other people said, they were used to interrupting each other to ask if they’d understood correctly. Sometimes these misunderstandings were even desirable, since they gave people a reason to say, Forgive me, I was only scratching my nose. Of course I know I’ve always been right to love you. Because of the frequency of these mistakes, over time the gesture for asking forgiveness evolved into the simplest form. Just open your palm was to say: Forgive me.
I found him just as he was about to drift into a black hole. He had a face like soft clay, and haunches that were bald in spots where he’d been chewing off his own fur. I don’t think anyone has ever been as happy to see anything as this dog was to see me. He licked my face and that was that. I asked him what he wanted his name to be. He didn’t say anything, so I named him Ed.
The smell of Ed is pretty powerful in here, but I’m okay with that. He’s a good dog, sleeps a lot, sometimes licks his paw to comfort himself. Doesn’t need food or water. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even know that he doesn’t exist. Ed is just this weird ontological entity that produces unconditional slobbery loyal affection. Superfluous. Gratuitous. He must violate some sort of coservation law. Something from nothing: all of this saliva. And, I guess, love. Love from the abandoned heart of a nonexistant dog.
Not everyone is born a witch or a saint. Not everyone is born talented, or crooked, or blessed; some are born definite in no particular at all. We are a fountain of shimmering contradictions, most of us. Beautiful in the concept, if we’re lucky, but frequently tedious or regrettable as we flesh ourselves out.
The governesses of the monied classes often held that a child ought to be kept from witnessing cruelty and ugliness, the better to preserve some ounce of innocence. Rural grannies and spinster aunts—like the Nanny who had helped raise Elphaba—neither mollified nor coddled. They believed it was better for a child to know what befalls a chicken when the feast of Lurlinemas rolls around. Better to learn—from a distance—the tricks perpetrated on the weak, the distractible, the unlucky.
Both pedagogical stances, however, relied on a common assumption. Growth and change were viewed as a reaction to conditions met. One might as easily argue, however, that it is the world’s obligation to respond to children. By force of personality, by dint of their vicious beauty and untamed ways, children tromp into the world ready to disfigure it. Children surrender nothing when faced with the world: it is the world that gives up, over and over again. By so giving up, of course, it renews itself—that is the secret. Dying in order to live, that sort of thing.
To be precise, the most important concern in court politics is access to the mind of the prince. And if economics is too important to be left to the economists, it is certainly too important to be left to economist-courtiers.
Ok, let me give you some background now. We have come to
believe that growth is the very definition of progress. You
talk to any businessperson or politician and say,
And, I use the analogy of the bacteria in the test tube for why it’s suicidal to look for steady endless growth. Anything growing exponentially has a predictable doubling time. I give you a test tube full of food for bacteria—that’s an analogy with the planet—and I put one bacterial cell in and it is us. It’s going to go into exponential growth and divide every minute. So, at time zero, at the beginning, there is one bacterium. One minute, there are two. Two minutes, four. Three minutes, eight. Four minutes, 16. That’s exponential growth.
And at 60 minutes, the test tube is completely packed with
bacteria, and there’s no food left. When is the test tube
only half full? And the answer of course, is at 59 minutes.
So, at 58 minutes it’s 25 percent full, 57 minutes, 12 and
a half percent full. At 55 minutes of the 60-minute cycle,
it’s three percent full. So, if at 55 minutes, one of the
bacteria looks around and says,
So, the bacteria are no smarter than humans. At 59 minutes they
In all disciplines theory plays a double role: it is both an lens and a blinder. As a lens, it focuses the mind upon specific problems, enabling conditional statements to be made about causal relations for a well-defined but limited set of phenomena. But as a blinder, theory narrows the field of vision. Questions that are meaningful in the world are often nonsense questions within a theory. If such nonsense questions are often posed by developments in the world, then the discipline is ripe for a revolution in theory. Such a revolution, however, requires the development of new instruments of thought. This is a difficult intellectual process.
Unfortunately, the economic theory that is taught in colleges and graduate schools—the equipment of students and practitioners of economics over the past thirty years and the intellectual basis of economic policy in capitalist democracies—is seriously flawed. The conclusions based on the models derived from standard theoretical economics cannot be applied to the formulation of policy for our type of economy. Established economic theory, especially the highly mathematical theory largely developed after World War II, can demonstrate that an abstractly defined exchange mechanism will lead to a coherent, if not optimum, result. However, this mathematical result is proven for models that abstract from corporate boardrooms and Wall Street. The model does not deal with time, money, uncertainty, financing of ownership of capital assets, and investment. … In fact, the Wall Streets of the world are important; they generate destabilizing forces, and from time to time the financial processes of our economy lead to serious threats of financial and economic instability, that is, the behavior of the economy becomes incoherent.
The population problem has no technical solution; it
requires a fundamental extension in morality.
I’d gladly lose me to find you, I’d gladly give up all I had
It was the best of times,
We’ll be fighting in the streets
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Change it had to come
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
I’ll move myself and my family aside
There’s nothing in the street
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Meet the new boss
There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.
It should not be hastily assumed that because a particular set of controversies passes out of the public mind that the implied problems were solved in any fundamental sense. Quite often a solution is a magical solution which changes nothing in the conditions affecting the tension level of the community, and which merely permits the community to distract its attention to another set of equally irrelevant symbols. The number of statutes which pass the legislature, or the number of decrees which are handed down by the executive, but which change nothing in the permanent practices of society, is a rough index of the role of magic politics.
As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption, mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth — not of existing wealth, but of wealth as it is currently produced — to provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation’s economic machinery.
Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. This served them as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants. In consequence, as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped.
That is what happened to us in the twenties. We sustained high levels of employment in that period with the aid of an exceptional expansion of debt outside of the banking system. This debt was provided by the large growth of business savings as well as savings by individuals, particularly in the upper-income groups where taxes were relatively low. Private debt outside of the banking system increased about fifty per cent. This debt, which was at high interest rates, largely took the form of mortgage debt on housing, office, and hotel structures, consumer installment debt, brokers’ loans, and foreign debt. The stimulation to spending by debt-creation of this sort was short-lived and could not be counted on to sustain high levels of employment for long periods of time. Had there been a better distribution of the current income from the national product — in other words, had there been less savings by business and the higher-income groups and more income in the lower groups — we should have had far greater stability in our economy. Had the six billion dollars, for instance, that were loaned by corporations and wealthy individuals for stock-market speculation been distributed to the public as lower prices or higher wages and with less profits to the corporations and the well-to-do, it would have prevented or greatly moderated the economic collapse that began at the end of 1929.
The time came when there were no more poker chips to be loaned on credit. Debtors thereupon were forced to curtail their consumption in an effort to create a margin that could be applied to the reduction of outstanding debts. This naturally reduced the demand for goods of all kinds and brought on what seemed to be overproduction, but was in reality underconsumption when judged in terms of the real world instead of the money world. This, in turn, brought about a fall in prices and employment.
Unemployment further decreased the consumption of goods, which further increased unemployment, thus closing the circle in a continuing decline of prices. Earnings began to disappear, requiring economies of all kinds in the wages, salaries, and time of those employed. And thus again the vicious circle of deflation was closed until one third of the entire working population was unemployed, with our national income reduced by fifty per cent, and with the aggregate debt burden greater than ever before, not in dollars, but measured by current values and income that represented the ability to pay. Fixed charges, such as taxes, railroad and other utility rates, insurance and interest charges, clung close to the 1929 level and required such a portion of the national income to meet them that the amount left for consumption of goods was not sufficient to support the population.
This then, was my reading of what brought on the depression.
Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a
substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.
I took that opportunity to tell him [Kissinger] something that I had long thought to tell someone who was about to enter the world of really high secrecy. And I said, Henry, you are about to get a lot of clearances higher than top secret that you did not know existed. That is going to have a sequence of effects on you. First, a great exileration that you are getting all this amazing information that you didn’t even know existed. And the next phase is that you’ll feel like a fool for not having known of any of this. But that won’t last long. Fairly soon you’ll come to think that everyone else is foolish. What would this expert be telling me if he knew what I knew. So in the end you stop listening to them.
[T]he historical record suggests that there is a very clear connection in the long run between an individual Great Power’s economic rise and fall and its growth and decline as an important military power (or world empire). This, too, is hardly surprising, as it follows from two related facts. The first is that economic resources are necessary to support a large-scale military establishment. The second is that, so far as the international system is concerned, both power and wealth are always relative and should be seen as such. Three hundred years ago the mercantilist writer von Hornigk observed that
In the chapters that follow this observation will be borne out
time and again. The Netherlands in the mid-eighteenth century
was richer in absolute terms than a hundred years
earlier, but by that stage was much less of a Great Power
because neighbors like France and Britain had
This does not mean, however, that a nation’s relative
economic and military power will rise and fall in
parallel. Most of the historical examples covered here
suggest that there is a noticeable
In these more troubled circumstances, the Great Power is likely
to find itself spending much more on defense than it
did two generations earlier, and yet still discover that the
world is a less secure environment—simply because other
Powers have grown faster, and are becoming stronger. Imperial
Spain spent much more on its army in the troubled 1630s and
1640s than it did in the 1580s, when the Castilian economy was
healthier. Edwardian Britain’s defense expenditures were
far greater in 1910 than they were at, say, the time of
Palmerston’s death in 1865, when the British economy was
relatively at its peak; but which Britons by the later date felt
more secure? The same problem, it will be argued below, appears
to be facing both the United States and the USSR today. Great
Powers in relative decline instinctively respond by spending
[T]he history of the past five hundred years of international
rivalry demonstrates that military
The lunatic is in the hall.
The second aspect of the ideological challenge to the Soviet
Union was the development and propagation of an American
economic ideology that might counter the promise of
Marxism—what today we call
If I were to ask you where the money in your savings deposit account is, you might say at the bank. That is not quite right. In truth, your money is in several places simultaneously. In this sense, finance is like quantum mechanics. Money is like Schrodinger’s cat — you never know where it is until you actually observe it. (And if everyone tries to observe their money at the same time, that’s called a bank run.)
The switching allegiance of tribes in Anbar province and in some
other provinces away from Al Qaeda and at least temporarily
arriving at deals of convenience with the Americans and fighting
alongside the Americans, and this includes people who have
killed American troops. That’s a significant change. It
actually is what you need in almost every counter insurgency, is
that kind of deal. That’s how you put down the insurgency.
There are real questions though about how sustainable that trend
is. And also whether it might end up simply adding fuel to the
fire of the future full blown civil war. The Shiite politicians
are profoundly worried about this that we are cutting deals with
their enemies. One Shiite politician recently said,
[Republican] language implies that the current generation borrows and future generations pay. But borrowing creates assets as well as liabilities — and future generations will inherit both. It’s the relationship between assets and liabilities that matters most.
… [G]enerational accounting typically ignores the value of the government services children will receive as well as the important nonmarket assets they will inherit. The president’s proposed budget features investments in health, education and environmental sustainability that promise important future benefits.
Think of the United States economy as a family farm in need of modernization. Energy prices are going up, but all the tractors are gas guzzlers. Some of our fields have accumulated toxic levels of pesticide, and we need to develop new and better technologies of sustainable production. Our grandchildren want to run the farm, but will need good health and a college education to do it well.
Spending money on increased energy efficiency, research and development, health, and education could increase the value of their assets, helping them repay debt.
The abuse of buying and selling votes crept in, and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread to the law courts and then to the army. And finally, the Republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.
We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.
The pilgrim fathers of the scientific imagination as it exists today are the great tragedians of ancient Athens, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides. Their vision of fate, remorseless and indifferent, urging a tragic incident to its inevitable issue, is the vision possessed by science. Fate in Greek Tragedy becomes the order of nature in modern thought. …
… [Let me remind you that] the essense of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things. The inevitableness of destiny can only be illustrated in terms of human life by incidents which in fact involve unhappiness. For it is only by them that the futility of escape can be made evident in the drama. This remorseless inevitableness is what prevades scientific thought. The laws of physics are the decrees of fate.
Ressentiment is a reassignment of the pain that
accompanies a sense of one’s own inferiority/failure
onto an external scapegoat. The ego creates the
illusion of an enemy, a cause that can be
In the standard interpretations, Keynes has been integrated with classical theory … to form what is called the neoclassical synthesis. Whereas Keynes in The General Theory proposed that economists look at the economy in quite a different way from the way they had, only those parts of The General Theory that could be readily integrated into the old way of looking at things survive in today’s standard theory. What was lost was a view of an economy always in transit because it accumulates in response to disequilibrating forces that are internal to the economy. As a result of the way accumulation takes place in a capitalist economy, Keynes’s 1935 theory showed that success in operating the economy can only be transitory; instability is an inherent and inescapable flaw of capitalism.
The view that survived is that a number of special things went wrong, which led the economy into the Great Depression. In this view, apt policy can assure that it cannot happen again. The standard theory of the 1950s and 1960s seemed to assert that if policy were apt, then full employment at stable prices could be attained and sustained. The existence of internally disruptive forces was ignored; the neoclassical synthesis became the economics of capitalism without capitalists, capital assets, and financial markets. As a result, very little of Keynes has survived today in standard economics.
But if the ideas are correct — an hypothesis on which the author himself must necessarily base what he writes — it would be a mistake, I predict, to dispute their potency over a period of time. At the present moment people are unusually expectant of a more fundamental diagnosis; more particularly ready to receive it; eager to try it out, if it should be even plausible. But apart from this contemporary mood, the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.
… professional investment may be likened to those newspaper competitions in which the competitors have to pick out the six prettiest faces from a hundred photographs, the prize being awarded to the competitor whose choice most nearly corresponds to the average preferences of the competitors as a whole; so that each competitor has to pick, not those faces which he himself finds prettiest, but those which he thinks likeliest to catch the fancy of other competitors, all of whom are looking at the problem from the same point of view. It is not a case choosing those, which to the best of one’s judgement, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practise the fourth, fifth, and higher degrees.
… Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation. When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. …
Up to now, Democrats have been acting like sheep being herded by the Republican minority. They need to show courage and stand up for what they believe. That’s what the voters are waiting for.
All are prisoners at Guantánamo today. As we
approach Boumediene’s anniversary, many
Something has gone awry.
In habeas the Judicial Branch exerts a real check over the Executive Branch. The decision below held, and the Executive now argues that, by locating its prison offshore, the Executive deprived the judiciary of any check at all, and that a prisoner within the court’s jurisdiction and unlawfully held by the Executive may be released only by diplomatic order of the Executive.
This argument misreads the judicial function, of which
cheerleading for diplomacy forms no part. Petitioners
know of no previous habeas decision insulating from
judicial remedy the indefinite and unlawful executive
imprisonment of a prisoner within the court’s
jurisdiction. To the contrary, the Great Writ was
mortared into the Constitution as a constraint upon
the power of the political branches.
Boumediene, 128 S. Ct. at 2259 (habeas
Thus the Executive’s assurances that diplomatic efforts continue are like assurances that efforts to cure the common cold continue. No one doubts them. But the imprisonment continues too, and that is what matters in habeas.
But it is the Third Branch, confined by the decision below to exhortations, whose historic role most urgently needs this Court’s review. The significance of Boumediene—of which both the majority and the dissenting Justices were well aware—lies in its reaffirmation that the historic role of the Judicial Branch is to demand the release of prisoners precisely when the political branches find release inconvenient. For this reason the decision was welcomed at home and abroad as a vindication of the Great Writ. Yet the decision below holds, and the Executive now argues, that the prisoners’ position on the day the Court announced its decision was no different than it had been for six years before. They would remain jailed until the Executive chose to release them. This Court might wonder today why every Justice thought so much was at stake in Boumediene.
At bottom, the decision below posits a hollow writ and a hobbled judiciary. Should this petition for certiorari fail, the federal courts will have sanctioned, within their jurisdiction, unlawful executive imprisonment that may yet extend the indefinite to the infinite.
Much has been written about panics and manias, much
more than with the most outstretched intellect we are
able to follow or conceive; but one thing is certain,
that at particular times a great deal of stupid people
have a great deal of stupid money…. At
intervals, from causes which are not to the present
purpose, the money of these people—the blind
capital, as we call it, of the country—is
particularly large and craving; it seeks for someone
to devour it, there is a
As with all analogies, the comparisons are never exact. Nevertheless, they illustrate the scale of the economic whirlwind of 1929-32—a crisis equivalent in scope to the combined effects and more of the 1994 Mexican peso crises, the 1997-98 Asian and Russian crises, the 2000 collapse in the stock market bubble, and the 2007/8 world financial crisis, all cascading upon one and other in a single concentrated two-year period. The world has been saved in part from anything approaching the Great Depression because the crises that have buffeted the world economy over the past decade have conveniently struck one by one, with decent intervals in between.
If you are of the establishment persuasion (and I am), reading Krugman makes you uneasy. You hope he’s wrong, and you sense he’s being a little harsh (especially about Geithner), but you have a creeping feeling that he knows something that others cannot, or will not, see. By definition, establishments believe in propping up the existing order. Members of the ruling class have a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are. Safeguarding the status quo, protecting traditional institutions, can be healthy and useful, stabilizing and reassuring. But sometimes, beneath the pleasant murmur and tinkle of cocktails, the old guard cannot hear the sound of ice cracking. The in crowd of any age can be deceived by self-confidence, as Liaquat Ahamed has shown in Lords of Finance, his new book about the folly of central bankers before the Great Depression, and David Halberstam revealed in his Vietnam War classic, The Best and the Brightest. Krugman may be exaggerating the decay of the financial system or the devotion of Obama’s team to preserving it. But what if he’s right, or part right? What if President Obama is squandering his only chance to step in and nationalize—well, maybe not nationalize, that loaded word—but restructure the banks before they collapse altogether?
A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.
Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all His laws.
December 2008, January 2009
We’re standing at the precipice of hell. The Western model of growth is inherently toxic. It’s highly capital intensive, and highly resource intensive, uses a lot of a materials, uses a lot of energy, and generates a lot of waste. If every Indian wants to live like an American, then the planet is doomed.
Every thing that’s happened wrong in energy in the United States has happened because there was a group of voters that put their own parochial needs ahead of our nation. West Virgina coal miners, Michigan auto workers, farmers from Iowa: none of these groups have thought about our nation. They’re thinking about their small local community. We have to think as a nation. We need a leader who is going to stand up and say, we need to do this together. And it’s doable.
TIME WAS, we thought that a conclusive demonstration that the emperor had no clothes would be sufficient to overturn his reign. No leader could take power without media support; no ruler could keep his throne without the cooperation of the press. But the consolidation of media in recent years — a series of intermarriages consecrated by the FCC — has created a panic among tube-feeding activists like myself. Increasingly, the opportunity to define the "truth" has been concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. What’s more, the new Media Hyperbarons are corporations of such colossal wealth and power that they are guaranteed to support the status quo that gave rise to them.
We are left to shout abuse, to hurl ourselves against the lines of police, to seek to smash the fences which stand between us and the decisions being made on our behalf. When — they emerge, clothed in the serenity of power, to announce that it is done, our howls of execration serve only to enhance the graciousness of their detachment. They are the actors, we the audience, and for all our catcalls and imprecations, we can no more change the script to which they play than the patrons of a cinema can change the course of the film they watch.
Any group of people that perceives itself as a distinct group, and which is so perceived by the outside world, may be called a tribe. The group might be a race, as ordinarily defined, but it need not be; it can just as well be a religious sect, a political group, or an occupational group. The essential characteristic of a tribe is that it should follow a double standard of morality—one kind of behavior of in-group relations, another for out-group.
It is one of the unfortunate and inescapable characteristics of
tribalism that it eventually evokes counter-tribalism (or, to
use a different figure of speech, it
The fairness of taxing more lightly income from wages, salaries or from investments is beyond question. In the first case, the income is uncertain and limited in duration; sickness or death destroys it and old age diminishes it; in the other, the source of income continues; the income may be disposed of during a mans life and it descends to his heirs. Surely we can afford to make a distinction between the people whose only capital is their mettle and physical energy and the people whose income is derived from investments. Such a distinction would mean much to millions of American workers and would be an added inspiration to the man who must provide a competence during his few productive years to care for himself and his family when his earnings capacity is at an end.
It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream—making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams. …
Shall I then rank with gods? Too well I feel
Is it not dust, that fills my hundred shelves,
Ordinary Americans have been manipulated into imagining they are a people under siege whose sole refuge and protector is their government. If it isn’t the Communists, it’s al-Qaeda. If it isn’t Cuba, it’s Nicaragua. As a result, this, the most powerful nation in the world — with its unmatchable arsenal of weapons, its history of having waged and sponsored endless wars, and the only nation in history to have actually used nuclear bombs — is peopled by a terrified citizenry, jumping at shadows. A people bonded to the state not by social services, or public health care, or employment guarantees, but by fear.
Capitalism survives by forcing the majority, whom it exploits, to define their own interests as narrowly as possible. This was once achieved by extensive deprivation. Today in the developed countries it is being achieved by imposing a false standard of what is and what is not desirable.
October, November, December 2007
That Schwartz’s result is heralded as the death-knell of global warming by denialist blogs and Sen. Inhofe, even before it has been officially published (let alone before the scientific community has responded) says more about the denialist movement than about the sensitivity of earth’s climate system. But, that’s how politics works.
Everything has been globalized except our consent. Democracy alone has been confined to the nation state. It stands at the national border, suitcase in hand, without a passport.
Publicity is usually explained and justified as a
competitive medium which ultimately benefits the public (the
consumer) and the most efficient manufacturers — and thus
the national economy. It is closely related to certain
ideas about freedom: freedom of choice for the purchaser:
freedom of enterprise for the manufacturer. The great
hoardings and the publicity neons of the cities of
capitalism are the immediate visible sign of
It is true that in publicity one brand of manufacture, one firm, competes with another; but it is also true that every publicity image confirms and enhances every other. Publicity is not merely an assembly of competing messages: it is a language in itself which is always being used to make the same general proposal. Within publicity, choices are offered between this cream and that cream, that car and this car, but publicity as a system only makes a single proposal.
Publicity persuades us of such a transformation by showing us people who have apparently been transformed and are, as a result, enviable. The state of being envied is what constitutes glamour. And publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour.
It is important here not to confuse publicity with the pleasure or benefits to be enjoyed from the things it advertises. Publicity is effective precisely because it feeds upon the real. Clothes, food, cars, cosmetics, baths, sunshine are real things to be enjoyed in themselves. Publicity begins by working on a natural appetite for pleasure. But it cannot offer the real object of pleasure and there is no convincing substitute for a pleasure in that pleasure’s own terms. The more convincingly publicity conveys the pleasure of bathing in a warm, distant sea, the more the spectator-buyer will become aware that he is hundreds of miles away from that sea and the more remote the chance of bathing in it will seem to him. This is why publicity can never really afford to be about the product or opportunity it is proposing to the buyer who is not yet enjoying it. Publicity is never a celebration of a pleasure-in-itself. Publicity is always about the future buyer. It offers him an image of himself made glamorous by the product or opportunity it is trying to sell. The image then makes him envious of himself as he might be. Yet what makes this self-which-he-might-be enviable? The envy of other. Publicity is about social relations, not objects. Its promise is not of pleasure, but of happiness: happiness as judged from the outside by others. The happiness of being envied is glamour.
Being envied is a solitary form of reassurance. It depends precisely upon not sharing your experience with those who envy you. You are observed with interest but you do not observe with interest — if you do, you will become less enviable. In this respect the envied are like bureaucrats; the more impersonal they are, the greater the illusion (for themselves and for others) of their power. The power of the glamorous resides in their supposed happiness: the power of the bureaucrat in his supposed authority. It is this which explains the absent, unfocused look of so many glamour images. They look out over the looks of envy which sustain them.
The spectator-buyer is meant to envy herself as she will become if she buys the product. She is meant to imagine herself transformed by the product into an object of envy for others, an envy which will then justify her loving herself. One could put this another way: the publicity image steals her love of herself as she is, and offers it back to her for the price of the product.
Society must cease to look upon
Love just doesn’t sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new.
A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents on whom he has a just demand, and if the society do not want his labour, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and, in fact, has no business to be where he is. At nature’s mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him. She tells him to be gone, and will quickly execute her own orders, if he does not work upon the compassion of some of her guests. If these guests get up and make room for him, other intruders immediately appear demanding the same favour. The report of a provision for all that come, fills the hall with numerous claimants. The order and harmony of the feast is disturbed, the plenty that before reigned is changed into scarcity; and the happiness of the guests is destroyed by the spectacle of misery and dependence in every part of the hall, and by the clamorous importunity of those, who are justly enraged at not finding the provision which they had been taught to expect. The guests learn too late their error, in counter-acting those strict orders to all intruders, issued by the great mistress of the feast, who, wishing that all guests should have plenty, and knowing she could not provide for unlimited numbers, humanely refused to admit fresh comers when her table was already full.
After all, when the U.S. invades and occupies Iraq in the way it has done, with such overwhelming military force, can the resistance be expected to be a conventional military one? (Of course, even if it were conventional, it would still be called terrorist.) In a strange sense, the U.S. government’s arsenal of weapons and unrivaled air and fire power makes terrorism an all-but-inescapable response. What people lack in wealth and power, they will make up with stealth and strategy.
In this restive, despairing time, if governments do not do all they can to honor nonviolent resistance, then by default they privilege those who turn to violence. No government’s condemnation of terrorism is credible if it cannot show itself to be open to change by to nonviolent dissent.
But instead nonviolent resistance movements are being crushed. Any kind of mass political mobilization or organization is being bought off, or broken, or simply ignored. Meanwhile, governments and the corporate media, and let’s not forget the film industry, lavish their time, attention, technology, research, and admiration on war and terrorism. Violence has been deified. The message this sends is disturbing and dangerous: If you seek to air a public grievance, violence is more effective than nonviolence.
The mandarins of the corporate world, the CEOs, the
bankers, the politicians, the judges and generals look
down on us from on high and shake their heads sternly.
Few of us take the pains to study the origin of our cherished convictions; indeed, we have a natural repugnance to so doing. We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true, and the resentment aroused when doubt is cast upon any of our assumptions leads us to seek every manner of excuse for clinging to them. The result is that most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.
Is this prudent? What would we say if a man jumped off the World Trade Building with a bag of hardware in the hope that he would figure out a way to build a parachute on the way down?
I have respect for Representative Murtha, former marine colonel. The guy’s alright. Except when did the war become bad, Jack? … You were for the war Jack. … You voted for it; you funded it. But then you saw the bodies. What’s the number that’s good for you Jack? Was this war worth fifty? Was this worth a hundred? Five hundred? A thousand? … When did this war become bad, Jack? This war became bad the day we invaded and until you say that, until you say we should never have invaded, that Saddam Hussein was not a threat, you’re telling me you’re not against the war, you’re against losing Jack. And that’s what most Americans who are against this war today are. They’re against losing. If it all had gone well. If we went in there and Democracy flourished, and all this stuff, casualties were low, it wouldn’t matter one iota to the majority of Americans that we were lied to about this war, that we violated international law going to war, and that’s the problem. Until we care about the law, until we care about the process, we’re going to go to war with Iran, because this isn’t about being anti-war or having some wonderful moral awakening, this is about the fact that we’re getting out butts kicked in Iraq, and you know what’s bad when the bully starts getting his butt kicked, he’s looking around for someone else to kick. And right now we’re desperately looking for someone else on the block to kick. And we’ve got our sights set on Iran.
Once a metaphysical mutation has arisen, it moves inexorably towards its logical conclusion. Heedlessly, it sweeps away economic and political systems, ethical considerations and social structures. No human agency can halt its progress — nothing, but another metaphysical mutation.
We have handed a blank check drawn against our own freedom to a man who has said it is unacceptable to compare anything this country has ever done, to anything the terrorists have ever done.
We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man
who has insisted again that
We have handed a blank check drawn against our own freedom to a
man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any
And if you think this hyperbole or hysteria, ask the newspaper editors when John Adams was President, or the pacifists when Woodrow Wilson was President, or the Japanese at Manzanar when Franklin Roosevelt was President.
And if you somehow think Habeas Corpus has not been suspended
for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself
this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call
you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an
This President now has his blank check.
He lied to get it.
He lied as he received it.
Is there any reason to even hope, he has not lied about how he intends to use it, nor who he intends to use it against?
The very piece of paper you signed as you said that, allows for
the detainees to be abused up to the point just before they
Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift said on this program, Sir, and to the Supreme Court, that he was only granted access to his detainee defendant, on the promise that the detainee would plead guilty.
The Military Commissions act specifically permits the introduction of classified evidence not made available to the defense.
Your words are lies, Sir.
They are lies, that imperil us all.
That terrorist, sir, could only hope.
Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.
Habeas Corpus? Gone.
The Geneva Conventions? Optional.
The Moral Force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.
These things you have done, Mr. Bush, they would be
This is why, though both sides would furiously deny it, the outcome of both market fundamentalism and anarchism, if applied universally, is identical. The anarchists associate with the oppressed, the market fundamentalists with the oppressors, but by eliminating the state (as some, but by no means all the market fundamentalists wish to do), both simply remove such restraints as prevent the strong from crushing the weak. This, of course, is the point of market fundamentalism. But it is also the inevitable result of anarchism. — For the majority of humankind to be free, we must restrain the freedom of those who would oppress us.
If global warming were a terrorist, then perhaps Newt Gingrich would say that our battle against it is World War III. He would note that people are being killed by record heat around the world. That includes 53 deaths here in the United States so far this summer, and many more across Europe. In France, 40 people have been killed. In the Netherlands, they’ve had the hottest July ever recorded, and they started recording the temperatures there three hundred years ago.
If global warming were a terrorist, George W. Bush would call it evil and say it has changed everything. Bush would make speeches observing that the attacks of climate change are relentless. Unlike the rare attacks by Al Quaida, attacks by the global warming terrorists are frequent and consistent, year after year. Last year, there was the Hurricane Katrina terrorist cell. This year, in addition to all the people dying of the record heat, there has been an astounding increase in wildfires burning across America. If global warming were a terrorist, we’d call those fires arson, and describe them as an attack on the heartland.
I was tired and didn’t really feel like listening, so I turned it down as low as it would go, longing for the day Big Bill and I could afford a car without a radio.
If you’re not willing to be changed by a place, there’s no point in going.
The state, like a tree, is essentially immobile. While it can expand its access to resources by extending its roots into the soil on which other trees are growing, it must adapt to the circumstances in which it finds itself. The corporations, like omnivorous animals, are mobile. They move from tree to tree, taking shelter in the branches, preying upon both the trees which protect them, and the other members of the ecosystem, seeking always the most easily obtained resources. The burden of predation has now become so great that most of the trees in the wood appear to be suffering what foresters call ‘die-back’.
They paved paradise
We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men—not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.
March 2006In a dark time, the eye begins to see.
The dance of the puppets
We can tolerate neither our vices nor their remedies.
We hardly need to be reminded that we are living in an age of confusion—a lot of us have traded in our beliefs for bitterness and cynicism or for a heavy package of despair, or even a quivering portion of hysteria. Opinions can be picked up cheap in the market place while such commodities as courage and fortitude and faith are in alarmingly short supply.
Around us all, now high like a distant thunderhead, now close upon us with the wet choking intimacy of a London fog, there is an enveloping cloud of fear. There is a physical fear, the kid that drives some of us to flee our homes and burrow into the ground in the bottom of a Montana valley like prairie dogs, to try to escape, if only for a little while, the sound and the fury of the A-bombs or the hell-bombs, or whatever may be coming.
There is a mental fear, which provokes others of us to see the images of witches in a neighbor’s yard and stampedes us to burn down this house. And there is a creeping fear of doubt, doubt of what we have been taught, of the validity of so many things we had long since taken for granted to be durable and unchanging. It has become more difficult than ever to distinguish black from white, good from evil, right from wrong.
All civilized societies would be divided into different sects, factions, and interests, as they happened to consist of rich and poor, debtors and creditors, the landed, the manufacturing, the commercial interests, the inhabitants of this district or that district, the followers of this political leader or that political leader, the disciples of this religious sect or that religious sect. In all cases where a majority are united by a common interest or passion, the rights of the minority are in danger. What motives are to restrain them?
If you look at fiscal conservatism these days, it’s in a sorry state. … Republicans don’t even pretend anymore.
The more compelling our journalism, the angrier became the radical right of the Republican Party. That’s because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth.
This is the point of my story. Ideologues don’t want you to go beyond the typical labels of left and right because people may start believing you. They embrace a world view that cannot be proven wrong because they will admit no evidence to the contrary. They want your reporting to validate their belief system and when it doesn’t, God forbid.
One reason I’m in hot water is because my colleagues and I at
We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been standing in my place but who will never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara more, the atoms in the universe. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Donne, greater scientists than Newton, greater composers than Beethoven. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I that are privileged to be here, privileged with eyes to see where we are and brains to wonder why.
Among the corrosive lies a nation at war tells itself is that the glory—the lofty goals announced beforehand, the victories, the liberation of the oppressed—belongs to the country as a whole; but the failure—the accidents, the uncounted civilian dead, the crimes and atrocities—is always exceptional. Noble goals flow naturally from a noble people; the occasional act of barbarity is always the work of individuals, unaccountable, confusing and indigestible to the national conscience.
This kind of thinking was widely in evidence among military and political leaders after the emergence of pictures documenting American abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison. These photographs do not capture the soul of America, they argued. They are aberrant.
This belief, that the photographs are distortions, despite their authenticity, is indistinguishable from propaganda. Tyrants censor; democracies self-censor. Tyrants concoct propaganda in ministries of information; democracies produce it through habits of thought so ingrained that a basic lie of war—only the good is our doing—becomes self-propagating. …
Reputation, image, perception. The problem, it seems, isn’t so much the abuse of the prisoners, because we will get to the bottom of that and, of course, we’re not really like that. The problem is our reputation. Our soldiers’ reputations. Our national self-image. These photos, we insist, are not us.
But these photos are us. Yes, they are the acts of individuals
(though the scandal widens, as scandals almost inevitably do,
and the military’s own internal report calls the abuse
And more. Perhaps this is just a little cancer that crept into the culture of the people running Abu Ghraib prison. But stand back. Look at the history. Open up to the hard facts of human nature, the lessons of the past, the warning signs of future abuses.
These photos show us what we may become, as occupation continues, anger and resentment grows and costs spiral. There’s nothing surprising in this. These pictures are pictures of colonial behavior, the demeaning of occupied people, the insult to local tradition, the humiliation of the vanquished. They are unexceptional. In different forms, they could be pictures of the Dutch brutalizing the Indonesians; the French brutalizing the Algerians; the Belgians brutalizing the people of the Congo. …
Not quite 50 years ago, Aime Cesaire, a poet and writer from
Martinique, wrote in his
Are we decivilized yet? Are we brutes yet? Of course not, say our leaders.
…The motivation of the revolutionary power may well be defensive; it may well be sincere in its protestations of feeling threatened. But the distinguishing feature of a revolutionary power is not that it feels threatened—such feeling is inherent in the nature of international relations based on sovereign states—but that nothing can reassure it. Only absolute security—the neutralization of the opponent—is considered a sufficient guarantee, and thus the desire of one power for absolute security means absolute insecurity for all the others.
Diplomacy, the art of restraining the exercise of power, cannot
function in such an environment. It is a mistake to assume that
diplomacy can always settle international disputes if there is
For powers long accustomed to tranquillity and without
experience with disaster, this is a hard lesson to come by.
Lulled by a period of stability which had seemed permanent, they
find it nearly impossible to take at face value the assertion of
the revolutionary power that it means to smash the existing
framework. The defenders of the status quo therefore tend to
begin by treating the revolutionary power as if its
protestations were merely tactical; as if it really accepted the
existing legitimacy but overstated its case for bargaining
purposes; as if it were motivated by specific grievances to be
assuaged by limited concessions. Those who warn against the
danger in time are considered alarmists; those who counsel
adaptation to circumstance are considered balanced and sane, for
they have all the good
But it is the essence of a revolutionary power that it possesses
the courage of its convictions, that it is willing, indeed
eager, to push its principles to their ultimate
conclusion. … Principles in a revolutionary situation are
so central that they are constantly talked about. The very
sterility of the effort soon drains them of all meaning, and it
is not unusual to find both sides invoking their version of the
Nothing works more in a thief’s favor than people feeling secure. That’s why places that are heavily alarmed and guarded can sometimes be the easiest targets. The single most important factor in security — more than locks, alarms, sensors, or armed guards — is attitude. A building protected by nothing more than a cheap combination lock but inhabited by people who are alert and risk-aware is much safer than one with the world’s most sophisticated alarm system whose tenants assume they’re living in an impregnable fortress.
To children today, the war was something in the dusty past, as
ancient as Caesar. They wonder why their parents are forever
using the phrases
In their propaganda today’s dictators rely for the most part on repetition, supression and rationalization — the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the supression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationalization of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State. As the art and science of manipulation come to be better understood, the dictators of the future will doubtless learn to combine these techniques with the non-stop distractions which, in the West, are now threatening to drown in a sea of irrelevance the rational propaganda essential to the maintenance of individual liberty and the survival of democratic institutions.
All acts are done by individuals. The issue is not whether a majority or a minority of Americans performs such acts but whether the nature of the policies prosecuted by this administration and the hierarchies deployed to carry them out makes such acts likely.
The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric
spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent
days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.
Those in public office have let us know that they consider their
task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief
management. Politics, the politics of a democracy—which
entails disagreement, which promotes candor—has been
replaced by psychotherapy. Let’s by all means grieve together.
But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical
awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and
what may continue to happen.
On a lighter note, it is hard to avoid observing that al-Baghdadi
castigated Bush’s administration as
…accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
The people have spoken. And now the people must be punished.
Political skill in the absence of statesmanship is the first act of a tragedy.
We had a rather long period of time, between 1945 and 2000, in which the United States … viewed our role as more like that of the sheriff in a western town of the frontier, instead of being like Jesse James. That’s a very important distinction, because the sheriff, while he’s there to produce law and order, is accountable to the community. The United States, while we were the great power, viewed ourselves as being accountable to the world community. And on the basis of that accountability, when this President took office, with the exception of Jordan and Pakistan, in every major country in which public opinion polling existed, between sixty and eight-five percent of the public trusted the United States more or less to do the right thing in international affairs. And after only four years, in eighty percent of the countries where there is such opinion polling, a majority of the public no longer trusts the United States to do the right thing. The average support for American foreign policy in most of the world is running between twenty five and thirty percent, whereas four years ago it was running between seventy five and eighty percent.
The only unequivocally good policy option before the American people is to dump the president who got us into this mess, who had no trouble sending our young people to Iraq but who cannot steel himself to face the Sept. 11 commission alone.
In the face of this approaching disaster, it behooves men and women not yet overcome by the war madness to raise their voice of protest, to call the attention of the people to the crime and outrage which are about to be perpetrated upon them.
If this year stays true to past form, the campaign will get nastier in the closing weeks, and without anyone’s quite registering it, Rove will be right back in his element. He seems to understand—indeed, to count on—the media’s unwillingness or inability, whether from squeamishness, laziness, or professional caution, ever to give a full estimate of him or his work. It is ultimately not just Rove’s skill but his character that allows him to perform on an entirely different plane. Along with remarkable strategic skills, he has both an understanding of the media’s unstated self-limitations and a willingness to fight in territory where conscience forbids most others.
Note: The Republican National Convention occurred in September.
The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.
We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
It was discovered that the freedom in this land is not ours. It is the freedom of the occupying soldiers in doing what they like, such as arresting, carrying out raids, killing at random or stealing money.
No one can ask them what they are doing, because they are protected by their freedom. No one can punish them, whether in our country or their country. The worst thing is what was discovered in the course of time: abusing women, children, men, and the old men and women whom they arrested randomly and without any guilt. They expressed the freedom of rape, the freedom of nudity and the freedom of humiliation.
Today, most US officials and commentators, while condemning the abuses revealed in the Abu Ghraib prison, speak in terms of finding ways to fix the system so these abuses will not happen again.
The need is deeper. We need to understand that if we choose the option of war, abuses will inevitably follow. It is the very nature of war. Indeed, war itself is abuse.
And 1968 was a bitter year for those who opposed the war. The
lies and hypocrisies redoubled; so did the killing. Moreover,
it was becoming clear that the ethic which approved the
defoliation of forests and grainlands and the murder of
noncombatants in the name of
This isn’t America; the government did not invent intelligence material nor exaggerate the description of the threat to justify their attack on the Hamas leader the way George Bush did on his way to Baghdad.
The Stalinist discipline of the Republican Party is impressive.
I have often suggested to American Christians that the only way to understand their mission is to ask what it might have meant to witness faithfully to Jesus in the heart of the Roman Empire. Certainly, when I preach in the United States I feel, as I imagine the Apostle Paul did when he first passed through the gates of Rome—admiration for its people, awe at its manifest virtues and resentment of its careless power.
America’s preachers have a task more difficult, perhaps, than those faced by us under South Africa’s apartheid or by Christians under Communism. We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white and blue myth. You have to expose and confront the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion and caring of most American people and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly and indirectly, by the poor of the earth. You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them.
This is not easy among people who really believe that their country does nothing but good. But it is necessary, not only for their future, but for us all. All around the world there are those who believe in the basic goodness of the American people, who agonize with you in your pain, but also long to see your human goodness translated into a different, more compassionate way of relating with the rest of this bleeding planet.
Alas, where shall I climb now with my longing? From all mountains I look out for fatherlands and motherlands. But home I found nowhere; a fugitive am I in all cities and a departure at all gates. Strange and a mockery to me are the men of today to whom my heart recently drew me; and I am driven out of fatherlands and motherlands. Thus I now love only my children’s land, yet undiscovered, in the farthest sea: for this I bid my sails search and search.
Trying to eliminate Saddam … would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible…. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq … there was no viable “exit strategy” we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.
Over the last two years, the President has shown us his take on a new era in environmental protection. The Bush formula: slap some squeaky-clean sounding names on a bunch of industry-friendly policies, resulting in some proposals that equal a polluter’s paradise and an industrial free-for-all on our public lands.
Certainty about the world does not make the world more certain. The easiest road to moral clarity is a refusal to learn from complex events. For a few horrible hours two Septembers ago, nobody could claim to know anything. That uncertainty, at least, haunts us still. Or should.
here’s to our last drink of fossil fuels
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
and i’ll tell you what, while we’re at it
This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.
I have the greatest admiration for your propaganda. Propaganda in the West is carried out by experts who have had the best training in the world — in the field of advertizing — and have mastered the techniques with exceptional proficiency … Yours are subtle and persuasive; ours are crude and obvious … I think that the fundamental difference between our worlds, with respect to propaganda, is quite simple. You tend to believe yours … and we tend to disbelieve ours.
Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.
I believe that it will do this not only to take control of Iraqi oil, but also because the American administration is now a bloodthirsty wild animal. Bombs are its only vocabulary.
All power is power over someone, and it always somehow responds, usually unwittingly rather than deliberately, to the state of mind and the behavior of those it rules over.
The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government.
Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss
Regime change begins at home.