8:41 am

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    New Year Coming

        5:26 pm

      As one calendar year draws to a close, it is natural to begin to imagine what the next will be like. Tonight I find myself wondering about the future, the coming year and beyond really, and I noticed how in fact I really have no idea what will happen. I suppose none of us do really. The future we envision today is nothing but a projection of the present, or perhaps a projection of the past based on ideas of continuity. The sun rose this morning, and on every other morning I can recall, more likely it will rise again tomorrow.

      There has been such a monumental movement in the past few years - a dramatic shift towards militarism. Now you hear the discussions of war daily. But I really don’t know what to expect. Will this larger Iraq war really happen? Will it be a war like Afganistan, or the first Gulf War, where the US is basically untouched? Or could it get out of hand completely, with related conflicts breaking out in other nations. Will we be further divided along national and “religious” boundaries. Could nuclear weapons again be used?

      If it matters to anyone, if anyone is listening, I for one want peace. I know there are many others who also want peace. And I don’t know how we can guarantee the safety of all the people against the weapons that have already been made and distributed. I have opinions but really no answers.

      Perhaps ultimately there is no defense against terrorism, except to overcome the hatred that gives rise to it. Although I have already spoken to this point many times I’ll repeat myself here. The current attempts to prevent terrorism with militarism and authoritarianism may work to a degree in the short run, but in the long run, they will create great resentment. In other words, in the battle to eradicate the current enemy, many new enemies may come into existence. No one wants this.

      But short sightedness is our plight. Many years ago many picked up the banner against nuclear power, but the plants were built anyway. Now, we still face the problem of what to do with the waste. Unfortunately, now we also face the problem of preventing terrorists from getting access to this by product of an earlier era of greed and arrogance.

      So what future do we face? Do we have the capacity to influence it? Or are we doomed to see more and more of our world fall into chronic cycles of resentment and revenge like Israel/Palistine? Or can a pre-emptive war actually be fought and “won” and then somehow everything returns to “normal"?

      I don’t know what the future will hold. There was a time when the future seemed like a good thing, progress and a better world were expected. But it feels like a different future now, low on optimism, uncertain and ominous. I wonder - is anyone looking forward to it?


      Pecking order

          2:21 pm

        Did you know that in commercial chicken farms sometimes the beaks of the chickens are snipped back? Why would anyone do such a thing to a helpless little chicken, one who might someday have the honor of joining a nice family of four for dinner?

        It turns out that some birds like to have a pecking order, a chain of dominance and submission, a hierarchy. Like many other birds, they establish this hierarchy in part by pecking each other, hence the term “pecking order". Once the hierarchy is established, the pecking dies down.

        But when too many birds are put in one cage, the pecking never stops as it is impossible for them to establish a hierarchy in the midst of so many. Many of the birds die of being pecked too much. So in a humanitarian and cost conscious gesture, the beaks are snipped, so the birds won’t hurt each other.

        The human population has been estimated to have passed 6 billion.


        Containment has failed

            8:23 am

          Winning the cold war has come at an awful price. The rumour has been repeated over and over that many suitcase nuclear bombs are missing from the ex-Soviet arsenal, presumably sold on the black market to the highest bidder. The USA should have bought up every nuclear scientist and black market nuke from the broken empire immediately, and shown a generous and supportive presence to insure a safe transition. But instead, the drunken boasting began, “we won the cold war", and now the fear is that the nukes are out. Fools.

          Containment is a failure. Furthermore, the fools rush on, now picking apart the DNA structure and endlessly playing with biotoxins behind the top secret laboratory doors. And of course going full speed ahead with the obligitory missile shield, “this one’s for the gipper". It may look like a defensive weapon to a panic stricken population, but to those outside the United States, the missile shield looks like a necessary appendage to a first strike option.

          If a few lunatics with razer blades were able to take down the twin towers and drive United Airlines to bankruptcy, what good is a ten or twenty year technological military lead? Eventually every cruel and unusual weapons system is going to find its way into the hands of someone who looks and thinks differently than those who originally invented it, in other words, “they” will have it. “It", that is, the bomb, the gas, the biotoxins, the land mine, the cluster bomb, the plague, the shoulder anti-aircraft missle, etc etc etc. Containment has failed. The floor is 3 inches deep in gasoline and they still go on manufacturing newer and better matches. It’s over. And if it takes ten years for an “accident” to happen or a thousand years it doesn’t really matter. Democracy will be over, freedom will be over, and our beautiful planet may even be over.

          This all important moment we call now is next to nothing in an evolutionary sense. And to deal with these new weapons we need to recognize that their presence is of such magnitude as to be considered an evolutionary change. But we have no memory and no capacity for such thought. So many soldiers fought and died in WWII and Vietnam all in the name of “freedom” and “democracy". Now, a president can be sworn in without any certainty as to whether he actually won or not. The principles many believe are being fought for are not even remembered twenty years later. The real battle continues to be an inner struggle projected outward onto the most convenient target - “us” vs “them". In the external world, “us” contains “them” and “them” contains “us". We are one big happy family now - like it or not - so we better learn how to get along.

          I still believe the winning quote of the twentieth century belongs to Rodney King, the man whose abuse sparked deadly riots in LA in 1992, and whose televised plea for peace 3 days later ended them:

          “Can’t we all just get along?”


          We all must live with the consequences

              3:05 pm

            Perhaps it could have been different. Sadly, sometimes it comes down to the one man who pulls the trigger. From Reuters:

            Amir, who shot Rabin in the back after a peace rally, said at the time of his arrest that he killed the prime minister to prevent peacemaking with the Palestinians.
            Rabin was assasinated after a peace rally in Tel Aviv in 1995. Perhaps the course of history changed on that day, and the extreme violence that is so common today may have been avoided, had it not been for the action of this one man.

            Of course, the individual could have been acting with others, but either way, he expresses a belief held by many, that peace isn’t possible, that the enemy is evil and must never be trusted. Otherwise, how could it be that the Israeli people would chose Netanyahu, a man with a very different agenda from Rabin, in the next election in May 1996? Perhaps the greatest terrorist attack against Israel came not from the Palestinians but from within, and now the entire world suffers the repercussions of that tragic moment.

            Has anyone considered the possibility that the 9/11 attacks in the United States might never have happened if Rabin’s work and the peace process had continued? That the ensuing “War on Terror” would never have happened? Al Queda clearly holds the United States responsible for Israeli policy, which has been very hard on the Palestinians. If this hypothesis is correct, this assasins action has changed history in bigger and more tragic ways than he could ever have imagined.

            How easy it is to destroy. I wonder if someone amoung us will find a way in this situation to make a positive contribution of such magnitude. The historical figure Mahatma Ghandi was undoubtedly such an individual. For he applied the ideal of non-violence on a large scale for the liberation of the Indian people. Even Martin Luther King gave him credit for his inspiration:

            “I firmly believe that the Gandhian philosophy of nonviolent resistance is the only logical and moral approach to the solution of the race problem in the United States.”
            Martin Luther King, Jr. 1957
            It is so easy to get lost in a laundry list of complaints against the demonized other side: “they did this, they did that". Ultimately though, “they” are a part of a larger group known as “we". Now is the time to make peace. Whatever happens, peace or war, we all must live with the consequences.

            What a tangled web we weave…

                12:45 pm

              From AP:

              Iraq is preparing to destroy its own oil fields, food supplies and power plants and blame America for the devastation in the event of war, U.S. intelligence officials said Wednesday.

              This comes just days after the report that Rumsfeld is still considering whether to orchestrate international public opinion using disinformation tactics. Now we are told Iraq is going to attack itself to try to sway world opinion against an attack! But who said this anyway?
              The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, declined to describe that evidence, citing the need to protect intelligence sources.
              If this qualifies as intelligence then yes they are wise to try to protect whatever limited sources they have. Yet the article doesn’t question the integrety of the report:
              Combat in Baghdad could also further Saddam’s ends of creating a humanitarian crisis, as the civilian population is sure to suffer, either from errant U.S. bombs or Saddam’s reprisals against his own people.
              Notice the key word “alleged” is left out, which would be common reporting terminology when reporting on accused criminals, let alone when reporting on a man whose bad reputation is being used as the primary justification for war. It should read “Saddam’s ‘alleged’ end of creating a humanitarian crisis".

              Is this newly floated story by US intelligence, who just days ago announced their uncertainty over whether to engage in intentional disinformation campaigns, enough to confirm its validity? Or is this irresponsible journalism? The embedded communication of this “report” is that Saddam, and not the invading army, is trying to create a humanitarian crisis. The implication is that the attacking force is to be considered a liberating army freeing a population from a selfish dictator, just like in World War II. But before you get teary eyed about the selfless concern of the US military for the oppressed people of Iraq, remember that just days ago George Bush threatened to use nuclear weapons (against these same civilians we must presume) in retaliation for any chemical or biological or nuclear attacks by Saddam. The Iraqi civilians are now more bargaining chips in the center of a nuclear poker game, and America just raised the stakes.

              And here is a reminder for those holier than though patriots: the United States also used biological weapons against “its own people” by the way, in the form of smallpox infected blankets distributed to the Native American “savage” population in the days of “Manifest Destiny". Even then you had to rhetorically sell this sort of thing.


              Clinton Shares Some History

                  12:29 pm

                The flood of insane reports continues. Bill Clinton reports the US threated to attack North Koreas nuclear reactors:

                “We actually drew up plans to attack North Korea and to destroy their reactors and we told them we would attack unless they ended their nuclear program.”

                Again a very honest and very questionable public revelation. The issue of containment is dangerously uncontained and the government has been and continues to be extremely concerned. Remember Chernobyl or 3 Mile Island? What do you think would happen if a nuclear reactor was attacked? Doesn’t that fall into the terrorism catagory?

                Plans and announcements like this are foolish and shortsighted. If the police force of the world announces they have no respect for the law, where does that leave the criminals? There is no containment. Just panic and increasingly aggressive threats. “Winning” the cold war has apparently come at a very expensive price.

                Technical Difficulties!

                    11:53 am

                  Thanks to JoJo for this one: MoveOn Requires flash

                  Disinformation Campaign

                      11:38 am

                    Some very strange psycological games being played out here. Of course its obviously wrong for a democracy to use disinformation tactics in principle, and ultimately it reflects a complete distrust in the capacity of the population to think intelligently - a fundamentally undemocratic perspective - which of course a case could be made for after the last republican dominated election.

                    But what the Bush administration is doing now is even more bizarre - letting the world know that they may be using covert operations aimed at disinformation to manipulate public opinion even in allied countries like Germany. “Wow, how honest they are to come out and say that they plan on orchestrating public opinion, I’m really starting to trust these guys now!” Is that the response they’re hoping to evoke? I for one am completely baffled by what on the surface appears to be the stupidest possible outcome. If the United States is going to lie and cheat for some imagined cause worth lying and cheating for, at least keep quiet about it so it has a chance of working! God forgive us for nearly electing these nuts in 2000.


                    The straw that broke the Camel’s back

                        11:09 am

                      The United States is openly planning a “pre-emptive” war which will certainly involve a military assault on Bagdad, a city of over 4 million people. How many people who are alive today will be killed in such an battle? But you never know what it is that is actually going to get people fired up enough to do something.

                      In South Korea, 50,000 people participated in anti-US demonstrations over the acquital of the US soldiers that killed the two teenage girls when their military vehicle hit them by accident. It appears that the human psyche responds issues of “fair” and “unfair” mostly when the scale is very small and managable. Anything over 10 people is psychologically incomprehensible and beyond what the group mind can deal with.

                      Remember the OJ Simpson trial? How an entire nation spent months completely mesmerized over the guilt or innocence of one man? Or the Rodney King riots, or the Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas hearings? The American public cannot get enough of the info when the issue at hand involves race and power and a small number of personalities.

                      But when the president of the United States announces that nuclear weapons might be used in retaliation for a chemical attack, which is effectively first use of nuclear weapons, there is no discussion, no debate, just silence. We are now in a situation which could very quickly escalate beyond our comprehension and the number of casualties could exceed 100,000 or even 1,000,000 or more.

                      But this is beyond what we know how to deal with. That’s reasonable, there is no way to deal with it, it’s over the top insane. But guess what, that’s how it looks. During all these years of relative peace a tremendous military buildup has been going on both in the United States and all over the world. When the forest fire finally breaks out in a forest that has been without fire for a long time, there is an abundance of fuel and it can spread fast - like wildfire.

                      The weapons systems which are employed, a great many of which were manufactured and sold by US corporations, are in place, and so is the simple minded deceptive rhetoric and psycology of war. The tragic memories of Vietnam and World War II are fading. Retaliation and the threat of retaliation are like bandaids laced with poisen. Your enemy already thinks you are a demon, the worst thing you can do is confirm their suspicions.


                      Martin Luther King Jr.’s Greatest Speech

                          4:52 am

                        Martin Luther King Jr. delivered so many outstanding speeches and sermons, but “The Drum Major Instinct” is particularly magnificent as it brilliantly weaves so many themes together: Religion, racism, egotism, nationalism, psychology, militarism, the Vietnam war and the nuclear arms race. From the speech:

                        And not only does this thing go into the racial struggle, it goes into the struggle between nations. And I would submit to you this morning that what is wrong in the world today is that the nations of the world are engaged in a bitter, colossal contest for supremacy. And if something doesn’t happen to stop this trend, I’m sorely afraid that we won’t be here to talk about Jesus Christ and about God and about brotherhood too many more years. If somebody doesn’t bring an end to this suicidal thrust that we see in the world today, none of us are going to be around, because somebody’s going to make the mistake through our senseless blunderings of dropping a nuclear bomb somewhere. And then another one is going to drop. And don’t let anybody fool you, this can happen within a matter of seconds. They have twenty-megaton bombs in Russia right now that can destroy a city as big as New York in three seconds, with everybody wiped away, and every building. And we can do the same thing to Russia and China.

                        This speech was given in 1968. Some believe that Martin Luther King Jr. was assasinated because he was expanding his struggle to protest the Vietnam war and militarism in foriegn policy generally. Sometimes people get very identified with abstract concepts and when those ideas are challenged there is an all to often violent attempt to defend them. Everyone agrees now that the assasination of Martin Luther King Jr., a man who stood for peace and nonviolence, was a monumental tragedy. Yet when it comes time to decide whether to start a pre-emptive war, an attack on peace itself, how many will stand up and say no? It’s very common to worship Jesus of long ago. But the thought of turning the other cheek today is rejected out of hand. Instead the Christian administration chooses to strike first just in case a strike may be coming. Martin Luther King Jr. continues:

                        And we are drifting there because nations are caught up with the drum major instinct. “I must be first.” “I must be supreme.” “Our nation must rule the world.” And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I’m going to continue to say it to America, because I love this country too much to see the drift that it has taken.

                        This speech should be required reading for all students. No holiday from school without some study first! See the entire speech: Stanford University’s popular requests, select number 8

                        Practical Realism

                            4:32 am

                          “I am convinced that love is the most durable power in the world. It is not an expression of impractical idealism, but of practical realism. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, love is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. To return hate for hate does nothing but intensify the existence of evil in the universe. Someone must have sense enough and religion enough to cut off the chain of hate and evil, and this can only be done through love.”
                          Martin Luther King, Jr. 1957

                          Love is creative and redemptive

                              4:29 am

                            “Love is creative and redemptive. Love builds up and unites; hate tears down and destroys. The aftermath of the ‘fight with fire’ method which you suggest is bitterness and chaos, the aftermath of the love method is reconciliation and creation of the beloved community. Physical force can repress, restrain, coerce, destroy, but it cannot create and organize anything permamnent; only love can do that. Yes, love–which means understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill, even for one’s enemies–is the solution to the race problem.”
                            Martin Luther King, Jr. 1957


                            Demonstation for a Boycott of Israel

                                5:33 pm

                              Dec 12. Demonstration in Copenhagen, Denmark: A crowd of over one thousand demonstrators marched through the streets this evening on the occasion of the EU meeting here asking for a European Union boycott of Israel. The demonstrators hope a boycott against Israel could pressure Israel to end the occupation. The demonstration was peaceful, though there were a large number of police present. The music of Beethovens ninth symphony played and the recently illuminated Christmas tree in the city hall plaza lent a peaceful presence. Tomorrow, demonstrations against a war on Iraq will also take place. See the Quicktime Video.


                              If necessary

                                  5:18 pm

                                The United States is “prepared to use nuclear weapons if necessary to respond to an attack from weapons of mass destruction". …STOP…THINK…WHERE IS THIS BUS HEADED?

                                The key words here: if necessary. Once a chemical or biological attack has happened, how is it necessary at that point to respond by actually killing a lot of civilians, or to respond at all? What do you gain? Acting on the threat is like pouring gasoline into the fire - too late, no benefit. Perhaps the leaders of the United States may feel it is necessary to threaten to use nuclear weapons in response to the perceived threat of the use of weapons of mass destruction against the invading US army or worse against the civilians of the United States back home. The threat by one side may prevent the first use by the other, as in the cold war MAD doctrine (Mutually Assured Destruction - the high school students who don’t know where Iraq or Afganistan is but may soon be invited to kill and die there might appreciate having MAD spelled out). But MAD cannot be counted on in this situation where there is no balance of power and the attacking side is publically calling for the assasination of the leader of the other. What does Sadam have to lose?

                                These horrible nuclear weapons are useless - to use them is to lose both your humanity and your credibility. And these threats, which may carry some weight as a deterrent and will scare some of the more sane amoung the insane evildoers of the world, will only work so long, until someone figures out what a morally implosive reaction would occur if they were ever used. We’re talking about burning human beings alive here by the hundreds of thousands - innocent civilians who the United States has no quarrel with who have nothing to do with this madness. “Sorry, your leader fought back with his secret last resort weapons when we tried to end his regime and his life with our overwhelming conventional military force, so you have to be burned alive to pay for what he did… ”

                                I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
                                and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God,
                                indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

                                deterrence: part 2">deterrence: part 2

                                    5:04 am

                                  From Reuters:

                                  The United States reminded Iraq and other countries on Tuesday that it was prepared to use nuclear weapons if necessary to respond to an attack from weapons of mass destruction.

                                  More “them not us” madness. Sadam is considered an evil dictator who is hiding weapons of mass destruction, and is now being backed into a corner. If he in fact has weapons of mass destruction, which is the premise for the aggressive US policy, the US military is creating the very situation in which he would be most likely to use them: when he has nothing to lose. Might a man who “used weapons of mass destruction” against his own people be somewhat underconcerned about someone else using weapons of mass destruction against his own people?

                                  This threat may not work, and if Sadam or a panic stricken general in the middle of a battle in fact uses chemical agents against advancing troops, this threat of nuclear retaliation itself creates a situation where the United States will be compelled to respond with nuclear weapons - if for no other reason than to maintain the credibility of these threats in future situations. Furthermore, there is always a possibility that a third party which is opposed to Sadam’s regime will introduce chemical weapons into the battle annonymously, precisely to provoke a nuclear retaliation, not against the population of the party who used the chemicals, but against the population of the dictator who was thought to have used them. This new policy of deterrence is unstable and provokes escalation.

                                  Now the stakes have been dangerously raised. The United States may officially have “no quarrel with the Iraqi people” but they have just been served the death threat of a nuclear barbeque.

                                  A few questions: Is it right to murder millions of civilians when their dictator acts out? Is it right to risk using weapons of mass destruction to try to prevent a threatening country from acquiring them? What are the ethical implications of killing civilians even in retaliation for similar attacks? The threat of the use of nuclear weapons is in fact one way of using them. The threat alone is terrifying and a form of terrorism. The government of the United States has not correctly considered the implications of this policy. The threat of pre-emptive attacks now with the supporting threat of nuclear retaliation is dangerous and destabilizing.

                                  There is another angle to consider. In every war the United States participates in, there is one unquestionable standard: the lives of the citizens of the United States are worth far more than the lives of the people in the other country. This is so deeply ingrained and taken for granted as to be not even noticed. I have heard estimates that in Vietnam and Cambodia between 1 and 3 million were killed during the war. But the only number mentioned is the 50,000+ america soldiers. That’s between 20 and 60 Vietnamese and Cambodians for each US soldier. Unmentioned. Not important. No apology. In Afganistan was it ever reported how many were killed? There was a brief mention one day on Yahoo of a battle where 3000 Taliban were killed in one day thanks to the efforts of one soldier on the ground directing the attack from the air of lazer guided precision bombs. Therefore, in just one day more Taliban were killed than in the entire WTC attack. But you didn’t hear about that did you? No you didn’t.

                                  4 million people live in Bagdad. How should they be considered? Do their oppressed lives have any value? Or is their destruction another acceptable tactical loss? Is this war on terror becoming just another war of terror? Now the threat of nuclear retaliation has been added to the dangerous mix. If this was really a war on terror, the United States might say something like this:

                                  “Under no circumstances will the United States ever again use nuclear weapons against a civilian population, in times of peace or in times of war. For it is in the nature of these weapons that they cannot be used without harming those who we as a democracy are commited to defend - the people. Since we can never be 100% certain that our stockpile of nuclear weapons will not be stolen and used by renegrade soldiers, agent infiltrators, or even an illegitimate government in a military coup d’etat, we have decided to do what we have previously only asked our enemies to do - unilaterally disarm. Our efforts to prevent terror will now be completely redirected. The huge expenditures previously directed towards security through militarism, will be used generously to raise the standard of living for all people around the world. Our new security will be one of friendship and cooperation with our neighbors. Through this change we hope to secure the goodwill even of our enemies.”


                                  Support our troops!

                                      3:09 pm

                                    This one is simple.
                                    Support the US troops. Everyone’s patriotic duty.

                                    How to do it? Don’t let the Iraq war happen. Once the war starts the future for the troops looks grim no matter what happens. Either they are killed or wounded, which is unlikely considering the imbalance of power (but you never know what twists and turns war will take), or they become killers, which from an ethical point of view might actually be worse than being killed.

                                    It would be a serious oversimplification to describe this war as good vs evil. It would be closer to reality to call it a power struggle. Or another chance to touch off WW3.

                                    Anyone out there willing to take a stand for our troops?


                                    You have until Sunday">…You have until Sunday

                                        2:14 pm

                                      One day, one of these wars against a weak and easily defeated enemy is going to hit a rock. A rock of miscalculation, of insufficient intelligence, of pride, of wishful thinking. Maybe Iraq will be another quick and easy war, a beautiful victory parade downtown, with confetti and floats, a publicity shot for the nations most popular president, and on the other radioactive hand, maybe they already have weapons of mass destruction in place in america.

                                      One day, one of these wars might not go as planned, a publicity stunt like Pepsi and the king of pop’s hair suddenly on fire, an unexpected twist, and then, suddenly, you will find yourself living in a country which has collapsed, in an economy like that of Argentina, third world USA, and then, a real test will unfold. And at that time, if these wars had been perceived as ethical, righteous efforts to defend equality and freedom, you could call on that ethical conception to rally unity to rebuild, to work together. But if your war is a heist, a global gangster oilfield bank robbery thinly guised as pre-emptive self defense, a mediocre attempt to transfer all the risk of victimization by your own self created uncontainable weapons systems to a population already doubly victimized both by your own military and also by your own former intelligencia friend gone astray, then who will take you seriously will you stand proudly with a tear in your eye and a patriotic hand over a missing heart?

                                      The best weapons of democracy are equality, peace and generosity. How absurd the hypocracy. 20,000 nuclear weapons at his call he demands disarmament. Words mean nothing. We want a war and we want it now, while the weather is favorable. You have until Sunday…

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