Juan Cole on Pakistan, Musharraf, and Bush
Posted on August 19th, 2008 at 2:55 pm by Steve

In an article detailing Resident Bush’s unwillingness to withdraw American support from General Pervez Musharraf, Professor Juan Cole offers up an illuminating bit of backstory on U.S.-Pakistani-Afghan relations:

After a return to civilian rule in 1971, the [Pakistani] military under Gen. Zia ul-Haq struck again in 1977, hanging Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979. Gen. Zia was viewed by the Reagan administration as indispensable to its covert war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Zia, isolated and without popular support inside Pakistan, made an alliance with the fundamentalist Jama’at-i Islami and began the “Islamization” of Pakistani law, which had earlier been a mixture of British legal principles with precedents derived from Muslim customary practice.

Zia’s Inter-Services Intelligence, the feared military intelligence branch, received some $5 billion from Reagan and a matching sum from King Fahd in Saudi Arabia to fight the Soviets, and the ISI funneled much of that money to the most hard-line fundamentalist guerrillas among the Afghans. The Reagan-backed jihad against Moscow attracted the enthusiasms of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and thousands of other Arab volunteers, leading to the creation of al-Qaida.

Cole notes that U. S. support for Musharraf continued up through last week. U. S. foreign policy: stunningly short sighted, and dangerous to all of humanity.

The Angry Arab Nails It
Posted on August 19th, 2008 at 2:25 pm by Steve

Musharraf and Bush
If you’re not reading The Angry Arab News Service, you’re missing out on some choice political commentary and excellent English-language translations of bits from the Arabic press around the globe. Here’s The Angry Arab commenting on a quote from the Bush White House about Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s resignation:

“President Bush appreciates President Musharraf’s efforts in the democratic transition of Pakistan.” Isn’t this like appreciating Hitler’s efforts in the democratic transition of Germany?

Now, if only Resident Bush would follow Musharraf’s lead…

Billmon Has the Backstory on the US & Georgia
Posted on August 18th, 2008 at 4:50 pm by Steve

Once upon a time, when teh internets were young, my favorite blogger was a guy named Billmon, who hosted the Whiskey Bar (archive here). Good times. He closed up shop a few years ago, much to my dismay… his was a reasoned voice of sanity in an increasingly demented world.

Much to my delight, he’s writing publicly again about politics and government, now at the behemoth site of Daily Kos. Here’s an excerpt from his take on the backstory between the US and Georgia leading up to the present conflict:

There’s not much more to say – except that it’s a pretty strange world where the sworn goal of US diplomacy is to put the country in a situation where it may have to go to war with another nuclear power (or back down ignominiously) to defend the sanctity of borders drawn by Josef Stalin and Nikita Krushchev. Leaving aside the raving hypocrisy (Kosovo, Iraq) it’s an alarming sign that the national security and foreign policy elites of this country – in both parties; and not just among the lunatic neocon fringe – are totally out of control. British analyst Anatol Levin (one of the more perceptive of the realists) describes it a case of “profound infantilism”:

In the United States, the infantile illusion of omnipotence, whereby it doesn’t matter how many commitments the United States has made elsewhere—in the last resort, the United States can always do what it likes.

Personally, I see it more as a case of the bureaucratic imperative run amok: The national security state is doing exactly what it was designed to do, but without any of the external checks and counterbalances that existed during the Cold War – the war it was originally created to fight. The domestic political system, meanwhile, has atrophied to the point where it’s simply an afterthought – a legislative rubber stamp needed to keep the dollars flowing. With no effective opposition, the machine can run on autopilot, until it finally topples off a cliff (as in Iraq) or slams into an object (like the Russian Army) that refuses to get out of the way.

And that, ultimately, is the most depressing thing about this story: Even after the fiasco in Iraq, the bloody failure in Lebanon, the downward spiral in Afghanistan and, now, the futile posturing in Georgia, there’s absolutely no evidence the US foreign policy elite is inclined to moderate its ambition to re-organize the world along American lines. Nor is there any sign the political class (including, unfortunately, Barack Obama) is rethinking its lockstep support for that agenda. The voters, meanwhile, don’t seem to care much one way or another – as long as gas doesn’t get too expensive and the military casualties aren’t too high (or can be kept off the TV). If anything, it looks like bashing the Russians is still good politics, if only for the nostalgia value.

Profit Over People
Posted on August 18th, 2008 at 3:56 pm by Steve

In “Consent Without Consent,” from Profit Over People, Professor Noam Chomsky offers clarity and insight into the workings of our modern democratic system (pages 43-44):

The issues were addressed 250 years ago by David Hume in a classic work. Hume was intrigued by “the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, the implicit submission with which men resign” their fate to their rulers. This he found surprising, because “force is always on the side of the governed.” IF people would realize that, they would rise up and overthrow the masters. He concluded that government is founded on control of opinion, a principle that “extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free and most popular.”

Hume surely underestimated the effectiveness of brute force. A more accurate version is that the more “free and popular” a government, the more it becomes necessary to rely on control of opinion to ensure submission to the rulers.

That people must submit is taken for granted pretty much across the spectrum. In a democracy, the governed have the right to consent, but nothing more than that. In the terminology of modern progressive thought, the population may be “spectators,” but not “participants,” apart from occasional choices among leaders representing authentic power. That is the political arena. The general population must be excluded entirely from the economic arena, where what happens in the society is largely determined. Here the public is to have no role, according to prevailing democratic theory.

Page 52:

Madison soon learn differently, as the “opulent minority” proceeded to use their newfound power much as Adam Smith had predicted a few years earlier. They were intent on pursuing what Smith called the “vile maxim” of the masters, “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people.” By 1792 Madison warned that the rising developmental capitalist state was “substituting the motive of private interest in place of public duty,” leading to a “a real domination of the few under an apparent liberty of the many.” He deplored “the daring depravity of the times,” as private powers “become the pretorian band of the government—at once its tools and its tyrant, bribed by its largesses, and overawing it by clamors and combinations.” They cast over society the shadow that we call “politics,” as John Dewey later commented. One of the major twentieth century philosophers and a leading figure of North American liberalism, Dewey emphasized that democracy has little content when big business rules the life of the country through its control of “the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication, reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda.” He held further that in a free and democratic society, workers must be “the masters of their own industrial fate,” not tools rented by the employers, ideas that can be traced back to classical liberalism and the Enlightenment, and have constantly reappeared in popular struggle in the United States and elsewhere.

There have been many changes in the past 200 years, but Madison’s words of warning have only become more appropriate, taking new meaning with the establishment of great private tyrannies that were granted extraordinary powers early in this century, primarily by the courts. The theories devised to justify these “collectivist legal entities,” as they are sometimes called by legal historians, are based on ideas that also underlie fascism and Bolshevism: that organic entities have rights over and above those of persons. They receive ample “largesses” from the states they largely dominate, remaining both “tools and tyrants,” in Maidson’s phrase. And they have gained substantial control over the domestic and international economy as well as the informational and doctrinal systems, bringing to mind another of Madison’s concerns: that “a popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both.”

Let’s now look at the doctrines that have been crafted to impose the modern forms of political democracy. They are expressed quite accurately in an important manual of the public relations industry by one of its leading figures, Edward Bernays. He opens by observing that “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.” To carry out this essential task, “the intelligent minorities must make use of propaganda continuously and systematically,” because they alone “understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses” and can “pull the wires which control the public mind.” Therefore, our “society has consented to permit free competition to be organized by leadership and propaganda,” another case of “consent without consent.” Propaganda provides the leadership with a mechanism “to mold the mind of the masses” so that “they will throw their newly gained strength in the desired direction.” The leadership can “regiment the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments the bodies of its soldiers.” This process of “engineering consent” is the very “essence of the democratic process,” Bernays wrote shortly before he was honored for his contributions by the American Psychological Association in 1949.

The Spell of the Sensuous
Posted on August 18th, 2008 at 3:33 pm by Steve

David Abram‘s The Spell of the Sensuous is absolutely delightful. From vantage points as diverse as the forests of Bali to the mountains of Colorado, with insights gleaned from magic, religion, spirituality, and science, Abram breaks it down.

Page 264:

Ecologically considered, it is not primarily our verbal statements that are “true” or “false,” but rather the kind of relations that we sustain with the rest of nature. A human community that lives in a mutually beneficial relation with the surrounding earth is a community, we might say, that lives in truth. The ways of speaking common to that community—the claims and beliefs that enable such reciprocity to perpetuate itself—are, in this important sense, true. They are in accord with a right relation between these people and their world. Statements and beliefs, meanwhile, that foster violence toward the land, ways of speaking that enable the impairment or ruination of the surrounding field of beings, can be described as false ways of speaking—ways that encourage an unsustainable relation with the encompassing earth. A civilization that relentlessly destroys the living land it inhabits is not well acquainted with truth, regardless of how many supposed facts it has amassed regarding the calculable properties of the world.

Pages 265-266:

The apparently autonomous, mental dimension originally opened by the alphabet—the ability to interact with our own signs in utter abstraction from our earthly surroundings—has today blossomed into a vast, cognitive realm, a horizonless expanse of virtual interactions and encounters. Our reflective intellects inhabig a global field of information, pondering the latest scenario for the origin of the universe as we absently fork food into our mouths, composing presentations for the next board meeting while we sip our coffee or cappuccino, clicking on the computer and slipping into cyberspace in order to network with other bodiless minds, exchanging information about gene sequences and military coups, “conferencing” to solve global environmental probelms while oblivious to the moon rising above the rooftops. Our nervous system synapsed to the terminal, we do not notice that the chorus of frogs by the nearby stream has dwindled, this year, to a solitary voice, and that the song sparrows no longer return to the trees.

In contrast to the apparently unlimited, global character of the technologically mediated world, the sensuous world—the world of our direct, unmediated interactions—is always local. The sensuous world is the particular ground on which we walk, the air we breathe. For myself as I write this, it is the moist earth of a half-logged island off the northwest coast of North America. It is this dark and stone-rich soil feeding the roots of cedars and spruces, and of the alders that rise in front of the cabin, their last leaves dangling from the branches before being flung into the sky by the early winter storms…

Page 267:

The alphabetized intellect stakes its claim to the earth by staking it down, extends its dominion by drawing a grid of straight lines and right angles across the body of a continent—across North America, across Africa, across Australia—defining states and provinces, counties and countries with scant regard for the oral peoples that already live there, according to a calculative logic utterly oblivious to the life of the land.

If I say that I live in the “United States” or in “Canada,” in “British Columbia” or “New Mexico,” I situate myself within a purely human set of coordinates. I say very little or nothing about the earthly place that I inhabit, but simply establish my temporary location within a shifting matrix of political, economic, and civilizational forces struggling to maintain themselves, today, largely at the expense of the animate earth. The great danger is that I, and many other good persons, may come to believe that our breathing bodies really inhabit these abstractions, and that we will lend our lives more to consolidating, defending, or bewailing the fate of these ephemeral entities than to nurturing and defending the actual places that physically sustain us.

This is an amazing book, and it’s difficult to get the feel from the excerpts. As they say on teh internets, read the whole thing.

Become What You Are
Posted on August 18th, 2008 at 3:11 pm by Steve

Alan Watts remains one of my favorite philosophical authors of all time. This is from a chapter of Become What You Are called “Tomorrow Never Comes,” page 121:

When we say that all things in the universe are the creative activity of God, this is really like putting legs on a snake or painting the reflection on a mirror. It is not to be compared to seeing that activity as it is, although we say that it is God’s activity to draw attention to it in a particular way. But the trouble is that people spend so much energy looking for the God that they fail to see the activity, which is surely a sad state of affairs. What is this activity? The rivers flow; the flowers bloom; you walk down the street. Really we should need to say no more than this, but it is sometimes called the activity of God to point out a certain understanding to the sort of person who might retort, “The rivers flow; the flowers bloom; you walk down the street—so what?”

So what? Well, what else are you lookoing for? Here is someone who eats out the grocer’s store and still complains that he is starving. But the word and concept God, Brahmin, Tao or what you will, was really introduced for such unappreciative stomachs. It is a way of emphasizing actual life to draw attention to it in much the same way as we underline words or put them in italics. Thus we call the universe the activity of God to induce the so-whatter to pay some attention and reverence to it, because he always bolts his life instead of rolling it appreciatively round his tongue. He always thinks of the second and third pieces of cake while he is eating the first, and thus is never satisfied with any of them, and ends up with a thoroughly disordered digestion. This is called the vicious circle of having lunch for breakfast, or living for your future. But tomorrow never comes.

Posted on August 18th, 2008 at 2:16 pm by Agent B

Old Fart
Posted on August 15th, 2008 at 12:17 am by dr.hoo

An oldie but a goodie…

this brings back memories of early NL days.

Imagining the Tenth Dimension
Posted on August 14th, 2008 at 5:20 pm by dr.hoo

Imagining the Tenth Dimension: A new way of thinking about time and space, a book by Rob Bryanton. www.tenthdimension.com

Posted on August 12th, 2008 at 3:34 pm by josh-wah

Way more kitschy moog LPs than you ever knew existed….

yeah, I know, this one is an ARP...

ok, I know, this one is actually an ARP…

36 15 Moog

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