Friday, October 5, 2012

My Pink Underbelly

Okay, time to get a little personal and admit my own vulnerability.  I have gotten a little nuts lately.  Okay, maybe a lot nuts.  I’ve been on a revolving door of various anti-depressants for four years and lately I’m starting to wonder what’s real and unreal, what do I truly think and feel, and what is merely imagined or a by-product of the medication I’ve chosen to take in order to silence my inner critic.  Over the last few months, I seem to have developed unhealthy obsessions with alternative news sources, strange opinions and theories borne of little more than fear of the unknown.  While there may be merit in considering alternate explanations for events in the world, losing sight of the all-important nature of the universe while doing so is the very definition of madness.

Within this crisis of faith, however, is the kernel of truth that I feel is the purpose of this journey of mine.  You see, I have long subscribed to the idea that we as a collective species are one.  In fact, I believe that the entire universe is one.  There is a difference between stating that as a theory, though, and truly waking up to the realization.  There are many troubles in the world, and there is suffering nearly everywhere.  Now, when you have the luxury of seeing the world as an “other”, you have the option of driving past this car accident of grief and sorrow, rubbernecking a tad and then moving on with your day.  When you become one with the universe, when you feel it in your bones and in your cells and in your consciousness, this doesn’t work.  You’re no longer looking at the accident from a distance.  You’re in the accident itself.  It becomes difficult not to see the dire emergency of the situation and not feel the compulsion to turn to your fellow passengers in the car and scream at them, “We are going to die!!!!!”

But this is useless.  And it is false, for it is only our perspective that has dreamed up the accident.  Instead of seeing the oncoming storm and the calamity it brings, why not choose to make the sky clear, the sun bright?  For our perspective is ours, and it is within us, every one of us to see what we will.  Instead of a car accident, we can be in a garden of warm grass listening to the songs of the birds and the blowing of the breeze.  It is our fear alone that prevents this.

This is not to say that calamity will not strike.  As much as we are one with the universe, the yin and yang of creation and chaos is not going to pause just because we are near.  Change will occur, and the upheaval it brings will sometimes move the ground beneath our feet.  But you cannot stop the earthquake by screaming at the ground.

I’m going to fall back on a comic book analogy here, because at 35, I’ve finally allowed myself to embrace my inner nerd instead of ridiculing it.  I spent my youth subconsciously building a morality rooted in the mythos of Marvel comics.  And, you know, as far as worldviews go, I don’t think it’s that bad.  That said, I never cared for the Silver Surfer.  While I love Jack Kirby, his creator, I always thought the character was way too goofy for words.  I mean, come on, cosmic being drifting through the universe righting cosmic wrongs and he does so on an Earth-based surfboard even though he’s not from Earth?  Ridiculous.

But I was missing the point.  I was criticizing the tree and failing to see the forest.  There was a reason Kirby put him on a surfboard, and it had nothing to do with marketing to the Beach Boy generation (well, maybe it had a little to do with that).  It’s because, from a cosmic perspective, that’s all we can do.  The waves are going to come, the waves are going to go.  Some will be strong, some will be weak.  Some days you’ll hang ten, some days you aren’t going to do much at all.  Some days the Perfect Storm will rise up out of the water and crash you, Marky-Mark and George Clooney right to the bottom of the ocean.  But you can’t yell at the sea.  You can’t shake your fist and wonder why the water is so unforgiving and cruel. 

All you can do is get up on your board and ride the wave.

“Ride the spiral to the end
You may just go where no one’s been
Spiral out, keep going…”
-          Tool, Lateralis, 2001

Thursday, October 4, 2012

This Means Something

“They still don't want to admit to the world that this isn't the best and the fairest and most equal justice system. And that they are guilty of railroading people into jail. They don't want to, or never will, admit these things.”
-          Leonard Peltier, 1994

Let me begin with an understatement: what we have done as a nation to the Native Americans is appalling.  I know it was another era and the politics and attitudes of the day, like slavery, allowed good people to be complicit in evil deeds.  I am not going to bother to wrestle with the morality of manifest destiny or the atrocities perpetrated on either side of this bloody battle of our past.  It happened.  There is nothing we can do about that.  However, it is 2012 and there is absolutely no reason nowadays to allow further oppression.  It makes no sense.

In August of this year, the white Reynolds family that had owned and controlled sacred lands of the Lakota Sioux people since 1876, put 1,942.66 acres of this land up for auction to the highest bidder.  Despite being an underdog, the Lakota actually won the auction for a sum of $9 million.  However, that was just a bid.  The Lakota, an extremely impoverished people, do not actually have the money and are frantically trying to raise it in order to secure the land before the deadline expires.  They have until November 30th, just a few days after the Thanksgiving holiday our nation loves to dress up in the feathers of the people we slaughtered.

Call me crazy, but it doesn’t seem like this should be an issue in 2012.  Just give them the land back.  You see, this parcel of land that no one is using just happens to be known as Pe' Sla, an area in the Black Hills of South Dakota (just west of Rapid City) that is considered by the Lakota people to be the Center and heart of everything that is. It is part of their creation story. It is a sacred place. They perform ceremonies at Pe' Sla which they believe sustain the Lakota way of life and keep the universe in harmony.  To deny them ownership is to deny them who they are.

Now the Lakota had managed to work out arrangements with the Reynolds family over the years in order to continue their use of the land.  But if the land is turned out to the next highest bidder, the likelihood that land would be developed for either mining or road construction is quite high.  In fact, the Dallas-based Hyperion Refining has been mentioned as the next likeliest bidder.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say Hyperion wouldn’t bother working out any sort of arrangement for Pe’ Sla to continue as the Lakota’s beliefs demand.

Of course, this is nothing new.  This tale has been told and retold so many times on this continent, it’s pathetic.  For those of you who have never seen the movie Thunderheart or heard the tale of Leonard Peltier, let me state a quick lesson.  Peltier was born of a Lakota Sioux mother in 1944 and grew up in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  In 1965, caught up in the sweep of civil rights movements throughout the US, Peltier joined the American Indian Movement.  He became involved in the 71-day siege of the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1971 known as the Wounded Knee Incident.  After his escape from the area, he was listed as a fugitive.  Despite that, he returned to Pine Ridge in 1975 on a quest to calm the divisive factions of the reservation that had sprung up in the wake of the Wounded Knee Incident.  Over 50 of his people had been murdered between when the incident occurred and when Peltier returned.

Shortly after he came back to Pine Ridge, FBI agents entered into a shootout with members of the reservation.  Peltier was arrested and charged with the murders of two of the FBI members.  Peltier and numerous witnesses claim he was awakened by shots as he slept in a tent nearby and that he never picked up a weapon.  Regardless, he’s been in the federal penitentiary ever since.

I know in this day and age that if it hasn’t happened in the last two weeks, its ancient history.  But this isn’t history, its present.  Peltier is still in jail and the case against him is thoroughly flawed and politically motivated.  It’s wrong and it is indicative of a continuing racist act of aggression on the Native American people.

I made peace long ago with the fact that no amount of protest, or letter writing, or movies starring Val Kilmer, or gripping music videos by Rage Against the Machine will ever result in Peltier’s release.  But, somehow the irony of Bill Clinton parading around with Nelson Mandela back in the early 90s when Peltier’s case for clemency was before him seems to have escaped everyone.  Fine.  He’s never getting out because I’m sure a 68-year-old man is a real danger to us all.

But, for the sake of our own humanity, I hope the Lakota are allowed ownership of Pe ‘Sla.  Seems the least we can do.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Dweller on the Threshold

"My people believe that the White Lodge is a place where the spirits that rule man and nature reside. There is also a legend of a place called the Black Lodge. The shadow self of the White Lodge. Legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your own shadow self. My people call it The Dweller on the Threshold.”
-          Deputy Tommy 'Hawk' Hill, Twin Peaks, 1990

The Dweller on the Threshold, otherwise known as the Guardian of the Threshold is an integral part of the classic Hero’s Journey as defined by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell.  This reoccurring myth has permeated all cultures as far back as we have surviving stories.  In this tried and true meme, our intrepid hero as he ascends from the mortal plane on his way to destiny must confront the Guardian not once, but twice.  The first time, this is known as the lesser Guardian and it is a shadow of lies and deceit that mimics the worst part of the hero’s own soul.  The hero fails in this confrontation and is left weakened and shamed.  This fuels his courage to become stronger.  The second time he meets the greater Guardian in a final confrontation as the evil being musters the very energy of all that is the antithesis of the hero’s beliefs.  Invariably, the Guardian manages to destroy the hero utterly.  Yet, somehow, our hero is reborn and this rebirth ends the Guardian and opens the door to the future deliverance of mankind.

This tale is rooted in the myths of antiquity, but it’s still playing out at your local multiplex.  Luke Skywalker confronts the lesser Guardian in Darth Vader, losing his hand and shattering his worldview.  He confronts the greater Guardian in the Emperor and is pushed to the brink of certain doom before awakening the rebirth of his father and the Jedi order.  Frodo meets the Witch-King and is stabbed, leaving a wound that despite Elrond’s healing will never leave him.  Shelob as the representation of Sauron’s scheming wrath undoes Frodo, only to have Sam lead him into rebirth.  In the fires of Mount Doom he overcomes the power of Sauron, Golem and the One Ring itself, saving Middle Earth in the process.  In the Matrix…well you get the point.

I don’t need to list every single popular version of the Hero’s Journey here.  What I want to discuss is the Guardian of the Threshold.  While that is the term that Joseph Campbell uses, I actually prefer the Dweller.  It speaks to the fact that this entity is not all-powerful.  It is limited in its reach and in its abilities.  It can exist only where there is a threshold to cross.  If the hero does not take up the sword to bring light into darkness, the Dweller cannot appear.  So, the answer to the age old question, “are monsters real? “ is in fact, yes, but only if you go looking for them.  The ignorant and innocent are blessed by their own perceptions to not see the shadows in the world.

However, if we want to grow as people, we cannot stay in blissful comfort forever.  As we live, we inevitably will confront this Dweller many times, and it does not always go as the myth dictates.  There are many times when the Dweller will win.  It is powerful and it causes fear with impunity.  It shape shifts and it lies with ease.  It will as often wear the disguise of benevolence as it will bare its fangs.  It is our job on our journey to recognize the difference.  And, there is no guarantee that it won’t sink its evil into your flesh and leave you broken and torn.  The Dweller does not want to let you through, and it just loves to turn you into an obstacle on someone else’s path.

But, the Dweller is weak.  In the end, all it has is fear, and fear cannot conquer love.  So, as Nancy turns her back on Freddy Krueger and he ceases to exist, and Sara does the same to good old David Bowie in Labyrinth, so can we.  By choosing love over hate, by refusing to give the Dweller its toll, we can walk right on past him. 

This applies to everything.  You have a boss that’s making your life hell?  If you can stop fearing their retaliation and start pitying the small nature of their soul and how it has compelled them to live, then they have lost their power.  If you turn on the television and the current war campaign beats its drum of fear, if you can look past the snarling image they present, and see the desperate, fearful person that is behind the curtain of the war machine’s Oz, then it has lost its power over you.

I’m not saying this easy.  In fact, it is much harder than getting mad.  It is easier to scream for revolution than it is to achieve peace.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

To Catch a Predator

"Where were the parties?...down in Washington, DC...and that was for sex...There was sex between adult men and other adult men but most of it had to do with young boys and young girls with the older folks...specifically for sex with minors...Also in Washington, DC, there were parties after a party...there were a lot of parties where there would be senators and congressmen who had nothing to do with the sexual stuff. But there were some senators and congressmen who stayed for the [pedophile sex] parties afterwards...on a lot of the trips he took us on he had us, I mean, I met some people that I don't feel comfortable telling their name because I don't want to --- ...Q: Are you scared?...Yes..."
-          [U.S. District Court testimony, 2-5-1999 pp.105, 124-126]

In 1999, U.S. District Court Judge Warren Urbom awarded Paul Bonacci $1 million in damages for the physical and emotional trauma he incurred at the hands of then-jailed Lawrence E. King Jr., former manager and treasurer of the failed Franklin Community Federal Credit Union in Omaha, Nebraska.  Bonacci testified that he was abducted at the age of six and was sold into a sex-slavery operation run by King.  Judge Urbom found credence in this testimony and did what he could for Bonacci.   However, Lawrence King wasn’t jailed for these offenses.  No, he served five years of a prison sentence for his involvement in the financial collapse of the Franklin Credit Union including embezzlement, conspiracy and making false financial record entries. But, there was never a criminal trial involving his alleged sex crimes with Bonacci and others.  

In fact, it was Bonacci who was imprisoned in 1990 for perjury when he first leveled the accusations.  Bonacci served five years in jail for this “perjury”, often while being served food to which he was knowingly allergic. He was refused simple comforts such as a blanket to sleep with and was placed in cell blocks with individuals tied to King; individuals who would repeatedly beat Bonacci.  Thankfully, a former Nebraska state senator named John DeCamp took interest in Bonacci’s case and helped pave the way to the poor man’s freedom and his somewhat laughable financial restitution.  DeCamp got him a trial finally, even if it was only a civil case.  Even if a million dollars could never make up for what Bonacci went through, at least it was something.  More importantly, it put Bonacci’s testimony into the public domain.  Let me forewarn you, what I am about to quote from that trial is beyond disgusting.  But it is perhaps some of the most important testimony in recent times.

"They put guns up to my head. Had guns put in my mouth...Larry King sent out boys, men, to jump me...he had them pretty well beat the tar out of me from the waist down so nobody would see the marks...I had my fingers broken...I can remember them burning me with hot instruments...placing stuff inside me...almost what I call a cattle prod...But it would be put inside then they'd shock me inside my -- ...Judge Urbom: Anus?...Yes... And they would -- ...Judge: You mean electrically heated?...They would put it in and then push a button and it would shock me...Judge Urbom:..done by Larry King at his direction?...At his direction..."

"I threatened to go to the police in California, thought maybe they would listen whereas in Omaha they were in his pocketbook...he had me hung out of an airplane with a rope by my ankles...If they wanted to get something passed through the legislature, he would put some people that were against it in a compromising position. By using us boys and girls...Judge Urbom: Was this by your being the sexual partner of that person?...Yes...Judge Urbom: ...Any estimates of how often you participated as the sexual partner of one of these persons that he wanted to get some kind of control over?...There were times when it would be four or five in a night...on probably a couple thousand times...sometimes dozens of times with the same person..." [U.S. District Court testimony, 2-5-1999, pp. 146-151]

Wow.  Just wow. Now, most of these senators and congressmen made sure to keep themselves out of harm’s way on this story, and over time, it just went away, like all scandals in Washington eventually do.  But, Bonacci is on record naming Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) as having participated in these sex parties where his underage services were offered by King for money.  He told the judge he had "relationships with him" in Washington, DC and was flown to Massachusetts for sex in the basement of Frank's Boston home. Bonacci further testified that in 1988, the Secret Service allowed him access to the White House for one of these little soirees.  Frank continues to win election after election, barely tarnished by this scandal or the one involving another male prostitute, Steve Gobie, who lived in his home.  No, Frank still enjoys a position of Congressional power as he has for 30 years.  Bonacci lives under an assumed name and is likely glancing over his shoulder right now, looking for the assassin who will no doubt one day come.

This, folks, is the so-called Franklin Cover-Up, and we need to remember it.  I know it’s unpleasant.  I know the thought of powerful men abducting children and ushering them into this sick and twisted world is not something a decent person wants to consider.  But, read that testimony.  If you want to know how the game of thrones is really played, it’s played by dangling broken kids out of airplanes by their ankles in the name of power.  And, even after it all comes crashing down around their evil heads, these men walk away virtually scot free, their deeds swept under the rug as we all turn our attention to the next thing. 

When this story first broke, it sure was fortuitous for the politicians linked to it that Judge Clarence Thomas once had an interesting conversation about a can of Coke.  They were sure lucky that OJ went nuts.  It worked out for them that LA broke into riots over the Rodney King verdict.  We all forgot about some sick guy in Nebraska and what he might have or might not have gotten some kids to do with some powerful people.  If anything, we heard the news that the accusers went to jail for perjury.  We assumed it must have been some sort of an extortion thing. Then we got on with our lives.  We forgot.

I assure you Paul Bonacci didn’t forget as he shivered in jail and nursed his wounds.  And, after everything he’d been through, despite his terror, he stood up to these men and told the truth, at least as far as he could. As exceedingly brave as this man proved to be, one wonders what names he was afraid to speak.  So, as President Obama takes the stage tonight and accepts his party’s nomination to the cheers of all those in attendance, I just want you to make sure you temper your enthusiasm with the knowledge that this is politics.  Nothing is what it seems to be on the surface, and the darkness of some of these souls knows no bounds.  Happy voting.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Selling the Drama

“The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.”
-          Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, 1977

We have all experienced the art of the persuasive salesperson at some time in our lives.  It does not matter that you walked into the store on a whim with the intent merely to browse.  What is important is that you are a human being with a generally benevolent nature and the desire to please.  When confronted by the proper techniques, an average shopper is easily swayed by the effusive, well-trained hawker of wares.  It doesn’t matter if you need the item.  It doesn’t matter if you want the item.  It doesn’t even matter if you can reasonably afford the item.  An expert in sales will lead you into the conclusion that it was your desire all along to purchase the item.

Now, I have stated this as a fact, and I am certain that there are those of you who are balking at this assertion.  You will think back upon the multitude of occasions when you have rebuked the advances of a salesperson and gone about your day.  These experiences stand out in our minds and serve to validate our perception of our own internal creation of intent.  However, I contend that these moments were not proof of your strong will, but the evidence of an employee lacking in the true art of salesmanship.  The times when the seller has succeeded in selling to you are perceived in your mind as your own decision.  But that’s the trick.  If you didn’t believe it was your decision, it wouldn’t work.

Thankfully, most individuals who are placed in a position of sales these days are about as adept at the art as your average television preacher.  They are obvious.  They are insincere.  They may even be downright resentful of their job and their relation to you as a customer.  This is good, because if every time we walked into a store we encountered a true salesman, we’d be broke almost immediately.  But, just because most people out there are bungling their sales, don’t think for a moment that you are immune.

Since humanity first dreamed up the concept of trade with one another, those who could sell the best have risen to the top of the economic pyramid.  This is not an Illuminati-type conspiracy we are living in; it is the inevitable result of a free-market system.  Those who master the techniques of coercion and control will rule the world, pure and simple.  And, in a society where wealth begets wealth and inheritance ensures such wealth remains in a bloodline, a ruling class is formed over the years.  Given a long enough time to perfect techniques, accumulate wealth, exercise influence, shape public policy and establish authoritative institutions, this ruling class becomes immovable; the extension of its fingers into virtually every aspect of your life inexorable.  This ruling class in essence is then free to tell you what you need and then sell it to you, and you utilize your illusion of choice to buy it up.  You quibble about the brand and the taste and the look and the label, but if you go far enough up the chain of each decision you make, you see the end result go into the pocket of the same families.

You see, this ultimate set of salesmen have sold you the greatest item of all: life as you know it.  You are raised to buy in, to not question, to not look for change.  What benefits you and your family, your loved ones, your community is so rarely in alignment with what benefits the ruling class, you buy the concept that this is just how it is.  This is how it has to be.  If we want roads and utilities and police officers and firemen and streetlights and everything that comes from a nice little municipality, we just have to pay the piper his due.  We need to take out insurmountable loans for a college education, for a vehicle, for a home.  We need to work hard and often for a paycheck that seems to be a study in diminishing returns.  We need to shrug our shoulders and go back to our television sets when we are shown that the laws under which we live do not apply to those on high.  And we need to wave our flags and say thank you for this privilege. 

This structure is not unlike a casino.  We are born and bred with the gambling bug and we learn how the games are played.  We choose our favorite, and find a seat at the table.  And there we stay, for thirty to forty years, slowly doing the best we can to win enough chips to cash out.  But the house always wins their due.  They always get their take.  That’s a given, but don’t raise your voice about it.  Don’t make a scene.  The security here is the best, and they scare me just a tad.

Well, to hell with it.  I say it’s an illusion, a parlor trick of a stage hypnotist.  It has weight and a sense of reality because we collectively give it one.  We buy what they are selling.  But, you don’t need it, not really.  What you need is each other, and we are all free.  At least if we truly believe we are.  So, stop listening to the sales pitch.  We don’t need war in foreign lands.  We don’t need holy places from bygone eras.  We don’t need the oil and gas the energy barons say we do.  We need to embrace each other and work on the problems our disharmony with nature has caused.

I know how foolish that sounds.  I know how na├»ve and insipid.  But it only sounds that way because I’m no salesman.  Not like them.  They’d hire a multi-national branding company to do a market analysis and come up with a 36-page report on what the logo should be.  They’d bring in a marketing firm to do even more analysis, breakdown the demography of the target audience and dissect the correct approaches and media-driven campaigns to employ.  They’d set meetings with retailers, media moguls, lobbyists, politicians, and oh so many lawyers.  And they’d sell it to you, whether you liked it or not.

 I’m asking you to not buy.  Just try it.  Let’s see what happens.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

“What was there in the visit of those men that led to so complete a change in my life? One of the men present told a story of an immigrant boy he knew well who was studying at one of our Christian high schools. "Dr. Runner," this immigrant said, and he was obviously deeply moved, "this boy's father is sacrificing to send his son to this Christian school, but there is much in the attitude he comes home with which we of the older generation feel is not right. In particular, this boy comes home to his parents claiming that America became great because of the liberating democratic ideas of the 18th century." I wish you could have seen the man, as I see him yet, sitting forward in his chair, agitatedly telling me of his and his friends' concern for their children. "Dr. Runner," he concluded simply, "I had no higher formal education, but I went faithfully to Young Men's and Men's Society in a little Frisian city, and I know that those so-called liberated ideas of the 18th century were the corruptions on the part of unbelievers of ideas the Reformation had re-discovered. But if we tell our boys that, they laugh and say, Dad, you never went to one of these big American schools."
-          H. Evan Runner in a speech addressing the Groen Club at Calvin College, 1963

Oh, boy, we’re getting into it today.  There is absolutely no subject as touchy and explosive as that of religion.  Since man first looked up to the sky and contemplated his own existence, we have fought endlessly over the religious dogma that it has wrought.  Before I begin, I will preface this brief reflection on the role of evangelism in our culture by saying I am not Christian, at least not in the standard definition of the day.  That does not mean I do not believe in Jesus, his words, their meaning and the grace they extend.  But I do not believe in Christianity or any of our world’s organized religions.  Most are built upon solid principles, strong ethics and wisdom we would do well to follow.  However, none have survived the endless translation and twisting of language that has come from those who would use words of peace to justify words of war. 

Jesus bid us to love one another without hesitation; to go forth into a world of the sick, the impoverished, the dispossessed, and, through love, heal.  There are those who feel what he meant to say was that we should kill and maim anyone who does not want to forsake their chosen beliefs to accept the Christian church.  This is religious persecution and it is woven into the history of this nation.  Many such persecuted groups fled their homeland to be among the first to settle the New World.  In that terrific snippet of language I quoted yesterday, the First Amendment, the freedom of religion it grants made sure that in this country, at least, we would be free of such persecution in perpetuity.  Then came the Reformation.

As indicated by Dr. Runner’s quote above, the Reformation was founded on one simple principle: the “liberating  democratic ideas of the 18th century” were in fact apostasy.  This belief was fostered and grown in the fertile earth of Christian colleges throughout the United States, and here, generations later it is bearing fruit.  It is no longer about some namby-pamby discussion involving prayer in school.  It is about crushing the impudent spirit of an American people who had the audacity to formally declare their right to choose what path to follow for themselves.  You see, that is heresy within today’s evangelical paradigm.  You either are with Jesus or against him, and by Jesus I mean whichever minister has driven his hooks into you deepest.  There is no choice.  There is God’s will; a will dispensed through the mouths of liars and frauds intent on deceiving their flock to their graves.

You may feel that statement is harsh, and I agree.  It is a generalization of our nation’s predominant religion, and it does not apply to all denominations or all congregations.  Unfortunately, there are those where it is also true.  Our government over the course of the last 20 years has fallen lockstep in line with this dogmatic worldview.  Take a look at the list of Military Friendly Franchises, a seemingly benign list of business opportunities ideally suited for your homecoming soldier in search of his or her American Dream.  Take a look at the judges and personnel that the Executive Branch has had to legally reveal in the last twelve years.  Take a look at the insidious manner with which the corporate structure of the world has hidden the true decision makers and their agenda behind a tired mantra of free enterprise.  If you dig just a bit into the CEOs and the conglomerates and their subsidiaries and the men and women who are really operating behind the shield of financial and legal red-tape, you will see the story.  There is a cult in control of your nation America.  It likes to baptize by water and smile for the camera, but when your back is turned, it surely baptizes by fire and the smile is revealed to be nothing more than the rictus grin of the Joker himself.

If you really look, it is plainly obvious.  They used to at least try to hide it.  But, they have been drinking their own Kool-aid for so long the Republican National Convention is the best face this cult can find to wear.  They think it approximates normal.  Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are what they think you want to see.  That is how out of touch with reality they have become.  If that is their public face, how hideous is what’s behind the mask? How twisted, how maniacal, how caught up in slavish devotion to a doctrine of subjugation?

We look at the likes of Tom Cruise and John Travolta and we think we know what a misled soul looks like.  Katie Holmes breaks free of Scientology and there is a collective cheer from the American peanut gallery.  The problem is that Scientology, while most definitely a dangerous cult of its own, is really a small player in all of this.  Their methods of control are severe.  Their harassment of deserters is harsh.  Their use of slave labor is rampant.  Their abuse of the legal system to retaliate against its detractors is out of control. 

But the United States Justice Department, despite reams of files and reasons to prosecute Scientology will not do so.  Why is that?  Because to do so would be to admit how complicit in these same techniques our government and their evangelical body really are.  And if they did that, this scheme they have been working on since World War I, when they first won back Palestine from the heathens, will fall apart.  They will have all of Jerusalem, come hell or high water.  They will have it or die trying.  Better yet, they will have it while you die trying. This crusade has happened before.  Back then, though, there was not the means to artificially create the Four Horseman of war, famine, pestilence and death.  We’ve got the tools now.  And those who would use them aren’t only willing; they actively seek to unleash them in order to elicit their Second Coming.  They are very close to getting their wish.  Don’t let them.

“For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence”
-          President John F. Kennedy, 1961

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This Isn't 'Nam. There Are Rules.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
-          The First Amendment to the United States Constitution

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
-          The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution

When our nation was founded, we were a little a paranoid.  The Crown had conspired in so many different ways to entrap the Colonial people in a web of control, that once the revolution had thrown off his grip, the men charged with ensuring the young nation’s future governance were adamant on precluding such governance from ever adopting the abuses of King George.  Therefore, the Constitution of this new government would not be ratified without a Bill of Rights.  The ten amendments that comprise the Bill contain such fundamental truth, that they have withstood 223 years of history largely intact.  Yes, debate over gun control will ebb and flow.  The Ninth and Tenth Amendments will continually get debated in the legislatures of the states and federal powers.  But, up until the Patriot Act, no law had ever expressly denied any of the existing amendments of the Bill of Rights.

Since its passage on October 26th, 2001, the Patriot Act and its subsequent reauthorizations and expansions (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the so-called Protect America Act) have not only impinged upon the constitutionally protected rights of the American people, they have eradicated them.  In essence, the powers granted to the Executive Branch by Congress in this group of legislation have allowed the Bill of Rights to be turned on its head.  Now, the mere act of exercising your First Amendment rights is enough grounds to get a FISA warrant to violate your Fourth Amendment rights.  That’s if the NSA even bothers to consult the FISA court for a warrant, the results of which are held classified from the public anyway.  In the fine print of the FISA act, the NSA was granted special rights to bypass the Department of Justice altogether under the auspices of the Terrorist Surveillance Program.  So, since 2008 it is legally up to the presiding NSA agent in your area whether you can be investigated for terrorism and on what grounds.  There is absolutely no oversight on the interception of your communications, of wiretapping your phone, of breaking into your home and installing listening devices, scanning your documents, copying the hard drive of your computer and collating all of this information in a database for further review.

This has been sold to us as a necessary evil to protect us from harm.  The government has basically told us the police of Gotham are powerless, and we must open our arms to our Dark Knight.  But, that Dark Knight cannot stop James Holmes from shooting you in a theater.  It cannot see an insane man stalking into a Sikh temple and indiscriminately murdering the faithful inside.  It can’t stop criminal activity in New York City before police officers feel the need to discharge their weapons into a crowd of innocents standing in front of the Empire State Building.  And, as far as former Counter-Terrorism Advisor Richard A. Clarke has told us, these changes in law would not have prevented 9/11, either.  In fact, the men serving under Clarke had investigated, vetted and prepared a comprehensive report on Al-Qaeda and their imminent threat capabilities that was presented to the President and his staff on August 6, 2001, a full month prior to the attacks.  I know that is old news, and Kristin Stewart and Rob Pattinson and ermahgerd…but come on!

The old system was in fact protecting us just about as well as we can be protected.  The difference is that there was oversight.  There was legal recourse.  There was a fundamental protection of our inalienable human rights.   Now, simply for typing these words and posting them on a public website, under the definition of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, I am a terrorist.  I own no weapons.  I have no criminal record. I advocate nonviolence and I try my very best to be a good person and a good citizen in my affairs with my fellow Americans.  However, I question the laws of my country and that is enough.  The First Amendment is now grounds for suspected criminality, and if the NSA so chooses, my family and I are now subject to all of what I have described above.

Now, you may think I am exaggerating, and l am.  I know I’m no threat, and were the NSA to waste its resources to arrive at that same conclusion, I’m sure I would be perfectly safe.  But this is the country in which we now live.  There are small NSA dictators existing outside of the public eye with far too much power over the people in their districts.  By supporting the Patriot Act and its like, we might as well have turned our individual protection over to Tony Soprano for all the governmental oversight it now receives. 

Four years ago when I voted for Obama, I had hoped the madness was over.  But with his cabinet appointments, the Justice Department he oversees, and the military that seems to do whatever it wants no matter what he says, I no longer look for a solution to this problem from on high.  Yes, we were all scared after the events of 9/11.  We were all willing to forego some freedom temporarily in order to do our part in making sure no further attacks occurred.  But it has been over a decade now, and there is no end in sight to these abuses of power.  If you think the President is going to willingly hand over his badge and his gun for no reason at all, I don’t think you’ve studied your buddy cop Americana.  We need to demand our rights.  We need to incessantly resist toadying to these invasions of privacy.  We need to support the ACLU in its efforts to champion those whose rights have been trampled.  We need to vote out of office these ridiculous excuses for Congressmen we currently have, toothlessly swallowing anything the Executive Branch feeds them.  We, as a people, like Batman out of the Pit, need to rise.  This is our country, not the President’s, not Homeland Security’s and not the NSA’s.  We need to start acting like it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?

“Through counter-intelligence it should be possible to pinpoint potential trouble-makers and neutralize them…”
-          March 1968 FBI Memo

As I mentioned yesterday, I love comic book mythology.  One of the recurrent themes in the fantasy of the genre is the abuse of technology by nefarious forces.  This is not limited strictly to the funny pages.  The world’s favorite secret agent, 007, James Bond has been utilizing bleeding edge technology in his exploits since Ian Fleming first gave flesh to the myth in 1953.  Spanning the ensuing 59 years, Bond has saved the world countless times in a career spanning twelve Fleming novels, two collections of Fleming short stories, thirty-four additional books by several licensed authors and twenty-two motion pictures.  This November, Daniel Craig will take the Aston Martin (or BMW, I don’t know which company got the product placement contract this time out) for yet another spin when the twenty-third Bond film Skyfall hits theaters.  I’m not aware of the plot specifics, but I think it is a safe bet that Bond will once again be armed with at least one or two items of a fantastic nature.  Such is par for the course on Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

These gadgets, much like the tools on Batman’s utility belt, help elevate Bond from the realm of the realistic and allow the audience to disconnect from the implications of a network of intelligence agents running amok behind the scenes of world events.  In reality, we are certain there are no Qs working on gear like Bond’s, at least not on the level of what we see in the movies.  It’s science fiction.  It is harmless fun.  It’s a slightly less ridiculous version of Dr. Who’s Tardis machine or Scotty’s transporter room.  It’s not real.

Well, I’m trying to be more optimistic in my world view these days, but I’m afraid I have to burst your bubble.  In 1973, at the end of the Watergate investigation, a bipartisan committee of senators known as the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities was formed to determine the truth behind some of the allegations leveled at the FBI and CIA during the course of the Watergate hearings.  Chaired by Senator Frank Church, the so-called Church Committee took their charge seriously and used all of the political power at their disposal to haul in members of the intelligence agencies and take them to the mat for what Congress deemed to be fairly grievous abuses of power.  The Church Committee conducted their investigation for over two years, finally releasing fourteen reports on their findings over the course of 1975 and 1976. 

These reports dragged into light the infamous dealings of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, namely their COINTELPRO program aimed at investigating, discrediting and neutralizing oppositional political movements such as those led by Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, Dr. Martin Luther King and others.  The Church Committee also exposed the morally bankrupt CIA research project MK Ultra, wherein CIA agents explored pharmaceutical methods of coercion and control, going so far as to unwittingly dose American citizens with LSD to record its effects.  These two findings are the ones that got the most press, and for good reason.  With the horrors of Viet Nam and Tricky Dick’s administration still fresh in the mind of the American people, there was a tremendous call for better oversight over our so-called law enforcement and intelligence agencies.  These abuses went beyond a simple matter of lack of oversight.  They hinted at the corrupt beast hiding in the shadows of our country.  The press and the public were, in the words of the movie Network, fed up and they weren’t going to take it anymore.

Not gaining as much notoriety was a simple little gadget that made it into the report on CIA covert actions in Chile.  This simple dart gun, similar in nature to those used to tranquilize animals, contained a heart-attack inducing poison in the dart’s tip, a poison not eminently detectable by standard autopsy.  This weapon was used to induce death in targets where a murder investigation would be hazardous to the CIA mission at hand. 

Let me pause here and let that sink in.  I know the human mind’s natural inclination is to balk at such an insinuation.  Sure, Sean Connery might have to dodge such a dart, but there is no way agents working for own government would employ such a device.  However, I am not speaking about wild speculation.  I am not entertaining conspiracy theory.  I am simply remarking on a matter of Congressional record.  The CIA had a heart-attack gun in its arsenal, at least until 1975 when the Church Committee prohibited its continuing use.  Now we’re safe.  Unless they lied to Congress, but that would take a pretty amoral individual; almost as amoral as inventing a heart-attack gun in the first place.

So, that was 1975, and we have felt no need to have Congress investigate our intelligence community to such a great extent since.  In 2006, Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko was living in political asylum in the United Kingdom when he suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized.  He died three weeks later becoming the first confirmed victim of lethal polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome.  The only reason this was detected was because of the nature of Litvinenko’s political situation, where he was an MI6 backed supporter of the exiled Chechen Boris Berezovsky.  The day he fell ill, he had been eating sushi with two former KGB officers, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun.  Litvinenko and British Intelligence believed he had been dosed with polonium-210, a common method of KGB assassination because Litvinenko had made the accusation that Russian president Vladimir Putin had ordered the assassination of Chechen dissident Anna Politkovskaya.  Doctors tested for the substance and confirmed it.  This was widely reported throughout the west as NATO pointed its finger at the Russian actions in Chechnya as indication of Putin’s totalitarian aims.  Using Litvinenko’s story as a rallying point, NATO was able to organize a UN condemnation of the Russia-Chechnya conflict, putting Putin on bad political footing to this day.  As Bridget Jones once said, isn’t it terrible about Chechnya.

So what, you may ask?  Of course there are secret agents and of course they are engaged in shadow wars.  What’s it to me?  Perhaps nothing.  If that is the world in which you feel we must live, congratulations, your wish has been granted.  If, however, you feel that perhaps murdering each other in the dark is wrong, I want you to keep your eyes and mind open to what is going on all around us.  As much fun as I’m sure Skyfall will be this November, the reality it clouds you from seeing is deeply disturbing.

Now, I’m not going to make any accusations here.  That would be resorting to conspiracy theory, and as we all know, that is pure insanity.  I will merely state that at one time not too long ago, Rosie O’Donnell enjoyed a popularity and niche in our culture that rivaled the likes of Oprah.  Since she decided to stick to her convictions and speak her mind on 9/11 and the War in Iraq, she has been savagely insulted, denigrated, and ridiculed in the manner only an American public intent on kicking a celebrity when they’re down can savage someone.  Blacklisted by the entertainment world for her brash comments, she has slipped off the radar of most of us.  Charlie Sheen’s car crash career quickly made us forget all about her. 

Back in April, she hired a new publicist and agent and tried to jump back into her career.  Her blog still has regular traffic.  She is still a beloved figure in many circles.  Her books sell.  Her art sells.  She is by every definition, a marketable talent from whom the entertainment industry should want to profit.  But the second she made a television appearance, her heartfelt suggestion that Lindsay Lohan seek help for her obvious drug addiction was twisted by the media into yet another “Angry Rosie Talks Trash” message.  Rosie spent the next few months trying to say some things about the entertainment industry to anyone who would listen.  Ultimately, no one did.  Shortly after, her wife was diagnosed with a rare disease known as desmoids tumors, a form of aggressive fibromatosis that is often fatal.  Two weeks ago, Rosie herself had a heart attack.

Like I said, I’m not making any accusations.  Any speculation on these events is yours.  I’m just stating facts.  But, I would like to leave you with one question.  If they had a heart-attack gun in 1975, what do you think Q has been working on in the last 40 years?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Let the Truth Have Its Day

“We have to shout above the din of our Rice Crispies
We can't hear anything at all”
-          Synchronicity,The Police, 1983

Let me start this today with a massive understatement: I like comic books.  I always have.  I think there is something magical about the mixture of art, story and a child’s imagination in inventing a worldview and a cohesive set of morals.  Myth has woven its way through the whole of human history and is as much a part of us as our DNA.  While our cultures have let the names and the places of our myths change over the years, the fundamental truths have largely remained the same.  It is of no coincidence that comic books are steeped in myth.  The heroes in their pages have been fighting our moral battles against the dark side of our souls since the printing presses started rolling cheap pulp out for children in 1933.  While Hercules and Thor still captivate us on some level, they do so in the comics.  And, let’s face it, neither one is as popular as Batman on his worst day.

To paraphrase Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Batman is the hero the American people deserve.  He may not be the one we want, or even the one we need, but he is who we deserve.  We deserve someone smarter than us.  We deserve someone stronger than us.  We deserve someone richer, someone more determined, someone willing to do the hard work of protecting a people too lost in our own lives to do it ourselves.  And, we most definitely deserve someone who will not abuse all of that power once he has it.  I love Batman.  But, let’s not forget he’s a myth.  A real person with those capabilities would not be viewed as a hero, and I doubt he could exist for long without losing his grip on reality.  No, a real person with the skill, subterfuge, science and fortune of a Batman would most undoubtedly be the greatest threat to freedom we’ve ever seen.

I think the beauty of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is that by pointing out the very realistic flaws in every character in the mythos, these films challenge us to be a better people.  He may be the hero we deserve, but perhaps we might do better to not need him at all.  Certainly, that is the statement made in the newest movie.  Truth is the hero we need at this time.  Not a CIA skulking in shadows.  Not an organized religion hiding the words of the leaders they claim to love.  Not big business and big money conspiring in smoky back rooms.  We need the truth, and we need to be able to tell the Joker that we can handle it.

There has been a back and forth on whether art imitates life, or if life imitates art since Oscar Wilde published his The Decay of Lying in 1889.  In this famed essay, Wilde posits that Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art.  This is to challenge the viewer to strive for something better.  As such, as art pokes and prods us, life follows its direction.  I have loved that essay since I was required to read it in college, and I always felt it was a shame that only other aspiring artists like me had it on their required reading lists.  Perhaps, if everyone took art as seriously as Wilde, our airwaves would not be crowded with the lowest common denominator of unchallenging drivel.

Of course, I always took Wilde’s arguments as metaphorical.  I never once thought that the act of drawing a picture, crafting a story or penning a poem would make manifest the subject of the art itself.  Okay, maybe in an inspirational way, sure.  But, most assuredly there was no true magic behind the act of producing art.  A few years ago, a posting on got me thinking about the possibility I might be wrong.

Cracked is usually good for a laugh at the end of the day when my eyes have glazed over from spreadsheets, or needs assessments, or whatever other fascinating document the exciting life of a grant writer entails.  So it was that I settled in to read through Maxwell Yezpitelok’s “6 Eerily Specific World Events Predicted by Comics” in the minutes before I had to leave to pick up my daughter.  Little did I know that would be the beginning of a long journey into an alien world of alternate thought.  I won’t go into it too far today, but let me summarize what’s important for discussion right now.  In 1945, the creative team over at Superman’s Action Comics so accurately described the top secret atomic bomb project in an issue, that the Defense Department had to crack down on them and pull the book from the stands.  A few months later, they described a cyclotron, also drawing the ire of the Defense Department as this device was also part of the Manhattan Project.  To this day, no evidence links anyone of the DC comic team with any spy network.  Besides, if they had been spies, why leak their findings in the pages of a widely distributed periodical?  It defies explanation.

In 1986, Superman was at it again when writer/artist John Byrne’s Man of Steel comic exploded a space shuttle in its pages, and had to be hastily redrawn at the press when the Challenger disaster occurred.  This was following John Byrne’s involvement in predicting a massive black out in New York City in a Spider-Man/Wasp team-up book for Marvel back in 1977, released one week before the actual blackout in New York City. Oh, and later Byrne killed Wonder Woman, otherwise known as Princess Diana of Themyscira in 1997.  Three days after its release, Princess Diana of Wales was killed in a car crash.

There is more, but I think that’s enough to make my point.  Now, I like John Byrne.  His run on Avengers: West Coast in the late 80s, early 90s were some of my favorite Avengers stories of all time.  I’ve read his interviews, and dug up what I could on him after I read this article.  There are those who believe he is everything from a government agent to a Satanic sorcerer.  I think he’s a comic book nerd with a distinctive art style and a flair for the melodramatic.

However, if we chalk these events up to coincidence alone, I think we do them and ourselves a disservice.  As Commissioner Gordon says to the young Det. Blake in The Dark Knight Rises, “You’re a detective now.  You no longer get to believe in coincidence.”  So, what does that leave us?  What plausible scientific explanation can make sense of what on the surface is insensible?  I believe the answer may lie in the widely disregarded theory of synchronicity put forth by Dr. Carl Jung in the 1920s.  As Jung aged, there can be no doubt he fell into insanity, but there can also be no doubt in his genius.  As defined by Jung, synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, yet are experienced as occurring together in a meaningful manner.

That is most definitely subjective, and as we all know, science cannot stand subjectivity.  Therefore, science has never accepted synchronicity as anything other than the delusions of a confused mind grasping at straws.  However, revitalized with the strength a good Batman yarn has always given me, I challenge you to consider synchronicity on its own merits.  By its very nature, it is the observer alone that can decide if an event has a “meaningful manner” in Jung’s definition.  That means in order to consider it, we must abandon the scientific method and its reliance on the impartial observer.  Quantum theory has already required us to make this leap, however.  The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle shows us that we cannot separate the observer from the observed.  In point of fact, the Higgs-Boson tells us the observer and the observed are in fact one, made of the very same nothingness of existence.

If we can make that intellectual leap in quantum theory, I think we can make the same leap when it comes to the harmony of the universe.  As the butterfly flaps its wings, we get rain in New York.  As we read our comic books and we fire up our myth receptors, could it be that we are contributing in our own spiritual way to the manifestation of the events on their pages?  I don’t know, but I’m neither a scientist, nor a guru.  I don’t have that answer.  But I urge you to be unafraid of asking the question.  As Alfred tells Bruce…maybe it’s time for the truth to have its day.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Laughing at the Gilded Butterflies

“It's the essence of Chaos…It simply deals with unpredictability in complex systems.  Its only principle is the Butterfly Effect.  A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.”
-          Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park

The Butterfly Effect has become a very popular trope in fiction writing over the years, so much so that a once esoteric theory of the interconnected nature of complex systems has become a widely-known axiom embedded in our collective conscious.  Posited by meteorologist and mathematician Edward Lorenz in 1969, this mathematical field of study is known by the name Chaos Theory and over the years it has been applied to a set of derivative equations that have included an ever-increasing number of variables to provide a mathematically cohesive model for describing the universe itself.  However, the Butterfly Effect is a poetic description of the model on meteorology based on something Jeff Goldblum never mentions in my favorite film about the hubris of human science. 

When plotted on a graph, solutions for equations utilizing the Lorenz Attractor model actually resemble the wings of a butterfly.  While this may be simple happenstance, if you look at other important mathematical principles, you can see their visual existence in the world around us.  Pythagoras found triangles everywhere he looked.  Pi is the curve of a circle.  The spiral of the Golden Ratio is present in every sea shell you find.  It’s not totally far-fetched to look at the visual similarity of the Lorenz Attractor and your common butterfly and see nature once more affirming the mathematical principles of its foundation.

With that in mind, I’d like to suggest that the term Chaos Theory is an inaccurate description of the function the math is attempting to illustrate.  This theory is not in fact trying to describe chaos.  It is trying to dispel it.  In essence, the theory is saying that when all possible variables in a system are accounted for, chaos does not exist.  It may be utterly impossible for the human mind to predict the outcome of such a vast and complex system, but that doesn’t mean all of the parts within that system are not interacting with each other in just the way they should.  I would say that is exactly what Chaos Theory posits.  In that sense, it would be far more accurate to call it Harmony Theory.

This leads me to my main point today.  Recently, there have been numerous reports of the disturbing mutations that are being observed in the butterflies near Fukushima.  These poor animals have undergone startlingly quick changes in their biology over the course of just the few generations since the disaster.  I find it both tragic and remarkably ironic that the first animal we’ve seen mutate to this degree due to the radiation effects of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl just happens to be the visual representation of harmony.

As we see nature incorporate the end result of humanity’s quest for dominance into its ecosystem, I think it should be obvious what is actually in control of our world.  A natural disaster slammed into the coast of Japan, exposing the flawed human science powering its Babelesque urban infrastructure and released the most dangerous and chaotic energy we have discovered to date across the countryside.  That it happened to the same people to have ever endured the devastation of atomic weaponry is not something to forget, either.  The nation of Japan once invented Godzilla as a warning to us all.  Now they have small Mothras flitting through their trees.

Nature will endure this disaster, have no doubt.  The many variables involved are already spinning the globe into harmony.  But, while we squabble over digital representations of “valuable” paper and resources, the world may be preparing to shrug us off as we would an annoying pest.  As I type this, there is a tropical storm on the verge of a category one hurricane headed straight toward the Republican National Convention.  To paraphrase Dr. Malcolm, a mutated butterfly in Fukushima flaps its wings and in Tampa you get disaster.

We think we’re so smart, and we are.  But we keep marching forward without care to what we are crushing under our feet.  We are literally warping the very fabric of nature around us and we can’t even pause long enough in our warfare, our saber-rattling, our money-making, our constant stream of mind numbing decadence to notice our world is literally falling apart.  This was the warmest summer ever on record.  Ever.  Giant slices of ice are falling off of Greenland.  Sinkholes all over the world are opening up and swallowing things whole.  Electrical disturbances during thunderstorms all over the place are producing some of the greatest and strangest displays of lightning scientists have ever seen.   Nature is pissed, my friends.

Like Celine Dion’s heart, though, the earth will go on.  It will keep orbiting and orbiting and orbiting, as it always has.  An ice age will come.  An ice age will go.  The poles will reverse, and they’ll reverse back.  The planet has been around the block a few times and we are insane if we think anything we do will impact it in the long run.  But, if we don’t treat it right, it will get rid of us, sooner rather than later.  It’s done it before, and unless we stop fighting and do more than get a robot to Mars, it will do it again.

The powers that be give this issue lip service, and then shuffle money around while divvying up oil reserves they don’t even own yet.  They are not focused on the problem, and unless they are made to by imminent threat of survival, I doubt they ever will be.  Of course, more widely regarded scientists, writers and activists than me have made this argument before, with more eloquence and with greater demand.  This is just my two cents to add to the pile.  Call it me flapping my butterfly wings.  As John Lennon once said, I hope someday you’ll join me.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Learning to Love the Psychopath Among Us

“Before turning to those moral and mental aspects of the matter which present the greatest difficulties, let the inquirer begin by mastering more elementary problems.”
-          Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1887)

There is nothing more elementary in the development of the human mind than that of perception.  I don’t necessarily want to teach a Psychology 101 class here, but there are some basic principles that are absolutely essential to forming an educated opinion on the matters of the day.  An infant is born into this world with no preconceived notions about its perspective.  It is simply deposited into a world of disassociated shapes, colors, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations.  Over the course of a child’s young life, it slowly but surely brings these disparate elements together into a sense of cohesion that psychologists refer to as the Gestalt.  Gestalt is a German word meaning the whole of the form.

Children do this by learning to group sensations into meaningful associations through their similarity, proximity, continuity and, ultimately, closure.  As they age, they begin to see that far away objects do not grow in size as one approaches them, but rather that it is their own perspective that changes.  The growth of this understanding of perspective continues throughout their development as they begin to differentiate themselves from their surroundings, eventually leading to the ability to identify other human beings as separate entities with their own distinct sets of emotions, intentions and desires.  We call this ability empathy, and it is one of the leading developmental stumbling blocks for autism, schizophrenia and various other abnormal psychologies we study today.

You see, the perception of those who cannot develop empathy is limited within the individual’s own sphere of sensation.  There is no extrapolation.  No wearing of someone else’s shoes.  No link between the knife that hurts you with the knife that hurts them.  As far as the abnormal psyche is concerned, the behavior of others is completely irrational and not based on anything other than the whim of a frightening and confusing universe.  In effect, other people are not real, only internal perception is; a perception that is inherently flawed.

There is a form of abnormal psychology that is difficult for the average observer to see as such, however.  The psychopath may lack an empathic ability, but they are keenly aware of the laws of the universe around them.  They learn to mimic the emotions and actions of their tribe in order to blend in and avoid the learned social consequences of deviant behavior.  They do not choose to avoid causing harm to others out of an empathic sense of good will, but rather as an avoidance of punishment.  This results in a frightening individual with a complete lack of concern for the welfare of those around him or her capable of hiding in plain sight.  As soon as the eye of society turns its back, they are free to behave in whatever manner they choose.

There is, like most things, an ongoing debate in the psychological community whether this is due mainly to genetic disposition or in the developmental guidance of the child.  As with most nature versus nurture debates, it is likely a blurred combination of the two.  There is little doubt, however, that the basis for all perspective development begins in infancy. Psychologist John Bowlby hypothesized his Maternal Deprivation Theory in 1951, and it has largely been held as gospel by the psychological community since.  In the theory, Bowlby postulated that if a child was deprived of its basic needs of attachment to a primary caregiver, or mother in the traditional sense of the term, in its early life, the child would be at far greater risk for delinquency, reduced intelligence, increased aggression, depression, and affectionless psychopathy later in life.  Experiment after experiment has held Bowlby’s theory to be accurate.  Combined with the work of the famous pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock in the 1940s, the basis for much of today’s early childhood raising techniques have aimed at maximizing the growth of healthy attachment in infants to lay a foundation of stability for the rest of their lives.

It is interesting to note here that the while the classic proletariat mass of peasants throughout history have reared their own children, there are two sets of peoples who have traditionally not done so.  The upper echelon has a long history of distancing themselves from their children, pushing the unwanted crying and smelling ball of needs onto wet nurses and nannies trained to take care of the barest of essentials in order to raise a child that is best seen, not heard.  In turn, the slave population of a society, while truly desiring to care for their own infants, have seen them systematically torn from their breast and shifted around as one would with a commodity of corn or cotton.

We like to look at these types of behavior and say they happened so long ago, they are no longer relevant.  Yet, in the grand history of humanity, slavery in this country was ended a very short time ago, and true equality has still not been achieved.  Poverty is still thrusting this population into similar patterns of maternal deprivation.  Meanwhile, I dare you to show me evidence that George W. Bush, his siblings or his many privileged peers were raised in a manner of which Dr. Spock and Dr. Bowlby would approve.  When you stop to think about it, this leaves us with a group of aggressive, psychopathically-prone individuals at the top, and the sad produce of an institutionalized psychosis at the very bottom.

Our perception, however, is that everyone is similar in nature to ourselves.  That is what empathy has taught us, and for our direct friends, family, co-workers and most everyone you pass on the street, that holds true.  We, for the most part, do not inflict harm upon others.  We abhor such behavior.  But, this is not what flourishes at the very top and bottom of the bell curve.  Along with extreme wealth and extreme poverty comes a tendency for extreme violence.  Now, I am not accusing every individual of a certain social strata of psychopathy.  I am speaking in generalities, and I am asking you to expand your own empathic understanding of others to include those who were not raised in conditions similar to your own.  As Jesus, Gandhi, Dr. King, the Beatles and every other philosopher and religious leader worth their salt have told us, it is through love and love alone that we shall achieve peace.  So love these damaged individuals for who they are, not for what they have done.  For if you fear them, you become them.  Love them and you will help change this world for the better.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Of Bread and Circuses

In 2007, Robert Kennedy, Jr. famously stated that “Americans are the best entertained and least informed people on the planet.”  I have to agree with him.  Thanks to the internet, though, we have access to the greatest scholars, reporters, artists and philosophers on the globe, both today and throughout history.  Knowledge in all its forms is literally a mouse-click away.  We as a collective nation simply choose not to seek it.  Instead, we passively accept our role in a society we did not create, never questioning who we are or why we do the things we do.

From an early age, my generation was taught to seek education.  That would lead to employment, and that would lead to success.  This was the blueprint.  However, school was always viewed as a drudgery from which we couldn’t wait to escape.  The real fun was at home.  It was on your TV.  It was at the movie theater.  It was found in a Nintendo controller or a comic book.  It wasn’t in your US history text, that’s for sure.  So, you did what you had to, and you got out of there when the bell rang.  Kids I’m sure will always feel that way.  It was the job of our teachers, God bless them, to reel us in and get us focused.

Unfortunately, teachers can only influence their students so far.  The childish mentality of avoiding knowledge at all costs seems to be fostered and groomed in our nation today.  Most of us do not need any help to avoid critically thinking about difficult problems.  If you are not forced to dwell on distasteful matters, why would you?  It is far easier to be entertained.  Human thought is much like electricity.  When directed properly, it can achieve astounding things.  Left to its own devices, it will inevitably seek the path of least resistance.

It is so incredibly simple to plug into our entertainment-driven culture.  It almost feels like a crime to think for oneself.  We want the reassurance of the tribe on our side.  It feels good to be on a team.  Now, that’s not to say we shy away from confrontation.  We watch sports and listen to very intelligent commentators break down every aspect of every athlete in every game.  We nod and grimace as we accept or dismiss their opinion.  Then we grab the phone to speak our mind.  But this is in a very safe and defined little gamespace, and we are confident there are others who feel just like us out there.  When they call up and echo our opinion, we feel vindicated and are happy to be on their team.

It’s the same way in politics, only instead of 30 or so teams in the league, there are only two.  Sure, you can join one of the expansion teams, but you’d be crazy to do that.  So you pick your team and you size up their strengths and attack the other team’s weaknesses.  When someone points out your team’s weaknesses, you defend them, even if you don’t feel strong convictions about those weaknesses.  It’s just part of the game.

Unfortunately, it’s not a game.  Elected officials are the only thing separating us from the peasantry of feudal empire.  It should not be acceptable to have a presidential election built on lies and subterfuge.  We should, as a people, be seeking a true alternative to the system.  Our nation needs someone who will prosecute bankers who have defrauded the American people and begin to set our economic house in order.  We need someone who will put the lives of American soldiers and foreign citizens above the oil industry’s interests.  We need someone who will take the very real problem of our environment seriously and will throw the resources we are throwing at the military behind true alternative energy research.  We may be an uninformed electorate, but I feel deep down that a majority of us understand those three basic principles of our immediate future.  These are the things that must happen if America is going to continue as we know it.

If a candidate who is capable of these things exists, I have not yet seen him or her, though.  Our current president has made a mockery of the promises he made on his campaign trail, and the Republican candidate doesn’t even look like a human being.  And the best dark horse out there, Ron Paul, is not the man he or his supporters claim him to be.  The fact is that there are no politicians who would even attempt the three main things I just listed.  They would be shot the second they tried, or suicided depending on which assassin got the contract.  I wish I was kidding, I really wish I was. 

So, if that’s the platform of the candidate we need, but there’s no candidate bright enough, capable enough and bulletproof enough to get the job done, what do we do?  Well, I like to look at history.  Somebody told me once something about being doomed to repeat it if we don’t.  There’s a man on the $20 bill that, in addition to killing a whole lot of Native Americans, once stood up to Zionist bankers and threw them out of our country.  I’m speaking of Andrew Jackson and his battle to take down the Second Bank of the United States.  Unfortunately, he was the last president to pay off the national debt, and for his trouble he was also the first American president to have an assassination attempt.  Richard Lawrence, an unemployed housepainter from England, supposedly disgruntled with the destruction of the Bank, aimed two pistols at Jackson and pulled their triggers.  Both pistols misfired.  For killing the bank and being bulletproof like Jules from Pulp Fiction, Jackson would be my favorite president of all time…if it wasn’t for all the Indian genocide.

So, what we need is a former military bad-ass with the nerve to do what is necessary and the strength to pull it off.  Clearly, we need Jesse Ventura.  Sorry, I couldn’t even type that without groaning.  Vote for Obama, I guess.  Vote for whoever you want.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s starting to become clearer why we aren’t more informed.  It’s depressing.  Time to watch baseball and be entertained.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Highway to the Danger Zone

Today, I would like to turn your attention back some 70 years ago.  The Nazi war machine was in full swing.  Pearl Harbor had dragged the United States kicking and screaming into the greatest armed conflict the world to this day has ever known.  In addition to the bombs, bullets and bayonets aimed at soldiers worldwide, there was a more insidious war at hand.  Spies and propaganda drifted through every theater and homeland of the combatants.  The world was frightened by shadows, and with good reason. The war of the spook had begun.

Against this backdrop, let me introduce you to the United States Army’s Signal Corps.  Created in 1860, the Signal Corps was responsible for one of the most important weapons in the army’s arsenal: communications.  In the beginning, this was largely about codes, messengers, supply lines and other standard battlefield issues.  As time wore on and communication methods and technology grew, the Signal Corps grew with it.  By the time World War II came, the Signal Corps was responsible for phone service, radio transmissions, codes & encryption devices, and the newly implemented radar technology.  They were also responsible for maintaining the moral and strategic integrity of the content within internal communications.  This meant they oversaw G.I. radio broadcasts, magazines, newspapers and everything else that was disseminated to the troops in the field including personal mail.  This was all known and part of being a soldier.  You just accepted that the Signal Corps was reading your mail in the hopes that none of your fellow soldiers were leaking information to the enemy that could get you killed.

What wasn’t as widely known was the extent to which the Signal Corps was responsible for disseminating propaganda within the United States itself.  A group of very gifted artists, filmmakers and writers were conscripted to push the army’s agenda, and push they did.  This group included a few men you might have heard of: Frank Capra, who directed the film, It's a Wonderful Life; Darryl Zanuck, who served as head of Twentieth Century Fox; Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss; and Stanley Lieber, better known as Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fame were all part of the Signal Corps. The 834th Signal Service Photographic Detachment was headquartered in Astoria, N.Y. at the Signal Corps Photographic Center and their job was to secure the hearts and minds of the citizens at home.  Judging by history, I’d say they succeeded.  In fact, two Academy Awards won by Signaleers are at the Signal Corps Museum and a third is in Washington, D.C.  Not bad, fellas.

Now, let us springboard from World War II and into the thick of the Reagan-era Cold War.  The year was 1986 and the movie that was crushing all box office competition was a little film that showcased US military might with a flashy Tom Cruise smirk and a driving Kenny Loggins beat.  Top Gun soared into the hearts and minds of millions of Americans, especially impressionable young boys who waltzed into the theater dreaming of Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection” and waltzed out wanting to get a missile lock on a Russian Mig.  The United States Navy went all out on this big-budget recruiting tool.  They granted director Tony Scott unprecedented access to military hardware.  They spent in 1980s dollars an average of $7,800 per hour on jet fuel alone, not to mention the loaning of the entire F-51 Screaming Eagles squadron of F-14s to a film crew for some shots.  All of this was done, like Red Dawn in 1984 to drive recruitment in an arms race that was quickly coming to a head.  A year after Top Gun was released, the U.S. military saw an increase of 20,000 uniformed personnel compared to the year before. Mission accomplished.

This might have been the first big-budget military movie of Tony Scott’s career, but it would not be the last.  With Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, Spy Game, Man on Fire, etc., Tony became the go-to director in Hollywood for a big-budget, military thriller.  In between those pictures, there were projects that got some press, but were ultimately shelved, including a supposed remake of The Warriors Tony was set to direct back in 2009.  For this remake, Tony wanted to move the setting to Los Angeles and drop the corny gang names of the original to create a more authentic film.  In an interview with MTV, Scott revealed that he had been speaking with local LA gangs, and was specifically naming gangs in the film the “Crips, Bloods, The 18th Street Gang [and] The Vietnamese.”  Scott went on to say that many of the gang members he’d interviewed had seen the original and were excited about the possibility of getting involved with the remake.

As we know now, there will be no remake.  Tony Scott has apparently committed suicide by jumping from a bridge in a bizarre end to his career.  While there is no hard evidence that Scott was a member of any propaganda unit of the US military like the Signal Corps back in the 40s, it doesn’t take Oliver Stone to link the man to military intelligence in some way.  As to why he jumped off that bridge, who can say?  I sincerely doubt we will ever know, and this will probably just float into history like Natalie Wood’s body.

It saddens me, though.  Propagandist or not, I liked many of Scott’s movies.  He had a kinetic visual style perfect for his chosen line of work.  He didn’t bore his audience with unnecessary dialogue, nor did he fail to tell a story worth telling.  Some of his work is better than others, but that usually goes back to the script at hand.  He was a capable director, and by all accounts an upbeat, positive man.  I don’t know why he chose to end his life, but I for one will not forget him.  I can only hope those charged with the investigation of his death feel the same way.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I Actually Miss Reagan

I’m going to do something a younger version of me never would have done.  I am going to praise a former architect of Reaganomics for his astute intelligence.  Paul Craig Roberts was Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury from 1981 to 1982. He went on to become an editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Scripps Howard News Service.  He is regarded as an economic expert who has testified before congressional committees on 30 occasions on issues of economic policy.  While he is a staunch proponent of supply-side economics, this hero of a Republican Party long-lost is now regarded to be so far out there by the current right-wing agenda he has been relegated to writing on the fringe.  He is grouped into the same whackadoo netherworld of the Internet as the Alex Jones and David Icke crowds.  This is the very same man named by Forbes in 1993 as one of the top seven journalists in America.

Why is that, you ask?  Is it because he believes there is a group of lizards who use mind-controlling sigil magic to control humanity?  As fun as that would be, sadly that is not the case.  No, Paul Craig Roberts has been blacklisted for many reasons, but none of them as otherworldly as what Alex Jones and David Icke proclaim.  No, Dr. Roberts has been denigrated and marginalized for his audacity to put most of the blame for our current global situation on the shoulders of Israel; specifically, the intensely right-wing Zionist regime in control of Israel.  For this crime of fact-based opinion, he has watched his star plummet from the upper-echelon of Wall Street to posting on a blog with the occasional guest submission to Alex Jones’ 

You see, when faced with the decision of whether to cave into the pressure of the shifting opinion of the political landscape around him, or to remain true to his convictions, Dr. Roberts wrote column after column filled with truth.  He is credited as the first journalist to equate the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians to the divide and conquer reservationism the United States perpetrated on the Native Americans.  He saw it as injustice.  He saw it as genocide.  And he said so.  This did not ingratiate him to the major players on Wall Street, nor to the Bush agenda as it took over the Republican Party from a decrepit and increasingly invalid Ronald Reagan.  But that didn’t stop him.

He became the most trenchant critic of George H. W. Bush’s economic policies of the early 90s.  The fact that he was using supply-side economics itself to refute those policies helped keep him afloat.  Of course, he was also still riding the tide of the Reagan era, and he had many friends in many high places.  He was able to throw darts from a relatively safe place.  As the economy went into recession just as he had predicted it would, Roberts was able to make the case that it was Bush, his advisers and their incredibly shortsighted policies that had led us there.  It is by no fluke that the American people elected a virtual unknown over Bush in the ensuing election.  It was the economy, stupid.

Unfortunately for Dr. Roberts, the Clinton Administration was not in the business of looking out for him in thanks.  In fact, while Slick Willie was failing to reform health care, dodging probes into his Whitewater dealings, and ramming NAFTA down our throats, a silent revolution was taking place in our media, and it sure as hell was not televised.  In the early to mid-nineties, the power of the press coalesced into the hands of five giant media conglomerates as federal regulations were relaxed in order to allow merger after merger and acquisition after acquisition.  Those conglomerates corporatized their holdings in such a way as to take journalists out of the equation.  Commercial advertising was the key method used in this objective.  A suit-and-tie was placed in charge of our fourth estate, and their job was to drive ratings while avoiding controversy so as to maximize advertising revenue.  It’s very simple and the natural progression of a capitalist society.  If your main priority is selling the news, then your main priority cannot be reporting the news.  Sometimes, reporters touch on subjects that might hurt their advertisers.  The suits eased off of those stories.  With a little twist and sleight-of-hand, dissenting voices were shifted from topics that the five main conglomerates disliked.  Focus was shifted to talking points and slotted into predetermined discussions.

Dr. Roberts didn’t fit in this new landscape, and his Reagan era protection began to slip.  The pro-Israeli agenda continued to roll unhindered in the mainstream media.  Roberts was no longer welcome in the press.  He, like most political masterminds, found employment in the mid-nineties with a few Reagan-centric think tanks, the Cato Institute and the Hoover Institution.  But as the years wore on, and his anti-Zionist opinion did not falter, he slipped out of the Republican Party altogether.  One of the framers of the Reagan era itself had become too far left for the party he’d reinvigorated 20 years hence.

For me, that was a blessing in disguise.  No longer fettered by the establishment, Dr. Roberts was free to write his true opinion and walk completely off of the Republican platform.  He has become a very vocal critic of the official explanation for 9/11.  He derides the American press as a virtual mouthpiece for pro-Zionist rhetoric.  And he continues to use supply-side economics to point out the insanity that is being allowed to go on in the global marketplace.  The thing is, once you read his very academic, highly rational and well-cited opinion, it is almost impossible to not see how our nation’s pro-Israel agenda is endangering our economy, our livelihood and our very lives.  Yet to say so in American culture is to be demonized as anti-Semitic.  Anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic are not the same thing.  In fact, Dr. Roberts nominated Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.  He is not against the Jewish people, but against an agenda that is constantly sending the globe to the verge of world war.

In the end, according to Roberts, it is the economic policies of pro-Zionist bankers and the politicians in their pockets that lead to conflict in the Middle East, terrorism abroad and economic strife at home.  This is done in order to further an agenda bent on nothing short of world domination and it is a maniacal goal whose ultimate ambition is the reduction of the world’s population under a one-world government: the vaunted New World Order.  This continued assertion by Roberts is what has landed him into the nutso clink with the reptile-truthers.  You will find no one more at odds with the Federal Reserve Bank and those that control it than Paul Craig Roberts.  Likely, that is also why you have never heard of him.