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.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Burden of Proof

Okay, bear with me.  Everything I’m about to say takes a tremendous suspension of disbelief.  But, for the next 1,000 words, try to cut me the same amount of slack you would settling into the seat at your local movie theater.  In real life, the guy doesn’t always get the girl before the closing credits and stories do not unfold in easy-to-digest three-act dramatic structure.  That doesn’t make real life untrue.  Nor do seemingly fantastic elements make things impossible.  We live in a world where we regularly split atoms, send robotic explorers to Mars and use machines hung in outer space to communicate to the other side of the globe in real-time.  We know these things to be true because scientists worldwide confirm it as truth, and our own senses report the same.  Our cell phones work.  Last I checked, Hiroshima and Nagasaki reflected the power and accuracy of Einstein’s equations and their practical application by Oppenheimer and company.  If you are so inclined, you can use a laser to detect the presence of the laser ranging retro-reflectors astronauts left on the moon.  These are verifiable truths.  And all of them are fantastic in nature.

There are, however, a number of truths that aren’t so easily verifiable.  That doesn’t make them false.  It just makes them difficult to prove.  For instance, the Higgs-Boson until very recently was merely a theory based on mathematical extrapolation.  It was not considered truth.  So scientists spent a lot of time, effort and money in creating the Large Hadron Collider in order to verify its existence.  It is believed that they succeeded on July 4th of this year.  Years of further study are necessary, but science will do what it does best and will prove what is true about this finding and will begin to study exactly what that means.

The scientific method is perfect for these types of mysteries.  The brightest minds of our age can communicate, collaborate and corroborate with each other based on experimental analysis.  They can vet out the false concepts of theories and bring humanity closer to a complete understanding of our universe.  However, when it comes to what is happening within humanity itself, science is less successful.  The universe does not conspire to hide its truth from the lens of the microscope.  The Higgs-Boson does not concern itself with deceit in the pursuit of power.  The dozens of exoplanets currently being studied by the world’s astronomists are not hiding behind a smokescreen of wealth, influence and fear.

When a person of a certain level of power in this society wants to bury a piece of evidence, they by and large can.  Before going any further, yes, I am talking about conspiracy theory.  If you are still reading, I can assume you have in fact suspended your disbelief for the moment.  Just the words “conspiracy theory” are enough for most rational human beings to shut down, turn around and head back for the hallowed halls of the scientific method.  Conspiracy theory is the realm of wild speculation, schizophrenic pattern recognition and paranoid delusion.  Above all, it is notorious for confusing correlation with causation.

With all of that said, let me say this: JFK.  Is there anyone left who believes the Warren Commission published a report based on fact and evidence?  The declassified documents released through Freedom of Information Act requests strongly suggest otherwise.  So, we as a public are willing to accept that a clandestine operation was launched to assassinate the President of the United States almost 50 years ago at the behest of a powerful group of handlers in order to overthrow our democracy.  We are willing to accept that this was willfully hidden from the general public for decades.  We may even be willing to accept that JFK wasn’t the only one this happened to.  But, somehow, we are not willing to accept that this group that stole our democracy from us might still exist in some form.

Watergate cleansed our soul, we were told.  Nixon was swept out in disgrace.  The Vietnam War was ended.  Democracy was restored.  This is the narrative my generation was weaned on, in between sips of Coca-cola and G.I. Joe cartoons.  The fact that Iran-Contra came and went ultimately meant nothing.  The S&L debacle amounted to nothing.  The Franklin child prostitution cover-up amounted to nothing.  Grand instances of terrorism from airline disasters to the Oklahoma City Bombing were orchestrated by shadowy groups who stood completely apart from the members of our government, we were told.  The incredibly rich and powerful were never to blame.  It was the Timothy McVeighs, the Ted Kaczynskis, the PLO, the IRA, etc.  It was never us.  Never.

Boom.  The twin towers fell.  We watched it unfold like the worst reality show of all time.  But, we were so numb and shocked and scared and saddened, we didn’t see.  Who owned those buildings?  Why did the WTC 7 building fall?  We didn’t ask those questions, because we weren’t thinking clearly.  No one was. Our media was supposed to do that for us.  Our reporters, our fourth estate.  But they didn’t.  Within hours we were told it was al-Qaeda. It was Bin Laden.  Our cries for vengeance immediately rose too loud to ask questions and, before we knew it, it was treasonous to even ask those questions.  Forget Richard Clarke and anybody who asked why.  Al-Qaeda fit the narrative we had been raised on.  Cobra Commander did it, and G.I. Joe had to stop him. 

It’s eleven years later.  I have a four-year-old who looks up at me like I have all the answers.  She doesn’t believe the world is rotten.  She sees the sun and sees a pretty ball of light, not the furnace that will eventually torch the Earth.  She sees clouds and sees horses and bunnies and frogs, not the global warming smog choking her future.  She sees the Olympics and sees athletes from around the world competing in a spectacle of delight, not the obvious terrorist target that it was or the unveiling of the surveillance state we have ushered in to prevent such an attack.  She sees monsters in her room and it’s my job to tell her they aren’t real.  I wish that was always the case.

So, getting back to my original point, conspiracy theory is lacking.  It can prove nothing.  It can invent danger where there is none and for all of its speculation, it hardly ever correctly predicts disaster.  It is not science.  But that doesn’t make it false.

Return of the Boom Bap

Once upon a time, I was a very angry young man who saw an unjust world and wanted to bang my head loudly against the brick wall of the establishment in order to make it change.  As time wore on, I got tired.  9/11 shocked me to my core, as it did many of us.  I failed to comprehend its meaning at the time amidst the swarm of emotions it set off inside of me.  I battled my own inner demons in its wake and almost lost.  Step-by-step, slowly, but surely, I climbed out of that hole by doing what I could to make the world a better place.  I joined City Year, an AmeriCorps program dedicated to helping provide support and education to inner-city youth in order to even the playing field just a bit for those who were born socioeconomically disadvantaged.  I learned, in the City Year parlance, to “step outside my comfort zone” and “put idealism to work”.

After a time, my personal aspirations grew.  I fell in love.  I wanted to buy a house, start a family, and begin my journey on the path of the American Dream.  I needed more money for this endeavor, so I left City Year to join a Catholic charity dedicated to helping homeless youth between the ages of 18 and 22.  I found I loved the organization’s successes, but was at odds with their means.  I found that beneath the surface of charitable fundraising was a political power structure that depressed and confounded me.

Meanwhile, our nation falsified intelligence to begin an imperial conquest of the Middle East and the oil that lay under its sands.  The federal budget was gutted in favor of defense spending, deregulation of markets, tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and the corporations they ran, and the American people were swindled left and right by an increasingly duplicitous banking industry.  We were told to look the other way as civil liberties were eroded, internment camp-style prisons were erected, illegal and immoral torture was normalized and dissenting voices were marginalized.

By the time the Bush Administration finally came to an end, I was exhausted.  My rage against this machine had all but petered out.  I had come to the conclusion that there was nothing I could do about any of it, at least not on the level that would make any real difference.  As the economy finally buckled under the theft, fraud and stupidity of the system in place, I cast my vote for hope in the form of Barack Obama.  I had nothing left to give.  It was too much, and so I voted and promptly tuned out, placing my faith and trust in the first black President of the United States to fix it all.  I threw myself into raising funds for a worthwhile cause at my current nonprofit organization and focused on raising my beautiful daughter.  I had decided the rest of the world would have to take care of itself.

Recently, I see that I can no longer do that.  Obama is in no position to make the changes our nation and the world at large need.  He is, like all politicians, beholden to the power of money.  They pull his strings as effectively as any other puppet that rises too far, and that sun of economic might has thoroughly melted the wings of Obama’s Icarus.  He was placed on the throne to appease us, and it worked, at least for a time.

But money still rules, as it has since its invention.  However, I sense the mood is changing, not just here, but abroad, on a global scale.  The Occupy Movement is the result of our distaste for our current system.  We are fed up.  However, most of us don’t know what to do with that feeling.  I know I don’t.  I have spent the better part of the last month doing some serious soul searching to determine what it is I should do.  Coupled with my own depressive nature, it has been a rocky road that has led me through various combinations of medication and a whole lot of reading on esoteric and mythical lines of reasoning.  As a father, husband, homeowner and professional, it is not feasible to say I should drop my life to stand on the barricades in Wall Street.  Protests such as that also do not change anything.  They are a call for action; they are not an action in and of themselves.

Over the last few days, I’ve done a lot of reading about former CIA analyst and current Jesuit political activist Ray McGovern. In many of his lectures, he says it is up to each of us individually to contribute to the change this world needs in each of our own capacity.  Like I said at the beginning of this essay, once upon a time, I was a very angry young man.  To deal with this, I wrote a lot, most of which is terrible, but at least I was writing.  If McGovern is right, and I feel he is, then my capacity lies in my ability to string words of the English language together.  As easy as it has been over the last four years to work, parent, love and play while ignoring the larger world around me, it is in the end both lazy and cowardly.

So, expect more essays of this type going forward.  Expect more “crazy theories” bandied about.  Expect the unexpected.  And, most of all, expect the Inquisition because if they can do it to Cal Ripken’s mom, they’ll do it to anybody.  Believe it. 

“There’ll be no shelter here”
-Zack De La Rocha