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Category Archives: World

barnet newman red lineBarnett Newman, Red Line

Having self-snookered himself into his own corner, our increasingly hapless President Obama, ham-strung with a recalcitrant House of alleged Representatives which seems intent on dragging the entire nation into some imaginary past – one in which a “Negro” would never be allowed to rise above a certain station in life (say, shoe-shine boy) – and abandoned by our “special-relationship” ally of the UK, and so forced into the arms of a French lover, is presently pondering an attack upon Syria for having crossed a certain “red-line” – to say having allegedly used chemical arms against his own population.  Claiming a highly dubious “moral high-ground,” the President asserts that Syria’s unsavory leader, Assad, must be punished for this transgression of supposed international “norms.”  Coming from the head of a country which not so long ago thought nothing of laying waste to Vietnam with chemical agents (Boehner Orange), or more recently winked and nodded when its then-erstwhile lackey, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, gassed Kurds and Iranians, this moral outrage takes on a tragically comic air.  America skates on ever thinner ice as it pontificates about ethics and morals, especially as it imprisons Chelsea/Bradley Manning for 35 years for revealing American war crimes, as according to the Nuremberg Convention he was duty-bound to do; or as it hounds Edward Snowden for revealing a vast conspiracy within the government to illegally violate the US Constitution.  On this day, as I write, tucked into the New York Times front page is the now every-day banner, “4 Killed in Pakistan Drone Attack.”   As was once said, Mr. Obama has a lot of “‘splainin’” on his hands.

ObamaMLK2

While trotting out last week for the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famed speech, and trying his very best to emulate the preacher cadence of same, Mr. Obama droned on double the length of King, and to 100th the effect:  smooth teleprompter reader that he is, despite his best efforts, Barack just can’t do it like the master did.  Perhaps because lurking behind the voice is a absence of passion and belief.   Not long before he was killed, Mr King said this:

“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world : My own

Government, I can not be Silent.”

 

gty_martin_luther_king_jr_ll_130115_wmainMartin Luther King

I think there is little room to doubt whether Mr. King would be silent in the face of the ever burgeoning military-industrial-media-security state which the American system has become.  [Below I print in full King's address, where his analysis of where America was, and was heading, has proved to be tragically accurate.]

And so, to pile irony on bitter irony, sent out in Obama’s stead, is his current Secretary of State, John Kerry.  If you will recall Kerry ran for President and was defeated by AWOL draft-avoider, rich man’s son, George W. Bush, in a campaign which ridiculed Kerry’s service (during which time he received medals for this and that) and “Swift Boating” became a verb.  During the Vietnam war Kerry became a hero of the American left when he spoke out against the war while still in service.  He became an anti-war icon, testifying in Congress.

Kerry

Today Kerry is the administration’s waterboy, its loudest and most aggressive voice calling for action – a military strike – against Assad’s Syria, while Obama, our Nobel “Peace Prize” laureate, stays relatively quiet in the background.   For America the middle-east’s oily tar-baby is proving Uncle Remus’ fable all too prescient.    The craggy faced New Englander has good reason for a few more worry-wrinkles.

ap_john_kerry_mi_130506_wgJohn Kerry

And as I write (noon August 31 2013), the NY Times headlines a sudden change in direction as Obama attempts to tip-toe out of his corner, and has now tossed the matter of attacking into the hands of what had been a largely silent Congress:  now they must decide, as some had demanded and requested, just what to do.  Somehow the chant “Bomb, bomb,  bomb Damascus” just doesn’t have the same jolly ring that old John McCain’s (chorused by Rush Limbaugh and others), “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” had.  And besides Congress isn’t back for another week and perhaps by then America will have forgotten about it all, we’ll have done a few more drone attacks in Yemen or elsewhere, and as school kicks in we can all discuss college football and basketball and then the pro games.

And this criminal, having lied to Congress, will slip away, perhaps retiring quietly from government service and back through the revolving door to head one of our NSA contract spy corporations.  Ah, America.

8302013black-blog480James Clapper, head of NSA, Congressional perjurer

Following is the full text of Martin Luther King’s address:

Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence

Delivered 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:

I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers. I also want to say that I consider it a great honor to share this program with Dr. Bennett, Dr. Commager, and Rabbi Heschel, and some of the distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation. And of course it’s always good to come back to Riverside church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it is always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit.

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I’m in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans.

Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath –
America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be — are — are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 19541; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I’m speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

And finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

 

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1954 — in 1945 rather — after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony. Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination and a government that had been established not by China — for whom the Vietnamese have no great love — but by clearly indigenous forces that included some communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.

After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States’ influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America, as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.

So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers. What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing — in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.

Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon, the only solid — solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call “fortified hamlets.” The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.

Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front, that strangely anonymous group we call “VC” or “communists”? What must they think of the United States of America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem, which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the South? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the North” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent communist, and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam, and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will not have a part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them, the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French Commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which could have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered.

Also, it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva Agreement concerning foreign troops. They remind us that they did not begin to send troops in large numbers and even supplies into the South until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than eight hundred — rather, eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak of the — for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism (unquote).

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.

I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do [immediately] to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam. Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation. Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos. Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government. Five: Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

Part of our ongoing — Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country, if necessary. Meanwhile — Meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is a path now chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality…and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala — Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.”2 We in the West must support these revolutions.

It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch antirevolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”3

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing — embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate — ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.”4 Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says:

Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word (unquote).

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood — it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message — of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide,In the strife of truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;Some great cause, God’s new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ‘tis truth alone is strong Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when “justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”5

newman

OBAMA-2-popup

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (May 25, 1878 – November 25, 1949) was an American tap dancer and actor of stage and film. Audiences enjoyed his understated style, which eschewed the frenetic manner of the jitterbug in favor of cool and reserve; rarely did he use his upper body, relying instead on busy, inventive feet, and an expressive face.

Yesterday President Obama emerged for a press conference and attempted to stick the genies of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden back in their top secret bottles.  In his best Harvardese shuck & jive mode, he tap danced around the blunt truth that the military-industrial-security-state is in constant violation of the Constitution of the USA (which its members are sworn to uphold), and instead put a smiley face on governmental intrusions into the privacy of everyone (American or not), all in the name of “protecting” Americans from the nasty nebulous “terrorists” who bedevil us, god only knows why since we are so very nice all around the world.   Seldom rattled by his job as cover for the Wizard of Oz system behind the curtain, Obama fumbled as he suggested that in order for Michelle to believe him, he had to take her back in the kitchen and show her he actually did the dishes.  This lame would-be metaphor found him foundering, probably aware that he was, well, lying, and that, well, the entire system which he represents is nothing more than a lie.

James ClapperJames Clapper, perjuror before Congress, Director of NSA

Trying his best to put lipstick on his pig, Obama did his smooth-talk routine, attempting to calm the roiling realization that Americans, as he said rather explicitly, just plain don’t trust the government (anymore).  Left or right, those who swallowed the cold-war Kool-Aid, and all the other trumped up jangle-your-nerves crises that seem to be the societal norm of our imperium, seem to have drawn a line in the collecting of their telecommunications, emails, visits to porn sites or whatever else it is they desire to keep “private.”  Snowden, for whom the government in the form of another shuck and jive artist, Attorney General Eric Holder – another culturally bleached-black – found itself having to issue an assuring word to Russia that it would not execute or torture him should he be returned to the USA (!), was accorded a one year asylum in Russia, as the US security system shuddered at what further revelations he might offer.  One could hear the murmuring, “This is all supposed to be secret… and how do those dang computer code things work, anyway?”

nsa it cubicle + prison

Ironically, the security apparatus is at the mercy of the techies – many of whom incline to a libertarian slant, and many of whom follow the motto, “information wants to be free” – who understand the arcane matters of bits and bytes, encryption, code, etc., in a manner other than a “concept” to bandy about while not understanding it at all.  Those in the executive echelons of these systems are probably quite aware of their vulnerability on this account, and hence the draconian responses to those who let the beans slip.  Manning and Snowden are not the first to feel the harsh hand of the security agencies for letting out the word that America is not at all the America the government wishes you to think it is.   Long before General Smedley Butler wrote his “War is a Racket,” Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, and more recently Russ Tice and William Binney informed the public about the US surveillance abuses so clearly revealed by Snowden.

predator-weaponizedAmerica’s ambassador, the Predator

And so it is that while Bojangles and StepnFetchit did their duties, and tap-danced mightily to hide the ugly truths which keep slipping out of our Big Brother surveillance systems, and glossed over the long American history of governmental abuses of the citizenry, even former President Carter was found to say that we “no longer have a functioning democracy.”  Suddenly Senators and Representatives in Congress have found a new hobby horse to ride as a wave of public sympathy for Snowden and Manning builds.  What was formerly the turf of the woolly-eyed radical crazy now finds a home in the mouths of “respectable” politicos.  If interested, look up the quote of Mahatma Gandhi in this regard.

Bill_Bojangles_Robinson_1946

Dazzling with his toes, Obama attempts to deflect attention from what he does with his hands.  This on-going show began with his “don’t look back” absolution of the war criminals and Constitution-abusers who immediately preceded him.  It began at the outset of his administration when the criminals of Wall Street were chosen as his advisers regarding the economic collapse of 2008.  It carries on in his hounding of whistle-blowers far in excess of all previous administrations.  And finally, with the present defense he offers of NSA-CIA-FBI violations of the law and Constitution, even his most faithful supporters begin to fall away, no longer charmed by the seemingly gentle and intelligent words of their black knight on a white horse, come to rescue them from the disappeared faux Texas cowboy.  Rather late (and with three years to go) they discover their guy is a kiss-ass Harvard tongued StepnFetchit to the hard powers that run the show.

4fbd4173d9d72.image

Keep tapping, Bo.  Just nobody believes in the change you can believe in anymore.  And why should they?  It was a PR line of pure-BS to con the liberals into thinking something would actually happen, and instead they got more Bush than Bush, all delivered in a hot package of 100% shuck & jive as done by well-educated criminals – like the ones who run Wall Street, the military-industrial-security state-media complex – and who pull your strings.  You offered “the most transparent” government, and instead you provided the most secretive.  The only thing transparent is that Obama is owned lock, stock and barrel by the ruling elite of the 1% who do what they want, legal or not.   That’s the secret they are worried about, and that you showed in your dismal press conference.  Trust us?  Are you kidding?

images

Wandering the chaos of the internet today, I came across this other declaration, with which I totally concur.   While it didn’t really begin with 9/11, but had been in the works for some time before, with that event (yet to be meaningfully investigated by genuinely impartial parties), our government commenced a series of serious attacks on the Constitution, with perhaps “The Patriot Act” signalling the first step.  Since then in one “legal” ruling after another the Bill of Rights has been stripped of meaning.  As famously said by Mr Obama’s predecessor, “it’s just a goddamn piece of paper.”

While the circus of the Republican nominee selection process travels the country putting on its dog and pony show, back in DC, in the furious rush to wrap up “business”  before the Christmas break, our wonderful Congressmen and women have hobbled together a fantastic new bill, the annual National Defense Authorization Act – to say “law” – which Barack Obama, our erstwhile scholar of the Constitution, and our erstwhile “liberal” President, had promised to veto if it retained a certain element that had been tacked on in the devious manner of our politicians, a “rider” having to do with giving the Executive the (unconstitutional) right to declare someone “a terrorist” or even someone as being vaguely in some way connected to a claimed “terrorist” and to arrest them, lock them up, hide them, and throw away the key.  American or not, where ever they are.   However, as is his way, Mr Obama did his feint to the left, and now is ready to sign this new bill/law.  And bye-bye to what is left of the Constitution’s “Bill of Rights.”

Mr Obama does what his Harvard Massah’s taught him

Thus goes America’s political world, which, like our financial world, basically engages in a constant shell game, shuffling the cards like the hustler down on the corner.   Just keep ‘em movin’ and no one will notice.  So in short order, with a signature on this piece of typical Nazi-style “law” we will have all the trappings of a real genuine dictatorship.  We have already had the practice, now we just need to formalize it in our “laws.”

Bradley Manning

In the same week as this dubious item, Bradley Manning surfaced from the Federal military detention system where he has been held the last year and a half, often naked, in what might reasonably be called less than “humane” conditions.   He was taken, dressed, before a military tribunal to face whatever music they might wish to inflict for having released reams of governmental “secret” documents, many of which essentially described crimes committed by America’s military, along with many revealing views of those in government.  While complying with the Nuremberg laws which require a citizen to report war crimes and crimes against humanity, which the American government purports to support and follow, Manning ran afoul of higher ups within our governmental system who regarded this a dire threat (which in fact it – the truth – is).   Mr Manning will undergo this kangaroo court “trial” and be put away for decades, no doubt.  In the same week, in Iraq, America did a military about face, at least in theatrical terms, and allegedly ended the war in said country, folding flags and driving military vehicles to next door Kuwait.  The corporate news doesn’t see fit to inform our public how many “private contractors” receiving Federal funds remain in Iraq.   The recipient of Mr Manning’s alleged leak, Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks, is in detention in the UK awaiting a British court’s decision whether he should be extradited to Sweden where two women, who admit to consensual sex with him, filed charges of subsequent rape for having had morning- after sex with them, allegedly without consent or condom.   In the interim, while this wound its way through the UK’s legal system, American corporations – PayPal and others – commenced to refuse to service WikiLeaks’ fund-raising system, drying up its financial capacity to function.

And  in yet this same week, a reporter, American, found a trove of US military documents in Iraq, which had been tossed in the garbage as the troops left.  An Iraqi man was using them as a heating source, burning them.  Some of the documents – 40,000 pages – the reporter obtained detailed “secret” testimony within the US military regarding the Haditha massacre of November 19, 2005.  These documents reveal clear knowledge within the US military of what are certain “war crimes” but which were covered up as well as possible by American authorities.

Haditha, Iraq, Nov 19, 2005

While Pvt Manning is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison for releasing documents which reveal American war crimes, as well as other useful information regarding American practices, the soldiers who committed the Haditha murders have had charges dropped, been acquitted or been left alone.  Sargeant Wuterich, the platoon commander, had his trial postponed until 2012.   Apparently the papers discovered in Iraq last week will be pertinent – they clearly show a perfectly normal attempt by the military to cover up this war crime – one among thousands committed in the name of the United States, commencing with the lies which were used to initiate this war of choice upon a country which had nothing to do with 9/11.  Naturally the perpetrators of those lies will never be prosecuted by America’s courts.

While beautiful, the above image, of a lake in Alaska, is less than lovely in other respects.  By coincidence it was published in the NY Times within the same day as another report, from Russia.   In both cases the substance of the articles was on the scientifically predicted surge of methane gasses which are coming from the warming of the arctic tundra and from undersea sources.   The essential story is that biomass which has been frozen for hundreds of thousands of years is now warming, in effect fermenting, and releasing methane gasses into the atmosphere.  Methane is a potent “greenhouse” gas, functioning to trap solar heat 20 times more effectively than does CO2.   As predicted by many ecological scientists the warming of the arctic region will result in a feed-back loop in which the warming induced by industrial releases of carbon based gasses, will provoke the production of methane, which will hasten global warming, ad infinitum.   The NY Times Andrew Revkin has a less apocalyptic view here.

US troops withdraw to Kuwait from IraqCliffs on MarsDiagram of black gravitational hole in space

POSTSCRIPT

In today’s emails came one from Michael Moore, which I think warrants as much exposure as it can get, so in case you did not get it, I print it below:

Friends,

It’s Saturday night and I didn’t want the day to end before I sent out this note to you.

One year ago today (December 17th), Mohamed Bouazizi, a man who had a simple produce stand in Tunisia, set himself on fire to protest his government’s repression. His singular sacrifice ignited a revolution that toppled Tunisia’s dictator and launched revolts in regimes across the Middle East.

Three months ago today, Occupy Wall Street began with a takeover of New York’s Zuccotti Park. This movement against the greed of corporate America and its banks — and the money that now controls most of our democratic institutions — has quickly spread to hundreds of towns and cities across America. The majority of Americans now agree that a nation where 400 billionaires have more wealth than 160 million Americans combined is not the country they want America to be. The 99% are rising up against the 1% — and now there is no turning back.

Twenty-four years ago today, U.S. Army Spc. Bradley Manning was born. He has now spent 570 days in a military prison without a trial — simply because he allegedly blew the whistle on the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. He exposed what the Pentagon and the Bush administration did in creating this evil and he did so by allegedly leaking documents and footage to Wikileaks. Many of these documents dealt not only with Iraq but with how we prop up dictators around the world and how our corporations exploit the poor on this planet. (There were even cables with crazy stuff on them, like one detailing Bush’s State Department trying to stop a government minister in another country from holding a screening of ‘Fahrenheit 9/11.’)

The Wikileaks trove was a fascinating look into how the United States conducts its business — and clearly those who don’t want the world to know how we do things in places like, say, Tunisia, were not happy with Bradley Manning.

Mohamed Bouazizi was being treated poorly by government officials because all he wanted to do was set up a cart and sell fruit and vegetables on the street. But local police kept harassing him and trying to stop him. He, like most Tunisians, knew how corrupt their government was. But when Wikileaks published cables from the U.S. ambassador in Tunis confirming the corruption — cables that were published just a week or so before Mohamed set himself on fire — well, that was it for the Tunisian people, and all hell broke loose.

People across the world devoured the information Bradley Manning revealed, and it was used by movements in Egypt, Spain, and eventually Occupy Wall Street to bolster what we already thought was true. Except here were the goods — the evidence that was needed to prove it all true. And then a democracy movement spread around the globe so fast and so deep — and in just a year’s time! When anyone asks me, “Who started Occupy Wall Street?” sometimes I say “Goldman Sachs” or “Chase” but mostly I just say, “Bradley Manning.” It was his courageous action that was the tipping point — and it was not surprising when the dictator of Tunisia censored all news of the Wikileaks documents Manning had allegedly supplied. But the internet took Manning’s gift and spread it throughout Tunisia, a young man set himself on fire and the Arab Spring that led eventually to Zuccotti Park has a young, gay soldier in the United States Army to thank.

And that is why I want to honor Bradley Manning on this, his 24th birthday, and ask the millions of you reading this to join with me in demanding his immediate release. He does not deserve the un-American treatment, including cruel solitary confinement, he’s received in over eighteen months of imprisonment. If anything, this young man deserves a friggin’ medal. He did what great Americans have always done — he took a bold stand against injustice and he did it without stopping for a minute to consider the consequences for himself.

The Pentagon and the national security apparatus are hell-bent on setting an example with Bradley Manning. But we as Americans have a right to know what is being done in our name and with our tax dollars. If the government tries to cover up its malfeasance, then it is the duty of each and every one of us, should the situation arise, to drag the truth, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the light of day.

The American flag was lowered in Iraq this past Thursday as our war on them officially came to an end. If anyone should be on trial or in the brig right now, it should be those men who lied to the nation in order to start this war — and in doing so sent nearly 4,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to their deaths.

But it is not Bush or Rumsfeld or Cheney or Wolfowitz who sit in prison tonight. It is the hero who exposed them. It is Bradley Manning who has lost his freedom and that, in turn, becomes just one more crime being committed in our name.

I know, I know, c’mon Mike — it’s the holiday season, there’s presents to buy and parties to go to! And yes, this really is one of my favorite weeks of the year. But in the spirit of the man whose birth will be celebrated next Sunday, please do something, anything, to help this young man who spends his birthday tonight behind bars. I say, enough. Let him go home and spend Christmas with his family. We’ve done enough violence to the world this decade while claiming to be a country that admires the Prince of Peace. The war is over. And a whole new movement has a lot to thank Bradley Manning for.

Yours,

Michael Moore
MMFlint@MichaelMoore.com

Aside from the roller-coaster ride of the wobbling Euro – up-down-spinning apart – and the other economic news which animates the moment, the Department of Labor released the latest US Employment figures, showing a decided bump downwards in the percentage of unemployed, to 8.6%.   This from the alleged 9% which many observers suggest is something more in the realm of 17% or more.  As usual, these figures are inherently false and falsified deliberately, for political reasons.  It is normal practice that a month later “corrections” are made, usually making the figures a bit less palatable politically speaking.  On the other hand in the NYTimes, Floyd Norris, economics columnist, says of late corrections have been in the other direction, and he spins the figures this way.

The editors in the same paper of record, saw it this (edited) way:

The unemployment rate dropped to 8.6 percent in November from 9 percent in October in the jobs report released Friday. The economy added 120,000 jobs and job growth was revised upward in September and October.

Most of the decline in November’s unemployment rate was not because jobless people found new work. Rather, it is because 315,000 people dropped out of the work force, a reflection of extraordinarily weak demand by employers for new workers.

The job growth numbers also come with caveats. More jobs were created than economists expected, but with the job market so weak for so long, that is a low bar. It would take nearly 11 million new jobs to replace the ones that were lost during the recession and to keep up with the growth in the working-age population in the last four years. To fill that gap would require 275,000 new jobs a month for the next five years. That’s not in the cards. Even with the better-than-expected job growth in the past three months, the economy added only 143,000 jobs on average.

And most of those new jobs are low-end ones. In November, for example, big job-growth areas included retail sales, bartending and temporary services. (Note: Xmas is around the corner, duh.) Teachers and other public employees continued to lose jobs, and job growth in construction and manufacturing were basically flat. Indeed, work — once the pathway to a rising standard of living — has become for many a route to downward mobility. Motoko Rich reported in The Times recently on new research showing that most people who lost their jobs in recent years now make less and have not maintained their lifestyles, with many experiencing what they describe as drastic — and probably irreversible — declines in income.

Against that backdrop, the modest improvement in the jobs report, even if sustained in the months to come, would not be enough to repair the damage from the recession and its slow-growth aftermath. Help is needed, yet Congress is tied in knots over even basic recovery measures, like extending federal unemployment benefits and the temporary payroll tax cut.

The  other shoe falling

This past week saw a concerted effort on the part of so-called “Central Banks,” including The Fed, to make dollars more liquid in the face of the tightening of Euro credit in Europe.  This action was hailed by “the markets” with a one day jump of around 4%.  The next day stocks slumped slightly – a phenomenon that has been repeated many times since 2008.   This process is a mixture of the Central Banks printing more money and giving it to banks are far lower interest rates than they will then loan it for – in effect, free money for the banks.  This functions to keep the usary system working and capitalism humming, if only for another day or week or month.  The cruel truth, which our bankers and their politicians dance around, is that the entire system was “leveraged” into a massive self-serving Ponzi scheme in which those in the financial industry robbed the banks, and left the empty bag in the public’s hand.   In doing so it has toppled several governments – Greece and Italy – which in turn gave the keys of those governments to – drum roll please – the bankers.  The new head of Italy, Mario Monti, is a former Goldman Sachs man and of course, a banker.  Lucas Papademos, the appointed (not elected) head of Greece is a former member of the Trilateral Commission, and, well gosh darn, banker.

In the current scramble to save the Euro the manifest self-interest of the US is being willfully smudged: American banks are deeply involved with their European counterparts, and should the latter go bust, their Atlantic cousins will follow shortly thereafter – though American banks are moving as quickly as they can to dump Euro funds.  But for what?  Incredible shrinking greenbacks?  Renminbi?   The brutal truth is that there is so much outstanding manufactured debt in the system that it out “values” all the assets in the world by factors beyond counting.  Missing in the endless mumbo-jumbo arcanities of the “financial industry”  – bonds, sovereign bonds, CDO, derivatives, and many other even more esoteric acronyms – are the simple words “shell game.”  Though anyone familiar with any professional world knows that the jargon of the profession is essentially designed to hide the inner workings from those on the outside.

Occupiers in NYC

 

So today’s news titillates with the impending tilt of the “futures market” with hedge-funders making their bets on the crystal ball, where they win when others lose.  Meanwhile mere humans await news of their fates – whether their “savings” in the form of 401-K’s or cash in the mattress or a looked-for Social Security or European pension will be evaporated at the stroke of a pen, or the election of political Dracula’s looking for a fast fix.

Unoccupied LA

Silvio, ImperatoreSilvio’s note to himself about 8 traitors and resigning

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s richest man, owner of a dominant sector of its mass media, bunga bunga aficionado, multiple indictee for charges from sex with a minor to corrupting bankers and lawyers, famed lothario, clown at numerous great international summits, and, last but not least, Premier of Italy for most of the last 13 years, has finally been forced from office.  No, not by the politicians of Italy, who tend to match Mr Berlusconi only in their capacity for folly, if not on such a gradiose scale.  Nor by the voters of Italy, who despite Silvio’s odious reputation magically secured the votes of a majority, or at least of a coalition’s majority, time and again.   Silvio is a classic embodiment of a certain Italian tendency to love to place heroes on a high pedestal – higher the better – so they can have a longer time to enjoy themselves as the feet turn to clay and at the end the baying crowd can have at the corpse.

Crowds outside the Premier’s palazzo in RomeMussolini and friends at the end

That Mr Berlusconi, who began life as a crooner on cruise ships, and moved mysteriously to the pinnacle of his country, fits the mold of Italian politicians cannot be doubted, nor can his wily capacity as a businessman.   He had, as is customary, friends in high places.  And low.

Silvio and his friends near the beginningSilvio and Bettino Craxi, former PM, sent to exile in  TunisiaSilvio and ex-wife Veronica Lario who dumped him for playing around with girlsSilvio, modeling for Rodin or perhaps thinking of NoemiBillboard of Noemi Letizia, friend of Silvio

Silvio is not alone in the current crisis.  A skip away, in another Mediterranean country, Greece, another Premier has been shoved aside, and by the same forces as that which pushed Mr Berlusconi out.  Yes, the Magical Mystery Market, was the gravitational black-matter force that took control and in a swift little shell game replaced the head of Greece’s government with a banker, and while the Premier designate for Italy is not directly a banker, he’s awfully close to one.

Goldman Sachs, back a while, worked with the at-the-time right-wing conservative of government of Greece to cook-the-national-books so that Greece would qualify to enter the EU and the Euro zone.   Much of the subsequent problems of the country derive from this bit of chicanery – off of which, of course, Goldman Sachs profited.   Another kind of “derivative.”

And now, as the so-called PIIGS are put through the economic hoops drawn up by “the market” and imposed by its front institutions of the IMF and World Bank, we find the rickety edifice of “democracy” subject to a little pin-striped flim-flam job, just as happened in the USA in 2008 when the bankers shrieked “the sky is falling” and the Fed (a private bank that prints up greenbacks at the behest of…. itself, though it usually requires some political cover to do so), and Uncle Sam ordered up 16 trillion pieces of digitalized money, much of which went via Wall Street into the supposed safety of “sovereign bonds” – to say loans to actual countries instead of businesses.    Along the way, to celebrate this heist, the barons of Wall Street gave themselves nice fat bonuses: they’d made amazing bad bets, and then they, the uber-capitalists of the world, had conned the public (in the form of President Bush and his friends), to crank out a mere 16 trillion, no questions asked, at then Treasury Secretary Paulson’s request, so as to “socialise” their massive losses.   Mr Paulson, of course, was previously the CEO of… ta ta… Goldman Sachs.  Cosy little company.   And then they went and invested a ton of this in the supposed “safe” place of European sovereign bonds.  And lost again.   And so now, as the Euro totters and they stand to take yet another massive loss they have turned the tables, and it is not the Greeks who are offering lovely Trojan Horses, but our dear friends the bankers.

Why is this man smiling?

Soon we will doubtless be told that “the sky is falling” once again, and that Germany and France and the Euro Zone must move rapidly to shore up their crumbling currency (of which American banks hold massive amounts), and that the path to do so is to sell off public properties, to slash social welfare programs, and….. and to give it all to the bankers.

Mussolini and his mistressSic transit gloria, hanging out in the cool catacombs of Palermo

This weekend, responding to the Opinion Page columns by Thomas “Ever Wrong”  Friedman and to Ross “Never Doubting” Douthat I found myself twice

Though other respondents raked both columnists over the coals no less kindly, somehow my words seem to have gotten under their flunky editor’s skins.

Ever Serious Thomas

To Mr Friedman:

For someone who is given to peering over the horizon to see the future, Mr Friedman has a lot of catching up to do:  many of us noted the wallow into corruption of America’s institutions quite some time ago. Decades ago. But here, suddenly, it dawns on Mr Friedman that our system is corrupt and if it doesn’t shape up things could get ugly. But they already are ugly with a Justice Department that doesn’t prosecute the real crooks, a Congress that is capital’s poodle, an Executive that is merely Bushism with more articulate words, and all the consequences of the long-term corruption (much of which under other names Mr Friedman championed – from smash-mouth talk about Iraq to “globalization” and all the other wrong steps he’s taken). It is ugly to be evicted from your home because your job got shipped to China and some robo-mortgage was sold to you with tiny nasty print. It is ugly to be conned into a costly student loan on the premise of a hot-shot job to find the economy got shipped to lower-labor cost lands like India.

I bet if I waded through past column I could find Mr Friedman waxing about his lunch with Mubarack and how hunky-dory things were down on the Nile, peace with Israel, etc.

Eat humble pie, Mr Friedman. Something is going on and you didn’t know what it was, did you, Mr. Jones?

[Update.] On Nov. 2, I replied to another Friedman Op-Ed item, and again was censored.  Here’s what I wrote.  I note that many others made the same points, so I guess it must be “getting personal.”

“Moreover, I am certain….” Every time Mr Friedman utters this phrase or some equivalent, I feel like ducking for cover. He is serially wrong, so when he assures us of something, one has to look under the hood. He still tries to make his Iraq frothing at the mouth look good, never mind the damaging real-world evidence. Now he equivocates on our Afghan follies. Given how wrong wrong wrong Thomas is on the not-so-great game of opining as a “pundit” one must take his advice on The Great Game with a boulder of saline material.

Do ever-wrong columnists ever retire (in shame)?

Ross “Doubtless” Douthat

To Mr. Douthat:

Mr Douthat, typically, doesn’t comprehend what is before his eyes, or he can only see it through the thick distorting prism of his prejudices.  OWS – which he finally acknowledges as something other than as an object of ridicule – isn’t about fiddling with a few financial factors in the existing equation. It is about a wholesale rethinking of our values and priorities; it is about, OMG, questioning capitalism itself (in Douthat’s eyes as radical as questioning the Catholic hierarchy). It is about our need to shift from a profit-oriented system to a humanistic one which perceives that we live on a finite planet and that constant growth, as required to generate the riches and imbalances of a capitalist system, isn’t possible. We need to shift to a self-sustaining system in which limited wealth is equitably shared, not only among ourselves, but globally. This is anathema to our capitalist priests.

So Mr Douthat can only sit on the side-lines wondering how to fiddle with the existing system to “make it work ” not having learned the actual lesson that it can’t work because of original contradictions and design flaws. He imagines his current favored would-be candidate, Romney, will somehow morph (which Mitt is good at) into a Republican wizard who will save the system with wise decisions. The reality is that Romney is more a Wizard of Oz sort, a pure all-American fraud.

The Times tipped its hand early in the Occupy Wall Street game when, in keeping with the rest of the corporate owned and controlled press, it consigned the events down on Zuccotti Park to a small notice and then ignored it.  A far cry from the prompt coverage which the Tea Party corporate zombie demonstrations received.  Then, grudgingly, with snide and contemptuous articles the NYT, along with other national press, admitted that the demonstration there actually existed.  And when it sprouted companions across the country, and then across the globe, it began to actually take it with a small dose of seriousness.  As have our authoritarians in government who are now applying police force.  It is merely a matter of time before some are killed.

As was quipped by a very serious person quite long ago, a “free press” is available to those that own them.

Denver banker with OWS

It’s been a month now since some scruffy/hippie/anarchists pick-your-derogatory-term, went and camped out near Wall Street.  For weeks the American press ignored them, then vilified and ridiculed them, and yet their numbers kept growing – in Zuccotti Park in NYC, and then like a fungus, materializing in cities and towns across the world, and then across the globe: 900 cities and towns, all sharing in the same diffuse and unrhetorical “there is something profoundly wrong about how the world is organized.”    The powers that be – the politicians and their financial buddies, the giant corporations and their “news” media – simply had no idea what to do with them, except apply the Pravda-like practice of figuring if they didn’t report it, it didn’t exist.  In a display of extraordinary stupidity and blindness, with the fresh examples of Tunisia and Egypt and the whole Arab spring, the honchos of America (and elsewhere) seemed blind-sided when thanks to the internet the news spread like wild-fire across the country and the globe.  One would have thought they’d learned a thing or two by the most recent bits of history – the indignados of Spain, the strikes in Greece, the global signs of discontent from the middle-east to the middle-west.  But no, our Masters of the Universe, and their hired political lackeys and pundits didn’t see, because, as ever, caught in the bubble of their own small 1% world, they didn’t imagine any world but their own: they could not conceive that the world was not all well and good, never mind the blatant evidence in their own statistics.     Even though they had been explicitly involved in constructing that alternate universe of globalization, which translated as rampaging out-of-control capitalism – the one that made them filthy rich and left everyone else behind.

About three weeks ago, I got an e-mail from someone I did not know – Daniel Levine.   He wrote about being in the OWS group, and I asked him to keep me informed on things, and I asked him who he was and to tell me something of himself.  He replied, and said he’d keep me updated, and said he was 21, and thought if he hadn’t seen my 1987 film Plain Talk and Common Sense (uncommon senses) he might not have gone to join the Wall Street uprising.  As someone who is somewhat cynical about the efficacy of so-called “political” film-making – of which I’ll have much more to say soon on the http://www.jonjost.wordpress.com blog – I was a bit skeptical, but it did move me to think that my work had, in any way, helped clarify and move someone to act.   Likewise, with this blog, and other internet things which have absorbed much of my energies in the last decade and more, where I have consistently drawn into question our national religion of “Free Market Capitalism”, noted the depths of our corruption (not only financial, but far deeper and more profound, our ethics and morals as bent by the values of that capitalism) and the severe damages it inflicts upon our society. I would like to think perhaps all this energy did not go to waste, but was a tiny ripple in a larger social wave which was building all this time.   I don’t think anyone is the sole holder of a thought, but that if one thinks something, millions of others must do likewise.   Unlike many of my friends, who seemed terminally pessimistic about young Americans, I have always felt and said that I thought, at some time, somehow, things would finally erupt.  And so it seems they have.

Where ever you are – in America or elsewhere in the world – I encourage you to go out and join your fellow humans and add your voice to this movement, whatever name one wishes to give it.   We need to defeat the economic masters of this system, and their political and cultural minions, who have orchestrated the policies of the last decades and more, policies  which have obviously failed the vast majority of humans while enriching and empowering a tiny sliver who seem utterly heedless of the circumstances of humanity.  They seem to lust for wealth and power beyond rationality, and would, if left unchecked, render the world uninhabitable in their pursuit of it.  Occupy Wall Street and all the other streets should be the beginning of a major revision in humanity’s understanding of its place on the globe and our relationships with one another – as individuals and as societies.

Wall Street this week

For the last week there have been protests on Wall Street, though one would have been hard-pressed to know it if you followed our nation’s “mainstream” press.   There was virtually nary a word, and if so, buried far in the back.  And this time it wasn’t a bunch of geriatric cases reliving their wild 1960′s youth, or at least those were not predominant at all.  Instead it was young people of today – the one’s who are really getting screwed by the actions of Wall Street, their future deleted by big business’ lunge for maximum profit via off-shoring, down-sizing and shelling out zillions in bonuses to themselves for their cleverness.

So the guys in the offices (actually, for the same profit-motive reasons, a lot of Wall Street offices are no longer located there as it is cheaper in New Haven, places across the river in New Jersey so they shipped them there) now have not only jitters about the American market, the collapse of the European markets and all that financial stuff, but also about getting out the door to catch a limo home.

For updates on Wall Street see                 https://occupywallst.org/

The thin blue line protects Wall Street

Of course, while our press hasn’t deigned to cover this story lurking right under their noses (because those on Wall Street own America’s press), the UK Guardian and Al Jazeera, apparently not under the yoke of big money, have.  The New York Times, finally, had an article today which in its manner covers the story, in a rather dismissive manner.  Earlier they’d had a few blog posts, one stating that the protestors “believe the financial system it weighted to the advantage of the rich.”  It was phrased as if this were a dubious proposition.

Of other sources of information, see this:

Of course the police are using their new tactics – caging and kettling, hemming in protesting groups, arbitrary arrests, and all the other practices of  a soft police-state.   Our media is now a form of Pravda, printing mostly trivia to distract the public, suppressing all signs of dissent, and grinding out propaganda 24/7.



Meantime while at least some people in the US shake off the lethargy of the last decades – during which our masters were very busy building the tools for a somewhat extensive police-state – on Wall Street it’s really been rough, though last Friday there was a tiny glimmer of hope as the day ended “positive” after a week of tumbling down the charts.  In the arcane language of the market, in the past few weeks several trillions of dollars in “value” has been lost.  Pity the poor traders and investors.

On behalf of Wall Street America sent Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Europe to lecture them on the need to get their debt problems sorted out.  It is a bit absurd that he should do so, since he was instrumental in setting up the American collapse of 2008.  His real concern is not really Europe, but that using the trillions of dollars (16 of them, trillions) which the US pumped into the financial system back then, our wonderful banks, epigones of rectitude that they are, loaned with nice interest rates attached, mucho dinaro to those self-same banks now wobbling in France and Germany (because they loaned the money to Greece and Portugal and…. for even bigger interest: sound like some kinda ponzi scheme?) and should those banks go under then America’s banks would themselves take a nasty hit.  Again.  And doubtless Timmy would feel the need to nudge the Fed to print up some more trillions to bail them out.  Except, perhaps the demonstrators down on the street might suddenly find themselves joined by millions of others, and as recently shown in some of our good ally governments, like Egypt, even a really nasty police-state apparatus can’t cope when a majority rises against them.  Or even a significant minority.   So Mr Geithner’s trip is really a mix of political pressuring to try to make sure a European swoon doesn’t take America with it.  Which it would.

Tim Geithner shoring up the Eurocrats

And lastly, a little belated mention, now relevant to those young people out getting harassed and busted by New York’s Finest down on Wall Street, of Carl Oglesby, a founder of the long ago SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), of the once-upon-a-time New Left.  He died a week and a few days ago, aged 76.   It was SDS and its off-shoots, which were in a large part the organizational center of all that stuff you have heard about the 60′s, in case you are not of my age and aren’t familiar.  It wasn’t all just the Beatles and Stones and Dylan and hippies.  I was never in SDS, being too much an anarchist to join pretty much anything, but I was close to it for a while (my girlfriend of the time was in it and deeply engaged, and she’s still hotly involved in politics).   Oglesby was an exception in SDS – older, a former straight-laced business guy whose head got turned sharply.  For a while he was the SDS’s best spokesperson, though like many, he got chewed up in the usual splintering factionalism which political hot-heads usually devolve into.

Carl Oglesby, 1968

I print below a speech he gave in 1965.  I was in prison at the time, doing my 27 months for refusing the order to comply with Uncle Sam’s wishes.   Reading it now, one can have a handful of responses.  One might be to wax nostalgic, but I am unable to do so, that being an emotional state I rather abhor.  Another would be to see how seemingly dated some things are – names, places – all the usual detritus of history which zips by faster than you can imagine, though when immersed in it each of these little details seems gargantuan.  And another is to see how it suggests that the New Left lost, and lost badly.  Because what Oglesby says in these words, if we can brush away the cobwebs of time, some of the dated language and such, and read for the real content, is as pertinent today as it was when he spoke them.   Not much as really changed, or in truth it has changed for the worse:  the corporate control of America (and elsewhere in the world) is far stronger than it was then.   Today, as noted, the “mainstream press” can’t be bothered to report a little ruckus on Wall Street.  It was like that back then, but not in such a monolithic manner.  And today, like then, cops crack heads, make illegal busts, and in the lingo of the 60′s, “serve The Man.”  They still do.

On November 27, 1965, the new president of SDS, Carl Oglesby, spoke at another March on Washington. Responding to Paul Potter’s call to “name the system,” Carl went to the heart of contradiction between America’s revolutionary birth and its present foreign policy. 

Seven months ago at the April March on Washington, Paul Potter, then President of Students for a Democratic Society, stood in approximately this spot and said that we must name the system that creates and sustains the war in Vietnam – name it, describe it, analyze it, understand it, and change it.

Today I will try to name it – to suggest an analysis which, to be quite frank, may disturb some of you — and to suggest what changing it may require of us.

We are here again to protest a growing war. Since it is a very bad war, we acquire the habit of thinking it must be caused by very bad men. But we only conceal reality, I think, to denounce on such grounds the menacing coalition of industrial and military power, or the brutality of the blitzkrieg we are waging against Vietnam, or the ominous signs around us that heresy may soon no longer be permitted. We must simply observe, and quite plainly say, that this coalition, this blitzkrieg, and this demand for acquiescence are creatures, all of them, of a Government that since 1932 has considered itself to he fundamentally liberal.

The original commitment in Vietnam was made by President Truman, a mainstream liberal. It was seconded by President Eisenhower, a moderate liberal. It was intensified by the late President Kennedy, a flaming liberal. Think of the men who now engineer that war — those who study the maps, give the commands, push the buttons, and tally the dead: Bundy, McNamara, Rusk, Lodge, Goldberg, the President himself. They are not moral monsters. They are all honorable men. They are all liberals.

But so, I’m sure, are many of us who are here today in protest. To understand the war, then, it seems necessary to take a closer look at this American liberalism. Maybe we are in for some surprises. Maybe we have here two quite different liberalisms: one authentically humanist; the other not so human at all.

Not long ago I considered myself a liberal and if, someone had asked me what I meant by that, I’d perhaps have quoted Thomas Jefferson or Thomas Paine, who first made plain our nation’s unprovisional commitment to human rights. But what do you think would happen if these two heroes could sit down now for a chat with President Johnson and McGeorge Bundy?

They would surely talk of the Vietnam war. Our dead revolutionaries would soon wonder why their country was fighting against what appeared to be a revolution. The living liberals would hotly deny that it is one: there are troops coming in from outside, the rebels get arms from other countries, most of the people are not on their side, and they practice terror against their own. Therefore: not a revolution.

What would our dead revolutionaries answer? They might say: “What fools and bandits, sirs, you make then of us. Outside help? Do you remember Lafayette? Or the three thousand British freighters the French navy sunk for our side? Or the arms and men, we got from France and Spain? And what’s this about terror? Did you never hear what we did to our own Loyalists? Or about the thousands of rich American Tories who fled for their lives to Canada? And as for popular support, do you not know that we had less than one-third of our people with us? That, in fact, the colony of New York recruited more troops for the British than for the revolution? Should we give it all back?”

Revolutions do not take place in velvet boxes. They never have. It is only the poets who make them lovely. What the National Liberation Front is fighting in Vietnam is a complex and vicious war. This war is also a revolution, as honest a revolution as you can find anywhere in history. And this is a fact which all our intricate official denials will never change.

But it doesn’t make any difference to our leaders anyway. Their aim in Vietnam is really much simpler than this implies. It is to safeguard what they take to be American interests around the world against revolution or revolutionary change, which they always call Communism – as if that were that. In the case of Vietnam, this interest is, first, the principle that revolution shall not be tolerated anywhere, and second, that South Vietnam shall never sell its rice to China – or even to North Vietnam.

There is simply no such thing now, for us, as a just revolution – never mind that for two?thirds of the world’s people the Twentieth Century might as well be the Stone Age; never mind the melting poverty and hopelessness that are the basic facts of life for most modern men; and never mind that for these millions there is now an increasingly perceptible relationship between their sorrow and our contentment.

Can we understand why the Negroes of Watts rebelled? Then why do we need a devil theory to explain the rebellion of the South Vietnamese? Can we understand the oppression in Mississippi, or the anguish that our Northern ghettoes makes epidemic? Then why can’t we see that our proper human struggle is not with Communism or revolutionaries, but with the social desperation that drives good men to violence, both here and abroad?

To be sure, we have been most generous with our aid, and in Western Europe, a mature industrial society, that aid worked. But there are always political and financial strings. And we have never shown ourselves capable of allowing others to make those traumatic institutional changes that are often the prerequisites of progress in colonial societies. For all our official feeling for the millions who are enslaved to what we so self?righteously call the yoke of Communist tyranny, we make no real effort at all to crack through the much more vicious right?wing tyrannies that our businessmen traffic with and our nation profits from every day. And for all our cries about the international Red conspiracy to take over the world, we take only pride in the fact of our six thousand military bases on foreign soil.

We gave Rhodesia a grave look just now – but we keep on buying her chromium, which is cheap because black slave labor mines it.

We deplore the racism of Verwoert’s fascist South Africa – but our banks make big loans to that country and our private technology makes it a nuclear power.

We are saddened and puzzled by random backpage stories of revolt in this or that Latin American state – but are convinced by a few pretty photos in the Sunday supplement that things are getting better, that the world is coming our way, that change from disorder can be orderly, that our benevolence will pacify the distressed, that our might will intimidate the angry.

Optimists, may I suggest that these are quite unlikely fantasies? They are fantasies because we have lost that mysterious social desire for human equity that from time to time has given us genuine moral drive. We have become a nation of young, bright-eyed, hard-hearted, slim-waisted, bullet-headed make-out artists. A nation – may I say it? – of beardless liberals.

You say I am being hard? Only think.

This country, with its thirty-some years of liberalism can send 200,000 young men to Vietnam to kill and die in the most dubious of wars, but it cannot get 100 voter registrars to go into Mississippi.

What do you make of it?

The financial burden of the war obliges us to cut millions from an already pathetic War on Poverty budget. But in almost the same breath, Congress appropriates one hundred forty million dollars for the Lockheed and Boeing companies to compete with each other on the supersonic transport project?that Disneyland creation that will cost us all about two billion dollars before it’s done.

What do you make of it?

Many of us have been earnestly resisting for some years now the idea of putting atomic weapons into West German hands, an action that would perpetuate the division of Europe and thus the Cold War. Now just this week we find out that, with the meagerest of security systems, West Germany has had nuclear weapons in her hands for the past six years.

What do you make of it?

Some will make of it that I overdraw the matter. Many will ask: What about the other side? To be sure, there is the bitter ugliness of Czechoslovakia, Poland, those infamous Russian tanks in the streets of Budapest. But my anger only rises to hear some say that sorrow cancels sorrow, or that this one’s shame deposits in that one’s account the right to shamefulness.

And others will make of it that I sound mighty anti-American. To these, I say: Don’t blame me for that! Blame those who mouthed my liberal values and broke my American heart.

Just who might they be, by the way? Let’s take a brief factual inventory of the latter-day Cold War.

In 1953 our Central Intelligence Agency managed to overthrow Mossadegh in Iran, the complaint being his neutralism in the Cold War and his plans to nationalize the country’s oil resources to improve his people’s lives. Most evil aims, most evil man. In his place we put in General Zahedi, a World War II Nazi collaborator. New arrangements on Iran’s oil gave twenty-five year leases on forty per cent of it to three U.S. firms, one of which was Gulf Oil. The C.I.A.’s leader for this coup was Kermit Roosevelt. In 1960, Kermit Roosevelt became a vice president of Gulf Oil.

In 1954, the democratically elected Arbenz of Guatemala wanted to nationalize a portion of United Fruit Company’s plantations in his country, land he needed badly for a modest program of agrarian reform. His government was overthrown in a C.I.A.-supported rightwing coup. The following year, Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, director of the C.I.A. when the Guatemala venture was being planned, joined the board of directors of the United Fruit Company.

Comes 1960 and Castro cries we are about to invade Cuba. The Administration sneers, “poppycock,” and we Americans believe it. Comes 1961 and the invasion. Comes with it the awful realization that the United States Government had lied.

Comes 1962 and the missile crisis, and our Administration stands prepared to fight global atomic war on the curious principle that another state does not have the right to its own foreign policy.

Comes 1963 and British Guiana where Cheddi Jagan wants independence from England and a labor law modeled on the Wagner Act. And Jay Lovestone, the AFL-CIO foreign policy chief, acting, as always, quite independently of labor’s rank and file, arranges with our Government to finance an eleven-week dock strike that brings Jagan down, ensuring that the state will remain British Guiana, and that any workingman who wants a wage better than fifty cents a day is a dupe of Communism.

Comes 1964. Two weeks after Undersecretary Thomas Mann announces that we have abandoned the Alianza’s principle of no aid to tyrants, Brazil’s Goulart is overthrown by the vicious right?winger, Ademar Barros, supported by a show of American gunboats at Rio de Janeiro. Within twenty four hours, the new head of state, Mazzilli, receives a congratulatory wire from our President.

Comes 1965. The Dominican Republic. Rebellion in the streets. We scurry to the spot with twenty thousand neutral Marines and our neutral peacemakers – like Ellsworth Bunker Jr., Ambassador to the Organization of American States. Most of us know that our neutral Marines fought openly on the side of the junta, a fact that the Administration still denies. But how many also know that what was at stake was our new Caribbean Sugar Bowl? That this same neutral peacemaking Bunker is a board member and stock owner of the National Sugar Refining Company, a firm his father founded in the good old days, and one which has a major interest in maintaining the status quo in the Dominican Republic? Or that the President’s close personal friend and advisor, our new Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas, has sat for the past 19 years on the board of the Sucrest Company, which imports blackstrap molasses from the Dominican Republic? Or that the rhetorician of corporate liberalism and the late President Kennedy’s close friend Adolf Berle, was chairman of that same board? Or that our roving ambassador Averill Harriman’s brother Roland is on the board of National Sugar? Or that our former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Joseph Farland, is a board member of the South Puerto Rico Sugar Co., which owns two hundred and seventy?five thousand acres of rich land in the Dominican Republic and is the largest employer on the island – at about one dollar a day?

Neutralists! God save the hungry people of the world from such neutralists!

We do not say these men are evil. We say, rather, that good men can be divided from their compassion by the institutional system that inherits us all. Generation in and out, we are put to use. People become instruments. Generals do not hear the screams of the bombed; sugar executives do not see the misery of the cane cutters: for to do so is to be that much less the general, that much less the executive.

The foregoing facts of recent history describe one main aspect of the estate of Western liberalism. Where is our American humanism here? What went wrong?

Let’s stare our situation coldly in the face. All of us are born to the colossus of history, our American corporate system – in many ways an awesome organism. There is one fact that describes it: With about five per cent of the world’s people, we consume about half the world’s goods. We take a richness that is in good part not our own, and we put it in our pockets, our garages, our split-levels, our bellies, and our futures.

On the face of it, it is a crime that so few should have so much at the expense of so many. Where is the moral imagination so abused as to call this just? Perhaps many of us feel a bit uneasy in our sleep. We are not, after all, a cruel people. And perhaps we don’t really need this super-dominance that deforms others. But what can we do? The investments are made. The financial ties are established. The plants abroad are built. Our system exists. One is swept up into it. How intolerable – to be born moral, but addicted to a stolen and maybe surplus luxury. Our goodness threatens to become counterfeit before our eyes – unless we change. But change threatens us with uncertainty – at least.

Our problem, then, is to justify this system and give its theft another name – to make kind and moral what is neither, to perform some alchemy with language that will make this injustice seem a most magnanimous gift.

A hard problem. But the Western democracies, in the heyday of their colonial expansionism, produced a hero worthy of the task.

Its name was free enterprise, and its partner was an illiberal liberalism that said to the poor and the dispossessed: What we acquire of your resources we repay in civilization: the white man’s burden. But this was too poetic. So a much more hardheaded theory was produced. This theory said that colonial status is in fact a boon to the colonized. We give them technology and bring them into modem times.

But this deceived no one but ourselves. We were delighted with this new theory. The poor saw in it merely an admission that their claims were irrefutable. They stood up to us, without gratitude. We were shocked – but also confused, for the poor seemed again to be right. How long is it going to be the case, we wondered, that the poor will be right and the rich will be wrong?

Liberalism faced a crisis. In the face of the collapse of the European empires, how could it continue, to hold together, our twin need for richness and righteousness? How can we continue to sack the ports of Asia and still dream of Jesus?

The challenge was met with a most ingenious solution: the ideology of anti-Communism. This was the bind: we cannot call revolution bad, because we started that way ourselves, and because it is all too easy to see why the dispossessed should rebel. So we will call revolution Communism. And we will reserve for ourselves the right to say what Communism means. We take note of revolution’s enormities, wrenching them where necessary from their historical context and often exaggerating them, and say: Behold, Communism is a bloodbath. We take note of those reactionaries who stole the revolution, and say: Behold, Communism is a betrayal of the people. We take note of the revolution’s need to consolidate itself, and say: Behold, Communism is a tyranny.

It has been all these things, and it will be these things again, and we will never be at a loss for those tales of atrocity that comfort us so in our self-righteousness. Nuns will be raped and bureaucrats will be disembowelled. Indeed, revolution is a fury. For it is a letting loose of outrages pent up sometimes over centuries. But the more brutal and longer-lasting the suppression of this energy, all the more ferocious will be its explosive release.

Far from helping Americans deal with this truth, the anti?Communist ideology merely tries to disguise it so that things may stay the way they are. Thus, it depicts our presence in other lands not as a coercion, but a protection. It allows us even to say that the napalm in Vietnam is only another aspect of our humanitarian love – like those exorcisms in the Middle Ages that so often killed the patient. So we say to the Vietnamese peasant, the Cuban intellectual, the Peruvian worker: “You are better dead than Red. If it hurts or if you don’t understand why – sorry about that.”

This is the action of corporate liberalism. It performs for the corporate state a function quite like what the Church once performed for the feudal state. It seeks to justify its burdens and protect it from change. As the Church exaggerated this office in the Inquisition, so with liberalism in the McCarthy time – which, if it was a reactionary phenomenon, was still made possible by our anti-communist corporate liberalism.

Let me then speak directly to humanist liberals. If my facts are wrong, I will soon be corrected. But if they are right, then you may face a crisis of conscience. Corporatism or humanism: which? For it has come to that. Will you let your dreams be used? Will you be a grudging apologist for the corporate state? Or will you help try to change it – not in the name of this or that blueprint or ism, but in the name of simple human decency and democracy and the vision that wise and brave men saw in the time of our own Revolution?

And if your commitment to human values is unconditional, then disabuse yourselves of the notion that statements will bring change, if only the right statements can be written, or that interviews with the mighty will bring change if only the mighty can be reached, or that marches will bring change if only we can make them massive enough, or that policy proposals will bring change if only we can make them responsible enough.

We are dealing now with a colossus that does not want to be changed. It will not change itself. It will not cooperate with those who want to change it. Those allies of ours in the Government – are they really our allies? If they are, then they don’t need advice, they need constituencies; they don’t need study groups, they need a movement. And it they are not, then all the more reason for building that movement with the most relentless conviction.

There are people in this country today who are trying to build that movement, who aim at nothing less than a humanist reformation. And the humanist liberals must understand that it is this movement with which their own best hopes are most in tune. We radicals know the same history that you liberals know, and we can understand your occasional cynicism, exasperation, and even distrust. But we ask you to put these aside and help us risk a leap. Help us find enough time for the enormous work that needs doing here. Help us build. Help us shape the future in the name of plain human hope.

Perhaps, what is different today is that the internet exists, and it has not yet been brought under the control of our corporations and governments.  And in turn counters this cynical corporation which exists to spew out lies in support of our oligarchy, and manipulate the public to act against its own interests.

 

Following the Mad-Hatter’s Tea Party in Washington, the world’s financial markets quivered and on Monday August 8 took a leap downward.   A lot of money and paper exchanged hands, and some won and some lost.  It is said 8 trillion dollars in value evaporated.   The Dow-Jones plummeted 600+ points.  Elsewhere markets did a similar swoon.

The next day, mimicking a yo-yo, the markets jumped up: DJ up 400+ points.  More money and paper changed hands, more was won and lost, and presumably 6 or so trillion of evaporated dollar value rematerialized.  It seems something akin to advanced quantum physics.  I await with baited breath the next contortion to which these trillions are subjected.  [On Wednesday the DJ index dropped 519, cancelling out the gains of the previous day and adding to the losses - another trillion vanished !]

Meanwhile, in the UK, where the not-quite-new regime of Cameron and Clegg imposed “austerity” conditions on the country following their election victory, the bill is coming in:


London riots, August 2011

Scurrying back to London belatedly from his Tuscan villa August vacation, David Cameron, PM, deplored the violence and ordered 10,000 more police onto the streets.   In the last months cuts had been ordered which would eliminate 9,000 police jobs.   The social media so lauded for the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria suddenly came into play in London, with flash-mobs materializing here and there, and when bobbies were imported from elsewhere, the mid-lands joined the fray.   While Mr Cameron and Clegg may only recognize it when a crowd of football yobs riot, the UK is in fact still very much a class-riven culture, and it is full of un or under-employed people, of all colors, including Anglo-white, who clearly boil over with resentment at the harsh economic lines between them and the public face of Britain, its monarchy, The City, and the veneer of class suggested by the cultural dressing on this very ill society.   The tensions between economic classes is palpable, and as evidenced in these riots, very real.

Arriving in Paris the other night, at Orly, one sensed the same tension here in France: entering the RER train into Gare du Nord, the tone shifted to grim graffiti covered cars, a dominant population of empire come home to roost, and a sense of imminent violence pervading the air.

Riot, Paris banlieu, May 2011

According to the wizards of the financial world, the present tribulations of the mystical markets has now to do with European banks, private and “sovereign”, and their debts.  This makes it different from 2008 when it had mostly to do with American banks and their debts, say the sages.  Of course extracting actual information from these people is somewhat impossible.    To boil it all down to basics, it seems the European banks – mostly French and German – invested heavily in Greek and Irish and Portuguese and Spanish and Italian debt (along with many other things in those realms).   And now it seems they won’t be getting their money back, which leaves them holding the bag (empty) as it were.   Hence the current air of panic as the debt problem shifts from shifty places like Greece, to staid supposedly upright places like France and Germany (or, ho ho, the USA).

Financial institutions in the United States have one-third more capital than they did in 2007, and they are better positioned to weather the current storm. And they have reduced their risk-taking. Instead of lending $25 for every $1 dollar worth of capital they hold, they are now lending a more reasonable $16…

This process of lending what you do not have (see above) predicated on the hypothetical income to be derived from the loan (see underwater mortgages for example), is called “leveraging”.   Once upon a time it was “normal”, and legally required, for a bank to leverage itself by a ratio of 3 to 5 to 1:  i.e., I have a buck in reality, and I loan 3 to 5.    Banking was boring.  Then, along came the 80′s and the regulations were loosened at the behest of those on Wall Street.  And in a short time leveraging zoomed to this:

2009 bank leveraging

On September 30, 2009, Lewis announced his retirement from Bank of America effective as of December 31, 2009. Lewis released the statement “The Merrill Lynch and Countrywide integrations are on track and returning value already. Our board of directors and our senior management include more talent, and more diversity of talent, than at any time in this company’s history. We are in position to begin to repay the federal government’s TARP investments. For these reasons, I decided now is the time to begin to transition to the next generation of leadership at Bank of America.”[6] It was reported that this move was his own decision and that he did not receive pressure from the bank’s Board of Directors.[7] Based on the company’s most recent proxy statement, his full pension benefits total $53 million. Critics of the financial sector’s salary scale have cited this sum as indicative of poor oversight by the board of directors and as an example of inflated executive compensation. As his plan dates back more than seven years, he is still entitled to full benefits. Bank of America has since revised their compensation plan for retiring executives.[8] In October, 2009, at the suggestion of Kenneth Feinberg, the U.S. Treasury’s special master for compensation, Lewis decided to forgo salary or bonus in 2009. His 2008 salary was about $1.5 million. “He has taken home $148.8 million from cash and stock sales since taking over the bank in 2001, according to Equilar, a compensation research firm. He is also leaving with more than $135 million in retirement benefits, including the pension and $10 million in life insurance benefits, according to an analysis of corporate filings by James F. Reda & Associates, an independent consulting firm.”[9]  (wikipedia)

Greek riots, earlier this year

Having drawn the great public into the capitalist consumer Valhalla of buying on credit, and having done so itself, the governmental systems of the West (don’t worry, the East is soon to follow), are suddenly confronted with old Marx’s observation that inside of capitalism is a fat contradiction.  And indeed there is.

Old Karl

What Marx saw was that capitalism as a system was structured in a manner that those who are successful in it are in effect blinded by their own greed:  give a capitalist enough rope and he will hang on it.  And, as the headlines today repeatedly confirm, so it is.  Within their bubble of wealth and power, those at the pinnacle of a capitalist system are so far removed from the everyday realities of the world, that they are indeed blind.  Hence the stumbling moves of those in Europe, in America, in China (nominally “communist” but these days more a roaring cowboy capitalist place), who are so surrounded with wealth and those who share it, that they cannot imagine the brute lives of those who have almost nothing.  Nor can they imagine the nothing-to-lose psychology which those at the bottom of the pyramid feel.  They feel only the crushing weight of everything above them.   And so, in these days, the contradictions are bubbling upward, seen in cold statistical data, and seen in hot riots.  It doesn’t really require any kind of brilliance to see all this, in fact it seems rather obvious.  Today many things have been globalized:  the neo-liberal system of economics which places the private sector on an altar and imagines raw capitalism to the the fount of solutions for everything; at the same time the schism of wealth vs poverty is to be seen in the urban graffiti which now graces almost every city around the world – the voice of the dispossessed scrawled across the urban landscape.  To imagine that this voice will remain only “artistic” is to imagine a world in which the vast gulf between a tiny elite and the great masses doesn’t exist.

Central Paris – once confined to the outskirts, graffiti now is to be found everywhere

Under the present system it is only a matter of time before the contradictions erupt, as they have in England, and France and Greece in recent months, in a more fundamental conflict.  It really isn’t a matter of whether it will happen, but only how it will unfold.  Will the powers that be unleash their full police and military powers or not – to be like Assad in Syria, or to fold as did Mubarak in Egypt.

Walking yesterday in the neighborhood I lived in here in Paris, 1998-99, Belleville, there seemed a marked change.  I’d read that it had become more fashionable, with cafes and boutiques.  But the street I walked along was, for blocks, 99.5% north African – Moroccan, Tunisian – with a dense open market along Blvd. de Belleville.  The other .5% was myself, and a group of 4 tough looking policemen.    Here in France they seem always to be in a group of 4, sometimes more, never less.  Armed with truncheons and guns.  While they appear solid, it is clear they could be readily overwhelmed if those they are policing changed the tune.

When I lived here earlier it was more like 50/50, with half being North African, and the other half a mix of French and Asian, and similarly, the Gare du Nord, which was a rough area then, but mixed, now seems almost entirely black African.  There too, the same policing is evident.

France, May 2011

Of course Marx erred in failing to see that, like any kind of system, his own “socialist/communist” one also had its own internal contradiction, which, exactly as capitalism, is rooted in a fundamental failure in reading the executor of the system – we humans.  Marx imagined a withering of the State, and failed to understand that certain humans desire power, and will do whatever their historical circumstances provide to secure that power.  Communism, like capitalism, is a belief system that has quasi-religious psychological qualities: one believes, and hence neither logic nor concrete evidence serves to dissuade.  Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and then the pallid pre-embalmed leaders who followed them all felt empowered by their beliefs to do whatever was necessary to “build communism” which in their minds was inseparable from themselves.  The result was murderous.

Capitalism is slightly more clever, though equally as murderous: it places an abstract distance between the murderer and the murder.   One buys stocks, invests; the purpose is to maximize profit.  The ideology of capitalism claims that this process will winnow out the good from bad, make production most efficient and separates the stock owner from the behaviors involved, and as long as the underlying purpose is accomplished, it doesn’t matter how fatal to others the process is.  The actual process is normally masked – the stockholder does not see the despoilation of the world, the exploitation of labor – he sees only the stock dividends and is happy; he does not want to see the process in any other way that as “profit.”  And so he willfully does not see.   The holy grail of capitalism is profit, and what happens in its pursuit is “holy.”   Pure greed is licensed as moral behavior, just as in communism certain kinds of pure “power” was.  The results are essentially the same: millions dead.

As a religion, Christianity has been remarkably successful, I think in part because it appeals to the individual ego:  god is personally looking after you it claims.  And hence one of its fundamental tenets circles around the self:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”   At first glance this seems a reasonable Golden Rule, but in truth it is toxic, for like capitalism, and like communism, it fails to account for the nature of human beings.  In centering ethics upon the self, the Golden Rule licenses the worst of human behavior and elevates it to the highest moral status.  Just as capitalism elevates profit and communism elevates some hypothetical wave of history.   There are some who desire material wealth so much that they do not think about or care what the real cost is; there are others who desire power and control over others so much that they will do whatever is needed to secure it, and if a quasi-religion such as Communism seems to authorize it, so much the better.  And there are some whose psyches desire punishment and torture, and the Golden Rule and its religion seems to authorize those wishes.  The history of Christianity is steeped in bloodshed, all in the name of doing unto others what one would have done to oneself.

A proper “golden rule” would be: do unto others what they would have done unto them.

Just prior to posting this the New York Times headlines:

Another Sharp Swing, This Time Up, for U.S. Markets

The market is “just a yo-yo,” said Myles Zyblock, chief institutional strategist and managing director for capital markets research at RBC Capital Markets. “I think the primary structure is still in place, and that is a structure of concern.”

“People are trying to bottom-pick today, and it might be the bottom,” said Mr. Zyblock. “I would like to see the collective message start to stabilize to give me confidence there is a hardened floor underneath this market.”

Eric Thorne, an investment advisor at Bryn Mawr Trust, called it a “shoot first, ask questions later” market.

[July 12, the DJ index swung up another 400+ points, though for the week and month it is cumulatively down]

All that glitters is not gold.

[As was predictable on the yo-yo logic, on Friday Aug 12, the DJ index did indeed pop back up, 400+ points.  However over the week it was down 2%, though clearly some traders are cleaning up - they get money on each sale, whichever way it goes - in some are pocketing a lot in these daily swings.   Another way to look at it, for those who ever had and understand cars, when your metal horse starts vibrating with wild oscillations usually you throw a rod shortly after.  For systems in which a steady up or down or even keel is the norm, usually wild oscillations are indicative of impending trouble. ]

Downtown Seoul this week, from uncharacteristic monsoon-like weather

With permission of the author, John Englander, (http://www.johnenglander.net) I repost the item below on likely ocean levels in the coming decades and centuries.  The article I think gives a clear and concise explanation, rooted in scientific evidence.   While I am myself far from a scientist, I am a little less sanguine about the suggestion here that sea levels will begin to rise in another decade or so at the rate indicated here – 1 to 5 (3 – 15 feet) meters by the end of the century; my modestly educated guess is it will be much more, as numerous elements collide in a catastrophe-theory scenario, in which there is a harsh rupture (already indicated here in the 20,000 times faster than historical precedent in the build-up of of CO2) in many of the balancing structures previously present – such as the sudden release of CO2 stored in arctic tundra, a similar release as forest fires expand from drought and the death of forests (presently in the US West thanks to pine beetle infestation caused by warmer summers, not to mention the man-made destruction of rain forests in S America and Asia.)  And as well I see very little sign that we will collectively put our foot on the brakes of CO2 emissions at the level required to slow the human industrial input of CO2 into the atmosphere.  If anything it is likely to rise sharply in the next decade or two.   I am fearful it will take a truly major catastrophe to slam some sense into our communal minds, and before we rationally address the matter, we seem far more likely to engage in wars for access to water, minerals, food production areas, and so on.  This is already aggressively occurring under the mask of  “globalization” in which monetary wealth is license to buy up South America and African farmland and evict the natives to grow food for China, S Korea and others.   This process is only beginning and is sure to produce politically volatile situations in which warfare will be the resort.   Modern warfare injects a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere, not to mention other highly toxic elements.  We might note that the US military is the largest single user of carbon-based fuels in the world.

As waters rise, and coastal areas, usually the most densely populated regions in most countries,flood,  populations will forced inland to survive, sparking mass migrations and accompanying conflict.  Also much rich farmland is located in alluvial coastal plains and these will be lost.  The confluence of these, and other aspects, are likely to produce highly aggravating situations resulting in famines and other forms of pestilence as populations grow denser under less and less organized circumstances.  Refugee camps are not usually paragons of health, and we are talking of millions and billions of refugees (for example Bangladesh will be inundated and those 100 millions will flee inland to… jam-packed India.)  Similarly higher temperatures will produce far greater moisture in the atmosphere resulting in greater snow packs in mountain areas and monsoon-type weather seen this year in the American mid-west.  Higher summer temperatures will result in a fast run-off of the snowpack, resulting in the flooding seen on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, or in the floods in Korea.  These shifts are happening so rapidly that they are overwhelming the flood control systems predicated on an entirely different basis than what is probable to be the new norm in the immediate years to come.  The result will be a global breakdown in infra-structures designed for utterly different “norms.”  Again, the consequences will lead to socio-political upheavals of major proportions.    The consequences are unlikely to be handled in a sane, rational manner.

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Why Sea Level will Rise for Centuries; ultimately 100 feet +

By John – Posted on 20 July 2011

Just 5 illustrations show why sea level will almost certainly rise for centuries; the STUNNING levels of historical change; and even why society generally doubts that it will ever happen. Articles about sea level rise  (SLR) somewhere on the planet are appearing almost daily. (I track this stuff for my forthcoming book “High Tide on Main Street”.) I am glad to see at least this modest increased awareness about a HUGE problem.

The chart to the right shows sea level change over the last 24,000 years, taken from the geologic record. It is in meters, the standard measurement in science. (For approximate # of feet, multiply by 3.)

There are 4 things to note:

1.  Less than 20,000 years ago the ocean was down almost 400 feet below the current sea level. A HUGE change in sea level, and not that long ago. This is based on geologic records that have been known and taught for the better part of a century.

2.  Nearly all 130 meters of rise (400 feet) happened between 20,000 years ago, at the peak of the last ice age, and about 6-8 thousand years ago; in other words over about just 12,000 years.

3.  For about the last 6,000 years, sea level has hardly changed at all. That is about the age of our earliest written records, and more or less the span of human civilization. No wonder that we believe sea level to be rather fixed in place. 

4.  It is also worth noting that about 14,000 years ago, long before any human impact, that the ice sheets melted quickly, causing what the geologists call a ‘meltwater pulse.’ The ocean rose about 65 feet in just 4 centures, averaging more than a foot a decade– hard to imagine! (Might that sudden rise be the basis for stories of the biblical flood, or Atlantis?)

Amazingly, sea level has regularly cycled up and down about 120 meters, or almost 400 feet on a regular cycle, pretty much every 100,000 years. That has been going on for at least 2.7 million years. If you want to see the chart showing that pattern, look back at my last post “SPIEGEL missed Explaining wide range of 3-16 feet of SLR forecasts”; the lower yellow/blue graph there shows an expanded view of the last 140,000 years of sea level, and a larger view of more than 800,000 years.  (Again, the vertical scale is in meters, so for those who use feet, MULTIPLY BY 3, approximately.)

While that huge cycle of sea level change is likely very surprising, it ties into something you likely do know about: the ice ages, when North America and Europe were regularly covered in ice more than 3 km (2 miles) deep. As the ice melted, the water flowed into the sea, raising the level of the ocean. (As the sea level changes, of course, the shoreline moves — a LOT.) Not only can scientists calculate the thickness of that ice and how much water would have been added to the ocean, but we can actually see very distinct ancient beaches and shorlines now more than 300 feet underwater, as further proof. (I have personally seen them from research submarines.) So, there is no question that sea level changes.

Scientists look for causes, relationships, and corroboration to prove hypotheses (theories). With temperature, CO2 (carbon dioxide) and Sea Level, the historical records of geology fit together neatly.

Temperature in the atmosphere correlates almost directly with the amount of CO2, due to a principle of basic physics and chemistry. Long before Al Gore, it was proven that CO2 (carbon dioxide) was colorless, and transmitted light VERY well, but that it trapped heat VERY WELL too.

Today we call that the greenhouse effect, as it describes how a glass greenhouse enables keeping warmer temperature in a colder climate.  Glass has those same properties as CO2 gas.

As the planet warms, the ice sheets melt, raising sea level; there are three things that move in close synchonization. The attached graph shows temperature in RED, CO2 in GREEN, and sea level in BLUE, for the last 420,000 years.

The problem we face becomes apparent when we update the CO2 level, as shown in the graph on the left, with 2 lines of Temperature (RED) and CO2 – NOW shown in BLUE).

CO2 has gone up like a rocket, and corresponds to such things as the coal and petroleum that we have burned over the last century.

We have to note that these graphs showing hundreds of thousands of years, compress the horizontal time scale. It is not possible to see a specific year, or even a decade. Even a century would be a speck, when the smallest division on the graph at the left is 50,000 years. But it does show a “big picture” with GREAT clarity. What you can’t tell from such a graph is how many years temperature and CO2 changes might lag each other. (And interestingly, sometimes one leads, and sometimes the other.  That’s worthy of a separate post.)

The fact is that we don’t know how quickly temperature will follow the vertical line of CO2 increase.  That is the extremely important question that different teams of scientists are trying to figure out with supercomputers — to project how quickly our atmosphere and ocean will warm as CO2 levels continue to increase.

CO2 is now at 394 ppm; about 40% higher than at any time in millions of years. It ranges from about 180 – 280 ppm with each ice age cycle as shown in that 2 line, Red-Blue graph above. (For the latest actual number, see the little blue graphic in the right hand column of my home page.)

Just two more images wrap up the sea level story.

The oceans and atmosphere have warmed globally over the last century. This is the 130 year reconstruction of the average annual land-sea temperatures over the entire planet. It shows a change from a low of almost minus 0.4 from a norm, to a positive 0.6 — just under a degree Celsius over the 130 year graph, or about 0.8 degrees C (about 1.4 degrees F) over the last century.

So we already have most of the pieces of the sea level puzzle.

  • Sea Level has changed repeatedly by almost 400 feet.
  • It logically goes up and down, in opposite direction of the changing ice sheets over the last 3 million years
  • The ice sheets slowly adjust to global mean temperature, which follows CO2 levels in close parallel.

Got it?: CO2; average global temperature; ice sheets, and sea level are all locked together in a physical relationship.

The last correlation is a stunner; at least it stunned me, when I stopped to let it sink in.

Dr. David Archer, an eminent scientist (and author of THE LONG THAW) looked at the work of another eminent glaciologist, Dr. Richard Alley, and produced the simple graph at the left. It plots a few known ancient sea levels against ancient temperatures. Admittedly the numbers are approximate.

It graphs 5 different points of historic sea level: 40 and 3 million years ago, 120,000 and 20,000 years ago, and the present day.

They fall reasonably on a straight line, which is what is expected if the amount of ice on the planet will change proportional to the average temperature on the planet. It cannot predict how quickly the adjustment will happen. (It might help to understand that  200,000 years is considered a “brief period” by geologists.)

What is stunning is the angle or correlation of the graph trend line. It indicates that with each degree C of change in the global mean temperature, that sea level changes by about 20 meters (65 feet). Just think about that; and recall that we have already had almost a degree of warming over the last hundred year, with lots more on the way. The current forecast is for a MINIMUM of 2 degrees C warming by end of century and most models show that we will get 4-5 degrees C, if we don’t take drastic steps to reduce greenhouse gases very soon.

Again, it could take centuries for that amount of ice melting to happen. The long periods of ice formation and melting happen over thousands of years. We are now definitely in a warming period as proven by the shrinking glaciers and melting Arctic ice cap, and the Greenland ice sheet. It is predicted that the Arctic Ocean will be ice free, some time in about two decades.  That has not occurred for at least 7,000 years and perhaps not in the last three million years. The added greenhouse gases are warming the planets temperature above the usual top end of the ice age cycle.

According to the pattern of last three million years (shown on that previous blog post) we would have started the long cooling phase towards the next ice age. Instead we are warming. If we melt all the ice on the planet( which has happened before, but not for about 40 – 50 million years), then global sea levels would be approximately 80 meters (265 feet) higher than today. That would swamp every coastal city. What we do not yet know is whether that will take hundreds of years, or thousands.  Presently the forecasts for this century range from as low as a meter (3 feet) of SLR, to as much as 5 meters (16 feet). There are two reasons that scientists cannot yet accurately predict how fast the ice will melt.

First, the geologic record is not accurate down to the level of individual years as mentioned above.

The second challenge is that we are now warming MUCH faster than during previous periods of abrupt climate change. According to our leading climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, the Earth has warmed 20,000 times faster over the last century, than during the abrupt change 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs were wiped out, likely as a result of an asteroid impact. While the cause of that mega extinction was different than the present situation, the rate of warming is the relvant comparison that he makes.

In other words. because the current warming, caused by the rapid rise in greenhouse gases, is happening 20,000 times faster than in nature, it is hard to say how fast the ice will melt, and the ocean will rise. There is no accurate precedent. But the models are getting better rather quickly, due to increasingly accurate measurements of how the ice is actually melting.

What the latest models do show is that sea level will continue to rise for at least 500 years, even if we stopped all CO2 emissions immediately.

While that 500 year lag time, may seem surprising, the earth’s systems move slowly, like changing course or stopping a big ship. One of the reasons that heat and ice melt will not stop for at least 500 years is that it takes up to 700 years for the oceans to fully change temperature, due to the fact that the oceans’ average depth is a few miles/km, and goes as deep as 35 thousand feet (12,000 km). The heat layers segregate, slowing change to a new surface temperature.

In effect, the ocean acts like a giant storage battery for heat. It has absorbed most of the extra heat, trapped by the greenhouse gases. That is a key reason that the ice will melt, and the oceans will rise, for centuries, or longer.

What we do over the decades ahead will slow or increase the rate of warming, and the rate of sea level rise. and can make a big difference for generations to follow.

New Orleans in the past and futureMonk by the Sea, Caspar David Friedrich

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