Freedom: without freedom one cannot make one’s own choices. Even in the free West most people live imprisoned in their own minds by convention, religion, ignorance and laziness (look at the current Democratic elections!!). One must dare to think for oneself, be autonomous, listen to others, be brave enough to change one’s mind given better arguments and evidence. Thinking for yourself is nature’s greatest gift.
Dignity of the individual: respect for others, consideration and tolerance.
Creativity: Doing something, anything, that leaves the world a better place
Another triumph of liberty over the common man! BPA is found in a host of plastics, including baby bottles and food containers, that have been linked by one hundred independent published studies to adverse health effects. BPA can mimic estrogen and miniscule amounts introduced to fetuses or infants can , according to scientist Frederick vom Saal, change cell structures and lead to serious health problems in later life.
Notwithstanding this, the Food and Drug Administration has ignored the independent science and has relied on only two studies paid for by the American Plastics Council, declaring BPA safe and hilariously denying with straight faces that that they are not biased towards the plastics industry.
This is yet another instance where the Bush Administration would prefer to damage the health of children rather than upset their paymasters by regulating companies like Dow Chemical and BASF. Fortunately Rep. John Dingell is on the case and has demanded the records from the Weinberg Group, implicated in employing the scientists-for -hire to defend the manufactures, such as the makers of such health products as Agent Orange and other delights.
Two thousand Iraqis were killed in March alone. The attack on Sadrist forces, insisted upon by the US, was a huge fiasco, and the subsequent "peace" between Maliki and Sadr was brokered by America’s bete noir, Qassam Sulaymani, head of the Quds Brigade of the Iranian National Guard. The US had to stand by watching impotently. The cat is out of the bag. Iran doesn’t have the weapons but it has the greater influence.
If the US wants to stay in Iraq it will be as junior partner with the Iranians, paying the Sunnis to keep quiet. It will cost a fortune and achieve nothing. The propaganda from the subservient U.S media is being pumped out at high volume, but it cannot hide the failure of the whole enterprise. But then only the under-educated ever thought it was anything else.
From Jane Dean:
Farming was not a good thing for us all according to the book I am
reading. People got smaller and sicker when farming was introduced
about 6ooo years ago. Too late, there is now nothing to hunt or
We set a trap from one of the hundreds of rabbits we are
beset with at the moment (bloody Romans – whatever have they done for
us?) and we caught a hedgehog – now an endangered species. He was very
sweet as he waited for us to release him. Apparently you cover him
with mud and bake him in a fire and his spines come off easily.
Note from Administrator : Hedgehogs are unknown in the U.S, like geography, history and half the really good vocabulary in the English language. The sweet little hedgehog was probably done for when the white man arrived, like so much else. (joke) . We hope Ms. Dean enjoyed her meal. You have to eat hedgehogs with horseradish sauce.
This might not interest those living outside the United States (even the otherwise broad-minded tend to get parochial living here after a while), but last night the dreaded Jeremiah Wright appeared on television, in one of the best, most adult and informative interviews I have seen for years. Only Bill Moyers is able to treat the viewing public like grown-ups.
In any event Wright, pastor of a major church in Chicago, accused of hating America, turned out to be a highly educated, well-informed, reasonable and persuasive person. His rant, "God damn America", repeated on every extremist website, blog, radio and TV station, was, it turns out, a repeat or version of something he had heard on Fox News Channel, principal mouthpiece of the ultra-nationalists! Yes, he probably added the passion typical of the African Amercan style.
But he was quoting all the time! What he was saying was that too many people gave their allegiance to governments, right or wrong, when their allegiance should be to God, and that through history governments have lied and governments have failed. He then enumerated those failures and actually did something I have never heard in America from anyone - – he gave a mini-description of the British Empire and how that had failed (the British what? Most Americans cannot even tell you which century their own civil war was in, never mind having an inkling about world history!). He went on to enumerate the cases where America has invaded and killed innocent people with the support of uncritical nationalists. He started with the treatment of the native Americans, ended with Iraq and said that killing was a sin against God (yes) and that at 9/11 chickens came home to roost (quoting the Fox interview).
You would have to be seriously irrational not to pause and think, "He has a point."
Wow! This indicates the emergence on the public scene of two clever, educated and articulate African Americans capable of running intellectual rings round most whites, challenging the myths and the dismal lack of education of the majority. Can America cope with this?
P.S Probably not! The racists are out and mobilized.
Fake news segments are being used across the United States. The Center for Media and Democracy found that 77 local TV stations were slipping corporate video news releases (VNRs) into their regular news programs and pretending that one of their reporters had produced them as original news.
VNRs are videos that promote commercial brands and products. The big corporations that have been doing this include Sinclair Broadcast Group, Clear Channel Communications, News Corp/Fox TV, VIacom/CBS and the Tribune Company.
The Center for Media and Democracy has called this unethical practice "a breach of trust between local stations and their communities. By disguising advertisements as news, stations violate both the spirit and the letter of their broadcasting licenses, which obligate them to serve the public interest."
In three instances, for instance, TV stations not only aired entire VNRs without disclosure, but substituted the voices of their anchors, reading from a script prepared by the Broadcast PR firm.
This is immoral and the people concerned should be tried, and if found guilty, jailed.
This is what comes of unregulated Wild West Capitalism!!!
Further to my post yesterday: I heard an impassioned speech on C-Span radio from a man who clearly came from Haiti.
He told the audience that, owing to the "Washington Consensus" (see below) the supply of basic food prices previously controlled by the Haiti government, were privatized some years ago at the behest of the IMF and the American Government. This privatization had the result that instead of selling food to poor Haitians the new landowners began to sell their produce overseas at three times the local price. While world food prices were low this wasn’t so bad, but now they are sky-high and there is serious political instability in Haiti, caused by hunger.
Thus a small minority of well-connected, often corrupt, people hold the world to ransom, whether it is Mr. Branson of Virgin (a fairly decent and benign example of the type) to third world politicians and their molls.
All we have are words. They are our only tool, for otherwise we are powerless. But at least we can go to bed with clear consciences, knowing that as Epicureans our stance has been publicly moral and personally ethical. Now let me scream privately: to the devil with their repellent hypocrisy!
(The term "Washington consensus" is broadly associated with expanding the role of market forces and constraining the role of the state, sometimes also described (almost invariably pejoratively) as neo-liberalism or market fundamentalism .The Washington Consensus, especially in this second, broader formulation, has been the target of sharp criticism by some individuals and groups who argue that it is a way to open up less developed countries to investments from large multinational corporations and their wealthy owners in advanced First World economies, which the critics would view as a negative development. Wikipedia)
Privatization is a blatant attempt by national and multi-national big business to undermine and shrink any aspect of government that has a vague chance of making a profit. It was invented by Thatcher in Britain and applied to everything that moved or had an income, including the water Brits drink and the hopelessly unprofitable railways they use to get to work. Nobody opposing it has much of a say because the media act as the guardians and gatekeepers and ignores complaints and downsides – - ownership and advertising revenue reign!
The government services, such as telephones and airports were paid for by taxpayers and were owned by them. These taxpayers were ripped off by the simple expedient of reducing the price of each service to one which some well-connected businessman was happy to pay for and make a first-rate return on capital. Guess what? The prices paid for these huge eneterprises were a pale shadow of the investment put into them by the taxpayers.
The outcome? Some Brits got very rich at the public expense. if you wanted to invest in British Telecom you were allotted a small handful of shares (I know, I tried!). The big tranches of shares went to Conservative Party supporters and those who contributed to party funds. The newly privatized British Telecom retained ownership of the infrastructure and could thus dictate pricing to new "competitors".
Then of course, the rest of the world cried "What a wheeze!" and bundled in and copied the British. The World Bank, which at one moment was wanting every government to own a cement plant, suddenly were passionate converts to governments selling off everything in sight. The World Bank advocates were like sheep that bleat around in flocks, following the latest fad, the possession of a PhD not invariably denoting a capacity for independent thought. Thus the virus spread world-wide.
I maintain that world now suffers greater inefficiency, more corruption, more price gouging and less service. Service? Hah! This fact is cruelly hidden by the mavens of irregulated capitalism and constitutes a plot against the common man.
Privatized companies can be efficient. More often they are unresponsive to the public and undemocratic. British Gas is the most incompetent corporation west of the Urals. British Airways wouldn’t listen to their customers if you held a gun to their heads. Water costs, dictated from France, go up exponentially every year with no added service. The most extraordinary of the privatizations has been the privatization of American jails, where companies cut costs, provoking deaths, disturbances, physical and sexual abuse from poorly trained staff and no rehabilitation. This is a cruel abuse of human rights, bjut the exponents of the system are profiting from the misery caused..
Meanwhile in Britain, which started it all? The National Health Service, the jewel in the crown, is being privatized little by little by a "Labour" government in hock to special interests. Thank Tony Blair, heart-on-sleeve Catholic convert and Britain’s greatest threat to democracy and common sense. Is there an inaccessible island somewhere where these shills of Big Money can be dumped and forgotten? It would have to be a Big Island!
Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; Or he can, but does not want to; Or he cannot and does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how come evil is in the world?
"All empires develop systems that put the blame for disasters on subject peoples". *
Now what could he be thinking of? Could he be thinking of Iraq and the "dysfunctional" government of Maliki? Clearly, it is wholly the fault of the Iraqis if they don’t embrace Western democracy. It couldn’t possibly be the destabilization caused by the presence of foreign troops. Having decided that the government is useless and corrupt and the people "traumatized" by Saddam Hussein, it now becomes the U.S to stay put until the trauma is over and the government meets our high standards.
In order to achieve this end you obviously need the huge Balad Air Base with 30,000 troops in it ( and "conveniences suitable to a Florida gated community"), and Asad Base, with 17,000 men (Camp Cupcake, so comfortable no one ever wants to return to his wife in West Virginia). These bases are clearly permanent , as is the biggest embassy in the world, and no President is going to be allowed by the military establishment to scrap them. Oh, there are several other well-appointed bases as well. Damn the views of ordinary Iraqis – - we are here to promote liberty!
The cooperative right-wing media (that is, 90% of the media) , more interested in flag pins, never queries or investigates any of this. If they get to Baghdad they nestle up to a bar in the Green Zone.
Who are the true patriots here?
* David Bromwich, London Review of Books , 10 April 2008
Amazing! The Pope comes to the U.S apologizing daily about the priestly sex scandal and telling us that his heart bleeds for the victims. He asks the faithful (unbelievably, there are still some left) to pray for the bishops and support the clergy. Does he actually suggest any beneficial changes? No, absolutely not. He wants Catholics to continue to believe in everything the church tells them to believe in – - all of it.
As far as I am aware there is no biblical basis for an unmarried clergy. This was instituted in the Middle Ages to free the church from the need to support whole families and widows. Thus all revenues went to the church without the need for pensions. Nifty!
Nor is there any sound basis for male-only priests, only the presumption that since Jesus was a man and had no female apostles therefore the Church should be a male preserve (with the bone of Maryism being thrown to the women).
If the Pope really wanted to help and modernize the church he could allow priests to lead normal, human lives, which would long-term fix the fiddling with little boys by roaring homos.
Even better, he could allow women priests. Who cares what gender delivers the message?
But no, business as usual, irrelevant and divisive. Epicureanism doesn’t care what your sexuality is and frowns on the the supremacy of the male gender over the female (should go without saying).
Long live decency, human rights and rationality!
For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in a hundred American adults or 1.6 million people, are incarcerated , the Pew Center reports. Both in absolute terms and on a per capita basis, the U.S imprisons more people than any other nation.
The New York Times
Were Epicurus alive today he would certainly speculate on the fact that few Americans (except a raggedy few without flag pins in their lapels) seem to understand that this statistic is appalling.
Flag pins are like those yellow ribbon things on cars, a membership badge of the unreflective, nationalist wing of the Republican Party.
Since we have the Pope in the country let me quote an ardent Catholic writer: "My country right or wrong" is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, "My mother, drunk or sober". G. K. Chesterton
The real patriot supports where support is justified and tries to correct where correction is required.
Wearing a flag pin has nothing whatsoever to do with a person’s patriotism. To suggest it has is deeply disrespectful. In the days of the Founders it would have provoked a duel.
According to the drivel put out by the media, it is now elitist to drink tea!
I declare myself to be irremediably elitist. I drink 6 (six) cups of tea before getting up in the morning. This puts paid to my carefully laid plans to run as President of these United States.
Epicurus was not an elitist. He drank hemlock tea and mead.
"Nobody had properly analysed the root cause of imperialism. but everybody recognised the prime characteristics of the phenomenon: aggression was necessary to its spirit, whether it be aggression for bad or good causes, and when the empire lost its aggressiveness then the excitement of imperialism itself…was lost."
"Farewell the Trumpets", by James Morris
It is extraordinary that so few Americans study or even know anything about the British empire, which, for all its faults was the biggest empire the world had ever seen, kept the world peace for a hundred years, and allowed the US to develop in peace as a major power behind the shield of the Royal Navy. Add to that, the British were responsible for some of the greatest technological and scientific discoveries and advances in technology and communications ever.
And yet…and yet…. A recent advertisement in the New York Times advertised a course on World History. The syllabus went back to ancient Assyria and covered everything, but without a single mention of the British Empire, which was dismissed with the casual "The long 19th century".
There is so much the Americans could learn from the good and the bad of the British Empire, but for some psychological reason that escapes me they ignore it , hoping it will go away (detracts from American glory?). Were they to have studied British history some more they might have paused before invading both Iraq and Afghanistan, to mention but two forays. Those who actually know the history have been unanimously horrified by those two decisions, believe me.
Intellectuals. Are there any left? The people who used to be intellectuals are busy dumbing down universities and awarding A’s all round in an effort to boost enrollment. Their colleagues preach de-constructionism and relativism and are proud to have no standards of behaviour, ethics or morals whatsoever. Anything goes and intellectually it seems a lot of them went.
That leaves us, the second rank, the obscure, the tryers, the people of whom the real intellectuals of yesteryear said, “Ah, the 1962 intake, not a distinguished year.” Yes, here we are pontificating on the meaning of life and death in the absence of thought from others. Who would have thought it? In the land of the blind and increasingly illiterate the half-brained man is king.
Note to strict constructionists: This is a joke. I am a joke. Do something useful - go and clean your hunting rifle.
Epicurus taught that true pleasure is gained from intellectual discussion and long-term friendship, that happiness is sitting in the shade in a Summer garden discussing philosophy, and that life is to be lived to the full, but with simplicity and moderation.
In 396 Ambrose of Milan attacked enjoyment of life, saying that the serpent of Adam and Eve fame was itself “pleasure, slippery and infected with the poisons of corruptions.” Adam succumbed and fell away from the enjoyment of grace. How can pleasure recall us to paradise, seeing that it alone deprived us of it?”
The idea that one should live one’s life in happiness and peace of mind and not fear death annoyed the early Christians.
British review of a hard right-wing "Christian" book
"Become a Better You" by Joel Osteen, televangelist
Cheesy smiles: one on the front cover; two on the back. Cheesy stories: every couple of pages. Self-fulfilment advice for complacent and inexplicably sad rich people. Veneer level: Christian truisms follow each other like rides at Disneyland. Spiritual nutrition? Well, even pot noodles are better than nothing if you are starving. The subtitle is ‘7 keys to improving your life every day’.
Maybe these should have been jotted on an email and circulated around offices full of real people so we could all have had a laugh. If this really is the modern equivalent of the spiritual movement Jesus started, then we of all people are most miserable. Happily, it isn’t! The fact that tens of thousands flock to Joel Osteen’s cathedral to hear him pontificate each week, and many more on TV, demonstrates that the culture he represents really is as shallow and selfsatisfied as we all suspect. Some may say this stuff has its place. We hope that soon it will have had its day.
High: Apparently faultless and inoffensive like the complexion of a cover-girl.
Low: Apparently faultless and inoffensive like the complexion of a cover-girl.
Reviewed by Hugo and Sharon Anson, directors of the Grassroots Trust.
Simon & Schuster / £12.99 / 9781847371102
Brought to my attention by Jane Dean, contributor to this blog
"To be happy, to cease striving and admit you are powerless . Islam, the religion of surrender….No man’s life is worth anything. It’s like the wind.
We’re in the world for only one reason, and that’s to act out what was written for us . The man whose destiny is bad, he’s lucky, because all he has to do it to give thanks. But the man whose destiny is good – - Ay! That’s much harder, because unless he is a very good man he’ll begin to think that he had something to do with his good luck."
As spoken by Amar, from "The Spider’s House", by Paul Bowles
If you think Islamic thought is alien, then try this!
Islam and women
Conversation between Stenham and the Arab boy, Amar:
"Words are for people, not for women."
"Aren’t women people?"
People are people. Women are women."
"If women aren’t people, how does it happen that they go to Paradise?"
"They have their own place in Heaven. They don’t go inside where men are."
"Its like the mosques, is that it?"
"If Allah had meant women to talk to men (thought Amar) He would have made them men, and given them intelligence and discernment. But in His infinite wisdom He had created them to serve men and be commanded by them……women, however delightful they might seem, were basically evil, savage creatures who desired nothing better than to pull men down to their own low state, merely to watch them suffer. In Fez it was often said, half jokingly, that if Moroccans had been really civilized men, they would have devised cages in which to keep their women." As it was women enjoyed far too much freedom of movement."
The views of Amar, from "The Spider’s House", by Paul Bowles
The Moslem religion….."demands a humility and submission that he could not conceive himself as feeling………Discipline for the sake of discipline, mindless and joyous obedience to arbitrary laws, that was an element of their religion which, praiseworthy though it might be, he knew was not for him…..They embody the mystery of man at peace with himself, satisfied with this solution to the problem of life; their complacence came from asking no questions, accepting existence as it arrived to their senses fresh every morning, seeking to understand no more than that which was directly useful for the day’s simple living, and trusting implicitly in the ultimate and absolute inevitability of all things…….. The further one advanced into their world, the more conscious one became that it was necessary to change oneself fundamentally in order to know them."
From "The Spider’s House", by Paul Bowles
"….in their minds one thing doesn’t come from another thing. Nothing is the result of anything. Everything merely is, and no questions asked. Even the language they speak is constructed around that. Each fact is separate, and one never depends on the other. Everything is explained by the constant intervention of Allah. And whatever happens had to happen, and was decreed at the beginning of time, and there’s no way of even imagining how anything could be different from what it is."
From "The Spider’s House", by Paul Bowles, who lived in Morocco and wrote several famous books on the country.
One of four posts on the Moslem way of life.
A recent article by George Will in the Washington Post claimed that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives. Liberals, he says, regard charitable giving as retrograde , "a poor palliative for an inadequate welfare state and a distraction from achieving adequacy by force, by increasing taxes". Democrats, he tells us, represent a majority of the wealthiest congressional districts, and half of America’s richest households live in states where both Senators are Democrats.
What he doesn’t of course do is to tell us how all this generosity by poor, over-taxed Republicans breaks down. Overwhelming charitable giving in the US goes to churches. Some churches do wonderful work, but where giving simply goes to keep up bricks and mortar and church overheads (and I would add, salaries), this is not charitable giving as I define it. Help for the poor can be given without the intercession of a minister. If you take out the bricks, mortar and maintenance non-church members, atheists probably give quite as much, or more, that conservatives, but give it to charities for a score of causes from Ugandan orphans to help for ex-convicts.
Epicurus would not approve of church hierarchies and funds for the upkeep of the steeple or the bells.
Your Government has suspended the Fourth Amendment, authorized torture, proclaimed itself empowered to break the law, and has sent the nation’s top law enforcement officer to lie blatantly about how and why the 9/11 attacks happened so it you could acquire still more unchecked spying power and get rid of lawsuits that would expose what it did. And what does arrogant, patronizing right-wing political press talk about? Obama’s bowling score and how he eats chocolate.
These same publicists and cynical money-grubbers support a free pass for the incompetents of Wall Street, and once again the taxpayer pays for the mistakes and faulty judgments of the greedy, poorly educated "leaders" we have allowed to take over. The days of being accountable are over, it seems. All you need is a label reading "Republican".
Who is there honest and patriotic enough to tell the truth? It would do the current Establishment a power of good to be invited to beg on the streets of the District of Columbia and be fed in soup kitchens. Those already doing so at this moment have more integrity than our condescending masters. How can anyone consider believing the self-serving tosh dealt out by the media?
One answer is the Epicurean garden and ignoring them all.
This is not original. It is inspired by a real patriot – - Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com
The objective of this blog is to "plumb the psychic ruptures in the American imaginary as a speculum for examining the violence, tragedies and trauma of the American self".
One should publicize pseudo-artistic rhetoric and hold it up to ridicule at every opportunity. The above sentence was copied down during a visit to a New York photographic museum and amply illustrates the fact that bullshit, far from baffling brains, has taken the place of artistic talent.
The 15th Century Aztec poet, Ayocuan Cuetzpaltzin suggested that there is a time when humankind can touch the enduring truths that underlie our fleeting lives. That time is the moment of artistic creation. Unfortunately, all too many artists try to pull the wool over the heads of the public, thus ensuring that "enduring truth" is debased and regarded with a heavy dose of scepticism.
At a performance of "Rigoletto" last night the opera was reaching its climax. Gilda was wrapped, dying, in her death sack and Rigoletto was about to rip the sack open to discover her, mortally wounded. At this crucial moment, when the rest of the audience was holding its breath, gripped by the tragedy, my next door neighbour took out her Blackberry, turned it on and checked her emails.
And they say the world turns as usual and that my premonition of decline and decay are the usual mutterings of a grumpy old man, complaining as is usual about the younger generation!
.….the US needs a leadership to confront the transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.” Thus Senator McCain recently.
The former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, responding to this crass remark, said: "Somebody who says that kind of stuff either thinks, probably correctly, that the American people are not well informed—in which case he’s demagoguing—or he’s stupid enough to believe it himself. In either case it offers a compelling argument as to why such a candidate should not be president.”
Amen. To debate the real issues the country faces is one thing; to blatantly peddle fear to the half-informed is a disgrace, coming as it does from a man who tells us he is so experienced in foreign affairs.
Actually, it is just for this reason – - the demagoguery , exaggeration and fear-mongering – - that Epicurus warns us off politics in toto. If you listen to this piffle (equating a small bunch of crazies recently trounced by electors on the North-West frontier, no less!, to Hitler) makes you – - surprise, surprise – -anxious, as it is intended to do. That’s how the unscrupulous rule. It isn’t new.
Poor America! It has months of irresponsible, little-girlie, talking-down-to- the- intelligent stuff like this coming up. No wonder its foreign policy is in unparalleled disarray!