Adonis Diaries

Paradigm shift in Architecture: Steve Jobs, Rem Koolhaas…Simon  Sadler essay

Posted on March 30, 2013

An émigré architectural historian who teaches across disciplines in California, at a public university near Apple’s lair in the Bay Area (close to San Francisco), is posting an essay.

Since architectural stories are surprising rare on the edge of the continent, he needed a shtick; no matter what’s his connoisseur-ish personal tastes and leftist political dispositions.

Simon  Sadler published an essay on March 13/2013 in The Design Observer Group: “Steve Jobs: Architect”

Top: Apple store, Fifth Avenue, New York. [Photo by Eric Wüstenhagen]

Bottom: Steve Jobs and Rem Koolhaas. [Photos by James Mitchell, left, and Rodrigo Fernández, right]


1. An Apple for the teacher Yet another treatise on Steve Jobs? As an “architect”?And with Apple seemingly waning,  aren’t we behind the curve on this?  Suffice it to say that my interest is not solely in Steven Paul Jobs himself, but rather in the challenge that the late computer impresario and legendary technologist poses to the methods and purpose of an architectural historian.

My job and my location place me close enough to Silicon Valley that students might fairly assume that I have something cogent to say about all this.  Apple is working with Norman Foster to build a donut-spaceship as its headquarters in Cupertino.

So what are my options?

1. Compare and contrast, that trusty standby of art history, in which I drill my students. I can compare Jobs with … with whom, exactly? Bill Gates, or maybe Thomas Edison? That route would take us away from design, away from architectural history, away from aesthetics.I like to pay close attention to both Science and Technology Studies and Cultural Studies, which are the disciplines perhaps most comfortable with technology and the American experience.

But neither the Apple HQ, or the iPhone for that matter, readily lend themselves to STS and Cultural Studies’ emphases on flattened and distributed innovation and on user-generated meanings.So any methods I might borrow from those anthropologically-inclined fields will need to be augmented by the emphases on authorship and aesthetics that architectural history traditionally draws from art history. Peel away his ruthless command of global consumer markets and Jobs can seem to the art historian more akin to Gropius than Gates.

2. Criticality.  Since Jobs’s ruthless command of markets is a fact that cannot be peeled away, we are obliged to deploy the criticality that has been central to architectural historical method that was started by Tomás Maldonado and Manfredo Tafuri.I am duty-bound to tell students that design is not necessarily benign, especially when it seems to be.

Yet they can see me teaching from the MacBook I am writing on even now. Some of the students I have trained will graduate into Silicon Valley. I wonder what that suggests about my own complicity with the very things which I am attempting to critique?How does my salary, my adopted state, my consumption, tie me to all this?

So I discreetly edge the conversation back to my own disciplinary competence by comparing the design for the new Apple headquarters with other corporate buildings. We take another iconic and somehow ominous HQ — OMA’s recently completed CCTV tower in Beijing — and we then compare Jobs with OMA’s head, Rem Koolhaas. As if they were both architects.

And then we treat Jobs as though he were an offshoot of a Bay Area design history that was substantially driven by architecture. My concern is to have something to say about design in the far western region where I teach; even though major monumental buildings are scarce on the ground here, and even though the politics of good design are adulterated by my state’s politics of good business.

This effort becomes a test of the limits of my discipline, devoted as it has long been to the maintenance of European critical traditions, and to monumentality and the public sphere, and to the continued preeminence of the academic institutions of Northern Europe and the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.

Such is the fate of many an émigré architectural historian in California, at once living and working within a global engine of economy, design, ideology and media, yet rather far from the concatenations of Greater New England architectural historical scholarship.We wonder whether there is any more that can be said about the Mission Style, the Case Study Houses, the freeways; or whether anything whatsoever can be said about California’s inland agricultural empire of the Central Valley, which is where I live.

Norman Foster’s design for the Apple headquarters, center, surrounded by the California architectural historian’s canon.[Photos, clockwise, by Eli PoussonNeil KremerDystopusKeith DalyChris McSorleyAllan FergusonMyDifferentDrum and Roberto Estremo] Talk about Jobs as though he were an architect — already a dubious proposition — is to talk as well about advanced capitalism, about global systems, the counterculture, Zen Buddhism, and all manner of phenomena apparently inimical to the critical tradition, to monumentality and the public sphere.

This approach might threatens to liquefy my discipline through a Golden State looking-glass.Maybe I should emulate the resolve of the philosophers Adorno and Horkheimer who were stranded in sunny Los Angeles during the war, refused to succumb to California languor.To be frank I think that architectural-historical methodology can benefit from this modest test, and prevail. 

This is one of those experiments in method encouraged — forced — by the study of California: here subject and method evolve symbiotically, as befits scholarship in a region enamored with holistic thought, even as my disciplinary training prevents me from ever going fully native.

2. Why it’s simpler to treat Jobs as a California Modern Architect To the subject at hand?To me, treating Jobs as an architect has merit, if for no other reason than to bring sort of conclusion to the popular psychologizing of what made Job tick.It is no secret that Jobs was a “complicated” man. Nothing more typifies the persona of the “great architect,” driven to get his ideas executed with minimum compromise, somehow distrustful of people yet seemingly concerned about their welfare, preferring to channel politics through design rather than to actually participate in political activity.

Eric Alterman writes in The Nation’s: Despite the myriad ways his companies improved our lives, Jobs was a hero only in the Ayn Randian sense…” de facto connecting Jobs, via Rand, to that archetype of the “complicated” architect, Howard Roark, a.k.a. Frank Lloyd Wright

A sense of what you might call “psychopathic humanism” attends such personalities: they are determined to improve the human lot no matter how many individual humans they offend along the way.Bucking our current postmodern era, Jobs and Koolhaas both seem to have been driven by the possibility that they can act inside, or around, a postmodern world resistant to purpose.

Jobs and Koolhaas share, I suspect, an attraction toward design as a type of hermeneutics — a will to learn about the world through the attempt to change it. Koolhaas assigned his Harvard students and OMA assistants to track aesthetic multiplier effects through the study of shopping and of African urbanism; he is passionate, in a manner worthy of a surrealist or second-order cybernetician, about paradox and overdetermination.

Meanwhile both the personnel and the customers of the Apple Corporation functioned as an extension of Jobs, and not simply through the authoritarian exertion of will. In this sense Jobs hasn’t died in the same way that Mies van der Rohe hasn’t died: something of his very thinking, his gestalt, has been learned by other designers and consumers, and in this way Jobs’s legacy — like influential pedagogy — is “architectural.”

That Jobs’s work, his products, has constituted a daily part of people’s lives over several generations was testified to by the peculiar and public demonstrations of grief at his passing.
Steve Jobs memorial, Apple store, San Francisco. [Photo by raumish] Koolhaas, for sure, is a redoubtable figure for historians and theorists of architecture in a way that Jobs never will be. Judged by his impact on architectural pedagogy and his reception by critics, he probably remains our most important living architect, popular with scholars to the degree that he is apparently unpopular with, even obscure to, the public at large.

Koolhaas invites interpretation. In contrast, scholars are left practically redundant by the sheer popularity of Jobs’s work: there is, apparently, no work of interpretation left for us to do.We can try to deepen our analyses of Jobs by citing the pivotal influential of industrial designers like Dieter Rams; but accounting for Koolhaas’s interests in the surrealist paranoiac-critical method, Soviet Constructivism and Italian Autonomist Marxism would require graduate-seminar-level exegesis.

Put another way: if Koolhaas’s aesthetic is difficult, Jobs’s is dumb. The categorical difference is that one really is an architect, steeped in the arts, and the other is an ambitious industrial designer, steeped in the applied arts; which is why Koolhaas presents an explanatory challenge, Jobs a functional literalness.I am not so sure about this distinction, though; whatever the philosophical and formal challenges which Koolhaas’s buildings pose, they function well.

And Jobs’s intellectual formation was easily as esoteric as that of Koolhaas.It’s no surprise that architect Norman Foster has referred to Jobs as though he were a professional peer, “in every way so much more than a client,” as Foster put it in his tribute. “We are better as individuals and certainly wiser as architects through the experience of … working for him. …  Job participation was so intense and creative that our memory will be that of working with one of the truly great designers and mentors.”(This is the sort of language we might expect Foster to have reserved for his earlier mentor Richard Buckminster Fuller — another figure whose functionalism, anathema to the richly formal work of Koolhaas, is adored in Bay Area.)

When Jobs’s name is used as a search term in the scholarly Avery Index to architectural history, it retrieves a 2005 article from Britain’s ID magazine that lists, in this order, the most influential design thinkers in the world: the Museum of Modern Art’s Design Department, Steve Jobs, Rem Koolhaas.For ID, at least, we are in some way comparing like with like. And the listing of Jobs with MoMA and Koolhaas has the intriguing effect of drawing a westward axis of transnational design, as it transposes from The Netherlands, then to the United States via New York and Northern California, then onward to China, where Jobs and Koolhaas confirm their incendiary reputations in the factories of Shenzhen and the political machine of Beijing.The modernist tradition becomes — to use Koolhaas’s celebrated term — increasingly delirious, as it gravitates from the Heroic Age Netherlands, to Jazz Age New York, to Aquarian Age California.If Koolhaas has capitalized upon a distinctively Dutch taste and Northern European aesthetic, Jobs has championed a distinctively Californian energy.In the early 1980s, the German industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger proposed that there should be a “born-in-America gene for Apple’s DNA,” one that would produce what Esslinger called a “California global” look. Esslinger, then newly arrived in the United States, initially suggested that Apple’s aesthetic be inspired by “Hollywood and music, a bit of rebellion, and natural sex appeal.”But Hollywood, rock music, sex appeal and rebellion did not prevail in the iconic forms that embody the Apple brand identity created so obsessively by Jobs. In its stores, in its devices, even in the book cover he designed for Walter Isaacson’s biography (which he himself commissioned Isaacson to write), Jobs recovered a vision of the modern as clarified, normative, truthful, perhaps somewhat German though even more Zen.Is there a relationship between California and these qualities of clarification, normative, truthfulness and Zen? I believe that Apple really does represent a genus of Californian design — that the slogan “Designed by Apple in California” conveys something like an ethos.


Top and Middle: Norman Foster, drawings for Apple headquarters, Cupertino, California, projected 2015. Bottom: Bernard Maybeck, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, 1915. [Photo by Wally Gobetz]Apple’s image evolved markedly from the early 1980s to now, but it remained consistent with Bay Area taste, from the counter-cultural feel of the offerings to be found in (say) its early-’80s gift collections —with their totes, kites, belt buckles, wall hangings and rug kits — to the New Age aura of transcendent consciousness and spirituality of more recent Mac products, their concealed LEDs practicing controlled yogic breathing when left on standby.

Apple was a Bay Area company led by a lifelong Bay Area homeboy steeped in such Bay Area enthusiasms as the Whole Earth Catalog and The Grateful Dead.In the dominant culture of the Bay Area — if I can indulge in a sweeping summary — you find a deep distaste for representing established culture: culture is to be invented, here and now, and to be lived rather than observed and learned. It is a culture that imagines itself as exploring truth and possibility.

This is a trait stretching back through several generations of Northern California designers — Bernard Maybeck is my personal favorite, with his eccentric combinations of materials, technique and historical association. Jobs, too, pursued an aesthetics of truth and possibility.Compare the design of two corporate animation facilities, one for The Walt Disney Company, in Southern California, the other for Jobs’s Pixar, in Northern California. In his 1991 design for the Team Disney building, in Burbank, Michael Graves employs the Seven Dwarves as Atlantes not only to symbolize a passing world of animated arts but also to make an inside joke about the conclusion of classical civilization.

In contrast, in their Pixar Studios, in Emeryville, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson deploy the patterning of bricks of different hues to make decoration immanent to the materials themselves, in this way suggesting that the building itself is pixelated — a pattern waiting to be orchestrated. Facts before pictures.The tectonic and material truths of this factory of the virtual feel hyper-real. Its hand-laid brick courses suggest an unnerving sincerity far removed from the postmodern irony of Graves or the postmodern tragedy of Koolhaas.

The Bohlin Cywinski Jackson practice, founded in 1965 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, under the sway of Louis Kahn (that vital transitional figure between modernism and postmodernism who recovered architectural verity from dogmatic functionalism and returned it to custom, ritual and place) has proven adept at delivering to commercial and technological clients buildings of a local phenomenological intensity. In 1997 the firm completed the residential compound of another computer maven, one Bill Gates of Bellevue, WA, in an earnest regional “Pacific Lodge” style. A couple of years later, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson opened its San Francisco office to handle the Pixar campus for Jobs. What they delivered doesn’t look much like a fun factory.

The main pavilion is an elegant warehouse, its flat arches an acknowledgement of the local light-industry context, with plate glass recalling the notoriously generic corporate architecture of Silicon Valley.

The Pixar campus is a place for serious research, not decorative puns; a place where the arts of animation from the classic era of Disney are preserved within three-dimensional computer modeling originally developed for medical imaging; a place to discover the sorts of truths about the self and the world that were earlier discovered in the Marin County summer camps, Palo Alto garages, East Bay cafés, Silicon Valley laboratories and Silicon Alley warehouses recalled by the campus ensemble.


Top: Michael Graves, Team Disney Building, Burbank, California. [Photo by Loren Javier] Middle and Bottom: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Steve Jobs Building, Pixar Campus, Emeryville, California. [Photos by John Lambert Pearson, middle, and Michael Heilemann, bottom] The comic foil provided by the monumental Luxo lamp is an addition.The lamp — an homage to Pixar’s celebrated 1986 demo reel, “Luxo Jr.” — was a gift from Australia, as though Pixar were a new nation — a corporate nation that reaffirms the Bay Area as a center of the creative world (with a nod, in the naming of its new building “Brooklyn,” to an East Coast counterpart).

Jobs was the undisputed ruler of this nation; Pixar employees knew him to be the hidden hand in the building’s design,  [11] and Jobs was always adamant that all core creative production for his companies would happen in the Bay Area in real diurnal time, defying the industry trend for the globalized dissipation of the design process across facilities, specializations and time zones.

At a Cupertino City Council meeting in June 2011, a clearly ailing Jobs made what I assume was his last public appearance to present the plans for the new Apple HQ; he promoted the Foster + Partners design as a great entity in a traditionalist Bay Area landscape to be designed by Stanford University’s arborist.  The building thus becomes the capsule, the beehive, the phalanstery for 15,000 engineers circling the wagons against the outsourcing of Californian design.Apple had thus become the new Californian “machine,” reproducing local tastes and predispositions even through its immigrant employees, like the British designer Jonathan Ive, or the German Esslinger and his practice frog design, all of whom were required to relocate to the region as part of their association with Jobs.

Even the design presence of Baron Foster, whose ideas were profoundly affected by his admiration of the Case Study houses, does nothing to deflect the broad, synthetic Californianism of Apple’s trajectory. Yet ultimately Jobs’s phenomenology can be founded on certainties of place and language no more than the modern-day Bay Area can be founded on certainties of place and language.

It is a light phenomenology, slickly tuning consciousness through sensory experience.This calibration of affect, surely at Job’s behest, explains how Bohlin Cywinski Jackson effortlessly switched from the vernacular brick and iron opacity at Pixar to the Zen-like transparency of the 2006 Manhattan Apple Store.Opacity, transparency, Jungian forms, materials, place, tectonics: Jobs and his collaborators were trying to access phenomenological truths at the office and at the store.

Top: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Apple store, Fifth Avenue, New York, 2006. [Photo by Jorge Láscar] Bottom: Early graphical user interface, Xerox Star, 1981. [Via DigiBarn Computer Museum]Along the way Jobs conscripted the very typology of the window from the Graphical User Interface — which he explored soon after it was invented at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto — to the service of his light phenomenology that sought to reveal the world.

Floor-to-ceiling windows, beloved by Bay Region architects, became the central motif of Jobs’s inventions — from the computers to the phones to the stores, the windowed grids of the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue relaying attention to the windowed tablets relaying attention to windowed operating systems, propelling us steadily out of history.

Though routinely described as iconic, Apple products seem actually to be moving away from idiosyncratic forms like the trend-setting colored-jellybean style of the late ’90s iMac series. The aluminum, glass and radius edges of the recent products strain for ascetic neutrality.Without much difficulty the Apple consumer could imagine information one day floating in the environment, dematerialized into the “cybernetic meadow” forecast in the celebrated (if ridiculed) 1967 poetry collection by San Franciscan Richard Brautigan when he was poet-in-residence at Caltech. [15]

So at the end of his life, Jobs settled on a Zen-like approach as the appropriate phenomenological architecture for information technology, just as a Zen-like transcendence had attracted generations of Bay Region aesthetes.

Bay Region Style itself bore the clear imprint of Japanese Zen architecture.

In a famous 1947 essay on “Bay Region Style,” Lewis Mumford described the style as “a product of the meeting of the Occidental and Oriental architectural traditions,” and 6 decades later Steve Jobs concurred: “I have always found … Japanese Zen Buddhism … to be aesthetically sublime.

Zen is to California as Greece is to Germany“: so an uncommonly insightful student quipped to me recently, bridging the Bay Region’s dogged pursuit of higher consciousness and the German phenomenological tradition. Jobs’s seemingly existential understanding of design does indeed remind one of the fascination exerted over architects by Martin Heidegger, for whom design functioned best in the background, the better to “bring forth” Being.

Bay Area and German existentialism are even linked by a proud sense of their higher provincialism, the disdain for metropolitan affectation. William Wurster, referring to the Bay Region Style, wrote in 1956  that “Architecture is not a goal. Architecture is for life and pleasure and work and for people. The picture frame, not the picture.”Jobs enthused about the Bay Area’s mid-century stick-built houses developed by Joseph Eichler: Eichler’s “houses were smart and cheap and good,” Jobs told Walter Isaacson. “I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost too much. … It was the original vision for Apple.

And so we have that paradox that the normative or the provincial comes to embody rarefied taste and so occupy a central place in design culture. (Something similar happened with critical regionalism.) [22] By the early 21st century, Apple products were the summary forms of international modern design, recalling the abstemiousness of Viennese architect and journalist Adolf Loos at the turn of the 20th century, of the German industrial design of the Dessau Bauhaus of the 1920s, and of the Braun products of Dieter Rams in the 1960s, admiration for the latter of which Jobs developed when attending the Aspen Institute’s conferences in the early 1980s.


Top: Eichler home, original advertisement. [Via Architizer]Bottom: Dieter Rams, Braun radio and record player. [Photos by Nite Owl, left, and Toby Evans, right]

3. Thinking inside the box What did it mean for Jobs to attempt to recuperate “normative,” “classically” modernist values for a postmodern, late capitalist world order — for a world order whose anguish seems better captured by the old-world Koolhaas, and in which modernism’s promise of emancipation is trammeled in the off-shore factories of Apple’s manufacturers? Is this nothing but a travesty of modernism? For of course we know that aesthetic culture is at best a poor substitute indeed for truly political society, and a sickening lie in its absence.

The  clamshell form of the late ’90s MacBook was redolent of the sort of cigarette case that Loos identified in 1908 as the touchstone of modern culture: stripped, portable, repetitive. Ornament became Crime, in Jobs’s mind as it had in Loos’s. The Mac and the cigarette case were trade objects emblematic of their respective epochs, their meanings indefinite, not predetermined: as a content-producing machine, the Mac strenuously obliges society with cultural “running-room.”

Yet the aluminum sheathed MacBook is not quite the quintessential Loosian object. It is almost too refined for its purposes, courting the status of a commodity fetish, mystifying and objectifying human relations through its market exchange.

The MacBook confuses the urn with the chamber pot, to borrow Loos’s terms; it struggles to distinguish the ceremonial from the functional. It ennobles the rituals of everyday life, like writing email, but it is too slick to disrupt our life continuum, which for Loos was the critical function of art, architecture and language — a way in which to make sense of our world.

So it is to Rem Koolhaas and his firm, OMA, that we must turn for manifestation of the disjunctions of tradition and modernity, of place and space.The contrast in taste, in aesthetics, between Jobs and Koolhaas is illustrated most obviously by comparing the two headquarters buildings.

With its twisting and grotesque form, the China Central Television tower underscores the tragic deterioration of the public sphere, as the production of information is impressed into the service of the capitalist dictatorship of the People’s Republic.

It is practically a Salon work of art, simultaneously repulsive and fascinating, politically and aesthetically, in a way that reminds me of that classic of the Salon genre, Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa (1818–1819).

Whereas the Apple HQ suggests a very different version of the Romantic legacy, of the recovery of a primordial reason beyond intellectualization — it strains to be “insanely great,” in Jobs’s famous phrase. The circle of steel and glass suggests no history, no past; its gesture is spontaneous, or Jungian, or Zen,  childlike in its simplicity and secrecy. It needs no interpretation because, as designer Sean Daly blogged in The Architects’ Newspaper:

The ensō, or “circle,” is perhaps the most enduring motif in the Zen tradition, one that first appears in Japanese monasteries in the mid-1600s. The Zen circle is not a linguistic character, but rather a symbol that conveys a host of things — the universe, the cyclical nature of existence, enlightenment, strength, and poised contemplation. It suggests the Heart Sutra, which explains that “form is void and void is form” … [27]

Like Pixar in Emeryville, Apple in Cupertino exemplifies a light phenomenology. It’s Zen kitsch. Jobs’s Zen postmodernism, of which Foster’s building is an embodiment, acts upon the world through process, intervening in a cybernetic cycle for which the record of historical struggle is but a dysfunctional footnote.

In sharp contrast, the tragic postmodernism of Koolhaas and the CCTV feels jagged, a beauty of terribilità.

Top: Norman Foster, Apple headquarters, Cupertino, California, projected 2015.

Middle and Bottom: Rem Koolhaas/OMA, China Central TV headquarters, Beijing, 2012. [Photos by Jim Gourley]

Koolhaas’s abstraction of modernity appeals more to critical tastes than Jobs’s interaction with modernity. It is almost as though Koolhaas courts his appeal to art-historical criticality, even contributing to its veritable organ, October.

Koolhaas, who clearly rejected “interactive” and “gadgety” design — as a young architect at the Architectural Association in London in the ’70s, he had little use for the Archigram influence — seems to think like an art historian, and his relative lack of name recognition in the broader culture perhaps confirms the discernment of the specialists.

Whereas the outpouring of grief over Jobs’s death was often in questionable taste. “It sounds crazy,” a student in my modern architecture class said the day after Jobs died, “but for people of my age, it’s like we lost our Bobby Kennedy.” Could my students be so lacking in discrimination? Perhaps … but perhaps not.

I would be fuming if that student had responded in the same way to, say, the untimely passing of Mark Zuckerberg. No disrespect, but Zuckerberg is, we might agree, no Kennedy. So maybe we might agree as well that my student was simply one of many seeking inspiration as an Obama administration elected upon the promise of hope struggled to the end of its third tumultuous year.

And apparently she found it: I noticed her in the crowd when Occupy arrived at my university campus not long after Jobs’s death. One of the few commentators to understand the strange politics of the mourning of Jobs was Frank Rich. Writing for New York Magazine, Rich compared Jobs to Edison as an inventor-entrepreneur whose American technological “architecture” (so to speak) was constructive to the same extent that the upstart American financial-services “architecture” — of the type built by the GE Capital division that had eclipsed the GE industrial division founded by Edison in the 1890s — was destructive.

“Some on the right were baffled that the ostensible Marxists demonstrating in lower Manhattan would observe a moment of silence and assemble makeshift shrines for a top 1% like Jobs, whose expensive products were engineered for near-instant obsolescence and produced by Chinese laborers in factories with substandard health-and-safety records,” said Rich. But, he continued:

If you love your Mac and iPod, you can still despise CDOs and credit-default swaps. Jobs’s genius — in the words of Regis McKenna, a Silicon Valley marketing executive who worked with him early on— was his ability “to strip away the excess layers of business, design, and innovation until only the simple, elegant reality remained.” The supposed genius of modern Wall Street is the exact reverse, piling on excess layers of business and innovation on ever thinner and more exotic creations until simple reality is distorted and obscured.

The paradox was also understood, more viscerally, by that bellwether of campus humor, The Onion:

Steve Jobs, the visionary co-founder of Apple Computers and the only American in the country who had any clue what the fuck he was doing, died Wednesday at the age of 56. “We haven’t just lost a great innovator, leader, and businessman, we’ve literally lost the only person in this country who actually had his shit together and knew what the hell was going on,” a statement from President Barack Obama read in part, adding that Jobs will be remembered both for the life-changing products he created and for the fact that he was able to sit down, think clearly, and execute his ideas — attributes he shared with no other U.S. citizen.

Sit down, think clearly, and execute ideas: this is what draws students to design in a postmodern age, yes? “Obama added” (according to The Onion) “that if anyone could fill the void left by Jobs it would probably be himself, but said that at this point he honestly doesn’t have the slightest notion what he’s doing anymore.”

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Apple store, North Michigan Ave, Chicago, 2003. [Photo by Almond Dhukka]

We might decry the chirping of an Occupier’s iPhone as a mere simulacrum of political society.  We might better see the fate of political society in the metaphor of Koolhaas’s atolls of beauty and social space cast adrift in a neoliberal world. But by a remarkable historical turn, the Pollyanna-ish aesthetic of the Apple Mac has forced us back (somewhat) to actual political society, to actual consumer-political activity. What R. John Williams has called Californian Techne-Zen was articulated so forcefully by Apple that it has seemingly necessitated its own exposure as a false consciousness.

Millions of consumers seem to have understood instinctively an incongruity between Apple’s aesthetic triumph and its refusal to advance social justice: it failed our expectation that advanced bourgeois art will articulate or resolve contradiction. Instead the iPhone starkly verified the dichotomy of its slogan “Designed by Apple in California.

Assembled in China”: capitalist differentials in land and labor value exclude millions from the Bay-Area nation. In so nearly sublimating the contradiction, Jobs’s art drew attention to the contradiction. Jobs’s electronics were so beguiling that their users were forced into a classic, bourgeois, visceral encounter with guilt, contradiction, tragedy: it was this that finally confirmed Jobs as an architect-provocateur on a par with Koolhaas.

Both are indeed Salon designers, ageless enfant terribles and lightning rods, prompting and giving shape to otherwise formless feelings and debates. Still, nobody seems to be holding Koolhaas responsible for the work conditions of his building contractors or steel millers, though the unnatural and monumental gesture of CCTV did indeed draw attention to the furtive modes of production — the state censorship — of Chinese information.

When it was occupying its old building (whatever it was), I had never heard of CCTV, nor paused to consider its role in censorship. And when I was using a Dell laptop, the working conditions enforced in China by Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn were remote from my awareness, even though Foxconn supplied Dell and practically every other electronics manufacturer of which I am a customer. Was it preordained, one wonders in retrospect, that Jobs’s iPad — which he loved to point at the front page of The New York Times during his famous new product presentations — would deliver New York Times reports about the wage and health and safety scandals in the Shenzhen factories in which the apparatus was made?

I used my MacBook Air to sign a petition demanding that Apple redress Foxconn worker grievances. Every keystroke on the superlative machine reminded me of my desire for a better world, for a more complete and transparent political architecture, and of my complicity with forces I prefer to imagine as beyond my control. To borrow the terms popularized by anthropologist Bruno Latour, the works of both Jobs and Koolhaas function as “things” in and around which are assembled public “concerns” that might otherwise slip through the net of parliamentary discourses arrayed around both left and right.

Even the Wall Street Journal felt compelled to question the “secular prophecy” of technological salvation wrought by Jobs. Apple and OMA objects succeed as works of art, and also as catalysts of public attention, not just by being so astonishingly outré, but also by picturing the world unexpectedly — in extreme resolution, in extreme disjunction — and then by suggesting a means to interpret our existence in the world.

Top: Taiwanese protestors outside Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.) headquarters in New Taipei, 2010. [Photo by Lennon Ying-Dah Wong]

Bottom: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Apple store, Fifth Avenue, New York, 2006. [Photo by Mecki Mac]

4. The varieties of bourgeois experience I don’t want to muddy the waters of judgment as a caprice. My purpose is to draw attention to the way that art-historical judgment thinks in several registers, about design that works in several registers, in a world that operates in countless registers. To an art historian, the minimalism of the 2006 Manhattan Apple Store is evocative of European Rationalism and neo-Platonism, when to many other cultural critics it is simply an extravagant warehouse, a shop composed of nothing but shop windows.

But now watch how Jobs and Koolhaas complicate the relation between value and values (between exchange value and human value) in similar ways, by thinking like art historians. “Great products,” Jobs told The New York Times, are triumphs of “taste” derived from “study, observation and being steeped in the culture of the past and present.” OMA designs one of its best buildings for Prada, and Apple amasses $70 billion in cash. Both insist that we pay attention to the art of shopping but then shun the pursuit of business for its own sake.

Koolhaas’s studio at Harvard studied shopping, with delicious paradox, and Jobs saw himself as the nemesis of Michael Dell’s fixation with the bottom line. No part of Apple’s organization would ever be “junkspace.”
Their work invites a moral response, and Jobs and Koolhaas pass onto us, their consumers and interpreters, the responsibility to square their contradictions.

Jobs and Koolhaas alike chose the role of eyewitness to the student uprisings in Berkeley and Paris in 1968, and for each the activism of the Sixties would be formative; years later each would be content to observe the political responses to their work in the ’90s and ’00s with similar remove. These two modes of architectural ambition, interactive and abstract, Californian and European, are not categorically different modes — the one in a naïve or affirmative association with capitalism, say, the other in a critical relationship — but are two sides of the same coin.

Jobs and Koolhaas each project variants of postmodern modernism: one optimistic but quietly doomed, the other doomed but quietly optimistic.
The reason of course is that design (like art) is pretty much inevitably a dialectic between God and Wall Street. The Occupier’s iPhone. The Eichler House. The double bind, built simultaneously, of OMA’s two West Coast projects: the Seattle Public Library and the Prada Epicenter in Los Angeles (both 2004). Enlightenment and shopping.

Oscillating between Soviet constructivism, Manhattanite cosmopolitanism, and commercial midcentury modernism, Koolhaas reminds us that at the very moment that modern design triumphed, its utopian political project was doomed. Meaning that questions about Steve and Rem are ultimately questions about us. What more literal object lessons could we ask for, as art historians standing in front of our students, than OMA’s CCTV and Apple’s Campus 2?

One abstracts the agony of the European public sphere, its workers eking out a living in a Chinese capitalist dictatorship, while the other promises an interactive Californianism after the near-eclipse of the New Deal. The university design studios of the Great Recession, rather than transcending the dialectic, are rather merging abstraction and interactivity, producing student projects that routinely integrate buildings with transgressive spaces, sites, economies, nutrition, mapping.

Given the questionable origins of our own paychecks, it’s a devil’s bargain that few art historians can evade for long. Something of the Shenzhen “disgrace” of Jobs might reciprocally be carried over to art history, which is adept at using the abstractions of critical theory to describe the complicity of buildings and architects with economic regimes, but most often shies away from any explicit description of the deep connections that bind architecture to labor and poverty.

Left: Rem Koolhaas/OMA, Seattle Central Library, 2004. [Photo by Sean Munson]

Right: Rem Koolhaas/OMA, Prada Epicenter, Los Angeles, 2004. [Photo by Corbin Keech]

Architecture is a lifeworld within which none of us can parse absolute judgments, yet it still offers ethical and actionable bearings. This I hope I am illustrating precisely by comparing two of its most notorious architects: the fascination of design is exactly its hermeneutic potential for thinking and working from the inside, across several registers. We can study the varieties of advanced bourgeois thinking that constitute and shape architecture as it re-combines — and reconciles [?] — base economic determination with the factors of geography, language, desire, technology, materials. Much as we return to other moments in the history of capital accumulation — Florence in the 15th century, Holland in the 17th century, Manhattan in the 19th century — and detect something mortal about their arcades, portraiture and still lives, so we can imagine art historians of the future scrutinizing the ambitions of OMA and Apple.

One day the Bay Region will make for a particularly intriguing study in New Deal, systems-driven and neoliberal art history, the Golden Gate Bridge an analog of Brunelleschi’s Dome, a place awash with new money, fusing science, technology, engineering and learning, humans and gods, an outpost of godly and economic universalism at the center of a trade network. We can already see the next chapters getting written; Elon Musk is the latest guru.

It is pointless to try and demote Musk’s wild gamble on the Tesla electric car, his fantastic ambition to save the world one drive-train at a time, his thinking across scales (the roadside rest and recharge stations, his concomitant interest in internet commerce and space exploration), the “insanely great” quality of his early products, his commitment to the Bay Area (to the point of locating his factories there) as an instance of business as usual. His products imply a cultural program beyond the marketplace. Musk compels public discussion. He’s a sort of architect.

Looking at California in this way points back to older, iconological approaches, art historical analyses applied across objects and institutions, ecologies and economies of dissimilar scale, type, intention, moving beyond connoisseurship and critical readings to capture something of the intellectual ecology behind things — the epistemology, or ontology; more than just the study of ideology, the study of ideas and intellectual frameworks particular to design, to its active attempts to mold the immediate future, and to its presuppositions about the world and the way it works.

That things don’t just happen, that political economy and subjectivity aren’t givens; that the meeting of matter and consciousness can be altered is not a general understanding but one particular to a class educated in design.
At which point I might be able to take my students out of the lecture hall (where we study OMA’s staggering and faraway monuments) and attempt an architectural exegesis of the systems of the Central Valley, scouring it for meaning, agency, interruption, rather than celebrating it as a vernacular, or damning it as pure instrumentalism. Perhaps we can stand above Cupertino and regard it like the heroine in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 (1965), who observes a new town a little further south in California:

Like many named places in California it was less an identifiable city than a grouping of concepts — census tracts, special purpose bond-issue distracts, shopping nuclei, all overlaid with access roads to its own freeway … a plinth course of capital on which everything afterward had been built, however rickety or grotesque, toward the sky. … she thought of the first time she’d opened a transistor radio to replace a battery and seen her first printed circuit. The ordered swirl of houses and streets … sprang at her now with the same unexpected, astonishing clarity as the circuit card had. … there were to both outward patterns a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate. … [A] revelation … trembled just beyond the threshold of her understanding … she and the Chevy seemed parked at the center of an odd, religious instant.

How I Became Fun And Thin Mom!

Well, this article turned out to be a tacit advertisement. What the heck: it is a story

08/12/2020healthyusepro

How I turned into an enjoyable and skinny mother!

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You realize the kind – younger, blonde, skinny and completely excellent.

I might hear it: Their comfortable giggles, their murmured whispers. Due to her age, my daughter was blissful – and fortunately – unaware of what was taking place.

I did know.

I used to be fats. And these different mothers had been by no means going to let me overlook it.

Regardless of the uncomfortable and awkward environment, I might press on.

With my daughter cheerfully shouting, “C’mon Mother,” I might attempt to sustain along with her, though I struggled. Due to my weight, I had little power and I drained quickly.

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How I Became Fun And Thin Mom!

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A Private Tax System That Saves The wealthiest $Billions?

Posted on January 3, 2016

The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income.

By NOAM SCHEIBER and PATRICIA COHEN. DEC. 29, 2015

WASHINGTON — The hedge fund magnates Daniel S. Loeb, Louis Moore Bacon and Steven A. Cohen have much in common. They have managed billions of dollars in capital, earning vast fortunes.

They have invested large sums in art — and millions more in political candidates.

Andrew Bossone shared a link.

For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions

The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income.nytimes.com| By PATRICIA COHEN

Each has exploited an esoteric tax loophole that saved them millions in taxes. The trick? Route the money to Bermuda and back.

With inequality at its highest levels in nearly a century and public debate rising over whether the government should respond to it through higher taxes on the wealthy, the very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes.

Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means.

(All you need is an experienced and affordable tax lawyer?)

In recent years, this apparatus has become one of the most powerful avenues of influence for wealthy Americans of all political stripes, including Mr. Loeb and Mr. Cohen, who give heavily to Republicans, and the liberal billionaire George Soros, who has called for higher levies on the rich while at the same time using tax loopholes to bolster his own fortune.

All are among a small group providing much of the early cash for the 2016 presidential campaign.

Operating largely out of public view — in tax court, through arcane legislative provisions and in private negotiations with the Internal Revenue Service — the wealthy have used their influence to steadily whittle away at the government’s ability to tax them.

The effect has been to create a kind of private tax system, catering to only several thousand Americans (the old money and new billionaires? Read this bogus charity trust of Zukerberg).

The impact on their own fortunes has been stark.

Two decades ago, when Bill Clinton was elected president, the 400 highest-earning taxpayers in America paid nearly 27% of their income in federal taxes, according to I.R.S. data. (What that rate represents in Revenue?)

By 2012, when President Obama was re-elected, that figure had fallen to less than 17%, which is just slightly more than the typical family making $100,000 annually, when payroll taxes are included for both groups.

The ultra-wealthy “literally pay millions of dollars for these services,” said Jeffrey A. Winters, a political scientist at Northwestern University who studies economic elites, “and save in the tens or hundreds of millions in taxes.”

Some of the biggest current tax battles are being waged by some of the most generous supporters of 2016 candidates.

They include the families of the hedge fund investors Robert Mercer, who gives to Republicans, and James Simons, who gives to Democrats; as well as the options trader Jeffrey Yass, a libertarian-leaning donor to Republicans.

Mr. Yass’s firm is litigating what the agency deemed to be tens of millions of dollars in underpaid taxes.

Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund Mr. Simons founded and which Mr. Mercer helps run, is currently under review by the I.R.S. over a loophole that saved their fund an estimated $6.8 billion in taxes over roughly a decade, according to a Senate investigation.

Some of these same families have also contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to conservative groups that have attacked virtually any effort to raises taxes on the wealthy.

In the heat of the presidential race, the influence of wealthy donors is being tested.

At stake is the Obama administration’s 2013 tax increase on high earners — the first substantial increase in two decades — and an I.R.S. initiative to ensure that, in effect, the higher rates stick by cracking down on tax avoidance by the wealthy.

While Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have pledged to raise taxes on these voters, virtually every Republican has advanced policies that would vastly reduce their tax bills, sometimes to as little as 10 percent of their income.

At the same time, most Republican candidates favor eliminating the inheritance tax, a move that would allow the new rich, and the old, to bequeath their fortunes intact, solidifying the wealth gap far into the future.

And several have proposed a substantial reduction — or even elimination — in the already deeply discounted tax rates on investment gains, a foundation of the most lucrative tax strategies.

“There’s this notion that the wealthy use their money to buy politicians; more accurately, it’s that they can buy policy, and specifically, tax policy,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who served as chief economic adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “That’s why these egregious loopholes exist, and why it’s so hard to close them.”

The Family Office

Each of the top 400 earners took home, on average, about $336 million in 2012, the latest year for which data is available. If the bulk of that money had been paid out as salary or wages, as it is for the typical American, the tax obligations of those wealthy taxpayers could have more than doubled.

Instead, much of their income came from convoluted partnerships and high-end investment funds.

Other earnings accrued in opaque family trusts and foreign shell corporations, beyond the reach of the tax authorities.

The well-paid technicians who devise these arrangements toil away at white-shoe law firms and elite investment banks, as well as a variety of obscure boutiques.

But at the fulcrum of the strategizing over how to minimize taxes are so-called family offices, the customized wealth management departments of Americans with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in assets.

Family offices have existed since the late 19th century, when the Rockefellers pioneered the institution, and gained popularity in the 1980s. But they have proliferated rapidly over the last decade, as the ranks of the super-rich, and the size of their fortunes, swelled to record proportions.

“We have so much wealth being created, significant wealth, that it creates a need for the family office structure now,” said Sree Arimilli, an industry recruiting consultant.

Family offices, many of which are dedicated to managing and protecting the wealth of a single family, oversee everything from investment strategy to philanthropy.

But tax planning is a core function.

While the specific techniques these advisers employ to minimize taxes can be mind-numbingly complex, they generally follow a few simple principles, like converting one type of income into another type that’s taxed at a lower rate.

Mr. Loeb, for example, has invested in a Bermuda-based reinsurer — an insurer to insurance companies — that turns around and invests the money in his hedge fund.

That maneuver transforms his profits from short-term bets in the market, which the government taxes at roughly 40 percent, into long-term profits, known as capital gains, which are taxed at roughly half that rate.

It has had the added advantage of letting Mr. Loeb defer taxes on this income indefinitely, allowing his wealth to compound and grow more quickly.

The Bermuda insurer Mr. Loeb helped set up went public in 2013 and is active in the insurance business, not merely a tax dodge. Mr. Cohen and Mr. Bacon abandoned similar insurance-based strategies in recent years.

“Our investment in Max Re was not a tax-driven scheme, but rather a sound investment response to investor interest in a more dynamically managed portfolio akin to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway,” said Mr. Bacon, who leads Moore Capital Management. “Hedge funds were a minority of the investment portfolio, and Moore Capital’s products a much smaller subset of this alternative portfolio.” Mr. Loeb and Mr. Cohen declined to comment.

Organizing one’s business as a partnership can be lucrative in its own right.

Some of the partnerships from which the wealthy derive their income are allowed to sell shares to the public, making it easy to cash out a chunk of the business while retaining control.

But unlike publicly traded corporations, they pay no corporate income tax; the partners pay taxes as individuals. And the income taxes are often reduced by large deductions, such as for depreciation.

For large private partnerships, meanwhile, the I.R.S. often struggles “to determine whether a tax shelter exists, an abusive tax transaction is being used,” according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office.

The agency is not allowed to collect underpaid taxes directly from these partnerships, even those with several hundred partners. Instead, it must collect from each individual partner, requiring the agency to commit significant time and manpower.

The wealthy can also avail themselves of a range of esoteric and customized tax deductions that go far beyond writing off a home office or dinner with a client. One aggressive strategy is to place income in a type of charitable trust, generating a deduction that offsets the income tax.

The trust then purchases what’s known as a private placement life insurance policy, which invests the money on a tax-free basis, frequently in a number of hedge funds. The person’s heirs can inherit, also tax-free, whatever money is left after the trust pays out a percentage each year to charity, often a considerable sum.

Many of these maneuvers are well established, and wealthy taxpayers say they are well within their rights to exploit them.

Others exist in a legal gray area, its boundaries defined by the willingness of taxpayers to defend their strategies against the I.R.S. Almost all are outside the price range of the average taxpayer.

Among tax lawyers and accountants, “the best and brightest get a high from figuring out how to do tricky little deals,” said Karen L. Hawkins, who until recently headed the I.R.S. office that oversees tax practitioners. “Frankly, it is almost beyond the intellectual and resource capacity of the Internal Revenue Service to catch.”

(This cliché that the public institutions cannot afford and lack the best minds and expertise)

The combination of cost and complexity has had a profound effect, tax experts said. Whatever tax rates Congress sets, the actual rates paid by the ultra-wealthy tend to fall over time as they exploit their numerous advantages.

From Mr. Obama’s inauguration through the end of 2012, federal income tax rates on individuals did not change (excluding payroll taxes). But the highest-earning one-thousandth of Americans went from paying an average of 20.9 percent to 17.6%.

By contrast, the top 1%, excluding the very wealthy, went from paying just under 24% on average to just over that level.

“We do have two different tax systems, one for normal wage-earners and another for those who can afford sophisticated tax advice,” said Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of San Diego who studies the intersection of tax policy and inequality. “

At the very top of the income distribution, the effective rate of tax goes down, contrary to the principles of a progressive income tax system.”

A Very Quiet Defense

Having helped foster an alternative tax system, wealthy Americans have been aggressive in defending it.

Trade groups representing the Bermuda-based insurance company Mr. Loeb helped set up, for example, have spent the last several months pleading with the I.R.S. that its proposed rules tightening the hedge fund insurance loophole are too onerous.

The major industry group representing private equity funds spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year lobbying on such issues as “carried interest,” the granddaddy of Wall Street tax loopholes, which makes it possible for fund managers to pay the capital gains rate rather than the higher standard tax rate on a substantial share of their income for running the fund.

The budget deal that Congress approved in October allows the I.R.S. to collect underpaid taxes from large partnerships at the firm level for the first time — which is far easier for the agency — thanks to a provision that lawmakers slipped into the deal at the last minute, before many lobbyists could mobilize.

But the new rules are relatively weak — firms can still choose to have partners pay the taxes — and don’t take effect until 2018, giving the wealthy plenty of time to weaken them further.

Shortly after the provision passed, the Managed Funds Association, an industry group that represents prominent hedge funds like D. E. Shaw, Renaissance Technologies, Tiger Management and Third Point, began meeting with members of Congress to discuss a wish list of adjustments.

The founders of these funds have all donated at least $500,000 to 2016 presidential candidates.

During the Obama presidency, the association itself has risen to become one of the most powerful trade groups in Washington, spending over $4 million a year on lobbying.

The buying power lobbying clout of the wealthy is most often deployed through industry trade associations and lawyers, some rich families have locked arms to advance their interests more directly.

The inheritance tax has been a primary target.

In the early 1990s, a California family office executive named Patricia Soldano began lobbying on behalf of wealthy families to repeal the tax, which would not only save them money, but also make it easier to preserve their business empires from one generation to the next.

The idea struck many hardened operatives as unrealistic at the time, given that the tax affected only the wealthiest Americans. But Ms. Soldano’s efforts — funded in part by the Mars and Koch families — laid the groundwork for a one-year elimination in 2010.

The tax has been restored, but currently applies only to couples leaving roughly $11 million or more to their heirs, up from those leaving more than $1.2 million when Ms. Soldano started her campaign. It affected fewer than 5,200 families last year.

“If anyone would have told me we’d be where we are today, I would never have guessed it,” Ms. Soldano said in an interview.

Some of the most profound victories are barely known outside the insular world of the wealthy and their financial managers.

In 2009, Congress set out to require that investment partnerships like hedge funds register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, partly so that regulators would have a better grasp on the risks they posed to the financial system.

The early legislative language would have required single-family offices to register as well, exposing the highly secretive institutions to scrutiny that their clients were eager to avoid. Some of the I.R.S.’s cases against the wealthy originate with tips from the S.E.C., which is often better positioned to spot tax evasion.

By the summer of 2009, several family office executives had formed a lobbying group called the Private Investor Coalition to push back against the proposal. The coalition won an exemption in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, then spent much of the next year persuading the S.E.C. to largely adopt its preferred definition of “family office.”

So expansive was the resulting loophole that Mr. Soros’s $24.5 billion hedge fund took advantage of it, converting to a family office after returning capital to its remaining outside investors. The hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, a former business partner of Mr. Soros, took the same step.

The Soros family, which generally supports Democrats, has committed at least $1 million to the 2016 presidential campaign; Mr. Druckenmiller, who favors Republicans, has put slightly more than $300,000 behind three different G.O.P. presidential candidates.

A slide presentation from the Private Investor Coalition’s 2013 annual meeting credited the success to multiple meetings with members of the Senate Banking Committee, the House Financial Services Committee, congressional staff and S.E.C. staff.

“All with a low profile,” the document noted. “We got most of what we wanted AND a few extras we didn’t request.”

A Hobbled Monitor

After all the loopholes and all the lobbying, what remains of the government’s ability to collect taxes from the wealthy runs up against one final hurdle: the crisis facing the I.R.S.

President Obama has made fighting tax evasion by the rich a priority. In 2010, he signed legislation making it easier to identify Americans who squirreled away assets in Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Islands shelters

His I.R.S. convened a Global High Wealth Industry Group, known colloquially as “the wealth squad,” to scrutinize the returns of Americans with incomes of at least $10 million a year.

But while these measures have helped the government retrieve billions, the agency’s efforts have flagged in the face of scandal, political pressure and budget cuts.

Between 2010, the year before Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, and 2014, the I.R.S. budget dropped by almost $2 billion in real terms, or nearly 15%. That has forced it to shed about 5,000 high-level enforcement positions out of about 23,000, according to the agency.

Audit rates for the $10 million-plus club spiked in the first few years of the Global High Wealth program, but have plummeted since then.

The political challenge for the agency became especially acute in 2013, after the agency acknowledged singling out conservative nonprofits in a review of political activity by tax-exempt groups. (Senior officials left the agency as a result of the controversy.)

Several former I.R.S. officials, including Marcus Owens, who once headed the agency’s Exempt Organizations division, said the controversy badly damaged the agency’s willingness to investigate other taxpayers, even outside the exempt division.

“I.R.S. enforcement is either absent or diminished” in certain areas, he said. Mr. Owens added that his former department — which provides some oversight of money used by charities and nonprofits — has been decimated.

Groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Tax Reform, which are financed partly by the foundations of wealthy families and large businesses, have called for impeaching the I.R.S. commissioner.

They are bolstered by deep-pocketed advocacy groups like the Club for Growth, which has aided primary challenges against Republicans who have voted in favor of higher taxes.

In 2014, the Club for Growth Action fund raised more than $9 million and spent much of it helping candidates critical of the I.R.S. Roughly 60 percent of the money raised by the fund came from just 12 donors, including Mr. Mercer, who has given the group $2 million in the last five years.

Mr. Mercer and his immediate family have also donated more than $11 million to several super PACs supporting Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, an outspoken I.R.S. critic and a presidential candidate.

Another prominent donor is Mr. Yass, who helps run a trading firm called the Susquehanna International Group. He donated $100,000 to the Club for Growth Action fund in September. Mr. Yass serves on the board of the libertarian Cato Institute and, like Mr. Mercer, appears to subscribe to limited-government views that partly motivate his political spending.

But he may also have more than a passing interest in creating a political environment that undermines the I.R.S. Susquehanna is currently challenging a proposed I.R.S. determination that an affiliate of the firm effectively repatriated more than $375 million in income from subsidiaries located in Ireland and the Cayman Islands in 2007, creating a large tax liability.

(The affiliate brought the money back to the United States in later years and paid dividend taxes on it; the I.R.S. asserts that it should have paid the ordinary income tax rate, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars more.)

In June, Mr. Yass donated more than $2 million to three super PACs aligned with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has called for taxing all income at a flat rate of 14.5 percent. That change in itself would save wealthy supporters like Mr. Yass millions of dollars.

Mr. Paul, also a presidential candididate, has suggested going even further, calling the I.R.S. a “rogue agency” and circulating a petition in 2013 calling for the tax equivalent of regime change. “Be it now therefore resolved,” the petition reads, “that we, the undersigned, demand the immediate abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service.”

But even if that campaign is a long shot, the richest taxpayers will continue to enjoy advantages over everyone else.

For the ultra-wealthy, “our tax code is like a leaky barrel,” said J. Todd Metcalf, the Democrats’ chief tax counsel on the Senate Finance Committee. ”Unless you plug every hole or get a new barrel, it’s going to leak out.”

Nicholas Confessore contributed reporting and Kitty Bennett contributed research.

A version of this article appears in print on December 30, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: By Molding Tax System,Wealthiest Save Billions.

Book review of “Farewell Beirut”

Posted on November 14, 2008

Farewell Beirut is fundamentally an autobiographical witnessed short stories and is of 220 pages distributed in 15 chapters.

Late Mai Ghoussoub is a writer, sculpture, theater promoter, and a co-founder of the publishing house Dar Al Saki, was 54 when she died of complication from a surgery in London on February 17, 2007.

Mai participated in the Lebanese civil war by caring for the downtrodden Palestinians living in shantytown of refugee camps.

She lost an eye by a rocket that hit her car while aiding in a clinic of Nabaa in East Beirut, and she suffered greatly for three years out of that injury.  Mai decided to leave Lebanon in 1979 and lived for a while in Paris and then moved to London.

Mai suggested to her old school friend Andre Caspar, who was hitchhiking in the USA, to join her and open a library that would offer Arabic books and manuscript.  The library led to instituting the publishing house Dar Al Saki in 1983. Mai married Hazem Saghieh, a writer and newspaper editor.

During an art exhibition in Shore Ditch London, Mai and her Israeli actress friend Anna Sharbati donned Muslim attires and held tennis rackets to stir any climate of conservatism in London, but nobody noticed them.

Mai recalls that at the age of 12, she was attached to her female French teacher Nomie.  To please her teacher she wrote a lengthy fictitious essay that ended with an injunction for revenge on harms done to her.  Nomie gave her only 10 out of 20 points because the want for revenge is the basest of emotions… Mai retained that lesson and struggled with it most of her turbulent life, especially during part of the civil war.

First story.

Tiny and sickly Latifa was barely 9 years old when her Syrian father “rented” her for a year to work as maid (house helper). Latifa was to get up before any member of the family and go to bed in a corner of the kitchen after every member was asleep and work non-stop most of the time. Latifa, treated worse than a slave, endured all the miseries and humiliations.

(We had 3 Syrian kids girls from Safita in Syria, ranging from 10 to 12. The father of the kid used to pay us a visit every year to collect upfront the yearly wage of the daughter. The father barely spent any time, much less quality time with his daughter. These girls experienced a heart-wrenched moment when they had to leave us. They got used to us, though we never demanded from them a glass of water. Mother was the boss and we had nothing to do with these hard working helpers. I guess they sensed they will have a harsher life and maybe be married at a young age)

Latifa’s father used to show up drunk once a year to be paid without even bringing his daughter a token of a gift or spending any time with her.

Latifa was raped by the eldest son of the family and she was no longer permitted to leave the apartment. During the civil war in Lebanon, tiny Latifa was to brave the snipers and rockets to bring food to the family. 

Latifa joined the militias of the neighborhood and moved with them; she covered her face with a hood (cagoule) so that nobody would recognize her, but her large eyes could not conceal her.  Latifa never took revenge on her “masters”, but tried her best to move forward.

Latifa got famous as “Um Ali”, and one of the toughest fighters in Beirut. 

She was killed mysteriously and her “masters” had no photo of her to plaster it on the street in remembrance of a “martyr”.  Latifa lived incognito and died incognito.

Second story.

Said was the only son of the owner of a small grocery.  His family was constantly worried for his upbringing.  Said was a short, stocky, jovial and smiling helper; he delivered the groceries to the homes and was liked by the entire neighborhood; he wanted to join the “hospitality” business.

The civil war changed Said: he joined the militias and became a tough fighter.  There were plenty of rumors about Said’s deeds during the war; a sniper, a blackmailer, a leader of a group of fighters and anything that warriors are expected to end up doing among scared and humiliated citizens.

Said opened a small hotel after the war.  The author was unable to label a definitive judgment opinion on Said as she recalled him when Mai was settled overseas.  Can a man be fundamentally good and change to the opposite when circumstances change?

Third story.

Hashem is an Iranian refugee in Beirut, fleeing the new Khomeini Islamic regime

Hashem is well liked and funny and has strong and definite positions against the Western States and cultures.  He immigrated to Denmark during the Lebanese civil war and married the tall, beautiful and blonde Kirsten.  

Kersten did her best to assimilate Hashem’s culture and tradition; she befriended his friends, learned to cook Iranian and Lebanese dishes, helped bring Hashem’s family to Denmark and had promised him to wear the veil when they decide to return to Iran or settle in Lebanon.

Hashem fell in love with Maria, a Chilean girl, while attending a Danish language center.  Maria didn’t care for Hashem’s friends or even his health; all she cared for was her relationship with Hashem.  Kirsten didn’t like the situation; she never reprimanded Hashem verbally: her eyes and silence and posture expressed her displeasure.

Hashem was killed in Denmark in 1989; Kirsten set up an official obituary in her church and in the mosque. She organized the funeral to its minute details and delivered the eulogy; she persisted on keeping Hashem’s memory every year and obliterated Maria from the picture. From now on Hashem solely belongs to Kirsten.

Mai volunteered her aid in the clinic of the Chatila Palestinian camp at the start of the civil war; she cataloged the medicines and shelved them accordingly. A young Palestinian leader visited the camp and saw Mai; he sent one of his sbirs to fetch Mai to his headquarter.

Mai and Abu Firas enjoyed a secret amorous affair for long time until Mai’s brother got injured.  Abu Firas made the error of visiting Mai at the hospital; Mai’s family and acquaintances got wind of her marginal affair and she had to leave Lebanon to Paris when her brother recovered.

Mai never carried a weapon or engage in any skirmishes.  Mai was comfortably installed in Paris when she received a long distance call from Lebanon; Mai refused to take the call of Abu Firas:  instead, she wandered in the streets of Paris to relieve the anxiety of the onslaught of her memory of the civil war.

Mai had questions nagging at her “would she ever be able to convince herself that she didn’t participate in the civil war?”, “would she be able to erase the facts that she met assassins and didn’t oppose their deeds?”

One thing that Mai is convinced of is that she allied to mercenaries on ideological grounds and let her country go to hell.

REP. BETTY MCCOLLUM:

LEADing EFFORT TO BLOCK ISRAEL FROM USING U.S. AID TO DESTROY PALESTINIAN HOMES

Putting conditions on U.S. aid to Israel has become a controversial topic — but it was the norm in Washington just a few decades ago.

Alex Kane. April 14 2021,

SINCE 2015, Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., has been the leading congressional critic of Israel’s military detention of Palestinian children, introducing multiple pieces of legislation that would bar Israel from using U.S. military aid to arrest Palestinian youth.

By targeting Israel’s detention of Palestinian children — just one aspect of Israel’s military occupation, but one that involved a highly vulnerable population — McCollum was attempting to make her bills appeal to the widest swath of Democrats possible.

For most others in her party, the check the U.S. wrote to Israel every year was Not up for debate.

McCollum is now planning to introduce legislation on Thursday that would bar U.S. aid from subsidizing a wider array of Israeli occupation tactics, an indication of just how far the debate over U.S. aid to Israel has come in the past six years.

“There is nothing out of the ordinary about conditioning aid. … All taxpayer funds provided by Congress to foreign governments in the form of aid are subject to conditions in a myriad of generally applicable laws, yet the $3.8 billion provided to Israel by the State Department has no country-specific conditions despite Israel’s systemic violations of Palestinian human rights,” McCollum told The Intercept.

“I don’t want $1 of U.S. aid to Israel paying for the military detention and abuse of Palestinian children, the demolition of Palestinian homes, or the annexation of Palestinian land.”

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McCollum’s bill is the result of years of work by Palestinian rights activists to cut or condition aid to Israel.

These calls have been fueled by reports of U.S.-made weapons being used to kill Palestinian civilians, whether with Hellfire missiles fired by Israeli fighter jets on homes in Gaza or with U.S.-made rifles used to gun down Palestinian protesters.

Human rights organizations have documented the Israeli military’s repeated use of bulldozers produced by the Illinois-based Caterpillar company to demolish Palestinian homes.

“I don’t want $1 of U.S. aid to Israel paying for the military detention and abuse of Palestinian children, the demolition of Palestinian homes, or the annexation of Palestinian land.”

The legislation has been endorsed by more than 20 groups, including mainstays in the Palestinian rights movement like the Adalah Justice Project and Jewish Voice for Peace Action, as well as the liberal pro-Israel group Americans for Peace Now and the progressive Justice Democrats, which focuses on launching primaries against establishment Democrats.

53% of Democratic voters told Gallup this year that they support increasing pressure on Israel — an increase of 10 points since 2018 — yet most Democrats in the House and Senate do not support conditioning aid, and the bill faces steep odds of even getting a hearing in the House Foreign Affairs and Appropriations committees.

Still, it’s the most significant effort yet by progressive Democrats to broach what was once an unthinkable red line: changing the nature of U.S. military aid to Israel so that U.S. aid is banned from furthering Israeli human rights abuses.

It’s a remarkable development in an institution long thought to be a permanent stronghold for the pro-Israel lobby.

“The movement in Congress is unprecedented,” said Raed Jarrar, a Palestinian American analyst and the former advocacy director for American Muslims for Palestine.

“I never dreamed that we would have bills banning the U.S. government from funding Israeli activities that are in violation of U.S. law or international law.”

Broader political dynamics — the combination of Israel’s hard-right direction, its apartheid system in the occupied territories, and Barack Obama’s clashes with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed by the Trump-Netanyahu alliance — have created space for this discussion to come to the fore. 

These developments have also pushed groups closer to the Democratic mainstream to advocate for restrictions on how U.S. aid can be used by Israel. J Street, a liberal group that supports U.S. aid to Israel but opposes Israel’s military occupation, is backing McCollum’s bill — the first time the group backs one of her efforts to ensure that U.S. military aid to Israel comes with strings attached.

In addition to encouraging congressional support for McCollum’s bill, the group, whose annual conference will begin on April 18, will lobby members of Congress to introduce language to the foreign appropriations bill to restrict U.S. military aid from furthering policies of annexation or the exercise of permanent military control over a territory under occupation.

While J Street’s language does not single out Israel, the group sees it as prohibiting U.S. aid from supporting those Israeli actions.

The lobbying marks a significant shift for a group seen as the most influential liberal Jewish group working on Israel in Washington. J Street’s endorsement or opposition to legislation around Israel carries significant weight in the Democratic caucus, and Palestinian rights advocates — and even some within J Street — have often criticized the group for standing in the way of legislative efforts to condition U.S. aid to Israel.

“We believe that every dollar of our current security assistance to Israel should go towards measures that address Israel’s actual security needs — and that none of that money or the equipment bought with it should be used in connection with the demolition of Palestinian communities, settlement expansion or other actions that facilitate de facto annexation in the occupied West Bank,” said Dylan Williams, J Street’s senior vice president of policy and strategy who leads the government affairs team. “

Policies like that trample on Palestinian rights and undermine Israel’s own long-term future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”

J Street’s position is in stark contrast to that of other pro-Israel groups. In March, as part of its virtual national council meeting, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, lobbied members of Congress to sign on to a letter authored by Reps. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., that criticizes efforts to condition aid to Israel.

“The Democratic Party has been clear in its opposition to putting additional conditions on military assistance to Israel. …

While there are a few Democrats who want additional conditions, the party has spoken clearly and unambiguously against such efforts,” said Rachel Rosen, spokesperson for the lobby group Democratic Majority for Israel, which has spent heavily against lawmakers and candidates who have been critical of Israel.

President Joe Biden has taken some steps to reverse the Trump administration’s unprecedented practice of gifting the Israeli government whatever they wanted, including by reversing Donald Trump’s decision to cut off all humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

But the Biden administration has also made clear that it will not fundamentally change the U.S.-Israel relationship. Biden called the idea of conditioning aid to Israel “bizarre” during the 2020 campaign and has stocked his administration with pro-Israel officials who have ruled out pressuring the country over its treatment of Palestinians.

The task for the Palestinian rights movement, then, is to find a way to convince the majority of Democrats to join their side, or to successfully unseat enough lawmakers whose support for Israel is unconditional and immovable, such that the rest of the caucus recognizes where the political winds are shifting.

This has begun already, perhaps most notably with the ouster of longtime congressman and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel by Jamaal Bowman last year. It’s a monumental mission that will likely take years to reach.

While conditioning military aid would mark a historic rupture in the U.S.-Israel relationship, sending a message to Israel that the days of committing human rights abuses with blank American checks are over, it would also be a return to what was the norm in Washington just a few decades ago.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: Chairwoman Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) questions witnesses on the Indian Health Service response to the Covid-19 pandemic during a House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies hearing on June 11, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., asks questions during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on June 11, 2020.

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

U.S. MILITARY ASSISTANCE to Israel dates back to 1962, when President John F. Kennedy decided to sell Israel anti-aircraft missiles. Since then, the U.S. has given Israel over $110 billion in military funding, making it the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in history.

This military assistance falls under the rubric of the Foreign Assistance Act, which stipulates that U.S. aid cannot be used by foreign countries to commit human rights violations, and the Arms Export Control Act, which limits foreign military forces from using such aid for purposes beyond “self-defense.”

Beginning with Gerald Ford’s presidency, successive U.S. presidents used military aid as a tool to pressure Israel to make concessions to its neighbors, acting on a belief that Israeli-Arab peace was crucial to tamping down tensions in a resource-rich region that had become a venue for U.S.-Soviet proxy battles.

The regional conflict had begun with Israel’s declaration of statehood in 1948, which prompted surrounding Arab states to invade, ostensibly to defend Palestinians, although Arab countries had their own territorial designs on Palestine.

The conflict intensified with Israel’s lightning defeat of Arab nations in the 1967 war, which saw Israel capture and occupy the Syrian Golan Heights, the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, and the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.

In 1975, the Ford White House temporarily suspended delivery of fighter jets to Israel in a bid to get Israel to agree to partial withdrawal from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

In September of that year, Israel relented, carrying out a partial withdrawal.

In 1977, Jimmy Carter threatened to withhold aid to Israel if it didn’t come to an agreement with Egypt over full withdrawal from the Sinai, which Israel eventually did after signing the Camp David Peace Accords with Egypt.

In April 1983, Ronald Reagan held up the delivery of F-16 fighter jets because of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, authorizing the shipment only after Israel agreed to withdraw its forces. (Israel didn’t withdraw its troops until 2000)

And in 1991, George H.W. Bush blocked $10 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to Israel and demanded that Israel stopped building illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza; the loans started flowing only after Israel agreed to participate in the Madrid Peace Conference, alongside Palestinian, Jordanian, Syrian, and Lebanese officials, as well as limits on settlement construction.(A conference that was cut short after Shamir promptly withdrew from it and returned to Israel)

Bush, however, was the last president to use U.S. aid to compel Israel to act a certain way.

“For most places in the pro-Israel community … there doesn’t seem to be a very significant appetite for putting pressure on Israel.”

According to Dan Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005, this shift was the result of a decline in hands-on foreign affairs experience among U.S. presidents, combined with the fact that “pro-Israel, both Jewish and, particularly, evangelical Christian communities, have grown into very outsized political roles.

They’re not just in politics in our country, but also in the funding of the politics. And for most places in the pro-Israel community, whether from the right or left, stopping short of the progressive wing on the left, there doesn’t seem to be a very significant appetite for putting pressure on Israel.”

Among the key actors were AIPAC, which had established itself as a singularly influential force by the 1990s, and Christians United for Israel, a group of mostly white, Christian, evangelical Republicans whose influence grew after the September 11 attacks.

Both AIPAC and CUFI mobilized millions of people and poured millions more into campaign coffers in pursuit of their interests.

In the early 2000s, when Israel ramped up military operations against Palestinians during the Second Intifada, killing civilians, some U.S. officials questioned whether Israel was using U.S. equipment legally and thought the U.S. ought to send a warning to Israel, according to Lawrence Wilkerson, who served in the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff from 2001 to 2002.

“We knew it would never get past the secretary,” said Wilkerson, referring to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. “It would never get sent. The White House would not permit it.”

Instead, successive White Houses agreed to provide even more U.S. aid to Israel, without any specific conditions on how that aid can be used — even during periods of tension between the two countries.

Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu was famously cold, clashing over Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank, which in turn imperiled the prospects for a Palestinian state, and over Netanyahu’s meddling in U.S. politics to torpedo the Iran nuclear deal.

Nevertheless, in 2016, Obama and Netanyahu struck a record-setting Memorandum of Understanding, in which the U.S. promised to give Israel $38 billion in military aid between 2019 and 2028.

When the Obama administration “negotiated the memorandum of understanding, they wouldn’t consider using those talks as leverage to get Israel to stop problematic activity, including settlement expansion.

They siloed security assistance and had those discussions separately,” said Zaha Hassan, a Palestinian human rights lawyer and visiting fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “This is Biden’s position as well — that security assistance benefits the U.S., so we don’t want to condition that.”

Raising questions about U.S. military aid to Israel was “third-rail politics” in D.C. for many years, Jarrar, the Palestinian American analyst, said. “If you touch it, you’ll get electrocuted.”

Palestinian women and a child walk past a destroyed house in the Israeli-bombed Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on January 23, 2009. A Hamas delegation from Gaza crossed into Egypt for talks to shore up the ceasefire with Israel which ended a 22-day assault on the coastal strip, a border official said. Israel and Hamas have observed their own ceasefires since January 18 when Israel ended Operation Cast Lead leaving a trail of devastation and 1,330 Palestinians dead, according to doctors. Egypt is trying to secure a durable ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and the reopening of crossings. AFP PHOTO/OLIVIER LABAN-MATTEI (Photo credit should read OLIVIER LABAN-MATTEI/AFP via Getty Images)

Palestinian women and a child walk past rubble following Operation Cast Lead in the northern Gaza Strip on Jan. 23, 2009.

Photo: Olivier Laban-Mattei/AFP via Getty Images

JUST OVER A decade ago, the prevailing assumption among Palestinian rights advocates was that appealing to U.S. audiences, let alone politicians, to question U.S. weapons sales to Israel was futile, according to Brad Parker, who began to volunteer with the Ramallah-based Defense for Children International – Palestine, or DCIP, in 2009.

That same year, though, an intense Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian coastal area under Israeli blockade since 2007, began to change the conversation. Dubbed Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s U.S.-backed attack killed 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians. Amnesty International called the assault “22 days of death and destruction.”

On college campuses, student activism for Palestinian rights, led by Students for Justice in Palestine chapters, surged. Over the next five years, 24 SJP chapters presented resolutions before student governments to end their university’s investments in companies that profited off of Israeli abuses. Eleven of them passed — eight more than the total passed between 2005 and 2008.

The changing American landscape got Parker’s attention, and at the end of 2014, Parker, who had joined DCI’s staff as an international advocacy officer, pitched them an idea for a D.C.-based legislative campaign centering on Palestinian children called “No Way to Treat a Child.” The group agreed, and in early 2015, along with the American Friends Service Committee’s Jennifer Bing, DCIP approached McCollum about doing something regarding the Israeli army’s practice of arresting, detaining, and abusing Palestinian children throughout the occupied West Bank.

In addition to her reputation as an advocate for children’s rights, McCollum had also previously voted against AIPAC-backed legislation that humanitarian organizations warned would make it difficult to provide health care for Palestinians. After McCollum voted against the bill, she said an AIPAC member in her district had called her a terrorist supporter, and McCollum, in a public letter, demanded an apology. (AIPAC denied this account.)

In June 2015, McCollum authored a letter, co-signed by 17 other members of Congress, calling on then-Secretary of State John Kerry to raise Israel’s abuse of Palestinian children in his discussions with Israeli officials. Since then, McCollum has authored two bills that would prohibit U.S. military aid from being used by Israel to detain Palestinian children — though it has been a somewhat lonely journey.

“In the last Congress, fewer than 30 Democrats supported my legislation to prohibit Israel from using the U.S. military aid they receive to mistreat or torture Palestinian children,” McCollum told The Intercept.

“Until the lives and futures of millions of Palestinians are made a priority by Congress, nothing will change. But I am determined to keep trying and I hope more of my colleagues will join me in working for peace, justice, and human rights for Palestinians and Israelis alike.”“Why is de jure annexation more problematic than actual on-the-ground activities that lead to home demolitions, residency revocation, exploitation of Palestinian resources?”

Last year, as Netanyahu considered officially annexing large swaths of the West Bank to Israel with Trump’s support, critics of Israel were galvanized. McCollum introduced a House bill that would prohibit U.S. aid to Israel from being used in territory annexed by the state.

In the Senate, Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., led the introduction of an amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that would prohibit Israel from using U.S. aid in carrying out annexation of the occupied West Bank. The amendment did not get a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, but it marked the first time U.S. senators raised the idea of legislating restrictions on U.S. aid to Israel.

Ultimately, Netanyahu backed down on his annexation plan in exchange for the United Arab Emirates normalizing diplomatic relations (though human rights groups say Israel’s de facto annexation of Palestinian land continues apace). When that happened, the energy behind placing restrictions on U.S. aid dissipated, at least in the Senate.

“When it came down to de jure annexation they were willing to talk about conditionality and settlements, but only in the context of Israel taking this official step,” said Hassan, the Palestinian human rights lawyer. “Why is de jure annexation more problematic than actual on-the-ground activities that lead to home demolitions, residency revocation, exploitation of Palestinian resources?”

UNITED STATES - March 11: Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference on rent and mortgage cancellation in Washington on Thursday, March 11, 2021. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference on rent and mortgage cancellation in Washington, D.C., on March 11, 2021.

Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call via AP

OVER THE LAST couple of years, a small group of progressive Democrats in Congress has been trying to forge a new reality on U.S policy toward Israel. It includes Reps. McCollum, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Mark Pocan, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The group also includes Reps. Marie Newman and Jamaal Bowman, whose primary challenges to pro-Israel hawks last year signal that being a sharp critic of U.S. support for Israel no longer means destroying one’s electoral chances.

Related What Would Jamaal Bowman’s Win Over Pro-Israel Eliot Engel Mean for Palestinian Rights?

Bowman, who backed conditioning aid to Israel, unseated Eliot Engel, an entrenched and powerful incumbent from New York, while Newman, an anti-bullying activist, took on staunch AIPAC ally Dan Lipinski in Illinois.

In a position paper published by her campaign in 2019, Newman said she’s against U.S. military aid being used by Israel to maintain its military occupation of Palestinian land and that she supports legislation to bar U.S. aid from subsidizing Israel’s detention of Palestinian children.

That posture stood in sharp contrast to Lipinski, who had co-authored the Protect Academic Freedom Act in 2014, which would bar federal funds to universities if any organization funded by the school supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS, targeting Israel over its human rights abuses.

During the 2020 Democratic primary, Israel advocacy groups contributed about $75,000 to Lipinski, who attacked Newman as “anti-Israel” and likened her to Omar, whose 2019 comments denigrating the pro-Israel lobby unleashed a wave of attacks on her.

In the Bowman-Engel race, Democratic Majority for Israel spent about $2 million in TV ads and mailers in support of Engel, while Pro-Israel America PAC and NorPac, two Israel advocacy groups that focus on electoral campaigns, gave Engel over $260,000 in contributions.“When progressives do take critical stances towards the occupation, there is definitely a price to pay for that.”

“When progressives do take critical stances towards the occupation, there is definitely a price to pay for that because of the work of DMFI, AIPAC and other affiliated foreign policy hawks, who will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, or sometimes millions of dollars, to destroy a progressive challenger,” said Waleed Shahid, spokesperson for Justice Democrats, which had backed both Bowman’s and Newman’s campaigns.

Newman’s race against Lipinski was largely fought around his opposition to abortion rights, a position out of step with most Democratic primary voters. Still, Newman’s outspokenness on Palestine boosted her in an ethnically mixed district that includes about 110,000 Arab Americans, the majority of them Palestinian.

Lipinski’s anti-BDS bill and alliance with AIPAC angered many Palestinians in the district. Combined with an energetic Democratic primary base looking to punish one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, it was enough to put Newman over the top.

In this Monday, March 9, 2020, photo, Democrat Marie Newman smiles as she campaigns in the Archer Heights neighborhood of Chicago. Longtime Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski was ousted by small-business owner Marie Newman of La Grange, in the Tuesday March 17, 2020 Primary. It was Newman's second attempt for the seat, which covers Chicago neighborhoods and southwest suburbs.  (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Democrat Marie Newman campaigns in the Archer Heights neighborhood of Chicago on March 9, 2020.

Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

This year, Newman was the first member of Congress to criticize Israel for not extending its Covid-19 vaccination program to Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. And in March, she was one of 10 progressive Democrats to sign Tlaib’s and Pocan’s letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling on him to investigate whether Israel unlawfully used U.S.-made military equipment to demolish Palestinian homes.

“You can’t violate international law. You can’t use aid that we’re giving you to hurt other folks that live with you, or side by side with you. These are just golden rules, right?” Newman told The Intercept. “It was perfectly logical from a humanitarian rights standpoint to make sure that we continue to be consistent with every country, and right now we’re not being consistent with Israel.”

Beth Miller, Jewish Voice for Peace Action’s government affairs manager, noted that the sea change in congressional discourse is due to new members of Congress who are aligning their domestic progressive agenda with foreign policy issues like conditioning military aid to Israel and ending U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen.

Still, Miller noted, these advocates face another steep challenge: Biden’s firm commitment to the status quo of unconditional U.S. aid for Israel.

“What that means is that we just need to push harder for that fight to happen in Congress, because there is a robust debate happening in the House, and there’s room for a much more robust debate to happen in the Senate,” Miller said.

“We’re going to be pushing for as many different versions of vehicles that condition or cut military funding as we can get, and vehicles that center Palestinians and the impact of Israeli government policies on Palestinians, and force Democrats to go on the record time and time and time again saying whether or not they support our tax dollars being used to oppress Palestinians.”

Mairav Zonszein contributed reporting to this story.

Syria: Fundamentals of this Land. Part 1

Posted on September 30, 2012

The first part focuses on the fundamental social and geopolitical conditions of Syria and the Syrian people.

The next article will approach pragmatically how the problems in Syria could be resolved, during and after the Assad regime…

1. Syria is Not determined by mountain chains and desert borders.  Syria is its rivers: The Euphrates, Tigre, Al Assay, Litany, and the Jordan rivers.  It is on the shores of these rivers and the Mediterranean Sea that the earliest known urban City-States (dozens of them) conglomerated and traded with one another and the outside world.

2. Syria is also “Arabic”, aside from the half dozen of other “ethnics”. Hundreds of tribes from the Arabian Peninsula settled Syria, many centuries before Islam was disseminated by prophet Muhammad.  These tribes were mostly Christians, the kind of sects labelled “heretics” by the Orthodox Church of Byzantium.  

Many of these tribes were persecuted and they fled to high mountain chains, or retreated temporarily to the desert borders, and fled to the Persian empire (beyond the eastern shores of the Euphrates) in order to sustain their customs and traditions.

3. Those “Arabic/Syrian” tribes converted to Islam, an almost identical religion as theirs, and were the backbone of the “Arabic/Muslim” armies that vanquished Byzantium and swiftly expanded eastward to crush the Iranian Empire and then toward Egypt and northern Africa…

4. The two Islamic Empires of the Umayyad dynasty in Damascus and the western Morocco/Islamic empire located in Andalusia (Spain) confirmed the Arabic nature of Syria and spread the knowledge of sciences, medicine, cosmology and philosophy for over one thousand years, as the dominant civilization in the Mediterranean Sea basin and in Central Asia…

5. Arabic is not just the latest add-on to the Syrian civilization and identity: Arabic is what gave Syria its lasting and defining identity and sovereignty, and the Arabic language was “modernized”, made legible, and acquired its universal appeal thanks to the educated Syrian people. The current Arabic language is fundamentally Syrian, and its ancestor language is the Aramaic and later called Syriac…

6. Syria, including Lebanon and Palestine, is the hotbed of interactions among the three “monolithic” religions (Judaism, Christian and Islam). Without the presence of these 3 religions in Syria, Syria will be lost as a special entity in the Middle-East, an entity of the convergence of their very similar customs and traditions for thousands of years…

7. Most of the ancient myths, mentioned in the Bibles and archaeological documents, originated from Syria, in this rich land of the earliest urban civilization

8. Syria is the land where most of the persecuted religious sects, fleeing the oppression of the dominant religions of the periods, settled on the mountain chains and eked out a harsh living, raising goats and occasionally looting nearby urban centers…

These minorities were ever ready to side with revolts against the pseudo central powers in Damascus, Baghdad, and occasionally Aleppo…Time to deal with minorities as essential in the fabric of the Syrian community

9. Almost all “Warrior Empires” originating in Central Asia, northern Iran, and northern Turkey…loosely occupied Syria, appointing military governors in the conquered provinces, just to collect the tax…

The majority of the urban dwellers accommodated with the invaders, traded economically and culturally, and eventually transferred their culture to the warrior empires.  

It is the Syrian people, craftsmen, architects, artisans, and skilled workers who built the temples, palaces, schools, the infrastructure…in the lands of the invaders.  

The archaeological findings in the warrior empires are the jobs of the Syrian people

“Farewell Beirut” by late Mai Ghoussoub(book review, part 3)

Posted on December 4, 2008 (and written in Nov,16, 2008)

Note: Paragraphs in parentheses are my own interjections.

The third part of my review was hard and I delayed it too long because the demons that Mai is battling with are spread throughout the book.

I decided not to try to have a coherent or logical links among the different emotions that were troubling Mai, and I will leave it to the readers to do their own homework and reflections.

There are cases of transient insanity such as degraded human values, mocked tradition, and disobedience of State laws and rules.

For example, why we tend to be more lenient toward the rotten moral values of officials simply because they didn’t show rigidity in the mind? 

If we admit that “traitors” are the product of dictatorship and wars, and that this breed of people are present in locations fraught with danger (then most of us might have played the role of traitors under the right conditions).

People have the tendency to be more lenient with deficiency in morality than with extremist positions in ideologies and religious beliefs.

For example, burning witches is related to extreme social and religious dogmatism as a reaction for seeking consensus in an established social order. 

Heroes are not necessarily that honorable; take the case of this child who denounced his father, who helped a few Gulag prisoners to escape, to the soviet authorities and in return was awarded a medal of honor and much propaganda.

Take for example the French women who had sexual relationship with German officers during WWII and many of them begot offspring; they had their head shaven since hair is the most representative of female pride.

These head shaven ladies were the scapegoats to releasing the emotions of frustration and rage among the vanquished Parisians. The worst part is that the mothers brought their kids with them to watch this dishonoring ritual. The women watchers are badly dressed, which reflect a bad conscience in being part of the ceremony.

While the German used modern techniques to hide their genocide, the French “victors” adopted medieval means to humiliate and get revenge on the traitors and informers.

John Steinbeck said “We cannot take pictures of war, because war is fundamentally emotions“.

In our back head, we always have fears for the reaction of those we have persecuted.

The French star singer Arlettie reacted furiously and said “What! Are they also meddling in how we use our sex parts?”   Many women had to survive under siege and everyone according to his potentials and skills.

The Argentinean navy officer Adolfo Silingo said:

“I was responsible for killing 30 people with my own hands and I do not feel remorse or repentance because I was following orders, and I got used after the initial shock surprise. We knew that we were killing humans but we kept killing them!  The civilians were in a semi comatose state from torture and we threw them out of the airplane like puppy dolls.

Most of the navy contingents participated in these mass killings” Adolfo admitted. He is spending his life drunk on the streets trying to forget the “dirty war” during the dictatorship against his own people.

General Paul Tibits who dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima is not penitent.  These kinds of people were once considered heroes: how do you view them now?

Hannah Arendt would like to comprehend “Why these people did choose to stop thinking?

Brecht screamed in one of his plays “Woo to the nations that count too many heroes!

Simone Veil didn’t take it personal that she was incarcerated because she was Jew; she was interested to know “how people are propelled into a climate of condemning and defaming others

This question is pertinent “Is it legitimate to hide truth in order to secure social peace? How can we manage to forget, and yet not take chances, for the recurrence of the same sorts of atrocities?”

It is most difficult to find common denominators among the concepts of justice, moral values, and politics when judging cases of genocides.

Bertolt Brecht said: “Tragedies is about human suffering, expressed in less seriousness than comedies. The perpetrators of genocides are not great criminal politicians, but simple people who allowed horrifying political crimes to pass”

Note: The main theme in “Farewell Beirut” is “revenge” and the associated concepts of honor, genocides, nationalism, heroes, traitors, denouncers, martyrdom, punishment, hate, love and the fundamental human emotions that might be interpreted differently through the ages, and civilizations but where the moral values of wrong and right should not be left to personal matters of point of views.

Among the Worst 15 USA live experiments on people: Inside boundaries and outside

Posted on August 6, 2012

  • In: biographies/books | Essays | Events/Cultural/Educational/Arts | health/medicine | Human Factors/Ergonomics | medicine/medical treatment | professional articles | Safety | social articles | Time for Outrage
  • Mind Control in Project MKULTRA.
  • The CIA-ran Project MKULTRA and paid Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron for Subproject 68 (1957 – 1964) . Cameron was to conduct experiments involving mind-altering substances. The goal was to probe examination into methods of influencing and controlling the mind and being able to extract information from resisting minds.
  • Cameron took patients admitted to his Allen Memorial Institute in Montreal and conducted “therapy” on them. The patients were mostly taken in for issues like bipolar depression and anxiety disorders. The treatment they received was life-altering and scarring.
  • Cameron administered electroconvulsive therapy at 30-40 times the normal power. He would put patients into a drug-induced coma for months on-end and playback tapes of simple statements or repetitive noises over and over again.
  • The victims forgot how to talk, forgot about their parents, and suffered serious amnesia.
  • And all of this was performed on Canadian citizens because the CIA wasn’t willing to risk such operations on Americans.
  • To ensure that the project remained funded, Cameron, in one scheme, took his experiments upon admitted children and in one situation had the child engage in sex with high-ranking government officials and film it.
  • Mustard Gas Tested on Soldiers via Involuntary Gas Chambers.
  • As bio-weapon research intensified in the 1940’s, officials also began testing its repercussions and defenses on the Army itself. In order to test the effectiveness of various bio-weapons, officials were known to have sprayed mustard gas and other skin-burning, lung-ruining chemicals, like Lewisite, on soldiers without their consent or knowledge of the experiment happening to them.
  • They also tested the effectiveness of gas masks and protective clothing by locking soldiers in a gas chamber and exposing them to mustard gas and lewisite, evoking the gas chamber image of Nazi Germany.
  • EFFECTS OF LEWISITE: Lewisite is a gas that can easily penetrate clothing and even rubber. Upon contact with the skin, the gas immediately causes extreme pain, itching, swelling and even a rash.
  • Large, fluid-filled blisters develop 12 hours after exposure in the form of intensely severe chemical burns. And that’s just skin contact with the gas.
  • Inhaling of the gas causes a burning pain in the lungs, sneezing, vomiting, and pulmonary edema.
  • EFFECTS OF MUSTARD GAS:  There are no Symptoms until about 24 hours after exposure. Mustard Gas has mutagenic and carcinogenic properties that have killed many subjected to it. Its primary effects include severe burns that turn into yellow-fluid-leaking boils over a period of time.
  • Although treatment is available, Mustard Gas burns heal very, very slowly and are extremely painful.
  • The burns the gas leaves on the skin are sometimes irreparable.
  • It was also rumored that along with the soldiers, patients at VA hospitals were being used as guinea pigs for medical experiments involving bio-warfare chemicals, but that all experiments were changed to be known as “observations” to ward off suspicions
  • U.S. Grants Immunity to Involuntary-Surgery Monster.
  • As head of Japan’s infamous Unit 731 (a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II), Dr. Shiro Ishii (head of medicine) carried out violent human experimentation of tens of thousands during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II.
  • Ishii was responsible for testing vivisection techniques without any anesthesia on human prisoners. For the uninitiated, vivisection is the act of conducting experimental surgery on living creatures (with central nervousness) and examining their insides for scientific purposes.Ishii was giving unnecessary surgery to prisoners by opening them all the way up, keeping them alive and not using any anesthetic.For a disturbing video about vivisection, please go here .
  • During these experiments he would also force pregnant women to abort their babies.He subjected his prisoners to change in physiological conditions and inducing strokes, heart attacks, frostbite, and hypothermia. Ishii considered these subjects “logs”.
  • Following imminent defeat in 1945, Japan blew up the Unity 731 complex and Ishii ordered all the remaining “logs” to be executed. Not soon after, Ishii was arrested. And then, the respected General Douglas McArthur allegedly struck a deal with Ishii. If the U.S. granted Ishii immunity from his crimes, he must exchange all germ warfare data based on human experimentation.
  • So Ishii got away with his crimes because the US became interested in the results of his research.While not directly responsible for these acts, the actions of the American government certainly illustrated it was more than willing to condone human torture for advancements in biological warfare that could kill even more people.Ishii remained alive until 1959, performing research into bio-weaponry and probably thinking up more plans to annihilate people in different ways to his dying day.
  • Deadly Chemical Sprays on American Cities.  
  • The U.S. tends to test out worse-case scenarios by getting to them first.  With the advent of biochemical warfare in the mid 20th century, the Army, CIA and government conducted a series of warfare simulations upon American cities to see how the effects would play out in the event of an actual chemical attack.They conducted the following air strikes/naval attacks:
  • 1. The CIA released a whooping-cough virus on Tampa Bay, using boats, and so caused a whooping-cough epidemic. 12 people died.-
  • 2. The Navy sprayed San Francisco with bacterial pathogens and in consequence many citizens developed pneumonia.3.  
  • Upon Savannah, GA and Avon Park, FL, the army released millions of mosquitoes in the hopes they would spread yellow fever and dengue fever. The swarm left Americans struggling with fevers, typhoid, respiratory problems, and the worst, stillborn children.Even worse was that after the swarm, the Army came in disguised as public health workers. Their secret intention the entire time they were giving aid to the victims was to study and chart-out the long-term effects of all the illnesses they were suffering.
  • US Infects Guatemalans With syphilis STD
  • In the 1940’s, with penicillin as an established cure for syphilis, the US decided to test out its effectiveness on Guatemalan citizens.To do this, they used infected prostitutes and let them loose on unknowing prison inmates, insane asylum patients and soldiers.When spreading the disease through prostitution didn’t work as well as they’d hoped, they instead went for the inoculation route.  
  • Researchers poured syphilis bacteria onto mens’ penises and on their forearms and faces. In some cases, they even inoculated the men through spinal punctures.After all the infections were transmitted, researchers then gave most of the subjects treatment, although as many as 1/3 of them could have been left untreated, even if that was the intention of the study in the first place.
  • On October 1, 2010, Hillary Clinton apologized for the events and new research has gone on to see if anyone affected is still alive and afflicted with syphilis. Since many subjects never got penicillin, its possible and likely that someone spread it to future generations.
  • 6. Harness the power of the atomic bomb.
  • While testing out and trying to harness the power of the atomic bomb, U.S. scientists also secretly tested the bomb’s effects on humans. During the Manhattan Project, which gave way to the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, U.S. scientists resorted to secret human testing via plutonium injection on 18 unsuspecting, non-consenting patients.
  • This test included injecting soldiers with micrograms of plutonium for Project Oak Ridge along with later injecting three patients at a Chicago hospital. Imagine you’re an admitted patient, helpless in a hospital bed, assuming that nothing is wrong when the government suddenly appears and puts weapons-grade plutonium in your blood.Out of the 18 patients, who were known only by their code-names and numbers at the time, only 5 lived longer than 20 years after injection.
  • Along with plutonium, researchers also had fun with uranium. At a Massachusetts hospital, between 1946 and 1947, Dr. William Sweet injected 11 patients with uranium. He was funded by the Manhattan Project.And in exchange for the uranium he received from the government, he would keep dead tissue from the body of the people he killed for scientific analysis on the effects of uranium exposure.To the left is a video on the Manhattan Project.
  • 7. Injected Prisoners with Agent Orange 
  • Americans used Agent Orange as a biological warfare during Vietnam. It was  used on Americans, VOLUNTARILY injected into people for “testing” purposes… with the help of a very popular American company Dow Chemical Company.
  • The US Army, and Johnson & Johnson, Dr. Albert Kligman used prisoners as subjects in what was deemed “dermatological research”. The dermatology aspect was testing out product the effects of Agent Orange on the skin.
    1. For the effects Agent Orange had on the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, please click here (WARNING images in this article may be extremely disturbing, as they include extreme human deformation, including that of infants.)Needless to say the injecting of, or exposure to, dioxidin is beyond monstrous to voluntarily do to any human. Kligman, though, injected dioxidin (a main component of Agent Orange) into the prisoners to study its effects.
    2. What did happen was that the prisoners developed an eruption of chloracne (all that stuff from high school combined with blackheads and cysts and pustules that looked like the picture shown to the left) that develop on the cheeks, behind the ears, armpits, and the groin — yes, the groin.Kligman was rumored to have injected 468 times the amount he was authorized to.
    3. Documentation of that effect has, wisely, not been distributed.The Army oversaw while Kligman continued to test out skin-burning chemicals to (in their words) “learn how the skin protects itself against chronic assault from toxic chemicals, the so-called hardening process” and test out many products whose effects were unknown at the time, but with the intent of figuring that out.During these proceedings, Kligman was reported to have said, “All I saw before me were acres of skin … It was like a farmer seeing a fertile field for the first time.”8. Operation Paperclip While the Nuremberg trials were being conducted and the ethics and rights of humanity were under investigation, the U.S. was secretly taking in Nazi scientists and giving them American identities.
  • Under Operation Paperclip, named so because of the paperclips used to attach the scientists’ new profiles to their US personnel pages…N***s worked in the infamous human experiments (which included surgically grafting twins to each other and making then conjoined, removing nerves from people’s bodies without anesthetic, and testing explosion-effects on them) in Germany brought over their talents to work on a number of top-secret projects for the US.
  • Given then-President Truman’s anti-Nazi orders.The project was kept under wraps and the scientists received faked political biographies, allowing these monsters to live on not only American soil, but as free men.So while it was not direct experimentation, it was the U.S. taking some of the worst people in the world and giving them jobs here to do unknown, horrible experiments/research.
  • 9. Infecting Puerto Rico With Cancer
    1. In 1931, Dr. Cornelius Rhoads was sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute to conduct experiments in Puerto Rico. He infected Puerto Rica citizens with cancer cells, presumably to study the effects. Thirteen of them died.The accusations stem from a note Cornelius wrote:“The Porto Ricans (sic) are the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever to inhabit this sphere… I have done my best to further the process of extermination by killing off eight and transplanting cancer into several more… All physicians take delight in the abuse and torture of the unfortunate subjects.”
    2. Cornelius became vice-president of the American Cancer Society.
  • 10. Pentagon Treats Black Cancer Patients with Extreme Radiation. In the 60’s, the Department of Defense performed a series of irradiation experiments on non-consenting, poor, African-American cancer patients. They were told they would be receiving treatment, but they weren’t told it would be the “Pentagon” type of treatment: meaning to study the effects of high level radiation on the human body.To avoid litigation, forms were signed only with initials so that the patients would have no way to get back at the government.In a similar case, Dr. Eugene Saenger, funded by the Defense Atomic Support Agency (fancy name), conducted the same procedure on the same type of patients.The poor, black Americans received about the same level of radiation as 7500 x-rays to their chest would, which caused intense pain, vomiting and bleeding from their nose and ears. At least 20 of the subjects died.
  • 11. Operation Midnight Climax
    1. Operation Midnight Climax involved safe houses in New York and San Fransisco, built for the sole purpose to study LSD effects on non-consenting individuals.But in order to lure the individuals there, the CIA made these safe houses out to be, wait for it, Brothels. Prostitutes on the CIA payroll  lured “clients” back the houses.Instead of having sex with them, though, they dosed them with a number of substances, most famously LSD. This also involved extensive use of marijuana.
    2. The experiments were monitored behind a two-way mirror, kind of like a sick, twisted peep show. It’s alleged that the officials who ran the experiments described them as…” it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape and pillage with the sanction and bidding of the All-highest?”The most horrifying part was the idea of dosing non-consenting adults with drugs they couldn’t possibly know the effects of. Embedded is a video of a soldier talking about Operation Midnight Climax and his experiences with the C.I.A. and the U.S. Government.
  • 12. Fallout Radiation on Unsuspecting Pacific Territories.
    1. After unleashing hell upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the United States embarked on numerous thermonuclear bomb tests in the Pacific in response to increased Soviet bomb activity. They were intended to be a secret affair. However, this secrecy would fail.
    2. Detonated in 1954 over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Castle Bravo was the most powerful nuclear device the US ever set off. What they didn’t expect was for the fallout from the blast to inadvertently be blown up wind onto nearby residents of other islands. The suffering included birth defects and radiation sickness.The effects were greater felt in later years when many children whose parents were exposed to the fallout developed thyroid cancer and neoplasms.
    3. This created Project 4.1, a study to examine the effects of radiation fallout on human beings. Essentially,it was the latest in a long string of studies where humans act as guinea pigs without giving consent and a project remembered by the US as a way to gather data that would otherwise be unobtainable.
    4. The US moral standard that history best remembers is that even though the radiation fallout on the people of the Marshall Islands was an accident, it might as well have been intended.In addition, perhaps as nature’s way of adding insult to injury, a Japanese fishing boat was caught in the fallout. The fishermen all fell ill and one died, making the Japanese livid that the US was still affecting them with nuclear devices.
  • Tuskegee
    1. The recent uncovering of the US exposing Guatemalans to syphilis brings back to mind this infamous study. In between 1932 and 1972, researchers recruited 400 black sharecroppers in Tuskegee, Alabama to study the natural progression of syphilis. But the scientists never told the men they had syphilis.Instead, they went around believing that they were being treated for “bad blood” disease as researchers used them to find out the extent of syphilis symptoms and effects.I
    2. n 1947, penicillin became the standard cure for syphilis. But along with withholding information about the disease, scientists also “forgot” to tell their subjects that what they were being treated for had a cure.The study continued for nearly 30 years more.
    3. Once it was discovered, the backlash to the study was so fierce that President Bill Clinton made formal apology, stating he was sorry that the government “orchestrated a study that was so racist”. Sadly enough, it would be horrific, but one of the more docile evil human experiments ever conducted by the U.S. Government. Note:

Notes, comments and titbits posted on FB and Twitter. Part 168

Posted on March 21, 2018

Note: I take notes of books that I read slowly and comment on events and edit sentences that fit my style. I pa attention to researched documentaries and serious links I receive. The page is long and growing like crazy, and the sections I post contains a month-old events that are worth refreshing your memory.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

I heard a couple days ago that Israel relented from constructing another wall of shame on Lebanon’s borders: The announcement referred to Lebanon President steadfast complaint that there are still 13 points on the border Not yet resolved with the UN.

Anyway, Hezbollah strong message is a good enough excuse for Israel Not to open another front.

History stories are wrong: History never united a people on a worthy tangible value. Only wars gathered people to loot and massacre neighboring people.

What Great design and great copy do? They speak clearly so that people don’t have to listen so hard among all these noises

Deja enfant, j’étais certaine que devenir adulte privait plus qu’il n’accordait, empêcher plus qu’il n’autorise.

Vivre dans un quartier populaire, tu confrontes la realite’ que ton niveau de vie est plus que proportionnel a ce que tu mérites en qualité’, en proprete’ et en securite’.

When a President considers that what is illegal does Not apply to him (Nixon and all US presidents), and the major news medias keep the lid on, you end up with all kinds of “gates”.

The US citizens got to come to term that all laws were meant to protect the Elites classes behaviors.

In China and Singapore, and in most South-East Asia, 80% of the kids and adolescents suffer from myopia.

How to retard the set in of Myopia? Plenty to outside activities. Classrooms must enjoy 350 Lux lighting. Apparently, Myopine eye drops in very low concentration of atropine, has proven to be effective.

The Alpine jamboree this year is “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World,” so let’s team up and put those pieces back together.

A country is where we don’t have to be deported or transferred

Rational arguments are meant to reach the stage: “I understand” and stop there. 

Emotional intelligence decide on your position. And it is confident and steadfast.

Scientific facts need plenty of clear repetition and “understanding” before being inducted in the emotional intelligence that has the role of making a decision on an issue.

Farewell Beirut (Book review, part 2)

Posted on November 16, 2008

Note: Paragraphs in parentheses are my own interjections.  The names and characters in Mai’s manuscript are not fictitious; she personally eye witness the stories.

The main theme in “Farewell Beirut” is “revenge” and the associated concepts of honor, genocides, nationalism, heroes, traitors, martyrdom, hate, love and the fundamental human emotions that might be interpreted differently through the ages, periods and civilizations… but where the moral values of wrong and right should not be personal matters of point of vues.

In part 1, I related the stories of “Um Ali”, “Said”, “Abu Firas”, and “Hashem”. 

This part would be more related to fundamental questions that Mai Ghoussoub tried to struggle with and to investigate moral issues.

But first, I present the story of Fadwa.

“Fadwa” was sent overseas in 1916 in order to avoid famine and be married to Salem.  In those years parents sent their children by sea, supposedly destined to “America” (USA or Latin America) because they paid high fees.

Instead, and frequently the ship Captains landed them instead in Africa telling them “We reached America, get down” And thus, many Lebanese ended in Africa and kept sending letters to their folks not daring to acknowledge their wrong destinations, and parents resumed sending people to “America”. 

The mother of Fadwa reminded her daughter, before sailing, that she is from a much higher social stratum than her future husband Salem and that Fadwa should remind her husband of that difference. 

Fadwa landed in Ghana (Africa) and had five boys and one girl and she expected Salem to worship her for giving him so many boys. 

Fadwa refrained from mingling with the Lebanese and Syrian families on account that she is of a higher status and had many helpers at home. 

When Ghana got its independence Fadwa was sent back to Lebanon with all her children for fear of reprisals. 

At the airport, the immigrating ladies made sure that Fadwa overhears their conversations that Salem was cheating on her and that he had married an African girl and has African offspring. 

Salem joined Fadwa a month later looking much older and deprived of wealth; but he didn’t expect the hatred and all consuming feeling of revenge that were eating up Fadwa. 

The couple slept in separate beds and Fadwa never called her husband by his name or even faced him. Salem was the “He” or the “decrepit old man”.

Salem’s old friends were admonished never to pay him further visits. Salem was homesick to Ghana because he spent most of his life there and the surrounding family was not cheerful.  Fadwa never smiled and children were scared of her outbursts and rigidity. 

When Salem became handicapped, Fadwa confined him for perpetuity in the house and never cooked his preferred dishes and locked on the sweets and chocolates on grounds that they are forbidden to his health.  Salem died miserably. 

Fadwa died shortly after Salem, totally frustrated and a very unhappy old lady that could not feel that the fruits of her revenge were satisfactory.

The author Mai returned to visit Lebanon after the civil war.  She is repainting her apartment to erase the slogans that militias have painted over the walls; she kept the slogan “Those who teach us lessons in moral values are hypocrite and insolent”.

In the seventies, saying that a person is sure of his opinion was a bad connotation of someone who refuses to detach from traditions.  It was a period when moral issues were not absolute: a person had to take into consideration the environment, the period, and all the facet of the story. 

Opting for neutral stands were cherished values. That was fine and dandy until you are confronted with these sample accidents: thousands of women raped in Bosnia, racist gangs killing whole families in London, cutting off the sexual parts of a 4-year old girl by its family living in Paris according to customs… 

Then you realize that wrong and right are no longer personal opinions.  Vaclav Havel said “The concepts of justice, honor and disloyalty are palpable nowadays”

A chapter compared the act of martyrdoms of the young 16 year-old Lebanese girl Nouha Samaan against the Israeli invaders in South Lebanon and Flora in 10th century Andalusia (Spain).

(Between 1983-87, at least 3 young girls committed suicide acts against the Israeli forces of occupations, such as Sanaa Mheidly, before the young males replaced women).

In Flora’s period, Spain was ruled by the “Arabs” and mostly the Muslims from Morocco and it enjoyed a long period of prosperity and cultural development and tolerance for other religions and ethnic immigrants. 

The mother of Flora was Catholic and her father a Muslim and they lived in Cordoba.

By the age of 16 Flora became a ferocious, one sided Catholic zealot; she proclaimed in front of the tolerant judge that the Prophet Muhammad is a cheat and the devil. 

The judge had the right to execute her but let her go.  Flora would not desist. She associated with the bigot preacher Yologious who claimed that the educated Catholics have taken the road to perdition: instead of focusing their readings solely on the Bible “they are reading literary manuscripts, scientific books, learning to write well and composing poems”. 

Many young disciples of Yologious were harangued to sacrifice their lives for Catholicism and finally Flora had to be executed. 

At that time Europe needed “martyrs” while the Muslims were tolerant.  In this century Europe stopped commemorating its “martyrs” while the Muslim World need “martyrs” for their struggle. (To be continued)

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