Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Hannah Arendt

And what kinds of courage? Other this faked “Moral Courage” or “Moral Entity”?

Edward Snowden, Hugh Thompson, Daniel Ellsberg, whistle-blowers…

Note: Re-edit of “Moral Courage? And what other kinds of courage? March 5, 2014

Last Thursday Chris Hedges opened a team debate at the Oxford Union at Oxford University with this speech arguing in favor of the proposition “This house would call Edward Snowden a hero.”

The others on the Hedges team, which won the debate by an audience vote of 212 to 171, were William E. Binney, a former National Security Agency official and a whistle-blower; Chris Huhne, a former member of the British Parliament; and Annie Machon, a former intelligence officer for the United Kingdom.

The opposing team was made up of Philip J. Crowley, a former U.S. State Department officer; Stewart A. Baker, a former chief counsel for the National Security Agency; Jeffrey Toobin, an American television and print commentator; and Oxford student Charles Vaughn.

Chris Hedges posted this Feb.23, 2014

Edward Snowden’s Moral Courage

I have been to war. I have seen physical courage.

But this kind of courage is not moral courage. Very few of even the bravest warriors have moral courage.

For moral courage means to defy the crowd, to stand up as a solitary individual, to shun the intoxicating embrace of comradeship, to be disobedient to authority, even at the risk of your life, for a higher principle.

And with moral courage comes persecution.

The American Army pilot Hugh Thompson had moral courage. He landed his helicopter between a platoon of U.S. soldiers and 10 terrified Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai massacre.

Thompson ordered his gunner to fire his M60 machine gun on the advancing U.S. soldiers if they began to shoot the villagers. And for this act of moral courage, Thompson, like Snowden, was hounded and reviled.

Moral courage always looks like this.

It is always defined by the state as treason—the Army attempted to cover up the massacre and court-martial Thompson. It is the courage to act and to speak the truth. Thompson had it.

Daniel Ellsberg had it. Martin Luther King had it.

What those in authority once said about them they say today about Snowden.

In this still image from video footage released by WikiLeaks on Oct. 11, 2013, former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden speaks in Moscow during a presentation ceremony for the Sam Adams Award. (AP photo)

“My country, right or wrong” is the moral equivalent of “my mother, drunk or sober,” G.K. Chesterton reminded us.

So let me speak to you about those drunk with the power to sweep up all your email correspondence, your tweets, your Web searches, your phone records, your file transfers, your live chats, your financial data, your medical data,

And your criminal and civil court records and your movements, those who are awash in billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars, those who have banks of sophisticated computer systems, along with biosensors, scanners, face recognition technologies and miniature drones, those who have obliterated your anonymity, your privacy and, yes, your liberty.

There is no free press without the ability of the reporters to protect the confidentiality of those who have the moral courage to make public the abuse of power.

Those few individuals inside government who dared to speak out about the system of mass surveillance have been charged as spies or hounded into exile.

An omnipresent surveillance state—and I covered the East German Stasi state—creates a climate of paranoia and fear. It makes democratic dissent impossible.

Any state that has the ability to inflict full-spectrum dominance on its citizens is Not a free state.

It does not matter if it does not use this capacity today; it will use it, history has shown, should it feel threatened or seek greater control.

The goal of wholesale surveillance, as Hannah Arendt wrote: ” is Not, in the end, to discover crimes, but to be on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population.”

The relationship between those who are constantly watched and tracked and those who watch and track them is the relationship between masters and slaves.

Those who wield this unchecked power become delusional.

Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, hired a Hollywood set designer to turn his command center at Fort Meade into a replica of the bridge of the starship Enterprise so he could sit in the captain’s chair and pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, had the audacity to lie under oath to Congress.

This spectacle was a rare glimpse into the absurdist theater that now characterizes American political life.

A congressional oversight committee holds public hearings. It is lied to.

It knows it is being lied to.

The person who lies knows the committee members know he is lying.

And the committee, to protect their security clearances, says and does nothing.

1     NEXT PAGE >>>
Advertisements

How the half million Palestinian refugees disappeared in Lebanon since 1948?

Note 1: The survey sheds light on the living conditions of the latest count of 174,422 Palestinian refugees, as well as another 18,601 Palestinians who fled the neighboring conflict in Syria to camps in Lebanon. Instead of the official count of over 460,000 since 1948 and the successive Israel preemptive wars in Palestine and Lebanon.

The painstakingly conducted count found the Palestinians evenly divided between men and women with half of the total 24 years or younger. While 7.2 percent are illiterate, 93.6% of children aged between three to 13 were enrolled in schools.

Also documented is the well-known fact that Lebanon’s Palestinian camps suffer serious problems, with varying degrees of poverty, diseases, overcrowding, unemployment, poor housing and lack of any functioning infrastructure.

The census found that the rate of unemployment among young Palestinians aged 20 to 29 is 28.5% whereas for Lebanese it is currently 6.8 percent (If this percentage of unemployed Lebanese is correct, it certainly Not taking account of the thousands who immigrate every year for no return and those living in remote areas, barely surviving).

Note 2: Is Lamb trying to preempt Donald Trump’s decision to curtail Palestinian refugees aid? Trying to offer the lame excuse that the poor and non-oil producing countries (Lebanon, Jordan) cover the UNRWA deficit? Lamb uses terms of “colonization by Iran” as a way of discrediting the resistance of the Lebanese to Israel’s many successive , preemptive wars, 8 of them and frequent threats on Lebanon

By Franklin Lamb [First Published by Counter Punch, January 5, 2018]

Rashidieh Palestinian camp, on the border of Occupied Palestine, by Franklin P. Lamb The first ever official census of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon was finally released on 12/21/2017 in Beirut. The village by village and camp by camp survey by 500 specialists found that only 174,422 Palestinian refugees are living these days in the country.

Counted were all Palestinians living in the 12 official camps and 156 informal settlements known as ‘gatherings’ and those living outside these areas across Lebanon. This figure is shockingly lower than the previous estimate of 469,331 Palestinians by UNRWA and as many as 600,00 by others for political purposes. (Trump has started to drop funding of UNRWA

Lebanon is a country where demographics have long been a politically sensitive subject to be approached with extreme caution. For the past nearly 85 years (since 1932) Lebanon’s leaders have refused to allow a count of the population out of feelings of terror that a rival sect, among the 17 other rival sects, might gain power at their expense were there to be an honest count. Consequently, plenty of political lords have used fake population figures, without fear of contradiction by a forbidden official government count, to secure benefits-political and financial- for their own sect.

With respect to Lebanon and regional endemic tribalism, one is reminded of the words of Hannah Arendt from her volume, “The Origins of Totalitarianism:”

“Politically speaking, tribal nationalism always insists that its own people is surrounded by “a world of enemies”, “one against all”, that a fundamental difference exists between these people and all others. It claims its people to be unique, individual, incompatible with all others, and denies theoretically the very possibility of a common mankind long before it is used to destroy the humanity of man”.

The reason for UNWRA’s own higher figures since it was created by General Assembly Resolution 302 (IV) 69 years ago this month to help feed and care for refugees forced out of their homes in Palestine, its mandate has always been to register all Palestinians who, since the 1948 Nakba, apply for its help.

This UNWRA has faithfully done to the best of its ability while facing many obstacles-political and financial-over the decades.

Affecting its record keeping, starting in 1950s, scores of thousands of Palestinian refugees left Lebanon for a better life abroad. Just as more than 1,780,000 Lebanese have done since the onslaught of Lebanon’s civil war in 1975. Hence the larger number of UNRWA recorded registrants. UNRWA does not have a headcount of every Palestinian refugee who currently resides in Lebanon.

What they do have are official registration records for the number of registered Palestine refugees in Lebanon. If a Palestinian registered with UNRWA in Lebanon should decide to live outside Lebanon, as countless thousands have, they don’t normally advise UNRWA that they are moving.

As a gentleman this observer admires, Hassan Mneimneh, chairman of the Lebanese Palestinian Dialogue Committee, which coordinated the census, told the media a couple of weeks ago, “tens of thousands of Palestinians left Lebanon when the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) withdrew from the country in 1982. This observer knows something about this firsthand as he was on one of the August 1982 boats than left Beirut harbor by boat for Tunis courtesy of an invitation from Yasser Arafat along with the American journalist, Janet Lee Stevens.

Unfortunately, Janet missed the boat as she was assuring a group of Palestinian women in Burj al Barajneh camp in South Beirut that all would be OK as they worried about losing their PLO protection. The next month was the Sabra-Shatila massacre and seven months later April 18, 1983 Janet and our unborn child, Clyde Chester Lamb III were killed in the bombing at the American Embassy.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians left Lebanon when the PLO withdrew from the country in 1982.

Like the Lebanese over the past 3 decades, many Palestinians try to leave Lebanon at the first opportunity. And why wouldn’t they?

Lebanese seemingly leave their birth country any chance they get these days and during Lebanon’s civil war more than one million left and hundreds of thousands have until today.

There are fewer than 3.5 million Lebanese remaining with many of them searching for the first opportunity to begin a new life elsewhere because they realize that there is little future here for their children given the deep prevailing corruption of the former ‘warlords’ who appointed themselves ‘political lords.

Other reasons include the growing Iranian influence in Lebanon and the failure of the Sunni and Christians to counter the takeover of their country.

According to this seminal study, undertaken by both Lebanese and Palestinian statistics bureaus and the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, 45.1% of the 174,000 Palestinians in Lebanon live in refugee camps, while the remaining 54.9 percent live in “other gatherings.”

According to the census taking teams spokesperson: “We would see huge numbers used, 500, or 600 thousand, and these would be used in politics. But this demographic project was able to define things, and thank God today we have results,”

Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in an address at the event where the figures were released. The survey sheds much needed light on the living conditions of 174,422 Palestinian refugees, as well as another 18,601 Palestinians who fled the neighboring conflict in Syria to camps in Lebanon.

The survey found that the number of Palestinian in Lebanon were split essentially evenly between men and women, with half of the total being 24 years or younger. The percentage of Palestinian youth is nearly identical to the numbers of youth across the Middle East.

Dear reader can imagine what these demographics and living conditions portend for this region as the bright, energetic and acutely aware youth seek justice and empowerment from dictatorships who have cynically denied them empowerment for countless decades. Revolution is in the air across in Lebanon’s Palestinian camps and across this region.

Announcing the population survey results, Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Lebanon had a “duty” towards Palestinians. He pointed to “exaggerations” as for the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon which estimated the count at 600,000. He said the “actual number is 174,422,” assuring “that the State will adhere to its responsibilities.”

Hariri lamented how “some parties in the international community wish to offer no help to UNRWA but instead want to disrupt UNRWA.”

Pointing to the UNRWA’s financial crisis, he said: “It directly affects the basic requirements of refugees in Lebanon. We call upon donor countries to increase their contributions and support to enable UNRWA fulfill its financial obligations to meet the needs of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.”

With a total of $644,701,999 in contributions, the US, EU, UK, Sweden, Norway, Germany, The Netherlands and Japan pay 71% of the annual UNRWA budget. Mr. Hariri omitted mention of the fact that Lebanon, like Israel, donates zero dollars to UNRWA’s budget.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3

Assuming the PM is sincere, and this observer does, then Lebanon “adhering to its responsibilities” can be quickly demonstrated by its Parliament granting Palestinians the half-century overdue elementary civil rights to work and to own a home granted to every refugee on earth by every country but Lebanon.

Why do many Lebanese politicians inflate the number of Palestinians in Lebanon?

Plenty of Lebanese and regional political lords have used the inflated Palestinian population figures seeking political advantage.

Lebanon’s anti-Palestinian block that consistently misrepresents the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is led by more than one Christian militia who committed the 1982 massacre at Sabra-Shatila and by the Amal Shia militia that carried out the 1985-89 massacres at three camps which they servilely, on orders from the east, labeled “wars of the camps.”

There were no wars but rather massacres of Palestinian civilians who were without weapons to protect themselves since the PLO left Lebanon in August of 1982.

Among others with a long history of misrepresentation of the number of Palestinians, is Lebanon’s President, Michel Aoun. When this observer last met with Aoun as part of a delegation of pro-Palestinian Americans, Aoun stressed the point as he has done dozens of times before and since, that there are 600,000 Palestinians in Lebanon who, he implies are sucking Lebanon dry.

Also accused by Mr. Rifi of the same crime as Aoun is his son-in-law Jebran Bassil , who got appointed Foreign Minister despite Bassil having admitted he has no qualifications for the post but is close to Hezbollah and Iran like his father-in-law.

This week Bassil is again facing calls to resign. This time for remarks he made this week about Israel being no threat to Lebanon. Speaking on Iran funded Al-Mayadeen on 12/26/2017, Bassil in his position as Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, stated: “For Lebanon, [Israel] isn’t an ideological cause. We are not against Israel existing in security. We accept it. We are not against it. We just want all people to live in peace and to recognize each other. This is not a blind cause.” Adding “We are a people who accept and want the Other, despite our differences.” (For a reminder to all: Israel is an existential enemy in the Near East and created mainly by USA and the colonial powers)

In response to Bassil’s statements, former Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk called on Bassil to immediately be fired, declaring: “If Jebran Bassil does not find an ideological difference with Israel and demands security for it, Cabinet should dismiss him because he violates the Constitution. “Is this Lebanon’s position in international forums? This is shameful!”

(Bassil had to meet with Hassan Nasrallah, secretary General of Hezbollah, for 5 hours after his unwelcome pronouncement. Israel is an existential enemy to the people in the Near-East countries) 

As do some other anti-Palestinian politicians in Lebanon, including the former Minister of Education and Aoun partner, Elias Bou Saab as he a few months ago incited his Christian supporters with the 600,000 Palestinians in Lebanon gross exaggeration at an event at the American University of Beirut (AUB) which this observer attended.

(The author is confusing anti-Palestinian/isolationist sections of mainly Christians Parties with people wanting that the world community apply UN 196 resolution of returning Palestinian refugees to Palestine)

Mr. Saab knows that many of his and Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) political party supporters worry about Muslims swamping them politically and socially much as was the case in the run-up to the 1975-90 civil war. (The Moslems, Sunnis, Shiaas and Druze are already 75% of the population)

Truth told Mr. Saab is probably not all that wild about this observer because at the above-noted event earlier this year in the presence of the UN’s elegant Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag and a number of officials and directors of NGO’s and plenty of media, this no-account observer proceeded to deliver a short- well so it seemed to me- lecture with ample details and statistics to the then Minister of Education Bou Saad on the subject of inflating the number of Palestinians in Lebanon for political purposes.

I also painstakingly addressed the subject of the right to work and home ownership for Palestinian refugees forced into Lebanon against their will 7 decades ago (as Israel chased them out of their homeland). Despite the Ministers public assurance that he would meet with me and we can “fix the problem about the right to work” I still not heard from the gentleman.

But as life instructs us, there is plenty of good in all of us and during his three years as Minister of Education, Elias Bou Saab did, to his great credit, work to get a significant number of the 200,000 Syrian refugee kids now scattered across Lebanon into its public-school system employing a double session innovation whereby Syrian child could study using the same classrooms during split shift afternoon-evening time slot.

Some of the same political motivations have led to fake statistics regarding the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

As of the end of November 2017, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) tallied 997,905 Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

A clear majority of them being women and children who fled their country to Lebanon from the outbreak of the civil war in March of 2011. More than 70% live in extreme poverty, struggling to eke out a living while sheltering in informal tented settlements or unfinished buildings because Parliament has refused to authorize refugee camps where they could receive more organized assistance.

The highest number of Syrian refugees who were ever in Lebanon from the ongoing war next door was 1,011,366.

From 2011 until September 2017, nearly 49,000 Syrians departed Lebanon for third countries under the UN’s resettlement program including the United States, Sweden, and France. Others left on their own, making the dangerous sea journey to reach Europe.

As with the Palestinian refugee’s count, the UN Syrian refugee tally has been shown to be 500,000 fewer than the 1.5 million scare tactic number some Lebanese politicians and their media have hyped for political purposes.

By buying food and necessities, made possible with international humanitarian aid, partly in the form of ‘food stamp ATM cards’ the Syrians are growing Lebanon’s economy and Lebanon shopkeepers are generally thrilled with them. (The Syrians are and were the main construction workers in Lebanon, even before 2011. Now they are also into the restaurant and food business)

But Syrian refugees are not growing Lebanon’s economy according to experts at the International Labor Organization (ILO) as fast as the Palestinian refugees would grow this country’s ailing economy if they were allowed the elementary civil right to work and home ownership as required by international humanitarian law and Lebanon’s constitution.

Lebanese law targets Palestinians that denies them the right to work, social security, or joining a union. There are at least 25 banned areas of work for Palestinians including medicine, law, engineering and pharmacy. Also outlawed for Palestinian is ownership of land, property or a home.

As Fathi Abu al-Ardat, a representative of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Lebanon, noted this past week: “when Palestinians have the rights to work and can live a decent life, they will improve the country on the level of economics, on the level of community, even on the level of security and stability for the country.”

Iran & Hezbollah know better but also use inflated Palestinians population numbers to keep the increasingly restive Shia population loyal by inflating the size of the Palestinian Sunni “Takfiri” threat to Lebanon.

Approximately 92-96% of Palestinians are Sunni and many resent Iran influence for several reasons. One is that in Syria, Iran’s funded and trained 12 militia including Hezbollah and the Al Quds force that have killed nearly four thousand Palestinians, and have targeted a majority of Syria’s ten Palestinian camps. (This exaggeration demonstrate the biased and unfounded siding with USA/Israel/Saudi Kingdom front)

The Yarmouk Palestinian camp near Damascus was home to 120,000 and another Palestinian camp in Latakia last month. (During this world war on Syria, Hamas and many Palestinian jihadists sided with the “extremist opposition factions).

The most recent demolished camp, over the past two weeks, was in the Southern Ramal district of Latakia, which residents claim Iran wants to ‘develop.’ For nearly 70 years, Ramal has been located along Latakia city’s southern coastline, on a strip of land that slopes down towards the Mediterranean Sea. The district was settled as an informal encampment in the 1950’s by Palestinian refugees fleeing Jaffa and other coastal towns. Approximately 10,000 Palestinians in Syria have lost their homes in Ramal.

By slinging inflated figures for the number of Sunni Palestinians in Lebanon at the Shia community, Iran’s leadership reportedly hopes to help Hezbollah whose primary bases, South Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, and South Lebanon increasingly believe that their sons, brothers and fathers are dying in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan for no reason except the whims of Iran’s Wali al-faqih.

(These are the kinds of crappy quick regurgitation of news media bad-wording against Iran)

Iran also seeks to instill fear among its own population to quell the growing number of protests from its own population spreading across Iran.

Iran, according to even neighborhood Hezbollah sources, has vastly overreached in the region with its hegemonic objectives and the people of the region, including increasing numbers of Shia, including thousands of fed up Iranians. Many Hezbollah leaders have long objected to what they have been ordered to do in Syria and the region.

Moreover, thousands of Iranian citizens have taken to the streets of the country’s second-largest city, Mashhad and other towns this week to once again protest high prices, unemployment, and the fact that their government is spending countless billions funding militia across the Middle East while “our women are selling themselves on the streets for money to feed their families and our young men are forced to steal!”

(These uprising were consequent to banks foreclosure due to shortage in liquidity. It subsided within 3 days as millions of counter Iranians surged in the streets))

Videos on Nazar’s Telegram channel showed citizens in Mashhad, an important religious center in the northeast of Iran, not chanting “Death to America” but rather “Death to the dictator” (Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei) and protesting about their ruler’s efforts at regional hegemony, rather than improving conditions at home. “Not Gaza, not Syria, not Lebanon, my life for Iran” was one of main chants.

Iran’s brutal theocratic rulers have a problem as many Iranian believe and hope that the current rebellion will rapidly spread and become for their rulers what Benghazi in February 2011 was for Gadaffi and Deraa, Syria was a month later for Assad. (The author is mainly day dreaming his wishes)

The claimed “Resistance” has also long used the inflated figure for political advantage as they seek to rein in many of their hard-core Shia supporters with claims that Palestinians in Lebanon comprise another 600,000 Sunni so why empower them with the civil rights to work and own a home? Given Hezbollah’s political power it would take just 90 minutes in Parliament to grant Palestinians the right to work and home ownership. But the tribal “Resistance” axis has chosen to block these elementary civil rights.

Hopefully growing pressure from the new generation of young Palestinians vying for leadership positions in the camps and the growing number of young Shia in the region who no longer want to be fodder from their leaders seeking revenge for the events at Karbala 1,500 years ago, can persuade the “Resistance” that true Resistance begins with improving the Palestinian camps and being allowed to seek a job.

Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in Syria.

Like Iraq, Syria is the cradle of civilization, and as such it has been a rich source of our shared global culture and historic heritage. Already endangered from illegal excavation, looting, international trafficking and iconoclasm; the theft and destruction of these sites has greatly increased as a result of the conflict in the Middle East.

Many of the endangered archeological sites and artifacts are over 7,000 years old. The oldest remains found in Syria are from the Paleolithic era (c. 800,000 BCE). The most endangered artifacts and archaeological sites currently are in Tell Halaf, the north of Syria near the Turkish border with Syria.

These archaeological sites date as far back as 5,500 BCE. They include archaeological sites and artifacts of the Babylonian, Sumerian, Egyptian, Assyrian, Phoenician, Aramaic, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Omayyad, Ayyubid and Ottoman civilizations and empires.

Professor Franklin Lamb has also been working, sometimes under dangerous circumstances, to record and photograph the war damage done to religious icons, images, monuments, and ancient structures that span pre-Roman civilizations, and structures such as Islamic mosques, Christian churches and Jewish synagogues.

Professor Lamb is working to record and photograph these sites and artifacts because they are in danger of complete destruction for religious, political and illegal trafficking reasons, especially due to the ongoing wars in the Middle East.

Professor Franklin Lamb’s website and his latest book, “Syria’s Endangered Heritage, an International Responsibility to Preserve and Protect” presents exclusive and never published before photographs, records, data, articles, and interviews from across the whole of Syria. His book can be purchased at his website http://www.syrian-heritage.com/.

In addition to Dr. Lamb’s urgent archaeological work he is also deeply committed to rescuing and aiding refugee children in Syria. He is a volunteer with the Lebanon, France, and USA based “Meals for Syrian Refugee Children, Lebanon (MSRCL)”, which seeks to provide hot nutritional meals to Syrian and other refugee children.

Lamb says that the goal of MSRCL is to be able to provide one meal a day to 500 children. More donors are needed in order for him to reach that goal. At $2.25 per meal x 500 children per day ($1,225), the budget for a month (30 days) requires approximately $36,000.

Over 95% of each donation goes directly towards the cost of each meal. The MSCRL volunteer teams give their time, energy and even their own money to help the refugee children so that they will not become part of the “lost generation” of Syria.

Lamb’s books and publications include “Pollution as a Problem of International Law”; “International Legal Responsibility for the Sabra Shatila Massacre“; “Israel’s 1982 War in Lebanon: Eyewitness Chronicles of the Invasion and Occupation“, “The Price We Pay: A Quarter Century of Israel’s Use of American Weapons against Civilians in Lebanon in addition to the three volume set, “Palestine, Lebanon & Syria Palestine, Lebanon & Syria (Commentary and Analysis 2006-2016).”

Due out during Fall 2016, in English and Arabic, is “The Case for Palestinian Civil Rights in Lebanon: Why the Resistance Sleeps.”

Dr. Lamb’s most recent book is “Syria’s Endangered Heritage: An International Responsibility to Preserve and Protect”. http://www.Syrian-heritage.com

Lamb’s Academic Credentials include: BA, and Law Degrees from Boston University, Master of Law (LLM) Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy from the London School of Economics (LSE); Diploma in International Air & Space Law from the University College of London; Post-Doctoral Studies at Harvard University Law School of East Asian Legal Studies Center, specializing in Chinese Law; International Legal Studies at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Studied Public International Law at The Hague Academy of international Law, at the International Court of Justice, in The Hague, Netherlands.

Lamb’s Professional and Political Activities include Assistant Professor of International Law, Northwestern College of Law, Portland, Oregon and Assistant Counsel to the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, During the Administration of President Jimmy Carter, Lamb was elected for a four year term to the Democratic National Committee, representing the state of Oregon. Lamb served on the Democratic National Committee Judicial Council with California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi as well as the Platform Committee on East-West Relations. Professor Lamb served on the presidential campaign staff for Presidential Candidate Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

mealsforsyrianrefugeechildrenlebanon.com/

Hannah Arendt on Science, the Value of Space Exploration,

and How Our Cosmic Aspirations Illuminate the Human Condition

A case against human solipsism

 A clarion call for non-egocentric curiosity about the nature of reality.

Hannah Arendt on Science, the Value of Space Exploration, and How Our Cosmic Aspirations Illuminate the Human Condition

“Who indeed will set bounds to human ingenuity?” Galileo asked in his magnificent letter to the Grand Duchess of of Tuscany as he dethroned the human animal from the center of the universe. “Who will assert that everything in the universe capable of being perceived is already discovered and known?”

Half a millennium later, as we continue to make revolutionary discoveries that invite us to revise our understanding of the cosmos and reassess our place in it — discoveries like the detection of gravitational waves, perhaps the greatest breakthrough in astronomy since Galileo pointed his telescope at the heavens — we continue to struggle with the same discomfiting questions: How are we to live with any sense of importance and meaning if the more we find out about the universe, the less significant we seem to be and the more meaningless it becomes? What, then, is the human and humane value of knowing more at all?

That’s what Hannah Arendt (October 14, 1906–December 4, 1975) addresses with great subtlety and uncompromising intellectual rigor in a 1963 essay titled “The Conquest of Space and the Stature of Man,” later included in her altogether spectacular and timely book Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought (public library).

The essay’s title was inspired by a question posed by the editors of the magazine Great Ideas Today for a special feature focusing on “what the exploration of space is doing to man’s view of himself and to man’s condition” —

the question of whether humanity’s so-called conquest of space has increased or diminished the existential stature of human beings.

Hannah Arendt

Five years after she weighed the difference between how art and science illuminate the human condition, Arendt writes:

To understand physical reality seems to demand not only the renunciation of an anthropocentric or geocentric world view, but also a radical elimination of all anthropomorphic elements and principles, as they arise either from the world given to the five human senses or from the categories inherent in the human mind.

The question assumes that man is the highest being we know of, an assumption which we have inherited from the Romans, whose humanitas was so alien to the Greeks’ frame of mind that they had not even a word for it. (The reason for the absence of the word humanitas from Greek language and thought was that the Greeks, in contrast to the Romans, never thought that man is the highest being there is. Aristotle calls this belief atopos, “absurd.”)

This view of man is even more alien to the scientist, to whom man is no more than a special case of organic life and to whom man’s habitat — the earth, together with earthbound laws — is no more than a special borderline case of absolute, universal laws, that is, laws that rule the immensity of the universe.

Surely the scientist cannot permit himself to ask: What consequences will the result of my investigations have for the stature (or, for that matter, for the future) of man? It has been the glory of modern science that it has been able to emancipate itself completely from all such anthropocentric, that is, truly humanistic, concerns.

[…]

For the scientist, man is no more than an observer of the universe in its manifold manifestations. The progress of modern science has demonstrated very forcefully to what an extent this observed universe, the infinitely small no less than the infinitely large, escapes not only the coarseness of human sense perception but even the enormously ingenious instruments that have been built for its refinement.

Although science is, as astrophysicist Janna Levin has memorably noted, “a truly human endeavor,” Arendt argues that the task of the scientist is to stand outside and beyond human solipsism; that setting out to answer such questions as what man’s stature should be, how we differ from other other animals, and why we pursue knowledge at all would shackle science to constraining concerns, to a sort of smallness of curiosity. She reflects on the paradox of such questions:

All answers … whether they come from laymen or philosophers or scientists, are non-scientific (although not anti-scientific); they can never be demonstrably true or false. Their truth resembles rather the validity of agreements than the compelling validity of scientific statements.

Even when the answers are given by philosophers whose way of life is solitude, they are arrived at by an exchange of opinions among many men, most of whom may no longer be among the living. Such truth can never command general agreement, but it frequently outlasts the compellingly and demonstrably true statements of the sciences which, especially in recent times, have the uncomfortable inclination never to stay put, although at any given moment they are, and must be, valid for all.

In other words, notions such as life, or man, or science, or knowledge are pre-scientific by definition, and the question is whether or not the actual development of science which has led to the conquest of terrestrial space and to the invasion of the space of the universe has changed these notions to such an extent that they no longer make sense.

So if science ought to be concerned with questions far beyond the human scale, free of human ego, then the very notion of the “conquest” of space and man’s “stature” implies a sort of hunger for power antithetical to the real enterprise of science.

Fifteen years before the pioneering scientist Erwin Chargaff made his beautiful case for the poetics of curiosity, she considers the true animating force of scientists — amplified access to what Einstein famously called the human “passion for comprehension.” Arendt writes:

It is, I think, safe to say that nothing was more alien to the minds of the scientists, who brought about the most radical and most rapid revolutionary process the world has ever seen, than any will to power. Nothing was more remote than any wish to “conquer space” and to go to the moon…

It was indeed their search for “true reality” that led them to lose confidence in appearances, in the phenomena as they reveal themselves of their own accord to human sense and reason. They were inspired by an extraordinary love of harmony and lawfulness which taught them that they would have to step outside any merely given sequence or series of occurrences if they wanted to discover the overall beauty and order of the whole, that is, the universe.

[…]

It is, in fact, quite obvious that the scientists’ strongest intellectual motivation was Einstein’s “striving after generalization,” and that if they appealed to power at all, it was the interconnected formidable power of abstraction and imagination.

She turns to the particular case of space exploration and its immense humanizing value in enlarging not only our knowledge but our humility:

The magnitude of the space enterprise seems to me beyond dispute, and all objections raised against it on the purely utilitarian level — that it is too expensive, that the money were better spent on education and the improvement of the citizens, on the fight against poverty and disease, or whatever other worthy purposes may come to mind — sound to me slightly absurd, out of tune with the things that are at stake and whose consequences today appear still quite unpredictable.

There is, moreover, another reason why I think these arguments are beside the point. They are singularly inapplicable because the enterprise itself could come about only through an amazing development of man’s scientific capabilities. The very integrity of science demands that not only utilitarian considerations but the reflection upon the stature of man as well be left in abeyance.

Has not each of the advances of science, since the time of Copernicus, almost automatically resulted in a decrease in his stature? And is the often repeated argument that it was man who achieved his own debasement in his search for truth, thus proving anew his superiority and even increasing his stature, more than a sophism? Perhaps it will turn out that way.

At any event, man, insofar as he is a scientist, does not care about his own stature in the universe or about his position on the evolutionary ladder of animal life; this “carelessness” is his pride and his glory.

Complement this particular portion of Arendt’s altogether indispensable Between Past and Future with physicist Sean Carroll on how “poetic naturalism” helps us wrest meaning from an impartial universe, then revisit Arendt on the crucial difference between truth and meaning, the power of being an outsider, how tyrants use isolation as a weapon of oppression, and our only effective antidote to the normalization of evil.

To everyone their opinion: Pay close attention to “demonstrating opinions”

Israel will degenerate into Sparta, and American Jews will need to back away

To everyone their opinion.

The fact of the matter remains that tens of thousands formed an opinion today against the atrocities that Israel is committing in Gaza.

These were global, not Muslim opinions as I have witnessed today and as another commentator has stated below.

The fact of the matter remains that no matter how terrorist Hamas (or ISIS, if you want to dump them in the same category) is, this does not justify the killing of hundreds of civilian lives by the IDF.

We all followed how the Lebanese Armed Forces removed ISIS militants from town of Arsal (by the Syrian border) without sacrificing the life of any Arsal residents.

Yes battles are different, but today, many people saw no justification for the killing of innocent Gazans, and therefore they protested.

WWW.TIMESOFISRAEL.COM

Hanna Arendt:

Born in conflict, Israel will degenerate into Sparta, and American Jews will need to back away

Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt

For the new year, here are some prophetic excerpts from two essays of Hannah Arendt’s, collected in The Jewish Writings (2007).

Note her predictions of the Nakba (Palestinians killed and transferred from their homes and villages in 1948), of unending conflict, of Zionist dependence on the American Jewish community, of ultimate conflict with that American Jewish community, and the contribution of political Zionism to world anti-semitism.

Just what Howard Gutman said recently.

For which he was denounced by– Zionists.

Zionism Reconsidered, 1944:

Nationalism is bad enough when it trusts in nothing but the rude force of the nation. A nationalism that necessarily and admittedly depends upon the force of a foreign nation is certainly worse.

This is the threatened state of Jewish nationalism and of the proposed Jewish state, surrounded inevitably by Arab states and Arab people. Even a Jewish majority in Palestine–nay even a transfer of all Palestine’s Arabs, which is openly demanded by the revisionists–would not substantially change a situation in which Jews must either ask protection from an outside power against their neighbors or come to a working agreement with their neighbors…

[T]he Zionists, if they continue to ignore the Mediterranean people and watch out only for the big faraway powers, will appear only as their tools, the agents of foreign and hostile interests.

Jews who know their own history should be aware that such a state of affairs will inevitably lead to a new wave of Jew-hatred; the antisemitism of tomorrow will assert that Jews not only profiteered from the presence of foreign big powers in that region but had actually plotted it and hence are guilty of the consequences…

[T]he sole new piece of historical philosophy which the Zionists contributed out of their own new experiences [was] “A nation is a group of people…  held together by a common enemy” (Herzl)–an absurd doctrine…

To such [political] independence, it was believed, the Jewish nation could arrive under the protecting wings of any great power strong enough to shelter its growth…. the Zionists ended by making the Jewish national emancipation entirely dependent upon the material intersts of another nation.

The actual result was a return of the new movement to the traditional methods of shtadlonus [court Jews], which the Zionists once had so bitterly despised and violently denounced.

Now Zionists too knew no better place politically than the lobbies of the powerful, and no sounder basis for agreements than their good services as agents of foreign interests…

[O]nly folly could dictate a policy which trusts a distant imperial power for protection, while alienating the goodwill of neighbors. What then, one is prompted to ask, will be the future policy of Zionism with respect to big powers, and what program will Zionists have to offer for a solution of the Arab-Jewish conflict?…

If a Jewish commonwealth is obtained in the near future–with or without partition–it will be due to the political influence of American Jews….

But if the Jewish commonwealth is proclaimed against the will of the Arabs and without the support of the Mediterranean peoples, not only financial help but political support will be necessary for a long time to come.

And that may turn out to be very troublesome indeed for Jews in this country [the U.S.], who after all have no power to direct the political destinies of the Near East.

It may eventually be far more of a responsibility than today they imagine or tomorrow can make good.

To Save the Jewish Homeland, 1948 [on the occasion of war in Palestine]

And even if the Jews were to win the war, its end would find the unique possibilities and the unique achievements of Zionism in Palestine destroyed.

The land that would come into being would be something quite other than the dream of world Jewry, Zionist and non-Zionist.

The ‘victorious’ Jews would live surrounded by an entirely hostile Arab population, secluded into ever-threatened borders, absorbed with physical self-defense to a degree that would submerge all other interests and activities.

The growth of a Jewish culture would cease to be the concern of the whole people; social experiments would have to be discarded as impractical luxuries; political thought would center around military strategy….

And all this would be the fate of a nation that — no matter how many immigrants it could still absorb and how far it extended its boundaries (the whole of Palestine and Transjordan is the insane Revisionist demand)–would still remain a very small people greatly outnumbered by hostile neighbors.

Under such circumstances… the Palestinian Jews would degenerate into one of those small warrior tribes about whose possibilities and importance history has amply informed us since the days of Sparta.

Their relations with world Jewry would become problematical, since their defense interests might clash at any moment with those of other countries where large number of Jews lived.

Palestine Jewry would eventually separate itself from the larger body of world Jewry and in its isolation develop into an entirely new people.

Thus it becomes plain that at this moment and under present circumstances a Jewish state can only be erected at the price of the Jewish homeland…

One grim addendum.

In the heyday of the special relationship between the US and Israel, American Jewry felt itself to be one with the Israeli people. We Are One! declared Melvin Urofsky’s book of 1978.

That unity is today being dissolved. The haredi-secular conflict in Israel that is getting so much attention here is one means of that dissolution.

And the aim, unconsciously, may be a desire by American Jews to distance themselves from Israeli Jews so that when the Arab Spring at last brings a democratic movement to Israel and Palestine, and bloody conflict ensues, and the Israeli gov’t is cast as the bad guys, American Jews are emotionally prepared to regard the bloodshed as inevitable and not their problem.

After writing, “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” Arendt report of the Eichmann trial in which she suggested that had not the Judenrat, the Jewish councils appointed by the Nazis in occupied Europe, collaborated with the Nazis in their round-up of Jews to be sent off to the death camps to the point of providing them with lists, collecting valuables, and policing Jews who were non-cooperative, the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis would have greatly reduced, she became a non-person in the Jewish world.

It was not until the past few years that she was resurrected to the degree that her name could even be mentioned in the Jewish press, albeit usually critically.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

 “Total moral surrender”: Broken justice system on Wall Street

Matt Taibbi relentless coverage of Wall Street malfeasance turned him into one of the most influential journalists of his generation, but in his new book, “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap,” Matt Taibbi takes a close and dispiriting look at how inequality and government dysfunction have created a two-tiered justice system in which most Americans are guilty until proven innocent, while a select few operate with no accountability whatsoever.

tells Salon about Geithner’s excuses, Piketty’s success and Nixon’s cronies this MAY 20, 2014:

Salon sat down last week with Taibbi for a wide-ranging chat that touched on his new book, the lingering effects of the financial crisis, how American elites operate with impunity and why, contrary to what many may think, he’s actually making a conservative argument for reform.

The interview can be found below, and has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

"It’s total moral surrender": Matt Taibbi unloads on Wall Street, inequality and our broken justice systemMatt Taibbi (Credit: AP/Louis Lanzano)

So, what is “The Divide”?

The book is really just about why some people go to jail and why some people don’t go to jail, and “the divide” is the term I came up with to describe this phenomenon we have where there are essentially two different criminal justice systems, one that works in one way for people who are either very rich or working within the confines of a giant systemically important institution, and the other system that works in another way for people who are without means. And that’s what the book is about.

A point you make in the book, though, is that the justice system is starting to treat people who aren’t poor or part of a marginalized group with a level of brutality we tend to think is only reserved for the oppressed.

I made a conscious decision to start the book with the story of Abacus Federal Savings bank, which is this little bank in Chinatown.

The people who run that bank were not poor. They weren’t even what you would typically classify as members of the victim class … But why was that bank prosecuted and why was Goldman Sachs or Chase not prosecuted?

What I was trying to get at was, in this new reality, [legal authorities] consider it not feasible to go after companies of a certain size, and [Abacus] is how small you have to be now to be targeted

There was an SEC commissioner who talked about “shot selection,” like in basketball, [and] how you should go for the baskets with the greatest chance of scoring.

So while it may be more satisfying to go after the bigger companies, you’re more likely to get a successful action against a smaller company.

It’s not just about poor people, it’s also just about the way the regulatory system works. Bureaucracies organically flow toward the easier result, and the easier result is always a smaller company, an undefended person, a low-level drug dealer.

The regulatory system hesitates before it decides to proceed against a well-heeled, well-defended company [against which] they’re going to have to fight for years and years and years just to get the case in court …

It’s not just about the poor, it’s more about how there’s a class that enjoys impunity and then there’s everybody else.

Do you think this is a new development?

Certainly the rich have always had it easier than the poor. I think that’s a story as old as a story can be. But what we’re seeing recently is that there have been a couple recent developments that have significantly worsened the situation, both going back to the Clinton years: Clinton signs on to welfare reform, Clinton and the Democrats begin to court the financial services sector and begin to adopt deregulatory policies.

Now you have political consensus in both parties on both issues; both have the same approach to poverty, to people at the bottom, and they have the same approach to enforcement.

What begins as deregulation of Wall Street concludes, ultimately, in potentially non-enforcement of crime; and what begins as being “tougher” on welfare cheats in the ’90s, and being tougher on the whole process of giving out benefits, devolves into something pretty close to the criminalization of poverty itself …

And that’s just something that happens naturally when you have a political consensus, which is what we have now. Including the additional factors of the Holder memo —

Would you mind explaining the Holder memo?

Holder, as deputy attorney general in the Clinton years, outlined what was actually sort of a “get tough on crime” document. He gave prosecutors all these tools to go after big corporations.

But, at the bottom [of the memo], he outlined this policy called “collateral consequences,” which was — all it really said was, if you’re a prosecutor and you’re going after a big corporation that employs a lot of people, and you’re worried about innocent victims, you can seek other remedies.

Instead of criminally prosecuting, you can do a deferred prosecution agreement, a non-prosecution agreement or, especially, you can levy fines.

When he wrote that, it was nearly a decade before the too-big-to-fail era, but when he came back to office [as Obama’s attorney general], this idea, which initially had been completely ignored when he first wrote it, suddenly [becomes] the law of the land now, insofar as these systemically important institutions are concerned.

The administration’s come out and overtly talked about collateral consequences and talked about [how] they can’t go against companies like HSBC and UBS because they’re worried about what the impact might be on the world economy.

What’s interesting about it is that this idea suddenly matches this thing that happened with our economy where we have the collapse of the economy in 2008, [and] instead of breaking up these bad companies, we merged them together and made them bigger and more dangerous.

Now they’re even more unprosecutable than before, now this collateral consequences idea is even more applicable. And that’s the reality we live in now; it’s just this world where if you can commit an offense within the auspices of a company like that, the resolution won’t be a criminal resolution, it will be something else.

The argument is similar to why they said they couldn’t prosecute people for torture: because the CIA is systemically important, because we can’t risk pissing off the national security community, because we can’t risk disturbing the national security system.

And where does it end? We’re sitting in the offices of “The Intercept” right now. What if you say you really want to pursue the illegal surveillance program? How could you do it? It’s a $75 billion mechanism that isn’t just contained in the United States.

It’s across multiple countries; it doesn’t exist in any one place; it’s everywhere. If you were to move against the smallest member of the conspiracy, you’d have to involve thousands of people. It’s impossible to even conceive of what that kind of [system-preserving] approach would be.

That’s exactly what the situation is. We have companies that are essentially beyond the reach of what we would traditionally think of as the law, which is a crazy concept because, even back in the ’70s, it was reinforced in every American’s mind that even the president could be dragged into a criminal case.

And now, we can’t even conceive of taking Lloyd Blankfein to court for lying to Congress.

An unspoken assumption undergirding this logic is the idea that these systems which we can’t mess with are actually working. As I’m sure you’re aware, former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s memoir is now out, and in the reviews I’ve read, there’s something of a consensus view that the book shows how Geithner’s completely internalized the idea that the financialization of the economy is ultimately good for everybody.

So when people bring up all the things he could have done but didn’t do, his response is, Well, this is a good system, basically, and the most important thing is to keep it functioning.

So what’s the answer to that?

I’d say it inevitably makes a more radical response necessary.

I mean, it’s funny, [Geithner’s] shifting rationale … because the initial rationale, when Geithner first came to office and the economy was still fragile … is that he was concerned about the consequences of what he called “market-altering” prosecutions.

Geithner was worried that … if he were to suddenly delve into the dealings of a Countrywide — which might have the capacity to bring down Bank of America or AIG, which they were trying desperately to rehabilitate in its pseudo-nationalized state — [that] the economy was too fragile.

Well, we’re five, six years out of the crisis now, and the economy is ostensibly stabilized enough that we could theoretically entertain those kinds of prosecutions, but, exactly as you said, the rationale has kind of shifted to “This is a functioning system; it would cause too much damage to a fruitful and essentially functional international economy to take on these firms.

We’ve kind of made the strategic decision to resolve these matters with this crude system in which [authorities] just take a check from HSBC for working with drug traffickers, or they take a check from UBS for raiding LIBOR. That’s much more radical than “Let’s not fuck with the economy while we’re still in the middle of a crisis.”

And additionally, by the way, part of Geithner’s justification for everything that happened is that the bailouts worked. And I think there’s a community of regulators who are in that camp, who feel like we did what we had to do to keep it all from falling down.

So, they say, “Why would we want to go back and open that Pandora’s box again? We had to make these difficult decisions. The bailout was maybe distasteful, but it worked. So let’s not go and dig that all up again.”

But that conflates different issues. Do we give all these companies a pass for robo-signing? For mass perjury? Do we give them a pass for subprime mortgage fraud?

Do we give rating agencies a pass for giving out phony ratings? That doesn’t make sense in terms of helping the economy become more functional and more able to serve the needs of everybody. All it really does is allow people to get away with crimes.

Some elites also argue — both in regard to the financial crisis as well as the torture regime — that we should be sympathetic to regulators or torturers because they were operating in a chaotic and stressful environment. We weren’t there, so we can’t judge, basically.

This is another thing that’s in my book. Lehman Brothers, right? So, this huge fiasco happens with the sale of Lehman Brothers to Barclays … Barclays bought off insiders at Lehman to basically rig the sale in Barclays’ favor …

And when the creditors who got screwed out of billions of dollars tried to get the courts to reopen the matter, the judge in the case, Judge Peck, explicitly came out and said, Well, it’s sort of like war, where one can talk about the fog of war, we can talk about the fog of Lehman.

This is an extraordinary situation, things were happening, decisions were made. It’s exactly as you said, the justification essentially becomes: shit happens. And that’s crazy. It’s total moral surrender, and just like the torture issue, there’s the “How can you judge if you weren’t there?” idea. I mean, that takes away our ability to judge anything if that justification holds. That’s just crazy.

To make a reference to our shared alma mater [Bard College], this line of argument reminds me of something Hannah Arendt once wrote — I think it was in “Origins of Totalitarianism,” but I’m not sure — which was, essentially, that people are more able to make the right judgment about a situation when they’re not in it.

When you’re not in the middle of something, you’re more able to see it from every angle and draw a fully informed, rational conclusion.

That’s absolutely true. There was a kind of collective Stockholm Syndrome that formed around the entire financial services sector and the regulatory sector. They were very much thrown together in the middle of this crisis, innocent and guilty alike, and they crafted this solution to get us all out of it.

And things were learned about what had gone on before 2008, but they essentially collectively decided they weren’t going to look into those things because they’re weren’t a part of the solution for getting out of the crisis.

They were the wrong people to judge what was happening during that period. They really needed outside, independent observers to go in and look to see [whether] was this really fraud or [whether] was this market mania, over-zealousness.

And every sane observer who has looked at it has said it was fraud, it was mass criminality — and [the financial sector is] not really the people you would want to ask for an objective opinion about that stuff.

That view goes so strongly against the rationale Obama gave when he first announced his economic team. Critics said, “The people you’ve picked to fix this mess are the ones who created it to begin with!” And Obama and his team would say, “Well, who knows it better?”

Exactly — they brought in all the people who had helped to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, who helped push through the Commodity Futures Modernization Act.

Not only did they create too-big-to-fail essentially through the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act but they … greatly accelerated the financialization of the economy with the total deregulation of the derivatives market.

And these are the people you’re going to bring back to sit in judgment of what went on? They were the people who are screwing up to begin with — exactly the people you don’t want to have looking at this thing.

I started covering this Wall Street story way back in late 2008, and, from the very beginning, I heard disappointment on Wall Street from financial professionals who said Obama had missed this teachable moment.

Here’s this politician with these great communication skills, who could have come in and explained to people what had happened before 2008, that the banking sector had decided to massively engage in this totally socially useless activity of creating toxic mortgages and selling them off to people all around the world.

And instead of doing that, instead of creating a modern-day Pecora Commission and getting to the bottom of it and creating new and safer vehicles for people to trade in, they just threw a bunch of money at the problem and brought in all the same hacks who had created the problem and tried to sweep it under the rug.

Naming your book “The Divide” — was that intended at all to be a nod toward “The Great Divergence”?

No, it wasn’t intended to be that. I really struggle with titles. And headlines also. “Spanking the Donkey” was a really good title. I liked that one a lot.

“The Divide” is a little bit more of a serious book [than my others]; there’s less humor and less of that kind of jokey narrative stuff than in anything else I’ve written. So I think it’s an appropriate title, it seems to me.

I bring it up because it feels like wealth inequality is kind of this specter that’s hovering above the whole discussion of the two legal systems.

It’s all related. The Thomas Piketty thing, why are people interested in that? Elizabeth Warren’s book, Michael Lewis’s book, what Glenn’s doing over there with “The Intercept” — it’s this growing story about institutional inequality that is getting more and more pronounced with each passing year. And the impunity of certain institutions and certain individuals is growing all the time.

It’s a question that people are thinking about. Ten years ago, 15 years ago, you would never have seen a book like Thomas Piketty’s flying off the shelves, because it would have been too taboo for anyone to be asking out loud if there’s anything inherently dysfunctional about our form of corporate capitalism.

But people are asking that question now because it’s just so obvious and ubiquitous. Not just in the criminal justice system that I’m writing about, but in everybody’s life now. So yeah, I think we’re all kind of talking about the same thing; it’s just we’re talking about different parts of it.

I think looking at its effect on the criminal justice system is especially useful, too, because it’s evidence of Piketty’s argument about how inequality isn’t just bad economically, but is corrosive to our values, it’s a problem —

Morally.

Yes, morally.

Morally, it doesn’t work anymore. You just cannot have a society where people instinctively know that certain people are above the law, because it will create total disrespect for authority among everybody else. And that’s completely corrosive.

You need to have people believing in the system to some degree — even if it’s just an illusion, you need to have them believing. And that was … another thing I was trying to get to in this book, the difference between what happened in the Bush years, with the scandals with Adelphi and Enron and Tyco, and what happened now, [when] they just stopped seeing the necessity of keeping up appearances.

They didn’t even make a few symbolic prosecutions, and so it leaves the entire public with this glaring statistic that there were no prosecutions and there was massive crime. How does that make anybody else feel? How does it make you feel when you pay a speeding ticket, you can’t write that off, but HSBC can write off its $1.9 billion fine for drug trafficking?

People start to think about these things, and they start losing their faith in the system and it doesn’t work anymore. It’s funny, because when they talk about income inequality on the campaign trail and in these elections …

They always talk about it in this unthreatening, antiseptic way, and it’s just so much more extreme than that. It’s much broader and more disgusting problem than the way they typically present it in our political debate. So that was another thing I was trying to do, was to try to bring out the grotesque nature of the whole thing.

To your point about accountability, it reminds me of what some Nixon supporters — like Ronald Reagan — said during Watergate, before Nixon resigned, about the president’s cronies: They did things that were illegal but they weren’t, y’know, crimes.

Exactly. I heard that and very similar expressions all throughout this process. They weren’t crime crimes. Like, what does that even mean? There’s a difference between committing a crime and just breaking the law? There really isn’t a difference, and especially — even when you dig under the service of what the malefactors and the villains in my book did — they really werecrimes.

If you saw “Scarface” and that scene when Tony Montana is walking into the bank with his duffel bags full of money and walks out without the duffel bags, well, that’s what HSBC was doing, they were washing the money for murderers.

Price fixing? I mean, c’mon, that’s what the mafia does. Bribery? The Jefferson County case where they’re bribing local officials to get them into bad swap deals? It’s organized crime.

But in many cases they’re paper crimes so they don’t seem so bad, or they’re merely enabling somebody who’s violent so they’re not the person with actual blood on their hands, or it’s pennies at a time from millions of people — the “Office Space” model of crime — so people don’t feel like it’s a big robbery. I mean, that’s a crazy distinction. It’s an Orwellian expression.

You know, with your comment about how people need to believe in the system to some degree, it occurs to me that in a fundamental way, you’re actually making a small-c conservative argument. You’re not saying we need to burn everything to the ground and start over, you’re saying we need to stick with the principles we supposedly all believe in.

People forget that all my sources come from Wall Street. They’re all capitalists, they’re all ardent capitalists. They grew up, their passion in life was reading Adam Smith and believing in that whole world.

And I came into this story 6 years ago, whatever it was, not really knowing a whole lot about it, but certainly I never would have described myself as an ardent capitalist …

When people ask me what the solutions are to these problems, for me, the fastest shortcut to everything being cleaned up is disentangling the government from its unnatural support of these too-big-to-fail institutions, forcing them to sink or swim on their own in the real free market.

I never would have imagined myself making that argument five or six years ago, but that’s the argument … These people, not only are they not being prosecuted, but they’re not subject to the normal forces of the market anymore, and in a way that enables them even more …

If you were to force these companies to sink or swim on their own they’d be vaporized instantly. We see this every time there’s any hint the government is going to stop bailing these companies out or may consider not doing it in the future — they lose billions of dollars in market capitalization overnight …

It’s a very conservative argument [I’m making]. I’m not advocating for socialism; I’m advocating for the “Schoolhouse Rock” version of what we were taught about democracy and capitalism, and we have a long way to go just to get back to that.

 

Elias IsquithElias Isquith is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at eisquith@salon.com.

Moral Courage? And what other kinds of courage? Edward Snowden,  Hugh Thompson, whistle-blowers…

Last Thursday Chris Hedges opened a team debate at the Oxford Union at Oxford University with this speech arguing in favor of the proposition “This house would call Edward Snowden a hero.”

The others on the Hedges team, which won the debate by an audience vote of 212 to 171, were William E. Binney, a former National Security Agency official and a whistle-blower; Chris Huhne, a former member of the British Parliament; and Annie Machon, a former intelligence officer for the United Kingdom.

The opposing team was made up of Philip J. Crowley, a former U.S. State Department officer; Stewart A. Baker, a former chief counsel for the National Security Agency; Jeffrey Toobin, an American television and print commentator; and Oxford student Charles Vaughn.

Chris Hedges posted this Feb.23, 2014

Edward Snowden’s Moral Courage

I have been to war. I have seen physical courage.

But this kind of courage is not moral courage. Very few of even the bravest warriors have moral courage.

For moral courage means to defy the crowd, to stand up as a solitary individual, to shun the intoxicating embrace of comradeship, to be disobedient to authority, even at the risk of your life, for a higher principle. And with moral courage comes persecution.

The American Army pilot Hugh Thompson had moral courage. He landed his helicopter between a platoon of U.S. soldiers and 10 terrified Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai massacre.

Thompson ordered his gunner to fire his M60 machine gun on the advancing U.S. soldiers if they began to shoot the villagers. And for this act of moral courage, Thompson, like Snowden, was hounded and reviled.

Moral courage always looks like this.

It is always defined by the state as treason—the Army attempted to cover up the massacre and court-martial Thompson. It is the courage to act and to speak the truth. Thompson had it.

Daniel Ellsberg had it. Martin Luther King had it. What those in authority once said about them they say today about Snowden.

In this still image from video footage released by WikiLeaks on Oct. 11, 2013, former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden speaks in Moscow during a presentation ceremony for the Sam Adams Award. (AP photo)

“My country, right or wrong” is the moral equivalent of “my mother, drunk or sober,” G.K. Chesterton reminded us.

So let me speak to you about those drunk with the power to sweep up all your email correspondence, your tweets, your Web searches, your phone records, your file transfers, your live chats, your financial data, your medical data, your criminal and civil court records and your movements, those who are awash in billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars, those who have banks of sophisticated computer systems, along with biosensors, scanners, face recognition technologies and miniature drones, those who have obliterated your anonymity, your privacy and, yes, your liberty.

There is no free press without the ability of the reporters to protect the confidentiality of those who have the moral courage to make public the abuse of power.

Those few individuals inside government who dared to speak out about the system of mass surveillance have been charged as spies or hounded into exile.

An omnipresent surveillance state—and I covered the East German Stasi state—creates a climate of paranoia and fear. It makes democratic dissent impossible.

Any state that has the ability to inflict full-spectrum dominance on its citizens is not a free state.

It does not matter if it does not use this capacity today; it will use it, history has shown, should it feel threatened or seek greater control.

The goal of wholesale surveillance, as Hannah Arendt wrote, is not, in the end, to discover crimes, “but to be on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population.”

The relationship between those who are constantly watched and tracked and those who watch and track them is the relationship between masters and slaves.

Those who wield this unchecked power become delusional.

Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, hired a Hollywood set designer to turn his command center at Fort Meade into a replica of the bridge of the starship Enterprise so he could sit in the captain’s chair and pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, had the audacity to lie under oath to Congress. This spectacle was a rare glimpse into the absurdist theater that now characterizes American political life.

A congressional oversight committee holds public hearings. It is lied to.

It knows it is being lied to. The person who lies knows the committee members know he is lying. And the committee, to protect their security clearances, says and does nothing.

1     NEXT PAGE >>>

Quotes by “famous” women? Part 2

Katia Chapoutier published a French book on 100 “Unforgivable women”. I am interested in the few quotes of famous women.

Pearl Buck (1892-1973):  “Everything is possible as long as it was not proven to be otherwise. Even in this case, what is impossible is just temporary.  If there is no other life after death, this life gave me the opportunity to be born as a human being.”  Pearl Buck receive the Nobel Prize of literature in 1938.  Have you read “The Chinese Land”, “East wind, west wind”…?

Anais Nin (1903-1977): “Eroticism is one of the bases for self-knowledge, as indispensable as poetry.” Her diary of 15,000 pages was published integrally in 1986.  She was elected member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

Anna de Noailles (1876-1933):  “Dream and love are the only real elements. A sleeping remembrance ceases of being guilty as long as it keeps a stable face: Lie is a noble secret.”  Anna founded the Fermi Prize in 1904 (exclusive to women authors) and was a model for the famous sculptor Rodin.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962): “Little spirits discuss of people, average spirits discuss of events, and great spirits discuss of ideas. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”  Wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, she was the dynamo in the first session of the UN in San Francisco of 1946, and read the universal declaration of human rights in 1948.  She headed the presidential commission on the status of women in 1961.

Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952):  “I prefer being paid $700 a week playing house servant rather than receiving $7 per day as a real servant” said this black actress who got the Oscar in 1940 for her role in “Gone with the wind”.  Hattie acted in Show Boat in 1936 and in the radio program “The Beulah Show” (1947 to 1951)

Greta Garbo (1905-1990): “I was pretty naive to think that I could travel without being discovered and followed up close. Why can we not live without supervision?  People love Anna Karenina, Anna Christie, Queen Christine and not this Garbo that you are currently seeing.”  Greta received an Oscar for life achievement in 1954.  Have you seen “The Torrent”, “The legend of Gosta Berling”…?

Mother Teresa (1910-1997): “Poor people need us, but we need the poor even more.  The biggest poverty is for feeling not being loved.”  Mother Teresa created 610 missions in 123 States. (My own quote: “I decided to be consistent in my life.  My life was emotionally poor; should work to be materially poor as well”

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975): “It is in the void of the thought that evil is inscribed. If you manage to appear the way you wish to be viewed, that is all that judges require of you.”  Have read “The origin of totalitarianism”, “The condition of modern man”…?

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962): “I know that I will never be a big artist. I can with hard work be a good one.”

Grace Kelly (1929-1982): “I didn’t like Hollywood.  It is a heartless city. I am not aware of any other location in the world where so many people suffer nervous depression and alcoholism.  There is no happiness in Hollywood.”  Grace married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956, a prince Estate crumbling under heavy debts.  Have you seen the Hitchcock movie “The crime was almost perfect”, “Window on courtyard”, “A suburb girl” for which she received an Oscar in 1955?

Romy Schneider (1938-1982): “Talent is a question of love.  I always had in horror the word “Star” and the noise generated around it. A life has to be overflowing with passion.  Life is too short to feel contented of living but one life”   Have you seen “White Lilac”, “Sissi”, “Le proces”, “The importance is to love”…

Brigitte Bardot (1934-): “And my ass? Do you love my ass?” One of the replies in the movie “Le Mepris”.  Bardot said: “I am not one to faking. I do not compose. Never. If I have to say something, I just let it out.  With me, there are no surprises: You know who I love and who I don’t like…” Bardot created the Foundation for animal defense.  Have you seen “Le Trou Normand”, And God created the woman”…? She filmed 48 movies and 80 songs within a 20-year career.  Bardot withdrew from the celebrity scene in 1973.

Edith Piaf (1915-1961): “Even as we lost our lover, love that we have known keeps the taste of honey.  Love is eternal”  Have you listened to “Non, je ne regrette rien”, “Les Momes de la cloche”, “C’est la rose l’ important”, “La vie en rose”…? The French boxer Marcel Cerdan was her life love.

Jane Fonda (1937-): “Man can feel pleasure all the seasons in life, woman only in springtime”

Francoise Giroud (1916-2003): “A woman will be really the equal to man, if one day, an incompetent woman is designated to an important position.”

Wangari Maathai (1940-): “If we want to safeguard nature, we better start safeguarding mankind: They constitute part of the biodiversity.” She founded the “Green Belt Movement” in 1977 and received the Nobel Prize of Peace in 2004.

Aung San Suu Kyi (1945-): “It is not power that corrupt, but fear: Fear of losing the power by those who exercise power, and fear of being beaten for those that the power-to-be oppress.  Truth and justice are the sole defenses against heartless power…”  Aung received the Nobel Prize of Peace in 1991.

Rigoberta Menchu (1959-): “Man is far worth than his diplomas.  I want to remain a student all my life.”  Rigoberta published her autobiography “Yo Rigoberta” in 1983.  She defended the autochtone (indigenous) minorities and safeguarded their rights in Latin America and Guatemala.  She received the Nobel prize of Peace in 1992.

Margherita Hack (1922-): “We all have a common origin: We are the product of the universe evolution and of the stars. The stars are democratic: they are accessible and the show is free to all. Nature is the utmost liberal: Nature never oppose your will to know and your intellectual faculties. Why seek miracles and dwell on superstition, while there are so many poems and fascination outside?”  She founded the magazine Astronomy in 1979 and discovered an asteroid that carries her name in 1995.

(Margherita Hack said it all poetically.  I had written: “Is one eternity not good enough for us?  We are all, animate subjects and inanimate objects, constituted of the same fundamental basic elements.  We are constantly transformed in this vast universe”)

Note: Link to first part: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/quotes-by-famous-women/


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

August 2020
M T W T F S S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

Blog Stats

  • 1,405,825 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 756 other followers

%d bloggers like this: