Discourse of Nationalisms in South Asia

The ambiguous identity of a Kashmiri is one that some of us have had to live with for a while now. Indian nationalists are quick to claim their intractable hold on Kashmiris; Pakistani nationalists are just as quick to claim to speak for Kashmiris. Kashmir, despite having a real internal history and a place in the world, is suppressed by its positioning in the Indo-Pak conflict. Mainstream Kashmiri politicians culpably reiterate that “Kashmir is an integral part of India,” in the process negating the people’s voices and real existence. Separatists are just as quick to scrap that assertion with their vociferous calls for shuts downs, in the process sidelining the educational and psychological needs of the younger generation.

New Delhi in its signature style is straddling the fence by underlining the need for “dialogue” and “quiet diplomacy” but not taking any substantive measures to “talk” to Kashmiris. The profundity of memories and mourning of Kashmiris cannot be relegated to the background in official accounts of history. The aggressive statements, delusions of grandeur, melodramatic performances, and witty quips of Kashmiri mainstream politicians as well as separatist leaders have a short-lived glory and do nothing to alleviate the pain of anxious parents, destitute widows, bereaved mothers, vulnerable orphans, educated people unable to make a decent living.

Indian and Pakistani nationalisms have sought to mold collective subjectivities by the evocation of pan-national religious affinities resulting in the stifling of minority voices that express divergent political, social, and cultural opinions. The unitary concept of nationalism that the nation-states of India and Pakistan subscribe to challenges the basic principle that the nation was founded on, namely, democracy. In the enthusiasm to nurture this nationalist project, the political autonomy endowed on J & K by the constitutional provisions of India should not be eroded. In October 1949, the Constituent Assembly of India reinforced the stipulation that New Delhi’s jurisdiction in the state would remain limited to the categories of defense, foreign affairs, and communications, as underlined in the Instrument of Accession. This stipulation was provisional and its final status would be decided upon the resolution of the Kashmir issue. Subsequent to India acquiring the status of a republic in 1950, this constitutional provision enabled the incorporation of Article 370 into the Indian Constitution, which ratified the autonomous status of J & K within the Indian Union. Article 370 stipulates that New Delhi can legislate on the subjects of defense, foreign affairs, and communications only in just and equitable consultation with the government of the state of J & K, and can intervene on other subjects only with the consent of the J & K State Assembly. In contravention of the autonomy of J & K, two highly federalist statutes of the Indian Constitution, Articles 356 and 357, were enacted in J & K in 1964. These draconian articles enabled the central government to autocratically dismiss democratically elected state governments if it perceived a dismantling of the law and order machinery.

Accounts of the insurgency in Kashmir discount narratives that do not contribute to the deepening breach caused by the communalization of the Kashmir issue and the zeal of Indian and Pakistani nationalism, according to which “Kashmir is unquestionably an integral part of India,” or any people’s movement in Kashmir is led by “anti-national militants,” or “Pakistan is sincere in its attempts to resolve the Kashmir conundrum” leaves out the politics of the people as was done in official accounts of the Partition of India (Guha 1).

Where are the genuine traumas and tribulations of the people in these accounts? Do we hear of the misery of a father who feels emasculated because he cannot fend for his family? Do we sense the anxiety of parents who are painfully aware that the productive years of their child are going by the wayside while the rest of the world is making strides? Do we hear the wailing of a tender hearted mother whose son was waiting to plunge into life but has now been silenced by militarization and/ or militancy? Do we see the apathy of a young educated person who thought the world was his/ her oyster but now has nothing to look forward to? Are we aware of the frustration of politically savvy people whose opinions are made short shrift of by the powers that be? Do we understand the isolation of cultural and educational institutions? Do we see the erosion of the identity of people whose votes count but whose needs and opinions are overlooked? Do we see the legitimacy of peaceful protests and the illegitimacy of firing at unarmed protestors?

The discourse of nationalism affects to make sense of the absurd loss of life that occurs. Human knowledge, however, is always tentative and arbitrary. We can learn to cross the frontiers of culture, nationality, language, and citizenship in order to make humanist responses to the belligerence of military powers and the ensuing human rights violations. Indian and Pakistani nationalisms deploys the idea of citizenship and fraternity that unifies the entire community in the pursuit of a common goal. In order to assert itself a nation-state needs to draw clearly etched borders so it can define itself in opposition to other nations.

Militant nationalism must evolve into critical consciousness: an awareness that unless national consciousness transforms into social consciousness, so-called “liberation” would merely be a continuation of imperialism (Said 323).

The need of the day is for Indian civil society as well as the civil society in J & K to come forward and foreground rational and logical solutions to the political, psychological, cultural, economic, and educational paralysis in J & K without toeing the line of ultra right-wing nationalism. Repressive statutes, brutal acts, a corrupt political and bureaucratic infrastructure, pigeonholing Kashmiris as “ignorant insurgents,” fomenting dissension within the ranks of the people can only undermine the human aspect of the Kashmir issue which no well-thinking, rational person, Indian or Pakistani nationalist should tolerate.

Close All US Military Bases On Foreign Soil

The Coalition Against Foreign Military Bases is a new campaign focused on closing all US military bases abroad. This campaign strikes at the foundation of US empire, confronting its militarism, corporatism and imperialism. We urge you to endorse this campaign.

On the occasion of its announcement, the coalition issued a unity statement, which describes its intent as “raising public awareness and organizing non-violent mass resistance against U.S. foreign military bases.” It further explains that US foreign military bases are “the principal instruments of imperial global domination and environmental damage through wars of aggression and occupation, and that the closure of U.S. foreign military bases is one of the first necessary steps toward a just, peaceful and sustainable world.”

While the US sought to be an imperial force beginning just after the US Civil War and then escalated those efforts at the turn of the 20th Century, it became the dominant empire globally after World War II. This was during the time of de-colonization, when many traditional empires were forced to let their colonies become independent nations. So, while the US is the largest empire in world history, it is not a traditional empire in which nations are described as colonies of the US empire. Nations remain independent, at least in name, while allowing US bases on their soil and serving as a client state of the United States. They are controlled through the economic power of the US, World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The US has used regime change tactics, including assassination and military force, to keep its empire intact.

Commentators have described the United States as an “empire of bases.” Chalmers Johnson wrote in 2004:

As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize — or do not want to recognize — that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire — an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can’t begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.

Our military deploys well over half a million soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian contractors in other nations. To dominate the oceans and seas of the world, we are creating some thirteen naval task forces built around aircraft carriers whose names sum up our martial heritage — Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Enterprise, John F. Kennedy, Nimitz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Carl Vinson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John C. Stennis, Harry S. Truman, and Ronald Reagan. We operate numerous secret bases outside our territory to monitor what the people of the world, including our own citizens, are saying, faxing, or e-mailing to one another.

We do not know the exact number of US military bases and outposts throughout the world. The Unity Statement says “the United States maintains the highest number of military bases outside its territory, estimated at almost 1000 (95% of all foreign military bases in the world). . . . In addition, the United States has 19 Naval air carriers (and 15 more planned), each as part of a Carrier Strike Group, composed of roughly 7,500 personnel, and a carrier air wing of 65 to 70 aircraft — each of which can be considered a floating military base.”

The annual Department of Defense (DoD) Base Structure Report says the DoD manages a massive “global real property portfolio that consists of nearly 562,000 facilities (buildings, structures, and linear structures), located on over 4,800 sites worldwide and covering over 24.9 million acres.” They value DoD property located in 42 nations at over $585 billion. It is difficult to tell from this report the number of bases and military outposts, which has led analysts like Tom Engelhardt to describe US empire as an “invisible” empire of bases. He points out the US military bases are rarely discussed in the media. It usually takes an incident, like US soldiers being attacked or a US aircraft being shot down, for them to get any mention in the media.

Many of the bases remain from previous wars, especially World War II and the Korean War:

According to official information provided by the Department of Defense (DoD) and its Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) there are still about 40,000 US troops, and 179 US bases in Germany, over 50,000 troops in Japan (and 109 bases), and tens of thousands of troops, with hundreds of bases, all over Europe. Over 28,000 US troops are present in 85 bases in South Korea, and have been since 1957.

The number of bases is always changing as the US seeks to continuously expand its empire of bases. Just this week the US is opening a military base in South Korea, which is described as a city of 25,000 people. The Washington Post reports:

“We built an entire city from scratch,” said Col. Scott W. Mueller, garrison commander of Camp Humphreys, one of the U.S. military’s largest overseas construction projects. If it were laid across Washington, the 3,454-acre base would stretch from Key Bridge to Nationals Park, from Arlington National Cemetery to the Capitol.

* * *

Now, the $11 billion base is beginning to look like the garrison that military planners envisaged decades ago.

The Eighth Army moved its headquarters here this month and there are about 25,000 people based here, including family members and contractors.

There are apartment buildings, sports fields, playgrounds and a water park, and an 18- hole golf course with the generals’ houses overlooking the greens. There is a “warrior zone” with Xboxes and Playstations, pool tables and dart boards, and a tavern for those old enough to drink.

Starting this August, there will be two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. A new, 68-bed military hospital to replace the one at Yongsan is close to completion.

Also this week, it was reported that the United States has created ten new military bases in Syria. This was done without permission of the Syrian government and was exposed by Turkey in protest against the United States.

There is a cost to these bases, not only the $156 billion in annual funds spent on them, but also the conflicts they create between the United States and people around the world. There have been protests against the presence or development of US bases in Okinawa, Italy, Jeju Island Korea, Diego Garcia, Cyprus, Greece, and Germany. Some of the bases are illegal, as the unity statement points out, “The base that the U.S. has illegally occupied the longest, for over a century, is Guantánamo Bay, whose existence constitutes an imposition of the empire and a violation of International Law.”  Cuba has called for the return of Guantánamo since 1959. David Vine, the author of Base Nation, describes how these bases, which seek to project US power around the globe, create political tensions, are a source for military attacks and create alliances with dictators. They breed sexual violence, displace indigenous peoples, and destroy the environment.

The unity statement of the Coalition Against Foreign Military Bases concludes by urging all of us to unite to close US bases around the world because:

U.S. foreign military bases are NOT in defense of U.S. national, or global security. They are the military expression of U.S. intrusion in the lives of sovereign countries on behalf of the dominant financial, political, and military interests of the ruling elite. Whether invited in or not by domestic interests that have agreed to be junior partners, no country, no peoples, no government, can claim to be able to make decisions totally in the interest of their people, with foreign troops on their soil representing interests antagonistic to the national purpose.

Please endorse the statement and join the campaign to remove US military bases from foreign soil.

King Yellowman Defends Gay Rights at Reggae on the Mountain

King Yellowman, Reggae on the Mountain 2017, Topanga Canyon, California | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Born with albinism in 1956, dancehall music legend King Yellowman was rejected from birth. As a baby, he was found in a supermarket’s trash heap in Kingston, Jamaica. Miraculously surviving and raised in orphanages, he was ridiculed, called names, and abused. Yellowman was scorned solely because of his color. However, possessing preternatural musical talent, an indomitable will, and braveness beyond belief, Yellowman surmounted these Herculean obstacles, and more. After Bob Marley’s death, in 1981, he became one of the world’s biggest music stars, back when dancehall first took off beyond the confines of Jamaica. Indeed, a recent book review in The New Yorker of So Much Things Things To Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley (written by Roger Steffens and published by Norton), asserts that after Bob’s death, “brash new [dancehall] stars like Yellowman, made Marley’s roots-reggae seem antiquated.”

Beating back Father Time, and even cancer – which caused him to undergo a series of life-saving but disfiguring surgeries – Yellowman is still triumphing over life’s obstacles. He’s still making new music. He’s still touring the world. And, with his patented, provocative swagger, he’s not shying away from taking strong stances on social issues.

I was blessed to interview King Yellowman on Saturday, July 22nd, shortly after his electrifying performance as a headliner at the 8th annual Reggae on the Mountain in Topanga Canyon, California. Both performing, and later, during my interview, Yellowman was joined by another dean of the Jamaican dancehall scene, Papa Michigan. Best known for a string of hits with former partner General Smiley, like the 1982 chart-topper, “Diseases,” Papa Michigan, like King Yellowman, has never shied away from saying what he believes. What follows is a transcription of our discussion modified only slightly for clarity and space considerations.

King Yellowman with writer Stephen Cooper, Reggae on the Mountain 2017, Topanga Canyon, California (also pictured, in the background, from left to right: Papa Michigan, radio personality and reggae expert Junor Francis, reggae artist Ladee Dred) | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Q: Mr. Yellowman, thank you so much for meeting with me. When I see all those fans out there – a lot of them weren’t even born when you were in your prime – in the early-to-mid-1980s. Yet, they’re singing your songs. They know your lyrics. Does that ever surprise you? That young folk, especially here in California, know your music? 

Yellowman: When you do good music, it moves over from generation to generation. Like Bob Marley. Like [Papa] Michigan. Jimmy Cliff.

Q: The music lives on. Absolutely. Now, you’ve had such a long and historic career. You’re the undisputed King of Dancehall Music: you were the first dancehall artist to sign an international recording contract; the first dancehall artist to perform with a rap artist – Run DMC. You’ve influenced so many artists all over the world. And your songs are sampled constantly.

Yellowman: True. True. True. True.

Q: And I’ve seen many interviews you’ve done. And I know you’ve had health struggles. And I guess I wonder, when I see a legendary guy like you, a guy who, as you said, whose songs will live on –

Yellowman: Yeah mon.

Q: I would have thought that a guy like you would be comfortably retired by now, in their house in Jamaica. Or walking the streets. Getting the respect. Just basking in the glow of a legendary career. So, I wonder, what makes you keep performing?

Yellowman: It’s everything. But especially, you know, I love the music. This is my purpose. I don’t do anything else but music.

Q: Absolutely. And I know you’re still making new music. You had a song released just last month – a very mellow tune. It’s called, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” And it’s on a compilation called, “International Redemption Riddim.” It’s a cover of sorts of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” Great song! And I know you’ve also been performing with one of your daughters, Kareema Foster?

Yellowman: Yeah mon. We’re going to [tour together in] Japan next month.

Q: Now, I know you have seven children – five sons and two daughters. And that, you’ve always been involved in your children’s lives. And also, that you’re still married to the same woman, Rosie, after all these years. And you’ve always had a clean lifestyle: You don’t smoke, you don’t drink [alcohol], you don’t eat red meat. It seems like you have two personas. You have the guy who gets on stage as an entertainer – brash, provocative, in your face. Sometimes, sexually charged. But the Yellowman who gets off of the stage seems like a very different man: A family man. Quiet. Lives cleanly. Do you think you’ve suffered in your career, especially during your prime, through the loss of endorsements and sponsorships, because people were confused about the difference [between your on-stage and off-stage personas]?

Yellowman: Some of it, yeah. Because they label me that way, you know?

Q: You’ve said they blame you for the “slackness” style. And, for example, with your mega-hit, Zungguzungguguzungguzeng, that they didn’t know what it meant. So, they just assumed it was something sexual, and banned it from the radio?

Yellowman: Right. It’s a misinterpretation. Because, if they’re talking about “slackness,” all of us slack. We [all] come from a woman. We have to make love.

Q: You’ve spoken before about how you were scorned and discriminated against in your life and career [because of your albinism]. And, one of the reasons you are so loved, in Jamaica and around the world is, you took that hate and discrimination that you suffered, and you overcame it. You came out strong and said, if you want to call me yellow, let me sing to you about all the yellow babies I’m going to make. And the people loved you for it. It was a heroic thing, what you did, I think. Now, in 2013, you were interviewed on a program called “Empress’ Studio” in Kingston, Jamaica. And during that interview you said, “the biggest problem with dancehall music is the lyrical content.” Can you say more about that?

Yellowman: Yeah mon. What I mean about the lyrical content [is] the violence and the separation. They are getting in a lot of trouble with the law also.

Q: In that same Empress’ Studio interview you spoke out eloquently against the discrimination gay people face in Jamaica. And, how Jamaica suffers because of that image problem –

Yellowman: That’s the reason why dancehall suffers.

Q: Yes. And I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of this by asking Jamaicans I know why homophobia remains so prevalent in Jamaican culture. Some of the things I’ve heard are: that there’s a biblical aspect with people being taught it’s a sin; that the law has not changed in Jamaica – there is still a law criminalizing homosexual acts; that people associate homosexual behavior with the molestation of young boys due to the priest scandals; and also, just a sheer lack of worldliness – not ever leaving the island of Jamaica – and therefore, not having that experience with different kinds of people –

Yellowman: No, they don’t. They don’t know. They don’t know that gay people are normal people. They don’t know that gay people are nice people. Just like any other people. And [gay people] love reggae music. Yeah. And [gay people] love Jamaica. Yeah mon.

Q: Is there hope for change?

Yellowman: Them keep talking, but it never happen. I don’t know why. Just the other day they say they are gonna look [at repealing] the buggery law. And then, I don’t hear anything more about it.

Q: Are you more sympathetic to discrimination than the average Jamaican? Because of the discrimination you’ve endured? Being abandoned by your parents. Thrown in a trash heap. Not adopted. Called names. All this, because of your skin color.

Yellowman: Yeah mon. Because, we’re all one people, you know?

Q: I understand your wife, Rosie, is related to the Marley family. Were you friends with Bob Marley when he was alive?

Yellowman: Yeah mon. Very good friends, yeah. Because his mother [Cedella Marley] used to love me.

Q: What do you miss most about Bob Marley?

Yellowman: I miss a lot of things about him. Just the other night, I dreamed about him. And he told me, “Every little thing gonna be alright.” Yeah mon.

Q: That’s a great dream. Does the Marley family and the Marley estate – do they have an obligation to do more to invest in reggae music in Jamaica?

Yellowman: Half and half. Because, it’s their money. So, I can’t say what they must do. But, I wish they would do that.

Papa Michigan: They’re doing a lot man. The Marleys are doing their stuff, man. Junior Gong –they are doing their stuff. They have their cruise that they have a lot of artists on. Which is very good. They invited me, and I went there. So, they are doing their thing. Bob suffered. So, Bob Marley had a different mentality. These kids didn’t suffer. When you suffer, you do things different. So, you can’t compare these kids with Bob Marley. It is unfair.

Yellowman: Right. Bob do a lot of things.

Q: What about the Jamaican government? Why haven’t they done more to support reggae music?

Yellowman: They never liked reggae music. They are prejudiced against reggae music. 

Papa Michigan: At first, it was a ghetto thing. Even with Bob [Marley]. They were very prejudiced against the ghetto.

Yellowman: And prejudiced against Bob, too.

Papa Michigan: And prejudiced against Bob, too. All of us got labeled. But, right now, we can’t depend on anybody to do anything for us. We have to do things for ourselves. So, if we have ‘X’ amount of money, we need to build our own studios. We have to be self-reliant. Don’t lean on anybody. I come here today – I didn’t come to perform with my friend. I am in town and I heard Yellowman is on stage. And so I come to visit him, you understand me? We [as reggae artists] have to support each other. We have to strengthen each other. We don’t want to lean on nobody. We stand up by ourselves. You understand me? So, when some people talking, “poor this and poor that,” we were born rich! We were born abundant. We have to understand, we are kings! If we don’t understand we are kings, we don’t know where we are going. Selassie was rich! So don’t let nobody come tell you about nothing poor!

King Yellowman and Papa Michigan, Reggae on the Mountain 2017, Topanga Canyon, California | Courtesy of Stephen A. Cooper

Privacy: J. Edgar’s Not the Hoover You Need to Worry About Any More

Is your vacuum cleaner spying on you? Hamza Shaban of the Washington Post reports that iRobot, maker of the “autonomous” Roomba vacuum, may eventually sell the internal maps of your home the device builds to facilitate its work to the makers of other “smart home” devices.

In the latest phase of our frenzied technological advancement, it’s clear that yes, our gadgets do collect and use more and more information about us, and that that information progressively ramifies across more, bigger, and more integrated networks.

The bigger question: Is it worth it?

The answer: It depends.

Benjamin Franklin cautioned us against “giv[ing] up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety.” If he lived today, I think he’d be fascinated by the Internet of Things — and that in updating the quote above to describe it, he’d likely substitute “privacy” and “convenience” for “liberty” and “safety.”

I’m not going to try to tell you not to buy an autonomous vacuum or smart thermostat or Amazon Alexa voice-activated device (I have a couple of those myself). They can be incredibly useful. They can make our lives better in significant ways.

But when weighing the associated costs, don’t forget to account for the risks inherent in sharing your information. Who’s gathering it? What will be done with it? Where will it end up, intentionally or otherwise? The commercial applications, however annoying and intrusive they might become, aren’t the half of it.

One not terribly far-out, if somewhat dystopian, prediction:

As autonomous vacuums and similar map-reliant devices become the norm (and as they get cheaper, that will happen), governments will become major customers for the information they gather. The obvious application for that data is law enforcement (for example, being able to call up the floor plan of a house when planning a search or raid). But you should also expect that your county assessor will use that information when calculating square footage for your tax bill, and don’t be surprised if city planning and zoning bureaucrats come knocking to talk about that addition you built without a permit.

And then, of course, there’s the criminal element (but I repeat myself). The same people who stole your credit card number at the gas pump last year may acquire and use this type of information to case your house for prospective burglary next year.

Watch yourself. And never forget that your stuff is watching you too.

In the Flailing New York Times: Recipe or Confession?

As the flailing New York Times loses print-edition advertisers, the publishers run an ever-increasing number  of “house ads” featuring their own offshoots and products. The back page of the July 23 Sunday Review section —very valuable “real estate,” as the business types say— was given over to a full-page ad promoting the Times’s cooking website. It revealed just how lightly the editors take their own allegations of collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian government officials.

The alleged dangers of marijuana are also joked about by journalists who know that it’s relatively benign (and know that their readers know, too). Over the years we’ve remarked numerous puns in reference to marijuana. A few examples:

“Outgoing City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden answered a burning question on Wednesday, coming out in favor of developing a synthetic marijuana spray to be used for medicinal purposes….”

“LAW PROF TO SUPREME COURT – FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, BUTT OUT OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA Randy Barnett last week stood before a panel of nine justices inside a replica of the U.S.  Supreme Court.  The simulation was staged at Georgetown University’s moot courtroom…”

” CANUCK BASES ARE LOADED” is how a wit at the Toronto Sun summarized Stephanie Rubec’s Nov. 14 story about marijuana being the drug of choice among Canadian military personnel. (Cocaine is a distant second.)

“CELLUCI IS JUST BLOWING SMOKE.” the head on a letter in the Nov. 11 Montreal Gazette… Paul Cellucci is the U.S. Ambassador who warned that if Canada decriminalized marijuana, inspections of vehicles at the border would become more frequent and thorough, drastically slowing traffic.

The light-hearted headlines, taken in aggregate, reveal a basic understanding: “POT IS NO BIG DEAL.” The unspoken message to the reader/viewer is, “We’re hip and we know you are, too.”  They never make light of meth or opiate addiction, although SPEED and SMACK have plenty of pun potential and would fit in headlines.

Whoever drafted and laid out and approved the Times’s full-page  joke about “collusion between eggs, milk and blackberries”  —and every editor who saw the ad prior to publication— must know, consciously or subconsciously, that there’s something ludicrous about the paper’s obsession with Trump and the Russkies.

A Global Warming “Bubble”?

In this article Harry S. Dent, Jr. states that:

Despite mountains of evidence and historical proof that bubbles inflate and burst all the time . . . we somehow can’t seem to see bubbles when we’re in one.

In behavioral finance, they call this phenomenon the “status quo bias” and it’s just one of the many cognitive biases that makes people naturally bad investors.

You see, most people are awful at predicting the future because they think reality moves in a straight line. That is, they take where they are right now in time and just project out into the future from there.

Gene Epstein, of Barron’s, has referred to Dent’s predictions as “dented” (!), and I have no reason to question Epstein’s assertion.  What caught my eye in Dent’s article, however, was his reference to “status quo bias”—a term that I had not encountered before.  That encounter led me to do a Google search of the term, which resulted in me finding this article, along with this article, which addressed the question of how “powerful” the bias is.  Here are the two concluding paragraphs of the latter article:

When military members are considering their choices as their contract comes to an end, many consider re-enlisting simply because they are unaware of the many opportunities that exist for them.  Even when we understand our current path is no longer beneficial or no longer makes us happy, we must still overcome the natural urge to stay on the path unless the alternative is sufficiently attractive.  In order for us to readily pursue an alternate path, we must believe that the alternative is clearly superior to the current state of affairs.

The status quo effect is pervasive in both inconsequential and major decisions.  Oftentimes we are held back by what we believe to be the safe option, simply because it is the default.  Bearing in mind our natural propensity for the status quo will enable us to recognize the allure of inertia and more effectively overcome it.

In learning about this “status quo bias”—and given my recent preoccupation with the threat to our continued existence as a species posed by global warming—I began to wonder if that bias helped explain our USan1, in particular, failure to address this threat in any meaningful way since, e.g., 1988.2

Here’s a definition of the bias:

Status quo bias is an emotional bias; a preference for the current state of affairs. The current baseline (or status quo) is taken as a reference point, and any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss.  Status quo bias should be distinguished from a rational preference for the status quo ante, as when the current state of affairs is objectively superior to the available alternatives, or when imperfect information is a significant problem.  A large body of evidence, however, shows that status quo bias frequently affects human decision-making.

Status quo bias interacts with other non-rational cognitive processes such as loss aversion, existence bias, endowment effect, longevity, mere exposure, and regret avoidance.  Experimental evidence for the detection of status quo bias is seen through the use of the reversal test. A vast amount of experimental and field examples exist. Behavior in regard to retirement plans, health, and ethical choices show evidence of the status quo bias.

Shortly, I will comment on the possibility that “status quo bias” might help explain our failure, adequately, to address the threat posed by global warming, but first some related comments.

In terms of my perspective on the matter, since the early 1980s I have been convinced that our various problems (including the environmental one), as USans, were attributable to the nature of our society; so that the “obvious” solution to our problems was societal system change of the right sort.  I therefore developed, and got published, a 5-“wave” strategy for “converting” our society in the proper direction.  Because my strategy involved “creative subversion” of the Existing Order, I was convinced that the strategy could be successful.3 Not being an “entrepreneurial” type of person, however—and lacking, besides, the financial means to pursue my “plan”—nothing came of the “plan,” by either me or anyone else (i.e., a reader of the article).

Since 1984 I have continued to “believe in” my strategy—although recently I modified it somewhat (this eBook, p. 26).  However, I have also become increasingly conscious of the fact that our country has become an oligarchy, and that that fact has helped me realize two important implications, of that fact, for our society—given, that is, that members of “our” elite don’t give a damn about global warming!4:

  1. The rich in our society tend not only to be fixated on the short term, but because they control “our” politicians, force “our” politicians to have that same fixation (which says something important about the {lack of} integrity of “our” politicians!).
  2. The rich, through their control of corporations, also control the media in this country—thereby ensuring that one rarely hears/reads any significant “news” about global warming in the mass media.  For example, the lead meteorologist at one of the television stations here in Milwaukee has told me that his management forbids (!) them from talking about global warming—and I assume that this policy prevails not only throughout Milwaukee, but the rest of the country as well!5

What I’m forced to conclude, as I write this essay today (July 29, 2017), is that:

  1. Although “status quo bias” might be somewhat of a factor in explaining why the global warming threat has not been given serious attention in recent years, the high degree of societal inequality that has characterized our society recently is a more important factor—via the control, by the rich (and large corporations), of “our” politicians and the mass media.
  2. Had my 1984 “plan” gotten underway in 1984, the “status quo bias” would not have been a factor in limiting its success—for the reasons that (a) the “vanguard” in my “plan” would have consisted of those who were dissatisfied with the status quo, and (b) because the “plan” involved “creative subversion” of the Existing Order, members of the elite, because of their obtuseness:
  1. Would not have recognized the fact that the Existing Order was being subverted until the Movement had acquired a good “head of steam.”
  2. Enough of a “head of steam” that the legal structure of this society would have enabled sufficient protection of the Movement to enable it to be

That is a big “What if . . . ,” however!  It is certainly presumptuous of me to suggest (as I’ve been hinting here) that had my 1984 “plan” for societal system change been initiated in 1984, it would have met with success—and the human situation would be much better today, and that the threat now posed by global warming would not, now, exist.  It’s at least conceivable, however, I would assert.

But whether or not that’s the case, it’s reasonably clear to me that a puppet master has been directing human history since the Neolithic, with the goal of rendering our species extinct (by 2026?!)  I agree with Eugene Linden (Affluence and Discontent, 1979) that human history since the Neolithic has been on a downward course6 (see pp. 7 – 14 in this eBook), and would give The Discrepancy as the direct explanation of this. I am aware of no ultimate explanation of this other than the “puppet master” one!

  1. Given the presumptuousness of residents of the United States referring to themselves as “Americans,” I have gotten in the habit of referring to us as “USans.”
  2. Noted climate scientist James Hansen addressed the U. S. Senate about this threat in 1988.
  3. Although I didn’t know this at the time, I now perceive my “macro” solution as complementing Robert Owen’s [1771 – 1858] “micro” solution.
  4. See this, this, and this—with the latter giving the alleged science behind non-belief in global warming.
  5. How, I ask, does one decide to continue working as a meteorologist, given this limitation?!  Do television meteorologists have no integrity?!  How, then, is one able to live with oneself?!  I am reminded here of what chief counsel for the U.S. Army Joseph N. Welch said to “my” late Senator Joseph McCarthy:  “Have you no sense of decency, sir?  At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”  I SO ADMIRE Welch for saying that!!  I have quoted only part of what Welch said; his entire statement is well worth reading!  As to McCarthy:  fortunately, “On December 2, 1954 [my future wife’s 12th birthday!], the Senate voted to censure Senator McCarthy by a vote of 67–22, making him one of the few senators ever to be disciplined in this fashion.  McCarthy died at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland on May 2, 1957, at the age of 48.  The official cause of death was acute hepatitis.  Some biographers say this was caused or exacerbated by alcoholism.
  6. Linden concluded his book with this prediction (p. 178):  “We will continue on our present course, and . . . the probability of one or another proposed [earlier in the book] disasters will rapidly increase until some small event triggers the apocalypse of the consumer society.”

America Declares Economic War Against Europe



undefined

On Friday night, July 28, US President Donald Trump said that he would sign into law the increased economic sanctions (passed by 98-2 in the Senate and 419-3 in the House) against any business that is declared to have "knowingly provided goods or services... for construction, modernisation, or repair of Russia’s energy export pipelines."

Russia is the largest energy-supplier to the world’s largest energy-market, which is Europe, or the EU. The biggest proportion of that trade is in Europe’s main source of energy, which is gas, which is pipelined into Europe from Russia. So: those pipelines are vitally important not only to Russia’s economy but to Europe’s.

President Trump had gotten Congress to agree to limit the application of this provision only to "The President, in coordination with allies of the United States, may impose five or more of the sanctions described in section 235 with respect to a person if the President determines that the person knowingly, on or after the date of the enactment of this Act, makes an investment described in subsection (b) or sells, leases, or provides to the Russian Federation, for the construction of Russian energy export pipelines, goods, services, technology, information, or support."

But the new law still does include "SEC. 232. SANCTIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF PIPELINES IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION." That Section punishes "Goods, services, technology, information, or support described in this subsection are goods, services, technology, information, or support that could directly and significantly facilitate the maintenance or expansion of the construction, modernization, or repair of energy export pipelines by the Russian Federation." That includes the crucial Nord Stream pipeline, which is maintained by Russian and German companies to transport gas from Russia to the EU.

US firms have thus now gotten their stooges in Congress to punish European and Russian companies that will be determined by "The President, in coordination with allies of the United States," to be working together in these ways, to get Russia’s gas to Europe’s markets.

North Stream, or Nord Stream, as Wikipedia says:
has an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic metres (1.9 trillion cubic feet), but its capacity is planned to be doubled to 110 billion cubic metres (3.9 trillion cubic feet) by 2019, by laying two additional lines.[5] Due to EU restrictions on Gazprom, only 22.5 billion cubic metres (790 billion cubic feet) of its capacity is actually used.[6] The name occasionally has a wider meaning, including the feeding onshore pipeline in the Russian Federation, and further connections in Western Europe.
So, already, the US oligarchs have greatly reduced the effectiveness of this enormous European and Russian investment, and this is already war by the US oligarchs (and their congressional agents) against both Europe and Russia; but, the new sanctions aim to go even further to absolutely cripple Europe and Russia.

President Trump is to be credited for having weakened this provision to such an extent that it will be virtually meaningless; but, the intention of the oligarchs who control the US, to force Europe to buy from them, and from their allied Saudi, UAE, Kuwaiti, and the other royal fundamentalist Sunni Arab families, is clear.

Other highlights from this new US law are well summarized in the July 28 article from Zero Hedge, "Trump Confirms He Will Sign Russia Sanctions Bill." The biggest concession that Trump made was to allow that this new law, "H.R.3364 - Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act," "Codifies existing US sanctions on Russia and requires Congressional review before they are lifted." This is an Executive-Legislative agreement (an agreement between the President and Congress), but the US Constitution doesn’t include any provision allowing an Executive-Legislative agreement to violate the Constitution; and there are a number of provisions in the US Constitution that H.R.3364 might be determined by courts to be violating. This is presuming, of course, that key judges cannot be bought-off.

When a country is being ruled by its oligarchs, anything that the nation’s Constitution says, can be viewed as little more than an impediment, not any outright ban, because the actual Constitution, in any such country, is whatever they want it to be. Just how bad the US government has become, can’t yet be determined, but might become clear fairly soon.

Reprinted with permission from the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Russia’s Expulsion of Staff From the US Embassy in Moscow is Unprecedented and Huge

undefined

Last autumn, as the Obama administration considered mass expulsions of Russian diplomats from the US in response to the burgeoning Russiagate scandal, John Tefft – the US ambassador to Russia – is reported to have warned against taking this step.  Tefft’s reasons for opposing it were that the likely strong response from the Russians, which would lead to expulsions of US diplomats from Russia, would threaten the effective work of the US embassy in Moscow and of the US consulates in Russia.

The Obama administration in the end failed to heed Tefft’s warning.  Though in the event the Russians in December stayed their hand as they waited to see what the new Trump administration would bring, now that the US Congress has voted to increase the sanctions on Russia and with the return of seized Russian diplomatic properties in the US ruled out, the Russians have finally responded.  Their response must however go beyond Tefft’s worst fears

The Russians order to the US to reduce the staff at their embassy and consulates in Russia by 755 persons is in fact unprecedented.  As the BBC rightly says, though a large part of the reduction will no doubt be accounted for by non-diplomatic staff, the Russian announcement still constitutes what is by far the single biggest expulsion of diplomats in modern history
The decision to expel staff was made on Friday, but Mr Putin has now confirmed the number who must go by 1 September.

It brings staff levels to 455, the same as Russia’s complement in Washington.

This is thought to be the largest expulsion of diplomats from any country in modern history, says the BBC’s Laura Bicker in Washington.

The number includes Russian employees of the US diplomatic missions across Russia, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford in Moscow adds.

Staff in the embassy in Moscow as well as the consulates in Ekaterinburg, Vladivostok and St Petersburg are affected, she says.
Moreover the Russian decision now establishes the principle that the number of personnel at US embassies and consulates in Russia will in future be held to the same level – currently 455 – as the number of personnel at Russian embassies and consulates in the US.

That means that any future expulsions of Russian diplomats in the US – or any US refusal of visas to Russian diplomats to fill vacant posts at the Russian embassies and consulates in the US, as has apparently been happening – will be matched exactly equal expulsions of US diplomats from Russia, and refusals of visas to US diplomats seeking to fill vacant posts in US embassies and consulates in Russia.

That this is a heavy blow to the US is highlighted by one interesting fact.  It turns out that the number of personnel working at US embassies and consulates in Russia was almost three times greater than the number of personnel working at Russian embassies and consulates in the US.

That begs the question of what all these extra US personnel were doing there?   Perhaps US embassies and consulates are less efficient than Russian ones.  However I suspect that the Russians believe that many if not most of these extra people were actually engaged in intelligence gathering and “democracy promotion” activities.   If so then these have now suffered a heavy blow as a result of the Russian action, which explains Tefft’s concern.

Regardless of the damage done to US diplomatic missions and intelligence and ‘democracy promotion’ operations in Russia, nothing better illustrates the introverted quality of foreign policy debate in the US than the response to the biggest expulsion of US diplomatic personnel from Russia since the two countries first established diplomatic relations in 1933.  Though nothing comparable has happened since the Soviet government expelled US ambassador George Kennan from the USSR in September 1952 at the height of the Cold War, one would scarcely know the fact from the way the US media is reporting the story.

This fact illustrates a greater truth: for much of the US elite-  including most of the US media – the new sanctions bill is not really aimed at damaging Russia but rather at damaging President Trump.  To achieve that objective all other interests are being sacrificed.

Just as the fundamental economic interests of the US’s European allies are being sacrificed to what is ultimately an internecine factional quarrel within the US of which the Russiagate scandal is only the outward manifestation, so a crippling blow to the US diplomatic and intelligence operation in Russia is being barely noticed, as those sponsors of the new sanctions bill who are not driven by purely commercial interests (see here and here) focus almost exclusively on their feud with President Trump.

The result is that US foreign policy barely exists any more.

Reprinted with permission from The Duran.

North Korea or Iran…Where Will President Trump Attack First?

undefined

President Trump seems to be impatiently racing toward at least one disastrous war. Maybe two. The big question is who will be first? North Korea or Iran?

Over the past several days President Trump has sent two nuclear-capable B-1 bombers over the Korean peninsula to send a clear message that he is ready to attack North Korea. On Saturday he blamed China for North Korea’s refusal to cease its missile tests. He Tweeted: “I am very disappointed in China… they do nothing for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue.”

One press report from an unnamed Pentagon source claimed that President Trump “is to order a military strike against North Korea within a year,” after this weekend’s North Korean test of a longer-range missile.

Iran, which along with North Korea and Russia will face new sanctions imposed by Congress and expected to be signed into law by Trump, is also in President Trump’s crosshairs. He was reportedly furious over his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s certifying that Iran was in compliance with the nuclear deal – even though Iran was in compliance – and he seems determined to push a confrontation.

Twice in the past week the US military has fired at Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf. On Tuesday an Iranian military ship in the Persian Gulf was warned off by machine gun blasts from a US Naval vessel. Then on Friday the US Navy fired warning flares toward another Iranian ship operating in the Persian Gulf.

Imagine if the US Navy had encountered Iranian warships in the Gulf of Mexico firing machine guns at them when they approached the Iranians.

Facing new sanctions, the Iranian government announced that it will not end ballistic missile testing even under US pressure. The missile program is not a violation of the P5+1 Iran deal unless it is specifically designed to carry nuclear weapons.

So whom will Trump attack first? Let’s hope nobody, but with continuing pressure from both Democrats and Republicans over the unproven “Russiagate” allegations, it increasingly looks like he will seek relief by starting a “nice little war.” If he does so, however, his presidency will likely be over and he may end up blundering into a much bigger war in the process.

Although Trump’s bombastic rhetoric on Iran and North Korea has been pretty consistent, the American people voted Trump because he was seen as the less likely of the two candidates to get the US into a major war.

A recent study by the Boston University and the University of Minnesota concluded that Trump won the most votes in parts of the country with the highest military casualties. Those most directly suffering the costs of war were attracted to the candidate they saw as less likely to take the US into another major war. These are the Americans living in the swing states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan that surprised the pundits by voting for Trump over Hillary.

Will Trump’s legacy be blustering us into one or two wars that will make Iraq and Afghanistan look like cakewalks by comparison? Millions dead? It’s time to make our voices known before it’s too late!

Palestine: Apartheid, Stolen Lives and Land, History Erased, United Nations Deaf Mute

“All 100 U.S. Senators signed a letter Thursday asking U.N. Secretary General António Guterres to address what the lawmakers call entrenched bias against Israel at the world body.”

The letter: “ … uses strong language to insist that the United Nations rectify what the Senators said is unequal treatment of Israel on human rights and other grounds.

“Through words and actions, we urge you to ensure that Israel is treated neither better nor worse than any other U.N. member in good standing,” they stated.

The Senators appear to be on a parallel universe. Have they reflected, in context, on the UN’s fine founding words, avowing:

to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war … to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person … to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom … to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours … to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples …

Israel – ever presented as the eternal victim – has not just made a mockery of the words but also of the Balfour letter of 2nd November 1917 and trampled on both ever since. Balfour:

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine … (Emphasis added.)

So much for the “rights” of the Palestinians. Between November 1947 and November 1948 five hundred and thirty one Palestinian towns and villages had been “ethnically cleansed”. By 1952 it was six hundred and fifteen.

This “Nakba” (“catastrophe”) seventy years after Israel’s final founding is ongoing.

The land grabs are illegal and violate: U.N. Charter, Article 2(4) and 51 (1945); Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations…, Principle 1 (1970).

Settlements on occupied lands violate Geneva Conventions IV, Article 49(6) (1949). It is illegal to colonize or transfer non-indigenous people to occupied land.

Taking land by force and claiming sovereignty violates: U.N. Charter, Article 2(4) (1945); Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations…, Principle 1.

Forbidding civilian populations the right to return to their homes following the end of armed conflict is in direct violation of international law and UN resolutions. Geneva Convention IV, Articles 45, 46 and 49 (1949), UN resolutions 194 (III) (General Assembly; 1948) and 237 (Security Council; 1967).

Collective punishment violates Geneva Conventions IV, Article 33 (1949); Geneva Conventions (Protocol I), Article 75(2d) (1977).

The list of breaches of international law is near endless as are the attacks on a people with no army, air force or navy, plus the decimations of 1967, 2008-9 and 2014.

Israel’s violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, legally binding on Member-nations, include Resolutions 54, 111, 233, 234, 236, 248, 250, 252, 256, 262, 267, 270, 280, 285, 298, 313, 316, 468, 476, a small sample.

The Senators would seem to have as little knowledge of the iniquities inflicted on the Middle East by foreign powers and cuckoos in the nest as their rookie President. It is not Israel being meted out “unequal treatment”. It is the Palestinians, thieved of their land, history, justice and all normality.

• First published at Global Research