2020-11-30

Assange

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by Neil Godfrey


2020-11-26

On Internet Censorship and Mainstream Propaganda, Substance and Image in Domestic and International Political Power

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by Neil Godfrey

I still recall those early days of the internet when it was said to be in some sort of “wild west” stage of development, when we could talk about it being a great democratizing medium . . . but now, in this interview with Glenn Greenwald, the focus is on the new reality of censorship and the forces behind that censorship.

Also of interest: the role of progressives like Bernie Sanders and AOC in the Democratic Party; looking beyond styles to a comparison of what was actually done by the Obama-Biden administration in contrast with Trump’s term; how the different styles have real significance for US power relationships in the world and the perpetuation of wars and harsh treatment of refugees; . . . .

 


2020-11-24

Petition for Australian readers re David McBride

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by Neil Godfrey

Invitation to sign the online petition to Australia’s Attorney-General, Christian Porter. — From change.org:

David McBride (Photo from Sydney Morning Herald)

In light of the Defence Dept releasing the Breton Report on the Afghan Files investigation it is even clearer that the Government did everything they could to muzzle David McBride. Mr McBride reported internally the information contained in the newly released report and was effectively managed out of the Defence Dept. After he informed some journalists of what he knew this Government had him charged and he is facing the possibility of a 50 year prison sentence.. We now know heinous crimes have been committed by a small number of SAS members and they will face criminal trials and hopefully time in prison. The stench of this Australian Government corruption is strong.

The Australian people call on the Attorney General to drop the charges pending against David McBride. Some of us are wondering if the LNP went down this path in order to attempt to protect a current sitting member of Parliament. The Attorney General has already conceded charges against the journalists could not be pursued. It is now time to admit the grave error he made by pursuing David McBride.

It was good to read a piece by Geoffrey Robertson

His conclusion:

I know from my own experience of presiding over a war crimes court just how hard it is for witnesses to come forward if threatened with reprisals – especially from “mates”. This takes even more courage than needs to be shown on a battlefield. Each should be given, because they deserve it, an Order of Australia.


2020-11-23

Propaganda Today: New Targets and Deflections

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by Neil Godfrey

Glenn Greenwald has an interesting take on what is happening with mainstream media lately.

In the 1950s and 60s we had

— just as they did in the Cold War with domestic Communism

— and after the Oklahoma City bombing when the Clinton Administration demanded backdoor internet access in the name of stopping right-wing militias

— and again after 9/11 when people like Newt Gingrich wanted to curb free speech in the name of stopping the threat of Islamic radicalism inside the U.S.

Continuing the above pattern, Greenwald fears,

Even with Trump gone, [corporate media in league with national security state and the neocon-backed and corporate-funded Democratic Party] are going to use every FBI tactic to exaggerate the threat of these domestic movements [e.g. QAnon, Proud Boys and the Boogaloo Bois, “Trump supporters” and Russian social media plants] to keep you in such a state of fear that you acquiesce to whatever powers they claim they need to defeat these forces of domestic right-wing darkness. 

This playbook is as old and obvious as it is pernicious.

An excerpt from the article that shows the coalition of media, corporate and political interests working to maintain America’s military presence in Afghanistan:

This is not the first time the Trump administration has been condemned after unveiling its plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. In July, pro-war Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee, led by their Lockheed-and-Raytheon-funded Chairman Adam Smith, partnered with Congresswoman Liz Cheney and her pro-war GOP allies to block the use of funds for removing troops (not only from Afghanistan but also Germany), as part of a massive increase in military spending. The oppositional left-right coalition of anti-war Democrats such as Ro Khanna and Tulsi Gabbard and America-First Trump supporters such as Matt Gaetz were no match for the bipartisan pro-war coalition which attempted to block any end to the war.

A crucial weapon which Smith, Cheney and the other anti-withdrawal Committee members wielded was a widely-hyped New York Times scoop published days before the Committee vote, which — in its first paragraph — announced:

American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Repeatedly citing this New York Times story, based on the claims of anonymous “intelligence officials,” the bipartisan pro-war wing of the Committee insisted that to leave Afghanistan now would be particularly inappropriate and dangerous in light of this dastardly Russian interference. (Top military officials and the commander in Afghanistan later admitted the bounty program “had not been corroborated by intelligence agencies and that they do not believe any attacks in Afghanistan that resulted in American casualties can be directly tied to it,” but by then, the job was done).

And thus did this union of pro-war Democrats, Cheney-led neocons, the intelligence community and their chosen mainstream media outlets succeed in providing the perfectly crafted tool at the most opportune moment to justify blocking an end to America’s longest war. That is precisely the same coalition that drowned U.S. politics for more than three years in the sustained, monomaniacal disinformation campaign about Putin’s takeover of the U.S.

Much of the rest of the article is about the power mainstream media and Silicon Valley interests have exerted in censoring social media. Meanwhile, the corporate media giants that were identified as the main propaganda agents in Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent are now increasingly seen as bulwarks of “objective news reporting” and guardians of truth against

fringe groups of fat middle-aged guys in the deindustrialized, decimated, deprived interior of the country cosplaying as militiamen, or random, anonymous MAGA and QAnon trolls.

Perspective. I am not sure I have it right, yet. I thought the far right and their alternative reality campaigns are a lot more of a serious threat than Greenwald seems to allow. But at the same time, I cannot deny the ease with which the mainstream media appear to be getting a free pass to spread the propaganda interests a “new coalition of power”:

Here we see the new coalition of power that has formed during the Trump era: hawkish and corporatist Democrats, united when necessary with pro-war/neocon Republicans, Bush/Cheney operatives, the national security state and large corporate media outlets outside of Fox News.

The article is The New Ruling Coalition: Opposition to Afghanistan Withdrawal Shows Its Key Factions


2020-11-21

“In the name of God, let Palestine be left alone.”

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by Neil Godfrey

Yusuf Diya’ al-Khalidi was an outspoken liberal member of the first Ottoman Parliament, three times Mayor of Jerusalem, an Ottoman diplomat, an instructor and then a professor at the Imperial-Royal Oriental Academy in Vienna, and author of several scholarly works, including the first Kurdish-Arabic dictionary (and one of the first examinations of the Kurdish language on modern linguistic principles). — Khalidi 2009, 68

March 1, 1899, Yusuf Diya, scholar, mayor and diplomat, wrote a letter to Theodor Herzl, leader of the Zionist movement.

Background to that letter:

As a result of his wide reading, as well as his time in Vienna and other European countries, and from his encounters with Christian missionaries, Yusuf Diya was fully conscious of the pervasiveness of Western anti-Semitism. He had also gained impressive knowledge of the intellectual origins of Zionism, specifically its nature as a response to Christian Europe’s virulent anti-Semitism. He was undoubtedly familiar with Der Judenstaat by the Viennese journalist Theodor Herzl, published in 1896, and was aware of the first two Zionist congresses in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 and 1898. (Indeed, it seems clear that Yusuf Diya knew of Herzl from his own time in Vienna.) He knew of the debates and the views of the different Zionist leaders and tendencies, including Herzl’s explicit call for a state for the Jews, with the “sovereign right” to control immigration. Moreover, as mayor of Jerusalem he had witnessed the friction with the local population prompted by the first years of proto-Zionist activity, starting with the arrival of the earliest European Jewish settlers in the late 1870s and early 1880s.

Herzl, the acknowledged leader of the growing movement he had founded, had paid his sole visit to Palestine in 1898, timing it to coincide with that of the German kaiser Wilhelm II. He had already begun to give thought to some of the issues involved in the colonization of Palestine, writing in his diary in 1895:

We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our own country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.

Yusuf Diya would have been more aware than most of his compatriots in Palestine of the ambition of the nascent Zionist movement, as well as its strength, resources, and appeal. He knew perfectly well that there was no way to reconcile Zionism’s claims on Palestine and its explicit aim of Jewish statehood and sovereignty there with the rights and well-being of the country’s indigenous inhabitants. It is for these reasons, presumably, that on March 1, 1899, Yusuf Diya sent a prescient seven-page letter to the French chief rabbi, Zadoc Kahn, with the intention that it be passed on to the founder of modern Zionism.

The letter:

The letter began with an expression of Yusuf Diya’s admiration for Herzl, whom he esteemed “as a man, as a writer of talent, and as a true Jewish patriot,” and of his respect for Judaism and for Jews, who he said were “our cousins,” referring to the Patriarch Abraham, revered as their common forefather by both Jews and Muslims. He understood the motivations for Zionism, just as he deplored the persecution to which Jews were subject in Europe. In light of this, he wrote, Zionism in principle was “natural, beautiful and just,” and, “who could contest the rights of the Jews in Palestine? My God, historically it is your country!”

This sentence is sometimes cited, in isolation from the rest of the letter, to represent Yusuf Diya’s enthusiastic acceptance of the entire Zionist program in Palestine. However, the former mayor and deputy of Jerusalem went on to warn of the dangers he foresaw as a consequence of the implementation of the Zionist project for a sovereign Jewish state in Palestine. The Zionist idea would sow dissension among Christians, Muslims, and Jews there. It would imperil the status and security that Jews had always enjoyed throughout the Ottoman domains. Coming to his main purpose, Yusuf Diya said soberly that whatever the merits of Zionism, the “brutal force of circumstances had to be taken into account.” The most important of them were that “Palestine is an integral part of the Ottoman Empire, and more gravely, it is inhabited by others.” Palestine already had an indigenous population that would never accept being superseded. Yusuf Diya spoke “with full knowledge of the facts,” asserting that it was “pure folly” for Zionism to plan to take over Palestine. “Nothing could be more just and equitable,” than for “the unhappy Jewish nation” to find a refuge elsewhere. But, he concluded with a heartfelt plea, “in the name of God, let Palestine be left alone.”

Herzl’s reply: Continue reading ““In the name of God, let Palestine be left alone.””


2020-11-11

Comparing the Honesty of Fox News with the Honesty of Benjamin Franklin’s Press?

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by Neil Godfrey

I was reading George Friedman’s article on journalistic objectivity in mainstream American media and was pulled up by the following paragraph in Toward a Theory of Journalistic Objectivity:

The problem is that modern journalistic ethics insist that simplistic objectivity is possible, and it compels journalists and newspapers to pretend that their political beliefs, or support for the Redskins, does not shape the way in which the news is presented. [Benjamin] Franklin would never hide his personal views, nor would he ever see them as prejudices. Rather, in his mind they were well-honed reflections that he provided the world as a gift, without prejudice. In this sense, reporters at Fox and CNN are better journalists and more honest than those at The New York Times or The Washington Post. They make no bones about who they are, nor do they hide how they shape the news. They don’t have what used to be called the mainstream press’s objectivity and don’t pretend to have it.

Friedman’s point is that the editors/journalists at NYT and WP are either blind to (or secretive about) their biases and create a deceptive illusion of objectivity for their audiences.

Now I re-read that paragraph, I wonder how Friedman can make a difference between Ben Franklin and the NYT/WP: on his reasoning are not both “blind to their prejudices” with both seeing their reporting as “well-honed reflections …. as a gift, without prejudice”?

I have never associated the word “honest” or even the words “more honest than” with Fox news. George Friedman, it seems, would have me re-think my perception. That’s a tough ask. Thoughts?

Benjamin Franklin and Roger Ailes — each “more honest” in their own way?

 

 


2020-11-10

Robert Fisk, 1946-2020

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by Neil Godfrey

I was shocked to learn a day or two ago of the death of Robert Fisk on 30 October this year. I don’t think there was a report of the Middle East by Robert Fisk that I didn’t read, or an online interview he gave that I overlooked. How I missed the news of his death at the time I don’t know. His death was certainly unexpected and all too soon. I am glad to see The Independent has posted a page of his reporting as a memorial to him.

Robert Fisk — Middle East Correspondent @indyvoices


2020-11-08

Such Relief

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by Neil Godfrey

How very very nice. Now the struggle begins, but for now, it’s such a happy moment to savour.

I was on a long drive and the radio announcer said, “now let’s look back on the four years of Trump’s presidency”. No way! I flicked the station immediately.

Lucky I’m on the wagon. No fear of a hangover tomorrow morning. Just an inner smile as recollections of Trump’s mockery of Biden’s rallies and mental competence flash by to mock the mocker.

But what challenges are up ahead.

 


2020-11-05

“The coming weeks and months will be the most dangerous period of this presidency”

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by Neil Godfrey

Dr. Bandy X. Lee is a forensic psychiatrist at the Yale School of Medicine, president of the World Mental Health Coalition and editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.

How Trump’s Mental Illness Infected 48% of the Electorate

“What is wrong with 68 million Americans?” is a question many are asking the day after the election. Why should the race even be close? Why did 48% of voting adults choose to remain with a president who leaves a trail of hundreds of thousands✎ EditSign of unnecessary deaths, the nation bankrupt, children in cages, and our natural habitat under existential threat?

It makes no rational sense—unless we correctly identify the problem. For almost four years, mental health professionals have been urging the nation to bring a mental health perspective to a mental health problem, instead of assuming that everything is political. All substitute approaches have failed, just as the best pandemic control comes from infectious disease specialists, not from a radiologist or economists. We have also anticipated the current situation as a product of having mental pathology in power for a prolonged period.

. . . .

Psychological Manipulation

For months, Donald Trump has been emotionally calibrating his words and actions, like a delicate seismograph capable of sensing the exact mood of the country and how to respond in order to mobilize his followers. That led to ambiguous results on election night. While it may seem to defy rationality, it was very closely and accurately anticipated by many colleagues in the mental health field. This is why we repeatedly recommended that mental health experts be consulted to help prevent election theft, which would be attempted largely through psychological manipulation and symptom contagion.

. . . .

Pathological Bond

Many of his followers will equally experience his downfall as a life-or-death matter, since he has conditioned this into them. Their bond is pathological to start, based on developmental wounds or regression to an earlier stage of development under stress, which led them to seeking a parental figure. They are thus vulnerable to someone manipulative and exploitative enough to say he will take care of them and protect them in unrealistic ways that defy reality. And once they do, they often give up their agency and rationality. Recent footage of his followers chanting, “Fire Fauci!” is disturbing in its depiction of their conformity, loss of personality, and alignment with Donald Trump’s thinking—to suggest proactively that he remove the reminder of his unwanted reality: the pandemic. Delusions, paranoia, and violence-proneness are among the most contagious symptoms, and we see all these tendencies in his followers.

Under these emotional bonds, his followers will likely experience any threat to his position as an existential threat to themselves . . . .

How Trump’s Psychosis Infects His Followers: Trump’s Madness Has Spread to Rudy Giuliani, His Rank-and-File Supporters and Much of the Republican Party

Adopting Trump’s Delusions

Unlike Trump, I have closely interacted with many Trump supporters and can personally attest to their uniformity in many psychological respects. . . .

Coming Danger

“Shared psychosis” or “folie à millions” (madness by the millions) has been well-documented by renowned mental health experts such as Carl Jung and Erich Fromm. This contagion of symptoms dissipates when exposure to the primary person is reduced, which is why Donald Trump holds rallies as if his life depended on them—psychically, it does. It is also the reason why he cannot leave the presidency—in addition to the possibility of prosecution.

However, these are also the very reasons why he is extremely dangerous. . . .

 

 

‘You Can’t Separate Trump’s Mental Health From His Voters’: Q&A With Mental Health Expert Dr. Bandy Lee

The particular traits that Mr. Trump has, furthermore, can be confusing: a lack of control can be seen as honesty, tendencies to go into attack mode can be seen as strength (whereas they more often arise from profound feelings of weakness and inadequacy), and the intense desire to ‘sense’ others in order to overpower them by deceiving and manipulating them can be mistaken for empathy (whereas in fact it is the opposite of empathy, since the goal is to cheat, or to promise one thing and then bring the opposite).

Those who are most subject to this kind of luring and predation are often the most vulnerable, who have been victimized in the past—’the forgotten men and women’—and the magnitude of the deception may conspire with psychological protection mechanisms against pain to avoid seeing the truth, sometimes at all cost.”

Does this explain how Trump ‘feeds’ his base?

“Yes, this explains the undying devotion of some members of his ‘base’, regardless of the policies that are revealed (for example, his billionaire cabinet that is greater than any “swamp” in history, a tax reform that essentially steals from the poor to give to the rich, or repeated attempts at healthcare reform that would only take away from those who have little).

All Mr. Trump needs to do is to give out the most meager evidence—crumbs—that he is “working for them,” and they will desperately gather them as proof that they were correct about him.

 


2020-11-04

Escape Zone (enter here to escape the tensions of waiting for election results)

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by Neil Godfrey

Before there was Trumpian fake-news there was “Australia’s most notorious tabloid”, The Truth — now the subject of a book — The Awful Truth — by one of its erstwhile reporters, Adrian Tame. If you can’t read the book then do at least have a good laugh listening to a 20 minute interview with the author: The scurrilous tabloid called TRUTH. It was one of Rupert Murdoch’s early acquisitions, and soon after he took it over the paper earned the nickname “The Old Whore of La Trobe Street”. But it also had some serious and great moments.

Here’s how Adrian got the job:

[The editor, Paul Edwards] had brushed aside my lack of clippings, telling me: ‘Doesn’t matter, mate. Wouldn’t want to read your references, you probably wrote them yourself. Same with your clippings, except if they’re any good, someone else probably wrote ’em. Start tomorrow, that’s Tuesday, and you’ve got two weeks to show me what you can do. We’ll either make you permanent, or I’ll flick you.

Another excerpt (also covered in the Late Night Live interview linked above):

On this particular occasion the three of us had, for once, too much information to play with. Too many facts to fit into the number of words we were allotted. The story involved Marlon Brando and his daughter Cheyenne. Brando was grossly overweight and due to arrive in Australia to work some of it off at a health farm. Cheyenne was arriving simultaneously for emotional counselling, following a breakdown caused by a particularly traumatic and unsavoury domestic, resulting in a murder. We were playing with puns like ‘meltdown’, and arguing over which part of the story should be prioritised in the headline. And then Thommo strode into the room.

After a quick glance at the two stories he muttered something derisory about the amount of time we had been taking, grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled the following:

The Brandos are coming
HE’S FAT
SHE’S MAD

‘Fuckin’ obvious isn’t it?’ he scowled as he left the room.

Pure tabloid genius. It was intriguing – how could anyone not want to read further? – it was wildly funny and it was to the point – all vital ingredients for a good headline. But what made it a truly great headline was its barbaric cruelty.

Excerpt From: Adrian Tame. “The Awful Truth.” Apple Books.

The interview is genuinely fascinating and informative for insights into what people who produce a paper like that think of what they’re doing and what they think of their readers.

Or if you prefer your escape from real-world political tensions to be more on cute and soft side, here is another bird photo, not from my own place this time but from my sister’s front yard:

Frogmouth parents guarding their new (fast growing) chick. No nest — everything balanced on a wide tree branch.

Not the best photo, but they are very high up in a very tall tree.

One more on that awful truth….

 

 

 

 


2020-10-24

Is This Any Way to Elect a President? The Electoral College and Minority Rule

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by Tim Widowfield

It is happening again. A curtain of dread hangs over the United States. Will we have yet another election in which millions of votes by American citizens go for naught simply because they live in the wrong states? Or will Joe Biden manage to win by a big enough margin to overcome structural deficits in swing states like Florida and Ohio?

And for heaven’s sake, how did we end up with such a bizarre system in the first place? On the right side of the political spectrum, an unending stream of purple punditry with its requisite wailing and garment-rending would lead one to believe that both the Senate and the Electoral College arose solely from the Founders’ belief in republicanism. The brain trust assures us that we have “a republic, not a democracy,” and (gasp!) if we degenerate into a democracy, all hell will break loose.

Roll the Bones

To do away with either or both of these institutions, they intone, is a bridge too far. A 2019 column by Sumantra Maitra at The Federalist is an excellent case in point.

After crossing the river, Caesar famously said Alea Eacta Est [sic], or the die is cast. Thus crossing the Rubicon is now considered a revolutionary act that aims to destroy the status quo, structure, and balance, from which there’s no return. The only way forward is through chaos.

The current Democratic presidential frontrunners, with their war cries of Electoral College abolition and reduction of the voting age, signify another crossing the Rubicon moment. That’s because without the Senate, and without the Electoral College, there would be no states in the United States of America. Essentially, there would be no republic anymore. And if history is a good teacher, every time there was direct democracy, it has led to a Caesar—or worse.

I refer to this essay as a nearly perfect example, not only because it typifies modern bombastic, pseudointellectual conservatism, with its requisite citations of irrelevant historical precedents (while in this case, hilariously misspelling alea jacta est), but also because it consistently fails to define its own terms. To evaluate whether the removal of the Electoral College would destroy the republic and somehow create, as Maitra warns, a “direct democracy,” we would need to understand what the founders meant by a “republic.”

In fact, while many conservatives in the U.S. will gladly tell you at every opportunity that we have a republic and not a democracy, they rarely will tell you what that means. They will, of course, imply that a republic is better and will sternly warn you that democracy is nothing but “mob rule.” But what are the characteristics of a republic? What are its fundamental principles? Continue reading “Is This Any Way to Elect a President? The Electoral College and Minority Rule”


2020-10-22

The End of the American Era (felled by a virus)

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by Neil Godfrey

Wade Davis

A few years ago I read the fascinating book Justinian’s Flea by William Rosen. Rosen showed how the bubonic plague spread by the flea could be seen as the single most decisive factor in bringing about the collapse of the sixth-century empire. More recently I listened to an interview with anthropologist Wade Davis s. The interview, Has COVID-19 signalled the end of the American era?, was another with Philip Adams on Radio National’s Late Night Live and was inspired by an article in RollingStone that “went viral”: The Unraveling of America: Anthropologist Wade Davis on how COVID-19 signals the end of the American era.

Read it. And/or listen to the interview.

Excerpts to whet the appetites of those who have not yet read it:

Never in our lives have we experienced such a global phenomenon. For the first time in the history of the world, all of humanity, informed by the unprecedented reach of digital technology, has come together, focused on the same existential threat, consumed by the same fears and uncertainties, eagerly anticipating the same, as yet unrealized, promises of medical science.

. . . .

Pandemics and plagues have a way of shifting the course of history, and not always in a manner immediately evident to the survivors. . . .

The COVID pandemic will be remembered as such a moment in history, a seminal event whose significance will unfold only in the wake of the crisis. It will mark this era much as the 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the stock market crash of 1929, and the 1933 ascent of Adolf Hitler became fundamental benchmarks of the last century, all harbingers of greater and more consequential outcomes.

. . . .

. . . . But what surely does [stand out as a turning point in history] is the absolutely devastating impact that the pandemic has had on the reputation and international standing of the United States of America.

In a dark season of pestilence, COVID has reduced to tatters the illusion of American exceptionalism. At the height of the crisis, with more than 2,000 dying each day, Americans found themselves members of a failed state, ruled by a dysfunctional and incompetent government largely responsible for death rates that added a tragic coda to America’s claim to supremacy in the world.

For the first time, the international community felt compelled to send disaster relief to Washington.

. . . .

More than any other country, the United States in the post-war era lionized the individual at the expense of community and family. It was the sociological equivalent of splitting the atom. What was gained in terms of mobility and personal freedom came at the expense of common purpose.

. . . .

Odious as he may be, Trump is less the cause of America’s decline than a product of its descent. As they stare into the mirror and perceive only the myth of their exceptionalism, Americans remain almost bizarrely incapable of seeing what has actually become of their country. . . .

. . . .

American politicians dismiss the Scandinavian model as creeping socialism, communism lite, something that would never work in the United States. In truth, social democracies are successful precisely because they foment dynamic capitalist economies that just happen to benefit every tier of society. That social democracy will never take hold in the United States may well be true, but, if so, it is a stunning indictment, and just what Oscar Wilde had in mind when he quipped that the United States was the only country to go from barbarism to decadence without passing through civilization.

. . . . But even should Trump be resoundingly defeated, it’s not at all clear that such a profoundly polarized nation will be able to find a way forward. For better or for worse, America has had its time.

The end of the American era and the passing of the torch to Asia is no occasion for celebration, no time to gloat. In a moment of international peril, when humanity might well have entered a dark age beyond all conceivable horrors, the industrial might of the United States, together with the blood of ordinary Russian soldiers, literally saved the world. American ideals, as celebrated by Madison and Monroe, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Kennedy, at one time inspired and gave hope to millions.

If America’s first president, George Washington, famously could not tell a lie, the current one can’t recognize the truth. Inverting the words and sentiments of Abraham Lincoln, this dark troll of a man celebrates malice for all, and charity for none.

2020-10-13

Laughs, Ghosts & Peace Crimes

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by Neil Godfrey

Catching up with my favourite interviewer Philip Adams on my favourite interview program Late Night Live and must share two comedies and one tragedy. . . . .

What’s the purpose of laughter? (links are to the home pages of the interviews where they can be heard/downloaded)

Interview with Jonathan Silvertown Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at the University of Edinburgh. First thing of interest was to learn that other animals do laugh. Even mice, though at a pitch we cannot hear. I have sometimes seen acts by animals or birds that I have immediately wondered if they were done in some sort of jest, but my mind, aspiring to be totally rational, tries to dispel that thought. Has the professor has given me licence to revisit those thoughts? I don’t know. Perhaps if I read his book, The Comedy of Error, I will find out.

When Philip suggested laughter is cathartic Jonathan Silvertown pointed out that if that were the evolutionary motor that led to it then once the cathartic effect of, say, a Marx Brothers movie, had been accomplished after, presumably, the first 15 or so minutes then we would not find the rest of the film funny. Interesting.

The evolutionary driver that Silvertown hypothesizes is that laughter was primarily a sexual attraction, like the peacock feathers. So that’s why “must have good sense of humour” is always listed as a desirable attribute by those seeking a mate.

True Ghostly Hauntings

This one was with Kate Summerscale about her book The Haunting of Alma Fielding. Ghosts and seances were very popular post World War and through to the Second World War and Summerscale’s study focuses on the investigations of one “sceptic” (though a sceptic in a positive sense since he really did hope to prove the existence of the paranormal but only by rigidly honest means) Nandor Fodor, chief ghost hunter at the International Institute for Psychical Research.

I was intrigued enough to find an inexpensive electronic copy of the book online in order to find out what tricks Alma Fielding used to convince so many that poltergeists were responsible for moving and smashing things.

Pine Gap Peace Crimes

This one struck a little closer to home. I knew some of those who had been arrested and put on trial for entering the Pine Gap US satellite surveillance base and assisted with them publicizing their experiences afterwards. Further protest actions followed. Kieran Finnane has written a book about Pine Gap and the more recent protests. It would be easy to think that nothing was achieved by those efforts. The protesters were treated with utter contempt in court and even by some of the media. But a book has been written about the base they were protesting against and their efforts, and those efforts, though small, demonstrate quite vividly the extremes to which Australian governments have gone to hide all knowledge of the functions of the bases from the public.

It’s a book (another one) I want to read. Peace Crimes.


2020-10-10

Philosophy for a Civil Society

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by Neil Godfrey

In our camp the strong looked after the weak; the young looked after the old; the fit looked after the sick.Tom Uren
Tom Uren

‘Humanity which we love so much—I know many of you are fearful of using that word “love”—but our struggle is a commitment of love of our fellow humans. It inspired our people in their early struggle against oppression and exploitation’.

I am proud that your organisation has similar ideals. Peter Jennings said to me in his letter:

‘We are the overseas aid arm of the Australian Trade Union Movement. With the support of Australian unions and many individual union members we assist vocational skills training of men and women workers in developing countries as well as strengthening their trade union so that any job they get will be a decent job—paying just wages with reasonable conditions and safety standards’.

So I am here in solidarity with all those ideals.

I was elected to the federal parliament by the Australian people 49 years ago. I have always tried to meet the ideals that Peter set out in his letter. I have written two books on my life – Straight Left, published in 1994/1995 and gone into four prints, and more recently I co-authored a book, The Fight: a portrait of a Labor man who never grew up, with Martin Flanagan, whose father served with me on the Burma/Thai Railway during the war. Excuse me for talking about the evolutionary development of my life, but my war experience had a great influence on me.

On the Thailand Railway by Harold Abbott. Source: National Museum Australia, Burma–Thailand Railway

There are many people and experiences that have nurtured my life. But my experience serving under Weary Dunlop has had a lifelong and lasting experience on me. We were at a place called Hintock Road Camp or, as Weary called it, Hintock “Mountain” Camp. “Weary” is a name of respect. He would tax our officers and medical orderlies and the men who went out to work would be paid a small wage.

We would contribute most of it into a central fund. Weary would then send some of our people out into the jungle to trade with the Thai and Chinese traders for food and drugs for our sick and needy. In our camp the strong looked after the weak; the young looked after the old; the fit looked after the sick. We collectivised a great proportion of our income.

Just as the wet season set in a group of about 400 British camped near us for shelter. They had tents. The officers took the best tents, the NCOs the next best and the ordinary soldiers got the dregs. Within six weeks only about 50 of them marched out—the rest died of dysentery or cholera. In the mornings when we would walk out to work, their corpses would be lying in the mud as we passed them. Only a creek separated our two camps. On the one side the survival of the fittest – the law of the jungle – prevailed, and on the other side the collective spirit under Weary Dunlop. That spirit has always remained with me.

Tom Uren — cited from ChrisWhiteOnline

From the same source: Continue reading “Philosophy for a Civil Society”