Sunday, December 7, 2014

Does Anyone Still Remember the Influx of Bible-Spouting NeoCons Who Descended On Iraq in 2003? (They Never Stopped Fluxxing)  Chuck Hagel's Firing (Elizabeth Drew) John Brockman Tribute

I am a proud leftist and believe we can hold opinions on matters both national and international without missing a neuronal impulse; however, Scott Creighton (who writes under the moniker of Willy Loman from "Death of a Salesman") thinks we haven't focused enough on the neoliberal reason for our overseas continuing murder-of-innocents catastrophe.

I agree in this instance.

Yemen:  Hostage Luke Somers Killed During Rescue Attempt – Along With 8 Unarmed Civilians

December 6, 2014 by willyloman

Scott Creighton

It hardly seems like a story worth reporting on anymore. “At least” eight civilians killed during a U.S. commando raid in Yemen. The headline at the New York Times focuses exclusively on the American hostage, Luke Somers, who also died as a result.

The left is busy running around protesting the militarization of police departments and the deaths of a couple unarmed men here in the states and feeling very good about themselves while they do it… while in the meantime, the military continues to rain hell down on unarmed civilians across the world and there isn’t a peep out of the fake left anymore.

According to the story, Luke Somers was a freelance photojournalist working in Yemen when he was abducted late last year. The group that took him is supposedly part of a movement that wants our puppet dictatorship out of power in the country and an end to the brutal austerity of free-market neoliberalism. But, more accurately, Luke focused his work on putting a human face on the rising protest movement in the country and the group that took him, al CIAda, are just more puppets of ours.
And he was killed in the rescue attempt under questionable circumstances?

Luke’s family released a video pleading for his return. In it, his brother stated “Luke is only a photojournalist, and he is not responsible for any actions the U.S. government has taken,”

According to witnesses who were there when the rescue raid took place, it must have looked like something out of Apocalypse Now with scores of helicopters flying into the little village unloading up to a hundred U.S. commandos looking for Luke.

A Yemeni tribal leader who said he was a witness to the raid, in the southern province of Shabwa, said that two Al Qaeda militants and at least eight civilians were killed during firefights as U.S. commandos raided several homes…

… The tribal leader who said he witnessed the raid, Tarek al-Daghari al-Awlaki, said helicopters and as many as a hundred troops descended on the village, Wadi Abadan. The U.S. forces deployed concussion grenades as they raided four houses in the village, he said.

“The shooting caused panic,” Mr. Daghari said. “Nine of the dead are from my tribe. Two of the dead are known to be members of Al Qaeda.” He said that two wounded civilians, a woman and a child, were taken to a nearby hospital. New York Times
There was once a time in this country when fatality numbers like these (2 fighters, at least 8 civilians and women and children rushed to a hospital) would have been unacceptable to the morally upstanding members of the left. Specifically, that time was between 2000 and 2008. Then came the CHANGE followed by SILENCE.

Suddenly everyone is worried about the militarization of the police. Can’t have our cops treating us like we treat the rest of the world, now can we?
There are conflicting reports about how exactly Luke Somers died and no word as of yet about the fate of the other two hostages who were being held with him.

US State Department said in a statement it was “aware of conflicting reports but cannot comment at this time. We expect to be releasing a statement in the next few hours” Sputnik News
But, once again, we have put boots on the ground in yet another country and their civilian population has paid a staggering price for it. Or at least, 8 families of those killed did.
They’ll be no protest. Al Sharpton won't say a word. Just a few more dead poor people in a nation far far away in the name of our “national interests”.
It should be noted that Luke Somers did a lot of work for al Jazeera and reported on the growing anti-American movement in Yemen.
It should also be noted that al Qaeda is a CIA fabrication designed to give the U.S. sufficient probable cause to get involved militarily in nations that we wish to either support or destabilize. The same is true in Yemen. Al Qaeda is there for the express purpose of demonizing the growing resistance to our brutal puppet dictator.
When you look at it in that context, the conspiracy theorist in you can’t help but start to wonder.
Below are just some of the photos Luke took in Yemen. You can find more, here.

An elderly man joined the largely youthful anti-government protesters on Sixtieth Street in Sanaa. Apr 22, 2011

Crowds cheering Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakul Karman in Sanaa. Oct 7, 2011
About two hundred feet from President Hadi’s residence, a speaker urged the assembled crowd on with demands that corrupt officials be immediately removed from positions of power. Dec 7, 2012

The decision by Houthis to hold a public celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday was a departure from tradition in Sanaa, where the day has generally been observed by citizens in mosques or homes. Jan 24, 2013
So Luke was over there putting a human face on the suffering of the Yemeni people under the rule of our puppet dictator and he was kidnapped off the side of the road by al CIAda and killed, along with at least eight civilians, under questionable circumstances during the raid to free him.
Does that about sum it up?

I've always respected Elizabeth Drew's essays on politics and the movers and shakers who bring us our daily political PR.

She may not hold the exact opinions I do, but she is certainly more closely connected to the powerful than most of us and many times provides very clear deductions about what is really happening.

The Firing of Chuck Hagel

Elizabeth Drew

Earlier this year, I went to the Pentagon to have lunch with Chuck Hagel, whom I had known for many years. Because of his packed schedule the lunch was arranged for 11:30 AM, and was to last for forty-five minutes. As we got talking, he let the time slip for another ten minutes and then politely excused himself, explaining that he simply had to move on to the next appointment — a courtesy meeting with the Defense Minister of Peru.

The Middle East was falling apart and countries where the US was supposed to be winding down its military commitments were looking anything but ready for stability. The Veterans Administration; sexual exploitation of women in the military; Russian adventurism in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine; decaying weapons; commanders at US nuclear facilities found to be not exactly alert on the job; missile tests by North Korea; mindless across-the-board budget cuts imposed by Congress; coups in Africa; endless demands and requests from legislators; congressional Republicans having their festival of Benghazi hearings – and the secretary of defense had a scheduled courtesy meeting with the defense minister of Peru.

Now, the US and Peru have enjoyed a close working relationsip and the minister was not to be offended; moreover during his previous tenure on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hagel had been visited by and took time for officials from all over the world and such courtesy continued to be expected.

While I had come to admire Hagel as a thoughtful man, there’s a question of whether anyone can make the leap from a senator’s office — with an average staff size of 34 people, to the Pentagon, the world’s largest institution, which employs about 26,000 personnel on site, plus about a half million overseas, plus an active military of about 1.5 million men and women. In general, transitions from Capitol Hill to a cabinet office, in either party, haven’t been markedly successful. The Pentagon has been a sinkhole of failures.
Irrespective of all that, there’ve been the dramatic changes from the job that Hagel came to do to and the one that it has become. He came to the office with the assignment of presiding over the ending of two wars, yet each has been expanded (Iraq) or extended (Afghanistan, after thirteen years). Onto which has been grafted the most elusive and formidable of tasks:  defeating the hyper-terrorist group ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Even the administration figures who preside over it are aware that the effort in Syria might not succeed:   the “moderate opposition” to the Assad regime has been weakened and infiltrated to the point where it barely exists as a force; the US has no real allies on the ground, other than some Kurd forces, who aren’t as strong there as they are in Iraq. It’s been a pipe dream to think that Turkey would want to get involved in any way that might help Bashir al-Assad. The White House is stuck in a policy that has very little chance of working, putting the president and his national security aides in real peril. And Chuck Hagel, who watched all this with dismay, became the odd man out.

If its interests in an international situation aren’t great enough or worth the cost, the US can cut its losses and walk away. Or not even try. We’re not trying to fix failed African states — not Somalia (tried that, disastrously) or Congo. States, with their own long histories, have a way of being intractable to being fixed by outsiders — a lesson yet to be thoroughly absorbed by this administration. But even if the president wanted to disengage from Syria, says a senior adviser, “His hands are largely tied because of the brutal executions by ISIS.” It’s considered quite likely that ISIS will continue the beheadings; no one is sure whether the point is to provoke the US into a difficult war, but that’s the effect. A participant in the discussions of US policy in the Middle East says, “As long as ISIS is beheading Americans there’s no way the president can stand up and say that Syria isn’t our problem.” This is an assumption, not a fact.

Hagel, who came from the now virtually defunct moderate wing of the Republican party, openly broke with his fellow party members and said he regretted his vote for the Iraq War, in 2002. In 2007 he voted with Senate Democrats to call for a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq within 120 days, and in 2011, after he left the Senate, he said it was time to find an exit from Afghanistan. Hagel’s mentality matches that of Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell:  careful and loath to engage in military force; don’t venture where you don’t know what you’re getting into (which could largely characterize our ventures in the Middle East). This happened also to be the philosophy of Barack Obama.

Hagel has a deliberative mind, one likely to take in more considerations than that of the typical pol. He’s been ambitious — he’d coveted a cabinet position from the outset of the Obama administration, having been selected by candidate Obama as one of two companions for his pre-election trip to Afghanistan and Iraq (the other was Jack Reed, and these choices spoke well of Obama). In the Senate, Hagel could wield a knife with the best of them — but he wasn’t a relentless type. He also wasn’t a fire-in-the-belly politician. Seriously considering running for the presidency in 2008, he called a press conference in which he announced, to a widespread thud, that he hadn’t yet made up his mind. Yet Hagel remained a respected figure in Washington and in foreign capitals.

Though Hagel and Obama thought quite alike and respected each other, Hagel was probably not cut out for the Obama administration, or for what it’s evolved into. Though Hagel had, and used, a direct line to Obama — calling in frustration after a larger meeting where he felt he hadn’t been listened to, and over time largely wasn’t, Obama wasn’t as welcoming of diverse voices as he’d first indicated he would be.

Hagel was never one to blend quietly into the tapestry. He prided himself in being his own man, and he liked to talk about his opinions — to the press and the public as well as on the Senate floor. Hagel wasn’t destined to be a docile member of an administration over which the White House exercises the tightest control in memory — especially one in which policy was made by a small group in the White House headed by a remote president who doesn’t care for turbulence and who is capable of changing policy on a dime. In particular, defense policy has time and again lurched head-snappingly from firm decision to its reverse. Bit by bit, Hagel saw policy in the Middle East move in the opposite direction of what he’d understood was his assignment and on which he and the president had once agreed.

Hagel particularly chafed at the White House’s governing style on national security policy. He believed — and in this he was far from alone within and outside the administration — that national security adviser Susan Rice is in over her head. And Rice’s admittedly abrasive style put off a large number of people. But she’s been close to the president from the days of the 2008 campaign, and that appears to be what matters most to him.

Initiatives, and not just in security policy, would get clogged up at the White House in task forces to study them. The NSC, which was originally a modest-sized organization set up to coordinate among the relevant cabinet departments, has metastasized into a staff of about four hundred people and under the Obama administration actually makes foreign and defense policy. A cabinet office has traditionally been an august position (if somewhat faded) — being called “Mr. Secretary” or “Madame Secretary” counts for a lot in Washington, and defense is one of the top ones.

The Obama White House’s famous “micro-management” of the Departments — treating Cabinet officers as junior assistants, sometimes the last to know of a change in policy, would particularly trouble a person of pride, not to mention one who has held elective office. Hagel made no secret of his frustration.
We’ve seen past administrations in big trouble throw overboard an inconvenient major figure. Whether it was the right one has always been a question. So was the matter of how much difference the move actually made in improving the fortunes of the said administration. Most of the time a White House staff hasn’t been as eager as this one to make it clear, right away, that the officer didn’t resign but was pushed out. This is not a good sign.

All the talk coming out of the White House that Hagel’s confirmation performance is still a problem and other complaints are mainly padding on a ruthless if necessary decision — necessary in the eyes of the president and his very closest aides. But this won’t help them fix their terrible problems in Iraq and Syria and — as is increasingly clear — Afghanistan. The senior adviser said to me Monday evening:  “If Hagel had agreed with the White House he wouldn’t have been fired.”
November 25, 2014

John Brockman's ideas have informed my own for many years. The following essay is worth the read.

From Der Spiegel:

He is charming, without hiding his own interests. He is proud of his life, his intelligence, without that he would have to apologize for it. He is a key figure of the late 20th and early 21st century, the éminence grise and major source of inspiration for the globally dominant culture, which he himself named as the "third culture".
It is not Brockman, but his authors, who are well-known:  Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Daniel C. Dennett, Jared Diamond, Daniel Kahneman. Physicists, neuroscientists, geneticists, evolutionary biologists, fixed stars of the science age, superstars of nonfiction bestseller lists, the reason for Brockman's financial success and good mood.
"These are all old friends," he says.
"I've been their agent for decades. It's a wonderful life:  I'm doing what I love to do, I read smart books and get well-paid for it. "
The new works of his authors are next to each other in the conference room of the agency. Brockman, 73, operates out of a spacious whole floor on Fifth Avenue in New York with glass office walls and a view of the famous Flatiron Building.

These books deal with the big questions:  What is man? What is the brain? What is free will? What is intelligence? And what happens when machines become smarter than humans?
Brockman likes the big issues, everything else is small talk to him.
"Man was nothing more than a model, a technique. It is necessary to construct a new model", he writes in his book Afterwords. "The human delusion lies in the belief that the human being is the basis of reality and the final goal of the evolution."
The book first appeared in 1969 under the ingenious title By the Late John Brockman and begins with the programmatic sentence: "Man is dead."
It is a small masterpiece of clear-thinking, a youthful outcry. Brockman was not even 30 at the time.
The book is aggressive, curious and prophetic and strips away the humanism of the literary mind with a Ludwig-Wittgenstein-like toughness: "The concept of freedom," he writes, "is simply absurd."
The book made him briefly known, then it was forgotten. It was too early, too radical, nobody wanted to say goodbye to humans, at least not in the literary milieu.
And now with the book published in German for the first time as Afterwords, you realize that you recognize or understand some revolutions only in retrospect 30 or 40 years later. Writes Brockman:  "The past is an illusion. There is no sequence. There is no specific causality. There is merely the order and organization of the brain in a world of simultaneous operations."
These are all thoughts that are strongly influenced by cybernetics, the scientific discipline developed by Norbert Wiener in 1940s, which is a key science for an understanding of the computer age. According to Wiener, the brain is a machine, and awareness does not exist, because the information a human being receives is a mathematically realized process. We are, in other words, only part of a system, mechanisms that are part of a larger machine.
These were ideas that fascinated the artistic avant-garde in the sixties, which saw the expression of its time in the new technologies, an example of which was Nam June Paik, the video artist who demonstrated how the media-networked brain sees the world. "The composer John Cage gave me Wiener's book Cybernetics at that time," says Brockman, "and that changed everything for me. I realized that there is no reality:  we create it. We create tools and recreate ourselves through our use of them. New technologies equal new perceptions. It is the tools, the technologies, which shape us, not the reverse, as people like to think.

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