Disputing legal reproductive rights

Okay. Think I’m finally ready to start broaching the topic of gender/sex on here. It’s not what I consider my primary focus, but gender relations are a significant concern today, me speaking as an American. Can’t deny it, can’t get around it, so might as well confront and dissect it and see what sense can be made.

To start with, I offer up a video from JohntheOther titled “Reproductive Rights” where he advocates on behalf of men saying that they deserve the right to decide whether or not to be parents, and if men choose not to they ought to have the right to refuse parental involvement and child support expectations. An argument he puts forth is that abandoning live offspring financially and legally is the male equivalent of a woman opting for an abortion, claiming the two situations are “parallel.”

I actually can understand, to a degree, where JohntheOther is coming from in terms of men gaining legal reproductive rights. He’s right that women have an option to terminate or prevent pregnancies, though I argue that men do also have power to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies occurring. Because men currently lack as many options as women does not negate that truth.  Pregnancy can be and often is imposed on both parents without that result intentionally being sought. Women have more options for avoiding pregnancy, but men do have options and that should not be ignored or trivialized.  Because women are now granted self-determination in terms of legal reproductive rights does not imply men have no such legal self-determination themselves. Abstinence is a choice too, as is undergoing a vasectomy, as is the decision to engage in sex with women who for whatever reasons are unable to become pregnant.  Those are choices men do possess, and let’s not reduce that down as if it ceases to matter. Unequal rights under the law, yes, but still both sexes do confront choices and options that can determine their fate.

In a society where women have to take abortion into serious consideration as an option when men are no longer held legally or financially responsible for providing for an unwanted child’s care, I imagine that will lead to women retreating back to past standards of conduct when abortion wasn’t an option. Meaning this legal shift will likely result in women becoming much more selective when it comes to partners they engage in sex with, assuming that many women continue to have moral qualms with undergoing abortions. Otherwise abortions will become the norm, and both sexes will have to cope with that (which I don’t think people will be able to without more resentment and disrespect coming between us). Perhaps a shift in attitudes where more caution returns to women when it comes to our sexual choices wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Feminists and others have declared for decades that women’s right to choose should be respected, and now that choice has come home to roost it appears. If women do have a choice, shouldn’t prospective fathers also be provided a choice?

My primary concern here is with children’s need to be cared for and loved and not wind up warded to the state by parents who bring them into this world and then abandon them. That is my moral qualm, which has been touched on in a video I posted on YT and will be expanded on here in a future post.

But let’s focus here on the dialogue going on back and forth between JohntheOther and Friendough. Friendough’s original video is viewable here.

JohntheOther’s analogy involving a gay couple where one opts to buy a boat compared with a man and woman determining care for a child are so completely separate and different that it strikes me as insulting. A child is not a piece of property, not an inanimate object. A child requires significant care provided to him or her that extends far beyond financial concerns. This is a question of how to manage bringing new human beings into the world and determining who ought to be held responsible for their upbringing — caring for our young being an extremely serious matter that extends also beyond legal concerns. It’s the creation of a new generation of people, and the quality of their upbringing has a significant impact on who they become as they grow up. Neglect and abuse them and you may psychologically destroy those individuals. Leave them warded to the State and let them be transitioned from foster home to foster home, where the chances of being sexually violated is 30% higher than in regular society, and I assure you that many will come to resent us all.

We are not simply determining legal responsibility here; we are actively deciding how to  fashion the future. We are determining what sort of existence future generations may face, and that is a heavy burden to consider. We must step outside of our own wants and desires long enough to take in the hefty implications of what is being proposed by both feminists and MRAs in agreement with JohntheOther. They are proving alike in their pushing for each respective sex to have the right to terminate care and/or walk away and leave living beings to be cared for by others or possibly institutions. I am arguing for a third way, perhaps viewed as more traditional in some aspects, though one of my major arguments is that it would be seriously useful at this point if more people paused and deeply considered how little reason there is to bring so many new beings into existence at this point in history. An argument to be expanded on as time rolls on.

And here’s Friendough’s response to JohntheOther:

The consequences of pregnancy do indeed occur whether or not we want this. We can do what we’re able to prevent it, but sometimes it does happen anyway. That is a fact of life.

But that does flip us back to women’s options to terminate pregnancies or abandon newborns. Personally, I take serious issue with women being granted the legal right to “surrender” their children (within a certain amount of time and depending on state laws) to so-called “safe havens.” That’s a bad law, IMO, and it complicates this entire situation by neglecting the interests of the child. I am aware of why these laws came into being, but because some women choose to criminally commit infanticide is not a good enough reason to make it legal for women to abandon their babies in a society where abortions are pretty much freely available during the first and at least part of the second trimester of pregnancy.

Life comes with all kinds of consequences and responsibilities, chosen or not, and that applies to both women and men.

There is a TREMENDOUS difference between abortion and abandonment, that I do completely agree with. Abortion terminates a life, whereas abandonment involves a human brought into full existence. I see abortion as clearly preferable to abandonment in nearly all conceivable cases.

I get the notion that women reserve the right to terminate pregnancies, whereas men lose control once conception occurs, and this leads me back to what I said up above about perhaps this leaving us little option but for women to return to being more discriminating with sexual partners and to become dedicated in their use of available birth control options if they wish to avoid undergoing abortions, or else get used to undergoing abortions if casual, unprotected sex is to persist. Apparently this is where we stand today.

That we devote this much time and energy debating the legality of these matters is what I’ve come to see as folly. Where is the moral consideration in people’s arguments? Has that dimension ceased to be important to some people, perhaps because we live within such a diverse social climate that morality seems too subjective to bring up in public debate?

Ethics After Certainty

I have just finished rereading the paper titled “Alone Again: Ethics After Certainty” written by philosopher Zygmunt Bauman.

Very, very good piece. On pages 40-41, he goes into the option to either engage or disengage, and while I understand the point he was making, I will argue that disengagement on a higher level can become the best option once voicing critical concerns and exhausting legal channels have proven insufficient for rectifying our problems. And this form of disengagement I’m referring to is for communities, provinces, willfully-determined groups of citizens, clans and tribes that choose to no longer partake in being subjected to the corruption of this government, thereby making the determination to go sovereign. It is a right citizens do possess, and most certainly not a trivial one at that. I won’t pretend to know how communities might secede in this fashion, though I would suspect having several do so simultaneously will prove too difficult for the government to effectively thwart.

That is indeed an extreme measure. I’d personally rather we thoroughly seek redress through our political channels, demanding that our representatives cater to the people over their major financial contributors, backed by our willingness to impeach and replace them if they refuse to comply. But who do we replace with? It is my opinion that average people would do a better job than these so-called “Washington insiders” and “professionals,” but then that all depends on the integrity we expect and the values we choose to embrace and uphold.

In a society with a toxic culture, we’ve all been fed lies and fantasies, dangerous ones at that. How does one come to see and think outside of the common indoctrinated lens? It’s a struggle and it requires time alone, away from television, with quality books full of ideas, remaining open yet critical, allowing deep introspection while examining the world outside of our own selves.

Thoughts will be expanded on as time rolls on. Time to finish dinner. Partner is sick with a cold, so I whipped up spaghetti bake with sides of whole green beans and Texas toast.  Happy

Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change

Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change

A speech by: Neil Postman

Good morning your Eminences and Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen.

The theme of this conference, “The New Technologies and the Human Person: Communicating the Faith in the New Millennium,” suggests, of course, that you are concerned about what might happen to faith in the new millennium, as well you should be. In addition to our computers, which are close to having a nervous breakdown in anticipation of the year 2000, there is a great deal of frantic talk about the 21st century and how it will pose for us unique problems of which we know very little but for which, nonetheless, we are supposed to carefully prepare. Everyone seems to worry about this–business people, politicians, educators, as well as theologians.

At the risk of sounding patronizing, may I try to put everyone’s mind at ease? I doubt that the 21st century will pose for us problems that are more stunning, disorienting or complex than those we faced in this century, or the 19th, 18th, 17th, or for that matter, many of the centuries before that. But for those who are excessively nervous about the new millennium, I can provide, right at the start, some good advice about how to confront it. The advice comes from people whom we can trust, and whose thoughtfulness, it’s safe to say, exceeds that of President Clinton, Newt Gingrich, or even Bill Gates. Here is what Henry David Thoreau told us: “All our inventions are but improved means to an unimproved end.” Here is what Goethe told us: “One should, each day, try to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words.” Socrates told us: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Rabbi Hillel told us: “What is hateful to thee, do not do to another.” And here is the prophet Micah: “What does the Lord require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.” And I could say, if we had the time, (although you know it well enough) what Jesus, Isaiah, Mohammad, Spinoza, and Shakespeare told us. It is all the same: There is no escaping from ourselves. The human dilemma is as it has always been, and it is a delusion to believe that the technological changes of our era have rendered irrelevant the wisdom of the ages and the sages.

Nonetheless, having said this, I know perfectly well that because we do live in a technological age, we have some special problems that Jesus, Hillel, Socrates, and Micah did not and could not speak of. I do not have the wisdom to say what we ought to do about such problems, and so my contribution must confine itself to some things we need to know in order to address the problems. I call my talk Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change. I base these ideas on my thirty years of studying the history of technological change but I do not think these are academic or esoteric ideas. They are to the sort of things everyone who is concerned with cultural stability and balance should know and I offer them to you in the hope that you will find them useful in thinking about the effects of technology on religious faith.

First Idea

The first idea is that all technological change is a trade-off. I like to call it a Faustian bargain. Technology giveth and technology taketh away. This means that for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage. The disadvantage may exceed in importance the advantage, or the advantage may well be worth the cost. Now, this may seem to be a rather obvious idea, but you would be surprised at how many people believe that new technologies are unmixed blessings. You need only think of the enthusiasms with which most people approach their understanding of computers. Ask anyone who knows something about computers to talk about them, and you will find that they will, unabashedly and relentlessly, extol the wonders of computers. You will also find that in most cases they will completely neglect to mention any of the liabilities of computers. This is a dangerous imbalance, since the greater the wonders of a technology, the greater will be its negative consequences.

Think of the automobile, which for all of its obvious advantages, has poisoned our air, choked our cities, and degraded the beauty of our natural landscape. Or you might reflect on the paradox of medical technology which brings wondrous cures but is, at the same time, a demonstrable cause of certain diseases and disabilities, and has played a significant role in reducing the diagnostic skills of physicians. It is also well to recall that for all of the intellectual and social benefits provided by the printing press, its costs were equally monumental. The printing press gave the Western world prose, but it made poetry into an exotic and elitist form of communication. It gave us inductive science, but it reduced religious sensibility to a form of fanciful superstition. Printing gave us the modern conception of nationhood, but in so doing turned patriotism into a sordid if not lethal emotion. We might even say that the printing of the Bible in vernacular languages introduced the impression that God was an Englishman or a German or a Frenchman–that is to say, printing reduced God to the dimensions of a local potentate.

Perhaps the best way I can express this idea is to say that the question, “What will a new technology do?” is no more important than the question, “What will a new technology undo?” Indeed, the latter question is more important, precisely because it is asked so infrequently. One might say, then, that a sophisticated perspective on technological change includes one’s being skeptical of Utopian and Messianic visions drawn by those who have no sense of history or of the precarious balances on which culture depends. In fact, if it were up to me, I would forbid anyone from talking about the new information technologies unless the person can demonstrate that he or she knows something about the social and psychic effects of the alphabet, the mechanical clock, the printing press, and telegraphy. In other words, knows something about the costs of great technologies.

Idea Number One, then, is that culture always pays a price for technology.

Second Idea

This leads to the second idea, which is that the advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population. This means that every new technology benefits some and harms others. There are even some who are not affected at all. Consider again the case of the printing press in the 16th century, of which Martin Luther said it was “God’s highest and extremest act of grace, whereby the business of the gospel is driven forward.” By placing the word of God on every Christian’s kitchen table, the mass-produced book undermined the authority of the church hierarchy, and hastened the breakup of the Holy Roman See. The Protestants of that time cheered this development. The Catholics were enraged and distraught. Since I am a Jew, had I lived at that time, I probably wouldn’t have given a damn one way or another, since it would make no difference whether a pogrom was inspired by Martin Luther or Pope Leo X. Some gain, some lose, a few remain as they were.

Let us take as another example, television, although here I should add at once that in the case of television there are very few indeed who are not affected in one way or another. In America, where television has taken hold more deeply than anywhere else, there are many people who find it a blessing, not least those who have achieved high-paying, gratifying careers in television as executives, technicians, directors, newscasters and entertainers. On the other hand, and in the long run, television may bring an end to the careers of school teachers since school was an invention of the printing press and must stand or fall on the issue of how much importance the printed word will have in the future. There is no chance, of course, that television will go away but school teachers who are enthusiastic about its presence always call to my mind an image of some turn-of-the-century blacksmith who not only is singing the praises of the automobile but who also believes that his business will be enhanced by it. We know now that his business was not enhanced by it; it was rendered obsolete by it, as perhaps an intelligent blacksmith would have known.

The questions, then, that are never far from the mind of a person who is knowledgeable about technological change are these: Who specifically benefits from the development of a new technology? Which groups, what type of person, what kind of industry will be favored? And, of course, which groups of people will thereby be harmed?

These questions should certainly be on our minds when we think about computer technology. There is no doubt that the computer has been and will continue to be advantageous to large-scale organizations like the military or airline companies or banks or tax collecting institutions. And it is equally clear that the computer is now indispensable to high-level researchers in physics and other natural sciences. But to what extent has computer technology been an advantage to the masses of people? To steel workers, vegetable store owners, automobile mechanics, musicians, bakers, bricklayers, dentists, yes, theologians, and most of the rest into whose lives the computer now intrudes? These people have had their private matters made more accessible to powerful institutions. They are more easily tracked and controlled; they are subjected to more examinations, and are increasingly mystified by the decisions made about them. They are more than ever reduced to mere numerical objects. They are being buried by junk mail. They are easy targets for advertising agencies and political institutions.

In a word, these people are losers in the great computer revolution. The winners, which include among others computer companies, multi-national corporations and the nation state, will, of course, encourage the losers to be enthusiastic about computer technology. That is the way of winners, and so in the beginning they told the losers that with personal computers the average person can balance a checkbook more neatly, keep better track of recipes, and make more logical shopping lists. Then they told them that computers will make it possible to vote at home, shop at home, get all the entertainment they wish at home, and thus make community life unnecessary. And now, of course, the winners speak constantly of the Age of Information, always implying that the more information we have, the better we will be in solving significant problems–not only personal ones but large-scale social problems, as well. But how true is this? If there are children starving in the world–and there are–it is not because of insufficient information. We have known for a long time how to produce enough food to feed every child on the planet. How is it that we let so many of them starve? If there is violence on our streets, it is not because we have insufficient information. If women are abused, if divorce and pornography and mental illness are increasing, none of it has anything to do with insufficient information. I dare say it is because something else is missing, and I don’t think I have to tell this audience what it is. Who knows? This age of information may turn out to be a curse if we are blinded by it so that we cannot see truly where our problems lie. That is why it is always necessary for us to ask of those who speak enthusiastically of computer technology, why do you do this? What interests do you represent? To whom are you hoping to give power? From whom will you be withholding power?

I do not mean to attribute unsavory, let alone sinister motives to anyone. I say only that since technology favors some people and harms others, these are questions that must always be asked. And so, that there are always winners and losers in technological change is the second idea.

Third Idea

Here is the third. Embedded in every technology there is a powerful idea, sometimes two or three powerful ideas. These ideas are often hidden from our view because they are of a somewhat abstract nature. But this should not be taken to mean that they do not have practical consequences.

Perhaps you are familiar with the old adage that says: To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We may extend that truism: To a person with a pencil, everything looks like a sentence. To a person with a TV camera, everything looks like an image. To a person with a computer, everything looks like data. I do not think we need to take these aphorisms literally. But what they call to our attention is that every technology has a prejudice. Like language itself, it predisposes us to favor and value certain perspectives and accomplishments. In a culture without writing, human memory is of the greatest importance, as are the proverbs, sayings and songs which contain the accumulated oral wisdom of centuries. That is why Solomon was thought to be the wisest of men. In Kings I we are told he knew 3,000 proverbs. But in a culture with writing, such feats of memory are considered a waste of time, and proverbs are merely irrelevant fancies. The writing person favors logical organization and systematic analysis, not proverbs. The telegraphic person values speed, not introspection. The television person values immediacy, not history. And computer people, what shall we say of them? Perhaps we can say that the computer person values information, not knowledge, certainly not wisdom. Indeed, in the computer age, the concept of wisdom may vanish altogether.

The third idea, then, is that every technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards. This idea is the sum and substance of what the great Catholic prophet, Marshall McLuhan meant when he coined the famous sentence, “The medium is the message.”

Fourth Idea

Here is the fourth idea: Technological change is not additive; it is ecological. I can explain this best by an analogy. What happens if we place a drop of red dye into a beaker of clear water? Do we have clear water plus a spot of red dye? Obviously not. We have a new coloration to every molecule of water. That is what I mean by ecological change. A new medium does not add something; it changes everything. In the year 1500, after the printing press was invented, you did not have old Europe plus the printing press. You had a different Europe. After television, America was not America plus television. Television gave a new coloration to every political campaign, to every home, to every school, to every church, to every industry, and so on.

That is why we must be cautious about technological innovation. The consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable and largely irreversible. That is also why we must be suspicious of capitalists. Capitalists are by definition not only personal risk takers but, more to the point, cultural risk takers. The most creative and daring of them hope to exploit new technologies to the fullest, and do not much care what traditions are overthrown in the process or whether or not a culture is prepared to function without such traditions. Capitalists are, in a word, radicals. In America, our most significant radicals have always been capitalists–men like Bell, Edison, Ford, Carnegie, Sarnoff, Goldwyn. These men obliterated the 19th century, and created the 20th, which is why it is a mystery to me that capitalists are thought to be conservative. Perhaps it is because they are inclined to wear dark suits and grey ties.

I trust you understand that in saying all this, I am making no argument for socialism. I say only that capitalists need to be carefully watched and disciplined. To be sure, they talk of family, marriage, piety, and honor but if allowed to exploit new technology to its fullest economic potential, they may undo the institutions that make such ideas possible. And here I might just give two examples of this point, taken from the American encounter with technology. The first concerns education. Who, we may ask, has had the greatest impact on American education in this century? If you are thinking of John Dewey or any other education philosopher, I must say you are quite wrong. The greatest impact has been made by quiet men in grey suits in a suburb of New York City called Princeton, New Jersey. There, they developed and promoted the technology known as the standardized test, such as IQ tests, the SATs and the GREs. Their tests redefined what we mean by learning, and have resulted in our reorganizing the curriculum to accommodate the tests.

A second example concerns our politics. It is clear by now that the people who have had the most radical effect on American politics in our time are not political ideologues or student protesters with long hair and copies of Karl Marx under their arms. The radicals who have changed the nature of politics in America are entrepreneurs in dark suits and grey ties who manage the large television industry in America. They did not mean to turn political discourse into a form of entertainment. They did not mean to make it impossible for an overweight person to run for high political office. They did not mean to reduce political campaigning to a 30-second TV commercial. All they were trying to do is to make television into a vast and unsleeping money machine. That they destroyed substantive political discourse in the process does not concern them.

Fifth Idea

I come now to the fifth and final idea, which is that media tend to become mythic. I use this word in the sense in which it was used by the French literary critic, Roland Barthes. He used the word “myth” to refer to a common tendency to think of our technological creations as if they were God-given, as if they were a part of the natural order of things. I have on occasion asked my students if they know when the alphabet was invented. The question astonishes them. It is as if I asked them when clouds and trees were invented. The alphabet, they believe, was not something that was invented. It just is. It is this way with many products of human culture but with none more consistently than technology. Cars, planes, TV, movies, newspapers–they have achieved mythic status because they are perceived as gifts of nature, not as artifacts produced in a specific political and historical context.

When a technology become mythic, it is always dangerous because it is then accepted as it is, and is therefore not easily susceptible to modification or control. If you should propose to the average American that television broadcasting should not begin until 5 PM and should cease at 11 PM, or propose that there should be no television commercials, he will think the idea ridiculous. But not because he disagrees with your cultural agenda. He will think it ridiculous because he assumes you are proposing that something in nature be changed; as if you are suggesting that the sun should rise at 10 AM instead of at 6.

Whenever I think about the capacity of technology to become mythic, I call to mind the remark made by Pope John Paul II. He said, “Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”

What I am saying is that our enthusiasm for technology can turn into a form of idolatry and our belief in its beneficence can be a false absolute. The best way to view technology is as a strange intruder, to remember that technology is not part of God’s plan but a product of human creativity and hubris, and that its capacity for good or evil rests entirely on human awareness of what it does for us and to us.

Conclusion

And so, these are my five ideas about technological change. First, that we always pay a price for technology; the greater the technology, the greater the price. Second, that there are always winners and losers, and that the winners always try to persuade the losers that they are really winners. Third, that there is embedded in every great technology an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not. The printing press annihilated the oral tradition; telegraphy annihilated space; television has humiliated the word; the computer, perhaps, will degrade community life. And so on. Fourth, technological change is not additive; it is ecological, which means, it changes everything and is, therefore, too important to be left entirely in the hands of Bill Gates. And fifth, technology tends to become mythic; that is, perceived as part of the natural order of things, and therefore tends to control more of our lives than is good for us.

If we had more time, I could supply some additional important things about technological change but I will stand by these for the moment, and will close with this thought. In the past, we experienced technological change in the manner of sleep-walkers. Our unspoken slogan has been “technology über alles,” and we have been willing to shape our lives to fit the requirements of technology, not the requirements of culture. This is a form of stupidity, especially in an age of vast technological change. We need to proceed with our eyes wide open so that we many use technology rather than be used by it.

___________________________________________

This article was copied from the following page: https://www.student.cs.uwaterloo.ca/~cs492/papers/neil-postman–five-things.html

The Sad Fate of Aaron Swartz

It’s a case that’s bothered me a quite a bit. As many already know, Aaron Swartz took his own life earlier this month at age 26 due to feeling there was no way out of his legal conundrum after state prosecutors rejected all pleas and let it be understood that they would settle for nothing short of Aaron pleading guilty to 15 charges and that it was within their power to push for the maximum sentence, which could have resulted in 30 or more years in prison. Aaron’s crime was downloading millions of articles and documents from JSTOR academic database with the intent to freely distribute this information to the public. In my firm opinion, he was in the right and fighting for a good cause.

JSTOR (along with EBSCO and other scholarly journal databases) are accessible to students and university faculty, but once outside of academe the cost for access is steep, which thereby cuts most of the public off from what is being argued in academia. The problem with this is these academics do actively influence public policy, yet average citizens are effectively cut out of the debates taking place within ivory towers. Arguments that affect our lives and impact our political system are removed from our view unless we are willing to pay handsomely for access. It seems Aaron recognized this for the injustice that it is and aimed to free up the information for the masses, and he was handled severely by the Law as a result.

“Prosecutors defend charges against Reditt co-founder Aaron Swartz,” on RTAmerica:

“WikiLeaks confirms relationship with Aaron Swartz,” on RTAmerica:

 

What really makes my hair bristle is the FBI’s National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, which Susan Hockfield, President of MIT, resided as a member on since 2005. Information provided on that FBI link:

The board, which will consist of the presidents and chancellors of several prominent U.S. universities, is designed to foster outreach and to promote understanding between higher education and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The board will provide advice on the culture of higher education, including the traditions of openness, academic freedom, and international collaboration. The board will seek to establish lines of communication on national priorities pertaining to terrorism, counterintelligence, and homeland security. They will also assist in the development of research, degree programs, course work, internships, opportunities for graduates, and consulting opportunities for faculty relating to national security.

Graham Spanier, president of Pennsylvania State University, will chair the board.

 

Anyone else see anything odd in that? Graham Spanier, (now former) president of Penn State University — that’s the same Spanier involved in the cover-up of sex scandals involving assistant coach Sandusky molesting boys in The Second Mile program. The same man who turned his back on protecting innocent boys subjected to harm from trusted authority figures chaired a board responsible for throwing the book at Aaron Swartz for downloading academic journal articles with the intent to freely distribute?? Anyone can see that that doesn’t add up, not unless your prerogative is to promote the power of the State while protecting your own status. These crimes were treated according to how they might impact their respective institutions and concerned faculty — one swept under the rug for fear of negative publicity, the other deemed worthy of punishing to the full extent of the law because it might have lost universities a few bucks and freely enriched the public in turn.

The ill will in this is threefold and in my eyes a sure sign of sociopathic self-concern on the part of Spanier and others like him at the expense of anyone and everyone else.

Looking into the Trilateral Commission

In the hour or so I have before heading back to work let me post up information I previously reviewed about the Trilateral Commission. This is what one does for entertainment when cable television isn’t an option.  Screw being spoon-fed diversionary tactics and an endless stream of ads (not that ads can be completely avoided online).  Without further ado…

About the Trilateral Commission:

The “growing interdependence” that so impressed the founders of the Trilateral Commission in the early 1970s has deepened into “globalization.” That interdependence also has ensured that the current financial crisis has been felt in every nation and region. It has fundamentally shaken confidence in the international system as a whole. The Commission sees in these unprecedented events a stronger need for shared thinking and leadership by the Trilateral countries, who (along with the principal international organizations) have been the primary anchors of the wider international system. Doubts about whether and how this primacy will change do not diminish, and, if anything, have intensified the need to take into account the dramatic transformation of the international system. As relations with other countries become more mature—and power more diffuse—the leadership tasks of the original Trilateral countries need to be carried out with others to an increasing extent.

Looking at the Trilateral Commission’s Membership page:

To help preserve the Commission’s unofficial character, members who take up positions in their national administration give up Trilateral Commission membership. New members are chosen on a national basis. The procedures used for rotation off and for invitation of new members vary from national group to national group. Three chairmen (one from each region), deputy chairmen, and directors constitute the leadership of the Trilateral Commission, along with an Executive Committee including 36 other members.

Membership in The Trilateral Commission is by invitation only.

 

Rereading the membership list on the Trilateral Commission’s website.

Members who especially stood out to me:

  • Founder and Honorary Chairman: DAVID ROCKEFELLER
  • North American Group Chairman: JOSEPH S. NYE, JR.

University Distinguished Service Professor and former Dean, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge; former Chair, National Intelligence Council and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs

  •  North American Deputy Chairman: LORENZO ZAMBRANO

Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, CEMEX, Monterrey, NL, Mexico

  •  Former European Chairman: PETER SUTHERLAND

 Chairman, BP p.l.c., London; Chairman, Goldman Sachs International; Chairman, London School of Economics; UN Special Representative for Migration and Development; former Director General, GATT/WTO; former Member of the European Commission; former Attorney General of Ireland

  •  European Group Deputy Chairman: VLADIMIR DLOUHY

 Senior Advisor, ABB; International Advisor, Goldman Sachs; former Czechoslovak Minister of Economy; former Czech Minister of Industry & Trade, Prague

  • European Group Chairman: JEAN-CLAUDE TRICHET

Former President of the European Central Bank (ECB); Honorary Governor of the Banque de France; Chairman of the Group of Thirty; Chairman of the BRUEGEL Institute, Paris

 

For the record, CONDOLEEZA RICE and TIMOTHY F. GEITHNER, U.S. Secretary of The Treasury, are also listed as belonging to the North American Group (no big shocker there).

 

Rereading the Trilateral Commission’s bio page on Peter Sutherland:

[He] is chairman of Goldman Sachs International (1995–current). He is former chairman of BP plc (1997–December 2009). He was appointed chairman of the London School of Economics in 2008. In addition to his chairmanships listed above, he is a member of the Supervisory Board of Allianz and the Advisory Board of Eli Lilly. He is currently UN special representative for migration and development. Before these appointments he was the founding director-general of the World Trade Organization. He had previously served as director-general of GATT since July 1993 and was instrumental in concluding the Uruguay GATT Round Negotiations.

Prior to this position, he was chairman of Allied Irish Banks from 1989 to 1993 and chairman of the Board of Governors of the European Institute of Public Administration (Maastricht) from 1991 to 1996. […] From 1981 until early 1982, he was attorney general of Ireland and was a member of the Council of State. He was reappointed in 1982 and served until 1984 when he was nominated by the Government of Ireland as a member of the Commission of the European Communities in charge of competition policy. During his first year at the Commission he was also responsible for social affairs, health and education, and thereafter for relations with the European Parliament.

 

Wikipedia claims Sutherland is also a member of the Bilderberg Group, which seems to matter since that’s a confidential meeting of the world’s elite.  What’s up with all the secrecy?

Lorenzo Zambrano’s bio page had this to say:

Mr. Zambrano joined CEMEX in 1968. He was named chief executive officer in 1985 and has served as chairman of the board since 1995. CEMEX is one of the world’s largest global building solutions companies; its stock is traded on the Mexican Stock Exchange and listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Mr. Zambrano is a member of the IBM Board of Directors, the Citigroup International Advisory Board, and the boards of several leading Mexican companies, including Femsa, Grupo Financiero Banamex, and Televisa.

[All bold emphasis mine.]

Notably, I see once-Pacific Asian Deputy Chairman, Shijuro Ogata (former Deputy Governor, Japan Development Bank; former Deputy Governor for International Relations, Bank of Japan) is no longer on their list (as he was in 2009 when I first began this inquiry into the Trilateral Commission). Just putting that out there, whatever its relevance.

Lots and lots of banking and high-end economics people mixed in with former ambassadors and academics. Nothing too terribly exciting—a long list of major financial bigwigs doing their part to rule the world. It’s interesting to sift through the names and the businesses and institutions these people are affiliated with while connecting dots concerning what’s happening in our economy.

Just working my way through the screws and bolts of what I’ve collected over the years that have given me reason to pause and wonder. More info to come as time permits.

“The Century of the Self”

This film is one of my personal favorites, offered by the BBC and titled “The Century of the Self”:

 

Key name to take away from this video: Edward Bernays, the grandfather of American public relations (a.k.a. propaganda) and nephew of Sigmund Freud. Very important information there that tells us so much about the last American century and how we as a people have wound up where we now sit.

What if the world embodied our highest potential?

“What if the world embodied our highest potential?” A film uploaded by goodnesstv:


What if the world embodied our highest potential? by goodnesstv

Too bad Obama was just kidding around and so many fell for it. Aside from that though, this is largely a peace-invoking, thought-provoking 23-minute film about humanity and the power of love.

But in critique I offer this. “Why don’t we walk left instead of right?” That quote stood out to me. Why don’t we walk forward instead of backward? Why must everything loop back around to right and left, red and blue? Hey, why don’t we give those words a rest for a while, maybe retire them for a decade or so and consider the possibility that maybe —just maybe— life needn’t be viewed as a duel involving opposing teams? We know there are far more than 2 perspectives deserving attention; furthermore, all this ‘duality talk’ dumbs us down and oversimplifies complex problems we’re all suffering from in one way or another. The duality bullshit gives us an easy out, a team to side with to avoid thinking critically for ourselves. Why not say fuck the Right and the Left? I’d be happy to live the rest of my life never again hearing our political forum reduced down to dumb and dumber talking heads. What are they even saying anymore? Nothing but divisive shit.

Chris Hedges’ book “Empire of Illusions: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle”

Having read a number of Chris Hedges’ books, including American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Losing Moses on the Freeway, I Don’t Believe in Atheists, his 2010 book titled Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle is another I’d like to offer up to others, though I wouldn’t recommend beginning with reading this one, this book being more of a summary and broad treatment of a collection of problems facing society. Hedges hits several major points, from our tantalization with Jerry Springer-esque forms of entertainment to the personal and societal destructiveness of hardcore pornography; from the dangers of corporatism and the realities and consequences we face today, as a nation and a people, politically, socially, and economically, to the power of love. This man does a great job of telling it like it is!

I’ll include some excerpts below, beginning on pages 14-15:

In The Republic, Plato imagines human beings chained for the duration of their lives in an underground cave, knowing nothing but darkness. Their gaze is confined to the cave wall, upon which shadows of the world above are thrown. They believe these flickering shadows are reality. If, Plato writes, one of these prisoners is freed and brought into the sunlight, he will suffer great pain. Blinded by the glare, he is unable to see anything and longs for the familiar darkness. But eventually his eyes adjust to the light. The illusion of the tiny shadows is obliterated. He confronts the immensity, chaos, and confusion of reality. The world is no longer drawn in simple silhouettes. But he is despised when he returns to the cave. He is unable to see in the dark as he used to. Those who never left the cave ridicule him and swear never to go into the light lest they be blinded as well.

Plato feared the power of entertainment, the power of the sense to overthrow the mind, the power of emotion to obliterate reason. No admirer of popular democracy, Plato said that the enlightened or elite had a duty to educate those bewitched by the shadows on the cave wall, a position that led Socrates to quip: “As for the man who tried to free them and lead them upward, if they could somehow lay their hands on him and kill him, they would do so.”

We are chained to the flickering shadows of celebrity culture, the spectacle of the arena and the airwaves, the lies of advertising, the endless personal dramas, many of them completely fictional, that have become the staples of news, celebrity gossip, New Age mysticism, and pop psychology.

On porn and profits, page 58:

There are some 13,000 porn films made every year in the United States, most in the San Fernando Valley in California. According to the Internet Filter Review, worldwide porn revenues, including in-room movies at hotels, sex clubs, and the ever-expanding e-sex world, topped $97 billion in 2006. That is more than the revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix, and Earthlink combined. Annual sales in the United States are estimated at $10 billion or higher. There is no precise monitoring of the porn industry. And porn is very lucrative to some of the nation’s largest corporations. General Motors owns DIRECTV, which distributes more than 40 million streams of porn into American homes every month. AT&T Broadband and Comcast Cable are currently the biggest American companies accommodating porn users with the Hot Network, Adult Pay Per View, and similarly themed services. AT&T and GM rake in approximately 80 percent of all porn dollars spent by consumers.

[Bold emphasis mine.]

Broaching the topic of the fall of the United States of America on page 142:

The country I live in today uses the same civic, patriotic, and historical language to describe itself, the same symbols and iconography, the same national myths, but only the shell remains. The America we celebrate is an illusion. America, the country of my birth, the country that formed and shaped me, the country of my father, my father’s father, and his father’s father, stretching back to the generations of my family that were here for the country’s founding, is so diminished as to be unrecognizable. I do not know if this America will return, even as I pray and work and strive for its return.

The words consent of the governed have become an empty phrase. Our textbooks on political science and economics are obsolete. Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow, selfish, political, and economic elite, a small privileged group that governs, and often steals, on behalf of moneyed interests. This elite, in the name of patriotism and democracy, in the name of all the values that were once part of the American system and defined the Protestant work ethic, has systematically destroyed our manufacturing sector, looted the treasury, corrupted our democracy, and trashed the financial system. During this plundering we remained passive, mesmerized by the enticing shadows on the wall, assured our tickets to success, prosperity, and happiness were waiting around the corner.

Chris Hedges includes substantiating literature on the topics discussed, listed in the bibliography, with a few titles and authors specifically mentioned on page 146:

There were some who saw it coming. The political philosophers Sheldon S. Wolin, John Ralston Saul, and Andrew Bacevich, writers such as Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, David Korten, and Naomi Klein, and activists such as Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, and Ralph Nader warned us about our march of folly. In the immediate years after the Second World War, a previous generation of social critics recognized the destructive potential of the rising corporate state. Books such as David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd, C. Wright Mills’s The Power Elite, William H. White’s The Organization Man, Seymour Mellman’s The Permanent War Economy: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, and Reinhold Niebuhr’s The Irony of American History have proved to be prophetic. This generation of writers remembered what had been lost. They saw the intrinsic values that were being dismantled. The culture they sought to protect has largely been obliterated. During the descent, our media and universities, extensions of corporate and mass culture, proved intellectually and morally useless. They did not thwart the decay. We failed to heed the wisdom of these critics, embracing instead the idea that all change was a form of progress.

In his book Democracy Incorporated, Wolin, who taught political philosophy at Berkeley and at Princeton, uses the phrase inverted totalitarianism to describe our system of power. Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism, and the Constitution while manipulating internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens, but candidates must raise staggering amounts of corporate funds to compete. They are beholden to armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington or state capitals who author the legislation and get the legislators to pass it. Corporate media control nearly everything we read, watch, or hear. It imposes a bland uniformity of opinion. It diverts us with trivia and celebrity gossip. In classical totalitarianism regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. “Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics—and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.”

[Italicized emphasis his. Bold emphasis mine.]

Excerpts don’t do this book justice. I agree so much with this author. The man makes a great deal of sense, especially when I read this book in conjunction with other books like Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Chris Hedges’ American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Richard L. Rubenstein’s The Cunning of History: Mass Death and the American Future, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, as well as Ron Paul’s End the Fed (not that I personally share Ron Paul’s exuberance for returning to a gold standard).

Here is a review of Empire of Illusion in The Cleveland Leader. I don’t share the reviewer’s disappointment with the ending, lamenting that “Hedges didn’t conclude his work with some small glimmers of hope.” Au contraire. Mr. Hedges ended on the most hopeful message one can offer: that we learn to love one another and make the necessary sacrifices to pull through. Love is no small matter. It may be all we really have…all that will ever set things right.

Below is an interview of Chris Hedges on GRITtv (July 2009):