Archive | December, 2010

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The Two Personalities of the Modern Man

Posted on 15 December 2010 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-06-05 23:12:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Two Personalities

* There is bliss in knowing that we are provided for, that our needs are met. When we are provided for, we are left to a state of intense fulfillment and a rich sense of enjoyment of our life. Engulfing oneself in such a state leaves all matters of duty, responsibility and obligation outside of our cocoon. Outside of this bubble, others clamor to fill the void in control which we’ve left behind.

* We strive to impose our will onto situations and manipulate conditions to our will. By so doing, we carve our own path through life, meticulously building our lives in the image we had set out at the onset. Leaving things to chance is avoided at all cost. Careful planning is the mantra, behind which controlled execution leads to advancement toward our stated goals.

These descriptions, while sounding harshly opposite and incompatible, in fact describe the two conditions of the modern man. Indeed, they might even describe the same man at different stages of his maturation within the society.

We are all born into different circumstances and our upbringing materially influences our perception of the importance of maintaining control over our lives – something we call empowerment and self determination.

The material conditions in which a child is raised – weather in poverty, in middle class comfort or within a high level of affluence – affect the later adult differently insofar as the way in which the individual perceives their need to self determine his destiny. Of these three classes, the poor and the wealthy, particularly when in their extreme, tend to gravitate toward placing little importance, or outright dismissing of such need. On the other hand, the middle class individual tends to cherish this right and value its importance in defining his life’s course.

Both Poverty and Wealth Influence Liberal Thinking

An individual born into poverty, by the time he becomes an adult member of society, has likely developed a sense of hopelessness. In all likelihood, he and his immediate surrounding have drawn on the society’s support resources for much of their life and known little opportunity to witness the results of their own contributions. Self-determination is not a practical objective when survival and subsistence absorb the focus of daily activities. Dependence on support systems becomes complete with diminishing opportunity to divorce oneself from their perpetual grasp. There are few if any support systems which aid in the building of the individual’s self esteem, or to teach him to creatively engage in activities that yield the betterment of his condition.

An affluent individual that has achieved a high measure of wealth and comfort progressively becomes more and more withdrawn from the productive part of society. Once a predictably affluent lifestyle is achieved, the individual no longer feels the need to control many aspects of his life, and is willing to relinquish such control to the support system that his wealth has produced. Self determination is no longer a principle goal as wealth has dampened the individuals desire to further contribute to his surrounding and society at large.

In either case – poverty or affluence – a desire to absolve oneself from the societal expectations arising from empowerment, succumbs the individual into accepting a system which will provide for him and relieve him of the high expectations which self determination would otherwise impose on him. In one case, the support system is structured around government social programs; in the other, it is built by the individual to support his own needs. In either case, the individual is inexorably drawn toward promoting a liberal attitude which, because it defines his life and is necessary for his existence, he both accepts and actively cultivates.

The liberal thus created considers his condition to be permanent and has little desire to change it.

Conservatism – The Middle Class Ideology Alternative

This is contrasted with the mindset of a person cultivated in the traditions and upbringing of the middle class. To the middle class, affluence is an attainable goal. It is within reach, provided that one exercises control in a prudent and well thought out way. Any support systems created by the government, even though they may cushion an unintended fall, act as a repelling force which, when approached, remind the individual of the consequences of the loss of control over their own destiny. Becoming caught in their web is typically a source of embarrassment, but not resignation.

The middle class individual considers his position in society as transient; not as a destiny but rather as a path toward his fulfillment of attainable goals. He gazes up toward examples of success and models his behavior so as to maximize his chances of fleeing his current state. He is not angry with those who have excelled beyond his own levels of success. Instead, he learns from observing them and adjusts his actions to improve his own measures. He detests acquiescence and is infuriated by his own failures and others acceptance of failure. His attitude is strongly shaped by the Constitution’s founding principles, which act as both a guiding light and also provide the boundaries within which his actions are contained.

Most importantly, the middle class conservative is not willing to relinquish (or delegate) the controls necessary for him to craft his own path toward fulfillment.

middle-class

Call To Action

While conservative principals of self determination are natural to the spirit of every human being, people need to be cultivated into accepting of dependence as a way of life. Liberalism is not an equilibrium to which all forces draw, but rather an unnatural state which needs to be constantly built up and reinforced, lest it collapses of its own artificial weight. Certainly history gives many examples of such implosions.

Yet in our society, the marketing of socialism and extreme liberalism has been masterfully crafted and is being executed before our eyes. Conservatives should make particular note of the dominance of liberal ideology among the poor and the affluent.

The affluent, as compared to the poor, are considerably more resistant to change and, while they represent a relatively small part of the population, their influence is multiplied by virtue of their wealth and notoriety. Fortunately, they represent a culture of followers more so then leaders, and will be heavily influenced by the outcome of the attitude change in the masses. As a result, to affect a change in their behavior and philosophy requires no specific actions other than those applied to the other, more important social group – the poor.

The poor represent a considerably larger pool of the population, into which intelligently designed and strategically injected conservative programs can create a magnified effect of positive influence and potential derivative results. Such programs should promote small business development opportunities and should target individuals who have demonstrated socially responsible behavior and a desire to disentangle themselves from the bounds of their social support systems.

At the same time conservatives must be on constant lookout for opposing programs introduced by proponents of socialization and government control, programs which aim to remove the social lifelines that still exist which aspiring poor could otherwise use to improve their condition.

* * * * *

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Next week: “Equality and Fairness – they are not the same” addresses what impact attempts to achieve both equality and fairness have on society.

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Taking Stock of WikiLeaks

Posted on 15 December 2010 by Editor

By George Friedman
Stratfor.com
December 14, 2010

Julian Assange has declared that geopolitics will be separated into pre-“Cablegate” and post-“Cablegate” eras. That was a bold claim. However, given the intense interest that the leaks produced, it is a claim that ought to be carefully considered. Several weeks have passed since the first of the diplomatic cables were released, and it is time now to address the following questions: First, how significant were the leaks? Second, how could they have happened? Third, was their release a crime? Fourth, what were their consequences? Finally, and most important, is the WikiLeaks premise that releasing government secrets is a healthy and appropriate act a tenable position?

Let’s begin by recalling that the U.S. State Department documents constituted the third wave of leaks. The first two consisted of battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. Looking back on those as a benchmark, it is difficult to argue that they revealed information that ran counter to informed opinion. I use the term “informed opinion” deliberately. For someone who was watching Iraq and Afghanistan with some care over the previous years, the leaks might have provided interesting details but they would not have provided any startling distinction between the reality that was known and what was revealed. If, on the other hand, you weren’t paying close attention, and WikiLeaks provided your first and only view of the battlefields in any detail, you might have been surprised.

Let’s consider the most controversial revelation, one of the tens of thousands of reports released on Iraq and Afghanistan and one in which a video indicated that civilians were deliberately targeted by U.S. troops. The first point, of course, is that the insurgents, in violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, did not go into combat wearing armbands or other distinctive clothing to distinguish themselves from non-combatants. The Geneva Conventions have always been adamant on this requirement because they regarded combatants operating under the cover of civilians as being responsible for putting those civilians in harm’s way, not the uniformed troops who were forced to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants when the combatants deliberately chose to act in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

It follows from this that such actions against civilians are inevitable in the kind of war Iraqi insurgents chose to wage. Obviously, this particular event has to be carefully analyzed, but in a war in which combatants blend with non-combatants, civilian casualties will occur, and so will criminal actions by uniformed troops. Hundreds of thousands of troops have fought in Iraq, and the idea that criminal acts would be absent is absurd. What is most startling is not the presence of potentially criminal actions but their scarcity. Anyone who has been close to combat or who has read histories of World War II would be struck not by the presence of war crimes but by the fact that in all the WikiLeaks files so few potential cases are found. War is controlled violence, and when controls fail — as they inevitably do — uncontrolled and potentially criminal violence occurs. However, the case cited by WikiLeaks with much fanfare did not clearly show criminal actions on the part of American troops as much as it did the consequences of the insurgents violating the Geneva Conventions.

Only those who were not paying attention to the fact that there was a war going on, or who had no understanding of war, or who wanted to pretend to be shocked for political reasons, missed two crucial points: It was the insurgents who would be held responsible for criminal acts under the Geneva Conventions for posing as non-combatants, and there were extraordinarily few cases of potential war crimes that were contained in the leaks.

The diplomatic leaks are similar. There is precious little that was revealed that was unknown to the informed observer. For example, anyone reading STRATFOR knows we have argued that it was not only the Israelis but also the Saudis that were most concerned about Iranian power and most insistent that the United States do something about it. While the media treated this as a significant revelation, it required a profound lack of understanding of the geopolitics of the Persian Gulf to regard U.S. diplomatic cables on the subject as surprising.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ statement in the leaks that the Saudis were always prepared to fight to the last American was embarrassing, in the sense that Gates would have to meet with Saudi leaders in the future and would do so with them knowing what he thinks of them. Of course, the Saudis are canny politicians and diplomats and they already knew how the American leadership regarded their demands.

There were other embarrassments also known by the informed observer. Almost anyone who worries about such things is aware that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is close to the Russians and likes to party with young women. The latest batch of leaks revealed that the American diplomatic service was also aware of this. And now Berlusconi is aware that they know of these things, which will make it hard for diplomats to pretend that they don’t know of these things. Of course, Berlusconi was aware that everyone knew of these things and clearly didn’t care, since the charges were all over Italian media.

I am not cherry-picking the Saudi or Italian memos. The consistent reality of the leaks is that they do not reveal anything new to the informed but do provide some amusement over certain comments, such as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev being called “Batman and Robin.” That’s amusing, but it isn’t significant. Amusing and interesting but almost never significant is what I come away with having read through all three waves of leaks.

Obviously, the leaks are being used by foreign politicians to their own advantage. For example, the Russians feigned shock that NATO would be reassuring the Balts about defense against a potential Russian invasion or the Poles using the leaks to claim that solid U.S.-Polish relations are an illusion. The Russians know well of NATO plans for defending the Baltic states against a hypothetical Russian invasion, and the Poles know equally well that U.S.-Polish relations are complex but far from illusory. The leaks provide an opportunity for feigning shock and anger and extracting possible minor concessions or controlling atmospherics. They do not, however, change the structure of geopolitics.

Indeed, U.S. diplomats come away looking sharp, insightful and decent. While their public statements after a conference may be vacuous, it is encouraging to see that their read of the situation and of foreign leaders is unsentimental and astute. Everything from memos on senior leaders to anonymous snippets from apparently junior diplomats not only are on target (in the sense that STRATFOR agrees with them) but are also well-written and clear. I would argue that the leaks paint a flattering picture overall of the intellect of U.S. officials without revealing, for the most part, anything particularly embarrassing.

At the same time, there were snarky and foolish remarks in some of the leaks, particularly personal comments about leaders and sometimes their families that were unnecessarily offensive. Some of these will damage diplomatic careers, most generated a good deal of personal tension and none of their authors will likely return to the countries in which they served. Much was indeed unprofessional, but the task of a diplomat is to provide a sense of place in its smallest details, and none expect their observations ever to be seen by the wrong people. Nor do nations ever shift geopolitical course over such insults, not in the long run. These personal insults were by far the most significant embarrassments to be found in the latest release. Personal tension is not, however, international tension.

This raises the question of why diplomats can’t always simply state their minds rather than publicly mouth preposterous platitudes. It could be as simple as this: My son was a terrible pianist. He completely lacked talent. After his recitals at age 10, I would pretend to be enthralled. He knew he was awful and he knew I knew he was awful, but it was appropriate that I not admit what I knew. It is called politeness and sometimes affection. There is rarely affection among nations, but politeness calls for behaving differently when a person is in the company of certain other people than when that person is with colleagues talking about those people. This is the simplest of human rules. Not admitting what you know about others is the foundation of civilization. The same is true among diplomats and nations.

And in the end, this is all I found in the latest WikiLeaks release: a great deal of information about people who aren’t American that others certainly knew and were aware that the Americans knew, and now they have all seen it in writing. It would take someone who truly doesn’t understand how geopolitics really works to think that this would make a difference. Some diplomats may wind up in other postings, and perhaps some careers will be ended. But the idea that this would somehow change the geopolitics of our time is really hard to fathom. I have yet to see Assange point to something so significant that it would justify his claim. It may well be that the United States is hiding secrets that would reveal it to be monstrous. If so, it is not to be found in what has been released so far.

There is, of course, the question of whether states should hold secrets, which is at the root of the WikiLeaks issue. Assange claims that by revealing these secrets WikiLeaks is doing a service. His ultimate maxim, as he has said on several occasions, is that if money and resources are being spent on keeping something secret, then the reasons must be insidious. Nations have secrets for many reasons, from protecting a military or intelligence advantage to seeking some advantage in negotiations to, at times, hiding nefarious plans. But it is difficult to imagine a state — or a business or a church — acting without confidentiality. Imagine that everything you wrote and said in an attempt to figure out a problem was made public? Every stupid idea that you discarded or clueless comment you expressed would now be pinned on you. But more than that, when you argue that nations should engage in diplomacy rather than war, taking away privacy makes diplomacy impossible. If what you really think of the guy on the other side of the table is made public, how can diplomacy work?

This is the contradiction at the heart of the WikiLeaks project. Given what I have read Assange saying, he seems to me to be an opponent of war and a supporter of peace. Yet what he did in leaking these documents, if the leaking did anything at all, is make diplomacy more difficult. It is not that it will lead to war by any means; it is simply that one cannot advocate negotiations and then demand that negotiators be denied confidentiality in which to conduct their negotiations. No business could do that, nor could any other institution. Note how vigorously WikiLeaks hides the inner workings of its own organization, from how it is funded to the people it employs.

Assange’s claims are made even more interesting in terms of his “thermonuclear” threat. Apparently there are massive files that will be revealed if any harm comes to him. Implicit is the idea that they will not be revealed if he is unharmed — otherwise the threat makes no sense. So, Assange’s position is that he has secrets and will keep them secret if he is not harmed. I regard this as a perfectly reasonable and plausible position. One of the best uses for secrets is to control what the other side does to you. So Assange is absolutely committed to revealing the truth unless it serves his interests not to, in which case the public has no need to know.

It is difficult to see what harm the leaks have done, beyond embarrassment. It is also difficult to understand why WikiLeaks thinks it has changed history or why Assange lacks a sufficient sense of irony not to see the contradiction between his position on openness and his willingness to keep secrets when they benefit him. But there is also something important here, which is how this all was leaked in the first place.

To begin that explanation, we have to go back to 9/11 and the feeling in its aftermath that the failure of various government entities to share information contributed to the disaster. The answer was to share information so that intelligence analysts could draw intelligence from all sources in order to connect the dots. Intelligence organizations hate sharing information because it makes vast amounts of information vulnerable. Compartmentalization makes it hard to connect dots, but it also makes it harder to have a WikiLeaks release. The tension between intelligence and security is eternal, and there will never be a clear solution.

The real issue is who had access to this mass of files and what controls were put on them. Did the IT department track all external drives or e-mails? One of the reasons to be casual is that this was information that was classified secret and below, with the vast majority being at the confidential, no-foreign-distribution level. This information was not considered highly sensitive by the U.S. government. Based on the latest trove, it is hard to figure out how the U.S. government decides to classify material. But it has to be remembered that given their level of classification these files did not have the highest security around them because they were not seen as highly sensitive.

Still, a crime occurred. According to the case of Daniel Ellsberg, who gave a copy of the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam to a New York Times reporter, it is a crime for someone with a security clearance to provide classified material for publication but not a crime for a publisher to publish it, or so it has become practice since the Ellsberg case. Legal experts can debate the nuances, but this has been the practice for almost 40 years. The bright line is whether the publisher in any way encouraged or participated in either the theft of the information or in having it passed on to him. In the Ellsberg case, he handed it to reporters without them even knowing what it was. Assange has been insisting that he was the passive recipient of information that he had nothing to do with securing.

Now it is interesting whether the sheer existence of WikiLeaks constituted encouragement or conspiracy with anyone willing to pass on classified information to him. But more interesting by far is the sequence of events that led a U.S. Army private first class not only to secure the material but to know where to send it and how to get it there. If Pfc. Bradley Manning conceived and executed the theft by himself, and gave the information to WikiLeaks unprompted, Assange is clear. But anyone who assisted Manning or encouraged him is probably guilty of conspiracy, and if Assange knew what was being done, he is probably guilty, too. There was talk about some people at MIT helping Manning. Unscrambling the sequence is what the Justice Department is undoubtedly doing now. Assange cannot be guilty of treason, since he isn’t a U.S. citizen. But he could be guilty of espionage. His best defense will be that he can’t be guilty of espionage because the material that was stolen was so trivial.

I have no idea whether or when he got involved in the acquisition of the material. I do know — given the material leaked so far — that there is little beyond minor embarrassments contained within it. Therefore, Assange’s claim that geopolitics has changed is as false as it is bold. Whether he committed any crime, including rape, is something I have no idea about. What he is clearly guilty of is hyperbole. But contrary to what he intended, he did do a service to the United States. New controls will be placed on the kind of low-grade material he published. Secretary of Defense Gates made the following point on this:

“Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many governments — some governments — deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.

“Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.”

I don’t like to give anyone else the final word, but in this case Robert Gates’ view is definitive. One can pretend that WikiLeaks has redefined geopolitics, but it hasn’t come close.

Taking Stock of WikiLeaks is republished with permission of STRATFOR.”


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Why Are There No Lilting Sambas About the Junkie from Fuller Park?

Posted on 12 December 2010 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-10-01 21:33:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Municipality of São Sebastião do Rio de Ja...
Image via Wikipedia

by Scott Spiegel
September 30, 2009
ScottSpiegel.com

For the measured consideration of the International Olympic Committee, I present 16 reasons to host the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro instead of Chicago:

(1)    President Obama wants them in Chicago.  Really badly.  More important than his wanting them in Chicago is his decision to drop everything in the middle of a recession, a health care debate, and two wars to head to Copenhagen on separate jumbo jet junkets with his wife to make a special entreaty for his home city.  Obama has taken a stronger stand on the Windy City’s candidacy than he has on, say, any particular health care provision or whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.  Even more important than Obama’s not having his priorities straight is his obvious, calculated presumption that because the world loves him so much, it would be the diplomatic equivalent of kicking us out of the UN not to award Chicago the Olympics after his in-person plea.

(2)    Billions of dollars’ worth of building contracts and infrastructure development would be required in a city known for construction payback schemes, money laundering, insider dealing, gang activity, an overloaded transit system, and general public corruption, incompetence, inefficiency, and interruption of service.

(3)    Numerous Obama cronies own property near Washington Park, the proposed stadium site, and would profit from the games being held there.

(4)    No one actually wants to be in Chicago in the summer—or any time of the year, for that matter, except for about three hours in late spring.  Dozens of Chicago residents die heat-related deaths every summer, and they’re not even competing in decathlons.

(5)    Everyone wants to be in Rio, any time of the year.

(6)    In fact, everyone wants to visit South America, and Rio would be only the first city on the entire continent to have ever hosted the Games.

(7)    If the Olympics absolutely have to be in Chi-town, why not the Winter Olympics, a much smaller and less disruptive affair than the Summer Olympics, and one that suits the city’s climate?

(8)    Chicagoans have been clamoring since spring to not have the Olympics in their home city.  This is the first campaign I know of in which the best case for the games to be held in one city (Rio) is being made by residents of another city (Chicago).  Following the procedures of standard Chicago thug-style machine politics, the Chicago Olympic Committee recently ordered a local Fox affiliate not to rerun a segment airing interviews with numerous Chicagoans who told reporters to “Take it to Rio!” and to hold the event “Anywhere but here!”

(9)    The website “Chicagoans for Rio 2016” posts numerous fun and horrifying facts about the travails suffered by past Olympic host cities, such as the following: (a) Montreal took 30 years to pay off its Olympics-related debts from 1976; (b) 21 out of 22 stadiums and arenas built for the Athens games just five years ago are currently unused; and (c) Barcelona actually became a slightly less cool city for having once hosted the games.

(10)    An average of 5-10 or more crimes a day are reported in Washington Park alone, including assault, battery, burglary, motor vehicle theft, robbery, and sex offenses.  Chicago was the murder capital of the country in 2008 with 510 victims.  The Chicago Police Department doesn’t even publicly report the incidence of rape, which should tell you something.

(11)    The Chicago 2016 website advertises that it would host a “Blue-Green” event, meaning the following: “low-carbon Games” with energy-efficient technology, reduced water usage, recycling of 85% of tournament materials, and “sustainability.”  As an afterthought, “showers for athletes” was added to the budget for the games.

(12)    Chicago’s city deficit stands at almost a quarter of a billion dollars.  Beijing had an estimated $26 billion dollar overrun for its 2008 games.  Athens’ was $17 billion in 2004.  London estimates a $9 billion overrun in 2012.  Yet Chicago’s 2016 website boasts that its budget includes a piddly “$450 million contingency to cover unforeseen costs.”  Quick—complete this analogy: Chicago : Olympics :: Obama : _____.  (And I swore I wasn’t going to write about health care this week!)

(13)    Each host city tries to top the previous host city in sheer spectacle, bombast, and expense.  Beijing spent $42 billion in 2008.  Hmm… are there are any stimulus funds left over for “shovel-ready” projects like building unwanted stadiums in Chicago?

(14)    Rio de Janeiro means “River of January.”  Chicago derives from a Native American word for “wild onion.”

(15)    Chicagoans for Rio puts the two leading contender cities head-to-head in a number of categories, and the winner is clear every time: nicknames (The Marvelous City vs. The Second City), beaches (Copacabana, Ipanema vs. 63rd St., Calumet), histories (capital of the Portuguese empire vs. rail yard), statues (Christ standing vs. Lincoln sitting), signature events (naked people dancing vs. chubby people eating).

And most damningly:

(16)    Michelle Obama said in her Copenhagen speech this week that holding the Olympics in Chicago might inspire another child there to become the next… Barack Obama.

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Scott Spiegel is the editor of ScottSpiegel.com

Article has been published with permission

 

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