Saturday Matinee: The Twilight Samurai

“The Twilight Samurai” (aka Tasogare Seibei たそがれ清兵衛, 2002), is a realist Samurai drama co-written and directed by Yoji Yamada set in mid-19th century Japan. It stars Hiroyuki Sanada as Seibei, a low-ranking samurai widower struggling to support his daughters and dementia-afflicted mother, who is forced by his clan’s leaders to kill a skilled rogue samurai. The film was inspired by the short story “The Bamboo Sword” by Shuhei Fujisawa and was groundbreaking for its approach to the genre; a samurai equivalent to a revisionist western.

Watch the full film here.

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The CIA Flips Off America

Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from sarang / Wikimedia and CIA / Wikimedia.

Open Letter from JFK Assassination Expert Dan Hardway

By Dan Hardway

Source: WhoWhatWhy.org

A 1964 CIA memo spells out clearly how James Jesus Angleton, the agency’s famous counterintelligence chief, wanted to deal with inquiries from the Warren Commission:

Jim would prefer to wait out the Commission.1

History seems to be repeating itself. The events of the past two weeks have shown that the CIA is still running a disinformation campaign against anyone who questions the “lone-nut” theory that, according to historian David Robarge, constitutes the agency’s “best truth.”

I recently published an article about the delay in releasing records under the 1992 JFK Records Collections Act. In that article I explained the CIA’s play to discredit those who question the agency’s lone-nut theory,2 and suggested that Robarge, its historian, has told us what to look for in the documents that are still being withheld.3

In that article I suggested we should look for information regarding covert operations against Cuba that would, according to Robarge, “circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories.”4 While I doubt the existence of a “smoking gun,” the circumstantial evidence we might look for in the delayed files could show a correlation between Lee Harvey Oswald’s activities in New Orleans and Mexico City in the late summer and fall of 1963 and CIA covert operations against Cuba being run by George Joannides and David Atlee Phillips involving anti-Castro groups such as the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE).5

I specifically suggested that we look to files on those operations. Some of these files are in the JFK records that are scheduled for release.

On October 26, 1992, Congress passed S. 3006, with only one amendment and very little, if any, opposition. The Senate bill, introduced by Sen. John Glenn (D-OH), was signed the same day by President George H.W. Bush and became Public Law 102-526, (“JFK Records Act”). Among other things the JFK Records Act provided for the collection, preservation and eventual release of all records related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, with minimal exceptions.

It mandates, in clear and unambiguous language, “[e]ach assassination record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act.” The Act allows an exemption to this mandatory requirement only if the president “certifies” that the release of each withheld document “is made necessary by an identifiable harm to” either 1) military defense; 2) intelligence operations; 3) law enforcement; or 4) the conduct of foreign relations and “the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”6

On November 3, NARA released some of the files that I have been waiting on. The Excel spreadsheet listing the released files include four files referenced to David Atlee Phillips and one file referenced to the DRE.7 Of the files referencing Phillips, three are of an unspecified nature and one is listed as his Office of Personnel (OP) file. The DRE file is listed as “CIA file on DRE AMSPELL operations.”

AMSPELL is a CIA cryptonym for DRE, the anti-Castro Cuban group that was run by George Joannides in 1963, that had the encounter with Oswald in New Orleans in 1963, and published the first conspiracy theory blaming Castro in their CIA-financed newspaper in Miami on November 23, 1963. For such an active group, the file that was released is a very thin 87 pages of which 61 are expurgated in full.

Of the remaining 26 pages, many are largely expurgated. The Phillips files are even worse. The three files of unspecified type may be some of his operational files. These files are even more highly expurgated than the AMSPELL file. Taking the 73-pages long file RIF 104-10177-10135 as an example, a full 48 pages are completely redacted and NOTHING that was released in the file has any substantive info. For all intents and purposes, it remains withheld in full.

The file that is listed as David Atlee Phillips’s OP file is not as heavily redacted as the other three Phillips files, although many of the documents — mainly personnel forms — it contains have been cleansed of any significant data. That, however, is not the end of the story on this file.

The file starts with a few items of post-retirement correspondence between Phillips and the CIA in 1975 and then proceeds chronologically backwards from his retirement in 1975. I have not yet been able to go through the 358-page file to carefully study all the documents, but I have gone through it well enough to note that all his fitness reports between 1956 and 1965 are missing — not redacted, just simply not there.

Indeed, so far as I have been able to find, there is no record whatsoever of a document in the file dated between 1961 and 1965 — not redacted, just simply not there.

There has been no explanation, let alone a presidential certification, that the massive redactions in these “released in full” documents meet any of the mandatory exemptions that allow withholding. No identifiable harm is specified. No rationale is given as to why the secrets protected outweigh the public interest in disclosure.

These files are not in compliance with the law no matter what the mainstream media says.

They are an in-your-face flipped bird to the American public. They basically tell us that the CIA is saying that it doesn’t have to comply with the law of the land and that it will not tell us its secrets and that there is nothing we can do about it.

I’ve been here before. It was in a small room in CIA Headquarters in late 1978. I had been fighting to see a file generated by the CIA debriefing of its hired mafioso Johnny Roselli. Scott Breckinridge and George Joannides, CIA liaisons with the HSCA, had just handed me a highly redacted file that violated the HSCA/CIA Memorandum of Understanding mandating unexpurgated access by HSCA to CIA files.

They stood by, grinning, as they watched my reaction upon opening the file to find it largely expurgated. They were grinning so hard because they knew they had waited out the HSCA and there was nothing I could do about it. The Angleton strategy still worked. It is still working today.

This release not only demonstrates that the Angleton strategy is still being applied; it also illustrates the point I have been making about what they are covering up. There may well be nothing we can do about it. It appears our lawmakers are spineless in the face of the intelligence community. Joseph Burkholder Smith, a retired CIA officer, told me and fellow investigator Gaeton Fonzi in 1978, “You represent Congress. What the f*** is that to the CIA? You’ll be gone in two years and the CIA will still be there.”

To paraphrase that to fit the situation in which we now find ourselves: “You are the people that Congress supposedly represents. What’s that to the CIA? You’ll forget about it in a few weeks or so.”

But I won’t. I wrote a letter to my senator, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, on November 3 before I saw the travesty that was the day’s release of JFK documents by NARA. Probably a futile gesture, but one I had to take anyway. Here’s part of what I told him:

On October 26, 2017, as I am sure you are aware, President Donald Trump, at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence community members, disregarded the clear provisions of the law and postponed release of ninety percent of the remaining withheld documents in the JFK Records Collection for an additional six months. In doing this, the President made no findings, issued no orders and certified nothing, merely issuing a statement through the press office saying that all documents will be released “with redactions only in the rarest of circumstances” by April 26, 2018.

The President’s action was not only without authority in law, it was also taken in patent violation of the clear, unambiguous and mandatory terms of a law that your institution passed. …

The real problem that this presents is that it is showing to the nation that the intelligence agencies of our nation are not subject to the laws of the nation. They are effectively above the law. At their request, or pressure, the President of the United States will violate the clear mandates of enacted legislation. And, to date, the reaction of our elected representatives in Congress seems to reinforce the fact that no one is willing to stand up to such blatant disregard of the clear provisions of the duly enacted laws of the nation. I understand that it is the executive branch that is charged with the enforcement of the laws your branch enacts and, in this case, it is the executive branch that is violating the law so there can be little realistic expectation of enforcement from them. But this is the heart of the problem and why it is incumbent upon the Congress to act. At a minimum there should be oversight hearings. At a minimum the Congress should not be seen to willingly acquiesce in executive contempt for the Legislative branch of government and the law of the land.

This action on the part of the intelligence community, the National Archives, and the Executive is only the latest in a long string of actions that disregard the provisions of the JFK Records Act that also subvert and cover up the information related to the assassination of our 35th president. Those other actions are beyond the present scope of this letter, but are things about which I would be glad to speak with you if you have any interest, so I will not go into them here.

To my knowledge there has been no coverage or explanation of why the intelligence community has requested this delay of the President. It was made in secret. What reason have they given for the delay? What kind of pressure have they brought to bear? How can they force a president to so blatantly disregard the law? If they can do this in regard to disclosure of fifty-year-old records, in what else can they exercise a like secret influence that corrupts the laws of the nation? What affect does the existence and use of such secret power have on our democracy? If these things — not just the documents but the method of influence — remain always secret, then how can a citizenry be sufficiently informed so as to exercise their franchise to any real purpose? How can we have faith in our democracy, let alone our government, if this kind of practice is allowed to continue unchallenged? These are the questions that I would like to have answered. But, to make it easier for you, I note you are in a unique position in regard to these issues due to your membership on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Are you at least going to call and press for public hearings on any of these issues? Or are you going to join the vast majority of our representatives and once again cower before the intelligence agencies? Will you stand up for your constituents’ right to participate in their government on an informed basis? Will you stand for holding our government to a standard of open honesty before its citizens and against allowing the real affairs of state to be conducted in secret and in disregard of the laws enacted by the people’s representatives?8

The questions I asked Manchin in that letter are even more pressing today. I don’t know if he’ll even answer, let alone do anything. Maybe, like Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), he’ll send out an apparently frustrated tweet. Or maybe, like the mainstream press, he’ll tout the release of the documents, hoping no one will look to see what a travesty the “release” is because of the massive redactions. At this point all I can do is try to tell the truth about this whole state of affairs.

I also encourage you to not take this insult to your intelligence and ability to govern yourselves without reaction. Do something. If nothing else, circulate this article to everyone you know. Refuse to accept the cancer of secrecy that destroys our liberty and ability to govern ourselves. Get involved. Get informed. Stay informed. Read and follow http://2017jfk.org/home/ and http://jfkfacts.org/. Read WhoWhatWhy.

Join the AARC at http://aarclibrary.org/aarc-membership/. Join CAPA at http://capa-us.org/membership/. If those who exercise the power in this country have such blatant contempt for the law, then the time for serious peaceful civil disobedience may be upon us. Get the word out. Don’t be silent any longer. This is not an issue of the left or the right. Do something. Say something. And don’t stop until you are heard.

Endnotes

.


1. Raymond Rocca to Richard Helms, Memo Re Response to Rankin, 5 Mar 1964, NARA Record No.  1993.06.24.14:59:13:840170, available at https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=98075#relPageId=1&tab=page


2. David Robarge, “DCI John McCone and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” Studies in Intelligence, (Vol. 57, No. 3, 09/2013), Approved for Release and declassified, 09/29/2014, at page 20.  Available at http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB493/docs/intell_ebb_026.PDF. Robarge wrote: “The DCI was complicit in keeping incendiary and diversionary issues off the commission’s agenda and focusing it on what the Agency believed at the time was the ‘best truth’: that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy.” For my commentary on the CIA’s “best truth”, see Thank You, Phil Shenon available at https://realhillbillyviews.blogspot.com/2015/10/. Note that the “best truth” was conditioned by “at the time” leaving open the real possibility that alternative cover stories may have to be brought to play in the event that time undermined what the Agency considered to be the best truth for them.


3. Dan Hardway, What Were They Hiding and What Should We Look For, 30 Oct 2017, available at https://realhillbillyviews.blogspot.com/2017/10/what-were-they-hiding-and-what-should_30.html


4. Robarge, n. 2 above, at p. 9.


5. This is addressed in more detail at JFKFacts, Exclusive: JFK investigator on how CIA stonewalled Congress, http://jfkfacts.org/hardway-declaration-cia-stonewalled-jfkinvestigation/; Declaration of Dan L. Hardway, Morley v. CIA, CA # 03-02545-RJL, D.C.D.C. 11 May 2016, Docket No. 156.


6. 44 U.S.C. § 2107 note  § 5(g)(2)(D). Emphasis added.


7. https://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/2017-release, RIF Nos. 104-10176-10121, 104-10177-10135, 104-10177-10134, 104-10194-10026, and 104-10170-10121.


8. See here for the full letter.

Posted in black ops, censorship, CIA, Conspiracy, culture, Deep State, History, police state, propaganda, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Carl Sagan’s Thoughts On The War on Drugs

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Since today marks the birthday of the late Carl Sagan, we can remember a lesser-known aspect of his greatness by reading (or re-reading) the following 1969 essay he wrote under the pseudonym “Mr. X” published in 1971 in Lester Grinspoon’s “Marihuana Reconsidered”:

It all began about ten years ago. I had reached a considerably more relaxed period in my life – a time when I had come to feel that there was more to living than science, a time of awakening of my social consciousness and amiability, a time when I was open to new experiences. I had become friendly with a group of people who occasionally smoked cannabis, irregularly, but with evident pleasure. Initially I was unwilling to partake, but the apparent euphoria that cannabis produced and the fact that there was no physiological addiction to the plant eventually persuaded me to try. My initial experiences were entirely disappointing; there was no effect at all, and I began to entertain a variety of hypotheses about cannabis being a placebo which worked by expectation and hyperventilation rather than by chemistry. After about five or six unsuccessful attempts, however, it happened. I was lying on my back in a friend’s living room idly examining the pattern of shadows on the ceiling cast by a potted plant (not cannabis!). I suddenly realized that I was examining an intricately detailed miniature Volkswagen, distinctly outlined by the shadows. I was very skeptical at this perception, and tried to find inconsistencies between Volkswagens and what I viewed on the ceiling. But it was all there, down to hubcaps, license plate, chrome, and even the small handle used for opening the trunk. When I closed my eyes, I was stunned to find that there was a movie going on the inside of my eyelids. Flash . . . a simple country scene with red farmhouse, a blue sky, white clouds, yellow path meandering over green hills to the horizon. . . Flash . . . same scene, orange house, brown sky, red clouds, yellow path, violet fields . . . Flash . . . Flash . . . Flash. The flashes came about once a heartbeat. Each flash brought the same simple scene into view, but each time with a different set of colors . . . exquisitely deep hues, and astonishingly harmonious in their juxtaposition. Since then I have smoked occasionally and enjoyed it thoroughly. It amplifies torpid sensibilities and produces what to me are even more interesting effects, as I will explain shortly.

I can remember another early visual experience with cannabis, in which I viewed a candle flame and discovered in the heart of the flame, standing with magnificent indifference, the black-hatted and -cloaked Spanish gentleman who appears on the label of the Sandeman sherry bottle. Looking at fires when high, by the way, especially through one of those prism kaleidoscopes which image their surroundings, is an extraordinarily moving and beautiful experience.

I want to explain that at no time did I think these things ‘really’ were out there. I knew there was no Volkswagen on the ceiling and there was no Sandeman salamander man in the flame. I don’t feel any contradiction in these experiences. There’s a part of me making, creating the perceptions which in everyday life would be bizarre; there’s another part of me which is a kind of observer. About half of the pleasure comes from the observer-part appreciating the work of the creator-part. I smile, or sometimes even laugh out loud at the pictures on the insides of my eyelids. In this sense, I suppose cannabis is psychotomimetic, but I find none of the panic or terror that accompanies some psychoses. Possibly this is because I know it’s my own trip, and that I can come down rapidly any time I want to.

While my early perceptions were all visual, and curiously lacking in images of human beings, both of these items have changed over the intervening years. I find that today a single joint is enough to get me high. I test whether I’m high by closing my eyes and looking for the flashes. They come long before there are any alterations in my visual or other perceptions. I would guess this is a signal-to-noise problem, the visual noise level being very low with my eyes closed. Another interesting information-theoretical aspects is the prevalence – at least in my flashed images – of cartoons: just the outlines of figures, caricatures, not photographs. I think this is simply a matter of information compression; it would be impossible to grasp the total content of an image with the information content of an ordinary photograph, say 108 bits, in the fraction of a second which a flash occupies. And the flash experience is designed, if I may use that word, for instant appreciation. The artist and viewer are one. This is not to say that the images are not marvelously detailed and complex. I recently had an image in which two people were talking, and the words they were saying would form and disappear in yellow above their heads, at about a sentence per heartbeat. In this way it was possible to follow the conversation. At the same time an occasional word would appear in red letters among the yellows above their heads, perfectly in context with the conversation; but if one remembered these red words, they would enunciate a quite different set of statements, penetratingly critical of the conversation. The entire image set which I’ve outlined here, with I would say at least 100 yellow words and something like 10 red words, occurred in something under a minute.

The cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before. The understanding of the intent of the artist which I can achieve when high sometimes carries over to when I’m down. This is one of many human frontiers which cannabis has helped me traverse. There also have been some art-related insights – I don’t know whether they are true or false, but they were fun to formulate. For example, I have spent some time high looking at the work of the Belgian surrealist Yves Tanguey. Some years later, I emerged from a long swim in the Caribbean and sank exhausted onto a beach formed from the erosion of a nearby coral reef. In idly examining the arcuate pastel-colored coral fragments which made up the beach, I saw before me a vast Tanguey painting. Perhaps Tanguey visited such a beach in his childhood.

A very similar improvement in my appreciation of music has occurred with cannabis. For the first time I have been able to hear the separate parts of a three-part harmony and the richness of the counterpoint. I have since discovered that professional musicians can quite easily keep many separate parts going simultaneously in their heads, but this was the first time for me. Again, the learning experience when high has at least to some extent carried over when I’m down. The enjoyment of food is amplified; tastes and aromas emerge that for some reason we ordinarily seem to be too busy to notice. I am able to give my full attention to the sensation. A potato will have a texture, a body, and taste like that of other potatoes, but much more so. Cannabis also enhances the enjoyment of sex – on the one hand it gives an exquisite sensitivity, but on the other hand it postpones orgasm: in part by distracting me with the profusion of image passing before my eyes. The actual duration of orgasm seems to lengthen greatly, but this may be the usual experience of time expansion which comes with cannabis smoking.

I do not consider myself a religious person in the usual sense, but there is a religious aspect to some highs. The heightened sensitivity in all areas gives me a feeling of communion with my surroundings, both animate and inanimate. Sometimes a kind of existential perception of the absurd comes over me and I see with awful certainty the hypocrisies and posturing of myself and my fellow men. And at other times, there is a different sense of the absurd, a playful and whimsical awareness. Both of these senses of the absurd can be communicated, and some of the most rewarding highs I’ve had have been in sharing talk and perceptions and humor. Cannabis brings us an awareness that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds. A sense of what the world is really like can be maddening; cannabis has brought me some feelings for what it is like to be crazy, and how we use that word ‘crazy’ to avoid thinking about things that are too painful for us. In the Soviet Union political dissidents are routinely placed in insane asylums. The same kind of thing, a little more subtle perhaps, occurs here: ‘did you hear what Lenny Bruce said yesterday? He must be crazy.’ When high on cannabis I discovered that there’s somebody inside in those people we call mad.

When I’m high I can penetrate into the past, recall childhood memories, friends, relatives, playthings, streets, smells, sounds, and tastes from a vanished era. I can reconstruct the actual occurrences in childhood events only half understood at the time. Many but not all my cannabis trips have somewhere in them a symbolism significant to me which I won’t attempt to describe here, a kind of mandala embossed on the high. Free-associating to this mandala, both visually and as plays on words, has produced a very rich array of insights.

There is a myth about such highs: the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved when high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite different self that we are when we’re down the next day. Some of the hardest work I’ve ever done has been to put such insights down on tape or in writing. The problem is that ten even more interesting ideas or images have to be lost in the effort of recording one. It is easy to understand why someone might think it’s a waste of effort going to all that trouble to set the thought down, a kind of intrusion of the Protestant Ethic. But since I live almost all my life down I’ve made the effort – successfully, I think. Incidentally, I find that reasonably good insights can be remembered the next day, but only if some effort has been made to set them down another way. If I write the insight down or tell it to someone, then I can remember it with no assistance the following morning; but if I merely say to myself that I must make an effort to remember, I never do.

I find that most of the insights I achieve when high are into social issues, an area of creative scholarship very different from the one I am generally known for. I can remember one occasion, taking a shower with my wife while high, in which I had an idea on the origins and invalidities of racism in terms of gaussian distribution curves. It was a point obvious in a way, but rarely talked about. I drew the curves in soap on the shower wall, and went to write the idea down. One idea led to another, and at the end of about an hour of extremely hard work I found I had written eleven short essays on a wide range of social, political, philosophical, and human biological topics. Because of problems of space, I can’t go into the details of these essays, but from all external signs, such as public reactions and expert commentary, they seem to contain valid insights. I have used them in university commencement addresses, public lectures, and in my books.

But let me try to at least give the flavor of such an insight and its accompaniments. One night, high on cannabis, I was delving into my childhood, a little self-analysis, and making what seemed to me to be very good progress. I then paused and thought how extraordinary it was that Sigmund Freud, with no assistance from drugs, had been able to achieve his own remarkable self-analysis. But then it hit me like a thunderclap that this was wrong, that Freud had spent the decade before his self-analysis as an experimenter with and a proselytizer for cocaine; and it seemed to me very apparent that the genuine psychological insights that Freud brought to the world were at least in part derived from his drug experience. I have no idea whether this is in fact true, or whether the historians of Freud would agree with this interpretation, or even if such an idea has been published in the past, but it is an interesting hypothesis and one which passes first scrutiny in the world of the downs.

I can remember the night that I suddenly realized what it was like to be crazy, or nights when my feelings and perceptions were of a religious nature. I had a very accurate sense that these feelings and perceptions, written down casually, would not stand the usual critical scrutiny that is my stock in trade as a scientist. If I find in the morning a message from myself the night before informing me that there is a world around us which we barely sense, or that we can become one with the universe, or even that certain politicians are desperately frightened men, I may tend to disbelieve; but when I’m high I know about this disbelief. And so I have a tape in which I exhort myself to take such remarks seriously. I say ‘Listen closely, you sonofabitch of the morning! This stuff is real!’ I try to show that my mind is working clearly; I recall the name of a high school acquaintance I have not thought of in thirty years; I describe the color, typography, and format of a book in another room and these memories do pass critical scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that there are genuine and valid levels of perception available with cannabis (and probably with other drugs) which are, through the defects of our society and our educational system, unavailable to us without such drugs. Such a remark applies not only to self-awareness and to intellectual pursuits, but also to perceptions of real people, a vastly enhanced sensitivity to facial expression, intonations, and choice of words which sometimes yields a rapport so close it’s as if two people are reading each other’s minds.

Cannabis enables nonmusicians to know a little about what it is like to be a musician, and nonartists to grasp the joys of art. But I am neither an artist nor a musician. What about my own scientific work? While I find a curious disinclination to think of my professional concerns when high – the attractive intellectual adventures always seem to be in every other area – I have made a conscious effort to think of a few particularly difficult current problems in my field when high. It works, at least to a degree. I find I can bring to bear, for example, a range of relevant experimental facts which appear to be mutually inconsistent. So far, so good. At least the recall works. Then in trying to conceive of a way of reconciling the disparate facts, I was able to come up with a very bizarre possibility, one that I’m sure I would never have thought of down. I’ve written a paper which mentions this idea in passing. I think it’s very unlikely to be true, but it has consequences which are experimentally testable, which is the hallmark of an acceptable theory.

I have mentioned that in the cannabis experience there is a part of your mind that remains a dispassionate observer, who is able to take you down in a hurry if need be. I have on a few occasions been forced to drive in heavy traffic when high. I’ve negotiated it with no difficult at all, though I did have some thoughts about the marvelous cherry-red color of traffic lights. I find that after the drive I’m not high at all. There are no flashes on the insides of my eyelids. If you’re high and your child is calling, you can respond about as capably as you usually do. I don’t advocate driving when high on cannabis, but I can tell you from personal experience that it certainly can be done. My high is always reflective, peaceable, intellectually exciting, and sociable, unlike most alcohol highs, and there is never a hangover. Through the years I find that slightly smaller amounts of cannabis suffice to produce the same degree of high, and in one movie theater recently I found I could get high just by inhaling the cannabis smoke which permeated the theater.

There is a very nice self-titering aspect to cannabis. Each puff is a very small dose; the time lag between inhaling a puff and sensing its effect is small; and there is no desire for more after the high is there. I think the ratio, R, of the time to sense the dose taken to the time required to take an excessive dose is an important quantity. R is very large for LSD (which I’ve never taken) and reasonably short for cannabis. Small values of R should be one measure of the safety of psychedelic drugs. When cannabis is legalized, I hope to see this ratio as one of he parameters printed on the pack. I hope that time isn’t too distant; the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.

Posted in conditioning, consciousness, culture, Drug War, History, Philosophy, Science, society, Sociology, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Democratic Party crisis explodes in wake of Brazile revelations

By Patrick Martin

Source: WSWS.org

The political crisis in the Democratic Party, brought to the surface with the publication Thursday of excerpts of a campaign memoir by the former interim chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Donna Brazile, erupted into mutual denunciations over the weekend.

Brazile made public an unprecedented agreement between the DNC (under previous chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz) and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign that involved Clinton paying off the DNC’s debts and providing it a monthly subsidy in return for gaining control over the appointment of DNC officials and the right of approval over key operational decisions.

The deal was concluded in August 2015, six months before the first votes were to be cast in caucuses or primaries, when the DNC was required by its own rules to remain neutral in the contest between Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and several other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.

A further revelation from Brazile’s book was made public Saturday: she acknowledged discussions among leading Democrats in September 2016, after Hillary Clinton had collapsed at a ceremony in New York City marking the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, over whether Clinton should be replaced as the presidential candidate because of health concerns. Brazile writes that she herself considered Vice President Joe Biden as the logical replacement, but did not make the proposal.

Within hours of this report, 100 former Clinton campaign aides, headed by campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign manager Robby Mook, put their signatures on an open letter denouncing Brazile’s criticism of the Clinton campaign.

The “Open Letter From Hillary For America 2016 Team” makes use of the same Russia-baiting technique employed by the Democrats in their political conflict with the Trump White House, but this time directed against a former top Democrat. In assailing Brazile, the first paragraph of the open letter declares: “It is particularly troubling and puzzling that she would seemingly buy into false Russian-fueled propaganda, spread by both the Russians and our opponent, about our candidate’s health.”

The health questions about Clinton were fueled, however, not by Moscow, but by video broadcast over American cable television networks showing the candidate being lifted into a vehicle by aides and Secret Service agents, in visible distress. The characteristic duplicity of top campaign officials, who initially sought to conceal the incident, added to the ensuing furor.

Even more revealing is what is missing from the Clinton camp’s “Open Letter”: there is no reference whatsoever to the main revelation stemming from Brazile’s book—the secret joint fundraising agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC, six months before the first caucus in Iowa, giving Clinton effective control of the party apparatus. The Clinton aides do not dispute that this backroom deal occurred and make no attempt to justify it.

On Sunday morning, Brazile appeared on the ABC News program “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” The host, himself a former top political aide in the White House of Bill Clinton, provided a platform for Brazile to repeat her exposure of the collusion between the Clinton campaign and the DNC and discuss the “Open Letter” from the former Clinton campaign officials.

She bitterly denounced the Clinton camp, both for its treatment of the DNC while she was in charge, and for their ferocious response to her new book. “George, for those who are telling me to shut up, they told Hillary that a couple of months ago,” Brazile declared. “You know what I tell them? Go to hell! I’m going to tell my story.”

Brazile also touched on a topic of intense but largely behind-the-scenes discussion in official Washington: the July 2016 murder of Seth Rich, a low-level IT staffer at the DNC, who was shot to death in what police called a failed robbery attempt. The Trump White House and ultra-right media allies, including Alex Jones of InfoWars and Sean Hannity of Fox News, have portrayed Rich, rather than Russian hackers, as the likely source for the DNC emails obtained by WikiLeaks, and his killing as a retaliatory “hit” ordered by the Clinton campaign.

Brazile reportedly suggests in her book—which will not be available to the public until Tuesday—that Rich’s death, warnings from the Obama administration about Russian hacking and repeated online threats from Trump supporters had made her extremely concerned about security issues, to the point where she had her home swept for bugs and installed multiple security devices. In her interview Sunday with Stephanopoulos, she spoke of her fears for her own personal safety. Her mention of Seth Rich, entirely unsolicited, seemed a veiled warning to the Clinton camp that more revelations about 2016 campaign skullduggery could be forthcoming.

Current DNC Chair Tom Perez was interviewed Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC and directly rejected the two main issues raised by Brazile. He maintained, “The charge that Hillary Clinton was somewhere incapacitated is quite frankly ludicrous,” although he did not attribute that concern to Russian propaganda.

He went on to argue that Clinton won the Democratic primary contest by four million votes, and the DNC was not in control of those elections, which are run by the state governments, while noting that the caucuses, which are controlled by the party apparatus, were mostly won by Sanders, not Clinton. Perez would concede only that “the DNC fell short during critical moments of the primary,” in terms of openly favoring Clinton over Sanders.

Significantly, neither Sanders nor any of his top aides or supporters made an appearance on any of the Sunday television talk shows. Sanders issued a statement on Brazile’s revelations suggesting that the conduct of the 2016 campaign was a diversion from the effort to mobilize opposition to the Trump administration.

The fact is that Brazile informed Sanders of the joint fundraising agreement and the takeover of the DNC by Clinton more than a year ago, and he has chosen to say nothing about it. This is part of his effort to prop up the Democratic Party and prevent the millions of working people and youth who supported his campaign from drawing the political conclusion that it is necessary to break with the Democrats in order to conduct any genuine struggle against the billionaires who dominate the US political system.

The conflict within the Democratic Party has erupted under conditions where the Republican Party is bordering on civil war, with several Republican senators denouncing Trump as a threat to American democracy—and then announcing they would retire from office rather than oppose him—and a vicious conflict developing between the party establishment and the fascist-minded elements around Trump, spearheaded by his former chief political aide and campaign manager, Stephen Bannon, now returned to his position as chief executive of the ultra-right Breitbart News.

In recent days, it has been reported that in an upcoming book titled The Last Republicans, the author cites interviews with George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush in which the two last Republican presidents before Trump denounce the current occupant of the White House and reveal that they refused to vote for him in 2016. In response, Trump tweeted an attack on his Republican presidential critics.

The ABC “This Week” program on which Brazile was interviewed began with the presentation of a new Washington Post/ABC News poll showing public support for Trump falling to its low point for the year, only 37 percent, with 59 percent opposing. Trump’s showing was the worst for any first-year president since modern polling began. Other polls have shown public support for the Republican-controlled Congress hitting new lows as well.

The vast majority of working people are increasingly alienated from the two-party political system in the United States, correctly regarding both the Democrats and the Republicans as tools of the super-rich and looking for an alternative. The central political question is the building of a political movement of the working class that will fight the capitalist system as a whole and advance a program to defend jobs, living standards and democratic rights, and oppose imperialist war.

Posted in Conspiracy, Corruption, culture, Dirty Politics, Election Fraud, media, news, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two for Tuesday

Rise Against

 

 

Posted in Art, culture, Music Video, Two for Tuesday, Video | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Washington D.C. is Swarming With Unaccountable Parasites

By Michael Krieger

Source: Liberty Blitzkrieg

In theory, Americans should be proud of their national capital and all the important work that gets done there. In theory.

In reality, our nation’s capital is an utter cesspool of self-serving, unethical and unaccountable parasites. We all know it and, even worse, it’s probably a hundred times more grotesque than we can imagine. A distressingly high number of people attracted to this swamp don’t go there to do good public work or help the American people. They go in order to enrich themselves at our expense.

A particularly degenerate strain of D.C. cretin is the lobbyist. These people swarm into Washington to influence the purse-strings of the U.S. government and funnel as much American treasure as possible in the direction of their clients, including Wall Street oligarchs, defense contractors and barbaric foreign monarchies like Saudi Arabia. We’re told that Washington D.C. exists specifically to protect and benefit the American public, yet the average citizen is the one constituency which has virtually no actual representation there. Helping the vulnerable doesn’t pay very well.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve be reading political stories describing the “beltway buzz” in the aftermath of the Paul Manafort and Rick Gates indictments. I’ve found these articles quite instructive. The common theme is that hordes of the shady crooks who operate in D.C., and add absolutely zero value to society, are panicking that their gravy train of legalized corruption may be coming to an end.

To see what I mean, let’s examine two recently published articles. First from Politico:

Washington lobbyists who represent foreign powers have taken comfort for decades in the fact that the Justice Department rarely goes after them for potentially breaking the law. That all changed on Monday.

The two-tier justice system works quite nicely for D.C. crooks.

The news of Tony Podesta’s resignation from his namesake firm and indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates sent K Street scrambling, as lobbyists rushed to make sure they’re in compliance with the rules. The developments also renewed calls for Congress to pass legislation beefing up the Justice Department’s enforcement of the law, which lawmakers in both parties have derided for lacking teeth.

“Firms are going to be even more careful than they have been in the past in the foreign lobbying arena,” said Trent Lott, the former Senate majority leader who’s now a lobbyist at Squire Patton Boggs, where his foreign clients have included Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Prosecutions of violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act — which requires lobbyists who represent foreign governments, political parties and other groups seeking to influence American foreign policy to register with the Justice Department — are rare. And it’s not clear whether the Justice Department will follow special counsel Robert Mueller’s lead and start cracking down on foreign lobbying violations.

The DOJ unit dedicated to enforcing FARA is small, and has focused in the past on prodding lobbyists to comply with the law voluntarily, rather than going after them by pressing criminal charges. Mueller’s willingness to indict Manafort and Gates instead of just hounding them to file has struck fear into lobbyists that they could be next.

If you’re a D.C. power player, you get asked politely to follow the law. Must be nice.

“It used to be [that the Justice Department would work with you to become compliant,” said another foreign lobbyist, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. “Now there’s a fear that they’ll just prosecute you.”

Oh, the horror. They might “just prosecute you” like a common peasant.

But the bar for criminal prosecution is high. Under the law, prosecutors can go after lobbyists only for willful violation of the law — a tough standard to prove.

“Policy makers are here to serve the interests of the American people, so we need to know when someone is pushing the priorities of a foreign interest,” Grassley said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and again how lobbyists of foreign principals skirt existing disclosure laws to conceal their clients’ identities and agendas.”

But Lott said he wouldn’t hold his breath waiting for Congress to pass the legislation, especially with President Donald Trump still pushing to move a tax reform bill by the end of the year.

“There’s not much of anything happening right now in Congress, to be perfectly frank,” Lott said.

Of course not. Criminals run the place and they’re not going to prosecute themselves.

Now let’s turn to a few nuggets from a similarly themed BuzzFeed piece:

WASHINGTON – The threat of serving hard time for failing to disclose foreign lobbying work is rattling Washington’s multi-billion dollar influence industry following Monday’s 12-count indictment against Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates.

And although the charges have largely been seen as a blow to the White House, Monday’s actions by special prosecutor Robert Mueller also sent shivers down the spines of Washington’s lobbyists, both Democrats and Repulicans.

“It’s a swampy place, and the swampy stink knows no partisan allegiance,” said one senior Democratic congressional aide.

A September 2016 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general identified a series of problems with how DOJ had handled FARA cases in the past. There was disagreement within the department about what types of cases should be prosecuted, the inspector general’s office found, and the FBI felt DOJ attorneys were slow in reviewing FARA cases and reluctant to sign off on criminal charges. The report also found that the FBI and local federal prosecutors reported feeling frustrated at being overruled by attorneys from the National Security Division about cases that they believed were worth pursuing.

Hold on a minute, what the heck is the “National Security Division” and why is it preventing rank and file FBI agents from prosecuting criminal lobbyists?

So that’s how the law works for D.C. lobbyists. Let’s now examine what happens if you’re a protester who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time during Donald’s Trump inauguration.

What follows are some very disturbing excerpts from a must read article published in The NationThe Prosecution of Inauguration-Day Protesters Is a Threat to Dissent:

Late next month, the first mass trial will be held for some of the roughly 200 people facing years—or even decades—in prison after being arrested during an anti-capitalist, anti-fascist protest that took place on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. The “J20” cases, as they are known, offer a glimpse at the treatment of dissent in this country, and the story they tell is one of overreach and criminalization. Defense lawyers have described the government’s approach as “unprecedented,” its indictments as “littered with fatal irremediable defects.” Sam Menefee-Libey of the DC Legal Posse, a group of activists who provide support to the defendants, was more blunt, criticizing the cases as “blatant political prosecutions” designed to “chill resistance.”

The story of the J20 protesters should frighten anyone concerned about the future of both free assembly and dissent in the United States. The charges—which include felony rioting, inciting or urging others to riot, conspiracy to riot, and property destruction—all stem from the same mass arrest, during which police indiscriminately swept up protesters, journalists, and legal observers. What makes the charges all the more troubling is that prosecutors then failed to allege that the bulk of defendants did anything specifically unlawful; rather, merely being at the protest was a crime.

A case in point: The prosecution charged all of the defendants (at one point numbering 214) with breaking the same windows. Prosecutors, of course, know that 200 people cannot break the same windows. But the logic of the case dictates that the defendants’ mere presence at a protest during which property damage occurred makes them guilty…

Few people dispute that property destruction took place during the march. Some individuals smashed windows, including those of a Bank of America branch and a limousine; prosecutors allege that there was more than $100,000 in property damage and that six police officers received minor injuries. Where things get thorny is that many of the people who have been charged did not commit property damage or violence but have been deemed guilty by their mere presence at the protest.

The problems began during the arrests themselves—arrests deemed so troubling that the ACLU has brought a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) accusing its members of using excessive force, making unconstitutional arrests, and more.

Among the controversial practices police engaged in that day, lawyers and observers say, was a tactic called “kettling.” Kettling is a form of indiscriminate mass arrest, wherein police block off a given area and arrest everyone within it. To be lawful, an arrest requires probable cause based on individual suspicion. Yet, inevitably, this heavy-handed tactic often sweeps up other protesters and bystanders whose only offense was their physical proximity to the alleged crime. Indeed, a report on the inauguration by the DC Office of Police Complaints noted that “it seems that proximity to the area where property damage occurred was a primary factor” in the arrests.

The mass arrests gave birth to the next government overreach, mass “felony riot” charges against those arrested. Felony rioting carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine, and applies when the alleged riot results in more than $5,000 in property damage. This is opposed to misdemeanor rioting, which can get you only 180 days in jail.

Attorneys who have long represented protesters in DC report never having encountered mass felony charges stemming from a protest before. Not the least of the reasons is that it’s difficult to produce enough evidence to sustain felony charges against dozens—or in this case, some 200—people. Yet, rather than backing down, prosecutors expanded the case by filing additional charges, and, in April, a grand jury returned a superseding indictment that added inciting or urging to riot and conspiracy to riot to the list of crimes. These new charges brought the number of felony counts up from one to eight and the amount of time defendants could face from 10 years to more than 70 years in prison.

The government’s overarching theory, then, seems to be one of guilt by association. Or that, as Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff asserted during a hearing about dismissing the charges, it is “the group that is the danger, the group that is criminal.” Thus one need not have committed an act of vandalism as an individual; just being present at the protest makes one guilty. (The DoJ declined to comment for this story, as the cases are currently pending.)

Among those swept up in this overbroad approach was a group of at least seven journalists who were covering the J20 protests. While prosecutors ultimately dismissed the felony rioting charges against the bulk of the journalists nearly as quickly as they were filed, two journalists remain in the crosshairs: Aaron Cantú, then a freelancer who has published with The Nation and The Intercept, and Alexei Wood, who livestreamed the event. In April a grand jury brought a superseding indictment of eight felony charges against both reporters along with the other defendants. They face as many as 70 years in prison, possibly more.

The indictment against Cantú deploys the same guilt-by-association approach that mars the entire case. Per prosecutors, Cantú moved in proximity to the march—something that would be necessary in order for him to do his job as a journalist. But prosecutors have additional evidence against Cantú: He wore the color black.

Posted in Activism, civil liberties, Corporate Crime, Corruption, culture, Deep State, Dystopia, freedom of speech, Inequality, police state, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, State Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

FIGHTING FOR OKINAWA — MY HOME, NOT A MILITARY BASE

By Moé Yonamine

Source: Rethinking Schools

My family moved to the United States from Okinawa when I was 7. But Okinawa is still home — and I’m hurt and angered at how the United States and Japan continue to treat Okinawa as little more than a colonial outpost. As a teacher, I’m even more dismayed at how the conventional school curriculum keeps young people in this country ignorant about the abuse, but also about the resistance, in my home islands.

“They are burying our beautiful ocean,” read the recent message from my mother in Okinawa, as though she was grieving the loss of a loved one. After decades of protest by Okinawan people to completely get rid of all U.S. military bases that occupy a fifth of the Ryukyu Island chain, the United States and Japan signed a treaty to evacuate one of the most contested bases located in the center of the main island, Futenma Marine Corps (MCAS) base. In exchange for the removal, both governments announced that they would construct a floating military base off the northeast coast of Henoko. Okinawans expressed vehement opposition, with a majority voting in a referendum for the complete removal of all bases. Still the construction continued and the people persisted in protest — marching for miles down main streets, creating human chains for peace, linking arms around military bases, elders repeatedly lying down in front of bulldozers. Governor Takeshi Onaga demanded the Japanese government terminate the heliport construction and city mayors prevented access of U.S. military construction vehicles through their districts — later overturned by federal court order last December sought by the Japanese federal government.

Today, the concrete seawalls are finished, and soon, rocks will be crushed and sand will pile high, burying the tropical, clear waters. The Japanese government and U.S. military continue to pursue the construction of the runway, despite community complaints of environmental damage and pollution, endangerment to sea life, harm to the fishing and tourism industry, as well as the ongoing threat to cultural survival and island sovereignty. On July 6th the Ryukyu Shimpo announced that the Japanese government would not return the land occupied by MCAS Futenma to the Okinawan people. The U.S. and Japan added a condition to the promise for Futenma’s removal: The Naha International Airport must be made available for the U.S. military any time they declare an emergency. When Governor Onaga rejected this demand, the U.S. military withdrew its promise to remove Futenma. Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada stated, “If the requisite conditions for the return of Futenma are not met, it will not be returned.” In a surge of anger, pain and frustration, word spread quickly in Okinawa across social media.

Devastated at the sacrifice of my home, I turned to the news here in the United States, and there was not one story about Okinawa on any major network. Frustrated, I recalled my conversation with an elderly grandmother I met at a peace rally in my neighborhood when I went home last summer. When I told her I was a teacher in the United States, she told me that the best thing we as teachers can do is to teach kids about what’s happening in Okinawa and how we want a world without war. She said, “They need to know our story so they can stand up with us.”

But when I turn to a typical U.S. textbook, I see how students are ill-equipped to understand what’s happening in Okinawa. For example, in Holt McDougal’s widely used The Americans, there are a mere three paragraphs about Okinawa under the section, “The Atomic Bomb Ends the War.”

Discussion of Okinawa begins and ends with a skewed description of the Battle of Okinawa during WWII: “In April 1945, U.S. Marines invaded Okinawa,” it begins. “By the time the fighting ended on June 21, 1945, more than 7,600 Americans had died. But the Japanese paid an even greater price — 110,000 lives — in defending Okinawa.” Okinawans are completely invisible in this account of the war, the bloodiest battle in the history of the Pacific, where our islands were used as a battleground between the United States and Japan. The highest cost was in Okinawan lives, where more than a third of the population was killed within three months — almost 150,000 — and more than 92 percent were left homeless. The majority of today’s families — including mine — have experienced grief and loss of loved ones.What The Americans does not teach is that Okinawa was once an independent kingdom, was colonized by Japan, then controlled by the United States for 27 years, and finally became a Japanese prefecture. At the end of the war, the U.S. military stripped Japan of its constitution and replaced it with one that took away Japan’s right to have an offensive military. Henceforth, the United States would “protect” Japan, and create bases throughout Japanese territory. However, three-quarters of all U.S. bases on Japanese territory are on Okinawa, even though Okinawa makes up only .6 percent of Japan’s total landmass. Okinawa’s main island is just 62 miles long; and its width averages one mile.

MCAS Futenma was constructed in the middle of our skinny island — creating environmental destruction, air pollution and noise pollution, blocking direct access to roads in a densely populated community, and exposing survivors and families to the sights and sounds of war. Frequent violent crimes against women and children continue to bring hundreds of thousands of protesters together demanding justice and humanity — and the complete removal of U.S. military bases.

Not only do commercial textbooks fail to equip students to understand what’s happening in Okinawa, the mainstream school curriculum does not help students understand issues affecting island people more broadly. I have seen time and time again the shock when my high school students in Portland, Oregon, learn about the U.S. military’s long-standing nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, the environmental damage to Vieques in Puerto Rico, or the history of U.S. military trainings on indigenous Hawaiian soil. Many of my students are confused when they learn that Guam is a “U.S. territory,” has the highest per capita U.S. military enlistment, has a huge U.S. base presence, but its people have no right to vote in U.S. elections. When I talk about the International Women’s Network Against Militarism, students wonder why women from places with high U.S. military presence — the Philippines, South Korea, Hawai’i, Puerto Rico, Guam and Okinawa — gather regularly to talk and organize.

When people say to me, “Why are Okinawans complaining? We’re there to protect you,” I want them to learn our whole history and to know our colonized story. When people ask, “Why don’t Okinawans complain to the Japanese government?” I want them to know about the history of our people’s movements to demand our rights. When people say, “So what? It’s just one little island,” I want them to know this is my home; it’s sacred — these are my loved ones. What’s more, our story of struggle today represents issues affecting so many island people.

The elderly grandmother from the peace rally told me that we must teach the children “that we have been fighting because we have always wanted peace but now we need the world to fight with us. Go back and tell our story.” Our story though, is much more than three short paragraphs in a textbook. It is a story about a people’s determination for sovereignty in the face of imperialism, resilience in midst of colonization, and perseverance for peace as survivors of war. Our story is urgent and it is a call for global action in the name of peace and justice. The history of Okinawa is a story of resistance but also a call to the world.

 

Moé Yonamine (moe@rethinkingschools.org) teaches at Roosevelt High School in Portland, Oregon, and is an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine. Yonamine is part of a network of Zinn Education Project teachers developing original people’s history curriculum. She is the author of “The Other Internment: Teaching the Hidden Story of Japanese Latin Americans During WWII,” “‘ANPO: Art X War’: A Film Tackles the U.S. Occupation of Japan,” a film review with teaching activities of “ANPO: Art X War,” a documentary about visual resistance to U.S. military bases in Japan, and “Uchinaaguchi: The Language of My Heart.”

Posted in Activism, anti-war, culture, education, Empire, Geopolitics, History, Militarization, society, State Crime, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blade Runner And The Synthetic Panopticon

Truth Is Always An Open Question

By James Curcio

Source: Modern Mythology

This Is Only A Model

We are living in alternate realities. In one reality people see Trump’s incessant lying, and no one in power seeming to doing anything to stop it. Others see him as battling the deep state. Some see Brexit as a blind idiot kamikaze mission, while others see it as fighting back the evils of globalism. These are not equivalent claims, but they are both claims, narratives that claim to represent the way things are, and that’s what I’d like to examine here.

“All things are subject to interpretation, whichever interpretation prevails is a function of power and not truth.” — Nietzsche

Note that this aphorism doesn’t say “there is no truth,” nor does it question whether we all ultimately inhabit a single reality, only that whichever interpretation of the truth prevails is a function of power. Truth relies on an accurate or corresponding representation of reality. In this sense, we can talk of them singularly. But we only have our narratives and experiences with which to evaluate what that is.

And what is power? That demands at least an article in itself, but a popular 1984 quote lays the heart of what it’s purpose is: more of itself.

We know what no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

This interpretation of social dynamics doesn’t contest the legitimacy of the scientific method, iteratively approaching closer approximations of truth (a model) distilled from reality, through experimentation. In fact, this premise was presented by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in their 2010 book, The Grand Design.

Model-dependent realism is a view of scientific inquiry that focuses on the role of scientific models of phenomena. It claims reality should be interpreted based upon these models, and where several models overlap in describing a particular subject, multiple, equally valid, realities exist. It claims that it is meaningless to talk about the “true reality” of a model as we can never be absolutely certain of anything. The only meaningful thing is the usefulness of the model.

However, social dynamics aren’t exactly like physics, either. Not being able to recognize the difference between the ideal (an appeal for rationality, consistent methodology, and balance), vs. how people actually engage with interpreting it is a serious problem. And got to catch up. Fast.

In other words, the appeal for truth — whether CNN’s recent “this is an apple” advertisement, or Fox New’s old “fair and balanced” — itself enters into the marketplace of ideas. Or perhaps a more apt metaphor is a battlefield, especially when we consider the amount of capital, technology and labor that states, corporations, and billionaires can throw at furthering their personal agendas.

Cognitive biases, innate responses like tribalism, the myopia of fear, etc. are all being leveraged via media, all around us, all the time. This includes all forms of media, since it’s all digital narrative building of a collective sort. Myth making, even. That’s the real point, and it seems to be drowned out across the spectrum. We’re all too familiar now with the ideas of dis/information wars, but all of them are fundamentally a contest over who gets to define the narrative. If we recognize that this is fundamentally about power, do we also recognize that it operates on dynamics that have absolutely nothing to do with our dearly held moral values?

An assumption some may draw from this is that vested interests have distorted reality; therefore there is no reality. However, that obviously isn’t quite right, either. What obscures clear thinking on this is that reality essentially has two meanings: the “state of things as they are”, which makes no assurances of what that state is, and the question of if things exist at all. The first poses an epistemological framework, the latter, an ontological one.

The former we might consider the social-linguistic definition. That shouldn’t be conflated with the absolute existence of a thing. No, it can only speak to the identity and meaning that we apply to what we’re given.


The Hierarchy of Reality

This may seem like a tangent, but consider the Turing test:

The Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Turing proposed that a human evaluator would judge natural language conversations between a human and a machine designed to generate human-like responses. … If the evaluator cannot reliably tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test.

In other words, the appearance of sentience is all we ever get. An AI that behaves as if conscious is, from the outside, precisely the same as a conscious agent. If we appear to be having a conversation, then so we are. But does that prove we’re real in some definitive sense? No. Again, we are being presented with the social-linguistic layer of reality, that speaks to perceptions.

The relevance here to society is to be found within Blade Runner, which of course takes a great deal of inspiration in its core mythos from the problems posed by the Turing test. The world presented there is a hierarchy of power based on perceived degree of reality.

There is, within this, the implications of Benthamite Utilitarianism, and Foucault’s later elaboration on those ideas: that we may consider the world based on externalities that are socially determined rather than based on our internal experience. This seems in some sense precisely the opposite of “lived experience,” which seeks to situate our internal experience as the center of our concerns.

This directly enters into Blade Runner 2049, for instance, Joi, who seems the lowest on the hierarchy of reality, is seen as a pure surface, and all but K seem to question whether she has any lived experience at all. Mariette observes to K, “Oh I see, you don’t like real girls,” and later to Joi, “I‘ve been inside you. Not so much there as you think.”

Of course, this question is always open, one must always be judged “sufficiently real.”

Another example of this dilemma can be found in a current medical crisis. As many Americans know, we have something of an opiate epidemic in the United States. Although there is no end of debate over why this is the case, for doctors concerned about liability and patients concerned about being in pain for the rest of their lives, much of the politics boils away.

The problem comes down to the nature of pain itself. We may exhibit external signs of pain, but some patients will present with those more or less, for various cultural, personal, and even biological reasons. So the appearance of pain or lack of it is little use, when trying to determine whether a patient is “drug seeking.” Even if we test the biological response of different patients who are experiencing pain, we find that it is very difficult to tell. This is especially true with those who experience chronic pain. For instance, blood pressure often rises when you’re in pain, but higher blood pressure isn’t proof, and one must also ask what the baseline is. All of this calls to mind the lie-detector style tests used in the first Blade Runner movie to assess the reality of the subject, from the outside in.

Patient reporting was seen as the golden standard for pain level diagnosis during the years that doctors were ostensibly over-prescribing. But this too is no better than asking a Replicant whether they’re “real” or not. What we’re left with is a dependence on trust of people’s own stories about their lived experience, but of course, people can also lie. It comes down to a matter of faith and trust, and those are commonly in short supply.

This outside-in valuation is also the basis for what has recently come to be called — with some contention — neoliberal capitalism.

… it [Utilitarianism] presupposes a very concrete theory of nature as well as human nature: an understanding of human beings not as unique, irreplaceable beings — as neighbors, friends, or members of a community oriented toward justice and fairness — but rather as nameless, faceless, calculating, hedonistic, atomistic units. Alongside of this it understands nature and the natural world of plants, animals, trees, oceans and mountains not as intrinsic goods in themselves, but merely as ‘things’ that have only human use-value.

This gives us a clue to understanding why utilitarianism is so attractive to a modern bureaucratized, consumerist culture that is prepared to uphold profit maximization over human health, environmental safety, clean water and nutritious food. In other words, utilitarianism is widely embraced precisely because it replaces the living, breathing, emotional and experiencing human being with the human as pleasure or profit maximizing machine; it prizes the quick technical fix over the difficult task of understanding the human condition; it valorizes thoughtless calculation over thoughtful ethical discernment and practical wisdom. — CounterPunch

So Blade Runner presents an acceleration of the myths many of us already apply to the world around us, one which is deeply suspicious of our ability to find singular truth, or maybe more aptly, to avoid inflicting our power fantasies, needs and fears upon one another, forever.


The Authority of Authorship

When we engage with narratives online, in the press, in the media, we need to remain constantly aware that it is presenting a view of the world, and it is a view which in many ways is likely to be self-serving. There is, at the same time, an invisible architecture at work underneath the ways the world is re-presented to us, and this composes one of the fundamental anxieties that Baudrillard presented in Simulacra and Simulation. We cannot always discern even our own motives, or the reasons why we feel that one thing is more true than another when truly sufficient evidence has not been provided. Because interpretations of truth are malleable. And there has never been a mass-surveillance, mass-behavioral and linguistic analysis machine like the Internet.

It is easy for us to apply this sort of cynicism towards our presumptive ideological enemies, but will always remain more difficult to apply that same consideration to narratives that immediately go, “ah, this seems true!” Again, truth is always a claim, which must be proven — and never finally.

All authority that seeks to stop this process and say “put no others before me” are plays at power. Even within our own minds and hearts this is true.

We mustn’t forget that.

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