Saturday, October 31, 2009
I've watched Barack Obama edge and angle himself out of many tight corners with canny moves, but when it comes to Afghanistan and Pakistan, there are no canny moves. It's the equivalent of playing chess on a board that has already been checkmated, even before you start. Plus, in this case, the board sits on top of an intricate cat's cradle of crossbones and chicken wire--which is to say, a convolution of ideas so self-contradictory and incompatible--where, like tea going into a cup, escape is impossible. Let me try to explain.
By checkmating, I mean: whether we stay in Afghanistan or leave, either way we will end up destablizing the Middle East. All our presence there has really produced so far is a growing, seemingly unstoppable, insurgency; Osama bin Laden has used our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan to convince potential jihadists that Islam is under attack by the West. On the other hand, even if we now draw down our troops, we also stand to grow the insurgency, as they will quickly close in to fill the gap and declare victory. So we are on a Saint Catherine's wheel, struggling to prevent what our presence there has already made inevitable--and landing, with froglike accuracy, on the same, unrelenting conundrum over and over again. It seems there is simply no right way to invade and transform a Muslim country without becoming a magnet for jihadists and furthering the cause of Islamist extremism.
I was struck by Tom Friedman's conclusions this week in his column in the New York Times. He casts a no-nonsense vote on the question of ramping up or drawing down in Afghanistan, as follows: "We need to be thinking about how to reduce our footprint and our goals there in a responsible way, not dig in deeper."
Friedman then argues that we simply do not have the Afghan partners, the NATO allies, the domestic support, the financial resources or the national interests to justify an enlarged and prolonged nation-building effort in Afghanistan. And he does not see any sign of a moderate Muslim majority ready to take ownership of its own future. So he bemoans having to watch our secretary of state plead with President Karzai to re-do an election that he blatantly stole, or beg intractable Israelis to stop building settlements in Gaza. "It is time to stop subsidizing their nonsense," he writes, like someone who has finally arrived at enlightenment. "Let them all start paying retail for their extremism, not wholesale. Then you'll see involvement...." Friedman claims we no longer have the resources we had when we started the war on terrorism after 9/11 and, even more to the point, we desperately need nation-building at home. "Yes, shrinking down in Afghanistan will create new threats," he says, "but expanding there will, too. I'd rather deal with the new threats with a stronger America." I felt substantially invigorated after reading his piece.
The next day, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof took a similar tack, stating that we have already increased our troop presence in Afghanistan, and the result has not been more stability but more casualties and a stronger insurgency. If the last surge of troops hasn't helped, why will the next one be any diffierent? In Kristof's opinion, building schools would be a better investment, and serve as a counter-force to the influence of all those Islamist madrassas.
Even while many are proposing it is finally time to reduce our footprint in the Middle East, others are arguing the precise opposite, with equal cogency and fervor. Christiane Amanpour, for instance, a highly respected and experienced international CNN correspondent who has been reporting from Afghanistan since 1996, deduces from her many conversations with Afghans on the ground that what they most want, after 30 years of war, is security and the chance to earn a decent living. They also crave release from the threat of more terrorist attacks. The majority want nothing to do with the Taliban, but they fear America will not have the will to stay around long enough to finish the job. Our history in the region has so far not been one of promises kept.
David Brooks also speaks to that same issue in his column this week, "The Tenacity Question." Brooks claims to have called around to a number of smart military experts he knows personally, to get their views on the choices facing the president. What concerns them most of all, it seems, is Obama's level of determination. They are unable to scope out his commitment to this effort, his willingness to persevere through good times and bad. "They do not know," Brooks writes, "if he possesses tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity and confusion." Obama, they worry, might just prefer addressing the many pressing issues on the home front. Mostly their complaint centers on not being able to get a fundamental read on where the president really stands. (It's the same criticism that has been leveled at Obama's approach to health care reform.) In the matter of Afghanistan, Dick Cheney calls it "dithering"--and a threat to our national security. Brooks and Cheney both consider that Obama may just be deficient when it comes to having core convictions and raw determination.
I think about this a lot, myself. And I am reminded of those Cheyenne warriors I once read about, whose tracks were just so hard to read. They pointed in all directions so you were never quite sure which way to proceed. They preferred to create bafflement in their doings, so they could stay clear of any demands others might make of them. Obama, with his highly strategic basketball skills, is like a twenty-first-century version of that, keeping his intentions partly hidden while he prepares for an action, and keeping opponents at bay, so they can never be quite sure of his next move. It's the basic skill of the martial artist.
"The president is not a strong man." a blogger commented in the Times, responding to David Brooks' article, "I have determined, after supporting the President, that he doesn't really know what he thinks, or what he believes. He is just here, blowing in the wind, this way or that way, whatever happens to be the popular breeze. We can't know where he stands, if he doesn't know, himself." In this view, Obama is quintessentially faint-hearted, unwilling to really stick his neck out.
It's all in the eye of the beholder, as they say, isn't it?
And then there was Sting, wildly singing the president's praises this week, going so far as to claim that he might just be a divine answer to the world's problems. "In many ways, he's sent from God," he joked, "because the world's a mess." But Sting is altogether serious in his belief that Obama is the best leader to navigate the world's problems. "I found him to be genuine, very present, clearly super-smart, and exactly what we need in the world," he was quoted as saying in my local paper this week.
So where, exactly, am I in all of this? Still haunted by the memory of what Osama bin Laden's deputy. Ayman al-Zawahiri, said way back in 2003, about us being in Iraq: "If they withdraw, they will lose everything, and if they stay, they will continue to bleed to death." Given the two choices, which I believe are the ones actually at stake here, I am quite happy not being the person who is charged with making the deadly choice.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Last week, in our monthly salon group, a conversation spontaneously kicked off about the "balloon boy"--the wild story of Richard Heene and his son, Falcon, that had been gripping the media for several days. At that point, it was known that Falcon was not in the balloon, but it had not yet been established that the whole thing was a hoax designed to get the family a gig in a reality TV show. Everyone in my living room that night agreed, however, it was likely that the Heene family had probably made the entire nation their dupe.
Which led us then to an interesting discussion about hoaxes and about what it means to be duped. One saloneer, Bill, told us about how his brother has been making mysterious trips to England for the past year or so. After some Google sleuthing behind the scenes, Bill had discovered his brother was an active member of a psychic organization there that holds seances. He described being nonplussed when his brother asked him if he would like to have a conversation with a former U.S. president. The president in question turned out to be not someone living, but Thomas Jefferson. Bill described how his brother wept when talking about these conversations, and how they have changed his life. So, what do you say to a brother who has become obsessed with having conversations with dead people? Bill wanted to know.
The salon then zoomed on to Bernie Madoff--how did he manage to fool so many people? Did his family know what he was up to? And I brought up my old experience with psychic surgery, which I had witnessed years ago in the Philippines. Did that doctor's hand really penetrate deep inside the woman's stomach and pull out some diseased matter? I was watching him "operate" in his clinic, only about five feet away from the table, and I even took a couple of photographs. It certainly looked legitimate enough and real. But was it a fraud? What is "real" anyway? I have always tended to think that "real" is somehow equivalent to the truth of things. But these days, the truth of things is so hopelessly scrambled, it has become like a collection of useless, mismatched shoes.
Yesterday I woke up to warnings on NPR about counterfeit cures for swine flu being sold all over the Internet. Today it was news of students in Afghanistan protesting the desecration of a Koran by U.S. troops; the accusation was totally denied by the U.S. military, which claims that the event never happened but is a rumor being perpetrated by the Taliban to stir up hatred against the U.S. All summer long we had to endure attempts to derail health care reform by fabricated stories of "death panels," and protests by Medicare recipients demanding that government stay out of health care. These events were followed by two major fraudulent elections, in Iran and Afghanistan. This morning it was a report of toxic dry wall imported from China that is destroying the infrastructure of many houses and undermining owners' health. Everyday we hear about more banks failing, while those that were bailed out are suddenly making outrageous profits again.
I could of course go on and on with examples of the sinister way the world is moving from near nervous breakdown, to nervous breakdown. Whenever I think about what this breakdown might actually look like, it strikes me that maybe it won't be malign buccaneers arriving at the front door in the middle of the night, or global pandemic, or wandering the roads and eating grass. Maybe it will look more like the extinction of truth under a fire-hosing of fraud and deceit: a stockpiling not of nuclear weapons but of treachery, bad faith, lying, double-dealing, hoaxes, and unrelenting dishonesty.
A friend of mine wryly pointed out the other morning over brunch at my favorite restaurant that all my sentences seem to end in apocalypse. Yeah, I agreed, but pessimists tend to be right, although optimists probably live longer. Truth is, I really don't want to live in a world without truth: a world in which every single thing becomes an object of suspici0n. Admittedly, I have trust issues. But what's a girl to do? It just isn't a whole bag of fun watching the human race exterminate itself with a steady stream of Judas kisses.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Interesting dreams have never been my forte. Usually I'm lost in a foreign land, can't remember the name of my hotel, and so I can't find my way back to where I came from. Sometimes my wallet's gone as well, and I have no money and no ID. Or, I return to where my car is parked, only to find that it's not there. I don't seem ever to have those luminous, revelatory dreams in which you meet up with an archetypal angel, or a Himalayan master who offers helpful advice.
Last night I dreamt I had a brush with the Taliban. I was with a good friend in an apartment building much like the one I grew up in in New York years ago. We knew Taliban were in the neighborhood because we had seen them. Despite the middle-sized green armchair (similar to the ones in my present-day living room) we put up against the door to block their entry, they showed up and managed to capture my friend while I was somehow outside in the hall bathroom. My friend yelled at me to run, and somehow I succeeded in getting on the elevator. "The Taliban are here," I said breathlessly to the elevator man. "Yes, I know,' he answered quietly. I hurried into the street to find help, even while I understood that this was impossible because it was already too late. Then I woke up, shaking.
While the Bush administration was busy conflating the Iraq War with the "war on terror," al Qaeda and the Taliban were busy regrouping and revving up in an ungoverned region on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, biding time while they watched America bleed its military and its economy over a misbegotten war in Iraq. Recovering at the time, myself, from a serious bout of illness, I spent a lot of time reading books about global Jihad, trying to understand what radical Islam was really about. That was when I learned they actually want more than to get rid of us--to get the West out of Muslim lands. Just as the U.S. wants to establish free-market democracies around the globe, Islamists have a similar ambition for 7th-century Sharia law to gain ascendency worldwide. They despise democracy. As I came to understand the real danger brewing in Waziristan, I would mention it to friends. Invariably I got the same response: "What's Waziristan?" And so I would joke back, "Have you gotten yourself a burka yet?"
Now President Obama has openly designated the border region as "the most dangerous place in the world," and by doing so, risks beating the hornet's nest with a baseball bat. Everyone has become aware of what Waziristan is, but, as a friend pointed out, we have only a not-very-large green armchair at this point with which to defend ourselves. It isn't working. Suicide bombers are currently fanning out all over Pakistan and only 37% of Americans, according to the most recent poll, are in favor of continuing this war.
After the U.S. had driven the Taliban out of Afghanistan, Bush's strategy for the threat emanating from Waziristan was to ignore it, and to rely on his "ally," then President Pervez Musharraf, also commander of the Pakistani army, to keep a lid on the "Islamofascism" breeding in the area. Unfortunately, it was a Faustian bargain, given that Musharaff's success depended on his hands-off policy: namely, we won't bother you if you don't bother us. It was always clear to Musharaff (and to me) that if ever he tried to go after the crowd in Waziristan, death-dealing insurgents would come after him and chop off his head. They would also begin suicide-bombing Pakistan. So, under his live-and-let-live approach, the danger continued to lurk and silently grow, like a toxic tumor in the body of the world. Bush considered the problem solved, and continued his war with the wrong enemy in the wrong place.
Now it seems we are stuck with yet another war--one that requires building a state, defeating the Taliban, defeating al Qaeda, and bringing economic activity to a country where there is none, except for international aid and the production of illegal narcotics. As Rory Stewart--the Scottish-born professor of human rights at Harvard who has lived and worked in Afghanistan--explains in his essay entitled "The Irresistible Illusion," this policy rests on "misleading ideas about moral obligation, our capacity, the strength of our adversaries, the threat posed by Afghanistan, the relations between our different objectives, and the value of a state." Is a centralized state, he wonders, even an appropriate model for a mountainous country with strong ethnic traditions of local self-government and autonomy? Besides, Osama bin Laden (as far as anyone knows) is hiding in Pakistan, a country that does have a strong central state government--one which has already made clear that it won't have its sovereignty violated by us, probably the main reason Osama prefers staying there.
Our attempt to modernize feudal, fundamentalist societies through building democratic nation-states has proved to be a thankless, witless task, especially in the face of adversaries who want, themselves, to remake the world through spectacular acts of terror. Just as technology can't stop climate change, it is proving impossible to stop a world network of terrorists with outposts in regions that no state controls. However, it is equally hard to accept that there are problems at the heart of American security that might have no solution. All of which brings me to precisely the point that I am hardly the first to make: in this new kind of unconventional war that is now being fought, THERE IS NO PROSPECT OF VICTORY. We are not winning now, and we are not going to win in any imagined scenario in the future.
Americans are particularly unwilling to believe that problems are insoluble or that a mission is impossible. Continuing the fight in Afghanistan is as much about the need to avoid being labeled a loser as it is about winning. No politician, as Stewart underscores in his article, wants to be perceived as having underestimated, or failed to address, a terrorist threat; or to write off the blood and treasure that we have already spent. Certainly they do not want to be the one to admit defeat. "The language of modern policy does not help us to declare the limits to our power and capacity; to concede that we can do less than we pretend or that our enemies can do less than we pretend; to confess how little we know about a country like Afghanistan or how little we can predict about its future; or to acknowledge that we might be unwelcome or that our presence might be perceived as illegitimate or that it might make things worse."
Recently I saw a section of the PBS documentary "Obama's War" as shown on Frontline. Stranded in the outer reaches of Afghanistan, our stalwart soldiers there function as "bait." Every day they get up and go out in search of an enemy they almost never get to see. They wander the streets and talk to ragtag bands of Afghans, who look at the them with mildly mocking smiles of curiosity, while the soldiers try to win them over and convince them that we are there to "help." Meanwhile, however, the Taliban have made it clear that anyone seen with the Americans should expect certain death, so I don't see any "Anbar Awakening" (like the one that took place in Iraq) happening in Afghanistan any time soon.
Obama's "Yes We Can" mantra may still be very much a work-in-progress in the U.S., whose final outcome is not yet clear. In Afghanistan, however, I don't think the phrase has much resonance or chemistry. It's more like when Tonto said to the Lone Ranger, "What do you mean 'we,' white man?" In this case, it really doesn't matter that our president is black, because the question still stands.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
"Someone on the Huffington Post has invaded your territory," my friend Hakuin told me while I was getting massaged last Sunday. Seeing my perplexed look, she explained that one of their bloggers had used the Thesaurus as the basis of a post about Sarah Palin's forthcoming memoir, "Going Rogue." After searching out the various meanings of "rogue," the writer (whoever it was--I couldn't actually find the piece) declared that if Palin had really understood what the word refers to, she would never have used it as her title.
I was intrigued, and decided to check the situation out on my own. After all, I have the most extraordinary Thesaurus on the planet, acquired about four decades ago when I first began living in London. The book is falling to bits, is without its cover, and its pages have become practically like lace; but I am in love with my Thesaurus-with its Introduction to the original edition, dated 1852, still intact. No other more current Thesaurus I have ever seen is a match for this one, which manages, all on its own, to unfurl whole worlds about almost anything that comes near, and to peel away layers of a situation until it gets you to the core of its truth. So, in case you don't believe me, just test-fly this drop-dead portrait offered up of the former governor of Alaska (who resigned from her job on July 4th) when I investigated "rogue":
"Deceiver, shammer, hypocrite, turncoat, two-timer, trouble-maker, confirmed pathological liar, mythomaniac, fibber, yarn-spinner, imposter, cuckoo in the nest, boaster, bluffer, pretender, charlatan, quack, fake, fraud, phoney, hoodwinker, quick-change artist."
Having read Levi Johnston's tell-all interview in Vanity Fair last month about the vicissitudes of living in the Palin household for almost a year during the campaign period, when he was publicly displayed as Bristol's boyfriend, none of the words above seem forced or contrived or inaccurate. The biggest shocker revealed by Levi in the Vanity Fair piece was that Sarah Palin doesn't even know how to use a gun. So much for the colorful mythology of aerial wolf-hunting--and the cherished image of her racing home from the governor's mansion to grill up mooseburgers for the kids. Not happening. According to Levi, Sarah almost never cooks. On returning from work, she would, often as not, lock herself in her bedroom and soak for an hour in the bathtub. She and Todd, he claimed, did not share the same bedroom. According to Levi, Palin relentlessly tried to persuade him and Bristol to give her their baby, so she could pass it off as one of her own.
But my trusty Thesaurus was not ready to leave it at that. There are still more relevant aspects of "rogue":
"Mischief-maker, little devil, disturber of the peace, bad egg, bully, bad influence, bad example." Remember those infernal campaign rallies when she would insist that Obama palled around with terrorists and would stir the crowds into yelling threats of "Kill him"? It was at that time Sarah Palin seriously began to make herself "public enemy number one"-- a "hell hag, she-devil, wild-cat, tigress." However, once in the animal sphere, I confess it was the term "rogue elephant" that got my attention. The elephant, as everyone knows, is a symbol for the Republican party. A rogue elephant separates from the herd and roams alone, becoming wild and vicious. It will send clouds of dust into the air to signify that it is feeling aggressive. Under Bush, the U.S. government became the rogue elephant of international law and politics. Recently I found this comment by Jack Tworkov, a Polish-American artist born in 1900, that "under Reagan, it's America that has become the greatest danger to the world, not even less than what Hitler was."
It seems as if the panel in Norway who awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama gave it to him because he has tried to reverse this image of America as a rogue elephant that has become the greatest danger to the world. Depending on what you think, this was a big, or merely a tiny but awkward spritz on those aggressive clouds of dust kicked up by past and present rogue elephants. Obama got the Nobel Peace award not so much for what he has done, according to Robert Fuller in the Huffington Post, but because of who he is: an exemplar of "dignitarian politics." Obama has brought dignity back to the political arena. "Dignitarian politics," Fuller writes, "means not condescending to Americans or citizens of other countries. It means not treating political opponents, whether at home or abroad, with indignity. Globally, Obama's politics of dignity makes Americans safer, in contrast to policies that, by humiliating others, leave us vulnerable to retaliation. .. President Obama understands that part of a strong defense is not giving offense in the first place. He realizes that in an interdependent world, muscular exceptionalism is a losing strategy."
But just as the rogues cheered and howled last week when America failed to win the Olympics for Chicago, only because they thought it was egg on Obama's face, they are now ridiculing his receiving this prestigious award as "no achievement at all." You could almost see Michael Steele's face go green with envy. "Revenge raids" on the President are becoming more and more tiresome, ridiculous, and all too predictable. Even David Brooks, usually one of the few sanguine conservatives out there in the elelphant pack, when asked for his response to the award, said he thought it was "a joke," and proposed that the best thing Obama could do would be to give it back. Maybe he thought kicking up some dust in the panel's faces would be a good way to go. Things have come to a sorry pass when even the honor of receiving the most prestigious international prize in the world is a pretext for launching ever more disrespectful and savage attacks. My friend Ciel put it well when she wrote me that "our country has gone mad: totally madly unhinged."
"From now on," offers scallywag Virgil, "it'll be all about the toxic chemistry between feral, nihilist rogues and the delicious but disliked dignitarians. I suggest you spackle over your despair and just enjoy the manic mayhem. Remember that when God is giddy, she separates the light from the dark, and then does two loads of laundry." While I go do laundry, please read this postscript from talkingpointsmemo.com:
The GOP's New Foreign Policy: Undermine American Diplomacy
Eric Kleefeld | October 2, 2009, 2:04PM
"An interesting pattern has been emerging in the Republican Party's handling of foreign policy: Individual GOP officials are now making a regular point of not only formulating an alternative foreign policy, to be presented to the American people and debated in Congress -- they're acting on it too, and undermining the official White House policies at multiple turns:
• Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is visiting Honduras in order to support the recent military coup against a leftist president, which has been opposed by the Obama administration and all the surrounding countries in the region. (Late Update: DeMint's office says he is not taking sides during his visit to the current Honduran leadership, denying the New York Times reports that this was his intention.)
• Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) will be going to the upcoming climate change conference in Copenhagen, bringing a "Truth Squad" to tell foreign officials there that the American government will not take any action: "Now, I want to make sure that those attending the Copenhagen conference know what is really happening in the United States Senate."
• House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) traveled to Israel, where he spoke out against President Obama's opposition to expanded settlements. He also defended Israel on the eviction of two Arab families from a house in east Jerusalem, which had been criticized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
• Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) boasted in June that he told Chinese officials not to trust America's budget numbers. "One of the messages I had -- because we need to build trust and confidence in our number one creditor," said Kirk, "is that the budget numbers that the US government had put forward should not be believed." Since then, he has declared his candidacy for U.S. Senate."
Saturday, October 3, 2009
No matter how you slice it, I'm no Jewish mama, but I confess to being worried sick about my boy, our President. To state what I am feeling in the most idiomatic way, I'm absolutely scared shitless he's gonna get killed. Reading Thomas Friedman's column this week in the New York Times did not exactly allay my rampant anxiety, which just happens to be high right now anyway.
In his column, Friedman likened the ugly mood in this country to the one he encountered in Israel in 1995, when he paid a visit to then Prime Minister, Yitzak Rabin. Right-wing extremists were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin and question his authority, as he moved toward finalizing a peace agreement via the Oslo Accords. The wingers accused him of treason, created pictures of him as a Nazi, and shouted death threats at rallies. Same old, same old, you might think, or wink. Except that shortly after that, Rabin was assassinated.
"The parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach," Friedman says. He only chose to write about such an untouchable and unthinkable subject because it disturbs him hugely that, at a time when "we" have such huge problems in this country--the deficit, the recession, health care, unwinnable wars, unemployment, climate change--there is no collective "we" at work anymore trying to solve them. Instead, there are vicious attacks on the President and efforts to delegitimize him coming even from inside the White House by members of Congress--the latest being yet another Republican, Trent Franks from Arizona, who called Obama "an enemy of humanity." The words hang in the air like a funeral wreath. (Later on Franks claimed that he really meant to say "an enemy of unborn humanity.") We now have, according to Friedman, "a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians." It means we can no longer discuss serious issues or make decisions on the basis of our national interest.
For those of us who watch these matters with unaccustomed attention, what is happening can no longer be dismissed as just rude and disrespectful infringements of decency. What we are witnessing, I believe, is nothing less than the unraveling of our government's ability to actually govern. Next will be a full-frontal breakdown of the daylit world we thought we knew. Andrew Sullivan is very concerned about this as well:
"At the same time, you see the right urging a coup, while all but beating a drum for the assassination of the president, an event that would tip this country into a near civil war. In this climate, establishment conservatism for the most part is fanning the flames and pouring on the gasoline.
I always thought it would get worse before it gets better. But I never thought it would get this poisonous this soon," he wrote recently."
Hardly a day goes by that I don't ask myself "What is wrong with us anyway?" It's our one and only last chance (if indeed it isn't too late already) to pull things out of the fire, with a president who finally "gets it," and what are we doing? Trying our damndest to destroy him. And I have to wonder why--why is this happening? How can it be that a fistful of ignoramuses like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are able to hold us all hostage with their apish antics, to the point where nothing will grow anymore in our stone civilization? How can they have such a stranglehold on people's minds? I ask myself these questions daily, and then I look for clues under the bed, like Sherlock Holmes. David Brooks claims the Republicans are beholden to this wing of the party because the GOP leadership is "bamboozled." One clue I found as to why arrived yesterday, while I was reading a book called "Straw Dogs" by John Gray, a professor of European thought at the London School of Economics:
"New technologies do more than transmit information. Not only does everyone receive information faster than before, the mood it creates is far more swiftly contagious. The Internet confirms what has long been known--the world is ruled by the power of suggestion." Contagion and hysteria and suggestibility are all magnified by these new communications technologies. "In evolutionary prehistory," Gray states, "consciousness emerged as a side effect of language. Today it is a by-product of the media."
Wow! it's not the economy, stupid. It's hypnosis. These guys are HYPNOTISTS. Sometimes I receive information like this as flaming darts.
I expect we are about as likely to shut down this aspect of our poisoned media as we are likely to stop driving cars. Sometimes I ponder Eckhardt Tolle, and how he sat for two years on park benches (with no job, no home, no socially defined identity), and what he experienced, he claimed, was a state of INTENSE JOY. In the upside down world of today, personally I don't know what to think anymore--everything seems just ever-so-slightly beyond my comprehension. So, by what right do I put forth ideas as a contribution to society's discussion of its life? Rest assured, it's none at all. But I expect I will continue forever to roll my stone to the top of a hill and watch it then roll down the other side, because it seems that this is our fate.