Thursday, January 20, 2011

Is All Social Order Premised Upon “Necessary Lies” Or Is That What The Puppet Masters Want Us To Believe? (Don’t Miss Tonight’s Final Post Item)

Is All Social Order Premised Upon “Necessary Lies” Or Is That What The Puppet Masters Want Us To Believe?

(Don’t Miss Tonight’s Final Post Item)

I can save The United States a lot of money: “Eliminate Congressional Pensions; this is one topic that has been avoided in discussions on entitlements. Their pensions make up 20% of our future payments. They neither earn nor deserve them.

Wikileaks Reveals NATO Attack Plan Against Russia 

One of the telegrams are signed by the head of the State Department, Hillary Clinton. "The plan is secret," emphasized Clinton, to the astute U.S. diplomats at NATO. - Luis Britto Garcia, Caracas

The British newspaper The Guardian printed a telegram reproduced by the WikiLeaks site, this time a NATO plan for a massive attack on Russia. The plan for large-scale war against the Russians predicts the displacement of nine military divisions from the U.S., Britain, Germany and Poland.
According to the Guardian, the attack is predicted to include the ports of Germany and Poland to be used to receive the naval assault from the U.S. and Britain.
Members of the Russian government protested against the plan - as it is the same thing that has been revealed through the publication of telegrams between embassies and the U.S. government by WikiLeaks.
"We have to receive guarantees that such plans are going to be canceled and that NATO does not consider Russia an enemy country," affirmed the Russian envoy to NATO at the last meeting held in Lisbon.
One of the telegrams is signed by the very head of the State Department, Hillary Clinton, dated January 26, to the American diplomats at NATO. She emphasizes that the plan has to be kept in strict secrecy. "The United States believes strongly that this plan should not be discussed in public. They are classified as "the top secret level of NATO," the telegram says.
"Public discussion of contingency plans would undermine their military value," she adds, "allowing them to expose NATO's plans. This weakens all of our allies."Share    
She also directs American diplomats to lie to the press, in case of leaks. She suggested evasive answers such as: "NATO does not discuss specific plans." Agents are instructed to say that "the plans of NATO, are not directed at any country."

The Russian representative, Dmitry Rogozin, specifically questioned this last passage of Hillary's telegram. "Who else would this military plan be directed toward? Against Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, against polar bears or against the Russian bear?" He was ironic. A member of the Foreign Ministry, who requested anonymity from the Guardian, was more direct saying, "this and other documents stunned and provoked many other questions."
Furthermore, the Guardian highlights his amazement that the Yankee diplomats' telegrams treat the subject with total levity because "there is not one mention or concern about the potentially catastrophic implications of such an armed clash between the two largest nuclear powers in the world."

The pretext for the attack plan is to defend the new Baltic members of NATO, which happen to surround Russia, namely Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The telegrams suggest "to expand the plan that already exists for the defense of Poland." It just so happens that the Russians did not develop any consolidation of specifically targeted missiles against ground and air from Poland or other countries, but built their own protection, contrary to what the U.S. did with the "missile shield" planned by the Bush administration.
In a telegram dated October 2009, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, says that both Hillary Clinton and President Obama expressed support for the development of the military plan against Russia.

Daalder suggests to not to make it clear that Russia is a potential target, by the adoption of a "generic plan" for moving troops to the Baltic countries while not mentioning against whom these troops would be directed - in case of leak - not to cause or provoke constraints with Moscow. Well as felt and suspected by Russian Representative Rogozin: "If we are going to hunt rabbit, why do you have weapons to kill bear?"

Rudolf Elmer arrested hours after being found guilty of breaching Switzerland's bank secrecy laws in another case

A former Swiss banker has been arrested for passing apparently leaked account details to WikiLeaks, hours after he was found guilty of breaching Switzerland's bank secrecy laws in another case.

The Zurich state police and state prosecutor said they were investigating whether Rudolf Elmer had broken Swiss banking law when he handed a CD of hundreds of offshore bank account holders to WikiLeaks's founder Julian Assange at a press conference on Monday.
In a joint statement, they said: "The state prosecutor's office is checking to see whether Rudolf Elmer has violated Swiss banking law by handing the CD over to WikiLeaks."

He was fined 7,200 Swiss francs (£4,714), suspended for two years. A written judgment will follow.

More than 60 House GOP members sign on to a bill to deregulate health insurance sales. They also introduce legislation to restrict federal abortion funding.

Reporting from Washington — Noam N. Levey and Lisa Mascaro, Washington Bureau

Following up on their largely symbolic vote to repeal the new healthcare law, House Republicans moved ahead Thursday with more targeted efforts to advance their own healthcare initiatives, including deregulating health insurance sales.

More than 60 House Republicans signed on to a new bill to permit interstate sales of health insurance. The goal would be to lower premium costs by avoiding requirements in many states that insurers cover certain services, such as maternity care, cancer screenings and mastectomies.

At the same time, GOP lawmakers introduced legislation to place more restrictions on federal funding for abortion services. Under the bill, Americans who buy health plans on their own that cover abortions would no longer be able to deduct any costs of the plan from their taxes.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) called the abortion bill — which is cosponsored by a Democrat, Illinois Rep. Daniel Lipinski — "one of our highest legislative priorities."

Also Thursday, a group of conservative House Republicans unveiled a fiscal plan that would prohibit any spending this year to implement the new healthcare law.

The proposal would also bar the Justice Department from defending the law against court challenges and halt federal aid to states to help them prop up their Medicaid health insurance program for the poor.

The healthcare cuts are part of a broader plan to cut $2.5 trillion over the next decade by rolling back federal discretionary spending on non-security, non-veteran programs to 2006 levels.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Thursday that he supported the effort and looked forward to "these cuts and others being brought to the floor."

House Republicans have pledged to not only repeal the healthcare overhaul that Obama signed in March, but also develop a set of alternatives.

The House passed a resolution Thursday instructing GOP committee chairs to write legislation that meets 12 criteria, including lowering premium costs, assuring access to coverage for people with preexisting conditions and increasing the number of insured Americans, all without raising taxes.

Most Democrats have dismissed the legislation. Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) called it "a largely empty resolution."

The resolution passed, 253 to 175, with 14 Democrats joining a united GOP in support. That's 11 more Democrats than backed the repeal resolution Wednesday.

Senior GOP lawmakers say they will live up to the pledge, though speaking to reporters Thursday, four committee chairmen said they would not set a timeline for developing alternatives.

They also would not say how many more uninsured Americans they would assure had health benefits.

"Putting an artificial number out there, we think, is a dangerous step to take," said Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, the new chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee. "Our approach all along has been to look at lowering the cost of healthcare and allowing more people to be insured."

The leading GOP health proposal in the last Congress was projected to help restrain growth in insurance premiums, but it also would have left 52 million Americans uninsured in 2019. Today, an estimated 50 million Americans have no health insurance.

While House Republicans were outlining their attacks on the law, the Obama administration announced a new set of federal grants to help states establish insurance exchanges starting in 2014.

These state-based exchanges, which are envisioned as insurance equivalents of travel sites such as Expedia, are to become the central Internet-based marketplace for consumers who do not get health benefits at work.

Every state but Minnesota and Alaska has already received a $1-million grant to plan the exchanges, but only California has passed legislation to create one since President Obama signed the overhaul. Massachusetts and Utah had exchanges before the new law was enacted.

The only reason the former Vice President is still alive is because of the ingenious left ventricular assist device heart pump -- which was developed by the National Institutes of Health using taxpayer money.

WASHINGTON -- Congressional Democrats expressed a rare touch of nonchalance Wednesday as House Republicans voted to repeal last year's health care overhaul, ...See all stories on this topic »

Christie Attacked By Right-Wing Bloggers For Appointing Muslim Judge: ‘He’s In Bed With The Enemy’


Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) announced seven judgeship appointments to the New Jersey Superior Court, including the appointment of Sohail Mohammed to serve on the court in Passaic County. Mohammed is an immigration lawyer in Clifton, NJ who notably defended many Muslims caught up in post-Sept. 11 dragnets, in which the Department of Justice quickly and secretly arrested hundreds of Muslims in the wake of the attacks. Often, the false pretense of an immigration violation was used to hold these men for many months, even though a vast majority of them had no connection to terrorism whatsoever.

Several prominent anti-Muslim voices on the right have reacted with characteristic vitriol to the elevation of a Muslim in the U.S. justice system, calling Mohammed “the enemy” and accusing Christie of turning New Jersey into a “Sharia State.” A sampling of their response:

– In a widely linked post, “Governor Christie’s Dirty Islamist Ties,” blogger Daniel Greenfield writes that “New Jersey, the Garden State, has just taken its first step toward becoming the Sharia State,” and criticized Christie for being “willing to stand up to the teacher’s union, but not to the terrorist’s union.

– Hate blogger Pamela Gellar, in a post titled “Governor Christie’s Hamas Pick for Superior Judgeship,” declared Christie’s political career over: “Governor Christie looked and sounded like he could be presidential. He’s not. He’s in bed with the enemy. All the other stuff doesn’t matter if you don’t have your freedom.

– At Commentary magazine, Jonathan S. Tobin wrote a post about Christie’s “troubling appointment,” and charged that Christie’s “appointment of Sohail Mohammed to the court shows that his judgment on the issue of support for terrorism is highly questionable.”

– The Investigative Project on Terrorism warned Christie’s appointment of an “Islamist” to a judgeship “betrays either naivete or calculation. Either is troubling.”

– PowerLine blog took extra pains to note that “The attorney’s name is Mohammed, first name Sohail — Sohail Mohammed.”

The writers frequently label Mohammed a defender of “suspected terrorists,” but uniformly fail to note that the dragnet resulted in no substantial terrorism prosecutions. They also cannot point to clients of Mohammed’s who were a “terrorist” — except for poorly-sourced allegations against one client, Mohammed Qatanani, the head of one of New Jersey’s largest mosques. He was nearly deported for alleged connections to Hamas, but was later cleared of the charges and allowed to stay in the country, with the support of then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie. Of course, even if Mohammed did indeed defend “terrorists,” that’s perfectly acceptable and ethical in the American justice system, as the Constitution mandates that everyone is entitled to legal defense and due process.

Mohammed has been a consistent advocate for increased dialogue between the Muslim community and law enforcement. The New York Times noted that Mohammed “helped arrange a law enforcement job fair at a Paterson mosque in which young Muslims were encouraged to apply for jobs with law enforcement agencies. The session also featured a question-and-answer session for mosque members with the police and prosecutors.” Mohammed has also given F.B.I. agents training sessions on Islam and Muslim culture. One would think this type of outreach would be appealing to bloggers who claim radical Islam is the nation’s greatest threat.

Byron's Effort To Block HPV Requirement Clears Its First Panel

RICHMOND — Virginia’s requirement that most teen girls receive a vaccination against cervical cancer should be repealed, a panel of five legislators decided Monday.

The state’s law concerning the human papillomavirus vaccination is still many steps away from being reversed, however.
Del. Kathy Byron, R-Campbell County, got a first-round OK Monday for HB 1419 from a subcommittee of the House panel on Health, Welfare and Institutions.

Byron argued that state law should not be imposed on a decision that ought to be made by parents, doctors and the 12-year-old girls about whether they should receive the vaccination.
HPV “is not something they can catch in a school environment,” Byron said. “The state should not be involved in these decisions,” she said.

Three groups representing doctors said the vaccine mandate should continue, partly because it helps low-income people.
Dr. Wendy Klein, deputy editor of the Journal of Women’s Health, told the panel that “it is the first and only vaccine that prevents cancer,” and that it protects women in lower socio-economic groups who are most vulnerable to HPV.

Spokespeople for the Medical Society of Virginia and the state’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics also opposed Byron’s bill.

The panel’s chairman, Del. John O’Bannon, reminded everyone in a crowded hearing room that even if the repeal passes the full committee and the House of Delegates, it faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Byron, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control, told the panel that the HPV vaccine has been associated with deaths, blood clots and other problems in previously healthy girls.
Klein said no single cause has been identified for those problems.

Virginia and Texas are the only states with an HPV requirement for school-age girls. Virginia allows parents to sign a paper allowing their daughters to opt out of getting the vaccine.

“It’s mandate-light,” said Del. Chris Peace, R-Hanover, implying that few people choose the opt-out provision. Peace supported Byron’s bill.

Slavoj Žižek

In one of the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks Putin and Medvedev are compared to Batman and Robin. It’s a useful analogy: isn’t Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’s organizer, a real-life counterpart to the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight?

In the film, the district attorney, Harvey Dent, an obsessive vigilante who is corrupted and himself commits murders, is killed by Batman.

Batman and his friend police commissioner Gordon realize that the city’s morale would suffer if Dent’s murders were made public, so plot to preserve his image by holding Batman responsible for the killings. The film’s take-home message is that lying is necessary to sustain public morale: only a lie can redeem us.

No wonder the only figure of truth in the film is the Joker, its supreme villain.

 He makes it clear that his attacks on Gotham City will stop when Batman takes off his mask and reveals his true identity; to prevent this disclosure and protect Batman, Dent tells the press that he is Batman – another lie. In order to entrap the Joker, Gordon fakes his own death – yet another lie.

The Joker wants to disclose the truth beneath the mask, convinced that this will destroy the social order. What shall we call him? A terrorist? The Dark Knight is effectively a new version of those classic westerns Fort Apache and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which show that, in order to civilize the Wild West, the lie has to be elevated into truth: civilization, in other words, must be grounded on a lie. The film has been extraordinarily popular.

The question is why, at this precise moment, is there this renewed need for a lie to maintain the social system?

Consider too the renewed popularity of Leo Strauss: the aspect of his political thought that is so relevant today is his elitist notion of democracy, the idea of the ‘necessary lie’. Elites should rule, aware of the actual state of things (the materialist logic of power), and feed the people fables to keep them happy in their blessed ignorance. For Strauss, Socrates was guilty as charged: philosophy is a threat to society. Questioning the gods and the ethos of the city undermines the citizens’ loyalty, and thus the basis of normal social life. Yet philosophy is also the highest, the worthiest, of human endeavors.

The solution proposed was that philosophers keep their teachings secret, as in fact they did, passing them on by writing ‘between the lines’. The true, hidden message contained in the ‘great tradition’ of philosophy from Plato to Hobbes and Locke is that there are no gods, that morality is merely prejudice, and that society is not grounded in nature.

So far, the WikiLeaks story has been represented as a struggle between WikiLeaks and the US empire: is the publishing of confidential US state documents an act in support of the freedom of information, of the people’s right to know, or is it a terrorist act that poses a threat to stable international relations?

But what if this isn’t the real issue? What if the crucial ideological and political battle is going on within WikiLeaks itself: between the radical act of publishing secret state documents and the way this act has been reinscribed into the hegemonic ideologico-political field by, among others, WikiLeaks itself?

This reinscription does not primarily concern ‘corporate collusion’, i.e. the deal WikiLeaks made with five big newspapers, giving them the exclusive right selectively to publish the documents. Much more important is the conspiratorial mode of WikiLeaks: a ‘good’ secret group attacking a ‘bad’ one in the form of the US State Department. According to this way of seeing things, the enemy is those US diplomats who conceal the truth, manipulate the public and humiliate their allies in the ruthless pursuit of their own interests. ‘Power’ is held by the bad guys at the top, and is not conceived as something that permeates the entire social body, determining how we work, think and consume. WikiLeaks itself got the taste of this dispersion of power when Mastercard, Visa, PayPal and Bank of America joined forces with the state to sabotage it. The price one pays for engaging in the conspiratorial mode is to be treated according to its logic. (No wonder theories abound about who is ‘really’ behind WikiLeaks – the CIA?)

The conspiratorial mode is supplemented by its apparent opposite, the liberal appropriation of WikiLeaks as another chapter in the glorious history of the struggle for the ‘free flow of information’ and the ‘citizens’ right to know’. This view reduces WikiLeaks to a radical case of ‘investigative journalism’. Here, we are only a small step away from the ideology of such Hollywood blockbusters as All the President’s Men andThe Pelican Brief, in which a couple of ordinary guys discover a scandal which reaches up to the president, forcing him to step down. Corruption is shown to reach the very top, yet the ideology of such works resides in their upbeat final message: what a great country ours must be, when a couple of ordinary guys like you and me can bring down the president, the mightiest man on Earth!

The ultimate show of power on the part of the ruling ideology is to allow what appears to be powerful criticism. There is no lack of anti-capitalism today. We are overloaded with critiques of the horrors of capitalism: books, in-depth investigative journalism and TV documentaries expose the companies that are ruthlessly polluting our environment, the corrupt bankers who continue to receive fat bonuses while their banks are rescued by public money, the sweatshops in which children work as slaves etc.

However, there is a catch: what isn’t questioned in these critiques is the democratic-liberal framing of the fight against these excesses. The (explicit or implied) goal is to democratise capitalism, to extend democratic control to the economy by means of media pressure, parliamentary inquiries, harsher laws, honest police investigations and so on. But the institutional set-up of the (bourgeois) democratic state is never questioned. This remains sacrosanct even to the most radical forms of ‘ethical anti-capitalism’ (the Porto Allegre forum, the Seattle movement etc).

WikiLeaks cannot be seen in the same way. There has been, from the outset, something about its activities that goes way beyond liberal conceptions of the free flow of information. We shouldn’t look for this excess at the level of content. The only surprising thing about the WikiLeaks revelations is that they contain no surprises. Didn’t we learn exactly what we expected to learn?

The real disturbance was at the level of appearances: we can no longer pretend we don’t know what everyone knows we know. This is the paradox of public space: even if everyone knows an unpleasant fact, saying it in public changes everything. One of the first measures taken by the new Bolshevik government in 1918 was to make public the entire corpus of tsarist secret diplomacy, all the secret agreements, the secret clauses of public agreements etc. There too the target was the entire functioning of the state apparatuses of power.

What WikiLeaks threatens is the formal functioning of power. The true targets here weren’t the dirty details and the individuals responsible for them; not those in power, in other words, so much as power itself, its structure. We shouldn’t forget that power comprises not only institutions and their rules, but also legitimate (‘normal’) ways of challenging it (an independent press, NGOs etc) – as the Indian academic Saroj Giri put it, WikiLeaks ‘challenged power by challenging the normal channels of challenging power and revealing the truth’.[*] The aim of the WikiLeaks revelations was not just to embarrass those in power but to lead us to mobilize ourselves to bring about a different functioning of power that might reach beyond the limits of representative democracy.

However, it is a mistake to assume that revealing the entirety of what has been secret will liberate us. The premise is wrong. Truth liberates, yes, but not this truth. Of course one cannot trust the façade, the official documents, but neither do we find truth in the gossip shared behind that façade.

Appearance, the public face, is never a simple hypocrisy. E.L. Doctorow once remarked that appearances are all we have, so we should treat them with great care. We are often told that privacy is disappearing, that the most intimate secrets are open to public probing. But the reality is the opposite: what is effectively disappearing is public space, with its attendant dignity. Cases abound in our daily lives in which not telling all is the proper thing to do. In Baisers volés, Delphine Seyrig explains to her young lover the difference between politeness and tact: ‘Imagine you inadvertently enter a bathroom where a woman is standing naked under the shower.

Politeness requires that you quickly close the door and say, “Pardon, Madame!”, whereas tact would be to quickly close the door and say: “Pardon, Monsieur!”’ It is only in the second case, by pretending not to have seen enough even to make out the sex of the person under the shower, that one displays true tact.

A supreme case of tact in politics is the secret meeting between Alvaro Cunhal, the leader of the Portuguese Communist Party, and Ernesto Melo Antunes, a pro-democracy member of the army grouping responsible for the coup that overthrew the Salazar regime in 1974. The situation was extremely tense: on one side, the Communist Party was ready to start the real socialist revolution, taking over factories and land (arms had already been distributed to the people); on the other, conservatives and liberals were ready to stop the revolution by any means, including the intervention of the army.

Antunes and Cunhal made a deal without stating it: there was no agreement between them – on the face of things, they did nothing but disagree – but they left the meeting with an understanding that the Communists would not start a revolution, thereby allowing a ‘normal’ democratic state to come about, and that the anti-socialist military would not outlaw the Communist Party, but accept it as a key element in the democratic process.

One could claim that this discreet meeting saved Portugal from civil war. And the participants maintained their discretion even in retrospect. When asked about the meeting (by a journalist friend of mine), Cunhal said that he would confirm it took place only if Antunes didn’t deny it – if Antunes did deny it, then it never took place. Antunes for his part listened silently as my friend told him what Cunhal had said. Thus, by not denying it, he met Cunhal’s condition and implicitly confirmed it. This is how gentlemen of the left act in politics.

So far as one can reconstruct the events today, it appears that the happy outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis, too, was managed through tact, the polite rituals of pretended ignorance. Kennedy’s stroke of genius was to pretend that a letter had not arrived, a stratagem that worked only because the sender (Khrushchev) went along with it. On 26 October 1962, Khrushchev sent a letter to Kennedy confirming an offer previously made through intermediaries: the Soviet Union would remove its missiles from Cuba if the US issued a pledge not to invade the island. The next day, however, before the US had answered, another, harsher letter arrived from Khrushchev, adding more conditions. At 8.05 p.m. that day, Kennedy’s response to Khrushchev was delivered. He accepted Khrushchev’s 26 October proposal, acting as if the 27 October letter didn’t exist. On 28 October, Kennedy received a third letter from Khrushchev agreeing to the deal. In such moments, when everything is at stake, appearances, politeness, the awareness that one is ‘playing a game’, matter more than ever.

However, this is only one – misleading – side of the story. There are moments – moments of crisis for the hegemonic discourse – when one should take the risk of provoking the disintegration of appearances. Such a moment was described by the young Marx in 1843. In ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law’, he diagnosed the decay of the German ancien regime in the 1830s and 1840s as a farcical repetition of the tragic fall of the French ancien regime. The French regime was tragic ‘as long as it believed and had to believe in its own justification’. The German regime ‘only imagines that it believes in itself and demands that the world imagine the same thing. If it believed in its own essence, would it … seek refuge in hypocrisy and sophism? The modern ancien regime is rather only the comedian of a world order whose true heroes are dead.’ In such a situation, shame is a weapon: ‘The actual pressure must be made more pressing by adding to it consciousness of pressure, the shame must be made more shameful by publicizing it.’

This is precisely our situation today: we face the shameless cynicism of a global order whose agents only imagine that they believe in their ideas of democracy, human rights and so on. Through actions like the WikiLeaks disclosures, the shame – our shame for tolerating such power over us – is made more shameful by being publicized.

When the US intervenes in Iraq to bring secular democracy, and the result is the strengthening of religious fundamentalism and a much stronger Iran, this is not the tragic mistake of a sincere agent, but the case of a cynical trickster being beaten at his own game.

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