Current Affairs

Topics and Comments On Issues in The News

* * *


.......In a just and ideal world all peoples would live in peace and prosperity in a mutually beneficial global society in a sustainable balance with the natural world. The topics on this page address how that goal can be fostered rather than subverted. The fundamental difficulty is that to at least some degree all nations and their rulers seek gain for themselves often at the expense of other nations and their peoples. The result is often conflict, war, and oppression and exploitation of other peoples. This has been true throughout history to one degree or another but as human populations explode, resources decline, and military technologies advance exponentially it becomes more and more essential that all the countries and peoples of the earth come to see themselves as members of a single benevolent and compassionate human population in necessary equilibrium with the earth and put aside their national, ethnic and religious identities for the common good.

.......As it is there are many nations and peoples in conflict, either militarily or culturally or economically, each working primarily for their own gain. Such conflicts can only be resolved and defused by each understanding the perspectives of the other parties rather than demonizing them as is so often the case. Only when one truly understands the rationale behind other world views including sources of hostility from their perspective can one hope to fairly negotiate just solutions. This approach is the high road and must necessarily apply to the most bitter of enemies. Thus the US must fairly understand the real sources of Islamic fundamentalism and its antithesis to US policies if it hopes to defuse its hostility to the west. From the Islamic perspective there are certainly many good reasons, both historical and current, for that hostility.

.......In any given situation peace can only be achieved by addressing the other party's real concerns on an objective and just basis, and all parties modifying their behavior for the common good. The topics on this page give some indications of the sources of hostility in the world today and approaches to resolving them.

.......Again, this is not to be taken as 'anti-US' though it does certainly concentrate on what I see as counter productive US policies. The US is currently the strongest country on the planet (though diminishingly so) and thus changes in US policy towards other countries becomes the most effective means to move towards a peaceful and stable world. If the US would truly understand the perspectives of the countries and groups that oppose it and address just a few of their fundamental and often justified concerns we could defuse most if not all of the major world conflicts. That however can only be achieved when the US is no longer under the control of an oligarchy which seeks primarily its own benefit often at the expense of its own people as well as those of other nations. That holds equally for the governments of other countries as well.

.......This does not mean appeasement. One need not give into and entirely adopt the other's perspective, and no party must expect all its demands or wishes to be met by another, but one must clearly understand that all peoples real grievances must be fairly and rationally addressed if they are to live together in mutual benefit and peace.

* * *

....... NORTH KOREA: Unfortunately the US bears a large responsibility for the current actions of the N. Koreans. The N. Koreans have agreed to terms several times to halt their nuclear development but in each case the US has brazenly defaulted on its obligations. First the US promised to build 2 light water reactors in N. Korea if N. Korea would stop building the kind of reactor that produces weapons grade plutonium. The N. Koreans agreed and halted their program for 10 years, but the US never even took the first step it had promised on the light water reactors.

....... Then the N. Koreans agreed to destroy and did destroy their cooling tower in return for 600,000 tons of energy assistance, being taken off the 'state sponsor of terrorism list' and release of frozen funds. Only 400,000 tons was ever delivered, the US refused to remove them from the list (until the N. Koreans threatened additional actions if they didn't), and has been dragging its feet on releasing the frozen funds for years.

....... The original US approach did and would have continued to work if the US had only kept its word and taken similar additional actions to defuse the situation. If anything terrible happens the US will bear a large degree of the blame. The best possible approach is the maximum possible engagement with N. Korea, not to further enforce its isolation and paranoia.

....... Also the US and world position to get N. Korea to stop building and destroy its nuclear arsenal has no moral standing while the US continually issues beligerent threats against them, and meanwhile allows other countries such as Israel, India and Pakistan to continue to build their nuclear arsenals, not to mention maintaining the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. As to the missile tests, there are scores of countries that have on-going missile tests, but only Iran and N. Korea are singled out for condemnation. That's one sided favoritism pure and simple from any objective viewpoint.

....... The problem with condemning N. Korea's nuclear and missile program is that everyone else, including the condemners are doing the exact same thing much more intensively. The US has no legitimate moral ground to condemn it while doing exactly the same thing to excess. It is no wonder that N. Korea feels unfairly picked on, and Iran as well from their perspectives.

....... The only solution with any moral justification is an agreement where all parties would stop testing and developing such weapons and begin dismantling them. That includes Israel as well as Iran, N. Korea, Iran and all the rest including the US and Russia.

....... There does seem to be considerable evidence that many N. Koreans believe devoutly in the cult of the 'Great Leader'. I strongly suspect that if a free election were conducted today he would be overwhelmingly re-elected. Now obviously the N. Koreans like all peoples are mostly products of their programming and the programming in N. Korea is especially one sided with little global information available.

* * *

....... CUBA: Same with America's totally dysfunctional policy towards Cuba for half a century. The best possible policy is total openness and zero sanctions. That maximizes the free exchange of ideas which is almost always the best solution. And I note we could learn plenty from Cuba which has considerably higher standards of public school education and efficient and cheap basic health care than the US does.

* * *

....... THE TALIBAN: As regards the Taliban. The US war on the Taliban is doomed to failure. It is a total waste of resources, lives and will in the end serve only to radicalize young Muslims everywhere and engender much more hatred against the US and the west. Obama is leading us headlong into this morass.

....... The Taliban never had the slightest interest in the US or the west or anything outside their local area. They were never the slightest threat to the US or the west. True they had an uneasy alliance with Al Queda, but the proper approach is to drive a wedge between them. By lumping them together as the enemy we have only served to cement their relationship.

....... We should stop attacking the Taliban period and go after only Al Queda. And we should be doing everything possible to turn the Taliban against Al Queda since Al Queda depends heavily on the Taliban to survive. It is basic common sense. This approach worked in Iraq and will work in Afghanistan.

....... If we rachet up the war against the Taliban the result will be the radicalization and destabilization of Pakistan which is the worst thing that could happen. It is of course happening already as a result of US and NATO actions. There is no 'terror of the Taliban'. It's a short sighted myth propagated by ideologues and those who profit massively from wars. However the longer the West attacks them the more danger there will be such a danger to the west in the west by the Taliban.

....... Programmed as they (and all cultures) are, the Taliban should be allowed to live under their beliefs as should all peoples though admittedly deciding which subgroup of any society determines such beliefs which depends on a number of factors such as how groups are defined as to their geographic and ethnic boundaries. I of course am a firm believer in the free dissemination of information and more importantly rationality and truth to counter programming but the west could also use a huge dose of that to change its PC and other programming, especially before it insists on imposing its own programming on other cultures....

....... True that there will always be different opinions in any society. There are many varieties of this from a few dissenters to nearly equal and opposite groups. The question is who determines laws in such situations? Just as an example if all the men wanted a particular law and all the women didn't what would be the justification that the women should determine it as opposed to the men, or vice versa? And one needs to understand that in this situation the evidence is that not only the great majority of men want Sharia law but the majority of women there as well. So what standing could an outsider possibly have to judge? To do so is simply moral imperialism.....

....... The problem here is that social groups are often intermingled rather than totally uniform in beliefs. If a group was completely uniform in its beliefs then there would be no question that that group should be able to live under its own morality and laws without them being imposed from outside. However if the group (or geographic or political area in question) consists of subgroups with different moral views that's when the problems arise if a single moral code or legal system is imposed. It's a difficult ethical question to resolve such questions (both the proper ethical approach and who is to determine that) and of course the source of much of the world's conflicts.

....... There is no 'absolute evil'. All morality is relative to some belief system. As proof, I'm sure the Taliban don't consider themselves evil, just the opposite, they consider the western invaders evil.

* * *

....... IRAN: Iran may well wish to produce atomic weapons to protect itself. That would be quite rational based on perceived and stated threats against it, there is just no actual evidence that it is actively working on a nuclear weapons program. In fact all evidence is to the contrary as I stated. In a joint statement all 15? US intelligence agencies said there is no evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. The IAEA confirms this.

....... All Iran's actions are legal under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty which states that every country has an absolute right to develop and use peaceful nuclear energy which includes the enrichment of uranium to the 4-5% level that Iran is doing. 14 or 15 other countries around the world are doing exactly the same thing and no one complains about that. The criticism of Iran by Israel and others is simply an hypocritical application of double standards.

* * *

....... WHY TORTURE WORKS: It is trivially obvious to understand why torture works. We spend our whole lives acting so as to avoid pain. That's why we don't step on nails, walk in front of speeding cars or stick our hands into the fire. Every action we take is always (at least subconsciously) evaluated as to whether the benefit will be greater than any possible adverse effects. It is trivial to understand that if a prisoner thinks that giving up information will be less worse than the torture he will receive if he doesn't he will provide the information. This is simply psychology and human nature 101. If the torturer makes the torture worse than giving up the information, the person will always give up the information. That's all you have to understand to know torture works. The fact that it can be misused to force false confessions, and that prisoners may try to stop the torture by giving up false information is irrelevant to this fact. In the end, if the torture is unrestricted and well designed, and the information corroborated, the prisoner will almost always give up any information he has to stop it.

....... Do you actually believe you wouldn't give up information if you were being tortured? If so you are living in a fantasy world. With very few exceptions almost anyone would. They might try to convince the torturers first with false information or try to limit what they said as much as possible but if necessary 99.9% of people would tell the complete truth to stop the torture. When you think about it this is simply basic psychology. Believing otherwise is simply ignoring human nature.

....... DOESN'T TORTURE NOT WORK BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL ADMIT TO ANYTHING TO STOP IT? Exactly, one will admit to anything, but 'anything' clearly includes admitting to the truth as well. Even if you get false positives, the important point is that you also get all the true information, and that is precisely what you wanted to get. The problem of false positives, false information given up under interrogation, is common to all forms of interrogation, not just torture. The notion that there is no way to distinguish the truth from the deception in such cases is nonsense. Of course there is a way, its called corroboration and it's used routinely by scientists, journalists, interrogators, and anyone who knows how to reason clearly. But the critical point here is that there is nothing to corroborate until information is provided so getting the detainee to give any information is the essential first step. Once information is given, it can then be independently corroborated and if false the interrogation begin again until finally the truth is revealed. In that respect it is simply the application of standard scientific method of getting at the truth.

....... There is clearly the problem of false confessions (see moral issues below), that if a person is innocent he will fabricate what he believes the torturer wants to hear. All that means is that guilty people will confess and the innocent will confess. That means torture works because you do get all the real confessions and in most cases you can determine which is which via corroboration. All evidence obtained during any interrogation method must always be independently confirmed and evaluated.

....... EVIDENCE THAT IT WORKS: There is plenty of direct and circumstantial evidence that 'enhanced interrogation techniques' do in fact produce good results. Things like sleep deprivation and continuous loud noises or music to break down the will and then (hopefully) non-injurious fear of death techniques like water boarding do get the truth in almost all cases. Training to resist torture doesn't mean someone can actually resist it. The critical difference in training is that you are 100% sure you won't actually be killed or hurt. Even so most people who undergo such training are not able to resist even that.

....... Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) it is difficult to find good scientific data on how well it works and which techniques work best since one can't simply conduct torture studies and find out. The only good evidence is almost entirely in the hands of various intelligence and police agencies around the world that have and do use it. It should be noted that the fact that it is widely used by almost all non western countries is very strong evidence that it does in fact work. It is broadly used by nearly all non-Western intelligence and police agencies. Discounting some sadism, why would it be so broadly used if it produced no useful information?

....... I also recall that US intelligence agencies have confirmed that these techniques, many of which were originated by the N. Koreans during the Korean war, did in fact work. That is in fact why US intelligence agencies have adopted them. Why else would they use them, often via surrogate countries, a practice which has been long standing, if they didn't produce useful information?

....... So all the recent reports in the press that it doesn't work are unlikely to have access to the real 'studies' conducted by various intelligence agencies around the world. As far as I know there is no actual convincing study that indicates it doesn't work. As to Senate hearings that is obviously political theater designed to promulgate whatever current policy is and it is apparently pretty easy to find people willing to testify to whatever the message the Senate wants to get out to the American public.

Here is additional evidence: "according to the press, the captured al Qaeda lieutenant, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the architect of the World Trade Center attacks, was subjected to the tactic of waterboarding during his interrogation. No physical harm is actually done to the prisoner during waterboarding. The tactic makes the prisoner believe he is drowning, though he actually is not. Sheik Mohammed, reportedly, broke and provided good information to interrogators after two and a half minutes of waterboarding. Most people, according to experts, break and talk within 30 seconds after waterboarding begins."

....... Nearly forty years ago, - when Senator John McCain was held captive in a North Vietnamese prison camp - some of the same techniques were used on him. And - as McCain has publicly admitted at least twice - the torture worked...

....... Critics claim that enhanced techniques do not produce good intelligence because people will say anything to get the techniques to stop. But the memos note that, "as Abu Zubaydah himself explained with respect to enhanced techniques, 'brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardship." In other words, the terrorists are called by their faith to resist as far as they can Ñ and once they have done so, they are free to tell everything they know. This is because of their belief that "Islam will ultimately dominate the world and that this victory is inevitable." The job of the interrogator is to safely help the terrorist do his duty to Allah, so he then feels liberated to speak freely.

....... This is the secret to the program's success.

Tim Dickinson

....... So these methods worked on Sen. McCain, they worked on Abu Zubaydah and on Kalid Sheik Mohammad. They worked on 'Mancow'. They are used all around the world extensively in other countries precisely because they work. There should be no question at all that they work.

....... THE MORALITY OF TORTURE: Now, of course whether torture is ethical or not is a completely separate issue. And I would agree there are strict ethical limits on when and on who is should be used in that regard. But one should not deny the facts and claim it doesn't work to try to justify the ethics. Those who claim torture doesn't work seem to have simply previously concluded it is immoral and then leap to the unwarranted conclusion that if it is immoral it couldn't possibly work. That's delusional thinking. The two issues are unrelated. Then they begin to search for evidence and manufacture arguments to prove it doesn't work to justify that ideology. The sad fact is that people who have legitimate ethical and legal concerns about the use of these techniques subvert their own case by insisting they don't work.

....... There are very legitimate questions of what interrogation techniques can ethically, legally and morally be used in what circumstances. My own personal opinion is that they can ethically be used only to elicit information that is likely to save lives from immanent military, terrorist or criminal acts. Thus such techniques should only be used against persons who it is reasonable to assume possess such information. And the techniques used should be as non injurious as to be effective. That means it should never be used to extract 'confessions' to crimes that are already done and finished. The danger of inflicting distress on innocent persons to extract false confessions is simply too great.

....... There is an entire science of interrogation techniques, both torture and non torture. These methods have been exhaustively tested and they work very effectively. The standard non torture techniques are a fundamental part of the the law enforcement curriculum. The inclusion of torture greatly improves their effectiveness and speed if it's done properly, but must be limited only to situations in which it is reasonable to expect it could prevent immanent criminal, terrorist or military activity.

....... Of course torture can be misused - there is considerable danger of that. Nevertheless it is an effective and legitimate technique when used properly and judiciously.

....... BUT IF WE TORTURE WON'T OUR ENEMIES TORTURE ALSO? Get real. Those the US is or is likely to be at war with already use much more extreme physically injurious forms of torture than we do and use it effectively. Whether we do or not has almost no influence on that. By not using it we simply put ourselves at a military disadvantage. We do not jeopardize the lives of our combat personnel by using these techniques, we jeopardize them by sending them into combat in the first place.

....... ARE ENHANCED INTERROGATION TECHNIQUES TORTURE? This is simply a matter of definition. Likely they are according to the UN definition which includes psychological distress. However it should be clear that techniques such as sleep deprivation and water boarding are much less likely to cause long term physical or even psychological effects than the often physically injurious torture used by other countries.

....... IF TORTURE WORKS WHY WAS KALID SHEIK MOHAMMED WATERBOARDED 183 TIMES? The answer to that is pretty obvious isn't it? He had at least 183 pieces of information the CIA was interested in learning.

* * *

....... US FOREIGN AID: The MO of US governments has been huge bribes (called foreign aid) to other countries funded by the American taxpayer, in return for the right for American corporations to reap enormous profits for the US super-rich by exploiting the resources of those countries. The net result is a transfer of money and power from the American people into the the pockets of the American super-rich and the super-rich rulers of other countries who simultaneously exploit their own people.

* * *

....... IRAQ: The typical American attitude towards the Iraq war demonstrates a profound ignorance of the facts and is the result of plenty of effective programming by the media. There is no understanding that the whole purpose of the Iraq war was to take your money away from you and give it to the super-rich who reaped enormous profits as the owners of military and industrial and energy companies, and who decided on going to war, and who control the US government's policies?

....... When I worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of NY, one of the special projects I managed was to detail the interlocking directorates network of all the major US corporations. Unfortunately when the top brass found out about the project, they shut it down. If you research these you will find that a very small % of the population sits on the boards of directors of all the major corporations, often the same persons on the boards of several major corporations. It is these people along with the politicians whom they nominate to represent them who run the US, and it is the same, or similar, for all countries. What is new now, is that all of this is rapidly being globalized so that this very small clique of super-rich share control of corporations around the world, and they are rapidly achieving their goal of making all the world's governments merely instruments of their shared policies, namely a world dominated by the companies they control, controlled by the governments they control which in turn control the huge underclass of all the rest of us.

....... Just do the research, it isn't that difficult to confirm this, though of course they very effectively program most of us to think otherwise via media propaganda which they control also, with just enough 'freedom' to make people think they are really getting accurate and complete reporting of what is going on in the world.

....... There are plenty of conspiracy theories out there that are just plain crazy, that is part of the reason why the actual very serious 'conspiracies' succeed so well. 9/11 was not orchestrated by the US government, but nevertheless it was tailor made as just the kind of excuse the government wanted to rachet up its continuing erosion of liberties and consolidation of more and more power, and of course as a tailor made excuse to invade Iraq with the enormous windfall profits that produced. That's another reason that conspiracy theories are so pervasive - people see the real trends in their situations versus that of the super-rich and other who profit from poorly explained events.

....... I certainly don't believe anyone controls everything from behind the scenes - the reality of social and political dynamics is much much more complex than that. However just consider that from an EP perspective everyone works in their own interest, and every group works in its own interest. Based solely on this simple, and rather self-evident assumption, and considering who and which groups wield how much power, then we come up with an obvious dynamic that the super-rich who wield much much more power than the rest of us, will in fact be trying to and often succeeding in controlling major events and policies in their favor. It certainly won't be the common man.

....... That, I would venture, is a very reasonable and EP sound 'conspiracy theory'. And in fact that is what I believe is happening in the world today. Simply put, with the advent of efficient global communication and a global economy, the super-rich have now pretty much realized, as a single global group, that if they act together for their common good, they can pretty much control things to ensure their continuing domination of most of what happens in the world, more or less at the expense of the rest of us. Their eventual plan is a world peace on their terms with no possibility of dissent, and technological advances are making that a very real possibility. They envision a global society where the companies they run control all governments, with themselves as a super rich and powerful elite ruling the vast mass of the rest of us through their political puppets, and the the rest of us exist to produce and consume according to remaining available resources with them reaping the profits off the process. This status quo they expect to enforce without the possibility of serious revolt through an evolving technology that instantly tracks everyone, and every communication they make, and with the full force of all sorts of additional new technologies, too diverse to get into here.

....... As I've said before, it is a vision of world peace on their terms, but certainly a tyrannical one. Whether they will succeed before the coming environmental disasters is an open question. It is not a pleasant vision of the future, but it might be the only one that could prevent the even worse disaster of impending global cataclysm.

....... Certainly not on 'ethical' bases, but war may die out when the global consortium takes control of the whole world and reduces the rest of us to serfdom. That in fact is well on the way to happening as worldwide trade controlled by multinationals replaces warfare over resources. We are of course not there yet but and we can expect more wars until (if) that happens as the major military-industrial complexes fight over absolute global power. When it does happen, as it seems it might, then there will be no longer any need for war, as economics will rule. The question is can the major powers combine in a single global structure without war on economic bases or will they find it necessary to try to destroy each other?

....... This is of course just one scenario but it is the one that the hidden rulers of the major regions are actively working towards. However there are many wild cards which could throw everything into chaos and prevent this such as the coming environmental collapse and mass human die off with all its destructive social implications.

* * *

....... MORAL AND CULTURAL IMPERIALISM: Going to war over cultural differences is a huge mistake. If the west actually applied that rule evenhandedly we'd be at war with practically everyone in the world. The motive is the very sick and dysfunctional PC notion that PC must be imposed on the entire world for its own good whether or not the rest of the world wants it. This is simply moral imperialism.

....... By far the most important concern of the west should be immediate all out preparation for the coming resource collapses. That is where the real danger lies, not in other countries (read Islam) having belief systems different than ours.

* * *

....... TERRORISM: It is well known that emotional reactions lead people wildly astray in assessing risks. There are numerous studies confirming this. Nevertheless the results are not applied in either public policy or popular culture.

....... For example the obvious fact that no one recognizes is that terrorism is inconsequential when compared to other very real and very serious causes of unnecessary death such as environmental destruction, pollution, accidents and poor eating habits, food additives and crime. Compare that to the enormous resources in money and manpower spent fighting terrorism versus that fighting the real threats and you will see how incredibly dysfunctional modern societies are. Of course that is exactly the point, the military industrial complex profits enormously off the American public by 'fighting terror' (actually by inciting it and then fighting it) but not by correcting poor eating habits.

* * *

....... LEGAL AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: Immigration is a complex issue that needs to be considered from the point of view of all parties and from a global view as well. Ideally there would be no national borders and people would migrate freely to where perceived opportunity was maximal, and by doing so would tend to equalize conditions worldwide. However in the current geopolitical environment with such inequality it can not be expected that national borders will soon be thrown open as it would lead to massive social disruption and decline in the standard of living in the most prosperous and powerful countries. Nevertheless that is in fact the natural trend worldwide as immigrants, illegal and legal flood from poorer countries of less opportunity to the more developed countries. In general this is a positive trend but it needs to be offset by reducing the great and increasing wealth disparity between rich and poor, and by drastically reducing human overpopulation. It all three dynamics were working in tandem the world would be a much better and more equitable place. In the absence of that however, the massive flood of illegal immigrants will reduce the wages and standard of living in the countries they immigrate too, and in this respect plays into the hand of the super rich elite who profit by paying lower wages to everyone. It is in fact primarily overpopulation and great income disparities in their home countries that force the poor to immigrate in the first place.

I myself had two Mexican workers help me dig a koi pond, backbreaking work at $10/hr. and they were much superior to any American worker I've dealt with. Their availability was a great benefit to me as it would have been near impossible to hire Americans to do that kind of work by hand.