Regime Change Doesn’t Work


A Boston Review forum with Neta C. Crawford, Mary Kaldor, Tod Lindberg, Greg Grandin, James D. Fearon, John Tirman and Joanne Landy all responding to Alexander B. Downes:

Obama’s reasons for confronting Qaddafi are more like Clinton’s in Bosnia and Kosovo than Bush’s in Iraq and Afghanistan, but several enduring factors trump changes in administration and provide a powerful impetus for continuing efforts at regime change spearheaded by the U.S. military.

First, there are few external constraints on the exercise of American power: the United States spends nearly as much on defense as the rest of the world combined and dwarfs most potential adversaries in military capability. Because the United States is so powerful, defines its international interests so broadly, and is so accustomed to intervening militarily on behalf of those interests, only a radical realignment of strategy would enable American leaders to forswear regime change. As long as the United States is committed to providing stability in most of the world, rooting out terrorism, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, curbing human rights abuses, spreading democracy, and pursuing global primacy, frequent intervention is unavoidable.

Second, U.S. leaders face few hurdles to initiating military action abroad. Even though regime changes are costly and can result in prolonged occupations and insurgencies, U.S. leaders can successfully downplay or lie about the potential costs in order to obtain public approval. This was amply demonstrated by the Iraq invasion: long before the war began, widely available information showed that the Bush administration’s liberate-and-leave story was flawed. Yet the president and his advisors insisted that taking out Saddam Hussein would be cheap and easy, and the administration won the support it needed. Even after this story proved false, Bush was not held accountable, winning reelection in 2004. Leaders in democracies such as the United States focus on manufacturing consent for regime change rather than planning realistically for the fallout. As Afghanistan and Iraq show, it is easier to get the troops in than to get them out, even if public opinion turns against the mission.

Finally, Americans tend to personalize their conflicts. Almost every target of U.S. intervention in the post–Cold War world has been labeled another Hitler. It is enticing to believe that removing one person from power will fix a problem. This “evil leader” syndrome is one reason why it is so difficult for the United States to fight limited wars: the temptation to “go to Baghdad” rather than make peace with a dictator is strong, and, historically, killing the leader has meant defeating his army. Decapitation by airpower and targeted killing have become popular because they supposedly enable the United States to oust leaders without a ground invasion, thereby obviating the need for a costly war.

What Is Economics Good For?

25STONE-blog427Alex Rosenberg and Tyler Curtain in the NYT's Stone:

Before the 1970s, the discussion of how to make economics a science was left mostly to economists. But like war, which is too important to be left to the generals, economics was too important to be left to the Nobel-winning members of the University of Chicago faculty. Over time, the question of why economics has not (yet) qualified as a science has become an obsession among theorists, including philosophers of science like us.

It’s easy to understand why economics might be mistaken for science. It uses quantitative expression in mathematics and the succinct statement of its theories in axioms and derived “theorems,” so economics looks a lot like the models of science we are familiar with from physics. Its approach to economic outcomes — determined from the choices of a large number of “atomic” individuals — recalls the way atomic theory explains chemical reactions. Economics employs partial differential equations like those in a Black-Scholes account of derivatives markets, equations that look remarkably like ones familiar from physics. The trouble with economics is that it lacks the most important of science’s characteristics — a record of improvement in predictive range and accuracy.

This is what makes economics a subject of special interest among philosophers of science. None of our models of science really fit economics at all.

The irony is that for a long time economists announced a semiofficial allegiance to Karl Popper’s demand for falsifiability as the litmus test for science, and adopted Milton Friedman’s thesis that the only thing that mattered in science was predictive power. Mr. Friedman was reacting to a criticism made by Marxist economists and historical economists that mathematical economics was useless because it made so many idealized assumptions about economic processes: perfect rationality, infinite divisibility of commodities, constant returns to scale, complete information, no price setting.

The Obesity Era


David Berreby in Aeon Magazine:

[T]he scientists who study the biochemistry of fat and the epidemiologists who track weight trends are not nearly as unanimous as Bloomberg makes out. In fact, many researchers believe that personal gluttony and laziness cannot be the entire explanation for humanity’s global weight gain. Which means, of course, that they think at least some of the official focus on personal conduct is a waste of time and money. As Richard L Atkinson, Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Wisconsin and editor of the International Journal of Obesity, put it in 2005: ‘The previous belief of many lay people and health professionals that obesity is simply the result of a lack of willpower and an inability to discipline eating habits is no longer defensible.’

Consider, for example, this troublesome fact, reported in 2010 by the biostatistician David B Allison and his co-authors at the University of Alabama in Birmingham: over the past 20 years or more, as the American people were getting fatter, so were America’s marmosets. As were laboratory macaques, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys and mice, as well as domestic dogs, domestic cats, and domestic and feral rats from both rural and urban areas. In fact, the researchers examined records on those eight species and found that average weight for every one had increased. The marmosets gained an average of nine per cent per decade. Lab mice gained about 11 per cent per decade. Chimps, for some reason, are doing especially badly: their average body weight had risen 35 per cent per decade. Allison, who had been hearing about an unexplained rise in the average weight of lab animals, was nonetheless surprised by the consistency across so many species. ‘Virtually in every population of animals we looked at, that met our criteria, there was the same upward trend,’ he told me.

It isn’t hard to imagine that people who are eating more themselves are giving more to their spoiled pets, or leaving sweeter, fattier garbage for street cats and rodents. But such results don’t explain why the weight gain is also occurring in species that human beings don’t pamper, such as animals in labs, whose diets are strictly controlled.

slave capitalism


In 1835, at the height of the Southern cotton boom, the master class of the Mississipi Delta region had an attack of its worst phobia: fear of slave rebellion. One slaveholder in the countryside saw some of her slaves acting unusually, seeming defiant, appearing to plot. She began to eavesdrop and overheard one slave fantasize about being “her own mistress.” In another conversation, she caught the word “kill.” Her son squeezed a slave for information and drew out details of a coming insurrection. The masters sounded the alarm: patrols were instituted, investigators fanned out, the countryside came alive with tipsters. Evidence invariably consisted of seeing slaves where they oughtn’t to have been—in the slaveholder phrase, “skulking around.” The suspects gave up under torture, confessing plans for securing arms, robbing banks, butchering masters. As the investigation wore on, the ruling class created an ad hoc executive committee, which generated, piece by piece, its own worst nightmare. Although “circumstantial” is too kind a word for the evidence, and the investigators enjoyed no formal legal status, they nonetheless executed twenty-three suspects without controversy.

more from Gabriel Winant at n+1 here.

The strange patriotism of Iron Maiden


Every night, at the same point in the show, Eddie appears onstage in living, breathing form: a man on stilts in a tricorne hat and tailcoat, who would not look out of place at a Cornish folk parade. “I am hard of hearing,” says Dickinson. “With all due respect, that was such bullshit: scream for me again, London!” He has that brilliant, old-fashioned accent that all rock stars from Mick Jagger to Rod Stewart seem to have – a cheeky, Ealing-comedy London you don’t hear much any more. He was born in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, to a working-class family and was raised by his grandfather, a miner, who died of black lung. By the time he was a teenager, his parents had raised enough money doing up property to send him to Oundle public school, where he became the president of the war games society and handled real firearms – and from which he was later expelled. Britain’s rock stars moved up quickly in the world, fraternised with the titled, bought castles and suits of armour, colonised Mustique and appeared in Tatler’s society pages. They helped usher in the only kind of patriotism with which we are comfortable today: self-mocking, cartoonish, ridiculous, loose.

more from Kate Mossman at The New Statesman here.

von Balthasar chose Goethe


When he was asked by Michael Albus to characterize the difference between his own approach and Karl Rahner’s, Hans Urs von Balthasar famously said, “Rahner has chosen Kant, or if you will, Fichte, the transcendental approach. And I have chosen Goethe, my field being German literature.” For Kant, and the moderns in general, the notion that the unifying center of a thing really does appear in the individual thing was denied. When I see this particular tree, therefore, all I see is the appearance of this particular tree. If any generalizations are to be made about it, they will have to come from the side of the subject. This means that the classical transcendental properties of Being—unity, truth, goodness, and beauty—must no longer be conceived as properties of Being, but as characteristics attributed to Being from the side of universal subjectivity. All postmodernity has to do to achieve nihilism, it would seem, is to deny any universal subjectivity. Postmodernism is not so much an alternative to modernism as its reductio.

more from Rodney Howsare at Front Porch Republic here.

Cancer’s Ordered Disorder

From The New York Times:

BookDr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s authoritative 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning “biography” of cancer, “The Emperor of All Maladies,” ran almost 600 pages. In comparison, George Johnson has written a very small book, barely half that length. That Mr. Johnson’s story is as gripping, illuminating and affecting as the bigger book — or, for that matter, any other book out there — is testament to both his poet’s talents and his unusual perspective. An award-winning science writer, Mr. Johnson was for some years an editor at The New York Times and a contributor to Science Times (where portions of this book eventually appeared). Initially, though, his interests kept him firmly on the physical science side of things, covering particles and planets, a foreign terrain that often seems enviably organized, if a little dry, to those of us in the mushier, less rigorous zones of health. Then came a sad new assignment, self-imposed: Mr. Johnson set out to learn everything he could about cancer when his then-wife received a diagnosis at a relatively young age. So he gamely crossed over from the hard sciences to the soft, Gulliver with a notepad and a recorder. He understood the language well enough, but the customs were surpassing strange.

…Mr. Johnson’s wife, Nancy, was a trim, exercising, vegetable- and fiber-chomping nonsmoker in her early 40s when she felt a lump in her groin. It proved to be a metastasis from a malevolent form of uterine cancer, one whose cells are atypically aggressive and prone to spreading. Her situation and her terrible prognosis reminded Mr. Johnson of nothing more than his New Mexico backyard, with headstrong wildflowers blooming where they choose and intractable weeds exploding by night.

More here.

When in Doubt, Just Question the Motives of Evolutionary Psychology Critics


PZ Myers responds to Jerry Coyne on evolutionary psychology, in Pharyngula:

I detest evolutionary psychology, not because I dislike the answers it gives, but on purely methodological and empirical grounds: it is a grandiose exercise in leaping to conclusions on inadequate evidence, it is built on premises that simply don’t work, and it’s a field that seems to do a very poor job of training and policing its practitioners, so that it primarily serves as a dump for bad research that then supplies tabloids with a feast of garbage science that discredits the rest of us. I’d like to see the evolutionary psychologists who propose that there is a high quality core to their discipline spending more effort ripping into their less savory colleagues than on the indignant sniffing at critics of evolutionary psychology. I’d have more respect for the field if there was more principled internal striving.

There is also a tactic I really dislike; I call it the Dignified Retreat. When criticized, evolutionary psychologists love to run away from their discipline and hide in the safer confines of more solidly founded ideas. Here’s a perfect example:

…the notion that “the fundamental premises of evo psych are false” seems deeply misguided. After all, those premises boil down to this statement: some behaviors of modern humans reflect their evolutionary history. That is palpably uncontroversial, since many of our behaviors are clearly a product of evolution, including eating, avoiding dangers, and the pursuit of sex. And since our bodies reflect their evolutionary history, often in nonadaptive ways (e.g., wisdom teeth, bad backs, the coat of hair we produce as a transitory feature in fetuses), why not our brains, which are, after all, just bits of morphology whose structure affects our behaviors?

You know what? I agree entirely with that. The brain is a material product of evolution, and behavior is a product of the brain. There are natural causes for everything all the way down. And further, I have great respect for psychology, evolutionary biology, ethology, physiology, anthropology, anatomy, comparative biology — and I consider all of those disciplines to have strong integrative ties to evolutionary biology. Does Coyne really believe that I am critiquing the evolved nature of the human brain? Because otherwise, this is a completely irrelevant statement.

Debating Polyamory


First, Laurie Penny in the Guardian:

[n]on-monogamy is stereotyped as a bad deal for women and girls, all of whom actually just want a white wedding, because we women are all the same, simple creatures with simple desires. When abuse happens within polyamorous relationships, outsiders often assume that the non-traditional relationship structure is to blame – but the same assumptions are rarely made when a “traditional” marriage turns violent, despite the fact that the practice historically treated women as property and until recently made it legal for men to rape their wives. For plenty of women, that's reason enough to consider other options.

Of course, polyamory isn't always political. People do it for all sorts of reasons, from grand ethical statements to boredom – managing the drama of multiple relationships is a great way to kill time on a Sunday afternoon. Personally, I started practising non-monogamy in my early 20s as a statement against the tyranny of the heterosexual couple form and the patriarchal nuclear family – but then again, I did a lot of silly things for similar reasons in my early 20s. If you'd asked 21-year-old me why precisely I was hanging half-naked out of a fourth-floor window on Holloway Road, I'd probably also have answered “as a statement against the tyranny of the heterosexual couple form”. Nowadays, from the wise and serious vantage point of my mid-20s, I practice non-monogamy because it works for me. It doesn't work for everyone, and I might not choose it forever.

Julie Bindel responds, also in The Guardian:

Polyamory is the latest subversive and a la mode sexual practice toreceive extensive media coverage. It appeals as a subject for to those interested in alternative lifestyles, but also attracts commentary from some deeply unpleasant folk who have trashed it alongside gay marriage. “What next?” ask the bigoted opponents of equal marriage. “Polygamy and marriage to your brother/cat/hedge trimmer?”

It is neither my business or concern as to how many sexual partners anyone has at any one time, and I genuinely could not care less how folk organise their relationships. But the co-opting and rebranding of polygamy, so that it loses its nasty association with the oppression of the most disadvantaged women, is as irresponsible as suggesting that because some women chose to enter high-end prostitution as a social experiment, all prostitution is radical and harmless.

Caroline Humphrey, a professor of collaborative anthropology at Cambridge University, has argued in favour of the legalisation of polygamy because, according to a number of women in polygamous marriages in Russia, “half a good man is better than none at all”.

The Inca Empire’s Strange Economy

Ku-bigpic (1)

Analee Newitz in io9:

One of the outstanding questions for scientists and historians who study the Incas is why this wealthy, sophisticated culture developed scientifically and culturally without ever inventing markets. One possibility is that life was so difficult to sustain in their environment that all their innovations revolved around agriculture rather than economics. In other words, the Inca Empire was optimized to prevent starvation rather than to foster trade.

A few years ago, a group of archeologists took core samples in Cuzco valley in Peru, and found evidence for thousands of years of agriculture in the area, including animal husbandry, most likely of llamas. In a paper summarizing their findings, archaeologist A.J. Chepstow-Lusty and his team suggested that the Incas focused their technological and cultural institutions around food production and land management, rather than market economies. This may have been necessary in a region where droughts had likely wiped out a previous civilization (the Wari), and where climate fluctuations were a constant hazard. The rise of the Inca Empire coincided with a period of relative climate stability, but the peoples in the area would be well aware that this temperate spell could end at any time…

So how do you become a continent-dominating empire without cash? In the case of the Incas, it's likely that the technologies that granted them agricultural surplus (extra food and textile materials) helped them with their expansive empire-building. Food was their coin; pure labor structured their economy.

“I’m not building my own mausoleum”: A Conversation with Marina Abramović

by Justin E. H. Smith

ScreenHunter_287 Aug. 25 10.48

Marina Abramović (with the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art she recieved in 2008) at the screening of Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present during the Vienna International Film Festival 2012, Gartenbaukino. [Image from Wikipedia.]


Marina Abramović is seeking to found an institute that will bear her name, in the Hudson Valley, which was formed by the retreat of the glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age. She has been on a publicity campaign recently to promote the project, including most importantly a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Please click the link and donate, it ends soon!

On the phone last week (she at a fine hotel in Oslo, I at the Ibis in Bucharest), I asked Abramović about the possible difficulty of carrying over her well-known conception of the performer-audience relation –namely, that in performance art it is precisely this relation that constitutes the work itself, that makes the work happen– into an institution that bears her name, where she is no longer a person standing in one-to-one relations with the members of her audience, but rather, now, a name etched in stone: a person who becomes a building that becomes a monument to the idea of the mere person she once was.

“The institute is not actually related to my work,” she explains. “It's built on experience from my work, and my life.” Abramović hopes that by this distinction the institute will remain centered on experience rather than monumentality. “I like, really, ‘institute' because it's really not ‘foundation'. Most of the artists make foundations, and foundation is something that you actually leave after you die.”

It seems, here, we're getting to the heart of the matter: a foundation is a mausoleum to a person who did something at one time, but of whom the Romans would say, vixit: the perfective form of the past tense of ‘to live', conveying with understatement that by now all the living has been done. Foundations are for artists who can only figure out a way to have lived; Abramović thinks she has found a way to continue to live.

She happily acknowledges that her project is ‘utopian', and that most utopian projects fail. Hers will avoid failure, she thinks, because in giving her own name to the institute she is quickening it with the “symbol of that kind of vitality, that, you know, ego is not standing in front of it, everything is happening in it that's possible, and I'm open to that.”

“But isn't that placing a big bet on your name,” I ask her at this point, “that it will always be associated with vitality?” Abramović is unconcerned. She has a strategy, based in large part on the cultivation of a younger generation of successors. “I… have the very big respect and adoration of young people and the young public,” she explains.

In pursuit of her strategy, Abramović has selected a few young, and not-so-young, megacelebrities who, she hopes, will be able to serve as conduits for her vitality. “I just made a workshop with Lady Gaga,” Abramović tells me, “and at the same time, you know, Lady Gaga has 43 million followers on Facebook. This is a generation of kids from six years old, and these kids now are looking into performance art because Lady Gaga did it, and they are my future followers.” The idea is that after her brush with Abramovic, Gaga is no longer only doing whatever variety of popular entertainment she had being doing before, but rather, now, something more elevated: performance art. Performance art, on this understanding, is stuff famous people do, plus the approval of Marina Abramović.

I personally can think of few things more tedious than to get individually rapped at by Jay-Z, to mention another member of Abramović's retinue, while being expected to make that somber art-appreciation face the whole time. The Black Album is a masterpiece and the artist behind it deserves his place in our cultural canon, but the faces it causes us to make –even if these are the faces of dorky white guys borrowing a bit of phantasmic street cred in the privacy of our own cars and bedrooms– are different from the ones we have learned we are supposed to make at MoMA. This is a social fact, and Abramović's christening can do little to change it.

One danger in Abramović's investment strategy is of course that a grown-up, even a genre-defining performance-artist grown-up, might not be in the best position to predict long-term trends in youth culture. Lady Gaga, for example, might turn out, as I suggested to Abramović, “to be less of a transmitter of the sort of vision of art and creativity that you're hoping than it had seemed earlier on.”

“What do you mean, 'early on'?”

“Well, than it would seem in the present.”

“No, I think she's in a perfect place,” Abramović insists, “because, you know, she came to the museum in MoMA to look at my work, and because she was there all the young kids around her did the same, she left, but the kids stayed, and now they're my public… I have this huge amount of people Googling and asking what is performance art now.”

I'm still not sure I understand by what secret Verwandlung a performing artist becomes a performance artist. This is not the transfiguration of the commonplace, to invoke Arthur Danto's helpful term for ready-mades. This is the diversification of the celebrity portfolio, which only works because the celebrity was already elevated, glimmering, not at all commonplace, prior to receiving the Abramović stamp. Jay-Z is no Campbell's soup can.

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Ah-Choo! A Four Part Discourse on the Artlessness of Sneezing

by Akim Reinhardt

Photo credit University South FloridaI. A Sneeze for All Seasons
II. God Bless You
III. The Poetry of Sneezing
IV. Sneeze vs. Cough

Sternuisso ergo sum. I sneeze, therefore I am.

It defines me. It is at the core of my very existence. It is hell on Earth.

I. A Sneeze for All Seasons

Most people associate sneezing with a particular season, usually spring. For me, however, sneezing is hardly relegated to any quarter of the year. To the contrary, those respiratory convulsions afflict me all the year long. Spring is merely a furious crescendo of snot and burst blood vessels, with all the other seasons taking note and following suit to a lesser degree.

Summer. This would most likely be my annual respite from sneezing if not for my fellow Americans' horrid fetish for artificial environments. Once you move south of the upper Great Lakes or northern New England, air conditioning is King. Indeed, I now believe most people are pathetically weak, shrinking and wailing in the face of an 85F degree day (nearing 30C) as if Satan had finally triumphed and unleashed Hell's searing fireballs upon us.

In particular I look gravely askance upon those who set their thermostat at 72 in Winter and 68 in Summer. There really is no pleasing them, and their convoluted, soulless lives are so far removed from the of beauty of this world that I hope Mother Earth rejects them in the end, spitting their bones back out after they're buried.

My burning hatred for A/C is multi-faceted. To offer just a few complaints, it gives me a headache, it makes my face numb, it dries my natural perspiration into a fetid crust, and in any event, I'm a skinny fuck who prefers to be warm and adjusts easily to summer, even muggy ones here along the Chesapeake Bay.

But back to the point. Air conditioning sometimes induces sneezing fits. Probably not, Lord help me, if I'm just sitting in some vapid air conditioned box all day, breathing particulate matter and contemplating the finer points of a nuclear holocaust. But if I'm in and out of air conditioning on a hot day, perhaps doing some shopping, moving from natural warmth and humidity to the artificially dry and cool, and back again, a sneezing fit can descend upon me rather suddenly.

As best I can tell, it results from the ping pong of fluids loosening and tightening in my head. Much like muscles, my sinuses seem loose and relaxed on a warm day. Walking into some frigid little hell hole instantly tightens everything up. I leave, and everything is loose again, perhaps so loose that it demands instant expunging. The mucus, previously calm and unmolested, now descends in a torrent, accompanied by an onslaught of staccato explosions.

Man, that sucks.

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Walking Past the White House: Contractual Arrangements

by Maniza Naqvi

MLKThe 50th anniversary of Dr. King's civil rights march on Washington is to be celebrated this week. The bullet points in the news are that Bradley Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking military documents and the White House hasn't stopped its military aid of US$1.3 billion to Egypt despite the military take over there and the killing of over one thousand citizens. Trouble is the poor White House is in a bind. Egypt doesn't need the weapons—it seems, it's the American contractors who do. US weapons contractors need the contracts for those weapons. If this aid is stopped, then the poor Pentagon Procurement office will be stuck in litigations for reneging on contracts and US weapons firms will suffer—Who knows which firms are involved and which senator in which State will be held accountable come election time. Fixing elections by changing voting rights might not be insurance enough. Civil liberties must take a back seat to commerce. You can't eat civil liberties. And elections aren't about civil liberties!

As I walk towards the statue of Lafayette on the Southwest corner of the park, I pass by the brick building which is on the blocked off street adjacent to the park on its eastern side and called Madison Place. I can see through to the courtyard, the wrought iron gates are open—a fountain gurgles in the courtyard—it is the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (here). This court, set up in 1982 during Reagan's reign, deals with litigation and appeals on money matters related to veterans claims, patents, intellectual property, tax, and international contracts. Interesting, that this should be the appeals court in such a prime location nestled so near the White House. I hesitate at the sight of the K-9 unit and Security but then I cross the street, go up the stairs and into the courtyard. There are windows of offices on three floors, which look down onto the courtyard, what a lovely setting this is, idyllic almost, with a shaded walk way to the side with tables and chairs: a quiet serene nook where perhaps anyone could come and sit and write, or have lunch.There's a certain whiff of southern sensibility here, a nod to Charleston, perhaps? This garden, the sound of the water gurgling–this discovery, the lack of time that I have to stay—make it familiar and even more special. How peaceful it is here.

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Bin Laden Won: No Man Has Changed America More For The Worse

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

ImagesBefore Bin Laden did 9/11, America had a kind of reputation as a moral leader of the world: the bastion of freedom. We had faced down the Soviet Empire, and when it fell apart, there was only one hegemon left: us.

Our system had prevailed. In the end, we had won the Cold War. Communism had been defeated. Even China turned to capitalism. We had been right all along. And with our insistence on freedom and human rights, we were morally respectable (forget for a moment that we were propping up despots everywhere).

Today things look very different. Because of Bin Laden, we got involved in two unnecessary wars, tortured people, and ended up with a hugely expensive surveillance state.

Bin Laden brought fear into our lives, and turned the United States into a parody of Big Brother, spying big-time on its own citizens.

Think of America before 9/11: the world's undisputed and admired leader. Think of America just after 9/11: the world sympathized with us. Even in Iran, where we had installed the torturous regime of the Shah before he was overthrown in 1979, folks held candle-lit vigils for us.

Then think of us a few years later, when the biggest protests in human history took place all over the world against our imminent invasion of Iraq.

Over a million people in Rome marched against our proposed war with Iraq: that's just one example. And were they ever right to protest. Our war of aggression against an innocent nation that was not threatening us in any way, ended up with over 100,000 Iraqis murdered. And the scandals and atrocities of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay brought our moral superiority into disrepute forever. Moreover, the Iraq War became an ideal recruitment tool for Al Qaeda, and multiplied the number of terrorists in the world by the thousands. We ended up creating terrorists instead of diminishing their number.

Of course, Bin Laden also got lucky, because he struck us when two of the biggest idiots serving in government since Caligula appointed his horse as a Roman Senator, were running the country: the mediocre C-student George W. Bush and the eternally paranoid bird-killer Dick Cheney. If Al Gore had been president during and after 9/11, we certainly would not have started a war with Iraq, and might have made a deal with Afghanistan's Taliban for them to hand over Bin Laden, as they were apparently prepared to do, except that Bush/Cheney were so bent on war, they were in no mood to make a deal with the Taliban, even though they used to make deals with the Taliban before 9/11.

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The Sound of the Wind (秋思)

by Leanne Ogasawara

Le thanh son --treesAccording to my Japanese almanacs, of the four seasons, it is autumn alone which is heard before it is seen.

This can happen after a windless, blisteringly hot Japanese summer, when autumn arrives around the end of August. Ever so slight, it makes itself known by the sound of the stirring of the leaves in the trees–for autumn arrives carried by the wind.



Nothing meets the eye
to demonstrate beyond a doubt
that autumn has come–
yet suddenly we are struck
just by the sound of the wind
— Fujiwara Toshiyuki no Ason

The great Sei Shonagon also reminds us to stop and listen:


“In autumn the evenings, when the glittering sun sinks close to the edge of the hills and the crows fly back to their nests in threes and fours and twos; more charming still is a file of wild geese, like specks in the distant sky. When the sun has set, one’s heart is moved by the sound of the wind and the hum of the insects

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The Million Speak

by Joy Icayan

Luneta 1

It’s a rainy morning in Manila, where sixty thousand people have converged in Luneta Park to protest against the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), regular allocations to legislators amounting to millions in pesos. The protest, dubbed the Million People March is happening around the country with key rallies in all three major islands. It has materialized following a series of events. Whistleblowers surfaced two months ago accusing a certain Janet Napoles of spearheading the transfer of PDAF money (amounting to P10 billion pesos) over the course of many years towards fake NGOs and fake projects. A friend of Janet Napoles’ daughter leaked pictures of her Instagram account showcasing her lavish lifestyle: luxury cars, bags, shopping trips. Then just a week ago, the country was besieged by monsoon rains which caused intense flooding in the metro and nearby provinces. As always when this happens, residents blamed politicians for lack of flood control mechanisms. But this time, the anger had a new dimension to it – corruption, through the misuse of taxpayers’ money (PDAF) or more commonly called pork barrel, had been allocated not for public projects but to support the lives of the few rich.

Perhaps like any colonialized developing country, the Philippines’ history has been one of protests. From the Spanish colonization, to the American and the Japanese to the protests against our own governments, protests took on a form of slow quiet simmering before finally coming to the fore. During the declaration of Martial Law and its human rights violations, activists trooped to the streets, denouncing the government. The deaths and disappearances of many activists silenced many. It was the death of popular opposition leader Benigno Aquino that rallied everyone to go to EDSA to remove the current dictator in what would be termed People Power 1. They harnessed the same People Power to remove President Joseph Estrada, accused of plunder in 2001.

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