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Jeff Cox: Does Matter Emerge From Consciousness? …

 

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From Jeff Cox

Current thinking about consciousness has it that when matter becomes arranged with enough complexity, consciousness can emerge. As atoms make molecules and molecules participate in life, then brains form and evince consciousness.

It’s my contention that it’s the other way around. That consciousness is the basic ground of reality from which matter emerges.

Consider that consciousness enables experience. Without consciousness, nothing can be experienced. Without experience, there is no perception of space or time because space and time exist within the experience of a being. But, some might argue, space, time, and matter might exist before there’s a mechanism (i.e., a mind) to perceive them. I’d argue that their existence isn’t possible unless and until there is consciousness to perceive them, so consciousness must therefore precede materialization. Without the idea of space, time, and matter first, they can’t materialize on their own.

So, endowed with consciousness, what do we experience? Matter, fundamentally. We feel the cool breeze, the icy water, the hard rock, the clacking keyboards of our computers, the sense of movement through space and time as we drive our cars.

Sam Harris: The Mystery of Consciousness…

 

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From Sam Harris

You are not aware of the electrochemical events occurring at each of the trillion synapses in your brain at this moment. But you are aware, however dimly, of sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts, and moods. At the level of your experience, you are not a body of cells, organelles, and atoms; you are consciousness and its ever-changing contents, passing through various stages of wakefulness and sleep, and from cradle to grave.

The term “consciousness” is notoriously difficult to define. Consequently, many a debate about its character has been waged without the participants’ finding even a common topic as common ground. By “consciousness,” I mean simply “sentience,” in the most unadorned sense. To use the philosopher Thomas Nagel’s construction: A creature is conscious if there is “something that it is like” to be this creature; an event is consciously perceived if there is “something that it is like” to perceive it. ⁠Whatever else consciousness may or may not be in physical terms, the difference between it and unconsciousness is first and foremost a matter of subjective experience. Either the lights are on, or they are not.

To say that a creature is conscious, therefore, is not to say anything about its behavior; no screams need be heard, or wincing seen, for a person to be in pain. Behavior and verbal report are fully separable from the fact of consciousness: We can find examples of both without consciousness (a primitive robot) and consciousness without either (a person suffering “locked-in syndrome”).

The Soul of an Octopus: How One of Earth’s Most Alien Creatures Illuminates the Wonders of Consciousness…

 

The Soul of an Octopus: How One of Earth’s Most Alien Creatures Illuminates the Wonders of Consciousness

From Brain Pickings

“While stroking an octopus, it is easy to fall into reverie. To share such a moment of deep tranquility with another being, especially one as different from us as the octopus, is a humbling privilege… an uplink to universal consciousness.”

“Despite centuries of investigation by everyone from natural historians, psychologists, and psychiatrists, to ethicists, neuroscientists, and philosophers, there is still no universal definition of emotion or consciousness,” Laurel Braitman wrote in her terrific exploration of the mental lives of animals. Virginia Woolf defined consciousness as “a wave in the mind,” but even if we’re able to ride the wave, we hardly know the ocean out of which it arises.

During my annual visit to NPR’s Science Friday to discuss my choices for the year’s best science books, my co-guest — science writer extraordinaire Deborah Blum — mentioned a fascinating book that had slipped my readerly tentacles, one that addresses this abiding question of consciousness with unparalleled rigor and grace: The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness (public library) by naturalist, writer, and documentary filmmaker Sy Montgomery.

Montgomery begins with a seemingly simple premise. The octopus is a creature magnificently dissimilar to us — it can change shape and color, tastes with its skin, has its mouth in its armpit, and is capable of squeezing its entire body through a hole the size of an apple. And since we humans experience reality in profoundly different ways from one another, based on our individual consciousnesses, then the octopus must be inhabiting an altogether different version of what we call reality.

American Aggression Against China…

 

South China Sea crisis

A World Crisis Looms

From 4thMedia

The American aggression against China continued Tuesday May 10th with the invasion of Chinese waters just off the Spratly Islands by an American destroyer as China’s limited stock of patience continues to run out.

By sending their ships into Chinese territorial waters on the bizarre claim that they are exercising “their right of innocent passage” and that, the “United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” they are in fact claiming the right to go anywhere they want, anytime they want.

They might as well claim the right to once again send gunboats up the Yangtze River bristling with guns and marines, for their passage through Chinese waters was not only illegal, because without permission; it was also certainly not “innocent” since the passage was meant to be a display of power and control, which is prohibited by the Law of the Sea Convention.

The American claim of following international law is absurd because international law requires that a naval vessel of one county wishing to enter the 12 nautical mile limit of another country must have the permission of the country whose waters they wish to cross. They have to ask permission and they have to fly that country’s flag when they make the passage.

All foreign ships entering another nation’s waters fly their own flag and that of the host nation. The Americans refuse to ask permission and they certainly do not honour the custom of flying the Chinese flag. They might as well send their ambassador to a meeting with President Xi and, in front of everyone, spit in his face. For that is what they intend, to insult China, and to dare it.

Today’s Republican Party is a Candidate for Most Dangerous Organization in Human History…

 


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How to Socialize America’s Energy…

 

The most famous attempt at municipalization has been in Boulder, Colorado. Above, a solar farm under construction there in 2009. Photo by Let Ideas Compete via Flickr. 

 

From Dissent

To hear Lyndon Rive tell it, there is a war brewing between the private-sector innovators building the clean energy economy and the utility bureaucrats standing in its way. Rive is the cofounder and CEO of SolarCity, one of the country’s largest solar providers. In late December, the company came under sudden assault from Nevada regulators when the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously passed a law allowing it to raise the monthly fees charged to solar panel owners by 40 percent. The measure also reduced the amount customers could be paid for excess electricity they sell back to the state’s energy grid. PUC staffers say the move was a defense against an existential threat posed by private solar to the traditional utility model. If solar customers could take advantage of utility grids without paying for it, who would pay for upkeep on power lines and generators? Homeowners installing solar panels on their roofs, generating their own electricity, and selling the excess back to the utility at a profit, the PUC argued, were leading into a “death spiral.”

Solar companies saw the move in life-and-death terms, too. SolarCity retaliated against the PUC’s decision by announcing that it would withdraw from Nevada entirely, laying off 550 staff in the process. Another major solar company, Sunrun Inc., followed suit, cutting hundreds of jobs statewide. The PUC’s decision, SolarCity’s Rive warned Fortune, would “damage the state’s economy, and jeopardize thousands of jobs.” Similarly, he told ThinkProgress, “These jobs can be lost if you have a person [read: regulator] who doesn’t look at the future and only looks at supporting the monopolies of the utilities.”

550 Million Years of Human Evolution in a Flipbook…

 

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Amy Schumer: The Gun Show…

 


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All Of A Sudden, Fish Are Dying By The Millions All Over The Planet…

 

From Michael Snyder

Why are millions upon millions of dead sea creatures suddenly washing up on beaches all over the world?  It is certainly not unusual for fish and other inhabitants of our oceans to die.  This happens all the time.  But over the past month we have seen a series of extremely alarming mass death incidents all over the planet.  As you will see below, many of these mass death incidents have involved more than 30 tons of fish.  In places such as Chile and Vietnam, it has already gotten to the level where it has started to become a major national crisis.  People see their coastlines absolutely buried in dead sea creatures, and they are starting to freak out.

For example, just check out what is going on in Chile right now.  The following comes from a Smithsonian Magazine article entitled “Why Are Chilean Beaches Covered With Dead Animals?“…

I Ain’t Afraid…

 

Chorus
I ain’t afraid of your Yahweh
I ain’t afraid of your Allah
I ain’t afraid of your Jesus
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your god

I ain’t afraid of your churches
I ain’t afraid of your temples
I ain’t afraid of your praying
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your god

Verse
Rise up to your higher power
Free up from fear, it will devour you
Watch out for the ego of the hour
The ones who say they know it
Are the ones who will impose it on you

The Little-Known Farmworkers Who Sparked the Biggest Labor Movement in U.S. History…

 

Mural in old town Delano, California.  All photos by Alexa Strabuk.

From YES!

There would be no Cesar Chavez without the Filipino manongs of Delano, California, whose decision to strike set off the most significant labor movement the United States has ever seen.

On a dusty Thursday evening, a couple hundred yards across the railroad tracks from old town Delano, California, Roger Gadiano ambles out of his one-story house to conduct his usual tour.

The gray-haired Filipino man grew up in Delano and can tell you not only his own story but also the story of a small, seemingly prosaic agricultural town. He hops into his aging pickup and points out passing landmarks that any outsider might consider bleak and forgotten: a rundown grocery store, a vacant lot, the second story of an old motel.

Gadiano is one of the few Delano residents left who remember the town’s true history.To Gadiano, these places are anything but forgotten.

One of the stops on his tour is a graveyard, where he walks to a headstone in the middle of the grounds. This, he proudly declares, is where his old cigar buddy, Filipino labor leader Larry Itliong, is buried.

Saints of Science and Reason…

 

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From Saints of Science and Reason

Christian Crock: Homegrown Christian Terrorism…

 


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Mark Twain: What is Man? — Complete 27,000 Word Essay…

 

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[From Wikipedia

“What Is Man?”, published by Mark Twain in 1906, is a dialogue between a Young Man and an Old Man regarding the nature of man. The title refers to Psalm 8:4, which begins “what is man, that you are mindful of him…”.

It involves ideas of destiny and free will, as well as of psychological egoism. The Old Man asserts that the human being is merely a machine, and nothing more, driven by the singular purpose to satisfy his own desires and achieve peace of mind. The Young Man objects, and asks him to go into particulars and furnish his reasons for his position.

The work appears to be a genuine and earnest debate of his opinions about human nature, rather than satirical. Twain held views similar to that of the Old Man prior to writing “What is Man?”. However, he seems to have varied in his opinions of human freedom.

It was published anonymously in 1906 and received such little attention Twain claimed to have regretted its publication. After his death in 1910, the New-York Tribune published a feature on it. Criticism at that time focused on its dark and antireligious nature.

Isaac Asimov apparently had in mind this story when he wrote “… That Thou Art Mindful of Him”, since Asimov’s title is from the same Bible verse, and two of Asimov’s robots debate the same subject.]

Bill Moyers: The End Game For Democracy…

 

BILL MOYERS: We are so close to losing our democracy to the mercenary class, it’s as if we are leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon and all that’s needed is a swift kick in the pants. Look out below.

The predators in Washington are only this far from monopoly control of our government. They have bought the political system, lock, stock and pork barrel, making change from within impossible. That’s the real joke.

Sometimes I long for the wit of a Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. They treat this town as burlesque, and with satire and parody show it the disrespect it deserves. We laugh, and punch each other on the arm, and tweet that the rascals got their just dessert. Still, the last laugh always seems to go to the boldface names that populate this town. To them belong the spoils of a looted city. They get the tax breaks, the loopholes, the contracts, the payoffs.

They fix the system so multimillionaire hedge fund managers and private equity tycoons pay less of a tax rate on their income than school teachers, police and fire fighters, secretaries and janitors. They give subsidies to rich corporate farms and cut food stamps for working people facing hunger. They remove oversight of the wall street casinos, bail out the bankers who torpedo the economy, fight the modest reforms of Dodd-Frank, prolong tax havens for multinationals, and stick it to consumers while rewarding corporations.

The Zombie Doctrine…

 

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From George Monbiot

Crisis after crisis is being caused by a failed ideology. But it cannot be stopped without a coherent alternative.

It’s as if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007-8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Feel The Bern…

 

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Cool Little Music Video…

 


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The Continuing Democratic Fight Against Oligarchy…

 

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From Thom Hartmann

On Sunday, thousands of activists from around the country arrived right here in Washington, D.C. after a 10-day-long, 140 mile march from Philadelphia.

The marchers are part of a movement called Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening, and today they staged a sit-in at the Capitol Building. They plan on camping out there through the end of the week.

All of this is part of a massive, non-violent campaign to save our democracy from oligarchy.

Democracy Spring activists are calling on Congress to take action right now on a group of different bills that would take money out of politics once-and-for-all.

The End of Ordinary Politics…

 

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From John Michael Greer

[…] a few journalists have managed to get past the usual crass stereotypes, and talk about the actual reasons why so many voters have decided to back Donald Trump’s aspirations this year. I was startled to see a thoughtful article by Peggy Noonan along those lines in the Wall Street Journal, and even more astonished to see pieces making similar points in other media outlets—here’s an example,and here’s another.

Mind you, none of the articles that I saw quite managed to grapple with the raw reality of the situation that’s driving so many wage-earning Americans to place their last remaining hopes for the future on Donald Trump. Even Noonan’s piece, though it’s better than most and makes an important point we’ll examine later, falls short.  In her analysis, what’s wrong is that a privileged subset of Americans have been protected from the impacts of the last few decades of public policy, while the rest of us haven’t had that luxury.  This is true, of course, but it considerably understates things. The class she’s talking about—the more affluent half or so of the salary class, to use the taxonomy I suggested in my post—hasn’t simply been protected from the troubles affecting other Americans.  They’ve profited, directly and indirectly, from the policies that have plunged much of the wage class into impoverishment and misery, and their reliable response to any attempt to discuss that awkward detail shows tolerably clearly that a good many of them are well aware of it.

I’m thinking here, among many other examples along the same lines, of a revealing article earlier this year from a reporter who attended a feminist conference on sexism in the workplace. All the talk there was about how women in the salary class could improve their own prospects for promotion and the like. It so happened that the reporter’s sister works in a wage-class job, and she quite sensibly inquired whether the conference might spare a little time to discuss ways to improve prospects for women who don’t happen to belong to the salary class. Those of my readers who have seen discussions of this kind know exactly what happened next: a bit of visible discomfort, a few vaguely approving comments, and then a resumption of the previous subjects as though no one had made so embarrassing a suggestion. 

Fukushima — Nuclear Engineer: Alarm bells are going off over Fukushima plume coming to US West Coast. We’ve contaminated the biggest source of water on planet, and there’s no way to stop it…

 

 

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen on Fukushima@5, Mar 7, 2016 (emphasis added): Massive amounts of radiation continue to enter Japan’s water and air, and the Pacific Ocean, daily… Due to its triple meltdowns and the unmitigable radioactive releases, Fukushima Daiichi will continue to bleed radiation into the Pacific Ocean for more than a century… There is no road map to follow with directions to stop the ongoing debacle…

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen on KPFA, Mar 30, 2016: [Univ. of California] Berkeley’s nuclear program has been in the forefront of the pro-nuclear propaganda for decades, and since Fukushima has been aggressively downplaying the significance of it. So, whatever comes out of Berkeley, I just attribute to a very pro-nuclear faculty… [Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is] measuring 1,000 miles offshore [of the US West Coast] and… picking up 10 becquerels per cubic meter [Bq/m3]. At my point, that’s when my alarm bells go off is 10 [Bq/m3]… That plume is still coming, the Pacific is a huge place and to think that a disaster on the opposite side of the world can be detected and begin to contaminate California, I think that the monumental shattering conclusion [is] radiation knows no borders… So this ‘dilution is the solution to pollution’ is what I think Berkeley believes in. What you can be sure of is that somebody’s going to die from the radiation that’s in the Pacific, but you just won’t know who it is – and they’re counting on that. The nuclear establishment is saying, ‘Well, we can smear that out in a broader epidemiological study.’

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen on CCTV, Apr 5, 2016: We’re looking at newspaper coverage from the last couple of weeks and it’s clear that the plant continues to hemorrhage.

Fairewinds Japan Speaking Tour Series No. 1, Feb 12, 2016:

  • Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen: [T]he Fukushima power plants… continues to bleed into the Pacific every day. But what no one is paying any attention to is that the entire mountain range that runs 100 miles up and down this coast is also contaminated. And as much radiation is pouring out… into the Pacific from the mountain range because it’s so contaminated, as from the Fukushima site… in fact, they’ve got an entire state pouring radiation into the Pacific. So what’s in the Pacific? Off of California, they’re finding radiation at what I would consider significant levels… in a cubic meter of ocean water, they’re finding 10 radioactive decays every second… So a cubic meter of water, if you’re in a dark room, would have 10 flashes of light every second, and that’s going to go on for 300 years. So we have contaminated the biggest source of water on the planet, and there’s no way to stop it.
  • Maggie Gundersen, founder of Fairewinds: So are you saying that the contaminated water problem is hopeless? Is there nothing we can do to slow it down?
  • Arnie Gundersen: It used to be that scientists believed dilution is the solution to pollution. But I think we’re finding with the biggest body of water on the planet, that you can’t dilute this stuff. And we’re going to begin to see this bio-accumulation, which is all the fish that are in the ocean are going to uptake the cesium and the strontium and become more and more and more radioactive
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The Art of Living: The Great Humanistic Philosopher Erich Fromm on Having vs. Being and How to Set Ourselves Free from the Chains of Our Culture…

 

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“The full humanization of man requires the breakthrough from the possession-centered to the activity-centered orientation, from selfishness and egotism to solidarity and altruism.”

A pioneer of what he called “radical-humanistic psychoanalysis,” the great German social psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900–March 18, 1980) was one of the most luminous minds of the twentieth century and a fountain of salve for the most abiding struggles of being human.

In the mid-1970s, twenty years after his influential treatise on the art of loving and four decades after legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead turned to him for difficult advice, Fromm became interested in the most basic, most challenging art of human life — the art of being. At the height of a new era that had begun prioritizing products over people and consumption over creativity, Fromm penned a short, potent book titled To Have or To Be? — an inquiry into how the great promise of progress, seeded by the Industrial Revolution, failed us in our most elemental search for meaning and well-being. But the question proved far too complex to tackle in a single volume, so Fromm left out a significant portion of his manuscript.

Those pages, in many ways even richer and more insightful than the original book, were later published as The Art of Being (public library) — a sort of field guide, all the timelier today, to how we can shift from the having mode of existence, which is systematically syphoning our happiness, to a being mode.

Fromm frames the inquiry:

Cuba’s sustainable agriculture at risk in U.S. thaw…

 

xxOrganic farm, Alamar,  Cuba. Melanie Lukesh Reed/Flickr

From Resilience

President Obama’s trip to Cuba last week accelerated the warming of U.S.-Cuban relations. Many people in both countries believe that normalizing relations will spur investment that can help Cuba develop its economy and improve life for its citizens.

But in agriculture, U.S. investment could cause harm instead.

For the past 35 years I have studied agroecology in most countries in Central and South America. Agroecology is an approach to farming that developed in the late 1970s in Latin America as a reaction against the top-down, technology-intensive and environmentally destructive strategy that characterizes modern industrial agriculture. It encourages local production by small-scale farmers, using sustainable strategies and combining Western knowledge with traditional expertise.

Cuba took this approach out of necessity when its economic partner, the Soviet bloc, dissolved in the early 1990s. As a result, Cuban farming has become a leading example of ecological agriculture.

But if relations with U.S. agribusiness companies are not managed carefully, Cuba could revert to an industrial approach that relies on mechanization, transgenic crops and agrochemicals, rolling back the revolutionary gains that its campesinos have achieved.

The shift to peasant agroecology

Why is Trump so popular? Visiting the south gave one writer some clues…

 

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From The Guardian

In his new book, Deep South, Paul Theroux explores the depressed pockets of America that, he says, have incubated an anger and despair fueling Trump’s rise

Why is Donald Trump popular? Travelling around America’s south for his most recent book Deep South, the writer Paul Theroux got some ideas. “It’s the gun show guys,” he says, sitting in his Hawaii home. “Virtually everything Donald Trump says, you can find on a gun show bumper sticker. Anti-Obama stuff, anti-Muslim stuff, anti-Mexican stuff, anti-immigrant stuff.”

The 74-year-old warms to his theme. “Gun shows are about hating and distrusting the government … people who have been oppressed by a bad economy, by outsourcing. They have a lot of legitimate grievances and a lot of imagined grievances. There is this paranoid notion that Washington is trying to take their guns away, take their manhood away, take this symbol of independence away. They feel defeated. They hate the Republican party, too. They feel very isolated.”

Theroux reflects on Trumpmania dominating the Republican primaries and caucuses. “It’s a whole undercurrent of feeling that runs all the way through the United States. The mood I saw in southern gun shows seems to resonate even with educated, white-collar, Massachusetts Republican voters. Because Trump won my state of Massachusetts, he won a fairly sizable majority.”

The writer witnessed the striking economic and cultural impact of outsourcing in southern towns such as Alabama’s Greensboro and Allendale. He sharply evokes Flowers Lane’s hovels and trailers, writing: “The heat made it all the smellier, as of roasted flatulence. It was the smell of poverty, a stink that no one, not even someone in the submerged 20th, could get used to.”

Theroux emphasises that 20% of southerners, black and white, below the poverty line need help. “Manufacturing has been outsourced. Their jobs have been taken away, so there’s nothing for them to do. They sit crowded together in their shack and watch a jumbly picture on a TV set. It’s very distressing.

“You don’t see that in many other countries. The level of poverty, and the level of despair, too. Of people thinking, ‘Nothing’s ever going to happen to me. I will never go to college, I will never get healthcare’.”

The root causes of terrorism and what we can do about it…

 

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From John Pilger

From Pol Pot to ISIS: The blood never dried
16 November 2015

In transmitting President Richard Nixon’s orders for a “massive” bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, “Anything that flies and everything that moves”. As Barack Obama wages his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and Francois Hollande promises a “merciless” attack on the rubble of Syria, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty.

As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery – including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields – I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again. A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.

Thank you, President Bush…

 

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