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Archive for June, 2011

Chris Hedges mentions in his book American Fascists that Biblical passages were used to support slavery in the antebellum American South, so the Christian support for racism against blacks in America is without any question.  I found this passage enlightening for the conditions of racism I have observed myself in America, from Vidal’s essay “Monotheism and its Discontents” from 1992:

Although many of the Christian evangelists feel it necessary to convert everyone to their primitive religion, they have been prevented–so far–from forcing others to worship as they do, but they have forced–most tyrannically and wickedly–their superstitions and hatreds upon all of us through the civil law and through general prohibitions.  So it is upon that account that I favor an all-out war on the monotheists.

Let us dwell on the evils they have wrought.  The hatred of blacks comes straight from the Bad Book.  As descendents of Ham (according to the redneck divines), blacks are forever accursed, while Saint Paul tells the slaves to obey their masters.  Racism is in the marrow of the bone of the true believer.  For him, black is forever inferior to white and deserves whatever ill fortune may come his way.  The fact that some monotheists behave charitably means, often, that their prejudice is at so deep a level that they are not aware that it is there at all.  In the end, this makes any radical change of attitude impossible.  Meanwhile, welfare has been the price sky-godders were willing to pay to exclude blacks from their earthly political system.  So we must live–presumably forever–with a highly enervating race war, set in train by the One God and his many hatreds.

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The official United Nations definition of ethnic cleansing is “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove from a given area persons of another ethnic or religious group.”  One of the most recent episodes of ethnic cleansing, the elimination of a population from a “homeland” in order to create a more secure and ethnically homogeneous population, is from the Bosnian War of 1992-5 where large numbers of Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats were expelled by Bosnian Serbs.  Terry Martin has defined ethnic cleansing as “the forcible removal of an ethnically defined population from a given territory” and as “occupying the central part of a continuum between genocide on one end and nonviolent pressured ethnic emigration on the other end.”

There is a gigantic lacuna of knowledge by the public about the events surrounding the 1948 creation of Israel that is purposefully kept hidden for political purposes, and that is the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.  The prominent Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has written a book on this topic, entitled “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” for which he had been condemned at the Israeli parliament, and for which the Israeli minister of education called publicly for him to be sacked, and for which he has received many death threats.  This is because he has challenged the nationalist mythology of the founding of Israel by revealing how ethnic cleansing of Palestinians has been a deliberate and continuing policy for the Zionist leadership of Israel.

I will pull out some key points from this review of Pappe’s book.  During the British Mandate period between 1920 and 1948 the main Zionist paramilitary force was the Hagana.  David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, met with leading Zionists and young Jewish military officers on March 10, 1948 to finalize plans to ethnically cleanse Palestine that unfolded in the months that followed including “large-scale (deadly serious)intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding villages and population centres; setting fire to homes, properties and goods; expulsion; demolition; and finally, planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning.”

The final master plan was called Plan D (Dalet in Hebrew) following plans A, B, and C preceding it. It was to be a war without mercy complying with what Ben-Gurion said in June, 1938 to the Jewish Agency Executive and never wavering from later: “I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it.” Plan D became the way to do it. It included forcible expulsion of hundreds of thousands of unwanted Palestinian Arabs in urban and rural areas accompanied by an unknown number of others mass slaughtered to get it done. The goal was simple and straightforward – to create an exclusive Jewish state without an Arab presence by any means including mass-murder.

Once begun, the whole ugly business took six months to complete. It expelled about 800,000 people, killed many others, and destroyed 531 villages and 11 urban neighborhoods in cities like Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. The action was a clear case of ethnic cleansing that international law today calls a crime against humanity for which convicted Nazis at Nuremberg were hanged. So far Israelis have always remained immune from international law even though names of guilty leaders and those charged with implementing their orders are known as well as the crimes they committed.

They included cold-blooded mass-murder; destruction of homes, villages and crops; rapes; other atrocities; and massacres of defenseless people given no quarter including women and children. The crimes were suppressed and expunged from official accounts as Israeli historiography cooked up the myth that Palestinians left voluntarily fearing harm from invading Arab armies. It was a lie covering up Israeli crimes Palestinians call the Nakba – the catastrophe or disaster that’s still a cold, harsh festering unresolved injustice.

Even with British armed presence still in charge of law and order before its Mandate ended, Jewish forces completed the expulsion of about 250,000 Palestinians the Brits did nothing to stop. It continued unabated because when neighboring Arab states finally intervened, they did so without conviction. They came belatedly and with only small, ill-equipped forces, no match for a superior, well-armed Israeli military easily able to prevail as discussed below.

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The US Constitution has not been a sacred text for America since Truman because what is tactfully called US national self-interest is precisely control of resources, economies, and politics globally. Thus forums like the Council on Foreign Relations, which was formed in 1921 by JP Morgan interests and the particular vision of global capitalism formed by the owners of the US Fed have a great deal more influence on Washington’s decisions than what is clearly thought by the Obama administration as an outdated holy text. Only such purists as Dennis Kucinich would make a splash about the rightness of crossing the Constitutional authority to engage in war without a Congressional declaration and the overstepping of the 1973 War Powers Act. The so-called ‘realpolitik’ of American foreign policy seems to have an uncanny identification with the interests of the banking oligarchy. Domestic American politics has long been isolated from this driving ideology but now that the global financial crisis is putting pressure on the so-called US national interests which are really just the interests of the oligarchs, and their interests within the US are also pressured, we see whose interests are represented by the government BEYOND regard for the Constitution. The difficulties of getting tax breaks for the wealthiest 1% is a case in point. The so-called “Republicans” spent $3 billion to get control of the House last midterm, money well-spent to block a tax-hike on the wealthy worth a great deal more than $3 billion. The IMF austerity plans, previously used on developing countries are now being used on Greece — and in fact the local and state governments in the US:
http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=6934

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Saudi Arabia is not quite an absolute monarchy, but is nonetheless a medieval absolute police state.  The aged king, around 88 years old is a figurehead while around ten princes out of a family dynasty of 7,000, descendents of the first king Abdul Aziz al Saud (1876-1953) run the state with absolute control over their own domains.  Prince Sultan and his son Khaled have the ministry of defense.  Prince Nayef is the Minister of Interior who runs the police force and intelligence, who have increased their power in the past decade because of the war on terror.  The latter employ close to a million people.  According to Madawi al-Rasheed, the War on Terror allowed the Ministry of Interior to eliminate opposition, to clamp down on free speech, and any kind of mobilization at the level of society.

Saudi Arabia’s importance for America lies in it containing the world’s largest proven reserves of easy-to-extract light sweet crude oil in the world.  The special relation between the America and the Saudi ruling elite was sealed at the end of the Second World War when the founding king of Saudi Arabia met with the then-Emperor of the world Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, after which Saudi Arabia came under full security protection of the US.  Saudi Arabia is far more repressive politically than Iran today, where, for example, women are not allowed to drive, where protests or demonstrations against the government are not only banned but the king decreed that they are against the laws of God recently.  The rulers follow a fundamentalist strain of Islam that is not shared by the vast majority of the 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide.

American and western claims for standing for freedoms are hypocritical for their full support of Saudi Arabia which is in some senses much more repressive than the post-Russian Taliban government in Afghanistan.  Indeed, although I personally am convinced that 9/11 was an Imperial false flag operation, it is now well-known that the origin of al Qaeda lie with Saudi Arabia.  During Operation Cyclone, in 1979, when America, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan were plotting to draw Russians into Afghanistan to protect the communist regime there, bin Laden volunteered to lead an Arab brigade in Afghanistan after the Saudi princes declined the project, and later, when bin Laden and his mujahideen volunteered to protect Kuwait against Iraqi invasion in 1990, the Saudi Royals preferred American forces in Dhahran, which led to bin Laden breaking with the Saudis and moving to Somalia, beginning his own personal jihad.

Saudi education system is predictably horrid, even by the standards of state propaganda that is the routine in all nation states.  Here is a relevant piece on how the transplanted Saudi education system have shown elements of antisemitism and homophobia in England.

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Before I quote some enlightening passages from Vidal’s essay “Cue the Green God, Ted,” where he comments on anti-communism as the American national religion, I would like to bring out the post-Soviet national religion of America, which is “anti-terrorism” pushed not very subtly by the planners of Empire in many ways but undoubtedly the 9/11 false flag imperial operation (my view, not Vidal’s) is a key point in the development that led to 26 standing ovations of a speech by Binyamin Netanyahu for a recent speech in front of the joint session of Congress where among other things he appealed to a Biblical description of West Bank, Judea and Samaria, as natural Jewish lands and where he characterized the Islamist political party Hamas as Israel’s “Al Qaeda”.  The American corporate media has been preparing the characterization of Muslims as evil terrorists for a long time even before 9/11, and we see in the reaction by the American legislature to Netanyahu’s speech the emergence, or at least the attempted push for a new national religion for America.  So let us return to 1989 to see how the old national religion played out:

 

“In 1972 the future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell wrote to the US Chamber of Commerce proposing that they “buy the top academic reputations in the country to add credibility to the corporate studies and give businesses a stronger voice on campuses.”  One wonders, stronger than what?  But the advice was taken.  Also, as corollary, keep off prime-time television those who do not support corporate America. …

Currently, the principal dispenser of the national religion is Ted Koppel, a very smooth bishop indeed.  Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting –noble, doomed enterprise–had a study made of just who appeared as Koppel’s guests during a forty-month period from 1985 to 1988.  White male Establishment types predominated.  Henry Kissinger (Koppel’s guru and a longtime cardinal in the national security state’s curia) and Alexander Haig (by his own admission, in one of many moments of confusion at the White House, “a vicar”) each appeared fourteen times, the minimum for any guest. Yet, the Cardinal’s views on almost any subject are known to anyone who might be interested in looking at Nightline, while Haig’s opinions have never interested anybody in the course of a long busy career climbing ladders so that he could be close to those with power–in order to be close to them.  The next two champ guests, weighing in at twelve appearances each, were the mendacious Elliott Abrams (Koppel assumes that although Abrams will lie to Congress, he won’t lie to Koppel) and Jerry Falwell, a certified voice of God whose dolorous appearance suggests a deep, almost personal grief that the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution are not yet repealed.  Most of the other guests are hired guns for the National Security State.

Koppel’s explanation for this bizarre repertory company is that, well, they are the folks who are running the country and so that’s why they’re on.  Well, yes, Ted, that is why they’re on, but there are other more interesting and more learned–even disinterested–voices in the land, and, in theory, they should be heard too.  But theory is not practice in bravery’s home.  Of semi-dissenters, only Jesse Jackson and Studs Terkel have been honoured with solo interviews with the bishop, who insists, by the way, that the guest face not him but a camera in another room, preferably in another city, with an earphone but no monitor.  Good television one-upmanship.

 

 

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I am quoting from a review of three books by Marcia Angell on this issue that I have personal views on from experience:

None of the three authors subscribes to the popular theory that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. As Whitaker tells the story, that theory had its genesis shortly after psychoactive drugs were introduced in the 1950s. The first was Thorazine (chlorpromazine), which was launched in 1954 as a “major tranquilizer” and quickly found widespread use in mental hospitals to calm psychotic patients, mainly those with schizophrenia. Thorazine was followed the next year by Miltown (meprobamate), sold as a “minor tranquilizer” to treat anxiety in outpatients. And in 1957, Marsilid (iproniazid) came on the market as a “psychic energizer” to treat depression.

In the space of three short years, then, drugs had become available to treat what at that time were regarded as the three major categories of mental illness—psychosis, anxiety, and depression—and the face of psychiatry was totally transformed. These drugs, however, had not initially been developed to treat mental illness. They had been derived from drugs meant to treat infections, and were found only serendipitously to alter the mental state. At first, no one had any idea how they worked. They simply blunted disturbing mental symptoms. But over the next decade, researchers found that these drugs, and the newer psychoactive drugs that quickly followed, affected the levels of certain chemicals in the brain.

When it was found that psychoactive drugs affect neurotransmitter levels in the brain, as evidenced mainly by the levels of their breakdown products in the spinal fluid, the theory arose that the cause of mental illness is an abnormality in the brain’s concentration of these chemicals that is specifically countered by the appropriate drug. For example, because Thorazine was found to lower dopamine levels in the brain, it was postulated that psychoses like schizophrenia are caused by too much dopamine. Or later, because certain antidepressants increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, it was postulated that depression is caused by too little serotonin. (These antidepressants, like Prozac or Celexa, are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) because they prevent the reabsorption of serotonin by the neurons that release it, so that more remains in the synapses to activate other neurons.) Thus, instead of developing a drug to treat an abnormality, an abnormality was postulated to fit a drug.

That was a great leap in logic, as all three authors point out. It was entirely possible that drugs that affected neurotransmitter levels could relieve symptoms even if neurotransmitters had nothing to do with the illness in the first place (and even possible that they relieved symptoms through some other mode of action entirely). As Carlat puts it, “By this same logic one could argue that the cause of all pain conditions is a deficiency of opiates, since narcotic pain medications activate opiate receptors in the brain.” Or similarly, one could argue that fevers are caused by too little aspirin.

But the main problem with the theory is that after decades of trying to prove it, researchers have still come up empty-handed. All three authors document the failure of scientists to find good evidence in its favor. Neurotransmitter function seems to be normal in people with mental illness before treatment. In Whitaker’s words:

Prior to treatment, patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression, and other psychiatric disorders do not suffer from any known “chemical imbalance.” However, once a person is put on a psychiatric medication, which, in one manner or another, throws a wrench into the usual mechanics of a neuronal pathway, his or her brain begins to function…abnormally.

Carlat refers to the chemical imbalance theory as a “myth” (which he calls “convenient” because it destigmatizes mental illness), and Kirsch, whose book focuses on depression, sums up this way: “It now seems beyond question that the traditional account of depression as a chemical imbalance in the brain is simply wrong.”

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A recent article in New York Review of Books reviews several books on the phenomena of mental illnesses and their psychiatric treatment. I wanted to quote Ms. Angell’s description of the brain because it is clear, succinct and jargon-free, and thus perhaps makes clearer some issues for everyone:

“Some brief—and necessarily quite simplified—background: the brain contains billions of nerve cells, called neurons, arrayed in immensely complicated networks and communicating with one another constantly. The typical neuron has multiple filamentous extensions, one called an axon and the others called dendrites, through which it sends and receives signals from other neurons. For one neuron to communicate with another, however, the signal must be transmitted across the tiny space separating them, called a synapse. To accomplish that, the axon of the sending neuron releases a chemical, called a neurotransmitter, into the synapse. The neurotransmitter crosses the synapse and attaches to receptors on the second neuron, often a dendrite, thereby activating or inhibiting the receiving cell. Axons have multiple terminals, so each neuron has multiple synapses. Afterward, the neurotransmitter is either reabsorbed by the first neuron or metabolized by enzymes so that the status quo ante is restored. There are exceptions and variations to this story, but that is the usual way neurons communicate with one another.

When it was found that psychoactive drugs affect neurotransmitter levels in the brain, as evidenced mainly by the levels of their breakdown products in the spinal fluid, the theory arose that the cause of mental illness is an abnormality in the brain’s concentration of these chemicals that is specifically countered by the appropriate drug. For example, because Thorazine was found to lower dopamine levels in the brain, it was postulated that psychoses like schizophrenia are caused by too much dopamine. Or later, because certain antidepressants increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, it was postulated that depression is caused by too little serotonin. (These antidepressants, like Prozac or Celexa, are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) because they prevent the reabsorption of serotonin by the neurons that release it, so that more remains in the synapses to activate other neurons.) Thus, instead of developing a drug to treat an abnormality, an abnormality was postulated to fit a drug.”

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