Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The problem with education today? George Carlin nailed it years ago.

When I originally wrote this piece on Democratic Underground yesterday, I wasn't planning on including it here. The main reason is because the piece is centered around a George Carlin bit that I had already quoted in a previous blog entry. But because the response was overwhelmingly positive, with 174 recommendations, I thought I should share it here too. Hope you enjoy!

The problem with education today? George Carlin nailed it years ago.
I have to shake my head in dismay that, suddenly, the media has found religion on the subject of education. With a slew of documentaries being released on the subject, our good ol' Corporate McPravda has awoken to the fact there is a problem with education and have diligently focused on finding a solution. What could the best solution be? Train better teachers? Get parents more involved? Neutralize those pesky unions? :eyes:

It would funny if it wasn't so sad. If those in power really cared about finding a solution, they'd look in the mirror and realize that George Carlin nailed exactly what the source of the problem with education is:

"Not too bright, folks. Not too fucking bright. But if you talk to one of them about this, if you isolate one of them, you sit 'em down rationally, you talk to 'em about the low IQ's and the dumb behavior and the bad decisions; right away they start talking about education. That's the big answer to everything: Education. They say, 'We need more money for education. We need more books, more teachers, more classrooms, more schools. We need more testing for the kids!' You say to 'em, 'Well, you know, we've tried all that and the kids still can't pass the tests'. They say, 'Aw, don't you worry about that, we're gonna lower the passing grades!' And that's what they do in a lot of these schools now, they lower the passing grades so more kids can pass. More kids pass, the school looks good, everybody's happy; the IQ of the country slips another two or three points and pretty soon, all you'll need to get into college is a fucking pencil! 'Gotta pencil? Get the fuck in there, it's physics!' Then everyone wonders why 17 other countries graduate more scientists than we do. Education!

Politicians know that word; they use it on you. Politicians have traditionally hidden behind three things: the flag, the Bible and children. 'No Child Left Behind! No Child Left Behind!' 'Oh really, well it wasn't long ago you were talking about giving kids a Head Start! Head Start, Left Behind, someone's losing fucking ground here!' But there's a reason. There's a reason. There's a reason for this. There's a reason education sucks and it's the same reason it will never, ever, ever be fixed. It's never going to get any better, don't look for it, be happy with what you got. Because the owners of this country don't want that.

I'm talking about the real owners now. The big, wealthy...The real owners, the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They've got the judges in their back pockets, and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They've got you by the balls! They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying – lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else.

But I'll tell you what they don't want. They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking.
They're not interested in that! That doesn't help them. That's against their interests. That's right! You know something? They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don't want that! You know what they want? They want Obedient Workers – Obedient Workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they're coming for your Social Security money. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It's a big club - and you ain't in it! You and I are not in the big club.

By the way, it's the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long and they tell you what to believe...All day long, beating you over the head in the media, what to believe, what to think and what to buy...The table is tilted, folks! The game is rigged! And nobody seems to notice, and nobody seems to care! Good honest, hard-working people! White collar, blue collar... Doesn't matter what color shirt you have on! Good honest, hard-working people continue...These are people of modest means!...continue to elect these rich cocksuckers who don't give a fuck about them! They don't give a fuck about you! They don't give a fuck about you! They don't care about you! At all! At all! At all! Yeah! You know? And nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care. That's what the owners count on. The fact that Americans probably will remain willfully ignorant of the big red white and blue dick that's being jammed up their assholes every day! Because the owners of this country know the truth - it's called the American Dream: because you have to be asleep to believe it."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lamentations for a Lost God/dess

You raise up your head
And you ask, "Is this where it is ?"

And somebody points to you and says

"It's his"

And you says, "What's mine ?"

And somebody else says, "Where what is ?"

And you say, "Oh my God

Am I here all alone ?"

-Bob Dylan "Ballad of a Thin Man"

On Sunday I attended another LA Peak Oil Meetup at the Cat & the Fiddle in Hollywood. This meeting was not as well attended as the last meeting I attended on August 1 that I wrote about previously. In fact, there were only three people in attendance this past Sunday, including myself. We certainly had a good time together, sharing drinks, discussing new developments involving politics and Peak Oil, and agreeing that the next time we meet, it should be in coordination with some event that more people would want to attend and talk about afterward. Next time would hopefully not coincide with another Meetup group meeting in the same place. We jokingly lamented the fact that the atheists had a much better turnout for their Meetup in the courtyard than we did.

But being less popular than atheists gave me much food for thought. What is the future of religion in a post-Peak Oil society? Michael Ruppert weighed in on this prospect in the Chris Smith documentary Collapse, where he said, "Everything is on the table, God is on the table, every religion in the world is on the table now. They'll all be measured as standards by 'this is reality - and this is what the religion says' and every religion in the world is going to be under a huge microscope. This is going to be the greatest age of evolution in human thinking that's ever taken place". For someone whom his detractors try to paint as a doomsayer, I think that's a much more positive perspective than one I could envision. It's an incredibly hopeful prospect to foresee society participating in an Age of Enlightenment rather than the Dark Ages.

Perhaps there will be both enlightenment and darkness, depending on which region you happen to be lucky or unlucky enough to reside in. Stupidity has a habit of getting intransigent in the face of extinction; the Dominionists and Islamists are sure to create continued misery for the regions they inhabit in the wake of declining resources. But in regions where the majority of the population retain their intelligence, the major religions of the world will undergo a tectonic shift in their focus of how they appeal to rational souls that they are in fact relevant to the new way that the world works. That means that rational Judeo-Christo-Islamic Biblical teachings will have to sidestep previous exhaltations of Genesis 1:28 to "be fruitful and multiply" by saying essentially, "That was then, this is now". What I believe will happen within this community is a renewed focus on the Tower of Babel story in Genesis chapter 11 as an allegorical tale of what happens to humankind when they attempt to grow infinitely within a finite planet while living off finite resources - God, i.e. Reality smacks them down!


So what does the future hold for people who reject these old constructs reimagined for an overpopulated planet finally confronting the reality of finite resources it ignored far too long? I propose that people like me start taking religious affiliations a little less seriously. Where am I at, spiritually speaking? It's easier to say what I am not. First, with all due respect to those super-popular folks who outdrew us at the Cat & Fiddle, I am not an atheist. While I respect their right to their own opinion, I think atheism is just as wrong as any other religion for the one simple reason that they claim to know what they're talking about! As I see it, the problem with almost every religion in the world is that they claim to understand the spiritual realm. Atheism does this by saying it definitively doesn't exist. I say they're all wrong. But I'm not agnostic. Agnosticism is just too wishy-washy for me. I can't say we don't know whether or not there is a metaphysical realm beyond our physical comprehension of the universe. I believe it does exist. I just don't think anyone knows what it is! I also believe anyone who claims they know is wrong, myself included!

I say it is way past time to create new religions rooted in this simultaneous embrace of doubt and faith. Just recently, a friend from high school told me that he is the founder of "the fastest growing religion on earth" and gave me the details in a Facebook comment:

It is called apethism. We believe that many things may be true or untrue but we are simply too disinterested to find out. Services are held whenever and when someone gets around to it. i leave you now with the apethists credo, "May god bless you and keep you, you know, if you're into that sort of thing man."

Well, maybe that religion is bit heavier with the embrace of doubt than faith. But in that spirit, but with a heavier embrace of faith, why not take a known fictional construct and imbue it with religious faith? As long as it is a concept that can accept faith and doubt in equal tolerance without wallowing in fundamentalism, what difference does it make who thought it up? Why not believe in this:

I'm not talking about worshipping Alec Guinness, or George Lucas for that matter. I think we need to stop thinking of God as a person and embrace God, to paraphrase John Lennon, as a concept. I'm talking about embracing The Force. For those poor souls who have yet to experience this Immortal Truth and know not what it is, I shall quote the definition from Ben "Obi-Wan" Kenobi in Star Wars: A New Hope, "It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together". Imagine attending church services at The Force Cathedral, training to be a Jedi Knight. Pretty cool, huh?

Or, for those of you not impressed with the prospect of the conversion of sci-fi fanboy geekdom into a religious order, perhaps you might find George Carlin's metaphysical perspective more persuasive:

"I think we’re part of a greater wisdom than we will ever understand. A higher order. Call it what you want. Know what I call it? The Big Electron. The Big Electron…whoooa. Whoooa. Whoooa. It doesn’t punish, it doesn’t reward, it doesn’t judge at all. It just is. And so are we. For a little while."

I wonder if, in a post-Peak Oil society, worshipers of The Force and The Big Electron will be true allies or passive-aggressive frenemies. Personally, I don't think I would join either one. I'm more inclined to start the Church of The Thin Man. Instead of trying to attain Nirvana, we all stay content being Mr. Jones. Because we know something's happening, but we don't know what it is.

Then again, in the wake of planetary devastation in the form of that other civilization-shaking effect of overconsumption of fossil fuels, Global Climate Change, there might be a return back to The Goddess. The embrace of the Gaia theory, that the Earth is a living, breathing system of organisms, might revert back to its Greek origins of worshipping Gaia, the Goddess personifying the Earth. Those who believe might do so with the faith that such worship combined with adherence to obeying certain ecological principles will heal the planet, and by extension, the people. Hopefully there will be an atmosphere of tolerance between all these prospective religions. But then, as far as those who worship the planet go, there might be intolerant responses from the Dominionists and Islamists toward them. Intolerant to the point of being homicidal. Nothing new for "civilization". George Carlin summed up this tendency toward violent religious intolerance quite vividly:
"Hey, if you read history, you realize that God is one of the leading causes of death— has been for thousands of years. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians, all taking turns killing each other because God told them it was a good idea. The sword of God, the blood of the lamb, vengeance is mine, millions of dead motherfuckers, all because they gave the wrong answer to the God question: "Do you believe in God?" "No." Boom! Dead. "Do you believe in God?" "Yes..." "Do you believe in my God?" "No." Boom! Dead. "My god has a bigger dick than your god!""

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Genesis of 9/11

This past week, as it usually is for me around the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, is a time for reflection. While I personally did not lose anyone close to me, I reflect on how the world and our country has changed since then, and how I have changed in response. The most predominant personal impact this made was to kill any trace of political apathy I previously had. From that day forward, I really began to pay attention. To look beyond the headlines, beyond the front page stories, beyond what was happening to understand why. Why? Why was it that I could walk home from the subway with an American flag bandanna wrapped around my head feeling the warmth of patriotic pride as I smiled at the 50, 80, sometimes 100 cars a day flying tiny American flags from their antennas in the weeks after 9/11, yet when hearing the answer to the question, "Why?" stated, "Because they hate us for our freedom", I inwardly recoiled from the stink of bullshit? That stink compelled me to do my own research. My patriotic hobby became an avocation when our government willfully exposed covert US intelligence sources and compromised national security. My method for exposing the guilty parties began with the question, "Why was Valerie Plame's CIA cover blown?"

During the course of my research on the cases of Valerie Plame and Sibel Edmonds while writing the first and second editions of American Judas which led to the creation of this blog, I came across many of the same organizations and characters whose paths crossed on the road to 9/11. The primary catalyst for this was Paul Thompson. In the summer of 2004, his research, which was being compiled at the Center for Cooperative Research but is now operated by the History Commons website, helped me connect the dots and build a solid case. I highly recommend the published book of Thompson's research, The Terror Timeline.

One particular dot that connected between the events of 9/11 and the outing of Valerie Plame that I took note of during the summer of 2004 was an organization I was previously unaware of called the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). What's interesting is that while the first chapter of Thompson's book detailing which "seeds of 9/11 were planted long before the Bush administration came to power" begins in 1979 with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, BCCI began in 1972. While Thompson includes only a few research entries in The Terror Timeline on BCCI, I believe they validate my contention that BCCI is the genesis of 9/11.

What was BCCI?

Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne broke the story of BCCI for Time Magazine and wrote a book about it titled The Outlaw Bank. To try to encapsulate just what the $20 billion scandal of BCCI was about, they described it as such in the introduction:

BCCI was the largest criminal corporate enterprise ever, the biggest Ponzi scheme, the most pervasive money-laundering operation in history, the only bank - so far as anyone knows - that ran a brisk sideline business in both conventional and nuclear weapons, gold, drugs, turnkey mercenary armies, intelligence and counterintelligence, shipping, and commodities from cement in the Middle East to Honduran coffee to Vietnamese beans.

Though it was fundamentally a financial fraud, BCCI itself was not a bank in any conventional sense. Or, more precisely, banking was only a part of the global organism, the ingeniously constructed platform from which its other lines of business were launched. Taken collectively, it was more of an armed Renaissance city-state of Machiavelli's era than a modern corporation. This "bank" possessed its very own diplomatic corps, intelligence network, and private army, its own shipping and commodities trading companies. And BCCI itself was so thoroughly enmeshed in the official affairs of Pakistan that it was often impossible to separate the two.

BCCI was bigger even than that: It was the unsettling next-stage evolution of the multinational corporation, the one the theorists had been predicting for years but which never seemed to be able to shed its sovereign boundaries. (General Motors and Mitsubishi are both good examples of this - huge companies with holdings and operations all over the world that nonetheless persist in being fundamentally American and Japanese entities.) In taking that step, BCCI became truly stateless and very nearly invisible to the authorities in each country where it did business. The BCCI scandal shows what sort of frightening mischief can be made in a world where trillions of electronic dollars routinely wash in and out of the international financial markets.

Nor was BCCI a conspiracy. In much of what it did, BCCI reflected the way the world works. The organization was designed to mimic the way the world's largest corporations and banks move and hide their money. It was no accident that BCCI was incorporated in Luxembourg, one of the least regulated nations on earth and a favorite haven of the money men at the Fortune 500. It was no accident that it ran its wildest manipulations through what amounted to a branch in the Cayman Islands - a place long favored by major banks to hold offshore money away from the ken of the IRS and banking authorities. BCCI had mastered these black arts so well that it became the bank of choice for the intelligence agencies of the Western hemisphere, who found its deeply secretive methods more and more useful. BCCI was necessary to them; it was part of the way they worked too. It was those alliances, along with bribery on a grand scale, that allowed the criminal bank to flourish for two decades with effective immunity from the law.

One of Jonathan Beaty's primary sources in his initial investigation of BCCI for Time Magazine was investigator and Chief Counsel to Senator John Kerry's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations, Jack Blum. As he put it:

The problem that we are all having in dealing with this bank is that . . . it had 3,000 criminal customers and every one of those 3,000 criminal customers is a page 1 story. So if you pick up on one of [BCCI's] accounts you could find financing from nuclear weapons, gun running, narcotics dealing, and you will find all manner and means of crime around the world in the records of this bank.

I believe this explains part of why, as much as investigators were able to uncover about this scandal, the full truth will never be revealed. It is the way the world works. It infects everything. BCCI may have been closed for business in July 1991, but the way it operated lives on. Paul Thompson documented this on page 259-260 of The Terror Timeline with this entry expanded for the History Commons website:

October 10, 2001: Report: Bin Laden’s Financial Network Is Successor to the BCCI Bank

A 70-page French intelligence report claims: “The financial network of [Osama] bin Laden, as well as his network of investments, is similar to the network put in place in the 1980s by BCCI for its fraudulent operations, often with the same people (former directors and cadres of the bank and its affiliates, arms merchants, oil merchants, Saudi investors). The dominant trait of bin Laden’s operations is that of a terrorist network backed up by a vast financial structure.” The BCCI was the largest Islamic bank in the world before it collapsed in July 1991 (see
July 5, 1991). A senior US investigator will later say US agencies are looking into the ties outlined by the French because “they just make so much sense, and so few people from BCCI ever went to jail. BCCI was the mother and father of terrorist financing operations.” The report identifies dozens of companies and individuals who were involved with BCCI and were found to be dealing with bin Laden after the bank collapsed. Many went on to work in banks and charities identified by the US and others as supporting al-Qaeda. About six ex-BCCI figures are repeatedly named, including Saudi multi-millionaire Ghaith Pharaon (see October 10, 2001). The role of Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz in supporting bin Laden is emphasized in the report. In 1995, bin Mahfouz paid a $225 million fine in a settlement with US prosecutors for his role in the BCCI scandal. [Washington Post, 2/17/2002] Bin Laden lost money when BCCI was shut down, but may have benefited in the long term as other militants began relying on his financial network instead of BCCI’s (see July 1991 and After July 1991).

I hope the preceding passage clarifies why I consider BCCI to be the genesis of 9/11. I've always believed that to uncover any conspiracy, one must follow the advice that Deep Throat gave to Bob Woodward in All The President's Men: "Follow the money". Ultimately, this is one of the primary reasons why I consider Thompson's research superior to The 9/11 Commission Report. Regarding the failure of the US government to determine the origin of the money used for the 9/11 attacks, page 172 of The 9/11 Commission states, "Ultimately the question is of little practical significance."

Once again, I recoil from the stink of bullshit.