Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Treason, Torture, and Truth

In the waning days of the most disastrous presidency in the history of the nation, material is sprouting in the press and the blogs regarding the prosecution of White House officials including Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams,Alberto Gonzales, David Addington and others for a variety of charges including war crimes, treason, corruption, fraud, and torture. Many justice desiring souls want to see these criminals held to account for crimes they clearly committed. The most tenable argument, outside the innate desire to see evil rewarded its just desserts, involves the dangerous precedent possibly set for future officials should the likes of the above get away with their atrocities.

Sirocco has a good post on the subject as does Dashiell, who asserts:

Let’s be absolutely clear. Richard Cheney should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity, and for treason. As detestable a human being as he is, revenge is really not the point. Justice requires that when an individual holding high office in this land violates his oath of office, causes the deaths of untold thousands, and threatens the very foundation of constitutional government, there should be an accounting. Not for his sake—he’s incapable of remorse or apparently even of the recognition of ethical values—but for our sake and the sake of the country. If there’s no accountability for criminal behavior on the part of the most powerful people in the nation, then the law itself becomes hypocritical when applied to lesser crimes.

At the Washington Post, Ruth Marcus has a thought provoking piece Pyrrhic Torture Trials which as the title suggests, challenges the payoff / cost reality of prosecutorial efforts towards the arrogant thugs. Obama has already voiced more interest in addressing the future than the past, not eager to see his administration lose precious energy furnishing well deserved punishment to a small number of creeps. That history will condemn the monsters is no real penalty, for their arrogance and self-righteousness will follow them to the grave. Chris Wallace asked Dick Cheney what his "highest moment" in the last eight years was, and he answered "9/11." The answer is most telling, for 9/11 provided the "Pearl Harbor event" most desired by the PNAC fiends in their quest to rule the world. Dick Cheney was born right, has been right all his life, and will die right. The man has never made a mistake, drawn a wrong conclusion, or made a sub-optimal choice. Reality has no place at the table of his convictions.

We may not have the resources to have these individuals executed or imprisoned, but at the minimum we have an obligation to the truth. The reality of the American equivalent of Nazi Germany should be exposed and studied. Document the instances of illegal wire-tapping, torture, forgery, fraud, incompetence, and grotesque disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law. Organize the evidence and rigorously study the enabling factors and forces. Publish it all with the standards of academic discourse. We all know the saying about what happens to those who do not know history.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Embracing Sustainability

That sustainability is the first word of the title of this blog is no accident. In stating the painfully obvious, the pursuit of sustainable production and consumption of resources is not optional. If we continue to fail to do this, the price we pay to take a sharper and sharper turn just climbs.

The financial meltdown that occurred last fall provides a textbook example of the consequences of an unsustainable greed fest fueling dark clouds on the horizon. The dark clouds do arrive, and we haven’t even begun to feel the true consequences of a mess we still don’t fully understand.

With Barack Obama as president, we perhaps have the opportunity to introduce the concept of sustainability into the political discourse of all issues we face, for it belongs there. Sustainability refers to more than the financial administration of our economies. Most apply the word to energy and the environment and the need to develop alternative energies and reduce the production of toxic waste, greenhouse gases, and plastic water bottles. In reality, sustainability applies to all issues.

Consider the notion of a sustainable Middle East. Like it or not, Israel will continue to exist. The scenarios that take Israel out of existence are simply not tenable. All with probabilities the slightest distance from zero involve nuclear war. We might as well consider the USA, England, China, Russia, or India going out of existence. We might as well talk about every religion except our own going out of existence. It is not going to happen.

Conversations calling for the elimination of a religion or a state such as Israel are unsustainable and obsolete, yet some such as Hamas and Iranian President Ahmadinejad continue to speak for it. Whatever their real intention, the result is a propensity for continued instability and violence. Israel is currently pounding Palestinians in Gaza, having killed 360 so far and injured another 1400, the deadliest operation in Gaza since Israel seized control of the coastal territory from Egypt in 1967.

The Palestinians have legitimate issues with the actions of Israel, but they and everyone around them only have a chance at a peaceful and eventually prosperous reality if they retire conversations that have no place in a future that can occur.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Daughter Returns

(Guanaco in Patagonia, Chile) Language cannot fully capture the delight of the return of one’s child to home turf after study abroad for an extended period of time. In this case, said daughter departed in September for Santiago, Chile as part of Stanford’s program for completing the fall semester of one’s junior year in another country. Having lived entirely immersed in worlds of two different languages, she is now able to swear prolifically in two different languages.

At dinner she served a succulent feast of stories and descriptions of the highs and lows of the international adventure in a variety of cultural domains including cuisine, home life, dating, music, Internet, alcohol, and film. These people have avocados down to an art, and apparently here in the states we only think we have guacamole. When she told me she was concluding her stay with a trip to Patagonia, I scratched my head. Where?

In an interesting twist, she encountered a racism perhaps known to the reader but until now unknown to me, racist views against one’s own. I kid the reader not. During the earliest part of her stay, daughter enjoyed the company of a very white, very blonde, and very blue eyed fellow student, and her host family and newly found friends beamed with approval of her taste in male companionship. Of no surprise to a certain father, said daughter quickly moved from white blond blue to an earthy local solidly framed from the local mettle. The entire support structure went ballistic. While Mr. White could do no wrong and earned esteem by virtue of being, local Latino was served contempt, disregard, and a heap of unwelcome.

Readers familiar with this dynamic are most welcome to share, but without question the daughter encountered a scenario where the local ethnicity held another race up as superior. As I replay the data, yes the sociology distinctions like the social reproduction of inequality and other similar constructs support it, but it is striking nevertheless.

I can understand the system pounding down minorities to where they accept the view that they are inferior. I find it more difficult to grasp local majorities regarding themselves as beneath an outside minority. Then again, South America is not my terrain.

Monday, December 15, 2008

If the Shoe Hits

Readers have no doubt seen the footage of a pair of shoes hurled with velocity and just missing the head of the most disastrous president in the history of the United States. In the literal physical sense, the launched soles failed to strike their target. Still, they came close enough to evoke a duck and cover response from the Fiasco-in-Chief.

Muntadhar al-Zaidi, a reporter for the TV channel Al-Baghdadia, who forcefully pitched his shoes at something "lower than the dirt beneath my feet," referred to his act as a "farewell kiss" to a "dog." Thousands of Iraqis are cheering him and demanding his release. What is not published are the large number of Americans who also cheered when they saw the footage.

In the symbolic sense, the shoes did not miss. What many know but fewer speak is the extent to which the Bush administration has been sheer failure, a bungling heap of political posturing without regard for effective government. Almost everyone knows it was a nightmare for the nation and an embarrassment for Republicans. Bush's legacy has in fact become a distinguished project. Organized efforts are underway to foster a less contemptuous interpretation of what invokes nothing short of revulsion. They even include attempts to spin a more positive image of Bush's dog, Barney.

In its own words, the administration advanced its belief that its beliefs were its highest priority. Not to be bothered with reality or facts, its views were right because it believed them, a dangerous and arrogant perversion of faith in oneself. Confidence and courage only make sense when grounded by the awareness of one's limitations and fallibility. Bush represents the antithesis of awareness. He boasted of his pride in the fact that none of his beliefs changed during his presidency. What mind can be so closed that eight years in the White House has no impact on a single conviction?

I don't know if al-Zaidi's shoes were returned to him.

They'd fetch a chunk of change on E-bay.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Director Robyn Simon has produced a film Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard well worth watching and also a source of additional background on what this blog is about, to the extent one can say that this blog is about something. Readers who recognize the name know that Erhard is the man behind the EST Training that was quite the thing during the 1970s. Erhard's technology is probably the most powerful ever developed for completing the past and gaining more powerful relationships with the traumas that shape one's view of reality.

The est training really put the hook into Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard, who obviously considered Erhard's success a profound threat. Hubbard went positively nuts and all but threatened Erhard's life, devoting substantial Scientology resources into destroying the man's reputation with some degree of success that culminated in a 60 Minutes program now known to have forwarded allegations that were entirely false.

Erhard developed est during the human potential movement that arose in the turbulence of the 1960s that questioned all established convictions and authority. Expanding consciousness and awareness actually became a cool thing to do (the antithesis of the anti-intellectual anti-awareness outlook of buffoon Bush and six pack Palin), and est emerged as a front runner for the masses. Erhard was not so much the originator of the ideas as he was the ingenious packager of ideas already expressed but inaccessible to the average person. Heidegger and Schopenhauer mixed with a good dose of Einstein's relatively opens a rich harvest of ideas and distinctions Erhard captured brilliantly. The distinction "distinction" is itself a rich conversation worthy of a few hours.

Watching the film was a real treat, and seeing the nametag tables took me back fifteen years to the day I first approached such a table. The film featured Sandy Robbins (I know Sandy from the Magma Copper days) and Laurel Sheaf. Seeing people one knows in a film is an interesting experience. As I discussed in "Something Else," people "thingify" concepts or ideas in ways that do not correspond to reality. I used the example of mental models (from Senge's classic Fifth Discipline) about a thermostat, where we conceptualize it as a valve, setting a freezing house at 90 degrees as if that will warm it more quickly than a setting at 70.

In 1991, following the 60 Minutes character assassination Erhard left the country and turned the transformational programs over to est employees who formed a new corporation, Landmark Education. The est training evolved into The Landmark Forum, in which your humble blogger participated in June of 1993 after learning of the program only days after speaking "growth" while illuminated in a chamber somewhere near a border. If one truly grasped the power of speaking one would speak carefully.

The film does not mention Magma Copper, but it does talk about BHP in New Zealand. I all but crucified my psyche to gain certification to lead the kind of programs associated with this work, but unfortunately BHP torched Magma unable (more likely unwilling) to acknowledge that of course copper prices would climb to well over a couple bucks a pound and remain there indefinitely. San Manuel could produce cathode for about 80 cents a pound. Millions of pounds. Oh well.

I recommend the film to those interested in ideas that press envelopes and boundaries. Those truly interested in growth and transformation should take the real plunge and drink deeply by actually participating in The Forum itself. For some, the event is a terrific experience just watching a for real, no kidding course leader truly lead a course. One gets to indeed step outside the box that contains the notion of teaching.