Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pope Francis reminds me of Gorbachev

David Seaton's News Links
General Audience with Pope FrancisSome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Pope Francis - Washington Post
Pope Francis is beginning to remind me of Mikhail Gorbachev. the same noble intention to open up a very old, very secret, very bureaucratic, very vertical organization, and make it more transparent (Glasnost) and  reform it (Perestroika).

When Gorbachev touched his organization it disintegrated like a termite-ridden, antique chest of drawers and everyone, everywhere thought it was wonderful... except the people that lived in it. Everyone, everywhere loves Gorbachev except the Russians, who hate and despise him. Francis will be fortunate indeed to escape the same fate as Gorby's.

I don't think the Church's fussvolk ,the ones who really live there: the sour old ladies that take communion every day, the Opus Dei bankers, the Paul Ryans, the Antonin Scalias, the Pat Buchanans and the Rick Santorums are going to be very enthusiastic about Francis' intentions... it will those of us on the outside, lapsed and otherwise, that will be applauding the most.

Now His Holiness in his own efforts toward Glasnost and Perestroika has hired the world renowned auditing firm of Ernst & Young to lift up all the rocks in the Vatican and see what scurries out from under them after centuries in the dark, and, (literally), God only knows what they will find.

It can be said greatly in the Pope's favor and without any irony intended, that only someone with a truly deep faith in divine grace and the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit would take such chances.

And shifting the paradigm a bit, the Church reminds me a lot of Kodak, another rich, near monopoly, which was bankrupted by a disruptive technology that they could neither absorb nor defeat. In the Church's case I don't think it will ever be able to adapt itself to the new role of women in developed societies: working, educated, with their own money and in control of their own bodies.

The contradictions abound. For example,  if the Church is really serious about the gravity of abortion, which I think they are, perhaps they should consider making the ingestion of the birth control pill a sacrament, as it is probably the only effective form of preventing the "murder" of fetuses. That such a  tradeoff seems absurd is just an example of the mental sclerosis that Francis will be confronting in his Perestroika.

Like Gorbachev, I find Pope Francis admirable for the truth he speaks and I hope he does not have to live Gorbachov's tragedy of watching those truths destroy the very thing that he loves the most. DS

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Iran deal

David Seaton's News Links
Things may unravel but at least there is hope. Perhaps this is what is most threatening to Netanyahu. He has never been willing to test the Palestinians in a serious way — test their good faith, test ending the humiliations of the occupation, test from strength the power of justice and peace. He has preferred domination, preferred the Palestinians down and under pressure. Obama and Kerry have invited Netanyahu to think again — and not just about Iran. Nothing, to judge by the hyperventilating Israeli rhetoric, could be more disconcerting. Roger Cohen - New York Times

If a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue is blocked and war follows, Israel will be accused of dragging America into a conflict. But if Mr Netanyahu confronts the Obama administration through the US Congress – and loses – the fabled power of the Israel lobby may never be quite the same again. Gideon Rachman - Financial Times
High political drama is in the offing, it appears that the President of the United States has (with appropriate deviousness) lured Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into a decisive political battle on a battlefield of the president's choosing; with world political opinion on Obama's side and the American people recently having firmly signaled the US Congress their strongest reluctance to any more military involvement in the Middle East.

Obama just might win this one.

At this point what I find most truly interesting about the Iran deal as how secretly it was worked up... and that the Israelis apparently were kept in the dark... This is leading to a direct conflict between the United States and Israel... If Obama loses this test of strength, nothing much will have changed, every US president who has ever confronted them directly, has been defeated by the AIPAC or had their careers ruined, (with the exception of Eisenhower, when he pinned their ears back during the Suez crisis), but if Obama wins, that victory will mark a sea change in American politics. DS

Monday, November 18, 2013

Kennedy's Death

David Seaton's News Links
Writing up the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination has become a momentary cottage industry and I have little that I wish to add and will spare my readers all my "where I was when I heard the news" drivel. However, I would only remark what I personally find the most important result of that magnicide: namely the sensation that Kennedy's death marks the moment when "everything began to go wrong".

I would even date the origins of the rancor and hostility surrounding the recent "shutdown", if not the issues themselves, to the breakdown of trust and national unity that resulted from the widespread and still prevalent suspicion of a coverup that followed the enormous catharsis of emotion and grief of the flight back from Dallas and the funeral: the blood spattered widow, the pathetically saluting baby son.  

All the unity of the shared experiences of the Great Depression, World War Two and the presidential funeral itself went up in smoke with the Warren Report... the fallout is too abundant and painful to enumerate here. DS

Sunday, November 03, 2013

USA: mature or overripe?

David Seaton's News Links
Among the casualties of the Snowden stories are an embarrassed and chastened White House, an American technology sector which has seen its own government tarnish its business model of a global, open internet and the strong US relationships with allies such as Germany. Financial Times
In English we make a clear difference between "mature" and "ripe".
We also distinguish between ripe and too ripe, with the word, "overripe", which is common enough a concept to have one whole, unhyphenated word all to itself.
adjective \mə-ˈtu̇r, -ˈtyu̇r also -ˈchu̇r\

: having or showing the mental and emotional qualities of an adult

: having a fully grown or developed body : grown to full size

: having reached a final or desired state
Merriam Webster

adjective \ˌō-və(r)-ˈrīp\

: grown or aged past the point of ripeness and beginning to decay : too ripe

: not new or young

: not fresh or original
Merriam Webster
We don't have a word for "over-mature", as being mature is thought to be good and it is hard to see how you can have too much of it, but ripe, which in itself is good, past a certain point can become bad.
I would maintain that history's most advanced and developed version of capitalism, the American version, instead of being mature is overripe.
The snippet from the Financial Times that tops this post reveals "the worm in the apple", the conflict or "contradiction" in the system, simple to identify, but whose resolution or synthesis is very difficult to predict.
The most creative and innovative sector of the American economy, the sector that most represents a future prosperity for American business, is symbolized by Google, a huge organization, whose business model is based on the free flow of information and especially on obtaining the personal data of everyone on an interconnected, frontier-less planet, in order to anticipate and satisfy their every want and desire by knowing even their unconscious needs and motivations. This obviously requires enormous quantities of trust on anyone who uses Google... as users confide to Google, knowingly or unknowingly, things that they would never confide even to their dearest friend or most loved and trusted family member. Trust, friendliness, goodwill then, are the central, essential qualities of Google's business proposition.

Google's antithesis is the NSA, who also wants access to the personal data of everyone and to know (and especially anticipate) their needs and desires, conscious and unconscious in order to dominate and control them. This organization's philosophy is not to trust anyone, not even ones closest friends. And whose process of knowledge to action might be symbolized by the drone strike. Certainly trust, friendliness, goodwill then, are NOT the central, essential qualities of NSA's "business proposition".

However the two "business propositions" are deeply entwined. It is hard to imagine a "Swiss" Google or anything as all-encompassing as Google in any country that did not physically control the Internet and set and enforce the world's rules of commerce and supply the world with its reserve currency, while physically controlling the seas and air all over the world with the greatest accumulation of military power in the history of our planet. And conversely it is hard to imagine an intelligence agency as "penetrant" as the NSA without access to the resources of Google, Yahoo and Facebook.

The same as mixing Clorox with gasoline will cause an explosion and it is vital to keep the two apart, so it is vital for America's new economy to keep the idea of the NSA as far away from the idea of Google as possible... I should say "was" because Snowden has let the cat out of the bag and like putting toothpaste back in the tube, all the king's horses and all the King's men will never put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

With the wisdom of hindsight this Achilles's heel of American power was obvious, but Edward Snowden, or whoever (if anyone) runs him has fired a deadly torpedo directly under America's waterline.

All that was needed was to find the right person at the right time and get him and his information where the United States could not prevent its dissemination.

Like taking candy from a baby.

Returning to the original metaphor, the connection NSA/new economy was (over) ripe for the plucking.

Some would say that when our economic system reached it's full worldwide potential and maturity such a conflict was bound to arise, others have been hoping and praying for such an event since the 19th century... we are "fortunate" enough to be here to witness how it plays out. DS