Thursday, September 13, 2007

Indisinct Union HAS MOVED!!!

To the land of Wordpress.

I've imported this entire blog over to the following address:

Same Indistinct Union, new site/look and publishing tool.

I will be updating from that site alone from now on.

Please update bookmarks, rss feeds, etc. accordingly. Peace.

New feed:

bin Laden a neo-Marxist?

Fawaz Gerges, one of the best commentators, on radicalized Islamism, on the new bin Laden tape.
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Intentionally or unintentionally, bin Laden is venturing into a new ideological terrain. He is blurring the lines between
jihadist messianism and Marxist utopia, which might, in turn, throw his die-hard Salafi supporters off balance.
Militant Salafism, a hard-line sect within Sunni Islam, follows a literalist interpretation of the Koran and is suspicious
of philosophical innovation. Marx's conception of material history, rendered exclusively in terms of economic impulses, is
thus incompatible with Al Qaeda's brand of Islamicism.
Bin Laden's address is a new twist in the ideological struggle for hearts and minds, mostly because it targets Westerners
and Americans. Obviously, bin Laden and his senior associates feel confident to expand their propaganda campaign in the other
war – the war of ideas.
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politics of iraq

I think Juan Cole has some very honest and sharp points on the subject, here.

The Democrats even with trying to legislate Baker-Hamilton, will not be able to overturn a veto in the House of Representatives. What will happen I bet is what Petraeus said will happen. One brigade or so down a month until by mid-08, and then more or less 100-130,000 troops will still be in Iraq as Bush leaves office.

By that reckoning, the best the Democrats in a sense can hope for is that Petraeus does some good in the meantime. Because Republicans are going to likely lose the White House and the next Democratic president will have to make the hard decisions Bush was never willing to (admit loss of peace not war). I think that President, likely Clinton, will only last one term, and the Democrats are dumbly taking the fall guy pill yet again, like in Vietnam. In that war, it was less clear cut, given that Johnson (a Dem) escalated the war and Nixon (a Rep.) was the one that started the pullback. In this war it was a war of choice, sold by a Republican administration, that many a Democrat stupidly caved in on.

Obama has a new, fairly detailed plan for getting out of Iraq. Has some good things on political pressure, UN mediation, Iraq in the context of the Middle East, and the one that will get most play domestically, his call for basically all combat troops (minus protection forces and residual al-Qaeda force, plus troops in Kurdistan and Kuwait) out by 08. It's not going to happen. It might help him politically, might not. But again I think it's largely irrelevant.

As Thomas Ricks says, if you liked the first phases of this war, you'll love the next one.

anbar salv. council

Iraqi tribal leader Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, a key figure in U.S. efforts to turn local residents against al-Qaeda in the restive Anbar province, was killed today by a roadside bomb, U.S. military and Iraqi sources confirmed.

Abu Risha was a leading member of the Anbar Salvation Council and worked closely with U.S. officials -- a fact that made him a target of insurgents angry about his cooperation with the United States and his ability to convince other tribal sheiks to follow him.

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Gem of a Book Review

Wherein Peter Beinart, rips Michael Ledeen and Norman Podhoretz new a-holes. Read the whole thing, it's brutal (and sad that this kind of garbage actually gets serious play).

Each of the two neocons has new books: NP: World War IV--The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism and ML: The Iranian Time Bomb.

On Podhoretz:
The most astonishing part of “World War IV” is Podhoretz’s incessant use of violent imagery to describe American politics. Critics of the Iraq war represent a “domestic insurgency” with a “life-and-death stake” in America’s defeat. And their dispute with the president’s supporters represents “a war of ideas on the home front.” “In its own way,” Podhoretz declares, “this war of ideas is no less bloody than the one being fought by our troops in the Middle East.” No less bloody? That’s good to know. Next time I talk to my sister-in-law, an emergency medicine doctor serving at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, I’ll tell her we have it just as rough here at home. Norman Podhoretz is practically dodging I.E.D.’s on his way to Zabar’s.
Not to mention that Pod. never really defines Islamofascism or how the two relate given Islam is a religion of myth/revelation, while Fascism is a worship of the state. And that Fascist parties in the Arab world, like the Baath (Hussein's party) was founded by a Christian.

Podhoretz turned against the left (as a former member thereof) as part of the original generation of neocons. (Paleo-neocons, if that makes sense). He has never forgiven the betrayal he senses from the left and is only out for revenge, seems to me. Podhoretz would only be some laughable crank--his son John still believes Saddam's weapons of mass destruction were sent off to Syria before the war--except for the fact that he is a, if not the, principal foreign policy adviser to Rudy Giuliani.

All of Giuliani's talk about the Democrats being for retreat and his policy being to stay on the offense (the great insight of Bush so he tells us) is straight Norman Podhoretz. Don't let facts get in the way of truth as they say.

On Micheal Ledeen, possibly in the short run an even more dangerous figure. His book, in essence, argues that everything terrorist wise stems from Iran. Heard this argument before? In the 1980s, the neocons said that all terrorism stemmed from the Soviet Union (fortunately Reagan was smart enough not to invade Russia). Then Wolfowitz promoted the views of a wack job conspiracy theorist named Laurie Mylroie who argued Saddam was behind all terrorism in the world, including al-Qaeda.

Here's Beinart:
“The Iranian Time Bomb” has its strengths. On the topic of Iran’s repression of women and ethnic minorities, for instance, it is genuinely moving. But Ledeen’s effort to lay virtually every attack by Muslims against Americans at Tehran’s feet takes him into rather bizarre territory. He says the 1998 bombings of the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania “were in large part Iranian operations,” which would come as news to the 9/11 Commission, which attributed them solely to Al Qaeda. He says Shiite Iran was largely behind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a man famous for his genocidal hatred of Shiites. He claims that “most” Iraqi insurgents are “under Iranian guidance and/or control,” not just Shiite warlords like Moktada al-Sadr, but Sunni militants as well — the very people who say they are fighting to prevent Iranian domination. In Ledeen’s view, in fact, Sunni-Shiite conflict — the very thing that most observers think is tearing Iraq apart — is largely a mirage, because Iran controls both sides. And Al Qaeda is a mirage too, a mere front for the regime in Tehran. “When you hear ‘Al Qaeda,’ ” Ledeen writes, “it’s probably wise to think ‘Iran.’ ” Not surprisingly, he thinks the mullahs were probably behind 9/11.
This book I worry is part of a campaign that has been decided on in the halls of American Enterprise Institute among others, to sell a war with Iran. Just as was done with Iraq. [For the backstory on this read Hubris by David Corn and Michael Isikoff]. Within the White House we know that Cheney favors a bombing campaign against Iran and his minions do as well (e.g. David Addington).

Although to be fair, Ledeen himself does not favor (as Beinart notes) bombings of Tehran, but rather an aggressive attempt at regime change from within. Podhoretz does favor bombing Iran. Guess which Giuliani would likely follow.

And on the two strongest arguments against America pushing for regime change within Iran: 1)pro-reform elements will labeled American 5th column and discredited, jailed, and/or killed 2)democratic Iran will seek a nuclear weapon because what they are after is Persian nationalism and regional hegemony and protection of their regime against American overthrown/invasion/bombing----Ledeen has basically no response.

Beinart's conclusion:
One day, prominent conservatives will offer not merely new foreign policies for the post-Bush era, but a new style of foreign policy argument: lighter on character attacks and unsubstantiated generalizations, heavier on careful reasoning and empirical evidence. And when they do, they may find “World War IV” and “The Iranian Time Bomb” instructive, as object lessons in the kinds of books not to write.

tags technorati :
tags technorati :
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lawrence on Wright on al-Qaeda in Iraq

Rhetorically they win either win. US stays, can swarm and bleed. US leaves, they claim victory. But events on ground, they haven't won, and will never win any real territory, but may (at most) be able to launch attacks. Can we get beyond this nonsense that if we leave they will win?

clipped from
Al Qaeda is in a great public relations situation, whereas if we withdraw, then they can say that they won, and that they defeated the other superpower. And if we stay, then Iraq is still a beacon for disaffected jihadis who want to go join the war. So they are in an enviable position, but really, they haven’t accomplished what they hope to do in Iraq. 
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Monday, September 10, 2007

Eva Fairbanks on Ambd. Crocker

Why his testimony was far more important than Petraeus'.
clipped from

Crocker is right that Iraqi leaders' intentions and how much actual power they wield is more important than whether they have accomplished a specific set of benchmarks--or whether withdrawal will do more harm than good. But his cautious optimism didn't even seem to convince himself. Even when he was describing areas like provincial reconstruction in which he'd had "pretty good luck," Crocker sounded depressed. I think he's well on his way to becoming another tragic figure of this war: well-intentioned, capable, but brought to his knees by the mistakes of others and the sheer immensity of the task he was given. Success is "achievable"? You wouldn't know it from Crocker's manner at the hearing today--a subdued, this-is-all-hypothetical-anyway spirit, like a doctor whose careful and long-ranging diagnoses are for naught because the patient in front of him is already gone.
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move on ad

The General Petraeus=General "Betray-us" title from is as bad in my book as the "Stab-in-the-Back" campaign Hugh Hewitt has run. I'm tired of the so-called political football being kicked around by both sides. Each is equally disgusting in my book. Each calls into question the honor of Americans who serve the country (either as politicians and military personnel). Make an argument someone is wrong, why they are wrong, and why your position would be better.

Petraeus didn't betray the country. He has consistently supported a strategy that I think is failed, however many tactical gains have been made. Not exactly betrayal. The ad does make some valid points, which sadly get lost in the controversy over the title. [There's always a grain of truth in the stereotype]. These groups will never learn apparently that they only make those pushing against the escalation in a worse position.

Not that in matters, given that with 5thGeneration Warfare, civilian protests (unlike Vietnam where they were successful, 4th Gen.), war is continual. If such groups want to attack A)they should attack the President's lack of Middle East strategy. He's in charge not Petraeus. B)the one attack they do make is in this realm (rhetorically charged as "cooking the books") but without the "betray-us" which allows the ring-wingosphere to cry foul (deservedly so in a way) without of course ever having to deal with the following facts.

From the ad (my emphasis):
Every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed. Yet the General claims a reduction in violence. That’s because, according to the New York Times, the Pentagon has adopted a bizarre formula for keeping tabs on violence. For example, deaths by car bombs don’t count. The Washington Post reported that assassinations only count if you’re shot in the back of the head — not the front. According to the Associated Press, there have been more civilian deaths and more American soldier deaths in the past three months than in any other summer we’ve been there. We’ll hear of neighborhoods where violence has decreased. But we won’t hear that those neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed.
Or Kevin Drum:
For myself, I'll just note the same thing I noted over the weekend: all the charts for civilian fatalities show basically the same trend: a big pre-surge drop between December and March, no progress from March through July, and then a modest drop in August. So Petraeus is hanging nearly his entire case on a single month.
Remember all this talk about summer violence being down is mostly a product of the fact that Iraq is 130+ in the summer and jihadis stay in.

Plus the more that Iraq is ethnically cleansed, the less ethnic violence there will be in places. The Shia have won.

The problem is by now the move towards a Baker-Hamilton consulting-training role is questionable because the Iraqi Army a failure a Shia militia--except where it is a Kurdish militia or in some small pockets, covers for the insurgency.

The Baker-Hamilton train-advise role assumes a country called Iraq, a central non-sectarian government, and army that controls violence and enforces constitutional rule. None of those exist and will exist in the country (countries) formerly known as Iraq.

Petraeus' tactics have essentially been shown to be useless, as was predicted. Why not attack there instead of the Betray-us model. Why not point out that the only way they get "security" in Fallujah or Ramadi is to return the city to a medieval frame, complete with donkeys instead of cars? Because Petraeus' COIN is based on agrarian society, not urban guerilla warfare.

Not to mention that the "Tribal Awakening" had nothing to do with the surge:
- Petraeus did not try to claim that the tribal revolt in Anbar, now spreading in the country wherever Sunni Arabs live in numbers, was the result of his policy. His COIN adviser David Killcullen recently wrote that the tribal revolt was not anticipated by the US command in Baghdad, was not caused by it and was a "surprise." What Petraeus did claim, fairly I think, is that he and his team have perceived the usefulness of this phenomenon and are helping to spread it wherever they can while at the same time trying to integrate these forces into government structures.
In other words the key piece of evidence that is cited for maintaining the surge has nothing to do with the surge and will continue so long as the US keeps sending these groups money. Just recall though that there are no "good" guys in Iraq. These tribes fighting al-Qaeda are also running kidnapping rackets (with US taxpayer dollars) and oil smuggling rings. And what else could they do? There is no economy except an expropriating, black-market one.

There are so many reasons to criticize this policy. Betray-us was not a good one.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Jon Chait Again

Here he is on Bloggingheads with Matthew Yglesias, on economic crackpots.

One of the arguments Chait makes is that this "libertarian-tax cut" wing (along with DOC's "economic authoritarians") is the real power base of the Republican party, much more so than the social conservative (so-called "Christianist") element.

I think Chait is basically right. The "Christianists" on a Federal level got the stem cell research ban. And Alito for Sandra Day O'Connor. Some more restriction on abortions but no overturning of Roe V. Wade.

I think the mainline thread since Reagan has been the social right courted by the Republicans, promised, used for votes, and then left to dry after elections.

The social cons (Christianist being an extremist subset thereof) may have more influence at state and local levels, geographically dependent of course. But federally I don't think so.

Take torture, which say Andrew Sullivan has used as proof of his Christianist takeover of the Republican party thesis. That some Christians would approve of torture, shows to me how actually weak the Christianists are. Namely that they must contravene their own religious principles in order to still have a seat at the table with the power brokers.

The neocons would be another branch, for since losing the peace in Iraq have lost some influence. The Cheney-ite Unilateralist American strand though remains very strong and a Giuliani win would re-insert some neocon elements.

As someone raised a George HW Bush Moderate Republican I would like to see the Republicans of a Schwarzenneger/Tim Pawlenty (Gov. of Minn.) bent take the lead and drive policy for the Party. These "economic crackpots" as the party orthodoxy is the number one turn off for me of Republicans. That and movement conservatism (e.g. National Review). [Or movement liberalism for that matter.]

But this election, the party orthodoxy (tax cuts, stay in Iraq/surge is working, Fred Thompson has a little global warming denial to throw in, evolutionary denial from some) it is not pretty from my view.

Review of Soulfully Gay

Soulfully Gay: How Harvard, Sex, Drugs, and Integral Philosophy Drove Me Crazy and Brought Me Back to God

Full disclosure: Joe invited me to be a contributor to the now defunct I consider him a friend.
Fuller disclosure: Joe's publisher sent me a free copy of the book on the condition that I would write a review on my blog.
Fullest disclosure: I was obviously not told what kind of review to write. The opinions below are my own.

I am not going to write a review of Joe's book on literary or artistic grounds. Those have already been written (e.g. Ken Wilber's foreword to the book) and the desirous reader can find those elsewhere. It's also out of my realm of expertise, and would therefore only make me look silly and waste your time.

I also am not touching on Joe's involvement with and political views upon the gay rights movement. Others are more connected to that discourse to make proper judgments on his ideas there. I will only say that his summary of Andrew Sullivan's Virtually Normal, has got me wanting to the read that book and re-consider the strategy of focusing on gay marriage at the judicial level.

What I think I can speak about with some more weight is the theoretical side of the integral community/blogosphere. This review is meant to articulate what I believe are Joe's fundamental (and unique) gifts to integral discourse and thought.

And that contribution can be summarized in one word: Involution.

While Wilber's work gives a place to Involution, I think it is fair to say it is not an aspect of his system that he highlights.

Joe makes Involution real. All of his story (or almost all of it perhaps) is an exploration on involution. Joe's notion of Homophilia---the love of the Self for itself/the same. His embrace of his dark descent into (temporary) madness, sexual excess, drugs, etc. He finds beauty in places that makes others skin crawl. All of these are different expressions of Involution.

He has even written additions to the 20 Tenets of Holons in Wilber's Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality. These additions are the Tenets of Involution, asking whether Involution itself has a telos?

The other theoretical pole of Joe's integral thought comes in the form of Symbology/Astrology. We hear rumors that he is hard at work on Kronos, a symbological equivalent to the philosophical megalith that is the Kosmos Trilogy of Wilber's.

Here the adage applies: Go Big or Go Home.

I have this sneaking suspicion that the Symbolism/Illuminated side is intertwined with the Involutionary Side. I don't know how yet, but I just can let that instinct go.

Post-metaphysical Involution. Post-metaphysical Symbolism. I have no idea exactly where this idea goes or how it changes beings in their actual day to day life practice, but I can say the following: If true (in anyway), it's mind blowing.

By post-metaphysical, I mean the notion that the future stages/concretions of evolution are not pre-set. That human choice--and in the future possibly other than human beings--actually helps create the contours of the Kosmos itself.

Wilber's work has opened up the implications for the future, for Evolution. It calls for deep human participation on the edge. A new form of human intimacy and ecstasy not defined by traditional social-religious-ideological boundaries nor the same as the flat narcissism and shallow nature and unreality of postmodernity.

Joe leaves us questioning whether our actions affect Involution. Whether how we dream about the world (in symbols) actually changes it, changes us, changes us to change it, changes it so it can change us. Whether us and it even are helpful terms in this dance. Where us and it dissolve. In a new stage of human soulfulness. Gay, straight, or otherwise.

--CJ Smith

Friday, September 07, 2007

Barone on 3 Americas

Great piece by Michael Barone summarizing a new book by Morton Keller (America's Three Regimes).

His three regimes are the deferential-republican, from the colonial period to the 1820s; the party-democratic, from the 1830s to the 1930s, punctuated vigorously by the Civil War; and the populist-bureaucratic, from the 1930s to the present.
Barone focuses mostly on the second (party-democratic).

Continue Reading

Key piece:

By today's standards, some of the trends seem progressive, some regressive. Yet all swept the nation, and not by centralized imposition by a well-positioned elite but by the more or less simultaneous decisions of state legislatures and courts of various partisan composition. Today no one thinks that married women shouldn't be able to enter into contracts, and pressing for child support has been a position taken by liberals as well as conservatives. On the other hand, today's liberals certainly don't favor limiting the grounds for divorce, and many believe that confining marriage to the union of a man and a woman is a deprival of basic human rights. Sunday blue laws are regarded as regressive, antismoking restrictions as progressive.

What do these post-Civil War measures have in common? They were the demands of New England Yankees, the fiercest opponents of slavery in the territories and advocates of abolition. The Yankee culture was not shy about using the power of the state to regulate private conduct in the interests of morality, and morality meant the protection of women and children (by restricting divorce, among other things) and the prohibition of sinful or harmful behavior (smoking, gambling, drinking, working on Sundays). However differently today's liberals (or conservatives) may respond to this agenda, they amounted to a coherent agenda for certain Americans at the time. If the Civil War could be regarded as the Yankee Conquest of North America, this agenda could be regarded as the postwar Yankifying of the newly conquered territory. But not exactly a conquest, since it was acquiesced in or joined by legislatures that were never controlled by New England Yankees.

Barone then goes through the overturning of some of these Yankee state (not federal) moralist projects: prohibition overturned, divorce allowed, etc.

He then writes:
Can I go from these observations to a more general theory of American history? Let me try. The natural state of America, in my theory, is decentralized toleration: We stand together because we can live apart. We are, most of the time, the nation described by Alexis de Tocqueville, made up of various ethnic, religious, and racial strands who believe fervently that we can live and triumph together if we allow one another to observe our local mores.
His general theory would be more grounded I think if he dealt with the rise of the third tradition (populist-bureaucratic) and whether there may in fact be a fourth tradition rising (free markets, de-regulators.....need better name, can't think of one right now).

Ending very nicely:

The Civil War, the imposition of New England Yankee mores in the way described by Morton Keller, and the creation of national business and professional organizations described by Robert Wiebe in The Search for Order 1877-1910 reversed the extreme decentralization of the 1850s. The cultural rebellions, to the left and the right, described recently in neat form by Brink Lindsey's The Age of Abundance reversed the extreme centralization of the 1950s.

For those of us who grew up in the backwash of the 1950s, this decentralization seemed like an abandonment of American tradition. In the long line of history, I think it is more like a reversion to norm. The seeming inconsistency of currently prevailing attitudes on marriage and divorce, gambling and drinking, cigarette smoking and marijuana smoking, is part of the continuing turmoil of a decentralized society. The results don't cohere, but perhaps that is to be expected in a society like ours.

His point about the 50s being an "other than normal" time of conformity should be kept in mind whenever the "Bowling Alone" meme is brought up (usually though not exclusively by conservatives). It is true that such connections, community clubs have been lost and we should try to fashion new ones, but not ones based on a 1950s era of conformity, which was a historical accident and anomaly. We need those communities in a more pluralistic "de-centralized" frame.


If Wright-Kaus is #1 on Bloggingheads, then Pinkerton and Corn are 1A.

These guys are gold.

Question for Best Moment:

1)When Corn "defies" Pinkerton (or any reader) to find any article on Thompson that does not use the "F" word (folksy).

2)When Pinkerton thinks aloud whether Mao may have been right (US=paper tiger), to which Corn responds, "plastic tiger, maybe one made in China, with lead paint, that should be recalled, possibly."

And of course their "And we're Bloggingheads TV" opening line.

Duffy on post-surge

clipped from

Whenever they begin, then, the withdrawals are unlikely to last very long. Many experts believe the threat of a wider civil war — and the regional instability that would follow — means that the U.S. cannot afford to reduce its presence in Iraq much below 130,000 troops for the next year and probably beyond that. And so it could turn out that just six months after the long-awaited drawdowns begin, they stop again.
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Thursday, September 06, 2007

intersubjective mysticism

A followup, sidepoint that sprang to mind while writing the last post.

If we take the modernist, materialist view of mysticism (God=Brain Chemistry) and reduce all experience (mundane and/or mystical) to physiology then why does the content of such experience mimic one's own religious, cultural heritage?

In mystical experience, why do certain Christians and Buddhists, whose religious traditions allow for even promote iconography (e.g. Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Mahayana and Vajrayana), have such iconic subtle mysticism while traditions that do not, e.g. Islam, have subtle mystical experience without iconography? (Or even forms of Christianity and Buddhism that do not accept iconography, i.e. Reformed Calvinist/Baptist Xians).

How does a brain know it should be a Christian brain? Or Buddhist? Or Neo-Pagan? Or fill in the blank.

Mother Theresa Again Again: Promise Last Time

Just one more thought worth considering that I have not seen anyone in this on-going thread mention.

The New Atheist Crew have jumped on this new piece of phenomenological evidence---i.e. that Mother Theresa felt God absent for something like 4 decades--as proof that God does not exist.

What they do not deal with is that the feelings of her absence followed feelings of presence. Deep presence. I.e. Mother Theresa had a famous mystical experience of Christ hanging on the cross and accepting her to be with him forever in that suffering. Her mystical marriage, as opposed to say Catherine of Sienna or Teresa of Avila, was about being married to Jesus' suffering.

Which is exactly what happened by the way. She saw Jesus everywhere, in everyone in the world but never inside herself. Just as Jesus on the Cross felt God everywhere but in his own suffering (My God, My God why have you abandoned ME....not them).

So the New Atheists are playing both sides (or perhaps neither side well). Here's their conundrum. They immediately seize upon and believe wholeheartedly (for their own purposes) Theresa's description of her inner feeling of emptiness. But if they are going to do they to be in any way consistent, have to by her description of her inner mystical experience of God's presence/vision.

Which obviously they won't do because it undermines their entire project. Instead, if they were being honest (which they won't but for the sake of the argument) they would be in a bind. If they tried saying the vision experience was either a hallucination, lie, or a random by-product of biochemistry, then so is the experience of emptiness & absence of God.

In other words, as always, we return to the central dilemma---interior experience. If someone is a true reductionist, then even the realization of reductionism (say Daniel Dennett) is itself simply a product of the reduction. And therefore is wrong. Or as useless or equal to any other experience.

A reductionist model does not allow for judgment of better or worse. So no one is ever truly a reductionist, as evidenced by Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins among others. They obviously have values they favor over others. They just do not usually have a solid basis for making the judgments that they do, in my estimation. Nor are they particularly insightful and/or honest (since they themselves don't know) why they hold what they hold. They have their own story about why they hold what they hold, but deeper study shows other factors at work I maintain.

They can't have it both ways here. Either we give Theresa the benefit of the doubt on her own experience and therefore she had years of feeling God and years of not feeling God--why is the latter right and the former wrong? Or for "defenders" of God--the opposite? Who makes that decision? What does the "fact" of her feeling God then not feeling God mean? How do we determine the answer to that question? [Much more important than any answer/suggestion itself because the answer to the question of how reveals the person's real existential/intellectual affiliations and hunches].

From a post-metaphysical pov, which I'm arguing helps solve these dilemma (or rather dissolves them), I say that you have to look into Theresa's background to understand what was happening. Namely in a quadratic, intersubjective view, one's background filters helps shape the content of one's own spiritual experience.

No Eastern Orthodox Christian mystic would ever have a vision of becoming wedded to Jesus suffering on the Cross. Theresa's own devotion, which is a product of her training in the Roman Catholic Feminine Spiritual Path, helped shape the experience she had.

God is real. Consciousness Is anyway. But God also forms depending on our mode and vision of who/what God is. God (not Godhead) is "God as God is For Us". Often without us ever being aware of that reality.

I'm not criticizing her per se for her affiliation. But it is worth asking in Christian theology, whether suffering should be glorified in the spiritual path. My personal opinion (and that's all it is) is that Theresa did over-glorify suffering. But I'm from the Masculine Path, so that determines my own opinions on the matter.

Suffering will come. I don't think we need to seek it out or glorify it. I don't think we should fear it and do everything we can simply to avoid it either. Suffering is as inherently (from the Absolute view) liberated as health. And as inherently addicting, from the relative point of view, as well.

What she did to was bring it to light and by not making the poor victims (as too many liberals do), she showed that even in their suffering, they were often happier than rich Westerners. I.e. the Real poverty was spiritual poverty and the West is drenched in that poverty. That to my mind, was her greatest gift, for those who are fortunate materially.

But back to the absence....

So on the relative side, the absence is explained as the truth of the assertion of Jesus: you will be with me in my suffering. Which itself does not exist separate from her own perspective. (Love relationship=Two Partners, though asymmetrical in influence).

On the absolute side, Theresa could have realized that in the presence and the absence, there is AWARENESS. She was locked totally into the content of the experience (the feeling of God being absent). At least that is how she comes across in her own reflection/letters. What she could have done was to realize and identify with the one that was Aware of her feeling God's absent.

That voice, the voice of I AM ("Before Abraham was, I AM"), is the voice of Nonduality, as experienced in the first person mode of awareness. Indistinct Union. Then the question of God's relative absence would have been less important than the non-separate nature of any content that arises. Presence or Absence. Visions or suffering. Consolation or Desolation.

The One that is Aware is Free of both the (relatively) good and bad. Of course that kind of discussion you will not hear from either the defenders or attackers of Theresa, theists, atheists, whoever.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Possibly Best Piece on why Iraq will Continue

From John Robb:
If you think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end with this US presidency, think again. These wars will likely outlast the next several Presidents. The old Vietnam era formulas don't apply anymore. The reason is that the moral weaknesses that have traditionally limited the state's ability to fight long guerrilla wars have dissipated, and modern states may now have the ability and the desire to wage this type of war indefinitely.

For three reasons says Robb:

  • 1. Better media relations by the military (Petraeus strolling with Katie Couric through Fallujah calling).
  • 2.On-going and indefinite threat of terrorism
  • 3.The privatization of conflict (Blackwater-ization of conflict). For Robb this is most important.
This is why with the majority of US populace wanting out of Iraq, it will not matter.

Because this is not 4th Generational Warfare like Vietnam.

Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land

This is a tough film to watch. Warning: Graphic imagery.

Covers the unequal and unjust depiction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the US media. In short, how the coverage is so lopsidedly pro-Israeli occupation. (without ever really calling it occupation or describing what occupation is).

It articulates well a coherent, though-out, public relations campaign on the part of the Israeli government and its arms (Israeli lobbies) since the 1982 disastrous "PR" campaign of the massacres of the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. The Lebanese Christian Felange, allies of the Israelis, slaughtered thousands of civilians while the Israeli army surrounded the camps and let them in and sat by and watched the horror. The Israeli Gen. behind that operation was none other than (later PM) Ariel Sharon.

My only qualms with the film are that it perpetuates the myth that terrorism (specifically in this case Palestinian) is the product of poverty, hopelessness, etc.

The actual ringleaders in most cases of terrorism are well educated and often religiously motivated. What the poverty and hopelessness does cause is the population to support this patina of radicals and give them foot soldiers/cannon fodder.

Also the film gives the impression that the settlements (illegal, unjust, immoral) settlements in the West Bank are a political agenda of the Israeli government. What would be more accurate is following Gershom Gorenberg, to say that the settlements were originally accidental. Only later, especially under the Likud Party (Menachem Begin and now Netanyahu) were the settlers embraced as a strategic defensive/offensive bulwark against Palestinian resistance and terrorism.

And as a leftist, populist-leaning piece, it tends to lay the blame on corporations, media-political elites, and pro-Israeli lobbies. Not that these groups do not have negative influences (by my lights), but they are human beings. I don't like analysis that reduce everything to these factors because it gives no chance for a both/and position. One must simply convert to its point of view.

The occupation is unjust. It is brutal and existentially erodes the deep truth of the founding of the state of Israel. Long term, in a globalized world, I'm not sure a Cold War/post-Holocaust Zionist experiment in a Jewish only state can last. Long long term I think there has to be one state. But right now that would be the end of Israel. Short to medium term, I think the dismantling of the settlements and any opening of the West Bank economically, educationally, and governmentally is the key. Meanwhile the violence that will flare with that draw back has to be managed.

It is particularly painful as an American Christian to see American Christian Zionists support Israel 100%, blank check and that those actions end up hurting in many cases Christians (Palestinian Christians).

But the movie's central assertion of the uneven depiction of the conflict and the negative effects (in terms of US public policy) is indisputable in my estimation. The context of why Israeli troops have stones thrown at them is never covered. You never get the names, interviews with, or feelings of the Palestinians--grieving widows, parents, friends, family. How many innocent civilian Palestinians are killed in real concrete human depiction.

Reality Check Fallujah

Fallujah which is being cited as the prime example of the new surge tactic in Iraq.

John Robb on Petraeus taking Katie Couric through Fallujah as a modern day Potemkin village:

Indications of calm and tranquility in the "pacified cities" of Iraq is at the expense of viability. Essentially, to pacify urban areas we have destroyed the basic levels of connectivity that make them work. For example, Fallujah residents are disconnected...
  • from the country. A wall around the city with biometric entry points.
  • from each other. The city is divided into 10 walled districts with few entry/exit points. Each is guarded by a combination of neighborhood militias, police and US soldiers.
  • from basic mobility. The city has been under a vehicle ban since May 2007.
The natural result is zero economic activity. Its industrial area is closed since it is a security risk. The city suffers from 80 percent unemployment with the bulk of the remainder of those employed are either working in militias or with the police. There are chronic shortages of basic necessities like food and fuel. Reconstruction is nearly at a stand-still (in part due to a complete lack of support from the central government).

What's cool is that this "pacification" has had as good an effect on the modern day Queen Katherine (Katy) as it did on on the earlier Queen Catherine.

NOTE: This post doesn't make the claim that things are worse in Fallujah today than it was under jihadi committee. Rather, it does make the case that locking down a city until it stops doesn't prove that we have a solution for urban insurgency.
And as Juan Cole points out, there are huge numbers of arrested and jailed young men in the area.

In other words, exactly as Robb predicted months ago, the surge follows the ink-blot strategy of the British in Malaysia. It is based on an agrarian insurgency not an urban one. You have to cut off all connection and either arrest or publicly execute (as the British did) masses of young men.

Again Robb's last sentence is the clincher: it is not to say it is worse than under jihadis, just that it does not represent a viable success/model.

Why Democrats fold over and not attack the strategy as Wesley Clark has said repeatedly I'll never understand.

Not that this is ever covered in the "liberal" mainstream media, but Fallujah is to the Arab and Muslim world what the Alamo is to American history. A story of the injustice of a foreign invader, corrupt and of ill-will, slaughtering heroic resistance fighters. That Petraeus is taking Katie Couric around there, that he chose that city as his Potemkin village suggests he doesn't understand what kind of image that sets off for the Muslim world. [Or more darkly, he does, in which case, expect long term Hugh Hewitt-style occupation and destruction of the Middle East. That would be the message of such ads.]

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Lie the Media will Tell You

Why are we even still having this argument? How does one fundamentally criticize ir-rationality?

--Both "liberal" and "conservative" media fall for this one.
clipped from

WASHINGTON — The surge of additional U.S. troops in Iraq has failed to curtail violence against Iraqi civilians, an independent government agency reported Tuesday.
Citing data from the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies, the Government Accountability Office found that daily attacks against civilians in Iraq have remained "about the same" since February, when the United States began sending nearly 30,000 additional troops to improve security in Iraq .
The GAO also found that the number of Iraqis fleeing violence in their neighborhoods is increasing, with as many as 100,000 Iraqis a month leaving their homes in search of safety
The GAO's conclusions contradict repeated assertions by the White House and the Pentagon in advance of the coming congressional debate on whether to stay the course in Iraq or to begin some withdrawal of U.S. troops.
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How to Keep an Autocratic Government You Hate in Power

this should be surprising why? (Cuba calling....)
clipped from
average Iranians have endured economic hardships, political repression and international isolation as the nation’s top officials remained defiant over Iran’s nuclear program. But in a country whose leaders see national security, government stability and Islamic values as inextricably entwined, problems that usually would constitute threats to the leadership are instead viewed as an opportunity to secure its rule.
Paradoxically, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s economic missteps and the animosity generated in the West by his aggressive posture on the nuclear issue have helped Iran’s leaders hold back what they see as corrupting foreign influences, by increasing the country’s economic and political isolation, said economists, diplomats, political analysts, businessmen and clerics interviewed over the past two weeks.
Pressure from the West, including biting economic sanctions, over Iran’s nuclear program and its role in Iraq have also empowered those pushing the harder line.
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Monday, September 03, 2007

Jon Chait on Supply Side Economics

These are fighting words--many of them accurate. Cult, wingnuts, and crackpots: the founders of supple side economics and the Laffer Curve?

But this is not a DailyKos like screed (although it is punchy), this is a well researched, well argued position that admits that supple side is by itself not a problem (true). The problem is that it has become a mono-explanatory creed (partial/totalizing). He writes:
Like most crank doctrines, supply- side economics has at its core a central insight that does have a ring of plausibility. The government can't simply raise tax rates as high as it wants without some adverse consequences. And there have been periods in American history when, nearly any contemporary economist would agree, top tax rates were too high, such as the several decades after World War II. And there are justifiable conservative arguments to be made on behalf of reducing tax rates and government spending. But what sets the supply-siders apart from sensible economists is their sheer monomania. You could plausibly argue that, say, Reagan's tax cuts contributed around the margins to the economic growth of the 1980s. But the supply-siders believe that, if it were not for Reagan's tax cuts, the economic malaise of the late '70s would have continued indefinitely. They believe that economic history is a function of tax rates--they insisted that Bill Clinton's upper-bracket tax hike must cause a recession (whoops), and they believe that the present economy is a boom not merely enhanced but brought about by the Bush tax cuts...All this is to say that the supply-siders have taken the germ of a decent point--that marginal tax rates matter--and stretched it, beyond all plausibility, into a monocausal explanation of the world.

The major downside of supple side-at the margins economics is deficits. (Given that government continues to grow).

But what, you may ask, about deficits, the old Republican bugaboo? Supply- siders argue either that tax cuts will produce enough growth to wipe out deficits or that deficits simply don't matter. When Reagan first adopted supply-side economics, even many Republicans considered it lunacy. ("Voodoo economics," George H. W. Bush famously called it.) Today, though, the core beliefs of the supply-siders are not even subject to question among Republicans. Every major conservative opinion outlet promotes supply-side economics. Since Bush's heresy of acceding to a small tax hike in 1990, deviation from the supply-side creed has become unthinkable for any Republican with national aspirations.
What Chait also points out is that the Laffer Curve-Supple Side Magic Formula is so irresistible to operatives, politicians, conservative media outlets because of its simplicity. Monocausality is easy. Cut taxes for the rich and everyone wins. Tough to resist for a politician--doesn't have to deal with complexity, explain complexity of economics to voters, nor call for sacrifice.

Chait then does some biographic background of the main theorists behind Supple Side--not exactly sound thinkers in other arenas let us say.

I love articles like this because I am perpetually amazed (though I know its coming just not the degree to which it will happen...) at how dogmas take over. How clear-thinking withers on the vine. How constant repetition of an illusion (technically true but partial, but perhaps a minor truth in this case) simply makes it to be.

The major points of the article are on target. The Laffer Curve is inherently problematic. Cutting taxes rates at the top does do things for the rich, but the trickle down is just that (or worse), a trickle. But it does not cover all economic reality positive or negative.

I imagine one point that will be criticized--perhaps with some validity--is Chait's underestimating of supple side/tax cuts at the margins. Exactly how large are those margins. Others will likely retort that the characters (like Waninski and Gilder) were not as influential as Chait maintains. That may be or not, but it still reflects badly that such thinkers' ideas still exist as orthodoxy today when they themselves are forgotten/ostracized. Important to remember the source of such ideas. Good intellectual archeology on Chait's part.

The final point Chait sets out to make is that inequality (the result of supple-side economics) hurts democratic culture. This is a common meme of the left. While true I would say, I'm not as troubled by the idea of income inequality as I am by opportunity inequality and social inequality (like Mickey Kaus). I don't know Chait's position on this per se (this article is a tease to his upcoming book), but I imagine he is more traditional left/center-left on the issue. I would certainly agree that it is overall bad for political discourse that inequality has become so heretical a term to discuss in movement conservatism (New Right). I think that cedes the ground of inequality too much to the left which is out to fix the market in some fashion as a redress.

Chait again:
Indeed, this theory offers an uncannily precise description of what has happened in American politics over the last 30 years. The business lobbyists have turned the Republican Party into a kind of machine dedicated unwaveringly to protecting and expanding the wealth of the very rich. As it has pursued this goal ever more single-mindedly, the right has by necessity grown ever more hostile to majoritarian decision-making for the obvious reason that it's hard to enlist the public behind an agenda designed to benefit a tiny minority. The old ways of conducting politics have broken down in the face of this onslaught. The mores of the old Washington establishment--the assumption of some basic intellectual goodwill on both sides, the focus on character over substance, the belief in compromise--all developed during an era when there were few ideological differences between the parties. The old ways may have done a decent job of safeguarding the national interest when the great moderate consensus prevailed, but they have proven unequal to the challenge of a more ideological time.
Chait's words I think here are given more weight by the fact that he has taken on the Netroots within his own party, comparing them to movement conservatives (Kristols, National Review, Hoover Institution, etc.). In other words, this breakdown has occurred in both parties. And while this isn't raised in the issue, the same pattern Chait correctly shreds on the right could easily gain traction among movement leftists (say a neo-protectionist meme).

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Walter Russell Read: Faith and Progress

A very sharp and interesting thinker (see his book: Special Providence where he coins the notion of the 4 schools of American foreign policy--Wilsonians, Hamiltonians, Jacksonians, and Jeffersonians), writing in The American Interest on the positive dependency of capitalism (of the Anglo-American variety) on religious faith.

Read is writing to counteract the famous thesis of "secularization"--that is the more modern a country/society becomes the more secular it will inevitably transform into. The New Atheist Anti-vangelicals are a version of this old trend (from Comte on).

Read writes:
This aptitude for capitalism has at least some of its roots in the way the British Reformation created a pluralistic society that was at once unusually tolerant, unusually open to new ideas, and unusually pious. In most of the world, the traditional values of religion are seen as deeply opposed to the utilitarian goals of capitalism. The English-speaking world, contrary to the intentions of almost all the leading actors of the period, reached a new kind of religious equilibrium in which capitalism and social change came to be accepted as good things. Indeed, since the 17th century, the English-speaking world for the most part has believed that embracing and even accelerating economic, social, cultural and political change fulfills their religious destiny.

Continue Reading

I've written before in this blog about the great work of Nathan Hatch The Democratization of American Christianity which shows how the American form of Christianity aligned with the Revolution and thrived off the dis-establishment of any one denomination in America. Just as Madison predicted: the point of dis-establishment and non-confessional governance would make the government more efficient and the churches so. That is in integral-speak, American Christianities joined up with the rising orange-meritocratic-industrial wave instead of like in the Catholic Church in Europe completely wedding themselves to the blue-aristocratic- agrarian wave. When Western Europe overthrow the blue order (French Revolution), the Catholic Church went with it (ancien regime).

Read adds the element of the Anglican and English (later British) parliamentary system. The Anglican religious tradition developed a system of pluraity and reformed national Catholicism, allowing evangelical, catholic, and liberal/latitudinal wings.

[This history of convention and balance is currently in jeopardy in the Anglican tradition due to the dis-proportionate rise of the evangelical wing and groups in sub-Saharan Africa who did not come through the English Reformation, English Civil War, and the Glorious Revolution. Nor American or Scottish Revolutions.]

The key to the ability of the Anglophone world to advance so far “West”, culturally speaking, and maintain its lead position in the global caravan is therefore not that it has been more secular than other societies. On the contrary, dynamic religion—religion that is open to change and that accords change a positive role in its sacred narrative—explains Anglophone ascendancy. Dynamic religion infiltrated and supplemented static religion in the religious life of the Anglophones. It showed that the great visions that light up the Western sky and drive us to pull up our stakes and move on stir human souls to the depths, just as do those mystic chords of memory that bind us to the past. Religion and myth are not always conservative. The mystic of progress is as god-seized as the mystic of tradition. Socrates was as pious as his executioners, if not more so.
And later on:
It was thanks to this tension that, as its social evolution speeded up, the English-speaking world managed to move from an essentially static religious condition, in which a stable equilibrium was periodically shaken by episodes of religious dynamism, to a dynamic religious system anchored by persistent elements of stasis.
My own theological thinking is moving more and more to an application of adaptive systems science to ecclesiology (the study of the church). i.e. The question becomes how to live with the creative destruction of a sped-up world rather than try to re-create a by-gone nostalgic (never existed?) era.

How to live with chaos not prevent the chaos as almost all churches are built upon? Though structural-stage wise evangelical traditions tend to slant differently than the views I hold, I think in general those churches are much better suited to this reality than so-called liberal ones (sideline not mainline anymore). Although that creative destruction management is faced to instantiate a different value-social-moral system.

The last of Mead's points I want to deal with is his expansion of the thesis of Max Weber (made in his landmark The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism). Weber argued that Protestantism, particularly of the Reformed Calvinist variety, accelerated the rise of capitalism. Calvinism stressed double predestination: one predestined either to heaven or hell. But for some Calvinists, the proof of one's election came through "blessing" (i.e. health, wealth, & prosperity) in this life. So this drove Calvinists to pursue wealth to assuage their consciences proving to them their own election to everlasting bliss.

Weber still basically held to the secularization thesis---for Weber modernity is an iron cage that de-sacralizes the world, everything becoming far more grey, vague, and depressing.

For Mead this analysis, while partially correct does not go far enough. Weber is too negative--the force driving his proto-capitalists is largely fear/intimidation.

Mead sees in the Anglo tradition, a positive contribution: a desire to fulfill, even bring about, change in this newly adapative religious mindset:
But Protestants also came to believe that living in communion with God and experiencing the hope of salvation meant cooperating with, and even furthering, the waves of social change unleashed by capitalism on the English-speaking world. Increasingly, dynamic religion would become the only true religion for English speakers. Religion not only had to tolerate change; it had to advance it.
Weber was right in this sense I would argue. For Calvinists who are driven by the Calvinist ethos (the negative drive), they do continue to practice often enough the Protestant Ethic (little sleep, sobriety, hard work, thrift, etc.) but do become mostly secular-agnostic.

Mead is right for those who are going to continue to have religious faith--there must be a positive drive. A note for all theologians out there.

This positive need is the sense of the individualistic relationship to God in the Anglo tradition (for Read):
Where Weber, like European Enlightenment thinkers, saw progress in terms of rationalization and the disappearance of the numinous from ordinary existence, for the individualistic Anglo-American Christian, the “personal relationship with God” is a powerful and effective link with the realm of the transcendent that does not wither or fade in the face of the modernizing and rationalizing processes of capitalist society. On the contrary, the experience of transcendence may become increasingly important to a population facing growing uncertainty in a world of accelerating change.
This is where I find his analysis flat. Is the outer world simply to be given over to the market, with the possible exception (as he points out) of churches acting as safety nets, safeway houses for people lost in the machine of capitalism? Does religion then simply become a purely private affair? How do we determine which are better or worse forms then of faith? Are we supposed to? Whatever makes someone feel fulfilled/accepted, good?

First off, that can't work, because as we know, the social-collective aspects of the Mandala of Reality, are inherent in arising (lower quadrants).

Also is this vision for Mead to be exported--i.e. to China, Brazil, India, and the like? There some arguments that such is in fact the case, say with Brazil which is undergoing a massive push towards a modern economic system at the same time that Pentecostal Christianity (American Individualist variety) is booming. China as well with Xty exploding there.

Does that mean whoever takes over the mantle of individualist Christianity will be the leader of the economic world for the century to come (China? South Korea?).

integral communication

A really important (I think) clip from Ken Wilber on IntegralNaked (subscription required--first month is free).

Wilber's main point is how hard it is to both talk about and actually inhabit the integral world. As a real wave in existence (assuming this whole idea of altitude is in someway right). Words like 2nd-tier, turquoise, etc. are the barest of signifiers. We need words for the actual lived reality of integral.

It reminded me of something a woman I knew once (a spiritual seeker) used to say all the time: we never really understand the depth of a teacher. We hear them repeat words like "2nd-tier" or truth or whatever and assume we know what they mean but they are always deeper than we at first expect.

He's talking about something very subtle profound and I get the sense the crowd doesn't quite get the intensity of his words (some no doubt do but probably not too too many). On the surface Wilber's words seem easily understandable.

If post-metaphysics is right (if integral is at least in part about a rising wave of consciousness and that the future is not pre-set), then language has to be enacted/created at the edge. It is not simply a matter of description but enactment. And wanting to actually communicate that wave and realize together we are describing this space without actually having to talk about the fact that there is such realization--that's hard.

[Again at least in part--if this version of integral has merits, which I believe it does. I point this out because if integral is better defined as the Canon/Great Conversation/Humanities as MD has argued or some version of Neo-Perennialist Philosophy then this problem of language does not really arise].

It also brings me back to one of the hardest points I've had in my own articulation of what I think integral is. In my gut and heart and even my head I know from personal experience (and interactions with others who "light" up and start to sense the change), what is the reason why it is necessary to wake up to this idea of altitude. But I find it hard to articulate to others.

For those who are already sensing something is amiss, something is missing, I can begin to describe this and immediately they re-cognize the truth. And maybe these are the only people to talk to? But I have the sense I'm missing something in the description. Something that answers the question of why? What's the payoff?

Iraq in a Nutshell

Recall that Talabani is a Kurd--a separate ethnicity from majority Arabs. He aligns with Shia (though Kurds are mainly Sunni).

--So does Bush not actually realize this and is really that clueless?
--Or does he know better and he is trying to goad Talabani in that direction (national unity reconciliation)

And better question: which is worse?

Talabani had been delayed getting to the meeting. When he arrived, Bush greeted him warmly, according to Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell.

"Mr. President. Mr. President. The president of the whole country," Bush said to Talabani, before shaking his hand and sharing a traditional Middle Eastern greeting.

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