In Response

In Response- Collected Op-Ed Commentary


John Michael Gorrindo


CBS Response to AGAINST the GRAIN 13 April 2007


Character lynchings.  A psychologist might interpret it as a transpersonal act. 

An individual looks for iconic personalities in which they can self-identify as

they deem their own life or self wanting.  In so doing a measure of resentment

exists for the object of transference.  It is commensurate with the original

self-loathing.  The seeds for the later lynching are laid. 


I agree.  The fault lies with us, not with our "stars." 


Better not to elevate anyone to a perversely high status beyond the measure

of their station. Better not to iconize human beings as it is ultimately a

dehumanizing process for the idolater and the idol.



Comment- CBS Report on Violence Statistics- 05 Juni 2007



I don't believe many Americans are surprised by the new crime statistics. 


For reasons of sanity, Americans prefer to think of the country and its history as a glorious one; a land that cherishes "freedom and equal opportunity."  Rightfully, there is a lot to celebrate in that regard.


The other side of that coin of the realm is the stark reality history provides.  America is a nation predicated as much on violence as on freedom. The historical examples are so numerous as to inure the average citizen who must duck, run, and find the pyschological means to either trivialize the cruel truth of America's violent nature or otherwise ignore it.


An extreme, yet not-so-uncommon example is offered as case-in-point. In Mark Twain's "Roughing It," he reports on the long forgotten "Mountain Meadow Massacre," in which an Emigrant party heading west on a wagon train is slaughtered by a group of Salt Lake City Mormons who sought revenge against a few disaffected of their religion who had taken refuge with the party which having originated in Missouri and Arkansas was passing west through Salt Lake City.  The Mormon vigilantes slaughtered 120 innocent people in the process, sparing only the lives of seventeen children younger than the age of seven.  Such are the tender mercies of the vigilante heart.


America can not live down its history.  It will continue to be a very violent country- and that violence will be manifest not only physically, but in a myriad other forms of societal expression.


Virginia Tech is just the last salvo of madness that the American psyche embraces.  Freedom does not insure peace, contrary to the fabled linkage politicians are so fond of touting.  It is time Americans carefully reexamine just what the nature of a "free society" really entails.





Comment: And "Why so?" As far as politicians and the military are concerned, WWII served to provide the "winning template"- aggressive foreign intervention is the key to defeating the enemy. Super powers always have super enemies, so it is easy to rouse public fear. The military also needs a war every decade to fine tune its latest incarnation. One doesn't stay top-dog without a field to play in. Practice is required. Moreover, national-level politicians also find dealing with domestic issues quite difficult, and it is easier for them to steer public concern towards the urgency to fight America's enemies. So America has allowed its psyche to become dominated by fear-mongering. National priorities, hence, have become determined by means of fostering fear- however real or imagined. It is evident why Americans are so quick to express extreme hubris and vain pride about their country- they are scared as hell and woefully ignorant to boot. Politicians leverage this with cynical manipulative brilliance. Nixon and McCarthy laid the groundwork for it, and it still persists today.



Comment_San Diego Union_re_Many divided over whether ruling is about civil rights


Freedom is an organic entity- if it doesn't grow, it dies.  If it is not busy being born, it is busy dieing.  The best way to measure if freedom is waxing or waning in America is to follow the struggles of the disenfranchised and dispossessed on their own path to securing it.


Since the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, the Gay rights movement has made steady progress in securing the freedoms many would never wish to see them enjoy.


Because the cause of freedom is right, and transcends the will of those who would deny it to others- freedom will prevail; that is, if the country remains attuned to the core values that define freedom itself.


As Americans, we can take heart that Gays are enjoying the fruits of freedom a little bit more every day.  It is a sure measure that the country still values fulfilling the meaning of its creed.  To deny freedom to others eventually limits one's own, as well as posterity's. It's a false investment in the future that history bears out.  It is always better to live and let live.  There is no viable alternative.


The author's article was quick to make historical analogies.  History is the great teacher.  Should we all be good students then, and learn its lessons well.






Dear Jakarta Post_24-04-08.txt


It is a debatable point as to whether international sports should be politicized, but the author fails to note that countries who vie for hosting the Olympics do so in great part for political reasons- certainly not for the love of sports. A backlash can be expected when an hegemonous power is the host looking to promote its national image.


That the Olympics have been completely politicized is old news, and the precedent was set long ago- dating back to at least Munich in 1972, or Mexico City in 1968.  There is nothing new under the sun.


In terms of Tibet, the author encourages his readers to take consolation in Bejing allowing the practice of Buddhism in Tibet and the possibility of allowing the Tibetans to choose its next Dalai Lama.  In these concessions, one is supposed to find some solace given the fact the Chinese brutally invaded and annexed Tibet.  That thousands were killed and displaced doesn't seem to matter to the author. That Tibet was forced to its knees and its nation stripped of sovereignty is relegated to an historical footnote. Idealist values such as "freedom" are to be shunted to ground according to this morally-void philosophy.


Specifically, the author would have us accept Tibet's forced annexation as a fait de complet, and that any attempt to free Tibet as a "separatist" movement.  "Separatism" here is used as a code word for "unjustifiable uprising," and the author would have us accept hegemonous intervention as the fundamental basis of relations between strong and weak nations. By extension, he encourages all countries- especially those who have suppressed their own native populations- to simply accept the fact that Tibet is now a part of China, whether it is just or not. That such countries have erred similarly in the past would now make them hypocrites if they raised a protestation.


How would the author feel if the same arguement was foisted on Indonesia vis-a-vis its former colonial interloper, the Dutch?  Would he have the Indonesians simply role over and say, "You conquered us fair and square, so hats off to your superior power" ?


The author seems to forget- and would have us forget- the crux of Indonesian history and its fight for freedom.  He skillfully avoids addressing any issues concerning human rights and freedom in the terrible history regarding China and Tibet.


It is not surprising that a former national intelligence chief would side with the ethos of "might is right," and "let's play ball with the powers-that-be."


Real politiks is what the author would have us all accept as the ultimate point of reference. He places no value in humanitarian progress.


I can only hope that Indonesians can appreciate that their call to freedom in 1945 is in no way different than Tibet's in 2008.




Dear Mr. Friedman_12 January 2009.txt


Dear Mr. Friedman:


Having been a mathematics teacher for many years, I would also add that I taught music as well.  After all is said and done, I wish I had also taught history and philosophy.


Ours is a crisis of the spirit, and doubling down on math and science will not in itself solve our problems.  It should be noted that the Nobel peace prize is the "invention" whose name so attached was the inventor of dynamite.  And E=MC2 helped make possible the invention of the nuclear bomb.  I'm not so sure that settled well with Mr. Einstein. 


I'd rather you seriously advocate the doubling of the salaries of all teachers, for the teachings of the humanities confers a humane motivation to the hard sciences.  The advances of the sciences are of and by themselves spiritually bereft and dangerous if not properly informed by the humanities.


President Truman once said that the only thing new under the sun is the history of which we are unaware.  In the present crisis we all have the opportunity to see what happens when the "will to power" runs amok and takes predominating precedence and stature.  State power brokers and potentates of finance are the presiding figures over this age, and that we would look up to them is our loss.  The loss and ruin is everywhere for we have coddled and idolized them like the Babylonians did the golden calf. The Madoff fiasco is the telling parable of the times. Something for nothing is the devil in the red dress. Even Elie Weisel was taken in.  Ouch..........


While a student learns calculus and how to master the art of manipulating the mechanistic universe, his or her math teacher should not be paid double the wage of a counterpart who reveals the truths of history.  And the lessons of U.S. history- all that readily available information that details the collusion between shadow government and big business that has helped sustain our addiction to oil and systematically undermined the human rights of so many poor nations and peoples since the rise of the U.S. empire- that is a history lesson future American generations cannot afford not the learn.  For there is no greater truth that if one does not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.


Placing math and science at the head of the class is just another example of wrongheaded living, and will lead us into only greater quagmire.  There is no harmony to be manifested in society if the humanities are taken to be worth half the value.  Such a philosophy is doomed to failure as history repeatedly reveals. Ask the Romans.  Ask the gatekeepers of abusive power throughout history.  They are begging of us to learn from their examples. 


Revigoration of a compassionate spirit is more important than that of reinnovating science, for science is but a tool.  Tools come and go in handiness, for it is the human spirit that molds them to their tasks. Tend to the spirit, and the rest will follow as it well should.



Dear NY Times Editor_03-10-08.txt



Dear Editor of the NY Times:


I don't know whether to address this to the editor, or to the owners.  Hopefully, both will read it.


Never in my lifetime have I seen a greater need than now for the establishment press to undertake a gamble heretofore never taken- open up the door and allow the people to freely express their opinion on your printed pages and IN GREAT MULTITUDES.


Convention dictates that the op-ed, opinion-makers and stable of pundits retained by a newspaper such as your own are called upon to take the lead on any given issue of the day.  Comments from the readers are welcome- but it is only on the internet that these opinions can be accessed in great number.


Given the crisis the country now finds itself (much of which could have been averted), it is evident that this small coterie of journalists are in over their heads.  Most of them are making economic diagnosis and prognostications and offering a prescription because they have either been so directed, or feel the professional urgency to do so.  Often these pundits are not qualified to be confidently delivering half-baked nostrums.


The fact few of them raised the red flag when not one but two presidential elections were most likely stolen by the Bush administration is enough reason to take everything they say with grave skepticism.


For instance, readers' comments offered in response to Nicolas Kristof's "Save the Fat Cats" clearly demonstrated how much more attuned and qualified many of the readership were to the Wall Street collapse in comparison to Kristof's very dubious reasoning.  Even more clear was the fact that the large body of letters taken as a collective made an even vaster impression.  Educational doesn't begin to describe it. Hence, I was much the more enlightened by the comments than by the column. And the quality of writing- that criterion most valued by editors- was often far superior to Kristof's own.


You can say, "Well those comments were freely available- so why whine?  What's the point?"  Well, yes, but this is true of the NY Times internet edition- but not so the printed edition.


May I suggest that the public needs to be heard and their thoughts published in a monumental special edition- an entire print newspaper devoted to the financial crisis which contains only letters from readers.  You are quick to choose "guest contributors" such as Ben Stein and Tom Wolfe- people with recognizable names and influence- but as for your readers, you rarely offer anything more than 150 words, fifteen letters a day (more or less). That is just token appreciation; done as a nominal courtesy and for self-promotional reasons. It is simply standard fare for a newspaper's editorial policy as per "letters to the editor."  Given the urgency of the crisis, it is criminally negligent to not open the flood gates to all the great advice that is really out there.  By keeping this advice dammed up, you are perpetrating a form of censorship- sin by omission rather than by commission.


If the country is truly in trouble then the first place to look for solutions is amongst the people- not the small, insular aristocracy and plutocracy of politicians, pundits, and establishment power brokers who have stood by idly since the Reagan revolution and watched the entire country tank. They are not only in the main all sleeping together in constant mutual self-congratulations, but are largely insulated from the dire effects we all see around us. 


The establishment press still retains a patronizing and condescending attitude towards the American public.  The aphorism that America has freedom of the press only if you can afford to print a newspaper remains the essential truth, though admittedly, the internet is beginning to make real headway in widening the avenues for publications. But old fashioned print journalism is still influential and important and should adjust to modern times and the needs of a new era.


The print media could acknowledge the importance of the internet, the blog sphere, etc., by modeling at least one measly edition as an "mass open letter to the editor." The press should show some imagination and begin to treat the opinions and ideas of the readership as a potential source of solution for the current economic upheaval. 


Almost all the country's most entrenched, powerful institutions have failed the American people.  And that includes the fifth estate.


John Gorrindo




Editorial response_NYT_11-09-08.txt


The capture of Osama Bin Laden is not now nor ever has ever been a top priority in the war on terror.  Establishing a permanent American military presence across the Middle East and well into Central Asia is the real game at hand.


If US policy makers and the Bush administration had ever been serious about quelling terrorist threats, they would have long ago employed such strategies as those of Rep. Charlie Wilson- i.e. build the infrastructure of such a country as Afghanistan in order to win the hearts and minds of its peoples, allowing it to function.


It is in the current adminstration's game plan to actually engender a degree of failure in their avowed war- both militarily and politically- in order to legitimize a continued military presence in the extended region of the Middle East and Central Asia. This buys time, creates greater dependency on the US, and "warms" all interests into accepting long term US occupation/presence- especially in terms of military bases.  


As long as US policy is motivated by breeding more contemptuous enemies and weaker political systems in places such as Afghanistan in order to validate perpetual intervention and a large scale physical presence, the more intractable conflict on all fronts of the war of terror will be.


That is exactly the way the Neo-Con establishment want it. 


If the US had truly wanted Bin Laden, they would have invaded Pakistan long ago.  They found cause to preemptively invade other countries without a second thought.  Why not Pakistan? 


The truth is, they would rather not capture Bin Laden, partially because he is more valuable alive than dead.  In part, the American people need to know there is a real flesh and blood enemy out there that we can focus our vengeance on.  It doesn't seem to bother the body politic too much that Bin Laden still remains at large. And Sadam's trial and hanging served primarily as proxy and transference- a mere distraction that served to feed the demand for blood lust.


America is in deep trouble.  We will begin to fold economically if an all-out-war-on-all-front prevails.  It appears that under either an Obama or McCain presidency, such a scenario will persist. Things appear bad now, but they will get much worse before anything of remedy is to be had.  The Neo-Cons are prepared for a forty year war.  That much has already been proclaimed by their intellectual instigators.



Editorial Response_Seattle Intelligencer Post_03-05-08.txt


One can only hope the journalist who wrote the article in question takes to heart and mind the entire body of responses at hand.


Everyday Americans are forever underestimated, marginalized, and dismissed by both politicians and the press. Americans know that politicians pander and lie; and that journalists sin by both means of omission and commission. Don't underestimate us, Fifth Estate, and curb your hubris for once.


Beyond the wretchedness of the Wright-Obama fiasco, there are greater issues at hand which are being hidden behind the veil of smoke and mirrors spewing forth from America's press rooms.  This SP-I article is simply another case study in obfuscation. In fact, who becomes our next president is relatively unimportant.  There is a much bigger elephant in the bath tub sitting next to us. Don't you think that Americans know this?  Wake up ! !


One can draw the lines of debate closely, and under the microscope, vivisect the person of Reverend Wright, and by association, Barack Obama. Journalists are taught to draw their focus in very tightly, and aim for the kill. Fair enough according to convention- and so much for the narrow-minded ethos of journalism and what it considers its obligations and primary job. The focus stinks to holy hell and only serves to desensitize true soul searching and draw the wool over the collective eye. 


Shame on all news people who participate as such.


A much bigger story was sitting in front of your eyes, Fifth Estate.


The point is, after one thousand trials by fire, the Wright-Barack story should take on the grander dimensions it naturally suggests, and be used as a spring board for more important things than skewering two black men in the public arena. To date, feedback of the presses' pundits is predictable- and akin to watching a gladiator war in the Roman Coliseum with both politicians and the press presiding over an orchestrated slaughter. That Obama is running for president is the presses' pretext for beating the issue to death. I think the responses to the article express just how tired people are of dead horse beaters.


The fact is the unexposed story of Wright's statements is belied by the fact that the government and press establishments have reacted so violently to the Reverend's implications.


Truth be told, there is good reason for Jeremiah Wright to have spoken so harshly about America.  That it came out of his mouth is really not the point. But given there is a hot news story at hand, the press should take up the other side of the story just to be intellectually honest. The scorn Wright heaped on the country is deserved, though the indelicacies and uncorroborated nature of some of his accusations undermined his points.  His statements should have focused more exclusively on what history can bear out as undisputable fact. One can only dismay that a man with the intellectual and verbal abilities of Malcom X hadn't been the man whose statements were in question. Malcom X used the term "chickens come home to roost" as well.  There is nothing new under the sun, only younger generations unaware of history.


Along with America's protracted practice of slavery, the countless number of innocent people who have died at the hands of U.S. illegal military intervention, covert operations, and collusion with totalitarian regimes around the globe dating back to at least the implementation of the Monroe Doctrine helps form the swelling reservoir of bad karma and the "chickens coming home to roost" that both Malcom X and Jeremiah Wright were talking about.


The brave deeds and sacrifices America experienced as "saviors of the world" in World War II just can't make up for all the death and destruction we have fomented for reasons of "national security."  The scales are woefully out of balance.


The real story is: Are Americans ready to face the need for "truth and reconciliation" given our wretched maltreatment of both black slaves and the third world over the past 400 years? The repercussions of history are just now beginning to catch up with the U.S. and the incoming salvos of deadly force striking back at the body and soul of America have just begun. 


9-11 can and will happen again if a concerted truth and reconciliation process does not take place on a country-wide basis.


That's what Wright was talking about.


As their job and reputations are at stake, members of the mainstream press don't have the courage to deal with this greatest of taboo subjects.  Questions concerning "America's moral greatness" are generally off the table. Arguably the presses' bravest member over the past quarter century- Gary Webb- was disowned and ostracized by many major newspapers because he had the guts to explore the connection between the drug infestation of black neighborhoods and the CIA [Webb investigated Nicaraguans linked to the CIA-backed Contras who had allegedly smuggled cocaine into the U.S. which was then distributed as crack cocaine into Los Angeles and funneled profits to the Contras]. First supported, then abandoned, it is little wonder he eventually committed suicide as he was completely betrayed by his own.  Shame on the San Jose Mercury for not standing behind him, and papers like the Los Angeles Times who pressured the Mercury to condemn his good work.


American citizens have to stand up to the fifth estate and hold them responsible for not so much what they do and say- but what they regularly omit and condemn as not being newsworthy. 


"Why do they hate us?" many Americans asked in the wake of 9-11.  The press never took that headline seriously beyond the next distraction, which of course, was the Iraq war. That we reacted so violently and ventured off into yet another war so legitimized by lies told the international community about weapons of mass destruction should suffice to answer that question!  Violent and war is America's predictable response- no matter which party is in power. Our diplomatic skills have atrophied down to a nubbin.


"Why do they hate us?" is the most important issue confronting America at present. 


Time to wake up, fifth estate.  Help to answer the true question at hand. Time to be a moral leader and touch the central nerve. How many more 9-11's would you like to cover?  Help start a national discussion on what is truly important and vital to America's spiritual, and possibly, material survival.



Guitar Forum Post 23 Juli 2007 Best Guitarist.txt


I agree with a previous poster that favorite player is a category not to dwell on. To me, it is too limiting and I can't get my thoughts much behind it.


I think raw imagination in the actual production of sound from a guitar draws me more when making comparisons. I would have to say as a sound innovator Jimi Hendrix was a groundbreaking guitarist because his playing inspired players of all related rock instruments- not just guitarists. The same could be said of Miles Davis with the trumpet. Few players are true sound innovators. Classical guitar is hard to fit in such categories of contemplation. I probably have not listened to enough classical players, though I have seen Bream and Parkening live. I think if a classical guitar player can improvise the way Mozart did his Piano Concerto cadenzas, that would make me stand up and pay strict attention.


In my experience of live performances I tend to hold flamenco players as the best guitarists in general. With a thousand year tradition as gleaned and synthesized from music traditions across three continents (I lose count...) and the culture surrounding how they actually learn the instrument, it is hard to find a group of players or associated style with more diversity and complex background. Some of this judgment has to do with the nature of gypsy life and their approach to music itself. They are free to improvise within the bounds of a strong structure which gives them immense freedom yet at the same time the music is rooted in something incredibly durable. Technically, their percussive attack and right hand strength (for right handed players of course!) are matchless. They can coax sounds out of an acoustic instrument that defy my imagination. I really have no idea how they produce some of the sounds they do. 




Hanoi Hilton_NY Times reader submission.txt    (the following was not written by me)



What I find appalling is that so many democrats I know would have been easily swayed toward the McCain camp had he chosen a qualified VP and stuck to his guns on the issues he originally championed.


It's so amazing and so terribly sad, since, as a fellow veteran, I felt so sorry for him and wanted to rush to his defense when Rove and his cowardly, draft-dodging crew were trying to destroy him in 2004.


Later, while working at the MIA Detachment in Ha Noi, I walked through the ruins of the nearby 'Hanoi Hilton' on several occasions and I could almost feel the desperation of the men who had lived and struggled there in captivity for so many years. When they tore it down in 1994, some of the Joint Task Force personnel posted to the MIA compound grabbed an SUV full of bricks from the demolition and began selling them to visiting tourists for five dollars a piece. Every brick I looked at reminded me of John McCain, the maverick Senator from Arizona that I have respected for so long in my life.


I simply cannot believe that the McCain we are seeing now is the real man -- it's almost as if he's been taken over by some sinister, evil organization and forced into the role of puppet.


Truly, if one thinks about it, it really does seem that way, for a number of reasons -- especially with his choice of Palin, which has obviously cost him many millions of votes.


I'm an old man now, but I know this: Something is wrong with this picture, and it is bone-chilling.

AJ, Brooklyn, NY




Hello Aida  ( 17 June 2007.txt


Hello Aida:


I have read some of your articles- not many- but a few. As a fellow writer I commend your abilities, but even more so your willingness to tackle sensitive issues.  By definition, much of what concerns you is challenging to broach to the readers who frequent these pages.


In preface I must tell you I am an American now living in Manado as a permanent resident. I am also married to an Indonesian woman, and in the past served as a volunteer teacher in both South and North Sulawesi.


As per your Kampung Foreigner article, I was quite dismayed concerning the elevator incident and amused by the conversation with the oil rig worker.  There is no excuse for the complete lack of courtesy the two men refused to show you and your small child in the elevator.  As concerns the oil rig worker, I must say he possessed some saving graces.  He was obviously ignorant of Indonesian etiquette and apparently offended you as per graphically displaying his disjointed shoulder, but as far as many Americans go, he was not really a bad sort. His ignorance concerning hot running water doesn't deserve his complete discreditation.


As a foreigner I feel some discomfort in "lecturing" any Indonesian concerning their use of Bahasa Indonesia, but I would be careful in how you use the word "kampung," whose connotation you seem to use in the derogative. I was surprised to read the connotational definitions at the foot of the article which were written in such a way as to cast aspersions on anyone living in the "kampung."


Drawing from a good amount of personal experience in the republic, I would attest that the most generous and warm-hearted people I have had the pleasure to meet in Indonesia come from the kampung.  I for one do not think of people from the kampung as uncouth, unsavory, impolite folks.  Sure, they blow their noses clear on the streets and the such, but I commonly see that on the streets of Manado, which is one of Indonesia's most comopolitan cities.


In America we bandy about some very harsh terms for such people- white trash, hicks, rednecks, country bumpkins.  The list goes on. Such terminology speaks volumes about the speaker, and much less about who is being spoken about.


Manners are important, I am in total agreement.  But I have met many a sophisticated Indonesian whose polished manners simply present a slick and superficial surface which at heart belies unsavoriness at its worst.  The same is true of any country.  The world is not so different in that regard.


As for the notion that the West has a long tradition of chivalry, politeness, and courtesy, that by no means is absolute and universal. I always look for the true colors of an individual as expressed over time.  First impressions are important, but I reserve judgment. True character does not always reveal itself at first glance.


Aside from drunken pemudah/borderline preman, most Indonesians have always treated me with more respect and politeness than I usually received in America. 


I just spent a night in the kampung with a kampung family on a local small island offshore of Manado.  They and everyone else in the village were incredibly generous and gracious. I couldn't have been treated better.


Maybe I misread your article, but I for one would like to stand up for the common Indonesian who lacks in polish and education.  These are not the primary determinants of good character.  People are people- no matter their social status- and some are good and others are not.  I would wager the polite society of Jakarta harbors some of the most vile and corrupt people Indonesia has to offer. The number of people I have met in America who smile to your face and stab you in the back would make your head spin. The American culture produces such a character type in prolific numbers.  I'd rather be treated rudely by an ignorant person in a direct manner than countenance the unmitigated fraud of a two-faced liar.


I do not know if you are continuing to write for this web site or other publications, but you have great gifts and a high level of applied craftsmanship in journalism.  I certainly do not mean to patronize you- only to express my sincere appreciation for your writing.  I always learn something new when I read your work- not only about Indonesia, but about writing itself.


Good tidings,

John from Manado


ICG_Stroehlein_return post_17-05-08.txt


Dear Mr. Stroehlein:


I have been remiss in extending my thanks to you for replying to my email.  So I do indeed thank you.


Your return message expressed an opportunistic rationale for why ICG would include board members whose ideology gives every appearance of being anathema to the mission and goals of your organization.  Again, members such as Mr. Adelman are not devoted to peaceful conflict resolution.  Adelman for one has fallen squarely in the camp of "shoot first and ask questions later; might is right; and if someone stands in the way of U.S. interests, destroy them."


You attempt to assuage my concerns by reminding me that many of ICG's board members have been in government for a long period, and have from time-to-time taken "unpopular stands."  But if those stands are in direct opposition to ICG's stated mission and ethos, why would such members of Adelman's ilk be invited to become a board member?


That ICG would need to include such members in order to "maintain its influence among key decision makers" is a pure example of Orwellian double-speak.  On the contrary, the majority of ICG board members are either present or ex-members of governments, and their membership (along with the significant government-based funding ICG receives) naturally influences the work of ICG, not the other way around.


From what I have been able to discern, ICG is a tool of governmental interest- often hegemonic in nature- and does not work directly enough with truly non-governmental entities and other civil organizations to promote violent conflict prevention.


I can only hope ICG is more than an organization whose true goal is to mute conflicts that arise amongst peoples of the world yearning to be free of hegemonic domination. Conflicts always arise where there is injustice, and the key is to settle them fairly and non-violently- not simply conceive of a way to "neutralize them" for the benefit of the established world powers and their selfish, non-democratic interests.


John Merah





--- On Tue, 4/29/08, Andrew Stroehlein <> wrote:


    From: Andrew Stroehlein <>

    Subject: RE: Board Members


    Date: Tuesday, April 29, 2008, 9:58 PM


    Dear Mr Merah,


    Thank you for your email.


    Indeed, a wide spectrum of Board members is essential for a diversity of viewpoints and, no less important, for the wide range of access that insures Crisis Group's maintains its influence among key decision makers. Most of our Board members have been in politics for decades, so it's almost certain that each of them will have taken controversial or unpopular decisions at some point in their careers. Hopefully, Crisis Group benefits from their learning from past mistakes as well as their experience with past successes.







    Andrew Stroehlein

    Director of Media and Information

    International Crisis Group

    Mob: +32 (0) 485 555 946

    Skype: astrophone


    Crisis Group website:


    Crisis Group - the international conflict prevention organisation




    From: John Gorrindo []

    Sent: 29 April 2008 00:59

    To: Media

    Subject: Board Members



    Dear International Crisis Group:


    I've perused your list of board members.  It raises some disturbing questions.  Such as:


    Kenneth Adelman and Richard Armitage?


    I suppose every reputable NGO needs a balanced complement of players.


    But really- what are man of Armitage and Adelman's ilk doing on the board of an NGO ostensibly concerned about promoting world peace?  This is equivalent to allowing totalitarians on the board of the Center for Democratic Studies. It would not surprise if they were planted their by Bush just to keep an eye on things.


    The NeoCons shouldn't be afforded entrance to any august board they would like. These two men in particular wish for world peace with the proviso that the United States gets what it wants out of the deal- i.e., continued world-hegemony in matters economic and political.  Adelman in particular is a vicious-minded man who has no business serving an organization such as yours.


    Armitage has shown the willingness to modify his hard-line views over the years- I will grant him that.


    But the presence of card-carrying NeoCons on your board is very unsettling.  Maybe I have you folks all wrong.  Or maybe you believe in the maxim, "Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer."  I'm sure Adelman and Armitage are attuned to such a philosophy.


    John Merah



Indonesia Matters_Forum_Merah response.txt


However fair game any published article is in this forum, and no matter the intellectual approach assumed in constructing it, the writing and writer should be afforded at least a modicum of common courtesy.  They are making an offering- unpaid and unsolicited.  People do not have to agree- they can even be disagreeable in their disagreement. But to savagely attack?  Enlightenment, truth, and rightful thinking are simply concepts some of the deranged detractors whose venal bloodlettings are scrawled across this forum use in order to skewer those with whom they disagree.


Their only ideal is verbal violence.


The vitriol poured liberally atop the head of the author in question is especially cruel because is not meant to kill, but to maim- such that the victim is left conscious in order that he may continue to suffer.


These violent detractors are simply dyed-in-the-wool school yard bullies who have traded in their axes-to-grind from childhood for an entire arsenal of smart weapons so trained on anyone who offend their self-righteous sensibilities.  In so doing they squander their intellectual goods and leave themselves with only one true ability- to taunt, tease, humiliate, and "deconstruct" through verbal decapitation.


Oh yes, and we can hear them sneer with derisive laughter, saying, "If you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen."  So what is it they are really cooking up in that proverbial kitchen?  Certainly nothing none could possibly stomach and live to tell about it.  Apparently, it is their customary sustenance.


Such sniper fire as issued from the anonymous safety and remote comfort of their computers by mean spirited, self-styled critics is ultimately suicidal.  The attention they seek will never come to be. They abuse their own considerable talents and learning- and toward what end?  Simply in an effort to cast aspersions at those with whom they disagree- whether it be in terms of substance or style.  What an abominable waste.


What is especially insidious is that the author's first language in not English, whereas his detractors are native speakers.  If only the tables could be turned.


One can take issue with the author's reliance on post modern deconstruction, or whatever the modality of discourse.  But to viscerally attack someone for simply putting their honest effort up for consideration? 


Here is just another form of running amok- and a cowardly one.  These detractors are their own worst enemies and will end their days casting pearls unto their own swine.  One is what one beholds.  They would only want everyone else to experience their own wretched suffering.



Letter to Bob Schaeffer 9 April 2007.txt


Dear Bob:


I appreciate you.  I always have. And I appreciate your Easter message.  In your inimitable way, you are reaching out to all of us in the way you best know how.


All of us carry wounds, imperfections, and incompleteness.  It is the human condition. And on that level- that manageable scale of the individual- we can all identify.


But there is a collective breakdown in our society that is not so manageable. And it is a long term fracture that leaves us hobbled. What is broken above all is our national trust and honor.


Ever since the murder of John F. Kennedy, America has struggled to come to terms with the rising awareness that hypocrisy characterizes our national leaders and their policies.  And we have done our best to forgive them because most of us self-identify with those we elect, even when we excoriate them. They are our public servants, right?


But the chickens have come home to roost.  The American Empire wears no clothes.  And we stand collectively naked in the cold.  America is hated around the world for our predilection for violence; for our brutal disregard for anything "not American."  The blood on our hands is an indelible stain.


This will not stand. Spiritual laws will retaliate. Eventually our country will fall from collective fractures unless we curb our hubris.  There is not a lot of time left.  History is the great teacher.  We are following the path of other civilizations who would so think to "lead the world."


Some things broken can't be fixed if a curative is not found in due time.



Lombok Lovers 26 Juni 2007.txt


Lombok Lovers    26 Juni 2007      Post response


Mine was the original posting.  Let me preface this by saying I am a current resident of Indonesia.


Indeed, someone may be monitoring these postings, and yes, I am questioning the integrity of Gili Trawangan's authorities.  As Indonesia's anti-drug laws and ongoing anti-drug campaign amount to very serious business, there must be some kind of collusion or corruption involved that allows the open sales of drugs on the island- especially if foreign-operated bars are advertising and selling contraband across the counter.


The inquiry is not so much aimed at drugs themselves (that is another discussion, however important), but how it is that established Indonesian businesses- whether foreign-owned and operated or not- can openly break the law and come away unscathed.  The climate of tolerance on Trawangan is unique in Indonesia to my experience. 


I do think it is in everyone's interest to question authority that gives the appearance of corruption in Indonesia.  The Indonesian government recently formed a presidential commission that is dealing with this overarching problem, and it is a fight that will take years and everyone's participation to conquer.  I am under no illusions concerning how monumentally difficult this will be, but some inroads can be made if both Indonesian citizens and foreign visitors participate on some level, even if it is only in forum discussions.  Corruption is arguably Indonesia's most dihabilitating social problem.  It causes all manner of harm, whether it be found in exploitation of natural resources (such as illegal logging), maldistribution of social services, or even hindering the fight against human trafficking.  Corruption subverts every avenue of potential social progress, and the Indonesians know this.


If- and I do mean "if"- Trawangan concessionaires are in collusion with local authorities concerning drug sales, that means money and favors are passing hands. The larger question becomes: how does this effect the indigenous peoples of the island (especially the young, many of whom do not pursue school past the age of twelve or thirteen), and couldn't that corruption money be better spent on helping the community?


There is something fundamentally wrong and lacking in Trawangan's political entity.  Maybe things have changed, but when I visited there was not one policemen assigned to the island. This is to say that basic public services were not nominally staffed. It is my view that due to this the islanders suffer.  I would hope the business owners on Trawangan who at least in part are making substantial profits off tourism would be giving back to the island in ways other than colluding with corrupt officials. For instance- wouldn't it be better to funnel said "community donations" (i.e. corruption pay-offs) towards helping the island build a junior high and high school?  As it stands right now, children wanting to continue their education past grade six must move to Lombok. Most families can't afford the costs associated with run, board, and school fees on the main island. Many hundreds of small islands in the archipelago face a similar problem with education.


Anyone who takes the time to leave the coastal strip of Trawangan and walk inland will see the poverty in which the original inhabitants live (there aren't many locals left for that matter...)  The island's water supply is brakish (fresh water has to be imported), and the fertility of the land is nothing special.  The island was only first inhabited only some 50 years ago, and was a struggling concern when tourism first took root in the local economy. A concerned authority would be making sure that some portion of tourist dollars were being used to help the Trawangan's themselves.


What I see is Trawangan authorities simply handing over the future lock-stock-and-barrel to tour operators.  Land is being subdivided and sold out. As land prices increase steadily, locals are pressured into selling as they are so poor.  Eventually, the entire island will be a tourist enclave and outsiders will build their tropical vacation homes there.  The original Trawangan agrarian community will be pushed out.


Trawangan's street dealers are a surly lot it must be said.  They are grifters who couldn't care less about the Trawangan people, and pretty much live to prey on ignorant tourists as well.  They add nothing to the spirit of community on the island.


Maybe this is course that things will take as it has in so many other small island settings across the world.  Maybe the island just never really had a chance to develop its community before the tourist economy descended on the small, fragile agrarian peoples. Some will say this is the price of progress.  I have my own judgments about this, but I do raise the subject as anyone who visits Trawangan becomes involved in which direction the island is taking.  Just who benefits and who doesn't from tourist money on the island should be considered.


If purchasing drugs from either an established Trawangan bar or individual street dealer selling Achenese ganja on the sandy paths just outside of the island hub leads to a continual decline of Trawangan society, then one should be aware of the result of making such purchases, however much harm is not unintended. 


Tourism has its positive and negative effects.  Some change is irrevocable, and it appears that Trawangan is headed down a path that might well protect its reefs and local waters, but not its own people.


I only ask that visitors be aware of tourism's effects in a country such as Indonesia where capitalism is often by nature a patronage system lubricated by money and benefiting only a handful of people.



Lombok Lovers- TRAWANGAN REPLIES.txt


From:  kaliputri                             6 Juli 2007


I totally agree with Bedadunia. I too question why the powers that be don't do much of anything re. hard drugs. It's very sad.


I also noticed the poverty of the children in the back of Trawangan. I used to put antiseptic on children's festering wounds who passed by my house. They never had clean clothes. However they seemed very happy. The question is how to help them without them looking at westerners for money only. A local group (that hopefully isn't corrupt) may be better. The main issue is education - the parents that didn't know to put a little betadine on their children's sores, the abysmal schooling there and the overemphasis on religion over education. So anyone living there, if you can please talk with the children and help them learn I think it would help them. (I don't mean how to be a capitalist (or jawak), I mean basic health, environmental stuff and thinking for themselves).


I miss Trawangan a lot. It's a sweet little island that will be a resort for the wealthy if something isn't done.





From:  ombak70                                                                   09 Juli 2007


I'd like to ask how long has bedadunia been in lombok.such self rightchness and moral high ground seem to be when you can afford it. i'm sure bule in gilli's do care about locals & they sure didn't set min wage in indo. they pay their taxes why doesnt local govt. help? guess? why is it up to tourists to provide schools. is that what do tourists do in over counties? I'm sure most bussines's are struggling under decline in tourism. and a modest job is better than no job when you are stuggling. so much suggestion of what over people should do. maybe you should put some of your money and time were your mouth is. gilli's have been a backpacker haven from day one. if you don't like it why do you go. since when have mushrooms been illegal in indonesia they are sold openly in kuta bali perhaps you should get out moore & make an effort your self to change indonesian culture. good luck



From:  Mimpikami                                                         09 Juli 2007


Thanks Ombak, you said what I have been thinking.

I have a house on Trawangan together with my Indonesian husband and have been living there on and off for the last 12 yrs and must say that I haven't experienced any more poverty on the island then in the rest of Lombok.  The familys living there are either employed in the tourist buisnesses, having their own small business or working as fishermen. I don't often see dirty children running around, the Indonesian custom is to take a mandi (shower)  at least 2 times a day, this goes for grown ups and children as well, but kids are kids. The truly poor persons on the island is the young people coming from Lombok, Java or Sumatra trying to find a job, they end up working at the simple restaurants for nothing but some food (rice and vegetables) and if they are lucky a bruqa (gazebo) to sleep on. After a while many of them start selling mushroom in order to make some money.


Magic mushroom isn't considered a drug in Indonesia and  therefor it's  not illegal to sell or use them. It would be great if there was a policestation on the island but knowing the situation with the corrupt Indonesian police I'm not so sure it would help.


The school on Trawangan isn't worse than in the rest of Indonesia, they are following the same curriculum as in Lombok/Indonesia , the school is under the administration of the principal in Pemenang. With this I'm not saying it couldn't be better but it's a problem shared with the whole of Indonesia.


Since a while back it's possible to install freshwater from PDAM into the households. A big tank provides the water, it is being shipped in every day now. The pipes and installation has to be payed by the house owner . The price is 900.000Rp. It's a huge amount for many people, but the situation is improving.


I really dislike when people from outside the island broadcast opinions on what to do and not do. You don't know and understand the situation one bit if you don't live there for a considerable amount of time. To come as a tourist and be a besserwisser isn't very popular among the islanders.  Most of he landowners on Trawangan are happy to sell some land, I know many who doesn't have to do it, but for the money most of them go to Mecka , which is the biggest event in a Muslims life.  Anita


Bedadunia                                                                             11 Juli 2007


I really appreciate the frank and pointed replies to my original post, both pro and con. I think the interchange is healthy and we all learn from sharing opinions and knowledge. I will speak for myself and say you all have provided me with both food for thought and reason to reconsider some of my leanings. I also remain puzzled about a few things concerning life on Gili Trawangan.


Ombak made some very good points, but I would like to correct an assumption in his/her post (Sorry I don't know who you are, Ombak). In fact I have put my money where my mouth is, Ombak. I not only presently live in Indonesia and am married to an Indonesian, but I spent a year serving as a volunteer teacher in two different schools in Sulawesi. These were unpaid positions- one in an almost exclusively Muslim area in South Sulawesi, and one in a predominantly Christian area of North Sulawesi. To assume I'm simply some globe trotting tourist who is talking over their head and has no vested interest in Indonesia is simply wrong. You apparently think I have no grounds for having an opinion and assume I'm just some half-baked bule who is shooting of their mouth. That exposes your prejudices, not mine. I'd be careful about making assumptions. You have no idea who I am and what my association is with Indonesia.


On the other hand, I do agree with you wholeheartedly that the Indonesian people and its government ultimately has the responsibility to better the country. But when foreigners swoop in with their investment capital into a poor, developing country and transform an island, they have social responsibilities as well. You say you are sure they do care about Trawangan's people. I'd love to see some proof besides the fact they provide jobs. Offering some employment may seem like enough to you, but I'm not so sure about that. Anita mentioned how the island's growing tourist standing is attracting a lot of people from the outside. A lot of them are unemployed and some are engaged in selling illegal drugs there. I have seen it in action. Maybe things have changed in the last two years. If they have, please let me know. I'd love to be corrected on this issue if correction is due me.


As far as the minimum wage argument, Ombak, you seem to imply the foreign operators are paying minimum-level wages to the Indonesian workers on Gili Trawangan. I never mentioned minimum wages in my post. Certainly the bigger resorts letting rooms for hundreds of thousands of rupiahs a night should be paying their employees more if that is the case, no matter what the law allows. It is a matter of ethics; not legality. Again, tell me. What is the truth of the matter?


I do not fault the schools on Gili Trawangan. I never visited them, and only know that continued education is limited on the island. They need the equivalent of an SMA (high school), and it's in everyone's interest that one is built. Certainly, this is an endemic problem throughout small islands in Indonesia. I have seen it many times in many places across the archipelago. I'm certainly am not singling the island out. Are you telling me I shouldn't have an opinion about providing children with education? If you want credentials, I have been a teacher for nearly 25 years, but I shouldn't have to prove myself on that point.


I'm glad that Anita shared some hard information concerning improvements on the island, and that both Ombak and Anita corrected me on the fact that mushrooms are legal on Gili Trawangan. I made an assumption from the beginning that they were not, and for that I stand corrected. My very original post was more in the way of a general query, and I was very curious to know the situation. Due to your responses, I have a better idea, and I thank you for that.


I don't believe opinions from outsiders should be unwelcome. They should be reasonably presented and done so civilly, but raising questions and issues are important. The outside world invaded Gili Trawangan some 20-25 years ago, and by extension, one could say if an outsider shouldn't comment on social conditions on the island, maybe foreigners in general shouldn't be allowed to visit or own property and run businesses there. That is an unrealistic and insular point of view.


In part, my underlying question from the very beginning targeted potential ties of corruption between foreign-owned businesses and local officials on Trawangan. It was an investigative question. Corruption, kickbacks, and capitalist plunder from foreign investment as started by Suharto in the mid-1960's have been the order of the day now for forty years throughout Indonesia. That's an established and well-agreed upon fact. I wondered if such things were going on Trawangan. That question has still not been answered.


I asked the question because in fact I do care about Indonesia and its people. If I didn't, I wouldn't have bothered. I am an expat from California, and I would welcome any knocks anybody would care to place on California or America. Chances are I would agree with you.


I admit I don't know much about Gili Trawangan. The truth is I'd like to know more. I really appreciated Anita giving me with a few facts. Anyone else caring to take the time to enlighten me, I'm more than thankful.





NYT  19-05-08  Re: Thomas Friedman, op-ed columnist and author


I find it telling that there is no where to be found on Friedman's web page columns a hyperlink to contact him directly and reply to his written opinions.  Yet on Frank Rich's, one exists.


This Friedman fellow-  scion of a billionaire father who even in all his globetrotting treats the world as if it his own grand theme park.  He remains out of touch with reality, and the more he trots around, the more self-serving and hence out of touch he becomes.


The man is irresponsible and a tool of his own proclivities.  He is fond of jingoist rhetoric; always touting America's "self-interest" as sine qua non when formulating rationale as per what the country's foreign policy should be.  He is quick to say things like, "if we get our act together, no one can touch us."


The age of one-dimensional patriotism is dead- finished.  We are entering an era where individuals must think and act according to principles that flow from being a world citizen- not a nationalist.


Friedman should take a long look at photos of earth taken from space.  We are one, fragile world floating in the void.  And his promoting "America first" is an idea whose time has come and gone.  It is one world- one will rise and fall in the future according to whether we treat it as one world, or two hundred separate nations. Responsible journalists should reserve at least a modicum of respect for the idea that what is best for others is what is usually best for ourselves. 


Friedman- in all his purported wisdom- is still a believer in war as a problem-solving tool.  That is nothing but a Neanderthal mentality whose time has come and gone.  With columnists of his persuasion forming the core of the Fifth Estate's establishment opinion, we are all still in peril of being led down the primrose path.  



On Hemingway_My Post to the Kansas City Star_04_FEB_08.txt



Leaving all of Hemingway's personal wounds and failings aside- and they informed his writing as much as any other factor- I believe that ultimately his greatest gift was his respect for the reader's imagination. What he "left out" he knew the reader's mind would "fill in." His iceberg-theory as successfully embodied in his writing left much to each reader's own experience and this belies a belief on Hemingway's behalf that humanity is nothing if not shared.


And ultimately he was a godless man who came of age in the most violent century on record. The suffering that accompanies such a state comes through like the cold edge of a knife in every page he wrote. It is of little wonder there persists a sustained resonance as concerns Hemingway's ability to speak to current generations. In the big picture, the world has changed little, and the stakes for survival are just as high. Unfortunately, that is the "timelessness" Hemingway was best able to capture.



RE_ Karl Rove & the Washington Post_20-05-08.txt


TO: Washington Post

RE: Karl Rove's employment at the Washington Post


It is easily understood why the Washington Post would consider jumping at the chance to retain the services of a Karl Rove.  He is an ultimate party insider, and can analyze a political campaign and election cycle according to the bare-knuckles of winner-take-all as well as any man alive.  That the majority of establishment newspapers such as your own routinely devote the majority of its most substantive coverage during a presidential election year to the political personalities and the 'horse race' is a foregone precedent. The core issues- as usual-  are given short shrift in comparison.  So are the true needs of a hurting American populace as the end of the American Empire is in plain sight (read: in hindsight).


Given these coverage biases, Karl Rove becomes "the man," and an obvious catch for a newspaper such as yours with its slavish devotion to real politik and predictably establishment-touting agenda.


What is at question specifically is your higher sense of purpose in employing such a man.  I sense there is none.  Does the Washington Post really believe itself to be the bearer of journalism's higher calling- i.e. informing the people properly so they can come to their own conclusions about what choices to make as a concerned citizenry?  Do Karl Rove's contributions serve such an end? Of course not.  Rove only provides further distraction- diverting attention away from what is truly at stake in this most important of crossroads in American history.


Yours is just another American 'big name brand' and self-styled cultural icon- a cornerstone of Fifth Estates establishment players whose game routinely involves playing 'revolving doors' with the oligarchy that rules the country. I'm sure the owners of the Post were gleeful to have retained Rove's services, and fully expected increased readership because of it. That is the Post's bottom line.  But stooping to the likes of Rove jeopardized the good the Post does do- and this good is undone in light of the newspaper's baser motivations.


The surest indicator that only the rich and powerful benefit from America's advantages and wealth is that the establishment press, lobbyists, members of the congress and executive administrations (both present day and past), corporate CEO's, and big business in general are all in cahoots with each other.  The fact that an increasing number of the American people can see through this has not yet reached critical mass, and establishment juggernauts such as the Post have heretofore been able to keep them at arm's length.  They can still be easily brushed aside, dismissed, canceled, and nullified.  Non-entities you make of any body who is not important.


I am just another American who is fed up, and whom you most likely will cast aside as a 'crank' that can't be taken seriously. Still, I submit to you the obvious: Karl Rove is a criminal; a vicious, back-stabbing political operative whose capabilities are inversely proportion to his moral caliber. And the Post debases itself in employing such a political hit-man.


These reservations extend to such slime as found on the other side of the aisle, such as Rove's counterpart, Dick Morris.


Where was the Post when this man you currently employ helped mastermind the theft of the 2000 election?  When he helped the Bush administration disperse a veil of lies concerning the supposed weapons of mass destruction that lead the country into war?  Is this the same news organization that blew the lid on Watergate?  What has happened to your moral bearings?



Being that Karl Rove is Lee Atwater's heir-apparent, it is most timely to remind the Washington Post of Atwater's revelations at the end of his short life as a fatal brain tumor took the mighty political operative down:


In a February 1991 article for Life Magazine, Atwater wrote:


    'My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiring -- acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.'



    I can only hope that Karl Rove has read his mentor's mea culpas, and can see his own mortal and moral reflection in it.  If he hasn't, he needs to.  Rove learned how to destroy his opponents from Atwater, and now it is time to learn how to repent.  Atwater has laid it all out for Karl Rove. It's there for the taking from the mentor himself.


    Rove will fall just as we all will.  He is no less mortal than any man, and it is time he make peace with his maker.  He has an unenviable lot to answer for.


    Even though Rove disabused himself of Bush when the heat got too hot to take anymore, Rove is still today's Machiavelli; a man who would throw away all that is good and just in order to serve his King- no matter his King's shortcomings or the cost his King's brutality exacts upon anyone who would stand in his way.  And now that America as a collective can see just how destructive the Bush administration truly is; just how vicious this false leader's attacks have been upon the safeguards of American civil liberties; just how instinctually cold-blooded his policies- America can rightfully judge the magnitude of Rove's disease and the destruction he himself helped to wrought.


    Karl Rove is to Bush what Goebbels was to Hitler.  He is the venal little Torquemada of Washington's current period of moral denouement.


    And yet you would employ this man. What are you doing, Washington Post? Haven't you learned anything over the past eight years?  Wake-up!  The Empire is in decay- and you are there first to report on it, right? Scooping the end of the American Empire while watching the everyday man and woman fall haven believed in the lies they have consumed about the American Dream doesn't seem like a very wise investment.


    You are no better than the rest of the King's wretched cadre of boot licking henchman.


    John Merah



RE_ Obama's Success_Bookman_15-05-08.txt


Dear Mr. Bookman:


America is a terribly complex "place."  It is one country only in name. John Edwards edged towards the real magnitude of the truth by railing against the fact that there were "two Americas," and that it should become one.  The plain truth is that it is a collection of special interests. There are many Americas, and they are found amongst groups that rally around a religion, a common ethnic identity, a sexual-orientation, a racial identity, a neighborhood, a gang affiliation, a corporate identity.


And each of these groups identify who is in, and who is out; who is friend, and who is foe.  Competition- winning and losing- that is America's driver and fuse.  The fear of losing is as much an incentive as the love of freedom. An American has no social identity without belonging to some sub-cultural group.  Without it, one's place in society is nebulous.  America is a microcosm of the world's peoples, the world's attitudes, and the sum total of the world's history after a fashion.  To find some sort of grounding anchor is almost a necessity in order to survive- if not physically, then at least psychologically.


Many do not cope psychologically.  That is plain when one looks at the rates of drug consumption- whether they be anti-depressants or from the streets. Escapism is rampant.  Survival in order to thrive in America is an all-consuming activity.  To survive only is not good enough.  And given the crushing nature of living- no matter the country, time, or place- many simply don't make it.  Life breaks them, and even though they may appear whole and functional when we see them on the street, they are riddled with fear and suffer from losses only those with a sensitive, attuned soul can rightfully detect.


To bring the point home as regards your article, the fact remains that Obama's success suggests that some of these groups mentioned are ready to look beyond the color of a presidential candidate’s skin color- or gender for that matter- and some are not.  It depends on which America you are talking about.


True, blacks are no longer lynched with impunity by vigilante groups, but they are occasionally dragged to death as towed by a chain along a dirt road. It's a matter of degree, not kind.  Strangely, given the U.S. government's merciless history of undermining the aspirations of colored peoples throughout the world as per the dirty tricks of covert operations and interventionist wars such as Viet Nam and Iraq, it has historically proved itself to be more enlightened than most of the American public in terms of race issues at home.  Certainly Lincoln lost his life over it; possibly Kennedy as well.  If the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts of the Johnson administration had been left up to a national vote, I seriously doubt they would have passed.  While Johnson was pursuing a near-genocidal war in South East Asia, domestically he was doing more for people of color (legally speaking) than any president the country ever had.  This is the two-faced complexity that is typical of America.  It is a schizophrenic nation.


Maybe the best function the government can attempt to provide is to "bring the diverse people's of America" together under one tent."  With the halls of Congress besieged by

lobbyists, most politicians bought and paid for by big business, and the last two elections held in grave doubt as to their fairness, the only real avenue left open to the five percent of honest, untainted leadership seems to be one of moral inspiration and leadership. The government has not provided much in the way of moral leadership for a long spell, and in a country that is as difficult to lead as it is to herd cats, maybe Obama has the ability to rally America to a greater cause than just that of the narrow self-interests that dominate social and economic life.  Freedom is in great peril right now, and someone has to bring that to focus through the lenses of their own two eyes. It seems otherwise, the nation will continue to go blind.


But whether it will be color-blind electorate come the second Tuesday of November is a forgone conclusion- it won't be.  It will all come down to voter turn out, and no pollster will be able to accurately determine the racial quotient in either a win or loss for Barak Obama.  People will lie to a pollster as per racial motivations in voting.  Any psychologist will tell you lieing is the most basic and difficult negative behavior to deal with. Pollsters can't penetrate lies. Racists are alive and well and exist in vast numbers across the United States. To deny or divert the point is almost incumbent upon the media- it is not politically correct to suggest it.  It is virtually taboo. But anybody who really knows the stratas of American society and have mixed with people beyond their own, limited sub-cultural group knows this to be perfectly true.


Let's just hope they don't make the statistical difference this time around.


Thanks for your contributions to the national dialogue.


John Merah




Merah Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

April 20th, 2008 at 9:51 am


Some observers are quoted as saying “there is freedom of religion in Indonesia as provided by the constitution.”


To trace this discussion to its conceptual roots, one must begin with the Pancasila, which outlines the ethos of the republic. The first of five pillars states that practiced religion will recognize only one God. The statement does not detail what those religions specifically are.


As per the Indonesian constitution, it details just what religions those might be. Up until 1962, the list included Islam, Christianity (Protestantism & Catholicism) and Buddhism (which doesn’t recognize any God, by the way). In 1962, Balinese Hinduism was made official (even though it recognizes an entire pantheon of deities. Somehow, the Balinese were able to define their religion to authorities in a uniquely Balinese light).  Post Suharto, Confucianism was made legal as well.


One contributor to this discussion stated that there was “freedom of religious thought” in the Indonesian republic. I’m not quite sure what is meant by “thought”.  The fact remains that a citizen of Indonesia is legally required to ensure the state that he or she is the follower of one of the state-sanctioned religions. For instance, when applying for a national ID card (the KTP), one cannot opt-out for “agnostic, or atheist,” or any other religion not so recognized by the government. One of the now six legitimate religions must be cited.


The clearest example of the religious restrictions in Indonesia regards spouses in marriage. Both must share the same religion.


It should be noted that “adat”- or traditional law, custom, and religious practice extant across the archipelago that is very often integrated into the universal religions or practiced in addition to them, is often tolerated by both Islamic organizations and the government as well. It is a kind of cultural/religious deference paid the pre-colonial cultures.


To summarize- the definition of religious freedom is as follows- one is free to choose amongst a list of six.


As per the specific topic of dispute here, whether an unconventional sect of an officially recognized religion can be curtailed, disbanded or outlawed by the government due to “heretical teachings” that is considered blasphemous unto that religion is a whole other legal issue.


The ruling made by Indonesia’s Attorney General’s office will no doubt end up in court. Then the true colors and powers of those involved will surface. What will be most interesting to observe is how the legal system’s integrity holds up under the intense pressures special interest groups will bring to bear upon the courts.


Ultimately, the ruling as such will shed light on the actual powers of external pressures as well as the actual constitution and how it is interpreted by the current justice department.



RE_Frank Rich_NYT_28-09-08_Psyche of McCain.doc


IN RESPONSE:         McCain’s Suspension Bridge to Nowhere


Frank Rich, New York Times                                               September 28th, 2008




That McCain is dangerous and puts his political ambitions before that of his country is nothing new when reminded of other like-minded politicians, but his personal story provides quick access to the story-line of the American Empire's rise and fall.  It also provides a blue print for the endgame of America's moral leadership in the world as based on its self-conception 230 years ago.


Through his agency, we can see McCain as representative of a prevailing dark aspect of the American psyche.  He confuses his personal drama with that of the country itself.  He only feels alive when in pitched battle.  There was never a war he didn't like nor desire to soldier in.  McCain is the perpetually walking-wounded of Viet Nam, even made more dangerous by the fact that he had barely begun to serve before becoming a prisoner of war.  He has been compensating for that loss at a fair chance to "battle evil" ever since. 


Through the McCain looking-glass we see mirrored the core flaws of America- a country predicated on violence as much as freedom; a country so caught-up in its own hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance that it has become mortally blinded.  America has failed to live up to the meaning of its creed- especially in terms of how it treats other people in the world. There is an increasing Orwellian ring to America now- a country that does not feel at peace with itself unless it is waging war; a country that cannot love itself unless it hates an enemy; a country that finds the truth a lie and lies a truth. 


Another characteristic of  Pax Americana: Like the MacArthurian soldier who never dies but just fades away, McCain lives only to fight another day, and as such, doesn't sense his own mortality.  His soldierly sense of duty precludes his mortality as a human being. His choice of Sarah Palin is ample evidence of that.  His plan is to put her in the back kitchen with the White House cooks, because he doesn't plan on dieing during his watch.  The Palin travesty is more than simple political cynicism; it is acknowledgement of a grand sense of McCain's self-delusion.


And so it is, too, that America is self-deluded.  And self-destructive, as is McCain.  Whether is be Hollywood's Rambo single-handedly taking on and defeating the entire Russian army in Afghanistan, or the disassociation between having freedom and assuming the responsibility for what one does with that freedom, America is terminally addled with a need to dramatize the fantasy of its preferred self-idealization.  As fantasy now yields to reality, America finds itself cracking not just along its edges, but into its very heart of hollowness. Civilizations without substance fall apart quickly because they have hollowed themselves to the core.  The hallowed quickly become the hollow. 


But there is no individual savoir on the rise.  As per Obama- he is no rescuer; no new quantity or quality.  He appears more than ready to wage yet more war on terror in order to gain what? He advocates taking the war into Pakistan, without regard to the extenuating circumstances as relates to Pakistan's nuclear weapons, its relationship with the Taliban, with nuclear India, and other central Asian countries. Post World War II, America practiced not only proxy wars but also a strategic policy of containment during the Cold War.  Now it is going for broke, and desires complete destruction of "the others."  Revenge is the order of the day as regards Al Qaeda- not containment.  And containment is the best you can hope for when dealing with a world wide network of loosely-affiliated terrorist cells.  America has yet to learn how to fight guerrilla tactics let alone come up with a strategic vision.  The lessons of Viet Nam are completely lost on this generation of politicians. In this failure to learn are planted the seeds for America's demise.  The inability to correct oneself  lies embedded deeply in the American character.  America's politicians are no more than a projection of the country's consciousness.




RE_Friedman_Dear Iraqi Friends_to the Editors of the NYT_25-09-08.txt


Dear Editors of the NYT:


Tom Friedman's latest column to date, "Dear Iraqi Friends," has proved conclusively that the once-respected journalist is every bit a cocky wacko as Sarah Palin.  He has become a real liability to the NY Time's credibility for responsible journalism.


That such a hypocrite as Friedman, who fancies himself so enlightened as to pursue an endless campaign of lecturing the world, could muster the moxie to condescend to a country the U.S. invaded on false pretexts, is unfortunately of no surprise.


The only peoples of the world Mr. Friedman cares about are American, and the only country, America.  He is so rabidly "America first," that it sickens.  He treats globalization as primarily an economic policy, failing to understand that "United we stand; divided we fall" now refers to the world as a whole- not just one nation.  Friedman is a man without vision of the potentials of the 21st century, content to see the life of nations as just an interminable jousting match.


Will you please update the man? 


Moreover, Friedman has now clearly revealed himself to be completely insensitive to the Iraqi people en toto.  How he supposes that a nominally intelligent reader would consider his talking down to the Iraqi government in guise of George Bush serves any purpose other than to draw attention to himself is beyond belief.


As Mr. Friedman is the scion of a multi-millionaire, and given his hyper-competitiveness, I suggest he and George Bush wage a bet as did Mel Brooks and his counterpart in the movie "Life Stinks," to see who would fare better as a homeless person (or refugee, if you will) - first somewhere in Iraq, then- if they are lucky enough to survive- somewhere in America.


I can't guarantee Mr. Friedman will come out of it chastened and humbled.  Just maybe he will start speaking then of the 100,000 plus murdered in Iraq and the growing legions of America's impoverished.


The man is in serious need of a reality check.


As for Mr. Bush- well, he is truly a lost cause, and America- much to its discredit- has followed him down the primrose path to hell.  I wonder if she knows the way home. 


Mr. Friedman supposes he does know the way home concerning everything his glib intelligence touches, and wastes no time letting everyone know it.  As he gambols along the lecture circuit, lining his already filthy rich pockets, attempting to enlighten the great unwashed, he only confirms that he is a flim-flam artist, completely self-infatuated.  The man doesn't deserve his current position in a major world news organization.


John Merah



RE_George Will_NY Times.txt


RE: Response to a column by George Will


August 28, 2008


Dear Mr. Will:


The fundamentals of your call for Obama to make clear the details beyond his rhetoric are well-taken.  If he is to win the presidency, he will have to make due on that score.  That is a fundamental responsibility of any responsible candidate.


Then there are the responsibilities of the press. I wonder why a man of your immanent knowledge and unimpeachable ability to express considered opinion would trivialize Obama's call for plans to the end of the age of oil- especially given your appeal to practicality. It may be that he doesn't yet have the details worked out.  In fact- who does?  It will be the job of the next president to create (with help from all sectors of American society) a viable transitional plan. What America needs is the next president to unite all American resources- both human and material- in solving the energy crisis.  Most of all world politics flow from the oil question.


In fact, viable solutions have been flown like so many trial balloons shot down by vested interests. For example, why was it a wonderfully designed electric car was killed back in the early 1990's, setting back alternative solutions by at least a decade?  Why is it the congress and executive branch- including members from both parties- have not seen fit to make the necessary plans to make the inevitable transition- or at least a supplemental- to alternative energy sources?


Above all other matters of practicality, the energy issue is by far the biggest elephant in the bathtub facing not only the United States, but the entire world. Does the United States want to continue borrowing money from China and transferring it directly into the coffers of the Saudis?  Is that a responsible way of doing business?  Moreover, doesn't the press have a responsibility to help pave the way for something as inevitable as a transformation of energy policy?


Couldn't you rightfully take your place in a centerpiece issue of the age we live in and bring your wits to bear upon the problem?


(Speaking of rhetoric, these are all rhetorical questions- of course- and you must forgive me......)


It is unbecoming your deserved station and position of influence to take one bad turn after another- i.e., casting aspersions at Obama's lofty/yet empty rhetoric by serving up vaudevillian nostrums of your own. Ham and eggs, indeed.  That is sheer arrogance on its face. And by omission of concomitant detail you would have us believe the U.S. economic system is actually working, solely on the basis of a growth percentage since the advent of NAFTA.  You fail to "detail" just who has benefited by the 54% growth.  Indeed, the devils are in the details, and you blithely let that percentage hang in its own significant void as if that is all a competent economist (let alone caring citizen) would care to consider in analysis. That is rank trivialization of the complexity involved, and a condescension to the reader.


In not offering a constructive solution to the energy crisis of your own, and merely dismissing the notion of the end of the age of oil, you undermine your credibility as a journalist who would offer solutions rather than simply leverage your mammoth capacity with words to eviscerate those who call for fundamental change where fundamental change is obviously needed.


If anyone is expert at the use of rhetoric, it is you.  It is a wonder to behold, but to what avail if it does not serve up its own "sufficient particularity"?  Hard to fathom that you can't see that the fossil fuel age has become both an albatross and dinosaur.  The people who will make history over the next generation will be those who help to make the transition to a greener approach to energy consumption.  It is a complete travesty and abdication of leadership that the U.S. government has only stood in the way of a suitable solution.


Having said all that, and however much I take you to issue, I am obligated to say that I have enjoyed and learned from your writing and thoughts over the years.


John Gorrindo



RE_Hard Roads Ahead_Bob Herbert_NYT_20-05-08.txt


re: Hard Roads Ahead by Bob Herbert


Bob Herbert's OP-ED piece is quick to cite the needs of corporate America and the dissatisfaction that its most high-profile exponents (read: Bill Gates) have with the nation's educational system.


The key players in education, though, are completely left without voice in Herbert's article.  In his own Fantasy land, Herbert doesn't bother to mention the obvious- such as teachers, school administrations, or curriculum standards- all of whom and which Gates would reform and otherwise rebuild from ground-up.


No- the key players are the school-age children of America themselves, and the youth culture to which they all belong.


As a now-retired teacher, I can tell you from experience teaching in both the poor and rich, and in private and public schools over a course of a quarter-century- and on all levels from grade three to college- that most American kids simply don't like school.  Most "put up with it" to be diplomatic in phrase. You can say "tough nuts" to their attitude, but one has to seriously consider the point.


Cultural currency such as Bob Dylan's lyric "twenty years of schoolin' and they put you on the day shift"; Pink Floyd's "we don't need no education;" and The Smashin' Pumpkins, "despite all my rage, I'm still just a rat in a cage," the messages of pop culture post-Elvis Presley have had both profound effect and serve as ample reflection of American youth's disenchantment with not just school- but the American way of life.  Since World War II and the advent of the American Youth Culture as we know it, that "way of life" has increasingly been dominated by corporate America- its values and its culture.


That Herbert would tout the needs of AT&T is straight to the point.  Most kids want to be individuals, and not so-placed on a "conveyor belt" to college.  America's children are taught two conflicting systems of values- one the importance of individuality and liberty, and the other, to do what you are told in school, at work, at church, etc.- lest you be punished.  Let's be honest- there is no real freedom for most Americans once they walk into either school or the work place.  Kids know that, and it runs completely counter to the other set of beliefs they have been taught.  It sets them up for a schizophrenic psychology- and not all of them can suffer the bifurcated soul and cognitive dissonance that necessarily comes along with the package.


We tell them, "Grow UP!" suddenly at the age of eighteen, many sheltered and spoiled- and never ever having had any responsibility taught them in their young lives to so properly prepare. It's not only unconscionable- but sets many of them up for failure!

Eventually, many kids are forced to hang up their rebellions and misgivings, sure.  Survival is not an easy go in America, by any stretch, and one by one, most of the young give up the fight and join ranks.


However unwittingly, Herbert has summed up the potent image that best serves- the conveyor belt- as if we all are destined to become commodities built with interchangeable parts- just so many cogs in the corporate machinery.  Nightmarish scenes from Fritz Lang’s "Metropolis" are conjured. To a substantial degree, the only kids that really put up with that ethos of "being molded for the needs of corporate America" are the children of the middle-to-upper class segments of society.  Why? Well, first of all, it is their parents who own and operate and invest in corporate America!  It's a family affair. These kids' backgrounds and family pressures would neither tolerate their abdicating higher education nor their cultural inheritance, and the fear of being a "loser" is just too terminal a thought to seriously consider. The options showed themselves to be fruitless as showcased by the cultural experiments of dropping out of society in the 60's, and even though many of these kids would love to revive a try at creating an alternative life-style, the present-day youth culture hasn't come up with its own version.  It's been scared off.  An ever-tightening economy is one reason for this.


That fully one-third of high school kids don't graduate from high school accurately reflects the fact that the poor and working class make up about one-third of America. Surely most of the kids that don't make it through come disproportionately from that lower third. That is not going to change in the near future, and given the spiral downward of the American economy, the squandering of its wealth as invested in immoral and fruitless military adventurism, etc- well, that percentage will most likely increase significantly in the next decade.


Sadly, Bob Herbert- as are many OP-ED writers as well as most pundits and politicians across America- is profoundly out of touch.  Maybe they don't occupy Ivory Towers, but they have great difficulty seeing what is plainly scrawled across the faces and landscape of America in the 21st century. They are primarily oriented towards addressing a finite set of concerns, and that doesn't include the most troubling aspects of the America they refuse to acknowledge. They refuse to read the writing on the wall or attempt to genuinely put their fingers on the pulse of the disturbed America- that second America John Edwards alluded to during his campaign. I truly think it's because of fear- fear of recognizing a truth that belies what most of them wish America was, as opposed to what it really is.


It's becoming clearer on a daily basis that America's establishment- across the board- is in for a very rude shock.  They are attempting to lead the unwilling masses of the next generation into a dominant paradigm that is the product of another age and is essentially DOA in spiritual terms. Reforming education as an institution isn't going to reform America.  It's a vain, intellectually dishonest- and stupid- notion.


No- it is all of America- from ground up- that needs to be reformed.  The canaries in the gold mine are the collective shootings that we see happening in campuses across America, now having stretched over a period of some twenty years.  Frustrated youth strike out at others like themselves first and foremost out of self-hate. Inevitably they kill themselves after killing others.  No one is taking heed of this ominous reality. Does Bill Gates- the sine qua non genius of the market place- have an answer to that?  I seriously doubt he would even attempt to delve in the harsh truth of the matter, and make his thoughts public.  It's almost TABOO to even consider it.


It's time for America's elite and ruling class to wake up. Soon controlling American workers and children will become a full-time and futile task as the wheels of the American way of life ground down to dysfunctional hubs.  Again to quote Dylan, "your sons and your daughters will be beyond your command."


That could suddenly become the new-old paradigm.


America is failing not so much in its schools- but in its persistently bankrupt way of life.  The cultural battles of the Sixties were just preliminary skirmishes of a much longer war that no one seems to sense is still in the works.  Pop culture- especially in film and music- are filled with black visions of the future.  That future is not really future at all.  It's festering just barely below the surface, and will be coming home to roost if things don't change soon.


Caveat Emptor 




RE_Health System- Singapore_Secretary Mike Leavitt's Blog.txt




U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services


Secretary Mike Leavitt's Blog

Previewing your Comment


Belying Singapore's success story exist dynamics which rarely come to light in the United States.


While the country shares the same capitalist ethics as does the U.S.-  i.e., valuing higher education, hard work and investment- there are some important differences between the two societies.


Singapore is a one party state. Though it holds elections, it can hardly be called a democracy. Also, it freely traffics in blatant discriminatory practices as per its immigrant population. Household "servants" which constitute a bulk of those immigrants are treated as second class citizens, and are afforded few rights. The related horror stories are freely available for anyone who has the desire to do the research.


Singapore has an "open market"- but is not an "open society." The country's political- and to some extent, its cultural life- is highly orchestrated. Fear of police and government reprisal helps keep the people in their place. Slight infractions consequence harsh punishment. Singapore has executed more people through its legal system over the past few years than just about any country in the world.


So what does this have to say about "health?" In such a rich country with a regulated economy and culture, it seems good physical health can thrive- but freedom of expression itself is sacrificed.


Is that a price Singaporeans are willing to pay? You'd have to ask them, and ultimately it is their business.


In spiritual terms, Singapore is not a healthy society. Rather, the atmosphere is oppressive, and the character of the people, repressed. I think many, many foreign travelers who visit the country would agree. The fact it is clean and even "beautiful" to the eye amounts to as much superficiality as it lends itself to positive substance.


Touting Singapore's health system- and then by extension lauding its society as a whole- does not necessarily follow.



RE_Jakarta Post_Visit Indonesia 2008_10-10-08.txt


As measured by the country's general enthusiasm shown for participation in many different kinds of "panitia," and the ethos of "gotong royong," one would think Indonesians could pull off a better national approach to tour promotion.


But that isn't the case, nor does it seem to be improving much.


The incentive for money is certainly there, but the fact Bali accounts for 80% of all Indonesian tourist dollars is a little puzzling.   One can only speculate-maybe the Balinese are hiding their secrets; or have too far of a head start. Maybe the rest of Indonesia is too jealous and proud to try and learn from the Balinese.


Kidding aside, my experience as a foreigner that now lives in Indonesia- and also having grown up in a famed tourist area in California- accounts for many observations, only a couple of which I will share:




Many Indonesians- even in the tourist industry- simply don't understand the most basic needs of visiting international tourists.   This is partly due to cultural differences.  Culturally, most Indonesians have learned from birth to be patient with almost every aspect of Indonesian life, and that certainly includes travel. 


Indonesians will suffer through the most horrendous travel conditions- such as a week on Pelni, or a three day ride across Sulawesi in a bus leaking exhaust fumes into the passenger cabin the entire trip- without ever a complaint.  Hats off to them, but for most foreigners, such travel is not an option. For one thing, foreign tourists often have limited time for their stay, and want efficient service- especially in terms of transportation.  Indonesia on the whole has yet to provide a transportation infrastructure worthy of any note- especially in terms of both reliability & safety-and until it does, the country will experience difficulty is building a solid tourist industry.


The truth is, the Indonesian tour industry doesn't prepare adequately for the real needs of visiting international tourists, and their tight time schedules.


On the other hand, many tourists understand Indonesia has travel limitations, and often know absolutely nothing about HOW to travel through the country. Just how many places can be visited in a two week period is BY FAR the most frequently asked question (FAQ) tourists have about Indonesia.


This is where the Visit Indonesia 2008 promotional committe really misses out.  The best service their web site could possibly offer would be to help foreigners choose a feasible itinerary GIVEN the present day reality of travel in the vast archipelago. Dispensing personalized rather than just "promotional" information would in the end be far better for all concerned.  If tourists could believe the website could provide them specific help through email contact as per itinerary building, the entire country's tourist industry would quickly benefit.


Believe me, tourists want to visit Indonesia- but need a helping hand in planning.  It is by no means an easy country to visit- especially for the first-timer.  The logistics involved are daunting to say the least.


There are hundreds of websites filled with promotional tour material re: Indonesia, but very few that actually help people put a customized trip together.  That is a labor intensive task, I understand, and the Vist Indonesia 2008 folks would have to develop the human resources for it.  But in so doing, it would be developing a truly functional tourist infomational infrastructure that would constantly be self-updating and self-evolving given the very nature of its task.


As is stands right now, the ThornTree forum (which is part of Lonely Planet's greater website) is the surest way to get such information.  The forum is a Q & A exchange between travelers, and on balance has provided thousands of travelers with MUCH SUPERIOR information on Indonesia than could EVER be obtained by the Indonesian tour industry. The Visit Indonesia 2008 folks should seriously study the contents of the forum, if they haven't already.  They will soon discover the true needs, feelings, and experiences of foreign travelers in Indonesia- without any kind of filter. 



It is a rather odd phenomena I can only associate with the advent of western culture in a country just now truly trying it on for size, but I can't help but see many Indonesians  believing "promosi" to possess some magical air- as if all one has to do is promote something, and a wonderful success will necessarily follow. 


Both Indonesian businesses and bureaucracies are quick to promote all kinds of ideas, activities, etc., but fail to make good on a lot of the details associated with the many promises most promotions offer. In other words- the promotional claims simply can't be backed up! These Indonesian promoters often fail to realize that "promotion" is an invention of the West, and Westerners, by-in-large- especially world travellers- take promotional talk with a grain of salt.  They don't buy it at face value. Let's face it- a lot of promotion is pure fraud, and international tourists are quick to smell it out and by word-of-mouth (including the internet, of course!), encourage others to avoid it.






Indonesia's natural beauty and cultural diversity sells tour promotion of and by itself, really. I feel uncomfortable using the term, but in terms of travel, Indonesia is very much a third world country. So it seems incumbent upon promotional boards such as Visit Indonesia 2008 to work honestly within the restrictions presented by travel in the country, and provide REAL, TRUTHFUL information on a personalized basis as per submitted inquiries travelers. 



RE_McCain vs. Obama- The Great Nonverbal Debate_BusinessWeek_29-09-08.txt



McCain vs. Obama: The Great Nonverbal Debate




Body language is important, sure, but can only approximately understood when taken out of context. 


"Bomb,bomb, bomb; bomb, bomb Iran," McCain once mocked laughingly during a Q & A.


McCain is wound tight as if ready to ignite, but that one verbal gaffe revealed just how explosive he might be as commander-in-chief; and who just may take the brunt of it.


Americans should have no doubts that McCain is a die-hard warrior who lives to fight another day.  Having enemies and getting in the pit with them for battle is what gives the man reason to wake up in the morning.


And so it is that McCain has no body language at all, really- it is body armor.  His body is unable to speak through the metal cast that is his musculature and skin.


Voters should evaluate a candidate on at least three accounts: what is said; how it is said, and judgment as demonstrated through action and decision making made over a long period of time. 






Times when a candidate offhandedly slip-up while speaking publically- thinking no one will notice or "mind"- those are the select moments that are often more telling than their use of body language in a staged debate. 


A prime example is a gleeful McCain, in response to a question concerning Iran during some kind of private event, parodied the Beach Boy song, "Barbara Ann."  "Bomb,bomb, bomb; bomb, bomb Iran," he mocked laughingly.


Body language is important, sure, but that one example better demonstrates how reckless and volatile McCain really is.


Yes, he is wound tight and looks ready to explode, but those words really do best reveal just what his body language real holds in terms of his visceral impulse towards anyone he sees as "the enemy."


Americans should have no doubts that McCain is a die-hard warrior who lives to fight another day.  Having enemies and getting in the pit with them for battle is what gives the man reason to wake up in the morning.


I think putting together the verbal, the nonverbal, and the real behavior of a candidate is basic when voting for a president.  Sometimes a candidate can refrain from revealing verbal gaffes, managing to deceive the average voter, but if you keep a close ear out as well as an eye, your senses will better serve. And he or she must be judged for the consistency and coherency of their decision making over a long period of time.


That vigilant monitoring of a candidate over a long period of time is the responsibility of the voter.


As for McCain's behavior, he is more reactive than proactive.  He is erratic, impetuous, and unstable both in thought and action.


That makes him unqualified to be commander-in-chief.  He relishes war more than many people would care to admit.



RE_McCain_David Brooks_NYT_26-09-08.txt


Mr. Brooks:


It's true that McCain possesses the occasional saving grace of admitting to error- a refreshing characteristic given his profession- but his errors have been too monstrous at times to make this voter feel confident in casting a vote for him to be president. 


His lack of judgment in the Keating Five debacle nearly cost him his political career, for instance.  Looking back, it sure looks bad given the current Wall Street crisis.  His mea culpas have been received well by Arizonans, but given his track record overall, it appears he regrets getting caught more than calling to task his tenaciously untenable views on deregulation.


What is far more troublesome is his penchant for confrontation, though.  For instance, his offhanded and gleeful comments about bombing Iran (mockingly sung for that matter!) was downright frightening.  That puts him in the inflammatory league so fitfully occupied by the president of Iran himself.


You may have heard about the congresswoman who tells the story of McCain rushing up to her after some heinous act committed in Darfor, and excitedly exclaiming something to the effect, "We've got to get involved over there!".  That is to say- militarily.  My impression is that the man has a very itchy trigger finger, and is truly excited by the prospects of violent confrontation.  My gut tells me he is a true incarnation of  the "Onward Christian Soldier."  The man is a soldier at heart, and that will never change.  He lives for battle, and I don't think there was ever a war he didn't like, make his blood rise, or want to participate in.


Likely his war wounds have served to make him a split personality- with sharp and unpredictable turns from honest genuflection to angry agressiveness.  Which McCain will prevail if he ascends to the highest office?  Maybe both will in good measure, but that is still a recipe for disaster.  One grand mistake and we could all be dead.


You mention what "good" his prisoner-of-war years wrought, but McCain impresses me as a man that thrives on and even lives for the endorphin rush that comes from confrontation.  The same experiences in Hanoi that strengthened him had to have cut the other way as well.  I can't imagine any sane human being could emerge from such a protracted experience without terrible anger and anguish burnished deep within.  He then retreats and is regretfull, but as president, regrets after the fact simply don't make the grade when decisions of war are involved.


In this radically imperfect world- and in political crisis specifically- a president has to weather a never-ending onslaught of intolerable situations and people.  It is clear that McCain's first impulse in a crisis- such as the Wall Street bailout- is to cast personal aspersions, look for the culprits, and call for heads to roll.  Such impulsive behavior earmarks McCain's psychology as dominated more by a war-battered soldier's damaged psyche than that of sober, responsible elder statesman.


You also failed to mention his breathtaking lack of vision as per America's even greater potential threat- the lack of a forward-looking energy policy.  He has by no means led on this issue.  He is more content to fight it out in the pits with more viscerally-appealing issued- a place he is more comfortable with- than looking into the future with vision and concerning himself with solving problems whose overarching importance could break the back of America if not addressed here and now.


He has no central message not only because of his senate training, but because he does not have that "vision thing."


And last but not least, his choice of Sarah Palin shows not only political cynicism, but a megamaniacal craveness.  It reveals the most self-destructive side of John McCain, and how he is more than willing to take everyone with him straight to Hades on Charon's shuttle boat.  I suppose he thinks he will live forever (or at least for the next eight years), and having that woman just a heartbeat away from the presidency is not worth the worry or consideration.  She will cheerfully step aside for him as a matter of course.  That is also part of the bargain given her complete ineptitude.  He is willing to risk such a totally unprepared person become president in sole order to give him a chance of winning the presidency for himself.  He would sacrifice the country's welfare for such a thing.  That is a scandal and a huge gamble whereas all would lose.  A little like the Wall Street collapse.  No winners on either account.


All in all, he is not fit to be president.


And for that matter, I'm not sure anybody in America is, given what the next president must face.



RE_Most Dangerous Job on Earth_Roger Cohen_NY Times_29-09-08.txt


The Most Dangerous Job on Earth

Roger Cohen

NY Times

September 29, 2008



Mr. Cohen:


You admire Zardari's definition of bravery- taking pain but not giving it.  Just previous, you opine the U.S. should be "ruthless" in Pakistan if necessary.


Seems a contradiction in terms, wouldn't you say?  But then again, you may be implying the U.S. gov't is anything but brave.  Ruthless, yes; but the bravery goes to the common foot soldiers, not the civilians in control of the Pentagon.


I hope in preparation for this article you had read:


"Right at the Edge"

Dexter Filkins

September 5, 2008

NY Times Magazine


(For any NY Times readers interested in this crucial part of the world, Filkin's lengthy article is a must read)



RE_Odowd_NYTimes_KARMIC HURRICANE_08-10-08.txt


The law of karma is something quite real.  It certainly came home to visit Atwater where he lived, and on his death bed, the 39 year old cancer-ravaged political operator wrote tear-jerking mea culpas, warned his heir apparents to come clean, and phoned those he destroyed (such as Dukakis) to apologize. 


Atwater's tragedy is a karmic fable, and a cautionary tale. The one-to-one correspondence between what he sowed and reaped make for gripping drama.


"What goes around comes around," or a case of  "the chickens coming home to roost," is the western version of karma, albeit in reference to only its negative visage.  These are phrases no politician comes close to using in public, as they recall such a similar statement made by Malcom X in regards to JFK's assassination.


(That JFK used his brother Bobby to orchestrate plans for Castro's assassination is probably what Malcom X was referring to.  And during the 1950's on into the 1970's, Castro wasn't the only leader the U.S. Gov't either

"allowed" to be decapitated or was actively complicit in their killing.)



Right now, a perfect storm of conditions is precipitating an entire clutch of aviary coming home to roost.  But weasels like Karl Rove (Atwater's protege)

will live to poison political waters another day, because he is smart enough to know how when to back down, lay low, and find a high profile day job at the

Washington Post while waiting for the political fortunes of the NeoCons to turn favorably once again. 


Bush will dissolve into the Texas bushlands, lick his wounds and probably live in anonymity for a while.  His family is so filthy rich, he can afford to take some

time off before deciding how to salvage his shattered legacy.  Jimmy Carter could teach him a thing or two if he cared to listen.  Stranger bedfellows there

could never be.....


No- sometime karma doesn't strike one-to-one in a smart bomb, tit-for-tat fashion.


As for the upcoming general election, the karmic laws as applied to America's two party system certainly favors the democrats this time, and is predictable due to the economic crisis.  War never seems to bother Americans enough to make a real difference.  We are always at war, so it has become a semi-permanent way of life for the country.


So the focus of wrath of the American people will be visited upon McCain as new Republican candidate- unless he figures out a way to steal the election.  (Which would be three for three by the NeoCons) The aviary will send fusilades of yesterday's birdseed splattering all over his balding head. In politics, retribution is simple- it is the high profile target that receives karma's attention.


But voting out the rascals is not really true karma at work.  It's simply the dynamics of a two party political system.  It's a kind of tabloid karma as opposed to the Biblical variety. 


More to the point, America herself should best think about the karmic principle and how the entire country may indeed be in the throes of an extended karmic lickin'.   Biblical-style karma is brewing, going back to 9/11.  The karmic principle exists on many levels, and presently it appears to be descending on America as a whole, and happening over a protracted amount of time.


Though this is taboo talk (all the more reason to pronounce it)- the karmic bill is due for the heinous crimes perpetrated against innocent people's around the

world in the name of freedom done in all American's names by America's government over the last century.  Many living today are ignorant of them, or those who do call them "mistakes from the past," or dismiss them as the costs of war.


In short, the sins of the fathers visit the sons.


No- history never dies- and the taking of innocent lives- such as the one million Iraqis or two-to-four million Vietnamese will have consequences for

America.  The Viet Nam War is not over yet, for instance. The kickback has yet to be felt in full force.


As much as Ernest Hemingway thrived on war, he was quick to call it criminal.

America is too quick to take up arms, and once they do, they never look back. Criminal is the last thing the government thinks of war.


History never dies and never forgets- only people do.  The karmic law is now in full swing.  The present financial crisis is just one more chapter in an ongoing saga.  America is now in the eye of the karmic hurricane.


If Jerry Falwell can proclaim Katrina as God's retribution for homosexuality in America, it seems more than rational to believe that America's penchant for military intervention during the Empire's halcyon days are the real karmic reasons at hand.




The law of karma is something quite real.  It certainly came home to visit Atwater where he lived, and on his death bed, the 39 year old cancer-ravaged political operator wrote tear-jerking mea culpas, warned his heir apparents to come clean, and phoned those he destroyed (such as Dukakis) to apologize. 


Atwater's tragedy is a karmic fable, and a cautionary tale. The one-to-one correspondence between what he sowed and reaped make for gripping drama.


"What goes around comes around," or a case of  "the chickens coming home to roost," is the western version of karma, albeit in reference to only its negative visage.  These are phrases no politician comes close to using in public, as they recall such a similar statement made by Malcom X in regards to JFK's assassination.


(That JFK used his brother Bobby to orchestrate plans for Castro's assassination is probably what Malcom X was referring to.  And during the 1950's on into the 1970's, Castro wasn't the only leader the U.S. Gov't either "allowed" to be decapitated or was actively complicit in their killing.)



Right now, a perfect storm of conditions is precipitating an entire clutch of aviary coming home to roost.  But weasels like Karl Rove (Atwater's protege) will live to poison political waters another day, because he is smart enough to know how when to back down, lay low, and find a high profile day job at the Washington Post while waiting for the political fortunes of the NeoCons to turn favorably once again. 


Bush will dissolve into the Texas bushlands, lick his wounds and probably live in anonymity for a while.  His family is so filthy rich, he can afford to take some time off before deciding how to salvage his shattered legacy.  Jimmy Carter could teach him a thing or two if he cared to listen.  Stranger bedfellows there could never be.....


No- sometime karma doesn't strike one-to-one in a smart bomb, tit-for-tat fashion.


As for the upcoming general election, the karmic laws as applied to America's two party system certainly favors the democrats this time, and is predictable due to the economic crisis.  War never seems to bother Americans.  We are always at war, so it is life as usual.


So the focus of wrath of the American people will be visited upon McCain as new Republican candidate- unless he figures out a way to steal the election.  (Which would be three for three by the NeoCons) The aviary will send fusilades of yesterday's birdseed splattering all over his balding head. In politics, retribution is simple- it is the high profile target that receives karma's attention.


But voting out the rascals is not really true karma at work.  It's simply the dynamics of a two party political system.  It's a kind of tabloid karma as opposed to the Biblical variety. 


But America herself should best think about the karmic principle and how the entire country may indeed be in the throes of an extended karmic lickin'.   Biblical-style karma seems to be brewing, going back to 9/11.  The karmic principle exists on many levels, and presently it appears to be descending on America as a whole, and happening over a protracted amount of time.


Though this is taboo talk (all the more reason to pronounce it)- the karmic bill is due for the heinous crimes perpetrated against innocent people's around the world in the name of freedom done in all American's names by America's government over the last century.  Many living today are ignorant of them, or those who do call them "mistakes from the past," of the cost of war.


In short, the sins of the fathers visit the sons.


No- history never dies- and the taking of innocent lives- such as the one million Iraqis or two-to-four million Vietnamese will have consequences for America.  The Viet Nam War is not over yet, for instance. The kickback has yet to be felt.


As much as Ernest Hemingway thrived on war, he was quick to call it criminal. America is too quick to take up arms, and once they do, they never look back.


History never dies and never forgets- only people do.  The karmic law is now in full swing.  The financial crisis is just one more chapter in an ongoing saga.  America is now in the eye of the karmic hurricane.



RE_Omen in My Mail_K.Parker_05-10-08.txt


Dear Kathleen Parker:


re: Omen in My Mail


Speaking forthrightly and with honesty is always risky, an individual's political leanings notwithstanding.  One's placement on the political spectrum pales in importance as compared to how that person engages heart and mind in determining where they stand.  Taking "The Road Not (usually) Taken" is dangerous and lonely, no matter one's political stripe.  Often one must walk alone when following one's true conscience.


But when we walk alone, we have the opportunity to see things more clearly, however painful the experience.  Knowledge, indeed, is pain.  But that is on the path to enlightenment, and worth the sufferance.


And so maybe you have had to walk alone for a fortnight, abandoned by your clan.  Take heart, for you follow in the footsteps of many noteworthy souls.



Specifically: As per your denouncing Palin's qualifications for VP, you must be lauded for your honesty and guts.  That you have been "blindsided" by some "fellow conservatives" as a traitor could have been predicted, and surely you braced for it.  Still, between the lines of your column rings an echo of hurt, as if the scurrilous attacks on your person were somehow surprising.  And after twenty years of writing a political column and reading reams of angry mail even you yourself would judge that you would have had thick enough skin to take it. And after twenty years maybe you have come to feel you really know your country as well.  In its crux, maybe you have experienced most viscerally the truly dark underbelly that is as pervasive and potent as any other living and breathing dynamic in America.


But you are tough, and in main surely have come out none the worse for wear.  You won't put down your pen and flee.  You will live to write another day.  But the wounds- though not so much attached to your person- are still quite painful, because they call into question your belief that American people are on the whole a reasonable bunch.  You suffer from the realization that maybe America harbors toxic levels of vitriol and hatred heretofore unbeknownst to you and gone properly unmeasured.


This rabid hatred- for many of us- this is a reality long ago understood.  This cannot be tauted with any hubris; only with tragic acknowledgment.


Maybe you have been the victim of your own success and blinded to this underbelly.  You seem to think public discourse in America has deteriorated- but it hasn't- it's always been a low ball game. Experience has taught me that most successful people who operate from the commanding heights of the society they live in become victims of their own success and limited by their removal from the throbbing pulse of the street.  They occupy a position in "polite society" and tend to think most people value fairness, just like they supposedly do.  That is not the human condition, period. That is pure denial in the face of it all.


Success is what Americans are taught to strive for, but little attention is paid to the failure of success. Success often serves to isolate one from reality, suffocate growth, and blind- not enhance- vision.  People become scripted in their thoughts and behavior as if past success is so potent as to have become a prescription for life that should always be followed. To follow the same old formulas for success preclude future growth- and growth is painful.  Successful people generally avoid pain like the plague if they can manage it. This includes most nationally known columnists and pundits, for they command a view from far above the maddening crowd.  They distill and filter the American experience through carefully chosen words; a responsible tone; an adult bearing- for that is how they in part became successful to begin with- but in appropriating a "professional comportment," they become locked into a success pattern that in the end leads anywhere but to enlightenment. 


The truth is hard to ascertain, because it is difficult to project oneself into a million locations simultaneously.  Wouldn't many of us like to be a fly on the wall of a million American households and behold the reigning spirit?  Maybe not.


If the fly would report back it would see: A surprising number of the masses who populate the tenements, backwoods, farming communities, gated mansions and suburban tracts of America are hateful, violent-prone reactionaries.  This is not to say they are not also hardworking, devoted to family, etc.  Humans are complex, and the psychological makeup of Americans is at best confusing, self-contradictory, and a byzantine logic-defying labyrinth of cul-de-sacs. That America is in large part predicated on violence is something the society accepts about itself, even though it professes the sanctity of life.  That is just one small example of the country's hypocritical self. 


How is this so?  One reason is that Americans believe in having enemies, and taking revenge against them.  The country longest lasting manufacturing base is creating and sustaining enemies.  It somehow helps buttress a national identity and sustains national purpose.  


America couches its love for violence and death (of some enemy- of which there are an entire bestiary) in terms of having a "freedom of choice" to behold such values and live by them.  So much for freedom.


That Americans are "freedom loving" has evolved into a meaningless catch-phrase and reveals little about the modern American psyche.  What people choose to do with "their freedom" reveals much more.  The myth that Americans are superior because they value liberty says little in effect beyond the fact the founding fathers fashioned a constitution and bill of rights that "provided" the country with such things.                      


But the truth is, no body can give freedom to anyone- they can only take it for themselves.  And in a country where freedom is "for the taking," it is usually the aggressive that capitalize on that freedom, and too often prone to seize the resulting power to deny others any freedom at all.  History details this clearly, all counter-examples notwithstanding.  There are plenty of flies in the ointment. America is not anything if not aggressive and even though a land of immigrants- xenophobic.  And that aggressive is valued culturally.  That it would become intoxicated with violence is just freedom's operational hazard. Most of American's people couldn't care any less how many innocent people have died in the Iraq war let alone on the mean streets of cities such as Oakland or Detroit or Baltimore.  It can all be rationalized as "the cost of freedom."  As long as the "other guy" pays the price, any means is considered a viable "option on the table."


And threatening people within an inch of their lives for looking different, talking different, thinking different- well, that is as American as anything that can be experienced in the country.  Wrapping oneself in the flag, impugning others' patriotism and calling for their death because they are traitors to the American Way is an American past time.


Americans are not a chosen people- they are just people; albeit descendant from an unusually aggressive, non-risk adverse genome (such is the nature of immigrant populations).  Americans love a good fight, and many see nothing wrong in playing dirty. It is the nature of the beast. 


There is a reason why there are such sayings as "We are not a nation of men, but of laws."  In translation, that means men- no matter their nationality- are not to be trusted.  And mobs much less so.  You have been assaulted by an American Mob and have lived to tell the tale. 


In all due respect, I hate to say it, but maybe now you know hows it feels.  What you have freshly experienced- let it not be lost on you.  You occupy a position of power in the country, and it is incumbent upon you to grow even the more thoughtful- and bold.


I encourage you to continue to take courageous stands as per the dictates of your conscience.  For that you will always be respected by truly decent people and most of all, by yourself.


John Gorrindo




RE_Palin_Peggy Noonan_WSJ_20-10-08.txt


The Titans are falling on their swords all around- the great investment banks of Wall Street, the Neo-Cons, the Bush administration, and even capitalism as we have come to know it- all but to name only the most obvious. Palin is simply a boil on the cowboy's bottom who has been in the saddle riding herd as top dog for too long.  Elevating her story to that of emblematic narrative is a red herring at best, and barely worth the mention.  She simply makes good copy.


In a phrase- nothing fails like success.  All of these fallen players have together in synchrony reached their collective levels of incompetence.  Slavishly adhering to old ways that once guaranteed "success," they fail to realize that all things must fall, and topple they do when the old modus operandi become an impedance in a new world arising. 


It doesn't matter who is top dog- their days are always numbered if they don't allow for small, incremental failures and make the necessary adjustments along the way. To make mistakes, admit to them, and seek out new paths is the only sustainable journey available in the real world. The ways of success and where they inevitably lead are the most treacherous paths available.  History bears this out repeatedly. 



RE_Paul Krugman_NYT_23-08-08.txt


Dear Mr. Krugman:


However much I am prejudiced towards your points of view (making them all the more palatable), let me quickly confirm and express to you my appreciation for your efforts as a caring columnist.


In specific reference to your newly published column entitled "Now that's Rich," may I make the following suggestion:


Indeed- as you made such reference- America is a country existing (as is true in almost all countries)as parallel strands according to economic class. In your column, you succinctly parsed out the American economic stratas vis-a-vis their relationship to the current presidential candidates' tax plans (as well as Bush's).


I'd like to see you take things a step further and draw for your readers (many of whom I suspect are residents of "Richland"- so they need the education) a more complete picture of the American economic profile.


I have long suspected that fully one-third of the U.S. population could be classified as ecomonically "impoversished."  Politicians- and most of the establishment press as well- tend to give a vastly disproportionate share of their attention to the upper two-thirds, effectively ignoring the day-to-day reality of life for some 100 million Americans.  


Why are the lowest third ignored?  I don't like rhetorical questions any more than you I imagine, but to venture a guess: Easy- because they have no influence.  They don't count and make no difference according to the other two-thirds upstairs and out of sight. Many of the lower third are so disenfranchised as not to participate in American society as a whole and I'm sure most don't vote as a rule. 


The last American president to seriously attempt to deal with "poverty" or the "impoverished"- or even was heard to allow the word "poverty" to pass their lips in any sincere earnestness was, of course, Lyndon Johnson.  I imagine due to the fact his Great Society programs eventually came to be seen as an abysmal failure, presidents and most of the established press after Johnson's presidency simply buried the issue.


So if you could simply investigate and report on the number of poor in the U.S. with all due attention given the problem of defining "poor" and what is a truthful measure of "the poverty line" (Mayor Bloomberg seems to have given such things serious attention of late), I think you would be providing a great service. Americans tend to be inculcated and surrounded by the real or imagined walls as erected by their "economic strata."  Their isolation gives them no sense of the other Americas that coexist and are often thought of nebulously as foreign lands.


Whether you need my cheer leading or not, I say, "Keep up the great work!" and if you have already written such an article as suggested, my apologies in advance.


Best regards,

John Merah                      



RE_Roger Cohen_Hasta la Vista, Baby_NYTimes_09-10-08.txt


Interesting thoughts about a present day European socialist leader. Maybe the EU is indeed held hostage to Russian fossil fuels.


And maybe, too, the power elite in Spain still have a hidden streak of the totalitarian in them. That would be easy to believe.


But in all fairness to the Spanish people, may the following be recommended: As it is outside the purview of the piece, Mr. Cohen, could you please write a follow-up piece illuminating more about Spain, a country who has arguably made greater leaps and bounds into the modern democratic age after forty years of dictatorship (and before that, hundreds of years of monarchical tyranny) than possibly any other like country on the planet.


For the uninformed reader, gainsaying Zapatero may have the unfortunate blowback of portraying Spain as a some kind of morally undeveloped, backwards country. My grandparents were born in Spain in the late 1800's, and I know just how much positive change the country has experienced. It is nothing short of breath taking.


— J.Merah, USA



RE_Roger Cohen_International Tribune_22-09-08.txt


Some of Mr. Cohen's columns are poetically, even prophetically inspired and in turn, inspiring.  Also carefully drafted.  "The Fleecing of America" was written too hastily, though, and left this reader confused rather than enlightened.


For instance, if (as Mr. Cohen explicitly admits) America is falling on its own sword (self-destructive financial instruments); responsible for its own economic plight- then who exactly is "fleecing America" ?  The column seems to imply that the fleecers are the international community.  And if it is that reverse pride prevents the U.S. government from asking for help from other countries to help in bailing out AIG, then who can be blamed but the American government for not asking?  Yes, it would be "nice" to think that at least a few countries would offer their unsolicited help, but American pride (with hubris as the coin's flip side) once again contributes.


Hence some confusion.  Even more unsettling is the notion that bailing out the latest of Wall Street's "Ponzi Schemes" is somehow a "socialist" policy.  That stretches a more nobler definition of socialism to the breaking point.  It better be said that the American public is being forced to pay off the debts of multi-national corporations whose finances are secured by mortgages with no promise that those individuals who lost their homes will ever see any help at all.  How can anyone refer to such a government proposal as "socialism"?  Let's call it what it really is- the rich and powerful bailing out the rich and powerful- and at the expense of every man, woman, and child of the country.  That seems about as anti-socialistic as a socialist policy can get.


Again, confusion.  Is Mr. Cohen decrying socialist policies, or pointing out that our capitalist system is not without its socialist underbelly?  Maybe the reader is to infer this on their own.  Certainly, big business of all kinds is routinely subsidized by the U.S. government, and apropos the moment, in order to keep credit flowing, financial institutions are especially given favored government attention.  If socialism is to mean "hand outs," then in the current crisis only the failing financial institutions are promised a true helping hand.  Again- is that tantamount to true socialism?  The little guy who is losing his or her home is not promised a thing at this point in time. 


Credit is at once capitalism's greatest strength and greatest weakness.  It is the life blood, and when it stops, the economic stops dead in its tracks. Economics 101.  And so the system is now held hostage against itself.  Those things happen, don't they?


Capitalism allows for invention and inventiveness, but unfettered runs amok.  Some of those inventions- such as junk bonds and hedge funds- allow untenable, greed-based fantasies to become harmful realities. All things have their limits, and the incentive for the masters of Wall Street to abuse the system is always something that must be monitored by a proper check and balance system.  Some people call that socialism or over-regulation.  A prudent observer might just call it "common sense."  Socialism and capitalism are at work hand-in-hand in America, and have been for a long time.  It is most often when one hand overpowers the other that an economic catastrophe ensues.


It is better Mr. Cohen leave it at this: America should start taking responsibility for its actions and policies.  It is fleecing itself.  It is consuming itself.  The international community aside, America needs to adjust, reinvent, and learn from its own foibles.



The 3 A.M. Call

Paul Krugman

NY Times

Sunday, September 28, 2008



RE_The 3 A.M. Call_P.Krugman_NYTimes_28-09-08.txt



Mr. Krugman:


Would you consider a creative writing assignment?  Is Mohammad Yunus still in town after his participation in the Clinton Global Initiative?


After a solid couple of weeks or wringing hands and issuing RIP's to the Old Wall Street, would you qualify as an intrepid reporter who might interview Dr. Yunus and query as to whether his microcredit banking techniques could be applied in the U.S.?


I think its time for the New York press to engage in some serious brainstorming as concerns the future of the U.S. credit system even while the pall bearers for the old system now collapsed are still wallowing in an extended wake.



RE_Univ. Education Reform_Jakarta Post_13-05-08.txt


RE: End of universities nigh: 'if no reform is taken'


Erwida Maulia, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta



SBY's recent address with Bill Gates in attendance is well-taken.  There is ultimate danger in the digital divide, and for developing countries such as Indonesia, the race to come up to speed is a perilous one.


As per this race, there is a time bomb ticking, and time is indeed running out.


Entrepreneurially-speaking, today an ambitious business man or women in Indonesia can make a decent living without the benefits of university education- especially if their business involves trade in the archipelagos rich natural resources.  In fact, the incentive to seek higher education is diminished by the fact that it doesn't necessarily help most Indonesians to succeed in their business pursuits.


Higher education is still not equated with financial success in Indonesia.


The commodities market still offers the most opportunity for Indonesian entrepreneurs, and though education in marketing and accounting can certainly help, such skills can be obtained at the SMK level.  In fact, any young Indonesian seeking a decently paid job directly out of high school would be best advised to choose SMK, not SMA.


As long as low-tech marketing of raw materials provides the best immediate income for Indonesians-  and as long as Indonesia's natural resources hold out- there probably will not be a gathering incentive to focus on improving higher education.  Consumer goods will continued to be imported, and it will give the illusion of true economic progress


Education is Indonesia is currently three prong- its nominal goal is to prepare those who wish to pursue business,  government-civil service, and more generally make citizens out of every Indonesian as per the ethos of "unifikasi."  It is still ill-equipped to produce a cadre of scientists, engineers, and other ranks of a modern work force that can compete on a global stage and also provide services for the general population.


Indonesia's economy has been able to grow rapidly in part due to its natural resource base, and also because the government has made concerted efforts to export its raw materials to many foreign countries.


As long as that "quick-and-easy" trade money is available, there won't be enough incentive to better jump-start the much more difficult task of developing a home base of citizens skilled in high technology and the sciences in general.


Sueharto realized that commodities trading would be one of the quickest ways to generate the capital needed to build Indonesia's infrastructure, and he brought in high level economists from top flight universities (such as the University of California at Berkeley) to set Indonesia's "new order" course as per economic development.  Indonesia has put most of its eggs in one economic basket- that of commodity trading- and as Sueharto's course was initially successful, it will eventually have to give way to a new emphasis- and out of necessity.


Returning to the challenge of the "ticking time bomb" at hand, Indonesia has only a few decades with which to broaden its economic landscape- such as developing a manufacturing base- and have it managed by a skilled Indonesian workforce.  It certainly does not want to ape a country like Saudi Arabia (another developing country rich in resources) which has imported thousands of skilled foreign workers to manage its economic infrastructure. The problem is, of course, that the current mismanagement of the Indonesia's natural resources will eventually spell economic disaster if appropriate changes are not made.


Due to many complex historical factors, Indonesian culture to date does not value education in as far as understanding that education will be key to Indonesia's future economic and political stability.  Due to low pay and scant training, teacher-quality is poor, school libraries often don't exist at all, students can't afford text books, and the work ethic of both students and teachers is shockingly inadequate when compared to developed countries. Ask an average Indonesian student if he or she ever does any homework, and the answer is a foregone conclusion.


It cannot be expected for universities to offer a decent education if the public school system itself is so poorly equipped.  The expectations of the entire educational community cannot rise to demand improvement if all parties involved have not been exposed to a modicum of educational quality from the earliest years of schooling.


If only the universities are improved, education will truly become a province for only the well-to-do, and Indonesia will have to settle upon the reality of having a permanent underclass.


Indonesia is a very young country, and these observations are not offered in the spirit of negative criticism.  One can only hope Indonesia and its experiment in democracy will succeed. How the government can inspire the people to value education more highly presents the most difficult challenge, as is how best to institute needed educational reform. 


Hopefully an influx of cheap computers and free software as offered by Bill Gates and others will help move Indonesia in a forward direction, but the infrastructure for disseminating the internet- as well as learning English- must be funded as well.  The internet's language is primarily English, and so language training is key to even approaching the internet as a viable tool. 


Maybe Indonesia should look towards the Philippines for help in terms of how best to teach English, as that country is arguably the best-trained English speakers in all of Asia.  Anyone who travels there can't help but be amazed at the very high percentage of English-speakers there are in the country.


In any case, educational retooling and reform is most urgently needed, and Indonesia best rally behind that cause to insure a stable future.  The need to modernize Indonesian universities is just the tip of the iceberg.




RE_Washington Post_ Eugene Robinson_GOP Party of Idea Deficit_16-05-08.txt


Dear Mr Robinson:


I appreciate your contributions to the ongoing political dialogue of the nation.


Your article "The GOP's Idea Deficit" touched on numerous salient points.  As I found my head involuntarily nodding in affirmation to much of what you opined, I am left wanting as per the references to the Reagan revolution.  (I do realize you did not specifically cite the term "revolution." Please forgive me) As president, he introduced little that was revolutionary or new on behalf of either his party or the conservative movement in general.  His manner of speech was music to America's ears, yes.  Grand communicator he was, but in terms of ideas- he was no innovator.  He overspent on the military, turned surpluese into gaping deficits, intervened violently in third world countries to fight proxy wars, sold arms to his enemies, and blamed America's problems on welfare queens. The reason his era is over is because there was nothing substantive to it to begin with, and also because the man-as-charismatic-personality has now passed on.  His legacy may not have died with him, but the substance of what his party inherited from him has shown itself to be high in carbohydrates and saturated fats; low in vitamins and minerals. If you compare the Reagan revolution to the New Deal, it takes a nano-second to see which eras ideals have survived as monuments of respect to the everyday citizen.


Though the preamble of the U.S. Constitution does not directly detail the broader outlines of the president's duties, it is instructive to review its content nonetheless, as establishes the philosophical basis for the formation of the government itself:


We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.



It strikes any citizen of conscience that the preamble implies certain general responsibilities are incumbent upon the U.S. government; and that the president of all people, should shoulder them as a whole- not selectively according to whim or taste!  In our lifetime, few presidents since have taken seriously such phrases as: establish justice; promote the general welfare; and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.


The fall of the Soviet Union and its particular brand of communism happened under Reagan's watch, and that is oft cited as his biggest accomplishment.  Any student of history knows that the fall did not happen out of the blue- and was precipitated in part due to the U.S. outspending the Russians in terms of defense over a period of forty plus years.  In essence, the Soviets didn't have the economic base to sustain the arms race. Also, without Gorbachev as a counterpart, Reagan most likely couldn't have single-handedly turned the tide and brought on the fall of the Berlin Wall.


More to the point, Reagan was more than happy to turn the management of the economy over to the "cruel genius of the market" as you put it, while investing most of the government's energy and resources in providing for the common defense. Promoting the general welfare was simply left twisting in the wind.  Making ends meet for the ordinary American started its downhill slide just prior to Reagan taking office, and it hasn't stopped getting more and more difficult to survive economically. A huge percentage of the U.S. population is either impoverished, or on the verge.  The press routinely dismisses the magnitude of this wrenching reality.  It's beyond all good conscience how the Fifth Estate can be so "cruelly blind" in their news coverage.   Their's is a sin by omission, not commission- and that kind of sin is always easier to commit.


Reagan's policies embodied what the republicans are now known for- getting out of the way of big business, and having government focus on pursuing international policy vis-a-vis military strength and covert operations. But I err now, because it's not only a republican modus operandi- it's also a page out of the democratic party's slim playbook as well.


The larger picture is that no matter the party in power, the citizens of the United States are slowly beginning to realize that Big Government is not the enemy, and not the problem- it is an Unbalanced Government that creates havoc and leaves important work and obligations undone and unfulfilled. Given the blood traits of the nation, many Americans loathe the notion of being dependent on anybody- let alone the government- but after a monumental natural disaster like Katrina, just where does one turn?  If not the government, then to whom?  No man is an island, and that reality often doesn't come home to roost until after disaster strikes.


When formulating opinion and public policy, when will both the high profile pundits of America's Fifth Estate and elected officials begin referring to the most basic obligations of the U.S. government as clearly stated in the U.S. Constitution's preamble?  The Bill of Rights receives a lot of fanfare- as well it should- but that document in no way addresses the responsibilities of the government itself.  We all need to be reminded as to just what the government's job is constitutionally-speaking. The Fifth Estate especially needs to reorient its dialogue, and return home to their job of reviewing the current condition of the nation's creed- a creed gone unfulfilled in too many ways- and stop creating distraction by over-reference to individual leaders.


It is the personality cult as attached to specific leaders that is deterring clear vision as much as misdirected government.


John Merah



Rejoinder to JAKARTA POST OpEd_24-01-08.txt


Response to Jakarta Post Op Ed piece            24 January 2008



In comment on "The next U.S. government and future international order"

by Christian Harijanto, Jakarta


Though this article's author has taken pains to present a balanced view of perhaps a too-complex range of interrelated theses, two points of opinion clearly emerge victorious over the other stated considerations:


1.  The world of nation states requires a hegemonic-style leader in the form of a super power.


2.  That leader must force its hand responsibily- in a fair yet firm manner.


The writer need not worry about the next U.S. administration swinging pendulum-like to the other extreme- whatever that actually implies.  Ever since the Spanish-American War in 1898- and arguably going back further to the Monroe Doctrine, the American Empire has consistently acted on its own behalf and intervened in countries around the world to bolster its own self-interest.


It is a slippery slope to posit these self-interests as being rooted in the ethos of "liberal economy" and the "spread of democracy."  These terms are loaded code phrases, and smack of Orwellian Double-Speak in too many instances.


During the tenure of the American Empire, Democratic and Republican administrations alike have consistently imposed their will on other nations in an effort to create inroads for American business, military, and foreign policy interests.  This has been strikingly true since World War II- Cold War or not. American leaders always manage to justify such hegemonic actions in the name of freedom's march, but that is much too facile a representation, and is in fact a lie.  Even grand strokes like the Marshall Plan used to reconstruct Europe after WW II have been formulated to benefit American business.


The writer implies that the American government has control over and authors their policies.  I beg to differ.  It is the American military-industrial complex that is the driving force. As President Calvin Coolidge once said, "The business of America is business."  Money is what it's all about- and freedom is just another word for the "right to prosper."  Let us be frank in defining just exactly what freedom means to an American administration.


There is neither true freedom nor true democracy anywhere in the world- including America.  I think the author somehow would agree- hence his suggestion that hegemony is necessarily the ruling paradigm in international relations.  It seems the author is sitting back and hoping the U.S. as superpower will continue to show a strong hand in fighting the "unconventional" forces of opposition at hand (code word for terrorism), yet doing it with some semblance of grace and consistency that benefits all nation states of a like-mind.


I don't think the author need worry.  There's more of the same up ahead with the next U.S. administration.


sent to:  

                    vis-v-vis hotmail





Rejoinder to New Republic Article.txt


Predictably- and for obviously self-serving reasons- an establishment pundit

has proffered yet another viewpoint on Iran that stops short of offering a complete

view of what has happened in that country since World War II. He would rather us

labor in fear and ignorance than provide a larger context for greater

understanding.  Shame on him.


In 1954, the CIA aided and abetted in the overthrow of Iran's democratically

elected government reestablishing the Shah in power. The causal chain has been predictable.  Though is took them 25 years, the radical Mullahs took advantage

of the polarization caused by the Shahs policies and lifestyle, and had the support necessary to succeed in their own revolution in 1979.


Let us hope the US is beginning to learn that support for totalitarian leaders as

a geopolitical  strategy will lead to more Irans- and Iraqs for that matter.


The US helped foment current conditions in Iran.  This does not gainsay the danger Iran's present leadership poses, but the US must take responsibility for its interventionist past, and learn not to repeat it.


The writer's cavalier statement that Iran is "doing its darnedest to be bombed"

is an example of how freely so-called responsible voices of the American press

will casually suggest doing great violence to a country in lieu of first exhausting

other options. This writer's off-handed allusion to America's "bombing as a

reasonable and early option" mentality expresses the true moral weakness

and lack of imagination the United States currently carries in matters of

international relations.


America is not immune from the cause and effect of history.  The country's

ruthless pursuit of its national interest which motivates intervention

in the affairs of countless nations- many of them violent and murderous

of the innocent -will only result in future 9-11's.


Wake up and read history America.  It's not your strongest subject.  



Reply to Craig Gordon_Newday_14-05-08.txt


Dear Mr. Gordon:



Your litany of warnings directed towards Senator Obama for the rumble-in-the-jungle come the fall election are well taken.  If the Obama camp has yet to have figured them all out, then maybe you have provided them a service.


I doubt Obama ever believed for one nano-second that his attempt to become president would be anything but an uphill fight, and possibly one that would be injurious to his political career- if not his own physical safety.  I'm sure in his heart-of-hearts he is surprised he got this far.  Any ambitious politician believes first and foremost in themselves, and then goes from there. But he's not reckless and didn't simply toss his hat in the ring without considerable forethought and encouragement from his colleagues.  Sheer inner strength- and considerable talent- have stead him throughout this campaign.  He was willing to take a punch, and is still taking them from "the left and the right."


No matter his politics, personal associations, or experience quotient, we should all give the Senator credit- he's got a ton of guts and brains to match.


Bellwethers on the 2008 American political battle front seem to be popping up everywhere, such as the two recent Democratic victories in congressional races held in Louisiana and Mississippi.  One could surmise some conservative whites are turning towards the democrats, but so many pundits have erred in properly reading the tea leaves this political year.  The inability to properly see what is ahead can be easily deduced. As the electorate is upset, agonized, and war-fatigued, it is anyone's guess what will happen come the second Tuesday in November.


The most disturbing thought is a repeat of 2000 and 2004, and that there will be yet another case of a Florida or Ohio positioned as pivotal states involved in deciding the presidency- and that charges of voting fraud or denial of voting rights will ensue. Many, many Americans believe Bush stole at least one of his two elections.  Given that and his attack on the bill of rights, a clean election is one hope of alleviating the fear that democracy is slipping through the country's hands.


It is my fervent hope that you and your Fifth Estate colleagues will thoroughly review and investigate the methods and security measures taken in all the states as concerns voting laws and poll procedures this election year.  This election in particular presents the press with an unusually important roll to play.  I have little respect for most of the high profile punditry that collectively carry so much influence, and hope that good, honest journalists will take on that extra yeoman measure of responsibility needed to help monitor and hopefully keep the 2008 election a clean one.


As usual, the whole world is watching.


Thanks for your contributions to the national political dialogue.


John Merah



Reply to Drug Bust at SDSU.txt


This news shouldn't come as any shock whatsoever.  Even the weapons confiscated and ties to Mexican drug lords shouldn't cause a gasp of wonder.


America has been drug-addled for centuries, and more specifically, college campuses have been depositories for huge quantities and varieties of both legal and illegal mind altering substances for decades.  America's so-called "best and brightest" populating America's vast array of "higher" educational institutions have been ripped to the gills since the early days of the Vietnam War.  Even public figures from both sides of the aisle such as Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama have admitted to past drug use.  Indeed, we may soon have a president that has used cocaine.


Right of wrong is NOT the operative question. Drug use is no less an American rites of passage now than making it with your first lover in the back of Dad's sedan down by the river was fifty years ago.


Though still a taboo subject in "polite circles," the die has been firmly cast by now in American society.  People love their football, their pizza, and their bongs- and not necessarily in that order.  Like it or not, drug use has become the most commonplace of American past times.


Even the late Neo-Con icon Bill Buckley Jr. knew that fighting the drug war was a losing battle, and was a supporter of legitimizing their use.  As long as drugs are illegal in America, the only people who will truly benefit will be domestic and foreign drug cartels as well as the covert operators within the U.S. government (review journalist Gary Webb's 1996 reports on the CIA turning the other cheek as drugs were sold in American cities which indirectly helped raise money for the Contras in Nicaragua). 


There is nothing new under the sun, and it is time for America's law makers to understand proscription of personal vice is a losing proposition.



Reply to Pundits Fickledness_08-05-08.txt



Reply to San Diego Union      May 08, 2008


Once upon a time there were news people like Edward R. Murrow who would sacrifice their careers in defense of the country's decency and integrity. Today, higher callings amongst the press corps are but distant echoes spoken in a dead language.


The punditry of today's Fifth Estate would sell their Grandmother up the river for ratings.  They pander to the basest instincts of humanity, and are bent on the destruction of everyone they set their sights on. A higher sense of duty as per the nobler ethos incumbent upon the presses’ role in a free society is anathema to their reptilian instincts. Their instinctual descent into cruelty and rapacious addiction to feasting at the table of daily slaughter- with the truth being the repeated victim- is now a given to which almost everyone is anesthetized.


If only we could call them harlequins and laugh at their predictable antics if they weren't so destructive of everything good and redeeming.



Response to Don Imus Flap.txt


Don Imus is no different than scores of people who have reached their level

 of incompetence while simultaneously abusing the power they have accrued.


Mr. Imus simply can't curb his tongue- something anathema for many talkjocks.

 I really don't think he was "kidding."  He was drunk with feeling inured from

 reprisal given his powerful position. The tendency for such personalities is to

 pander to the dissatisfaction, anger, and impotence that so many of their

 listeners feel.


If Imus should go, so should a lot of others. He's just a little more gruff and

blatant than the rest. The hate spewed by a lot of high profile pundits somehow

is considered more acceptable.


The real hate-mongers are our politicians. But  they couldn't dream of ascending

into power if they didn't watch every word they utter. But what they are thinking

and actually doing behind the scene is a thousand times worse than anything

Don Imus could exact on our society.


Venal words are hurtful.  Yet Americans excuse our public officials who lie

routinely.  Take our current president and the case of Iraq's Weapons of Mass

Destruction.  He simply passed the blame on to others. Liars such as Bush

are necessarily cowards as well. Somehow lying is more acceptable than

speaking one's mind- even if it leads the nation into war and is the cause of a

massive loss of life.



Don Imus is but a distraction. But better to train ones eyes on the evil-minded

liars who can start a nuclear war- they are the truly dangerous ones.




RESPONSE_ Making America Stupid_Friedman_NYTimes_14-09-08.txt


Mr. Friedman:


(NOTE:  I have not had the chance to read your new book, and if it makes reference to the details set forth in the subsequent text, then mea culpa, Mr. Friedman)


Given your initial support for the Iraq war during the halcyon days of the Bush Doctrine's inception, I must laud you for eventually admitting your faulty perspective that such a war as drummed-up on the basis of lies and deception was in fact wrong. Still, it's incredible to me that a man of your decency, intelligence, and access-to-the-inside track could EVER believe a man of such reptilian soul as George Bush.


Having said that, you still possess an idiosyncratic streak of America-first-sentiment that tends to limit the extent of your effective reasoning.  With all you analytical prowess, you fail to successfully answer your own pointed, rhetorical questions. Your latest op-ed offering, "Making America Stupid," is a case in point.


American innovation earmarks the country that once was, you lament, but you fail to connect the dots as convincingly and to the fullest logical extent truly excellent journalism would demand.  And given you are a well-touted, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, it seems incumbent on you to go the extra mile and zero-in on just WHY America's addiction to oil goes untreated.


There is no Betty Ford Clinic for the oil-addicted, and only one glaring reason need be cited.  The oil companies- who essentially along with the banks and a handful of corporations own America lock-stock-and-barrel, aren't quite ready yet to allow for an energy-revolution.  They are the deciders- not the government.  Let's be honest. They simply aren't prepared to properly implement their takeover strategy for alternative (maybe renewable) energy sources.  Make no mistake, they will position themselves to make the necessary transition when they are ready.


And when will that be?  Well, not for the foreseeable future (if they can help it), as there is still a vast amount of money to be made from oil. They will not let their substantial infrastructure of production and distribution go that quickly into the night. But when it DOES come time to really break the alternative energy egg wide open, you can bet they will be the controlling interests involved.  Don't count on any Theodore Roosevelts to come along and help divvy up the new energy pie fairly.


Generally, the American populace falls into two fear-devastated groups.  The first group despairs at America's continued moral debasement, and the second group is distraught about terrorism (and by extension, loss of control over Middle East oil).  The Bush doctrine essentially serves to answer the second groups' core fears.  Unilaterally, and at the president's sole discretion, the U.S. can "preventively or preemptively" invade any country they like if our national security is at stake. This overarching doctrine serves primarily to keep the oil flowing, and the spigot running dry is tops in terms of American fears. Aside from a very fancy pants financial industry (BTW- that's where almost all of America's current innovation resides), the ENTIRE remaining balance of the economy is based on oil, isn't it??


You wax on about the travesty of the Bush administration's malignant neglect which has dramatically exasperated a growing domestic nightmare that befalls the country- and by example- the lack of a new energy policy; but this scenario has been unfolding for decades.  And where has the establishment press been?  Just as with the stealing of the last two presidential elections, the matter just hasn't seemed all that important, has it? 


Those Americans who struggle to make ends meet- let alone the poor whom even Obama will not address directly- could have told you and the rest of the fifth estate thirty years ago during the Iran hostage crisis and the concurrent double digit inflation that America's approach to energy, foreign policy, domestic programs, etc, was entirely being held hostage by special interests- especially oil.


For many of us world weary souls, the lack of a viable energy policy is exceedingly old news, and the ONLY reason it's really getting press now is that one- the rich are beginning the pinch feel a bit; and two- the crisis at hand may be delivering a terminal blow to a substantive portion of the middle class.  Even the rich have a self-interest in that deterioration.  What?! No consumers for our products?!  Forget about the poor- they were summarily dismissed and passed over by the press after the failure of Johnson's Great Society debacle. The fifth establishment simply BAILED on what they saw as a losing cause.


It now appears that not just one errant cock, but an entire aviary of fowl are coming home to roost. One telling canary in the gold mine is that columnists of major establishment news organizations are actually beginning to sound alarmed.  Until very recently, most well-positioned pundits have not ventured to express true outrage at America's decline- and have been for the most part as out-of-touch as anyone else who works within the padded corridors of power and privilege.  I'm sorry, but that includes your position at the NY Times.


America has leveraged unfair economic advantage over substantial areas of the globe since before the building of the Panama Canal. The Bush doctrine and pro-oil government policy is so run-of-the-mill Pax Americana as to have become banal.  It's simply redux of the past one hundred years of American hegemony. It is shockingly easy for even the computer illiterate to unearth like-history that parallels the U.S. govt's support of the overthrow and outright pilfer of entire countries and territories at the behest of American economic interests in order to procure cheap natural resources and/or labor.  Hawaii is one glaring example; the "Banana Republics" just one more. That anyone can doubt our intervention into the Middle East is not in main a play for control of the world's largest known oil supply seems beyond the pale.  Terrorism is simply thrown in for good measure, and what a botched job that has been!


As forceful, reasoned, and passionately expressed your views were in your most recent column (most of which I am in whole hearted agreement) I can only lament a professional with your power and vantage has not come out sooner with a more focused attack on the real systemic roots of collusion between big oil and government.  You are decidedly in the green column, and that's to be commended.  But you shy away from taking on the really big guns. 


You seem a great patriot.  You seem sincerely passionate about your country.  I think it's time for you to stand up and be counted in a truly forceful way, and in your direct and persuasive writing style nail ALL the heads with one blow from your pen's sledge. You are quick to fault the government, but of the aforementioned grand collusion you make no substantive reference.  (Again, you may have done so in your new book) If Obama becomes president, neither he nor government's agency alone can catalyze a fundamental change in the system as it stands.  He will need people like you to help turn the tide.


I for one am both rooting for you, and counting on you.  With great power comes great responsibility.  Now is the time.



Roger Cohen_NYT Op-Ed_25-09-08.txt


Palin: American Exception


Mr. Cohen:


All agreed, save one "trifle":  You say America run amok for only the last eight years?  Try ONE HUNDRED & EIGHT.  The U.S. government- often on behalf of business interests- has been running rough shod over the world as only a bona fide Empire can do since the Spanish American war.


As Harry Truman once said, "The only thing new in the world is the history one doesn't know about."


I see no essential difference between the current proposed bail out, and- for instance- the U.S. govt's military intervention in Hawaii at the behest of the interloping American pineapple plantation magnates back in the 1920's.  Either way, the rich come to the rescue of the rich, and in so doing destroy little people and little countries all over the world.


It's all the same game- divide, conquer; rape and pillage.  Meanwhile, the perpetrators simply wrap themselves in the American flag and call it "manifest destiny;" or "a matter of national security;" or "protecting the national interest."


The sad truth is that having freedom and what a country does with that freedom are almost always poles apart.


No matter what one may think of Malcom X, his infamous line concerning Kennedy's assassination being a case of "the chickens coming home to roost" is thoroughly apropos of almost every critical problem a now-out-of-touch America faces. 


The country has none but itself to blame for well nigh all of its shortcomings.  And that includes its people as well as its government. The price to be paid for freedom is now taking on a cost those of the land of the home and the brave have not taken the time to properly consider.  Usually, the one being blind-sided is afflicted with blindness to begin with. 


In the 1960's, pro-Vietnam war supporters were quick to attack dissenters, assailing them with such stock slogans as "America, love it or leave it."  I, for one, took them up on it and no longer reside on U.S. soil.  From afar, I look on with great sadness- no hubris- that my reasons for leaving are only being amplified and justified with every passing day.



ThornTree Post- Sustainable logging practices.txt


This is the Indonesian thread, so Indonesia's forestry practices were of course the focus of discussion.  I don't believe anyone here is singling out Indonesia.  Agreed- every South East Asian country can be cited for abuses. Myanmar is possibly the greater region's poster boy for wanton abuse of its forests.  Ask China- they're benefiting handsomely from trade relationships with Myanmar's military junta.


Australia's population is one-eighth of Indonesia's.  Its needs for wood products is manageable given it has a land area nearly the size of the United States. Australia likely practices more sustainable logging than does Indonesia or most countries in this part of the world.  It may well import a lot of lumber as well- from places like Indonesia.  Why cut down your own forests when you can buy better quality at a cheaper price from a third world country?  The same goes for the other end of the natural cycle.  Some richer countries export their garbage to the poorer- much of it poisonous and untreated. 


What makes the issue of logging particularly intractable in countries like Indonesia is that governmental corruption is so rampant.  A lot of logging in Indonesia is illegal, as we all know too well.  The government not only admits to the problem, but confesses it can do nothing to stop it.  There are no effective checks or controls, especially in places like Kalimantan and Papua.  The TNI (Indonesian military) has historically been involved in taking bribes for illegal logging as it is a vital source of their income.  They are just one stake holder involved.  Maybe things have changed under SBY- but historically speaking the Indonesian government has not provided the TNI with a budget of full measure.  In other words, the TNI is forced to raise a significant amount of its own fund base.  The incentive for corruption is built into the greater governmental system.


The responsibility falls equally on the shoulder of the buyers.  Consumers have a choice.  If you are Japanese, do you install a new floor with tropical woods from Papua? How can one tell where the wood comes from? Though import checks exist in some nations, most state governments have little interest in making sure all wood products sold in their country are obtained through legal channels.  If the government doesn't care, it's most likely the bulk of the consumers of that nation don't as well.  Price and quality are the overriding concerns.


Unfortunately, the third world can point at the first and say, "Well, you cut down your forests, so who are you to tell us we can't do the same in our country?"  This point is implicit in Laszlo's post and may well be the biggest impediment to making progress with development issues in the third world.  The first world's hypocrisy is its own worst enemy.


What cannot be disputed is that over-consumption of natural resources and over-population is a worldwide problem that eventually will affect everyone.



Unrequited Boomer_NYTimes response to Frank Rich_11-05-08.txt


As an unrequited member of the so-called Boomer generation, I can say without hesitation that it's time the torch be passed to the next and see if they can't do a better job at attempting to fulfill the meaning of the nation's creed.  After the dismal failures of the only two Boomers to have ascended to the presidency- Clinton and Bush II, it is time to call off any further attempts and pass the baton.  Both Clinton and Bush displayed the Achilles’ heel of their generation- hypocrisy in the face of self-proclaimed values and a primary devotion to themselves.


Apart from this general failure of leadership (as found in the Congress as well), Mr. Rich's article astutely touches upon- quite politely but substantively- at how completely out of touch members of my generation have become- as personified by the royal members of the Fifth Estate's collective punditry.


As most Americans suffer the humiliations and reduced freedoms incurred at the workplace (much of this due to the totalitarian nature of corporate structures which has become the dominant cultural paradigm), the Boomer-dominated pundits dash off reams of copy meant mainly to inflame, character-assassinate, and inspire hatred and fear in their readers.  Most Americans would lose their jobs straight away if they conducted themselves as such. As long as these panderers tow the ideological lines of their corporate sponsors, they are free to pursue their vitriolic brand of yellow journalism and not be held accountable.


The point is, what we see in these errant Boomers who have the shrillest and most-heard voices extant in America is how self-serving and egotistical the generation can be if given too much freedom! What started off as a so-called "peace and love" fest during their teens and early twenties was corrupted by excessive drug use and other forms of self-satisfaction. The erstwhile idealists who thought so much of themselves grew into adults whose grand contribution was the creation of a materialist dystopia. The Boomers proved that in the span of one generation, an identity of citizenship could be successfully supplanted by that of consumerism. Now, staring down the barrel of mortality, the Boomers find themselves living in both fear of death and even greater guilt in reaction to the knowledge that they have allowed the nation to become more of a moral leper than it was during the Viet Nam War. (And yes, the protests during that war evaporated once the draft was called off)


It is no wonder that the establishment press is getting this presidential race all wrong.  The pundits have forsaken imagination and clear-headed vision for formula. They are not only spiritually bankrupt, but revel in the fact. It is plain as day that as the news, internet, and cable news outlets simply exercise the over-tired templates of news coverage that emphasizes the campaign horse race at expense of the issues at hand, while a growing contingent of younger and underestimated voters- i.e., the next generation- is busy at work looking beyond the veils, smoke, and mirrors their parent's generation would have them become clouded in.


The major issues of our time- the theft of both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, the preemptive interventionism of this bloated, oil-thirsty corporate state in a desperate attempt to control the Middle East, and the government's systematic attack upon the bill of rights- (all as deadly serious as Watergate if not more so) have been routinely dismissed and trivialized by the Boomer-led Fifth Estate.


Maybe this time around the election cycle we will have a younger president who will truly look to inspire reform of a system gone so terribly wrong, and maybe not.  Maybe power always does corrupt absolutely. Maybe the greedy corporatism and ever-threatening militarism that now best describes the leading thrust of American power is an unstoppable juggernaut. And maybe the next generation will make the same mistakes their parents did.  But we would be fools not to given them a chance- and give it to them now.


Our bid failed, and failed miserably.  The hour is growing late. (Now if we could only be assured that Bush doesn't invade Iran in his final months and in the final hours not hand over the reigns in the interest of national security.........)



Vonnegut OB CBS NEws.txt


It's interesting to read what Vonnegut's peers and contemporaries had to say. 

Mailer said he was our Mark Twain.  Talese said he wasn't a mean guy. 

Vidal said he was unique and imaginative.  Wolfe said he the only writer close

to being our Voltaire.


In any regard, he knew how to use the power of the pen. As much as depression haunted him and he ultimately philosophized that "life is a crock," he had the good sense and courage to rally both his imagination, humor, outrage and inject it into fiction that jousted with the murderous elite of the planet. 


Few writers have been able to balance their dismal personal views on life with a higher moral calling and infuse them to great effect.  It's one helluva person who can do that- and he is a great role model for anyone aspiring to either write or strike some compromise with their own despair.



John Gorrindo<>




Mon, Jan 19, 2009 at 11:18 AM


Speech writer's round table



Monday, January 19, 2008


Mr. Zakaria:

After last night's speech writer's panel you moderated on CNN, you called for viewers to submit quotes from "presidents, kings, or prime ministers" that held great personal influence.  You also seemed to allow the door be opened to quotes from others as well, though preference for speech of monarchs and statesmen appeared to be your preference.



Peggy Noonan's customary egotism and hubris put aside, the panel for the most part directed their attention to issues greater than themselves and their own personal accomplishments.  It is profoundly sad, though, that the true function these writers provided was all too often to help subvert the truth and protect the self interest of the presidents and prime ministers they served.



To be a quisling and stage manager for the likes of venal men like Nixon and consummate liars like Reagan is nothing to be proud of.  It is no idle wonder that possibly the most effective speech maker of the twentieth century was Adolph Hitler.

People who blindly trust the word of powerful leaders (and the people who put words in their mouth) do so at their own peril.  "Trust and verify" doesn't quite apply.  Be skeptical first and then following up with research is a better bet.



But I have yet to offer my favorite quote.  "The Emperor Wears No Clothes".  That is it.  It is not so much influential as simply the truth.  The truth is what is influential. 

Let us throw aside elocutionary dress-up and speak of what truly matters. The truth is what matters, for in all its merciless revelations it just might set some of us free, though the pain involved leverages a severe price on the soul. The truth is often very hostile to peace of mind, and so in our weakness we opt for what is expeditious- i.e. couching ourselves in lies.  Maybe Ibsen was right- lies are a necessary part of existence; a tool of survival.



Your roundtable of speech writers belong to that retinue of minions who in greater part serve to dress the emperor and cover up all his or her naked reality.  Too often, due to issues of national security or more likely personal preservation, the truth is the first casualty.  Speech writers are primarily paid to be Machiavellian-inspired defenders who dress their potentates in verbal clothing making palatable their lies, obfuscations, and obsession with power; to feed mass constituencies with narcotics and undercut their detractors. In the name of these reprehensible "anti-virtues" these creative personalities put their high artifice to work. 



"There is nothing new in the world but the history you do not know."  (Another good quote- and this time, by a U.S. president)


How many are aware that:


1.  The revered Winston Churchill earlier in his career whole-heartedly supported the slaughter of Middle Eastern "natives" with poison gas? (As Secretary of War and Air and Colonial Secretary, he authorized the RAF in the 1920's to routinely use mustard gas against rebellious Kurdish tribesmen in Iraq and against Pushtun tribes on the Northwest Frontier. Churchill, an ardent imperialist and racist, sanctioned use of burning mustard gas on `primitive tribesmen' but not on white troops.)



2. Nixon did every thing in his power to subvert democracy in Latin America and essentially ordered the murder of Salvador Allende in Chile.  He also perpetuated

America's genocidal policy towards Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam; so unsettling the region that the likes of the Khmer Rouge ascended to power. 



3. Reagen, the rabid-mouthed red baiting governor of California turned everybody's favorite Uncle callously pursued a policy in Central America that lead to the death of thousands of innocent people.



4.  Jimmy Carter- now everybody's favorite ex-president (deservedly so)- turned a cold shoulder towards those who yearned for protection from right wing death squads in Central America as well.




That all "great leaders" have untold blood on their hands goes without saying and is simply brushed aside due to power's occupational hazards.  Great men and women are often very bad people. They do the dirty work of the civilization they rule.


That we all accept the willingness to spill blood as a prerequisite for being an effective leader is one central reason why humanity is a still a fallen proposition.

Noonan was right about one thing- the world is a fallen place. (But of course, she utters this in blasé offhandedness, using the world's lapsed spiritual state as pretext for supporting the heinous acts and premeditated lies of "free world" leaders.)



The press wears no clothes as well (though plenty of makeup).


In the plush surroundings of the CNN studios we can see the machinations of the fifth estate nakedly at work; the comfortable, scripted collusion between the fifth estate and the government pulled off with utter ease; and the revolving door between the two symbiotic creatures which is also seen between big business and government as well. 


Big business prods government to do their bidding (as did American plantation owners in Hawaii which lead to the fall of the Hawaiian kingdom; ITT in Allende's Chile; and the big banks in the latest government bail out), and the anointed press serve as shapers of the message.



This unholy triad and their quality of human heart and mind is vastly predictable. 

None of them wear any clothes.  To gain admittance into the broadcast studio, for instance, the press must check in all inconvenient truth at the door in order to curry favor with the Ruppert Murdocks and General Electrics of the world. The same can be said for the guests- the pundits- who populate the round tables. 



It was hence beyond imagining that last night's show would do nothing to detract from the traditional fawning of press sycophants who are enthralled by the seats of power of those who sit in them.



Mainstream press continues to promulgate the myth that selective recounting of current events and history serves us all well enough.  We do not need to know disquieting factoids such as the fact that six million people (mostly innocent) lost their lives due either directly or indirectly to CIA covert operations since its inception during the Truman administration.  Inconvenient truths are to be avoided at all cost, for that is a necessary condition for ascent to power and in turn preserving a phony national narrative.  The press serves its part in the power brokers' game.  For that, they are rewarded with access to authority, plush perks, make-up artists, and hermetically sealed studios.



There is a lot of accounting to be done on this score; and those who are accountable will never be held as such.  The rich, powerful, and connected are able to rise above the law rather effortlessly, whether due to presidential pardons or simply selective application of the nation's laws. Certainly today's broadcast media wouldn't have the temerity to produce a show about such terribly indicting facts as that mentioned about the CIA.  After the Church committee's investigation in 1975 and the publishing of Philip Agee's book, "Inside the Company", any further discussion in the mainstream press with an eye towards truth and reconciliation for the American Empire's wrong doing was thrown out of serious consideration.  It was simply seen as "yesterday's news."



At least South Africa had the good sense to hold its own Truth and Conciliation conference after the fall of Apartheid.  The American psyche for all its macho mentality doesn't have the sense of honor or courage to face up to its past crimes, especially in terms of its international crimes. It is a huge chink in the country's collective armor.



But the chickens do come home to roost.  Karma is not a superstitious concept.  It is a proposition and philosophical mainstay of all universal traditions. To put it in terms Americans can understand, let us quote the bible.  As your speech writing panel loved to praise the "biblical" in speeches such as Lincoln's second inaugural I so offer- "You reap what you sow." 



Not a bad quote in itself, is it?




John Gorrindo


Manado, North Sulawesi



January 20th, 2009

Re:McGurn_Bush’s Real Sin



Mr. McGurn:


Your article's real sin was one of omission.  Under Bush's watch, you conveniently lent nary a word as per America's failing infrastructure; the money class fleecing the nation, bringing it to the edge of financial ruin; the systematic undermining of the constitution on several fronts; contravening section four of the Geneva convention as per torture; complete disregard for the environment by the earth's most egregious green house polluter; the failure to balance needs of America's domestic welfare in favor of defense against foreign attack.  Socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the rest is the real legacy of the Bush administration. 


Not only that, but the administration has failed miserably in Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to reconstitute itself and helping make nuclear Pakistan vulnerable.  The entire region, including Kashmir and relations with India have become destablized. Do you think India will restrain itself from using the atomic bomb if the Taliban take control in Islamabad?  The real war is just warming up, wouldn't you say?  Iraq was simply an h'orderve.  The entree is coming up.


This grand sin by omission serves to distract and detract from what is really at core when talking about the Bush era and the war of terror. 


As per Iraq, you focus on the false issue of "winning the war."  Winning the war was never the object of the Bush administration.  The administration was never bothered by the bumps in the road, because they knew that permanent American presence would prevail, no matter the fate of the Iraqi people.  Once embedded in Iraq, there was never any doubt America would never leave, no matter the conditions on the ground. Establishing a permanent, geostrategic presence in the crossroads of the Middle East was the real raison d'etre. Establishing an Iraqi governmental apparatus that would acquiesce to America's dictates was a primary tactic employed.  Whether that government remains on a democratic track or not takes a back seat to the real motivation as per American interests. 


You express a sentimental hurt as concerns those who attack Bush and the fundamental unfairness and hypocrisy of those attacks.  That hypocrites abound goes without saying.  But what people think of Bush's policies never bothered the administration to any demonstrable degree.  No thicker skins ever existed. As soon as they invaded Iraq and overthrew the Hussein regime, their primary objectives had been met.  The rest was purely academic, and the administration hunkered down in the bunker and took the hits as a matter of course.  No real skin off their collective backs. They got what they wanted.   


Even though the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) approved in late 2008 between Bush and Maliki called for eventual complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, I don't think anybody seriously thinks that will actually transpire.  There is simply too much at stake in that geostrategic theatre.


No need to carry Bush's hurts and the question of his "legacy" in your soul.  As a neo-conservative, you don't need to worry.  On that score, there is a lot to celebrate, sir. The "permanent class" of Washington (of which you a part) supports a permanent presence in Iraqi territory and the continued war on terror.  They may not say it publicly, but when it comes down to a defining vote, there will be bipartisan support in Congress for permanent U.S. presence in Iraq. Obama will call for it himself.  Upon "final withdrawal" the concomitant agreements between the U.S. government and Iraq will call for the creation of U.S. military bases in Iraq, and Barak Obama will never on his watch pull out all U.S. forces and seriously under staff the proposed bases.  That simply won't happen, and no U.S. president- no matter who they are and whose party name they carry- would do it any differently. 


In Iraq, the neoconservatives won this time around.  They have won one pitched battle of a much larger war they are waging.  The "war on terror" (nominally beginning with the Gulf War and the 1993 bombing of the WTC) was first coined WW IV by the founding fathers of neoconservatism (Irving Kristol, Leo Strauss, Norman Podhoretz, who projected it to last for at least forty years.  It's now two decades old and continues unabated. It's just that the real objectives and true name of that war has been held relatively mute as per collusion by both the U.S. government and mainstream U.S. press for all these years.  No one breathes the term WW IV just as WW III was conveniently called the "Cold War." 


What we are really talking about here is WW IV against Islamofascism, Mr. McGurn.  You know it, and the entire permanent class of Washington knows it.


Some of us see through the veil.  I wouldn't underestimate the people, sir.  You can't fool all of us all the time.  Whining about how people "feel" towards George Bush is simply penny ante collateral damage as per WW IV and the neoconservative cause.  American foreign policy is still being shaped by the neoconservative philosophy. Anyway, the great American pastime is taking pot shots at the president, and occasionally taking real shots.  Most of them survive to share there "war stories" of having served with everyone willing to listen.  And there are plenty who will lend a sympathetic ear.


John Merah


21 January 2009


RE: Thomas L. Friedman's RADICAL in the WHITE HOUSE


Dear Editor of the New York Times:


Barak Obama's inauguration is naturally a cause for great celebration, and it

is indeed a great step forward in America "fulfilling the true meaning of

its creed."  In that Dr. King would concur.


Yes, America may have "gotten over its biography" as per slavery, though that remains a debatable issue.  But those closest to the civil rights movement and in particular those still living who directly participated in the movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. are still best in the know, and should be listened to with great

scrutiny and humility.


It is of grave importance that those enthralled by the moment of Barak

Obama's arrival as America's first African American president first

enjoy the moment but be quickly apprised of the wisdom imparted by two

surviving members of the original King's civil rights movement who

participated in the 2009 presidential inaguration- i.e. Congressman John Lewis and

Reverend Joeseph Lowery. 


When asked if Obama's ascendency to power marks "the culmination

of Dr. King's dream," both activists responded "only in part."


As usual, history, much of it personal, informs their sage responses, and provides the truest answer.  In what would be the final phase of King's movement, King had taken a giant step beyond race, and decided there was a greater urgency to address- that of poverty, economic oppression, and the plight of the poor en toto. 


After the passage of the Voting and Civil Rights Acts, King understood

that a greater and more universal mission lie beyond that of eradicating

the racial divide.  Though in broad terms racial hatred and

discrimination manifests itself as an attack on human rights and dignity,

racism's inextricable tie to poverty is perhaps its single most pernicious



But King knew poverty afflicted all races; all ethnic communities.  Poverty belittled and dehumanized everyone it touched.  He also knew that America was and remains- as do all societies- a class-based system. Class was determined by income, and their was an inversely proportionate relationship between oppression and income.  He knew all too well that in a capitalist society freedom was more a commodity for sale than it was an inalienable right. The real question was, "Can I afford to be free?"  To suffer impoverishment was an affront to human dignity and created an oppressed human being, no matter their race.  King was ready to go for broke and begin to do the poor's bidding, no matter their race, ethnic background, age, or gender.


It is speculated that King was murdered in response to the fact that his

new agenda was broadening its appeal to the white poor as well as his

own black race.


Though Barak Obama may have an agenda that specifically aims to help America's poor, is has not been hinted at let alone unveiled.  It is noteworthy that throughout his campaign and in his inaguration speech particular mention of poverty and the poor was rarely made.  Heretofore, he made his appeals in main to the middle class.  Making the middle class believe they are a candidate's priority wins elections.


America's political constituency base include a myriad of ethnic groups, races, economic classes,institutions, multi-national corporations, labor unions, religious groups, grass roots organizations and countless other advocacy and special interest groups.


But the poor remain America's greatest disenfranchised group; a group affiliated only by a complete absence of status; lacking a voice because it has not organized

and has no leadership.  They only know loss and despair.  The audacity of hope is lost on them. The working poor and unemployable constitute America's largest "special interest" group that no one in the U.S. government takes special interest in because it takes no special interest in itself.


Dr. King's dream has not been deferred by any means, but neither has it been

culminated.  If only he could send everyone a message and make things

crystal clear on what has been accomplished, and what work remains. 


No- Mission Accomplished for racial equality is as misleading as Mission Accomplished on Bush's aircraft carrier.  Equality is not the province of race alone.

Finding a solution to poverty and the American poor- who exist in untold and uncalculated forgotten millions- remain the final great body of work that Dr. King's

greater dream (post 1963) and mission. Few if anyone truly knows the number of poverty-plagued souls in the United States.  It would not be surprising to know that the true figure has been carefully suppressed.


And no- Barak Obama is by no means a radical.  He just appears radical in comparison to the sharp right turn America took starting in 1968.  It may be Obama is ultimately resigned, as are most,  that the "poor will always be with us,"  and that the solution can never be found through direct governmental programs.  The solution is generally considered to be found best through growth of the economy, and given the Great Society's failure to address poverty, no one in government at least has since taken up where Lyndon Johnson left off.  Poverty of and by itself is no longer a target issue. The poor have almost always suffered as the bastard child who may haphazardly and indirectly benefit only long after the favored sons and daughters of America first getting their fair share.  If something is left over, then the poor "are free" to collect the crumbs. 


Trickle-down remains the economic philosophy of America. Obama can be called radical only when he can tame America's money class, restrain it from fleecing the country, and begin to attack the plight of the poor.


John Gorrindo


John Merah

This comment that I read in the Readers’ Comments over at my favourite independent investigative news site, is so good that I have taken the liberty of making a separate page for it. It is written by John Merah, and American of insight and conscience, in response to comments about Campaign 2008 and “the likely fate of either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama at the hands of the Right’s attack machine. Also, comments on the fifth anniversary of Colin Powell’s lies to the UN, the continued U.S. news media fictions about Iraq and the Bush administration’s latest circumlocutions about torture”:



“It’s time to speak bluntly…

Like antiphonal choirs perched in cloisters high upon the walls of a cathedral, we echo each other in harmonious support as our voices of dissent pour out in anguish laced with a trace of defiance.


Preaching to the choir(s) is now the ineffectual pattern in place for those who abhor America’s violent nature. But the voices are safely contained within plumb, square, and comfortable padded walls- or text fields like this one. Little leaks onto the streets.

After Viet Nam in the 1960’s and 1970’s; followed by Central America in the 1980’s, one might think the message was clear- America needed a moral-house cleaning throughout. Even as far back as 1975 Congress and the Frank Church-led senate investigations revealed the CIA covert operations for what they really were. There was more blood on America’s hands than could be measured. Americans of conscience were aghast- history had finally been revealed.


Anyone who cared about people beyond our borders would have seen the light at that point in time. They would have seen that atrocities had occurred in their names going back to the Monroe Doctrine. And with further study and reflection, they might even have been brave enough to understand what Malcom X meant who upon commenting on the assassination of JFK, said, “The chickens have come home to roost.”

The preaching is getting old, and the hour is indeed getting late.

It is not just America’s ruling oligarchy or multi-national corporate interests that need reform. It’s not a matter of a top-down cleansing of American mentality. It is the American grass roots that are just as culpable.


It’s time to speak bluntly- the fault for our presently, persistent hegemonic behavior now lies squarely with the American people.


The blame for America’s abusive interventionist foreign policy can no longer lie only at the feet of the current administration, a co-opted judiciary, and a wimpish congress that does not know how to uphold and effectively leverage their end of constitutional responsibility.


It is the American people who stood by like mute lambs and allowed two stolen elections by Bush to go by the boards without even a whimper. That is conclusive proof that millions don’t care- either because they support authoritarian government (as long as their guy gets in), or have become anesthetized, disenfranchised, dispossessed- or cower in the fear and futility of having to rage against the machine.


Mr. McGovern is a good guy in a white hat- and credible as he had once been a member of the CIA. He’s been reformed. That is more than most people can say of themselves. And perhaps he is a better man than me, as I am much less charitable in my assessment of the American character.


Mr. McGovern tells us, “Indeed, patriots and prophets have made it clear from our earliest days that such abuse has no place in America.” That assumes a lot- and with all great sadness, I cannot make the same assumptions as does the good Mr. McGovern.

Let us not speak delicately. America has demonstrated a genocidal streak since Jamestown. I need not broach the subject of the Native Americans- just for starters. Americans are a duplicitous fraud when it comes to meting out the goodness of their souls. There are always strings attached, and fairness usually goes to only favorite sons and daughters.


In this age of the freedom of information act and the internet, the truth about the American Empire and its long history of murderous interventionism is readily available at anyone’s fingertips. Just go to George Washington University’s National Security Archives ( and do some browsing. That should make any patriot cause to stand up and cry for justice.


But who is crying in the streets now, America? Where are the Paul Revere’s and Patrick Henry’s of this generation? Still, it is only the voices of entrenched or otherwise embedded media “authorities” who can have their say and be heard. The Age of the Blog hasn’t made a dent. The action has yet to have hit the streets.


McGovern quotes another good man- Bishop Peter Storey- as appealing to our better angels most diplomatically, “You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them.” That has been done, Bishop Storey- repeatedly. No good has come of it.


The American public has been seduced and reduced in main to a lowest common denominator that is basest of the base. It’s status can now be accurately referred to as that of conspicuous consumer. No other single term fitfully applies to the collective. Citizenship has gone by the boards.


If the body America does not awake soon, it is clear that the U.S.’s quasi-democracy will be further reduced to even greater authoritarian qualities over time. All Empires must fall, and America’s is on the brink. When good people stand by and watch the pillars crumble, the end is very near.


America is now as far away from “living out the meaning of its creed” than at any time in its history.


John Merah



Standardizing Bahasa Indonesia      Jakarta Post, February 12, 2009


Original letter:

I agree with Dita N. on both accounts: 1) Hendropriyono broaches a relevant and timely subject; and 2) the subject's thesis was handled poorly.  Belaboring the spelling of a single word undermines the thesis at hand.  The original article is a great example of self-subterfuge.


It is of great interest that the forefathers/mothers of Indonesia first tackled the problem of establishing a national language some twenty years before the actual formation of the Republic of Indonesia.  In essence, the creation (or adaptation) of Bahasa Indonesia was the first true manifestation of unificasi.


Another "Language Congress" may well be needed to standardize how Bahasa Indonesia can best be used for translating international languages like English, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. The great difficulty involved is not so much grammatical and syntactical, but one of translating the "mentality", or mind set that accompanies not only a language like English, but the logic used in presenting and developing ideas peculiar to the language at hand.


It is the thought process itself that is at question here.


As per the English language and for those with internet access: For an Indonesian already versed in English but who wishes to better capture the essence of the Western thought process, I suggest reading and studying the editorials and opinion pieces written by pundits as published in such newspapers as the New York Times.  (Internet access to the Times is free) This newspaper features about a dozen op-ed writers every week, and a careful study of their writing styles and opinions will reveal how it is a native speaker and trained writer of English knowledgeable in current events, politics, economics, and cultural dynamics actually goes about creating a thesis and supporting their ideas. These writers are for the most part highly skilled in projecting well-developed ideas and opinions in less than a thousand words.


However important stylistics and accurate translation are, they are only foundational.  In terms of non-fiction, the next level involves knowing how to write- that is, how to clearly present an idea or point of view, and develop it cogently.


Finally, learning what makes the mind and heart tick behind the words and ideas so developed is taking it to the next level- and that leap has to be made in order to truly write well in English. One has to be a student of culture- and I do mean the International Culture- not just the English-speaking world.


This is not to say an Indonesian, for instance, needs to substitute foreign values for their own.  It is only to say that in adapting English's "culture of written expression" an Indonesian will be able to more clearly and persuasively communicate to any reader of the English language, no matter their nationality or language. What is communicated can still retain its idiosyncratic roots- however personal and/or culturally Indonesian. 

None of this is easy to achieve, and requires guidance and practice.


Indonesians will make great strides in this regard if they devote more time to reading.  The reading habit in Indonesia is not yet well-established- even amongst the so-called intelligentsia- and in my experience, it is the missing part of this puzzle.

The same should be said for any language, including Bahasa Indonesia.


THE GLOBALIST- Global Connections

DATELINE INDONESIA: Barack, Hillary and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

by Lex Rieffel  Monday, February 16, 2009



As an American who now lives in Indonesia, I appreciate Mr. Reiffel's timely article, and would like to expand and respond upon some of his opinions.


Given the legacy of Suharto's regime, referencing Indonesia's democratic growth as "stellar" may be appropriate.  In fact, Freedom House's 2009 report cites Indonesia as ASEAN's only "free" country.  (As a side note, it is of great interest to note that one of the world's most successful capitalist economies- Singapore (an ASEAN member)- is only given a "partially free" rating.  Freedom and capitalism don't always equate)

Mr. Reiffel's closing point that Sec. Clinton needs to be a good listener while in Jakarta is an attitude I hope she shares.  Part of Indonesia's formula for success after Suharto was to effectively incorporate positive economic and political role models to be found in the international community, and it would not do the United States any harm to adopt at least a measure of Indonesia's foreign relations philosophy that fosters peaceful and constructive relations with all nations (save Israel, which it doesn't recognize) is to everyone's benefit.  Gotong Royong at home; gotong royong abroad- this might qualify as Indonesia's new modus operandi.


Because Indonesia extends a nominal hand of friendship to most every nation, it exists as one of the world's few countries that really has no enemies.  Along with other factors, that standing could eventually give Indonesia the opportunity to help the U.N. and all peace loving parties bind the divisions extant between Muslim nations and the West. 

The importance of America under a new administration embracing this ripe opportunity cannot be overemphasized.  Indonesia is one of few countries which has the natural capability of embracing values whose roots are found in disparate places and races of the world. Not only does the world need a qualified arbitrator in the ongoing blood letting between the West and some factions of Islam, but Indonesia badly needs the opportunity to prove itself capable of such leadership.  It would not do the world any harm in having Indonesia be thrust into a more proactive, international peace-keeping role.


Concomitantly, as Indonesia's democratic experiment now enters its eleventh year, the entire country could greatly benefit by Sen. Clinton enlisting Indonesia's cooperation in helping heal and promote better relations with other Islamic countries.  Indonesia should be given a position that will serve as a role model for other Muslim countries and help show that democracy and Islam can coexist under a nationalist umbrella.


Indonesia badly needs to continue its long road of developing a large group of honest, competent, qualified leaders who can carry forth the decentralization that is now in full swing.  I firmly believe that giving Indonesia an important role in international affairs will have a direct benefit for the development of young leadership on the domestic front.

It is in America's best interest to support Indonesia in all appropriate ways to help the country maintain and further build upon its "stellar" democratic record.  That record should be given a chance to be projected around the world.


Democracy is an ongoing experiment for every country that adopts it, and that includes the United States.  Indonesia's democracy is very vulnerable due to many factors, but poverty and lack of education are possibly the greatest threats.  Due to these pervading conditions, corruption still flourishes, even though SBY's anti-corruption program has made substantial headway in the past two or three years.


Anything the United States can do to help Indonesia economically with the necessary strings attached that anti-corruption will continue to be an effectively winning proposition should be high on Sec. Clinton's list of priorities.


As far as human rights is concerned, the United States has little leverage.  Ford and Kissinger gave Suharto the green light to invade Timor; the CIA attempted to foment a coup against Sukarno in both 1958 (unsuccessfully), and 1965 (successfully); and the U.S.'s involvement in turning over rule of Papua to Indonesia by means of a sham election in 1963 besmirches America stance as "human rights champion" and makes it complicit in Gestapu's genocide against the communists as well as freedom fighters in both Papua and Aceh. 


America needs to clean-up its own house before lecturing the Indonesians about human rights, especially when it has historically been on the wrong side in Indonesia.  As for the present, SBY has made some progress in depoliticizing the military, and that is a crucial policy the U.S. should support in any constructive way possible. 




"Can Indonesia Cope with Hillary Clinton?" - the article is probing and levels justifiable scrutiny as per American motives.  For the most part, this is responsible, well-researched, and hard hitting journalism. It is to be lauded.


Some responses and thoughts come to mind:


If in her new role Sec. Clinton proves to be truly "pragmatic and opportunistic," she will absorb the idiosyncratic pragmatism that behooves being her country's top diplomat and opportunistically learn that international cooperation is mutually beneficial for all parties concerned.  She can then put behind her the posturing that comes with being a United States Senator.  A successful Secretary of State must manifest qualities unique to the office, and to some degree, they should transcend the kind of politics practiced by a U.S. Senator.


In all actuality, it's probably a relief for her.  She certainly appears to be liberated.  Sec. Clinton will not likely allow her own strong views to get in the way of her job if they run terribly counter to Obama's.  She wants to prove her worthiness to the office and would not have taken the job if she held grave doubts to begin with.  One never truly knows, but she's much too smart to set up herself or the president for a tragic fall. Much too much is at stake, and her ego is not one that self-undermines.


Clinton's past views on Cuba and the Beijing Olympic games will become so much ancient history in light of her new responsibilities.  This is not to deny statements on record or gainsay that she will promulgate her own strong views, but in the end, indeed, she works for the president of the United States.


Having said all this, the world will have to wait and see just how the Obama-Clinton relationship plays-out and translates into U.S. foreign policy.  One significant player not mentioned is VP Joe Biden.  He will certainly influence some of Obama's foreign policy decision making, and could act as an ultimate buffer between Obama and Clinton when called upon.  It's to Obama's advantage to have two very strong personalities and foreign policy wonks on either side of him to both inspire and counter each other as well as himself.


Even though Indonesia and the U.S. maintained respectable relations during Bush's tenure, it is right for the Indonesian government, press, and people to be skeptical towards the U.S. government and question any new administration's policies and motives. No self-respecting country would or should do any differently.


It is important, though, for Indonesia to remain open to the new administration, and certainly Indonesia appears to embrace the possibilities with real enthusiasm.  It's clear that President Obama is worth the chance and effort.  Remember- it's not only a matter of "coping" with Hilliary Clinton- there is Obama as well!


Despite the differences between the two nations, Indonesia sees that a new day has dawned in its relationship with America. There is no reason to believe Obama's administration sees it any differently. The paranoiac, fear mongering that characterized the Bush administration has- at least for the time being- been overturned. And the Indonesian government cannot allow the most problematic of the extant differences- such as the Isreali-Palestinian conflict- to undermine the many common interests the two countries otherwise have.


Don't bet presidents SBY and Obama will allow that to happen.


It cannot be denied that the air is rife with a positive charge, and the time is ripe with opportunity for a true flowering of  Indonesia-U.S. relations.  Both parties will be feeling each other out for some months, but given the vagaries of politics, both sides need to strike while the iron is hot.


And right about now it's as hot as it gets.


P.S.  Condaleezza Rice was educated at the University of Denver, taught at Stanford University, and was a fellow at the Hoover Institute on the Stanford campus.  Stanford may be "Ivy League West", but by strict definitions, it is not east coast ivy league. 


John Merah





RE:  Indonesia's Quest for a Full-Fledged Democracy     Feb 27, 2009

Opinion Section, Jakarta Post


It is really wonderful to read these comments, written by a serious-minded, concerned Indonesian student of international relations.  This person represents the potential of a new generation of Indonesian leadership, and that in itself is a measure of democracy's progress in the republic.


Democracy is a living and breathing organism.  It is also a never-ending experiment.  Rarely does it live its life tranquilly and without conflict.  Sometimes civil society takes the lead in democracy, demanding government respond.  Other times, government must impose democracy on an unwilling public.  Rarely are the two on kilter. Sometimes differences are settled peaceably; sometimes violently.  There are no exceptions to this maxim.


History bears witness.  The lessons of the world's oldest democracy, America, comes to mind. America's greatest crisis occurred during its terrible civil war, and as a republic it was eighty-five years in the making at the time.  Indonesia is a very young country, let alone an even younger democracy.  At the ripe old age of sixty-three, it can be expected that great turbulence will be par for the course. Democracy's growing pains are always present and always painful.


Articles of faith, calls to freedom, and philosophical declarations are only blue prints, however inspired. It is always up to a country's people to make democracy a living reality. Living up to one's creed requires constant effort and sacrifice. America's Declaration of Independence or its revolutionary constitution is no assurance of success.  Neither is Indonesia's Pancasila. 


Those documents serve to inspire, mobilize, and organize political and civil society, but each generation must take up the cause anew.


If Indonesia must take two steps forward, then one step back in order to see clear to progress, then it is in keeping with all the world's democracies.


The burden of history weighs down all societies. There will continue to be fall out from the terrible conflicts of recent history in Aceh, as well as many other places and peoples in Indonesia.  Every democracy must squarely face its history and make the necessary reconcillations.  To turn a blind eye to moral failing, such as America did for several generations after slavery was abolished, results only in further human suffering- all of it tragic; all of it unnecessary.


Indonesia is giving rise to many young people like Mira Permatasari.  These future leaders need to be encouraged and given the opportunity to serve.



I take note of the expat (for lack of better term), "Anonymous," in whose post was mentioned that he/she "left the U.S. in disgust in 2004, and "follow(s) things now from Germany."


I did the same in 2005, and now live in Indonesia.  It may be an under-reported phenomena that in increasing numbers, more and more Americans are leaving their native land to become world citizens abroad. 


This political-social-economic dynamic could be taken to be a sorry piece of current events, there are brighter sides to be considered.


Though the motivations to leave the U.S. may be rooted in various forms of "disgust", it is a positive turn that Americans are seeking the world stage and physically shedding the shackles of nationalism.  Becoming a citizen of the world is the next logical step in the world's political evolution, anyway. The repercussions for America itself are just beginning to be felt, meaning the expatriate movement is a story unfolding.  When a storied nation once known for its immigrant make-up begins to become a nation of growing emigration, a turning point in its history could well be at hand.


It is of great interest to be an American- i.e. product of the world's oldest democracy- and to find oneself living in a young democracy like Indonesia.  One gets the sense that the democratic experiment can be renewed by an infusion of "new blood" as would be Indonesia's recent conversion.  (and a country, no less, that until very recently was governed by a ruthless totalitarian regime) It gives rise to many reflections on political freedom, and cultures who adopt it for the first time. But civil societies which respond well to the potentials that political freedom arbor must display cultural values that make them amenable and tenable.  Indonesia has done remarkably well for only having adopted democracy for a scant ten years. 

The cooperative nature of  the Indonesians themselves has a lot to do with the nascent success. The realization comes across quickly that the cultural qualities attributable to a country's people have much to do with whether the experiment called "democracy" can be feasibly undertaken.  


The Limbaugh phenomena is not new in America (hate radio's pioneer of the 1930's, Father Charles Coughlin, comes readily to mind), but the degree to which Limbaugh's fascist demagoguery has brought to bear unbridled influence over one of the country's only two entrenched political parties demonstrates America's leadership to be in steep decline. By extension, one could impune the integrity of America's cultural cohesion. Pax Americana seems to be in suicidal redux- interminably repeating the same mistakes over and over again (mainly in the form of senseless wars- whether on drugs, Gays, immigrants, or other countries), and a great percentage of the country's population have supported these unworthy causes with the same suicidal repetition.


The point is, has American culture reached its level of moral incompetence?  Has the meaning of its creed been eclipsed by its greed and tendencies towards the ethos of fascism?


For some time now, America has grown lax and sanguine about its freedoms, and has certainly shown little respect for the human rights of others in the international community.  Consumerism has eclipsed citizenship. Hate mongers are having a field day in such an environment.  Democracy is a living organism, and always an experiment.  It must be renewed constantly; fed and nourished.  And each generation must be the new stewards.  America indeed needs not only a political revival, but a cultural one as well.





    Weekend Opinionator:  The Party of Limbaugh?  A Conservative Debate

          by Tobin Harshaw             NYT                      March 6, 2009




Father Coughlin started his radio career as a champion of the poor, but his growing anti-Semitism and anti-interventionist stance during wartime helped undo him.  Branded by many a Nazi-sympathizer, in 1942 his Catholic bishop threatened to defrock him.  Coughlin like a lamb came scampering back to the fold and confined his activities to pastoring The Shrine of the Little Flower.  His weekly radio broadcasts were listened to by an astounding 40,000,000 Americans.  That was approximately 30% of the nation's population at the time.


Though Walter Winchell began his career by creating the gossip column, he progressively turned his attention to politics.  Like Coughlin, he took initial interest in the disenfranchised, and was well known for his support of African Americans.  But as he attained great power in both print and broadcast media, Winchell became a fanatic supporter of McCarthyism and betrayed and destroyed so many people that he was left to die alone, with one person attending his funeral.  Jack Paar used the power of television to help put the final nails in Winchell's coffin.  And as much as Winchell used people, he was used for advantage himself, especially by FDR.


(Remarkably, FDR used both Winchell and Coughlin to further his New Deal.) 


Winchell, like Coughlin, became progressively demagogic, fanatic, and out of touch.  It lead to their downfalls.


Due to his radio program's format, Rush Limbaugh may be held more in check than either Winchell & Coughlin .  Conversing directly on air with his audience helps keep Limbaugh from derailing into a hyper-fanaticism.  He can stay in daily touch and through dialog keep faithful to the values of his core listeners.


He also targets liberals as the common enemy.  This has proved to be much more acceptable in the long run than, let's say, McCarthy's attacking communists.  But in the end, a liberal is a socialist, and a socialist a communist.  The underpinnings of the argument have not changed much.


Rush Limbaugh's fall is yet to be divined.  We live in an age where celebrity routinely survives personal scandal, and that has been the case with Limbaugh.  In Winchell and Coughlin's age, Limbaugh would have self-destructed, and the public would not have forgiven him.


Presently, Limbaugh's bluff is being called, and some are demanding he put his money where his mouth is and run for president. But Limbaugh is too pragmatically smart for that.  He makes too much money and exacts just the kind of influence he wants from where he sits.  There is always the chance he could lose an election, but his radio show is forever a winning proposition. 


Chances are none of this will change.  Limbaugh will most likely stay the course until health issues intervene.


RE_ CNN’s GPS; broadcast 15 March 2009 on CNN Asian Edition


Dear Mr. Zakaria:


You have emerged as a most thoughtful voice in the smoke and mirrors world of establishment pundintry.  Let us hope you do not become a victim of your own success.


As an American living in Indonesia, I enjoy GPS which is broadcast over the CNN Asian Edition.  At least CNN gets that much right with their Asian programming.  GPS is one of the few televised programs of its kind accessible in this part of the world.


In response to the latest edition of GPS (aired Sunday, March 15, 2009):  You managed to assemble an dynamic troika of guests: one inside-the-belt-way establishment commentator; a U.N. diplomat from India; and a journalist from the Middle East. 


Somehow, the chemistry of the three together as catalyzed by your moderating revealed more than maybe everyone involved had bargained for. 


In the end, the journalist from the Middle East appeared as a man with sincere integrity.  You should have him on again. The U.N. diplomat seemed a dandy- charming to a fault; the message lost in the perfume of his verbal patter.


As an American, in Leslie Gelb I recognize all too well the derisive sound of an self-promoting, authoritarian American voice. Leslie Gelb is proof positive of what happens to people too long accustomed to success; a prime example of a professional who uses his air of certitude to trivialize and dismiss the thoughtfulness of others while projecting his own sacrosanct point of view; a typical Ugly American throwback that makes one realize not much has changed since Graham Greene finished writing The Quiet American in 1955. 


Read it once more and weep for the soul of America.


More specifically- how much longer do we, as American citizens, have to listen to establishment commentators such as Gelb vaunt the greatness of a Henry Kissinger?  He is a war criminal- just revisit the history of the Indonesia-East Timor conflict and of course the brutal regime change in Chile for a sample refresher course in murder and mayhem committed in America's name. When will the fifth estate get around to admitting so much?  The history is plain on those accounts. Goebbels was pretty "great" too- effective and successful in his job.  But "great men" are usually very bad men.  So it goes for Kissinger. 


Most "great men" become victims of their success, but not before many innocents are so victimized by them on their way to greatness. The killing fields of Cambodia are just one more reminder of what happens to a proxy nation and its people when caught between the crossfire of competing powers- both looking for their own success. When will the American press see how treacherous and out-of-date the foreign relations philosophies of Henry Kissinger are as applied to the problems of today's world?


Gelb’s view of diplomacy is fixated on the ultimate egoism of world leaders.  He sees no alternative but for the diplomatic world to proceed on the basis of lies.  Duplicity in foreign relations allows all parties involved to save honor; face- what have you.  Essentially, Gelb believes that the human nature of leaders is not capable of dealing with truth in the light of day, and so the truth must be hidden away. It's the only way to create meaningful progress according to his very conventional thinking.


This is a legitimate point of view- but so are many things in life made legitimate though bankrupt spiritually and anachronistic thinking.  Why purport lies?   Leaders lie while hundreds of thousands of innocent people die. Nixon's desire to end the Viet Nam war "honorably" comes to mind.


But when does the fifth estate ever show concern for the death of innocents- when do they ever talk about, for instance, the nearly one million civilian casualties of Iraq- just as the two-to-four million in Viet Nam.  Collateral damage is all those souls are to the establishment- not human beings.


Gelb is the Old Face of America- a man exemplary of the Peter Principle- a man who- in his dangerously antiquated world views- has reached the level of his incompetence.  He is the last person on earth to see it that way, of course.  Love is blind- and so is success.


Many insights explored and cultivated in the 20th century have slipped away from focus and devalued.  Dr. Gerald Heard, the noted British psychologist and philosopher, made several recordings in the early 1960's.  Here is a transcribed excerpt from his Nothing Fails Like Success:


"We thought we knew what we wanted.  We reckoned that we had understood makes us tick, and what makes humanity stick together.  Clearly we have not.  Our ties which we thought would bind have gone to pieces and our drives have given out. 


"And so we have been forced to look squarely at one fundamental mistake in our thinking.  And that is this: we've hung on to our old ways.  We've stuck to the old course when it was time to throw our ship on to the other tack. This is the first hard certainity that we must now admit, for it is not true that nothing succeeds like success.

"On the contrary, if you simply go on repeating a success, you will surely fail.
Just take a look at the very word success- we have given it an entirely mistaken meaning.  We've come to regard being successful as having obtained a final and ultimate goal; of having secured for ourselves a position in which we can live happily ever after; in comfort; without aniexty, and without any further struggle. Then, as the current jargon puts it- you've got it made.

"But life demands of us that we grow- psychologically as well as physically.
and psychological growth just as much as does physiological growth means progressing from effort to effort.  Therefore, every successful effort must have- just around the corner waiting for it- a successor.  Every goal achieved points on to a further goal.  Every answer leads to a new question.


"This is the basic rule of all life.  The whole history of every living creature underlines this painful truth. Every super successful form of life from fish up to men; from shark to sordian; onto to tiger and weasel- yes, and every successful form of human society- from Sumerian to Spartan; from Samurai to Prussian Staff Officer; in every case, these super efficient types were damned by their very success.

"The very height of their distinction was what pushed them over into their extinction.

"They fell into the trap of going on giving an out-of-date answer.  They kept on repeating an out-of-date success.”


Hasten to say that Dr. Heard's phenomenological view of success should be dusted off, and people wake up to the fact that old men like Gelb and Kissinger no longer represent the vital interests of the United States.  In fact, the two men rather substantiate the threat of the end of our species.


As evident in Albert Gore's Nobel Prize, until very lately the world at large never took seriously enough the works of the 1950's and 1960's ecologists- such as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, and Paul Ehrlich's Population Bomb.  Their ideas were as plain as day, and were often ignored by governments and buried with the rejection of the so-judged failed values and experimentations as played out in the cultural and political revolutions of the 1960's.


"End of Species" hypotheses are not pleasant to think about, are they?


John Merah

Manado, North Sulawesi





Foreign Policy in Focus                             March 18, 2009




Dear Andre Vltchek:


As an American now living in Indonesia, and as someone who reads historically researched writing concerning Indonesia, I take great interest in your journalism.  Though I have only read a few of your articles, they always provide great food for my own thought and continued research to uncover the truth of Indonesia's history.


One challenging difficulty in what you do, I suppose, is in corroborating your research.  Because many of the violations of human rights you report on have been covered-up and hidden from public scrutiny, it makes the task all the more difficult. 


But this observation is just an aside.  Whether you can be confident in 100% of what you report is probably besides the point.  The thrust of it clearly carries a consistent theme, and anyone who cares about Indonesia human rights should carefully consider your opinions and insights.  There is plenty of evidence for much of what you use to support your views.


But in this most recent article re: Clinton's visit to Indonesia, I do take issue with you describing Sukarno as a "progressive leader."  This was mentioned in passing, and in context of the CIA-backed coup to depose Sukarno in favor of Suharto.  I have no doubt the CIA was involved in 1965.  Though the extent to which the CIA was involved in 1965 is still unclear, certainly their failed attempt at a coup in Operation Haik (1958) was recently detailed in Tom Cooper's book, Clandestine US Operations: Indonesia 1958, Operation "Haik".  (For CIA watchers, Operation Haik holds a special place in the agency's history, as it stands out as a most spectacular failure, even in light of the fact that in the early years, the CIA failed miserably at most of what they pursued.)


And for the purposes of your article, whose goal was to provide an overview, the question of Sukarno's progressiveness may be a moot point.  Still, the subject of Sukarno

is a compelling one, and deserves a resurrection. Sukarno was a shrewed and complicated politician.  He did good, and he did substantial harm.  He often didn't help himself or his country much because he was also a great gambler.  Witness how he played the Soviet Union off of the United States.  He showed no hesitation in leveraging Cold War politics in his nationalist pursuits.  To that end, he most likely signed his death warrant as Indonesian president. Upon turning to Moscow after the U.S. denied him arms, the U.S. and CIA found grounds for disposing of him.


Though most of the most grievous atrocities perpetrated against the Papuans occurred after Sukarno's fall, he certainly initiated the invasions and politicked President Kennedy to gain U.S. support for Indonesian takeover.  I'm not sure this is what might be termed "progressive." 


Sukarno's military threats against Malaysia and Brunei also demonstrate his aggressiveness in the greater region.  Certainly Indonesia does not bluster like this today, though East Timor is still recent enough in history to give one pause.


In the years leading up to the actual revolution, the Hatta-Sukarno team did provide progressive leadership.  They succeeded in chartering out democratic ideals, Indonesian-style.  At least on paper, both the Panca Sila and original Indonesian constitution provide admirable foundation for the formulation of a reasonably fair-minded Indonesian Republic.  Agreed:  a lack of adherence to "rule by law" has created a post-independence history that is often disheartening and has helped corruption to thrive.


As someone who has lived and taught and has married here in Indonesia, I do care about the country.  My own view is that what plagues Indonesia most is its poverty.  Many of its persistent faults- such as widespread corruption- is a direct reflection of continued poverty, lack of education, lack of opportunity, and maldistribution of services and wealth.  Specifically, East Indonesia has been sorely neglected.  Conditions in Nusa Tenggara Timur and parts of the Molukas (let alone Papua) are national disgraces. Child malnutrition and child labor are on the rise in Nusa Tenggara as a whole.


I do see evidence of "progress" in Indonesia, though.  It is not all bad news, and even though, for instance, SBY has not shown the spine to suppress the vicious attacks against groups such as Ahmadiyah, there is reason to believe religious intolerance is not winning in Indonesia.  The Chinese Indonesian population, for instance, have had many of their rights returned or otherwise legally acknowledged after the harsh suppression of the Suharto years.  One could say cynically that this is only due to the fact that the Chinese Indonesians are the most economically powerful minority in the country, but the addition of Confucianism as a state recognized religion has to be taken as a good sign, post-Suharto.


But having said that, I will concede: Although the terrible sectarian strife that plagued the Molukas and Central Sulawesi has subsided, and many of the displaced peoples have been able to return home, the threat of future upheaval is always a possibility.


And as long as their is significant poverty is Indonesia, that will be the case.


In the light of all the violations and atrocities as perpetrated by the government, military, and fanatic religious groups (both Christian and Muslim), the better angels that mark the more charitable side of the Indonesian character is cause for hope.


Many people in Indonesia are indeed tolerant, and many local regions practice toleration in their dealings with each other.  It is a vast archipelago here, and I think it pays to be careful when brandishing the term "intolerance."  It certainly exists- as it does in all countries- but I daily witness evidence to the contrary.  Gotong Royong is in powerful competition with both intolerance and corruption.  The battle of these polar principals constitute much of the day-to-day drama of Indonesian life.


I will continue to look for and read your good work.  You're fighting for a crucial cause, and I fully support it.



John Gorrindo

Manado, North Sulawesi



The Seoul Times                                     Friday, March 20, 2009



Mr. Lee Jay Walker:


I have just finished reading your article on the relationship between Mexico's drug cartels and the American market for illegal drugs.


Having read your credentials, I will assume for the time being that you yourself aren't an American, though I may be wrong.


As an American, I can tell you that, unfortunately, I don't believe that a "crackdown" on drug markets or drug use will ultimately help.  The American government has been waging a continuous drug war against the country's citizenry since President Nixon so declared one in the early 1970's.  After nearly forty years, the results have been an unmitigated failure.  What we do know is that America's prisons are now filled with a disproportionate percentage of drug offenders and drug use is still rampant across the country.  America now imprisons more people than almost any country in the world. 


The War on Drugs has failed, and the only way for it to succeed would be to turn the U.S. into a police state. 


Many of America's most serious social and political thinkers have written tomes on this subject.  Even conservative icons such as the late William F. Buckley finally had to concede that the only way to deal with illegal drugs was to decriminalize their use.


It is not clear at all that decriminalization would strike a death blow to the Mexican drug cartels, but some of the cash flow into their coffers would be staunched, no doubt.


This argument can be extended to the opium trade in Afghanistan as well.  The Taliban do profit handsomely from the heroin trade it is reported, and the opium trade is core to Afghanistan's instability and corruption. The illegal drug trade is a determinate factor in many unstable regions of the world.


I have read that illegal drug sales account for some ten to fifteen percent of the combined world's GNP.  Still, anyone would be hard pressed to name one country that is culturally and politically ready to decriminalize drugs across the board.  Marijuana (ganja) would be a good start, though, and some country- preferably America- should start the experiment by not only decriminalizing the herb, but also making it legal for cultivation, packaging, and sale.  The tax benefits would be immediate, and certainly in the case of the Mexican drug cartels, they would suffer an immediate financial loss.


Cocaine and heroin are much more difficult drugs with which to deal.  Simply making them freely available on the market can't even be considered a probability at this point in time.  They are deadly, and an innovative processing technology would have to be invented to make them less so. And those most likely to use these drugs would have to be considered highly unstable and uncontrollable. Society isn’t ready for street drug users to be given some form of legal status.  An aymnesty on drug use isn’t in the offing.


Hence, both the cultural and political reality portends the scope of decriminalization or legalization could at best be applied to only non-narcotic substances.


Education may help, but human nature being what it is, and if recent history is any guide, it doesn't appear that "soft approaches" would insure any significant change in the near future.  Drug education in the U.S. is already deeply embedded in the educational system. Recent polls have cited a recent drop in the use of some drugs amongst American high school seniors, but the relative use of the vast array of drugs consumed in the U.S.A. shifts with trends, price, and availability. If cocaine becomes prohibitively expensive, then there is always the prescription oxycotin or homemade crystal methedrine.  Prescription drug abuse is always a viable substitute, as are cheaply manufactured powders that are baked up in trailers all across the States.


The cultural truth paints a pretty hopeless picture for the ambition to control America's abuse of drugs: Americans are a highly consumptive people, and their appetites for escape and peak experience can't be underestimated. 


What you are really asking for is a cultural makeover of America.  That won't happen anytime soon, and since the failure of Prohibition in the early part of the 20th century, the U.S. government has had almost nil effect in controlling the use of mind altering substances.


This makes the situation in Mexico all the more dire.  Mexico can't wait for America to change, and I doubt the Mexican government believes such a thing is possible.  Complaints are filed and made public, but the Mexican government is acting in part on the basis of a no-hope situation in America- both on account of a continued mass consumption of drugs and continued gun running as well.  That means radical, short term solutions have to be considered just as important as anything strategically long term.


The "radical" measures being employed are already in place on the behalf of Mexico. I'm almost positive that this will translate in an increase in police and military actions on the part of the Americans as well.  The use of U.S. troops is a last resort, but don't be surprised if they're eventually deployed.  And if Washington deems Mexico a failed, narco-state, the result could easily lead to U.S. troops crossing into Mexico itself.   


I wish that war was not the answer.  And I do not support it.  But the fear of legalizing drugs is so great that war it will be.



Sent to: Lee Jay Walker       Seoul Times             for publication




by John Gorrindo                                  Friday 27 March 2009



It was refreshing to hear a United State’s Secretary of State actually admit America’s fair share of culpability for the plague of death the drug cartels have perpetrated on the Mexican people. 


"Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians," Secretary Clinton said upon her official State visit to Mexico on March 25th. 


As a high ranking member of the U.S. government, Clinton’s admission is laudable, but no prescription for winning the war itself is therein expressed.  If history is any guide at all, no amount of police or national guardsmen will ever change America’s appetite for illegal drugs.  The demand will always be there, and the rules governing this multi-billion dollar underground economy is no different than the so-called legitimate market place:  If there is a demand, there will always be a supply. The crux of the war with Mexico’s drug cartels boils down to a question of whether Obama and his administration have the guts to act with a bold, new tack on the question of illegal drugs. The question is, “How innovative and courageous are you really, Mr. President?  During your campaign you called for change in America- here’s your perfect opportunity, sir.”


Tragically, despite decades of opportunity, America’s ruling class has not shown the political courage to steer a rational course as per policies concerning illegal drugs. If pragmatism had held its own against demagoguery, Mexico and America wouldn’t have presently found themselves embroiled in such a devastating war against narcoterrorism.


Drugs have always been a powerful wedge issue in America’s long running culture wars- so much so that the first thing that comes to mind when talking about illegal drug use is the word war itself.  It was then President Nixon who in 1971 first officially declared a War on Drugs, calling drugs “public enemy number one.”  But Nixon’s real political intent was to pit his vaunted “silent majority” against the “moral degenerates” that threatened America’s very soul.


Nixon’s War on Drugs was a calculated tactic in a broader divide-and-conquer strategy that he hoped would help him remain on top of the political heap.  The strategy was as simple as it was time-honored:  create a life-threatening enemy; demonize that enemy; and then call for aggressive “law and order” solutions to defeat that enemy.  Such fear-mongering was sure to rally the masses behind a president leading the charge, Nixon believed. American politicians have a nasty habit of fed off the diversion a common enemy provides.


But there were plenty of antecedents to Nixon’s call to war. America had already long been held hostage to a coterie of policy makers whose self-righteous indignation towards mind-altering substances were the determining factor in the government’s approach to regulating drug and alcohol use.  Federal drug policy was founded on ideological and religious grounds.  Drug use was considered a moral failing, and called for punitive action.  Few saw it as a public health or medical issue. 


During and after World War I, a consortium of socially conservative organizations succeeded after years of effort in persuading federal and state governments to outlaw alcohol through amending the U.S. constitution.  During that same time, the Harrison Act of 1914 was also passed.  This federal law was the first to criminalize drugs in the United States.  These vice laws were passed not in response to the argument that drug use caused crime. It was not law enforcement that lobbied for the Prohibition, for instance, but religious groups such as Protestant missionary societies in China, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.  Their stance against alcohol and drug use was that it was “sinful,” and that sinners should go to jail.  It was the drug user’s very soul that was at stake, and the government’s obligation was to save that soul from its own devices.


Prohibition on alcohol proved to be an abject failure.  A powerful underworld of organized crime led by figures such as Al Capone was spawned to slake the unquenchable American thirst for liquor.  Alcohol had such strong roots in American culture that Prohibition was impossible to enforce. After a thirteen year reign, it took another amendment to the U.S. constitution to rescind Prohibition in 1933.


During that same time period, the use of drugs such as marijuana and opiates was not nearly as culturally widespread in the United States.  With xenophobia in America abounding in the World War I era, such classes of drugs were considered culturally foreign; their effects damaging to a person’s ambitious drive, and as such could be propagandized as foreign threats to the moral health of America.  Ultimately, as compared to alcohol, it proved easier to legislate against their use.


The cultural revolution of the 1960’s swept through America with a violent wind.  Social experimentation and personal explorations into the worlds of sex and drugs were all part of a new preoccupation with individual freedom.  Over the course of the next fifty years, drugs such as marijuana and cocaine have become rites of passage for not only millions of young Americans, but also American presidents as well.  The last three presidents have all admitted to the use of either marijuana and/or cocaine. No longer foreign were these “exotic drugs.”  In fact, marijuana had become America’s number one agricultural cash crop! Some estimates cite the number of Americans to have experimented with illegal drugs to be well over one hundred million.


In 1996, the National Review and its editor William F. Buckley published a daring symposium under the title The War on Drugs is Lost. (

Its authors were in the main conservative, and Buckley himself was considered America’s intellectual Godfather of the conservative revolution which had helped produce the Reagan era. 


To quote Buckley’s lead-in sums up the frustration, citing the War on Drugs as a plague equal to drug use itself: “We are speaking of a plague that consumes an estimated $75 billion per year of public money, exacts an estimated $70 billion a year from consumers, is responsible for nearly 50 per cent of the million Americans who are today in jail, occupies an estimated 50 per cent of the trial time of our judiciary, and takes the time of 400,000 policemen -- yet a plague for which no cure is at hand, nor in prospect.”


The symposium’s message was simple: it was time to decriminalize drugs in America.  The most honest of conservatives now understood that America would have to become a police state sacrificing its dearly held values of freedom in order to win that war.  It was a message whose time had come amongst even many conservative intellectuals, but to this very day, American politicians consider such a policy as tantamount to political suicide.


Where is there voice given to decriminalization as a weapon in the current war against the Mexican Drug Cartels?  American establishments of government and the mainstream press have stubbornly refused to publically consider it. But if the violence spilling over the border into America begins to take an uncontrollable toll on American lives, one can predict that the “D” word- decriminalization- will start to be heard.  It seems nothing short of desperation will overcome the American inertia and lack of political courage when it comes to at least testing-out decriminalization.


American politicians have routinely been deathly afraid of the “D” word, yet for years polls show the American public basically amenable to the following: The War on Drugs has failed, at least some illegal drugs should be decriminalized, and a public health approach should be tried as opposed to filling American prisons with casualties of that war.


And decriminalization of marijuana is exactly where the next phase of the War on Drugs should begin. Marijuana sales account for 50% of Mexican Drug Cartel income, and if the American government would establish new regulations for the legal production, distribution, tax, and conditional use of marijuana, it would threaten the Cartel with potential loss of half its income. 


There already is provision for the medical use of marijuana in several American states.  The door to decriminalization has already been cracked open as marijuana is widely acknowledged as having unique and proven medical applications nowhere else found in the pharmacopeia. Decriminalization becomes a matter of sorting out the various competing jurisdictions of state and federal law. No easy task, this, but doable.


Attacking the Cartel’s bottom line will be as powerful as any weapon or tactic imaginable.  The Cartel is no less susceptible to a siphoning-off of funds as was Al Capone. Cutting off money supplies will quickly undermine the Cartel’s ability to buy weapons- many of them supplied by the American marketplace- and to continue financing private armies as populated by corrupted Mexican police and military personnel.


As President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano roll out their plans for engaging the Mexican War Cartels, we shall see just how bold their thinking really is.  America’s longest war is also its longest lost war.  The War on Drugs was lost long ago and America continues to be intent on losing it. 


If Obama confidentially agrees with the concept of decriminalization, would he be willing to spend the political capital necessary to fight for it?  The question will not doubt soon be answered. 


Many political pundits are quick to summarize the Mexican-American drug war as one where “drugs flow north; money and weapons flow south.”  The dynamic is used to describe the sick symbiosis that plagues relations between the two countries.  Even with direct military intervention, America couldn’t ever hope to forever destroy the cross-border drug trade.  It would resurrect itself in the blink of an eye. Interventionist policies have failed with disastrous results in South American countries such as Columbia and Peru, for instance.


But America can tackle the problem domestically.  America’s anachronistic, counterproductive domestic prejudices and laws have been as responsible as any single factor in shaping the current horrors being played out in not only Mexico and America, but across the Americas itself. 


Morality is a poor substitute for pragmatism in the War on Drugs.



Dear Editors:


In response to Border Control (Editorial, 28 March 2009):


Time to Explore Real Solutions to the Lost Drug War


"Border Control" is yet but one more short-sighted swipe at America's long lost War on Drugs.  Let us properly identify the true heart of the matter:


In 1996, William F. Buckley Jr. and the National Review helped convene a coterie of distinguished conservative thinkers who supported either decriminalizing or legalizing illicit drugs in America.  Entitled "The War on Drugs is Lost," today's concerned citizens and Washington policy makers should revisit the points made in the resulting, compelling document:


Now some thirteen years later, the writing is still on the wall as scribbled in rivers of blood-  yet the establishment media and Washington is still gun shy to make the obvious connection between the failed drug war and the proscriptive laws that fuel that war.  It is not so different from Prohibition, yet ninety years after the passing of the 18th amendment, Washington still answers first to the moral objections of religious ideology rather than the pragmatics that should rightfully determine vice laws.


It is not a well-published fact that 50% of the Mexican Drug Cartel's earnings come from the sale of marijuana alone.  If marijuana were to be legalized, imagine how quickly staunched would be a huge amount of the multi-billion dollar-per-annum drug money flowing south from the United States into the coffers of the Mexican Drug Lords .


Political capital would have to be spent on such bold legislation, and the timing might not be convenient for the Obama administration.  Also, the murky complications of overlapping legal jurisdictions of State and Federal laws as witnessed in the legal entanglements re: medical marijuana would have to be sorted out.  But lack of political will is the only impediment here.  There is a crisis at hand.  It is time to act decisively. 


There's good reason to believe that a virtual police state or martial law would have to be put into effect along the 2,000 mile border between San Diego and Texas in order to quell the smuggling and violence that plagues the greater region.  Even the very conservative voices of the National Review's symposium feared that nothing short of a police state would be needed to win a War on Drugs.  Freedom was not something these profound thinkers cared to sacrifice, and neither should we.


America has become addicted to not only drugs, but to fighting lost causes.  Continuing to fight an already Lost War on Drugs is pure insanity.  Sadly, it seems only a steep increase in American loss of life in border cities such as Phoenix, Tuscon, and El Paso will push us to take needed legal steps in attacking the Cartels.  Having already crossed the border, that form of violence has already taken root..


Very often, the pen is indeed much mightier than the fifty caliber assault rifle. Changing a few laws could help immensely.


John Gorrindo

Manado, North Sulawesi





Wednesday, March 09, 2010


Dear Mr. Crouch:


It was with great interest I read your article about jazz as prompted by your attending the Village Vanguard's 75th anniversary.


A black historian once observed a few years ago that the three designs America has created that approach immortal status are:  the U.S. Constitution, baseball, and jazz.  (granted the U.S. constitution has some nearly fatal flaws!)


Each are derived from traditions that came before.  Each was fed with wellsprings which allowed for birth and growth into sums magically unique and spiritually transcendent of their source.  Each are timeless armatures around which

humans beings can toss and play with their clay to endlessly mold new creations that are rooted both in the spiritual and the material.


How few modern young musicians understand and appreciate that Louis Armstrong was the single most influential force in 20th century American music- simultaneously as instrumental sound innovator; as the man who freed song from the strictures of lyrics to include scat; as the man who first successfully welded multiple folk and popular styles together; and as the man who raised the realization that improvisation was a bona fide way to approach music creation and performance.  There is no musician worth their salt alive today who has not been freed by Louis to pursue their own music their own way.


The only thing new in the world is the history we do not know, and Louis' history seems all but forgotten in the 24 hour news cycle of today.


Your vituperative remarks directed at the modern American commercial music scene- and really the international metropole by extension- are also well taken.  As a composer who has been involved studying, playing, and making music in multiple styles for forty-seven years, I'll ask you bear my indulgence as I explore some McLuhanesque observations as regards the current decay you speak of:


For purposes of this discussion, folk, popular, and serious musics make for fair enough definitional categories.  Jazz stands alone in American music, though, as it cuts across all three categories.  In terms of its continued viability in being popular, its multi-dimensionality is a weakness.   All the many influences jazz embodies makes it complicated, and enjoyment often requires educated listeners.  Though immediacy of enjoyment can be had in swing, be bop showed that it was still jazz, but required something more from the listener than just pure emotional and visceral resonance.  Just how many people care to study and develop their ears in order to heighten their musical appreciation?  Not enough to sustain popularity, whether it be Duke Ellington's sacred works or Stravinsky's Agon.


More complication comes when music-as-entertainment or the commercial aspect is factored in.


Jazz's popularity gets derailed by the following: Modern music cannot be commercialized without it being simultaneously of high entertainment value.  Popular music is commercial music, and has evolved to primarily serve not musical values, but entertainment values.  Popular music only exists due to the power of its reproduction, the media of its distribution, and maybe most profoundly through the agency of its advertisement.  In Stephen Foster's time, Camptown Races would have never become an "American standard" without its distribution through sheet music.


Digital multi-media not only commands today's distribution but also the reproduction and even the total creation of music.  Furthermore, digital technology has enabled all the performing arts to become subject to the kind of manipulation that best makes money if presented as a visual spectacle.  Though live concert performance still finds the audience necessary to sustain music and musicians, the vehicle for music business revenues comes not so much through the box office but through music's visual contextualization, as embedded in television, music videos, streaming internet media, or cinema. 


What drives modern commercial entertainment is spectacle, whether found in the film Avatar or the Lady Gaga's self-presentation as walking body art.  As with Madonna, Lady Gaga is a performance artist.  Her art is all about projecting a visual image.  Important for its hypnotic and emotive power, music is a core tool for them, but purely incidental and subservient to the imagery they hope will so captivate. 


Jazz is not as popular today for many reasons, not the least of which it is less about image and entertainment than any other well-regarded and accessible American music.  At its very best, jazz is first and foremost simply about music.    


In the early careers of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington's, they were musicians first, and entertainers second, though they were well aware that the visuals of stage performance had to be nearly as artful as demanded by audiences, hence

satisfying the commercial face of their art .  In some ways, things haven't changed much.  Armstrong in particular found it career-enhancing to be included in Hollywood films buddying up with unlikelies such as Bing Crosby.  Satchmo had an inimitable mug that lit up the screen.


Other of jazz's greatest individual contributors were seduced by imagery as well.  Even Miles Davis, who in the 1950's had once turned his back on audiences in youthful defiance took to dyeing his hair and wearing gold sequin jump suits in his latter years of the 1980's. 


The fragile balance between music's presentational form- whatever the medium of performance- versus the purity of music's core content is one that is mediated by not so much by music or musicians, but by the demands and limitations of the audiences and the media who feed them. 


Now that electronic media has subsumed the world of popular music making, reproduction, and performance, entertainment has been able to subsume popular music en toto, relegating it to a subservient role as bit player to a greater theatrical gesture.  In that sense, it defines the very music itself.  Popular music is now dictated to and actually created according to the authoritarian demands of other art forms. (The same cannot be said of the best opera, though, because it embodied a dramatic ideal whose aesthetics had been painstakingly worked out to great effect two thousand years previously by the great Greed tragedians)  Popular music in particular has devolved in sonic pablum as thrown into the maw of the digital trough from which the hungry masses feed to satisfy their endless appetite for sensory junk foods.


Much as most televised news has become infotainment, popular music has simply become just a partial form of a greater entertainment, reduced to so many sound tracks that serve cult of personality.  In that respect, there is little difference between CNN and Lady Gaga. Both are essentially self-promoters, not a newscaster and performing artist.  It's about the talking head or singer, not the news content or the song.  The medium is indeed the message, said McLuhan.  So, too, the messenger is the message.


But in greater perspective, all musical forms and styles are living organisms that are born, develop, and die.  In that sense, jazz has become a classical music, and just as Beethoven's romantic era experienced eclipse, so it has happened with jazz.  Rock n roll died with Nirvana as well.  The greatness of these musics and their proponents won't perish, true, but they have been museumized and are essentially embalmings of history. In that sense Wynton Marsalis, however great a musician, is also an intinerant museum curator of jazz's complete history.


The recordings live on, and those interested can still enjoy all these musics have to offer, though the immediacy and sensibility of their age cannot be replicated.  So, too, musicians can study and revive these arts, but the arts themselves have in all truth seen their day and will most likely not take on a vibrant, new life.  Highly doubtful.


Unfortunately, there isn't anything new on the horizon that embodies body and soul like jazz and blues.  It just may be that commercialization in this, the image-driven age has so polluted our senses as to permanently seal the coffin lid that contains the fading remnants of a dieing age.  Maybe humanity is heading towards becoming brains in jars.


I often agree with Neal Cassady, the infamous Beat, who once said, "All known forms are dead.  Life flows towards new forms."


I imagine what those new forms are is anybody's guess.  As fast as the world changes, it is an illusion.  The old forms are currently just being recycled ad nauseam.



John Gorrindo

Indonesian Correspondent in South East Asia

Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia