Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wall Street’s Broken Windows

William K. Black
March 4, 2012

James Q. Wilson was a political scientist who often studied the government response to blue collar crime. The public knows him best for his theory called “broken windows.” The metaphor was what happens to a vacant building when broken windows are not promptly repaired. Soon, most of the windows in the abandoned building are broken. The criminals feel little compunction against petty destruction because the building’s owners evince no concern for the integrity of their building. Wilson took social norms, community, and ethics seriously. He argued that as community broke down fewer honest citizens were active in monitoring and policing behavior. The breakdown in community was criminogenic – it led to widespread serious blue collar crime. He urged us to take even minor blue collar crimes and breaches of civility seriously and to demand that they be contained through social pressure and policing.

New York City’s police strategy embraced “broken windows.” The police increased the priority with which they responded to even minor offenses that upset the community – “squeegee men,” graffiti, and street prostitution. Reported blue collar crime fell in New York City. It also fell sharply in most other cities, which did not implement “broken windows” programs, but Wilson and the NYPD got the credit and popular fame for the sharp fall in reported blue collar crime in New York City. Wilson became one of the most famous blue collar criminologists in the world.

Wilson’s broken window theory remains controversial among many blue collar criminologists. As a celebration of his life and research I offer this discussion of applying “broken windows” theory and policies to elite white-collar crime.

Wilson was strongly conservative. His research focus in criminology was almost exclusively blue collar crime. That was a shame because “broken windows” theory is most compelling in the context of elite white-collar crime and because the application would reveal interesting twists in the theory’s potential. Such an application, however, would have been outside Wilson’s comfort zone. Wilson tended to use the word “crime” to refer exclusively to blue collar crime and his emphasis was on very low status criminals. In a book entitled, Thinking About Crime, Wilson argued that criminology should focus overwhelmingly on low-status blue collar criminals.

This book [does not deal] with “white collar crimes”…. Partly this reflects the limits of my own knowledge, but it also reflects my conviction, which I believe is the conviction of most citizens, that predatory street crime is a far more serious matter than consumer fraud [or] antitrust violations … because predatory crime … makes difficult or impossible maintenance of meaningful human communities (1975: xx).

I am rather tolerant of some forms of civic corruption (if a good mayor can stay in office and govern effectively only by making a few deals with highway contractors and insurance agents, I do not get overly alarmed)…. (1975: xix).

Notice that Wilson’s explanation is antithetical to his “broken windows” reasoning. There are, of course, relatively minor white-collar crimes. Wilson emphasized that it was the willingness of society to tolerate relatively minor blue collar crimes that led to social disintegration and epidemics of severe blue collar crimes, but he engaged in the same willingness to tolerate and excuse less severe white collar crimes. He predicted in his work on “broken windows” that tolerating widespread smaller crimes would lead to epidemic levels of larger crimes because it undermined community and social restraints. The epidemics of elite white collar crime that have driven our recurrent, intensifying financial crises have proven this point. Similarly, corruption that is excused and tolerated by elites is unlikely to remain at the level of “a few deals.” Corruption is likely to spread in incidence and severity precisely because it undermines community and the rule of law and it is likely to grow more pervasive and harmful the more we “tolera[te]” it.

“Broken windows” theory, in the white collar crime context, would lead us to make the prevention and deterrence of consumer frauds and anti-trust violations through prosecutions a high priority because of their tendency to produce a “Gresham’s” dynamic in which businesses or CEOs that cheat gain a competitive advantage and bad ethics drives good ethics out of the markets. These offenses degrade ethics and erode peer restraints on misconduct.

The ongoing crisis demonstrates that anti-consumer frauds are a direct assault on community. Mortgage fraud – and it was overwhelmingly the lenders and their agents who put the lies in millions of liar’s loans – physically and socially destroy community by producing mass defaults, homelessness, and vacant homes.

Taking Wilson’s “broken windows” reasoning seriously in the elite white collar crime context would require us to take a series of prophylactic measures to restore integrity and strengthen peer pressures against misconduct. Indeed, we have implicitly tested the applicability of “broken windows” reasoning in that context by adopting policies that acted directly contrary to Wilson’s reasoning. We have adopted executive and professional compensation systems that are exceptionally criminogenic. We have excused and ignored the endemic “earnings management” that is the inherent result of these compensation policies and the inherent degradation of professionalism that results from allowing CEOs to create a Gresham’s dynamic among appraisers, auditors, credit rating agencies, and stock analysts. The intellectual father of modern executive compensation, Michael Jensen, now warns about his Frankenstein creation. He argues that one of our problems is dishonesty about the results. Surveys indicate that the great bulk of CFOs claim that it is essential to manipulate earnings. Jensen explains that the manipulation inherently reduces shareholder value and insists that it be called “lying.” I have seen Mary Jo White, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who now defends senior managers, lecture that there is “good” “earnings management.”

Fiduciary duties are critical means of preventing broken windows from occurring and making it likely that any broken windows in corporate governance will soon be remedied, yet we have steadily weakened fiduciary duties. For example, Delaware now allows the elimination of the fiduciary duty of care as long as the shareholders approve. Court decisions have increasingly weakened the fiduciary duties of loyalty and care. The Chamber of Commerce’s most recent priorities have been to weaken Sarbanes-Oxley and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. We have made it exceptionally difficult for shareholders who are victims of securities fraud to bring civil suits against the officers and entities that led or aided and abetted the securities fraud. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) has achieved its true intended purpose – making it exceptionally difficult for shareholders who are the victims of securities fraud to bring even the most meritorious securities fraud action.

The Supreme Court has held that banks and other entities that aid and abet securities fraud are immune from suit by the victims of securities fraud. Only the federal government may sue those that aid and abet fraud. The federal government has cut the number of financial fraud prosecutions by over one-half over the last twenty years even as financial fraud has grown massively. No elite CEO leading a control fraud that helped drive the current crisis has even been indicted. Elite CEOs can defraud with near impunity and become wealthy. Elite white collar fraud is a “sure thing” – the only strategy likely to make a mediocre CEO wealthy and famous.

Because Wilson did not research elite white collar crimes he did not direct his formidable intellectual energies and expertise to the study of who could prevent the breaking of corporate windows and repair those that were broken. This was a great loss because his studies of varieties of police behavior in response to blue collar crime are justly famous among criminologists. The central truth he would have quickly recognized had he thought of seeking to reduce elite white collar crimes is that only the financial regulators can serve as the “regulatory cops on the beat.” The police do not deal with elite white collar crimes. A small cadre of FBI special agents works on elite white collar crimes. There are roughly three special agents assigned to white collar crime investigations per industry in the U.S., so they never “patrol a beat.” They investigate only when someone brings a possible white collar crime to their attention. That means whistleblowers, but it overwhelmingly means criminal referrals from the federal financial regulators. Financial institutions may make criminal referrals against their customers, but they will virtually never make them against their CEOs. Only the regulators can make the thousands of criminal referrals against elite white collar criminals essential to a successful prosecutorial effort against the epidemics of accounting control fraud that drive our worst financial crises. In the lead up to the ongoing crisis we gutted the federal regulators, preempted the state regulators, and appointed anti-regulators to head the agencies. A majority of the U.S. House of Representatives is trying to further gut the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). If we want to stop the criminals who are destroying our economy and our communities by breaking windows on an epic scale the first step is to rebuild a regulatory force committed to serving as the essential “cops on the beat.”

I listened in stunned amazement to the presentations of law professors who specialize in white collar crime and securities law at the two annual meetings that followed the ongoing financial crisis. Virtually every speaker in these sections presented arguments calling for reducing white collar criminal liability and liability for securities fraud. At the time they were speaking, the Justice Department had already ceased prosecuting major firms and the SEC brought a pathetically high percentage of its small number of enforcement actions against tiny firms with fewer than 10 employees.

We have systematically reduced effective peer restraints in our most important controls against financial fraud. Law firms, audit firms, and investment banks used to be professional partnerships. Each partner was potentially liable for any firm misconduct, which maximized the incentive to insist on higher levels of integrity. These firms are now virtually all corporations or limited liability partnerships. The incentive of partners to monitor other partners’ actions to ensure their integrity has largely been lost.

In the elite white collar crime context we have been following the opposite strategy of that recommended under “broken windows” theory. We have been breaking windows. We have excused those who break the windows. Indeed, we have praised them and their misconduct. The problem with allowing broken windows is far greater in the elite white collar crime context than the blue collar crime context. The squeegee guys make tiny amounts of money and are hated and politically powerless. The mediocre financial CEO who engages in accounting control fraud because it is a “sure thing” causes the bank to report record (albeit fictional) profits and becomes wealthy and politically powerful. He uses his wealth to make charitable and political contributions that make him far harder to sanction. He claims that any crackdown on him is “class warfare” by “neo-Bolsheviks.” Incredibly, the Wall Street Journal continues to serve as the cheerleader and apologist for those who become wealthy by breaking windows, communities, and economies.

Wilson warned of blue collar “super predators.” He called them “feral” – wild animals. These criminals are in fact dangerous, but they are odd candidates for the title of “super predators.” Wilson noted that they were disproportionately black and that they were confined almost entirely to the poorest neighborhoods in America where their pickings are poor. Accounting control frauds occupy Wall Street and other financial centers – the richest neighborhoods in the world. Their “take” from fraud is extraordinary. The blue collar criminals that occupied Wilson’s attention late in his career were politically and socially powerless. The fraudulent CEOs that drive our recurrent, intensifying financial crises are wealthy and socially and politically dominant.

Wilson had a fabulous career and added greatly to the policy debate about how to respond to blue collar crime. Our most fitting tribute to him and contribution to his legacy would be to apply his “broken window” theory to the elite white collar crimes and criminals that drive our financial crises. The troubling paradox is that the strongest proponents of “broken windows” theory and policies in the blue collar crime context are the strongest opponents of applying analogous policies in the elite white collar crime context. The Wall Street Journal is the most prominent example of this class-based incoherence.

Bill Black is the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He spent years working on regulatory policy and fraud prevention as Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention, Litigation Director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and Deputy Director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement, among other positions.

Bill writes a column for Benzinga every Monday. His other academic articles, congressional testimony, and musings about the financial crisis can be found at his Social Science Research Network author page and at the blog New Economic Perspectives.

Follow him on Twitter: @WilliamKBlack

Oreo Fried Chicken

As a special stoner Cooking bonus, here's a recipe from combing both friend chicken & Oreos!
2 C. Oreo Ground Oreo Crumbs
1 T. fine ground coffee
2 T. chili powder
2 t. salt
1 C flour
2 eggs
2 T. Water
1 cut up chicken (8 pcs) moistened
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in deep fryer or skillet to 350 or slightly higher, but no more then 375. Constant 350 is the target temp. Combine oreo crumbs (no icing - make a ball out of that and eat it like an apple! :) ), coffee, chili powder and salt in a zip top bag. Salt and pepper chicken, dredge in flour and rest on rack for 30 minutes. Mix egg and water together and dredge chicken first in egg then Oreo mixture and carefully arrange chicken in fryer working in batches if necessary. Fry until done. Serve hot and juicy.

-You can add an optional tablespoon of dark cocoa powder to the flour mixture, if you wish and any preference you may have on dried herbs can be added to the Oreo mixture as well.
- To make extra crispy and a little fluffier texture, add 1/2 tsp baking powder to the flour mixture or use self rising flour.

Enjoy - Just remember where you got it!

Stoner Cooking: Chicken Recipes
Baked Chicken Parmesan
Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 15m | Total Time: 40m

Ingredients 8 thin chicken cutlets (1 1/2 pounds total), kosher salt and black pepper, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2 large eggs, beaten, 2/3 cup bread crumbs, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce, 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced


Heat oven to 400º F. Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Place the flour and eggs in separate shallow bowls; in a third shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan. Coat the chicken with the flour, then dip in the eggs (letting any excess drip off), then coat with the bread crumb mixture, pressing gently to help it adhere. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in batches until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Pour the marinara sauce into a large, shallow baking dish. Top with the chicken and mozzarella. -Bake until bubbling and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Calories per serving: 856

Chicken With Creamy Mushrooms
Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 20m | Total Time: 20m

Ingredients 8 small chicken cutlets (1½ pounds total), kosher salt and pepper, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 pound sliced mushrooms, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup goat cheese, 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in batches until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plates. Add the mushrooms and remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream, goat cheese, parsley, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Serve over the chicken.

Calories per serving: 454

Moroccan Chicken Salad With Carrots
Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 20m | Total Time: 20m

Ingredients 5 tablespoons olive oil, 8 small chicken cutlets (1½ pounds total), 1 teaspoon ground cumin, kosher salt and black pepper, 3 tablespoons lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, 5 ounces baby spinach, 2 cups cilantro leaves, 4 carrots, peeled into strips, 1/2 cup raisins

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Season the chicken with the cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. In batches, cook the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Cut into strips. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, red pepper, the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. In a large bowl, toss the chicken, spinach, cilantro, carrots, and raisins with the dressing.

Calories per serving: 433

Crispy Herbed Chicken Strips
Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 20m | Total Time: 20m

Ingredients 2 cups panko bread crumbs, 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, 8 small chicken cutlets (1½ pounds total), cut into wide strips, kosher salt and black pepper, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 large egg, beaten, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 Kirby cucumbers, cut into spears, 1/2 cup ranch dressing

Directions In a shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs and dill.

Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Coat the chicken with flour. Dip in the egg (letting any excess drip off). Then coat with the bread crumb mixture, pressing gently to help it adhere. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in batches until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Serve with the cucumber spears and ranch dressing.

Calories per serving: 597

100 Years of Oreo

The Oreo turned 100 on March 6th. Here's some facts about and recipes using America's favorite cookie...

Which came first, Oreo or Hydrox? Though both have passionate followings, and Oreos outsell the Kellogg Hydrox sandwich cookie, Hydrox cookies actually came first, in 1908. They were discontinued in 1999, but returned to stores in 2008.

According to Kraft Foods, 84 percent of men and 59 percent of women eat the cookie without twisting it open first.

No one knows who came up with Oreos, or where the name really came from. Kraft Foods' corporate archivist Becky Tousey says that she thinks the name came from combining the "re" in creme and the two "o's" in chocolate. Others theorize that the name comes from the ancient greek word for mountain ("oros") since the cookies were once domed, or the French word for gold ("or") because the cookies once came in golden packaging.

Oreos are available in different flavors outside of the U.S.. In China you can find them in Green Tea, orange/mango, and raspberry/blueberry "Double Fruit" flavors. In Argentina, there's the Oreo Alfajor, with a half-banana, half-dulce de leche flavored filling. In Mexico, people enjoy "Trio Chocolate," with three different types of chocolate in each cookie, and Oreos with a cookies-and-creme filling (that's right -- Oreo cookies with Oreo-cookie filling, so to speak.)

Classic Oreos are 71 percent chocolate wafer and 29 percent creme. After decades of this standard, the company released the Double Stuff in 1975.

There's at least one street named after the cookie: Oreo Way, in New York City.

It takes 59 minutes for a bakery to make an Oreo.

The tiny pattern pressed into the wafer is a combination of 12 flowers (each made of 4 triangles), 37 dots, and 12 dashes. Each cookie also has 90 ridges running along its edges.

Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies:
Bon Appetit magazine calls these "the new cupcake."

2 sticks softened butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 oz bag chocolate chips
1 pkg. Oreo cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars together with a mixer until well combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly add to wet ingredients along with chocolate chips until just combined. Using a cookie scoop take one scoop of cookie dough and place on top of an Oreo Cookie. Take another scoop of dough and place on bottom of Oreo cookie. Seal edges together by pressing and cupping in hand until Oreo cookie is enclosed with dough. Place onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and bake cookies 9-13 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Makes about 2 dozen large cookies.

Triple-chocolate cookie balls
This no-bake treat that looks much more complicated than it really is.

1 pkg. Oreo cookies
1/2 cup milk
1 package JELL-O chocolate instant pudding
12 to 16 Baker's semi-sweet chocolate squares
4 to 8 Bakers white chocolate squares
In a small bowl, make a paste out of the pudding and the milk. Put 36 of the Oreos into a gallon-size zip-top bag and crush them (with a rolling pin or a mallet). Add the crushed cookies to the pudding mixture and stir will. Form the mixture into small balls and place on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet; freeze them for about 10 minutes.

While they're in the freezer, please the semi-sweet chocolate squares in a microwave-safe bowl and heat, stirring often, until melted. Dip the chilled oreo balls into the melted chocolate, place them on a fresh wax-paper lined cookie sheet, and refrigerate or freeze for another 10 minutes.

Melt the white chocolate squares, and drizzle the melted white chocolate over the cookie balls using a fork or a spoon. Return them to the refrigerator to harden briefly before serving.

Makes 40 to 45 cookie balls

Thirteen sensual aphrodesiac foods to improve your sex life

Thirteen sensual aphrodesiac foods to improve your sex life
Thursday, March 01, 2012 by: JB Bardot

Chocolate -- Chocolate works like no other food to stimulate human sexuality. It's delicious, melts on the tongue and has an erotic quality even when not thinking of sex. According to Amy Reiley in her book, "Romancing the Stove: The Unabridged Guide to Aphrodisiac Foods," chocolate helps thin the blood, improve circulation to sensitive parts and strengthen the heart enabling aiding endurance.

Strawberries --Try them dipped in chocolate for the ultimate aphrodisiac experience. There's really nothing that compares with grasping the little green leaves on top of a juicy strawberry dipped in luscious dark chocolate, and placing it between your lover's parted lips.

Espresso --With its pleasingly bitter tang and exotic scent, expressohelps to pump the blood. In her aphrodisiac cookbook, "The New InterCourses," Martha Hopkins recommends espresso for its ability to extend sexual performance and maintain the libido, increasing pleasure even for just a few delicious extra seconds.

Oysters -- Oystershave a long reputation for being a leading aphrodisiac. They're high in protein, low in fat and feel luscious in the mouth. And of even greater importance, they're high in the mineral zinc, says Reiley, an critical nutrient in the production of testosterone.

Asparagus --If it looks like something you're familiar with, it should. The asparagus resembles part of the male body and according to the "Doctrine of Signatures", penned in the 16th century, that which resembles one thing may improve that which it looks like. So, according to the theory, if it resembles a sexual organ, it is meant by nature to aid your sexuality. Even though the Doctrine was merely a theory, it's now known that asparagus is rich in calcium, vitamin E, phosphorus and potassium, offering extra energy to improve sexual endurance and stimulate sex hormones.

Ginger and Cayenne --Both of theseplay a role in the aphrodisiac department by encouraging increased, oxygen-rich blood flow to some of the body's most sensitive areas -- And that translates to greater pleasure.

Rosemary --This delicious herb associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, also boosts blood supply and helps increase sensitivity of the skin. Include it in your cooking and sprinkle a few drops of essential oil in the bath.

Bananas -- Bananas are another go-to aphrodisiac food not only because they resemble the male phallus, but because they are high in nutrients that enhance the production of sex hormones.

Basil -- Basil was used long ago by women as a scent of seduction to drive their men wild with desire. It's a strong aphrodisiac and is infused into some perfumes. Use it in a salad, a pesto or just leave some of the fresh leaves around to entice your man.

Pomegranate -- Pomegranate symbolized the love goddess Aphrodite in ancient Greece, notes Reiley. Modern researchers are conducting studies into the affects of pomegranate juice for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Truffles -- Trufflesare a great aphrodisiac for the woman in your life. They're rich in amino acids and their scent is similar to that of a male pheromone, or sex hormone.

Grapes -- Grapes areassociated with Bacchus, the Roman god of ecstasy, and are a close contender with chocolate for being the top aphrodisiac. What could be more romantic than being fed peeled grapes, one by one by your lover, and waiting for that juicy, sweet explosion of flavor in your mouth?

Significa 3-21-12

Konformist Book Club Excerpt:
What Revelation Reveals
It is the Bible's strangest book. Even stranger, it was only one of many now-forgotten 'books of revelation'
March 2, 2012

The Book of Revelation is the strangest book in the Bible, and the most controversial. Instead of stories and moral teaching, it offers only visions—dreams and nightmares, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, earthquakes, plagues and war. In the climactic battle scene, Jesus appears as a divine warrior, Satan is thrown into a pit, and all humans who had died faithful to God reign over the earth for 1,000 years.

The author, John of Patmos, was a Jewish prophet and a follower of Jesus who probably began to write around the year 90 after fleeing a war that had ravaged his homeland, Judea. But his Book of Revelation wasn't unique. At the time, countless others—Jews, pagans and Christians—produced a flood of "books of revelation," claiming to reveal divine secrets. Some have been known for centuries; about 20 others were found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945.

So what do the other revelations tell us, and how did John's come to trump the others? Unlike the Book of Revelation, the great majority of the others weren't about the end of the world, but about finding the divine in it now. Many offered encouragement to seek direct contact with God—a message that some early Christian leaders ultimately chose to suppress.

The Revelation of Zostrianos, found in 1945, tells how the young author, tormented by questions and overwhelmed by depression, walked alone into the desert. Finding no place "to rest my spirit," Zostrianos says he had resolved to kill himself. But he says that suddenly he became aware of a being radiating light, who "said to me, 'Zostrianos…have you gone mad?' "

This divine presence, Zostrianos says, released him from despair and offered illumination. Then, Zostrianos says, "I realized that the power in me was greater than the darkness, because it contained the whole light."

Another 1945 find, the Revelation of Peter, similarly opens in a desperate moment. Peter says he was standing in the temple with other disciples when "I saw the priests and the people running up to us with stones, as if they would kill us." Terrified, he says, he heard Jesus tell him to "put your hands…over your eyes, and say what you see." Peter sees nothing. Jesus tells him to do it again. Peter says: "And fear came over me, [and] joy, for I saw a new light greater than the light of day. Then it came down upon the Savior, and I told him what I saw."

Although such revelations might not change outward circumstances—tradition tells us that, just as Peter feared, he was caught and crucified—the Revelation of Peter suggests that what Jesus revealed enabled him to face his death with courage and hope.

These other revelations, written several generations after Jesus' death, were often written by anonymous followers of Jesus under the names of disciples—not to deceive their readers but to show that they were writing "in the spirit" of those whose names they borrowed. Many were probably not written by Christians at all. Some of the revelations drew upon sacred traditions of Egypt and Greece and, in some cases, on the Hebrew Bible. Others included practices similar to Buddhist meditation techniques.

The Secret Revelation of John opens, again, in crisis. The disciple John, grieving Jesus' death, is walking toward the temple when he meets a Pharisee who mocks him for having been deceived by a false messiah. These taunts echoed John's own fear and doubt. Devastated, John turns away from the temple and heads toward the desert, where, he says, "I grieved greatly in my heart."

Suddenly, he says, he saw brilliant light as the heavens opened, and the earth shook beneath his feet. Terrified, John says he saw a luminous presence that kept changing form, and then heard Jesus' voice: "John, John, why do you doubt, and why are you afraid?…I am the one who is with you always. I am the Father; I am the Mother; I am the Son."

The Jesus who appears in the Secret Revelation doesn't look as he does in the Book of Revelation. Instead of a divine warrior leading heavenly armies to "strike down the nations," he appears as the apostle Paul says he saw him—in blazing light and a heavenly voice, and then in changing forms: first as a child, then as an old man, then—and here scholars disagree—either as a servant or as a woman. Through a series of visions and imagery, the Secret Revelation suggests that what is revealed to John is potentially available to all people—or, at least, to all who are receptive to what the spirit teaches.

In the fourth century, bishops intent on establishing "orthodoxy" labored to suppress writings like the Secret Revelation. Although they didn't deny that Jesus was human, they tended to place Jesus on the divine side of the equation—not only divine but, in the words of the Nicene Creed, "God from God…essentially the same as God." Orthodox theologians insisted that the rest of humankind were only transitory creatures, lost in sin—a view that would support what would become their dominant teaching about salvation, offered only through Christ, and, in particular, through the church they claimed to represent.

From the second century, Christian leaders, who saw their close groups torn apart as Roman magistrates arrested and executed their most outspoken members, felt that John's Book of Revelation spoke directly to these crises because it prophesied God's victory over Rome. Such Christians championed this book above the rest. Some challenged other books of revelation, with their more universal visions, calling them illegitimate and heretical.

Throughout the ages, Christians have adapted John of Patmos's visions to changing times, reading their own social, political and religious conflicts into the cosmic war he so powerfully evokes. Yet his Book of Revelation appeals not only to fear and desires for vengeance but also to hope. As John tells how the chaotic events of the world are finally set right by divine judgment, those who engage his visions often see them offering moral meaning in times of suffering or apparently random catastrophe. Many poets, artists and preachers have claimed to find in these prophecies the promise, famously repeated by Martin Luther King Jr., that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

The Book of Revelation reads as if John had wrapped up all our worst fears—fears of violence, plague, wild animals, unimaginable horrors from the abyss below the earth, lightning, hail, earthquakes and the atrocities or torture and war—into one gigantic nightmare. Yet this worst of all nightmares ends not in terror but in a glorious new world. Whether one sees in John's visions the destruction of the whole world or the dark tunnel that propels each of us toward our own death, his final vision suggests that even after the worst we can imagine has happened, we may find the astonishing gift of new life. Whether or not one shares that conviction, few readers miss seeing how these visions offer consolation and that most necessary of divine gifts—hope.

— Excerpted from "Revelations: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation" published by Viking

Kindle Edition $14.99:

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A version of this article appeared Mar. 3, 2012, on page C3 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: What Revelation Reveals.


Music Video of the week:
Again, by Alice in Chains

Why is Alice in Chains the favorite Seattle band of Robalini? This is why...


The World’s Top 10 Billionaires

1. Carlos Slim Helú
Net Worth: $69 billion

2. Bill Gates
Net Worth: $61 billion

3. Warren Buffett
Net Worth: $44 billion

4. Bernard Arnault
Net Worth: $41 billion

5. Amancio Ortega
Net Worth: $37.5 billion

6. Larry Ellison
Net Worth: $36 billion

7. Eike Batista
Net Worth: $30 billion

8. Stefan Persson
Net Worth: $26 billion

9. Name: Li Ka-shing
Net Worth: $25.5 billion

10. Karl Albrecht
Net Worth: $25.4 billion


YouTube Film of the Month: The Primacy of Consciousness - Peter Russell


Peter Russell explores the problems science has explaining consciousness and proposes that consciousness is not created by the brain, but is inherent in all beings. He shows why mind is more fundamental than matter, and the the key to this shift is the revolution in our understanding of the light.

The excerpted version (10 mins) is at

DVD available from:


Kool Websites

Dutch Farms

Welcome to Dutch Farms Inc., where we are proud to offer farm-fresh Dairy, Deli, Meat and Bakery products. We are a family-owned, fourth generation, Chicago-based company with Dutch roots.

The Dutch have always been known for their dairy products …especially wonderful cheese. At Dutch Farms, we offer outstanding cheese, butter and eggs. Try our dairy products in all of your favorite recipes. Soon, you’ll be saying, “I want Dutch Farms!”

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The Original Wrecking Ball: Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska”
Ian Crouch
March 6, 2012

Bruce Springsteen’s seventeenth studio album, “Wrecking Ball,” has landed. It pairs some musical experimentation—tape loops, samples, a bit of rapping (not by the Boss, thankfully, but by the gospel singer Michelle Moore)—with familiar Springsteen lyrical iconography: American flags, steel wheels, shuttered factories, and suitcases packed for a quick escape. Springsteen told Rolling Stone that “the record basically started out as folk music—just me and a guitar singing these songs,” before he began working with producer Ron Aniello on a more eclectic and anthemic sound. In the same interview, Springsteen also said: “This is as direct a record as I ever made. That’s with the possible exception of ‘Nebraska,’ which this record has a lot in common with.”

Let’s see. This January marked the thirtieth anniversary of the recording of “Nebraska,” one of the more mythical events in pop-music history. Over the course of several days at his home in Colts Neck, New Jersey, and armed principally with a guitar, harmonica, and glockenspiel, Springsteen laid down what he thought were demos for a new album that he’d record with the E Street Band. That album never got made; after rehearsals with the full band, Springsteen, his manager, Jon Landau, and others decided that the lyrics—about murder, hard luck, regret, and father-and-son strife—were better served by the low-fi originals. What emerged on “Nebraska” was a hushed, thin, and stark sound, which, because of its provenance, seemed almost divinely inspired. Accordingly, the device that captured the sound, a Tascam Portastudio 144 tape recorder, has become a kind of holy object among fans. The album’s lyrics, meanwhile, seem drawn from a harrowing and unnervingly gorgeous hell right here on earth.

In “Heart of Darkness: Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska,” a new history of the album, published this past December, David Burke connects its themes to the political and economic climate that marked the early Reagan years. Springsteen has said that Reagan’s election startled him into a newfound political consciousness. Burke quotes a Springsteen interview in which the Boss said that “Nebraska” was about the loss of community and “spiritual breakdown,” times and places when people “just get shot off somewhere where nothing seems to matter.” Among the album’s story songs, murder ballads, confessions, and deathbed laments are plenty of sociological markers. Bad prices have killed the family farm. The bank is about to take the house. Vietnam vets have been screwed from all sides. Someone closed the auto plant in Mahwah.

The economy was lousy in 1982, and it’s lousy today, at least for the people who appear in Springsteen songs. “Wrecking Ball” is also filled with criminals, but they aren’t the outcasts and the misfits that populate “Nebraska.” This time, they are members of the one per cent. And, while “Nebraska” tells plaintive, first-person stories, most of the songs on “Wrecking Ball” are thematic rather than narrative—fables about the capital-letter ideas of Politics, the Economy, and the State of the Union. With its proud liberal populism and wide sampling of the national musical melting pot, “Wrecking Ball” is a big-tent vision of America. It may be an imperfect and deeply unfair place, but it’s still a party. And perhaps a hootenany will help sort things out. (It’s fitting that Obama included the album’s first single, “We Take Care of Our Own” on his campaign playlist on Spotify.)

If “Wrecking Ball” is the big top, then “Nebraska” is the freak show. Burke’s book is informative, but it places too much emphasis on the songs as cultural commentary; they are about something deeply sinister. Sissy Spacek’s affectless narration in the Terrence Malick movie “Badlands” inspired the album’s title track, told from the man’s perspective, which opens: “I saw her standin’ on her front lawn, just a-twirlin’ her baton. / Me and her went for a ride, sir, and ten innocent people died.” The prairie edge continues with the screechy yodel that kicks off “Johnny 99.” And the chilling shriek that ends “State Trooper.” Springsteen was reading Flannery O’Connor at the time. The album is shot through with the real possibility of an evil that transcends circumstance, what O’Connor writes about in the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find”: “Then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can—by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness.”

“Nebraska” may be an anomaly in Springsteen’s career rather than a signpost. (Stephen Metcalf, writing at Slate, once called it “the only record you can push on the nonbelievers.”) It doesn’t offer signs of hope, redemption, or community. There’s no “we” anywhere in it. It’s nihilistic in its philosophy, and agnostic in its politics. Perhaps most importantly, the album, in its tightly controlled sound and theme, resists the power of Springsteen’s outsized personality and his immense power to entertain. There has often been a dissonance between Bruce Springsteen’s music and the content of his lyrics. It’s why “Born in the U.S.A.”—a deeply anti-American song—gets played at Tea Party rallies. The big political numbers on “Wrecking Ball” may have started as folk songs, and they look serious on paper, but they’ll be heard beneath the bright lights of stadiums, and most likely this fall at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Nebraska,” meanwhile, is about a different kind of politics, and should be heard in the dark.


Awesome Technology: The Robo-Cheetah
Fatest robot on four legs at 18 MPH:

Not-So-Awesome Technology: Pink Slime

AKA Soylent Pink, it's ammonia-treated cow tissues that were added to beef at fast food joints (and even more sinisterly, school lunches) until recently:


Netflix Said to Be Aiming for a Cable Partnership
March 7, 2012
Full Article:

Netflix’s chief executive, Reed Hastings, has often compared his company’s Web streaming service to HBO. That comparison is inching closer to reality.

Over the last several weeks, Mr. Hastings and his top lieutenants have met with major cable operators to discuss a way for Netflix to appear on monthly cable bills, according to people who are familiar with the meetings but are not authorized to discuss negotiations publicly.

A partnership with cable providers, along with an ambitious slate of original series, would put Netflix one step closer to competing with premium cable channels, like HBO, Showtime and Starz, that offer original series and movies for a monthly fee.

“To be able to add Netflix to the bill, that might be very powerful, especially as we do more and more original content,” Mr. Hastings said at a Morgan Stanley media and technology conference in San Francisco last week.

“We are more and more a classic cable network,” Mr. Hastings said, adding that partnering with cable providers would eventually be the “logical path.”

A Netflix spokesman declined to comment on discussions with cable operators, but said Mr. Hastings’s comments in San Francisco were “futuristic.”

The nascent negotiations with cable operators, first reported by Reuters, underscore how Netflix has evolved. Once, on the strength of its popular DVD-by-mail service and emerging streaming offerings, the company was viewed as a rival to cable giants like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the kind that could lead to widespread cord-cutting.

Netflix has stumbled, however, in obtaining rights to stream television shows and movies, and as the company has added streaming subscribers, it has lost subscribers to its DVD service.

At the same time, competitors have emerged. Last month, Comcast began an online streaming service called Streampix. The service is now available to Comcast’s 22.3 million Xfinity subscribers, but the company has the reach to one day expand the service beyond its customer base.

Also last month, Verizon said it would partner with Coinstar’s Redbox on a Web streaming service at a monthly rate of $4.99, compared with $7.99 for unlimited streaming on Netflix. The $79-a-year Amazon Prime service, which also offers shipping and Kindle benefits, has licensing deals with major television networks and movie studios. And Time Warner’s HBO Go, a streaming service available only to HBO subscribers, has been cited by Mr. Hastings as Netflix’s biggest competitor.

Partnering with a major cable operator would instantly increase the number of subscribers to Netflix, which currently has about 21.7 million streaming subscribers in the United States, according to the company...

States of Depression

March 4, 2012

The economic news is looking better lately. But after previous false starts — remember “green shoots”? — it would be foolish to assume that all is well. And in any case, it’s still a very slow economic recovery by historical standards.

There are several reasons for this slowness, with the most important being the overhang of household debt that is a legacy of the housing bubble. But one significant factor in our continuing economic weakness is the fact that government in America is doing exactly what both theory and history say it shouldn’t: slashing spending in the face of a depressed economy.

In fact, if it weren’t for this destructive fiscal austerity, our unemployment rate would almost certainly be lower now than it was at a comparable stage of the “Morning in America” recovery during the Reagan era.

Notice that I said “government in America,” not “the federal government.” The federal government has been pursuing what amount to contractionary policies as the last vestiges of the Obama stimulus fade out, but the big cuts have come at the state and local level. These state and local cuts have led to a sharp fall in both government employment and government spending on goods and services, exerting a powerful drag on the economy as a whole.

One way to dramatize just how severe our de facto austerity has been is to compare government employment and spending during the Obama-era economic expansion, which began in June 2009, with their tracks during the Reagan-era expansion, which began in November 1982.

Start with government employment (which is mainly at the state and local level, with about half the jobs in education). By this stage in the Reagan recovery, government employment had risen by 3.1 percent; this time around, it’s down by 2.7 percent.

Next, look at government purchases of goods and services (as distinct from transfers to individuals, like unemployment benefits). Adjusted for inflation, by this stage of the Reagan recovery, such purchases had risen by 11.6 percent; this time, they’re down by 2.6 percent.

And the gap persists even when you do include transfers, some of which have stayed high precisely because unemployment is still so high. Adjusted for inflation, Reagan-era spending rose 10.2 percent in the first 10 quarters of recovery, Obama-era spending only 2.6 percent.

Why did government spending rise so much under Reagan, with his small-government rhetoric, while shrinking under the president so many Republicans insist is a secret socialist? In Reagan’s case, it’s partly about the arms race, but mainly about state and local governments doing what they are supposed to do: educate a growing population of children, invest in infrastructure for a growing economy.

Under President Obama, however, the dire fiscal condition of state and local governments — the result of a sustained slump, which in turn was caused largely by that private debt explosion before 2008 — has led to forced spending cuts. The fiscal straits of lower-level governments could and should have been alleviated by aid from Washington, which remains able to borrow at incredibly low interest rates. But this aid was never provided on a remotely adequate scale.

This policy malpractice is doing double damage to America. On one side, it’s helping lose the future — because that’s what happens when you neglect education and public investment. At the same time, it’s hurting us right now, by helping keep growth low and unemployment high.

We’re talking big numbers here. If government employment under Mr. Obama had grown at Reagan-era rates, 1.3 million more Americans would be working as schoolteachers, firefighters, police officers, etc., than are currently employed in such jobs.

And once you take the effects of public spending on private employment into account, a rough estimate is that the unemployment rate would be 1.5 percentage points lower than it is, or below 7 percent — significantly better than the Reagan economy at this stage.

One implication of this comparison is that conservatives who love to compare Reagan’s record with Mr. Obama’s should think twice. Aside from the fact that recoveries from financial crises are almost always slower than ordinary recoveries, in reality Reagan was much more Keynesian than Mr. Obama, faced with an obstructionist G.O.P., has ever managed to be.

More important, however, there is now an easy answer to anyone asking how we can accelerate our economic recovery. By all means, let’s talk about visionary ideas; but we can take a big step toward full employment just by using the federal government’s low borrowing costs to help state and local governments rehire the schoolteachers and police officers they laid off, while restarting the road repair and improvement projects they canceled or put on hold.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on March 5, 2012, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: States of Depression.

Bill Maher wants you to forgive Rush

A privileged white guy who makes sexist comments would like us to pardon a privileged white guy for doing the sameMary Elizabeth Williams
Wednesday, Mar 7, 2012

This week in rich, delicious irony: A privileged, middle-aged man known for making sexist, derogatory comments would like America to forgive a privileged, middle-aged man for making sexist, derogatory comments.

After admitting that he does “Hate to defend #RushLimbaugh,” Bill Maher went on to tweet Tuesday, about the radio host: “he apologized, liberals looking bad not accepting. Also hate intimidation by sponsor pullout.” Wait, who looks bad here? My sides, they’re splitting!

Maher, of course, is a professional provocateur, a guy who views himself as an equal opportunity fly in everyone’s ointment. But he’s also the man who recently gave a cool million dollars to Obama’s super PAC and once suggested “don’t ask, don’t tell” be overturned purely “because it will make Rush Limbaugh explode like a bag full of meat dropped from a helicopter.” As such, he no doubt felt uniquely qualified to appeal to the left’s sense of justice. And no doubt there are plenty of talking heads – the ones who erroneously keep insisting that liberals and feminists have no problem with Maher’s track record of offensive remarks – who’d go along with him.

But as a matter of fact, lots of us were revolted when Maher called Sarah Palin a “cunt” and a “dumb twat,” and were grossed out by his ill-timed assessment of Lara Logan’s “intrepid hotness” last year. We actually don’t find sexism adorable just because someone lets Marc Maron on his show.

Maher has, quite rightly, said that “When you are a public figure you’re out there and you’re fodder for comedians to make comments on you.” And when you’re a comic and a genuinely smart guy, you can probably do it without reducing a woman to her genitals. Women can take criticism and satire just fine. It’s the misogyny that gets old.

Moreover, here’s a reminder. Limbaugh’s remarks about Sandra Fluke were not about a “public figure” –- they were about a relatively unknown law student. They were made again and again, dozens of times, over a full three-day period in which he called her a whore and a slut and demanded she post videos of herself having sex. They were followed by a deeply unsatisfying statement that “my choice of words was not the best.” Since then, the marketplace has asserted itself, American style, with both consumers and advertisers deciding what form of conversation they choose to support with their time and money.

Rush Limbaugh may still have a road-to-Damascus moment and express some genuine contrition for his three-day hate binge. But until that time, what we don’t need is another smug, condescending, overpaid white dude telling us to accept a phony olive branch, suggesting that our disgust makes us “look bad.”

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

Are Bankers Capitalists?

Thursday, 03/1/2012Bruce Judson

Jamie Dimon says banks are more successful than media companies, but which industry is actually following capitalist principles?

The phrase “Wall Street” is evocative in American culture. For generations, it has referred to the showcase of American capitalism: our financial services system that ensured the efficient use of funds by channeling capital to its most productive use. Indeed, the governing ethos in America is that Wall Street is the heart and soul of our capitalist economy.

As I have written before, capitalism involves four basic principles: absolute responsibility for anything and everything that happens to your company (i.e. total accountability), equal justice under the law, compensation based on the real value created for society, and competition, which involves failure and what is often called creative destruction.

The CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, has repeatedly touted the success of his efforts and disparaged critics. Earlier this week he compared compensation in the banking industry to the struggling media world, suggesting that the banking industry was far more successful. In speaking to journalists, according to Bloomberg, he noted, “Worse than that, you don’t even make any money… [while] we make a lot of money.”

Mr. Dimon is right. He and his colleagues are successful. But the real question is this: What are they successful at? By almost any criteria, the banks operate under rules that are so far from capitalism as to be unrecognizable. Let’s take Mr. Dimon’s comparison of the media industry and the banking industry further.

Both industries have been affected by unforeseen events. The Internet has undermined the viability of innumerable media businesses, leading to bankruptcies, changing business models, and intense competition for advertiser and subscriber dollars. In the face of these changes, industry participants have been forced to adapt or die. The forces of creative destruction, which are central to capitalism, have operated with an unforgiving ferocity. Formerly dominant entities have been forced to declare bankruptcy, while new media competitors and business models emerge on a seemingly daily basis.

In contrast, the banks argued that TARP was warranted because the economic tsunami of 2008 was unforeseeable. One of the essential functions of a financial institution is to manage risk. The majority of our large institutions failed entirely in this central responsibility as the economic crisis struck. In effect, many of our leading financial services firms were (and often continue to be) led by such poor businesspeople that if the principles of capitalism were enforced they would be out of business. My friends who are media entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley actually laugh when they hear the “we should not be responsible because this was not foreseeable” claims from the bankers. Every entrepreneur knows that they must make payroll each week or they are bankrupt.

At the same time, no one in Washington seriously believes the too big to fail legislation in Dodd-Frank will ever work. Inevitably, as in the case of AIG, counter-parties will declare that they will suffer irreparable harm if one of our leading banks is allowed to fail. I have come to call this “the Washington wink.” You ask a federal official if too big to fail legislation will work, they dutifully say of course it will. However, the “of course” is inevitably accompanied by a knowing wink.

In another divergence, the government has not subsidized media businesses. The banks may be showing profits, but they are on government life support. These so-called zombie banks can borrow from the Federal Reserve at almost no cost, and a long list of government initiatives have served as additional “stealth” bailouts of the banks. In the absence of this government support, would the banking industry still be successful? If media companies could borrow funds at almost no costs, I suspect their balance sheets and profits would be dramatically enhanced.

Capitalism is built on the idea that compensation and profits reflect the relative contribution an individual or firm makes to the total wealth of a society. Real societal wealth is anything that can be consumed or experienced. Profits are an accounting proxy meant to measure wealth. As I have written before, this proxy has failed miserably with regard to the banking industry. Given the loss of real societal wealth that accompanied the economic crisis as a result of poor bank management, the employment crisis, and the ongoing support the industry needs from the government, there is only one possible conclusion: at this moment the financial services industry is far more of a destroyer of real wealth than a wealth creator.

Meanwhile, media companies don’t profit by repeatedly breaking the law. The lack of enforcement against Wall Street undermines our democracy and capitalism, and is effectively another form of stealth government support for the industry. As noted here, JP Morgan Chase (like several of the large banks) is in the middle of a host of potential scandals. In a true capitalist economy, the government would enforce the law to prevent repetitive malfeasance. The executives leading a firm that repeatedly violated the law would be held accountable by the firm’s board for failure to exercise this basic responsibility to society.

Since the start of the economic crisis, the financial services industry has grown even more concentrated. It’s hard not to regard our largest financial services institutions as effective monopolies. Yet, to my knowledge, no investigation of antitrust issues related to the industry is underway. This is yet another stealth government subsidy. By contrast, in an earlier article I wrote about the misguided Justice Department investigation of e-book pricing, another area that is already suffering badly.

Yes, Mr. Dimon, you are a success. However, I would suggest that the success you so proudly proclaim reflects the loss of two of our nation’s most important values. The first is the failure of individuals and leaders to simply take responsibility for their actions and the actions of their companies. The second is that Wall Street, which should be the heart of American capitalism, has instead become the heart of a dysfunctional system that is destroying the nation’s wealth.

No, bankers are not capitalists. At every turn, they demonstrate that the last thing they want is the return of real capitalism to America.

Bruce Judson is Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and a former Senior Faculty Fellow at the Yale School of Management.

H.R 347 could be making the First Amendment illegal

Tim McCown
March 4, 2012
On Ron Paul's website it was duly noted that H.R. 347 could make the First Amendment illegal. No one is really covering this bill and the major media call it non-controversial. The innocent sounding bill titled The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011 was passed Tuesday with only three dissenting votes including Ron Paul, and passed unanimously in the Senate. This bill dubbed the Anti-Occupy law was passed without one single Democrat speaking up for the first Amenndment.

Once this Bill is signed into law some including Ron Paul believe it will make it a felony to excercise your first Amendment rights of Free Speech. Several of those commenting opined that the nearly unanimous vote proves that despite all the posturing both parties stand shoulder to shoulder in their defense of the greed and entitlement of the 1% from the rest of us. When you couple this with the indefinite detention of Americans in the National Defense Authorization Act it is clear that Obama is part of a ruling corporate oligarchy and is surely no Progessive.
Among the controversial provisions of H.R. 347 is a section that is vague and open to interpretation that would make it a felony to enter or remain in an area designated as restricted. Because of the Secret Service protection at the national political party conventions this summer they could easily be declared restricted areas for the purpose of stifling dissent.

In addition, even a peaceful sit-in could be termed a felony if interpreted to mean blocking ingress or egress from a designated building. This section of the law could clearly be used to criminalize a broad range of formerly legal activities.

Defenders and apologists for mainly Democrats and Obama supporters claim this act is completely innocent and all of us who believe differently have drunk Ron Paul's Kool-Aid again. But a post on George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley's blog page notes that the imprecise languange, just as in the NDAA, creates risks and can most definately be seen as a threat to our First Amendment right to Free Speech, Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom to Petition our government. None of that is very comforting in light of the the Patriot Act and surveillance of and wire tapping of Americans.

Tonight you no longer need to be a conspiracy theorist to have real questions about whether we are becoming a police state.

The Fountainhead of Satanism

Joe CarterJun 8, 2011

Over the past few years, Anton LaVey and his book The Satanic Bible has grown increasingly popular, selling thousands of new copies. His impact has been especially pronounced in our nation’s capital. One U.S. senator has publicly confessed to being a fan of the The Satanic Bible while another calls it his “foundation book.” On the other side of Congress, a representative speaks highly of LaVey and recommends that his staffers read the book.

A leading radio host called LaVey “brilliant” and quotations from the The Satanic Bible can be glimpsed on placards at political rallies. More recently, a respected theologian dared to criticize the founder of the Church of Satan in the pages of a religious and cultural journal and was roundly criticized by dozens of fellow Christians.

Surprisingly little concern, much less outrage, has erupted over this phenomenon. Shouldn’t we be appalled by the ascendancy of this evangelist of anti-Christian philosophy? Shouldn’t we all—especially we Christians—be mobilizing to counter the malevolent force of this man on our culture and politics?

As you’ve probably guessed by this point, I’m not really talking about LaVey but about his mentor, Ayn Rand. The ascendency of LaVey and his embrace by “conservative” leaders would indeed cause paroxysms of indignation. Yet, while the two figures’ philosophies are nearly identical, Rand appears to have received a pass. Why is that?

Perhaps most are unaware of the connection, though LaVey wasn’t shy about admitting his debt to his inspiration. “I give people Ayn Rand with trappings,” he once told the Washington Post. On another occasion he acknowledged that his brand of Satanism was “just Ayn Rand’s philosophy with ceremony and ritual added.” Indeed, the influence is so apparent that LaVey has been accused of plagiarizing part of his “Nine Satanic Statements” from the John Galt speech in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

Devotees of Rand may object to my outlining the association between the two. They will say I am proposing “guilt by association,” a form of the ad hominem fallacy. But I am not attacking Rand for the overlap of her views with LaVey’s; I am saying that, at their core, they are the same philosophy. LaVey was able to recognize what many conservatives fail to see: Rand’s doctrines are satanic.

I realize that even to invoke that infernal word conjures images of black masses, human sacrifices, and record needles broken trying to play “Stairway to Heaven” backwards. But satanism is more banal and more attractive than the parody created by LeVay. Real satanism has been around since the beginning of history, selling an appealing message: Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.

You can replace the pentagrams of LeVayian Satanism with the dollar sign of the Objectivists without changing much of the substance separating the two. The ideas are largely the same, though the movements’ aesthetics are different. One appeals to, we might say, the Young Libertarians, and the other attracts the Future Wiccans of America.

What is harder to understand is why both ideologies appeal to Christians and conservatives. My guess is that these groups are committing what I’d call the fallacy of personal compatibility. This fallacy occurs when a person thinks that because one subscribes to both “Belief X” and “Belief Y,” the two beliefs must therefore be compatible. For example, a person may claim that “life has meaning” and that “everything that exists is made of matter” even though the two claims are not compatible (unless “meaning” is made of matter). This take on the fallacy has long been committed by atheists. Now it appears to be growing in popularity among conservatives and Christians as well.

But to be a follower of both Rand and Christ is not possible. The original Objectivist was a type of self-professed anti-Christ who hated Christianity and the self-sacrificial love of its founder. She recognized that those Christians who claimed to share her views didn’t seem to understand what she was saying.

Many conservatives admire Rand because she was anti-collectivist. But that is like admiring Stalin because he opposed Nazism. Stalin was against the Nazis because he wanted to make the world safe for Communism. Likewise, Rand stands against collectivism because she wants the freedom to abolish Judeo-Christian morality. Conservative Christians who embrace her as the “enemy-of-my-enemy” seem to forget that she considered us the enemy.

Even if this were not the case, though, what would warrant the current influence of her thought within the conservative movement? Rand was a third-rate writer who was too arrogant to recognize her own ignorance (she believed she was the third greatest philosopher in history, behind only Aristotle and Aquinas). She misunderstood almost every concept she engaged with—from capitalism to freedom—and wrote nothing that had not been treated before by better thinkers. We don’t need her any more than we need LeVay.

Few conservatives will fall completely under Rand’s diabolic sway. But we are sustaining a climate in which not a few gullible souls believe she is worth taking seriously. Are we willing to be held responsible for pushing them to adopt an anti-Christian worldview? If so, perhaps instead of recommending Atlas Shrugged, we should simply hand out copies of The Satanic Bible. If they’re going to align with a satanic cult, they might as well join the one that has the better holidays.

Joe Carter is Web Editor of First Things and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fuzzy Math & The Keystone XL Pipeline

Robert Sterling,

Whenever you hear right-wing poiticians and mouthpieces demanding support for a project with the supposed reasoning of "jobs" it should rightfully be met with absolute skepticism. These cretins could care less for the working man, so when they feign support for workers, it is invariably a cynical exploitation on behalf of a big business gift.

To sell the public on the Keystone XL Pipeline, the right has put out numerous claims of job creation. The least controversial number is 20,000, and that one is even dubious at best. To begin with, the term "job" is defined by TransCanada (the company behind the XL Pipeline and the supplier of the 20K number) as "job years" which means that if the project takes the estimated two years, it will create actually half of the 13,000 "job year" number of jobs in construcion. Meanwhile, as for the 7,000 other "job years" created in manufacturing, it is likely most of this work will be done outside the US. So what is the more likely number of jobs created by the XL Pipeline, 20,000 or 6,500? According the the US State Department's own study, the actual total number on permanent jobs (not temporary during the construction) created by the Pipeline will be twenty.

Of course, whether it be 20 or 6,500 or even 20,000, that's a pretty small number of jobs for such a large project, so TransCanada had to juice the numbers. One study, supplied by TransCanada consultant Ray Perryman, proclaimed that "effects over the life of the project were found to include $20.931 billion in total spending, $9.605 billion in output, and 118,935 person-years of employment." (Note again that the number is in "job years" again.) In the same study, Perryman declares: "Under 'normal' oil price assumptions equivalent to the average for all of 2007, The Perryman Group found the gains in US business activity stemming from a permanent increase in stable oil supplies to include $100.144 billion in total spending, $29.048 billion in output, and 250,348 permanent jobs." This has lead the US Chamber of Commerce to support the project, citing the 250K figure.

(Oddly, the Chamber of Commerce doesn't cite the highest number of jobs estimated by Perryman to be created by the XL Pipeline, that of 553,235 jobs. The reason for this is that number is based on "the high-price case in which costs per barrel reach the peak levels observed in the summer of 2008." Which means the more outrageous oil prices get, the more supposedly beneficial the XL Pipeline is.)

Again, whether the number is 118,935, or 250,348, or even 553,235, the numbers should be met with doubt, as they are supplied by a consultant for a company trying to sell public and politicians on a project. The Global Labor Institute looked at the numbers cited by Perryman, and concluded they are bogus To begin with, of the $7 billion tied to the project, $3 to $4 billion has already been spent: thus there is no multiplier gain for this money if the XL Pipeline is approved. Further, the number assumes a rather generous 18 "job years" created per million dollars spent: the GLI goes with the more reasonable number of 11 "job years" per million. The end result of this simple math equation is a creation of 33,000 to 44,000 "job years" by the pipeline and not 118,000, which would create a maximum of 22K temporary jobs at best over the two years of the project, and 11K at worst if the project takes an extra year to complete.

As for the 250K to 550K numbers that TransCanada pushes, the GLI notes in response that it may very well be a long-term job killer. The big four problems with the project:

* Higher Fuel Prices: "KXL will increase the price of heavy crude oil in the Midwest by almost $2 to $4 billion annually, and escalating for several years. It will do this by diverting major volumes of Tar Sands oil now supplying the Midwest refineries, so it can be sold at higher prices to the Gulf Coast and export markets. As a result, consumers in the Midwest could be paying 10 to 20 cents more per gallon for gasoline and diesel fuel, adding up to $5 billion to the annual US fuel bill."

* Economic Costs Related to Air Pollution and Carbon Emissions: "It is a well known fact that if emissions rise, air quality deteriorates, and health problems increase. Respiratory and other illnesses reduce both labor productivity and labor market
participation, as well as the educational performance of those exposed to airborne particulates."

* Impact on the Green Economy and Green Jobs: "It is also important to consider the jobs that may not be created as a result of KXL. Many believe its approval will likely have a chilling effect on those in the private sector and in public policy who have positioned themselves on the cutting edge of the green economy. Small business organizations such as the Green Chamber of Commerce and the Green Business Network (representing more than 5,000 enterprises) agree that KXL will impede progress toward green and sustainable economic renewal."

* Environmental Damage: "The industry has ignored or dismissed fears that the KXL pipeline will have a serious impact on our environment through inland spills or spills into fresh water supplies (principally the Ogallala Aquifer) or through increases in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and other forms of pollution. In so doing, it has no need to acknowledge that environmental damage is invariably a job killer. Cleaning up spills and other environmental damage may create some jobs, but only at the expense of jobs in other parts of the economy."

Of these four job killers, environmental damage would on the surface appear to be the greatest X-factor, but in reality, it's not. The reason is because environmental damage from the XL Pipeline shouldn't be viewed as a potential risk, but a certainty. As noted, TransCanada "predicted that one of their existing pipelines would produce one spill every seven years, but it has produced 12 spills in less than one year. Even with one spill, over 1,000 rivers will be adversely impacted as well as the Ogallala Aquifer that supplies drinking water to 2 million Americans and is the primary source of groundwater for 20% of America’s agriculture production." Talk about a job killer.

If there is any X-factor here, it's the elephant in the room that strangely isn't being mentioned: terrorism. Allegedly, according to our national security establishment and its mouthpieces, the threat of al Qaeda and other terror orgs is so great, we need fingers stuck up our ass in airports in order to feel safe. Yet somehow, the possibility of an attack on a pipeline project ranging from our Canadian border to Texas is just crazy talk.

Sadly, being a betting man, I suspect the Keystone XL Pipeline will be built. This is because the GOP is using its usual strategy of frothing like mad dogs, which will likely soon be met by a predictable spineless cave by Obama. The only thing that will stop this project is if opponents stop relying on Obama's nonexistent backbone and start putting pressure on him and other politicians to fight the money behind this con. It could happen (certainly the Occupy Movement is evolving into something more than Democratic Party apologists that represent too much of progressive leadership) but would require a radical change in our current political paradigm. Let's hope that on this bet I am wrong.


The Impact of Developing the Keystone XL Pipeline Project on Business Activity in the US. The Perryman Group June 2010 <>.

Kesslerat, Glenn. "Keystone Pipeline Jobs Claims: A Bipartisan Fumble." Washington Post 14 December 2011 <>.

Pipe dreams? Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost by the Construction of Keystone XL. Global Labor Institute September 2011 <>.

Rmuse. "The SEC Mulls An Investigation Calls Grow For John Boehner To Resign." PoliticusUSA 28 January 2012 <>.

Tullis, Paul. "The Questionable Economics of the Keystone XL Pipeline." Businessweek 17 February 2012 <>.

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs

GREG SMITHMarch 14, 2012

TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.

Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.

What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.

Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.

It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.

These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.

When I was a first-year analyst I didn’t know where the bathroom was, or how to tie my shoelaces. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, finding out what a derivative was, understanding finance, getting to know our clients and what motivated them, learning how they defined success and what we could do to help them get there.

My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.

I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.

Greg Smith is resigning today as a Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on March 14, 2012, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.

Kony 2012: Wrapping Imperialism in “Activism”

Youth Movement Promotes US Military Presence in Central AfricaNile Bowie
Thursday, March 8, 2012

Edward Bernays believed that society could not be trusted to make rational and informed decisions on their own, and that guiding public opinion was essential within a democratic society. Bernays founded the Council on Public Relations and his 1928 book, Propaganda cites the methodology used in the application of effective emotional communication. He discovered that such communication is capable of manipulating the unconscious in an effort to produce a desired effect – namely, a capacity to manufacture mass social adherence in support of products, political candidates and social movements. Nearly a century after his heyday, Bernays’ methodology is apparent in almost every form of civic and consumer persuasion. The platform of social media is being used in unprecedented new ways, one such example is a new online documentary about the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), an extremist rebel group operating in Central Africa.

The documentary is unprecedented, not for its educational attributes but for its capacity to use visual branding, merchandising and highly potent emotional communication to influence the viewer to support US military operations in resource rich Central Africa under the pretext of capturing the LRA’s commander, Joseph Kony. The Lord’s Resistance Army was originally formed in 1987 in northwestern Uganda by members of the Acholi ethnic group, who were historically exploited as forced laborers by the British colonialists and later relegated by the nation’s dominant ethic groups following independence. Together with the Holy Spirit Movement, the LRA represented the armed wing of a resistance faction aiming to overthrow the government of current Ugandan President and staunch US military ally, Yoweri Museveni.

The LRA was originally formed to combat ethic marginalization, but soon became dominated by Joseph Kony, a self-proclaimed spiritual messenger of the (Christian) Holy Spirit. Kony utilized his messianic persona to lead a syncretic spiritual movement based on Acholi tribal beliefs’ and extremist Christian dogma. It is claimed that LRA seeks to establish a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments, however its inner ideological mythology is largely unknown. In an effort to mobilize a large scale armed resistance, the LRA routinely recruited child soldiers and forced them to commit heinous acts such as cannibalism and mutilation on others who resisted to join the rebel group during their extensive twenty-five year campaign.

KONY 2012 is directed by Jason Russell and runs just thirty minutes; the video has receivedover twenty million views on YouTube and Vimeo and it’s national support group on Facebook is said to gain 4,000 members each hour. The highly produced feature is narrated from the perspective of Russell and his attempt to explain the Lord’s Resistance Army to his infant son, Gavin. The video features footage from Russell’s trip to Uganda (prior to 2006, when the LRA was still operating in the region) and introduces the viewer to Jacob, a Ugandan boy who was formally recruited by the LRA as a child soldier. Russell presents various montages of ethically diverse groups of students raising their fists in the air, sporting KONY t-shirts, and scenes of mass celebration in response to President Obama signing the S. 1067: Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009.

The bill was passed without congressional approval, and allows the US to deploy military forces in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan (at the consent of those nations) in pursuit of LRA rebels. The film further advocates the requirement of public support for US military operations in the region through forms of street activism, encouraging viewers to purchase Action Kits ($30.00) and posters ($10.00) featuring images of Joseph Kony. Russell then targets specific celebrities and US policy makers and pressures them to endorse the campaign against Kony. Perhaps most absurdly, Russell suggests that without mass public support from the American public, the US would withdraw its military presence from the region.

This is the first large-scale campaign to mobilize social medialites to aggregate public support for what would otherwise be, controversial pro-intervention US foreign policy. The production relies on highly charged and often unrelated emotional triggers, which ultimately rely on the viewers sense of compassion in tandem with a lack of prior information on the subject to produce a desired result – explicitly, the villainous mythification of Kony and the mainstream acceptance of US presence in Africa through a proposed archipelago of AFRICOM military bases in the region.

The production targets an age group between thirteen and twenty-one, and uses a level of academic vocabulary appropriate for a young adult audience with a limited attention span; the narrator at one point even insists the viewer pay attention. The viewer is encouraged to form an emotional connection to Russell, as we witness unrelated footage of his child’s birth. The viewer is then subsequently associated with Russell’s role as a nurturer to his young son, before shifting to scenes of Russell nurturing the Ugandan child soldier, Jacob. Russell is shown prophetically pledging to stop the LRA to the traumatized and crying young boy. The intimate portrayal of emotion in these scenes work to further incite an reactionary response from the viewer, towards the preordained conclusion suggested in the narrative – a mass mobilization of support for the US military in their efforts to stop Jacob’s source of trauma. Bernays’ would be beside himself.

KONY 2012 is produced like any other sleek marketing campaign – instead of stimulating elements of self-satisfaction like advertisers would do to promote a product, US military intervention is justified to end an atrocious humanitarian catastrophe. The film also plays on an underlying theme of the White Man’s Burden, a notion that persons of European descent inherit a quality of guilt for their ancestors’ inclination for slavery and colonialism, requiring an activist response to finally correct the situation by “saving Africa.” During the Nigerian civil war in 1967, western media successfully used images of starving children for the first time to strengthen public support for military aid to the secessionist Republic of Biafra before rebel forces were defeated. This film attempts to purportedly “change the conversation of our culture,” however it remains a highly sophisticated refurbishment of pro-military interventionist foreign policy propaganda, dependent on dangerous subliminal messaging.

Furthermore, the film was produced by an organization called Invisible Children, Inc., who have been criticized by the Better Business Bureau for refusing to provide necessary information in the Bureau’s standards assessment. Invisible Children, Inc. has failed to disclose a list of sponsors (beyond the donations of American high school students), and has also earned a low rating in accountability from Charity Navigator because they won’t let their financials be independently audited. In a 2011 financial statement, the organization disclosed that only 31% of all the funds they receive are used for charitable purposes, with the majority allocated toward travel expenses and employee salaries. Invisible Children has also been accused of fraud and voter manipulation in a recent charity contest sponsored by Chase Bank and Facebook. The group’s Co-Founder and President, Laren Poole addressed the International Criminal Court in 2009 alongside Aryeh Neier, President of George Soros’ pro-war Open Society Institute.

Invisible Children has partnered with two other organizations, Resolve and Digitaria, to create the LRA Crisis Tracker, a digital crisis-mapping platform that broadcasts attacks allegedly committed by the LRA. On its list of corporate sponsors, Resolve lists Human Rights Watch and the International Rescue Committee. Digitaria’s website boasts commercial clients such as CBS, FOX, MTV, ESPN, Adidas, NFL, Qualcomm, NBC, National Geographic, Hasbro and Warner Brothers. While KONY 2012 attempts to portray itself as an indigenous activist movement bent on bringing justice to African children, its parent organization is affiliated with the upper echelon of the US corporate media and a network of foundation-funded pro-war civil society groups with a long history of fomenting pro-US regime change under the banner of democratic institution building.

According to Invisible Children’s own LRA Crisis Tracker, not a single case of LRA activity has been reported in Uganda since 2006. The website records ninety eight deaths in the past year, with the vast majority taking place in the northeastern Bangadi region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a tri-border expanse sharing territory with the Central African republic and South Sudan. Since December 2009, the eastern Djemah region of CAR has seen occasional LRA activity; the western Tambura region of South Sudan has experienced even less. The LRA has been in operation for over two decades, and presently remains at an extremely weakened state, with approximately 400 soldiers. Due to the extreme instability in northern DRC after decades of rebel insurgencies and Rwandan/Ugandan military incursions into the nation, it remains highly unlikely that cases of violence in the region can be sufficiently investigated before concluding LRA involvement.

The whereabouts of Joseph Kony are completely unknown; he was last seen in crossing between Sudan and CAR in 2010, according to unverified reports. The US military currently has one hundred military officers training and overseeing the Ugandan military in anti-LRA operations. Due to the complete absence of LRA activity in Uganda, it becomes feasible that the US may be planning further operations in the resource rich DRC. Over six million Congolese nationals have been killed in war since 1996, largely with US complicity. The regimes of Paul Kagame in Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda have both received millions in military aid from the United States. Since the abhorrent failure of the 1993 US intervention in Somalia, the US has relied on the militaries of Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia to carry out US interests in proxy.

Paul Kagame of Rwanda has been given free reign by the US to conduct military operations inside DRC in the on-going ethnic conflict in that region following the 1994 Rwandan genocide. For Ugandan participation in the fight against Somalia’s al Shabaab, Museveni receives $45 million dollars in military aid. The US has contributed enormous sums to these nations and now is beginning to consolidate its presence in the region under Barack Obama and AFRICOM, the United States African Command. The LRA has contributed to less than one hundred unverified deaths in the past twelve months. Considering that the United States completely ignored events in DRC and Rwanda that collectively resulted in nearly seven million deaths, their participation against the ailing Lord’s Resistance Army is completely absurd by comparison.

Through AFRICOM, the United States is seeking a foothold in the incredibly resource rich central African block in a further maneuver to aggregate regional hegemony over China. DRC is one of the world’s largest regions without an effectively functioning government. It contains vast deposits of diamonds, cobalt, copper, uranium, magnesium, and tin while producing over $1 billion in gold each year. It is entirely feasible that the US can considerably increase its presence in DRC under the pretext of capturing Joseph Kony. The US may further mobilize group forces, in addition to the use of predator drones and targeted missile strikes, inevitably killing civilians. In a press conference at the House Armed Services Committee on March 13, 2008, AFRICOM Commander, General William Ward stated that AFRICOM will further its regional presence by “operating under the principle theatre-goal of combating terrorism”.

During an AFRICOM Conference held at Fort McNair on February 18, 2008, Vice AdmiralRobert T. Moeller openly declared AFRICOM’s guiding principle as protecting “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market”, before citing China’s increasing presence in the region as challenging to American interests.The crimes of the Lord’s Resistance Army have been documented in the past and they are truly despicable actions. Presently, the operations of the LRA have nearly dissolved and their presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is difficult to verify. While the pro-war filmmakers behind KONY 2012 naively call for the US military to assert its place in the conflict, an independent fact finding mission would be far more effective in assessing the seriousness of the LRA threat in the present day.

Read Neil Bowie’s articles at