March 6, 2014
Normally, once the government of the United States embarks on a course of sanctions it's almost impossible to remove the sanctions short of complete capitulation by the target. Normally, however, the target is some small, relatively impotent state that the U.S. is happy to slap around until they see things our way. Given that Russia is not at all a typical specimen things just might work out differently. But make no mistake about it: the U.S. is taking an extremely serious step. A major escalation. Expect an unfriendly Russian response, possibly to include the recall of Russia's Ambassador to Washington, the forced deportation (declaring them persona non grata) of a group of U.S. diplomats from Moscow, and various Russian military mobilizations. Ukraine is quickly becoming, as Steve Cohen warned so presciently, the front line of a new Cold War.
March 5, 2014
Recently — indeed, for weeks — I'd been having trouble with distortion in my recordings. The signal from my microphone had developed issues and just wasn't clear enough. Since I'd had two preamplifiers go bad on me I was inclined to suspect my relatively new preamp had in turn gone bad but I thought that to be sure I should trouble-shoot my set-up before taking the drastic step of sending any gear back to the manufacturer for bench testing.
Continue reading "A Short Technical Note"...
Another intercept. Perhaps because it's not of a U.S. official it hasn't yet gotten either the proper amount of attention from the public at large or any comment from western officials. So, allegedly at Maidan it was the same snipers, using the same bullets, who shot both police and activists at the same time. If true, a classic provocation. One wonders, would that have been a home-grown nationalist thug or a paid agent? Nice intercepts, again — I keenly look forward to further installments.
March 1, 2014
The first, of course, was trying to pull a fast one with a "democracy movement" consisting of a mob that included a significant number of nationalist thugs. When things went south the second was not to have a defensive rhetorical position wherein diplomatically we agreed with Russian concerns about said mob and therefore about the problematic political legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government. (Agreeing that the new Ukrainian government should be more inclusive would have been relatively easy.) The third, making ever more strident claims while adding vague threats. Yet to occur but now reasonably predictable, further steps to actualize said threats, thus forcing a showdown with Russia, with Mr. Putin personally, and also, by the way, with many European allies. Unpredictable consequences abound. This is what you get when the chief qualification of those in office, from Mr. Obama through most of his senior national security staff, amounts to scarcely more than having the greatest ambition in the room... There's nobody adult enough in the White House to turn this thing around — they'll just have to learn about reality the hard way.
February 19, 2014
Words matter. So do actions. When U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes says, as he did Wednesday, that "[t]he fact of the matter is we have made very clear to the Ukrainian government that it is their responsibility to allow for people (to) protest," and that "[w]e consistently oppose any of the violence by all sides, but the responsibility is on the government to pull back its riot police, to call a truce and to engage in a meaningful discussion with the opposition about the way forward," then White House words lose all meaningful context except perhaps as a vector of what the administration wishes were reality. To understand just how far such words may ring hollow it is helpful to read (or reread) the CIA's internal history of its 1953 overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.† Where such a complete mismatch exists between official rhetoric about peaceful, non-violent protests and actual, premeditated violence, as is true for Ukraine today, it's only natural to wonder whether American rhetoric may be a smokescreen for agents operating to instigate violence.
Continue reading "Violence and Non-violence"...
February 16, 2014
The National Science Foundation undertakes regular surveys of American adults to assess the nation's general scientific level of knowledge. One result, quite consistent over the years, is that about one quarter of American adults think the sun orbits the earth. Which raises a vexing question: Is it reasonable to suppose that an individual who thinks the sun orbits the earth is capable of making their own political decisions? Or of participating meaningfully in elections? And one wonders, to what extent does this group, fully one quarter of our population, badly skew every other type of polling? Whenever we talk about what "Americans" really want we should keep the NSF results in mind...
February 9, 2014
Victoria Nuland's gaffe is not quite what it seems. NBC, for example, trotted out former Secretary of State Colin Powell to murmer some platitudes about how senior officials should be careful about who might be listening to their phone conversations. The State Department itself called the leaked recording a new low in Russian tradecraft. But all this is preposterous. Of course Victoria Nuland, who has occupied many senior positions at the State Department, knew who was listening to her. What she couldn't imagine was that the Russians might make her conversation public. And of course the Russians don't care whether or not Nuland gets egg on her face. They only want to nudge the State Department into more normal behavior. Let me explain.
Continue reading "A Lovely Intercept"...
February 4, 2014
Here's a reordering of our schedule. This Friday, so I can get it out of my system, my guest is Edward Lucas, a senior editor at The Economist, who last week published a most excellent ebook, The Snowden Operation (99¢ at Amazon). The week following, Friday, February 14th, my guest will be Dr. Nicolai Petro, currently on a Fulbright scholar grant in Odessa, talking about the Ukrainian crisis. The opinions he expresses are his own and not those of the U.S. State Department or the Fulbright Program. But he is right as rain. Then, the show I had previously planned for this week and well worth waiting for, on Friday, February 21st, my guest will be Dr. Bill Bengston, talking about his research on and experience with the energy cure. Another entry from the strange but true — and definitely useful — files. Enjoy!
January 22, 2014
This morning my mom passed away. Yesterday I thought she was dying but she was still breathing through the night. When I checked on her at 3:30 a.m. (I had an intuition that something had happened) she was taking quick shallow breaths. When her health aide arrived at their regular 7:00 a.m. time she was gone. She looked very peaceful and I think she must have passed easily. This afternoon I went to see my dad in the hospital (he's got pneumonia) and he's taken this development well. Tomorrow I'll go to the funeral home to make arrangements for her remains. Then, in a couple months, I'll organize a memorial service. (Since her friends are all fairly elderly it wouldn't do for them to come to a service during a cold winter day and themselves fall ill!) It's the end of an era. At the moment I'm not sure what else I can say. I hope her being — wherever it is and whatever it is — is happy.
January 19, 2014
Sorry to disappoint by not putting enough time into EP. It's been difficult, recently, and having a respiratory illness has just about been catastrophic.
So some weeks ago I got sick. I wasn't taking enough time for myself — more below — and when I got sick I didn't slow down. Eventually, the week before last, Sharon took three days off work to help with shopping, errands, cooking, etc., etc. That was a huge help, but then she got sick with the same thing. And I haven't been able to take care of her.
Meanwhile, my dad, 90, for whom I run a lot of errands, also got sick. Two Saturdays ago I wanted him to go to the hospital but, no, he wanted his doctor to decide what to do. Last Monday he got a prescription for antibiotics from his doctor's office, by phone, but without talking directly to the doctor. My dad's lungs were wheezing away and he sounded really bad but still he didn't want to go to the hospital. By Wednesday morning he'd changed his mind, on account of not being able to breath. Once at the hospital they diagnosed him with an especially savage case of pneumonia, life-threatening. I think at this point he's probably out of the woods but I kick myself for not insisting he go to the hospital when I first thought he should. My excuse is I was sick and not thinking clearly.
Continue reading "A Rough Patch"...
December 18, 2013
Our new podcast season starts on Friday, January 3d — Yay! My first guest will be Dr. Patrice Mangin, one of the world's top forensic pathologists. He led the Swiss team that recently released an autopsy report [.pdf] on Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Their results "moderately support the proposition" that Arafat was given a lethal dose of Polonium-210. So, a high profile political assassination for which there may never be conclusive proof. The Friday following, January 10th, my guest — his second appearance on the show — will be Dr. Jim B. Tucker, talking about his latest book, Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives (St. Martin's, December 2013). Another case of strong evidence but no proof. And the Friday after that, January 17th, my guest will be Dr. Margaret Flowers, a progressive activist who explains why the Affordable Care Act is anything but, why it won't work, and why we must continue to move towards a sensible, single-payer health care system. After that, we'll see. I've got a few ideas bouncing around inside my head...
November 21, 2013
By Richard Greener
America owes the filibuster to Aaron Burr. Yes, that Aaron Burr! Were there no other reason to end this procedural folly, its initiator should be reason enough. In addition to his more clearly recalled public activities, Burr did serve as a Senator from New York in the 1790s. It was Sen. Burr's procedural suggestion, not formally adopted until a year after his death in 1805, that allowed for the production that is a filibuster. For more than a century afterward there was no way to stop one should a filibuster take over and bring all Senate proceedings to a halt. In 1917 Rule 22 was instituted establishing a vote that could end a filibuster and restore normality to the Senate. Rule 22 has been modified since, most recently just now.
Continue reading "The Filibuster: From Aaron Burr to Harry Reid"...
It puzzles me. Here I am, 57 years old, a former diplomat, I've been eating chocolate most of my life, I love chocolate, I know what good chocolate tastes like, yet I have trouble finding any chocolate that I genuinely enjoy. I'm surrounded, it seems, by insidious commercial chocolate, none of it tasty. I've tried, for example, just about every chocolate offered by my local Whole Foods, many of them organic, some very expensive, but most downright awful. So when the store recently put a new product offering on the shelves it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I bought an Ocho organic coconut bar — indeed, more, perhaps, in the spirit of experimental research than anything else. But, of course, hope also springs eternal! Long story short, I was completely smitten at the first bite. This is a marvelous confection, everything that you'd always wanted a Mounds bar to be; perhaps even what many people (wrongly) remember a Mounds bar to have been once upon a time. Rich, chewy, coconut tasting coconut — real coconut, and organic, too — coated with just the right amount of super premium dark chocolate, and just the right size for a satisfying snack. It's far and away the best coconut bar I've ever had and one of the top ten chocolate bars of any kind I've ever had.
Continue reading "The Perfect Chocolate Bar"...
November 8, 2013
A couple of Belgian orthopedic surgeons have (re)discovered an unknown knee ligament. The mainstream news is treating their finding as an oddity, amusing but only potentially important if there turn out to be practical implications when performing knee surgery. That narrative does make a certain amount of sense. But what's not being considered in the news — a really fascinating thing — is how the ligament (a big honking thing) could have remained invisible for the roughly hundred and fifty years since a Parisian surgeon first described it. Consider what had to have happened. How many hundreds of thousands of medical students went into their anatomy classes and during dissection exercises noticed this tissue around the knee, but when they couldn't find it mentioned in their texts promptly forgot about it? How many professors of medicine never paid attention to what their eyes told them? 'Gee whiz,' they all assumed, 'any structure that large must have been well documented ages ago,' so they all, students and professors alike, concluded it wasn't possible that they were seeing what they were seeing. Such universal acculturated blindness is truly mind-boggling. What it should remind us of is that in many other areas of life the things that everybody accepts as being true, or complete, may not be. Nor are these experiences mere oddities: collectively we overlook massive (and obvious) things, even critically important things, all too often.
November 7, 2013
First of all, I'm not fond of the name Twitter and I absolutely recoil at the word tweet. But having said that, I'm finding — despite my increasingly old-fogeyish traits — that Twitter is indeed an extremely useful social technology. It's taken me long enough! Back in 2007 when Twitter was just getting started several EP listeners vigorously urged me to set up an account. One listener set up an account for me (now defunct) and another (I have no idea who) set up an account that's been regularly tweeting about the current week's podcast. Well, OK, I don't need to know. Anyhow, belatedly, and probably due to today's IPO, over the past few weeks I decided to take a closer look and — what a shock! — I quickly realized that Twitter is highly efficient both for collecting or browsing quality curated material and also for researching the background of potential EP Podcast guests. Naturally, of course, it can also be sort of a distraction but that can be fun. Long story short, I'm entering the Twitterverse. To follow yours truly please see the new button on the left.
November 3, 2013
Early this morning I added another 30 Gigabytes of storage to the EP site. An entirely successful effort. A few glitches here and there and the site still has some software problems to deal with behind the scenes, but everything in terms of your site usability is working more or less normally as it should. The next thing will be to update our Movable Type installation to the latest version, which I'll get done fairly soon. And that, btw, should make the commenting process much easier. Whew!
October 30, 2013
With this Friday's podcast I'll be taking some time off. Frankly, I'm exhausted. I need to sleep for a couple weeks straight. Then the holidays are always very busy. Long story short, I need and deserve a break! Also I need to strategize, e.g., I need time to think.
Three things: First, the final phase of the Annual Podcast Awards starts on Friday. In this phase listeners can vote once per day for fifteen days. If every EP listener did that we might have an outside chance of winning our category but, to be realistic, I know we're not highly demonstrative. Besides, the number of EP listeners is, in some cases, more than a thousand times smaller than the audience of other shows in the running. I'll vote for EP every day that I can remember to do it and you should feel free to vote too but, please, don't knock yourself out. Second, the show this Friday is a bit of a departure in that it's a short monologue. I've been wanting to do monologues for years but have never been able to figure out how to fit the format into my workflow. So ending the season this way gives me a goal of sorts. And, third, I'll be upgrading the storage capacity at EP sometime in the next week, probably in the early morning on Sunday. It's a necessary upgrade because we're hitting our current storage limit of 30 Gigabytes. I'm implementing the upgrade myself. (It used to be BlueHost tech support would do this sort of maintenance for a paid, new service, but those days are long gone ever since BlueHost, though a series of buyers, ended up in the hands of some investment bankers.) If all goes well the site will be down for about half an hour. If I make a mistake it may take longer...
I'll continue blogging sporadically through New Year's — our new season should begin on Friday, January 3d 2014. All best! g.
Here are two YouTube videos of my recent RT television appearances. The one above, where I appear several times in the course of a 25 minute documentary which aired Monday, October 14th, and a short clip, which aired Monday October 28th. I hasten to add that I am entirely independent from the RT television editorial line: there are lots of areas where we disagree. And I tell them so. But that doesn't seem to bother either of us. Enjoy!
March 7, 2014
Debt slavery: just a scary metaphor, or something real that's gradually capturing us? Can a political system so highly leveraged through personal debt really function? What's the long term narrative arc here? To talk about debt and what kinds of things people might do — and are doing — to refuse payment on unfair debt I turned to Dr. Andrew Ross, author most recently of Creditocracy (OR Books, 2014). These are broadly cross-cutting, critical issues. Andrew's one of the good guys. Total runtime forty four minutes. Male parta, male dīlābuntur.
February 28, 2014
Belief is not really an option. You're going to believe there's some higher power, some greater spiritual meaning to existence, some kind of being in transcendence, or you're going to believe there's not. (Agnostics believe that a person is able to not believe, which is slightly embarrassing.) Whichever path you take, however, you won't be able to prove how reality works. The difference is that having Faith with a capital "F" moves mountains. Unfortunately for us, people often have Faith in extremely harmful inspirations... So here's a short, impressionist meditation on the need for a new, modern Faith — or at least a Faith in Faith — among those preponderantly attached to a liberal, humanistic philosophy. Total runtime eight minutes. Rēligiō locī.
February 24, 2014
One feels frighteningly disoriented, hearing an American president support deadly mob violence for what is, essentially, counter-revolutionary change (in the form of IMF austerity). The president's message may be directed at unknown people far away but the effects are certain to be felt here, possibly for generations, as the bindings of what relative peace we have come undone. I was extremely fortunate to be able to talk with Dr. Stephen F. Cohen about the crisis in Ukraine. He's in a tiny minority willing to discuss what's really happening. This is an unscheduled podcast on breaking news. [Audio file reposted at The Nation, here.] Total runtime forty eight minutes. Vae victīs.
February 21, 2014
It's difficult to say which is more astonishing: that it's possible to cure a fatal illness by opening energy gates with mental concentration, or that mainstream medical science has so blinkered itself that it refuses to examine the data. But data there is, in abundance, from an academic who in every other way is entirely reputable. Dr. William F. Bengston, author of The Energy Cure, has been doing anomalous scientific research for decades and has produced revolutionary, consistently replicable results. He's also very honest in saying that he can't explain why his methods work. It's something of a mystery, and a challenge. Thanks, Bill! Total runtime forty minutes. Dulce est dēsipere in locō.
February 14, 2014
Ukraine is split culturally and politically between East and West, but not in such a way that either side clearly could dominate the other. Forcing choices on Ukraine (as the EU and the U.S. sporadically seem to want to do) only exacerbates the tension. But given recent events, tensions breaking out into a civil war is not at all unthinkable. To me this is vaguely reminiscent of the circumstances surrounding the former Yugoslavia before its unhappy dismemberment. To talk about Ukraine I turned to Dr. Nicolai Petro, currently on a Fulbright grant in Odessa. Thanks, Nicolai, for your professional judgment! Total runtime fifty one minutes. Vōx clāmantis in dēserto.
February 7, 2014
At the moment I'm odd man out on the left. I see Snowden not as a hero but as a criminal. I agree with Edward Lucas, senior editor at The Economist, who says Snowden may well be an unwitting agent of Russian intelligence, and that that would be the most favorable possible interpretation of his actions. Snowden, indeed, has been laying his doubletalk not only on the U.S. government but on the public. His story, to be blunt, does not add up. For details you really should read — with an open mind — Edward Lucas' just published ebook, The Snowden Operation: Inside the West's Greatest Intelligence Disaster (99¢ at Amazon). With thirty years journalistic experience, including coverage of espionage, cyber-security, and Russian foreign and security policy, Edward Lucas is a sensible soul. Total runtime thirty minutes. Satis ēloquentiae, sapientiae parum.
January 31, 2014
Straightforward classical logic obviously doesn't entirely capture human decision making. Yet it often seems as if something logical exists in our illogic. Wonderful fodder for the arts! Now it turns out, amazingly enough, that human illogic, from a perspective of quantum probability, sometimes may not be so illogical at all. And in certain categories of cases quantum probability provides much more robust predictive power regarding judgment than we can obtain from classical reasoning. Quantum analysis applied to cognition is a brand new field. A very small number of psychologists are doing the work so I feel rather lucky that I was able to talk with Dr. Emmanuel Pothos, a leading theoretician. Sub speciē aeternitātis.
January 24, 2014
You can't race a four-in-hand at the Daytona Speedway. Nor can you expect James Madison's Fourth Amendment to provide useful guidance about modern intelligence collection. That's just a disconnect. The reality is we do not have a Stasi state and, if we did, it seems to me that intelligence collection would be the least of our worries. Moreover, Edward Snowden's release of vast secret archives is self-evidently incommensurate with his declared aims. Real damage has been done for very little apparent gain. That's my two cents but, to get a reality check, I turned to Sir David Omand, until recently one of the world's leading secret intelligence practitioners. An extraordinarily thoughtful man. Total runtime forty four minutes. Praemonitus, praemūnītus.
January 17, 2014
A signature failure of American government, our health care system is a world-class disgrace. Instead of its purpose being the public good it mainly serves predatory market forces. And the fact is, the so-called "Affordable Care Act," aka "Obamacare," doesn't bring necessary, fundamental changes. To talk about the ACA, the alternatives, and how to get them, I turned to the progressive activist Dr. Margaret Flowers. Thanks, Margaret, for your great work! Total runtime fifty minutes. Nōn est vīvere sed valēre vīta est.
January 10, 2014
You don't have to travel to South Asia to find people with reincarnation experiences. It happens here, too, and occasionally an American child will remember extraordinary details about their past life. About how they were a pilot, for example, or a golf pro. In a few of these cases the extraordinary details check out. How to explain it? Dr. Jim B. Tucker, Bonner-Lowry Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia, has been studying the phenomenon for years. His latest book, Return to Life (St. Martin's Press, December 2013), will give you the shivers! It's definitely a strange world out there... Total runtime forty three minutes. Mortuī nōn mordent.
January 3, 2014
In November 2012 three teams, French, Swiss, and Russian, exhumed Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to try to determine his cause of death. Independently, they took samples from his body, mausoleum, and surroundings. The French and the Russians concluded that he died of natural causes. The Swiss, however, say their analyses "moderately support the proposition" that Arafat was poisoned with a lethal dose of Polonium-210 (in November 2013 they released a comprehensive technical report). Given their meticulously assembled evidence the Swiss conclusion seems worded, perhaps, with an overabundance of caution. Nevertheless, they may well be right in that we'll never know for certain what happened. To get a better sense of the Swiss perspective I turned to their lead author, Dr. Patrice Mangin, one of the world's top forensic pathologists. Total runtime twenty seven minutes. Occultae inimīcitiae magis timendae sunt quam apertae.
November 1, 2013
Color me skeptical but I don't see how a technocratic "third way" can be a sustainable political strategy. Instead — and perhaps I'm being too hard on the Democratic party here — all it really demonstrates is a failure of imagination. When ordinary people decide political questions they want more than merely logical policy arguments. They want to feel like they're doing the right thing. Yet when it comes to politics our language of moral choice has become chronically impoverished. Why is that, I wonder? ...Here's what I think, in about five minutes. Sapere audē.