Category Archives: Morality

They Were Ordered to Shoot… by Bill Bonner

Does “Just following orders” excuse criminality? From Bill Bonner at bonnerandpartners.com:

“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” is a line from Jesus of Nazareth.

Typically clever, and almost evasive, it left open the mischievous question – “What is Caesar’s?” – for roughly 2,000 years.

Moral philosophers had been bedeviled for even longer: If you want to do the right thing, can you just obey the authorities… or do you have to figure it out for yourself?

Finally, last week, like Moses coming down from Mount Sinai, legal and biblical scholar, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who previously distinguished himself by sponsoring a bill to name September 2016 as “National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month” – handed down the answer.

More on that shortly. But first…

Dry Spell

The Dow was down again yesterday… but only slightly. That makes it the seventh straight day of losses for the index, the worst losing streak in over a year [more in today’s Market Insight].

Where it will go from here, no one knows. But there are good reasons to think that the “top is in.” If so, we’re in for a long dry spell.

If we’re right, U.S. stocks will “underperform” for many years. Readers are advised not to expect to get rich in the stock market, unless they are very lucky or well-advised. Las Vegas is likely to be more rewarding than Wall Street.

We’ll leave it to the technicians and cycle-watchers to make their own case. Here at the Diary, we focus on fundamentals.

Obviously, U.S. finances are worsening. Government deficits are increasing, just as the Fed is putting up interest rates. This is bound to lead to trouble.

But the bigger, or more insidious, problem is Caesar himself; he seems to want more and more things rendered unto him. And our observation is that the more Caesar gets, the less is left for everyone else.

To continue reading: They Were Ordered to Shoot…

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He Said That? 6/20/18

From Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007), American writer:

Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?

Mattis: Putin Is Trying To “Undermine America’s Moral Authority”, by Caitlin Johnstone

The US is running low on moral authority; there’s not much for Putin or anyone else to undermine. From Caitlin Johnstone at caitlinjohnstone.com:

At a graduation ceremony for the US Naval War College (barf), US Secretary of Defense James Mattis asserted that Russian President Vladimir Putin “aims to diminish the appeal of the western democratic model and attempts to undermine America’s moral authority,” and that “his actions are designed not to challenge our arms at this point but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals.”

This would be the same James Mattis who’s been overseeing the war crimes committed by America’s armed forces during their illegal occupation of Syria. This would be the same United States of America that was born of the genocide of indigenous tribes and the labor of African slaves, which slaughtered millions in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Libya and Syria for no legitimate reason, which is partnered with Ukrainian Nazis, jihadist factions in Syria and Iranian terror cultists, which supports 73 percent of the world’s dictators, which interferes constantly in the electoral processes of other countries as a matter of policy, which stages coups around the world, which has encircled the globe with military bases, whose FBI still targets black civil rights activists for persecution to this very day, which routinely enters into undeclared wars of aggression against noncompliant governments to advance plutocratic interests, which remains the only country ever to use nuclear weapons on human beings after doing so completely needlessly in Japan, and which is functionally a corporatist oligarchy with no meaningful “democratic model” in place at all.

A casual glance at facts and history makes it instantly clear that the United States has no “moral authority” of any kind whatsoever, and is arguably the hub of the most pernicious and dangerous force ever assembled in human history. But the establishment Russia narrative really is that cartoonishly ridiculous: you really do have to believe that the US government is 100 percent pure good and the Russian government is 100 percent pure evil to prevent the whole narrative from falling to pieces. If you accept the idea that the exchange is anything close to 50/50, with Russia giving back more or less what it’s getting and simply protecting its own interests from the interests of geopolitical rivals, it no longer makes any sense to view Putin as a leader who poses a unique threat to the world. If you accept the idea that the west is actually being far more aggressive and antagonistic toward Russia than Russia is being toward the west, it gets even more laughable.

To continue reading: Mattis: Putin Is Trying To “Undermine America’s Moral Authority”

Optimism, by Caitlin Johnstone

Pessimists are not the ones who move the world. From Caitlin Johnstone at steemit.com:

Off the top of my head I have a hard time thinking of anything sleazier than smearing peace talks in order to gain partisan political points, but that has indeed been the theme of the last few days when it comes to the Singapore summit. Liberal pundits everywhere have been busily circulating the narrative that Kim Jong-Un “played” Trump by getting him to temporarily halt military drills in exchange for suspended nuclear testing. It was the most fundamental beginning of peace negotiations and a slight deescalation in tensions on the Korean Peninsula, but the way they talk about it you’d think Kim had taken off from Singapore in Air Force One with the keys to Fort Knox and Melania on his lap.

I’m not sure how far up the military-industrial complex’s ass one’s head needs to be to think that one single step toward peace is a gigantic take-all-the-chips win for the impoverished North Korea, but many of Trump’s political enemies are taking it even further.

Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to make it more difficult for Trump to withdraw US troops from South Korea, because while you can always count on Capitol Hill to make it incredibly easy for a president to deploy military personnel around the globe, giving that same office the power to bring troops home is a completely different matter.

Surprising no one, MSNBC’s cartoon children’s program The Rachel Maddow Show took home the trophy for jaw-dropping, shark-jumping ridiculousness with an eighteen-minute Alex Jones impression claiming that the chief architect of the Korean negotiations was none other than (and if you can’t guess whose name I’m going to write once we get out of these parentheses I deeply envy your ignorance on this matter) Vladimir Putin.

To continue reading: Optimism

Caging Children, Separating Families: Has the War on Immigration Gone Too Far? by John W. Whitehead

To answer John Whitehead’s question, yes the war on immigration has gone too far. From Whitehead at rutherford.org:

“Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.” ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand.

This is one of those moments.

There are some acts so wrong-headed, so immoral, and so inhumane that they simply cannot be defended on any grounds.

Be warned: the White House’s new “zero tolerance policy” for separating undocumented parents from their children at the border as a way of discouraging illegal immigration is pushing us into dangerous territory morally and otherwise.

Dragging young children kicking and crying and screaming from their parents, separating those children from their parents indefinitely, locking those children up in cages (“dog kennels”) like animals, and subjecting them to the predators of the American police state: these are acts that no decent people should tolerate from their government.

In McAllen, Texas, undocumented migrant children are being held in cages made out of wire and net. These children are sleeping on concrete floors with thin foil “space blankets” for a mattress.

In Brownsville, Texas, reportedly more than 1,000 children who have been separated from their parents are being held in a former Walmart facility with blacked-out windows that has been transformed into a detention center and is being run by a government contractor.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal got a chance to speak briefly with some of the migrant women being held at a federal detention facility near Seattle who had been forcibly separated from their children. Jayapal recounts:

Thirty to 40 percent of these women came with children who had been forcibly taken away from them. None got a chance to say goodbye to their children—they were forcibly taken away. One said she was deceived, because they were in detention together. Then the CBP officers told her she was going out to get her photograph taken. When she came back, she was put in a different room, and she never got to see the child again. Some of them said they could hear their children screaming for them in the next room. The children ranged anywhere from one to teenagers.

To continue reading: Caging Children, Separating Families: Has the War on Immigration Gone Too Far?

 

Twelve Tips For Making Sense Of The World, by Caitlin Johnstone

These tips will stand you in pretty good stead. From Caitlin Johnstone at medium.com:

In an environment that is saturated with mass media propaganda, it can be hard to figure out which way’s up, let alone get an accurate read on what’s going on in the world. Here are a few tips I’ve learned which have given me a lot of clarity in seeing through the haze of spin and confusion. Taken separately they don’t tell you a lot, but taken together they paint a very useful picture of the world and why it is the way it is.

1. It’s always ultimately about acquiring power.

In the quest to understand why governments move in such irrational ways, why expensive, senseless wars are fought while homeless people die of exposure on the streets, why millionaires and billionaires get richer and richer while everyone else struggles to pay rent, why we destroy the ecosystem we depend on for our survival, why one elected official tends to advance more or less the same harmful policies and agendas as his or her predecessor, people often come up with explanations which don’t really hold water.

The most common of these is probably the notion that all of these problems are due to the malignant influence of one of two mainstream political parties, and if the other party could just get in control of the situation all the problems would go away. Other explanations include the belief that humans are just intrinsically awful, blaming minorities like Jews or immigrants, blaming racism and white supremacy, or going all the way down wild and twisted rabbit holes into theories about reptilian secret societies and baby-eating pedophile cabals. But really all of mankind’s irrational behavior can be explained by the basic human impulse to amass power and influence over one’s fellow humans, combined with the fact that sociopaths tend to rise to positions of power.

Our evolutionary ancestors were pack animals, and the ability to rise in social standing in one’s pack determined crucial matters like whether one got first or last dibs on food or got to reproduce. This impulse to rise in our pack is hardwired deeply into our evolutionary heritage, but when left unchecked due to a lack of empathy, and when expanded into the globe-spanning 7.6 billion human pack we now find ourselves in due to ease of transportation and communication, it can lead to individuals who will keep amassing more and more power until they wield immense influence over entire clusters of nations.

To continue reading: Twelve Tips For Making Sense Of The World

He Said That? 6/5/18

From William Shakespeare (1564–1616), English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as both the greatest writer in the English language, and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist, The Merchant of Venice (1599):

So may the outward shows be least themselves:
The world is still deceived with ornament.
In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,
But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,
Obscures the show of evil? In religion,
What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?
There is no vice so simple but assumes
Some mark of virtue on his outward parts.