Category Archives: Morality

He Said That? 4/24/17

From  Noël Coward (1899–1973), English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, Blithe Spirit (1941):

It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.


Alan Greenspan, Sellout, by David Gordon

Alan Greenspan offered his belief in and advocacy for free markets and laissez-faire in exchange for power, fame, and fortune, and the devil came through. From David Gordon at

Sebastian Mallaby is the Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economic Relations at the Council on Foreign Relations. One can be sure, then, that his new comprehensive book, The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan, reflects an Establishment point of view. As if this were not enough to tell us where the book is coming from, Mallaby informs us that he had Greenspan’s full cooperation in writing it. “This book is based on almost unlimited access to Alan Greenspan, his papers, and his colleagues and friends, all of whom were generous in their collaboration.

Though the book is hardly a panegyric to Greenspan, Mallaby views his subject with considerable favor. Nevertheless, the book contains ample material for a more severe verdict: Greenspan abandoned the free market convictions he effectively defended early in his career as an economist. To uphold economic truth was not the path to the power and influence Greenspan sought; and he readily adjusted his beliefs to fit with his ambitions.

Greenspan attached himself to Ayn Rand’s inner band of disciples; but his adherence to free-market economics did not stem from his alliance with Objectivism. Greenspan learned economic theory from Arthur Burns at Columbia University. For Greenspan, like his mentor Burns, statistics had primary importance: economic theory emerged from discerning patterns in the data and was strictly subordinate to its empirical sources. “Burns was the chief heir to Wesley Mitchell’s empiricist tradition, and his influence restrained any enthusiasm that Greenspan might have felt for the new trends that had begun to stir in economics. … Even the cleverest econometric calculation was limited because yesterday’s statistical relationships might break down tomorrow; by contrast, finer measures of what the economy is doing are more than just estimates — they are facts.”

To continue reading: Alan Greenspan, Sellout

He Said That/ 4/16/17

― David Graeber (born 1961), London-based anthropologist and anarchist activist, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004):

If you have the power to hit people over the head whenever you want, you don’t have to trouble yourself too much figuring out what they think is going on, and therefore, generally speaking, you don’t. Hence the sure-fire way to simplify social arrangements, to ignore the incredibly complex play of perspectives, passions, insights, desires, and mutual understandings that human life is really made of, is to make a rule and threaten to attack anyone who breaks it. This is why violence has always been the favored recourse of the stupid: it is the one form of stupidity to which it is almost impossible to come up with an intelligent response. It is also of course the basis of the state.”

A Government of Morons, by Paul Craig Roberts

No arguing with the title, and here is a particularly atrabilious rant from Paul Craig Roberts at

It has become embarrassing to be an American. Our country has had four war criminal presidents in succession. Clinton twice launched military attacks on Serbia, ordering NATO to bomb the former Yugoslavia twice, both in 1995 and in 1999, so that gives Bill two war crimes. George W. Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and attacked provinces of Pakistan and Yemen from the air. That comes to four war crimes for Bush. Obama used NATO to destroy Libya and sent mercenaries to destroy Syria, thereby commiting two war crimes. Trump attacked Syria with US forces, thereby becoming a war criminal early in his regime.

To the extent that the UN participated in these war crimes along with Washington’s European, Canadian and Australian vassals, all are guilty of war crimes. Perhaps the UN itself should be arraigned before the War Crimes Tribunal along with the EU, US, Australia and Canada.

Quite a record. Western Civilization, if civilization it is, is the greatest committer of war crimes in human history.

And there are other crimes—Somalia, and Obama’s coups against Honduras and Ukraine and Washington’s ongoing attempts to overthrow the governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Washington wants to overthrow Ecuador in order to grab and torture Julian Assange, the world’s leading democrat.

These war crimes committed by four US presidents caused millions of civilian deaths and injuries and dispossessed and dislocated millions of peoples, who have now arrived as refugees in Europe, UK, US, Canada, and Australia, bringing their problems with them, some of which become problerms for Europeans, such as gang rapes.

What is the reason for all the death and destruction and the flooding of the West with refugees from the West’s naked violence? We don’t know. We are told lies: Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” which the US government knew for an absolute fact did not exist. “Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” an obvious, blatant lie. “Iranian nukes,” another blatant lie. The lies about Gaddafi in Libya are so absurd that it is pointless to repeat them.

To continue reading: A Government of Morons

No Need to Ask, by Robert Gore

People trade their self-respect for trifles.

He then bespattered the youth with abundance of that language which passes between country gentleman who embrace opposite sides of the question; with frequent applications to him to salute that part which is generally introduced into all controversies that arise among the lower orders of the English gentry at horse-races, cock-matches, and other public places. Allusions to this part are likewise often made for the sake of jest. And here, I believe, the wit is generally misunderstood. In reality, it lies in desiring another to kiss your a– for having just before threatened to kick his; for I have observed very accurately, that no one ever desires you to kick that which belongs to himself, nor offers to kiss this part in another.

It may likewise seem surprizing that in the many thousand kind invitations of this sort, which every one who hath conversed with country gentlemen must have heard, no one, I believe, hath ever seen a single instance where the desire hath been complied with; – a great instance of their want of politeness; for in town nothing can be more common than for the finest gentlemen to perform this ceremony every day to their superiors, without having that favour once requested of them.

Henry Fielding, A History of Tom Jones (1749)

Ass-kissing (A-K) is, as Henry Fielding noted, a paradoxical social phenomenon. Among those who request it, the requested never comply; A-K occurs only when the request is not made. One paradox Fielding didn’t mention: the more prevalent it becomes, the less anyone notices or remarks about it. Indeed, in our age even the most jaded and cynical, who dismiss all apparent virtue as hypocritical or false, who ascribe everything to the brutal machinations of venality, money, and power, seldom mention butt-bussing, although a distasteful but necessary examination reveals it as a powerful explanatory force.

Why are so many “luminaries” such obvious mediocrities? How does incompetence spread its leprous grasp? Why is so much obviously trite, second-rate, or just plain awful cultural fare not just tolerated, but hailed as brilliant, transgressive, and transformational? How can universities promulgate nonsense that leaves graduates stupider than before they matriculated? Why does the faintest of commendatory words—“nice,” “cute,” and “like”—dominate media, online, and verbal discourse, while we no longer hear terms like “admire” and “respect”? No answers are possible without examining the dynamics of sucking up.

Within the human psyche, two fundamental impulses war: to be liked, accepted, and fit in, or to be independent and stand alone. For the first to win, one only has to allow one’s emotions free rein. Being liked is usually pleasant, so that desire is the path of least emotional resistance. Independence requires a conscious decision and unwavering commitment, because it can lead to ostracism and hatred. The steadfastly independent guide their actions by principles, not random emotional impulse. If you know on which side of this dividing line a person falls, you know the single most important aspect of that individual’s personality and character.

For most people acceptance is more important than principle. Under enough social pressure, they’ll jettison whatever they’ve claimed to uphold. Government always rests on its coercive ability, but at least as potent a source of its power is the pervasive fear of independence and standing out. Many people would accept the state’s dictates and venerate it even if the gun was not figuratively or literally pointed at their heads. If A-K is your proficiency, you welcome a system in which economic, social, and political rewards are doled out by one’s conformity to the herd and obsequiousness to those doing the doling.

Politics is institutionalized A-K, which makes Washington the A-K capital of the world. An entire occupation, lobbying, is devoted to sucking up. This oleaginous trade solicits money from its clients to solicit favors from the government. (Any time you see the word “solicit” assume sucking up is somewhere involved.) Unlike that those bad old free markets where individuals trade value—goods, services, labor, credit, money, etc—for value, government trades goodwill, favors, influence, sex, etc. for power, payola, and prestige. As it expands, more and more of what transpires is governed by A-K, less and less by value for value, which puts the value creators at a disadvantage to the suck-ups. In the perfect world of the latter, the former would be completely at their mercy, abandoning their integrity, productive ability, talent, skill, and other virtues as they descend into supine suck-uptitude.

It is impossible to have your lips planted on someone else’s buttock, especially someone you deep-down despise, and not loathe yourself. Loathing themselves, butt-bussers cannot admire virtue in those who have it. It’s secretly hated and either publicly disparaged or denied. As A-K spreads like a noxious cloud from Washington out over the land, recognition and appreciation of virtue disappear, replaced by formulaic deference to socially and politically correct bromides and the faux virtues implied by those bromides.

In self-serving advertisements corporations signal their fealty to the approved causes of the moment. Campuses have become bromide bastions. Social media descend a step further. There’s nothing even faux virtuous about pictures of kittens and the like, but those who post them garner electronic affirmations that are worth less than the minimal effort—touching a screen or clicking a mouse—necessary to produce them. It’s a form of signaling: I’m safe and will give the crowd what it wants.

In order to ascend to the rarefied world of the enlightened elite, you are required to affirm membership with insipid and inane identifying incantations. You must be “awestruck” at the brilliance of obvious idiots and their ideas; “moved to tears” by ugly art, discordant music, unreadable novels, and tedious movies and theatre; fake laugh at the correct comics; cite approvingly propaganda masquerading as serious journalism, and praise the statesmanship of criminals. The elite unfortunately set the agenda for what the rest of the populace reads, views, and hears. The incantations are the elite’s public entrance exam; who knows what’s required privately. It’s undoubtedly unwholesome and disgusting, entangling its members in a vast, inescapable web: everyone kissing everyone else’s ass all at the same time.

The prevalence of A-K may elicit despair among those with no use for it, the few who would like to make their way based on their ambition, talent, skill, hard work and independent integrity. They have one grim consolation. The last several decades, as everybody was kissing everybody else’s ass, the world went to hell. Reality doesn’t kiss asses; it often kicks them. The A-K legions have ignored realities that might unpleasantly brook the approved narratives; realities that will not forever ignore them. Nothing is more certain: the world has an imminent rendezvous with a plethora of ass-kicking realities. The world is not completely devoid of justice.

a kick-ass satire



The Appalachian Messenger, 4/7/17

This week’s Appalachian Messenger.

The Phoenix Template, Part Two, by Robert Gore

The Phoenix comes home to roost.

Click for Part One

Intelligence agency is a misnomer, whether one defines intelligence as an ability to gather and analyze information, or as an ability to determine the salient and what it portends. Foreign CIA outposts are often stocked with so-called experts who don’t know the native language. They read translated documents and media reports, but the outposts are insular and agents miss on-the-ground intelligence and sentiment they would pick up talking with natives at a neighborhood bar. The locals they do talk to are often English-speaking collaborators with CIA-approved agendas, funded by US government and US-backed nongovernmental organizations. They tell the agency what it wants to hear. The CIA sees itself as a master manipulator, but it is often more manipulated than manipulating.

Intelligence whiffs are legendary. Individual members of the intelligence community and military undoubtedly realized that most Vietnamese saw the US as the latest in a long string of hated imperial powers, but that truism was never officially embraced. If it had been, history might have been dramatically different. In 1956, US puppet Ngo Dinh Diem reneged on a promise to conduct elections that would have reunified Vietnam. He almost certainly would have lost to national hero Ho Chi Minh. From that point on, the US was seen as just another subjugating power. That single fact doomed the US effort from the beginning, but it was rarely, if ever, mentioned in the voluminous intelligence and military reports, even ones that talked about winning “hearts and minds.” (A bizarre tenet of US government groupthink: foreigners have no memories. Thus, what was done in 1956 was supposedly forgotten by 1957. See also the history of Iran since 1953. The intelligence community never saw the 1979 revolution coming.)




The biggest whiff was the dissolution of the USSR, which caught the military and the intelligence community by surprise. Some of this was denial rooted in self-interest. The end of the USSR meant the end of a threat responsible for billions in funding and thousands of well-paying jobs. It was also rooted in ideology. Although the US has a private sector, the government calls the shots and military and intelligence play significant, usually decisive, roles, just as they did in the USSR. The death of the Soviet Union’s command-and-control rule by the elite was a shot across the bow of its US counterpart. Finally, much of the military and intelligence community’s morally reprehensible tactics and actions had been justified as a response to Soviet depredations, always asserted to be even worse. Now another specious justification for evil had to be found.

And so it was, on September 11, 2001. Never underestimate the power of the government’s propagandists and their partners in the media. With the endlessly repeated videos of the twin towers collapsing, a few thousand Islamic extremists living in Afghanistan’s caves were transmuted into a threat on par with the old Soviet Union and “global communism.” The Afghanistan and Iraq invasions clearly confirmed, for anyone paying attention, what had been the reality of intelligence since Phoenix. Official intelligence had less to do with the gathering, analysis, and interpretation of information than the continued accretion of money and power to the intelligence agencies, military, and their contractors—the complex.

That intelligence whiffed completely on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was irrelevant. What was important was expansion of the complex and its global domination. By jingoistic “Yay! Yay! USA!” markers of success—instituting democracy and self-rule, protecting innocent civilians, squelching terrorism, and promoting peace—the US’s forays into the Middle East and Northern Africa have been abysmal failures. By the expansion and domination metrics, they have been spectacular successes. Foreign war is no longer about winning and leaving, the antiquated standards of the two world wars, but rather subjugating the locals, establishing garrisons, and installing US-compliant governments. In this light, the failure of Vietnam was not that US ally South Vietnam eventually fell to North Vietnam, but that domestic pressures forced the complex to abandon a quagmire they would have preferred to perpetuate in perpetuity.

Steps have been take to “correct” those domestic pressures. The press has never again been allowed the largely free reign it had in Vietnam; interventionist information flow is tightly controlled by the complex. The draft, a particular irritant of the antiwar crowd, has been suspended (but not abolished, it can be reinstated at any time). Most importantly, the Phoenix program as been trained on the US itself, with the same intended results: subjugation of the populace; maintenance of a front government compliant to the complex; continuing expansion of the complex’s resources and control. The US has become just another Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Serbia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Belarus, Myanmar, Moldova, Macedonia, Ukraine, or any of the nations blessed with US “democracy-promotion” and “nation-building” in the last few decades. Just as it has in so many of these foreign efforts, the domestic effort is supported by George Soros’s funding and coterie of organizations promoting his one-world, better-world vision.

All of Phoenix’s bag of tricks—plus new ones that would have made Phoenix operatives envious—are being employed. There’s the complex’s attempted regime change against President Trump and the mainstream media’s role as its leading propagandist. The war on terrorism’s eradication of civil liberties for people the government deems terrorists has inched towards inclusion of US citizens deemed “domestic terrorists.” One needn’t be a wild-eyed crazy to envision FEMA’s camps as interrogation and torture centers or concentration camps. Why do federal agencies and local police forces need all that surveillance capability, weaponry and bullets? Why does the intelligence community need to hoover up every American’s, including the president’s, electronic communications? Why the breakneck development of the internet of things with its recording and monitoring capabilities? Why have cameras and facial recognition technology become ubiquitous? How long before they become ubiquitous on drones? How long before drones are weaponized? Why all the interest in banning cash? Why all the interest in universal identification, leading eventually, we can assume, to human microchipping? How long before “See Something, Say Something” becomes “Achtung! See Something, Say Something…Or Else!”? (For an abundance of SLL and guest posts on vanishing civil liberties, click here.)

The drift is obvious, the “safety” and “for our own good” rationales transparently flimsy. By “Yay! Yay! USA!” standards, the descent into totalitarianism will be an abysmal failure. What’s left of democracy and self-rule will be “temporarily” suspended; innocents will be terrorized by the world’s most bloodthirsty and ruthless terrorist—the US government—and foreign interventions and wars will grow in number and intensity. By the suicidal, Strangelovian standards of our rulers it will be a spectacular success: the destruction of the United States…and perhaps life on this planet.

An inadvertant oversight, this acknowledgement was added after the original posting. Much of the background information for the Phoenix program in both Part 1 and Part 2 came from The CIA As Organized Crime, How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World, by Douglas Valentine.