Thursday, October 7, 2010

Americanism a world religion?

David Gelernter knows there's something about America. He just doesn't realize how complicated that thing is.

Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale, a novelist, and a senior fellow for the American Enterprise Institute-something of a Renaissance man, in other words. Considering the resources he has at his disposal, his 2007 book entitled "Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion is surprisingly muddled."

The title of this "essay in ‘folk philosophy,'" as he calls it, simultaneously misleads the reader and reveals more than the author intends. It is misleading because Gelernter means to present Americanism as a religion compatible with, not in opposition to, the big three (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). It is revealing because Gelernter is wrong.

Americanism he defines as the sum of American Zionism and "the Creed." The former refers to the belief first held by Puritans that God has specially blessed America. Americans are the New Israelites; America is the new Promised Land. Accompanying their unique blessings is the divinely ordained mission to share them-to spread the new gospel to all nations.

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Musical Innerlube: Sleigh Bells - Infinity Guitars

Hitler's Holocaust blueprint: A new book reveals how the Kaiser's Germany used concentration camps in Africa to advance their theories of racial supremacy

At the new seafront restaurant overlooking the bay in the tiny resort of Luderitz on the coast of Namibia, tourists are invited to sit out on the balcony, where they can dine on the finest South Atlantic seafood accompanied by vintage South African wines as they take in the views over neighbouring Shark Island.

But little do they know the horrific truth about that view, which the tourist guidebooks describe as 'stunning'. Shark Island, with its picturesque setting, was the site of the world's first death camp  -  the German invention that culminated in the Holocaust of World War II, the greatest mass crime of the 20th century.

Three-and-a-half thousand innocent Africans were liquidated here at the hands of the Germans, decades before the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, with the tacit sanction of the German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and his ministers.

As modern diners tuck into lobster and oysters, washed down with chilled Chenin blanc, just yards away beneath the waters lie the bones and rusting iron manacles of the Germans' victims.

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The Economic Hit Man Confesses Again: An Interview With John Perkins

Do you think the forces behind "trinket capitalism" - cultivating a demand and hyping selling points of essentially useless items - has been applied to the realm of politics, like in elections?

No question. The politicians are controlled by big money - what I call the corporatocracy. Nobody gets elected in this country - or almost nobody - without the support of the corporatocracy. Nobody gets elected to a major national office without that support. We saw that with Obama. He went in saying he was not going to accept money from big corporations; by the end he accepted a lot of money from big corporations. And we're now seeing the results. His financial policy is essentially run by Wall Street, particularly Goldman Sachs, and his agricultural policy is run by the big agribusinesses, especially Monsanto, because they provided so much money in his campaign. So politicians are very, very much tied in with these corporations.

But we the people ought to recognize that ultimately, we're the ones with the control. Because these big corporations only benefit, only survive, when we support them, by buying their goods and services or allowing our tax dollars to buy their goods and services. So the marketplace is democratic if we choose to make it democratic, if we choose to shop consciously, invest consciously, and let them know. Send emails. Let Nike know that we're not going to buy from them anymore because they've got sweatshops. Send them an email and if enough of us do that, they'll have to turn their sweatshops into legitimate factories that pay real wages and have working conditions that are supportive of life rather than making life miserable for the workers. We have the control. And I say in "Hoodwinked" that the way we vote when we shop is just as important as - and perhaps more important than - the votes we give in polls on election day. We need to recognize that every time we buy something or choose not to, we're casting a vote, but it's important to communicate that and email makes it very easy to communicate to these corporate executives why we're buying their goods and services or why we're not buying them.

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Google CEO: "We Know Where You Are. We Know Where You've Been. We Can More Or Less Know What You're Thinking About."

Google CEO Eric Schmidt really has a knack for expressing relatively benign ideas in a way that makes him and his company look incredibly creepy.

The Atlantic has posted video of the full interview in which Eric talked about 'the creepy line', and it is chock full of unsettling sound bytes. In particular, he had the following to say on privacy:

With your permission, you give us more information about you, about your friends, and we can improve the quality of our searches. We don't need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less know what you're thinking about.

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What happened in Europe's secret CIA prisons?

The CIA used a secret prison in Poland to detain and torture its most important 9/11 suspect, a former top human rights official alleges in a new BBC documentary.

On 7 March 2003 a CIA Gulfstream Jet landed at a remote airstrip in north-eastern Poland. Human rights officials and campaigners are convinced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the most senior al-Qaeda suspects, was on board.

American agents took him to a secret facility where, he says, he was tortured before being eventually transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

The secret transfer of CIA prisoners is said to have taken place in both Poland and Lithuania - a region where, only a generation ago, people were subject to arbitrary detention and torture at the hands of Communist secret police.

Now, seven years on, the full story of Poland's secret detention site is emerging.

Dick Marty, the Council of Europe's former Rapporteur on Torture, told the BBC: "If I use the judicial standard of proof - and I used to be a magistrate - then I say 'Yes, Mohammed was in Poland. Yes, he was tortured.'"

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Experimentation, orgasms, and the rise of anal sex

A new national sex survey is out. Published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, it reveals who's doing what, with whom, and how. It clarifies the prevalence of gay sex, teenage intercourse, and oral gratification. But the big story is the increase in anal sex reported by women—and its possible connection to female orgasms.

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Israeli rabbi: Honey-pot sex is kosher for female Mossad agents

An Israeli rabbi has given his blessing to female agents of Israel's foreign secret service, Mossad, who may be required to have sex with the enemy in so-called "honey-pot" missions against terrorists.

Rabbi Ari Shvat's ruling appeared in a study, "Illicit sex for the sake of national security," published by the Tzomet Institute, which studies the interface between religion and modernity.

But Schvat wrote that honey-pot missions are not just a thing of modern-day espionage - such as the late 1980s capture of Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who revealed details of Israel's nuclear program, or the January 2010 assassination of terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Both cases reportedly involved a Mossad female lure.

In fact, honey-pot missions are rooted in Biblical lore.

Queen Esther, who was Jewish, slept with the Persian king Xerxes around 500 BC to save her people, Schvat noted. Yael, wife of Hever, slept with the enemy chief of staff Sisra to tire him and cut off his head, according to tradition.

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