Syria – is the end in sight?

Go Russia Go!

At last there may be an end in sight to the disaster that Western foreign policy has landed upon Syria, formerly one of the most stable and secular nations in the Middle East. One also with a strong military force that held stocks of unused chemical weapons primarily to counter the threat of Israel’s nuclear stockpile. It initially seemed clear that Assad had not used Sarin in a fight he was already winning at Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus where his soldiers were stationed.

After the propaganda machines weighed in though, you could be forgiven for thinking Assad would do something so incredibly stupid, soon after Obama declared use of chemical weapons to be America’s “red line.” Assad isn’t stupid. We should follow the money and ask who benefited? The rebel terrorists and the arms industry profited as countless millions of taxpayers’ money was poured into funding the “moderate” opposition, prolonging a conflict that was nearing its end. That opposition, the Free Syrian Army is now little more than a name, but one we hear more of than the hundreds of other militias in the field, predominantly Islamic.

If successful, the so-called revolution that we have been fanning and funding would inevitably lead to the absorption of Syria into the expanding Islamic State, a body that was underwritten by Western money and armaments, now supplemented by oil and taxation revenues from conquered lands. Islamic State are not stupid either, just a new and very upstart state. Should they succeed, it would not be revolution, but conquest. Western efforts to combat IS have been singularly ineffective, with the world’s mightiest war machine unable or unwilling to halt their progress. There is little doubt that if Assad falls Islamic State would rapidly incorporate or eliminate every other faction in the fight, destroy any remaining ancient monuments and be irreversibly en route to one day claiming a seat at the United Nations.

Is this where we want to go?

Is it not a strange turn of affairs that tough-guy Vladimir Putin, the West’s current faputin syriavourite bad guy, should be the only world leader to realize this is not a good place to go? He may be a gangster, but at least he’s his own gangster and not manipulated by the dark shadowy forces of the military industrial complex that American President Eisenhower warned us of and Kennedy strongly condemned. In Sept 2013 Putin narrowly stopped the US from going on a Syrian bombing spree (prompted by allegations of chemical weapons use) through getting Assad’s agreement to clear out and hand over Syria’s entire chemical weapons stock. Clever move, and one hugely frustrating to those who control the US.

So now Russia steps into the arena, openly and at the request of the legitimate Syrian government. They realize that terrorists are terrorists – these are not revolutionaries seeking democracy and would all meld into IS if Assad fell. Why screw around playing one side against the other, unless you are manipulated by those conflict-loving forces of which Kennedy and Eisenhower spoke? That’s the positive side of being a gangster boss politician – you’re in nobody’s pockets but your own and see no benefit in waging war for the sake of war itself. Even in Crimea, the minimal fighting stopped once Russia’s objective was achieved. Conflict for conflict’s sake is not on the Russian agenda. Curious how we rail about Russian jets straying into Turkish airspace while our jets bomb hospitals and our close ally Saudi Arabia kills thousands of civilians in Yemen with the weapons we supply.

Yes it’s strange for me, a passionate advocate of non-violence to be rallying behind military effort by a powerful state. As do most, I long to see the war over so that refugees can return to rebuild their lives, and believe Russian action could achieve this goal. When we watched refugees flooding into Germany they were fleeing the fighting, NOT politics or religious persecution. Most of them would love to go home. Human beings are amazing animals, able to rebuild lives, towns and cities, as did Europe and Asia after the last big war. Hiroshima and Dresden thrive today. We can do it.

The fighting has to stop.
Full power to you Russia.
History will be grateful.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Peace is not defined by the absence of conflict.

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The OTHER Drug Problem

The real drug problems rarely make headlines – those caused by pharmaceuticals designed to be addictive. We recently discovered that opioid painkillers claim the lives of 312 Americans every week, compared to 285 lost to murder. Since 2000 these drugs have killed three times as many Americans as were killed in Vietnam. A further 160 die each week from overdosing on heroin, most having become addicted via prescribed opioids. Yet nobody is fighting a war against them, while Big Pharma pockets big profits and markets them freely. Competition to Big Pharma is suppressed by law enforcement agencies spending vast sums of taxpayers’ money in the War on Drugs. Sometimes major drug enforcement agencies work with drug cartels, enforcing monopolies and suppressing free enterprise in the unlicensed drugs trade. For more on opioid painkiller killers, here’s the Forbes coverage.

FOR insight on the drugs problem, here’s a paragraph from “The Drugs Problem,” a chapter in The State Is Out of Date, We Can Do It Better

Society does have a problem with drug use. It is a serious problem that is getting worse. For some reason, though, the perception of this problem is focused entirely on the very small range of drugs that are being used illegally. We cannot ignore the very real problems faced by those who are using drugs prescribed by doctors. Their lives can be damaged and sometimes destroyed as a result of diagnostic error, their own abuse of the prescribed stocks (few recreational drug users have a month’s supply in a bottle), or just years of being dependent on pharmaceuticals with known side effects. These legal drugs must be obtained through controlled channels, but these channels translate into a multi-billion dollar industry throughout the world—the real drugs trade. While we condemn it when drug barons bribe and seduce judges, police, and politicians, we think nothing of the lobbyists employed by the pharmaceutical industry in Washington DC, who number more than three for every single Congressman or Senator.

The most successful, and profitable, pharmaceutical drugs are those which do not cure, but instead create a lifelong habit for the user…”

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How pharmaceuticals infect NHS policy

The Independent sheds light on the means by which pharmaceutical companies shape government health policy to their own bottom line. It seems like most patient’s lobby groups are funded, managed, and represented by agents of the pharmaceutical industry. The industry says it is all above board because if you look into the small print you can discover this. But it’s rarely mentioned in the newspaper headlines when hand-picked desperate sufferers are crying out for the NHS to spend more money on wonder drugs. Nor is it mentioned when new laws are proposed to restrict herbal and alternative treatments. Full story from the Independent here.

I have a few words to say about Big Pharma in The State Is Out Of Date. Here’s an excerpt from chapter 28, The Drugs Problem
Society does have a problem with drug use. It is a serious problem that is getting worse. For some reason, though, the perception of this problem is focused entirely on the very small range of drugs that are being used illegally. We cannot ignore the very real problems faced by those who are using drugs prescribed by doctors. Their lives can be damaged and sometimes destroyed as a result of diagnostic error, their own abuse of the prescribed stocks (few recreational drug users have a month’s supply in a bottle), or just years of being dependent on pharmaceuticals with known side effects. These legal drugs must be obtained through controlled channels, but these channels translate into a multi-billion dollar industry throughout the world—the real drugs trade. While we condemn it when drug barons bribe and seduce judges, police, and politicians, we think nothing of the lobbyists employed by the pharmaceutical industry in Washington DC, who number more than three for every single Congressman or Senator. To rephrase that, there are 535 elected representatives shaping law and regulation in the capital of the United States, attended to by 1,724 paid persuaders from the pharmaceutical drug barons alone (as well as some 9,750 lobbyists from other interest groups in 2011).
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The Consciousness Revolution

Graham Hancock for Russell Brand in the New Statesman.

THE CONSCIOUSNESS REVOLUTION

Consciousness is one of the great mysteries of science – perhaps the greatest mystery. We all know we have it, when we think, when we dream, when we savour tastes and aromas, when we hear a great symphony, when we fall in love, and it is surely the most intimate, the most sapient, the most personal part of ourselves. Yet no one can really claim to have understood and explained it completely. There’s no doubt it’s associated with the brain in some way but the nature of that association is far from clear. In particular how do these three pounds of material stuff inside our skulls allow us to have experiences?

…later, he continues…

I refer here to the so-called “war on drugs” which is really better understood as a war on consciousness and which maintains, supposedly in the interests of society, that we as adults do not have the right or maturity to make sovereign decisions about our own consciousness and about the states of consciousness we wish to explore and embrace. This extraordinary imposition on adult cognitive liberty is justified by the idea that our brain activity, disturbed by drugs, will adversely impact our behaviour towards others. Yet anyone who pauses to think seriously for even a moment must realize that we already have adequate laws that govern adverse behaviour towards others and that the real purpose of the “war on drugs” must therefore be to bear down on consciousness itself.

Read the full article here, on Graham Hancock’s website.

Extract from The Drugs Problem, chapter 27 of the book   –

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“It seems a reasonable desire for people to find some means to get “out of their heads” from time to time—to take a totally different perspective on life. Perhaps some new perspectives are needed in the world today, and the attraction to drugs is evolution trying to happen. We should be pleased that many of today’s generation are avoiding the trap of alcohol addiction, together with the anti-social behavior, depression, trivia worship, and middle-age burnout that abusers risk. When not abused, alcohol can be an enjoyable and stimulating drug that is beneficial to our health and well-being. Alcohol has a well-earned place in our culture, but that place does not deserve to be defended by state legislation and turned into a drug monopoly.

Drugs are an integral part of our culture and, as we learned in school, they made up the core of the early international business that brought the world’s differing cultures into trade with each other. Those products of trade included tobacco, alcohol, opium, tea, coffee, chocolate, cocaine, and sugar. Tea was such a costly drug in the pre-revolutionary US that users would season and eat the dried leaves after drinking the strong tea. Prior to the discovery of sugar cane, the sweetening for Europe had been expensive honey; the intense sugar hit was once a luxury drug. Today, we are made addicts from childhood, with many seeing it as a child’s inalienable right to consume large quantities of sugary things. Yet it is clear that the effects of sugar consumption are more damaging than many illegal drugs, and that for many, sugar is a harder drug to kick. The other major items of trade were pepper and spices, products we might view as virtual drugs to the taste buds of the bland European palate of the mid-millennium. The glorious history of trade in the civilized world was firmly anchored in humanity’s desire for new and diverse drugs and sensory inputs.

People have always sought to include drugs in their life- style for many non-medical reasons: whether to stay awake longer or to fall asleep sooner; whether to drown their sorrows or to better understand them; whether to enjoy a banter in the bar with friends or have mystic communication with a tree; whether to explore their dark side or say hello to the god within. Some drugs are not an escape from “reality” but a gateway to exploring the very nature of reality. Even the humble drug tea was first discovered by Buddhist monks, who used its stimulatory qualities in their quest for higher consciousness when meditating through the night. One could imagine how dismayed they would be at the level of tea abuse taking place in modern Britain.”

Sugar is a drug – don’t you know it?

From the Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles times reports that “The first step in curing a sugar or fat addiction is, like with any addiction, realize you have it,” said Morley. “This is difficult because we don’t generally think of food as being biologically addictive like a drug, but it can be.”
– – – read the full story

Considering how few include alcohol in their thinking on dangerous drugs, it is, perhaps, not surprising that almost no one includes sugar (the precursor of alcohol). So I am heartened to see this mainstream US newspaper taking up the story. I touch upon it in this paragraph from The Drugs Problem  – chapter 27

“Drugs are an integral part of our culture and, as we learned in school, they made up the core of the early international business that brought the world’s differing cultures into trade with each other. Those products of trade included tobacco, alcohol, opium, tea, coffee, chocolate, cocaine, and sugar. Tea was such a costly drug in the pre-revolutionary US that users would season and eat the dried leaves after drinking the strong tea. Prior to the discovery of sugar cane, the sweeten­ing for Europe had been expensive honey; the intense sugar hit was once a luxury drug. Today, we are made addicts from childhood, with many seeing it as a child’s inalienable right to consume large quantities of sugary things. Yet it is clear that the effects of sugar consumption are more damaging than many illegal drugs, and that for many, sugar is a harder drug to kick.” (get the full ebook online for the price of a cup of herbal tea)

Who runs the state? Strange fruit indeed.

SERCO – the biggest company you’ve never heard of

From prisons to rail franchises and even London’s Boris bikes, Serco is a giant global corporation that has hoovered up outsourced government contracts. Now the NHS is firmly in its sights. But it stands accused of mismanagement, lying and even charging for non-existent work.”    click for full Guardian article

(in the article we discover that, as well as prisons, Serco handles prisoner tagging, runs immigrant removal centres, operates speed cameras, issues and collects fines for local council traffic departments, manages the ballistic missile early warning system and a great deal more in the UK, with many and diverse  global interests)

from Strange Fruit, chapter 25

“One of the most frightening strange fruits to come from the mating of coercion with free enterprise is the increased reliance on privatization of the prison industry. Here we have the state creating a private industry that relies upon the state’s coercive power to supply it with a stream of new customers (inmates). This industry has become a strong lobby in support of maintaining and increasing those laws carrying prison sentences. As the Correctional Corporation of America warned in their 2010 annual report: ‘Any changes [in the laws] with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.‘”

Some sanity? Less madness, perhaps.

The US is running out of prison space and having to take measures. Since most of the pressure is caused by mandatory sentencing for people found altering their mental states with unapproved substances, they may be a lightening up on incarceration of harmless citizens. But it’s an inadequate measure, as this article observes. I wonder what will happen when the private prison industry catches up in its building program.

The Drugs Problem, chapter 27

“Backflow occurred too, in the War on Drugs, when in the early 1980s the CIA are believed to have helped distribute crack cocaine to America’s inner cities in order to covertly fund the Nicaraguan contras. History will undoubtedly judge that the War on Drugs was itself the largest causative factor of America’s downhill slide into dangerous drug abuse. This would not be the first time that coercive state programs have produced opposite results to those intended. This war has clogged courts and jails worldwide with drug cases, creating far more problems than drugs ever posed on their own.”