In honor of his 116th birthday were he still alive, Dangerous Minds posts a television interview with one of my all-time heroes: writer, essayist, humanist, pacifist, intellectual, spiritual seeker and psychedelic Aldous Huxley (1894-1963).
Huxley is the arch-open minded figure: a hugely talented person, author of Brave New World (1948), who later in life rejected the mores of the establishment to which he belonged, and began a sort of spiritual quest. And of course, Huxley openly took and advocated psychedelic drugs, such as lsd and mescaline (of which he wrote in The Doors of Perception (1954), which everybody should read), and as such stands at the basis of the countercultural revolution of the 1960s. He did this not as a thrill-seeker, but as someone genuinely interested in the worthwhile possibilities of consciousness-altering substances for the human experience. This is a welcome counterexample to the present-day rigidity and bourgeois aversion to psychedelic substances.
In this interview, conducted by the famous news anchor Mike Wallace on The Mike Wallace Interview in 1958, Huxley speaks about:
[How] overpopulation relates to freedom; technological development in proportion to authoritarianism; future dictatorships; Brave New World in America; the power of advertising in politics; subliminals and brainwashing; education and group morality; societal decentralization; how productivity necessitates freedom; and of course drugs.
This is part 1. Find part 2 and part 3 here and here.
Some commenters on some broader significances of the WikiLeaks publication of more than 90,000 classified military documents on the war in Afghanistan (not to say that the information these records reveal on the war is not significant in and by itself).
The rogue, rather mysterious website provided the raw data; the newspapers provided the context, corroboration, analysis, and distribution. … Traditional media organizations are increasingly reaching out to different kinds of smaller outfits for help compiling data and conducting investigations. NPR is partnering with several journalism startups to deliver their information out to a larger audience. The Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University broke a large story on renewable energy in association with ABC’s World News Tonight. ProPublica’s 32 full-time investigative reporters offer their stories exclusively to a traditional media player.
There does seem to be a growing trend internationally away from control and direction by organisations and governments towards impetus for action coming from groups of individuals who are somehow harnessing technology. Organisations like Wikileaks leave grand old names like Reuters,BBC and the New York Times rewriting news they didn’t break. (That said, the NYT is one of a few organisations investing heavily in original reporting, which shows in their output.) At the same time, a leaked video of a girl getting beaten by the Taliban in Swat presented the Pakistani government with the political cover it needed to launch a campaign against the Pakistani Taliban last year.
Jay Rosen at PressThink points to the transnational character of the WikiLeaks organization, and what this means for national security (or better put: government secrecy):
If you go to the Wikileaks Twitter profile, next to “location” it says: Everywhere. Which is one of the most striking things about it: the world’s first stateless news organization. I can’t think of any prior examples of that. (Dave Winer in the comments: “The blogosphere is a stateless news organization.”) Wikileaks is organized so that if the crackdown comes in one country, the servers can be switched on in another. This is meant to put it beyond the reach of any government or legal system. That’s what so odd about the White House crying, “They didn’t even contact us!”
Appealing to national traditions of fair play in the conduct of news reporting misunderstands what Wikileaks is about: the release of information without regard for national interest. In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it. But Wikileaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new. Just as the Internet has no terrestrial address or central office, neither does Wikileaks.
And, finally, Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic notes that the release of these documents gives investigators the opportunity to find out more about what happened to Afghan detainees captured by elusive special forces units:
WikiLeaks has given journalists and researchers a road map to begin tracking Afghan detainees and the activities of special forces units.
There are about 100 detailed references to something called “OCF” detainee transfers to the Bagram Theatre Internment Facility. OCF stands for “Other Coalition Forces.” Other Coalition Forces is the approved euphemism for special forces units, usually belonging to the Joint Special Operations Command. Researchers can now begin to track the dates when people disappeared and when they were transferred. By the time of the strategy turn, there were more than 750 people in custody in Bagram, out of more than 4,500 detainees that were there at one point. Where did the rest go? When where they released?
From a Photoshop contest at Worth1000. This one with Paul Newman and Scarlett Johansson is particularly well done. Other pics feature among others Nick Cage with Audrey Hepburn, Johnny Depp with Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable with Kelly Clarkson and Penelope Cruz with Marlon Brando.
“Downtown Calling”, in the vein of London Calling and Berlin Calling, is a new documentary about the artistic and musical scene of New York in the 1970s: a time when it was an economic mess, a garbage heap and a crime-infested town, yet a very interesting place culturally.
New York City was its own planet in the late 70s. Trying to describe it to someone who wasn’t there is like trying to describe electricity. It was wild intense and unforgettable. For a young musician like myself, Manhattan was a trial by fire, a neon dream/nightmare, harrowing at times, but mostly a non-stop feast of rock and roll, art, sex and drugs. Within its decaying magnificence, a spontaneous movement erupted of creative wide-eyed rebels, visionaries, punks and provocateurs. It changed everything. Today’s hipsters may try to emulate the fashion, but they’ll never reproduce the passion of New York in the 70s. That city is gone.
Directed by Shan Nicholson, Downtown Calling documents New York City at a time when it was struggling economically, crime was rampant, streets strewn with garbage, whole neighborhoods crumbling. Yet out of the mess…
… a family of homegrown cultures that would forever change the world began to emerge. Downtown Calling not only documents, in detail, the evolution of New York City’s fertile music and art subculture during this period, but how its collective output continues to play a prominent, driving role in the international fashion, art and music industries today.
De Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA) is destijds door de rechterzijde van de Nederlandse politiek en publieke opinie – en een deel van de linkerzijde - verketterd wegens het, geheel volgens belofte, niet willen verlengen van de Nederlandse militaire missie in Afghanistan, met de val van het kabinet tot gevolg. Onlangs bekritiseerden PvdA-dinosaurussen Ed van Thijn, Bram Stemerdink en Harry van den Bergh Wouter Bos nog in Elsevier vanwege deze beslissing.
De argumentatie hierbij is maar zelden dat het (militair, tactisch, logistiek) zinvol was geweest om deze missie voort te zetten. Eigenlijk gaat het altijd om ”het Nederlandse aanzien in het buitenland”, of “het Nederlandse belang”. Sommige mensen hoor je ook wel eens over dat we “de Afghanen moeten helpen”, of ze “niet in de steek mogen laten”.
Hoewel ik de argumentatie over “het Nederlandse aanzien” altijd al faux heb gevonden (het Nederlandse volk is soeverein, en was in meerderheid tegen verlenging van deze missie. Jammer dan dat dat niet goed overkomt), en Jaap de Hoop Scheffer-achtig meeloperig, is Nederland alsnog gewoon bij de G20 aangeschoven, dus het gejammer van rechtse internationaal-politieke “realisten” dienaangaande is al overbodig geweest. Voor het argument dat we de Afghanen niet in de steek mogen laten ben ik gevoeliger, maar dan nog moet je de vraag stellen op welke manier je ze het beste helpt.
Wat de 92.000 door WikiLeaks gepubliceerde documenten in twijfel doen trekken is precies wat de PvdA ook al deed, en waarvoor ze beschimpt zijn: dat het zinvol is om met een gigantische, superdure militaire bezettingsmacht te proberen aan full-blown “nation building” in een land als Afghanistan te doen. Wat blijkt, en wat iedereen natuurlijk eigenlijk al wist, is dat de Taliban veel sterker zijn dan gedacht, dat het niet opschiet met het Afghaanse leger, dat Pakistan de NAVO op zoveel mogelijk manieren tegenwerkt, dat het aantal burgerdoden veel hoger ligt, en de steun onder de Afghaanse bevolking daarmee veel lager.
Het is een vervelende conclusie om te trekken, maar misschien moet hij eens overwogen worden: dat deze oorlog niet “gewonnen” kan worden, binnen de definitie van wat normaal als “gewonnen” beschouwd wordt.
The notion that a professional military and especially police force can be constructed and trained by the West to advance the interests of a “national government” in Kabul within any time frame short of a few decades of colonialism is a fantasy.
We are fighting a war as much against the intelligence services of Pakistan as we are the Taliban. They are a seamless part of the same whole, and until Pakistan is transformed (about as likely as Afghanistan), we will be fighting with two hands tied behind our backs.
This is the Taliban’s country. Fighting them on their own ground, when they can appear in disguise, can terrify residents by night if not by day, and fight and then melt away into the netherworld of mountains and valleys is all but impossible. And as the occupation fails to secure popular support (and after ten years and a deeply corrupt government in Kabul, who can blame the Afghans?), the counter-insurgency model becomes even less plausible than it was before.
The enormous cost in lives and money is in no way proportionate to the eradication of around 500 Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden, who are effectively being protected by a foreign government, Pakistan, we aid with a $1 billion a year.
The troops deserve to fight in a strategy that can actually work. They deserve not to be risking their lives for bases that have to be abandoned, on hillsides where they cannot see the enemy, in a war where the enemy abides by no civilized rules but where every civilian casualty in response is a propaganda victory for the Taliban. This is a lose-lose proposition.
Would you send your son to fight there, knowing all this. If not, how do we continue to support a strategy in which other people’s sons are thrown into the wood-chipper that leads nowhere?
Now we all know why retreat is politically treacherous. The terror threat from that region is real – and made worse by the last few years. Allowing the Taliban to come back and launch attacks with al Qaeda from Afghanistan and Pakistan is real. A president who withdraws and then presides over a terror attack will be vulnerable to cheap political attacks of the Palinite variety.
But a mature polity will understand that just because we cannot prevent any terror attack from that region does not mean we should be occupying it with 100,000 troops in a quixotic attempt at nation-building. We have to return to the Biden option of the least worst counter-terrorism strategy. In order to defeat this terror threat, the American people are going to have to accept that they will endure, for an indefinite period of time, a level of terror that is more than zero. They are also going to have to accept that the occupation itself has become a source of terror, globally.
Cool but mostly creepy. This electronic billboard of a Forever 21 clothing store on Times Square features virtual models that interact with onlookers, live. They take pictures of the crowd (or of individuals in the crowd), which are then displayed on the billboard. Also, they can kiss them, or turn them into frogs.
Je kon er op wachten: onder de door WikiLeaks gepubliceerde documenten bevindt zich ook informatie over Nederlandse militaire acties in Afghanistan. De Volkskrant publiceert over een Nederlandse operatie in 2007, waarbij bij de verdediging van een dorp tegen de Taliban vier burgerslachtoffers en zeven gewonden vielen. Dit is indertijd niet zo gemeld door het Ministerie van Defensie.
Een van de 90.000 door Wikileaks vrijgegeven documenten beschrijft een Nederlandse actie waarover in 2007 aanvankelijk veel onduidelijkheid was.
Nederlandse militairen van het kamp Tarin Kowt verdedigden op 22 maart 2007 met een Apache-gevechtshelikopter het dorp Chenartu in de Chora-vallei, dat werd aangevallen door de Taliban. Hierbij kwamen vier dorpelingen om het leven, zeven raakten gewond. Dat blijkt uit een van de gelekte documenten.
In het document wordt gesteld dat Nederland een officieel onderzoek begon. Ook werd een ‘pro-actieve pr-campagne gestart om politieke schade in Nederland en Afghanistan te voorkomen’. Hoewel de acties volgens het rapport gerechtvaardigd waren, bestond de kans dat dit de veiligheid in de provincie in gevaar zou brengen.
Het incident werd toendertijd weliswaar door Nederland gemeld, maar uit het bericht van Defensie bleek aanvankelijk niet dat het om burgerslachtoffers ging. Een maand later meldde het ministerie dat de doden en gewonden elf tribale strijders waren die de kant van de Afghaanse politie hadden gekozen. Tribale strijders worden gezien als burgers. De elf droegen geen uniform of andere herkenningstekens.
Het ministerie van Defensie maakt zich in het algemeen geen zorgen over de Nederlandse aspecten in de uitgelekte documenten. Een woordvoerder van het departement zei maandag dat men de geopenbaarde informatie in de gaten houdt, maar dat alle incidenten met Nederlanders de afgelopen jaren zijn gemeld.
The publishing of these classified reports, covering a period from January 2004 to December 2009, constitutes one of the biggest leaks in US military history. According to The Guardian, however, most of the material is no longer militarily sensitive.
Beforehand, the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel were given insight in the documents, and the websites of all three papers are now extensively reporting on them. According to the NYT, the reports show that the war in Afghanistan is going even worse than what is known from the official picture. The Taliban use heat-seeking missiles like they did in the 1980s, the Afghan army and police are not cooperating, and Pakistani intelligence and military are untrustworthy. There appear to be more secret ops than was known, and drone strikes seem to be pretty ineffective at times.
The Guardian puts the spotlight on the number of civilian casualties, that is way higher than was known, the increasing rate of Taliban attacks on NATO targets, and the support to the insurgence given by Iran and Pakistan. Here again, the conclusion is that the situation in Afghanistan is much worse than suspected. And that Obama’s surge is possibly failing.
See the NYT’s ”war logs” reporting here, and The Guardian’s interactive “war logs” here. Both have a lot of articles.
A six-year archive of classified military documents made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.
The secret documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.
The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the voluminous records several weeks ago on the condition that they not report on the material before Sunday.
The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001.
As the new American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, tries to reverse the lagging war effort, the documents sketch a war hamstrung by an Afghan government, police force and army of questionable loyalty and competence, and by a Pakistani military that appears at best uncooperative and at worst to work from the shadows as an unspoken ally of the very insurgent forces the American-led coalition is trying to defeat.
The material comes to light as Congress and the public grow increasingly skeptical of the deepening involvement in Afghanistan and its chances for success as next year’s deadline to begin withdrawing troops looms.
The reports — usually spare summaries but sometimes detailed narratives — shed light on some elements of the war that have been largely hidden from the public eye:
• The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.
• Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.
• The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.
• The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.
A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.
The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers’ website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and over 1,000 US troops.
Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama’s “surge” strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US navy sailors captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.
Scientists celebrated Sunday after finding more than 700 suspected new planets — including up to 140 similar in size to Earth — in just six weeks of using a powerful new space observatory.
Early results from NASA’s Kepler Mission, a small satellite observing deep space, suggested planets like Earth were far more common than previously thought.
Past discoveries suggested most planets outside our solar systemwere gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn — but the new evidence tipped the balance in favor of solid worlds.
Astronomers said the discovery meant the chances of eventually finding truly Earth-like planets capable of sustaining life rose sharply.
NASA so far formally announced only five new exoplanets — those outside our solar system — from the mission because its scientists were still analyzing Kepler’s finds to confirm they are actually planets.
“The figures suggest our galaxy, the Milky Way [which has more than 100 billion stars] will contain 100 million habitable planets, and soon we will be identifying the first of them,” said Dimitar Sasselov, professor of astronomy at Harvard University and a scientist on the Kepler Mission. “There is a lot more work we need to do with this, but the statistical result is loud and clear, and it is that planets like our own Earth are out there.”