Thursday, December 29, 2016

: re:What a Sensory Isolation Tank Taught Me About My Brain

From: barry levine <>
Date: Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 12:18 PM
Subject: re:What a Sensory Isolation Tank Taught Me About My Brain
To: "" <>

To the Editor:

to reify the wave, you break the sea
and ask each part to make sense on its own
as if it's somehow possible to be
an insular phenomenon, alone
a language conjures objects up by name
imposing bound'ries on our mental maps
but why two minds should divvy it the same
one must fall back on faith to fill the gaps
emergent qualities defy Descartes
and chief among them is this thing called "mind"
that isn't found in any smaller part
(some argue that there is no "thing" to find)
there may not be a bottom to this well
as bootstrap problems go, this one's from Hell

Friday, December 23, 2016

: re: Delayed U.N. Vote to Condemn Israeli Settlements Is Reset for Friday

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: barry levine 
Date: Fri, Dec 23, 2016 at 8:30 AM
Subject: re: Delayed U.N. Vote to Condemn Israeli Settlements Is Reset for Friday
To: ""

To the Editor:
    The U.S. stands firmly with Israel. The U.S. condemns Israel's illegal settlement activity. That Danny Danon, and the Likud government for whom he speaks cannot see the line between the two is the problem.
Barry Haskell Levine

Sunday, December 18, 2016

: re: Donald Trump: The Russian Poodle

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: barry levine 
Date: Sun, Dec 18, 2016 at 11:21 AM
Subject: re: Donald Trump: The Russian Poodle
To: ""

To the Editor:
  What the CIA alleges is nothing less than an attack on America. What no one of us has seen is the evidence. Our CIA has a long record of swaying elections through campaigns of disinformation. Our Electoral College needs to see the evidence before voting. To vote without knowing the issues at stake would be a farce.
Barry Haskell Levine

In 1972, President Richard Nixon’s White House dispatched burglars to bug Democratic Party offices. That Watergate burglary and related “dirty tricks,” such as releasing mice at a Democratic press conference and paying a woman to strip naked and shout her love for a Democratic candidate, nauseated Americans — and impelled some of us kids at the time to pursue journalism.
Now in 2016 we have a political scandal that in some respects is even more staggering. Russian agents apparently broke into the Democrats’ digital offices and tried to change the election outcome. President Obama on Friday suggested that this was probably directed by Russia’s president, saying, “Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin.”
In Watergate, the break-in didn’t affect the outcome of the election. In 2016, we don’t know for sure. There were other factors, but it’s possible that Russia’s theft and release of the emails provided the margin for Donald Trump’s victory.
The C.I.A. says it has “high confidence” that Russia was trying to get Trump elected, and, according to The Washington Post, the directors of the F.B.I. and national intelligence agree with that conclusion.
Both Nixon and Trump responded badly to the revelations, Nixon by ordering a cover-up and Trump by denouncing the C.I.A. and, incredibly, defending Russia from the charges that it tried to subvert our election. I never thought I would see a dispute between America’s intelligence community and a murderous foreign dictator in which an American leader sided with the dictator.
Let’s be clear: This was an attack on America, less lethal than a missile but still profoundly damaging to our system. It’s not that Trump and Putin were colluding to steal an election. But if the C.I.A. is right, Russia apparently was trying to elect a president who would be not a puppet exactly but perhaps something of a lap dog — a Russian poodle.
In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair was widely (and unfairly) mocked as President George W. Bush’s poodle, following him loyally into the Iraq war. The fear is that this time Putin may have interfered to acquire an ally who likewise will roll over for him.
Frankly, it’s mystifying that Trump continues to defend Russia and Putin, even as he excoriates everyone else, from C.I.A. officials to a local union leader in Indiana.
Now we come to the most reckless step of all: This Russian poodle is acting in character by giving important government posts to friends of Moscow, in effect rewarding it for its attack on the United States.
Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, is a smart and capable manager. Yet it’s notable that he is particularly close to Putin, who had decorated Tillerson with Russia’s “Order of Friendship.”
Whatever our personal politics, how can we possibly want to respond to Russia’s interference in our election by putting American foreign policy in the hands of a Putin friend?
Tillerson’s closeness to Putin is especially troubling because of Trump’s other Russia links. The incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, accepted Russian money to attend a dinner in Moscow and sat near Putin. A ledger shows $12.7 million in secret payments by a pro-Russia party in Ukraine to Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. And the Trump family itself has business connections with Russia.
It’s true that there will be counterbalances, including Gen. James Mattis, the former Marine commander who has no illusions about Moscow and is expected to be confirmed as defense secretary. But over all it looks as if the Trump administration will be remarkably pro-Putin — astonishing considering Putin’s Russia has killed journalists, committed war crimes in Ukraine and Syria and threatened the peaceful order in Europe.
So it’s critical that the Senate, the news media and the public subject Tillerson to intense scrutiny. There are other issues to explore as well, including his role in enabling corruption in Chad, one of the poorest countries in the world. The same is true of his role in complicity with the government of Angola, where oil corruption turned the president’s daughter into a billionaire even as children died of poverty and disease at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world.
Maybe all this from Russia to Angola was just Tillerson trying to maximize his company’s revenue, and he will act differently as secretary of state. Maybe. But I’m skeptical that his ideology would change in fundamental ways.
This is not only about Tillerson just as the 1972 break-in was not only about the Watergate building complex. This is about the integrity of American democracy and whether a foreign dictator should be rewarded for attacking the United States. It is about whether we are led by a president or a poodle.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

: re:James Mattis, Outspoken Ex-Marine, Is Trump’s Choice as Defense Secretary

From: barry levine 
Date: Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 7:01 PM
Subject: re:James Mattis, Outspoken Ex-Marine, Is Trump’s Choice as Defense Secretary
To: ""

To the Editor:
     President-elect Trump may not care what the law says, but we have a statute on the books (10 U.S. Code § 113) forbidding anyone from becoming Secretary of Defense within seven years of serving on active duty. Statutorily, gen. James Mattis--whatever his qualifications--is ineligible. Is this law only a law when the Senate and the White House are held by different parties?

Barry Haskell Levine

James N. Mattis, a retired Marine general, leaving a meeting with President-elect Donald J. Trump in Bedminster, N.J., last month. CreditHilary Swift for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump said on Thursday he had chosen James N. Mattis, a hard-charging retired general who led a Marine division to Baghdad during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, to serve as his secretary of defense.
Mr. Trump made the announcement at a rally in Cincinnati, calling General Mattis “the closest thing we have to Gen. George Patton.”
General Mattis, 66, led the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, from 2010 to 2013. His tour there was cut short by the Obama administration, which believed that he was too hawkish on Iran.
But his insistence that Iran is the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East, as well as his acerbic criticism of the Obama administration’s initial efforts to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, made him an attractive choice for the incoming president, whom he met for the first time after Mr. Trump’s election.

Trump Victory Tour

President-elect Donald J. Trump held a rally in Cincinnati to say thank you to Ohio, and revealed his choice for defense secretary.
 By THE NEW YORK TIMES on Publish DateDecember 1, 2016. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times.Watch in Times Video »
After retiring from the military, General Mattis told Congress that the administration’s “policy of disengagement in the Middle East” had contributed to the rise of extremism in the region. The United States, he told lawmakers in 2015, needs to “come out from our reactive crouch and take a firm, strategic stance in defense of our values.”
But in some important policy areas, General Mattis differs from Mr. Trump, who has been filling the top ranks of his national security team with hard-liners. General Mattis believes, for instance, that Mr. Trump’s conciliatory statements toward Russia are ill informed. General Mattis views with alarm Moscow’s expansionist or bellicose policies in Syria, Ukraine and the Baltics. And he has told the president-elect that torture does not work.
Despite his tough stance on Iran, General Mattis also thinks that tearing up the Iran nuclear deal would hurt the United States, and he favors working closely with allies to strictly enforce its terms.
General Mattis, whose radio call sign during the invasion of Iraq was Chaos — reflecting the havoc he sought to rain on adversaries — has been involved in some of the United States’ best-known operations. As a one-star general, he led the first Marine force into Afghanistan a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and established Forward Operating Base Rhino near Kandahar.


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At times, General Mattis’s salty language has gotten him into trouble. “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys that slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” he said in 2005. “So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”
But the retired general, a lifelong bachelor who has said that he does not own a television and has often been referred to as a “warrior monk,” is also famous for his extensive collection of books on military history. “Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation,” he wrote a colleague in 2003. “It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.”
General Mattis would be the first former ranking general to assume the post of defense secretary since George Marshall in 1950-51. He would need a special congressional waiver to serve as defense secretary. He retired from the Marines in 2013, and federal law stipulates that the Pentagon chief be out of uniform for seven years.
But General Mattis has strong support in Congress, especially on the part of John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In a recent phone call, Mr. McCain urged Mr. Trump to consider appointing General Mattis or Gen. Jack Keane, a retired Army vice chief of staff, as defense secretary. But General Keane has decided against returning to government in a full-time capacity.
General Mattis appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee as a general in 2010.CreditBrendan Smialowski for The New York Times
The selection of General Mattis is a boost for the Marines. If confirmed by the Senate, he would be working with Joseph F. Dunford, the four-star Marine general who serves as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It would also create an unusual situation at the Pentagon because the new defense secretary would be General Dunford’s former commanding officer. During the Iraq invasion, General Dunford was a colonel who led a Marine regiment that reported to General Mattis.
General Mattis led the First Marine Division during the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. He later commanded American troops during the hard-fought battle to retake Falluja from Sunni insurgents in 2004. As head of the Central Command, General Mattis was heavily involved in plans to counter Iran’s military and protect the sea lanes in the Persian Gulf.
William Kristol, editor of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard and a staunch opponent of Mr. Trump’s, sought to persuade General Mattis to mount an independent presidential bid. And he was courted by both the campaigns of Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton to speak at the political conventions, but declined.
In a new book, “Warriors and Citizens,” which General Mattis edited with Kori Schake, a Hoover Institution fellow who served in the George W. Bush administration, he complained that politicians had relied too much on military commanders to make the case for their policies.
“President Bush left to Gen. David Petraeus the task of overcoming congressional opposition to the 2006 Iraq surge,” General Mattis and Ms. Schake wrote. “President Obama has been mostly silent on the war in Afghanistan since 2009; the case for continuing American troop presence has been made entirely by the military.”
Military commanders, they wrote, have a responsibility to carry out and advocate the president’s policies. “This does not remove elected officials from the responsibility to win political arguments instead of depending on the military to do so,” they added.