Article 43


Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Awakening Part 1


Whoever has ears ought to hear these words.
- Revelations 13:9

The Powers-That-Be Are Terrified of the Mass Awakening Taking Place Worldwide

Washington’s Blog
June 27, 2010

Our situation is admittedly DIRE.

Oligarchs are seizing more overt control in most countries in the world, the worldwide economy is on course for another - even bigger - train wreck, countries are cracking down on freedom and becoming more tyrannical, we are in a permanent state of war, and companies like BP are destroying our natural resources without any checks and balances.

But as Andrew Gavin Marshall points out, the elites are actually terrified of the mass political awakening which is occurring worldwide.

Marshall collects quotes from flexian Zbigniew Brzezinski - Obama’s former foreign affairs adviser, National Security Adviser to President Carter, creator of America’s strategy to lure Russia into Afghanistan, and creator of America’s plans for Eurasia in general - to make his point.

Listen to Brzezinski’s own words (consolidated from various writings and speeches, and edited as if they were a single passage):

For the first time in history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. Global activism is generating a surge in the quest for cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world scarred by memories of colonial or imperial DOMINATION.

For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. There are only a few pockets of humanity left in the remotest corners of the world that are not politically alertand engaged with the political turmoil and stirrings that are so widespread today around the world. The resulting global political activism is generating a surge in the quest for personal dignity, cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world painfully scarred by memories of centuries-long alien colonial or imperial domination.

America needs to face squarely a centrally important new global reality: that the world’s population is experiencing a political awakening unprecedented in scope and intensity, with the result that the politics of populism are transforming the politics of power. The need to respond to that massive phenomenon poses to the uniquely sovereign America an historic dilemma: What should be the central definition of America’s global role?

The people of the world are WAKING UP to the reality of WHAT IS HAPPENING. If we wake up fast enough, we can RECLAIM OUR POWER and dignity, and SHAKE OFF THOSE who would steal everything we have, including our MONEY, opportunity and freedom.

[T]he central challenge of our time is posed not by global terrorism, but rather by the intensifying turbulence caused by the phenomenon of global political awakening. That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing.

It is no overstatement to assert that now in the 21st century the population of much of the developing world is politically stirring and in many places seething with unrest. It is a population acutely conscious of social injustice to an unprecedented degree, and often resentful of its perceived lack of political dignity. The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches.

The youth of the Third World are particularly restless and resentful. The demographic revolution they embody is thus a political time-bomb, as well. With the exception of Europe, Japan and America, the rapidly expanding demographic bulge in the 25-year-old-and-under age bracket is creating a huge mass of impatient young people. Their minds have been stirred by sounds and images that emanate from afar and which intensify their disaffection with what is at hand. Their potential revolutionary spearhead is likely to emerge from among the scores of millions of students concentrated in the often intellectually dubious “tertiary level” educational institutions of developing countries. Depending on the definition of the tertiary educational level, there are currently worldwide between 80 and 130 million “college” students. Typically originating from the socially insecure lower middle class and inflamed by a sense of social outrage, these millions of students are revolutionaries-in-waiting, already semi-mobilized in large congregations, connected by the Internet and pre-positioned for a replay on a larger scale of what transpired years earlier in Mexico City or in Tiananmen Square. Their physical energy and emotional frustration is just waiting to be triggered by a cause, or a faith, or a hatred.

Politically awakened mankind craves political dignity, which democracy can enhance, but political dignity also encompasses ethnic or national self-determination, religious self-definition, and human and social rights, all in a world now acutely aware of economic, racial and ethnic inequities. The quest for political dignity, especially through national self-determination and social transformation, is part of the pulse of self-assertion by the world’s underprivileged

The misdiagnosis [of foreign policy] pertains to a relatively vague, excessively abstract, highly emotional, semi-theological definition of the chief menace that we face today in the world, and the consequent slighting of what I view as the unprecedented global challenge arising out of the unique phenomenon of a truly massive global political awakening of mankind. We live in an age in which mankind writ large is becoming politically conscious and politically activated to an unprecedented degree, and it is this condition which is producing a great deal of international turmoil.

That turmoil is the product of the political awakening, the fact that today vast masses of the world are not politically NEUTERED, as they have been throughout history. They have political consciousness. It may be undefined, it may point in different directions, it may be primitive, it may be intolerant, it may be hateful, but it is a form of political activism.

The other major change in international affairs is that for the first time, in all of human history, mankind has been politically awakened. That is a total new reality. It has not been so for most of human history until the last one hundred years. And in the course of the last one hundred years, the whole world has become politically awakened. And no matter where you go, politics is a matter of social engagement, and most people know what is generally going on in the world, and are consciously aware of global inequities, inequalities, lack of respect, exploitation. Mankind is now politically awakened and stirring. The combination of the two: the diversified global leadership, politically awakened masses, makes a much more difficult context for any major power including, currently, the leading world power: the United States.



Posted by Elvis on 06/27/10 •
Section Revelations • Section American Solidarity
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Bad Moon Rising Part 39 - The Doomed US Homeowner


Between 2.5 wars, a few major natural disasters, an economic mess, a heaping helping of social programs and agriculture subsidies, and the US’s loss of the world tech leadership position....we just couldn’t seem to find the time.
- After Discovery’s Launch, What’s Left For the Shuttle?, Slashdot

Every now and then I check out the estimated value of my house on websites like ZILLOW and AOL REAL ESTATE, and watch it go down, down, down.

According to those figures, I’M ALREADY a member of the NEGATIVE HOMEOWNER EQUITY club, and ONE CATASTROPHIC EVENT away from joining the WALK AWAY FROM YOUR MORTGAGE, and TENT CITY clubs.

The green line is my houses worth the past few years - from $250K to $100K today

More than half the homes for sale in my middle-class neighborhood are foreclosures.

Just wait until the SHADOW INVENTORY is let loose on the market.

Homeowners are DOOMED.

And IF THE GOVERNMENT keeps DOING NOTHING to slow down LAYOFFS and OUTSOURCING, and nothing to stop the continued EXODUS of our MANUFACTURING BASE to places like VIETNAM, Obama’s plan to HELP UNEMPLOYED HOMEOWNERS is little more than a sliver of bread thrown at a STARVING nation.

The middle-class is DOOMED.

Our great nation is DOOMED.

While THE SHIFT of AMERICA’S SLIDE to CHINA’S RISE as the dominant word power continues.


1.2 Million Households Lost To Recession
As friends and families double up, “overcrowding” is up fivefold

By Jown Schoen
April 8, 2010

Since Richard Brown lost his job to the recession and his Boston home to foreclosure a year ago, he’s been working short-term consulting assignments until he gets back on his feet. In the meantime, he’s been couch surfing.

“I’ve lived with my brother, my cousin, my friend and my dad,” he said. “The IRS keeps calling me, asking me: What’s your address? And I say, “What week is this?”

Armed with college degree and an MBA, Brown, 49, built a solid resume over three decades as a corporate controller for several Fortune 500 companies, including W.R. Grace and Wal-Mart, before launching his own global consulting business with clients in Europe and Mexico. But when the Panic of 2008 sent clients scrambling, he was unable to keep up with a jump in his mortgage payments and lost his home to foreclosure.

Brown represents one of the more than 1.2 million households lost to the recession, according to a report issued this week by the Mortgage Bankers Association that looked at data between 2005 and 2008. That number doesnt include information from 2009, when job losses and foreclosures continued to rise.

So it’s likely that the full impact of the 8.4 million jobs lost and nearly three million homes foreclosed on since the recession began has taken an even bigger toll on the number of American households.

“Given the depth of the downturn in 2009, and the ongoing weakness in the job market through the beginning of this year, this study gives no reason to expect that household formation has picked up at all,” said Gary Painter, a professor at the University of Southern California who conducted the study.

The study also shed some light on what happens to the people in those “lost” households. Its widely assumed that many who lose a home to foreclosure become renters. But since the recession began, there has been a five-fold increase in overcrowding of remaining households - defined as more than one person per room, according to the study.

That doubling-up is happening as families who lose their homes move in with friends or family. In other cases, younger people have delayed moving out on their own, instead staying with their parents until the economy improves. Others who fail to find work after graduating from college move back home.

Falling homeownership levels

The decline in households is weighing on both the home buying and rental markets. Since the number of home foreclosures began surging in 2007, the national homeownership rate has been steadily falling. But renters also have been forced to double up or move in with friends or family. Thats a major reason that the vacancy rate for U.S. apartments stood at 8 percent in the first quarter, the highest level since 1986, according to a report this week from Reis, a real estate research firm.

The future pace of household destruction or formation is uncertain. A lot depends on how quickly the job and housing markets recover. The outlook for both is mixed.

Though many economists expect the economy to add several hundred thousand new jobs a month as the recovery gains strength, it will likely take years to restore employment to its pre-recession levels. After the 2001 recession, it took four years of job growth to restore a 2 percent drop in employment. This time around employment levels have fallen by 6 percent.

Homeownership levels, meanwhile, continue to decline. New foreclosures filings are running about 300,000 a month, according to RealtyTrac. There are currently some 5 million homeowners that are 90 days or more past due on their mortgages, according to Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan.

Though the pace of foreclosures has recently begun to taper off, there are indications they may pick up again as lenders redouble efforts to work out bad loans, and mortgage defaults continue to bring new foreclosures.

“Some of the foreclosure backlogs are working their way through the system at this point,” Duncan told CNBC.

Millions more homeowners who are current on their mortgages owe more than their home is worth. Though the government recently issued another round of guidelines to lenders urging them to reduce the principal owed on those loans, the process is mostly voluntary.

Rise in homelessness

So far, lenders have been slow to cut the size of a mortgage to make monthly payments more affordable. As a result, an increasing number of families are walking away from their homes in a process known in the industry as strategic default.

“That can become contagious, said Duncan,” as neighbors follow suit. “If they see someone else in their neighborhood that walks away, it increases the likelihood they will seriously consider not paying theirs, he said.”

It’s not a move to be taken lightly. The resulting damage to a borrowers credit history can hurt job prospects with a new employer or create a barrier to renting.

In some cases, the loss of a house to foreclosure is leaving families homeless, though there is little national data available on how many are affected. A RECENT STUDY by the Department of Housing and Urban Development found family homelessness on the rise since the recession began, with the biggest increases in suburban and rural areas.

Other groups, like the National Alliance to End Homelessness, report that a rising number of older adults are without a permanent place to live.

“The limited existing research tells a story of increasing homelessness among adults ages 50 and older, the group said in a recent report.”

The formation of new households isn’t expected to pick up again until at least 2012, according to the MBA study, even as the population continues to increase. Between 2005 and 2008, those 1.2 million households were lost even as the population grew by 3.4 million.

In the meantime, former homeowners like Brown are left scrambling for alternatives. He recently move into a rooming house where he continues to track down consulting work.

“I pay $600 for a third-floor room that gets hot in the summer,” he said. “It’s a blow. I dont belong here. I’m an educated person. Ive held executive positions. And here I am in a boarding house where Russian is a first language.”



New Home Sales Plummet To Record Low

By Hibah Yousuf
CNN Money
June 23, 2010

New home sales plummeted to a record low in May, the first month following the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit. This snapped a two-month streak of gains.

New home sales declined 32.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000 last month, down from an downwardly revised 446,000 in April, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Sales year-over-year fell 18.3%.

This is the slowest sales pace since the Commerce Department began tracking data in 1963. The prior record was set in September 1981, when new homes sold at an annual rate of 338,000.

“We expected a slowdown, but the extent of this decline was a surprise,” said Anika Khan, an economist at Wells Fargo. The figure was even worse than her relatively pessimistic forecast of an annual rate of 380,000 in May.

A consensus of economists surveyed by had expected May sales to slide to an annual rate of 430,000.

“Clearly, the lack of a tax credit had a lot to do with it, and it’s going to be a bit of a bumpy road ahead as we get a few more months of payback,” Khan said.

Home sales had surged in March and April as homebuyers scrambled to sign contracts ahead of the April 30 deadline for the tax credit. First-time homebuyers qualified for a tax credit up to $8,000, while repeat buyers could get as much as a $6,500 break.

Homebuyers have until June 30 to close deals, but the Senate may vote to push that deadline back to Sept. 30.

Khan expects home sales to remain depressed through the third quarter as home construction continues to contract and lending standards remain tight. But, she said, sales should pick up slightly in the fourth quarter.

Although, she added, we are still years away from a normal level of new home sales—an annual rate between 800,000 and 900,000.

“A full housing recovery is contingent on employment,” Khan said. “When we see the unemployment rate abate, and some growth in salaries and incomes, we’ll get some sustainable momentum in the housing market.”

A real estate industry report released earlier this week showed that existing home sales, based closed sales rather than signed contracts, slipped slightly last month but remained elevated.
0:00 /5:20Double-dip fears haunt housing

Price and inventory: The government report showed that the median price of new homes sold in May was $200,900, down less than 1% from April but a 9.6% drop from May 2009.

An estimated 213,000 new homes were for sale at the end of May, the lowest inventory level in more than 40 years.

Still, at the current sales pace, the government expects it will take 8.5 months to sell through that inventory, up from 5.8 months in April. Six months of inventory is considered normal market conditions.

Sales by region: Sales fell the most in the West, where they decreased by more than 50%; the Northwest saw sales declined by about a third. Sales in the South and Midwest declined by about 25%.


Bad Moon Rising
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5
Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9 - Part 10
Part 11 - Part 12 - Part 13 - Part 14 - Part 15
Part 16 - Part 17 - Part 18 - Part 19 - Part 20
Part 21 - Part 22 - Part 23 - Part 24 - Part 25
Part 26 - Part 27 - Part 28 - Part 29 - Part 30
Part 31 - Part 32 - Part 33 - Part 34 - Part 35
Part 36 - Part 37 - Part 38 - Part 39 - Part 40
Part 41 - Part 42 - Part 43 - Part 44 - Part 45
Part 46 - Part 47 - Part 48 - Part 49 - Part 50
Part 51 - Part 52 - Part 53 - Part 54

Posted by Elvis on 06/27/10 •
Section Bad Moon Rising
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father’s Day Blues 2010


Older Men Face Longer Job Searches

By Andrea Orr
Economic Policy Institute
June 17, 2010

This Fathers day, millions of fathers and grandfathers are struggling to find jobs, and data show that the OLDER the man, the longer he is likely to REMAIN ENEMPLOYED. Long-term unemployment lasting more than six months has reached record levels during the current jobs crisis. Among male workers age 20 to 24, close to one-third are long-term unemployed. That share increases progressively with age. Among unemployed men age 55 to 64, close to half - 49.7%—have been out of work for more than six months

Across all age groups, 39.9% of unemployed men are LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED. Many of them have EXHAUSTED or are at risk of soon exhausting their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Unemployed workers are typically eligible for 26 weeks of unemployment insurance, but during the Great Recession, Congress extended that for up to 99 weeks in order to stimulate the economy and strengthen the safety net for millions of long-term unemployed. That extension expired last month, and although the House of Representatives voted in May to maintain extended UI benefits beyond the standard 26 weeks, the Senate has not yet voted on the extension. As a result, by the end of June, well over one million jobless workers will have lost their unemployment insurance coverage



Nearly One Million US Workers Cut Off Unemployment Benefits
Senate Cuts Extension

By Patrick Martin
World Socialist Web Site
June 18, 2010

With 12 Democrats joining a unanimous Republican bloc, the US Senate voted Wednesday to defeat a proposed extension of unemployment benefits for workers who have been jobless for nearly two years. The bill would have extended unemployment benefits for those out of work more than six months, until November 30.

In the two and a half weeks since June 1, when the last extension expired, some 903,000 workers have seen their benefits cut off. By June 26, that number will top 1.2 million.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported that the number of new claims for unemployment compensation jumped to 472,000 last week, the highest figure in several months.

The result is that a Congress that rushed through a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street in October 2008 in a matter of days, and authorized a further financial windfall to the banks and speculators five months later, cannot bring itself to support even the most meager subsistence for the unemployed workers who are the victims, not the perpetrators, of the economic crisis.

The vote was taken under Senate rules, not to pass the legislation itself, but to waive budgetary discipline and allow passage by a simple majority rather than 60 votes out of 100. The result was 45 in favor and 52 against, with three senators absent. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had already abandoned an effort to adopt a cloture motion, closing debate, for lack of the necessary 60 votes. Three months ago a similar extension bill passed the Senate easily.

The unemployment extension is part of a larger bill that includes additional aid to state governments to cover Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor, and to offset a potential 21 percent cut in reimbursements to doctors who treat Medicare patients.

The House of Representatives passed a version of the bill May 28 costing $113 billion, but without the Medicaid assistance to the states. The Senate version includes the Medicaid support, and costs a total of $140 billion, which sparked the unanimous no vote of the Republicans, as well as the opposition of the 12 Democrats, mainly conservatives, but including liberals like Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

According to press reports, leading Senate Democrats are seeking to win votes from the bills opponents by eliminating a $25 a week increase in jobless benefits that was part of the 2009 stimulus package. In other words, either all 10 million jobless workers would see a $25 cut in benefits, from checks averaging $309 a week, or benefits for the 5.7 million long-term unemployed would be cut off completely. Either way, those deprived of work by the economic crisis of capitalism, the most vulnerable section of the working class, will be made to pay.

One of the dozen right-wing Democrats who voted against the bill, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, reiterated his opposition to Capitol Hill reporters. He cited concerns about the federal deficit, after rejecting a new version of the bill that would cost $20 billion less.

“Borrowing and deficit spending at the point of an economic crisis and we were in a severe one in late 2008 and early 2009 - is one thing,” Nelson said. “But when you’re in an economic recovery, as we are today, borrowing and deficit spending is ANOTHER THING.”

Another Democratic no vote, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, told Fox News through a spokesman that she was particularly opposed to a provision in the bill that would have raised taxes on the oil and gas industry from 8 cents a barrel to 49 cents, raising $18.3 billion to replenish the Oil Liability Trust Fund.

Besides the oil industry tax, there is enormous business opposition to a proposed increase in the tax on the compensation of hedge fund managers much of it currently taxed not as income but at the much lower capital gains rateחas well as a tax increase on investment partnerships. Lobbying against this provision was said to be especially heavy on the part of companies like Blackstone.

A Republican alternative, introduced by Senator John Thune of South Dakota, would have extended jobless benefits and selected tax credits for business, but at the price of a 5 percent across-the-board cut in all federal discretionary spending (with the military-intelligence apparatus excluded, of course). This was defeated by a 41 to 57 margin.

“Big business politicians of both parties have expressed their disdain for the unemployed, suggesting that extended unemployment benefits, now set at 99 weeks, are encouraging jobless workers to stay home and not look for work.” Georgia Republican Congressman John Linder said that extended benefits were “too much of an allure.”

Senator Diane Feinstein, a multi-millionaire Democrat from California, complained, We have 99 weeks of unemployment insurance. The question comes, how long do you continue that before people just don’t go back to work at all? California has a 12.6 percent unemployment rate, with 880,000 workers unemployed for 27 weeks or more, and receiving extended benefits.

Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat with particularly close ties to the White House, voted against the unemployment extension and backed the $25 a week cut. “This is not something that can go on indefinitely,” she said. Otherwise, “it begins to look like a brand-new level of entitlement program, which is something that we really cant afford to do right now.”

Reports in the corporate-controlled media invariably cite mass popular opposition to higher federal deficits as the reason for the shift by a section of the Democratic Party to opposing extended unemployment benefits. However, the claim that working people are up in arms over deficit spending is a spurious one, identifying the media-promoted antics of the Tea Party and other right-wing groups as a genuine popular movement.

The same polls that documentoverwhelming popular hostility to the bailout of Wall Street and the Obama administrations kid-glove treatment of BP show that the vast majority believe that jobless benefits should be extended and that emergency measures should be taken to provide jobs for the unemployed.

While the White House and Congress wrangle over the smallest of subsistence measures for the jobless, neither party nor the corporate elite as a whole propose to do anything to provide jobs for the unemployed. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that American corporations have increased their cash reserves to $1.84 trillion, the highest figure in history.

In other words, big business and the banks, after an unprecedented bailout by the public treasury, are hoarding the funds that could put millions back to work. The cash reserves of major corporations have jumped 26 percent in one year, the largest percentage increase in nearly 60 years. The cash reserves of working people, and particularly the unemployed, have not been so fortunate.

While the treatment of the unemployed is the most glaring expression of the callousness and indifference of the wealthy, the opposition to the Medicaid assistance to the states is not far behind. Medicaid, which pays for medical care for the poor, is the largest single budgetary item in most states, with 80 percent of the cost borne by the federal government and 20 percent by the states.

Most US states must balance their books for a fiscal year that ends June 30, and many have already included the promised Medicaid assistance as part of their financial planning. After the House stripped the Medicaid spending from its version of the bill, Obama sent a letter to House and Senate leaders on June 13, urging them to restore the aid to the states and warning that without it there would be massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters.

According to the National Governors Association, total state government spending has dropped for two years in a row, the first time such a decline has been recorded. State governments eliminated $300 billion in cumulative deficits over this two-year period, through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, usually in regressive sales and excise taxes.

A report issued by the Center on Budget and Policy Planning, a liberal Washington study group, warned that without federal aid, as many as 34 states could impose drastic and unprecedented budget cuts beginning July 1, cutting as many as 900,000 jobs in education and other public services.

Already, 28 states have ordered across-the-board budget cuts, 22 states have imposed pay less furloughs on employees, and 25 states and Puerto Rico have laid off state workers.


Posted by Elvis on 06/20/10 •
Section Dying America
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Drunk on War


Entering the Soviet Era in America

By Tom Engelhardt
Tom’s Dispatch
June 15, 2010

MARK IT on your calendar.  It seems weve finally entered the Soviet era in America.

You remember the Soviet Union, now almost 20 years in its grave.  But who gives it a SECOND THOUGHT today?  Even in its glory years that evil empire was sometimes referred to as the second superpower.  In 1991, after seven decades, it suddenly disintegrated and disappeared, leaving the United States—the sole superpower, even the hyperpower, on planet Earth—surprised but triumphant.

The USSR had been heading for the exits for quite a while, not that official Washington had a clue.  At the moment it happened, Soviet experts like Secretary of Defense ROBERT GATES (then director of the CIA) still expected the Cold War to GO ON AND ON.  In Washington, eyes were trained on the might of the Soviet military, which the Soviet leadership had never stopped feeding, even as its sclerotic bureaucracy was rotting, its economy (which had ceased to grow in the late 1970s) was tanking, budget deficits were soaring, indebtedness to other countries was growing, and social welfare payments were eating into what funds remained.  Not even a vigorous, reformist leader like Mikhail Gorbachev could staunch the rot, especially when, in the late 1980s, the price of Russian oil fell drastically.

Looking back, the most distinctive feature of the last years of the Soviet Union may have been the way it continued to pour money into its military—and its military adventure in Afghanistan—when it was already going bankrupt and the society it had built was beginning to collapse around it.  In the end, its aging leaders made a devastating miscalculation.  They mistook military power for power on this planet.  Armed to the teeth and possessing a nuclear force capable of destroying the Earth many times over, the Soviets nonetheless remained the vastly poorer, weaker, and (except when it came to the arms race) far less technologically innovative of the two superpowers.

In December 1979, perhaps taking the BAIT OF THE CARTER ADMINISTRATION whose national security advisor was eager to see the Soviets bloodied by a Vietnam of their own, the Red Army invaded Afghanistan to support a weak communist government in Kabul.  When resistance in the countryside, led by Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas and backed by the other superpower, only grew, the Soviets sent in more troops, launched major offensives, called in air power, and fought on brutally and futilely for a decade until, in 1989, long after they had been whipped, they withdrew in defeat.

Gorbachev had dubbed Afghanistan THE BLEEDING WOUND, and when the wounded Red Army finally limped home, it was to a country that would soon cease to exist.  For the Soviet Union, Afghanistan had literally proven the graveyard of empires.  If, at the end, its military remained standing, the empire didnt.  (And if you don’t already find this description just a tad eerie, given the present moment in the U.S., you should.)

In Washington, the Bush administration—G.H.W.s, not G.W.s—declared victory and then left the much ballyhooed peace dividend in the nearest ditch.  Caught off guard by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washingtons consensus policymakers drew no meaningful lessons from it (just as they had drawn few that mattered from their Vietnam defeat 16 years earlier).

Quite the opposite, successive American administrations would blindly head down the very path that had led the Soviets to ruin.  They would serially agree that, in a world without significant enemies, the key to U.S. global power still was the care and feeding of the American military and the military-industrial complex that went with it.  As the years passed, that military would be sent ever more regularly into the far reaches of the planet to fight frontier wars, establish military bases, and finally impose a global Pax Americana on the planet.

This urge, delusional in retrospect, seemed to reach its ultimate expression in the second Bush administration, whose infamous unilateralism rested on a belief that no country or even bloc of countries should ever again be allowed to come close to matching U.S. military power.  (As its National Security Strategy of 2002 put the matter—and it couldn’t have been blunter on the subject—the U.S. was to build and maintain its military power beyond challenge.) Bushs military fundamentalists firmly believed that, in the face of the most technologically advanced, bulked-up, destructive force around, hostile states would be shocked and awed by a simple demonstration of its power and friendly ones would have little choice but to come to heel as well.  After all, as the president said in front of a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in 2007, the U.S. military was the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known.

In this way, far more than the Soviets, the top officials of the Bush administration mistook military power for power, a gargantuan misreading of the U.S. economic position in the world and of their moment.

Boundless Military Ambitions

The attacks of September 11, 2001, that Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century, clinched the deal.  In the space the Soviet Union had deserted, which had been occupied by minor outlaw states like North Korea for years, there was a new shape-shifting enemy, al-Qaeda (aka Islamic extremism, aka the new totalitarianism), which could be just as big as you wanted to make it.  Suddenly, we were in what the Bush administration instantly dubbed the Global War on Terror (GWOT, one of the worst acronyms ever invented)—and this time there would be nothing cold about it.

Bush administration officials promptly suggested that they were prepared to use a newly agile American military to drain the swamp of global terrorism.  ("While we’ll try to find every snake in the swamp, the essence of the strategy is draining the swamp,” insisted Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz two weeks after 9/11.) They were prepared, they made clear, to undertake those draining operations against Islamic terrorist networks in no less than 60 countries around the planet.

Their military ambitions, in other words, knew no bounds; nor, it seemed, did the money and resources which began to flow into the Pentagon, the weapons industries, the country’s increasingly militarized intelligence services, mercenary companies like Blackwater and KBR that grew fat on a privatizing administrations war plans and the multi-billion-dollar no-bid contracts it was eager to proffer, the new Department of Homeland Security, and a ramped-up, ever more powerful NATIONAL SECURITY STATE.

As the Pentagon expanded, taking on ever newer roles, the numbers would prove staggering.  By the end of the Bush years, Washington was doling out almost twice what the next nine nations combined were spending on their militaries, while total U.S. military expenditures came to just under half the world’s total.  Similarly, by 2008, the U.S. controlled almost 70% of the global arms market. It also had 11 aircraft carrier battle groups capable of patrolling the worlds seas and oceans at a time when no power that could faintly be considered a possible future enemy had more than one.

By then, private contractors had built for the Pentagon almost 300 military bases in Iraq, ranging from tiny combat outposts to massive American towns holding tens of thousands of troops and private contractors, with multiple bus lines, PX’s, fast-food boardwalks, massage parlors, water treatment and power plants, barracks, and airfields.  They were in the process of doing the same in Afghanistan and, to a lesser extent, in the Persian Gulf region generally.  This, too, represented a massive investment in what looked like a permanent occupation of the oil heartlands of the planet.  As right-wing pundit Max Boot put it after a recent flying tour of Americas global garrisons, the U.S. possesses military bases that add up to a virtual American empire of Wal-Mart-style PXs, fast-food restaurants, golf courses, and gyms.

Depending on just what you counted, there were anywhere from 700 to perhaps 1,200 or more U.S. bases, micro to macro, acknowledged and unacknowledged, around the globe.  Meanwhile, the Pentagon was pouring money into the wildest blue-skies thinking at its advanced research arm, DARPA, whose budget grew by 50%.  Through DARPA, well-funded scientists experimented with various ways to fight sci-fi-style wars in the near and distant future (at a moment when no one was ready to put significant government money into blue-skies thinking about, for instance, how to improve the education of young Americans).  The Pentagon was also pioneering a new form of air power, drone warfare, in which we wouldn’t be within thousands of miles of the battlefield, and the battlefield would no longer necessarily be in a country with which we were at war.

It was also embroiled in two disastrous, potentially trillion-dollar wars (and various global skirmishes)—and all this at top dollar at a time when next to no money was being invested in, among other things, the bridges, tunnels, waterworks, and the like that made up an aging American INFRASTRUCTURE.  Except when it came to victory, the military stood ever taller, while its many missions expanded exponentially, even as the domestic economy was spinning out of control, budget deficits were increasing rapidly, the governmental bureaucracy was growing ever more sclerotic, and indebtedness to other nations was rising by leaps and bounds.

In other words, in a far wealthier country, another set of leaders, having watched the Soviet Union implode, decisively embarked on the Soviet path to disaster.

Military Profligacy

In the fall of 2008, the abyss opened under the U.S. economy, which the Bush administration had been blissfully ignoring, and millions of people fell into it.  Giant institutions wobbled or crashed; extended unemployment wouldnt go away; foreclosures happened on a mind-boggling scale; infrastructure began to buckle; state budgets were caught in a death grip; teachers’ jobs, another kind of infrastructure, went down the tubes in startling numbers; and the federal deficit soared.

Of course, a new president also entered the Oval Office, someone (many voters believed) intent on winding up (or at least down) Bush’s wars and the delusions of military omnipotence and technological omniscience that went with them.  If George W. Bush had pushed this country to the edge of disaster, at least his military policies, as many of his critics saw it, were as extreme and anomalous as the cult of executive power his top officials fostered.

But here was the strange thing.  In the midst of the Great Recession, under a new president with assumedly far fewer illusions about American omnipotence and power, war policy continued to expand in just about every way.  The Pentagon budget rose by Bushian increments in fiscal year 2010; and while the Iraq War reached a kind of dismal stasis, the new president doubled down in Afghanistan on entering office—and then doubled down again before the end of 2009.  There, he SURGED in multiple ways.  At best, the U.S. was only drawing down one war, in Iraq, to feed the flames of another.

As in the Soviet Union before its collapse, the exaltation and feeding of the military at the expense of the rest of society and the economy had by now become the new normal; so much so that hardly a serious word could be said—lest you not support our troops—when it came to ending the American way of war or downsizing the global mission or ponying up the funds demanded of Congress to pursue war preparations and war-making.

Even when, after years of astronomical growth, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates began to talk about cost-cutting at the Pentagon, it was in the service of the reallocation of ever more money to war-fighting.  Here was how the New York Times summed up what reduction actually meant for our ultimate super-sized institution in tough times: Current budget plans project growth of only 1 percent in the Pentagon budget, after inflation, over the next five years.  Only 1% growth—at a time when state budgets, for instance, are being slashed to the bone.  Like the Soviet military, the Pentagon, in other words, is planning to remain obese whatever else goes down.

Meanwhile, the anti-war president has been overseeing the expansion of the new normal on many fronts, including the expanding size of the Army itself.  In fact, when it comes to the Global War on Terror—even with the name now in disuse—the profligacy can still take your breath away.

Consider, for instance, the $2.2 billion Host Nation Trucking contract the Pentagon uses to pay protection money to Afghan security companies which, in turn, slip some part of those payments to the Taliban to let American supplies travel safely on Afghan roads.  Or if you don’t want to think about how your tax dollar supports the Taliban, consider the $683,000 the Pentagon spent, according to the Washington Post, to renovate a cafe that sells ice cream and Starbucks coffee at its base/prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Or the $773,000 used there to remodel a cinder-block building to house a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant, or the $7.3 million spent on baseball and football fields, or the $60,000 batting cage, or a promised $20,000 soccer cage, all part of the approximately two billion dollars that have gone into the American base and prison complex that Barack Obama promised to, but cant, close.

Or what about the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, that 104-acre, almost three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar, 21-building homage to the American-mall-as-fortified-citadel?  It costs more than $1.5 billion a year to run, and bears about as much relationship to an embassy as McDonald’s does to a neighborhood hamburger joint.  According to a recent audit, millions of dollars in federal propertyӔ assigned to what is essentially a vast command center for the region, including 159 of the embassy’s 1,168 vehicles, are missing or unaccounted for.

And as long as were talking about expansion in distant lands, how about the Pentagon’s most recent construction plans in Central Asia, part of a prospective mini-building boom there.  They are to include an anti-terrorism training center to be constructed for a bargain basement $5.5 million in… no, not Toledo or Akron or El Paso, but the combustible city of Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan.  And thats just one of several projects there and in neighboring Tajikistan that are reportedly to be funded out of the U.S. Central Command’s counter-narcotics fund (and ultimately, of course, your pocket). 

Or consider a particularly striking example of military expansion under President Obama, superbly reported by the Washington Posts Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe in a piece headlined, U.S. “secret war’” expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role. As a story, it sank without a trace in a country evidently unfazed by the idea of having its forces garrisoned and potentially readying to fight everywhere on the planet.

Here’s how the piece began:

Beneath its commitment to soft-spoken diplomacy and beyond the combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration has significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups, according to senior military and administration officials.  Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year.

Now, without opening an atlas, just try to name any 75 countries on this planet—more than one-third, that is, of the states belonging to the United Nations.  And yet U.S. special operatives are now engaging in war, or preparing for war, or training others to do so, or covertly collecting intelligence in that many countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.  Fifteen more than in the Bush era. 

Whatever it is or isnt called, this remains Bush’s Global War on Terror on an expansionist trajectory.  DeYoung and Jaffe quote an unnamed senior military officialӔ saying that the Obama administration has allowed “things that the previous administration did not,” and report that Special Operations commanders are now a far more regular presence at the White HouseӔ than in the Bush years.

Not surprisingly, those Special Operations forces have themselves expanded in the first year and a half of the Obama presidency and, for fiscal year 2011, with 13,000 of them already deployed abroad, the administration has requested a 5.7% hike in their budget to $6.3 billion.

Once upon a time, Special Operations forces got their name because they were small and special.  Now, they are, in essence, being transformed into a covert military within the military and, as befits their growing size, reports Noah Shachtman of the Wired’s Danger Room, the Army Special Forces alone are slated to get a new $100 million headquarters in northern Afghanistan.  It will cover about 17 acres and will include a communications building, Tactical Operations Center, training facility, medical aid station, Vehicle Maintenance Facility… dining facility, laundry facility, and a kennel to support working dogs… Supporting facilities include roads, power production system and electrical distribution, water well, non-potable water production, water storage, water distribution, sanitary sewer collection system, communication manhole/duct system, curbs, walkways, drainage and parking.

This headquarters, adds Shachtman, will take a year to build, at which point, the U.S. is allegedly supposed to begin drawing down its forces in Afghanistan. Allegedly.  And mind you, the Special Operations troops are but one expanding part of the U.S. military.

Creeping Gigantism

The first year and a half of the Obama administration has seen a continuation of what could be considered the monumental socialist-realist era of American war-making (including a decision to CONSTRUCT another huge, Baghdad-style embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan). This sort of creeping gigantism, with all its assorted cost overruns and private PERKS, would undoubtedly have seemed familiar to the Soviets.  Certainly no less familiar will be the near decade the U.S. military has spent, increasingly disastrously, in the Afghan graveyard.

Drunk on war as Washington may be, the U.S. is still not the Soviet Union in 1991—not yet.  But its not the triumphant sole superpower anymore either.  Its global power is visibly waning, its ability to win wars distinctly in question, its economic viability open to doubt.  It has been transformed from a can-do into a can’t-do nation, a fact only highlighted by the ongoing BP catastrophe and rescue in the Gulf of Mexico.  Its airports are less shiny and more Third World-like every year.  Unlike France or China, it has not a mile of high-speed rail. And when it comes to the FUTURE, especially the CREATION AND SUPPORT of INNOVATIVE INDUSTRIES in alternative energy, its chasing the pack.  It is increasingly a low-end service economy, LOOSING good JOBS that will NEVER RETURN.

And if its armies come home in defeat… watch out.

In 1991, the Soviet Union suddenly evaporated.  The Cold War was over.  Like many wars, it seemed to have an obvious winner and an obvious loser.  Nearly 20 years later, as the U.S. heads down the Soviet road to disaster—even if the world can’t imagine what a bankrupt America might mean—its far clearer that, in the titanic struggle of the two superpowers that we came to call the Cold War, there were actually two losers, and that, when the second superpower left the scene, the first was already heading for the exits, just ever so slowly and in a state of self-intoxicated self-congratulation.  Nearly every decision in Washington since then, including Barack Obama’s to expand both the Afghan War and the war on terror, has only made what, in 1991, was one possible path seem like fate itself.

Call up the Politburo in Washington.  We’re in trouble.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His new book, The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obamas (Haymarket Books), will be published this week. To catch him discussing “America in the Soviet era,” as well as his new book, on the latest TomCast audio interview, click HERE, or to download it to your iPod, click HERE.

[Note on sources and readings:  I regularly rely on the invaluable Antiwar dot com, Juan Coles Informed Comment blog, Paul Woodward’s The War in Context, and Noah Shachtmans Danger Room (for all things strange and military), as well as Katherine Tiedemann’s Daily Brief at the AfPak Channel, and recommend them often enough.  Let me suggest another interesting place to visit: TomDispatch regular Karen Greenberg’s Center on Law and Security at NYU has a new website, the CenterLine, which has just launched a daily round-up report on war on terror issues of every sort:  Today’s Terrorism News. It’s well worth attending to.  Finally, as ever, my special thanks go to Christopher Holmes, who patrols the borders of TomDispatchland, day and night, in search of error.  He’s indefatigable.]


Posted by Elvis on 06/20/10 •
Section Dying America
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Toxic Friends


An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.
- Buddha

When Friendship is No Longer Healthy
7 Good Reasons to Dump a Friend

By Ann Smith
Psychology Today
June 16, 2010

We’ve all heard the studies about the important role that friendships play in our emotional and physical well being. Most of us would agree that having a few good friends to whom we can turn in times of joy and sorrow or even for simple distraction is a real plus in life and, at times, necessary for our survival.

So how could friendship ever be a bad thing?

Here are seven good reasons to move on from an unhealthy friendship:

1. They take and you give. If over time you notice that the balance between giving and receiving leans heavily to your side giving and rarely focuses on your needs, it’s time to have a talk. If after making it clear that you want an equal relationship it is obvious that you have become a permanent caretaker to your “friend,” you can either charge professional fees or gracefully move on.

2. They do not support who you are. When criticism and put downs are a regular part of your conversations this is not a friendship that will enhance your emotional health. Sometimes disguised as teasing, humor or sarcasm a friend’s digs may be aimed at lowering your status in the relationship in order to elevate their own. This does even greater harm when it takes place in public. Speak up, tell them you want to be treated with respect and if it is a person you would like to keep around, give him or her time to change. If the response to your request is more criticism, move on.

3. They cannot be trusted with your secrets. A few proven trustworthy friends can be an essential part of a healthy life. This “circle of trust” is a small hand picked group who may need to be reevaluated from time to time based on experience. Most of us have several superficial friendships where we share only things that are common knowledge and don’t require much scrutiny. Those who get to hear our secrets must be true blue and also trust you with their inner thoughts as well. Keeping in mind that human beings are imperfect and may slip up, if a friend does that more than once and in a cruel fashion, we need to be honest about our hurt and disappointment and either end the friendship or change the nature of it back to the superficial category.

4. They bring out the worst in you. Some friends are just not well enough to be what you need them to be. When you have an emotional “growth spurt,” you may find that your old best friend isn’t able to go along with you into a healthier future. They might prefer that you keep drinking, stay with that abusive husband, wife or partner. They may advise you to start dating only days after a separation or tell you to leave a relationship because “you don’t have to take that” when you haven’t even tried to work on it. Or they may tell you that plastic surgery would be the solution to your low self esteem. If it is time to let go, start bringing healthy friends into your life and gradually decreasing time on the phone with your old friend. You may end up influencing him or her in a positive way but remember we can’t change anyone with advice or lectures.

5. They consistently disappoint you. When a friend sets a date with you where your expectation is a time for intimate sharing and catching up and without warning they bring along another friend you don’t know it is a little upsetting but we can get over it. If they cancel out for a great concert you were going to together and take a date instead, you might be able to cope with that after some time of talking and making of amends occurs. If they borrow money from you and then buy themselves expensive jewelry without paying you back, you may need to stop loaning money and seriously talk about your feelings. If all of the above are occurring with some regularity, you may get tired of expecting him or her to treat you with respect and sick of requesting change with no results. This pattern is unlikely to change and it is time to move on and spend time with more reliable, caring friends.

6. They don’t like or respect your spouse, child or family. It is not easy to balance all of our important relationships and be healthy in our interactions with them. We rely on friends to help us see the other side of things and to listen to us when we need to complain about someone who is a challenge for us. Sometimes we appreciate someone who agrees with us that our partner is being unreasonable or pig headed. If they go further and have feelings of dislike for those we care about that is where trouble begins. Friendships that begin to separate us from those we love, either in how we spend our time or what we are comfortable talking about may begin to drain energy rather than enhance our lives. A friend who is opposed to your choice of intimate partner may undermine that relationship especially at vulnerable times. If this friend is only one of many who oppose the relationship you may need to be clear about your discomfort but don’t give up a friend you will regret losing in the future. However if the friend is speaking from insecurities, jealousy or just general meanness, you need to honor your primary relationship and focus on friends who support your choice.

7. Your friend wants a romantic relationship and you don’t. Many people try to maintain platonic relationships with previous or potential romantic partners. Rarely is this a workable arrangement. More often than not, it ends badly and with sometimes serious consequences. It is a preventable problem when common sense prevails. When we are honest with ourselves, the truth is that one of the two friends is hoping it will become more and hanging on until it does. Once attraction begins to surface it becomes impossible to ignore and generally requires the end of a friendship. The best policy may be that the lovers of your past stay in your past. The exception might be after many years have passed without contact and both individuals are clear and secure with committed partners. An additional condition would be that your current partner does not find it threatening and is included in the social situations you might engage in with this friend.

My personal experiences with friendship have been varied. As a young girl I saw friends in a self centered way as a means to social connection, not knowing how to share myself with them or be present for them.

Fortunately, with help I was able to learn and grow in my understanding of the important role that deep, long term friendships can play in a healthy life. My focus shifted from quantity of friends to quality in both what I gave and what I hoped to receive.

In addition to the love and connection I am blessed to enjoy with my family, I would now say that my friends provide a secure place for me to return to when I’m struggling, consult with when I’m dreaming, and celebrate when I’m flourishing. I truly hope that I do the same for them.



Tired of Insincere People? Heres One

By Nicholl McGuire
June 1, 2009

Insincere people are bad actors. They pretend to be happy for you when they aren’t, and they act as if they care about you when they could careless. Why do we bother with them?

Something bad has happened to you so you decide to share it with your partner or spouse and he mumbles, “Really?” You share a little about your day with your children and they say, “Whatever!” You tell a friend about the same incident that has left you furious and she says, “Oh really?” Then there is a long pause and she starts talking about her problems. Everyone you seem to talk to has a it can’t be that bad attitude. While you are opening up about the things that matter to you, they act as if they couldn’t care less. Has societal issues created a growing population of “whatever” people? The kind of people that just go around saying, “whatever” to just about anything including issues of importance.  Something bad happens on the news and no one says anything because they have seen it all.  Two people are arguing in a store and shoppers continue to look at their merchandise like nothing is going on.  Someone receives a wonderful gift and people try real hard to be happy for them.

Where does this attitude come from anyway? Are people so busy with “whatever” that everything around them is “whatever.” Take for instance; I was excited about my first book I had written. It had been published and I had tears in my eyes when I received the very first copy. It took so many years for me to writeLaboring to Love an Abusive Mate because it was about my issue with domestic violence at the young age of 21 and I wanted to share my story with others hoping that if they should read my story they would think twice about staying with an abusive mate. I shared my accomplishment with a few choice people and one of them in the group said something like a, Oh, ahem that’s nice. At first I thought it may have been jealousy that caused him to react in this way, but I later learned when I watched his reaction about other things that he is just an insincere person. He really wasn’t happy for me or anyone else for that matter, he just doesnt care.  He tries to act interested but it comes off to be very fake.  Now had the book been about him, maybe the reaction would have been different?

You see, we live in a society of fake people. Look around you, fake hair, fake eyelashes, fake gold, fake designer purses and watches, fake breasts, fake eye colors, fake nails, you get my point? So when someone in the fashion industry says something fake is in, people buy it. When someone says, “I got this purse on sale, but its a fake.” The other person will say, “Where did you get it?” It seems the only time insincere people are sincere is when someone either looks fake, acts fake, or suggests something is fake. I think of the men whose heads turn when a woman who is fake from head to toe walks into a room, they know she is fake, but they cant help but secretly lust for her. I think of the many gold-diggers who are deceived when they think that the man who is seated at the bar showing wads of cash is someone important. He is fake just like the rest. Pretending to be something he is not, he knows that part of his fat money roll is needed to pay his rent or he will be put outdoors next month.

We are looking to make these insincere people act sincerely. We try real hard to excite them. We are almost like entertainers performing in front of an audience. “What will it take for me to get you to react?” Then we question whether the smile that appears on their face is a real one or a fake one. We talk to these people hoping that they will advise or encourage us; rather, they tell us only what they want us to hear. They will notkeep it real for fear that they will hurt us or be yelled at. Listen, I rather tell the truth to someone knowing there is the possibility that one day they might not be my friend, then to tell them what they want to hear just to keep a friendship. I personally believe that good friends will not lie to one another. A real friend won’t let you come out the house with your fake hair falling off your head and when you ask them, “How do I look” They will say, “Your wig is starting to come off your head!”

Insincere people also tend to show up in your life unexpectedly. They come bearing gifts and when the newness of the relationship becomes old, they notice they aren’t getting too much in return for what they put out. Eventually everything from that point on becomes a problem for them. They won’t do or accept anything with a sincere heart. Oh, they may put on a scene in front of everyone like they are so thankful and they are just a wonderful person, but the reality is they are feeling rather ugly inside. In time their ugliness shows up and we find out that their act of appreciation and their gesture of kindness was just that an act!

Insincere people they say they love you when in all actuality they just love being with you until you make them angry. You see, insincere people don’t like people telling them the truth. They don’t want anyone showing them their faults, telling them how they feel, or anything else that could potentially turn into a disagreement. They think truth tellers are trouble makers. Insincere people belong with people like them. I love you today, but if you do anything wrong, I won’t love you tomorrow. As much as I sincerely want a strong circle of people around me who will pray with me, I know that I have to dig through all the insincere people to find a few real ones, isn’t that what Jesus had to do? Out of all those multitudes, he could only find 12 followers and even they fell short at times in their relationship with Jesus. I’m sure in biblical times they had the “whatever” types, the fakes, and other types of insincere people; I can only hope that there are more of us, sincere folks, than there are they



Posted by Elvis on 06/17/10 •
Section Spiritual Diversions • Section Personal
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