Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’m teaching a Psychology of Personality course this semester, and yesterday I started lecturing about Freud and psychoanalytic theory. I was explaining Freud’s notion of the three parts of the personality–the id, the ego, and the superego. You’re probably familiar with those terms, but basically the id is there when we are born–it is completely self-centered, doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality, all it cares about is pleasure. It wants what it wants when it wants it. Sometime during infancy, we develop an ego that gets the id under some control, and around age 4-6 we develop a superego–basically like a conscience, that tells us which behaviors are right or wrong or socially acceptable.

Anyway, after class I was thinking about Muammar Gaddafi and his bizarre behavior–the way he has insisted for weeks that there is no opposition and that he isn’t attacking Libyan citizens. No, he would never do that. It occurred to me that Gaddafi is pretty much acting from his id all the time. Of course his ego keeps him somewhat connected to reality so he can function in the world, but mostly he just cares about his own needs.

I wonder if that is what happens to all leaders who gain absolute control. Does the quote “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” really mean that power causes people to regress to an earlier stage of development?

It sounds peculiar, but think about how powerful people get so many of their needs met by others. Obama doesn’t have to worry about paying for things, getting food or clothing, even getting information. It is all provided by other people. In many ways, it’s a kind of childlike, dependent state. So if the leader doesn’t have a strong character (ego), he can end up behaving in a narcissistic, childlike way.

OK, well that’s my not-very-deep thought for today.

So what’s happening in the news? As has often been the case in recent weeks, much of the big news is coming from outside the U.S.

On Libya, there has been more criticism of the UN resolution and how it is being carried out. I posted quite a few examples of the criticism in my post last night. Most of the objections are based on the fact that Libya is not at all important to the U.S. strategically.

Today I want to recommend a couple of articles that explain why the intervention in Libya, while troubling in many ways, was probably the right thing to do–even for U.S. interests. The first is by Mark Lynch at the Foreign Policy blog. Lynch uses the name “abuardvark” on twitter. His post is headlined Libya in its Arab Context Although Lynch has misgivings about the intervention and has written about them, he still thinks what the U.S. is doing is the right thing–both for the Arab world and for advancing our interests. Here’s his basic argument:

Libya matters to the United States not for its oil or intrinsic importance, but because it has been a key part of the rapidly evolving transformation of the Arab world. For Arab protestors and regimes alike, Gaddafi’s bloody response to the emerging Libyan protest movement had become a litmus test for the future of the Arab revolution. If Gaddafi succeeded in snuffing out the challenge by force without a meaningful response from the United States, Europe and the international community then that would have been interpreted as a green light for all other leaders to employ similar tactics. The strong international response, first with the tough targeted sanctions package brokered by the United States at the United Nations and now with the military intervention, has the potential to restrain those regimes from unleashing the hounds of war and to encourage the energized citizenry of the region to redouble their efforts to bring about change. This regional context may not be enough to justify the Libya intervention, but I believe it is essential for understanding the logic and stakes of the intervention by the U.S. and its allies.

Libya’s degeneration from protest movement into civil war has been at the center of the Arab public sphere for the last month. It is not an invention of the Obama administration, David Cameron or Nicholas Sarkozy. Al-Jazeera has been covering events in Libya extremely closely, even before it tragically lost one of its veteran cameramen to Qaddafi’s forces, and has placed it at the center of the evolving narrative of Arab uprisings. Over the last month I have heard personally or read comments from an enormous number of Arab activists and protest organizers and intellectuals from across the region that events in Libya would directly affect their own willingness to challenge their regimes. The centrality of Libya to the Arab transformation undermines arguments that Libya is not particularly important to the U.S. (it is, because it affects the entire region) or that Libya doesn’t matter more than, say, Cote D’Ivoire (which is also horrible but lacks the broader regional impact).

Lynch is still worried about what could go wrong:

I continue to have many, many reservations about the military intervention, especially about the risk that it will degenerate into an extended civil war which will require troops regardless of promises made today. But as I noted on Twitter over the weekend, for all those reservations I keep remembering how I felt at the world’s and America’s failure in Bosnia and Rwanda. And I can’t ignore the powerful place which Libya occupies in the emerging Arab transformations, and how the outcome there could shape the region’s future. Failure to act would have damned Obama in the eyes of the emerging empowered Arab public, would have emboldened brutality across the region, and would have left Qaddafi in place to wreak great harm. I would have preferred a non-military response — as, I am quite sure, the Obama administration would have preferred. But Qaddafi’s military advances and the failure of the sanctions to split his regime left Obama and his allies with few choices. The intervention did not come out of nowhere. It came out of an intense international focus on the Arab transformations and a conviction that what happens now could shape the region for decades.

At CNN, Peter Bergen tries to explain Why Libya 2011 is not Iraq 2003 I recommend checking it out.

Another article worth reading is by Robert Fisk at The Independent: Right across the Arab world, freedom is now a prospect

In the Middle East, Yemen may be close to ousting President Ali Abdullah Saleh. From the Guardian:

A military showdown is looming in Yemen after the defence minister announced that the army would defend the president against any “coup against democracy”. His statement came hours after 12 military commanders, including a senior general, defected from the regime and promised to protect anti-government protesters in the capital, Sana’a.

[….]

Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, suffered a significant blow when General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, his longtime confidant and head of the Yemeni army in the north-west, announced that he would support “the peaceful revolution” by sending soldiers under his command to protect the thousands gathered in the capital to demand that Saleh step down.

“According to what I’m feeling, and according to the feelings of my partner commanders and soldiers … I announce our support and our peaceful backing to the youth revolution,” Ali Mohsen said.

Minutes after his defection, tanks belonging to the republican guards, an elite force led by Ahmed Ali, the president’s son, rolled into the streets of Sana’a, setting the stage for a confrontation between defectors and loyalists.

At Bloomberg: U.S. Faces Loss of Key Ally Against Al-Qaeda in Yemen

…Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh appears unlikely to weather a popular uprising and defections among his ruling elite, former U.S. officials said.

“It’s clear at this point that Saleh will have to step down,” Barbara Bodine, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, said in an interview yesterday. With the “mounting numbers of senior people in his administration resigning, we know it’s over. The terms of his departure, I think, are still being negotiated.”

The March 18 killing of at least 46 protesters allegedly by police and pro-regime gunmen — which drew condemnation from Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and prompted the defection of key military, tribal and government officials — may well be the tipping point.

Protests are continuing to escalate in Syria as well.

In Deraa, hundreds of black-uniformed security forces wielding AK-47 assault rifles lined the streets but did not confront thousands of mourners who marched at the funeral of 23-year-old Raed al-Kerad, a protester killed in Deraa.

“God, Syria, freedom. The people want the overthrow of corruption,” they chanted. The slogan is a play on the words “the people want the overthrow of the regime,” the rallying cry of revolutions that overthrew the veteran rulers of Tunisia and Egypt.

Security forces opened fire last Friday on civilians taking part in a peaceful protest in Deraa to demand the release of 15 children detained for writing protest graffiti.

Authorities released the children on Monday in a sign they were hoping to defuse tension in the border town, which witnessed more protests after Friday’s crackdown.

And there is a lot happening in Bahrain too. This article is worth a read: Libya burns but Bahrain can shake the world

While the world attention remains glued to the fires in Libya potential stakes in Bahrain are actually a hundred times higher. Safaniya Oil Field, the largest oil field in the world, is less than 200 miles from Manama. The Strait of Hormuz, through which passes 20 percent of world oil shipments and 40 percent of the world’s sea-borne oil shipments, is within a 400-mile radius.

More importantly, United States Fifth Fleet, with a forward deployed Carrier Strike Group, Combat Command force, Anti-Terrorism force, Sea Stallion helicopters, Amphibious Force and Patrol and Reconnaissance Force, is headquartered at Naval Support Activity Bahrain (or NSA Bahrain). In essence, Bahrain is home to America’s military might that reigns over the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and the Arabian Sea-all put together.

On March 14, around 2,000 soldiers of the Saudi-led, US-backed Peninsula Shield Force, in their armored carriers and tanks, invaded Bahrain. The stated purpose of the invasion is: to crush an unarmed civilian uprising.

On March 15, King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa of Mamlakat al Bahrayn declared martial law under which the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF), numbering around 10,000 personnel, was “empowered to take whatever actions it deems appropriate in dealing with the predominately Shiite-driven unrest.”

I recommend clicking on the link and reading the rest to learn how Iran could get involved in the Bahrain conflict. Yikes!

In Japan workers are still trying to get the Fukushima nuclear plant under control. We keep hearing that things are improving, but it’s kind of hard for me to trust what I hear from governments and corporations these days. After Iraq, Katrina, the BP oil spill, and on and on, I honestly believe just about everyone in government and private business lies their asses off. The biggest fear at the moment is the radiation that is turning up in food and water. Of course the authorities claim that’s nothing to worry about, but why should we believe them?

Away from the plant, mounting evidence of radiation in vegetables, water and milk stirred concerns among Japanese and abroad despite assurances from Japanese officials that the levels were not dangerous.

TEPCO said radiation was found in the Pacific ocean nearby , not surprising given rain and the hosing of reactors with seawater. Some experts said it was unclear where the used seawater was ultimately being disposed.

Radioactive iodine in the sea samples was 126.7 times the allowed limit, while cesium was 24.8 times over, Kyodo said. That still posed no immediate danger, TEPCO said.

“It would have to be drunk for a whole year in order to accumulate to one millisievert,” a TEPCO official said, referring to the standard radiation measurement unit. People are generally exposed to about 1 to 10 millisieverts each year from background radiation caused by substances in the air and soil.

Whatever. I wouldn’t want to drink from the tap or swim in the radioactive ocean water.

Back in the USA, Wisconsin Asks Appeals Court to Block Order Halting Union Bargaining Law

Wisconsin’s attorney general asked an appeals court to block a state judge’s order that temporarily halted a law curbing government employee unions’ collective- bargaining power.

State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen today also asked the Wisconsin Court of Appeals for permission to file an appeal seeking to overturn the ruling by Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi.

“Contrary to established case law, the trial court injected itself into the legislative process and enjoined a legislative act,” Van Hollen said in court papers filed today in Madison. “There is absolutely no authority for the broad, overreaching step taken.”

Sumi on March 18 granted a temporary restraining order blocking publication of the measure signed into law by Governor Scott Walker on March 11, after a hearing in Madison, the state’s capital city. Publication gives the law full force and effect.

I’ll end on a lighter note. If you’re as old as I am, you might remember a guy named Owsley “Bear” Stanley: “the Sixties hero who ‘turned on’ a generation.” Stanley died a few days ago in a car crash at the age of 76.

Stanley, who died in a car crash in Australia on Sunday, fuelled the “flower power” counter-culture that took root in California in the mid-1960s, supplying it with acid that he manufactured after stumbling across a recipe in a chemistry journal.

He also worked with the psychedelic rock band Grateful Dead, who wrote their song “Alice D Millionaire” about him after a newspaper described him as an “LSD millionaire”. One batch of his drugs reputedly inspired Jimi Hendrix’s song “Purple Haze”, and he provided LSD for the notorious “Acid Test” parties hosted by the American writer Ken Kesey, which featured in books by Tom Wolfe and Hunter S Thompson.

News of Stanley’s death – his car swerved off a road and slammed into a tree near his home in north Queensland – elicited tributes, but also surprise. Despite a youth so misspent that his name became slang for good acid, Stanley had made it to the age of 76. He was even a great-grandfather. In a statement yesterday, his family mourned him as “our beloved patriarch”.

Supposedly, a batch of Owsley’s acid inspired Jimi Hendrix’s first big hit, Purple Haze. Rest in peace, Owsley. I am one “casualty” of the ’60s who did learn something significant from my experiences with LSD. One thing I eventually learned is that I don’t need drugs to “get high.”

I guess that’s another not-so-deep thought, but hey, I’m OK with that. What are you reading and blogging about today?


30 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. Minkoff Minx says:

    BB, fabulous post…Your thoughts on Id and dictators got me thinking. In my history courses there was always the discussion of “strong personality” types that take advantage of their country and their people. That idea that the id is taking over their ego makes sense to me.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I guess what happens is that the ego and superego tasks are taken over by sychophants, and the leader becomes more and more focused on himself and his own needs. That’s not to say that a person with a strong character can’t keep that from happening and be a good leader.

      • dakinikat says:

        Thanks for this thoughtful post and all the wonderful links to things on Libya. The civil unrest in the MENA reigion is both chaotic, dangerous, and thrilling at the same time. So many of these countries have different variables and so many Americans think about one kind of mythic “Arabia” that it’s nice to have places to go sort these things out.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    No question about it: the “wiring” in some of these people reinforces your theory.

    The lack of empathy and compassion seems to be the thread that holds these people together.

    Sheer sociopathy that enables them to justify evil deeds.

    How else to clarify the slaughter and mayhem that results from those who would rather invite that chaos through their decisions?

    • bostonboomer says:

      That’s true. The key to humanity is empathy. If you don’t have it, your personality is very flawed.

  3. okasha says:

    If you put it in Jungian terms, I think a case could be made that a number of these “leaders”–Ghadaffi, Bush, Obama, etc.–never achieved individuation, the integration of the personality that we call “growing up” and which seems to be happening later and later in our society, and in many cases not at all. So we get the eternal puer focused on his own wants instead of others’ needs and his responsibilities. Come to think of it, you could say the entire libertarian/current conservative movement is stuck at this stage-me, mine, my toys.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Very good points!

    • dakinikat says:

      Hi! Good to see you. It’s possible that a lot of men in power get stuck in this place.They all seem to suffer from deep rooted narcissism and a certain amount of sadism too. If not actually on the physical level, then emotional sadism is present. They enjoy ‘chewing people up and spitting them out’ one way or another.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    • gregoryp says:

      I think that had to have been anticipated. The concept that salt-water causes metal to corrode has been known for many, many years. Maybe they didn’t properly anticipate how long it would take but they should have.

      These folks in charge of the reactors really need to get their act together and soon. I’d say we’d be much better off if an international team of bona fide experts came in and took charge.

      The problem is that they are going to have to essentially rebuild the reactor buildings and repair all of the coolant systems. This is going to take lots of man hours and the parts are undoubtedly not just laying around somewhere in a warehouse. They are going to have to be manufactured. So they really need a comprehensive and detailed plan. A heck of a lot more workers. Parts. Experts need to be imported. Engineers need to be imported.

  5. Minkoff Minx says:

    I have a few links to share, this first one made me sick…
    Libya: US female war photographer sexually assaulted by pro-Gaddafi forces | Mail Online

    Sexually assaulted and told ‘You’ll die tonight’… but spared as she’s American: Female journalist’s horror at the hands of Gaddafi’s men

    A female war photographer from the New York Times revealed tonight how she was repeatedly sexually assaulted during her nightmare hostage ordeal in Libya.

    Lynsey Addario was one of four Times journalists have now been released after being held captive by pro-Gaddafi forces.

    During their six-day detainment, the Americans were beaten and threatened with being decapitated and shot.

    […]

    Thirteen journalists are still said to be either missing in Libya or in government custody.

    They include four from the Al Jazeera Arab TV network, two from Agence France-Presse news agency and a photographer from Getty Images. Six Libyan journalists are also unaccounted for.

    • purplefinn says:

      I’m saddened. I hadn’t heard this before. Thanks for including it, Minx. And the other journalists who aren’t American will suffer more.

    • paper doll says:

      Her experience sadly makes a horrific sense… the amazing thing is she’s even alive…as are the other four.

      They are American and the intervention happened and so they were spat out of hell as some kind of offering.

      I sighed on for a no jets fly zone…now I got cruise missiles on civilians? wtf

      I have a couple of friends ( yes, male) who are enjoying the war show on TV. I pointed out how easy that was from the comfort of the lazy boy. Give me a break. Enjoy your war porn pal, but I’ll thank you to keep the queals to yourself.

      Also it seems the famed ” Sputnik Response” played a part in our jumping in.
      the UK and France were going ahead to git some oil…and we didn’t want to be left behind .

      It was ever thus

  6. Minkoff Minx says:

    Ever heard of Tentherism? No it is not a joke:

    AZ’s Russell Pearce believes ‘Tentherism’ revokes your United States citizenship? | Crooks and Liars

    I bet not many of you have heard of “Tentherism Why would you? It’s a bizarre misreading of the Constitution that one might find coming out of the new textbooks approved by the wingnut Texas School board. But that’s just a guess. (In reality, as Dave explained awhile back, ‘Tentherism’ was first devised by Patriot/militia movement leaders back in the 1990s.)

    It works great for Russell Pearce, the xenophobic president of the Arizona Senate responsible for the vile SB-1070 racial-profiling law, whose radical bastardization of the U.S. Constitution is limitless. While many in the Tea Party coalition are using this twisted tactic to attack Social Security, child labor laws, federal taxes and health-care reform, in Pearce’s mind, it means you’re not really a citizen of the United States at all.

    From the Triangle Fire to Wisconsin, Rights for Women Workers » New Deal 2.0

    March is a time to celebrate the progress that women have made since the Triangle Fire, but there is also reason to pause and consider the fight that continues. We need only turn to Wisconsin. Governor Walker’s outright attack on unions is, indeed, a fundamental attack on working women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over half of state workers and 61% of city workers are women. Thirty-one percent of state workers and 42% of local government workers belong to unions. They earn better wages than those who are not union members and the pay gap between women and men is smaller among union members.

    These employees are our elementary school teachers, university professors, nurses, social workers, secretaries, and administrative assistants. They are women who are critical to making our cities work and who help turn our towns into livable communities for our families. Through their unions they have secured decent wages, reasonable benefits, ways to resolve grievances, and some security for their retirement. Yet they are being criticized and their rights taken away for economic problems they didn’t create.

    We can learn from Eleanor Roosevelt. She believed that all workers had a right to a voice at work. Legislation and unionization where the only two ways to protect workers, and she thought joining a union was the best way for women to improve their working lives. For her, workers’ rights were human rights, and it is this basic right to have a voice at work that is being lost in Wisconsin.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      From the New Deal link above:

      The women of Wisconsin are joining the spirit of their sisters in the Triangle Fire and they are fighting back. They need our support. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “We can’t just talk, we have got to act.”

    • gregoryp says:

      I think if we’ve learned anything the last 10 years or so is that pretty much everything the libertarian/republican social wing-nut crowd does is designed to put women in their biblical place either directly or indirectly. That is, two steps behind the man with a burka covering their head and face and head bowed down signifying a beaten down, helpless and hopeless life equal to an ox, ass, or other beast of burden.

      I find the outright war on women to be shocking and unfathomable. Unfortunately, it is real and is usually packaged with a Jesus loves you smile. To me though love has nothing to do with it, rather it seems hostile and full of hatred and loathing which I’ve never been able to understand.

  7. dakinikat says:

    You may want to check out Joseph Cannon’s compelling video on The Heartland Institute and Libertarian crack pot Jay Lehr:

    http://cannonfire.blogspot.com/2011/03/science-con.html

  8. Minkoff Minx says:

    Sexism at The Nation? Surely not! : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

    Via TalkLeft, we learn that Katha Pollitt is (once again) shocked, shocked to find there’s sexism at the house organ of the so-called American “Left,” The Nation magazine!

    […]

    Yeah, you tell them, Katha! (Only, did you sleep through all of the coverage your rag and its contributors provided of the 2008 Democratic primary? And all of those stereotypes about what a horrible nut-crusher Clinton is, and what a horrible, bloodthirsty monster she is for voting for the 2002 AUMF? I guess what I’m saying is that some of us were pointing this out more than three years ago, and some of us remember.)

    Look at the image Historiann has at the link…priceless!

  9. paper doll says:

    The Nation is like NPR…It job is to pretend to be liberal in order to stifle the liberal.

    This writer wrote the N word with everyone’s approval….it wasn’t snuck in at mid-night

  10. Minkoff Minx says:

    You all have heard about the photos from the “kill team” right? What do you think about it?

    Der Speigel buries the lead | Corrente