“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
We have heard that the end of all learning is humility, the realization that we actually know nothing compared to all we need to know! If you believe this, you believe that all learning and knowledge lead you to a feeling of nothingness, a feeling that you are shunya, a zero.
Sounds alarming, but the zero you feel after a lot of learning is a very different place to be in from the zero you feel before you embark on that learning! Recently, some probationers were surprised when a senior bureaucrat told them, “Please walk into my office whenever you need to. I am nothing, I’m a zero.” Used to the pomposity of bureaucracy, they may have been taken aback. But this is how the officer explains her comment, “What I meant was that they should not stand on ceremony or hierarchy with me. In the vast structure of government and the general scheme of things, each one of us is nothing. The
emptier you consider yourself, the more space you have to learn; the more insignificant you believe yourself to be, the more effective you are, and the more receptive you are, the more you absorb from all around. I am as willing to absorb learning from a probationer, as I am from my seniors.”
Impressive! We started talking. We discussed how most problems occur when we fancy ourselves meaningful and substantial. How if we thought we were zeroes, we would have no expectations, and so no disappointments; if we had zero chips on our shoulder, we would not suffer any affront to dignity; if we had zero mental clutter, we wouldn’t suffer from useless feelings of guilt or fear. If we had zero memory, there would be no bitter carry-overs, no half-truths that prevent new learning. A person who comes to a situation with zero understanding or in other words, an open mind, can understand a new situation afresh, encouraging creativity. If we are zero in ego, we don’t take offence easily, while forgiving and forgetting fast. Zero brings peace; it brings a feeling of calmness and power over self and over situations.
Training ourselves to clear the clutter and enjoy the quiet of emptiness helps build better relationships and better lives. Complicated relationships are the result of past baggage; try approaching a situation afresh, forgetting past bitterness and start with a clean slate. In a corporate world, keep a hierarchy-less approach, open your door and learn more about your organization, tuning in with the vibes you feel.
Perhaps, it was not a coincidence that zero was discovered in India by mathematician Aryabhatta. When we meditate we are told to look within into nothingness and to think of nothing. It is in that space that enlightenment comes. The Bhagvad Gita and Vedas talk of the Universe being created out of nothingness, shunya or zero. God in his unmanifest form is also shunya; in his manifest form, He is ananta, or infinite; and so, from zero comes infinity. God was one but manifested in many forms — that is the power of zero!
Keeping your mind a tabula rasa is a great point to begin —- and an equally great point to end at! This is not the zero of ignorance, illiteracy, lack of knowledge or confidence. This zero is the natural outcome of knowledge and supreme wisdom; it is the zero of extreme self-confidence. It is not that you don’t know anything; it is more that you are willing to learn everything! A zero mind is accepting and receives, hears and registers, and notes critical points. It is the abode of peace, quiet, bliss and solitude. It means you have everything, you know everything and yet are willing to begin at the starting point!
A farmer lost a watch in a haystack. He asked a group of children to help him look for it, promising a reward. The children hunted for hours, but couldn’t locate the watch. Sometime later one of them came back and looked again. He found the watch within a few minutes. Asked how he did that, the child said, “I sat still and concentrated. I heard it.”
Amidst a heavy downpour, Pakatan Rakyat today launched its seven-point pledge to the voters of Sabah and Sarawak, promising to honour the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 and improving their quality of life.
The pledge was signed by PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang and DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang at the Chong Ling Park, Kuching this evening.
The Kuching Declaration
Dubbed the Kuching Declaration, the seven-point declaration marked Pakatan’s promise should it take hold of Putrajaya to undertake the following:
1. To restore autonomy within Sarawak and Sabah and making the two states equal partners.
2. To increase national integration between Sarawak, Sabah and Peninsular Malaysiathrough a fair power-sharing agreement.
3. To set up a Royal Commission to resolve problems of citizenship and illegal immigration in Sarawak and Sabah.
4. To restore native customary rights over land and establishing a land commission.
5. To ensure appointment of Sarawakians and Sabahans as heads of government departments at the state and federal level, within the state.
6. To increase oil royalties from 5 percent to 20 percent.
7. To ensure that infrastructural development in Sarawak and Sabah be up to par with Peninsular Malaysia.
The event kicked off with a speech by Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian who told the 700 hundred strong crowd – many huddling under umbrellas – that he has a dream that his state would one day be free of oppression.
This was followed by speeches from Abdul Hadi, Lim and Anwar who derided BN for ignoring Sabah and Sarawak to the point that the two states were the poorest in Malaysia.
Anwar said that much of populace in the two states languished in poverty while state officials are plundering the state’s resources and stealing native customary rights land.
Mammoth Event for Barisan Nasional
In Bintulu, some 600km east of Kuching, some 15,000 people are expected to converge at the old airport for the national level Malaysia Day event.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak (left), his Deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim are scheduled to attend the mammoth event.
Five outstanding Malaysians would be presented with an award during the ceremony while another award will be handed to the organisers of the Twitter Merdeka event.
This is the third year in which Malaysia Day is recognised as a national event and a public holiday. Prior to 2008, Pakatan had been actively promising to make Malaysia Day a public holiday and fulfil the 20-point Malaysia Agreement.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) doesn’t have a doubt in her mind that President Barack Obama will be reelected in November. And she claims she’s not alone.
“Oh, Mitt Romney’s not going to be president of the United States,” Pelosi said with a laugh, during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think everybody knows that.”
Pelosi wouldn’t respond to a question about whether she would work well with a President Romney. But she did reminisce about the days of bipartisanship in Washington, back when she was House Speaker and former President George W. Bush was in the White House.
“We had our differences. We fought. But we also found common ground,” Pelosi said. “There are so many places where we came together.”
Bill Clinton “tailored his lifestyle and his persona” to give a down-home sheen of plausibility to policies that served the interests of a tiny minority [EPA]
No one who watched former President Bill Clinton’s speech to the Democratic National Convention last week could have failed to be struck by his gifts as an orator. Emerging on stage to his campaign song from 20 years ago, Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow”, he proceeded to remind the audience why he had been such a formidable election winner.
Clinton established his bipartisan credentials by pointing out that as a governor he had worked with President Reagan “on the first round of welfare reform and with President HW Bush on national education goals”. He praised President Eisenhower for sending troops “to my home state to integrate Little Rock Central High School”.
Clinton couldn’t bring himself to hate the Republicans like the right-wingers in the Republican Party hated the Democrats, he told the crowd. He then proceeded to eviscerate the Republicans’ economic record while managing to sound conciliatory and moderate.
Running in 1992 against an incumbent president fresh from victory in the Middle East, Clinton had convinced the Democratic Party, a significant slice of the plutocracy, and a plurality of voters, that he was right candidate to guide the US in the post-Cold War world.
Like any great political operator he had luck on his side, in the form of Ross Perot’s independent campaign for the presidency, which badly damaged Bush’s campaign. But there was much more to his eight years in office than luck.
Interest in opinion polls
Clinton combined soaringly optimistic rhetoric and a likeable manner with a stern insistence on the need to compete in a rapidly changing world. The changes brought by globalisation were inevitable. Trade barriers were coming down. Capital was on the move. Workers had no choice but to re-train and try harder. Governments had no choice but to deregulate.
This was much more pleasing to the ears of the big donors and their friends in the intellectual and media establishments than Bush Senior’s whiggish blather about a “kinder, gentler America”. Maybe Bush had won the Cold War. Clinton could win them the peace.
This was a lesson for left-of-centre politicians around the world. They could drop all the troublesome commitment to social democracy and public ownership. Instead they could dress smartly, look lively and announce their uncompromising commitment to the information superhighway, whatever that was, the future and all things new.
In Britain, the imitation was particularly abject. Having watched the “New Democrats” triumph in 1992, the team around Tony Blair re-branded their party as “New Labour”.
In the White House as well as on the campaign trial, Clinton took an obsessive interest in opinion polls. But while some of his less astute critics saw this as a sign of timid populism, in truth he used his detailed knowledge of popular opinion precisely in order to frustrate it.
In The Foreign Policy Disconnect, Benjamin Page and Marshall Bouton review the relationship between polling data and government policy in the United States over several administrations. They describe the campaign to secure the North America Free Trade Agreement headed by Clinton as “the sharpest observed divergence between policymakers and the public on economic foreign policy”. No mean achievement for the man from Hope.
In general, his eight years in office saw the continued advance of the same interests that had benefited most from his predecessors. Inequality, already steepening under Reagan and Bush Senior, grew even more pronounced.
Under the guidance of Larry Summers, Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin (the men Time magazine memorably called “the committee to save the world”) the financial sector boomed and corporate America became ever more audaciously corrupt.
Nothing was done to prevent the steady expansion of credit that would lead to disaster in the decade that followed. Those who expressed reservations, like Robert Reich and Joseph Stiglitz, were eased out.
Clinton’s genius lay in winning and keeping the affection of those whose interests he betrayed. It is this that best characterises his career. He tailored his lifestyle and his persona to give a down-home sheen of plausibility to policies that served the interests of a tiny minority. His personal charm reconciled Americans to a world where government by the people receded ever further from view.
“Like any great political operator he had luck on his side… But there was much more to his eight years in office than luck.”
Clinton assured them that inequality didn’t matter. In 1996 he told an audience in Taylor, Michigan that “we are not a people who object to others being successful; we do not resent people amassing their own wealth fairly won in a free enterprise system”.
Keen scholar that he is Clinton must have known that a Republic can only survive so much inequality. After all, in the words of Noah Webster, “property is the basis of power” and “an equality of property… is the very soul of a republic”.
Clinton was not satisfied with betraying his contemporaries. He saw fit to defame the Republic too, in the service of a sharp-witted and shameless financial oligarchy.
In his determination to win a second term Barack Obama looks set to follow Clinton’s footsteps. After an inspirational campaign in 2008, he delivered what Wall Street wanted more effectively than the Republicans could have done. While Clinton allowed the bankers to enrich themselves massively, Obama made sure they could keep their gains, no matter how ill-gotten.
As he himself explained to a room full of banking executives in 2009, “my administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks”. After four years of faithful service, he is on track to beat a lacklustre Republican and spend another four revelling in his status as a winner.
Perhaps, we can look forward to Obama’s appearance at a Democratic National Convention in 25 years or so, when time has erased the details of his two terms defending inequality and the new forms of power it underpinned.
The music – his music – will start up and that amazing, vote-winning smile will remind us of the future that he never stopped promising, and was always determined to prevent.
Dan Hind is the author of two books, The Threat to Reason and The Return of the Public. His pamphlet, Common Sense: Occupation, Assembly, and the Future of Liberty, was published as an e-book in March. He is a member of the Tax Justice Network.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial
This week, Vanity Fair published a beautifully written article about the president by Michael Lewis, who happened to use the American involvement with the NATO military action in Libya as a through-line. It’s possibly the best insider piece on the president since a 2008 Newsweek series that pulled back the curtain on the president’s successful 2008 campaign.
In addition to covering the often harrowing, emotionally tumultuous and purely weird aspects of life in the White House, as well as the president’s insider tips on what’s required to be the leader of the free world (for example, Obama recommended daily exercise or the job will “break you down”), the article covered a meeting of the “principals” in the Situation Room as the administration was readying a plan to keep Qaddafi from committing wholesale genocide in Benghazi. There were two options for the president: 1) participate with Europe in a completely ineffectual no-fly zone (Qaddafi was only using ground forces in his march to Benghazi), or 2) do nothing. The president determined, with obvious reason, that both options were unacceptable in spite of recommendations from both Vice President Biden and Secretary Clinton. History shows that a combination no-fly zone and air-strike operation was successfully engaged, culminating with the death of Qaddafi, a rapid end to the mission and free elections.
Regardless of the specifics, it’s clear that the president approaches foreign policy decisions with deadly seriousness and doesn’t kneejerk into tight spots. Furthermore, the president told Lewis that he absolutely dislikes the notion of “feigned outrage.” The president, Lewis reported, values disciplined authenticity over bluster — another trait that’s helpful when dealing with sensitive overseas events.
As I read the article on Monday, I had no idea what was about to occur both in Libya and in the context of the campaign for president.
We’re all aware of what happened and, in general, the sequence of events.
To review, it all began with a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which attempted to preemptively mitigate the impact of an anti-Islamic no-budget American “movie” (it hardly qualifies as a movie) that was due to be released. The statement was critical of religious intolerance while defending the “universal right” to free speech. Nevertheless, unarmed protesters gathered outside the embassy and eventually climbed over the wall of the compound where they desecrated an American flag.
Meanwhile, a second attack, this time with rockets, was reported at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya — possibly by al-Qaeda, though there’s no official confirmation as of this writing — and Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith was killed.
Next, the Romney campaign issued a statement indicting the embassy and the president for “apologizing” for American values and “sympathizing” with the protesters in Cairo andthe violent militants in Benghazi — even though the embassy statement was issued beforeboth events. However, the statement was embargoed by Romney until midnight when the observance of a 9/11 political truce was due to end. But minutes later, at around 10:30 eastern, the Romney campaign lifted the embargo on its statement. It was still the 11th but Romney just had to stick his bulbous head into the political shit.
At that point, the Obama administration and Secretary Clinton issued a statementunequivocally condemning the attack in Libya:
I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.
Then, at midnight, an overzealous Reince Priebus jumped onto Twitter and wrote, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.” Question: how does one “sympathize” with attackers before there are any attackers, especially when, 90 minutes earlier, the administration condemned the attack? The Romney campaign and the Republican Party chairman were constructing a huge lie. Again.
Several hours later, two more embassy officials and Ambassador Chris Stevens were killed.
At 10:30 eastern Wednesday morning, 12 hours after the Romney campaign’s initial statement went public, Romney held a press conference in which he continued to politicize the attacks while trying really damn hard to appear presidential. Throughout the event, Romney repeated his assertions from 12 hours earlier that the president “sympathized” with the killers of Ambassador Stevens as well as the protesters in Cairo and “apologized” for American values.
Once again, Romney lied.
He stepped away from the podium with a self-satisfied grin on his face.
There wasn’t a single moment when Romney behaved like a competent national leader. Instead of waiting until all of the facts had been revealed — hell, instead of correctly acknowledging the facts and timelines that were absolutely known at the time — Romney popped off and turned a tragic event into the yet another example of his predilection for inaccurate, awkward, pathetic, neophyte partisan hackery. Much like John McCain’s colossal bungling of the financial crisis in 2008, Romney failed to rise to the occasion in the context of a real-life crisis. He reminded the nation of exactly why he’s 10 points behind the president on national security and foreign policy — typically a no-brainer win for militant Republicans. On one hand there’s President Obama who’s repeatedly displayed whip smarts and cool tenacity in every overseas endeavor in which he’s engaged, and on the other hand there’s a Republican candidate who not only lied about the timeline of events to score political points but also opened his yap before he knew the shot.
What ensued throughout yesterday morning was a mad dash among foreign policy experts, pundits and writers on both sides to see who could be the first to use the word “dilettante” to describe the increasingly embattled Republican nominee for president.
Interesting, isn’t it, how Romney’s spastic behavior and unhinged “sympathize” meme came on the heels of being goaded by Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and others to get tough and to be more hard-lined conservative. As predicted, Romney did just that. For the rest of the day, AM talk radio joined in with the “sympathize” and “apologize” meme. And, also as predicted, I suspect voters will be utterly disgusted by all of this while coupling it with other examples of Romney’s ineptitude and ungainly lack of political restraint.
One of Romney’s many miscalculations — and a mistake that many hawkish Republicans make is to confuse obnoxious loudness with foreign policy expertise.
The opposite of a foreign policy neophyte isn’t a scolding jerkass who pops off with saber-rattling bromides and political agitprop. Romney could have been a statesman about the events in North Africa and appeared dignified — perhaps qualified — in the process, but instead he decided to be a braying crackpot. Anyone with a lapel pin and a pulse can do that. Leaning on the warhawk slogan switch doesn’t amount to anything resembling international leadership gravitas.
Put another way, Rush Limbaugh thought Romney looked “presidential” yesterday.
I rest my case.
Let there be no doubt: if Mitt Romney somehow wins this thing, the slightest provocation from Iran will trigger Romney’s herky-jerky response cortex and we’ll be at war in the Middle East again without a rational plan or an exit strategy. The AM radio talkers will be effectively puppeteering the Romney White House, just as they did with Romney during this week’s tragic events.
The events of the last 48 hours have made it indisputably clear: America cannot trust Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan with our national security.
This morning’s Huffington Post headline summarized what it called, “The Verdict: Most Craven and Ill-Advised Move…Not Worthy of A President… Bungle… Utter Disaster… Not Presidential… Lehman Moment… Over the Top… Desperate… Awesomely Awful.”
Notwithstanding the horrible reviews, Romney and his campaign tripled down on their criticism of President Obama and the American diplomats who were on the ground and about to come under attack.
Romney’s neocon foreign policy adviser, Richard Williamson, told the Washington Postthat, “There is a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you’d be in a different situation.” He’s right about that. We’d be in a very different — and dangerous — situation if Mitt Romney were in charge of American national security. There are at least five reasons why every American should be frightened at the prospect of Mitt Romney as Commander-in-Chief.
1). Mitt Romney has no guiding principles when it comes to foreign policy — or anything else for that matter — but one: his own personal ambition. Tuesday night Romney demonstrated once again that he would take any cheap shot that he thought would serve his ambition to be president, regardless of its impact on American national security or our people on the ground.
Of course this is nothing new. Romney has demonstrated time and time again that he has no lasting commitment to principle whatsoever. He has gone from being pro-choice to ardently anti-abortion; morphed from a Massachusetts moderate to a “severe conservative”; demonstrated his willingness to buy companies, load them with debt, bleed them dry and destroy the lives of workers and communities all to make money for himself and his investors.
After favoring immigration reform in the past, Romney became the most anti-immigrant major presidential candidate in modern history.
Romney drafted and passed RomneyCare and then promised to repeal a similar bill when one was passed by President Obama and a Democratic Congress. Why? Because that’s what the thought was necessary to get the Republican nomination for president.
Romney has no North Star guiding his behavior except his desire to enhance his own personal wealth and his own driving ambition.
Someone like that is the last guy you want to trust to make the tough decisions to protect American national security. Great statesmen are people who think more about the next generation than the next election. They are people who are willing to take the political heat because they are committed to doing what is right to protect the American people. They are heroes of John Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, not the men described in John Dean’s book on the Nixon White House, Blind Ambition.
2). Mitt Romney has no vision. In his acceptance speech to the Republican Convention he made fun of President Obama’s concern for global climate change and his commitment toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. Romney actually opposed passage of the START II Treaty with Russia that reduced nuclear weapons to their current levels.
Romney flat-out opposes — makes fun of — investments in renewable energy sources that would begin the process of freeing us from the tyranny of Big Oil — and oil dictators — and addresses the problem of climate change.
Rather than support movements to limit the exploding growth in the world’s population, Romney actually opposes support for birth control.
Have you ever heard word one from Romney about protecting our natural resources, or investment in de-salinization, or strengthening the international co-operation needed to deal with cyber-security, or frankly any of these critical issues?
Mitt Romney seems to have absolutely no interest in or knowledge of history or the forces that are changing the world. And he certainly has never expressed a long-term view of how he might hope to shape the world as president of the United States. Let’s face it, the guy is shallow.
Voters correctly want leaders with vision, because as the great baseball player Yogi Berra used to say: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
3). The Romney-Ryan team has less experience in foreign policy than any two candidates for America’s top offices since World War II.
Barry Goldwater may have scared the bejesus out of many Americans, but at least he was a Lt. Colonel in the Army Air Corp during World War II and had served on the Armed Services Committee in the Senate.
When Senator Barack Obama ran for president, he chose the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden, as his running mate.
Collectively Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have zero foreign policy experience. And it shows.
4). Romney has demonstrated he has no capacity to empathize with other people. He has no idea how to put himself in their shoes — or even to understand how they hear the things he is saying. That’s one of the main reasons why, as Senator Kerry said at the Democratic Convention, Romney’s “foreign policy tour” earlier this summer was more like a “blooper reel.” It’s why, when it comes to foreign affairs, Romney is a bull in the china closet.
Romney seems incapable of understanding that when you’re asked about your opinion of preparations for the London Olympics in London days before the event, the Brits might be offended when (presumably to demonstrate how much he knew about running Olympic games) he questioned their readiness. He apparently had no clue that Palestinians might take offense when he said he thought that their economic problems stemmed from their “culture.”
Romney is typical of wealthy people who think they are very “cosmopolitan” because they can jet around the world and stay in first-class hotels, but don’t have a clue how normal people — or other cultures — experience the world. He is upper-class parochial. He thinks everyone thinks and talks and believes the same way as his classmates at prep school or colleagues in the Bain boardroom.
5). Romney has surrounded himself with many of the same neocon foreign policy advisers that got America into the horrific war in Iraq. One of those advisers, Richard Williamson, actually had the audacity to argue that “respect for America has gone down” under President Obama. Maybe in some parallel universe.
In fact, every international poll showed that George Bush, Dick Cheney and their neocon crew caused respect for the United States to plummet to new lows. And under President Obama respect for America and its values has massively increased. But then again, as the Romney campaign has made clear, they won’t allow their campaign to be governed by “fact checkers.”
If we needed reminding, this week made indelibly clear that a guy with no principles except his own ambition, and no vision whatsoever, will allow himself to be led around by the nose by the passionate Neo-Cons who want a restoration of the Bush-Cheney years. Romney’s performance should serve as a warning to all Americans: If you liked the Iraq War, you’ll love Mitt Romney’s foreign policy.