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Who Own America? (It's not us)

For over a century, the US has put some limits – too few, too feeble – on how much corporations can bribe, bully or intimidate politicians. But now The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations can run political adverts during an election campaign.

This week, a disaster hit the United States, and the after-shocks will be shaking and breaking global politics for years.

It did not grab the same press attention as the fall of liberal Kennedy-licking Massachusetts to a pick-up truck Republican, or President Obama's first State of the Union address, or the possible break-up of Brangelina and their United Nations of adopted infants.

But it took the single biggest problem dragging American politics towards brutality and dysfunction – and made it much, much worse. Yet it also showed the only path that Obama can now take to salvage his Presidency.

For more than a century, the US has slowly put some limits – too few, too feeble – on how much corporations can bribe, bully or intimidate politicians. On Tuesday, they were burned away in one whoosh.

The Supreme Court ruled that corporations can suddenly run political adverts during an election campaign – and there is absolutely no limit on how many, or how much they can spend.

So if you anger the investment bankers by supporting legislation to break up the too-big-to-fail banks, you will smack into a wall of 24/7 ads exposing your every flaw.

If you displease oil companies by supporting legislation to deal with global warming, you will now be hit by a tsunami of advertising saying you are opposed to jobs and the American Way. If you rile the defence contractors by opposing the gargantuan war budget, you will face a smear-campaign calling you Soft on Terror.

Representative Alan Grayson says:

"It basically institutionalises and legalises bribery on the largest scale imaginable. Corporations will now be able to reward the politicians that play ball with them – and beat to death the politicians that don't...

"You won't even hear any more about the Senator from Kansas. It'll be the Senator from General Electric or the Senator from Microsoft."

To understand the impact this will have, you need to grasp how smaller sums of corporate money have already hijacked American democracy. Let's look at a case that is simple and immediate and every American can see in front of them: healthcare.

The United States is the only major industrialised democracy that doesn't guarantee healthcare for all its citizens. The result is that, according to a detailed study by Harvard University, some 45,000 Americans die needlessly every year. That's equivalent to 15 9/11s every year, or two Haitian earthquakes every decade.

This isn't because the American people like it this way. Gallup has found in polls for a decade now that two-thirds believe the government should guarantee care for every American: they are as good and decent and concerned for each other as any European.

No: it is because private insurance companies make a fortune today out of a system that doesn't cover the profit-less poor, and can turn away the sickest people as "uninsurable". So they pay for politicians to keep the system broken.

They fund the election campaigns of politicians on both sides of the aisle and employ an army of lobbyists, and for their part those politicians veto any system that doesn't serve their paymasters.

Look for example at Joe Lieberman, the former Democratic candidate for Vice-President. He has taken $448,066 in campaign contributions from private healthcare companies while his wife raked in $2m as one of their chief lobbyists, and he has blocked any attempt in the Senate to break the stranglehold of the health insurance companies and broaden coverage.

The US political system now operates within a corporate cage. If you want to run for office, you have to take corporate cash – and so you have to serve corporate interests.

Corporations are often blatant in their corruption: it's not unusual for them to give to both competing candidates in a Senate race, to ensure all sides are indebted to them. It has reached the point that lobbyists now often write the country's laws. Not metaphorically; literally.

The former Republican congressman Walter Jones spoke out in disgust in 2006 when he found that drug company lobbyists were actually authoring the words of the Medicare prescription bill, and puppet-politicians were simply nodding it through.

But what happens if politicians are serving the short-term profit-hunger of corporations, and not the public interest? You only have to look at the shuttered shops outside your window for the answer.

The banks were rapidly deregulated from the Eighties through the Noughties because their lobbyists paid politicians on all sides, and demanded their payback in rolled-back rules and tossed-away laws. As Senator Dick Durbin says simply: "The banks own the Senate," so they had to obey.

It is this corruption that has prevented Barack Obama from achieving anything substantial in his first year in office. How do you re-regulate the banks, if the Senate is owned by Wall Street?

How do you launch a rapid transition away from oil and coal to wind and solar, if the fossil fuel industry owns Congress? How do you break with a grab-the-oil foreign policy if Big Oil provides the invitation that gets you into the party of American politics?

His attempt at healthcare reform is dying because he thought he could only get through the Senate a system that the giant healthcare corporations and drug companies pre-approved.

So he promised to keep the ban on bringing cheap drugs down from Canada, he pledged not to bargain over prices, and he dumped the idea of having a public option that would make sure ordinary Americans could actually afford it.

The result was a Quasimodo healthcare proposal so feeble and misshapen that even the people of Massachusetts turned away in disgust.

Yet the corporations that caused this crisis are now being given yet more power. Bizarrely, the Supreme Court has decided that corporations are "persons", so they have the "right" to speak during elections.

But corporations are not people. Should they have the right to bear arms, or to vote? It would make as much sense. They are a legal fiction, invented by the state – and they can be fairly regulated to stop them devouring their creator.

This is the same Supreme Court that ruled that the detainees at Guantanomo Bay are not "persons" under the constitution deserving basic protections. A court that says a living breathing human is less of a "persons" than Lockheed Martin has gone badly awry.

Obama now faces two paths – the Clinton road, or the FDR highway. After he lost his healthcare battle, Clinton decided to serve the corporate interests totally.

He is the one who carried out the biggest roll-back of banking laws, and saw the largest explosion of inequality since the 1920s.

Some of Obama's advisers are now nudging him down that path: the appalling anti-Keynesian pledge for a spending freeze on social programmes for the next three years to pay down the deficit is one of their triumphs.

But there is another way. Franklin Roosevelt began his Presidency trying to appease corporate interests – but he faced huge uproar and disgust at home when it became clear this left ordinary Americans stranded.

He switched course. He turned his anger on "the malefactors of great wealth" and bragged: "I welcome the hatred... of the economic royalists." He put in place tough regulations that prevented economic disaster and spiralling inequality for three generations.

There were rare flashes of what Franklin Delano Obama would look like in his reaction to the Supreme Court decision.

He said: "It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americas."

But he has spent far more time coddling those interests than taking them on. The great pressure of strikes and protests put on FDR hasn't yet arisen from a public dissipated into hopelessness by an appalling media that convinces them they are powerless and should wait passively for a Messiah.

Very little positive change can happen in the US until they clear out the temple of American democracy. In the State of the Union, Obama spent one minute on this problem, and proposed restrictions on lobbyists – but that's only the tiniest of baby steps. He evaded the bigger issue.

If Americans want a democratic system, they have to pay for it – and that means fair state funding for political candidates. Candidates are essential for the system to work: you may as well begrudge paying for the polling booths, or the lever you pull.

At the same time, the Supreme Court needs to be confronted: when the court tried to stymie the new deal, FDR tried to pack it with justices on the side of the people. Obama needs to be pressured by Americans to be as radical in democratising the Land of the Fee (CRCT).

None of the crises facing us all – from the global banking system to global warming – can be dealt with if a tiny number of super-rich corporations have a veto over every inch of progress.

If Obama funks this challenge, he may as well put the US government on e-Bay – and sell it to the highest bidder. How would we spot the difference?


Christian Love, Not The Fundamentalist Raging Crap

You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives.
All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it.
That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.
St Seraphim of Sarov (Orthodox Church; 1759-1833); H/T to Salt of the Earth and Mind in the Heart

Source... Because of a special vision of the Mother of God he was given toward the end of his life, St. Seraphim took upon himself the feat of becoming an elder. He began to admit everyone who came to him for advice and direction. Many thousands of people from all walks of life and conditions began to visit the elder now, who enriched them from his spiritual treasures, which he had acquired by many years of efforts. Everyone saw St. Seraphim as meek, joyful, pensively sincere. He greeted all with the words: "My joy!" To many he advised: "Acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved." No matter who came to him, the starets bowed to the ground before all, and, in blessing, kissed their hands. He did not need the visitors to tell about themselves, as he could see what each had on their soul. He also said, "Cheerfulness is not a sin. It drives away weariness, for from weariness there is sometimes dejection, and there is nothing worse than that."

On Acquisition of the Holy Spirit (Kindle Edition) - Only $0.99


Bible Quotes Inscribed on Military Rifle Sights Cause Controversy

Middle East Online
Controversy was aroused Wednesday after it emerged that the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan were using rifle sights inscribed with coded Biblical references.

The company producing the sights, which are also used to train Afghan and Iraqi soldiers under contracts with the US Army and the Marine Corps, said it has inscribed references to the New Testament on the metal casings for over two decades.

The British Ministry of Defense meanwhile announced it had placed an order for 400 of the gunsights with Trijicon but added it had not been aware of the significance of the inscriptions, in a decision criticized by the opposition Liberal Democrat party.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) called on US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to immediately withdraw from combat use equipment found to have inscriptions of Biblical references after it emerged that Trijicon has contracts to supply over 800,000 of the sights to the US military.

The Pentagon sought to defuse the brewing controversy, saying it was "disturbed" by the reports.

"If determined to be true, this is clearly inappropriate and we are looking into possible remedies," Commander Darryn James, a Pentagon spokesman, said.

The codes were used as "part of our faith and our belief in service to our country," Trijicon said.

"As long as we have men and women in danger, we will continue to do everything we can to provide them with both state-of-the-art technology and the never-ending support and prayers of a grateful nation," a company spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

The move appeared to be a direct violation of a US Central Command general order issued after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq that strictly prohibits "proselytizing of any religion, faith or practice."

A whistleblower group that first alerted ABC News to the issue this week warned the practice was putting troops in harm's way by raising fears of Christian proselytizing in Muslim-majority nations home to militants resentful of US military presence.

"This is the worst type of emboldenment of the enemy that you can imagine," Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder and president Michael "Mikey" Weinstein said in an interview.

Weinstein, a former White House legal counsel in Ronald Reagan's administration, said his group would submit a filing in US federal court in Kansas City, Missouri by February 4 in a related case.

"Having Biblical references on military equipment violates the basic ideals and values our country was founded upon," MPAC Washington director Haris Tarin said in a statement.

"Worse still, it provides propaganda ammo to extremists who claim there is a 'Crusader war against Islam' by the United States," he added. ...


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

School cafeteria.

So there I was. Amidst the rise of exuberant techno rave music playing in the background, I stood, wondering, in the school cafeteria. The music was there to color your perception, give the impression of hipness, to make you think that...somehow, you've made a good choice. They had the clueless kid at the entrance again, the guy you hand your student ID card to and he looks at you with those big eyes like, 'IMG! What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?!' Passing through the entrance, I skimmed the selection, my little disposable cardboard lunch box in hand. 'Maybe, maybe the food won't suck today.' I glance to my right, 'Oh boy. Salad. Just like what I had yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that...' I'm drifting in the smell of food and coughing in the perfume of passing consumer girls. I stand in line, one-by-one ever closer to the chef who doesn't speak English. I get everything, including the chicken, while quietly debating in my head if I'm gonna eat that. The walk back to my dorm is cold, and miserable. I look up in the sky, only one star is visible. Due to the phallic nature of buildings my view of  the night sky coming hither isn't as expansive as it is going forth. I feel alone when I look up at the sky. Isolated from the rest of Creation. How pathetic I must look, when above me nebula form, stars are born and satellites deliver cable, and there I am with my little cardboard box, scurrying back to my dorm.


Citizens of Oceanea, A Message For You

In 1984, George Orwell described a superstate, Oceania, whose language of war inverted lies that "passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past,' ran the party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'"
Barack Obama is the leader of a contemporary Oceania. In two speeches at the close of the decade, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner affirmed that peace was no longer peace.
Rather, a permanent war that "extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan" to "disorderly regions, failed states, diffuse enemies." He called this "global security" and invited our gratitude.

To the people of Afghanistan, which the U.S. has invaded and occupied, he said wittily: "We have no interest in occupying your country."

In Oceania, truth and lies are indivisible. According to Obama, the American attack on Afghanistan in 2001 was authorized by the United Nations Security Council.

There was no UN authority. He said that "the world" supported the invasion in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks. In truth, all but three of 37 countries surveyed by Gallup expressed overwhelming opposition.

He said that America invaded Afghanistan "only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama Bin Laden." In 2001, the Taliban tried three times to hand over Bin Laden for trial, Pakistan's military regime reported, and they were ignored.

Even Obama's mystification of the 9/11 attacks as justification for his war is false. More than two months before the twin towers were attacked, the former Pakistani diplomat Niaz Naik was told by the Bush administration that a U.S. military assault would take place by mid-October.

The Taliban regime in Kabul, which the Clinton administration had secretly supported, was no longer regarded as "stable" enough to ensure U.S. control over oil and gas pipelines to the Caspian Sea. It had to go.

Obama's most audacious lie is that Afghanistan today is a "safe haven" for al-Qaeda's attacks on the West. His own national security adviser, James Jones, said in October that there were "fewer than 100" al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan.

According to U.S. intelligence, 90 percent of the Taliban are hardly Taliban at all, but "a tribal localized insurgency [who] see themselves as opposing the U.S. because it is an occupying power." The war is a fraud. Only the terminally gormless remain true to the Obama brand of "world peace."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

BENEATH THE surface, however, there is serious purpose. Under the disturbing Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who gained distinction for his assassination squads in Iraq, the occupation of Afghanistan is a model for those "disorderly regions" of the world still beyond Oceania's reach.

This is known as Coin (counter-insurgency), and draws together the military, aid organizations, psychologists, anthropologists, the media and public relations hirelings. Covered in jargon about winning hearts and minds, it aims to incite civil war: Tajiks and Uzbeks against Pashtuns.

The Americans did this in Iraq and destroyed a multi-ethnic society. They built walls between communities which had once intermarried, ethnically cleansing the Sunnis and driving millions out of the country.

Embedded media reported this as "peace"; American academics bought by Washington and "security experts" briefed by the Pentagon appeared on the BBC to spread the good news. As in 1984, the opposite was true.

Something similar is planned for Afghanistan. People are to be forced into "target areas" controlled by warlords, bankrolled by the CIA and the opium trade. That these warlords are barbaric is irrelevant.

"We can live with that," a Clinton-era diplomat once said of the return of oppressive sharia law in a "stable," Taliban-run Afghanistan.

Favored western relief agencies, engineers and agricultural specialists will attend to the "humanitarian crisis" and so "secure" the subjugated tribal lands.

That is the theory. It worked after a fashion in Yugoslavia, where ethnic-sectarian partition wiped out a once-peaceful society, but it failed in Vietnam.

The CIA's "Strategic Hamlet Program" was designed to corral and divide the southern population and so defeat the Vietcong--the Americans' catch-all term for the resistance, similar to "Taliban."

Behind much of this are the Israelis, who have long advised the Americans in both the Iraq and the Afghanistan adventures.

Ethnic cleansing, wall-building, checkpoints, collective punishment and constant surveillance--these are claimed as Israeli innovations that have succeeded in stealing most of Palestine from its native people.

And yet, for all their suffering, the Palestinians have not been divided irrevocably and they endure as a nation against all odds.

The most telling forerunners of the Obama Plan, which the Nobel Peace Prize-winner and his general and his PR men prefer we forget, are those that failed in Afghanistan itself.

The British in the 19th century and the Soviets in the 20th century attempted to conquer that wild country by ethnic cleansing and were seen off, though after terrible bloodshed. Imperial cemeteries are their memorials.

People power, sometimes baffling, often heroic, remains the seed beneath the snow, and invaders fear it.

"It was curious," wrote Orwell in 1984, "to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same--everywhere, all over the world...

"People ignorant of one another's existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same--people who...were storing up in their hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn the world."


Orthodox Blasphemy

No. No it is not funny. There is nothing funny about
implying the death of human beings, as defense of The True Faith.
Sadly, I fear that this is not a minority attitude.
Who among us is the appointed dealer of life and death?


6 Million Americans Are on Food Stamps

A sobering read.

The human trafficking in porn

Pornography and Its Apologists 

I think it is worth noting the more balanced reality. Is there pornographic content that is made illegally and without the consent of those whom it features? Yes, of course there is. If you want to see a better depiction of the mainstream adult media here in the US, then I would recommend watching the documentary, The Pussycat Preachers.

Although, if you're like most people, you probably just seek out safe sites, one's which you assume to operate within legal and ethical boundaries.

On the whole, it's simple, yet conflicting and complicated. Some people just like watching others have sex. The reasons vary, in some cases dramatically so, yet the basic want to watch is still there. For those of us with an ethical conscience who on the one hand, are aroused by sexual imagery (sometimes sparking sexual fantasy) and who at the same time identify as human rights advocates and strong feminists...we want the comfort of knowing that no performers where harmed during the making of...whatever B rated title the movie carries. So we seek out the ethical expression of best we can. There's never a guarantee with any site that all the procedures behind closed doors would meet our standards of expectation. Perhaps the best that can be done is to flock to any area of the industry that we see taking a step in the right direction towards ethically and humanely expressing sexuality which we can enjoy.

Change blog direction?

I'm not a narcissist (really I'm not). The blog isn't supposed to be about me (or it wasn't). But if I'm going to increase my readership beyond...1, very nice, reader...I'm going to have to start offering something special to the blogging world. Something you won't find elsewhere. I have that. I have (read am) quite possibly one of the most liberal Orthodox Christians you're going to find (or that I've found).

And as you may know if you want to sell something it has to be something special; that is, if you're going for success.

This whole blog was inspired by Ed Strong (- nudity, NSFW). The idea was to make a blog like Ed Strong, except Orthodox. But if you've been following the blog for a while, then you know by now that, if you weren't adverse to lots of nude and erotic images, there were a lot of similarities between that blog and this one, save for the Orthodox articles, general lack of nudity (I've always had way less then he does) and the occasional sex article that wasn't pulled from his list.

Well, I'm not Ed Strong. I gotta be me. Perhaps as a highly liberal Orthodox Christian I will have something unique to offer the blogging world...

There are a lot of people of all kinds who, I'm sure, for one reason or another feel like they've been kicked out of the larger assembly. So come on in, join me and we'll be misfits together!

Sorry, couldn't quite find the BDSM version I wanted.


Thinking About Closing it Down

When your blogger started had the idea that they had some kind of special service to offer via their news updates. In a way, they did. They had a service, so specialized that it had virtually 0 audience.

You have a blogger who:

- supports gay marriage

- is okay with the idea of polyamory (or at least with, other, people doing it)

- is fairly open-minded

- is open minded about socialism and a little capitalism and maybe even a little bit of communism

- is so liberal that they virtually regard Barack Obama as a conservative (almost....almost)

- is so sexually open minded about so many things...

- is a feminist and totally supports a world where men and women are totally equal in all things

- supports the protection of the environment (as we all should)

- is okay with sexual media (the tasteful kind, not necessarily the trashy porn stuff)

- is Eastern Orthodox

- supports women as priests, bishops...etc. And women's rites in general across the globe.

- is pro-life and considers being pro-gay a part of that (gotta have something to live for)

Your blogger isn't sure where exactly they manage to alienate everybody, but they have no doubt in their mind that they do.
maybe it's that fact that all the pro-lifers are the same Catholics who thinks gays are in a scheme to turn us all gay (or in the case of your blogger, get them to stop looking at news for them gays...ain't gonna happen, your blogger prefer only the breast in life). When posting about Orthodoxy...there's no doubt that the pro-feminist undertones to the links are already preaching the perhaps the smallest crowd in the history of Orthodoxy eva! The pro-sexual themes on the rest of the blog whittle down even that feminist Orthodox crowd to...well, nothing. No doubt the politics section doesn't fair too much better, how many liberals out there actually think Obama is comparable to W Bush? I mean sure they used to think the war on terror was a bad idea when Bush was doing it, now it's great because Obama's at the wheel...carrying on Bush's war.

It was a simple idea, Sex, Politics & Religion. Your blogger figured maybe there were other like minded Orthodox who believed it was okay to have female acolytes, or even female priests, and perhaps there are...just not with the same pro-sex almost, free-love attitude that's on the rest of the site.

And then there's the ethical part. At first your blogger was like, 'yeah this is great, I'll provide a news outlet to others with similar views' but after a while, posting highly liberal articles on sexuality and then posting highly religious articles that quote the Holy Fathers right's down right uncomfortable!

It's a simple desire to reconcile the love for a nice soft pair of breasts and teach people about Orthodoxy in the same blog...guess doesn't work.

Your blogger thought briefly about taking the blog in either, this direction (towards sexual politics) and in that direction (towards posting videos of Orthodox hermits in Romania (everyone should watch that video, btw)) but in my exploration of the one, I'd feel the desire to somehow express the other. Though your blogger does simplify the direction of, tits, it's more than that, there's tits, yes but also opening the readers eyes to new elements of sexuality that they may never have known about before (search this blog (or the web) for ANR ABF if you're interested).

Unfortunately the two sides don't like each other very much.

Couple this with the fact that the audience that this blog intends itself for must be a very, very small audience indeed (you're blogger doesn't even know if half the stuff posted is ever even read by anyone). Let's face many Orthodox Christians out there support gay marriage? How many of them are even at least open minded about so called, "open marriages" let alone poly-amorous ones? And even of those said many of them want to see artsy photos of nude women (there's a diff between "nude" and "naked") like this one, or this one? How many liberals are pro-life? How many gay marriage supporters are pro-life?

You're blogger fears they have specialized this blog into oblivion.

Just like to say, for what's it's worth, that the blogger of Passion Within Marriage (listed in the bar to the right) is Eastern Orthodox too. Although, as much as she blogs about sex, you're blogger is sure she'd have a fit if she saw the stuff posted here, never-mind that she probably doesn't support gay marriage.


The Necessity of Touch

By Robert W. Hatfield, Ph.D.

University of Cincinnati, Department of Psychology

It has not been usual for the majority of college-level Human Sexuality texts to discuss the topic of touch except in the most cursory of descriptions. Most of these texts do not have the word touch in their index. Few have more than a page or two on the subject. This is dismaying, for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is that the expression of much of our sexuality occurs through touch and the largest organ of our body is our skin. Also, there is a growing body of writings, theory, and research in the field of touch that is of extreme importance to the studies of human development, health, and sexuality. The contributors to this body of work span the fields of philosophy, medicine, physiology, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. This chapter is a summary and synthesis of this work, with a special emphasis on the findings related to touch and human sexuality.

Touch and Relationships: Prescott found that societies low in affectionate touch are the most violent on this fragile planet. A paucity of brain nourishing touch causes neurological atrophy and increased violence toward others, property, and self. The most deprived and violent individuals in these societies prey on the weakest and most vulnerable of its members; women and children, in almost all cases inflicting upon their victims "touch trauma" in the forms of physical abuse, sexual manipulation and sexual violence. We know that abuse victims are much more likely to become abusers themselves (Belsky, 1978; Blount & Chandler, 1979). It is less publicized that abuse victims are most likely to abuse themselves and struggle throughout their lives with anger, depression, anxiety, and failed relationships. Prescott found that the touch deprived are more likely to become dependent on drugs and alcohol (1975, 1980), perhaps in search of the pleasure and serenity that physical affection brings. He also discovered that touch deprived people have more difficulty discriminating between pleasure and pain. They are more likely to engage in self-destructive conduct, and have more serious problems with behaviors that are innately pleasurable, such as affectionate touch and sexual behaviors.
The gradual destruction of this brain tissue by the effects of touch deprivation results in a predictable syndrome of behaviors (Prescott, 1975, 1980), as well as disrupted emotions and interpersonal relations. In fact, it has been proposed that many of the symptoms that clinicians observe in their psychotherapy clients and patients are the direct result of malfunctioning areas of the brain which have been damaged by touch deprivation. Prescott has labeled the constellation of neuropsychological deficits described in this chapter the Somatosensory Affectional Deprivation (SAD) syndrome. As research in this area continues, this syndrome will likely be more precisely defined as a formal diagnostic category.
Harlow's discoveries that his isolated and touch deprived primates developed in highly predictable and bizarre patterns certainly have relevance to human emotions and relationships. Harlow's primates over-reacted to most situations and engaged in a depressive withdrawal to the others. Almost none of their responses to common stimulation and situations were normal. They were hyperaggressive and unable to form adequate relations with other monkeys when reintroduced to their group. Highly unusual sexual responses were typical. They were unable to perform sexually and found it exceedingly difficult to locate a receptive partner for their inadequate attempts at quieting their sexual impulses and drives. In adulthood, they were completely inadequate and abusive partners and parents. Throughout their lives, they engaged in strange stereotyped movements and behaviors that isolated and set them apart from their group. These pathetic touch deprived primates demonstrated a high level of aversion to any form of touch from others. Their usual response to appropriate touch by other monkeys vacillated between fearful and aggressive. The review of all touch research to date leads to the inescapable conclusion that Harlow's primate research has provided us with a highly useful human model of the behavioral impact of touch deprivation.
Bowlby and Ainsworth's longitudinal research clearly shows that the inadequately attached child will usually grow to be an isolated and depressed adolescent and adult. The anxiously attached offspring develops into an anxious, attention-seeking, angry, and unhappy teen and adult. Both types have an exceedingly difficult time forming or maintaining healthy relations with anyone.
The growing number of biological studies are reporting findings that show that affectionate touch is an essential "nutrient" to normal brain functioning. They have found that permanent neurological deterioration occurs in several important areas of the brain when the large, richly enervated organ, our skin, fails to receive affectionate touch and send those signals to our brain. Missing, exaggerated, muted, or otherwise distorted perceptions and responses present a barrier to adequate human functioning at all levels.
If these sequellae of touch deprivation were minor or rare, it would be cause for only mild concern. However, available sociological and anthropological studies tell us that touch deprivation and all the associated problems, disorders, and brain damage is exceedingly severe and common. In some societies, such as the U.S., these difficulties affect a large majority of its citizens. Of particular concern are the indications that, within many cultures such as the U.S., the described problems are growing worse. For example, if violent behaviors such as murder, rape, spouse abuse, incest, and child abuse are, in some part, an expression of the neurological damage which results from touch deprivation (i.e., neglect and abuse of children), then there can be no doubt that a degenerating and dangerous pattern exists. It may not be an overstatement to say that brain damaged adults are creating brain damaged children at an ever-increasing rate in some cultures. The very thing that these adults most hunger for (due to their own experience of deprivation) is the response they are least capable (due to neurological and psychological damage) of adequately enjoying; affectionate touch and relationships.

Touch and sex and solutions: Relative to the other human senses, touch is the most difficult to study (Schutte et al., 1988). Of course this is largely due to the size and dispersion of the system. Compared to touch, it is relatively easy for the experimental researcher to, for example, blind a rat, study the rat's behavior, and be somewhat accurate in the observations regarding the likely effects of blindness on rat behavior. Similarly, it will be easier for the clinical researcher to study the effects of blindness on such things as self-concept, locus of control, and propensities to certain psychopathologies, such as depression. And, the social researcher could investigate the impact of blindness on social systems, or the relations of the blind to their sighted and unsighted social networks.
But what methodologies can be employed to isolate touch for useful studies? Even if there exists a tiny area of the rat brain that we could easily cauterize to eliminate the sense of touch, we know that confounding interactions due to other sensory losses (such as proprioception, the sense of movement) would be exceedingly difficult to isolate and study. The studies reported in this chapter have historically been late in their appearance for several reasons, not the least of which is the relative difficulty of the endeavor of touch research.
There is an old bromide that, "If the only tool you own is a hammer, then everything needs to be hammered." It is a good saying because it reminds professionals that we often tend to be reductionists regarding our specialty areas. To the psychologist, the world is psychological. To the surgeon the world is tissue and bone. To the poet the world is a rainbow or a dungeon. And so on... As the sciences evolve, it will become increasingly important for the researcher to understand the neural substrata of human behavior. Just as the speech therapist works to behaviorally "rewire" the brain of the stroke victim, psychologists must better understand the locations and extent of neural disorders so that they can develop more effective therapies that go beyond the analysis of behavior and cognition.
As an example, the writer often refers his partnerless and isolated psychotherapy clients to a masseuse or massage therapist whenever appropriate. Couples in treatment are usually instructed and assigned touch and massage homework exercises, even for the non-sex therapy clients. Although Masters and Johnson borrowed extensively from researched therapy techniques developed by others when constructing their broad sex therapy treatment regimen, the unique technique they called Sensate Focus (Masters & Johnson, 1970) was one of their most important contributions. Perhaps unknowingly borrowing from the treatment methods of physical therapists and speech therapists who deal with their patient's neurological damage, Masters and Johnson devised a method of graduated, lengthy, and redundant touch exercises for their patients.
The neurological damage discussed in this chapter is, by definition, permanent damage since the brain produces no new nerve cells beyond about age five. Fortunately, if the neurological damage is not too severe, the remaining healthy portions of the brain may be "taught" to recover functioning given the appropriate treatment method. The highly motivated individual or couple can begin to engage in specific graduated and frequent touch exercises to improve receptivity, sensation, and functioning. Masters and Johnson and the large body of subsequent sex therapy research provides potentially important solutions to a large and multi-axial problem for those individuals and societies who seek answers to repairing the damage. Of course, the most obvious solution would be to change the childrearing practices of those same individuals and societies. To say, "All we need is to be receptive and affectionate with our children", though correct, may miss the greatest obstacle to this major change. That most parents are not neurologically receptive to reciprocal affectionate touch with their child is only one, though important, dilemma.

An obstacle to affection: This research review leads to an important question; "Why are some cultures so aversive to affectionate touch, and so over-involved with touch violence?" (Thayer, 1987). What could possibly interfere with so powerful and basic a hunger as touch; one that appears so inherently rewarding? According to another body of research, one answer is the same we can insert to explain many cultural differences (e.g., Allinsmith et al., 1978; Bock et al., 1983; Bullough, 1976; Burkett, 1977; Clouse, 1972; Gorsuch, 1984; Hatfield, 1986; Kinsey et al., 1948, 1953; Landers, 1990; Neufeld, 1979; Notzer et al., 1984; Reiss, 1964, 1965; Tronick et al., 1990). The word is "philosophy." As Bill Dember pointed out (1974), cultural philosophies have been known to lead to an seemingly endless variety of bizarre and disgraceful behaviors such as cannibalism, human sacrifices, the carnage of war, nuclear proliferation, misogyny, slavery, torture, rape as reward to soldiers, racial hatred, etc., etc. Surely a philosophy can also strongly influence the touch behaviors of a culture (Weber, 1990). And, surely, one does. The dominant philosophy in the U.S. is our own brand of the Judeo-Christian ethic. At the risk of offending, our country was founded by religious zealots of Europe, many of whom were social outcasts of their own communities due to their rigid authoritarian belief systems which they felt compelled to foist upon their neighbors. America became the Promised Land to them and simultaneously the ideal "dumping ground" for their governments. Cheap and free boat rides to the "New World" were common.
In its most rigid and fundamentalist form, the Judeo-Christian philosophy is staunchly anti-touch, anti-body, anti-pleasure, and anti-sexual. To our not so distant ancestors the formula "Touch=Sex=Sin" was a bromide to live by. This non-equation is now our cultural heritage in the U.S. Some may argue that this is an overstatement of the present-day importance of a dying or changing philosophy. Some may feel a bit smugly insulated because their upbringing did not include a highly fundamentalist or highly orthodox religiosity.
One of the outcomes of prolonged touch deprivation and the resulting neurological deterioration, is a hypersensitivity to touch. Some researchers (e.g., Prescott, 1975) propose that the average person's experience with affectionate touch in the U.S. and several other countries is so inadequate that it is almost a certainty the majority of the citizens suffer from some degree of significant neurological impairment. This is especially true if you are male, since males in the U.S. tend to receive far less affectionate touch from birth than do females (Hewitt & Feltham, 1982; Juni & Brannon, 1981; Kennell, 1990; Major, 1990). By early adulthood most of these males have as much or more experience with overstimulating, aversive, painful, and traumatic touch than with soothing and affectionate touch. Even though they move through life with a growing touch hunger, most of these males can tolerate prolonged physical contact with another human only if forced, or if they are sexually aroused.
So, the cultural philosophy that may have initiated our ancestor's avoidance of touch may not be as important a maintaining factor as some might believe. It is possibly not the direct impact of religious philosophies today that causes a culture to be relatively touch-phobic, but rather, a long history of parents who, due to the neurological damage unknowingly inflicted by their parents, were hypersensitive to touch and therefore did not nurture their offspring with the necessary somatosensory stimulation. Very highly religious homes tend to provide significantly less affectionate touch (and more punishing touch) beginning in late childhood as the child approaches puberty and more overt sexuality (Hatfield, 1986; Neufeld, 1979). For many adults highly fundamentalist religions probably become an attraction for those who are most touch and sex phobic. The child of the high religiosity parent or parents will likely experience significantly more difficulty with affectionate touch and sexuality in their adult relationships, even if the offspring no longer subscribes to their parents' beliefs (Hatfield, 1986).

Obama Further Expands The War on Terror

By Bill Van Auken

Three days after the failed attempt by a 23-year-old Nigerian student to trigger an explosion on a Northwest Airlines passenger jet, President Barack Obama threatened to unleash US military power in Yemen and across the globe.The Obama regime is now threatening to launch offensives in Yemen and Somalia, supposedly to root out terrorism. This only exposes similar justifications for the wars in Afghanistan-Pakistan and Iraq as a fraud against Americans and the world.
Three hundred innocent people nearly lost their lives in Detroit on December 25. If they had, their deaths would have been one more episode of “collateral damage” in a military offensive by US imperialism that has cost the lives of well over a million people over the past eight years in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

 These military campaigns have been driven by the interests of US capitalism in asserting dominance over the strategic oil supplies as well the pipelines and shipping routes of the Middle East and Central Asia.

In targeting Yemen and Somalia, Washington is preparing to militarily straddle the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, giving it control of the chokepoint in a key route for shipping oil from the Persian Gulf to the West.

America’s ruling financial elite is pursuing these aims with cold-blooded indifference to the loss of human life that they entail, including among innocent American civilians forced to pay the price for the criminal acts of their government.

Three days after the failed attempt by a 23-year-old Nigerian student to trigger an explosion on a Northwest Airlines passenger jet, President Barack Obama threatened to unleash US military power in Yemen and across the globe.

Obama interrupted his Hawaii vacation Monday to deliver his bellicose remarks in the face of a crescendo of Republican criticism. The Republican right has tried to exploit the abortive attack in order to indict the Democratic administration as “soft” on terrorism.

This campaign has been fueled in part by the claim initially made by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that “the system worked” in the incident, which easily could have claimed the lives of 300 passengers and crew members.

In fact, there are serious questions about how the student, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was able to board the plane.

He reportedly bought a one-way ticket, paid for in cash, and checked no luggage. Moreover, according to an account given by fellow passengers, he and an accomplice had tried to get him on the flight without showing a passport.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press cited unnamed intelligence officials as stating that they had recordings of conversations between Abdulmutallab and at least one member of al Qaeda.

His father had informed the US Embassy in Lagos more than a month earlier that his son had fallen in with Islamist extremists in Yemen, which resulted in his name being placed on a terror watch list.

Any one of these things should have triggered intense scrutiny. That they did not suggests the possibility that Abdulmutallab’s boarding the flight was facilitated from within the national security apparatus.

This allowed him to carry out an action that is now being used to justify yet another US military intervention abroad.

Clearly, the Republicans in Congress have no interest in probing any of these issues. Rather, they are trying to turn the failed bombing into an argument in defense of torture, for keeping open the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to vindicate all of the criminal policies of the Bush administration.

Obama’s response has been an attempt to outflank his Republican critics from the right by threatening another expansion of US militarist aggression.

There can be little doubt that this will be supplemented with intensified attacks on democratic rights and the continuation of the policies of torture and preventive detention.

In his remarks Monday, Obama vowed “to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle, and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us—whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the US homeland.”

The US administration is already in the midst of an escalation that is sending another 30,000 US troops into Afghanistan.

It has mounted an intensified campaign of Predator drone missile attacks against Pakistan, while, according to recent press reports, also sending Special Operations units and CIA operatives into the country to conduct covert assassination and “snatch and grab” missions.

It has justified these acts of military aggression as a necessary defense of the “homeland” against terrorist attacks, the same rationale given by the Bush administration for launching the eight-year-old war in Afghanistan as well as the invasion and occupation of Iraq, now in its seventh year.

Now, the Obama White House is preparing to unleash “every element of our national power” against Yemen and Somalia, and perhaps other nations yet unnamed.

The Pentagon and the CIA are already involved in semi-covert operations in both of these countries.

In Somalia, having organized a proxy invasion by US-assisted Ethiopian troops in 2006, Washington is now channeling arms and other military aid to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), while carrying out clandestine assassination raids by American commandos operating from US warships.

In Yemen, US warplanes have carried out repeated strikes against purported Al Qaeda targets as well as against Shia rebels known as the Huthis in the country’s northwest.

Washington has cemented increasingly close relations with the repressive dictatorship of Field Marshal Ali Abdullah Saleh, dispatching top officials, including Central Command chief General David Petraeus and Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, to the Yemeni capital of Sana’a.

The December 25 bombing attempt on the Northwest flight may now be used to make the US military interventions in both countries more direct, overt and deadly.

In his remarks Monday, Obama justified these actions as a means of keeping the American public “safe and secure” in the face of what he termed “a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland.”

The reality is that the military actions being prepared by Washington will have just the opposite effect.

If the statement attributed to the group Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula claiming responsibility is to be believed, the attempted airline bombing was undertaken in retaliation for the December 17 US bombing of Yemen that claimed the lives of more than 60 civilians, nearly half of them women and children.

What does the December 25 incident reveal about “the nature of those who threaten our homeland”?

Abdulmutallab, the son of one of Nigeria’s wealthiest bankers, was apparently radicalized while attending the prestigious University College London.

Like millions of young Muslims, most from far less privileged backgrounds, he undoubtedly was outraged by the images of dead and wounded men, women and children produced by the US invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as by the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza by Washington’s closest ally and client state, Israel.

That this anger is channeled into the retrograde Islamist politics and reactionary terrorist methods of groups like Al Qaeda is no accident.

These organizations represent in a real sense Washington’s Frankenstein’s monster.

For decades, the CIA promoted Islamist movements ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood to the precursor of Hamas as a means of undermining socialist and left-nationalist movements in the Middle East.

This policy found its most lethal expression in Afghanistan, where Washington spent billions of dollars in financing and arming an Islamist insurgency against the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul.

This triggered a war that devastated the country and killed more than 1 million Afghans. It was in this war, initiated in 1978, that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda got their start.

Similarly, in Yemen, as part of its Cold War crusade, Washington backed the Islamist regime in the North against secular nationalists in the South who called themselves socialists and forged ties with Moscow.

In the country’s 1994 civil war, Yemenis returning from fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan played a prominent role in helping to secure the rule of Saleh.

That the Obama administration is now threatening to launch offensives in Yemen and Somalia, supposedly to root out terrorism, only exposes similar justifications for the wars in Afghanistan-Pakistan and Iraq as a fraud against the people of the United States and the world.

Three hundred innocent people nearly lost their lives in Detroit on December 25. If they had, their deaths would have been one more episode of “collateral damage” in a military offensive by US imperialism that has cost the lives of well over a million people over the past eight years in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

These military campaigns have been driven by the interests of US capitalism in asserting dominance over the strategic oil supplies as well the pipelines and shipping routes of the Middle East and Central Asia.

In targeting Yemen and Somalia, Washington is preparing to militarily straddle the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, giving it control of the chokepoint in a key route for shipping oil from the Persian Gulf to the West.

America’s ruling financial elite is pursuing these aims with cold-blooded indifference to the loss of human life that they entail, including among innocent American civilians forced to pay the price for the criminal acts of their government.