Love and the Law: An exerpt from Bulleh Shah (Required reading if you have studied the law)

Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) was a Punjabi Sufi poet, a humanist and philosopher from what is now considered Pakistan. As one of the leading figures in social thought and spiritualism, Bulleh Shah continually challenged the norms of society, be it materialism or hate for one’s fellow man.

While his work is expansive, the following passage was picked for a personal reason.  Throughout my career as a law school student I have felt an internal stuggle between what I would call my “Universal Self” (or innate sensibility of “fairness”) and the technical nature of the law as embraced by practioners and academics. Several justices over the years, the worst of which is Justice Scalia, have treated the cases that come before the US Supreme Court as a time to showcase thier talent of rationally explaing a inhuman or heartless decision by the court.

Most law school students in the first year, before they have been indoctrinated to accept the notion that injustice can/must be done in order to maintain the court’s precedent, always raise questions of a court not deciding the “right way” even though the Justices were maintained a high level of technical legal analysis. That is because we come into law school believing in our own internal moral compass, again what I would call a relationship to the Universal Self, and the process of learning the law forces one to take actions that may violate one’s own moral code becuase it is the “technically” correct thing to do.  

So I present Bulleh Shah’s verse which I will label as Love and Law. Though he presents teh argument as lambasting the laws created around religions by organizations and priests, but it easily translates to the abject focus on technical rationality in the modern legal forum.  This has been a more significant and epiphany inducing peice than anything I have read in law school- so for all the young lawyers, PLEASE READ THIS!

Love and Law are struggling in the human heart.
The doubt of the heart will I settle by relating questions of Law
And the answers of Love I will describe, holy Sir;

Law says go to the Mullah (priest) and learn the rules and regulations.
Love answers, “One letter is enough, shut up and put away other books.”
Law says: Perform the five baths and worship alone in the temple (reffering to the 5x daily prayer of Muslims) 
Love says: Your worship is false if you consider yourself seperate from the Universal Self.

Law says: Have shame and hide the enlightenment
Love says: What is this veil for? Let the vision be open
Law says: Go inside the mosque and perform the duty of prayer
Love says: Go to the wine-house and drinking the wine, read a prayer

Law says: Let us go to heaven; we will eat the fruits of heaven
Love says: There, we are custodians or rulers, and we ourselves will distribute the fruits of heaven
Law says: O faithful one, come perform the hajj (pilgrimage), you have to cross the bridge
Love says: The door of the Beloved (God/Allah) is in ka’baa; from there I will not stir 

Law says:  We placed Shah Mansur (a contraversial Sufi Saint) on the stake
Love says: You did well, you made him enter the door of the Beloved (God/Allah)
OUT OF LOVE, HE (Allah/ God) has created Bulleh, humble, and from dust.   

The Guardian: Chavez tackles homelessness by encouraging squatting

 Venezuelans left homeless after December’s torrential rains gather in the wealthy Caracas neighbourhood of La Castellana. Hugo Chávez has sent out troops to take over farms and urged the poor to occupy “unused” land in wealthy areas of Caracas, prompting a wave of squats that is rattling Venezuela‘s middle class.

The move by Venezuela’s president to step up the campaign to “recover” land and other property follows a housing crisis that has left millions of people in shabby conditions and affected his popularity in the run-up to next year’s election. Squatters wearing red T-shirts from Chávez’s socialist party seized 20 spaces in a co-ordinated strike in the well-off Caracas municipality of Chacao last weekend, a move which shocked even some government supporters. Additional groups have targeted other cities.

Chávez has also announced a series of laws and deals with China, Russia, Belarus, Iran and Turkey, among others, in a breakneck effort to build 350,000 housing units in Venezuela in the next two years. “The fundamental goal of socialism is to satisfy human needs … the needs of all, equally, without privilege,” Chávez said in a television broadcast yesterday.

Opponents claim the government has failed to build enough houses over the past decade and has been offering “empty promises”. Previous house-building deals with foreign allies reportedly produced just 10% of the promised number.  Emilio Grateron, mayor of Chacao, described Chávez’s exhortation to seize supposedly unoccupied land as demagogic, and a move that would kill what little private investment remained. “There is irresponsible rhetoric without heed of the consequences. This is a very dangerous game.”

The government has stepped up rural expropriations by deploying 1,600 troops at 47 farms in the western states of Merida and Zulia, claiming the farms were unproductive. The state has taken control of 2.5m hectares since Chávez gained power in 1999. The government is now looking at cities in response to the housing crisis and to its fading support in the slums, once Chávista heartlands, which have voted for opposition mayors and governors.

Floods last year ruined hillside slums and displaced thousands of families, highlighting the shortage of 2m or so housing units. Residents have had to erect shacks on top of shacks on precarious slopes. Under Chávez the government has built fewer than 40,000 units a year – some say only 24,000 – in contrast to previous governments, which averaged 70,000. The president admits to problems but rejects accusations of incompetence and corruption. He has said that the rich keep all the best land, especially in the capital, but often leave it idle. The government has closed six golf courses and recently had its eye on the Caracas Country Club, saying thousands of poor families could be settled on its greens.

Such a move would take several years, however, and the presidential election calendar requires speedier results. This month Chávez said the government would take over unoccupied spaces and any incomplete structures. Last weekend he urged the poor to join in, and hours later, at 4am, militant supporters laid claim to 20 areas of Chacao. Police expelled them but the “invasions” caused uproar, with even pro-government newspapers such as Ultimas Noticias voicing concern.

Chávez decided the squatters had gone too far, saying “the middle-class cannot be an enemy of this democratic revolution”. However, the government made clear the squatting would continue, saying the correct term was “occupation”. Even hotels have become skittish since being asked to host those displaced by the floods. They have obliged, but some proprietors now worry they will be the next industry to be nationalised.

Chacao’s five-star Marriott hotel is hosting about 60 displaced families on its third and fourth floors. It has replaced doors with curtains and removed TVs, lamps and other fittings, but Maria Patino, 52, and her sister Blanca, 55, had no complaints. “We’re supposed to use the service entrance and not go near the lobby, but we get treated well. Three meals a day, everything free,” said Maria. “It [was] like being in the desert, and then you get to an oasis.”

The Atlantic- Rise of the New Global Elite

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he declared the rich different from you and me. But today’s super-rich are also different from yesterday’s: more hardworking and meritocratic, but less connected to the nations that granted them opportunity—and the countrymen they are leaving ever further behind.

If you happened to be watching NBC on the first Sunday morning in August last summer, you would have seen something curious. There, on the set of Meet the Press, the host, David Gregory, was interviewing a guest who made a forceful case that the U.S. economy had become “very distorted.” 

In the wake of the recession, this guest explained, high-income individuals, large banks, and major corporations had experienced a “significant recovery”; the rest of the economy, by contrast—including small businesses and “a very significant amount of the labor force”—was stuck and still struggling. What we were seeing, he argued, was not a single economy at all, but rather “fundamentally two separate types of economy,” increasingly distinct and divergent.

This diagnosis, though alarming, was hardly unique: drawing attention to the divide between the wealthy and everyone else has long been standard fare on the left. (The idea of “two Americas” was a central theme of John Edwards’s 2004 and 2008 presidential runs.) What made the argument striking in this instance was that it was being offered by none other than the former five-term Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan: iconic libertarian, preeminent defender of the free market, and (at least until recently) the nation’s foremost devotee of Ayn Rand. When the high priest of capitalism himself is declaring the growth in economic inequality a national crisis, something has gone very, very wrong.

This widening gap between the rich and non-rich has been evident for years. In a 2005 report to investors, for instance, three analysts at Citigroup advised that “the World is dividing into two blocs—the Plutonomy and the rest”:

In a plutonomy there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer”, or indeed the “Russian consumer”. There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.

Before the recession, it was relatively easy to ignore this concentration of wealth among an elite few. The wondrous inventions of the modern economy—Google, Amazon, the iPhone—broadly improved the lives of middle-class consumers, even as they made a tiny subset of entrepreneurs hugely wealthy. And the less-wondrous inventions—particularly the explosion of subprime credit—helped mask the rise of income inequality for many of those whose earnings were stagnant.

But the financial crisis and its long, dismal aftermath have changed all that. A multibillion-dollar bailout and Wall Street’s swift, subsequent reinstatement of gargantuan bonuses have inspired a narrative of parasitic bankers and other elites rigging the game for their own benefit. And this, in turn, has led to wider—and not unreasonable—fears that we are living in not merely a plutonomy, but a plutocracy, in which the rich display outsize political influence, narrowly self-interested motives, and a casual indifference to anyone outside their own rarefied economic bubble.

Through my work as a business journalist, I’ve spent the better part of the past decade shadowing the new super-rich: attending the same exclusive conferences in Europe; conducting interviews over cappuccinos on Martha’s Vineyard or in Silicon Valley meeting rooms; observing high-powered dinner parties in Manhattan. Some of what I’ve learned is entirely predictable: the rich are, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously noted, different from you and me.

What is more relevant to our times, though, is that the rich of today are also different from the rich of yesterday. Our light-speed, globally connected economy has led to the rise of a new super-elite that consists, to a notable degree, of first- and second-generation wealth. Its members are hardworking, highly educated, jet-setting meritocrats who feel they are the deserving winners of a tough, worldwide economic competition—and many of them, as a result, have an ambivalent attitude toward those of us who didn’t succeed so spectacularly. Perhaps most noteworthy, they are becoming a transglobal community of peers who have more in common with one another than with their countrymen back home. Whether they maintain primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, today’s super-rich are increasingly a nation unto themselves.

Read on at:

BBC: Ancient Humans Interbred with Us

Scientists say an entirely separate type of human identified from bones in Siberia co-existed and interbred with our own species. The ancient humans have been dubbed Denisovans after the caves in Siberia where their remains were found. There is also evidence that this group was widespread in Eurasia.

A study in Nature journal shows that Denisovans co-existed with Neanderthals and interbred with our species – perhaps around 50,000 years ago. An international group of researchers sequenced a complete genome from one of the ancient hominins (human-like creatures), based on nuclear DNA extracted from a finger bone.

Sensational’ find

According to the researchers, this provides confirmation there were at least four distinct types of human in existence when anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) first left their African homeland.  Along with modern humans, scientists knew about the Neanderthals and a dwarf human species found on the Indonesian island of Flores nicknamed The Hobbit. To this list, experts must now add the Denisovans.

The implications of the finding have been described by Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London as “nothing short of sensational”. Scientists were able to analyse DNA from a tooth and from a finger bone excavated in the Denisova cave in southern Siberia. The individuals belonged to a genetically distinct group of humans that were distantly related to Neanderthals but even more distantly related to us.

The finding adds weight to the theory that a different kind of human could have existed in Eurasia at the same time as our species.

Researchers have had enigmatic fossil evidence to support this view but now they have some firm evidence from the genetic study carried out by Professor Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany. “A species of early human living in Europe evolved,” according to Professor Paabo. “There was a western form that was the Neanderthal and an eastern form, the Denisovans.”

The study shows that Denisovans interbred with the ancestors of the present day people of the Melanesian region north and north-east of Australia. Melanesian DNA comprises between 4% and 6% Denisovan DNA. David Reich from the Harvard Medical School, who worked with Svante Paabo on the study, says that the fact that Denisovan genes ended up so far south suggests they were widespread across Eurasia: “These populations must have been spread across thousands and thousands of miles,” he told BBC News.

Professor Stringer believes it is because there may have been only a fleeting encounter as modern humans migrated through South-East Asia and then on to Melanesia. The remains were excavated at a cave site in southern Siberia.  “It could be just 50 Denisovans interbreeding with a thousand modern humans. That would be enough to produce this 5% of those archaic genes being transferred,” he said. “So the impact is there but the number of interbreeding events might have been quite small and quite rare.”

No one knows when or how these humans disappeared but, according to Professor Paabo, it is very likely something to do with modern people because all the “archaic” humans, like Denisovans and Neanderthals disappeared sometime after Homo sapiens sapiens appeared on the scene. “It is fascinating to see direct evidence that these archaic species did exist (alongside us) and it’s only for the last few tens of thousands of years that is unique in our history that we are alone on this planet and we have no close relatives with us anymore,” he said.

The study follows a paper published earlier this year by Professor Paabo and colleagues that showed there was interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals as they emerged from Africa 60,000 years ago.

Have A Beautiful Morning, Sovereigns!

Luisa Maita, Brazilian songstress, with the title track from her new American album release entitled “Lero Lero”

Look who’s coming now,

Just, “Hey, What’s up?” and a glance eye to eye
He’s on our side
No hurry, no delay
Everything’s all right

He’s of the same blood
Our flow is telepathic
Beyond words

And when life gets tough
It’s just, “Hey, What’s up?” And a glance eye to eye
And I’m back to all right

This is for you, my brother
This is for you, my brother
Everything’s all right

Foreign Policy: Robert Baer (Ex-CIA) Spy v. Spy

I first heard the name Philip Agee, the legendary, rogue Central Intelligence Agency operative one cloudless, blue morning in San Francisco. It was my first interview with the CIA.

The CIA recruiter and I met in his junior suite at the Hilton Hotel. He was an affable man in his 50s, thick in the middle with slicked-back hair, a tweed sports coat, and a club tie. He sat in an armchair, I on the edge of the sofa. He listened patiently as I tried to convince him I was qualified to be hired as an analyst. I was enrolled in an intensive Mandarin course at the University of California, Berkeley, at the time and had hopes of being a China scholar. If the CIA wanted to pay me a salary to become one, I figured, all the better.

When I finished, he looked at me for a beat, not saying a word. When he spoke he didn’t even bother to sugarcoat his verdict: “Without an MA or Ph.D., we can’t hire you.” Before I could even register disappointment, however, the recruiter leaned forward. He dropped his voice as if the room might be bugged: “Did you ever think about operations?”

I stared back at him blankly. He reached into his briefcase and pulled out a new paperback — Agee’s memoir, Inside the Company: CIA Diary. “Read this and tell me whether you might be interested in operations.”

Back at my Berkeley apartment I read Agee’s book late into the night — my door closed so my two roommates couldn’t see me. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Inside the Company, published in 1975, portrayed the CIA as an evil, secret society that pulled strings around the world, corrupting otherwise honest officials and overthrowing democratically elected governments. Agee described in detail how the CIA propped up Latin American juntas and corrupt regimes around the world.

And worse, Agee named names — confidential sources and the names of operatives — people who are supposed to work outside the public spotlight their entire lives. I considered whether my affable recruiter had actually read Agee’s book before handing it to me.

But as I delved deeper into Agee’s book, rather than becoming repulsed, I became more and more fascinated by the idea that there really might be such a thing as a secret society, one that channeled the currents of history. I didn’t like the idea of changing popular regimes — my background and education was decidedly liberal — but I started to picture myself as some modern Knight Templar, a tempting release from the dreariness of academia.

 After I was hired by the CIA, no one ever told me why or when recruiters started handing out Agee’s book, but I soon understood from the agency’s culture that it counted on reactions like mine; the book’s appeal was that it opened people’s eyes to a concealed, powerful world. Like it or hate it — and many people did — it was seductive. Later, I came to understand that the CIA prided itself on having an open-minded view of the world. It wanted its new hires to make up their own minds after they were inside. The irony, of course, was that Agee never expected his book would become a recruiting tool. He intended it to be a stake through the CIA’s heart.

On Nov. 9, New York University’s Tamiment Library released Agee’s personal papers, including his correspondence with left-wing figures throughout Latin America and documents related to his subsequent life in exile in Cuba and Europe, a step that will no doubt case many to revisit his legacy. I don’t know what’s in these papers, but I can tell you this: I won’t be reading a word of it.

The simple truth is that Agee was a fraud. No, let me be exact: He was a paid traitor. As the U.S. government would come to learn, Cuban intelligence was behind Agee’s campaign against the CIA — and it paid him well for his work. Agee’s claims of being driven by conviction and ideology were lies. Why believe any of whatever is buried in the NYU papers?

In the late 1980s, U.S. intelligence would learn from an unimpeachable source that Cuban intelligence had recruited Agee as a spy — a “controlled asset” as the CIA called him. Agee took Cuban money and followed Cuban orders to the letter. The editor of Inside the Company, which was originally published in Britain, was even a Cuban spy. It’s simply not possible that Agee — though he claimed to be operating out of a compulsion of conscience — could not have known this.

In Agee’s version of the story, his conversion came in 1968 after the Mexican government’s massacre of student protesters. Agee claimed he finally understood the implications of his work for the CIA, which supported the Mexican government at the time, and left disaffected. But what really happened was more complicated. Immediately before he resigned, he wrote a letter to the CIA saying he’d always been proud of his work. But then, after leaving the agency, his life started to fall apart — a bad marriage, money problems, and an aimless drift through leftist circles in Latin America contributed to his radicalization. When Cuban intelligence finally threw him a lifeline, he grabbed it out of desperation.

In return, Agee spilled every secret he knew. When he ran out of secrets, he dutifully agreed to a Cuban plan to wage a propaganda campaign against the CIA that involved exposing the names of U.S. operatives across the globe. The United States believes that Agee’s disclosures resulted in the murder of Richard Welch, the CIA station chief gunned down in Athens in 1975.

The Cubans eventually mentioned Agee to the Soviet KGB, which ended up funding Covert Action, a publication that, in its own words, aimed to launch a “worldwide campaign to destabilize the CIA through exposure of its operations and personnel.” Agee proceeded to release information through Covert Action, despite knowing full well that the KGB meant to use it as a bludgeon in its intelligence war against the CIA. The days of Agee pretending to be an ideological convert to the left were over.

When I arrived in Washington to start my career with the CIA, I soon enough realized I wasn’t done with Agee. I looked up an old college roommate when I moved to the area, and the two of us agreed to rent an old farmhouse in Jefferson, Maryland. Although he didn’t know I worked for the CIA, I figured it didn’t matter. In fact, I thought it would be good practice for a career of lying. (Inside the CIA this is called “maintaining your cover.”)

Things went along well enough until my housemate brought in another tenant, an associate professor of political science who also happened to be a committed Marxist. This was bad enough, but a week after she moved in, she told me that she’d spent the summer in Amsterdam working with Agee at a leftist think tank.

Every night, I came home dreading that my new Marxist roommate would figure out I worked for the CIA and call Agee. I imagined I’d find my name in Agee’s next book or splashed across the pages of Covert Action. My career would be over before it even started. I wondered if Berkeley would have me back. 

I finally turned myself into the CIA’s counterintelligence staff, a group of professionally suspicious people charged with ferreting out moles in the agency. The woman who sat across the desk from me had a genuine look of horror on her face when I came to the part about Agee and Amsterdam. She ushered me into a room without windows, and for the next three hours I was grilled by three of her colleagues. One had Agee’s file on the table in front of him. This was all a long time ago, but I remember that it was about 10 very thick volumes.

I didn’t dare ask what was in Agee’s file, and to this day I still don’t know its contents. In the end, I convinced my interrogators that I wasn’t a radical leftist and had no intention of teaming up with Agee. The only consequence of my brush with Agee was that I had to move out of the house — but the gravity with which the CIA treated even this passing connection with him spoke volumes about how seriously they considered him a counterintelligence threat. It was clear he was not just a loud-mouthed critic.

Read on-

Waris Husain Editorial: The Self-Flagellation (Mathaam) of Pakistan

Self-flagellation is practiced across the globe, with Christians in the Philippines reenacting crucifixions on Good Friday to commemorate Jesus or with Shiites beating their chests during Muharram to remember the death of their spiritual leaders. While the body suffers during this exercise, the pious purpose for which the devotee is punishing themselves is supposed to provide a spiritually clarifying experience. When a nation, like Pakistan, punishes itself for some ‘higher purpose,’ one should remember whether or not the effect is so constructive.

             Pakistan’s “mathaam” starts with the perverse reverence and deference awarded to Saudi Arabia by the state and the society. There have been positive elements to the relationship with Saudi Arabia including the billions in aid, which has saved the state from financial collapse at times of economic distress. The same can be said for the United States and other powers who have supplied Pakistan with funding at crucial points, and yet they do not receive the same status as the Saudis.

The reason that both the state and society wish to recognize Saudi Arabia as a patriarch, is for a higher purpose of nearness to the origin of Islam. However, the real effect of this Saudi relationship is that Pakistan has become inundated with religious extremism stemming directly from Saudi Arabia. The predominant interest for Saudi Arabia in Pakistan is to neutralize Iran, and it utilizes policies that the U.S. used with other nations during the Cold War. Namely, funding and training religious right-wing groups to challenge the ability of communists (or Iranians) from taking control of the state. Thus, there are allegations that Saudis are financially and intellectually exporting a violent ideology in Pakistan, which is uprooting the society itself and tearing the nation apart. If one compares the motivation of closeness to Islam and the violent effect of religious extremism and intolerance, it seems clear that Pakistan is “beating itself” for no real purpose.

The next “mathaam” Pakistan is engaging in relates to the presumption that India is a primordial enemy of Islam and that Pakistan has a duty to attack this threat. The higher purpose for this animosity to the eastern neighbor is that Pakistan will serve its Islamic purpose by defeating India in true David-versus-Goliath form. However, there have been horribly negative effects of this focus on India as an “arch nemesis,” highlighted by the growing insurgency in the Afghan border region. The mistrust towards the Indians is so deep that Pakistan currently holds hundreds of thousands of troops on the Indian border while suicide attacks and murders are being carried out brazenly by extremists. This mismanagement of priorities has allowed for the militant anti-state organizations to carry out operations in the heartland of the country.

Similarly, the focus on India inspired the ISI to develop the practice of fostering “low intensity conflicts” or organizing small-scale terrorist attacks against their rival. This led to the ISI creating bonds with certain extremist groups who were provided with funding and training as long as they could carry out terrorist threats in Kashmir and India’s heartland. However, after the Army’s Red Mosque siege and the hard-hitting military operations in Swat and Wazirstan, those ISI-supported groups turned against the state and people of Pakistan. Out of all this, India has suffered far less than Pakistan, who continues to ‘beat itself’ whether by training the same groups who now are aimed at destroying the state or avoiding an offensive in hotbeds of terrorism due to mistrust of Indians on the border.

Finally, Pakistan’s “mathaam” extends to its practice of relying on the military as the ultimate responsible ruler of the government. The higher purpose for this reliance is that the military provides a strong top-down leadership structure, with highly trained technocrats, and a history of providing services to the people. However, one must remember the holistic image of the military’s leadership when it comes to power, which is usually through an illegal coup. The Army’s very ascension to power is a violation of general constitutional principles that require a military to be subservient to the state, not vice-versa. Further, the composition of the military, its leadership, and its decision-making are not subject to any control by the Pakistani people, which is the central benefit of civilian rule.
            The Army’s adversarial relationship with the civilian government hinders the ability of the civilian state apparatus to bourgeon responsible governance.  In this regard, the Army has relied solely on the help of obedient religious parties to negate the influence of politically independent politicians, whether they are from the PML (N) or PPP. This has been accompanied by the political removal or assassination of almost every politically progressive mind in the nation’s history, thereby limiting the ability of capable civilian leadership to emerge. Pakistan ‘beats itself’ by pursuing the ‘higher purpose’ of responsible leadership in its deference to the Army, because the Army itself extorts this deference by prohibiting the ability of a government elected by the people to achieve these same goals.

No self-flagellation can be supported unless it is for a truly “higher” purpose, because without this higher purpose, the effect of the act is to harm the physical body without any benefit to the spirit.  Pakistan self-flagellates for invalid higher purposes including idealizing a nation that exports violent ideologies, training terrorists to attack India who instead attack the Pakistani people, and idealizing a military that has continually destabilized civilian rule. Thus, without any benefit to the ‘spirit’ of the nation, these practices should be stopped before there is no ‘physical form’ left to save.