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Three New Reads – August

Philip Roddis
Today’s selection is on the face of it an eclectic mix, taking in the non-dualism of Indian sage Ramana Maharshi, the vast storehouse of treasure – and potential for WW3 – below Greenland’s melting ice cap, and ties of paedophilia and blackmail that bound the lately suicided Jeffrey Epstein to America’s most powerful players.

I’ve been in two cults: a Trotskyite sect in the eighties, and a spiritual cult whose gifted leader, while claiming lineage to Ramana Maharshi, fiercely claimed – and herein lay danger since it rendered him unaccountable – independence from any tradition.

Of the two, the second was the more intense.

Some say I’m given to extremes, and there’s truth in that. There’s more truth in the fact, though few acknowledge and fewer act on it, that ours is an extreme age: the recklessness of advanced capitalism having pushed us to the brinks of armageddon and climate meltdown, while its laws of motion accelerate grotesque inequalities between global north and south and, increasingly, within the north.

Tensions arising from that last are the thread binding seemingly disparate phenomena: Brexit and other threats to the EU project … Corbyn, Syriza, Podemos, Die Linke … right wing populism … secessionist movements in Catalonia and Scotland … disarray, which may well be terminal, in the two parties which have for a century dominated British politics …

These circumstances, and my past, have caused some soul searching. When I left the spiritual cult on the eve of imperialism’s war on Iraq (cheered on, incidentally, by the cult leader) I set out on a two-step recovery path.

First and easiest, since my stay had been eighteen months (most were in far longer, and some are still paying the price) was a spell of readjustment to the so-called real world. In the long run more important, however, was the task of integrating my political and spiritual experiences. Or to put it another way, making sense of what an old marxist like me could possibly have been thinking, to throw in his lot, at no small cost, with those in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment.

Fifteen years on that second step is far from complete. (Though the potential for spiritual – I use this term for want of a better – awakening inherent in liberation from capital’s subordination of our humanity to commodity fetishism was not lost on Marx.) But I’m encouraged by the recent phenomena of materialist analyses combined with an openness to the extraordinary nature of human consciousness, and to the call – remarkably consistent down the ages – to Awaken.

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One such voice is that of Australian blogger, Caitlin Johnstone. I often cite her as a scathing and eloquent critic of imperialism and its apologists. Now I’m delighted to introduce today’s piece (August 23rd), revealing another side of Caity:

Self-enquiry, or self-inquiry, is a practice popularized in the west by the circulation of nondual teachings from the renowned Indian sages Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj. It requires no faith in any teacher, teaching or tradition, nor even in the practice itself. Self-enquiry is a method for inquiring for yourself into your own nature and discovering in your own firsthand experience what lies at the end of that investigation.

Most of our suffering and confusion (which is what the propagandists I write about rely on to manipulate us into believing establishment narratives) stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the way our experience is actually happening.

Partly due to culture, partly due to language, and partly to the fact we begin life as helpless little things at the mercy of an often terrifying world, we develop mistaken notions about ourselves, our minds, and the world, and we form conditioning patterns around those mistaken notions. Self-enquiry works to correct those fundamental errors and habits of perception, which allows for the possibility of a serene mind and an efficacious way of functioning.

Full piece here.1700 words

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I’ll be briefer with my second read. While America’s Democrats, and liberal media both sides of the pond, deride Trump’s seemingly ham-fisted bid to buy Greenland, World Socialist Website suggests we stop guffawing and mug up on our history. Its post, also today (Aug 23rd), contains this:

It is no coincidence that the latest controversy over Greenland has erupted precisely at the point that the Pentagon is conducting test firings of a new land-launched, medium-range cruise missile previously banned under a treaty abrogated by Washington …

… following the dissolution of the USSR, Greenland is once again a focal point for US strategic interests in the context of a “scramble for the Arctic” that is part and parcel of the preparations for another world war.

Climate change has turned Greenland into a new front line. The melting of its ice sheet, while threatening rising sea levels and a global catastrophe, has begun to open up new sea routes linking Europe, Asia and North America. It has also created the possibility for exploiting Arctic resources, estimated to include 30 percent of the world’s unexplored gas reserves and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil, as well major mineral deposits; rare earth minerals, strategic materials whose production is currently dominated by China.

Full piece here. 1268 words.

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Finally there’s the Jeffrey Epstein saga, on which I’ve written two short pieces, here and here. In by far the longest of these read recommends, Chile based journalist Whitney Webb traces the links between America’s ruling class and senior politicians, its FBI and CIA, and its crime lords.

Written in three parts – the first after Epstein’s arrest and the third shortly before his ‘suicide’ – Webb shows how, since the days of Prohibition, paedophilia and its potential for blackmail has been used, and still is used, by the powers that be. I recommend it for the obvious reason of its topicality, yes. But also because marxists and others on the left often speak with great accuracy about the overarching nature and motivation of our ruling classes, yet tend to pass on the webs of deceit and intricacy through which their most active elements live, breathe and make things happen at the nitty gritty end of power behind the curtains of democracy.

Webb’s skills as narrator enable her to present detailed accounts of byzantine relations in a way that holds our attention and prevents our losing the plot. Which is just as well, when the three parts of broadly equal length add up to some 20,000 words. Expect to be hooked.

Here’s a taster:

Crucial to Bronfman’s Prohibition-era bootlegging operations were two middlemen, one of whom was Lewis “Lew” Rosenstiel. Rosenstiel got his start working at his uncle’s distillery in Kentucky before Prohibition. Once the law banning alcohol was in force, Rosenstiel created the Schenley Products Company, which would later become one of the largest liquor companies in North America.

Though a high school drop-out and not well-connected at the time, Rosenstiel happened to have a “chance” meeting with Winston Churchill in 1922 while on vacation in the French Riviera. According to the New York TimesChurchill “advised him to prepare for the return of liquor sales in the United States.” Rosenstiel somehow managed to secure the funding of Lehman Brothers to finance his purchase of shuttered distilleries.

Officially, Rosenstiel is said to have built his company and wealth after Prohibition, by following Churchill’s advice. However, he was involved in bootlegging operations and even indicted for bootlegging in 1929, though he evaded conviction. Like Bronfman, Rosenstiel was close to organized crime, particularly members of the mostly Jewish-American and Italian-American mob alliance known as the National Crime Syndicate.

Subsequent New York state legislative investigations would allege that Rosenstiel “was part of a ‘consortium’ with underworld figures that bought liquor in Canada”, whose other members were “Meyer Lansky, the reputed organized crime leader; Joseph Fusco, an associate of late Chicago gangster Al Capone and Joseph Linsey, a Boston man Mr. Kelly [the investigator testifying] identified as a convicted bootlegger.” Rosenstiel’s relations with these men, particularly Lansky, would continue long after Prohibition and Samuel Bronfman, for his part, would also maintain his mob ties.

In addition to his friends in the mob, Rosenstiel also cultivated close ties with the FBI, developing a close relationship with longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and making Hoover’s right-hand man and longtime assistant at the FBI, Louis Nichols, the Vice President of his Schenley empire in 1957.

Though for years there were only hints to this other side of the controversial businessman, details emerged years later during a divorce proceeding brought by Rosenstiel’s fourth wife, Susan Kaufman, that would back the claims. Kaufman alleged that Rosenstiel hosted extravagant parties that included “boy prostitutes” that her husband had hired “for the enjoyment” of certain guests, which included important government officials and prominent figures in America’s criminal underworld. Kaufman would later make the same claims under oath during the hearing of the New York’s State Joint Legislative Committee on Crime in the early 1970s.

Not only did Rosenstiel organize these parties, but he also made sure that their venues were bugged with microphones that recorded the antics of his high-profile guests. Those audio recordings, Kaufman alleged, were then kept for the purpose of blackmail. Though Kaufman’s claims are shocking, her testimony was deemed credible and held in high regard by the former chief counsel of the Crime Committee, New York Judge Edward McLaughlin, and committee investigator William Gallinaro and aspects of her testimony were later corroborated by two separate witnesses who were unknown to Kaufman.

These “blackmail parties” offer a window into an operation that would become more sophisticated and grow dramatically in the 1950s under Rosenstiel’s “field commander” (a nickname given by Rosenstiel to an individual to be named shortly in this report). Many of the people connected to Rosenstiel’s “field commander” during the 70s and 80s have again found their names in the press following the recent arrest of Jeffrey Epstein.

That’s from Part One. Here is Part Two, and here Part Three – which appeared in Mint Press on August 7, three days before its subject’s ‘suicide’.

Top tactics for top tacticians – you might copy each part into a single Word document, then send to your Kindle for ease of reading over more than one session.