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Sometimes, in order to move forward we must look back. I am reflecting once more on another man’s life and words, very prescient and witty words. I was reminded again of his legacy this morning after reading the Congressional Record honoring the life and accomplishments of Gore Vidal by US Congressman Steve Cohen who was brave enough to give it. Before we get to Gore, let’s talk a bit about mankind’s technological prowess in terms of lethal weaponry.

In the great expanse of Earth’s history, industrial civilization will be chronicled as a mere blip in geologic memory, but in the human scale of time perception, our self-inflicted demise by way of ecocide is slow and seemingly imperceptible. And so while we quietly commit self-extermination by breaching environmental tipping points, mankind’s annihilation may also arrive via the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, facilitated by the ongoing advancement of technology:

Scott Kemp, an assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that the worry with SILEX laser technology “is that it is particularly suited for nuclear proliferation, even better than centrifuges. SILEX can also enrich fuel-grade uranium to weapons-grade in fewer steps than a … centrifuge.”

Kemp was until 2011 science advisor in the Office of the Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control at the U.S. State Department.

Writing in the latest issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, he says that before the plant is licensed the U.S. government or Congress should commission an independent inquiry into whether its benefits outweigh the added proliferation risk. Other U.S. nuclear scientists and arms control specialists have previously called for similar action….

A U.S. State Department assessment in 1999 of the SILEX technology and the plans to start commercial processing conceded that a laser enrichment facility “might be easier to build without detection and could be a more efficient producer of high enriched uranium for a nuclear weapons program.”…

“It seems likely,” the State Department said, “that success with SILEX would renew interest in laser enrichment by nations with benign intent as well as by proliferants with an interest in finding an easier route to acquiring fissile material for nuclear weapons.”

And recently, John Robb of Global Guerillas had some disturbing news on this new technological breakthrough:

While there are still some details to sort out, it’s pretty clear that making weapons at home using 3-D printers from commonly available materials is going to become much more commonplace in the near future. In fact, as 3-D printing technology matures, materials feedstock improves, and designs for weapons proliferate, we might soon see the day when nearly everyone will be able to print the weapons of their choice in the numbers they desire, all within the privacy of their own homes.

In an October 22, 2002 speech, Sam Nunn quoted a letter by Warren Buffett:

“Through my work at NTI, I’m often asked, “What are the odds of nuclear use by a terrorist group?” Today, I received a letter from Warren Buffett, who is an adviser to NTI, describing the statistical chance of a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon attack in the United States. His letter said:”

If the chance of a weapon of mass destruction being used in a given year is 10 percent and the same probability persists for 50 years, the probability of the event happening at least once during that 50 years is 99.5 percent. Thus, the chance of getting through the 50-year period without a disaster is .51 percent — just slightly better than one in 200.

“If the probability of similar weapons being utilized can be reduced to 3 percent per year, the world has a 21.8 percent chance of making it through 50 years without an event. And if the annual chance can be reduced to 1 percent, there is a 60.5 percent chance of making it through 50 years.

Now back to the insightful and prophetic words of Gore Vidal:

JAY: Fascism in Germany wasn’t a coup; it was a many-year process. [crosstalk] feel normal. I’m not suggesting we’re living in an equivalent period, but there are lessons to be learned about.

VIDAL: But it is equivalent. I mean, don’t be shy of saying that. The response to the Reichstags Fire is precisely that to 9/11, which was invoked by this administration’s people. “And if we don’t fight them over there, we gotta fight ’em over here.” This little fool. How are they going to get here? Greyhound bus? I mean, he is so stupid himself that he assumes everybody else is equally stupid. If he had been really elected, I would say everybody else was stupid, but he wasn’t.

VIDAL: After all, you are in opposition to American media, and so am I. And we know how false it is, and how corrupt it is, and how engaged they are for mischief, making money for the ownership of the country. There’s nothing to be done about them. And no wonder, even when the American people might ever again, which I doubt, have an uncorrupted presidential election. 2000 was corrupted. 2004 was corrupted. I don’t think we’ll ever get to know the people’s voice, and the people have no voice because they have no information. That is why you’re doing useful work here. That’s why I’m chatting with you here. That could be useful, to tell them actually what happens around the world. That poor guy running for Congress, everybody jumped on him, particularly [inaudible] people. He suggested that our foreign policy might have had something to do with 9/11, that we were deeply disliked in the Muslim world for other reasons. It’s the same presidential, I guess. “Do you believe in evolution?” said this idiot. I mean, to reveal the leadership of the United States hasn’t made it to the 20th century, that our leadership is as ignorant as that. Five of them said, no, no, thinking little lord Jesus was going to vote for them.

JAY: It’s in these moments of crisis, like terrorist attack, that you start to see people’s colors.

VIDAL: Yellow.

JAY: In Britain as well, and I was really taken aback. After the bus London bombings, Ken Livingstone, ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone, was asked, was there any connection between these bombings and UK foreign policy, and he said there’s no connection whatsoever. This is just people that hate our way of life.

VIDAL: Yeah, that’s the new lie that they like to tell. Well, that’s Bush allover. “They just hate us.” Why? Nobody has to ask them why. He doesn’t know why. “Well, they envy us, our form of government.” Who envies us that can of worms we’ve got in Washington? And it’s been many years in the United States since I have seen a Norwegian coming to get a green card.

JAY: The economic structure of television makes what I’m going to ask difficult to accomplish. But do you think television journalists have learned anything from this last four years?

VIDAL: Well, they’ve always been lazy, and they’re not used to getting to the heart of problems, of matters. They’re not used to investigating anything. Socrates tells us that the unexamined life is not worth living, and that is an absolute truth. Those who want to examine life don’t go in for journalism, because they’re not allowed to. So they’ve got to be very careful. They have to think about tenure if they’re at a university. They’ve got to think about, you know, the publisher and advertisers. So it’s a difficult row to hoe, and we have no intellectual tradition of any kind in the United States. I even told Arthur Schlesinger, “You know, Arthur, one Schlesinger does not make a spring.” He was horrified.

VIDAL: …It’s when the news starts to break, how two presidential elections, 2000 and 2004, were stolen and The New York Times would not review the book written about it by Congressman Conyers, nor Washington Post, nor Wall Street Journal, the great instruments of news were silent. Well, they’re saying, “We don’t give a goddamn about the United States. Just stew in your own juice. Leave us alone. We have corporate figures to add up now, and we have certain things we want to put in place, and we may have a couple of candidates for you dumdums, but you probably won’t like them.” You know, I’ve been around the ruling class all my life, and I’ve been quite aware of their total contempt for the people of the country. And the Republican machine became so good at transmitting its own feelings about the world to the enemy, to the liberals, once anyone, any of the right wing hear what I just said, he’ll say, “Oh, the liberals have always hated America. We know that. They despise family values, because they’re only interested in gang bangs and drugs and so forth.” This is the way they deal. And whenever they have a real coward for president, like Bush himself, and you have a hero like Kerry, “Oh, he’s a coward. Didn’t you know that? We’ve got five guys who were in Vietnam with him.” What they do is whatever is their transgression, whatever are their faults, they lie and apply it to the other person. That confuses everything. If I were an average voter in the United States, I wouldn’t know who was telling the truth, whether Kerry really had run away and didn’t get purple hearts, or whether Junior, you know, had actually learned how to fly a plane.

JAY: And television news covers the lies like news.

VIDAL: Yes. It has a lock on it.

VIDAL: …There’s not anyone with an IQ above, you know, lowest room temperature who isn’t interested in something like this [truth in news]. Everybody is on to the con act of our media, that they are obeying bigger, richer interests than informing the public, which is the last thing that corporate America has ever been interested in doing. So I think, you know, the sky’s the limit to the amount of audience you can get. And one of the secrets is, aside from telling the truth which most people in America hate because they’ve been brought up on advertising, and they think the truth is just something irrelevant, irrelevant, you know. Everybody lies. You know, I love that line. So it’s alright to steal the election. Well, that isn’t what the world’s about. And I think it’s really come down to we’re going to be blown up one of these days. We have now acquired so many enemies with so much power in the world that, well, they’re going to take a couple of cracks at us. I would rather have Real News here telling us just where it was they struck, where it is, intelligence says they may strike again, and maybe why they’re doing it – we blew up their mosque, we killed their president, or whatever it was that set them off. What our fictional news does now, and this is–all it is is fiction, whether it’s CNN or CBS or NBC, it’s all fiction. The people making this junk know that. The viewers suspect it. But where are they going to turn to? Where are they going to find out? They can’t all go out and get a, you know, subscription to The Nation, which would help straighten them out, at least in print. So you’re going to be the only alternative, and the word will start to spread. Look at the speed with which, you know, just by telling jokes, John Stewart and company, got the attention of everybody. And now they say, well, most of the real news that the people know about they get from the satirizing of it that Stewart does. And very funny he is, too. In other words you build a better mousetrap, and the mouse will come to your door.

“…You can’t just go into Iraq and smash them to pieces and pretend that they are an enemy. They will become one if you knock down their houses and kill them. They get very grumpy, you know, when you do things like that to them. So he [Bush] managed to make a lot of enemies. We’re the ones the bombs are going to fall on… He’ll [Bush] be in his bunker in that awful place in Texas where he lives. He’ll be hidden away. He’ll be safe. It will be our cities that are going to get it when some of these suicide bombers get angry at us and blame us for his misdeeds… It was a coup d’état after 9-11. A bunch of ambitious hoods, from the oil and gas business mostly, decided now is the time to take over everything. And the neoconservatives were right there with them, and they wanted big armies in the Middle East to destroy countries they didn’t like. They wanted to get rid of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran… they have a long list, they’ve still got it. I don’t think they’re going to have a chance to utilize it because we ran out of money…”