Archive for the ‘Obama’ Category
Yes, that’s right, the head of the USMC, general James Conway, has warned that President Obama’s deadline to begin pulling troops out of Afghanistan is encouraging the Taliban. Anyone who knows anything about how the military works should be worried right now. What this general has done is called insubordination, his job is to implement the orders he receives from the commander in chief. For him to publicly criticize the commander-in-chief’s orders is not in any way implementing them. He should be immediately reprimanded, if not cashiered. That he can get away with this, and sadly since at least Clinton America’s generals have been more and more publicly critical of the president, is a scary sign for the republic and our democracy. This isn’t a freedom of speech issue. When someone joins the military they take an oath to follow the military’s rules. And the military is a totally hierarchal organization where one of the primary rules is that if a superior gives an order, your response is expected to be “Right away, sir.” If a subordinate has an issue with an order he is given, or the policies of his superior, he is expected to bring it up in private. To publicly criticize the president is what got General’s Macarthur and McCrystal fired, General Conway should be no different.
Sadly, the military seems to be more and more calling the shots in the USA, and it’s gotten worse under Obama. The framers of the Constitution made the President the Commander-in-Chief of the military for very good reason, they knew damn well that the more power one gives the military, the more likely one is to be involved in endless wars. Not to mention the dangers of the military meddling in politics. We’ve forgotten that one of the inspirations for independence even was staying out of the endless wars that wracked Europe at the time. And more on point, despite all sorts of patriotic nonsense, the military is a gang. And gang members are loyal to the gang first, not the country. There are exceptions, but when it comes to high ranking military officers, the exceptions are few and far between. And when it comes to the utterly politicized modern US military, as far as I can tell our general officer corps is devoted to their careers and the military above all else.
Sigh. The fact that people aren’t frightened by this, or other recent incidents, is also scary. General Petraeus has been for all practical purposes giving Obama orders lately. This sort of crap started under Clinton. (A lot of our imperial excesses started under Clinton actually.) Shortly after he got into office Colin Powell gave a press conference where he publicly criticized Clinton’s promise to integrate gays into the military. He should have been cashiered, or at the very least publicly reprimanded. Instead we got the horrific “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Horrific because it resulted in a huge increase of people being kicked out of the military for being gay. Oddly enough the Fundamental Christianization of the military seems to have really started to get traction around then, a scary process that continues to this day. Why is is scary? Because armies are supposed to defend the country, not the faith.
Lastly, what gets me about General Conway’s comments, is that they are divorced from reality. The Taliban isn’t scouring the western media and basing their morale on what Obama says. They are fighting to get a foreign invader out of their homeland, they don’t give a rat’s ass about our morale or motivations. They will keep fighting until they achieve their aim, one way of the other. This isn’t a goddamn football game, we aren’t going to win by talking tough and sticking it out. That never works in a war. It does sometimes work in politics though, and this is more proof of just how much our policies, both internal and external, are now driven entirely by domestic politics. Americans are dying in Afghanistan and all our leaders do is jockey for political positioning about same.
What’s gonna be interesting is sooner or later there’s likely to be some terrible catastrophe that brings the whole house of cards down. And I pray that if there is such an event, it’s a fall of Saigon type of event as opposed to a 9/11 event. The former with any luck will lead to a more restrained foreign policy that is about defending the USA, not maintaining a world wide Empire. The later could lead to a police state and very possibly a pogrom against millions of Americans as our leaders blame their failure to prevent disaster on imagined internal enemies, not their own incompetence and foreign adventures.
Maybe I’m being a pessimist, but I think at this point it’s safe to say that the neocon wet dream of America’s crusades abroad leading to grateful natives sweeping away their governments and installing western style “democratic” governments … is dead in the water. Or dead on the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan. It was, basically, an almost infantile fantasy to begin with. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s all politics is, children who never got tired of playing with toy soldiers, and never really grew up.
(The above image was produced by the US State Department and is thus Public Domain under US copyright law. It’s General Macarthur and President Truman in happier days. It was a hell of a thing for Truman to fire Macarthur, he was a hero of two wars. I don’t know if it was a bad thing or a good thing, but that fact that it was possible is a good thing. Still, times change. Petraeus is no Macarthur, and sure as hell Obama is no Truman.)
Well, there’s a number of things going on in the news that deserve attention, and in fact each and every one of them could be expanded into a full blog post. However, there’s huge amounts already being written about them, so I decided to make a meta-post so to speak and then get back to the fun stuff like alien marshmallows, historical miscalculations, and alternate dimensions. Also, they are kinda depressing and frankly I’m tired of being depressed.
First up, Israel. What’s to say, it’s not like Israel has ever been a respecter of international law before. Why they had to board a shop full of peace protesters with guns blazing is anyone’s guess. And now they have a few hundred more political prisoners to add to the millions of Palestinians they are holding hostage. If any other country behaved the way Israel behaves, they would be a pariah state like North Korea. And now just to make sure everyone gets the message that Israel wants to have a war with Iran, they have stationed nuclear armed submarines off Iran’s coast. Those peace loving Israelis, what will they think of next? The good thing is that Israel’s increasingly bellicose if not actually psychotic actions are increasingly alienating younger Jews in the USA, and the day may come where the Israeli lobby in the USA no longer has a strangle hold on US foreign policy. A man can dream, can’t he?
We’ve now spent a trillion dollars on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have made America less secure if anything, have killed and maimed tens of thousand of Americans, and the two countries we are supposedly trying to help (snort) are violent failed states. A trillion bucks, and all we have to show for it is a picture of George Bush smirking in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner. And just to put a trillion dollars in perspective for my American middle class readers, a trillion dollars would pay for college tuition for every American in perpetuity. Yeah, that was money well spent.
The leaking oil well. It’s made me think of a whole new way to look at problems. I now think: “What would the Romans do?” Well, after the last failed attempt to stop the leak, if not before, they would have sent in teams of crack Roman engineers to fix the problem. And they would also have rounded up every BP executive and manager that had even the remotest amount of responsibility for this debacle … and stuffed them in the leaking pipe to try and stop the leak. Yeah, it wouldn’t stop the leak, but it would go a very long ways to making sure that something like this never happened again. There’s a reason the Roman Empire lasted as long as it did, they didn’t fuck around when people screwed with the Empire. In the modern USA, screwing with the Empire gets you huge bonuses and government bailouts.
Then theres the sabre rattling about Korea. As many have pointed out, how was an antiquated North Korean sub able to penetrate a fleet of ultra modern US and Korean warships, sink one, and get away undetected? Either the story about a North Korean sub is a lie, or our much vaunted and highly expensive technology isn’t nearly as good as we have been led to believe. Neither option is terribly palatable. And the sabre rattling continues last I checked.
Lastly, the economy. Especially in Europe. Now the Europeans are passing out trillion dollar bailouts to keep their economies afloat and keep the Euro from turning into toilet paper. This is not good, the people who have been saying all along that “borrow and spend” is simply a ponzi scheme that can’t go on forever are seeming more accurate every day. Not to mention that transferring wealth upwards in the long run is a bad idea. It either all falls down in some sort of revolution as the peasants start to starve, or we are all converted into serfs and slaves again while a tiny elite owns everything. I don’t know about my gentle readers, but even if I have Direct TV, I still don’t want the Middle Ages to return.
In conclusion, my big fear this summer is that the burgeoning economic holocaust that is threatening the foundation of the entire west has gotten too big to ignore, and the USA has decided there’s only one solution. War. Now that Obama has succeeded with his diabolical (and brilliant) plan of merging the two political parties in the USA into one giant pro-war, pro-bailout, pro-arms and oil industry, anti-environment party … who is to stop him? More than one empire has gone to war in a last desperate bid to hold things together. The increasingly bellicose actions of the USA in Korea, Pakistan, and Iran make me suspect that like the war with Iraq, the decision has already been made and all that needs to be done is provide a plausible casus belli. Even worse, I’m beginning to suspect that the folks who have been worried about incipient fascism and martial law in the USA aren’t as off base as I thought.
Have a great summer everyone!
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s central to illustrating the post, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Arguably the opposite. Credit and copyright: Steven J Warren. 2009 All rights reserved. It was obtained on this fine site: The UK Storm Guide. And yeah, a lot of the above is unbridled speculation and opinion, might as well exercise my freedom of speech while I still have it.)
Well, there were some acts of political violence during and after the recent Health Care vote and its aftermath. Nothing too serious, some death threats and some bricks thrown at a congressman’s office. There’s always a fringe of this sort of nonsense at both extremes, Bush certainly got death threats in his day. Still, this seems a bit more that normal background fringe stuff, so I am a little concerned. What concerns me is that this is moving more into the mainstream. IE on some level the modern Tea Party movement, the Republican party itself, and the right wing militant movement of the nineties all seem to be interrelated. I am seeing a substantial portion of the population who regards the federal government, especially as personified by the current administration, as evil incarnate. And I don’t mean that in the intellectual sense as the left wing fringe does, I mean that a significant percentage of the Republican party literally believes Obama is the Antichrist.
Yes, according to a recent poll, some 14% of Americans or 25% of Republicans believe that Obama is the Antichrist. That’s tens of millions of people. Who the hell is the Antichrist anyhow? Well, for once wikipedia wasn’t much help. The whole Antichrist idea has been around since, well, biblical times. In general, at least this is how I think the modern understanding of the word goes, the Antichrist is a false saviour who will arrive to lead people astray and away from Jesus in the End Times. The End Times is when Jesus comes back, the virtuous and faithful are saved, and the rest of us are toast. From what polls and information I could find on line, at least as many Americans believe we are living in or near the End Times as believe Obama is the Antichrist. To summarize, tens of millions of Americans believe that president Obama is a mythical figure in the flesh, arisen in our lifetime in accordance with a Bronze Age prophecy.
See, this is why the aliens haven’t contacted us yet, they can’t make sense of this shiznit. I don’t really understand it myself, and hey, I don’t care what people believe as long as they don’t scare the horses. What concerns me is that this belief is becoming associated and intertwined with a powerful mainstream political party. And that concerns me because this particular belief is not terribly amenable to compromise or debate. So this means that not only do these political beliefs become less compromising, they become defensible by any means, since those opposed are by definition evil. This is the same sort of logic that a certain Osama bin Laden used to justify flying planes full of innocent people into buildings. Can’t happen here? Well, it already has. A certain Andrew Joseph Stack flew a plane into an IRS building just this year.
So what does this all mean? Damned if I know, but I don’t think it’s a good thing. I’m kinda thinking that the next decade is not going to be anywhere near as idyllic and prosperous as the past decade. There’s a lot of reasons I think this, but the fact that religious dogma and myth appears to be an increasing influence in modern America isn’t a good sign in my book. Even a modest knowledge of history shows why our founding fathers were so adamant about keeping religion out of politics. Wars are senseless enough as it is, religious wars are Satan’s work.
Still, that’s pretty extreme speculation. In a more secular framework, I am one of many concerned that the Republican’s embrace of violent rhetoric is going to push some over the edge. And it’s just weird and ironic to me that all this vitriol is over health care! No one was threatening revolution when vastly larger sums of money at blood were thrown at foreign wars, or when our grandchildren were mortgaged to keep banker’s bonuses rolling in … but try to spend some money on sick Americans, and some on the right think this is the end of the republic? That’s, um, ridiculous. (And the republic has been dead in the water for decades, but that’s a whole other topic.)
In any event I haven’t been able to find much by way of specific criticism of the latest Health Care bill. I suppose there must be some out there. I do not however consider “it’s turned us into a socialist country” or it’s “the beginning of a police state” in America to be specific criticism. Kind of like non-specific hysteria. The kind a lot on the left claimed during the Bush administration. The older I get the more politics seems like the same ol Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb. And in some historical periods politics is dumber than others. The coming decade may see some of the dumbest politics in memory if the Health Care debate is any indication.
Have a great weekend everyone!
(The above image of the Antichrist is Public Domain under US copyright law, created by Albrecht Dürer in the sixteenth century. I see little or no resemblance to President Obama, but I’m hardly an expert on these things. And I’m not trying to single out the right as being any less in touch with reality than much of the mainstream left, they just express it differently. Simply put, the signal to noise ratio in American politics seems to be dropping, and we’re heading into a period where it’s all noise.)
Damn shame about that guy shooting those cops near Seattle. The incident itself doesn’t bear thinking about. The media coverage of same is pretty pathetic too. Some mention that Huckabee pardoned him, little mention that Huckabee’s faith played a role in the pardon. I have already seen attacks on liberals based on this terrible crime, but very little about the idiotic idea that if someone has “accepted Christ as their saviour” that somehow that makes him eligible for a pardon. No, it’s makes him a lying monster. At best it makes him a monster who has accepted Christ. Great, but let’s keep such monsters locked up and eventually Christ can deal with them as he sees fit. Personally I think people who have committed violent crimes should be locked up forever, and people who haven’t for the most part shouldn’t be locked up at all. The justice system should be more about protecting us that punishing people. I’d much rather feel there were no rapists and murderers walking the streets than be safe from embezzlers and drug users. Priorities people, priorities. Lastly I just wish there was more analysis of the situational forces at play here. Does the media coverage of the event influence more unstable people to do the same? If the shooter did have help from friends, what’s going on there? There’s a lot of hostility toward and mistrust of police in some quarters, can’t we at least talk about it?
Casting judgment rather than analyzing the situation is the American way though. Moving right along, I read something about North Korea that made a lot of sense to me. An article pointed out that neither the USA, Russia, China, or Japan wants a unified Korea. Even a lot of the South Koreans don’t want unification, it would be insanely expensive. A unified (nuclear armed!) Korea would be a much more powerful regional player, which is why the other players in the region are perfectly happy with the current situation. My point of course here is that propaganda and the media make it out like North Korea is to blame for the status quo, and while the North may or may not be happy with the current situation … other powers in the region are working hard to keep it just the way it is. If you look at the situation it’s easier to see why nothing has changed for decades, we like to bluster about the “problem” of North Korea, but we’re actually well served by the current situation.
Moving over to Afghanistan, President Obama is going to send 30,000 more troops … but start pulling them out in 18 months. Sort of maybe toward getting out by 2017. Used to be we had presidents who promised us peace, now we get endless war or endless war with vague promises of future less endless war. OK then. It took like 18 years before the Israelis to get tired of their pointless occupation of parts of Lebanon, so we have a few years to go I suppose. In some cases the absurdity of political discourse in the USA is hysterical … I mean we are going to earnestly discuss whether or not giving millions of Americans health insurance is something we can afford, something that will immeasurably improve the lives of millions of Americans and by extension all of us … but the staggering sums of money for our overseas adventures simply isn’t in the equation? What, exactly, are we expected to get for the trillion dollars and rising that the Afghanistan adventure is costing us?
The last point I will make about Obama’s adventures in Afghanistan is that he is demonstrating an all-to-common human failing, the sunk cost fallacy. Loss aversion, putting good money after bad, whatever you want to call it. People, and that includes everyone from gambling addicts to the most powerful CEOs have a powerful aversion to losses and will suspend judgment and pursue ventures much longer than they should have in an effort to recoup their losses. And political and war leaders will do the same thing, as Obama is now demonstrating in Afghanistan. We’ve been there for eight years, spent a pile of money, made zero progress … by any rational analysis it’s long past time to cut our losses and let the Afghans resume their civil war. Especially considering that our government is so far in debt now that the Hubble Telescope couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. In any event, this article covers the psychology behind loss aversion and is an interesting read.
Coming next, the Hubble Telescope and the most important picture in history.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. And its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, arguably the opposite. Credit and copyright: The Weekly Standard. And yeah, I suppose it’a bit of a stretch claiming this as Fair Use, but hey, it’s in the spirit of the times.)
The Olympic committee stunned the world this morning when they awarded US President Obama a gold medal in the Pole Vault event. Explained the committee’s spokesman when asked how this could be, considering that President Obama had never pole vaulted nor competed in the Olympic, he said the committee was sure that if Obama put his mind to it, he could easily win the gold. “I mean,” continued the spokesman, “winning an Olympic gold medal has to be easier than achieving world peace, or even regional peace? And he was given the peace medal in the expectation of same.” The press had to admit he had a point, and the conference ended there as reporters rushed to file this incredible story. hehe. OK, that was fun. The only point I still want to make about the Peace Prize thing is, boy, if the best recipient the Nobel committee could find was someone they hoped would be a voice for world peace … we’re all in trouble.
Most or all of my posts are going to be extemporaneous ramblings for the near future as I concentrate on getting my new web site up and running. It’s much easier for me than focused posts which take a lot of research, and people seem to enjoy them. I will get around to many of the focused posts as promised, at some future date. The one on how a few inches of dirt set back the space program for example, and even the one about the Battle of Pegasus Bridge. That last one is proving to be a challenge, since the battle seems to have consisted of a few commandos blowing up an antique French tank, after which the Germans ran away. It’s going to be a challenge to spin that into a whole post, but I thrive on challenges. Well, writing challenges, I could do with a few less RL challenges.
Moving right along, I see from the headlines that McCain said we should avoid making a “historic mistake” in Afghanistan. Without even reading the article, I can guess what that’s about. Hint: He’s not referring to staying in Afghanistan long after it was obvious the situation was pointless and counterproductive. No, I suspect he’s referring to the myth that if we had stayed in Vietnam, we would have eventually prevailed. Sigh. I’ve covered this topic before: We Could Have Won in Vietnam. There are two things that really annoy me about this myth, the first is that it’s presented as a certainty. Rarely is anything ever certain in life, let alone when talking about major wars. And the second, is that it simply ignores the possibility that the war wasn’t such a good idea in the first place. I’m sorry, but “We can do no wrong and we will always prevail if we persevere” isn’t a good strategy for a person’s life, as a geopolitical strategy for a nation it’s ultimately going to be suicidal. Not to mention homicidal, but in America, it’s OK to blow up brown people in foreign lands. I mean, they must have done something to deserve it? Right?
And my, what a cheery start to the week. I’m actually in a pretty good mood too. I helped pour the foundation for a chicken coop this weekend, a real man’s vacation. Yes, the grentle reader read that right, a poured reinforced concrete foundation for a chicken coop. My buddy builds for the ages, what can I say. Looking at CNN, I see there’s nothing else going on. Or more accurately, CNN is only choosing to headline the most inane bits of “news.” Maybe some random day I’ll go through the headlines on CNN or one of the other major media outlets and point out both the utter driviality of what they are headlining, and the important stories they are ignoring. That would be a lot of work though, so not today.
On a final note, the NASA “bombing the Moon” mission didn’t kick up the expected plume of debris and ice that they were hoping for. It apparently kicked up a plume of something very dark, so no one from Earth was able to see it. As is so often the case with space missions, it may take a long time for the data to be analyzed so that scientists can figure out what really happened.
That’s enough for this morning. I did look up McCain’s speech, and while I was off the mark in details, I was pretty close in intent. McCain says it would be a historic mistake not to listen to general McChrystal and send tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan. So McCain didn’t have to actually say Vietnam, but it’s definitely Vietnam all over again. We had over 500,000 troops in Vietnam before our leaders finally realized that “a few more troops” wasn’t going to make a damn bit of difference. I guess we are going to have to learn that lesson all over again.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Only a small section of the original image is being used, it’s not being used for profit, and it is an historically important image. Credit and copyright: Reuters. It’s actually an interesting image, see the entire picture and story here. It’s Obama getting the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit. As Reuters describes it: “It’s the country’s highest honor — named for the founder of the modern Saudi state.” Note the galaxy class oxymoron: “modern Saudi state.” There’s fodder for future fun.)
I haven’t written lately because I have been sinking into despair at the state of the world. Or more specifically at the general state of mental acuity in the world, especially what I see in the USA. I did some research recently and discovered that 15% of American’s think the government was complicit in 9/11. OK, well, that’s not too alarming. Some 40-50% of Americans believe in ghosts, UFOs, or Bigfoot. OK, that’s a little alarming, since there is zero empirical evidence for the existence of any of these. And then the kicker, about 60% of Americans have doubts about the Theory of Evolution. Yes, you read that right, we’re doomed.
Clearly the American educational system has failed in a big way. Evolution is easily one of the most well supported scientific theories ever. More than a century of observation and experiment has established Evolution so firmly that there aren’t even any competing scientific theories. (“God did it” isn’t a scientific theory, no matter how much scientific jargon is used.) I didn’t look it up, but judging from what I read on line, there is also similar disbelief about the Big Bang Theory. And while the Big Bang is not as well established as Evolution, again, it’s the best theory we currently have that explains the evidence we observe in the universe around us.
What’s worse, is that there just seems to generally be a wave of anti-intellectual and anti-science sentiment sweeping the nation. I remember as a kid when science was almost worshipped and Americans were proud of our scientific achievements. Granted it’s not a good thing to accept anything blindly, including the pronouncements of scientists. Still, without science we’d still be living in some version of the middle ages where if one kid out of three grew up you were lucky, and if you saw your sixtieth birthday it was almost a miracle. Is that really what people want? Apparently some do. Jesus is my health care plan. Sigh.
I blame the TV and the Internet myself. Despite its promise, I am starting to think that the Internet is the greatest mass dumbing down device in history. Idiotic ideas that never would have made it past the fliers-stuck-on-your-windshield stage now get world wide exposure … and adherents. And the mainstream media has played right into this with a plethora of shows like “Ghost Hunter” that dress up silly posturing as “science.” News flash people, if you see it on TV, it’s fake. Calling something a “reality show” doesn’t make it real for God’s sake.
Sometimes I am starting to think I wandered through some interdimensional portal into an alternate Earth where everything is the opposite of sensible. Then I wake up and turn on my computer … and Obama has won the Nobel Peace prize. I’m sure Obama was equally surprised, though I see he had no trouble taking the ball and running with it. Granted this is going to drive the Rush Limbaugh crowd wild, but anything about Obama drives them wild. Is this proof of a terrible liberal conspiracy? I mean, Bush bombed people and invaded countries and did exactly what Obama has done for the past nine months for eight years, how come he didn’t get the Nobel Peace Prize? Who knows. What I do know, is this is no big deal. In fact it’s a wonderful example of how committees will often make far riskier decisions that if a single person calls the shots. It sounds counter-intuitive, but tons of research has borne it out, a committee member will often back a far riskier idea than they would if there was no committee, because the risk of failure is spread out among the entire committee. And anyhow, the Nobel Prize organization is a private organization, they can give the prize to anyone. Well, good for Obama, let’s hope he lives up to it.
Speaking of liberal conspiracies, the worst liberal conspiracy of all has been uncovered. Liberals, not content with using a time machine to insert Obama’s birth announcement into Hawaiian newspapers in 1961, have pulled off an even greater feat. Yes, they actually went hundreds of years into the past and inserted liberal and socialist jargon into the bible! Proof of this is that the bible contained socialist jargon hundreds of years before socialism was invented! No, I’m not making this up, well, not most of it. I did make up the time machine part, but some conservatives have actually started to rewrite the bible to eliminate its liberal bias. My mind, formerly reeling, boggles uncontrollably. The absurdity of rewriting your own holy book to conform to your own ideology is so obvious and transcendent that it hardly needs comment. Hopefully this won’t start a trend. What’s next? The Walmart Bible?
Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and it’s use here in no way interferes with the copyright holders commercial use of the image, arguably the opposite. It’s a picture of an upside down house built by Polish artist Daniel Czapiewski in Szymbark. Poland. Credit and copyright: Javno. As final proof that the world is upside down today, while writing this post I dopped a piece of toast on the floor … where it landed … butter side up! I rest my case.)
“Right-wingers are telling children to skip school as a protest against Obama’s encouragement of students to stay in school”
The title pretty much says it all, we have gone from beyond partisan politics into some strange new world where no matter what Obama suggests, it must be some nefarious socialist plot. Yes, Obama is “indoctrinating” our kids, just for starters, but it gets worse. Terms like brainwashing, communist China, and Hiter Youth have been tossed out already. Here, for the record, is what the president proposes to tell America’s youth:
“President Obama announced that on September 8 — the first day of school for many children across America — he will deliver a national address directly to students on the importance of education. The President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.”
To characterize this as some sort of nefarious plot, is, well, silly. If a Bush or Reagan had addressed America’s youth with a message like this, the Republicans would be parading in the streets and waving flags. Instead, because a “liberal” is telling kids to stay in school and get an education, it must be part of some sort of liberal conspiracy to brainwash our children. It used to be that right wing pundits railed against stuff they didn’t like, now they rail against anything that didn’t originate from one of their own. And as well there’s also been a growing trend for years for them to characterize anyone or anything they disagree with as being stupid. I find this all very disturbing. Yes, I’m not thrilled with some of the stuff that liberal extremists say, but there isn’t a coterie of liberal media pundits making the same sort of, well, hate speech, every time a Republican leader makes any sort of proposal.
What bothers me here is that the right wing pundits and their fans aren’t getting it, Obama was elected. That alone says the average American is pretty liberal, and I mean liberal in the sense they are reasonably open minded about things like skin colour, and that they are tired of the endless negativity and scare-mongering from the Republicans. And now urging kids to get an education is something to be afraid of? Give me a break, I’m no Obama fan as readers may recall, but this is ridiculous. No wonder so many real conservatives fled to Ron Paul.
In other news, the unemployment rate just hit a 26 year high.
Brave new world insert, when I first copied the above link an hour ago the title of the story was just that: “Unemployment Rate Hits 26 Year High.” And now the story at the link is titled “Job losses ebb, but unemployment up.” I’ve heard about stuff like this before, amazing to see it in action. Could there be any more proof that the mainstream media is complicit in administration/corporate spin on the economy? Someone should start a website where they track these sudden watering down changes in mainstream news article, because it happens more often than one would think. — Doug
Well, I’m not surprised about the economy. As I have said before, the economy tanked because basing an economy on the upward transfer of wealth and consumerism can only go so far before the whole rotten edifice collapses. And instead of letting the gangrenous parts of the economy die, both Obama and Bush simply redoubled efforts to transfer wealth upwards. Bush at least knew he was passing the whole mess off on his successor, I don’t think Obama is going to be able to keep robbing the public to pay the bankers for four years, but sure looks like he’s going to try.
Moving right along, in other historic news, Neil Armstrong recently said at a press conference:
“It only took a few hastily written paragraphs published by this passionate denier of mankind’s so-called ‘greatest technological achievement’ for me to realize I had been living a lie, ” said a visibly emotional Armstrong, addressing reporters at his home. “It has become painfully clear to me that on July 20, 1969, the Lunar Module under the control of my crew did not in fact travel 250,000 miles over eight days, touch down on the moon, and perform various experiments, ushering in a new era for humanity. Instead, the entire thing was filmed on a soundstage, most likely in New Mexico.”
Neil Armstrong admits the Moon landings were hoaxed? Of course not! The above appeared in The Onion, a satirical and spoof newspaper that prints all sorts of completely made up stories. The only reason I mention it is that two papers in Bangladesh mistakenly reprinted the story as fact. Um, oops.
And just because it’s been a long depressing week, here’s a few more fun stories from The Onion: “Heroic PETA Commandos Kill 49, Save Rabbit” and “Christ Kills Two, Injures Seven In Abortion-Clinic Attack.” And of course “Nation’s Unemployment Outlook Improves Drastically After Fifth Beer.”
Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, and since it’s illustrating a link to itself, by definition it is the only image that will suffice. Lastly, my use of the image here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, arguably the opposite. Credit and copyright: The Onion. And thanks to this article for inspiring me to run The Onion links. Wait, what is the picture above? It’s from The Onion News in Photos: Dye Pack Foils Art Thief.)
I haven’t written a whole lot recently about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Partly because it’s a depressing topic, and partly because I am wrestling with some new insights about such wars and the people who support them. President Obama’s latest pronouncement on the war in Afghanistan pushed me over the edge though, so I’m going to try to organize my thoughts a bit and put them to, well, electrons and pixels.
Sigh. Let’s just start with his one quote: “This is not a war of choice.” OK then, the USA, arguably the most powerful nation the world has ever seen, with a globe spanning military that spends more money than the rest of the world’s militaries combined … has no choice but to be waging war against Afghanistan? No offence, but when someone says “there is no alternative,” you’re being sold a bill of goods. There are almost always alternatives, and when we are talking something like foreign policy, the world is vastly too complicated to say “this is the only option.” Especially since we are talking a giant military power using it’s military might to subdue natives hiding in the woods on the other side of the planet.
However, it’s not surprising. I’ve begun to realize that people who say a war is a good thing are operating from a singular place. This is one of those things that I am struggling to put into words. The people who say we can “win” in Afghanistan are parsing the problem in a very simple way. They basically define the problem at its core of one between good and evil, and once you’ve decided you’re the good guy … it becomes a moral imperative to “solve” the problem, and by extension, since you’re obligated to solve the problem and since you have the moral high ground … anything you do is acceptable if it leads to victory. It’s like a doughnut, it just goes round and round. As long as they stay on the doughnut, their “logical” position is unassailable.
Try to point out that maybe it’s a bit more nuanced than good vs evil, and they have reams of evidence about Muslim, Nazi, Commie, socialist, etc atrocities. Heck, there’s whole books and web sites devoted to cataloguing same. Point out that the good guys have committed atrocities, and they are either in complete denial about them, or somehow claim that our enemies left us no choice! Try to point out that our actions in the past might be the source of a lot of these problems, and it’s either denied that our part played any role, or it’s simply that even then we were trying to do the right thing. I mean, once you’ve internalized that you are the good guys, any evidence to the contrary can easily be viewed so as to support your assumption. So it’s like trying to argue with someone who thinks the Moon Landings were a hoax or that the earth is 7000 years old etc. Anyone who has ever had this experience will know how frustrating can be. Even if they are polite and respect your position, they are unshakable in their beliefs.
Unfortunately, there is a dark side to this. If it was just a matter of polite disagreement, that would be the end of it. However, it’s not. If one has decided that one is the good guys, then it’s “obvious” that anyone who disagrees with you is on the bad guy’s side. And that’s a slippery slope indeed. For that leads to the obvious extension … if things aren’t going well, it’s because of internal enemies. It was inconceivable that ragtag Vietnamese guerrillas defeated the US military, so we must have been defeated by peaceniks and the liberal press. It was inconceivable that Germany could have been utterly defeated and humiliated in World War One, so Germany must have been defeated by a Jewish fifth column. And to some people it was inconceivable that a nigger could be elected president of the United States.
So it doesn’t matter that Obama is enthusiastically pursuing Bush’s wars. Obama is living proof that the bad guys are calling the shots, so whatever he is doing is part of their agenda. Which is why we are seeing arise of the militias, and ever upwards spiral of hate speech from “conservative” commenters, and increasing polarization in our once great land. And as our pointless “mission” in Afghanistan continues to breed more terror both abroad and at home, I fear the domestic scene will get uglier and uglier. Yeah, pretty safe bet from many perspectives, but still, I’m trying to see how and why people spin themselves and their nations into knots. Maybe I won’t change anyone’s mind, but at least I don’t lay up and night trying to figure it out. Now I am free to sleep and have nightmares.
Our colonial adventure in Afghanistan will fail like every one before it. Or worse, it will “succeed,” and Americans will die therefor decades. Iraq is the West Bank and Afghanistan the Gaza of our times. This is not only wrong, it’s sick. God save us all.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, is central to illustrating the post, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. I’m actually a little unclear on whop holds the copyright, but I got it at Imageshack. Its description: “A soldier of the German armed forces Bundeswehr patrols near wreckage from the Soviet-Afghan war, outside the German army camp in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan April 16, 2009.” I’m sure one could make a montage of such images going back to Alexander the Greats’ time, as I am sure their will be future images in the sequence.)
National Guard Mobilized, Joint Session of Congress Called, President Obama Declares National Emercency as the Henry Louis Gates Jr Crisis Spins Out of Control
At this point I think the Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest has gotten about a trillion times as much media attention as it deserves. In fact I honestly can’t think of a situation where the media attention was so disproportionate to the topic at hand. And I’m not talking about racism, which is an important topic. I’m talking about a trivial altercation between a cop and a professor, and altercation where everyone involved from the President on down could have handled better.
So I’ll start with the president. He’s already back-tracked on his regrettable first reaction to the situation, calling the cops “stupid.” It’s nice to see Obama is human, everyone occasionally says off-the-cuff things that they regret the second the words have left their mouth. What really angered me though was this bit of Presidential wisdom about the professor’s encounter: “But I think it’s fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry; … ” First of all, some of us do not get angry when confronted by a policeman who is doing his job. I’ve been confronted by the police on numerous occaisions, some of them completely unjustified, and I have never felt particularly angry about it. Secondly, and more importantly, so fucking what? Because the professor was angry it justifies him acting like a jerk? I’m sorry, but “I was angry” isn’t a defence in any situation. Grown-ups are supposed to act mature in difficult situations, not have hissy fits. Granted sometimes people do act stupid when they are angry, but it’s not a defence. That the president has given credence to one of the most abused rationalizations for bad behaviour ever is at best pathetic.
Then we come to the two jokers who started this mess. Yes, two jokers. It seems very clear to me that if either the cop or the professor had acted in a calm, professional, and diplomatic manner … this incident would have been defused in no time and that would have been that. Instead, one confrontational jerk met another, and the whole situation snowballed out of control. And the reason I know both of them are confrontational jerks is simple, neither of them has given an inch afterwards. I’m sorry, but when one gets involved in a stupid situation like this, a grown-up is at least prepared to admit partial responsibility for the role they played in the mess. Instead we have a cop who refuses to apologize, and a professor who carried on like he was some victim of horrible injustice. No, he had a stupid confrontation with a cop and got arrested, it happens every day, racism had nothing to do with it.
I even took the trouble to ask a black friend what he thought. His thoughts echoed my own, he thought both parties involved acted badly. If either party had been more diplomatic and non-confrontational, the situation would have been dealt with in no time. He added that a lot of his black friends do indeed get hostile and confrontational when dealing with cops … and have a lot of problems as a result. He just found it hard to believe that someone as old and educated as the professor could do the same thing. I mean, if a black person acts like every cop they meet is the living embodiment of white oppression, they are going to have problems with the police. People are human, if you give them attitude, most of them will give it back.
In closing, at least the President is now doing what adults do in situations like this, he’s insisting the two parties shake hands and make up. Good, that’s how immature playground fights should be handled. If there’s any lesson to be learnt in this situation, it’s my favourite old adage: “It takes two fools to have a fight.”
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s a low-resolution version of the original image, it’s an historically important image, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit and copyright: Stanley Forman for The Boston Herald American. It’s titled “The Soiling of Old Glory” and is a 1977 Pulitzer Prize winning photo of an incident during a protest against court ordered busing. I chose it because it’s kind of an intense image, it shows a race riot, and to illustrate how un-American this sort of dispute really is. And in closing, if I angered anyone with this post, good. If I offended anyone, it was not intentional, and I apologize.)
Well, I got my Internet connection back, and I got my cable TV back, all is right with the universe. At least my little corner of it. Lots of news this week, though it’s more and more apparent to me that what passes for news in the mainstream media is little more than talking points issued by the administration on behalf of their corporate handlers. So with that in mind, a random look at the week’s “news.”
US soldiers withdraw from Iraqi cities! This was touted as some sort of big moment for Iraqis, the Iraqi government even went so far as to declare it a national holiday. This is just another in an endless series of stage managed events for the benefit of the American taxpayers. Pretty much the story of our occupation of Iraq from the get go, when the Pentagon bussed a handful of Kurds around to have pics of happy Iraqis welcoming our troops. Or the Saddam statue pull-down. The reality is that packing up your tent and moving it a few miles down the road doesn’t constitute a “withdrawal” of any sort. We still have a massive (and mind numbingly expensive) military presence in Iraq with no sign it’s going anywhere soon. And the Iraqi “government” is a puppet government at best, a quisling government at worst.
Moving right along, I read an article about an interview with President Obama. I was shocked by a few points, so I’ll comment on this news article. It starts with Obama lecturing the Russians and telling them “The Cold War” is history. Excuse me? Yes, for Russia it’s history. For the USA and its allies, the Cold War never ended. NATO wasn’t dissolved, it in fact has been expanded right up to Russia’s borders with plans to expand it into the former Soviet Union on the table. NATO is fighting in Afghanistan. In other words the US Cold War policy of encircling, isolating, and weakening Russia continues to this day. As long as NATO still exists, the USA is in Cold War mode, that Obama can say this sort of insulting nonsense with a straight face shows what a consummate politician and liar he is.
The article goes on to say “With most experts in agreement that there’s a good chance Iran could have a usable nuclear bomb sometime during his presidency.” Actually, the experts say precisely the opposite, the USA’s own intelligence agencies have concluded that Iran stopped working on bombs years ago. And yet here is a “news” article basically stating as fact that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons. In the same vein Obama said that Iran cannot be allowed to become a “nuclear power,” whatever that was supposed to mean. More effort to conflate Iran’s nuclear program with a weapon’s program, so that the demonisation of Iran can continue apace. As I have stated before, Iran’s nuclear program is completely legal under international law (unlike, say, Israel’s covert nuclear program,) perfectly sensible for them in an economic sense, and even if they did build a few nukes, so what? The USA and Israel’s vast modern nuclear arsenal is more than a match for a few fifties eras nukes and will be for generations to come.
In any event I will post more on Iran and the situation there sometime next week. Unlike most people who simply regurgitate talking points (TV really has destroyed most people’s ability to think for themselves) I try to look at as much of the picture as I can and come to my own conclusions. And there’s a whole lot of “big picture” when it comes to Iran, so I will be doing a lot of research this weekend. I may even change my mind about aspects of the situation, it’s been known to happen.
To be fair, the article did end with one Obama quote that I am in complete agreement with. When it was pointed out that since he signed the $780 billion economic stimulus bill in February, the economy has lost more than 2 million jobs, Obama said: “What we are still seeing is too many jobs lost, …” As the expression so crudely puts it, no shit Sherlock. All the various stimulus packages around the world did was shovel more money upwards, basically bandaging the problem while the foundation of the economy continues to rot. No matter how much lipstick and perfume you use, a stinking corpse is still a stinking corpse.
Next week, Iran, maybe more on the economy, the Battle of Gettysburg, and watever else pops up. Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s almost certainly public domain, is an historically important image, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. I don’t even know who to credit it to, if anyone knows let me know and I will properly attribute it. The image is from Catherine the Great’s grand tour of newly acquired lands in Crimea in 1787. It was alleged that General Potemkin built fake villages to impress the Empress with the value of Potemkin’s conquests. How much truth there is to the story is debateable, but it does nicely illustrate that the idea of using spin to legitimize invasion and conquest has been around for a awhile.)