Archive for the ‘Obama’ Category
Well, no rapture. No surprise. It really is dismaying how people can believe prima facie nonsense in this day and age. It’s especially galling because so many Americans, especially the ones who fall for this kind of crap, have an especially high opinion of America and Americans. A country where tens of millions of people think the Earth is a few thousand years old or that evolution is “just a theory.” And don’t even get me started on people who think the Moon landings were hoaxed. Our educational system as once the envy of the world, it’s rapidly becoming the laughing stock of the world.
Moving right along, I think it’s clear at this point that Obama is going to get reelected. No one in their right mind is going to run against him, so its going to be a very amusing election. Especially the Republican primaries, a collection of, well, political suicide bombers like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich squaring it off. They might as well skip any actual pretense of debate and settle the issue mud wrestling. Hell, I’d pay to see Sarah and Newt go at it in a mud pit. On the plus side, I won’t have much to blog about since Obama’s inexorable progress will be painfully obvious to all. I wonder if peeps will be dancing in the streets the second time he gets elected? (Of course by then public displays of affection towards our Dear Leader may be mandatory.)
The economy still sucks. Tushima is still a disaster. The Gulf Oil Spill is still wreaking an unsung toll. Iraq is still a bloody mess, Afghanistan a repeat of Vietnam … without even the option of carpet bombing the Taliban’s cities because they don’t have any. Egypt is still a mess becasue Mubarak’s cronies throwing him and him alone to the wolves was not exactly the democratic revolution the people of Egypt struggled for and deserved. Libya is now effectively two states, with NATO bombing here and there. The totalitarian governments of Syria and Yemen are slaughtering people in the street, Syria’s may survive, Yemen’s is looking more doubtful. Bahrain is still a brutal mess. Pakistan gets more unstable every day. And the rest of the world is looking on and trying to stay out of the scrum … or see how they can benefit from it. See, more information about the state of the world in one paragraph than in an entire year of the New Yorker.
I wanted to mention Pakistan in a bit more depth. There’s been a lot of hostile talk about Pakistan in the USA, about how they aren’t a good ally, and they may have even known about OBL’s location. All possibly true. Then there’s reality. In reality, Pakistan is far more fractured and power is far more diffuse than in the USA. It takes a long time to forge a nation out of nothing, and Pakistan has had less than a century as a nation under conditions that make the United State’s infancy look like a romp in Disneyland. Secondly, aside from understanding what a mess Pakistan is, more importantly, they only joined the USA’s war against the Taliban because of threats and bribes. Pakistan was the Taliban’s best friend, for perfectly reasonable geopolitical reasons. So basically the USA is in the position of a bully who with a combination of threats and bribes forced Pakistan into a war not only against its best interests, but into a war against elements of its own society. To then blame the Pakistanis for being less than enthusiastic participants in the mess we made is, well, ignorant. We’re lucky they’ve cooperated as much as they have, we should be counting our blessings.
Lastly, as far as I can tell, the western cabal’s control of the mainstream media gets more pervasive and more subtle every day. Not that it was ever easy to figure out what was going on, but more and more huge numbers of people think they are tuned in … and they aren’t. This isn’t going to end well.
(The above image is being used legally under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Credit and copyright: Syriana2011. It’s an image of protesters in Damascus this spring. It’s obviously been photo shopped, since none of the thousands of Muslims in the image is engaged in violence.)
I’m sure almost every English speaking person heard that in their childhood, a mantra someone uses when someone has called them names. Of course if it was actually true, there would be no need to say so, the mere fact that such idioms exist is proof positive that words can most definitely hurt. Words can hurt, for good or for ill, they are one of the most powerful tools humans have for affecting how other people think and feel. Leaders don’t inspire crowds by drawing pictures or doing dances, most of the time they use words.
So I’ve been a little peeved at the amazing circumlocutions I am hearing from the right how the violent eliminationist rhetoric used by so many influential figures on the right is somehow irrelevant when someone actually acts out that violence. Yes, the Arizona shooter is a nut, no doubt about that, but since Obama got elected there have been half a dozen other nuts who also went out and shot people acting out right wing ideals, from shooting policemen out of fear of gun confiscation, to actual targeting liberals such as the fellow who shot up the Unitarian church. Granted this is a very small number of cases, but still, there is a pattern here. More on point, these shootings didn’t take place when Bush was in office, they took place after the whole Tea Party movement started and the rhetoric (not to mention actual guns) at political events reached new heights.
Do I think this is a major problem? Not yet, though it’s a major problem for those whose lives have been affected by this sort of violence. The fact that so many on the right are in complete denial about this though, that’s a problem. Let’s look at this. The right is constantly making the claim that liberal media and liberal educators are poisoning people’s minds. Some have even gone so far as to create Conservapedia, to counteract the alleged liberal bias of Wikipedia. So let’s see, all this liberal bias in the media is poisoning people’s minds … but all the vitriol, hate speech, and violent eliminationist rhetoric coming from talking heads on the right has no influence on people? While breathtaking hypocrisy is stock-in-trade for American politics, simultaneously ranting about the liberal media while denying that violent right wing rhetoric has any influence is about as hypocritical as it gets.
Moving right along in my random revisiting of the Arizona shooting, once again we have an incident that has been blown all out of proportion by the press and the politicians. President Obama even gave a speech at the memorial service. It was a stirring and inspiring speech by most accounts, but I’ve heard stirring speeches before and unless they are followed by action, I’m underwhelmed. It’s not like any effective gun control is possible in the USA, the conservatives have pretty much won that battle. And it’s not like people like the shooter are going to get more mental health resources available to them, again, the conservatives have worked hard to prevent spending on public health. Yes, I am not so subtly implying that aside from violent rhetoric, other conservative policies also contributed to this shooting.
Granted both sides used this incident to score political points. And I seriously doubt it will result in any changes in American politics one way tother. It’s just the story of the day. And despite the nonstop coverage in our so called Free Press, little of substance will be said. The Americans dying in our foreign wars for example, how much press do they get? And as a perceptive commenter pointed out on my last post, we are committing massacres like the Arizona shooting on almost a daily basis in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And this was a war the USA chose, the Taliban and the Pakistani tribesmen are only fighting back, we attacked them. This too isn’t likely to change any time soon, but like the endless conservative violent rhetoric, it’s going to come back and bite us in the ass again sooner or later.
Do we really want to inspire and incite another Timothy McVeigh or Osama bin Laden? Sometimes I wonder.
(The above image is a funeral after a drone strike in Afghanistan. It’s claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit: NY Times. Pretty good bet many or most of those people don’t look too kindly on the people who killed their friends and relatives. Why are we fighting these people again? When is Obama going to give a speech explaining that? And in a final macabre note, on top of my Internet and computer problems, I tried to saw off my thumb on Monday. No, not on purpose. So that too is going to limit my on line and writing time, sigh.)
McCain Proposes Indefinite Detention Without Trial for Citizens … and Why I Still Think We Would All Be Better Off If He Had Won the Election
Still, this proposed law is scary. The whole concept is so foreign to the principles the country was founded upon that it’s like being in a bad dream and not being able to wake up. This proposed law basically turns the Constitution and the Bill of Rights into a piece of toilet paper and gives the President dictatorial powers to have anyone he likes locked up, permanently. I wonder if it has occurred to the good Senator that a future president could simply have Congress detained if the president was frustrated by them? I doubt it, Congress has so long gotten away with exempting themselves from their own laws that I don’t think it even crossed his mind. On the other hand, laws like this have made it onto the books before without people being locked up as a result. So who knows what this means, incipient fascist police state, or politicians pandering to the law and order sheep? It’s just one more piece in the puzzle, and there’s no box lid with a picture to see how it’s supposed to all turn out.
In any event, I’m more convinced than ever that we all would have been much better off if McCain had won the election. Well, maybe better off is not quite the word, but if McCain had won, there would still be hope. There would still be hope, because there’d still be an opposition movement to the “borrow and spend” and “war forever” insanity that is making a tiny number of people very very rich, while impoverishing the rest of us. I mean, Obama has not only continued Bush’s policies, in most cases he’s actually expanded on them. He really is the Manchurian candidate, though not in the silly way the Tea Partiers and such espouse, he’s no socialist or Muslim. He’s simply the complete political tool utterly craven to the rich and powerful who have been running the country as their own company town for the past few decades (at least.) Far from being an opposition party, the Democrats are now just the other face of the Republicans. Both are big business, big military, and big war supporters. For those of a literary bent, we are living in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and the pigs and the farmers just merged.
So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I don’t think this fall’s elections really mean a damn thing. Even if the Tea Partiers are swept into power, they will deviate as much from the course we are already on as Obama. Anyone who seriously thinks that any Republican or Democrat is going to shrink government and cut government spending is living in a dream world. Well, a propaganda world more precisely. A world where the rich are victims, and the poor and immigrants are the source of all our problems. A world where blowing up brown woman and children on the other side of the planet in droves isn’t even newsworthy, but some guy lights his pants on fire on a plane and it’s an existential threat to the USA. I have to admit I never ever thought when I was a a kid that I’d grow up and find myself living in a world that was sillier than the comic books I was reading.
Where this is all going is anyone’s guess. The current situation is frighteningly similar to Rome at its height. An empire basically grown too large to manage, and hollowed out at the core by corruption and greed. An empire that is surviving by debasing its currency and looting foreign lands. Neither is a good long term strategy for a nation or an empire, but boy, a tiny number of people get rich beyond imagining. Sooner or later it will all fall apart, maybe with a whimper, maybe with a bang. It’s the bang that scares me most. A single event in the US even remotely like 9/11 and the country will go cuckoo bananas. Literally. And sooner or later one of our ever increasing number of enemies, or even one of our “friends,” is going to pull it off. It’s inevitable, 9/11 wasn’t the first terrorist attack in the USA and it won’t be the last. It’s the first one though where a rudderless administration seized upon it to make terror mongering a structural part of US politics and society. Yes, now we’re stuck with 9/11 mania forever, thank you Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney.
Lastly, while my assessment of the overall situation is bleak, it has to be balanced by the fact that throughout history, no matter what great events and catastrophes were raging, most people in most places managed to live out their lives. I dare to say that most cities in the Roman Empire are still cities today. I was reading the other day there’s one of the grand villas (palaces) built by a Roman emperor that’s still remarkably well preserved today, because a local village grew into it and used (and preserved) its buildings. I plan to live my life and enjoy the company of my friends and loved ones no matter what, as long as people do that, ultimately the bastards will never win.
(The above image of Diocletian’s Palace. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Credit and copyright: Rialfver at nl.wikipedia. If I was a better artist I’d create an image of the ruins of Washington being viewed by tourists 2,000 years from now. And I don’t mean any of this in a bad way, American simply fell prey to the same sorts of greed and corruption that have destroyed so many prior empires. It’s been a hell of a ride, and it’s not over yet by a long shot. Parts of the Roman Empire for example carried right on for a thousand years after the fall of Rome.)
Well, I tried to watch Obama’s speech on Iraq, but couldn’t do it. I read the text though, and was appalled. Frightened even. According to Obama, the Iraq War was a glorious and successful undertaking. Right. The above quote says it all, Iraq was at best an expensive miscalculation. Redefining it as some sort of glorious victory doesn’t change the facts. And it’s especially scary that this nonsense is coming from Obama, whose election was in many ways made possible by his opposition to the Iraq war and promise to pull out. And now the Iraq War has magically transformed into a “Mission Accomplished” moment for Obama? Is every future president now going to have a chance to declare “victory” in Iraq?
And just a quick fact review just so I’m not going off half-cocked:
1. There were no WMDs, as plenty of people pointed out beforehand.
2. The war cost staggeringly more than it was supposed to, with trillions to go even if we pulled out tomorrow.
3. Thousands of Americans are dead, thousands more are maimed, ten of thousands have life changing injuries and long term psychological damage. And the families and friends of each and every one of these is paying a price too.
4. Tens of thousands of Iraqis are dead (arguably hundreds of thousands,) millions are displaced, and by almost every measure the situation in Iraq is worse than before we invaded. Even oil production is still lower than it was under Saddam.
5. Terrorism and terrorists have been emboldened and created by the war, there was no “Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq,” and no suicide bombers before we invaded. Now it’s a hotbed of terror.
6. Iran’s position and influence in the region has been strengthened, Saddam was their worst enemy. Now Iran is for all practical purposes allied with their Shia brothers who are running Iraq. Maybe Iran should be declaring victory?
And this is success? To paraphrase Pyrrhus, another victory like this and we’re done for.
Moving right along, the economy. I posted it on twitter, and I recommend that people read it: Are We a Kleptocracy. It points out stuff that a lot of people should be frightened by, but aren’t. The rich have not only been getting richer for decades, the process has accelerated during the past few years. In fact the article makes the case that this might be the inevitable path that capitalism takes. Once the people with the capital have consolidated control over government and industry, they are going to do what the system is designed to do, accumulate even more capital. And in America there’s no effective opposition to this process, we are all being simply diverted by side issues. I liked this quote:
“Yet, if this is socialism, why are private health insurers the government’s go-to guys for healthcare coverage? If this is fascism, why haven’t the secret police rounded up tea partiers and progressive critics as well and sent them to the lager or the gulag?
Consider this: America is not now, nor has it often been, a hotbed of political radicalism. We have no substantial socialist or workers’ party. (Unless you’re deluded, please don’t count the corporate-friendly “Democrat” party here.) We have no substantial fascist party. (Unless you’re deluded, please don’t count the cartoonish “tea partiers” here; these predominantly white, graying, and fairly affluent Americans seem most worried that the jackbooted thugs will be coming for them.)”
— William Astore, Tomdispatch.com
So anyhow, that’s why I don’t comment much on current events any more. It’s all farce and there is little or no public debate. A friend said it decades ago, like the quote in the title that was said a century ago: “We live in a world where right is wrong and wrong its right.” People who think our leaders, left or right, give a flaming f**k about the working class, are deluded. “Populist” Sarah Palin raked in a cool 12$ million last year. Yeah, she’s a woman of the people.
As for Israel, same principle. Despite decades of very successful propaganda to the contrary, when Israel wants peace, there will be peace. The Palestinians are powerless and have no say in the subject. Like the USA, Israel talks peace but wages endless war. (Obama even had the gall to talk about achieving peace even as he was committing us to endless war!) The mock talks with Israel’s designated Palestinian “leaders” are just a further charade. The talks will fail and the dutiful western media will blame it all on the Palestinians.
I wasn’t really trying to make a point with these insane burblings, but the point I wandered across is this: The rise of modern propaganda in the past century and a half has really multiplied the power of leaders to manipulate the masses. And simultaneously made it possible for leaders to get totally out of touch with reality, and maintain support for disastrously failed policies far longer than would have been possible in the pre-propaganda world. And as an ugly counterpart of this, has encouraged powers that be to use farcical methods simply to avoid bad publicity. The Roman’s, hell, nineteenth century Americans, would be appalled (or amused) at our deciding to fight two major wars, but refusing to use the draft and refusing to send in the number of troops needed to get the job done … no matter what it took.
I’ll expand on that rant a little more some day, I’m still studying a lot of history just for fun. It’s amazing what stuff goes down and how people deal with it. I’ll likely mention the Batavia mutiny again, there’s still thoughts I didn’t get down on, well, electrons? Next week, another story that would make a great movie except for the same flaw that keeps the Batavia mutiny off the silver screen … grown men did all sorts of terrible things to women and children. Hard to fit that into the “war is glorious” or the “men are heroic” narrative that is so essential to modern American culture.
Have a great weekend everyone.
The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US cpyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is essential to illustrating the post. Credit and copyright: MPR Photo/Tom Crann. The quote in the title was said by William Dean Howells a century ago. I used the boot photo because before we invaded Iraq I had a dream where I was walking by an endless row of pairs of boots alongside a dusty road, and I was told they were the boots of the “dead Marines.” Well, seven years later and we’re still adding to that row of boots, all for, well, less than nothing.)
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.)