Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
This is not a complicated situation. We have the ACA, aka Obamacare. It was passed by Congress, signed by the president, and survived a Supreme Court challenge. It’s the law of the land according to the US Constitution, and is being implemented as I type. The Tea Party refuses to pass a budget for government operations, insisting that the ACA be delayed a year before they will agree to do so. And now large parts of the government have shut down because Obama and the Democrats refuse to even consider such. Dafuq? This is indeed screwed up, and is easily the worst government crisis since the decades preceding the Civil War.
The merits and faults of the ACA aren’t relevant here. That many in the media are portraying this situation as a “standoff” or a “disagreement” doesn’t actually make it a disagreement. It is a faction of a minority party claiming it has veto power over any existing law. The Tea Party is basically refusing to accept that the ACA is law, and insisting that it’s “my way or the highway.” This is the antithesis of democracy or constitutional government. And the Democrats and Obama are correct in holding the line, allowing a party who controls one house of congress to effectively veto any existing law would be a disastrous precedent to set. This is extortion, not government.
For its part the media is all over the map reporting on the government shutdown, mostly regurgitating the talking points of their targeted markets. The Tea Party is counting on this, I know hard-core Republicans who are still claiming the shutdown is because Obama refuses to negotiate. And they have plenty of voices in the right wing media to back them up. Many of them actually seem to believe that the ACA is some horrific draconian law that is going to turn the USA into a dictatorship. Five years of the extreme right wing press claiming Obama is the anti-Christ, a secret Muslim, and unAmerican seems to have really affected some people, they are living in a fantasy bubble world. Maybe it’s not charitable, but I guess if one believes in talking snakes and zombie prophets, well, the sky’s the limit. In any event, my point here is that our mainstream media is almost as dysfunctional as our government, it’s not helping.
This whole mess highlights the dangers of dogmatic ideology. A party that can’t or won’t compromise is a terrible threat to anything resembling democratic government. And giving them any sort of concession will just make them make more demands. In normal situations a party like this would be dooming itself, but these aren’t normal times. Sometimes in history parties like the Tea Party have gotten into power. That was Hitler’s secret, no compromise. One powerful politician after another aligned themselves with Hitler’s nascent party to improve their political position, only to find out too late that Hitler wasn’t going to compromise on anything and that Hitler was using them, not vice versa. And when Hitler’s party got strong enough, he simply disposed of his former rivals. I’m not comparing the Tea party to the Nazis, yet, but the fact that they are willing to do anything to get their way should scare anyone.
In some very real ways the Tea Party is carrying on the legacy of the Confederacy and the KKK, these are people who have still not accepted that the South lost the Civil War. In recent decades people like this have been a fringe group, but not any more. I don’t know what the end result of the shutdown is going to be, but the last time a political minority refused to compromise no matter what, the results weren’t pretty.
Yes, I am using extreme examples, and I certainly don’t think, yet, that we will see anything like the Civil War or the rise of Hitler. I use extreme examples because what the Tea party is doing is extreme. It’s a minority party willing to hurt millions of Americans and gut constitutional government to get their way. I urge the Democrats, moderate Republicans, and Obama to hold the line. The ACA is not on the table. If the Tea Party gets their way, the Republic will pay a terrible price.
(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law as it was painted around 1865. Credit: Watercolour. The Burning of Richmond, Alexandre Thomas Francia, Circa 1865. It’s the burning of Richmond at the end of the US Civil War. Another extreme example, but the Tea Party is an extremist party. One can only wonder what other countries think of this mess.)
“The illegals are trying to hijack the cockpit of America’s government! Let’s roll! —William Gheen and The ALIPAC Team”
Isn’t that just lovely? Let’s use the most terrible crime in American history to compare immigrants to mass murderers. Yes that’s the message of the anti-immigrant group ALIPAC. Lovely, just lovely. It’s bad enough that 9/11 has been used to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment, strip us of our rights, support overseas wars, and the creation of a vast mind-numbingly wasteful and counterproductive police and security state … now it’s being used to foment racism in the USA! Merika!
Sigh. This is an example of why I’m having trouble blogging lately. The Religious Right in the USA is going further off the rails every day. If you aren’t a white, Evangelical Christian, heterosexual, male American … you aren’t really an American. That’s the platform of the Religious Right now, it scares me, it should scare any decent person. I’d write more posts about it, but it would just upset me more. People who want to keep up on the brain-dead antics of this formerly fringe movement should follow Right Wing Watch. A lot of it is the usual crap, trying to get religious teachings back into school, etc. Some of it is a lot worse. Tell gay couples to die on their wedding day, gays wear special rings to infect non-gays with HIV, Obamacare is designed to kill conservatives. The sort of stuff that used to be limited to flyers stuck under windshields is now mainstream fare. Jesus wept.
What does this have to do with 9/11? A lot, 9/11 really seems to have pushed a lot of right wingers over the edge. A friend of mine was calling for the USA to blanket Afghanistan with neutron bombs after 9/11. He came back and later admitted it’s a good thing he wasn’t in charge of the country that day. Many kept right on going as evidenced by the Religious Right’s every widening gap between themselves and reality. The rest of the country is trying to move forward to an America with justice and fairness for all Americans, the Right wants to return to a day (that never existed) when American was synonymous with white Evangelical Christian. And I am most definitely talking about Republicans and the Tea Party, though there are plenty of conservatives who think it’s gone too far. They are being purged from the Republican party from what I can tell. This is the legacy of 9/11, Republicans have turned into a party of hatred and divisiveness.
Then there’s the whole war monger thing. Sigh. 9/11 was indeed blow-back from our murderous foreign policy, but few if Americans know that. The propaganda that 9/11 was purely caused by America hating religious nuts who only understand violence and can’t be negotiated with is pretty much stock-in-trade for most Americans. With the full and enthusiastic cooperation of most of America’s atheists too. Sigh. Again. Yes, 9/11 was a terrible thing. And we’ve used it to justify endless 9/11s against Muslim lands. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as we set our military loose to “protect” America by murdering foreigners. And we wonder why foreigners hate our foreign policy, if “kill as you please” can even be described as a foreign policy.
The there’s the other 9/11, one that I didn’t even realize was a 9/11 event until recently. Yes, 40 years ago today with the full backing and aid of the CIA and USA government the democratically elected government of Chile was overthrown by a military coup, ushering in nearly two decades of repressive military dictatorship. I guess it’s only fitting that we used our own 9/11 to strip Americans of their rights and energize our efforts to overthrow governments overseas. It’s an American tradition now, like football, mom, and apple pie. And now due to Obama’s beneficent influence, even the Democrats are the party of foreign wars!
To me this is the greatest sadness and shame of 9/11. A terrible event that could have triggered a national debate and reflection on the role America plays in the world was hijacked by war mongers, war profiteers, and haters from the beginning; and we now have a country that wages war constantly abroad and spies on and restricts its citizens at home. We could have followed the Prince of Peace, instead we pledged our souls to Satan. To commemorate the loss of loved ones by killing foreigners and stripping Americans of their rights isn’t commemoration, it’s sick. America lost its way in 2001and went enthusiastically down the dark path Bin Laden wanted us to follow. Maybe someday we will wake up from the dystopian police state nightmare that has been evolving in the USA since then, but I’m not seeing many bright spots on the horizon.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, and it is the best image I could find to illustrate my feelings about 9/11. I have no idea who to attribute it too. “Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” —John Lennon)
Well, Washington and Obama are making noise about attacking Syria. Quelle surprise. Kerry was saying today that the evidence of a Syrian chemical attack was “undeniable.” Please, spare me. Washington has been lying about this sort of stuff since the Mexican War in 1848, and it’s hard to find a 20th century war they didn’t lie through their teeth about. Our economy and political system is based on war forever, Syria is just more of the same. The main reason we know this is a lie is simple. Obama stated that the use of chemical weapons would trigger US intervention. Why in the name of God would Syria do the exact thing that would trigger US attacks? They wouldn’t of course, no one is that stupid, especially considering that chemical weapons are essentially useless on the battlefield unless your enemies are using World War One style human wave attacks. So Syria has no conceivable reason to use chemical weapons, and excellent reason not to use them. Kerry’s claim should be taken for what it most likely is, a lie.
So if the Syrian government didn’t launch an attack, who might have? Well, let’s see, who has to gain from US intervention? Bingo in the Elf Lounge. The rebels. Yes, a chemical weapons attack was launched by the Syrian government conveniently near a UN inspection team even! How lucky was that? And snipers even tried to slow the team down as it approached the stage of the purported chemical weapons attack. Stage as in staged. It’s more than likely the rebels faked an attack of some sort, it wouldn’t take much. For all practical purposes Obama asked them to stage an attack, who can blame them? Even the public evidence is suspect. There are photographed bodies of claimed sarin gas victims. Assuming these are real pics (yes, the rebels have tried crude fakes before) it’s been pointed out that if these people really did die from sarin gas, the people wandering around the bodies without protective gear would also quickly be succumbing to the intensely lethal substance on the bodies. They aren’t.
Sadly the truth doesn’t really matter. The USA attacks whomever it pleases whenever it pleases, and manufactures whatever justification is needed. Most Americans don’t want another war, but their opinion hardly counts anymore. Even Congress isn’t even trying these days, this time they might not even bother to pass a resolution supporting the attack. What will be the results of the attack, aside from more profits for the military industrial complex? Who knows, it often takes years for the blow-back from this sort of nonsense to fully realize itself. It stands a good chance of bringing down the Assad regime, one of the only remaining secular regimes in the region, and replacing it with a Islamic fundamentalist government aligned with Al-Qaeda. How would that help the USA or Syria? Damned if I know.
What I do know is that there is nothing “humanitarian” about an American attack on Syria. Yes, that’s part and parcel of the endless propaganda flowing from Washington and the mainstream media, we’re all concerned about the plight of woman and minorities and democracy. Yes, unlike every other empire in history, the USA’s motives are pure! Spare me. Anyone who believes that may have pure motives themselves, God bless em, but the facts on the ground consistently belie the idea that we are trying to make the world a better place. US intervention almost invariably makes things worse for the people in a region, especially the ones we kill and maim with our “well intentioned” bombs and missiles. It does however prevent the rise of modern secular nation states, which would be far less pliable to American influence and meddling. They might even have radically dangerous ideas like those pursued by Saddam for example … he thought that the profits from the sale of Middle Eastern oil should be invested in the Middle East! One can see why he had to go.
So many lies, when it’s all just about western militarism and colonialism. European armies have been marching through the Middle East since Alexander the Great. The excuses change but the end result is the same. Death and destruction for the locals. That’s what wars do on the receiving end. Our current Alexander in Chief hasn’t shown any qualms about that before. And of course wealth and profits for the west. Follow the money as they say.
Lastly, a point about chemical weapons. They are not WMDs. They in fact aren’t anything special, just another one of the myriad evil ways humans have devised to kill each other. Like nuclear weapons, they have few real military applications and are more a political and propaganda weapon than anything else. And to make the hypocrisy complete, not only does the US cheer on such weapons when they approve of the regime using them, the USA has utterly no qualms about using them itself. So the idea that Syria has crossed some sort of moral boundary by using (purportedly) chemical weapons doesn’t pass the laugh test.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Its a photograph entitled “Viktor Bulla’s Pioneers in Defense Drill, Leningrad (1937)” It appears on page 79 of a book of photographs called “Propaganda and Dreams” by Leah Bendavid-Val. While a lovely ghoulish photo by modern standards, it was very much meant as a propaganda picture showing how prepared the Soviet Union was for self defence.)
Ah, the Obama rodeo clown controversy. At the Missouri State Fair a rodeo clown donned an Obama mask, helpfully imaged above, and mocked President Obama. The full video, such as it is, can be viewed here. Reaction was swift, the clown in question was banned for life from performing at the Missouri State Fair. It went downhill from there. Conservatives defended the clown’s shtick as freedom of speech and art. The NAACP called the clown’s antics a hate crime. Will it bring down the republic? Unlikely. Can we learn anything from it? Possibly. Can we be amused or at least face palmed about it? One can only hope.
OK, a few points here. Some people have claimed this was just satire and poking fun and it wasn’t racist. There’s a word for people like this. The word is racist. I know, difficult to understand, but one can be a racist and not think they are a racist. OK, it’s racist (and the whole crowd’s reaction was racist) for several reasons. First of all. look at the mask. the lips and teeth are wildly exaggerated. Does Obama have large lips and teeth? No. Why would the lips and teeth be exaggerated? Because those are nigger characteristics.
Moving right along, he made a joke where he didn’t out and out say that Obama was a nigger in the president’s clothes, but he implied it. And the crowd got the “joke.” (For my non racist readers, that’s a classic racists joke. “That’s not a cop, that’s a nigger in a cop suit.” etc.) He also made fun of Obama’s “nigger lips.” Of course Obama doesn’t have prominent lips, in any event nigger lip jokes are also a common trope among racists. The “clown” also references running trampling Obama with a bull, I’m not sure why that was funny, but the crowd laughed.
Lastly, satire is funny. poking fun at people is funny. There was nothing funny or humorous or good matured about the clown’s act, it was just some lowbrow and racist insults. There are plenty of ways the clown could have spoofed Obama and been good-natured about it, he chose the low road. And people complained, because a State Fair is a publicly funded celebration of America and American values, and they didn’t this it was an appropriate venue to crudely mock the president. And it wasn’t, there are plenty of times and places where insulting the president is acceptable, a publicly funded celebration of American values isn’t one of them.
Then there’s people screaming “freedom of speech” and “artistic impression.” I am really tired of those types of people because they invariably don’t have a clue what rights are. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can say whatever you please wherever you please without consequence. Try telling your boss he’s an asshat and see how well freedom of speech protects your job. The clown chose to publicly mock and insult the president while he was on the state’s payroll, if it didn’t occur to him that might not be wise, he’s an idiot. There are all sorts of things a rodeo clown could say that would get him or her fired, how could he not know that?
That all being said, yes, some of the reaction on the part of the State Fair officials and the left as well was over the top. I don’t think the guy should have been fired for one thing, that’s just stupid. A suspension and a warning would have been fine, no need to make a martyr out of the guy. And both clowns in the act should have been corrected, though the one that was fired was certainly the major protagonist. Some have even called for the Secret Service and the DOJ to investigate the act as a “hate crime.” Oh please, spare me. We already have a huge problem in this country with authorities insanely over-reacting to threats, people just make their own cause look silly when they over-react. Oh well, political theatre has always been a tradition in the country, it’s just moved into theatre of the absurd these days.
Lastly, and the only real point to this post, tens of millions of Americans don’t really understand what racism is. Worse, they hold racist attitudes but are in complete denial about them. Like the Americans who don’t think there was anything racist about this clown’s act. Or the tens of millions of Americans who think whites are now a discriminated against minority in the USA. Anyone who thinks that doesn’t even begin to understand the barriers faced by non-whites in this country. It’s as absurd as the “War on Christianity.” Right. In Egypt mobs are burning Christian churches and homes and businesses as I type, when was the last time a mob burned a church in the US? Fortunately at least the USA is doing something about the war on Christianity in Egypt. They are calling for the people waging this war to be put back in power! As my Egyptian friend puts it, now even the Christians in Egypt hate America.
That’s a topic for another post. I hope everyone had a great weekend.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. it’s not being used for profit and is arguably an historical image. I have no clue as to who the image copyright belongs to. And yes, sometimes now one of the links in my posts are fun weird links not really related to the post. Enjoy!)
Russia’s leader, Putin, has begun a major persecution of gays. While being gay in and of itself has not been re-criminalized, pretty much any mention of the topic in public is illegal. Basically any sort of LGTB activism is now illegal in Russia. And of course this rising tide of anti-gay sentiment has encouraged all sorts of people to persecute gays on their own initiative. It’s an ugly situation that has caused some to call for a boycott of the upcoming Russian Olympics, and generated criticism from many international quarters, including Obama himself. On the flip side, many of America’s religious leaders are praising and encouraging Putin’s anti-gay stance! Yes, Putin is now more popular than Obama in some US demographics, go figure.
So, what the hell is going on here? In no particular order, my snarky didactic take on the situation. For starters, I don’t think this is completely random, Putin is a clever man, and he must have decided this was a good time for this. And from a domestic sense, it can only solidify his position. It gets him more in bed with the Russian orthodox church, the military, and just conservative religious Russians in general. So he’s got a domestic win politically. Secondly, this is going to allow him to identify and persecute internal opposition to his rule. These laws will very much be a threat to political activists of all stripes. So just in general this will help keep the lid on secular democratic and human rights dissent. These are pretty big gains for the cost of forcing gays back into the closet.
Then there’s the 2014 Russian Winter Olympics coming up. If one is an authoritarian regime hosting an Olympic game, democratic dissent during the run up to such games is a threat. Pro-democracy advocates brought down the South Korean military dictatorship in 1988 by taking to the streets before the Olympics. Granted Putin doesn’t face the kind of general pro-democracy dissent that the South Korean generals faced, but he’s not a man to take chances when he can avoid them. Internationally it gets even more complicated. The whole issue of LBGT rights is really big in the west, especially the USA, right now. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Basically Putin is setting it up so that almost any sort of “problem” around the Olympics will strengthen his hand domestically.
So what’s the west to do? There has been a lot of talk, but nothing concrete. A few boycotts have been launched, but there doesn’t appear to be any chance now that the west will boycott the Olympics. Which puts a lot of western leaders, including Obama in a position where they have no really good realpolitik options. Actually boycotting the Olympics would get Obama a lot of cred in some quarters, but hurt his cred in others. Others with big money. Putin was likely betting that Obama and the west simply wouldn’t calculate that gay rights was an issue they wanted to get into a tiff with Russia about. It would be bad for business. So far Putin seems to have calculated correctly.
Domestically the US religious right is going nuts over this, falling all over themselves praising Putin’s “moral” stand. Granted they were already foaming at the mouth over Obama, but this just gives them more venom to stir up trouble with. Yes, by persecuting Russia’s gays Putin is encouraging even more divisive politics in the USA, and maybe even encouraging extremists to commit anti-gay terrorism. As a codicil to this, at the very least, Putin knows that American intelligence and security assets will be occupied dealing with the fallout from this. Anything that complicates and divides your enemies is a good thing.
Lastly, since resources will be devoted to this situation in the west, one has to wonder if Putin’s anti-gay crackdown is a distraction of some sort. Is Putin planning something he wants to divert attention away from? Many in the west have forgotten, but in 2008 Georgia tried to use the Olympics to cover up a fait accompli military re-annexation of a breakaway province. An ill advised action that resulted in a swift and brutal war with Russia and a confrontation between Russia and the USA. Putin hasn’t forgotten this by any means, and even if he’s not planning something, someone else might be. The world is not exactly a stable place right now.
(The above image is all over Facebook so I am claiming it as Fair Use under US copyright law. And it is the joke I usually hide in the copyright notice.)
The Trayvon Martin shooting. And the George Zimmerman trial. I’m at an impasse on racism and oppression and injustice. Some people see it, some people don’t. Some people were outraged by this shooting, some by the verdict. It was a case that revealed where people stood on issues such as racism and class, a case that really highlighted how people perceive the world. Anyone who was using confirmation bias to reinforce their world view … had their world view reinforced by this case. That’s pretty much most of us. This is why is was such a media and cultural sensation, it spoke to everyone. It was a mirror. A mirror into our souls. Our dark souls.
It would be easy to write a post that spoke to those outraged by both the shooting and the verdict. So I won’t go there. I could try to reach those who are overtly prejudiced, and think of Zimmerman as a hero. No point, people have to find their own way out of that conundrum. If anything, I am speaking to those who call themselves progressive, and think that justice was done as it was a fair trial. The liberal sheep as I refer to them as. Privately of course, I wouldn’t want to offend anyone. To me this was one of the saddest aspects of this case, that a lot of people who think of themselves as just and progressive buy into the layers of PC crap that conceals the horrid racist nature of this case. With this in mind, and in no particular order, a few impressions.
Of course this is about race. That is one of the more absurd claims made about this case, that it’s not about race. Of course it’s about race, because it is about how blacks are perceived in public. Blacks already live in a world where the police are not their friends, things like stand your ground laws mean they also live in a world where any white man with a gun is a potential threat. (Don’t even try to tell me that Zimmerman wasn’t “white.” He was a rootin-tootin gun-toting self appointed armed vigilante “defending” a white community against black intruders. Hell, the NRA gave Zimmerman their endorsement, how white is that?) Or look at it this way, almost every black person in America knows a teenager who goes to the store and buys junk food. Even if it wasn’t about race, it was when the media got into it. People who think this wasn’t about race are probably the same people in the habit of saying “I’m not a racist, but … “
It was not about the trial. A lot of liberals are talking about how, well, they really didn’t prove their case. Well, duh. They weren’t trying to prove their case, they were putting on a show trial in the face of enormous public pressure. If the local authorities had had their way, Trayvon would just be another statistic. From the very beginning the local police and authorities didn’t pursue due diligence in this case, Zimmerman wasn’t even tested for drugs for god’s sake. When the defense and the prosecution want an acquittal, it isn’t a fair trial. White people regularly claim self-defense and get away with shooting someone, black people almost never do. The same fellow who prosecuted Zimmerman got a black woman 20 years for firing a warning shot at her husband.
We’re not living in a post racial society. More blacks are in prison now than were enslaved in 1850. And largely imprisoned by draconian drug laws that send people to prison for possession, laws carefully written to punish blacks far more harshly for the types of drugs they use than the punishments for whites using the same drug in a different form. And the Supreme Court dutifully ruled that such laws aren’t racist, because they don’t single out race on an individual level. Right. And stand your ground laws are far more likely to benefit a white shooter than a black one. Nope, no racism there. Trayvon was followed by a vigilante because he was a black male wearing a hoodie, if Zimmerman had followed and killed a white girl in the same circumstances, he’d be on Florida’s death row now.
If one understands that there are still oppressed peoples in the world, even in America, the Trayvon Martin case is an example of same. If for whatever reason someone doesn’t understand that, they’ve got the white thing down pat. White isn’t a race by the way, but that’s for another day. RIP Trayvon.
(The above image was used with permission of the author.)
“The Muslim Brotherhood stole the revolution, then we took it back. It’s as simple as that.”
Well, big goings on in Egypt. Millions of people recently took to the streets to protest President Morsi’s attempts to seize absolute power, and his continued refusal to make good on his promises to the opposition. He seemed determined to establish the Muslim Brotherhood as the sole ruler in Egypt, and usher in, in the words of an eleven year old Egyptian boy, religious fascism. When people took to the streets recently they turned out in record numbers, some of the largest crowds in history demanding that Morsi fulfill his promises or step down. He did neither, and when the army tried to arrange a meeting with the opposition, Morsi refused. The army then told him he had to call early elections, or they would intervene. In democratic terms, both the Army and the people of Egypt gave Morsi a vote of no confidence. Sadly, the Muslim Brotherhood has responded with violence, unspeakable violence in some cases. This video is not for the faint of heart. Morsi and much of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership have been detained, but their followers seem determined to start a civil war.
The American government is none too happy about this. They’ve as much as called Morsi’s unseating a coup, and there is much stuff and nonsense in the media. The ugly truth is that the USA has very little influence in Egypt any more. Thirty years of support for Mubarek’s corrupt dictatorship didn’t save him when the people had finally had enough, nor did it endear the USA government to the people of Egypt. Obama’s attempts to influence matters in Egypt are laughable or contemptible, but most of all, they are irrelevant. As an Egyptian contact said:
“The USA has made so many “investments” in/with the Muslim brotherhood, so they don’t like it that he was overthrown after 1 year only but its not up to them, its our country and we get to decide what we want to do with it. People here are outraged that the US Media is calling it a coup.”
Yes, technically Morsi’s removal was “illegal.” The point? What George Washington did was illegal, because he knew that government had to come from below, not from above. If it’s a not a government of the people for the people, it’s just a criminal gang. Egypt is the oldest civilization on Earth, the Egyptian people know what they’re doing. The Egyptian air force flyover above was cheered and welcomed by the people of Egypt, they stood together with their military and took back their country from religious ideologues. We are witnessing a nation’s greatest generation.
That’s my current understanding of the situation in Egypt. And I sure as hell didn’t get if from the farce that is our western media. Even Al Jazeera is towing the western line, much to the ire of Egyptians. I’m getting my view of this from local sources in Egypt, few of which are in English. The translations in the interview with the 11 year old boy are indeed accurate. I will post more as this situation develops. I am filled with hope and fear, it’s 1848 all over again. With modern social media let’s hope the outcome will be different.
Note: This post is subject to revision as my understanding of this situation evolves.
(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. I think it’s a frame grab from a video, I couldn’t even find it again using TinEye, so I don’t know who to attribute it too. Interesting times indeed, for once I don’t feel like ending a post with levity.)
Ah, another lovely atheist meme lifted from Facebook. I see a lot of stuff like this. It bothers me for a number of reasons. It’s a wonderful example of how convincing false arguments can be, since I’m pretty sure most atheists have no problem with this image at all. That’s how false arguments work, they sound very convincing if one already agrees with them. That’s how Rush Limbaugh and his ilk cash in, they just endlessly regurgitate strings of false arguments that reinforce the prejudices and misconceptions of their target audience, and they’re golden. It works the same with all belief systems as far as I can tell, atheism among them.
OK, let’s get started deconstructing this mess. “Radical Muslims fly planes into buildings.” Well, appeal to emotion for one thing. One should always be suspicious of arguments that start off by pushing emotional buttons. This is also a propaganda button, since the idea that 9/11 was because they were crazy Muslims has been the central plank of US propaganda since 9/11. Um, yes, the 9/11 plotters were Muslims, but their reasons for attacking the USA were largely secular and completely in response to US actions in the Middle East. Actions that killed vastly more innocents than died on 9/11. In other words, this first statement isn’t really true, and it’s completely without context. It’s a great way to demonize all Muslims though, even though the vast majority of them are as appalled by 9/11 as anyone else.
On to number two, abortion doctor killers. How many of them have there been, three? To say this is a cherry picked example is being generous. Thousands of murders are committed in the USA every year, most of them with motives as messed up as the abortion doctor killers. One could find examples of murders by any sort of person one likes and then hold it up as an example of how some radical world view poisons people. An argument that can be used to support any position isn’t much of an argument.
And what about radical Christians and Muslims that do good things? How come they don’t get mentioned? Small numbers of radical Christians helped their neighbours avoid the holocaust. Radical Muslims built a holocaust museum on the West Bank and surround churches in Egypt to protect their Christian neighbours. Wow, what monsters these radical religious people must be! In other words, radical religious people do terrible things because when a terrible thing was committed by a religious person, it must have been because of his religion. What?
Lastly, and the most transcendentally absurd considering that the meme is apparently trying to make the case that somehow atheism is a voice for peace, is the idea that radical atheists are just harmless authors. Well, first off, even the radical atheists they are alluding to, Hitchens and Dawkins I am assuming, have been some of the biggest cheerleaders for America’s violent foreign policy in the Middle East and Asia. Um, promoting war against Muslims isn’t about peace, it’s warmongering. It gets even worse. Stalin and Mao were both atheists and they both wrote books. And they were definitely antithetic to religion, which would seem to make them pretty radical. They also did far more than write books, they killed tens of millions of people. In fact they make al-Qaeda and abortion doctor shooters look like amateurs when it comes to mass murder. Why not mention them in the company of radical atheists?
In the real world the reasons for human violence are complex and deeply rooted in history, personality, culture, and politics. And while religion is most definitely used to inspire people in violent endeavours, it’s rarely the seminal cause of those endeavours. Sophomoric tropes blaming violence on religion are just atheist propaganda, and about as helpful as blaming Jews or Muslims or Christians for the world’s violence. It’s easy to blame the world’s problems on people who are different than you. This is what radical atheists are doing with this meme, it’s just a way for atheists to pretend they have the answer. Kinda like what so many religions do.
“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”
(The above image appears to have its own attribution, and since they must have released it on Facebook, it must be public domain. In any event it’s not being used for profit and is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. I could have also mentioned that a certain famous German atheist wrote a book called Mein Kampf that’s not exactly a handbook for peace. However his atheism is debatable, Mao and Stalin’s isn’t.)
‘Unlawful Command Influence,’ an Obama facepalm moment … more like Obama shoots himself in the foot, what was he thinking?
“I expect consequences, so I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable – prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”
This is what President Obama had to say earlier this year when discussing sexual assault in the US military. Harsh words indeed, and they resonate with those who oppose rape culture. I can only but agree, rape is a terrible crimes, and should be dealt with harshly. There’s never any excuse for sexual assault, claiming a woman was “asking for it” is saying the perpetrator was a goddamn starving monkey offered a banana. We are better than that, animal nature is no excuse for any other crime, why should it be an excuse for rape? “But judge, all those people in the bank were counting money in plain sight! I’m poor and I couldn’t help myself!” Yeah, right. I’ve said even harsher things than the president about rapists myself, I suspect most people have.
However, I’m not the Commander-in-Chief of the US military speaking publicly on the issue. And here we have a problem, a big problem. A problem that made military lawyers blanch when they heard the words above. Let me illustrate. Some soldiers are interrogating suspected terrorists. The king walks by, and clearly in their earshot says that terrorists should just be summarily executed. What do the soldiers do? It doesn’t take much imagination to think that at least in some cases the soldiers would promptly kill the suspects. Their king in as much said they should do so! And if the king wanted them to get fair trials, isn’t that what he would have said? What the king said is called, in legal parlance, ‘Unlawful Command Influence.’ A commander who makes “suggestions” about how a situation should handled is unduly influencing his underlings, whether he meant to or not. And president Obama did just that, he suggested in the strongest possible terms what the punishment for this offence should be. Will people in the military be influenced by this, or is this purely an academic discussion?
Alas, it’s not. Defence lawyers have raised the issue of ‘Unlawful Command Influence’ in a military trial of two service members, and the judge in the case issued a ruling. He ruled that if the two defendants were found guilty, they could not be punished with a dishonourable or bad conduct discharge because of what the president said. Oh dear. Two guys might get convicted of sexual assault, but they will get a slap on the wrist. I’m pretty sure that isn’t what Obama intended. OK, somewhat sure. He is a lawyer, so he has to know he needs to be careful of what he says in public. And he’s been CinC of the US military for more than four years. So one would think he would be aware that he needs to be careful with what he says about the military justice system. That’s just the first, and to me the most perplexing aspect of this. Did Obama make a mistake by accident … or design?
The other aspect to this situation is how the left and anti rape culture activists responded to this. They were outraged, at least from my less-than-scientific survey of the scene. The typical attitude I encountered was that Obama had the right to say what he said, and that this was a perversion of justice. Well, correct on both counts. Obama has the right to say pretty much any damn thing he pleases, so what? Just because someone has the right to say something doesn’t mean it was a good idea to say. Another tiresome misuse of the concept of rights basically. And of course its not just, those guilty of sexual assault should see serious consequences for their misguided decisions. However, this isn’t about justice or the president’s rights, it’s about the law. And in the framework of the law, Obama gave those in the military accused of sexual assault aid and succour. I find it troubling that so many simply defend the president rather than admit he made a tactical error at best.
Most humans seem to be blind to the flaws of their chosen leaders. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing in the evolution of the species remains to be seen I suppose. As one last observation on this sad situation, yes, that a military judge is allowing this defence is probably an example of rape culture. The military is a profoundly misogynistic culture that not only tolerates and defends rape, it actively encourages it sometimes. When I was in the service in the 1970s the career servicemen I knew fondly recalled the good old days of the fifties and sixties when if a service member was accused of rape, he was just transferred to another base in another country and thus immune from prosecution. The same way the Catholic Church handled allegations of child molestation. While there are fine people in uniform, there are plenty of others who see the military as the last bastion of male privilege and are profoundly misogynistic in their world view. Fortunately many people in and out of the military are trying to change that. They have my support.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, yadda yadda yadda. I don’t even know who the copyright holder is, it’s a pic that’s all over the web. And to end on a more positive note, check out what this Australian general had to say about the problem of sexual assault in their military, Obama should take a cue from him before he propounds on the topic again.)
Americans mostly don’t realize it yet, but a tidal wave of unemployment is building on the horizon. This is because a second wave of unemployment due to industrialization is going to roll over the USA. The first wave was in the 19th and early 20th centuries when factories and tractors put countless millions of workers out of work in traditionally labour intensive occupations like weaving and farming. The result was a massive growth in cities around the world, and ultimately what we call the “modern world” in the west. While huge numbers of jobs were lost in fields involving manual labour, the growth of factories and the rise of the middle class ensured that ultimately industrialization was a good thing. At least until the 1980s when the middle class started losing ground, but I digress. It’s going to get much worse in the USA with tens of millions of jobs disappearing in the next few decades:
- Driving. The robotic car is now a reality. It won’t happen overnight, but virtually all occupations that involve driving are going to go. Truck drivers and bus drivers will be the first to go. Delivery people, taxis, and pretty much all other driving occupations will follow. Trains and airplanes won’t be far behind. Why pay a chopper pilot and a news guy when a drone can do the same thing?
- Clerks/checkers/baggers. Automatic checkout lines are becoming common in the big chain stores, this trend will only increase. Toll booth operators are soon to be a thing of the past. Basically any time a customer hands someone money, that job is at risk.
- Farming and landscaping applications. Tractor drivers and just in general people who operate equipment will slowly be phased out. Robotic lawn mowers are already being used on golf courses. Machines to robotically weed fields are in development.
- Answering phones. This is already well underway, but soon enough all phone calls will be handled by software. Even the guys in call centres in India will be out of work. And sales calls will eventually be replaced by robots, especially the low grade ones where they are targeting seniors and such. If someone’s job is to make or take phone calls, their job’s days are numbered.
- One can add to this list things like prisons, schools, and the Post Office … all of which will likely be privatized within the next decade. And cutting staff is the first and last thing that happens when corporations take over a private function.
I am sure there is plenty I am missing. There’s other factors to be considered. brick and board businesses moving to an Internet base will continue to happen. Lastly, many of the above jobs when they go will also put other people out of work. Robotic truck drivers will only be buying gas at truck stops for starters. A whole history and culture of truck stop waitresses, cooks, and other people providing service to truck drivers will be gone. And of course there will be indirect job losses, every time someone loses a job, they have less money to spend and other businesses suffer. On the flip side, some new jobs will be created building and servicing robotic technology. Even without drivers trucks will still need regular maintenance and repair. Still, that won’t last forever, we’ve had robotic car washes for decades, robotic repair and maintenance facilities will eventually be built.
My main point here is that simply in the natural order of things, industrialization and robotics are going to destroy huge numbers of traditional jobs in the decades to come. This is the elephant in the room that the rich and powerful take pains not to bring up. Because they and their government minions are working very hard to ensure that when these jobs are eliminated, that the salaries get redirected into the ever increasing coffers of the rich. There are plenty of things government and society could do to encourage a healthy middle class, small businesses, and self-employment … but alas the opposite is the case. Instead they have concentrated on convincing people that the destruction of the middle class is because of immigrants, unions, welfare cheats, and the like. In effect convincing people to support policies that are actually making them poorer and the rich richer.
The next few decades are going to be interesting indeed.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is a bread line during the great depression. The men are all obviously welfare cheats and scammers, look, most of them even still have hats and shoes! Democrats no doubt.)