Charlie Sheen, dead hostages, protesters on a ledge, more protesters, and other news of the week
So I’m walking home from work Thursday afternoon, and there are helicopters circling downtown Berkeley. I’m like, what’s up? I turn on the TV news, and yes, protesters have chained themselves onto a ledge on a building on campus. And I suspect the typical response most people would have, is something along the lines of “that’s nuts.” Well, yes, yes it is. So was invading Iraq and Afghanistan, or thinking that Obama was some sort of liberal saviour, is there a point? My point of course is that even when people’s actions seem nuts, so what, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their actions or cause are nuts. And if a person has even a shred of intellectual honestly, they will examine a situation more deeply even if the first impression is “those people are nuts.” That’s certainly my tendency, unpopular though it may be. And in this situation, there are things to learn.
First of all, their cause. Not debatable unless one is a government shill or an idiot. The UC system is a system of public universities. In the 1970s it was affordable to all. Now only families with money can send their kids here, it’s on par with private universities. That’s a huge change over just a few decades, and the situation is worsening. While I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, there’s definitely something wrong with the picture. And it should also be noted that the university is run almost like a principality, we’re talking top down. And it’s more and more run for the benefit of its corporate sponsors, not the students. Lastly, the campus police especially have a very adversarial relationship with protesters. If they’d chained themselves together on the ground, the police would have just maced them. I mean, the police used pepper spray on the crowd that gathered below the protesters for God’s sake.
Moving right along, fierce fighting continues in Libya. Frankly, Qaddafi is crazy. Even if by some chance he manages to re-conquer his own country, he will be both an international and a domestic pariah. A horrible situation, and I can only hope that someone puts some bullets in him soon, many of his own people have already deserted him, he must be living in almost paranoid isolation surrounded by foreign bodyguards. The USA continues to embarrass itself by pretending it has some role to play in this situation. No, we don’t, almost anything the USA did would almost certainly make things worse. Baghdad was our Empire’s high water mark; corruption, waste, deficit spending, incompetence, and imperial overreach have pretty much put the USA on a death spiral. Lashing out with our military isn’t going to help. On the plus side, Bob Gates, one of the architects of the Iraq War, has been a voice of reason in Washington. So there’s at least some hope that cooler heads will prevail.
In Germany, someone opened fire on a bus full of US air force personnel, killing two. This was immediately labelled “Islamic terrorism.” Sigh. We blow up people on a daily basis throughout the Muslim world, many of them women and children, and none of them in a legally declared war. That’s OK, but someone attacks a busload of American soldiers and it’s terrorism? No, it’s blowback. Muslims didn’t run around attacking Americans until we started invading Muslim countries. It’s sadly ironic that the shooter in this case came from Kosovo. Kosovo was the very first lucky recipient of post USSR American “humane intervention.” Yes, and Kosovo is not in the news today because it’s now a land of democracy, peace, and plenty? Wrong. It’s a bloody embarrassment, a narco-terrorist state in the middle of Europe. In any event the shooter appears to have acted alone, but when one creates failed states, it breeds people like this.
Then there’s the pirate thing. Somali pirates killed four Americans they were holding for ransom. Americans though captured and killed the pirates in a rescue attempt. Americans good, pirates bad? No, Americans stupid, pirates bad. First of all, these Americans were religious extremists who deliberately left their convoy and sailed into dangerous waters, no doubt thinking that God would protect them. Well, God left the job up to the navy, which botched it big time. The pirate leader and one of his men came to negotiate, the captain of the navy ship didn’t like his style and imprisoned him. When their leader didn’t return, the pirates shot their hostages. Don’t get me wrong, the pirates are thugs and deserved what they got. However, frankly, if Americans go into war zones of their own free will, I don’t think it’s the government’s job to protect them from their own stupidity. And the Somali pirates almost never kill their hostages, in fact their hostages are usually treated quite well. So I’m sorry, but if this is how the navy is going to handle the pirate situation off Somalia, I’m not impressed. The only thing that will stop the pirates is if we let the Somalis form their own government. Alas, the US government, like some giant Wagnerian Juggernaut, just keeps moving mindlessly forward apparently unable to even consider the idea that it may be time to change course.
It should also be noted that huge protests are underway in Iraq, another lucky recipient of our humanitarian urges. Turns out they want real democracy there now too, not the corrupt satrap government the USA saddled them with. It will certainly be interesting to see where that goes, and whether it will make the news in the USA at all. And speaking of protesters, the Berkeley protesters came down after about eight hours when the University agreed to hold a town hall style meeting with students. Probably an empty gesture on the part of the university, but still, a happy ending.
Have a great weekend everyone.
PS: I’m about halfway through “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” by Jared Diamond. I recommend it, will be writing about some of the examples it presents, and hope to hear what other readers think.
(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 way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. And, um, both the sentiment and Charlie Sheen are historically important. My opinion of the man has gone up frankly, I don’t think Britney Spears every expressed anything similar when she had her spot in the sun. Credit and copyright: Demand Media, Inc. And I apologize if anyone takes offence at characterizing the dead hostages as religious extremists, but I take a dim view of missionaries in general. To be a missionary, one has to be steeped in a belief that one’s own religion and culture is superior. That spells patronizing and racist to me.)