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    • The End of the Rebels in the Ukraine and the Ukraine’s Future
      We’re down to street fighting in Donetsk.  The Russian leaders resigned in the last two weeks.  The rebels appear to be done, at least in terms of their conventional military phase (of course, I could be wrong depending on how much stomach Ukrainian troops have for house to house fighting).  It seems like that would [...]
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Saudi American Values

Death of a Princess was a docudrama that was released in 1980, two years after the execution of Saudi Princess Misha’al for adultery.  You can watch the movie on youtube where it has been broken into parts.

Up until the year the film was released, most people living in Saudi Arabia didn’t know the details of what had occurred, even though the execution was carried out in public.  The documentary filmmaker, Anthony Thomas, was only able to ferret out the truth by speaking to a few people in Saudi Arabia who knew the royal family personally.  There were many strange details about the execution that didn’t make sense.  For one thing, judicial executions usually happen in a particular square.  There’s a formality about it.  But in this case, the execution of the princess and her boyfriend happened in a parking lot that had been hastily prepared with a pile of sand.

Thomas finally did get to the bottom of this story and when the movie was released, it caused quite a stir in Saudi Arabia where copies of it had to be smuggled in.  People identified with this girl who chose to live a free life for a few days, something most Saudis only dream about.  In 2005, the PBS program Frontline looked back at that movie and the controversy surrounding it.  As with most things Frontline does, there is a thorough cache of supplementary material including interviews with journalists, cultural experts and activists.

The interview with Ali Al-Ahmed is particularly enlightening.  Remember that this interview happened in 2005, back in the Bush era when Condoleeza Rice was Secretary of State.  But what he says about how the Saudis conspire with conservative religious fanatics to keep the public’s eye away from what is really going on in their country is very relevant today here in America.  We have learned from the Saudis.  Here is a piece of the interview:

You wrote that, in fact, women to some extent are the line in the sand between modernization or remaining a medieval kingdom.

It’s true. You cannot really go forward and progress as a society when 50 percent of your population are oppressed. And it is the tipping point. This is the line you have to cross. It’s the frontier we have to conquer in order to tell ourselves we are walking straight.

This is, to me, like a man walking with half his body paralyzed. This is our society, a paralyzed society, because half of it is not moving, and the other half is trying to move. But we are dragged back by [the fact that] half the society is paralyzed, and this is not going to change internally. External help must be offered, especially from the United States.

Is the United States playing that role?

The U.S. has one thing in its mind, which is [its] interest. And I think it has been harmful for the U.S. There is no harm that the United States can do to itself by encouraging — not forcing, encouraging — one of its closest allies to allow women their freedom. It’s not against Saudi culture or society to have women attain these freedoms that I talked about. It is against the government’s policy, yes, but it’s not against the culture or the religion of that society.

And the U.S. has not been vocal. And this is the last country in the world besides Kuwait where women cannot vote. This is the last country in the world where women cannot drive and cannot attain these freedoms that I spoke about. And it is very easily done if this is a priority. I asked a U.S. official recently about it: “Have you ever had a program to encourage the Saudi government to allow women more freedom or to improve their status?” And the answer was, “No.”

Because?

“It was not important to us.” And I said that “Well, I think I’ve started to rethink my appreciation of a democratic system.” If a democratic government [or] society does not think it’s important to have its own values protected and promoted to its own friends, then there is something wrong with these values.

The role of women in Saudi Arabia is in some ways a concession to the religious conservatives who are so important in propping up the royal family, correct?

The religious conservatives in Saudi Arabia consider women one of their most important issues. They are obsessively concerned with women. The royal family uses these extremists to suppress society and to preoccupy them with fictitious issues, from “How long is your beard?” [to] “Can I say ‘bye-bye’?” I’m not kidding — “Can I say ‘bye-bye’? Is it OK to say ‘bye-bye’ instead of ‘salaam’? Is my robe longer or shorter?”

So they figure out that if you make women an issue, then you have 50 percent [of] society paralyzed and part of the other half concerned, obsessed about suppressing the 50 percent. … The conservatives of Saudi Arabia feel the need to control society and guide it, and they use women as a means to control that society. And that pleases the royals, who would like a society that’s obsessed with long beards and short robes rather than a society focused on equal rights, democracy, human rights and education and so on.

Has 9/11 changed that?

Absolutely it did. Society has now realized it has been fooled all along, and the religious conservatives are nothing but a tool in the hands of the royal family to suppress society. At the end of the day, the same people who issued fatwas against elections turned 180 degrees and said, “Oh, elections are good.” Two years before they said, “Elections are evil; they are imitations of the infidels.” The Saudi government decided to have limited elections; then suddenly it became a good thing. They figured out the game, and I think more people are figuring out the game, and the religious conservatives very soon will have very little influence in the country.

So what’s the game?

The game is, “We are doing this to protect our religion, to protect you.” … They don’t think democracy means you will participate. They equate democracy with sexual promiscuity, with rapes. That’s why, as long as society is obsessed with women and the fact that they have to be covered and suppressed, then we won’t have a democratic society, a society that’s looking for participation in government.

It puts the recently renewed battle over contraceptives in a whole new light, doesn’t it?  And now we have people fighting in state legislatures over whether it is proper to say the word VAGINA in public.  The hits and obsessive battles over trivialities are coming fast and furiously now.  I don’t think we will start making women wear veils but in a very short period of time, the religious conservatives have successfully taken women back to the 60’s.  It’s hard to believe that my daughters will have *less* freedom than I did and that we are reintroducing shame and restrictions.  But this has happened in countries like Iran and Afghanistan where the ruling mullahs rejected modernity for women after a period of relaxation of strict tribal rules when bare faces and miniskirts flourished.

It’s seems futile to point out to American religious conservatives that they are being used to suppress democracy in this country but that appears to be what is happening. I see the mission of the Catholic bishops and the “religious freedom” meme in a whole new light.  I also see *both* parties conspiring to distract the public with attacks on women.  None of this is really that surprising.  It’s just strange to see it distilled as succinctly as Al-Ahmed has done.

Prove me wrong, Democrats. Why don’t you come right out and say what’s going on? Let’s hear Obama get up and make a truly significant, meaningful, emotional “Reverend Wright-esque” speech in defense of American women.  Let’s see him lay out to the American public what the game is, pledge to stop playing it and challenge the other side to stop too.

Remember, national women’s groups are meeting in Baltimore at the end of June.  I challenge them to demand that both parties stop using women as a distraction and route to suppress democracy in this country.  They should refrain from endorsing ANY candidate for president until they get a firm committment from both parties to stop using women and to tell the religious nutcases and Catholic bishops to back the fuck off.

This is not a game and we’re not going to play it.

Sunday: Ok, I think we’re on to something here

We few, we happy, happy few Conflucians might be a shrieking band of paranoid holdouts, or some such Kossakian nonsense, but we have something the rest of the left blogosphere doesn’t have with few exceptions (corrente, Ian Welsh and Avedon Carol, for example): The pain of independence.  What the heck does that mean?

Well, it’s just a single point right now and I need to collect more data.  (“fricking scientists”, they mutter)

The term “pain of independence” is what psychologists say  people experience when they refuse to conform to peer pressure.  Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” cites a psych experiment where a group of people are shown a couple of 3D objects and are asked to decide whether the first object can be turned into the second.  Think of it as an exercise in group mental paper folding.  You have to turn the object around in your head and look at it from all angles.

There were a couple stand out features of this experiment.  First, the subject didn’t know that the group was seeded with people who knew the right answer but deliberately gave the wrong answer.  The other thing was that everyones’ brains were being monitored. The experimenters already knew in advance that a certain percentage of people were going to go along with the group and give the wrong answer too.  The question that the experimenters were asking was, did the subjects choose the wrong answer because they knew that it was wrong but consciously decided to go with the group to fit in (pointing to the prefrontal cortex) or were their perceptions changed unbeknownst to them (pointing to the parietal and occipital lobes)?

The disturbing answer is that the subject’s perceptions were changed and they weren’t even aware of it.  Yep, peer pressure affects your sense of space.  Maybe this is not entirely mysterious.  A sense of space would seem to be important to how you fit into a group of individuals.  Think of herds or flocks of birds.  People presumably once travelled in such pods before, hundreds of thousands of years ago.  So maybe this is an artifact of that.

The question that next occurred to the experimenters is: what was happening to the brains of the people who didn’t go along with the crowd?  Ahhhh, this is interesting.  It turns out that their amygdala was activated.  The amygdala is the small almond shaped structure located near the middle of the brain that processes emotions.  If you were a holdout, your amygdala lit up indicating the emotion of knowing you were alone on this one.  Sending this signal to the prefrontal cortex is too cold and logical.  No, to be a dissenter means you know the emotional pain of not fitting in.

And that, my friends, appears to distinguish the dissenters from the joiners.  The dissenters appear to be able to tolerate that pain better than the joiners.

If you were a Hillary holdout in 2008, because you had used the rest of your brain to process the information about the candidates, you likely knew the pain that comes with resistance to peer pressure.  And it *is* painful.  No one likes to be left out from that emotional tug that enveloped everyone else.  That’s why love bombing is so effective.  It alleviates the pain of being alone and drops your resistance to peer pressure.  If you attempt to dissent later in the indoctrination process, the love is withdrawn and you know the pain of independence.  It is not pleasant.  Ask the many former Hillary supporters who changed their allegiance in 2008 because they didn’t want to be ostracized.  Oh, yes, the emails I got during that summer when the pain got to be too intense for some people.  Talk about embarrassing.

Cain reports that something like 40% of the people in peer pressure experiments will go along with the group.  It’s hard to believe that there are 60% of us who won’t because we always seem to be on the losing end.  On the other hand, our elections have been really close over the past 12 years.  Gore actually won, Kerry probably did, we know that Hillary beat Obama in the primaries by a slim margin in spite of the horrific peer pressure tactics.  So, there are more people resisting than it appears but the bad guys keep winning anyway.  I suspect that’s because there are a lot more people who experience the pain of independence than care to admit.

According to Cain, the reason why democracies exist is because  of the dissenters.  That would be the 2008 PUMAs who were mocked and humiliated, and the Occupiers who were treated like radical, lice ridden troublemakers.  And maybe I shouldn’t be surprised to have counted myself in both groups’ numbers.  A Jehovah’s Witness child knows all too well the pain of independence from the group.  We have been brought up to be isolated.  Our very first day in the classroom is a lesson in dissent when we are instructed by our parents to not salute the flag.  (when I think about it, it’s a shitty thing to do to a 5 year old, but I digress.)  Our amygdalas have been exercised so much throughout our childhoods that we are used to the sensation, even if it is still unpleasant.  We realize that we aren’t going to die of embarrassment or ridicule if we don’t go along with the crowd.  I’ve said in the past that my purpose here at The Confluence is to give people a place where it is safe to be unpopular.  I knew it was important but until today, I didn’t know why.  Same with Lambert, Avedon and Ian.

The left blogosphere might want to think about that for awhile.  If it thinks that nothing it does makes a difference to the powers that be, maybe it should try dissenting and allow the pain of independence work its magic.  DON’T say you’re going to vote for the bastards even if they treat you like shit.  And then mean it. They’re counting on you to go along with the crowd in order to alleviate that pain and fear.  Peer pressure only works if you let it.  And those of us who have resisted from the beginning can’t reason with you to make you see our point of view.  Resisting peer pressure is something you need to come to grips with on an emotional level your own.  It *is* painful but worth it when your thoughts are your own. It’s sometimes physically disorienting and nauseating, I won’t lie to you. People aren’t going to like you.  They’re going to call you stupid or mentally ill.  They’ll say they were wrong about you and you’re not as sexy and smart as they thought you were.  They’ll tell you that you will bring Armageddon down on everyone’s head if you let the Republicans win.  They know how the brain game works because they’ve read the studies and it’s always worked this way.  If you give in to them, they win and they can do whatever they like because they know you will go along in order to feel good about yourself.

They need you more than you need them.  They still need the momentum of the crowd, the frenzy of the mob, the mounting pressure as the election gets nearer.  They need your vote.  If you refuse it, you monkeywrench their entire peer pressure apparatus and then they have to start paying attention to you and addressing your demands.  They’d rather not have to do that.  They have other people to win over.  It’s easier for them to know that they have checked you off their list so they can move on to tougher nuts.  Don’t make it easy for them.

Accept the pain of independence, learn to dissent and triumph over them.  Think of it this way, dissenting is the best way to preserve our democracy.  That’s an idea that is worthy of the pain.

********************************

The dissenter’s theme song since 2008:

 

Fantasies and Choices

Lambert has an extended conversation with Amanda Marcotte over whether Hillary Clinton would have made a better president. Amanda and many others, argue that it’s all speculation and we’ll never know and blah, blah, blah, {{rolling eyes at all of the Democratic party loyalists who are, once again, either complicit or getting sucked into spreading the talking points of the people who were so damned wrong the first time}}

Look, it’s very simple:

1.) You were wrong about Obama; we were right. We never expected Obama to be an effective counterweight against the Republicans. That’s precisely why we didn’t vote for him in the primaries. Our whole reason for voting for rejecting him was that he had no idea what he was getting us into and the Bushies were leaving a mess behind. We didn’t want a neophyte for president in 2009. If anyone had a fantasy about the presidency, it wasn’t us. We knew what was coming and Obama’s failure comes as neither a shock or disappointment. We are not disillusioned. We didn’t buy the HopeyChangey stuff in the first place. That is a propaganda ploy that was covered in 8th grade social studies. Were the Obama contingent absent that day? So, why should we listen to your faulty reasoning for a second campaign season?
2.) The campaign really hasn’t even begun yet. There is still time for a substitution, whether it is Hillary or someone else with balls.
3.) NONE of us want to sit through 4 more years of Obama. Period.
4.) Regardless of how primary challengers have affected the electoral prospects of an incumbent in the past, this is a completely different economic and political reality. We are not simply dealing with malaise. This is a Lesser Depression. What we need now is something completely unpredictable.
5.) While speculation about Hillary’s presidency may strike some of the left as intellectual masturbation, it is inappropriate for them to substitute *their* judgement for ours. We want a choice. Choices are what make democracy work. We present choices to informed voters and they decide what they want. Why don’t Democrats believe in Democracy? Or is it that the Amanda Marcottes of the party, who made a huge mistake in 2008, insist on representing themselves as the superior intellects to the rest of us who they persist in mischaracterizing as working class, uneducated women?

Really, who the F^&* does Amanda Marcotte and Rebecca Traister and Jonathan Capehart and ThereIsNoSpoon etc, etc, etc think they are???

You threw a tantrum in 2008 and had to have your way. You bought the Obama brand without question and got all of the rest of us into this pickle. And it wasn’t even like he ran away with the nomination by a landslide. The nomination was a squeaker and he only won because the party changed the rules so it could ignore the will of the largest, most Democratic states in the country. He didn’t run a brilliant campaign. He ran a ruthless one and he bought a lot of superdelegates with the money from the finance industry. And because of the cluelessness of the left activist base, a good chunk of the middle class is suffering with no end in sight. Some of us (yours truly) have lost jobs and livelihoods because you insisted on putting an untried, inexperienced, political cypher in a job he wasn’t ready for. We told you that over and over and over again. He’s not even a real Democrat from what I can tell. And now you guys presume to tell US that we can’t have a choice in the matter of the next presidency?

First of all, that’s not true and never was true. We always have choices. But if you think this argument about fantasies and Hillary Clinton are going to persuade us, you are the ones who are out of touch with reality. Obama is not working out. The management, that would be us, would like to make a change. It is time for the party to get a clue and get him to step down so someone else can have a crack at it, presumably someone who is a real Democrat.

Whatever problem you have with Hillary Clinton, I guarantee you that it isn’t nearly as bad as the problems the unemployed have with Obama right now. No one is *ENTITLED* to a second term. And it is sheer fantasy for the Democrats to try to push a failure on us a second time when there is time to prevent it. The people who are in fantasy mode are the ones who think that Obama’s second term is going to be better than his first. Hillary told us what it was going to be like and she was right:

Amanda and Rebecca and Jonathan are in denial. They’re in denial because they are afraid. They’re afraid because the Republicans could win. The Republicans could win because the economy is really in bad shape. The economy is in really bad shape because Republicans are obstructive assholes and because Obama didn’t know how to deal with them. He doesn’t know how to deal with them because he didn’t have that part figured out before he ran and he doesn’t have a political philosophy. But fear tactics are not going to get Obama re-elected. We’re not buying it, Amanda. The party needs to stop being so craven and scared and replace the guy at the top because we are not voting for him next year.

Suck on that, Amanda.

PS: I can’t remember where I read this but some columnist wrote that there have been suggestions of a write in campaign for Hillary in Iowa. Now, I don’t know if she could be drafted or if she even has an interest. But if she won the Iowa caucuses anyway, that would send a very strong message to the party that Obama does not have the confidence of the voters. That assumes that there won’t be spillover from Illinois. I fully expect that Iowa and other caucus states don’t let the Obama campaign get away with the blatantly obvious fraudulent and unethical practices they did in 2008. For the record, Obots, that kind of behavior is not just rough politics. It’s immoral behavior that deprives voters of their rights and fair reflection. But if you put up with it, you should not be surprised with the guy does the same thing to you.

The Culture of Cannibalism in US Politics: The Triumph of The Cyclop’s Values Over Democratic Citizenship

{The first essay in this series introduced a model I created to explain the cycle of corruption that plagues US politics. This essay looks into the roots of this corruption. It takes a long time to get to the payoff. Further, the conclusion is somewhat ex nihilo if you have not read the first essay. This said, for those who dare, I hope you find it worth the read.}
polyphemus2-3717

Polyphemos the cyclops would have eaten Odysseus, if his survival was dependent on the moral virtues of Silenus’s satyrs. Fortunately for Odysseus, and Silenus and his lot, Odysseus could depend on his fellow citizens. If Polyphemos had the majority of America’s elected representatives depending on him for their survival in his cave, the way that they are presently beholden to lobbyists’ money for their electoral survival, he could have had a ready supply of citizens for his daily meals.

Cyclopean virtues regularly triumph over the virtues of democratic citizenship in the political landscape of the United States. Given that the Declaration of Independence embodies the spirit and principles that ground the virtues of democratic citizenship, why is it that cyclopes, who eat humans, win the day in America? Answering this question requires that we journey back to Attic Greece and her proto-democratic foundations. Continue reading

Immigration Reform: An Environmental Perspective

Glbal Biosphere on June 6 2009Immigration, as a policy issue, is politically explosive. It is politically explosive because it necessarily involves making choices between bad options, each of which has supporters and detractors with political power.

In advocating for their option, it is not uncommon for some supporters to engage in inaccurate and unjust accusations against their opponents, such as claiming the other is guilty of racism or traitorhood. The situation is further complicated by the small numbers of supporters on either side who are racist or traitorous.

It is unsurprising that the engagements between opponents are volatile. How could decisions about who belongs, and who does not, be otherwise? What is the best way to disentangle a complex web of family relations, personal convictions, and obligations that must be shared between citizens if they are to be a nation, all in the context of the question of how the franchise is to be extended to non-citizens, if at all? It is no wonder that the issue is avoided like the plague.

Plague-avoidance strategies that do not address the causes of the plague, or bolster the immune system against its effects, are doomed to failure, however, and the cost of failure in avoiding the plague is serious illness and death. In this sense, the lack of a workable resolution of the immigration issue endangers the health of the body politic.

At present, the lack of meaningful policy action is, in effect, backdoor advocacy for the situation as it currently stands, in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” sense. This abrogation of responsibility is dangerous beyond its obvious bad effects. It cultivates a sense of powerlessness among the citizenry, who perceive their elected governments as incapable of effecting meaningful change. History has enough examples of what happens when democratic and republican assemblies appear incapable of providing effective leadership in difficult times. This underscores why difficult challenges must be addressed to maintain the health of the body politic. If our leaders will not lead for us, they must be lead by us, if we are to avoid being lead by powered interests. This short, oversimplified post is intended to be a step in the direction of citizen leadership.

The framework that follows views immigration from an environmental perspective that takes into account citizenship within a nationalist framework. I think it practical because we are citizens in nationalist frameworks and because immigration is a normal environmental phenomenon. My intent is to propose a framework for immigration based upon the environmental concept of sustainability, which is also practical, because it is social suicide to adopt models that are not sustainable.

In this post, I shall not address anti-nationalist perspectives, despite their value, because the scope of the issues is already too daunting for a short post. Furthermore, I shall not address economic or ethical perspectives that disregard the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I consider it to be inarguable that the Earth has a more or less finite amount of non-renewable and renewable resources, in human terms, and that their availability is governed by the Law of Diminishing Returns and the Principle of Net Yield. For example, the only reason immigration is an issue is because there is competition for scarce resources. If there were plenty of everything that everyone needed and wanted, then there would be no grounds for disputes and no reason to have systems of justice, except to deal with the actions of the pathological.

The ideas that follow are predicated on the notion that there are limits to growth. The only dispute is about the extent of these limits. Living beyond these limits is not sustainable.

Continue reading

My Voting Strategy – Democracy

Following the My Voting Strategy Series, here is my own:

E. B. White: Democracy is itself, a religious faith. For some it comes close to being the only formal religion they have.

George Orwell: In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

George Washington: As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.

Jesse Jackson: In politics, an organized minority is a political majority.

John Bright: Demand the ballot as the undeniable right of every man who is called to the poll, and take special care that the old constitutional rule and principle, by which majorities alone shall decide in Parliamentary elections, shall not be violated. Continue reading

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