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    • The Younger You Are the More Your Vote Should Count
      In most countries the young vote less than the old (though if someone champions them, as Corbyn did, their voting rates soar). But the young are the very people with the most stake in how society is run. If you’ve got 60 years ahead of you, well, it matters that society is well run for […]
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Soft Targets

It’s horrible what has happened in Orlando.

But no one should be surprised. We’re the stupidest country on the planet for passing the Patriot Act but allowing just about anyone to buy guns.

The right wing noise machine and The Donald are going to start whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment. But anyone who thought it was a good idea to invade Iraq (for the oil, let’s be honest. The WMDs were just a convenient excuse) and then destabilize the country by withdrawing before the country could defend itself against ISIS, should know that they exacerbated the possibility of terrorism.

No one, including overbearing right wing, belligerent gun nut Americans deserves to have their innocent children gunned down in a nightclub. But you have to wonder if they thought that soft targets are only located in Europe.

How about that 2nd amendment?

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It’s my Birthday and I’ll Blog if I Want To

Tuesday: ExasperationThis has been a rough week. Don’t even ask. It’s like 2 steps forward and one yank back. I *hate* that. The good thing is I *finally* have a job making a decent wage and I have health insurance again. When I say decent, I don’t mean anywhere near what I was making before and I have to teach myself a whole new technology. Not to worry, I can do this. I like challenges. But I will always miss my old job, not that there’s anything for me to go back to. Oh, look, drug resistant bacteria dragging us back to the dark ages. Lovely. If only there were a pool of drug designers, chemists and biologists who had been diligently working on new antibiotics for the past four years…

What am I saying?? That’s crazy talk to a shareholder.

But anyway, it’s my birthday and I’m going to the Oakmont Bakery for a Doughsant with something really decadent in it. I might even buy a pepperoni bread. Oh, yeah, I’m wild. I can’t be stopped. Because this is what you do after you’ve been shut out of the job market for 4 years. You spend no money on anything. In fact, my first goal, now that I have a regular salary is… to save up for my next layoff! Welcome to America, Dr. Krugman!

From the looks of the last thread, there is still plenty to say about terrorism, strategy, ISIS and many other things. RU Reddy needs to cut back on the caffeine though. I approved the pending comments. Sorry about that. I don’t spend as much time on the blog as I want to. Too many other annoying and disturbing things are taking my attention. The saga continues. There’s a book in here somewhere. I have already written a Hollywood ending and want someone thinner to play me. Preferably, someone who doesn’t go to the Oakmont Bakery to fill up on pastry.

Today’s the day I say what I really think. Hence the title. So, at the risk of hurting anyone’s feelings, I don’t approve of any plan that excludes Syrian refugees from the US. By the way, I have actually met and talked to a genuine Syrian refugee. He was a building manager in Syria and his wife was a dentist. He had a sponsor bring him to Pittsburgh where his wife can’t practice and he is washing dishes in a restaurant. His son is autistic. He was frantic, overwhelmed, bereft, angry, frustrated and nearly hysterical. The fact that he would pour out his heart to the lady in the retail store (at my previous underpaid and stupid job) is indicative of his desperation. He told me about his culture, how it was being destroyed. It was making him crazy. He worried about his son. He tried to tell me about what it was like. He was so distraught. I couldn’t know what that was like because I had never lived in a war zone. But the fact that he spent 30 minutes talking to a perfect stranger about it gave me contact anguish.

Why would I want to exclude people like this from my country? I want them to feel safe and protected so they can regroup. I don’t care if he’s Muslim. He’s a human being. We don’t tag human beings, by the way. That’s a dangerous slippery slope.

As for ISIS, I would like to do a Dresden on them. And that’s why I’m not in charge. Because to do that could have downstream repercussions that I haven’t even thought of yet. So, strategy is key, as is timing. And maybe we don’t have to bomb them back into the stone age. But to do nothing or exclude the people who need our help the most only encourages IS to keep doing terrorism because they would know it works. So, we can’t be afraid and we can’t bomb the shit out of them. We have to be clever and deadly and brave.

We used to be good at that before we stupidly got into a land war in Asia. I guess if I had one birthday wish, I would rewind the clock back to 2003. I would destroy the super funded right wing scream machine that twisted consensus reality and made everyone think we needed to go to Iraq and I would invent a device that would deliver a dope slap to every ditzy American who thought we were going to go back to gas at 50 cents a gallon by kicking Saddam Hussein’s ass.

But that’s just me. What about you?

For the rest of my day, I am going to binge watch The Man in the High Castle. Number one child called to say Happy Birthday. That made my morning. Now, if I can only hear from the other kid, that would make my day.

 

 

Not sure I would have used the word “army”

It sounds too much like they’re going to go all ISIS on us.

 

Fox News viewers are perfectly OK with being lied to; they really just hate non-conservatives

In the morning, he’ll be talking in word salads and punching the unemployed.

That’s really what this comes down to.

According to Gawker, Fox News doesn’t feel it needs to defend Bill O’Reilly anymore:

Update, 5:40 p.m.: Two hours after this post was published, Fox provided the following statement to Mediaite (without addressing the substance of the Media Matters report):

Bill O’Reilly has already addressed several claims leveled against him. This is nothing more than an orchestrated campaign by far left advocates Mother Jones and Media Matters. Responding to the unproven accusation du jour has become an exercise in futility. FOX News maintains its staunch support of O’Reilly, who is no stranger to calculated onslaughts.

Bill has addressed the lies about the Falklands, although there are new lies now about his involvement in the JFK assassination conspiracy. Plus, he claims he witnessed nuns being executed in El Salvador when records show he wasn’t even in the country at the time the events happened.

It’s more important to fling poo at those institutions that are trying to keep Bill O’Reilly honest than to force Bill O’Reilly to actually be honest.

But no matter. I never expected Fox would censure O’Reilly in the same way that NBC disciplined Brian Williams. Part of this is because NBC still clings tenaciously to the concept of being a news organization while Fox News does not.

Come to think of it, wasn’t it Fox News that won a Supreme Court victory several years back that made it Ok for it to lie? Yeah, it was something like, it doesn’t have to tell the truth. There’s nothing in the constitution that says that a media outlet that purports to report the news has to do so honestly or something to that effect. They all might lie but Fox News takes pride in being audaciously dishonest and getting away with it. It’s that audacity to flout the rules, while demanding everyone else adhere to some purity test, that I suspect is the real attraction for the Fox News viewer. It’s the thrill of making everyone else march to Fox’s drummer.

So, it doesn’t really matter what you throw at Bill O’Reilly, Fox is going to stand by him and they’ll pretend that they have addressed all of the accusations adequately and it’s only the left wing media and enemies that are going for Bill.

But it would be wrong to assume that it’s only MMFA or some radical Decembrist faction of a commie left that wants to bring down Bill O’Reilly and Fox News. Hey, I didn’t vote for Obama-twice! I have been called a racist for not sticking with my tribe when what *I* saw in 2008 was an inexperienced but ruthlessly ambitious opportunist hired to carry out the wishes of the financial services industry that was about to lose its shirt in the worst financial crisis since the 1930’s. My objection to Obama is he is really a country club moderately conservative Republican and he’s governed like one. So, how does the Fox News conditioned viewer handle people like me? I’ve seen the confusion in their eyes when they try to reconcile what they’ve been told with the fact that I am standing there saying I am a liberal who loathes Obama for purely non-racial reasons. It’s like watching Fembots about to explode. They can’t quite grasp it.

(Now that I think of it, I’ve seen some lefties have the same reaction. There’s a nugget of a problem there that the left has not accepted about its own side.)

No, the fighters against Fox extend beyond the usual suspects. It includes anyone who has to sit with brain dead relatives at dinner who have become mean spirited, crotchety, vile, bigots robotically spitting ultra-conservative nonsense in a garbled illogical word salad. Those people go out and vote, because they’re angry, and they don’t sound like they know what they’re supposed to be angry about. Nothing they say makes any damn sense. And it’s very difficult to want to be around them because they behave as if they’ve had a lobotomy. You can’t construct a logical argument with people who have had conditioned responses and thought-stopping reactions to anything you say. Seriously, they can contradict themselves several times in the same sentence and never even realize it. They are operating in pure fearful, emotional, enraged mode, thinking there is a child molester behind the potted plants and that the Muslims are going to kill them in their beds while they unknowingly support the most regressive economic theories the conservative right has to offer because God, or something.

The John Birch Society ain’t got nothing on Bill O’Reilly and Fox News. John Birch was fringe until Fox came along. And Bill has a single talent. He is extremely effective at turning perfectly ordinary people into obnoxious right wing Archie Bunker types who actively celebrate their willful ignorance and call themselves holy. That is a gift to the ultra wealthy. The rich and powerful will fight tooth and nail to protect Bill O’Reilly. He is their golden goose. His distortions and ability to provoke irrational anger keeps his audience in a state of poised suspension, ready to hurl themselves like zombies at the first fresh brains O’Reilly shakes in front of them. As informed citizens, they’re useless to the rest of us and, in most cases, actively harm their families and friends by their inability to see when they’ve been flimflammed. It’s pure gold to the small evil group that runs the world and to whom no one we know belongs.

The true Fox News watcher will joyfully accept their role as a minion to the corrupt. They will tell you that there is nothing you can do to change a corrupt system except pray for the second coming. How this justifies joining the army of corruption, I’ll never understand, unless it is to bask in the glory of being on the side of the powerful, especially those corrupt powerful who masquerade as godly. It sort of reminds me of the people who are flocking to the middle east to join ISIS. We all know ISIS is brutal, totalitarian and mindless but some people are attracted to that. Fox News only beheads people metaphorically. Its enemies still suffer the same fate, and the meanness, misogyny and cruelty is still there, but there’s less blood.

Oh sure, things were different when the typical Fox News view was younger. People were more helpful, there was a real sense of community, labor was stronger and public education was better and well funded. But they seem incapable of figuring out how we got to this place where we have gone back to the economic conditions that lead to the Great Depression. They do not see the role of Fox News in the process.

And that’s just the way Fox likes it. So, no need to draw further attention to itself. Defending Bill is just going to make it look like it needs to defend Bill and that’s not the kind of face Fox wants to present to the world. That shows a sense of vulnerability. The Fox News viewer doesn’t want to feel vulnerable. Fox wants to look impregnable, a mighty fortress against the commie left even if it’s more like a prison for the gullible.

Ok, we all know it. There are things we can not change in this world. So we must continually chant the serenity prayer as we watch Fox, and media like it, tear the fabric of our country apart. There’s nothing we can do about Fox News and it’s ability to lie, distort, mislead and destroy. We can only wait until the vulnerable reduce in numbers and the younger, less religiously motivated internet era demographic matures. Fox News will just become another niche channel for the unhinged. Then we will start the long, hard slog to recovery, reversing all the crap it has flung at us.

Harumph and bother: a post about Obama and ISIS

Looted museum in Baghdad circa 2003. We were the superglue.

One thing the Democratic activists love to crow about is how they’re not like conservatives who think that conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed.

And then there is the mess that is ISIS, the collapse of Iraq and Obama’s negligence of the country that lead us back to war.

Disclaimer: I am not a conservative, not a Republican and actually align myself with the left.  But for some peculiar reason that I can’t quite figure out, I have been the vocal outlier on this tiny asteroid in the blogosphereic Oort Belt.  There are a few like minded dust specks out here but the left seems to be dominated by people who screwed up in the most spectacular fashion in 2008 and yet still insist that they are the smartest, most peace loving, accomplished citizens ever.  Let’s just call them the left’s very serious people.

So, the left’s very serious people, LVSP for short, are wringing their hands about ISIS because when push came to shove, Obama did what most American presidents have done in the past.  He turned the FUD up to 11.  I’m glad I don’t have cable so I can safely ignore all of the hysterical arguments for war in Iraq again.  And let me make this clear, I was against the war in Iraq in 2003 because none of it sounded plausible to me.  Al Qaeda had the ability to strike the US in 45 minutes?  As if.  There was clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction?  Please.  What do you take me for?  I think we entered the hall of shame with Freedom Fries, though.  It was about that time that the US put the screws to raw milk cheeses from France, which was really uncalled for.

Smart people knew that there was no reason to go blow up Iraq.  It was just Dick Cheney’s wet dream.  He and his buddies wanted to cash in big on government military contracts and private oil contracts.  They raced into Baghdad, allowed the ruin of some of the most important archaeological sites in human history, destroyed the government and then set about playing some kind of right wing version of Monopoly.  Mission Accomplished indeed.

It’s no wonder that so many of us hated the Iraq War and all the damage it did to real human beings.  It was greedy, careless, ruthless, selfish, expensive and stupid.

OUR side would do it differently.  WE would get out of Iraq.  That was THE most important thing.  Because OUR side was for peace and prosperity and turning the other cheek and not making war or spending lots of money to blow things up.  And THAT’S why so many young, ideologically pure, left wing doves voted for Obama over the candidate with the lady parts.  Heck, it’s why Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize before he had even done anything.  (I’d still like to know what nefarious group nominated him.  They were clearly up to something.)

In any case, peace would rein, oops, sorry, was doin’ a Bush there, reign in Iraq and the people would cheer our exit and get back to their shawarma and all would be hunky dory.  Because that is what the left is all about, getting out of stupid wars because they are stupid.  And so it was.

And that’s where the left made it’s mistake.  As Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker has said in two Fresh Air interviews, here and here, Iraq is an artificial state.  The only way it stayed together after the fall of Saddam Hussein was by having an American presence there acting as an intermediary between all of the disparate groups.  The Sunnis have a persecution complex, the Shias are being helped by Iran and the Kurds, currently the only group in Iraq that has its sh&* together, just wants out.  Bummer about that whole landlocked Kurdistan thing.

In his interview on Fresh Air in June this year, Filkins reported that Obama lost interest in Iraq early and just wanted to pull Americans out.  The timing of the pull out, before the 2012 election year, seems to me to have been a way of pacifying the lefties and keeping them quiet, but I’m only making a guess based on past performance.  al-Maliki was getting pressure from Iran to get the US out of Iraq but he was hoping to negotiate some kind of deal with Obama for a residual presence.  But the White House wasn’t giving any guidance to the State Department. So, when the last troops pulled out, the American superglue that held the whole place together fell apart.

Now, I’m really sorry if the left’s very serious people, like Digby, didn’t see this coming.  Certainly, she’s smart enough to figure out what the fall out of the troop withdrawal would likely be.  But the left seems to be of the opinion that peace can never fail, it can only be failed.  All those Iraqis should have gotten along when we left.  It was in their own best interests.

More likely, peace needed to be a long term investment whether we liked it or not.  It’s not surprising that Obama had way too much on his plate to think this through properly.  But as I have observed before, Obama governs in campaign mode and his policies rarely have the deep thought and execution that is required from the most powerful man in the world.  Experience probably would have helped here but we didn’t elect the guy for his experience, did we?  No, we hired him because he was not like a powerful politician.

Too bad for us.  Believe me, it doesn’t give me any pleasure to keep pointing out what a disaster 2008 was.  No, indeed, the suffering here and abroad just never seems to end and we will come to regret our choices for generations to come.  You can make excuses for him and throw accusations around that the CIA is out to get him but it won’t change the fact that he’s directly responsible for the urgency of the situation in Iraq because he neglected this problem and the United States’ role in keeping the country together.

If you don’t take the time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

We’re about to find out.

One more thing: Could it be that the left’s very serious people are really upset by the fact that the right wing has gotten smart about Obama and has given up pushing the ridiculous right wing memes, like birtherism, for an accurate assessment of Obama’s performance?  Because if they’re latching on to accuracy, the Democrats better have a better defense than just whining about how unfair it is to blame Obama for everything he does.  It’s not a winning formula.

WWII: The Sequel

I haven’t been following the reboot of the Iraq War brought on by the ISIS atrocities.  For one thing, I don’t watch cable or network news so I missed the beheading videos.  Is it just me or should there be a law against showing that kind of thing on TV?  It feels like gratuitous snuff film porn for the purpose of horrifying people and stirring up strong emotional reactions.  I’m agin it.

I’m also against war in general but I’m not a pacifist or an isolationist.  I sat through a bajillion hours of The Last Lion, the biography of Winston Churchill and realize how dangerous pacifism and isolationism can be.  The peaceniks “at all costs” crowd are as unsettling to me as the Cheney types.  My attitude towards war is a Tolkienish one.  I don’t like it, don’t crave it, wouldn’t seek it out except for the protection of friends and innocents.

But there is a really good reason why the US can never be an isolationist country.  Going back to WWII, Churchill repeatedly threw the British Army (or what was left of it after Dunkirk) at different places in the Mediterranean and southeast asia for a purpose.  It was more than just a case of pestering Hitler like a biting sand fly.  And it did have something to do with the British Empire.  But more than that, he had to do it to maintain open sea lanes.  Take a look at the map below of the world’s chokepoints today:

If you follow the thickest blue line, you’ll notice that the most significant battles of WWII happened along it.  You can also see why the Axis came to be.  The countries that controlled the north Atlantic, Mediterranean and South China Seas pretty much ruled the world.  That big blue line represents the quickest route from East Asia to North America.  A vital choke point is right about where the Suez Canal is and what countries surround the entry and exit to the Suez Canal?  Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia.  If we follow the Red Sea southward, we see Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia. Then we swing around the Arabian Pennisula and into the Persian Gulf to Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and all that oil.

Like it or not, we are dependent on keeping those chokepoints open for international trade, not only for ourselves but for the rest of the world. It helps if the country in charge of patrolling the hot spots is above reproach.  Bush and Cheney kinda ruined our global reputation in that respect.  The rest of the world has to trust us to not act completely in our own best interests.

What Bush and Cheney did was take a giant dump in a very sensitive place.  And then they left a very naive but extremely cocky novice president to keep the place in order.  The naivety, coupled with an upcoming second term, caused a series of very bad decisions.  Pair that up with local instability in the region around the Suez Canal and you have our present situation.

There probably was a better time to intervene in Syria but in general, the region is always going to be a sensitive spot.  It’s geographically important, and you can bet the people who live there know it.  The Arab Spring might have been prompted by that realization.  We are probably never going to be able to completely reduce our presence there.  Our economy depends on keeping this chokepoint open.  Until we get rid of our dependence on foreign oil, we’re going to have to be there.  And even after we move on from sucking the mideast dry, that area is still the quickest way from point A to point B for many countries other than our own.

So, there’s my take on it.  We’re still fighting the world wars of the previous century and will be for the foreseeable future.  Obama was not thinking past his re-election and anyone who made their decision of presidential candidate in 2008 based on a war vote or promises to get out of Iraq wasn’t thinking it through to its logical conclusions.  It has always been clear to me that the president who took over from Bush/Cheney was going to have to make peace with the isolationists before he or she would ever make peace with the Iraqis and their neighbors.  It was never going to be simple or easy.  The best we could hope for was an uneasy status quo for a long time.

But somebody blew it and here we are.

Next time we elect a president, we might want to choose one who is explicit about these things.

One more thing: Considering what a sensitive area the Mediterranean is, you have to wonder why the ECB is being such a dick to Spain, Italy and Greece.

The Narcissism Epidemic

A brief note before I start: The right has a habit of finding significant trends and memes and then overusing or distorting the meaning of terms in order to desensitize populations that might be getting a clue.  I suspect this is going to happen with the term narcissism. Once it starts to make an impact and the general population to see connections, expect the right wing to start conflating, confusing and overusing.  It’s what they do.  We might assume that we’ve hit a nerve when it happens.

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

Anne Manne is an Australian author who recently gave a talk on the predominance of narcissism in the most unequal cultures.  (See video below) This is a pretty good talk and gives some insight into how narcissistic, low empathy cultures are created, and asks whether those cultures can right themselves before the effects of climate change become irreversible.

We can’t rule out the role of helicopter parenting styles in the epidemic of narcissism.  Both of my kids grew up in an era when children were neither seen nor heard on the streets of our ultra safe New Jersey suburb, though I think it was worse for my younger daughter.  Every kid is scheduled to within an inch of their lives in career enhancing activities and competitive sports.  See Freerangekids for more horror stories about our warped American childhoods and how the culture of “stranger danger” has kept children from exploring their environments, making new friends and, probably, prevented them from developing empathy for people who are not like themselves.  Thank you, Fox News.

She briefly touches on religious and malignant narcissism at the very end of this video when referring to ISIS and says something very insightful about how religious narcissism works.  In essence, when you claim “all good” to yourself, looking down on non-believers as undeserving, the result is the dehumanization of others who do not share your belief.  When that happens, it’s much easier to behead others.  I am immediately reminded of end-times religions that claim that non-believers will be annihilated at the second coming.  And these religions make it quite clear that it doesn’t matter how “good” a non-believer is because “good deeds” do not count.  They are saved by grace alone and that requires surrendering reasoning to pure, unquestioning belief.

As Tony Robinson pointed out in his documentary on The Doomsday Code, this is a dangerous trend because adherents are so caught up in the anticipation of the end times that they may exacerbate bad conditions or allow them to go unchecked.  The resulting spread of inequality and evil reinforces their concept that the “system of things” is spiraling out of control and the second coming is imminent.  Consequently, religious narcissists may be quite content to sacrifice the poor and disenfranchised in the name of bringing on the end.  They may be even more tolerant of rising inequality because it represents another sign of the end.  This is how people like Glenn Beck survive and make millions.  It doesn’t take too much extrapolation to figure out that uber capitalists and corrupt political parties can take advantage of this complacency to grab more resources for themselves and permanently ensconce themselves at the top of the food chain. When the history books are written, the rise of fundamentalist eschatological Christianity is going to be a significant factor in the rise of extreme inequality.

It is also very difficult to combat because the eschatological mindset is almost impervious to reason.  In this respect, fundamentalist eschatological christianity is similar to ISIS.  It has no empathy for the feelings of people unlike itself.

Manne also briefly mentions that Joseph Stiglitz visited Australia recently (maybe it’s this video?) and warned it to not to import American values especially with respect to privatization and capitalism.  Stiglitz apparently thinks we are out of control.  The end timers must be peeing themselves with excitement.

Here is Manne’s talk: