Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A new Dawn.


I think I’m in love with you Dawn. It takes guts to post something like this because you just know that you are essentially ringing a dinner bell for all the Trolls to answer.

I do not know why some on the comments section have utterly lost their scam/BS detectors, but let me help them out. When a person has a “buy my crap” button prominently displayed on their Facebook page that BS detector should be at least in the yellow if not deep in the red section of the meter. The good doctor is shilling a product, he has skin in the game people. Onward and downward to GMO.

If you really have a problem with GMO food you are going to have to totally abandon your present life style and take up the hunter-gather life style. This may be a problem for most, as the opportunities to go truly paleo are not what they used to be. Everything you eat is GMO, everything. It’s called agriculture and we as a species have been doing it for about seven thousand years. We have altered the DNA of every food crop out there by via selective breeding. GMO is just a faster way to do this.

I’m not going to bother with the debate of how Monsanto might be evil in doing this, just the type of evil Monsanto may or may not be up to. It makes no sense for Monsanto to poison its customers, dead people don’t buy stuff. Monsanto wants return customers. It’s also really bad form for the government to allow its citizen to be picked off by the score so a multinational can profit off the carnage. It is thus in the interest of both Monsanto and the government to ensure that GMO foods are pure and safe. Labeling? Please, honest labeling would have every food item you purchase labeled as Genetically Modified because, to repeat, everything on your table is Genetically Modified whether it comes from Big Ag or from the Mom and Pop Organic Farm. To eat, or more likely starve, naturally you would have to pick up your trusty spear or bow and arrow and start hunting game. How you explain this to the ranger when the game is out of season is beyond me.

Shifting gears, it is interesting how some here run past “go”, fail to collect their two hundred dollars, and settle into some nice, toxic ad homonym attacks with a side order of misogyny. Why is the default either “paid shill” or just straight out calumny? There is so much butt hurt here and so little time to respond to it. Dawn has done her work and laid out here case and it is a good one, a prima facie case as I would have it. There is a claim, links to support the claims, and two examples of what the general flavor of the sites are via the comments. I have a working idea what these sites are like. She did her work, she had to wade through the sites, it’s not her fault that people there are banging on about chem trails, fluoride, and other tin-foil-hat type subjects. These sites have Admins and if those comments did not reflect the tenor of the discussion on the board or violated the rules of engagement, those comments would not be there for her to find. It sucks when your favorite site gets slammed for a post that has over one thousand likes, but you got to live with that cone of shame.

If there is anything in these “alternates” it will be found, isolated, distilled, and yes patented so Big Pharma can make tons of money. But to make those mountains of money Big Pharma has to jump through numerous hoops of fire, a whole regime of testing, to make sure that their product is both safe and effective. Meanwhile, Dr. Natural is under no such limitations, he does not even have to sell you what he claims to be offering. Your Tea Tree Oil could just be reclaimed and filtered McDonald’s deep fryer oil for all you know, and have the extra added “benefit” of heavy metals to boot. No, seriously, herbs shipped in from China have been tested for and found to have lead and other injurious heavy metals in them. But hey, heavy metals are natural , so it’s all good I guess; why not buy something that is not what is says it is, and get the added boost of a persistent toxin?

Every site mentioned has some form of the “Big Lie” they take a grain of truth or conjecture and then coat it with fear, loathing, irrationality and bunkum. There are issues with our food supply that do need to be dealt with. There are also issues with our drug delivery system that need to be address. Big Pharma does have its issues and embarrassments. However that is no reason to trail off into conspiracy theories and unproven treatments. Look at the theme , each one of these sites is offering medical advice that is a toxic brew of quackery, fear mongering and snake oil salesmanship. Your “alternative” is to wrap yourself in tin foil and to literally buy into suspect “cures” and “treatments” that violate the first rule of medicine “Do no harm.”

The exception is the one New Age spiritual site. But even there it is only a hop, skip and a short jump back into the woo-woo. Sooner or later there will be an article on how you must buy these small rocks that will be your BFF and realign you Karmic Chakras because some nice Guru being chauffeured around in a Bentley mumbled some words over them. Expanding consciousness , having Spirit Angle guides, and reading Auras sounds mostly harmless but it lacks the rigor of any serious philosophy or faith.

Dawn has provided a service here, she has gone neck deep in to the woo-woo, on deep Safari, and brought back a report on the natives. Now any time I see these sites being used to buttress an argument I know two things: one the argument is hopelessly specious, and two I am not dealing with a person who resides in the fact based community.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


I’ve been following #gamergate, tracking it on Salon, Pandagon, We Hunted The Mammoth, and others. I’ve watch Sharkeerian’s videos on gaming tropes. It’s been an education and an obsession. The take away is that #gamergate is a hate group. Thankfully I did not actually have to wade through the 8chan logs to find this out myself, other more intrepid explorers had done the heavy lifting for me. And what a fever swamp of racism and misogyny #gamergate turns out to be. Just reading the few eye bleeding examples is more than enough to convince any sane person this is a bad lot of apples. And it just goes on and on and on. This is no group of fine outstanding patriots standing for Truth Justice And The American Way, this is the very beating heart of Troll Town.

But leave it to the Moron Media to get this wrong seven ways to Sunday. “On one side, but on the other.” Go back to covering Ebola if you are going to be that clueless. The leg work is already been done, the favored narrative is patently false. Why are you failing to do your primary job which is to inform? You’re not even doing your secondary job of entertainment. If you were not so afraid of the label “Liberal Media” the story would write itself.

Intel’s retreat into a fetal position does not surprise me either. They are a fab joint, they make stuff, just like Ford makes stuff, Black and Decker makes Stuff, and Kitchen Aid makes stuff. Intel is a brand, and they don’t want any controversy surrounding their brand, God forbid they loose market share to AMD, Qualcomm, TSMC or Samsung. The folks at Intel have no clue about games nor the game community. Intel’s support of Independent game development was a marketing decision for a halo effect. Once #gamergate created it’s false flag operation, Intel tucked tailed, ran, and hid under a rock, where it remains. Large corporate entities do not do controversies, even when those controversies are ginned up from false flag operations, run by a tiny clique of net savvy operators who know how to amplify their numbers, and have the time to keep plugging away at the project.

Switching gears, isn’t it interesting how 2nd Amendment extremism in Utah managed to trump the 1st Amendment’s right to free speech? Almost like as if that was the intent of the “bring your weapon to college, what could go wrong?” meme. A credible series of threats was received and their was no way campus police could prevent any person not only from waltzing onto the campus with a gun but right into the auditorium. That person could not be disarmed at any point. No group of persons could be disarmed at any point. Thus was the mission of the University perverted. An institution devoted to the free exchange of ideas was denied the views of one woman by a small group of malcontents. Thus did a small authoritarian cohort impose a putsch on the University and negate the foundations of Democracy. Remember that when someone tells you that the 2nd Amendment protects ‘”freedom”. Those Utah students became less free to share and debate ideas because the safety of the speaker could not be guaranteed. A well armed minority got to impose its will on the rest of the student body, a minority that probably was from the outside of the school and the state.

I do wonder how this plays out. Having formed under a nucleus, #gamergate has mutated into something else, a hate group. But this is a netcentric hate group, which operates, for now, under new rules. It is a school of piranhas, leaderless, but still a very lethal collection of razor sharp teeth. Those who become the center of attention of the school become all too away of its viciousness. This is after all a bunch of white males at the bottom of a pecking order who thought they had found empowerment in a special corner of a constructed world where they were “safe” and “understood.” They were gamers, part of a male geek tribe, proud outcasts flying their freak flag. Then along comes some icky girls into their He-man Woman Haters Tree House Club, and tells them “um, no, you’re not oppressed, you’re actually a bunch of a-holes.” It would be like telling a PETA activist that the cure for cancer lies in the pelts of freshly clubbed baby seals. It just does not compute, it engenders a visceral reaction. This is not to excuse the behavior of #gamergate but to offer context.

I worry for the safety of these women. I worry because I already see the Reactionary Right trying to get its talons into #gamergate group and provide leadership. I also worry because I do not see law enforcement taking this one with the seriousness it deserves. What is the point of having a NSA state if a group like #gamergate can not be brought down and brought down hard? Don’t tell me you don’t have the tools, you have the tools. If these guys went after the CEO of Intel instead of a Vlogger for Feminist Frequency it would be a 03:00 wake up call with flash-bangs, a Swat Team in full battle rattle, and free ride downtown. It would at least rate a visit with some not so friendly FBI agents asking some very pointed questions. How much more damage is going to be allowed because this is “just” games, and “just” women? How many broken bodies and how many broken lives do we have to sacrifice to break another glass ceiling?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Secret Service SNAFU


Today Julia Pierson, the Director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it. I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation.

Today, I have also asked the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, aided by this Department’s General Counsel, to assume control and direction of the ongoing inquiry by the Secret Service of the fence jumping incident at the White House on September 19. Deputy Secretary Mayorkas should complete that review and submit findings to me by November 1, 2014.
Finally, I have also determined that scrutiny by a distinguished panel of independent experts of the September 19 incident and related issues concerning the Secret Service is warranted. The Panelists will be named shortly. By December 15, 2014, this panel will submit to me its own assessment and recommendations concerning security of the White House compound. I will also invite the panel to submit to me recommendations for potential new directors of the Secret Service, to include recommendations of individuals who come from outside the Secret Service. I will also request that the panel advise me about whether it believes, given the series of recent events, there should be a review of broader issues concerning the Secret Service. The security of the White House compound should be the panel’s primary and immediate priority.

It is worth repeating that the Secret Service is one of the finest official protection services in the world, consisting of men and women who are highly trained and skilled professionals prepared to put their own lives on the line in a second’s notice for the people they protect. Last week, the Secret Service was responsible for the protection of the President as well as 140 visiting heads of state or government as they convened at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Likewise, in August the Secret Service handled the protection of 60 world leaders as they convened in Washington, D.C. for the African Summit. As usual, the Secret Service executed these highly complex and demanding assignments without incident. There is no other protection service in the world that could have done this.

I have no desire to join in the Wingnut chorus or the blame game on the current state of the Secret Servic, still this is the second critical agency under the President’s purview to show a incomprehensible amount of rot. First there was the V.A. It failed after several tries to improve the quality of treatment for our wounded warriors, instead opting to cook the books. Now the Secret Service is shown to have an astounding amount of incompetence, slackness and a totally rotten upper management.

There was an obvious problem with the Secret Service way back in the beginning of Obama’s term with the White House Gate Crashers. Obama was supposed to be furious, but what happened after he, most likely, offered a few choice words that can not be repeated lest the Dignitas of the office be soiled? All the things that are happening now should have happened back then. And if something like this did happen back then, it failed to solve the issues with the Service.

I’m hearing that the decay of the Service took off when it was moved from Treasury to the ever sprawling DHS. Make sense to me, DHS was built to fail because Bush The Dumber did not want DHS in the first place. It doesn’t help that the Service has become a lap dog of the office is supposed to protect. Fundamental rules of security are being breached to smooth political operatives and staffers in the White House. When doors that should remain locked are left unlocked to make life easier for the WH staff that is a huge problem. “Sorry dude, dudette you got to go around, this door remains secure.” “Who are you, and what are you doing in this elevator? Get out.” “No, Mr. McDonough, we can not do that, will not do that, it’s too risky, it violates too many protocols, policies and procedures.”

And some of this is on the president or at least his staff. When those agents got in trouble in Columbia over a hooker bill, I repeat over a hooker bill, a big flashing light along with a loud klaxon should have been going off in the Office Of The White House. Congress should have been all over that mess demanding reform. The agents in question got tossed under the bus, but nothing like the overview that is happening now. No, a guy had to jump the White House fence.

Hello, the White House Fence does not do it’s primary job of keeping people the hell off the grounds?  Then the guy blasts through the grounds with no real issue and not one K-9 being released because, um, somebody might get hurt? So there is no real training followed or procedure to make sure the dog does not get confused in the scrum and become the toothy equivalent of friendly fire — fantastic. What do we have next? With a good head of steam built up our man bulls through a female agent. Let that sink in, an agent, as in one agent. A whole section of the White House has just one agent on duty with no back up to speak of. We know she had no back-up because the bad guy was able to “overpower” her. Once she was out of the picture our man got to do a little more dashing about before he gets nabbed by, wait for it, wait for it, an agent who had already clocked out for the day. Now tell me that the security at the White House is not seven shades of ugly.

Now if the White House detail suffers from chronic under staffing, low moral, laughable, out of date technology, and senior management that can not figure out that joint is being shot at, what is the rest of the department like? Oh, it’s officers are regularly getting sloppy, totally smashed, drunk; that’s nice. And when they are getting drunk in some places they are causing international incidents because they tried to fleece their rented bed mates. This is an institution gone soft as butter left out in the August sun. This is a part of government that has rotted through and through. And I can guess why.

The Service has gotten complacent, it’s in a very dangerous place because there is no institutional memory of the last successful penetration of its protective shield. That would be Ronald Regan. Regan literally took a bullet for that lapse, as did James Brady, a D.C. police man and a Secret Service agent. Turned out that the Secret Service screwed the pooch then too, most likely because previous incident was back in the time of Gerald Ford and the institutional memory of that event was a getting a little hazy. And in a continuing theme, just like the Security Service of the State Department, there are issues of under-staffing and underfunding of the agency. This is a one two punch to effectiveness of the Agency, loss of institutional memory causing a degradation of standards, plus lack of resources causing a further degradation.

As for a suggested fixes, I haven’t heard a coherent response from the TEA Party / Republican Bobbsey Twins , other than “If Obama gets whacked, it’s his own dang fault.” Well, that’s good to know, any solutions to offer? Privatize? Thanks for the stock answer and the attendant boilerplate, here are some nice parting gifts. Democrats? Hello? Please come out of your Fetal position, pull that thumb out of you mouth, and respond. I guess not. Mr. President, what do you have? A panel; any sense of urgency here Hamlet? Some guy with a knife just had an excellent misadventure in your home. Oh, you offered up the Director of the Secret Service as sacrifice to the angry Political Gods of the Potomac via the Worthy, Ancient Mysteries, and Ceremonies of the Bus Toss. Now that the most Holy, Sacred, and Magnanimous Bus has been appeased by bathing its wheels in the political blood of this most decorous and satisfying offering, what else do you have Mr President? Nothing,  just a game of administrative musical chairs and some fist banging and a bit of rah-rah for the lower orders for now, maybe more later? Lovely.

If the Federal Government can not protect its Chief Executive, and Head Of State there is a problem with more than just the Agency that has the job. This is a systemic failure. Neither the Congress nor the Executive is doing its job. Congress is not doing oversight, not being proactive and not even being reactive in a way that ensures follow through. The Executive is not doing its job, especially the White House Staff, it should not be asking for waivers of security procedures just for convenience sake. On the flip side the Agency has to have the spine to say no, to enforce policy and procedures. And this is not the first time we have seen this kind of process go down. Congress is failing because it is in the control of people who despise the whole idea of governance and of governing. The executive does seem rudderless, and Obama aloof, unwilling to get into the gears and get his hands dirty. He also seems to have a really bad feel for personalities. He keeps choosing Senior Management people who face pant spectacularly, Kathleen Sebelius, Eric Shinseki, Janet Napolitano come to mind. I also wonder where the Press was in all of this. The gate crashers and hooker incident were in the same time space, why did the press not dig a little deeper? Why are we only finding out now about the four day delay to investigate the shooting incident, and that it was the cleaning staff who found the evidence? We are getting one hell of a pile on now, but why did it take so long?

The rot goes a lot deeper than just the Secret Service and no one seems to want to get the damn termites under control. We keep having these chunks of our government fall upon our heads but pay no mind. Voter participation in off year elections is distressingly low. Pay to Play is the standard operating procedure, and in many states outright voter suppression is the order of the day. We just let the corruption go on a pace, letting knaves and outright crooks do the work of governance. But hey, Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, am I right?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Russia and The Ukraine

Russia is not done in the Ukraine, not by a long shot. This is where the land of Rus was founded. This is where the Russians picked up their Orthodox faith. The memories of the splendors of Kievan Rus are still a point of pride to Russians today. When some of our Anglo-Saxon fore-bearers were still wallowing in filth, and London was a nondescript hell-hole of 10,000 souls Kiev was one of the jewels of the medieval world. It all came to naught with the Mongol onslaught, but the memory still shines to this day.

The loss of the “near abroad” in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet empire, the loss of Central Asia, much of the Caucuses and the Ukraine were a bitter blow to the Russians pride. The loss of Ukraine, the “little brother” of the Russians was especially hurtful. With the recovery of Russia via Petrodollars and other natural resources exploitation Russia, and especially Putin, wants to recover what is rightfully theirs, at least in the minds of Russia and Putin.

A little history here. With the fall of Kievan Rus the Ukraine became a borderland. From the west Catholic Poland, or to be historically accurate, the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, gained primacy. From the east came the Cossacks, Orthodox Christians who could fight the Mongols on their own terms. And from the north, came the ethnic Russians, attempting to escape the yoke of Muscovy and serfdom. With the Russians came the Russian Empire, which was not about let a all those valuable surfs get happy feet and shirk their responsibilities to the Tzar. The Russians found a way to strong-arm the Ukrainian Cossack leaders in to joining the great Orthodox brotherhood. After a few nasty revolts, the Russians got back to the business of putting the yoke back on the surfs until Alexander II. Alex was not keen on serfdom, had no real use for it, found it an embarrassment, and got rid of it. But he kept the Ukraine. Meanwhile, Poland, remember them?, former overlords of  the Ukraine, got absorbed by Russia, well at least the part of Poland / Ukraine  that concerns our history. And then came the Soviets. Uncle Joe and the Soviets took this ethnic mix of Poles, Jews, Lithuanians, random Mongols and Turks still floating about, etc. and made an unholy mess of it.

The unfathomably brutal rule of Stalin, the mass killings, the gulags, the ethnic cleansing, the shear horror and insanity of it all, impacted all of the peoples of the Soviet Empire, but except for maybe the Chechens, the Ukrainians got the worst of it. The epic disaster that was collectivization fell on the Ukrainians the hardest. It was so bad that there is a very special word for it, Holodomor (Голодомор) Hunger-extermination, and it ranks right up there with the butchering of the Armenians by the Turks and the Extermination of the Jews by the Nazis as one of the great crimes against humanity.

Then came WWII , the collaboration with the Nazis by some, and the eventual reconquest of Ukraine; which was just as ugly as modern warfare and ideology could make it. Lets just say Uncle Joe was not happy when so many Ukrainians bolted from the Soviet Union and then took up arms against the Worker’s Paradise. There was a ferocious guerrilla war in the Ukraine that went past the end of the Nazi occupation, well past VE and VJ day and only sputtered out in the late forties.

The upshot of WWII is Poland got moved west and all the pesky non-Poles got kicked out, the Ukraine got moved west and all the Pesky Poles got kicked in to Poland, the Russians stayed put and the the ethnic Germans got tossed all the way to either to the gulags or East Germany.

 Uncle Joe finally died, there was a brief flurry of reform and general madcap misadventure under Khrushchev until he got tossed out for being a little bit too unruly. The Soviet Union then got down to the serious business of slowly rotting away under Brezhnev and his cronies. This gets us to the present rule of Putin and the Oligarchs, with an independent but with deeply divided Ukraine now front and center.

To really understand what is going on in the Ukraine, it helps to go not only into the deep past but into more recent history of the Stalinist era and the horrors of the “Great Patriotic War” which for the Ukrainians is a very dark and bloody chapter indeed. The ethnic Ukrainians have many unresolved grievances with the Russians especially for the crimes inflicted upon them by Stalin.

So into this mess both the EU and Russia have now embroiled. Russia is deeply invested in the area for reasons of pride, history and the ethnic Russians now residing in the area. The EU is also tied to the area if only by the affinity of the western part of the Ukraine to Western Europe. It was not that long ago, 1939 to be exact, that parts of the Ukraine were Poland. And it is to a place that was once part of Poland I will look to now.

Before the present rioting made a mess of things you could stroll Lviv and still marvel at ( and be heartbroken for) the ancient city Lwów. When you think of it Lviv is the Ukraine in a nutshell. Lwów, in 1939, was Polish, but it was so much more. It was the beating heart the Pale of settlement for one. Yiddish was lingua franca here. The high and low culture of the Jewish Despora, grown in the hothouse of Lwów was a marvel not only of Eastern Europe but the whole of Europe. It was a culture grown in rich soil and allowed to flourish, mostly unmolested, for centuries. But when it became Lviv, that part, with so much else, was gone. The cosmopolitan, East European infrastructure built by the Poles and Russians was still there, but the Jews and that glorious culture, with so much else, had been wiped out. By design. Lviv remains, as a part of the the whole, a confused sliver of Ukrainian history. It is a city founded by the Poles, inhabited by Jews, Ukrainians, and Russians,   gifted–by fiat at the end of a bloody war –to the Ukraine. It is a very mixed bag. It is anchored in the west but it also looks to the east, a part of the east, a part of the west, and part of neither. It is a place deeply steeped in history, but uncertain of its future. It is a place that has known the worst kind of tragedy and if we are not careful this beautiful city along with the nation of Ukraine could know tragedy again.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"Ariel Castro, who kept women captive at his home in Cleveland, Ohio, has died after being found hanging in his cell."

Gross incompetence or worse from Ohio.

"  A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, JoEllen Smith, said: 'He was housed in protective custody which means he was in a cell by himself and rounds are required every 30 minutes at staggered intervals.' "

So somehow in a half hour, the man was able to set up a noose and then hang himself before the next guard came round. No suicide watch, no special cell, no removal of items that could be used to for self-execution. This for a man who was just sentenced to 1,000 years in prison. Someone let this man off himself. Someone was grossly negligent.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Congress "debates" Syria.

As stated before I dread the “debate” that will occur in Congress on the subject of Syria. Instead of doing its Constitutional mandated job, i.e. engaging the Executive’s policy and giving all due consideration to that policy. Instead of offering cogent criticism, or providing principled opposition based on serious and well reasoned, if heart-felt, values; instead of that we will get is a clown car.
It will be the old Blue Team / Red Team divide.

The Blue team will rally round the flag boys (and girls) shouting the battle cry of freedom. They will defend their President against all comers-- no matter what their doubts may be. They will trot out the party line like good little Bolsheviks, undeterred by any pesky facts that might intervene. They will be nauseating in their sycophancy, their fawning obsequiousness. “Our guy do or die,” will be their battle cry.

And what of the Red Team? They will, of course, be worse. It will be one long, pointless primal scream for the Red Team. One long temper tantrum about the president having the gall to be a Democrat, and worse yet, black. Every trope of the last six years will be trotted out, every last despicable dog whistle will be blown–at full volume. The usual bloviators of the right will make the usual talking points with all the usual thinly disguised racial venom.

There might be a few defections in the ranks, Senator McNasty, er McCain, will support the president; mainly because he never met a military action or war he did not like. Bernie Sanders will also play to type as a squishy Peace, Love and Granola Hippie Surrender Monkey. Rand Paul will go to great lengths to prove his Libertarian bona fides. But no real substantive debate will occur the hallowed halls of Congress. Most of the Senators will play to type and to party affiliation.

In the House, the whole thing will degrade into the mother of all food fights. I would not be the least bit surprised if the TEA Party crazies will demand cuts to social welfare spending as a condition of supporting the bombing. Check that, the TEA Party crazies will demand those cuts before they even consider discussing the matter in the first place. The debate in the House will be about as edifying as a Steel Cage Match on Pay Per View.

But in the end Obama will get his rubber stamp, no serious discussion will happen. Congress is quite happy to be a spectator, to toss peanuts at the Executive from the peanut gallery. Instead of advice and consent, Congress will go back to its real job; that of carving out more goodies for the 1% and their special interests.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

War Power Rangers.

Forget War Powers for a minute and take a look at what is the Constitutional responsibility of the Congress. The President maybe The Commander In Chief but only Congress has the right and the responsibility to declare war. That prerogative has been handed over lock, stock, and barrel to the Executive. It has been gladly abandoned so individual Congresscritters can fence sit on the issue of war and peace. Thus, if the conflict goes south in hurry they wash their hands of it,but if all goes well they can hop on the victory train as it pulls from the station.
Please note how irresponsible Congress has become by looking at our policy in Libya. Congress was almost not consulted at all, and then had nothing germain to say even when it was grudgingly consulted. Even after the policy in Libya was demonstrating serious holes and a general lack of cohesion, the only thing the opposition could do was put on a side-show about: Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi!
Not a serious critique was murmured, no after-action musings, no rethink of the Libyan adventure and definitely no re-examining of the interventionist logic that was the ultimate cause of the disaster. No, the deaths of brave men was used as a partisan football in the most craven way imaginable.
Instead of serious criticism of the policy there was a pointless food fight about who said what when and what, if anything, said was true. The opposition could only see the screw up in Libya from a narrow, distorted and ultimately useless partisan lens focused on transitory electoral politics. And when people who were not part of the hermetically sealed Fox News world ignored the high dungeon of the Elephants, the Republicans blew a gasket and continued to beat that dead horse until it was an unrecognizable pile of goo. So instead of doing their job as the opposition, e.i. offering not only a worthwhile critique of the Administration, but also offering a viable alternative, the Right flew off the rails, into the deep weeds, and then proceeded into the deep, dark jungle of fevered McCarthyite fantasy.
Thus I am of two minds here. Congress, in its role as the representative of people, should not only be asked “mother may I” it should be deeply involved in shaping the policy in Syria. It should be debating not when we should bomb, but if we should bomb at all. It should not be some superannuated rubber stamp to the executive. But with the lot of thumb-sucking mental midgets infesting the halls of Congress, especially in the House, we will not get the debate we need. We will instead get a political food fight with Team Red and Team Blue waving their flags, and the proceedings quickly degrading into a rugby scrum.
With Congress showing all the decorum and responsibility of a bunch of hyperactive five year olds fed large doses of Jolt Cola, even if Obama wanted the Legislature to perform its Constitutional mandate, and by that turn reverse the default of every president who ever drew breath, he could not in good conscious surrender to Congress his extra-Constitutional prerogatives. But, of course, Obama is unwilling to surrender on jot of his prerogatives, extra-Constitutional or not. He probably resents having to cede anything to Congress, as the “decision is his alone.”
Thus I look forward to the asinine grand-standing of Rand Paul and other base fools who have been able to get even more base fools to vote for them. I'm quite certain that Rand will be in full Tarzan yell when he approaches the dais to excoriate Obama for being a Black Democratic President. It will be great theater, totally besides the point, but a great chance for all the Paulites to drool over the son of their great prophet. It will be a wonderful dress rehearsal for Rand’s future role of sacrificial lamb to Hillary. I’m sure others will have their turn in the clown car that will be the debate over the bombing. Maybe Bernie Sanders will save the day with a modicum of gravitas, but that will be about it. Team Red and Team Blue will take their respective positions and the no-hold-barred-steel-cage match will commence. And you wonder why we can't have nice things.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The March On Washington And Our National Pastime Of Historical Amnesia

I’m beginning to dread anniversaries. I’m particularly dreading 50 year anniversaries. They seem to be an excuse for hazy remembrance, unjustified back slapping and putting on extra-strength rose colored glasses. The pabulum being pushed out about the March On Washington in all is sanitized and homogenized glory is particularly irksome.

I do not know how much more of this nonsense I can tolerate. The worst part of this exercise it the continued mummification of one of the truly great figures of the late 20th Century, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Yes, he now, like Lincoln, belongs to the ages, however the enshrinement of the man has done a great disservice not only to the man but to the nation.

Look, when the usual gang of idiots on the right side of the political spectrum can cough up the a-hisorical fur ball that Dr. King was a Republican and not be called out on that whopper of a lie, the record must be set straight.

Reverend King was no cuddly teddy bare, he was no sainted martyr preaching peace, love and granola. He was a major thorn in the side of racist, complacent and self-satisfied America. He was a radical who used the tool of non-violent civil disobedience to effect change.

And because of this he was slandered, attacked, and abused; not only by the troglodytes of Dixie but by “reasonable” people in good standing. King was denounced by the good, righteous and practical. He got grilled to no end about being a good for nothing Commie or being at least a Pinko sympathizer. He got spied upon by the Kennedys via J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. He got major flack from the other Negro leaders of the time for going too far, too fast.

If you actually listen to or read that great speech King made half a century ago you can still hear a clarion call, not for mere brotherly love and tolerance, but for radical change. It was call not merely for integration but for transformation, for a more perfect union based on economic, cultural and political justice. It was heady stuff and well outside of the mainstream of status quo America then or now. The Right had a cow, the muddled middle was aghast, and those squishy liberals of the day could barely offer even the most tepid support to the program.

For all of his life Dr. King faced the strong headwinds of what was then called the Establishment. He was at best ignored, or told he was pushing too hard too fast. At worst he was vilified, his life put in real peril. And then there was the attempted blackmail by J Edgar, a black a day in the history of democratic governance as any. The powers that be wanted King gone, they wanted his movement dead and gone. Eventually they got their wish thanks to a racist nobody and scum of the earth whose name will not grace these pages.

So when you read some happy-clappy bit of drivel about The March On Washington, on how much “progress” we have made since then, go back and read the real history, not the mawkish, Disneyfied pseudohistory that has been spoon-fed to you by the usual suspects. Read about the real man and the real philosophy of that man. Read about the challenges he faced and the ever-present danger that was part and parcel not only of his life but every civil rights activist. And yes, read about the all too human foibles and failures of the man; how the high moral tone did not match the sexual appetite. Get the whole narrative, warts and all, because it is only in understanding the temper of the times and the challenges faced does one understand why the March On Washington deserves its iconic status.

It is only then too that we, as a nation, can reclaim our history, the true history, from the sanitized and homogenized fable that has been handed down to us. Real risks were run gentile reader, real danger lurked, real-- neigh ferocious-- opposition, internal as well as external, was faced down and overcome. People where beaten down, some out-right killed in protests similar to this pivotal moment. D.C., lest anyone forget, was very much part of the deep south as Mississippi or Georgia. The message being put out was scandalous, it was dangerous, it challenged the entirety of the status quo, not just Jim Crow. It was not just about little black boys playing with little white girls.The vision of racial, social, and economic justice was the the reason for the final coda of King’s speech. When final justice was achieved, only then could the people, all the people, finally sing “free at last” because only then would they be finally free of all oppression. Only then would they achieve full and meaningful liberation.

If there is anything you take away from this date in history is should be not how far we have gone but the work that still needs doing. Jim Crow, legalized segregation, is dead but his bastard son Jimmy Crow, is thriving:  in gerrymandered congressional districts, voter ID laws, safety net cuts, birtherism and in a thousand other bits of toxic sludge sloshing around the political landscape. Jimmy Crow is ever-present even on the airwaves, actually especially on the airwaves maned by Fox News and the other usual suspects of the WingNut right. The back-patting we are indulging in on this anniversary is way too premature. Time to remember the real call to action. Time to get busy again.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Road To Damascus, We Are Not In Kosovo Anymore.

“Obama’s national-security aides are studying the 1999 air war in Kosovo as a possible blueprint for action in Syria.”

“[T]he No. 1 objective of a U.S. air campaign against Syria would be the seemingly limited one of deterring or preventing Assad’s regime from using chemical weapons again. However, Obama’s top generals and intelligence officers would likely tell him that they can’t do much to fulfill this mission.”

So even on the narrow confines of military tactics the Administrations notions don’t hold much water. But the policy fail goes much deeper than this. Shall we gentle reader? I’m afraid we must.

Syria is not Kosovo. Look at a map one of these nations is in the Near East, the other is in the Balkans. But geography and history aside there is much more to this. Take Russia for one. The Russia of today is not the enfeebled Russia of the late 1990’s when the nation was being run by the lovable lush that was Boris Yeltsin. That Russia had just face-planted in the badlands of Chechnya, loosing the First Chechen war in 1996. Russia could not even hold on to it’s own territory back then, no way it was going to be able support its Slav brothers in Serbia.

Plus Russia’s strategic interest in the Former Yugoslavia was not nearly as critical as its interest today in Syria. First, the Russians do have a history of folding in the Balkans when the odds are stacked up against them. Secondly, because Russia did loose face in Kosovo  then they have a lot more invested in Syria now. The happy talk about Russia backing down in Syria, where it has its only presence in the Near East (plus the always desired warm water port) is suspect at best and dangerously delusional at worst. Russia has both National Pride and National Interest riding on this. And if you payed attention to the Second Chechen War it will pursue both with a bloody mindedness that will take your breath away.

But Syria also has very different neighbors and allies than Serbia did. By the time the bombs flew in Kosovo, Serbia had exactly zero allies who would stand by her. Syria, on the other hand has its neighbor to the north Iran, plus the Iranian allies in Lebanon as an assist. Besides that twosome there is China and if you haven’t noticed China is on a bit of a tear as a world player these days. And China has its own foreign policy goals. Mainly those goals are to frustrate US attempts a hegemony whenever and wherever the Chinese can. With the US overextended and unfocused the Chinese have a rather easy time of accomplishing that goal.

Then there is the small problem of what happens next. A post Milosevic Yugoslavia was not a real security threat to Europe. The nation of the South Slavs had already imploded into just Serbia and Montenegro, not exactly anyone’s definition of a international powerhouse. Besides time had passed the Balkans by. The Balkans had become an international backwater again with Europe safe, secure, peaceful and not really caring who was doing what to whom in the area. The great power game of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was long dead, the result of two disastrous world wars. Via NATO the nations of Europe could intervene in the Balkans without any zero sum considerations. So, not at all like Syria.

Syria sits in one of the most dangerous corners of the world. What happens there matters. And unlike the Balkans, this is the playground not only of great powers but local powers too. Plus in the Near East, they take their religion seriously. Thus not only are great power calculations part of the equation but there is the matter of a thirteen hundred year old food fight between Sunnis and Shias. Thus the Gulf States do have a dog in this fight as do the Iranians. Without a strong center, without Assad holding, however tenuously the reigns of power, the chance you could create a playground for Radical Salafalist Jihadi Terrorists of all types is excellent. No way Israel is going to tolerate having such a state of affairs on its doorstep dear reader.

The pressure to just do something in Syria is getting immense. And with that meme growing day by day, the notion that the US must intervene, really bad thinking is happening. The view that Kosovo is applicable to the situation in Syria is ahistorical. It is laughably bad.  It is to compare not apples to oranges but to compare  grandmothers to  blue whales.

If we intervene, if we use air power to put God back in his heaven and make all right with the world again, it will end in tears. No good will come of this. We have already been exposed as hypocrites all the way back in the glory days of Saddam Hussein. Not only did we look away while our man in Baghdad gassed the Kurds, we (and our allies) sold him the goods to make the poison gas in the first place. Who are we trying to kid with this new-found moral superiority? All of a sudden we have issues with a regime we sent so many poor wretches to be tortured by? We are worse than Lady McBeth in this regard.  What’s the moral here, it’s ok to gun down peaceful protesters from helicopters in Egypt by the hundreds but not to gas people in Syria? You can be a bastard, but not too much of a bastard, is that the message? Our interventionist foreign policy has zoomed right past incoherence and strait past farce. It  will end in tragedy if we don’t get real smart real soon.