Mar 25 2015

The benign dictator

Lee Kuan Yew passed away on 23 March. He was 91. For those who don't know ( and you really should know this) he was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and was the founder of much of what we consider modern Singapore. As he himself said, Singapore is his legacy. That applies for both good and not so good.

Now truth in advertising, I love to be in Singapore. Its where I want to live, (as well as Japan) and I have been there 18 times. I love the place. When Lee Kuan Yew became the prime minister of Singapore in 1959, he assumed control of an ethnically divided, impoverished territory lacking in natural resources. In his 31 years in office—followed by another 21 in advisory roles—Lee transformed his country into one of the world’s most prosperous societies, a major business and transportation hub boasting a per capita GDP of $55,000.  I was often grateful for the quality of life he masterminded there.

But that quality of life came with a price and a dark side-and any eulogy of the man has to take that into account:

He will be remembered as the father of his country, a political street fighter who cut his teeth in the struggle against colonialism. Some will recall an unapologetic taskmaster — a leader more respected than loved — whose pragmatism lifted a Southeast Asian backwater into a sleek metropolis and global business hub. Others will recall the politically incorrect pundit who became an outspoken champion of “Asian values” and a sharp critic of American-style democracy. Each is correct, and captures part of the man. But to these remembrances one more should be added: Lee was the most successful dictator of the 20th century. (emphasis added-SS)

It’s a verdict that will please almost no one. For his admirers, he is a singular historic figure, not an autocratic strongman like those who eventually lorded over other former colonial outposts. He may not have been a Jeffersonian democrat, they say, but he was no dictator. On the other end of the spectrum, dissidents and democrats will take umbrage at the notion of an illiberal, authoritarian leader being remembered fondly at all. Still, Lee was one of the most universally celebrated statesmen of the last 50 years. American presidents, British prime ministers, apparatchiks from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and European officials all lined up to heap praise on the leader of this authoritarian duchy…………..

…..When Lee retired from office in 1990, Singapore had some of the world’s busiest shipyards, cleanest streets, top schools, lowest taxes, best healthcare, and most efficient public services. The so-called “little red dot” had become one of the world’s most livable cities, a magnet for skilled foreign workers and the multinational corporations who hire them.

But the miracle wasn’t without its price. Lee kept his political project on a tight leash, dampening free speech, muzzling his critics, and squashing political opposition before it could take root. The ruling People’s Action Party is rightly considered synonymous with the government because it has won every election since 1959. Singapore didn’t have a single opposition leader in office until 1981, and until 2011 there have never been more than four opposition members serving in the parliament at one time. On one hand, Lee’s political machine was unquestionably effective at delivering results for Singapore. In most years, it’d be hard for any political party anywhere to compete against PAP’s record of accomplishment. That said, when it came to ensuring their political future, Lee and his cohort were incredibly gifted at putting their finger on the scale.

 

As I said, I really do like the place, even with all its faults, and people who are less enlightened then I am, tend to think I overlook them. Its not true and never has been. If you go back through my posts since 2005 you will see I have been pretty even handed in my reporting. I admit, I do like a place where I can go out for a piece of pizza or a piece of ass with the same general ease, and in my mind that was always one of Singapore's pluses.  But there was much, much more to the city than just my hunger. And Singapore is a great place to eat. ( as well as do other things….   cheeky ). Its services and general atmosphere are unmatched anywhere, especially the United States. Singaporeans solved problems efficiently and in ways the world could and did learn from -specifically with respect to health care and housing. The United States, being exceptional and all, did not seem to take the lesson on board. I still bridle angrily at people who say that Singapore's solutions cannot be applied to the United States. Its completely wrong , they could be, and would work.

That said, there were troubling aspects to the place too and still are. Just ask this guy.

My driver, a middle-aged Chinese guy, recognizes me. For most of my working life I was forced into exile overseas. Despite graduating from Cambridge in 1983 with a first-class honors degree in economics, no one in my home country would employ me. But in 2008 I decided to return home anyway and last year I stood as candidate for the Opposition in the general elections. My driver is sneaking surreptitious glances at me in the mirror. Finally he says:“JBJ. Very good man!”

I tell him he’s right and he goes on:

“But in the end very poor. Selling his book on the street corner. I buy a copy. Very sad, lah!” Then after some thought, “That’s what happens when you go against the gahmen (government).”

He is referring to my father, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam. When I was a boy growing up in Singapore my father had been one of the highest-earning lawyers. He was also the first Opposition politician to get a seat in parliament, breaking a 16-year monopoly by the PAP. He was subjected to multiple defamation suits and perverse judgments which forced him out of parliament and out of his law practice and eventually bankrupted him.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam then goes on to ask the question of Mr. Lee that we all should ask, could not the government have found a way to have prosperity, progress and innovation without sacrificing central control and whilst not repressing freedom?  I personally think the answer is yes, especially because there are examples that prove me right, but Mr. Lee would not have agreed with that answer at all. Perhaps at the start he needed a tight grip-for the Communists where a real and persistent threat. But later-not so much:

During his last decades in public life, the Singaporean regime became increasingly critical of the American-led notion that human rights—including democracy—had worldwide applicability. In an interview published in the Atlantic in 2013, Lee argued that “Americans believe their ideas are universal—the supremacy of the individual and free, unfettered expression. But they’re not—and never were.”?

There is one other aspect of the society he crafted that I, for one, find particularly troubling and its not unique to Singapore, the Middle East and other parts of Asia have it too-namely the fact that a part of Singapore's success rests on the backs of an underclass of foreign workers, that will never enjoy the benefits of the prosperity that has been brought there."Singapore cannot compete with cheap labor overseas so it brings the cheap labor to Singapore, with no minimum wage there is no bottom to how cheap this labor can be. Not surprisingly this exploitation has fueled an explosion in GDP but not in real wages, which have stagnated or fallen." Specifically for me, and since this is women's history month, the exploitation of so many people troubles folks a good deal.  The fact that American feminists pay ZERO attention to the plight of these women, is just grounds to shout at them repeatedly.

Singapore is a mixed bag to be sure-but its a better bag than most places, ( light years ahead of Shopping Mall USA) and a lot of that was do to the vision of Lee Kuan Yew. “People want economic development first and foremost,” he said in an interview printed in his 1998 book, The Man and His Ideas. “The leaders may talk something else. You take a poll of any people. What is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like? They want homes, medicine, jobs, schools."

That they got. At what price they paid-that is what will be the discussion in the years to come.

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Mar 22 2015

The Israeli election

I wanted to provide some commentary on the Israeli election. I think it's needed-especially when you read the trash that passes for informed commentary in American outlets. Right wing outlets are crowing about the election as a "rebuke" for President Obama and they are calling it a "landslide" election for Likud. None of these things are true.

It does prove yet again one of my key beliefs, however-when it comes to Israel, most Americans are completely clueless as to what the country is really like.

Let's dispel a few things right now, shall we?

First, it was not a "landslide"-the term has no meaning in Israeli politics. No party ever wins an out right majority of 61 seats, ever. Their system is not set up that way. It is designed to ensure proportional representation and to that extent, it succeeds, albeit at a tremendous cost.

To really understand the facts of the election, one needs to look very closely at three things: the distribution of seats in the Knesset, the make up of the smaller parties, and the demographics of each of the major Israeli cities.

With all the votes tallied here are the final results of the election (click to see correctly):

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(Picture courtesy of Haaretz).

Definitely a definitive victory-but hardly a "landslide". Americans can be such idiots sometimes.

How did Netanyahu win and were the pre-election polls wrong?

The answer to the first question is that he won stealing votes from the other right wing parties and by indulging in what can only be described as crass race baiting.

Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed everyone’s worst fears about him when he launched a last-minute fear campaign on Tuesday, warning that “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls” — and proving that he is perfectly happy to win an election using racism. Depressingly, predictably, Bibi’s “the-Arabs-are-coming” bugaboo worked like a dream on the Israeli public, shoring up his base by swinging the right-wing vote toward him.


The answer to the second question is, no the polls were not wrong. ( despite what the commentary may believe-they weren't).

Go back and look at the graphic again. Bibi was very successful in convincing people that a vote for any other right wing party was a vote for the Left. And it worked. The Zionist Union, which is really just the Labor party by a new name, was not able to do the same thing on its side of the aisle, in part because of the back story of many of the smaller center left parties, but also in part because the Zionist Union misplayed that strategy-they assumed that the voters on the right would do the same. They didn't.

And that is where the race baiting comes in at the last minute. Its important to remember that Netanyahu veered sharply to the right in the last week, renouncing a stated Israeli position on peace and catering to the worst fears of many Israelis.

 

This reminds me of a chilling comparison to the United States during World War II. At the end of its prolonged fighting with Japan, the United States saw no way of ending the war other than by using its doomsday weapon, and proceeded to drop atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which decided the outcome of the war. Can such a comparison be made? Then it was a weapon of mass destruction and here it was a surprising electoral victory by the incumbent prime minister. Though Netanyahu did not threaten Israelis with a bomb, he did not hesitate to use his own “doomsday weapon.”

First Netanyahu removed the safety pin from the doomsday weapon by disturbing the fragile equilibrium of Israeli society while inciting against half the population. In Netanyahu’s eyes, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni belong to the extreme left, working with Arabs to topple the Likud government. Voters for Zionist Union, Yesh Atid and especially Meretz were painted as potential conspirators with Arabs, the enemies of the state’s existence. We were supposed to believe that anyone voting for them would strengthen the link between the terrible left and the Arabs seeking Israel’s destruction.

On Election Day the weapon itself was trotted out. It wasn’t politicians to the right of Likud, like Lieberman or Baruch Marzel, but Netanyahu himself who began warning voters of massive Arab participation. His assistants talked of a three-fold increase in the number of Arab voters in comparison to previous elections. Twenty percent of Israel’s citizens were depicted by the prime minister as illegitimate, as a force from whom the right needs to be saved. Herzog, a Zionist with moderate positions, was portrayed as an extreme leftist who is collaborating with the Arabs to disrupt the Jewish-Zionist character of this country.

This weapon vanquished the enemy, but left the country bleeding and riven.

 

You have to remember that 4 smaller Arab parties banded together to form The Joint List. This was in direct response to an initiative of Avigdor Lieberman's, which raised the threshold for getting into the Knesset from 2 to 3.25% of the vote. It backfired on Lieberman-but it forced the Arab parties to make a choice: unite or be crushed individually. It worked for them-they are now the third largest party in the Knesset, but it also allowed Likud to target them as a group.

By taking to Facebook and the airwaves and stating that "the Arabs are coming out in droves-driven by NGO's", it swayed about 200,000 undecided voters. ( left unsaid was the implication that those NGO's were filthy leftists or worse).

It worked spectacularly.

Not everything is about you Americans.

American commentators, especially our buffoons on the conservative side of the aisle, are jumping up and down about how it "shows up Obama". It really does not. The opinion of the United States had nothing; let me repeat that,  NOTHING to do with the results of the election. Conservative buffoons tend to overestimate their influence anyway, but more importantly, the results of the election are not related to an invitation the Speaker of the House had no right to issue.

Americans would do well to remember, that when it comes to Israel-it is all about Israel. When you have been shot at, it tends to shape your perspective:

Despite the extensive media attention to Israel’s economic woes and social gaps, the security situation — mainly its implications for Israelis’ personal safety — remains the major consideration on Election Day.

It has been this way since the first intifada and the Oslo Accords. Here Netanyahu leads by a wide margin — the same Netanyahu responsible for the housing crisis and whose problematic personal conduct became a media mainstay in recent months.

It seems that the occupation’s moral and political implications, despite the myriad of articles published in Haaretz, aren’t the Israeli voter’s main concern. Security risks concern him much more, and this angst is well founded.

The cumulative impression is that most voters adopt the right’s conclusions on the security front — the responsibility for the negotiations freeze lies with the Palestinians too, not just with Israel — and the chances of resolving the conflict are slim at the moment. Plus the Palestinians are no longer the most burning issue in the Middle East. Even if a divine miracle quickly resolved the conflict, it wouldn’t erase the other threats.

After four years of turmoil in the Arab world, with collapsing states and deranged terror groups spitting distance of Israel’s borders, voters are concerned. Most of them, despite Netanyahu’s drawbacks, think he knows better how to deal with those threats.

"Twas always thus, and Twas always ever shall be"  . Which leads into the second major point of the election: The Zionist Union may have had a good and logical message, it can't sell it outside of Tel Aviv and Haifa:

Zionist Union got the highest number of votes in 28 of the country's 33 wealthiest towns, while Likud enjoyed a decisive majority among Jewish local authorities in the middle- to lower-middle-class range; in 64 of these 77 towns, Likud came in first.

The Central Bureau of Statistics divides Israeli communities into 10 deciles based on variables like per capita income, the number of new cars, the percentage of students, the ratio of residents to unemployment, and more.

Segmenting the voting by socioeconomic levels reveals a major and probably decisive difference between Likud and Zionist Union; the former got lots of votes in wealthier communities, but the latter did very well almost solely in those richer areas.

There is probably some truth that secular center-left oriented Israelis are deluding themselves that their message is getting equal time when you have a country that is split into progressive Zionists and the living, ruling heirs of Meir Kahane. For the long term that is probably the most disturbing thing about the election, is the implications of what it means for the democratic Zionist vision of Israel's founders.

The threats to Israeli democracy are not crude or obvious: the media is free, voting is clean, there is vibrant debate. But there are more subtle issues that should cause real concern. Four problems, in particular, need watching. First, the continued settlement of occupied Palestinian land. Second, proposed laws to enshrine Israel as a Jewish state. Third, Israel’s increasing estrangement from western democracies. Finally, the intolerance and intimidation of those who question the national consensus on security and terrorism.

 

One of the main arguments for embracing a two-state solution to the Palestinian question has always been that formal annexation of Palestinian lands on the West Bank, as well as being illegal, would threaten Israel’s Jewish identity. The demographics of a “one-state solution” would mean Jews would make up only a narrow majority in such an expanded “Greater Israel”.

 

Despite this, an increasing number of voices on the Israeli right are open about their desire formally to annex parts of the West Bank. Faced with a choice between land and democracy, they seem inclined to choose land.

You can see this in the rhetoric that is present in some Israeli news outlets. Sheldon Adelson's abomination of a news paper, Israel Hayom ( Israel today) is pretty blatant about its right wing sympathies and support for people like Nafatali Bennett who combine expansionist aspirations with religious rhetoric ("There is no room in our small but wonderful God-given tract for another state,” Bennett said in a speech that stressed Israel’s Jewish religious heritage as a cornerstone of its society. “It won’t happen. Friends, before every discussion on the territories, we need to declare: ‘The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel.’ Only then can we start the debate.”)

Israelis hate comparisons to apartheid South Africa, but more and more the similarities are hard to ignore-at least with respect to the rights of Arabs inside the occupied territories.  The rhetoric of Israelis and Afrikaners is starting to be a mirror image of each other. That in the long term threatens the egalitarian ideal envisioned by Ben Gurion and others.

So very well then, what should the US do about the results of the election?

First of all, it has to accept it. And then make an honest assessment of what fights are really worth picking. This is where I have to sadly conclude that the President is being sorely led astray by whoever is advising him to "pressure" Israel at this particular juncture. Its a mistake and will blow up in his face.

I am an Obama supporter, but this is really stupid. The President is being poorly advised here. When the results were announced he should have sucked it up, called Netanyahu and congratulated him, then made a public statement that whatever our private disagreements,  support for Israel is going to continue. It would help with politics at home-and recognize that like it or not,  this is the government of Israel. Obama is blowing it.

No one has to tell me what a pain in the ass the Israelis are to deal with-I live that dream every month. And truth be told-a big part of that comes from the fact that we have enablers, like the misguided freaks of the evangelical community who give the Israelis a free pass on activities they shouldn't. And we have enablers in Congress who can't tell any Israeli "no"-even when that is the correct answer. 

But that's exactly the problem Obama faces. To openly pick a fight with Netanyahu now, is to poison his efforts at winning what ever domestic victories he can with this current Congress full of nut cases. And in the end-it won't accomplish anything for the Palestinians , for not the least of reasons their problems are actually back burner now compared to those of Syria and Iraq and the mess our foolish invasion of Iraq created.

A lower public profile and more subtle methods would do both sides a big favor. Not to mention that picking a fight on behalf of the Palestinians simply puts rhetoric in the minds of the mouth breathers who still think Obama is a secret Muslim. The last thing the US needs is more teabaggers on the front page in the election year next year.

Not to mention that the Palestinians themselves have made some really boneheaded mistakes. Especially the radicalized loons living in Gaza with their rockets. This is not time to be climbing up on the moral high ground now.

In summary I will remind you what I think most Americans, and conservative Americans in particular forget-Israel is not like the United States.  It is a land of an eastern tradition, more similar to its Arab neighbors than it realizes-and in the aggregate, is not really as nice a place as they would have you believe it is. Imagine a United States where Mennonites actually constituted a powerful political block. They use language differently than we Americans do-and they don't view the world in a rational sense at all. And that is what got Bibi re-elected.

"The biggest losers in all of this, besides all the Israelis who did not vote for Netanyahu, are American Jews and non-Jews who support Israel. What Bibi did to win this election was move the Likud Party from a center-right party to a far-right one. The additional votes he got were all grabbed from the other far-right parties — not from the center. When the official government of Israel is a far-right party that rejects a two-state solution and employs anti-Arab dog whistles to get elected, it will split the basic unity of the American Jewish community on Israel. How many American Jews want to defend a one-state solution in Washington or on their college campuses? Is Aipac, the Israel lobby, now going to push for a one-state solution on Capitol Hill? How many Democrats and Republicans would endorse that?

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar 20 2015

In yet another sign of an impending apocalypse………

And here you were thinking I had forgotten Women's History Month. Yes, that oh so special time of the year when we get to celebrate the history that women want us to know about, while white washing the details they would rather just not see printed in the paper.

And its a cold day in hell when I find myself in agreement with certain papers- by and large not known for their standards-but since this is women's history month, I find myself falling back on the time tested rules of the hunt:

Go Ugly Early

And if they don't meet your standards, lower your standards.

 

So yes, while it is the Washington Times, they nonetheless had this little tidbit that caught my attention. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, after all:

Integrating women into combat reduces effectiveness, harms unit cohesion

As the American military prepares to open all combat positions to women by 2016, a British report found that integrating women into combat would reduce effectiveness in battle and could harm unit cohesion.

The British report, released in December, found that physiological differences put women at a disadvantage in both strength-based and aerobic fitness tests. Even women who are able to overcome the physiological disadvantage will likely get injured more easily or get tired quicker, making them easier targets and poorer marksmen in combat.

“These are about biology rather than character,” the report states.


My hero and idol, Elaine Donnelly, pointed out why this is-despite what our feminist friends would have you believe-a big deal.

The Center for Military Readiness said Thursday, however, that even the report’s solutions to problems of women serving in combat were just attempts to “soft-peddle inconvenient facts.”

“Every use of the word ‘mitigate’ in the [Ministry of Defence] report pinpoints a problem, not an advantage,” said Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness. “There are no benefits balancing the weight of costs and risks that detract from combat readiness and effectiveness.”

Besides, since the world is ending ( after all, its a cold day in hell when I like the Washington Times), who needs an army anyway? The world is ending-everything else is moot………              cool

Not to worry though, the report and its conclusions will get fairly well buried and quickly. After all, when it comes to DOD, rule number 1 always applies.

After all:

 040713

 

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Mar 19 2015

The madness is spreading…….

I was a Republican for  a very long time. Over 26 years to be exact. But the party I supported was the party that tried to actually improve the lot of average Americans in many ways. The Republican Party used to be a center-right party, conservative but mainstream. Now it's the home of extreme views. The Republican party used to care about the environment, it favored universal healthcare. A mandate to buy insurance was a Republican idea. Even Richard Nixon-no galloping liberal he, understood the need to fix the American system, and he certainly would never have dared gutting Medicare the way that the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver wants to. And even on taxes-the party was not insane. Under the old Republican philosophy, the purpose of taxation is to raise the revenues needed by the government. They believed, in theory, that the government shouldn’t spend money it didn’t have, so sufficient revenues were needed.

But now? All the men of stature and maturity have been driven out of the party or have died,  and what is left, is a group of spoiled children egged on by an increasingly overweight, selfish, and ignorant electorate, kept ignorant by a self serving bubble of its own truths and making up its own versions of the universe.

If you don't think so-you might want to check this out before speaking.  The party I knew is dead-killed by deranged crazy people.


We marvel today at the utter blind stupidity with which the European powers stumbled into a cataclysm. Centuries from now, historians, probably working on houseboats floating above what used to be Delaware, are going to look back at this period in our history and wonder how we tolerated a political party gone so completely mad, much less how we continued to empower it, election after election. They are going to marvel at how all the institutions designed to check the spread of the madness refused to look at it and call it what it is. These people are going to think American democracy was some sort of weird contagion that overcame the country, like ergot infecting the nation's wheatfields. They're going to believe we all just went crazy and ate ourselves.

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Mar 17 2015

Happy St. Patricks Day!

May the luck of the Irish be with you.

And me these women rise up to meet you:

holiday-costumes-men-vs-women

Toast you friends with a pint of Guinness;

guinness

 

And remember, its just a Tuesday-you will still have the weekend to do it all over again.

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Mar 16 2015

Prior service does not guarantee future results.

Published by under Assholes,Hypocrites,Military

The last week has been full of news of Sen Tom Cotton (douche bag-AR), the freshman Senator from Arkansas who seems not to have a very good understanding of his place in the United States government.  Worse yet is the fact that my two Senators proved themselves every bit as worthless as I knew them to be, by signing on to his stupid letter-instead of fulfilling their purpose in the Senate, namely to tell the young man to take a seat and shut his freshmen mouth until he is spoken to or asked to vote on something. 
 

A sure sign that Cotton is on the wrong side of history is the glowing endorsement he got from William "The Bloody" Kristol. Kristol, who never met a war he did not like, and could not be bothered to actually serve in the armed forces, has been wrong just about , no I take that back, has been wrong EXACTLY,  100% of the time. 

What's truly astonishing is Kristol's total obliviousness to why self-criticism might be warranted in foreign affairs: For the last decade, even the places where Republicans earnestly did want to spread liberty have turned into costly debacles. They had dubious notions of what the military could accomplish. They failed to execute. They stubbornly denied anything was amiss for far too long. And as a result, Republicans, especially neoconservatives, lost the trust of American voters.

But still there are folks who want to tread in Kristol's misbegotten path-and our boy Tom Cotton, geographically challenged though he may be, is just the latest of Republican politicians to head down the wrong path with Kristol leading the way.

Thomas Friedman, who I have a love hate relationship with-did a pretty good job of explaining why Cotton was and is wrong in his column of March 3. Specifically he points out the very cogent points that our boy from Hicksville seems oblivious to.:

Netanyahu never made a convincing argument as to why walking away from Obama’s draft deal with Iran would result in either a better deal, more sanctions or an Iranian capitulation — and not a situation where Iran would continue to build toward a bomb and our only two choices would be to live with it or bomb it, with all the mess that could entail. In that sense, Bibi’s speech was perfect for Congress: I’ve got a better plan, and it won’t cost a thing or require any sacrifice by the American people. The guy could be a congressman. The U.S. position — shared by China, Russia, Germany, Britain and France — is: Given that Iran has already mastered the techniques to make a bomb and managed to import all the components to do so, despite sanctions, it is impossible to eliminate Iran’s bomb-making capabilities. What is possible is to demand that Iran roll back its enrichment and other technologies so that if Iran decided one day to make a bomb, it would take it a year — more than enough time for the U.S. and its allies to destroy it.

Tom Cotton does not seem much interested in answering that question-something some very astute political columnists have pointed out. 

But Cotton's supporters don't seem to think he has to correct himself or answer a question. After all he did, something that neither Friedman or Kristol did, he served in the armed forces.

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To hear some people tell it, that's the end of the story. Tom Cotton cannot be criticized because he served in Iraq. Even by other people who actually did not leave the service to make money as a lawyer and start a political career, but stayed on active duty for some 30+ years

Lets put aside for a moment how basically flawed Cotton's ideas and his methods are with the letter.  It strikes me as more than passing odd,  that people think Cotton gets a free pass when he is wrong because he once wore Army green. Besides the fact that there are also veterans with a Democrat next to their name who have taken the erstwhile Senator to task, and it is quite clear that no one on the conservative side of the aisle is willing to take that into account when making criticisms; but the key issue in politics is not, "what did he do back then?", but rather "what have you done for us lately?". And Cotton is a Senator who has only been on the job for 65 days. He really has not done very much except show that he needs to take some remedial lessons on geography and history.

( Oh and for what its worth Tom, despite your valiant efforts in Iraq, the place is still a basket case and the invasion of Iraq was still the worst foreign policy disaster of the last 40 years).

Honorable service is not a "get out of jail free" card for poor decisions made subsequent to the service.  It's probably worth pointing out too that there are plenty of strident people who served honorably who,  in hindsight,  were real dicks, both in and out of uniform. The evidence in the case of Cotton sure looks that way.    

He's proving with each passing day to have some pretty bad ideas of what government is and is not supposed to do-and his stated public positions, especially about Guantanamo, hardly square well with a man who portrays himself as being supposedly compassionate and a Christian. The more you dig with him the more you find out, he's probably a pretty bad guy. So I thank him for his service and now,  respectfully ask him to stop being such a dick.

As Andrew Bacevich has pointed out repeatedly, the fawning adoration of a guy like Cotton-based solely on his military service-misses a much deeper point. 

Soldiers have tended to concur with this evaluation of their own moral superiority. In a 2003 survey of military personnel, "two-thirds [of those polled] said they think military members have higher moral standards than the nation they serve Once in the military, many said, members are wrapped in a culture that values honor and morality." Such attitudes leave even some senior officers more than a little uncomfortable. Noting with regret that "the armed forces are no longer representative of the people they serve," retired admiral Stanley Arthur has expressed concern that "more and more, enlisted as well as officers are beginning to feel that they are special, better than the society they serve." Such tendencies, concluded Arthur, are "not healthy in an armed force serving a democracy."

In public life today, paying homage to those in uniform has become obligatory and the one unforgivable sin is to be found guilty of failing to "support the troops." In the realm of partisan politics, the political Right has shown considerable skill in exploiting this dynamic, shamelessly pandering to the military itself and by extension to those members of the public laboring under the misconception, a residue from Vietnam, that the armed services are under siege from a rabidly anti-military Left.

Bacevich's entire body of recent work has pointed out that this attitude can be dangerous-especially with a public that gives lip service to trying to understand the underlying issues at play in the conflicts that caused the United States to waste the first 15 years of the 21st century. Cotton, sadly tried to exploit this in his Senate campaign last year. His military service does not give him immunity from criticism, in fact it should invite the opposite question, "Why did you not learn anything substantial during your time on active duty?".

As the mutual fund managers will tell you all the time, past performance does not guarantee future results. And a sitting Senator does not get a free pass on current poor judgment , just because he once was in the infantry.

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Mar 10 2015

Another orbit around the sun.

Today is my birthday which in the grand scheme of things is not really important-and tomorrow is the 4TH anniversary of the Tohoku Tsunami which is. If had not given up booze for lent ( and believe me I think its a big mistake tonight)-I would probably be drunk off my ass tonight and not typing this post.

So lucky you, I am sober. sad

Its 2015-the year Back to the Future promised us a lot of things. And we do have a lot of the technology toys that were promised, although I am still waiting for  my hoverboard and flying car. Not to mention the demise of all lawyers.

But given the way the future of the world, and in particular the US is heading, we might need those lawyers after all. For certainly 2015 has not turned out the way I thought it would be in 1979. I mean, besides the fact that I am not rich and successful with a svelte young blond by my side-the overall direction of the land of my birth is backwards not forwards. And that troubles me a lot more than you know.

I feel cheated in so many ways. So many things were supposed to be true this years that are not simply in the cards. The world was supposed to be a more peaceful place. Technology was supposed to have improved the lot of all the worlds populations such that disease, hunger, pollution, and poverty were supposed to be a distant, albeit unpleasant memory.

And we won't even get into the fact that the age of "free love", e.g, lots of sex with lots of partners got a real cramp placed on it in the 80's. WTF is up with that? Certainly its not been for lack of trying on our part as a species-after all monogamy sucks.

And what can one say about the United States? Nothing good I am afraid. The direction of the country's politics is definitely regressive, not progressive. President Obama did himself proud when he eloquently pointed out that it does not have to be that way, and that the cruel vision for the country held forth by the tea sniffers is not in keeping with real patriotism at all. It is what teabaggers will never understand:

What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?"

That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American as others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for it. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing; we are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe age of 25 could lead a mighty march.

More on that tomorrow. It was a wonderful speech-but then he had to return to Washington and govern the country with a legislature filled with morons. Suffice it to say, I am not optimistic about the direction of the country. I am deeply concerned what will happen in the back half of this decade, especially when some asshole like Scott Walker gets elected. 

Like everyone on their birthday-especially when in their late 50's I have paused to reflect on the fact that the more of the journey has been completed than is left to run. That's indeed a scary thought. I also, once again, marvel at the changes that have occurred in me and my viewpoints of both my former profession and the world.

For example, I continue to marvel at how completely I have been able to slam the door on my former career as a Naval Officer. While I am grateful for the gifts it gave me, I have no longing desire to go back to it. Especially in the "no fun of any kind" Navy that exists now. I was even able to pick up the latest Navy Times , where the MCPON says chiefs iniations are not "tradition" and not completely lose it. ( Even though the statements by the MCPON are complete and utter bullshit). I find myself speculating on the alternate paths I might have taken-especially as I hear so many people on the radio who left college and do not even , ever, consider the service. At the time I was 20, the idea of not going into the Navy was non-existent to me. But who knows what adventures the alternate path might have led to?

Or not. Either way, I don't find myself missing the wearing of the uniform one bit. That door is closed and will remain so.

There are other things I think about too. I think a lot about injustice these days, and the unfairness of the economic system. I am asking myself what can I do about it? And not liking the answer of, "not very much", at all. I have become a voracious consumer of economic news of late and I find what companies are doing these days quite disturbing. Disposable workers were not what 2015 was supposed to be about either. That they exist,  well that happens. That so many people blithely defend the practice-that is what is truly troublesome.

And it brings me back to the question of my closed door former life. What was it all for? Certainly not to defend this sick and twisted view of life, society, and humanity. If it was-well than may God forgive me for devoting such effort to the profession.

And that brings me back to the idea of what will it take in the future to correct that?

More to follow on that later this week. Have a good day.

hot-sex-fifty-shades-of-grey-birthday-ecards-someecards?

2 responses so far

Feb 27 2015

I have been and shall always be, your fan.

Published by under Memorials

And yes I stole that line from Wonkette.

Leonard Nimoy died today. For a true Star Trek fan like me-its kind of like the end of the world. Yes you knew this day was coming, but you did not want to think about it, and now that it is finally here, you just can't seem to believe it.

I am a fan of the entire Star Trek enterprise (how is that for a play on words?), but I was really enraptured with the Original Series, DS-9 and Enterprise. Next Generation was Ok. Voyager was a bridge too far, and the less said about Star Trek 5-the movie-the better. I still have not forgiven JJ Abrams for ripping the Star Trek canon to shreds, just so he could make his rather shallow, and scientifically ridiculous Star Trek re-boots, but I did like Zachary Quinto as Spock. ( I still have to come to terms with the whole "nailing Ohura" thing, but hey, things change right?)

While he is best known for his role as Spock, the truth was, Leonard Nimoy wanted to be a lot of other things. And the amazing popularity of the original series made that somewhat impossible. In the New York Times they have a wonderful tribute to the man pointing out that there was much more to the man than just the logical alien. 

The actor who won a permanent place on the altar of pop culture for his portrayal of Mr. Spock on “Star Trek,” was almost as famous for wanting to be remembered for other things.

And that is, of course, highly illogical.

It’s hard to think of another star who was so closely and affectionately identified with a single role. Even George Reeves, the first television Superman, was also one of the Tarleton twins in “Gone With the Wind.”

It’s even harder to think of a television character that so fully embodied and defined a personality type. Just as Scrooge became synonymous with miser, and Peter Pan became a syndrome, Spock was dispassion personified.

He could not escape the role-and I think ( but do not know) that as the years passed he came to terms with it and resolved to have fun with it. I have no real proof of that save for some examples of his other work. This commercial he did a couple of years ago when the second JJ Abrams movie came out with Zachary Quinto, is a good example. He appears to be having a lot of fun making fun of himself and the whole genre. I never get tired of watching it.

 

 

I love that he was still doing fun stuff like this at a point in life when many people would be sitting around doing nothing.  ? And actually if you go back to the Times article he had quite a solid body of work to lay claim to besides Star Trek. For example did you know, that Leonard Nimoy directed "Three Men and a Baby". He also was in a mini-series about Golda Meir, with Ingrid Bergman in it, no less. He had lots of poetry to his credit and an award winning photo exhibition in 2010. He got typecast as Spock-but he turned it around and made something wonderful of it.

May God grant him rest and peace. And of course, may he live long and prosper in the heavens.

2 responses so far

Feb 21 2015

The Green Life

Published by under Die Deutsche Leben

The S.O. works for a German company. She in the last year was moved up to a position where she works enough hours to have to pay German taxes-and receive German benefits, particularly German health insurance. For me it is yet more proof that the nay-sayers in the US are truly selfish and uncaring. Her health card works well, her co-pays are low, and contrary to what my idiot countrymen say back home, its not socialized medicine. Her health insurance is with  a private company-and she pays her share of the premiums. I'll come to my arguments on health care in a different post, but I find it interesting how misunderstood Europe is by Americans.

Consider this flawed line written in a very flawed publication on line, The Daily Beast, trying to not so subtly smear Germany yet again.

Europe’s much ballyhooed attempt to go “green”has raised energy costs throughout the continent. Ultimately, the effects of high energy prices tend to fall on the middle and working classes, as well as on manufacturing industries, which are are now scouring the world, including the southern United States, for lower cost alternatives.

 

 Interesting, if not more than a little overwrought. While it is true that fuel prices over here are higher than in the United States, its also to be expected in a country that is an almost 100% importer of oil. But it is wrong to assert that by wanting to protect the environment and recycle, that it has made it impossible to do business over here. The facts do not bear that fact out.  We should turn that statement around a bit to what it really says, namely that companies should free to behave as irresponsibly as they want, and they are finding a home among the selfishly deranged people in the South who vote equally deranged idiots like Rick Perry. For all his crowing about the Texas miracle, the Texas economy has a very dark side.  Furthermore, it's not quite as bad here in Germany as people portray it to be. For one thing the country has decent train service.

For another, it has a recycling program that works-and that is my point in writing this post today. Due to her job, the S.O. has to work at least one weekend a month. And on those days, my designated job is to take the recycling to the "Gomi" place as she calls it. ( Gomi is the Japanese word for garbage). In German the place is called Wertstoffhof. Every city has one. Its a place to go to put your plastic, cans, bottles that don't have deposits associated with them (known as a Pfand in German). On any given Saturday the place is a busy place. It has containers for all sorts of things: paper, cans, plastic, cartons, bottles, batteries, tires, even old furniture. And people are always bringing stuff to drop off.

Now at first glance one might think, why can't they just pick up at home like they do in Japan or the US? And the answer is that they do-but its more expensive. Every pick up of every thing in Germany from your home costs you money. Bringing it to the Wertstoffhof saves you money. In so doing the Germans have incentivized the right type of environmental behavior. And besides-it usually takes less than 5 minutes for me to get everything dropped off. 

It is something of a ritual now, and I don't really resent it.

Because it is the right thing to do-and America could learn something from those silly Europeans.

One response so far

Feb 18 2015

Enough of this lying around stuff……….

Published by under Blogging

Brother Bluto came by to smack some sense into me and shake me out of my lethargy:

 

(I am in the orange sweater by the way in case you were wondering).

Its time to snap out of my funk, get back in the saddle and start lambasting stupid people again. And believe me there are plenty of stupid things to lambast stupid people about.

Posting resumes tomorrow.

6 responses so far

Feb 04 2015

Still here, just not much left to say.

Published by under Blogging

This week is my tenth blogging birthday. It is a bittersweet time for me for a bunch of reasons. First of all-it is because I am at a loss to explain recent actions I took to rather vociferously fight a pretty stupid fight. Definitely alcohol fueled-poorly thought out, but nonetheless representing of the passion I wish could still bring to blog writing. I am a passionate person-I believe strongly in the things I believe, and most importantly when I want to believe the work I have done matters. And truth be told, I am beginning to think it didn't matter. I probably, in the view of hindsight,  made some pretty wrong choices. I could be and hope I am wrong-but I wonder……….

I began this blog out of a sense of frustration responding to a huge personal disappointment in my life; created by nothing but sheer stupidity on the part of other people……..on the part of the "big bad establishment". My disgust with their simplistic trying to slot people into molds, set me off on the path of blogging to begin with. I guess I had lived a naive existence up to that point, since I had already had the pleasure of being fucked over by people who betrayed the naval ideas and ideals several years before. But there was a key point that existed when I started that does not exist now. I was having fun. I was traveling around Asia, living a life I enjoyed-and living on my terms. Following my move to shopping mall, the "fun factor" went down-but I still got to have fun including two summers in Romania. After 2011 I came here to Germany which has both been fun and not so fun for different reasons. I am happy to be overseas again.I am happy to travel as much as much as I do and where I do.

But there is also another aspect that diminishes the fun factor. 1) over ten years and you are passionate and out spoken you get outed. My post on the PR crazy Navy and its stupid pursuit of stupid headlines in 2012 was a huge torture exercise. 2) it probably does not help that I am also outspoken on social media. I want to be passionate, sharp and outspoken on social media. But as Andrew Sullivan pointed out when announced he was quitting blogging, social media has become a tyranny-and what's worse it is not a conversational media. It rewards a lack of thought.

Ezra Klein acknowledges it:

Blogging encourages interjections into conversations, and it thrives off of familiarity. Social media encourages content that can travel all on its own. … The incentives of the social web make it a threat to the conversational web. The need to create content that “travels” is at war with the fact that great work often needs to be rooted in a particular place and context — a place and context that the reader and the author already share. I think we’re getting better at serving a huge audience even as we’re getting worse at serving a loyal one.

 

Moreover social media thrives on demanding conformity. 

The difference is that the illiberal policing of speech, the demonizing of dissent, and extreme identity politics have now transcended the academy and arrived in social media with a vengeance. Twitter and Facebook encourage mutually reassuring groupthink, in which individuals are required to “like” anything that isn’t white, male, cisgendered etc., in which an ideology is enforced by un-friending those with other views instead of engaging them, and in which large numbers of Twitter-users can descend on a racist/sexist/homophobic etc miscreant and destroy his or her career and social life in pursuit of racial/gender/orientation “social justice”.

 

The right has its own version of this, of course. Many of us dissenters were purged and rendered anathema years ago. But look where that has actually left today’s GOP. It’s turned into this. And the left’s new absolutism on identity politics – now taken to an absurd degree – should, in my view, worry liberals more. Because it is a direct attack on basic liberal principles. Chait:

Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree. The historical record of political movements that sought to expand freedom for the oppressed by eliminating it for their enemies is dismal. The historical record of American liberalism, which has extended social freedoms to blacks, Jews, gays, and women, is glorious. And that glory rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.

 

 

And in the aggregate, the combination has left me emotionally and somewhat physically drained. I want the conversation to continue- I just can't do it as often. But the sight will remain here-and I will from time to time publish.

I've been grateful for all the supporters and for the contraians who argued vehemently against me-but also kept coming back. The trolls-like those who came out in January of 2012 and on other occasions I could have done without, just like I could have done without the mediocrity the overall military and political blogosphere has descended into. I'm still passionate and I still drink-so I will probably make mistakes yet again.

Its been an interesting decade. We will see what the next year has in store. Happy Birthday to me!

20 responses so far

Jan 21 2015

American Sniper

A FB friend posted a link to the following blog post: entitled "Why I almost walked out of American Sniper". No it's not a quote from Michael Moore-its a quote from a supporter of the country and the military. I can agree with her logic, up to a point :

You need to see this movie because you live in a bubble.

Stated plainly, we complain about dumb things most of the time. We live in comfort and freedom, and for the most part, we’re blessed beyond measure. We complain about bad hair days and people who get on our nerves and when we run out of coffee or get cut off in traffic and the fact that we hate Mondays. And yet we have the opportunity to live in peace. Meanwhile, all over the globe, children are born into war zones and suffer unimaginable torment at the hands of Evil.

This is why I almost left during the movie. As a Social Studies teacher and a student of the world, I’m well aware of the atrocities committed throughout the world historically and in present day. But I’ve only read about them. I’ve only heard about them. I’ve never had to witness them with my own eyes. Sure, American Sniper is a movie and it’s a dramatization of events, but it’s realistic. It’s horrible. And it truly shows how Evil is alive and working in our world.

Not only was I sobbing at various points throughout this movie, I found myself praying, “Come, Jesus. Come.” I almost couldn’t take it– this realistic depiction of evil. I don’t want to believe that people are capable of doing such horrible things to each other, but they are. Oh, they are.

The bubble around me popped. You can’t watch a movie like this, see the horrible things that man is willing to do to another man (or woman or child), not just in the name of a god or of an organization, but in the name of hatred, and go back to your cushy life and pretend the horror doesn’t exist.

Our soldiers face this evil every day on the battlefield and they persevere. They press on. They fight it and try to protect freedom because that’s one of our basic rights as humans. And they make split-second decisions that we pray we never, ever have to make. This is why we are grateful– because they have to make the decisions and carry out the actions we never, ever want to have to face.

 

It is right there at the end where her logic breaks down. Evil? Really? Then why are we not dispatching legions of American Snipers to the remaining six continents?  Evil things are happening there every day but we do not stage armed interventions by equally brave men. And why don't we you ask?

Because we don't have the resources to solve every problem on the planet.

And because most of the time-its not in our national interest.

Evil exists all over this world. As we were fighting in Iraq, un-counted 1000's were dying in other wars in Africa of the twin evils of neglect and lack of resources to fight problems such as disease, bad infrastructure and starvation. Yet not once did the President rise to the podium in front of Congress and challenge us to go fight them. Chris Kyle and those like him were never sent out to help them. Nor should they have been.

And on those two points I must disagree with Jennifer Hale. Chris Kyle went through a lot. Of course his service should be honored as should that of every other soldier who served in this despicable and unnecessary conflicts throughout the first decade and a half of the 21 st century. If anything it proves James Fallow's point regarding "The tragedy of the American Military", namely that, "the American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military except take it seriously. The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win."

If we don't follow the statement through the logical question, namely "Why was Chris Kyle there in the first place and why did the nation so callously send him into a war the country had no business plunging into?" then we really are not honoring his sacrifices or worse yet learning real lessons from them. Cue Fallows again:

Too much complacency regarding our military, and too weak a tragic imagination about the consequences if the next engagement goes wrong, have been part of Americans’ willingness to wade into conflict after conflict, blithely assuming we would win. “Did we have the sense that America cared how we were doing? We did not,” Seth Moulton told me about his experience as a marine during the Iraq War. Moulton became a Marine Corps officer after graduating from Harvard in 2001, believing (as he told me) that when many classmates were heading to Wall Street it was useful to set an example of public service. He opposed the decision to invade Iraq but ended up serving four tours there out of a sense of duty to his comrades. “America was very disconnected. We were proud to serve, but we knew it was a little group of people doing the country’s work.”

"Either war is finished or we are"  says Herman Wouk.  I fully agree with the sentiment. But I question whether the majority of Americans do. I think not. They will see the movie in a "yellow ribbon" kind of way- "the people at the [movie theater will] feel good about what they’ve done to show their support for the troops. " But they will never think the problem all the way through. They will never rise in righteous anger that Chris Kyle had to be sent there in the first place, endure the things he had to endure-and have it all matter for nothing. That's right nothing. Iraq is still a basket case, no better than when we found it. Because in the end , Chris Kyle was failed by his leadership, he was failed by his country and he was failed by the people of his country who never asked the probing questions that might have prevented the entire ordeal in the first place. As Kipling wrote after his son's death in the disaster that was the First World War, "If any question why we died/ Tell them, because our fathers lied."

We do the veterans no good service if we choose not learn from the effort-and solemnly resolve not to repeat the  mistakes that placed them in such a harsh place to begin with. Without those questions, its not worth the time or the effort to contemplate the rest. We have to think it though to the end.

3 responses so far

Jan 18 2015

Putting Fox News in their place.

I am back in "terrorized" Europe-having spent the last week in the Whining States of America, who-if judging by the news coverage-is collectively losing its mind about what's going on in Europe.  And let me be clear, I am not in anyway diminishing the severity of the incidents that happened in Paris and in Belgium. However, I think we need to put a more positive spin on things-namely that collectively, Europe is working together to identify the bad actors and get their hands on them. And as I noted previously-it was a terrible tragedy.

It was a busy week work wise-made extra difficult by both circumstances and the ablity of United Airlines to set new lows in customer service. The weather was crappy though, so I was able to watch a lot of American TV.

Thus it was fun for me to see, the French responding to the more egregious misreporting in the American news. In a segment entitled 'Shut the Fuck Up-Fox News", Le Petit Journal , CANAL + French version of the daily show provided a great put down of the lying liars at Fox. Since a lot of the videos showing translations on You Tube are edited to allow for translation I thought I would post the full episode here first. Its in French, unfortunately, but if you have any knowledge of the language whatsoever, you will be able to get the drift pretty quickly. I love the part where they post the news editor of Fox News' e-mail address and encouraged French viewers to e-mail Fox and demand an apology to France.

Hey, that's what the City of Birmingham in the UK did-as you will see in the clip below. Enjoy:

 

Fox News ! – Le Petit Journal du 16/01

Even David Cameron, no liberal he, was shocked at how stupid Fox could be. smiley

The translated version of the key segment featured below:

 

 

 

So the next time you hear someone ardently defending Fox as the "counter" to the so called Main Stream media ( which as I have told you repeatedly over the years , no longer exists). Show them this. And then tell them in French or English, to Shut The Fuck Up. (Or  ferme ta gueule ? if you wish).

UPDATE: Here is one more clip from an earlier segment. Check out the mocking "Barbie and Ken" reference.

 

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Jan 10 2015

Busy week.

And what a sad week it has been too.

The news from Paris is sad, tragic and sadly, all too expected in this day and age. In solidarity with the right of a free press to publish what it wants to and not be subject to censorship at the point of a gun- I am republishing one of the Charlie Hedbo cartoons. Oh, and fuck Mohammed too.

 

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And maybe I'll publish another one too.  And while I am at it, fuck Islam. (Click to see propely).

299854-charlie-hebdo-collage

As angry as this apostate religion makes me; as disgusted as I am with their stupid dietary laws, the shitty way they treat women, the clothing things they make women wear-and how frustrated I am that these people will not assimilate into European society, I also have to think hard on what the facts really are.

Contrary to the assertions of some, Islam is not overrunning Europe:(click to see properly)

20150110_gdc999_3

 

A disgruntled and radicalized minority is indeed a problem as this week has once again shown us. But one needs to remember the world has over a billion Muslims. They are not going away and we can't kill them all-no matter how much some of our neocon masters would like to try. And I also have to remind myself that it is a minority. Most of the Hijab wearing set here in Germany just want to live their lives. (and they speak better German than I do).

So yea, I am disgusted and angry. I'm tired of Islam's sickness infecting parts of the world I like. I want the women to take off the hijabs and abayas, put on some dresses and shoes and dress like a Western woman.  But in the end, cartoonist Joe Sacco may have it right. And with his cartoon I will close. My deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives this week in and around Paris. The Western World HAS to prove that it is better than these thugs. ( Click to see the cartoon properly-its worth reading).

joesaccoonsatire1200

7 responses so far

Jan 02 2015

Follow ups

Happy New Year to all.  Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! Kotoshi mo yorishku onegai shimasu.

I , unfortunately had a quiet new years, definitely not the one I wanted to spend skiing. You can thank the S.O. for that because of continued inabilty to make a decision and her repeated failure to recognize that money is only as good as the experiences it buys you. So while I did allow my self the pleasure of getting reasonably intoxicated and watching the fireworks displays. 

New Years day was also quiet, thanks primarily to the bad weather here-and the fact that nothing is open. I binged watched Netflix all day and evening.

When not doing that I took the opportunity to read the reaction to the Fallows article I wrote about a couple of days ago. There have been some excellent responses, many from military and former military who are not so blinded by simplistic thinking and ideology , which allowed them to see Fallow's main points and understand them-even if they did not agree with them. There are 7 follow up posts and everyone of them is worth a read. They can be found here, here, here, here, here,here, and here.

Of course there are the folks who didn't like the article and took the time and effort to use criticism to cater to their audience of sycophants.  Now mind you, it is not as if there are not things to disagree about in Fallows article, what I guess is most troubling about this one overly long and other rather short criticism is that they basically are guilty of the same thing they accuse Fallows of: ideological snobbery. Both Phibian and ID spend more time shooting the messenger than discussing the message. That's to be expected these days on the mil-blog circuit, and as I have pointed out repeatedly before, the comment sections are more about shouting down any dissenting opinions than having an honest discussion.

You can read it all yourself and you should. But in particular when you read Phibian's rather long criticism you should ask yourself if he doth protest too much. Because the answer to that question is definitely yes.

Specifically I found the following that I think should be addressed:

1) First, whether or not, Fallows was drafted or not is really not germane to a discussion of the idea of a program of national service now. And its more than a bit elitist to use whatever happened in 1969-which was by far a different time and a lot of people did not relish our continued involvement in Vietnam.  To continue to beat the tired old drum about how much one hates baby- boomers is really to miss the point.

2) For all the complaints about Fallows using so called left wing code words-Phibian does exactly the same thing.

Next are a few code words; note the use of "chickenhawk," an old school mid-00's moonbat clickbait word – the national security equivalent of "tea bagger." Usually not used by serious people in serious work, but by people who are intentionally trying to be insulting and to pick a fight. Smart move by Fallows, at it will raise the defensive barriers by all the "right" people … and therefor encourage them to keep reading while getting a nod of approval from his preferred audience ofHuffington Post readers, I guess. What he does do, and this is a shame as the topic deserves something better, is to raise a hint of a shadow of his old bugbear since the end of the first Nixon Administration, the draft (more on that later).

Next you have "careless spending." This is a tease, as most of this is just recycled arguments we all know about the amount of money we spend on DOD and what on … and for Fallows, that means getting his F-35 plushy out and beating it hard with the wiffleball bat.

"Strategic Folly" opens his review of how Obergruppenführer Wolfowitz, Darth Cheney, and Bushitler brought about the heartbreak of psoriasis because they refused to turn over the national security apparatus to the editorial board of The Atlantic and the Department of Homeland Security to Katrina vanden Heuvel's knitting circle over at The Nation.

 

 

Ummmmm. No. Chickenhawk is an excellent word to use because it quite accurately describes both the condition and the contempt that should be held for it. Serious people do use the words and for good reason-it pretty much captures the failures of those who plunged America down the rathole of the last 14 years.  No one, certainly not Fallows,  is proposing turning the National Security Apparatus over to anyone. They are asking that they be held to account for decisions that they should have known better than to make. Iraq, in particular, represents a foreign policy disaster and its not just liberals saying that. Plenty of conservatives have stated that too. 

And as for the F-35, its killing the rest of Naval Aviation. So can't we really have an honest discussion about a program that is so expensive and for the Navy at least, so un-needed?

3) Phibian takes the opportunity to extol the virtues of the "real" Americans who live in "flyover" country. First of all, contrary to what he states, its not so great. Trust me I have lived among the morons "our wonderfully diverse nation." Trust me, its not so great and if the comment section proves anything, it is not so diverse. He misses the real point that Fallows was trying to make-its also not the area where large populations of the people live.  Many areas of his "real America" are the most economically depressed however, and don't kid yourself, that had a lot to do with who volunteers and who doesn't.

Which brings us back to the idea of national service. Several excellent authors have debunked Phibian's main assertion that "We are a representative republic that has no natural need or desire for a large standing army. Neither you nor I would want to live in a republic that used the police power of the state to randomly put its citizens (due to the small numbers needed and that could be afforded, a draft would be far from universal, and an exceptionally arbitrary lottery) under bondage without an existential threat just to make a socio-political point – or as Mike Mullen puts it – force pain on the population by intentionally keeping the nation weak until crisis. Let me be clear; a draft in peace is an anathema to a free society and is tyranny without an existential threat breathing at the door. Full stop."

Back the train up. The United States is a representative nation that has a large standing Army, and has had one ever since the second World War. And no matter who is in office it will have one for at least the next 20 years or so.  It would be nice to man it more evenly-and national service is an acceptable means to do that.

Two other points. I always find it so interesting that the same generation who praise today's military leaders as being "so much better" than those of us who came in the late 70's and early 80's, finds the idea of dealing with reluctant Sailors and Soldiers so utterly frightening.  Its a cop out-and not necessarily a fair representation of their ability to lead. They could deal with it if they had to-and a lot of folks would succeed in such a military, certainly far more than would fail.

But again it misses the real point that Fallows is making. Draft or no, too many of the American people got a free pass when the nation was supposedly in an all out "long war". If not asked to serve, they did not even get asked to pay for it-through either a surcharge on something everyone uses like gasoline, or skipping tax cuts that were clearly not in the nation's interest once the war was under-way.

And don't kid yourself either, a lot of people who could serve, don't-because they don't want to take the time away from getting to be a rich executive by the time they are 35. And service is a tradeoff, and don't let anyone tell you it is not. The longer you stay, the more certain doors close. True a lot of other doors open-but it does not negate the first statement. Furthermore-he is ignoring the role of national service in paying for schooling and leveling the society, as it does in Israel.

The second point is probably the more serious. Because I think the reaction to Fallows article in certain corners actually proves his point. The military is becoming insulated from the society it serves and that is not good. And certain segments from within do hold their civilian counterparts in contempt, all protestations to the contrary.  The country is self selecting and not having the conversations it should have. The fact that folks want argue with Fallows is fine. But argue the points on their merits, not some self styled pedestal that with just a little effort you can be pulled down from. Get out of the echo chamber and see the way the world really is-not just the idealized vision you think you see.

And that, my friends is the worst thing of all with how we hold discussions these days in the blogosphere. I just had to get that out there. 

UPDATE! Fallows himself published probably the best stated analysis of the views of those who disagree with him from mil-blog land. Its a great point and sums up the stupidity of the viewpoint well:

This kind of misunderstanding, inadvertent or purposeful, goes with the territory of public debate. It foreseeably leads to a kind of tribally minded angry response. Tribal? As in: 1) this guy seems to be against us; 2) since he doesn't like us, we don't like him; 3) therefore whatever he's saying is probably wrong.

That's a minority response; I'm touched and overwhelmed, in a good way, by the volume and sophistication of the submissions I continue to receive. 

 

 

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