Archive for the 'American Society' Category

May 03 2016

People always let you down.

Especially people of the "Fox News Viewer" persuasion.

I admit it. I am astounded American politics is where it is today. I mean really, Donald Trump is probably going to be the GOP nominee? Really?

If you read any of my posts from earlier in the year-you will know that I expected the Donald to be going down in flames by now if not already gone. That, it seems, was a mistake. I gave Republican voters more credit than they deserved. I assumed that eventually, they would see through him and he would stand revealed as the worthless charlatan he is-and the nominating process would have moved on to another criminal candidate.

Today, I am here to tell you I was wrong.

Now please don't misunderstand me, Donald Trump is a hideous human being and in no way whatsoever deserving of a place on Pennsylvania Ave. And I hope , fervently, that he will never get there. However, I had more faith in the people than this. Surely they cannot be that stupid?

Evidently they can be.

Let's consult with the blog's political correspondent, Charlie Pierce:

It had been a while since I'd been to see the increasingly normalized donkey show that is a Trump rally. The rough edges have been smoothed out a tad, although the events in California last week showed pretty conclusively that they're not entirely gone. The warm-up acts on Sunday included a local minister, who offered a prayer. A Vietnam vet led the Pledge of Allegiance. A former Miss Indiana sang the National Anthem. An overripe state representative called the Affordable Care Act, "the worst law ever passed in this country." (Providing 15 million Americans with affordable health care is worse than the Fugitive Slave Act? Where do they find these people?) And a campaign aide named Stephen Miller wound some stems and burned some barns. He bellowed out a litany of all the Others who have been jiving the good people of Terre Haute out of their country for year after year.

"They don't care about you," Miller thundered. "Donald Trump cares about you!" Jesus, somebody buy this guy a nice armband for his birthday.

For himself, He, Trump hasn't moved very far out of the comfort zone that has surrounded him since he first ascended to the top of the polls. The stump speech is still a paean to his own greatness as demonstrated by his poll numbers—NBC has him 15 points ahead in Indiana as of Sunday, which really would be the end—and now he has a string of primary victories with which to buttress his limitless self-regard. "Lyin' Ted" has been joined by "Crooked Hillary" in his menagerie of imaginary villains. (Pivot toward the general!) "The government in Iraq is so crooked, maybe we should send Hillary over there to run it."

The stump speech still winds around itself two and three times and it still remains basically a tautological knot. The country has problems. He can solve them because he is He, Trump, and you're not, and neither are those other losers. The difference is that his typical audience is less the free-floating bag of grievances they once were. They now carry themselves as dedicated supporters. They don't care how many times in one speech he talks about the trade deficit. They cheer every time he mentions knuckling China. He is winning. They are winning. That's what matters.

"The Washington Post has a big article right here," he said. "The time has come to admit that Republican voters want Donald Trump as their nominee." And then, as the applause rises again, he spreads his arms and unleashes the very encyclopedia model of a shit-eating grin. He's probably talking about a piece last week in which Philip Bump—who is not the entire Washington Post—found some establishment Republicans who resignedly are signing on with The Great Accommodation. But nobody in the Indiana Theater cares. It was one more fight that they all won. His fait is accompli now, and so is theirs.

"If I win," he said, "it's a mandate. It's a mandate for genius."

Throughout the speech, if you can call it a speech, it was hard not to wonder about the people in the hall, especially when He, Trump told the crowd that, "Lyin' Ted will always let you down." Now that his support has solidified and proven durable all over the country, there are a lot of people whose investment in him is now total. 

I wondered about Kris out on the sidewalk, who has followed He, Trump around the country because he liked what He, Trump said about closing borders to cut off the heroin that killed his child. That is a heavy burden to carry and a heavy burden to place on a candidate, even a candidate who has asked to carry it, which Trump certainly has not done. He is riding on a wave of pain that he never has felt. He is riding on a wave of anxiety he never has encountered. Beyond their love of him, there is no indication that he is as deeply aware of what has powered his rise as the people whose fear, and doubt, and, yes, hatred has powered his rise. Their job is still to wait in line, cheer on cue, and give him the devotion that he has earned because, after all, he is He, Trump, and they're not, and that will never change.

This is your democracy America. You are pissing it away royally. Trump and the millions of thugs people who following him, will lead you to oblivion. That you are too stupid to realize it is the great mystery of our age.

 

 

The analogies to Jesus Christ Superstar are obvious. Only , unlike Christ, Trump is not on the side of the angels.

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Sep 13 2015

Recent Reading

Besides the volume of recent work, I have been deeply involved in several books recently. Not really an excuse for my lack of steady posting, but it did provide a different sort of diversion. Below are my reviews of three of the best of the group. ( I have finished 7 in all since mid-July).

The first book was an oldie,  but goody. It is from the 1970's and it is Saul Bellow's, To Jerusalem and Back, A Personal Account. Published in 1976, the book is a fascinating series of anecdotes and stories about all aspects of the experience of Israel during that decade and the decades before. Bellow writes of a discussion with Jean Paul Sartre published many years earlier. He has a brief view of the power ( or lack thereof) of the United States Sixth fleet, back during the time that the US Navy actually put ships in the Mediterranean ( of which I was a part in the late 1970's). The book is a report of the authors personal experiences but it is much, much more than that-it is a series of vignettes that show the complexity of modern Israeli life. What is amazing to me is just how forward looking Bellow was. He was writing in 1976, but his observations still hold true today.  As one critic said, " Forty years later, it's like reading last week's news analysis from the Middle East. If he hadn't been one of the great novelists of the 20th century, Bellow might have been one of its greatest journalists." That's a pretty good summation of the book.

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Along the same lines, and as an adjunct to my job, I try to read a lot of background material on Israel. I had stumbled on Bellow's book in the library and I am glad I did. Interestingly enough, I tried to add it to my Kindle library and Amazon said it is not available to readers in the US, due to copyright restrictions. I found that interesting, if not a trifle disappointing. 

For the reason I listed above, I also completed reading a newer book that does the same thing as Bellows book-provide unique insights into the complex puzzle that is Israel.  The book is by Ari Shavit, who is a writer for Haaretz newspaper, and it is called, My Promised Land. The book is a series of interviews and retelling of specific pieces of Israel's history staring with the first waves of Aliyah ( emigration to Israel) that began in the 1890's and moving up to present day ( 2012).

We meet Shavit’s great-grandfather, a British Zionist who in 1897 visited the Holy Land on a Thomas Cook tour and understood that it was the way of the future for his people; the idealist young farmer who bought land from his Arab neighbor in the 1920s to grow the Jaffa oranges that would create Palestine’s booming economy; the visionary youth group leader who, in the 1940s, transformed Masada from the neglected ruins of an extremist sect into a powerful symbol for Zionism; the Palestinian who as a young man in 1948 was driven with his family from his home during the expulsion from Lydda; the immigrant orphans of Europe’s Holocaust, who took on menial work and focused on raising their children to become the leaders of the new state; the pragmatic engineer who was instrumental in developing Israel’s nuclear program in the 1960s, in the only interview he ever gave; the zealous religious Zionists who started the settler movement in the 1970s; the dot-com entrepreneurs and young men and women behind Tel-Aviv’s booming club scene; and today’s architects of Israel’s foreign policy with Iran, whose nuclear threat looms ominously over the tiny country.

As it examines the complexities and contradictions of the Israeli condition, My Promised Land asks difficult but important questions: Why did Israel come to be? How did it come to be? Can Israel survive? Culminating with an analysis of the issues and threats that Israel is currently facing, My Promised Land uses the defining events of the past to shed new light on the present. The result is a landmark portrait of a small, vibrant country living on the edge, whose identity and presence play a crucial role in today’s global political landscape.

 

In reading the book I was struck by two of the main points that he raised. First, he points out that both the Israeli right and the Israeli left have yet to come to grips with a central fact that lies at the heart of Zionism-namely that whether they realized it or not, the movement was built on the foundational idea of dispossessing the current occupants of Palestine, in favor of a group of people who had no modern historical ties to that particular chunk of real estate. They only have a thousands year old religious mystery to cling on to that underpinned the reason why Palestine and only Palestine could be the Jewish State. Shavit very skillfully points out that one cannot duck that particular fact, and it is at odds with the narrative of Israel as a benign civilizing force in the region.

The second issue, and its one I had not given much thought to before, is the idea that the Holocaust changed the demographics of the Zionist movement dramatically. It is important to remember that Herzl's vision of Zionism was essentially a European one. The Jewish State he envisioned was to be a a modern, sophisticated and technologically advanced and Europeanized society. Herzl was aware of the Sephardic Jews ( Oriental or non-European Jews) but he tended to discount that.
 

Herzl completely rejected the race theories of Israel Zangwill. He became increasingly aware of the existence of Sephardic Jewry, but he envisioned the Jewish State as a state of Europeans, who might speak German. In his diaries he wrote:

"I believe German will be our principal language…I draw this conclusion from our most widespread jargon, 'Judeo-German.' But over there we shall wean ourselves from this ghetto language, too, which used to be the stealthy tongue of prisoners. Our teachers will see to that." (June 15, 1895, Diaries, 1: 171)

In The Jewish State, Herzl envisioned the government of the new state to be an "Aristocratic Republic," apparently modeled on contemporary Austria or Germany. In 1902, Herzl published a utopian novel about the Jewish state,  Altneuland (old-new land) a vision complete with monorails and modern industry.  Altneuland envisioned a multipluralistic democracy in which Arabs and Jews had equal rights. The novel concludes, "If you will, it is no legend."

Der Judenstaat and  Altneuland were visions of a Jewish state to be populated by European Jewry, who in 1900 were far more numerous than the tiny remnant of oriental and Sephardic Jews in Muslim lands and the Balkans. Herzl himself was no doubt aware of Zionist yearnings among Sephardic Jews. His grandfather was a friend of RabbiYehudah Alkalai, a Zionist precursor. But Herzl addressed his vision to the Jews of Europe.

Shavit points out that the Holocaust destroyed that vision and changed the planned demographics of the new state of Israel. A lot of the initial immigration to Israel came from the Sephradi population, especially as the Arabs turned away from toleration to outright hostility. Those population numbers had a distinct impact on Israel's politics and societal views and Shavit points out that those effects are still present.

Shavit is a great writer and the book is very readable and fascinating to immerse yourself into. For non-Israelis, and Americans in particular I would recommend this book as a must read. It shatters a lot of myths-and that is a good thing. Americans need to understand Israel as it really is, not as they think it it is.

 

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The final book I have been reading off and on is a return to one of my favorite writers and historians, Arthur Schlesinger. A while back I read his collection of letters and posted a review.  Subsequently his journals have been published. They are much more candid than his letters and his insights into many of today's political figures when they were younger are amazing to read.Schelsinger is a great writer and I particularly got some great satisfaction out of his description of Charles Krauthammer. It is simply priceless as it points out what a slug Krauthammer really is, long before the rest of us really knew about him:

Last night I appeared on ABC's Nightline (Ted Koppel), leaving an entertaining dinner party given by Ahmed and Mica Ertegun for Irving Lazar. My combatant on the show was a fellow named Charles Krauthammer who writes particularly obnoxious neo-conservative trash for the New Republic and other right wing journals. His special line is that a mature power must understand the vital need for an imperial policy and for unfettered executive secrecy in the conduct of foreign affairs. He argues this line with boundless self-righteousness and sublime ignorance of American history. He is also, alas, a paraplegic, having dived into a waterless swimming pool. The joy of dealing with Krauthammer perhaps tempted me into undue vehemence. I have been trying to establish a new and more benign television personality. His performance was surprisingly feeble, and I was unnecessarily testy. Still, it gave me much satisfaction. [Political cartoonist] Jules Feiffer called this morning and said, "If Krauthammer were not already in a wheelchair, he certainly would be now after the pounding you gave him last night.

The puzzle is that there are people who take Krauthammer seriously as a deep thinker.

Those lines were written in 1986, long before Krauthammer sold his soul to the devil that is Fox News.  They remain as true today as they were then. Schlesinger saw his mediocrity long before the rest of us. 

Its a fantastic insight into a half century of history and well worth the time to read. The best part is, that because it is a journal, you can leave it and come back to it. That is what I have done for the last month. Whenever I have extra time, my old friend Arthur Schlesinger is there-thanks to the modern innovation that is Kindle.

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Jul 17 2015

When is a crime just a crime?

Its been a month since I have posted. I have been busy. No excuse to be sure-but its the truth.

During that time a lot has happened, much of it comment worthy-and if you are big reader like I am, you have probably read a lot of the commentary on it already. So I will try not to repeat it.

What I do want to take a couple of moments to comment on is the Chattanooga shooting yesterday. As soon as I heard that the shooter had a Muslim name, I said to myself, "Oh boy, here we go."

And true to form, the Town Hall Harlot proved me right.

 

Of course, the fact that the shooter was a naturalized American citizen is immaterial to this conclusion.  Now mind you this is just a month after a mass shooting in Charleston S.C. occurred. That we are told is not "terrorism", but this is. Can't they both be equally despicable?

Apparently,  in the eyes of some, not.

I think its important in this time of national tragedy to not be a Malkin or a paranoid American, but to step back and look at some actual facts.

Because, whether you want to admit it or not-the events of Charleston and the events of Chattanooga are more alike than they are different. When boiled down to it's base facts, as we know them so far: An American had a grudge. So he obtained a firearm and attempted to rectify his grudge by using that firearm on his fellow citizens. The grudge may have been fueled by irrational ideas from abroad-but it does not erase the fact that the killer was an American citizen who decided that killing fellow American citizens was the way to go.

Americans are killing each other again. That is the fundamental—if politically less useful—lesson of what happened in Tennessee yesterday. An American citizen got his gun and he went to a strip mall and he killed four of his fellow citizens, killed them as dead as Michael Brown or Eric Garner, as dead as the people who were killed by Dylann Roof, who's awaiting trial, or as dead as the people who were killed by James Holmes, who was convicted of killing them just yesterday. By all the criteria of which we boast of our exceptionalism to the world, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez was as much of an American as the four people he allegedly murdered. His motivation doesn't matter. He was a citizen. His victims were citizens. Americans killing other Americans. It's an old story being rehearsed again with unfortunate frequency.

 

It troubles me that so many people are trying to tie in unrelated issues to this tragedy. Do we need to enforce our borders? Of course we do. Do we need to restrict immigration quotas from Islamic nations? Much as it pains me to say it, perhaps we might-but before we do so, we need to have a bigger conversation about American ideals and the laws of unintended consequences. Because the same people who are advocating this course of action, are descended from possible nations where their ancestors were considered terrorists just the same as Mr. Abdulazeez was. Is America a beacon of liberty or not?

That said, Islam has some real problems right now, problems that collectively it refuses to deal with. I'm not blind to that. Nonetheless, I am having a hard time making the distinction between how denying immigration rights now to qualified immigrants, would have stopped an immigrant family from spawning a criminal some 20 years ago. Someone is going to have to explain to me how that works.

I'm willing to bet you a quart of your favorite Scotch that :

1) The weapon(s) used yesterday were obtained legally, at anyone of America's 129,817 gun dealers.

2) Mr Abdulazeez may or may not be linked to some overseas terrorist group. I, at this point do not know. But I also would like someone to tell me how that would have stopped him from legally obtaining a gun to commit his heinous deeds. Evidently his family had already been investigated and cleared.

Eventually we’ll learn more about Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, but one thing is certain: The Marines who were killed yesterday were equally as much as victims of the American culture of violence as the victims in Charleston.

Lets not forget too that:

  So far in 2015 , 27000 times an American chose that same course of action. They all had problems they had decided they could not solve. They all had grudges. They all had something that made them angry enough. And, as a result, almost 7,000 of our fellow citizens are as dead as the people in Tennessee. This is not an explanation that satisfies any particular agenda but, unquestionably, we are a very fearful nation with an unacknowledged history of violence that also has armed itself very heavily. Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, an American citizen, chose a very American course of action.  He had a problem he couldn't solve so he reached for the most American of solutions. He reached for a gun and he killed some of his fellow citizens.?

We will be told over and over again, "this is different, we are at war."  I beg to disagree. Whatever wars we are fighting beyond our borders, here at home-this was a crime. Every bit as much a crime as a contract hit ordered by a mob family in Ukraine, China or Sicily.  You have to fight it the same as any other crime. Its tragic that the nation lots four of its finest, but its losing fine citizens everyday. We need to remember that.  When you boil it down to brass tacks, this yet another case of an American with a grudge, who obtained a weapon inside the US and took out his rage with it. If this is terrorism, than most gun violence is terrorism.

And I call it a crime, not an act of war. Terrorism is a violent tool used for political reasons to bring pressure on governments by creating fear in the populace. In the same way, I have never thought it helpful to refer to a "war" on terror, any more than to a war on drugs. For one thing that legitimizes the terrorists as warriors; for another thing terrorism is a technique, not a state. Moreover terrorism will continue in some form whatever the outcome, if there is one, of such a "war". For me what happened was a crime and needs to be thought of as such. What made it different from earlier attacks was its scale and audacity, not its nature.

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Jun 19 2015

With clockwork precision

A mass shooting happens in America every three to four months or so. Charleston, home of my beloved alma-mater, took its turn in the barrel yesterday.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A white gunman opened fire Wednesday night at a historic black church in downtown Charleston, S.C., killing nine people before fleeing and setting off an overnight manhunt, the police said.

At a news conference with Charleston’s mayor early Thursday, the police chief, Greg Mullen, called the shooting a hate crime.

“It is unfathomable that somebody in today’s society would walk into a church while they are having a prayer meeting and take their lives,” he said.

The police said the gunman walked into the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church around 9 p.m. and began shooting.

Eight people died at the scene, Chief Mullen said. Two people were taken to the Medical University of South Carolina, and one of them died on the way.

“Obviously, this is the worst night of my career,” Chief Mullen said. “This is clearly a tragedy in the city of Charleston.”

And with equal predictability will be the cycle of excuses, recriminations and most disturbingly the Fox News deflection of the real blame for these events. Tired old shibboleths about the intent of the Founding Fathers in writing the 2nd Amendment will be trotted out out for the 989th time. Real change however? Just     NOT    GOING   TO   HAPPEN. This is the mediocrity America accepts as the cost of "freedom".

Freedom? Really?  How about the freedom for the rest of us to be able to conduct the daily transactions of society without fear of being shot by some lunatic?

The ammosexual defense of their kink is predictable and almost certainly incorrigible. Driven (and heavily armed) that’s a view that’s managed to hold political sway over the mushy majority for whom the notion the the liberty of the gun-sniffing few outweighs the freedom of the rest of us to assemble, travel, speak without fear of suppressing fire. What drives that is, at least in part, the normalization of gun fetishization. Which is what you see above. And is what must be shamed out of the public square.

Nope, No, No sirree Bob. Because, "Murica!". Second Amendment. Protect against tyranny in government. Pick you own sick and twisted metaphor.

Nothing ever changes.

The truth is made worse by the reality that no one–really no one–anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life….

The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country–Canada, Norway, Britain–has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do–as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue.

 

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Dec 30 2014

The tragedy of the American Military

James Fallow's of The Atlantic magazine has written a must read, thought provoking article, on the current state of civil-military relations. It is a long read, but it is well worth your time. In it, he highlights the real hypocrisy of a country that fawns over its military to the point of idolatry, yet allows its elected leadership to condemn them to unending and repetitive deployments and wars that accomplish nothing in the national interest, get a lot of fine young men killed and wounded for nothing, and insulates itself from understanding the true cost of the wars they so cavalierly cheerlead.

Outsiders treat [the US military] both too reverently and too cavalierly, as if regarding its members as heroes makes up for committing them to unending, unwinnable missions and denying them anything like the political mindshare we give to other major public undertakings, from medical care to public education to environmental rules. The tone and level of public debate on those issues is hardly encouraging. But for democracies, messy debates are less damaging in the long run than letting important functions run on autopilot, as our military essentially does now. A chickenhawk nation is more likely to keep going to war, and to keep losing, than one that wrestles with long-term questions of effectiveness.

In the body of the article he highlights what many in the military will private admit, and is a subject I have written about many times here; the fact that a lot of the military's problems are not caused by its political leadership-its self induced pain that comes from some very flawed policies by the perfumed princes that now inhabit the 3 and 4 star ranks of the services. This is especially true in the area of acquisition, which can't seem to buy anything efficiently and where warfighters are treated as persona non grata. Instead we see people who have been the acquisition community their entire careers ( like a certain director of a major DOD agency a couple of years ago) who could not lead or for that matter purchase anything either.

America’s distance from the military makes the country too willing to go to war, and too callous about the damage warfare inflicts. This distance also means that we spend too much money on the military and we spend it stupidly, thereby shortchanging many of the functions that make the most difference to the welfare of the troops and their success in combat. We buy weapons that have less to do with battlefield realities than with our unending faith that advanced technology will ensure victory, and with the economic interests and political influence of contractors. This leaves us with expensive and delicate high-tech white elephants, while unglamorous but essential tools, from infantry rifles to armored personnel carriers, too often fail our troops.

At this point the letters, LCS, should be coming into your mind. Fallows picks on the F-35 which is a fine target, but in reality all of the services have their own boneheaded procurement decisions and the Navy is no exception. The American people no longer look at their military in an objective vein, recognizing both its successes and flaws-and even worse, personnel within the military seem all too willing to buy into their own hype holding themselves out as supermen who are above the level of the civilians they so ably serve. One has only to go some of the major military blogs and read the swill that passes for a comment section. Besides making you despair about the mental ability of a certain segment of the human race, it proves the incongruity that one of Fallows' readers quite accurately pointed out. They rail with fervor about issues they know nothing about.

I am an [post-Vietnam era] West Point grad. Resigned after 5 years.

Your article is spot on. I often wonder what the rest of the world thinks of us when at each major sporting event, we have fly overs of fighter planes, B-52s, Apache helicopters and legions of troops getting awards at halftime.

I see in my classmates a total divorce from civilian reality. They live in a rarefied world where they are the only ones who are honest, law abiding, and religious.

They totally disdain social welfare programs as they receive health benefits to death, commissary privileges, and pensions. In their view, civilians are not worthy of these programs.

It is a dangerous slope we are on where we worship the troops, have no clue what they do, or why, and as along as we don't need to know, we are happy.

I hope your article stirs discussion. I fear it won't. The coup may in fact be coming.

 The incongruity, and to put it bluntly, hypocrisy,  of those who are vocally speaking out against other people having benefits that improve their lives, while at the same time enjoying some of the best benefits available from any employer is indeed rich. But don't try telling them that-they are special people. Don't you know that? So long as you agree with them, that is. Others of us, who served longer and equally as well but have arrived at different conclusions-get cast out into the outer darkness.

It's a dangerous phenomenon, and the ideas of people like John Nagl who defend the idea of a "Praetorian Guard" are troubling to me. Nagl thinks that because the troops "know what they are signing up for……..They are proud to do it, and in exchange they expect a reasonable living, and pensions and health care if they are hurt or fall sick. The American public is completely willing to let this professional class of volunteers serve where they should, for wise purpose. This gives the president much greater freedom of action to make decisions in the national interest, with troops who will salute sharply and do what needs to be done.”

You should be very afraid when you hear that-at least if you believe in the concept of a democracy that serves the citizens of the country. Too much history shows us where this can lead if we are not careful. Cue Fallows again:

I like and respect Nagl, but I completely disagree. As we’ve seen, public inattention to the military, born of having no direct interest in what happens to it, has allowed both strategic and institutional problems to fester.

“A people untouched (or seemingly untouched) by war are far less likely to care about it,” Andrew Bacevich wrote in 2012. Bacevich himself fought in Vietnam; his son was killed in Iraq. “Persuaded that they have no skin in the game, they will permit the state to do whatever it wishes to do.”

Shall I remind you of the things that "have needed to be done" that have been done in your name, like torture and warrantless wiretapping? Just a couple in a long list of abuses aided and abetted by the members of that "Praetorian Guard". The problem of the civil- military disconnect is real and dangerous.

In the end of the article, Fallows turns to the recommendations in a never before published memo from Gary Hart which is also worth your time to read.  I will comment on those in a post after the first of the new year.

Many of you will not like Fallows term "chicken hawk"-but he's right on the mark in my humble opinion. The United States wasted the first 15 years of the new century going down foreign policy ratholes. And big part of that is because the American people are insulated from the sacrifices and the true costs of the policies they casually cheerlead. Fallows is doing a national service in pointing that out and I applaud him for it.

For the first time in the nation’s history, America has a permanent military establishment large enough to shape our dealings in the world and seriously influence our economy. Yet the Americans in that military, during what Dunlap calls the “maturing years of the volunteer force,” are few enough in number not to seem representative of the country they defend.

“It’s becoming increasingly tribal,” Dunlap says of the at-war force in our chickenhawk nation, “in the sense that more and more people in the military are coming from smaller and smaller groups. It’s become a family tradition, in a way that’s at odds with how we want to think a democracy spreads the burden.”

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Jul 20 2014

Six New States????

Nothing like coming back to the land of the free-home of the stupid. I remain just furious every time I see someone come out in support of this incredibly ridiculous idea.

The plan would split the state of California into six smaller US states — each with its own governor and legislature — as you can see in this map:

Six_Californias

The proposal's chief backer, venture capitalist Timothy Draper, argues that with six states instead of one, government would be more decentralized and responsive. "The existing breadth of industry and various interests in California is untenable," Draper has said. He argues that the state's economy and educational systems have stagnated, partly because of the state's centralized bureaucracy — and he thinks dispensing with this bureaucratic baggage would allow for more innovation in governance. Under his plan, he told Gregory Ferenstein at TechCrunch, "Each new state can start fresh. From a new crowd sourced state flower to a more relevant constitution." Then, these "start-up states," as he calls them, "will be able to compete with each other, for us" — trying to lure businesses and residents.

So this is what I spent 29 years of my life in the service of a great nation, all so some rich douchebag can come along and propose an idea as positively dangerous and destructive as this? NO! I tell you. NO! Both the Constitution and the Civil War settled this-and quite simply, it is in really bad taste to even raise this issue at all. It is sedition pure and simple. "Any region caught leaving the State of California will be shot for desertion. Any one advocating the leaving of California will hung for sedition."

I can't tell you how much this really bothers me-and how much I hate people who dare to speak in its favor. California has a long and proud history-and until it started letting crackpots control the voting process by passing things like Prop-13, and giving credence to assholes like Grover Norquist. It deserves a lot better. The United States has a long and proud history too. And don't kid yourself, if an idea like this were to come to pass, it would destroy the United States. Maybe not right away-but it would start the US down a path it does not want to go down. I could see the US going the way of Europe-or Africa, increasingly smaller political entities, when in reality it needs bigger ones.

God this makes me angry. It really does. The reason the Union is inviolate-is that it forces, in the end, the people to decide,maybe after a lot of stupidity-such as that we are seeing from our teabagger crazed loons, maybe not-that they have to work to solve problems. Taking the lazy way out is not an option. You don't get to break up states! ( yes Texas, this applies to you too, spare the crap about your "special" status. You forfeited that when you took so many military bases.)

The State has problems, yes. The US, has problems too. But the solution is not to break up the Union-or to cede the solutions to a solution similar to the Balkans-and we have seen how well THAT has worked. Both California and the US have straightforward solutions to their problems. They just need to the will to exercise them-and stop letting crazed lunatics control the agenda.

I DID NOT give 29 years of my life in the service of my nation-only to see it kidnapped by rich bastards who care not a whit about it. NO!

Play nice in the comments or I will boot your ass in a heartbeat. I feel very strongly on this issue.

22 responses so far

Jun 22 2014

Why couldn’t the NCAA do this?

Published by under American Society

I was going bash my favorite group of deluded people tonight, namely those who seem to think that after 8 years of effort, almost 5000 American lives wasted, and 5 times that number wounded-we should some how go back into a country that proven itself completely unworthy of the sacrifice the first time. And now they want us to do it again?

But instead I got sidetracked in working on my course work-and watching the World Cup-where, speaking of worthless Arabs- the damn Algerians beat South Korea.Incroyable! Arabes ne méritent pas le moment de la journée, et encore moins une victoire sportive. Vive l'Algérie française !

And as I watched the match-it made me wonder. Why couldn't the NCAA conduct a real college playoff using the World Cup format?

I get that there are big differences between Futbol and US Football. But consider. There are 11 Conferences in NCAA division 1 football. That's 11 Conference champions. Throw in some independent teams and take the 2nd place teams with the best records-you could easily come to 24 teams that could play in a tournament along the lines of the world cup. Create 6 groups of 4 teams each. Start from scratch-arranging the top teams across the six groups. Shorten the college football season so that it ends in the second week of November. Then, the day after Thanksgiving you start the group stage with teams playing every day until they reduce to 12 for the knockout phase. ( Play two games a day (or night) which would be in each group). Once the group stage is done-take a 4 day break then start the playoff's. You could arrange the timing so that it came down to the wire sometime the 3rd week of December.

Groups of States could compete to host the playoffs and it could rotated among geographic regions. An example: Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama could host the NCAA tournament. Between them they have enough quality venues to host good game with lots of fans. It could be a real money maker for them and for the ancillary industries in those states.

It certainly would be better than the current BCS system-and the out of control Bowls. Plus it would allow teams to come head to head to have to earn the title of #1 team in the nation. The college football season could stand to be 9 or 10 games-instead of 11 or 12. ( As could the pro season stand to be shorter). Colleges would still get a homecoming weekend.

I think it would make a lot of sense-and it would get folks fired up about sports like the World Cup does.

Its just a thought. Tell me why it would not work. With 6 groups there would be six days between games in the group stage and once it went to the knock out stage you space the games out to give teams the right amount of rest, so there goes that argument. There would still be plenty of advertising revenue, and it seriously would not disrupt the pro season.

So what I have missed?

 

3 responses so far

May 31 2014

TV worth watching

It took the S.O. and I a long time to get Internet connectivity to the house , besides our cell phones and a stick for the computer. While I was away, it was installed-but our bandwidth is severely limited due to the lack of fiber (and cable) to our little village. So we get a whopping 3MB/s download speed.

So it was with trepidation when she went off to work today, that I tried our Apple TV box. Suprisingly it worked very well with no ( almost no) interruptions for buffering. Sitting down to play with the box and sharing via WiFi with my computer. I can access my entire I-tunes library-so that is a good thing.

In channel surfing though-I stumbled upon the PBS channel, which in our previous abode had been one of my staples. And I started watching, The United States of Secrets. Its a Frontline documentary about the NSA's warrantless surveillance program, through which, the boys and girls in Ft. Meade got to violate every American's rights under the Constitution. Now, it is not suprising that in the days after 9-11, the goverment went seeking broader authorities to violate these rights. What is jarring, and has you saying "WTF?" about every 15 minutes is the ease with which the sworn guardians of those rights just gave them away with no moral convictions. And your second "WTF?" moment comes when you see honest civil servants , who realized the government was screwing the pooch, made attempts to set things right "though the system", only to be stymied at every turn. And, like it or not, a lot of the blame or that lies with Dick Cheney.

Watch for yourself how innocently your government can turn to be as evil as that with which it seeks to protect you from:

 

 

The whole show is 4 hours in two parts-long to be sure-but worth every second of your time. If you are an American who cares about the rights of your fellow citizens under the Constitution, you will be astounded at what it discusses. (Even if you support Bush). The real revelation is not that they usurped the rights under 1st , 4th, and 5th amendments-but the ease at which they brushed aside concerns about those incredibly important issue. The precedents it created are scary.

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Dec 17 2013

A Fox News Christmas……

Stuart Varney- who once was a competent business reporter, before he sold his soul to the devil Roger Ailes, would love this wonderful re-telling of "Its a Wonderful Life".

 

 

The douchebags folks at Newsbusters can't see the humor in this-but trust me, it strikes closer to home than one might think. Trust me, Noel Sheppard, I've spent Christmas with conservatives. You may think they are rooting for George, but only because its a movie. In real life-they root for no one but their own selfishness.

 

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Dec 10 2013

Marriage re-booted

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has a post up on his blog that postulates something I have believed for a long time. Marriage is no longer a relevant institution and needs to be re-vamped or done away with. He does not come out specifically state what I believe-namely that our ideas about monogamy are silly and have been for a long time; nonetheless he gets to the heart of the matter:

If you look at marriage the way an economist might, it is an exchange of services. Every marriage is different, but at its core you have two people who are choosing to provide one basket of services in return for a different basket. Historically, that meant the man provided protection and financial stability while the woman provided children, childcare, and household management. In modern times, the picture is more smeared, but in all cases the parties are getting something while providing something, including the emotional benefits.

Marriage made sense when the world was inefficient. You married a person nearby who could provide most of your important needs while hoping your lesser needs could also somehow be met. It made perfect sense in the pre-Internet age.

But today you can arrange for any of your individual needs via Internet. You can find lovers who don't want a commitment. You can find people willing to trade sex for travel experiences. You can find surrogates to have your baby, or you can adopt from another country. Then you can find a nanny who is willing to work primarily for room and board. You can find an intellectual partner, a business partner, a tennis partner, you name it. The Internet provides all.

For the first time in history it is feasible to create a virtual spouse comprised of a dozen separate relationships. And each would be optimized. Instead of dragging your spouse to the opera or a baseball game, you go with someone who loves your hobbies as much as you do.
 

From a transactional standpoint-marriage is a loser. Certainly the idea that there is one special person out there who somehow "completes" you. Do some women make better companions than others? Certainly. But even the best of friends need a break from one another.

When the exchange of services becomes a one way exchange ( e.g.. the S.O. doing all the taking and doing none of the giving-it can be less than fun.)

One of his commenters goes on to more explicitly point out what all of us who have been through the divorce wringer know already, that the system perpetuates marriage despite is now obvious flaws because women want it so.

Enter the legal system. Laws are designed to help society as a whole. Is the man better off because he's now legally bound to stay and help? Certainly not. He's looking for quantity, and sticking around to help is hurting his numbers.

But Marriage 1.0 wasn't invented to help him – it was invented to help her – and society as a whole. This is why religion pushes it. This is why governments push it. The good of the many over the good of the few, or the one. (Thanks Spock.)

But how does Marriage 1.0 do this? It uses TWO STICKS called Alimony and Child Support. Leave a marriage – and get hit with the Alimony stick. Have kids? Get hit with Child Support stick.

Sensible right?

BUT #1: Marriage 1.0 shouldn't worry about keeping a couple together that has no children. The concept of Alimony has no legal purpose for childless couples. Sorry house-moms and dads! Society just doesn't think you add value by being married.

BUT #2: A man who has sex, whether through Marriage 1.0 -OR- "Wild night of sex", will get hit with Child Support.

Waaaait a minute:
If we abolish Alimony, and Child Support happens even without marriage, then what good is marriage?

(crickets…)

Exactly. There's nothing left. Since children will be protected in either scenario, there is no longer a need to have it.
 

Quo es demonstratum

I'm very much on board with Adams idea that you can have several companions. Maybe one who makes a good roommate ( as the S.O. does)-and a couple of others who solve the passion needs. ( Which I need desperately). "One person was never meant to be your everything. That's why you have friends for playing sports, friends from work, friends for going to the theater, whatever. Expecting one person only to fulfill all your needs is a romantic notion (I blame Harlequin romances) that leads to much unhappiness."

The economics ( and the sexual needs of literally millions of disappointed men) demand it.


 

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