Archive for the 'Politics' Category

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):

last

(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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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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Dec 24 2014

Jim Webb for President?

Published by under Politics

One could only hope. I have been a Webb fan for a long time in both political parties. Not just because he was on the right side of the "women at the Academy" debate in 1979-but because he has criticized well, the rather boneheaded decisions we have made in recent years.

The Washington Post speculates how Webb could make Hillary Clinton's life difficult:

WASHINGTON — THE conventional wisdom is that Hillary Rodham Clinton will be almost impossible to dislodge from the Democratic presidential nomination and that even if she does encounter some hiccups, they will come from her left flank on economic policy. But if Mrs. Clinton runs, she may face a serious and very different threat: her own foreign policy record. While she can pretty much split the difference with any primary opponents on economic policy, the divisions over foreign affairs could be a lot harder to paper over for Mrs. Clinton, who has been tacking to the right on Iran, Syria and Russia in anticipation of Republican assaults during the general election.

This is why it isn’t really the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren who should worry the Clinton camp. It’s the former Virginia senator Jim Webb, a Vietnam War hero, former secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, novelist and opponent of endless wars in the Middle East. Late last month, Mr. Webb formed an exploratory committee. “He’s a very long shot,” Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, told me. “He has to become a serious candidate. At that point she would find him much more complex than dealing with liberals. He’s not a liberal, but a lot of what he says might appeal to liberals. He does not get carried away by humanitarian intervention.”

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Dec 23 2014

It is time for the airing of the grievances.

It is the 23rd of December and we all know what that means. It's time to break out the Festivus pole.

And it is time to break out the airing of the grievances.

 

 

 

And let me tell you, this year I have lots of them. With a lot of people. One reason I am not able to blog much anymore, besides the hectic schedule I am now keeping is that underneath it all, emotionally, I am tired. I am tired of what passes for knowledge in the blogosphere-such as it is-these days.

Take this complete bit of mental stupidity from the Phibian. He is referring to Barak Obama and a completely flawed push poll done by Navy Times

He threw away what we won in IRQ, it slowly back filling that mistake and is doing the same in AFG after a half decade of advertising retreat … so yea.
 

It is a tired old trope, and worse yet, there is no truth to it whatsoever. Phibian continues to defend our misadventures in these two particular hell holes-and this is spite of the rather significant shift in opinion by the folks who were charged with executing both of these mistaken foreign policy adventures. Let's be clear, the war in Iraq was a huge mistake and the only people who "threw any thing away" was the Iraqi people themselves. As I said, any other viewpoint is just plain wrong and should be meet by a cheery, "fuck you". Same is true in Afghanistan.  "Ultimately it's up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems," [President Obama] said, "We can't do it for them."

Now that does not excuse us from the horrendous mistakes we made-most important of which was starting the damn war in the first place.

The view of the Iraq hawks – from liberal interventionists, such as his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, to neo-conservatives, such as his former Republican presidential opponent John McCain – is that the US and its principal allies Britain and Australia bear little or no responsibility for the disaster unfolding across Iraq.

In their eyes, it is Obama's fault for either failing to intervene in the Syrian civil war in 2011-13 or withdrawing US troops from Iraq in late 2011.

It is argued that by failing to authorize air strikes on Damascus and arm the rebellion against Assad's regime during the early stages of Syria's civil war, the administration created a strategic void for the extremist Islamists to exploit ruthlessly. Meanwhile, the "premature" decision to pull US forces out of Baghdad helped scuttle the semblance of sectarian peace that the Americans had brokered following the president Bush's surge of US troops in Baghdad in 2007.

Both accounts are wrong.

Start with the latter. It is true that the end of the American presence in Iraq nearly three years ago helped remove all that was keeping the sectarian rivals in check. But it is also true that the Bush administration in October 2008 pledged to withdraw all US troops by the end of 2011.

Remember, too, that during lengthy negotiations on keeping US forces engaged in Baghdad, the Iraqi government – representing a clear majority of Iraqis (not to mention its sponsors in Tehran) – demanded all remaining Americans would be subject to Iraqi law. This refusal to provide the same kind of guarantees that every nation offers to residual US forces was a condition to which no US government would agree.  

Moreover, the president's withdrawal of US troops from a widely unpopular war by the end of 2011 fulfilled an election mandate. To this day, a clear majority of Americans don't think the original decision to invade was worth it, nor do they support a major intervention today.

Phib, being a surgeaholic, wants desperately to cling to the myth that decision to invade Iraq actually achieved anything worthwhile. Unfortunately, the body of evidence-and,  regrettably the loss of 4, 486 American lives for nothing-tells us otherwise.

Which leads us to his snarky analysis of the poll. It is probably true that by and large the military would prefer a more conservative President. But his summation that the troops loved Bush and hate Obama, is not supported by the facts-or the details of the Navy Times poll. By and large many troops ( and there is a big difference by age and time in service) support his policies , even if they don't support the man. Furthermore, Bush may have talked a good game about how much he loved the troops-but in truth his decisions were bad for the military and no amount of rose colored thinking can change that.  Certainly it is not loving the troops when you squander a lot of lives. The most accurate data we have are on U.S. military casualties: 6,648 service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan to date, a large majority of the deaths occurring under Bush's presidency. So spare me the "Bush cared, Obama doesn't" nonsense. When you send people to die for nothing, you are an uncaring, unfeeling,  son of a bitch. And that's what Bush did overall. He squandered the first 8 years of the 21st century.

What Phibian's post and more importantly the Navy Times poll does do is allow the service members to avoid blaming the real source of most of their problems, the uniformed leadership itself, from the consequences of some pretty bad decisions. If you read the comments on the post-for the most part they back up what I am saying ( as well as make you despair of the humanity of these people)-they can't bring themselves to talk in facts and numbers, just tired old tropes that were proven false a long time ago.

Furthermore, the military tends to grade itself on a curve as LTG Bolger pointed out, holding a higher opinion of it self than is probably warranted. Its a special kind of conceit and stupidity to think that simply, had a Republican been in office, things would be better for the military. Given the current state of the economy and the currently stated economic policies of the current front runners in the GOP it would have been equally as bad. But they would have certainly been deployed more and more of them would be dead. For nothing.

For me, that's the only thing that matters. Obama has brought our senseless participation in Iraq and Afghanistan to an end. That's what I elected him to do and that's what he did. Too fucking bad if Navy Times readers don't like it. And trust me-a lot of people still don't love George Bush either. Thus endeth the rant for today.

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Dec 17 2014

Turns out I was right all along……

I have been saving my comment on the revelations of last week for a while. I wanted to think through my thoughts and also to read other peoples take on them. Probably what is most disturbing out of all the reactions are the statements from the really callous people who actual support the practice of torturing people. Of course Dick Cheney is unrepentant, that’s to be expected. As Jon Stewart quipped: “Dick Cheney is so mean, his own heart ran away from him.”  What’s truly depressing for me though, is to hear the ringing endorsements of the practice from the same people who will lecture me again and again on how the United States of America is “exceptional”.

I went back and looked through some of my old posts and I found one I wrote in June of 2008 right after the Supreme Court ruled that the US had to bring charges against GTMO detainees. At the time, the denizens of the zoo known as Lex’s commenting section went positively berserk at the notion that the United States should somehow have to abide by its own laws, if it is to have any credibility in the world.  I wrote this paragraph.

The contention that the prisoners in GTMO have no rights because they are persons without status, so called “unlawful combatants” is weak. If they have no rights why bother to bring them to GTMO? Shoot them on sight. We don’t do that because we want to show ourselves to the world as being above that type of brute force justice and in so doing prove ourselves better than those we fight-and who attacked the US in 2001. The people coming unglued because the Supreme Court agreed with that premise hang that whole thread on the fact that they are not worthy of legal considerations because they are not fighting on behalf of a state.

And they call me naive? GTMO as currently set up makes for bad law and for bad PR. Given that we claim we have extracted lots of intel from these guys-then we have probably more than enough evidence to convict-the argument that it will expose intelligence is just flawed from the start, we have ways to get that out with selling the farm. The situation at GTMO makes a hell of a publicity problem even with our allies. Even if people are not being tortured there, a significant portion of the world believes they are-and so our moral authority is undermined, even with those who agree with us. Furthermore when exposed to deep scrutiny-most of the claims that valuable intel has been compromised in terrorist trials has later been proven to be a false claim.

I wrote that back in June of 2008. Now, six and one half years later it has become readily apparent how right I was then. And it convinces me even more that I was right to condemn the reactionary positions then and take the side of those who criticize our actions now.

Consider how much damage we have done to ourselves and our arguments that we are of a higher “moral authority”.

In a civilized society, there really would be no debate over this. And before 9/11, there wasn’t. Ever since, this country has slid and then fallen out of the civilized world and out of the core American traditions of humanity and legal warfare. Krauthammer can be seen as emblematic of that slide – someone whose early abhorrence at torture and defense of it only in its mildest and rarest forms has slowly succumbed to a full-fledged defense of a program that violated every rule he said should be in place to protect us from the abyss. This is not surprising. When you start to torture, the sheer evil of what you are doing requires that you believe ever more in its value. You can never admit error, because it would mean you have committed crimes against humanity without even the defense of acquiring any useful intelligence. You are revealed as monsters – and you cannot accept that of yourself or of those you know. And so you insist – with ever-rising certainty – that the torture worked – even though that’s irrelevant as a matter of morality and of law, and even though your own internal documents prove that it didn’t.

And so you become the monster you were supposed to be fighting. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

One final point too. The people who have seized upon the idea that Diane Feinstein was some sort of renegade who had no business publishing the report is itself, a flawed conclusion. The report need to be published for one reason-the US needs to start the process of recognizing its complicity and guilt in the shameful episode in our history.

The torture report is simply the latest and most graphic incarnation of an existential leadership crisis that has eaten through Washington’s moral authority and ability to govern, in the way road salt and rust eat through car mufflers in a Buffalo winter. “America is great because she is good,” wrote Tocqueville back in the day. “If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” We’ve got a lot of explaining to do, not just to the rest of the world but to ourselves. How much longer will we countenance the post-9/11 national security state, which Edward Snowden’s ongoing revelations remind us are constantly mutating into new forms and outrages?

 

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Nov 26 2014

The Hagel mess……

Listen up boys and girls, because contrary to the opinion of some ( and you know you are), I can , in fact, be critical of the President of the United States. And today is a good day to be critical of Mr. Obama, since just two days ago-he made a rather large blunder:

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned under pressure on Monday after President Obama determined that he had to shake up his national security team in the face of escalating conflicts overseas and hawkish Republicans reasserting themselves on Capitol Hill.

It was a striking reversal for a president who chose Mr. Hagel two years ago in part to limit the power of Pentagon officials who had repeatedly pushed for more troops in Afghanistan and a slower drawdown of American forces from Iraq. But in the end, Mr. Hagel’s passivity and lack of support in Mr. Obama’s inner circle proved too much for an administration that found itself back on a war footing.

Aides said Mr. Obama made the decision to remove his defense secretary on Friday after weeks of rising tension over a variety of issues, including what administration officials said were Mr. Hagel’s delays in transferring detainees from the military prison in Guantánamo Bay and a dispute with Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, over Syria policy.

This is to put it as nicely as I can and to paraphrase Joe Biden, is "a big fucking mistake".

Lets start with the fact that, after the mid-terms where your party took a thumping in the mid-terms, it is a huge proclamation of weakness to chuck your SECDEF overboard and head into a new Congress spoiling for now 2, not 1 nasty confirmation fights. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Hagel could not seem to win. He has been both condemned as being too hawkish and not hawkish enough. Which is it? Plus how about acknowledging that protracted wars in the Middle East are an express ticket to nowhere.

 He was never a good fit as defense secretary, a fact that White House officials have belatedly discovered.But if those White House aides really want to know who to blame for recent stumbles in national security, they should look in the mirror. This administration's problems begin with its packing the White House staff with Hill rats and political hacks-one of the least intellectually diverse groups ever to lead the executive branch. They think the problem is what they say, not what they do. They are wrong. 

Meantime, there is going also to be a new head of the House Armed Services Committee. This doesn't matter. Congress has failed to ask serious questions about defense for the last 15 years or so. So reporters writing about the two Armed Services committees, please feel free to use your time more wisely. Here is a link for that.

 

Firing Hagel is not a solution, it is a symptom of a bigger problem-namely an inability to :1) communicate a strategy and get people behind it and 2) understand that the biggest threats to the US are not in the Middle East or from ISIS, they are from the guys who spent the last years sitting out the conflicts in the Middle East and getting stronger in the meantime. That's right. The Bear and the Dragon are still not our friends. The Grey Hair did not recognize it, and I am afraid the current White House does not either. And its just not smart not to have a relief lined up right away. Even when Rumsfeld went away-they already had Gates on tap. Doubly stupid.  Not that I am a fan of Flournoy because I am not. Mainly because she never served in uniform and that is an automatic disqualification as far as I am concerned.  It is troubling that the President has some good former flags that could be tapped. ( Stavirdis or Mattis come to mind)-but then we get back to that problem of too much stuff not being delegated down to Cabinet heads.

And thus we get this:

 

I have already pointed out how President Barack Obama's decision to replace Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel differs from the superficially similar decision by President George W. Bush to replace Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2006: Bush coupled the personnel shift with a thoroughgoing self-assessment and a resulting strategic shift. Bush's move was not just a change in personalities but a change in direction. (Bush also made other crucial personnel changes, most notably selecting General David Petraeus to lead the Iraq war effort, whereas the Obama administration has gone to some lengths to emphasize that there will be no other personnel changes on the national security team.)

Yet Obama's current personnel shuffle is different in another way that could prove almost as consequential: evidently President Obama fired Hagel without having a replacement lined up. When President Bush announced Rumsfeld's departure, he announced the nomination of Bob Gates at the same time. Obama has not yet named the replacement, and two of the most obvious front-runners, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy and Sen. Jack Reed, have already pulled their names out of contention. The failure to nominate someone is not necessarily proof that the talent pool is shallow, but it is proof that the removal of Hagel was poorly planned and not well coordinated.

 

This a self created mess and it is a bad way to start 2015. GRRRRR!

One response so far

Nov 03 2014

Again it comes down to how many bother to show up

Published by under Hypocrites,Politics

Tomorrow is election day in the United States. Since I will be on my 5 year pilgrimage to the sacred soil in Charleston, I have already submitted my ballot via absentee. Fat lot of good it will do me, since my Senator is running unopposed ( thank you Citizens United and the inability of the state to have a two party system anymore). My worthless excuse for a Congressman is going to win in a walk thanks to his continuous sucking up to the demented folks in the tea party and and the governor has ensured that only he will be the guy to vote for in the election. This is what passes for constitutional governance in parts of the South today.  ( Meanwhile in New York, the GOP incumbent is under indictment, but is expected to win anyway).

Regardless,  be sure to vote. If nothing else it gives you a right to bitch.

By all odds the GOP will take control of the Senate which means the prediction I made way back in April of this year will start coming true. it ought to be a fun time to be one of the 10-15% of American citizenry that actually is sane and understands that the world we live in is changing. Sadly most of us understood too that the country was killing itself slowly a long time ago and began exploring other options.

But, for those of you stuck in the whining states of America next year ( as I may in fact be as well-at least for a couple of years) here is preview of the fun and games ahead:

In Kansas recently, Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who’s in a tough race for reelection, made a statement that left me puzzled. “A vote for me is a vote to change the Senate back to a Republican majority, and we’ll get things done,” he said. “And it means a stop to the Obama agenda.”

Wait a minute, I thought. Which is it—ending the status quo of Washington gridlock? Or ratcheting up the gridlock by obstructing President Obama? You can't "get things done" in Washington without the president's signature, and no matter what happens in this year's elections, he's not going anywhere for another two years.

Yet these two seemingly contradictory messages are at the heart of Republican Senate campaigns across the country. I’ve heard them from candidate after candidate. And the paradox behind them gets to the question political watchers are increasingly pondering: If, as seems likely, Republicans take the Senate, what then? Will the GOP see its takeover as a mandate for ever more extreme partisanship? Or will the party suddenly turn conciliatory, ushering in a new age of progress? A new Republican Senate majority will put the party at a crossroads as it tries to reconcile these two competing promises.

 

 

I'm a total pessimist-I expect a war of vetoes and override battles to ensue and nothing will get done in 2015. I fully expect to be victimized by another government shut down, and my stocks to take a beating when we default on bond obligations.  There are those who think things may be different, I think they are fools:

But with control of both houses of Congress, Republicans would be on the hook for Congress’s actions. They alone would get the blame if Congress remained dysfunctional—and they alone could claim credit if Congress actually passed bills with popular support. If Republicans passed such moderate, constructive legislation, Obama would be hard pressed to simply veto everything they put on his desk.

And of course we can never underestimate the desire to go "legacy shopping" on the part of Obama. " What scares me also is what Obama will agree to".

At least in the abstract, however, there are a number of bills a Republican majority could pass that Obama would agree to sign. Obama—the real Obama, not the left-wing warrior of conservative fever dreams—loves the idea of bipartisanship and has been frustrated by a GOP he sees as unwilling to come to the table. He has agreed in principle, in the past, to ideas like the grand bargain, which his base loathes. Liberals also suspect Obama is willing to allow the Keystone pipeline, a decision on which he has delayed in the face of intense pressure from environmentalists. Most liberals contemplating a GOP Senate majority have focused their preemptive ire on the image of a vengeful McConnell threatening more brinksmanship and shutdowns. But perhaps it’s the dealmaking McConnell they should fear more.

Some, in fact, are already worried about this. I recently asked a top Democratic strategist why he worried about a Republican Senate takeover when, after all, McConnell would still need Democratic votes to pass legislation and Obama could still block bills with a veto. “What scares me the most,” he said, “is what Obama will agree to."

In the meantime, your country will fall further and further behind in global competition that the rising multi-polar world will create.

This is your democracy America, the one your own stupidity created.

3 responses so far

Jun 12 2014

The real winner on Tuesday night.

Apathy, hypocrisy, laziness, sloth, selfishness, and greed. They are all still hung over from celebrating their victory on Tuesday night.

 Another election season in the United States has come and gone. This previous Tuesday, a series of primaries in the most reactionary,   southern states produced a variety of results. It is my purpose today, to set the rest some of the most ridiculous commentary from the thugs of the blogosphere. They of the “Tut tut-I am so superior” set, think they can take the opportunity to lecture the rest of us on how we don’t get it, along with the usual notes about limited government is better, and power should be returned to the states. There will be a cite of James Madison to prove this-even though when you actually research it, Mr. Madison had no use for any of their philosophy.

Let us start with the expected result. Lindsey Graham trounced 6 Teabag loons all of whom thought that it somehow made sense for South Carolina to jettison a Senator with a great deal of seniority, because they don’t think he is crazy enough. Of course this is South Carolina, a state that has not been in the mainstream of American thought since before 1861. The GOP voters there actually showed some sense by voting for Graham-and against my fellow wearer of the ring sending her packing as she so richly deserved.

Of course Nancy Mace was never in it to win-rather it was build a campaign organization, test the waters to see how many Citadel alumni really remember the true circumstances of her being the “first” woman to graduate the Citadel, and build contacts for a her real ambition:  to run for a Congressional seat in some back water district in Georgia or South Carolina where the deluded Teabag folks she so casually allied herself with reside.

Moving on, the shocker of the night was, of course, the loss of Eric Cantor in the Virginia 7th district. Now some of the usual hacks are out proclaiming how this proves the public is fed up with Washington ways somehow this shows that Cantor was out of touch with the American people. If so, then its hard to see how the guy that beat him is much of an improvement. David Brat is hardly a worthy person to be elected to a school board-much less to the United States Congress.  Despite his assertions that his victory was a “gift from God”, trust me I can assure that God had nothing to do with it. ( And if he did, it just shows how much God really hates the United States.).

I mean really, its not like Eric Cantor was some sort of beacon of moderation in American politics. By tossing him out the voters in Virginia basically said that, “we don’t really care about being able to accomplish anything, we just want someone who will reaffirm our intrinsic selfishness and stupidity. Phib says it is because Cantor became to aligned with “Washington”. I say, that is utter and complete nonsense.

You know why Cantor lost? Dollars and lazy, stupid, American voting habits. Let’s start with the latter first.

The 7th district in Virginia has 758,000 people in it. In 2012 about 381,000 of them voted, 223,000 of them voting for Cantor. (And probably for the Mittster too, who after all represents the same kind of elitism that both Cantor and Brat are examples of). Now fast forward to 2014. Only about 65000 people, out of a population over 10 times that number voted. And only 36000 voted for this religious , Ayn Rand loving whack job. That is barely 5% of the district’s population and certainly less than 10% of the districts total GOP registered population.

Now in today’s America, where 27% percent of the voting age population would vote for Satan if he were to actively campaign against Obama-aided and abetted by a set of media organizations that prey on the weak minded. (Glenn Beck supported Brat after all) it probably is not that hard to get 36000 motivated idiots    voters to get out and vote for a certified whack job.

The second set of numbers is the dollars that media rabble rousers spent to make sure the faithful voted against their own self interest. Worthless people like Hugh Hewitt, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and the ever hate able Mark Levin. Drudge of course was right there-egging on its completely clueless readership.  The Teabag front group , Americans for Prosperity gave Mark Levin ( he really needs to be run over by a bus) 800,000 dollars to get the word out. And Brat himself appears to to owe his job to Cato Institute president John Allison.

Dave Brat, the guy who won yesterday, may have had a lower profile than Cantor, but as Salon's Jim Newell pointed out, prominent members of the right-wing demagogue community pulled out all the stops for Brat:
 

… it was hard not to notice this morning that Drudge, in the prime upper-left real estate of his site, had listed a full 14 links regarding immigration and a supposed impending push for "amnesty" among the House Republican leadership….

What gives on this sleepy Tuesday? …

Hmmm … maybe something about Tuesday … primary season … it's a Tuesday during primary season … Ohhhhhhhh, we get it: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's primary is today!

… The [Cantor-Brat] race hasn't gotten that much national media coverage, but it’s sure grabbed the attention of the prominent right-wingers who devote their entire lives to stopping comprehensive immigration reform. There's Drudge, of course. And Ann Coulter. And radio/TV personality Laura Ingraham, who recently suggested that the United States should have traded Eric Cantor to the Taliban for Bowe Bergdahl. And the writings and tweets of Mickey Kaus, now of the Daily Caller, have been indistinguishable from those of a Brat staffer in recent months.

Glenn Beck also backed Brat.
 

Taken together it paints a much different set of reasons for Cantors defeat. Lazy Americans, most of whom are too stupid to understand the seriousness of the issues at play, who can’t be bothered to get out and fulfill their one and only civic duty, combined with a relentless , agenda driven propaganda machine epitomized by my least favorite Canadian , Mark Steyn, and conspired to create a set of circumstances that have foisted this rancid sack of human excrement, David Brat,  on the government of the United States.

This is how low your democracy has fallen America.  This is what passes for “principles”  in the brave new world of our Gaultian overlords.

A note of clarification: This is not to debate, by the way, Phib's assertion that there are people who spend too many tours in DC. He's clearly right about that. But that's a simplistic explanation at its heart.  We have to ask ourselves why that is-a Navy gets what it rewards. And a Congress gets what it legislates. The Congress, your Congress,  has essentially been useless for the last 6 years, primarily, "[because] the primary bona fides for Republican members of the House of Representatives is how thoroughly you can refuse to do the job of governing, especially in the area of immigration, but also as regards the critical elements of the national economy. " The Navy can fix its DC problem anytime it wants to by setting board precepts that reward operational excellence. Congress could fix a lot of the Navy's problems by voting for straightforward revenue increases and supporting the effort to leave the wars behind us.

However, its not DC-or the fact that there are a lot of foreigners who want to live the American dream working there-that are at the heart of the American problem of today, nor is it a reason Cantor lost. The real problem dear Brutus is our American selves-and how lazy and stupid our populace chooses to be. Aided and abetted by some really evil people ( yes that's you Messer's Steyn and Hanson) who prey on that selfishness, that laziness and overall lack of comprehension-the results are not surprising.

5 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.

2 responses so far

Apr 08 2014

Catching up

What with the move and all there has been a lot going on. The travails of getting ready for the move kept me from commenting on some of the really stupid things that have happened in the last month. So this will be a post aimed at catching up-if only just for a bit.

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Starting with the most recent abomination is the US Supreme Court’s hideous ruling the case of McCutcheon vs FEC.  Not content to f*ck up American politics by allowing Citizens United, Justice Roberts decides to compound the damage. James Fallows had a couple of pretty good articles pointing out just how cynical Roberts’ position is:

Humility. Modesty. Restraint. Deference to precedent. "We're just calling balls and strikes."

That guy sounded so great. Really, watch this minute-long video and think what it would be like to have a person like that on the bench.

Instead we have a chief justice who:

?In the "Obamacare" ruling two years ago, apparently decided that the institutional risk to the Court of blatantly coming across as just another branch of party politics outweighed the objections implicit in his prior rulings to the healthcare plan. So he found a way not to overturn the main legislative accomplishment of a president's first term, with all the hubbub that would ensue. As it happens, I was glad that the politics added up that way for him. But …

?In this week's McCutcheon ruling, following Citizens United, he made up out of nowhere his own interpretation of how electoral politics and favor-trading works—trumping that of Congress, composed 100 percent of elected members. Plus he invented his own post-Founders, no-input-from-Congress, precedent-be-damned theory of what "corruption" means. As it happens, I disagree with the results of this one. But the main point is that in their activist political sensibility neither this judgment nor the Obamacare one had the slightest connection to the person who so self-effacingly presented himself for confirmation nine years ago.

Fallows correctly points out that Roberts is dangerous for two reasons, 1) he is overtly partisan and has infected his judicial understanding with that partisanship and 2) he will be on the Court for a long time to come. “The man who, at age 50, presented himself for lifetime tenure as chief justice said that he conceived of his role as a minimalist "balls and strikes" umpire. No one who has observed him in office could plausibly describe him that way. He has been as precedent-disregarding as they come. So was he naive in saying what he did nine years ago? Or was he cynical? To me those seem to be the options.”

So. To review-money is not speech, corporations are not people,  my friend.

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About the MH370 situation I have nothing of substance to add. Clearly an enormous tragedy has occurred-and it was compounded by the incompetence of the Malaysian government.  It will be interesting to see if they actually find anything like the “black box”.

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And finally I am astounded the by the hi tech lynching of Brendan Eich. Who was CEO of Mozilla which creates the Firefox browser. The reason he was forced out? Because he gave money back in 2008 to support proposition 8 in California.

As I have noted before-this business of firing people for Facebook and Twitter postings is getting out of hand. It is ludicrous to suggest that Eich should have been fired over this-and all of the lame justifications that as CEO he should be held to a “higher standard” get no sympathy from me. He is not just a CEO he is also a private citizen. And he has a right to donate to whatever causes he wants.

Eich's abrupt departure has stirred the debate over the fairness of forcing out a highly qualified technology executive over his personal views and a single campaign contribution six years ago. And it raises questions about how far corporate leaders are allowed to go in expressing their political views.

Some are also questioning whether the episode undercuts the well-groomed image of Silicon Valley as a marketplace of ideas and diversity of thought, and whether, in this case, the tech world surrendered to political correctness enforced through a public shaming on social media.

OkCupid never demanded Eich resign, and after discussing the issue with Mozilla, Yagun ended the call for a Firefox boycott Wednesday afternoon.

In retrospect, however, Yagun said he wished he had framed the Firefox boycott in a slightly different light.

"I would have loved to have engaged in a debate over what happens when freedoms collide," Yagun said. "We have freedom of speech, which I would defend to the end. And we have what I believe is a fundamental liberty of people to marry and love whoever they want. We took a stand that matters to us personally and as a business — and I think the world will be a better place because of it."

Eich's departure didn't end the controversy, it just changed it.

 This is a bad thing for a whole lot of reasons and it will come back to bite those who organized this excursion into political correctness in the ass. Andrew Sullivan, who I tend to disagree with most of the time is on the right side here when he warns that this will have unintended consequences:

"You want to squander the real gains we have made by argument and engagement by becoming just as intolerant of others' views as the Christians?," he asked. "You've just found a great way to do this. It's a bad, self-inflicted blow. And all of us will come to regret it."

 

Furthermore, it creates a double standard. Brendan Eich was regarded as someone whose political beliefs and activities rendered him unsuitable for his job. In California, if an employer had fired an employee for these reasons, he would be breaking the law. Now some folks try to hold up that this is a market based decision. If that’s the case, then market is way too sensitive.

Mozilla could have let this pass-and it probably would have passed by in a few days. But now its actually going to hurt Firefox I think in the long run.  The market is much more elastic than that.

And before the inevitable Chick-Fil –A reference is made. Remember, there are some really big differences, not the least of which is that Chick-Fil-A was talking about actually not hiring people who are gay.

Eich begged for mercy; he asked to be given a fair shot to prove he wasn’t David Duke; he directly interacted with those he had hurt. He expressed sorrow. He had not the slightest blemish in his professional record. He had invented JavaScript. He was a hero. He pledged to do all he could to make amends. But none of this is ever enough for Inquisitions – and it wasn’t enough in this case. His mind and conscience were the problem. He had to change them or leave.

A civil rights movement without toleration is not a civil rights movement; it is a cultural campaign to expunge and destroy its opponents. A moral movement without mercy is not moral; it is, when push comes to shove, cruel.

 

4 responses so far

Feb 10 2014

Why the Navy is horribly wrong.

Published by under Politics

This has always been a stupid idea on the part of the US Navy. I experienced it in 1975-when-in order to win a scholarship I had to Major in Mathematics, a field of study I hated, so as to become a Naval Officer. The only benefit therein to doing so was that, it allowed me to study History and Political Science; then my true love-as a Minor. Thus I was allowed to experience Liberal Larry's Constitutional Law class-one of the highlights of my educational career.

At the Naval Academy, the academic program is focused especially on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), in order to meet the current and future highly technical needs of the Navy. Graduates who are proficient in scientific inquiry, logical reasoning and problem solving will provide an officer corps ready to lead in each warfare community of the Navy and Marine Corps.

 

F*cking blow me!  As a future Naval Officer, STEM classes were required. I had to take Physics, Chemistry, E&M Theory ( and no, that does not mean erotic and masturbation theory). All of those classes sucked and I exited with the requisite "C" and or "B" in these courses. I did however enjoy the wonders of History of Western Civilization, Major British Writers and as I mentioned before Constitutional Law. Not to mention learning the basics of a language now that I use ever day going to work. ( God rest your soul, Col Gundel).

The Navy does a fine job teaching the technical details. They were able to teach me radar, were they not? So much so that I could teach to other people? But it did a lousy job of helping me to understand why I was being asked to risk getting killed off the catapult at night in the North Atlantic. Or in the Persian Gulf.  Or any one of a 100 other places.

They certainly did not teach me about the "why's" o being asked to make such a sacrifice-all they were concerned about was how to actually do it. And nothing in their educational program prepared me for the idea of having to be shoved off to nothing at all of value, solely to fill an Army requirement in such hell holes as Iraq and Afghanistan.

So here is a  little reminder of what it is really all about. Fans of Ross Douthat should take note.

 

The purpose of life is not to work till you die-it is to savor the adventure of being in a sensual, physical, beautiful world.

 

3 responses so far

Aug 28 2013

She needs more than just a ring on her finger.

A lot of Alumni from my alma mater are going all out to convince other graduates of a certain distinguished military college-that one should support the primary efforts of Nancy Mace to unseat Senator Lindsey Graham in 2014. Now I am not a South Carolina resident, so in theory I have no dog in the fight, but at the same time I am interested in the race-for what it says about the sad state of Republican politics in the United States today.

Nancy Mace has the distinguishing feature of being the first female graduate of the Citadel, a feat obtained by being a transfer student and therefore not having to complete a full four years at the fortress of learning. ( to be fair she did complete a full plebe year as did many other women). Her association with the college is neither here nor there in my humble opinion-but it is important to use it as a backdrop to provide some context on why her candidacy is a really bad idea.

Contrary to what some Alumni believe-Citadel graduates can back the wrong side politically sometimes and have. It is for this reason and not the reason of being a graduate-that smart thinking South Carolinians should spurn her candidacy.

First of all, the idea of replacing a sitting Senator, who by all accounts, has served the State of South Carolina well and is a problem solver,  is pretty stupid. Its generally never a good idea to trade someone of that amount of seniority in the Senate for an inexperienced new comer. Furthermore, Graham-while not my favorite Senator by any stretch of the imagination-is a part of a dying breed in the Republican party. A moderate Republican who votes issues on their merits-not some screwed up conservative ideology. He's criticized the Tea Party-deservedly so-which in the screwy world of tea loving aficionados is tantamount to an unforgivable sin. Add to that the fact that he has worked to compromise on a red button issue such as immigration. ( He's right on that issue by the way-and no amount of head in the sand whining by Americanus Teabaggerus is going to change that).

Which leads us back to Ms Mace. To mount this challenge, she is allying herself with some very unsavory people. People who really don't care about her per se-but do care about destroying what is left of the Republican party. Their goal is change it over from Ronald Reagan's "big tent" to the brain dead organization we have today, producing such paragons of national leadership such as Paul "Zombie Eyed Granny Starver" Ryan, Eric Cantor, Aqua Buddha Rand Paul as well as the dumbest Congressman on earth ( a title formerly held by the poster child, but he got beat) Louie Gohmert.Freeeeeedoooooommmmmmm!

Taking on an established candidate like Graham is a big effort, and Ms Mace is cozying up to the folks who have all the dollars and the bad ideas. She has boarded the Tea Party Express train to hell-no local stops-even getting kind wordsfrom  that wise old man Glenn Beck. Yea-there's an endorsement for you.

She even attended a "Faith and Freedom" event held by Congressman Jeff Duncan, who's still a fking birther.

She is being backed by PAC's that are led by Jim DeMint as well as others led by equally whacked out people.

These people are destroying the Republican party, and in choosing to ally herself with Tea Party cause, Ms Mace gives lie to her statement that she is running to bring sanity back to Washington. The people supporting her and the tea party are anything but sane.

When you associate with scum-a lot of it sticks to your clothes. And the smell takes a long time to wash out.

Personally I think this is all part of carefully orchestrated Public Relations strategy on her part. She knows she will lose to Graham-and if it were any normal state she would never have even attempted such a candidacy. This is South Carolina however-the same state that elected such bastions of intellectual integrity as Nikki Haley. So by running and making noise now-she can establish a name for herself, scare Graham and force him to veer to the right into areas he has no business going into, and build up a war chest for her real aim, some Congressional seat in South Carolina or Georgia.

I find that more than a bit disturbing and for that reason, not her college diploma, she is undeserving of any support from any alumni.

 

 

9 responses so far

Jul 12 2013

Quotable

I love the writing of Charles Pierce.

First of all,he is not afraid of all the conservative concern trolls who get all bent out of shape when one calls one of the Representatives from Wisconisn , the "zombie eyed granny starver" he truly is. Nor does he fall apart when they whine about the supposed injustice on calling them out on their selfishness and cruelty. You know who you are trolls-please go fuck yourselves.

But the other reason I like him is he has a way with the words. This is sheer prosaic beauty:

Our Congress is now a cut-rate circus with nothing but eunuchs as performers. Some of these people, like Stutzman and his colleagues in the flying-monkey caucus, become eunuchs by choice. Some of them, like John Boehner, are drafted into the position. Their job is to be forcibly impotent so that the government itself becomes forcibly impotent. They are proud of what they do. They consider it a higher calling to public service that they decline to serve the public. They sing a soprano dirge for democracy in Jesus's name, amen.

Or this:

Do we need to mention that Mr. Stutzman is a member of the Class of '10, when the country decided with malice aforethought to elect the worst Congress in the history of the Republic? Do we need to mention that this bill has no chance of passing the Senate, or of being signed by the president, or of ever becoming law in this country? Of course, we don't. That isn't what this brutal act of maladministration was about. That isn't what this House is about any more. We've made jokes about how Eric Cantor has Boehner's balls buried in a Mason jar in his backyard. As far as governing the country goes, the rest of the House is more along the lines of Origen of Alexandria who, when he found himself tempted by the sins of the flesh, seized a knife and, as Flann O'Brien's vision of St, Augustine puts it, deprived himself in one swipe of his personality. Whenever the House majority feels itself tempted by the sin of actually governing, out comes the blade and all of them sing soprano harmonies.

 

They do this to demonstrate that government cannot work. They do this so that they can go home and talk at all the town halls and bean suppers to audiences choking on the venom that pours out of their radios and off their television screens about how government doesn't work, and how they stood tall against it, and against Those People who don't want to work for a living. (When Stutzman says he's a "fourth-generation farmer" who doesn't want the Farm Bill to be a "welfare bill," the folks back in LaGrange County don't need an Enigma machine to decode what he's saying.) They do this out of the bent notion, central to their party's presidential campaign last fall, that anyone on any kind of government assistance is less entitled to the benefits of the political commonwealth. And they all believe that; the only difference between Paul Ryan and Marlin Stutzman is that Ryan has been a nuisance for a longer period of time. That the country rose up and rejected that notion in a thundering manner is irrelevant. What does the country matter in the Third Congressional District of Indiana? There, they believe government cannot work, and they elect Marlin Stutzman to the Congress to demonstrate to the world that it cannot.


As James Fallows reminds this-it would be funny if it were not entirely true. Unfortunately it is, so it is nothing short of terrifying and crazy.

 

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May 17 2013

Summing it up very well…..

Published by under Bush Buffoonery,Politics

John Cole has a great post up summing up the way those of us who used to be in the GOP camp have been abandoned completly by the party we grew up with. I liked it so much I wanted to quote his statement of belief right here. It is excellent.

What’s on my mind, Facebook? I will tell you. For decades I was a Republican, but they lost their shit, and I left the party in 2005. I was always pro gay rights and pro-choice and anti death penalty as a Republican, but they decided I did not belong, so I left.

And now, I am happy to say I am a proud liberal who will stand up to right-wing douchebags who have decided that 2/3 of America doesn’t deserve the right to exist.

I support gay rights and the ability for gay people to marry.

I am pro-choice. Not pro-abortion, but pro-choice.

I am against the death penalty. This used to be a libertarian position, but they are so corrupted by right wing money that they no longer are worried about the state executing the citizenry. Because, you know, freedom.

I think marijuana should be legal and taxed. Obviously, alcoholics like Orange John Boehner think this is crazy as he leads the House with a BAC of .20 every day.

I think religion can be a good thing, but I think religious people should respect that many people do not share their faith nor need lists of commandments to understand they shouldn’t fuck their neighbor’s wife or murder or steal. Some of us kinda figured that shit out on our own.

I don’t think video games or movies make people kill people.

I do think easy access to guns makes it really easy to kill people.

I think gay people should be able to adopt. In fact, I think we should stop calling them gay people and just call them, well, people.

I don’t think taxes are a punishment. I think they are what gives us roads and part of a great societal pact; an obligation for all of us to fulfill so we can be so lucky to live in this country.

I don’t think people who are poor are evil, stupid, or lazy. I just think they have no money and could use some help from me.

I think that this world is basically lacking in human compassion and empathy, and that bothers me. “I got mine” seems to be a refrain that is repeated too often.

I could go on, but these are the basics.

11 responses so far

Mar 05 2013

Let the whining continue…….

Mitt Romney seems to be having trouble adjusting to life as a worthless piece of shit an also ran.

First, here's Willard, reminding us again that he only lost because he wouldn't give the Poors all the nice things, like the things he gave all of us here in Massachusetts, when he was pretending that he wasn't such a privileged, entitled dick.

The president had the power of incumbency. ObamaCare was very attractive, particularly to those without health insurance. And they came out in large numbers to vote. So that was part of a successful campaign.

You bet. It was going to be the part of your successful 2008 campaign, too, until the entire Republican party decided that it would rather inject itself with Ebola than spend eight years listening to you.


"It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done," Romney told Fox News in an interview broadcast on Sunday, his first since losing to President Barack Obama last November."

Yeah…..sure….asshole-whatever helps you sleep at night in your gold covered bed.

Take it away, Charles Pierce:  "Somebody's still got the baaaaad butt-sting. The country decided you were a walking lump of cream cheese that it wouldn't sit next to on the last cattle car to Hell. Go away again now."

Nonetheless it always humorous to watch Rmoney try to pull off the common touch.:

The one thing I can say for absolute certainty, after watching Willard Romney try to impersonate a carbon-based life-form for over a year, is that "people" got as good a look at who he really is as they have of any candidate in the past 20 years. His problem was that he couldn't even fake being a fake well enough. I look forward to many more appearances from America's Fun Couple in the weeks and months to come, as they keep digging that hole with both hands.



Rmoney arriving for his Fox interview.

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