May 22 2012

The silent embrace of evil

 

"All that is necessary for the triumph of Evil is that good men do nothing."
 
One of the most disturbing trends among what passes for conservative intelligentsia these days-is their embrace of writers as “brave intellectuals” who bear absolutely no resemblance to what a really brilliant man looks like. Whenever I hear someone quote Mark Steyn-I know two things right away. The person quoting him has a really shallow and superficial understanding of the issues involved and second, the article that is quoted from will be the complete opposite of the real truth. ( There will be no links to Mr. Steyn-I don't link to idiots).
 
 And so it is with one of Steyn’s latest missives-a repeat performance by him in embracing one of the truly evil forces that has risen up in our times.  In a recent column in the amalgamation of bad writing that is the National Review these days-Steyn has decided to throw his lot in with Geert Wilders. Wilders for those who don’t know is an opportunist, leader of the ultra right wing Freedom Party in the Netherlands, who has taken extreme positions on immigration and the presence of Muslims in the Netherlands. Steyn-being the incredibly poor judge of character that he is would have you believe that Mr. Wilders is some sort of victim. He is nothing of the kind.
 
Far right extremist parties are on the rise in Europe these days doing what far right extremists has done throughout the previous century: Offer no solutions to problems, but make damn sure you know who is to blame for it. Mr Wilders’s party is only one of many anti-immigrant and anti-Islam groups that are gaining ground in northern European countries previously known for their liberal social attitudes.  To hear Steyn tell it-the problem is all the Muslims fault-and the fault of the Dutch for ever letting them in in the first place. Steyn believes that Wilders is simply a champion for freedom-he’s not. He’s just a man capitalizing on the fears of his countrymen, solely for his own personal gain.  The issue-that Steyn ignores is that at its heart, Wilders message is completely at odds with that of a nation who prides itself on a freedom of religion. That Islam has it flaws-well that is not anything new. For that matter evangelical Christianity has its flaws too.
 
But the fundamental issue that Wilders and by extension Steyn,  ignores, is that Wilders cannot undo the past. The Muslims are in the Netherlands-and unless Wilders can find a way to turn back the hands of time they are staying. They are not going anywhere. The challenge is to integrate them into Dutch society. To expose violent Islamist ideology is one thing, very necessary; to attack Islam and the Koran is dangerous stupidity that weakens the civilization Mr Wilders claims to defend. Plus from where I sit-it’s a slippery slope to single out one particular religion. How easy would it be for him to substitute “Judaism” for the word “Islam”.  Steyn claims Wilders does not do that-I submit to you Steyn lost the ability to make the distinction a long time ago.
 
Now Steyn believes that Islam is different because its an ideology. I don’t understand the distinction-all religions are ideology-Christianity as practiced by some of its more strident members is equally an ideology, one that contributes little to American or European society as a whole. The point remains that if a nation is committed to a protection of free speech and religion-then it has to take the high ground, and deal with the issues in a far more adult manner than Wilders seems capable of. For Steyn to defend Wilders is the height of hypocrisy. I guess Steyn is completely incable of seeing the irony, if not hypocrisy, for Wilders to presenting himself as a champion of free speech given that he has openly called for banning the Koran.
 
Now don't get me wrong-I'm no fan of Islam. And I don't like the way they treat women and I hate seeing hijabs and all the other clothing accouterments.  But its more than a little necessary to guard against that rage spilling into something deeper and more dangerous. On the whole, in countries that value individual rights, its no different than banning other pieces of religious apparel, like say, the Yarmulke. Most reasonable people would agree there is no ingrained right to do that.
 
What Steyn continues to ignore,  is that free speech is not consequence free speech.  Wilders has brought much of his trouble on himself by crossing the line from criticizing the radical elements within Islam to insulting one of the world's largest faiths. If Mr. Wilders were to confine his remarks to those Muslims who do harm freedom of speech by disobeying Dutch law- using violence against critics and apostates, he would have a valid point. Mr. Wilders, however, refuses to make such fine distinctions. Steyn, being the useless sleazeball that he is-appears also incapable of making the distinction. It’s an important one-and Steyn’s refusal to recognize it is what makes him the worthless piece of shit the hack writer that he is, and has always been.

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Mar 31 2012

A serious rant

Only one day left in the month to get in a post on March Madness. Not basketball, but the Madness known as Women's History month. Yes, Yes, that oh so special time of the year when we get to celebrate the history that women want us to know about, while white washing the details they would rather just not see printed in the paper. Which is designed to be translated into its real meaning:

“Setting the bar for historical achievement so low-than any average everyday achievement for either a man or a woman becomes ‘historic’ if it is done by a woman”

You can quote me on that if you wish.

Oh and I guess after recent experience-we should get the usual disclaimers out the way first. I don't give a rat's ass if your daughter is a Naval Aviator, an engineer, CEO of a  multi-billion dollar firm, or for that matter the first woman to eventually walk on the moon. Nor do I care if your husband is supportive of what you want to do. These are my feelings and thoughts, these are issues that need to be discussed-not swept under the rug, and I'll write about them. If you think that gives you a carte blanche to go after me-I've got a message for you.

 

So, as is my custom in March- I intend to use this little missive to write about something that got me really peeved the moment I read it and heard it.The source of my anger? This little headline in Navy Times:

Getting Personal: Naval Air Forces plans character-building workshops.

(It appears the article is behind Navy Times firewall so I can't send you a link-but the article is on Page 18 of the April 02, 2012 issue.)

Starting this spring the Navy's  air wings, squadrons, and aircraft carriers will take a moment to stop and delve into some real life, but awkward scenarios in a move the top commander hopes will tamp down personal misconduct and misbehavior.

Naval Air Forces will roll out its new "Character and Integrity" program, developed by a contracted consultant and organized in the "train the trainer" format. Each training workshop will provide group discussions and include a video message from VADM Allen Myers.

" The real intent is to improve decision making skills  and give our people interventional strategies so that we do not adversely impact our readiness as war fighters because of character- related and integrity -related incidents, " said Cmdr Pauline Storum, a Naval Air Forces spokeswoman.. Top leaders "heard….we don't have a tool to help our people make better decisions."

I'll pause while you throw up now.

If that last paragraph, does not make naval veterans angry-very angry, then I think you have not been paying attention recently. Or have just given up, and acknowledged the fact that every thing the nay sayers said back in the bad old days about the great experiment has come true with a vengeance. 

So by implication, the generations of officers that fought the war in Vietnam, lived through 70's, gave rise to the 600 ship Navy and fought Desert Storm and Desert Shield were unprincipled, bastards with "no character?"-No character indeed because after a long at sea period they went ashore and got a little unwrapped, and part of that getting unwrapped might have included a tryst or two with the local female population? Bullshit!

But so many people are getting fired!

Yes they are. But as I pointed out before its as much about today's environment and the lack of consistency in application of standards that contributes to those firings-as well as an interconnected world that intrudes on things that quite simply: are none of Al Myers-or the rest of flag counterparts business.

I'll say it again: "The "moral character" of our force (whatever the hell that means) is just fine. 99% of our Sailors do the right thing-every time, all the time when it comes to the particulars of their profession. For the other 1% there are already sufficient remedies in place-there is absolutely no reason to add to them."    

And of course, later in the article-the familiar old canard of Tailhook gets trotted out. THAT Navy was killed a long time ago-by stupid Politically Correct actions like this one. ( And for what its worth-THAT Navy was a hell of lot more fun than this one.)  And just as full of "character"-where character had a clearly defined professional basis and less of a personal one. of course it was Tailhook that led the Navy down the path that made it think that its leadership had as much of right to tell you how to live your personal life as well your professional one. ( P.S." the true story behind the sensational Tailhook Scandal and how Paula Coughlin was anything but innocent"-but 8 million dollars works wonders.)

What should be an insult to anyone's "integrity" however-is that the Navy has to outsource this training to an outside firm, with several folks who just happen to be "friends of a friend of friend".  That should strike more than just me as odd and particularly insulting-the institution and to our Sailors.

But today's Sailors don't have the time.

Really? They don't have the time to do their central job as officers and chief petty officers? Lead their Sailors?   Yea-I think that would get in the way of all the diversity training that needs to be accomplished.  And it certainly would get in the way of IG's throwing people under the bus. Give me a fucking break. Hey Al-how much did this little ( probably non competitively bid) contract cost the US Navy? How much-probably a fair amount I think.

So what does all this have to do with Women's History month, you ask? Good question-and it really doesn't- save for one major thing. The primary argument against gender integration was the amount of problems it would create by having men and women live together in close quarters in a profession that prizes companionship to a  large degree. Add to that- long series of events that closed the doors on other more discrete and non threatening means of releasing that tension concurrently ensued-and you should not be surprised at the result.  The Star Trek Navy doesn't exist. And it never will. 

There is no moral crisis in the Navy. The average naval officer or Sailor is getting up each morning and going to work on time, pays his bills, takes care of his family, serve his country-and maybe just maybe-desires to have a good time once in a while, while doing so. Its not an unreasonable expectation on his or her part.

I wonder if there will be a module in the course about how its bad to stab your contemporaries in the back. That always denoted a certain lack of integrity-right Al?

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Oct 08 2011

The irony, of course, is lost on them.

I love the fact that conservative supporters of the selfish, fat, ignorant, pigs teabaggers are up in arms because literally thousands of their fellow citizens exercised the same right claimed by the selfish, fat, ignorant, pigs teabaggers to assemble peaceably to express their displeasure with the government’s obsession with rewarding the top 1% of this country while ignoring the other 99%. Protests based on a flawed interpretation of the Constitution, historically inaccurate readings of a narrow group of historical documents-while ignoring equally valid other commentaries-with people wearing stupid hats and costumes and carrying stupid signs with lies posted on them comparing the duly elected President of the United States to Hitler; those are OK. But people who are outraged at getting fucked over repeatedly, having to struggle to get things that they should be able to obtain by right, people who have been kicked out of their homes, have lost their jobs, have been unable to get another one-those things they are not allowed to be angry about. Got it.

Or as Jon Stewart expressed it:

On Wednesday evening, Jon Stewart gazed at the Occupy Wall Street movement through the lens of Fox News sound bites–especially the condescending and incoherent ones. The negative sentiment was the exact opposite of how the News Corp. property felt when it was fanning the flames of the Tea Party opposition only a year and a half ago. And The Daily Show host makes sure to point out that nonsensical logic (especially jabs at Sean Hannity and Steve Doocey), while singling out one of the budding stars of the protest movement, Jesse LaGreca, along the way. The takeaway line though, was Stewart just leveling: “Look, if this thing devolves into throwing trash cans into Starbucks windows, nobody’s going to be down with that … but these protesters, how are they not like the Tea Party?”

The differences of course are several. One is demographics-the tea party was primarily white, middle aged, overweight, and more than a tad bit selfish and stupid.  Occupy Wall Street protesters are younger, much better informed than their tea party counterparts, and are not being astroturfed by rich bastards like Dick Armey for one thing. They also have a big difference in the use of money and busses:

There is one not so obvious or immediately noticeable difference between the Occupy Wall Street protests and your average Tea Party protest. Sure, the crowds seem to be younger, signs featuring Obama as Hitler are entirely absent, and there aren’t many people who are dressed like Uncle Sam sneezed stars and stripes all over them. There are no guns or demands to see the president’s birth certificate. But the less obvious difference is in buses. While the Tea Party protests always feature big buses covered with flags and eagles, buses at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations are used to haul the protesters to jail.

I bring this up because teapartiers like to pretend they’re running their own show. That their protests are grassroots and their organizations are of their own construction. But those buses carting them around from protest to protest didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Someone paid for them, someone gave them their ultra-patriotic paint jobs, someone’s buying all the gas. All that takes funding and, as much as the ‘baggers like to pretend they’re an independent movement, they’re all bought and paid for— and then moved from square to square like pawns on a chessboard.

It has also been very well pointed out by those who are not watching Fox News, that unlike the teabaggers-the Occupy Wall Street movement does not have herds of Democratic politicians running over to suck their dicks jump on board their band wagon. If anything they have been avoiding them. Greg Sargent points out why:

If there’s one thing that’s growing clearer by the hour, it’s that this is an entirely organic effort, one that’s about nobody but the protestors themselves. In this sense, we’re seeing a replay of the Wisconsin protests. Those ended up falling just short of what activists had hoped to achieve, but their months-long showing was still important — it demonstrated that left wing populism is still alive and well and sent an important message about the mood of the country. The key was that it grew organically with little to no involvement from Beltway Dems and the White House.

If anything, Occupy Wall Street’s lack of outside encouragement from bigfoot Dems has been a strength, rather than a weakness. As major progressive groups debate how they can contribute to strengthening the movement — and how to give it specific direction and a specific agenda — the need to preserve its grassroots nature will remain paramount. Who knows where this will end up, but for now, this is another reminder that the Tea Party isn’t the only voice of popular discontentment over the economy. We don’t necessarily live in Tea Party Nation, after all.

And finally, as Jon Stewart points out very ably, the Occupy Wall Street folks, “don’t feel the need to constantly reassure themselves and each other how ‘patriotic‘ they are. They just are.”

Of course-to a dedicated tea sniffing fanatic, the irony and hypocrisy of their criticism is just lost on them:

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