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Showing posts with label United States. Show all posts
Showing posts with label United States. Show all posts

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Greater Than These

Across the United States today, many Americans will be celebrating the risen Jesus Christ and that His message is eternal. The core of that message is that we love one another while doing His works and greater than these. In so many ways, we are doing that. Take a look...



















Greater than these...

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Vicarious Patriotism

As the reaction to the framework deal on Iran's nuclear capability poured in from the various corners of the globe, I noted the reaction from the hardliners. It was a resounding no. Then it occurred to me that perhaps the hardliners from Iran, Israel and our own country should leave. Perhaps a desert island where they can all spy on and fight each other would be more suitable.

I've spoken previously of the similarity between our conservatives here in the US and the conservatives in Iran. Both groups are religious zealots who support a theocracy. Both are intolerant of dissent and want an authoritarian government. And they all want war.

I posed a question on Quora recently regarding the conservative reaction to the Iran agreement. The top answer say it all.

Let's see: 

-The Prime Minister of Israel is upset because the United States of America is not doing what he ordered the United States of America to do regarding Iran. 

-A U.S. Senator who once falsely claimed to have been named "Intelligence Officer of the Year" (in 2002) and who also falsely claimed to have served during Operation Desert Storm (which I did serve in) thinks the negotiations with Iran are like "Nazi appeasement". 

-The Speaker of the House of Representatives, whose military service consisted of 8 weeks of Navy basic and a medical discharge for a bad back, wants to follow the orders of Israel's Prime Minister and move toward an eventual war between the United States and Iran as a means to protect Israel. Sorry, my cynicism is coming to the fore. 

I served in the U.S. military for 27 years, and I hate war. I have killed for my country and I have taken two bullets in the service of my country and I also suffer from PTSD. If necessary, I would fight again or support younger Americans fighting in my stead - but not to serve the foreign policy efforts of any country other than the United States (be it Israeli foreign policy or Liechtenstein's foreign policy). All too many Republican legislators are financially supported by individuals and corporations who make their living constructing and supplying war materials and who need wars to sell their products. 

These legislators see war as a means to help those individuals and corporations who helped them get elected, as a means to reduce unemployment by giving presently unemployed people jobs as soldiers or as workers making war materials and in many case they see war as a game played by others, like an American football fan who loves to watch the games but knows in their heart that if they put on a helmet and shoulder pads and actually played, they would get physically damaged - I call it "Vicarious Patriotism". 

It's not just the legislators. Their base suffers from the same delusions...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Our Violent Nation

We hear an awful lot these days about how the violent crime rate has dropped in this country. Yet, in looking at the numbers, the "drop" is really from an insanely high number to just a high number. Our murder rate is higher than nearly all other developed countries. So, what is it about culture that makes it such a violent place?

I'm sure it has to do with a combination of several phenomena but what are those key ingredients? I think the numbers in my first link illustrate that we haven't really done a very good job identifying our addressing what these key ingredients are that make us so violent. Obviously, there have been multitude of studies but perhaps it's time to erase the entire board and start over.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Tide Continues To Turn

From recent New York Times article...

At the global climate change negotiations now wrapping up in Peru, American negotiators are being met with something wildly unfamiliar: cheers, applause, thanks and praise. It is an incongruous moment, arriving at a time when so many aspects of American foreign policy are under fire. But the enthusiastic reception on climate issues comes a month after a historic announcement by the United States and China, the world’s two largest polluters, that they would jointly commit to cut their emissions. Many international negotiators say the deal is the catalyst that could lead to a new global climate change accord that would, for the first time, commit every nation in the world to cutting its own planet-warming emissions.

The tide continues to turn...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Good Question

Here is a great question from Quora...

If the United States is in crisis, as the Republicans tell us, why can't they come together with the president and support policies that will help? Why can't they work with the president to fix it?

The best answer so far...

It is the crisis that Republicans are creating. I'm not trying to be cute and flip the question back at you. This is my sincere, objective judgement of the state of the nation. I'm more than willing to concede a point to anyone, but all is hear from Republicans is arrogance, contempt, dishonest tactics and a political agenda based on insulting everyone that disagrees....disagrees with a profoundly ignorant set of petulant obsessions.

One thing he forgot was the shrill cry from conservatives that it's actually the Democrats that are all these things but I supposed that could be put under the category of dishonest tactics.

There was also this brilliant comment on this answer.

The far-right lurch that the Republican party took with the Tea Party faction is troublesome. Germany experienced a similar faction in 1920 and there are several parallels in attitudes and policies shared by both. Rationalizing that they are different in different times does not remotely diminish the destructive right-wing actions. A party not working in concert with the leaders of a nation are harming the nation with its bullying and lack of cooperation, plain and simple. Anyone, even with a diminished ability to think, sees no leadership in an approach that has nothing constructive to add, only blocking tactics.

This is exactly how totalitarian governments are born. And they always start with accusing the other side of being totalitarian:)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Good Words

From a recent question on Quora (why are there so many shootings in the United States?)

Across the democratic developed world the vast majority of guns are hunting or sport firearms. Switzerland, often cited by gun advocates, is an anomaly since it's had a long history of required military service and the requirement a trained adult properly maintain and store their issued firearm - improper handling being an offense. Switzerland is an anomaly. 

American ownership is radically skewed towards the ownership of guns with an intent to use them against other people. The whole (inane in the light of facts) 2nd Amendment argument - blurred by the NRA to the point it's authors wouldn't be able to recognize (nor stomach) it. A lack of confidence in its democratic institutions, and in its people's respect for them, led American (white property-owning) men to entrench their right to bear arms against their democratically constituted elected authorities - which since has been stretched into blanket coverage of the right to arm themselves against their next-door neighbor.

Institutionalized paranoia.

Exactly right.

His conclusion is even better.

Simply having loaded guns lying about leads to 2 of every 3 gun-related deaths in the United States. Those are the unintentional homicides. Over 20,000 such deaths in 2013 alone. With a majority of gun homicides ruled not premeditated the rate attributable to ease of access alone is realistically higher. 

But it isn't a gun but the thought behind ownership that makes U.S. ownership so disproportionately destructive. The hunting rifle my grand-dad shouldered as he trudged through the backwoods of the Canadian hinterland nearly a century ago was carried with a vastly different intent than an assault rifle with 40 round magazine in the same rear window as a '2nd Amendment' decal which seldom leaves the suburbs. 

There is, in other words, a face-palm obvious statistical correlation between a gun being at hand and gun tragedy - but the violent intent behind possessing weapons of war primes the violence pump predisposing the entire culture to a greater likelihood of violence. A fact born out by 'cold. hard ...' fact.

So, can we change?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Our Evolving Country


Monday, June 17, 2013


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You Can't Squeeze Oil out of a Burning Turnip

Most of the Republican candidates for president are now criticizing President Obama for withdrawing our troops from Iraq. The gist of their argument is that by removing our troops from Iraq we will strengthen Iran's hand. Michele Bachmann even said:
The United States needed a working democratic partnership in Iraq and we should have demanded that Iraq repay the full cost of liberating them given their rich oil revenues.
So, we should just take their money if they don't think they should pay us for invading their country, destroying its infrastructure, sparking a civil war and killing a hundred thousand Iraqis?

To begin with, former President Bush is the one who signed the agreement with the Iraqis to withdraw troops from Iraq by the end of this year. Obama has tried to modify the agreement to extend the stay of some American troops, but since our primary demand is that Americans who commit crimes in Iraq can't be charged under Iraqi law, the Iraqis won't agree. Could anyone blame them, given the history of Blackwater "contractors?"

The reason Iran is in a position to exert so much influence in Iraq in the first place is that President Bush invaded Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein and his fellow Sunnis from power. These people were opposed to (and repressed) the majority Iraqi Shiites, who are now in power and are much more sympathetic to Iran, which is also a majority Shiite country.


When the allegations that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and had huge stockpiles of WMDs were revealed to be false, Bush changed his tune about why we needed to invade. He said we needed to liberate Iraq, depose a dictator and establish a beachhead for democracy.

The people of Iraq have now legally elected a government run by Shiites, who are the majority. It is a democracy, however imperfect, and the United States doesn't invade democracies. Our troops are guests of one of our erstwhile allies, and we remain only at their request. And they're not asking us to stay.

When Bush and Cheney pushed the invasion of Iraq they claimed it would be a cakewalk and we would be welcomed as liberators. They made this claim because the Iraqi National Congress, headed by Ahmed Chalabi, told them this would be so. It wasn't, and the war lasted years instead of weeks as Cheney and Rumsfeld promised. It now appears that Chalabi was actually an agent for the Iranians, something also alleged in a FOX News editorial from 2004, after the US had a falling out with Chalabi. It's now clear that Chalabi and the Iranians used Bush and Cheney's lust for revenge and oil to get rid of Saddam for them. Bush's invasion of Iraq is what actually strengthened Iran's hand. Bush has left Obama with empty coffers and a very poor poker hand.

Because the United States and the rest of the Middle East had long relied on Saddam and Iraq as a bulwark against Shiite Persian influence George H. W. Bush stopped short of invading Iraq after ejecting Saddam from Kuwait in the Gulf War. Allowing a dictator to stay on to fight our enemies is somewhat cynical and self-serving, it is true, but such is the calculus of Republican administrations. But then W and Cheney fell into the trap that HW and Cheney had avoided a decade earlier.

Iran and Iraq fought a long and bloody war in the 80s, during which the United States publicly backed Iraq, providing intelligence and weapons. In 1987 the USS Stark was hit by two Iraqi Exocet missiles, killing 37 Americans. There were no repercussions for Saddam. The Reagan administration removed Iraq from the list of terrorist sponsoring countries, allowing Saddam to obtain the chemical precursors for poison gas WMDs. These were ultimately used for nerve gas attacks against Iranian troops and Iraqi civilians in Halabja in 1988 (though at the time the Reagan administration tried to blame Iran). This crime against humanity was one of the charges that ultimately led to Saddam's execution. After the Gulf War we destroyed all those WMDs, scouring the country for years.

Earlier in the Iran-Iraq war, the Reagan administration sold TOW and Hawk missiles to Iran in exchange for Hezbollah releasing some hostages, using Israel as an intermediary. This was what Ron Paul was talking about when he shocked everyone in the last debate by saying that Reagan cut deals with terrorists. The Reagan administration then used that money to fund right-wing death squads in Central America. Oliver North went to jail because of this, but the higher-ups were all pardoned by George H. W. Bush while the case was still being investigated.

Finally, there have been credible allegations from a former National Security Council member and a Reagan White House staffer that Reagan had dealings with Iran as long ago as 1980, even before he was elected. To improve his chances of election, Reagan's minions worked to prevent the release of Americans taken hostage at the American embassy in Tehran so that Jimmy Carter would look bad. The Israelis sent equipment to Iran after William Casey (Reagan's eventual CIA director) cut a deal with the Iranians. Perhaps the most telling point was that Iran released the hostages on Reagan's inauguration day.

The Republicans have a long history of cutting deals with the Iranians or being duped by them. The current crop of Republican candidates -- with the exception of Ron Paul -- is either willfully ignorant of history, or lying about it. They have demonstrated that they would make exactly the same kinds of mistakes that Republicans have made on Iraq and Iran all the way back to the 1950s.

We've already spent a trillion dollars on Iraq. If we overstay our invitation to extract Bachmann's price from Iraq, the whole place will erupt in fire and war again. But you can't squeeze oil out of a burning turnip.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

What The Heck Do We Want?

With the election just over two weeks away, all of us are hearing a lot of sentences that start with "The American people want..." The question is does anyone who says this really know?

No, they don't. Why? Because the American people are basically Sally Field in the film Sybil. Check out this recent poll from the Washington Post. Americans say they want limited government but they also think that Social Security and Medicare are very important. The also want the federal government to be involved in schools, reduce poverty, and half of us want them to be involved in regulating health care. Only 39 percent asked in this poll want the government to cut spending. Wow. Really? This is down from 53 percent in 1994 when the GOP took over both houses.

What I found to be quite surprising was this poll showed that 50 percent wanted more government spending to fix the economy...regardless of the deficit. Even I'm not in that 50 percent. Combine this formation with this recent poll about the tax cuts and one wonders just how far Democrat's heads are up their arses. 65 percent of Dems, 64 percent of Republicans, and 63 percent of independents all said that the tax cuts for the wealthy should be allowed to expire. What a stunning campaign opportunity completely lost. Still, it's better to have a disappointing friend than someone who acts in direct conflict with the interests of virtually the entire country. More on this notion later.

There might be a lot of anger out there about entitlements but the majority of Americans do support these programs. As election day draws closer, I'm becoming more of the mind that Tea Party victories could end up being a very good thing. Generally speaking, people don't care about something until it's taken away from them. If the Tea Party gets a decent size caucus in the House and a few candidates in the Senate, we will get to see how they govern. It's not going to be pretty for a number of reasons.

The mischievous part of me can't wait to see the public reaction. It's going to be quite a show. After all, the American people want to have their cake and eat it too:)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Operation: Brainwash (Heroification)

Most of you know that I am a big fan of James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me. In that book, he discusses how American History is taught using a number of poor methods and concepts. One such concept is heroification. He uses the excellent example of President Woodrow Wilson, a figure who is regarded in most history textbooks as a hero. In fact, President Wilson was probably the biggest bigot our country had ever seen, overturning decades of progress made by the Republicans in respect to rights and advancement of African Americans. The image of Wilson by our nation is one of the many great lies in our country's history.

Another great lie is one that got started by Ann Coulter and is now policy according to the Texas State Board of Education. Essentially, it's this: Joe McCarthy was a hero. Coulter said:

Everything you think you know about McCarthy is a hegemonic lie. Liberals denounced McCarthy because they were afraid of getting caught, so they fought back like animals to hide their own collaboration with a regime as evil as the Nazis.

Caught in what, exactly? Oh yes, that's right...anyone to the left of the Cult is a commie. Got it. It's also amusing that she brings up hegemony. The raison d'etre of the Cult is control through blind consensus. Once again, we see the Rove in action.

But this view of McCarthy is exactly what Texas school children are now going to learn...how he was a hero fighting against (in his own words) the treasonous Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. They will learn of a US government filled with dirty, stinking Commies many of whom "got away" and remained in power...in the form of the Democratic party. None of this, of course, is even close to being grounded in reality.

Coming a few years after we defeated the greatest army and threat the world had ever seen, McCarthy accused the Democrats of "twenty years of treason." He added twenty one after Eisenhower refused to acquiesce to McCarthy's demands. His paranoia knew no bounds as he went after the United States military. In one hearing he called Brigadier General Ralph W. Zicker, a WWII battlefield hero, a "five year old child not fit to wear the uniform." Ironic, considering McCarthy's outright lying about his own military record. His investigations into the US military turned the tide of public opinion well against him and his rampant alcoholism began to show in his Senate floor speeches. In fact, his constant changing numbers of how many communists were in the US government from the very beginning were evidence enough of his severe impairment and inability to think clearly.

None of this matters to that chapter of the Cult that has now changed the curriculum in Texas and perhaps nationwide. Commies were everywhere (ahh!!!!!!! look out...he looks funny...commie!!!) and still are. No matter that McCarthy was shown to be a liar very early on..he said pretty things so we loves him:) One need only spend a few minutes reading McCarthy's quotes to see that he was, in a myriad of ways, a founding father (along with Richard Nixon) of the Cult playbook. Say it and it's true...attack your opponent with what is, in fact, your greatest weakness (see the forthcoming comments below for what will be excellent examples of this), ignore facts, think with your guts and, above all, distrust anyone who doesn't think EXACTLY like you do. Joe McCarthy spawned the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. It's no wonder they are fighting tooth and nail to re-imagine him in history. All three of them, as well as the Cult, are still paranoid about Commies (ahh!!! Commies!!!) even years after communism FAILED and whatever remnants are left (save North Korea) are embracing capitalism or some quasi form of it.

I stated previously that I am nauseated by the clear heroification of McCarthy. Honestly, that's not much redeemable about him. Rarely do secondary school texts get it right when it comes to wrongdoing but the American Pageant does in their McCarthy entry. I wonder how many of the facts listed there will be completely left out. Ah well, no matter. Anyone critical of a Cult forefather is a lying Commie which would include yours truly. Cue the red herring of Venona.

As an educator, I am tasked to present the basic facts of what happened in any historical period. To leave out McCarthy's lying, alcoholism, assault on civil liberties, and attacks on distinguished members of the military like George Marshall would be historically dishonest. It would be like showing the happy go lucky side of Stalin and skip over the whole gulag thing. Stalin was an asshole who murdered people. McCarthy was an asshole who destroyed people's lives due to a psychosis that forced an ideology on people. This ideology has now morphed into a faux critical thinking devoid of reality.

Yet I would still be more interested, given all of the facts about McCarthy and what the Cult will now be teaching in Texas, what my students think about Joe McCarthy and why. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what my view is or what the Texas School Board's view is regarding McCarthy. It matters what they think and how they evaluate the facts.

Since close to 5 million students in Texas and perhaps more nation wide will be missing key facts, critical thinking skills have been hijacked. And that's the real fucking travesty.
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