Showing posts with label permanentWar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label permanentWar. Show all posts

Saturday, April 15, 2017

An Alternative to Being Angry at the News

It happens so often: you see a couple options on some issue, and you're not happy with either of them. So, where is the third choice?

With all the depressing news these days, the two obvious choices are:

1. Sit in front of the television, and passively allow yourself to be brainwashed by the spin and lies from the corporate media and the American War regime.

2. Read the alternative media, and try to maintain the integrity of your own mind, as you spew anger out your ears or stew in sourness. It becomes exhausting after awhile.

As an alternative, I have praised reading history as a way of escape.

The other day I accidentally hit on another alternative. I happened to listen to Richard Rodgers's musical theme for the 'Good War' myth-making classic, "Victory at Sea." In fairness, this documentary wasn't nearly as narrow and jingoistic as you would expect.

The music sounds so noble and uplifting. It had just the right balance of optimism and gravitas. It was a musical expression of the great foundational/creation myth of the War Regime in Washington.

Like any memorable movie score, it combines synergistically with the visual images. The subject matter of "Victory at Sea" was drastically better at myth-making than a realistic depiction of infantry war would have been.

In "Victory at Sea" you see the most powerful weapons of the Age, blasting away at each other. You don't see any human bodies that got in the way of those 16" shells.
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I don't know why, but it soothes me to wash my hands of the daily ephemera in the News, and run off to something timeless and classic. A calm detachment. As if lies aren't bad enough, there is something degrading about a human being's 'soul' being caught up in daily trivia.

Friday, April 7, 2017

President Obama/Trump Makes America Great Again

I wasn't paying any attention to the news for a few days. So it was shocking to learn of President Dubya/Obama/Hilary/theDonald's attack on Syria. But why was I surprised?

Donald Trump doesn't have the patience for walking important legislation through Congress. He is no deal-making, arm-twisting, cajoling political leader. Who cares whether Americans can afford health care, college,  or $60,000 pickup trucks. He is simply an egotistical, knee-jerking, publicity hound, who is going to enjoy military bluster around the globe.

That's why I wouldn't vote for him (or the other candidate.)

I have a lot of catching up to do with reading editorials. So far, they look pretty good. But then again, they are missing the point. It doesn't matter about the Why or the Who Did It. It only matters that a large fraction of the American public likes having a militaristic strong man in the White House.

They ain't got no interest in nambie pambie doubts and complaints such as:

1. What legal right did Trump have?

2. Has Syria attacked the USA?

3. What vital American interest is at stake?

4. What reason would Assad have to play with chemical weapons, when he is winning the war anyway?

5. If president Obama/Trump did succeed in deposing Assad, who would replace him, and why would he be any better?

6. What the hell is the USA doing in Syria anyway?

But jingoes don't care about that. They want to stick out their chests and walk with an extra bounce in their steps because they feel strong. Their country is strong. They wanted a president who said he'd make America great again, and -- according to the jingoes -- the president has. No arguments matter.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Praise for the Real Virtues of Veterans

It is important to offer honest praise for vitally important virtue. Is that what you hear in the standard speeches on Veterans' Day? I think you just hear empty and perfunctory slogans.

Pacifists and warmongers are fools. I assert that nothing is more important than defending your home against an outside invader. (Perhaps 'sacred' is a better choice than 'important.')

And think of the sacrifices soldiers make, when they do so! It goes a lot further than the chance of being injured or killed. What will they do for a living when it's over? What happens to their homes, farms, or financial savings? Will they get halfway decent medical care when the killing is over? How many years will their children's education be blocked? The same issues arise for the people that the soldier knows and cares about. What if the entire social and economic fabric of their country is torn up?

So many soldiers have made that sacrifice. If public speakers really meant what they say about 'honoring the troops', they would acknowledge that 90% of the honor should go to soldiers who fought the US military -- at least since World War II.

The last 10% of the honor should go to US soldiers, not for what they actually did, but for what they thought they were doing. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Living History

The Great War started 100 years ago. Besides being of enormous importance to the world over this past century, it is an uncanny illustration of the old adage, 'the more things change, the more they stay the same.' An incident -- the assassination in Sarajevo -- was turned into the opportunity to kill millions by the blundering politicians and emperors that the sheeple stayed loyal to. A couple years later a suspicious or misinterpreted incident, the sinking of the Lusitania, was used to suck the USA into an unnecessary war.

Consider such things in light of what has been going on in Ukraine the last week. And yet the general public learns nothing about how politicians use incidents to start wars.

It is not easy finding good histories of the Great War. Oh sure, I've read Barbara Tuchman, Niall Ferguson, and Martin Gilbert. The difficulty is in finding a book not written from the British or American-interventionist angle. I had almost lost hope until Thomas Fleming's "The Illusion of Victory..."  I will bring up its points in later posts.

What a shame that those of us who knew someone in that dreadful war didn't really learn much from him about the war. I've only seen one photograph of my grandfather in action: he was a midwestern farmboy, and a recent immigrant from Sweden, who they put to work handling the horses that moved the cannons.


Ah dear, I can't find the photograph of Walmart plastic shopping sacks blowing downwind into New Mexican cholla, and being impaled of course. And there were so many sacks that day! It is hard to believe that mere plastic sacks could look so macabre. What a perfect visual representation of the trench, barbed wire, and machine gun warfare on the Western Front! 

I would really appreciate any suggestions from readers about good history books of the Great War.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Optimism about the Country that used to be America

For the first time since the Fourth of July was officially declaimed (by me) as the most idiotic national holiday, I feel optimistic about America, or what remains of it. 

1. Many Americans seem to be at a tipping point: they are abandoning their passive acceptance of the neo-con dream of permanent war (mostly in the Mideast.) Republicans are catching on to the fact that today is not the day after 9-11, and that endless militarism is not the ticket to electoral success.

2. It's not impossible that Rand Paul will be the Republican candidate for president, rather than some senile warmonger like McCain or some low IQ Bahbll Christian.

3. No matter what your politics most people know that at least two healthy parties are necessary for a healthy democracy. Until the Republicans free themselves of the neo-con, Rapture Christian, Israeli-lobby doctrine of Permanent War, the Republican party is doomed. Is it just wishful thinking or are they actually starting to free themselves of the stain of the last 13 years?

4. Thanks in part to the centenary of the Great War (World War I) good articles are appearing on the internet about the Great War, British/French imperialism after that war, and American interventionism in general. I am hopeful that Americans will start seeing Arab and Muslim terrorism for what it really is: an Effect; the Cause is Western imperialism. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Appreciation of Anything Lies Mostly in its Context

Readers should never trust a blogger who might be on a drug trip. I'm afraid that I was. Normally a really steep mountain bike ride reaches a point where your traction fails before your aerobic capability does. This ride (Saguache, CO) was peculiar in offering such good traction that I could keep going until 'the snot comes out your eyeballs,' as a cycling friend once put it. Hence the psychotropic endorphin drug trip.

Believe it or not, the whole way up (to a radio tower of course) I was rhapsodizing how 'metal detectors are the perfect outdoor sport.' This is not facetious, but it seems like it would be. Metal detectors -- those things that geezers buy from television commercials scheduled at the low-rent-district of the programming day. These are the times when only retirees are watching television. You know, handy-dandy kitchen gadgets and cubic zirconia jewelry. It's really 'Mildred' who was in favor of buying the metal detector. She thought it would be good for old 'Fred,' or at least get him out of the house, where he is in the way of her incessant cleaning.

Of course, the virtues of the metal detector are too numerous to go into (eye-rolling emoticon). But one is very important: the preciousness of the rusted can or bottle cap that are discovered must be seen in the context of what is nearby. That sums up so many types of value, beauty, humor, pleasure, etc. The context provides a comparison, and it is in the comparison where value really lies.

Perhaps this obsession started a couple days earlier when I had been "dumpster diving" in the $5 DVD movie bin at Walmart. What trash most of it was! Then I found Billy Wilder's "The Apartment," with Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray. Better yet it had a wonderful musical score by Adolf Deutsch. How could such a classic movie coexist in the same garbage dump as the average movie? This torched off an explosion of appreciation in me.

There are two main categories of contrast-with-the-context. We could invoke the language of electrical circuits and call them:

1) Series. A sequence of observations about different things or even the same thing, or 
2) Parallel. Observations are made of different things at the same time.

Playwrights and movie screen writers are good at using type #1 comparisons, in order to make a big impact on the audience. The pleasure of catching a fish is a Type #1 experience. Any kind of outdoorsman or traveler can become quite expert at learning to tolerate temporary unpleasantness in order to intensify the following pleasure. Reaching this stage of "evolution" is necessary if the traveler is ever going to be anything other than a common tourist.

Type #2 comparisons are used by our metal-detecting jock, and by rock-hounds. Somebody walking along a shoreline or a dry-land boundary of any kind experiences the pleasure of Type #2. For instance, I am presently in the rain shadow of the San Juan Mountains. When much of the state was having heavy and deadly rains, I wasn't too bothered by rain.

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Recently America became closer than it has in a long time to experiencing a constitutional crisis, if Congress had voted down authorizing the next Middle Eastern War, and if the Executive branch of government had proceeded in defiance of Congress. And then that damn Russky, Putin, came along and ruined the fun.

Under any circumstances, this would have been an interesting confrontation, perhaps of great and lasting historical significance. By pure luck I had been reading some excellent books on the French Revolution.  With this as a context, the possibility of a constitutional crisis seemed real and five times more interesting to me, even though I wasn't carried away with analogies. Conversely the books were made drastically more interesting because of political events.

What matters is that reading those books on the French Revolution awakened me from the slumber of assuming that nothing ever much changes. Oh sure there's a new "crisis" everyday, the gloom-and-doomers lick their chops, and the media sensationalizes the problem. But most of the time, the world muddles through somehow. Things might change, but usually the world pretty much goes on as before.

Since this is the usual course of human events, we forget that every now and then there are big changes -- discontinuities in the flow of history.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Stay Optimistic About the Syrian War

As you follow the operations of the Media, the Congress, and the Imperial Presidency, it is easy to get disgusted and ruin your day feeling sour about the future of what's left of the American Republic. Do yourself a favor and resist the doom and gloom.

The faster the hateful amerikan Empire breaks down, the sooner something better might replace it. It took over 400 years for somebody to sack imperial Rome, starting the clock from the time of Augustus. For the sake of argument, let's say that the British Empire collapsed when Indian and Pakistan gained their independence. We could date the end of the French Empire in the early 1960s, when Algeria gained independence. In either case, it took these two empires 200 years to collapse.

The amerikan Empire didn't start until the end of World War II, so it isn't even 70 years old. The good news is that it is making great progress in destroying itself. We should all wish It continued success.

But it is easy to forget the long-term optimistic trends while focussing on the short-term doom and gloom. For instance you can draw a long face over the amerikan Caesar making it clear that He/She didn't really need Congress's approval to wage war against Syria. Caesar is only going in front of Congress now to spread the ownership and blame, and because He/She expects to get that approval, unlike the British non-Caesar.

Indeed, I'm willing to bet that Congress will give this approval. After all, the amerikan Caesar will get support from most Democrats because they don't want to see one of theirs keep ratcheting downward throughout His/Her second term. Benghazi, the IRS scandal, NSA spying on all Americans, deferred ObamaCare... Imagine what defeat at the hands of Congress would do to His/Her prestige!?

There is an opportunity for the Republicans to gain from the unpopularity of a Syrian War, but they are too stoopid to use that opportunity. They are hopelessly addicted to endless War, and to open-ended militarism in amerikan society. Therefore the President will get the unrequired approval.

This is evidence that the Republican party is going the way of the Whigs circa 1850 and the Federalists circa 1800. This is a huge breakthrough because it means that amerika will soon be a one party system, like california has been for the last 30 years. Bankruptcy and economic ruin will be the Empire's well-deserved fate.

Who knows how much damage the Syrian War will do to the Empire. But let's keep being optimistic and think long-term.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Becoming an Adrenaline Junkie after a Fire

It appears that the forest fire crisis just missed South Fork CO and is moving towards Creede. Please don't let me move towards Creede! It was the direction I was heading before all this nonsense started. But the real draw is that now I know what it's like to be a "storm chaser", or some other adrenaline junkie.


I wonder how the firefighters adapt to the psychological let-down of off-duty normalcy. Even before this experience I appreciated some things written in "War" by Sebastian Junger. (And I hope the reader appreciates how rarely a modern book gets a plug from me.)

Recall that the book was based on Junger's experiences as an "embedded" journalist with American troops in one of the dodgiest valleys of eastern Afghanistan, close to the mountainous border with Pakistan. His object was to avoid politics and write about the experiences of the combat soldiers from their perspective.

page 144: War is a lot of things and it's useless to pretend that exciting isn't one of them...but the public will never hear about it. It's just not something that many people want acknowledged. War is supposed to feel bad because undeniably bad things happen in it...

...war is life multiplied by some number that no one has ever heard of. In some ways twenty minutes of combat is more life than you could scrape together in a lifetime of doing something else.
The soldiers who survived combat had a tough time going back to the "real" world:
Page 233: Civilians balk at recognizing that one of the most traumatic things about combat is having to give it up...To a combat vet, the civilian world can seem frivolous and dull, with very little at stake and all the wrong people in charge.
When men say they miss combat, it's not that they actually miss getting shot at... it's that they miss being in a world where everything is important and nothing is taken for granted. They miss being in a world where human relations are entirely governed by whether you can trust the other person with your life.

Page 265: The petty tyrannies of garrison life have returned, and the men do not react well to getting reprimanded by other men who have never been to war. O'Byrne gets yelled at for not sitting in an armchair properly...
The let-down. Back to civilian or garrison life. Back to pissing life away one day at a time. Useless, futile housekeeping, house and lawn care, shopping, television; and at work, the same old commute, meetings, reports, etc.

But I've preached too much about living at the point of diminishing returns to hypocritically live at "the edge", that is, to make a career out of chasing adrenaline highs. So I won't go to Creede. Besides, the highway from South Fork to Creede has been closed. Of course I could go around the long way...




Friday, February 8, 2013

A "Woman in Combat" at a Coffee Shop

Yuma, AZ. It was a fresh winter day and a brisk ride to the coffee shop. The old boys were feelin' frisky, indeed. Not too many people get to experience this sort of pleasure, a special one, that comes from temporarily defying inevitability and mortality. Seventy-year-old men came into the coffee shop like a horde of Genghis's pony-riding barbarians. Why shouldn't an old man do what it takes to feel young, even if the same behavior would be immoral in ordinary circumstances? Let's sit at the coffee shop and feel macho and over-confident; and imagine ourselves as the sackers of cities and the despoilers of Civilization.

Our conversations are never particularly interesting by themselves, and that was true this morning, as well. Then something strange happened: one minute the old boys were enjoying typical banter, and the next minute the mood changed entirely. A cute little lass, about 3, with blue eyes and curly hair, approached my tribe of barbarians, perhaps because she and her mother thought we were funny-looking with our old-man heads sticking out of tight and bright cycling clothes.

What a change! Most of us have 30 gears on our bicycles, but never have we "switched gears" as deftly as at this moment. Suddenly all of these old boys were fawning over the lil' darlin' with such tenderness and obvious enjoyment; and why shouldn't they? Most are grandfathers and a couple are great-grandfathers. I have never had any children, but even I was swept away by the little girl's charm, or rather, by my tribe's reaction to her.

It was alarming to realize that this might have been the first time in my life that I enjoyed fawning over a human puppy. Does that make sense from an Evolutionary point of view? Is something wrong with me?

But never underestimate the human imagination when it's interested in self-exculpation and passing off the blame. I had enjoyed being around children in Mexico during two winters of RVing there. But American children seem like obnoxious, expensive, little nuisances to me. Why this should be so is perhaps the subject for another essay.

Riding with a bicycle club involves sweat, strenuous effort, pain, excitement, and risk -- all the components of a "band of brothers" type of experience. The phrase comes from Shakespeare's Henry V; viewers or readers of the play might be able to tie it to their own experiences:

KING. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility; 
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger: 
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, 
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage; 
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
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Or we can tie the cycling club experience to something more modern.  I actually read a modern (!) book recently. Even more shameful than that, it was a New York Times bestseller. The book was "War" by Sebastian Junger, based on his experiences as an "embedded" journalist with American troops in one of the dodgiest valleys of eastern Afghanistan, close to the mountainous border with Pakistan. His object was to avoid politics and write about the experiences of the combat soldiers.
page 144:  War is a lot of things and it's useless to pretend that exciting isn't one of them...but the public will never hear about it. It's just not something that many people want acknowledged. War is supposed to feel bad because undeniably bad things happen in it...

...war is life multiplied by some number that no one has ever heard of. In some ways twenty minutes of combat is more life than you could scrape together in a lifetime of doing something else.
The soldiers who survived combat had a tough time going back to the "real" world:
Page 233: Civilians balk at recognizing that one of the most traumatic things about combat is having to give it up...To a combat vet, the civilian world can seem frivolous and dull, with very little at stake and all the wrong people in charge.

When men say they miss combat, it's not that they actually miss getting shot at... it's that they miss being in a world where everything is important and nothing is taken for granted. They miss being in a world where human relations are entirely governed by whether you can trust the other person with your life.
Page 265: The petty tyrannies of garrison life have returned, and the men do not react well to getting reprimanded by other men who have never been to war. O'Byrne gets yelled at for not sitting in an armchair properly...
All of these things exist in a milder form in a bicycle club. Don't think that I'm glamorizing risk: one of our riders made a mistake recently and got hit by a car going about 40 mph. The rider was 74 years old. He was flown off to the hospital in Phoenix. He survived.

To say that a certain amount of risk is unavoidable and necessary in order to have a non-dreary experience is a different thing from saying that "risk is inherently good and the more, the better."
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Recently the American military announced that it will use women in combat situations. In order to protect your PC credentials, you are required to believe that this is progress.  Just think: our little darlin' back at the coffee shop will be old enough to be RPG-fodder in 15 years. Perhaps the war in Afghanistan will still be going on, on some level. (Officially it will be over of course, based on games with semantics.) 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Smugglers on Red Mountain

I never miss a chance to praise radio tower mountains and roads as one of the most under-rated hiking opportunities. (Sometimes they are mountain bike-able.) Yesterday it was time to go up Red Mountain, near Patagonia AZ. There is a lot to be said for a road that does a 360 around a mountain and has several saddles on it. The viewscape changed radically about five times on the way up.

On the descent I noticed an expensive white SUV, with darkly tinted windows, driving up the road that we were descending. Was it Border Patrol? If so, why wasn't it marked with the usual green band? Then I saw three young men in dark clothes walk around a rocky outcropping. From my spot on that steep road I could see everything towards the main road. But they were walking slowly; maybe they were just locals on a hike. Who was I kidding?

A minute later I saw a second, more dispersed, group of young men fly through the juniper-covered, rocky terrain. There were four of them, running faster than what seemed possible. I've seen various animals running over rough terrain: big horn sheep might be the most impressive. I'll certainly never forget the time Coffee Girl confronted a platoon of them halfway up a sky island west of Phoenix.


Most impressive was their military organization: they worked as a team to fend off the big bad wolf (Coffee Girl). Think of the legionnaires of ancient Rome locking their shields as they faced the enemy. Mountain goats and bighorn sheep can bound up mountains as if gravity barely mattered.

The four young men escaping through the brush were amazingly fast on such rugged terrain. Mere "illegals" wouldn't have tried so hard; they were probably smugglers. I got on the cellphone -- another advantage to hiking up cell tower mountains -- and called Border Patrol. 

Then the white SUV began moving again...towards me. Was that caused by them seeing me use a cellphone? I really didn't know if they were the Good Guys or the Bad Guys. I kept talking to the dispatcher on the other end of the phone, trying not to sound too panicky. What should I say to them if they were Bad Guys, perhaps there to pick up the smugglers or illegals. In a state of nervousness I would never manage to translate, "The Border Patrol knows where I am; don't make it worse for yourselves," into Spanish.

When the white SUV got to me, they rolled the tinted windows down. The first guy I saw was a young Mexican-looking man. But he did have a barely readable US Border Patrol hat on, and his English was perfect. He was quite calm; in fact, he and his Anglo partner seemed to be young buckaroos who were quite enjoying their job. He said that the absconders were dope smugglers. Like me he had counted seven. He wanted to know if I had seen any backpacks on them.

All told, about four Border Patrol vehicles came up the road. A minute later I saw through binoculars a green-uniformed officer with a German shepherd checking out the area where the first bunch had gone through.

At the end of the hike one of the officers told me they (the dog presumably) had found the dope. But did they ever find the seven smugglers? Or did they even try? Maybe it's standard procedure for smugglers to ditch the backpack when they think they are going to get caught, at which point they just become standard illegals subject to the usual "catch and release". After all, how can the Border Patrol prove in court than any of them was actually carrying the backpack? And why even bother, if the smugglers will go back to Mexico eventually, tell the drug lord that they have no money from the deal, and get murdered? I am ignorant of how this racket works, but have a certain curiosity about it today, of course.

Epilogue: today at sunset my binoculars see a white spot one switchback above where all the action took place yesterday. From this spot, 700 feet above me, the Border Patrol SUV can see everything including my trailer's screen door. How nice!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Deadly Skies in the Sonoran Desert

The skies have been weird around here lately. Blame most of it on stormy skies, especially in the mornings.




Later in the day the Fly Boys strafe my trailer. They go over at 12 o'clock high, maybe 500 feet above my roof. (It's hard to judge heights like that.) Maybe I should complain that such low flights interfere with my Fox News TV reception. (satiric grin.) You'd think they would have an adequate playground over the Goldwater Bombing Range, which is bigger than some states in the northeast. But no, they need to fly over an American citizen legally camped on public land. Why don't they at least fly over and intimidate illegal immigrants in the desert?

I wonder how many (borrowed) dollar bills per hour squirt out the ass-end of these Air Force Warthogs. Wikipedia says the rotating 30 mm cannon (visible in my photo, taken looking up from my RV) fires 4000 rounds per minute -- what a fine addition this is to the Killing Machine that our country has become.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mocking Religion on the Football Field

One needn't be religious to appreciate the importance of the religious imagination to history and to an individual's mental ecology. We have a capability and tendency to construct an internal mental world which is more congenial than the objective world. This also explains the importance of poetry, comedy, sentimentalism, romanticism, or art in general. Wishful thinking is a big part of what we are. It can be a constructive thing if managed carefully.

So regardless of your religious or atheistic views, how do you feel about Tebow and other athletes pointing towards heaven or publicly praying at sporting events? I find it distasteful. How could a so-called religious person trivialize his own Faith like that?

Imagine some parents praying and carrying on like fools before their son's pee-wee hockey team hits the ice. Did it ever occur to them that somebody on the opposite team has the same faith as they do? If so, whose team is the Deity, the Author of the Universe, the Architect of the Cosmos, supposed to wave his pom-poms for?

As degrading as this type of behavior is to people's professed Faith, it is easy to explain: God and Country. God is behind our Army. The Devil sticks for the Enemy. Despite building a political-economic structure based on Permanent War, some Americans still need the outlet of Mock War, sports, to give them an adequate chance to make idiots of themselves.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Moral Equivalent of Football

Watching the glorious Green Bay Packers last night, I had some questions about how football should be interpreted. How far can we carry the analogy between football and war? How literally we can see it as mock war? The football team is an army, dominated by its commander-in-chief, its American Caesar, the quarterback. It has kicking (artillery), running backs (mobile armored divisions, or cavalry in the old days), and passing (an air force). No navy, though. The cheerleaders' job is to quicken the animal spirits in the fans, a job for which they are admirably, uhh, suited; their equivalents in the political and military arenas are the talking-heads in the media, whose job it is to promote the popularity of the war with the public.

There is a well-defined front in gridiron battle. It is symmetrical warfare. The team moves the ball into enemy territory. Getting through the goal posts of the enemy is like seizing a national capital. When fans pull the goal posts down after a victory, it is the equivalent of burning, raping, and pillaging the conquered enemy.

The team scores points by success at offense. It doesn't literally score any points for itself by success at defense. Of course you could say that preventing the enemy from getting points is the algebraic equivalent of scoring positive points for your own team, but somehow that's just not the same as literally and visibly scoring points in defense. I wonder if you can score positive points at defense in any sport?

Besides the absence of a navy, unless you count floats in the parade at half-time, the analogy breaks down in other ways. For one thing, the NFL season is laughably short: early September to the end of January. Why shouldn't it go on and on like a presidential campaign or a war in the Mid-East?

Football has an offensive team and a defensive team. In the political and military spheres we have a Department of Defense and a Department of Homeland Defense. Two departments of defense. Aren't we a bit naive and overconfident to try to get by in this dangerous world with no offensive military capabilities?

A breakdown in the analogy like that is bad enough, but football's greatest failing is that it asks fans to pay for it, whether they're at the stadium or at home on the couch. I don't know how patriotic Fox News viewers can tolerate this, but at least Fox network does its duty in rectifying this situation by carrying free broadcast NFL games every Sunday. The government should finance NFL football to make it free to the fans. (It does at the high school and collegiate levels.) Every American who takes God and Country and Football seriously should work to rectify this dreadful situation. Until then we must conclude that NFL football is un-American.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Marc Faber's Prediction of War

I haven't said too much on politics lately, perhaps because the financial recklessness and lies of our leaders and central bankers leave me speechless. Also, all that really needs to be said about politics, has already been said by Mencken:
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. (Gutenberg.org)
That would seem to cover the big news story these days, the saber-rattling with Iran. It's unusual to see so much agreement between Europe and America on an issue, and that alone should make one suspicious. In America the saber-rattling with Iran will be a mainstay of the seemingly-interminable presidential campaign.

It's an old idea actually: the Republicans think that the populace sees the Democrats as foreign policy sissies and that this should win votes for the GOP. In order for this to really work there needs to be an official bad guy, a Bogeyman, who hopefully can be compared to Hitler. All the usual suspects are behind this campaign for war. The war drums are being beaten loudest by the Yahwist wing of the Republican party, that is, neo-cons, Rapture Christians, and AIPAC. Such groups are proud of being super-patriots; but to which country?

Of course the Democratic president could fight back by out-sabre-rattling the GOP. But that could cause oil prices to climb, which is recessionary of course. Then the GOP would blame the Democrats for high unemployment and energy costs.

But what if saber-rattling's Nielsen ratings go down, with repetition, and the grand poobahs on both sides of the pond keep threatening the Iranians a little more each month until the world finally stumbles into war, as it so often has? This might be bad news for the sheep and peasants of each country, but it could be wonderful for the bankers and politicians. Financial chaos, high gasoline costs, and recessions would offer the grand poobahs the cover to do more of what they want to do, the only thing they know how to do, print money. The worse the news is, the more the American sheep will rally around their mighty Sword, the President, and the GOP will have been outfoxed. (No pun intended.)

What interests me is seeing if three years of deficit explosions have sobered Americans up. Do they still see trillion-dollar-wars as something that can be thrown easily onto the national credit card? Or have they come to fear reckless and endless wars in the Mideast more than the Islamic bogeyman du jour?

In the case of Europe, the politicians and un-elected bureaucratic elites need to distract the peasants from their crimes and assaults on the democratic principles of modern Western civilization. Like their American co-criminals, they could sense opportunity in major war: 'let no crisis go to waste.'

A year ago Marc Faber, a popular commentator on business channels and websites, predicted that the outcome of the financial crisis would be war. He meant big War, presumably, not just the smaller operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, etc. These other conflicts were rather modest after all, taking a decade to run the credit card up by a trillion dollars. At the time I thought that he was going over the top with that, and that he was just trying to be controversial and entertaining, which is what these news channels are all about, after all. It now seems as though he should take a bow. But he hasn't been as visible lately in the usual places.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When Your Opponent Learns Something

Either political party is playing a whole new game when its opponent actually learns from its mistakes and reforms itself.

What If You're Becoming a Conspiracy Nut?

Conspiracy theories have never interested me and I look down on those who are into them. So it's with some reluctance that I admit that there seems to be something fishy with the recent killing of Osama bin Laden and the recently announced (painfully gradual) draw-down of troops from Afghanistan.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Phony War

Marketwatch.com is not one of my favorite financial websites, and I don't read that many editorials by Brett Arends, one of their columnists. But he certainly did a good job of taking bin Laden's demise as a good opportunity for summing up the "War on Terror". Good work, Brett.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Orwell's Extinct Type of Intellectual

In writing about all the turmoil in the Middle East, some pundits like to refer to the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. This revived my interest in George Orwell, who volunteered for the (government) Loyalist side. In fact I checked out a 1300+ page collection of essays and magazine articles that he wrote during his short lifetime.

It struck me how important it used to be that public intellectuals (like Orwell and Arthur Koestler) were not tenured professors or think-tank intellectuals. They put their beliefs into practice. You might disagree with their politics as I certainly do, and as they eventually did, later in life. But there was real integrity in an intellectual pushing back from his desk, and suffering the mud and stink of real war. Both were in physical danger. It's something that would never happen today.

Imagine the suburban comfort of the interventionist today: their McMansions in northern Virginia or in fashionable areas of Maryland. They might have tenure at a university, or they might draw a comfortable salary at some neocon think-tank. Their children won't be drafted. None of their friends or near-relatives is in the military. Their spouse has a good-paying job for some federal agency.

And yet, even in the late 1930s it was rare for an intellectual to have experienced war directly. For instance, leftist intellectuals in England were more eager for war with Germany than were their counterparts in France. Orwell pointed out:
[In France] war means to him something quite different from what it means to a middle-class Englishman. It means a notice on the wall, "Mobilisation Generale," and three weeks later, if he is unlucky, a bullet in the guts.

Of all the left-wing journalists who declare day in and day out that if this, that and the other happens "we" must fight, how many imagine that war will affect them personally?

But these people, who have been born into the monied intelligentsia and feel in their bones that they belong to a privileged class, are not really capable of foreseeing any such thing [as a big scale air-raid of the modern type.] War is something that happens on paper, and consequently they are able to decide that this or that war is "necessary" with no more sense of personal danger than in deciding on a move at chess.
Our civilisation produces in increasing numbers two types, the gangster and the pansy.

And it is, of course, precisely because of the utter softness and security of life in England that the yearning for bloodshed -- bloodshed at a far distance -- is so common among our intelligentsia.
Orwell and Koestler grew intellectually and emotionally during their direct involvement with the Spanish Civil War. Without such experience, could they ever have produced the adult writings that they did? The deskbound intellectual is just a professional spectator, a perpetual college sophomore who thinks he understands the world just because he's read books.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Progress in Politics

The Iraq War started with a lie about weapons of mass destruction. At the time it seemed hard to believe that the Bush administration would lie about something that they would so easily get caught at, so I tended to believe them while suspecting that they were exaggerating.

That is where I was a naif and the neocons were brilliant. WMDs were revealed as a lie gradually. At no time was the lie Breaking News; thus it wasn't news at all, and there were no consequences for the liars.

In contrast, the Obama administration is not providing false evidence of a genocide in Libya; it provided no evidence at all. The only thing it provided was a "what if", that is, Fear.

And thus we have come to see the Change we can Believe in: starting wars on the basis of no evidence at all, rather than false evidence.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Compassion and Control

Immediately after spouting off, I regretted it. Outside the college library a fellow had merely asked about my heavy breathing and whether I needed assistance. With a scowl on my face and voice I pointed out that I had just bicycled up one of the steepest hills in town.

The poor fellow must have gone away thinking that no good deed goes unpunished. What was it that caused me to react so ungratefully to his apparent kindness and concern? Perhaps whenever I am on a college campus I feel a latent hostility that always boils just below the surface, and it takes little to set it off.

Meanwhile, off in the big world, liberal interventionists are bombing away in the name of humanitarianism. The commentariat is struggling to make sense of liberal interventionism and nation-building as a type of muscular social work.

Is there a relationship between these two examples of meddling do-goodism: one a micro-version, the other a macro-version?

Many people have noticed that the transition is pretty quick and easy between a liberal's "caring and concern" and her coercion.

Do liberals ever ask themselves why they should have greater powers of empathy than anyone else? Which gene did they inherit that gives them greater capacity in this regard? The amount of genuine compassion that can be generated by a normal human being is quite limited. Recall your Boswell:
JOHNSON. 'Sir it is affectation to pretend to feel the distress of others, as much as they do themselves. It is equally so, as if one should pretend to feel as much pain while a friend's leg is cutting off, as he does.'
Nor is this a bad thing. The world has so much suffering in it that too much empathy would cause us to always be miserable.

But the liberal does affect to feel more sympathy for the world's suffering than the average slob does, thus showing her moral superiority. Combine that with her mental superiority (which should be obvious to everybody) and she is left with a social duty to help other people even if they don't want her help. Thus compassion morphs into coercion. Perhaps it is even true that the more violent the coercion the more validated her superiority becomes.

Ordinarily the real world restrains liberals' helpfulness, which must be frustrating to them. But during foreign interventions they can finally break free.  At last liberals are free to act as good as they are, free of apologies, and free of suspicions about their motives. Finally the intelligent people get to win. And if people don't like it, they can just blow the little morons up. What an emotional relief that must be.