I’m against tyranny. This is a popular political position. Americans pride ourselves on defending liberty from the machinations of malevolent power all over the world. It is our heritage, beginning with the Boston Tea Party, to demand that government be held accountable to the governed. Our ancestors answered the call of resolute and courageous leaders to fight the tyranny of their own government, and won. There were many, especially among the ruling class, who sided with the tyrant, did his bidding, and betrayed their fellow human beings for personal gain. Ultimately, they lost, despite all their money, connections, and cunning deceptions. This demonstrated one of the axioms on which America is founded, that the right of self-governance is a fundamental and inalterable component of human existence.
We have a problem. No doubt about it. Women were raped in Cologne, Germany and the police tried to sweep it under the rug. It’s the same problem we’ve been having forever, in the colleges, in the military, and in society at large. Now we’re paying attention to it because the rapists are foreigners. When men of a different race or different religion act the same way our men act, suddenly it’s a problem. Because the violence wasn’t hidden in a fraternity house, because the violence wasn’t facilitated by quaaludes, suddenly it’s a problem. Not to go all feminist on y’all, but I warned you about this.
The “Arson Rebellion”: justice and due process matters whether you’re rural and white or urban and black
Let me tell you a story about Teddy Roosevelt. As a young man, he lived in the Dakota territory, hunting, ranching, watching the American bison disappear, and resolving to preserve the land and its bounty from a “class that always holds sway during the raw youth of a frontier community, and the putting down of which is the first step toward decent government.” One day, three such men stole his boat, the only one on the river, while he was hunting mountain lions. He and his two companions built another boat, pursued the thieves downriver, captured them, and then marched them three hundred miles to Dickinson and turned them over to the sheriff. During this pursuit of justice, he also managed to read Anna Karenina, musing in his 1888 book Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail that “my surroundings were quite gray enough to harmonize well with Tolstoy.”
Dear GOP candidates: have you ever even met a Syrian? Well here you go…
I don’t want to make you feel bad, really, I don’t, but if you oppose the relocation of Syrian refugees to safe havens within the United States you’re a fucking idiot. As a nation of refugees and immigrants, it is our creed and our sacred duty to accept and embrace, rather than reject, the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The current wave of Syrians fleeing the terror and violence in their home country certainly qualify on at least two of those three checklist points.
As a foreign-born American myself, whose mother came to the U.S. in 1964 but didn’t become a citizen until 1977, it rankles the shit out of me that the GOP morons running for president don’t have any coherent nor compassionate strategies for taking Syrian newcomers into our society. And I bet none of them has ever even met anyone from Syria.
So this short picture story is for them, and anyone else who thinks ‘Syrian’ and sees ISIS and terrorists instead of a human face in their feeble little xenophobic American brains…
Next to the hotel in Pismo Beach where my wife and I stayed in early January, 2015, there was an impressive liquor store called Shell Beach Liquor & Deli. The selection of booze behind the counter was a modest sampler of all the alcohol, soft drink, and junk food snack options that were available in the place.
But more interesting than the store’s inventory was this fellow Mikha’il, who also answered to Mike, a Syrian man who came to California in 2004 to escape the increasingly oppressive rule of Bashar al-Assad.
Well, isn’t that special: Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill before heading off for a three-week holiday vacation. (You get that much time off?) Brinkmanship is avoided; threats to shut down the government over (this time) Syrian refugees or the Puerto Rican debt crisis are avoided (or, more likely, postponed).
But it’s a bad bill for any president serving in the next few decades. Those presidents, irrespective of party, will have to deal with the physical consequences of human-induced climate disruption as well as the political repercussions of not meeting the Paris accords.
That’s because provisions buried in the spending resolution hamper the ability of future presidents to cope with a warming climate. And that’s because your representatives caved (as usual) to the oil and gas industry lobby.
As Bill Moyers and Michael Winship report, each $1 the oil and gas lobby spent in 2013 and 2014 returned $103 in subsidies. The industry spent $326 million to lobby Congress. In return it received $33.7 billion in government favors.
In my favorite bad movie, The American President, Michael Douglas as the fictional President Andrew Shepherd confronts his Republican challenger’s claims about Shepherd’s character.
We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: Making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.
You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. … You scream about patriotism and tell them [who’s] to blame for their lot in life … [emphasis added]
Now remove Bob Rumson’s name and insert the name of any of the recent CNN main stage GOP presidential candidates (or even Wolf Blitzer, as he goaded them into ISIS hysteria). Continue reading
We have accepted more than 100,000 Somali refugees since 1991. In the last 25 years, 50 of them have become terrorists. That’s 0.05%, which is good, but not good enough for us. We want zero terrorists, including those who go back to Africa to kill people. We don’t want African people to die either. That is our strength, no quarter, no shadowy corner where the darkness can hide from the light. Continue reading
First let us remember our fallen brothers. One Russian airman (possibly two) and one marine are dead. Let’s be quiet for a moment and think about that. For their families, none of this will ever make sense. None of this will ever be justified. This is what war is, families torn apart by violence. The people of Russia have courageously stood up for our shared values, truth, reason, love, and peace, and now their sons are dead. They will not be returning home as their families prayed that they would. Let us honor their spirit and remember their unflinching devotion to Russia and to our collective safety as global citizens.
The Russian military command sees this conflict very differently than we see it in the West. They share our concern regarding global terror. They have been attacked from the shadows by psychopathic cowards just as we have. They understand that a bunch of deposed Iraqi power junkies are using misinformation to lure Muslim youth into a demented suicide pact. They understand that the misinformation itself is crowdsourced, has been propagated for decades by irresponsible hatemongers, just as racist propaganda has been disseminated worldwide throughout history and continues to fester in the shadows. Continue reading
The Syrian refugees who are currently undergoing a two year vetting process had nothing to do with the attacks in Paris. They are the Albert Einsteins trying to get out of Nazi Germany, and we are stopping them. This is how we lose the war. We burn a whole city to get revenge on two already-dead homicidal maniacs. There are a limited number of brainwashed suicide bombers. Remember Japan. It’s an act of desperation. It’s the hallmark of a General out of options. Continue reading
After the U.S. Civil War, the violence didn’t stop. Numerous gangs of bandits continued to fight on for almost thirty years after the war was officially over. The most famous of course was the James-Younger Gang, but there were also the Daltons and the Doolins, Henry Berry Lowrie and the Swamp Outlaws in North Carolina, the Baldknobbers in Arkansas and the Klan. Some of these are purely for-profit initiatives, but as often as not, they have a political bent. They are, along with the maimed, widowed and orphaned, and dislocated and impoverished, the human detritus of war.
Some wars produce more. The Hundred Years War in Europe produced so many companies of bandits that various popes proposed Crusades in an attempt to siphon them off into hopefully deadly wars, just as the French would later enlist SS into the Foreign Legion after WWII and sent them to Indochina. Others produce only a few. The Vietnam War contributed a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Gulf War Timothy McVeigh. Sometimes so many are produced that they destroy entire countries, as the Liberia Civil War ended up ravaging Sierra Leone.
Regardless of nuance, the basic formula is the same. Angry young men, trained in the art of war, who come back disaffected and often with limited prospects. So they do what they know how to do—blow shit up and kill people.
Now we’re seeing the same thing in the recent wave of terrorism. New York, Madrid, London, Mumbai, Boston, and now Paris, again. We don’t know all the details yet, but what we do know suggests military grade weapons handled with military-level expertise in a military-like operation.
It’s not really about Islam or a reaction to the devastation created by the foolish adventuring of the Bushes and Cheney. It’s much simpler than that. They’re young, impassioned, angry and deadly and there are simply too many of them.
A little over two hundred years ago a college student named P.B. Shelley got himself expelled from Oxford. Now, at last, we know exactly why.
The Bodleian Library at Oxford has made available a recently discovered copy of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Poetical Essay on the State of Things.” Long thought lost, the poem, along with his essay “The Necessity of Atheism,” got the most intellectual of the Romantic poets expelled from Oxford.
The story of Shelley’s expulsion from university and his subsequent life as poet, free thinker, friend of both Keats and Byron, and political activist are well known and do not need further rehearsal. At this moment, given the horror of the recent attacks in Paris that we’re trying to comprehend, it seems particularly fitting to ponder Shelley’s arguments. Continue reading
There is no place on earth where the darkness can overcome the light. Do not be afraid. #todossomosparis
Mes frères et soeurs,
They attack us because they fear our strength. We are far stronger than they. Their fortress is only shadows and confusion. Our stronghold is reason, the will of a free people. We will withstand this assault and every assault they attempt. They already know this. That is why they hide, and why they prefer to kill themselves rather than to stand before us and face the light of justice.
I must make a most difficult request of you tonight. Forgive them. They are already condemned to carry the burden of their crimes forever. Every God-fearing person with a rational mind is praying for their souls already, and for peace, because these killers have done great damage both to their own humanity and to the hope for a lasting peace among all mankind, which is our common goal. They have chosen the path of destruction. We must not follow them down that path.
The only thing that can overcome terror is love. Like a soldier who runs toward a suicide bomber to save his brothers and sisters, we must run toward this danger with open arms, embracing our enemy, dooming his strategy and his ideology, eliminating the perceived distance between himself and us. We must hold each other close, every free person, every Christian, every Muslim, all of France, all of America. We must prove them wrong about us. God has given us reason. No one can steal it from us. If we do not surrender it, the terrorists lose.
Yes we killed Jihadi John. He was a war criminal luring innocent Muslim children to their deaths or to slavery. He created the state of war in which he was killed. Who lives by the sword dies by the sword. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. These killers in Paris are war criminals. Their accomplices are war criminals. They will share Jihadi John’s fate. They will not be allowed to turn us aside from the straight and narrow path of reason. We will never surrender. Continue reading
Miley Cyrus is a Girl Scout compared to Wendy O. Williams, whose performances were getting her arrested for lewd conduct 30 years ago.
Three faculty colleagues and I spoke informally last week at a lunchtime program for people who work at the university but don’t teach. They invited us to talk about what it’s like to host a weekly show on the university’s student-run radio station.
One of the speakers is in his early ’70s, I would guess. He’s a good guy: cordial and well traveled, with deep knowledge about a wide range of topics. He began by saying he had seen a clip from an MTV music awards special that showed Miley Cyrus being her faux outrageous, self-promoting self.
“Is this what our culture has come to?” he asked earnestly. Continue reading
image courtesy of dailysignal.com
The answer to the Syrian refugee crisis is Iraq. As Secretary of State Colin Powell famously warned President George W. Bush, “If you break it, you own it.” (Read that whole article, by the way, because Colin Powell is one of the great American Generals and he speaks the truth.) We have many allies in the region and they are doing everything they can to help us. Turkey is housing nearly 2 million refugees (half of whom are children.) That’s 10% of Syria’s pre-war population. Jordan has embraced almost 650,000, which means that 10% of Jordan’s total population is now Syrian refugees.
Lebanon (not an ally) has accepted 1.1 million refugees. Lebanon and Israel are in the midst of a Cold War. As a result, the United States offers Lebanon no assistance, even though 25% of their population is now Syrian refugees. The children keep coming, and Lebanon keeps housing, feeding, and sheltering them, even though their resources are well beyond the breaking point. Even Iran has been sending aid, as much as they are able, to fellow members of the Red Crescent Society (think Red Cross for Muslims.) Continue reading
The Islamic State remains a puzzle to U.S. policymakers and analysts.
The national security community in the United States and the West neither predicted the Islamic State’s rise, nor has been able to figure out how to halt it. Writes Burak Kadercan at National Interest, the Islamic State has
… constituted a source of embarrassment for the security community…. Consequently, there is little agreement in the security community over the true nature of ISIS and the proper strategy to effectively “degrade and destroy” the organization. Put bluntly, for all the pride that the security community takes in its predictive, explanatory, and prescriptive capabilities, it has failed (with a capital F) over the puzzle that ISIS poses. Continue reading
Historic sites serve every purpose to the Islamic State except actual preservation of cultural heritage.
The beheading by the Islamic State of “Mr. Palmyra,” Khalid al-Asaad, the retired chief of antiquities for historic Syrian site, Palmyra was the latest insult to both the citizens and the cultural heritage of the territory it conquers. It should be noted that it’s thought that Asaad was first tortured, but apparently refused to reveal the whereabouts of certain antiquities that the Islamic State sought.
Lowkey – Terrorist?
So, we must ask ourselves
What is the dictionary definition of “Terrorism”? Continue reading
ISIS is but one example. What about the rest?
Dr. M. Neil Browne of Ice in the Head, author of Asking the Right Questions, posted today about the merits of selective intolerance. Warning: videos linked from that article are of graphic violence, so don’t click that video link as the contents aren’t safe for work or much of anything, really. Continue reading
The only true way to win a nuclear war is not to fight it.
Most people are aware that, in the event nuclear deterrence fails, the ensuing nuclear war, whether controlled or all-out, will result in a level of death and devastation to both sides that lends new meaning to the term Pyrrhic victory. But, what if, threatened by an imminent nuclear attack, a nation such as the United States, surrenders instead?
In his 1986 book, Nuclear War: the Moral Dimension, James Child writes:
One of the most disarmingly simple responses to the catastrophic character of nuclear war and the logical puzzle of the Dilemma of Nuclear Weapons is simply, “Why not surrender?” … Surrender could be defined as eschewing violent resistance (or, at least, nuclear resistance) and putting our fate in the hands of an armed adversary who appears willing to use nuclear weapons. Continue reading
I studied your position on the Iran Deal, which was posted on medium.com. It seems well reasoned and thorough, proceeding logically from point to point. However, there is one key flaw which runs through all the arguments. There is a false premise, an unstated assumption that Iran not only intends to build a nuclear weapon, but that they intend to use it. It is beginning from the position that we are and always shall be mortal enemies, that one of us must be destroyed. Continue reading