China, respectfully, stop poking the bear.

norse battlefield

image courtesy of

So you discovered that 21 million people have security clearance in the United States. Is this surprising to you? Because it’s not to us. We are grateful that fewer than a million of them are charged with watching Americans. I am weighing the value of each word I type. I know our cyberwarriors are watching for keywords like “military industrial complex,” and “war on terror.”

The military industrial complex is a renewable contract which makes war (and thereby death) profitable. It is one of the founding principles we never talk about, but it has been with us since the beginning, when Spain, France, and Holland, controlled this land and we, being at war with Spain, France, and Holland, felt entitled to all the lands claimed by Spain, France, and Holland. The fact that other people lived here, and that Spain’s, France’s, and Holland’s claims were suspect and possibly baseless, provided no deterrent. It was profitable, therefore it must have been good.

The history of colonialism is the history of human beings struggling to contain this bear we call the military industrial complex. The bear finds honey and eats it, maybe in the form of a plantation, maybe in the form of a banana republic. It currently controls the Southern Hemisphere and most of the Northern Hemisphere. We have fought it off in the first world. When we talk about freedom, that’s really what we mean. The death machine must satisfy logical requirements before it eats us. We are in the process of expanding that freedom to include people of all colors and genders.

We have discovered, in the process of naming and taming this beast, that fighting it is impossible, because it only grows stronger. War is its food. It must be starved to death. In 2001, a few people who dressed like Arab Muslims attacked America. The bear ate five thousand Americans, and at least a hundred thousand civilians in three countries, most of them innocent, because one guy poked the bear by releasing a video of himself denouncing the United States. Don’t poke the bear. Continue reading

North Korea: Free speech works both ways

the proof

Kim Jong-un. Photo: Reuters

Gangnam Style is the gold standard in internet success for aspiring musicians, a true Cinderella story. The people of the world do not love that song and that video because their respective governments are intentionally emphasizing the difference between North and South Korea. The truth is we love Korea, but we can only see half of it. Continue reading

Cynical foreign policy thought for today

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said that Russia will “respond” (read that as “attack Ukraine”) in the event that Russia’s “legitimate” interests, including Russian citizens, are attacked.

Assume for the moment that the Ukrainians are right and the various masked occupiers of towns in eastern Ukraine are, in fact, Russian special forces. If that’s the case, then Ukrainian action to drive off the occupiers would potentially result in the death of one or more Russian citizens (the alleged special forces).

And if we take Lavrov’s words literally, then we would have a situation wherein Ukrainian self-defense against Russian incursions could be used to justify a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Castro and Miami's Cuban community and what the hell was Ozzie Guillen thinking?

Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen recently lost his freakin’ mind. He told Time that

I love Fidel Castro…I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [SOB] is still there.

Predictably, the world then stopped spinning on its axis.

Nota Bene #121: Birds of an Ancient Feather

“Television is an invention whereby you can be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your house.” Who said it? The answer is at the end of this post. Now on to the links! Continue reading

Burma's ethnic insurgencies erupt in a chain reaction

The respective rebellions of Burma’s (or Myanmar, as its government prefers it be called) three largest ethnic minorities are, for once, all aflame at the same time. At Asia Times Online, Brian McCartan writes: “Myanmar moved closer to civil war in recent weeks after fighting broke out in Kachin State,” thus breaking its ceasefire with Burma’s ruling junta. “Myanmar’s newly elected government now faces ethnic insurgencies on three separate fronts,” thus putting at risk “Myanmar’s development and international confidence in its supposed democratic transition.”

“In the southeast,” meanwhile, a revolt by “the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) on November 7, 2010, election day, resulted in the temporary seizure of two important border towns.” What’s significant about this is that, despite the noble sentiments suggested by its name, the DKBA had been allied with the government. Continue reading

GOP Madness 2012: Cruella DeVille Bracket results…but wait, there's more

Prussian BlueMaybe I should have seen the Huckabee thing coming. For the first time in Huck’s life he’s got a hustle that pays well and doesn’t require him to hug sweaty overweight people. He’d be nuts to give it up. But whenever politicians pass up a chance at power, even when it makes logical sense, my Spider-senses go crazy. Might be more to this than meets the eye.

As predicted, Newt’s big mouth and untidy personal life continue to be the gifts that keep on giving for his opponents, and sure enough, his tiff with Paul Ryan and a $500,000 tab at Tiffany’s have caused him to tumble to the bottom of the latest Zogby poll. (Of course, that same poll has Herman Cain leading, which underscores that no one has put a lock on this thing. It’s no coincidence that many of the early “contenders” are media personalities like Cain looking for a little cheap press.)

And it looks like the decision to withstand the pressure from commenters and leave Mitch “Placeholder” Daniels off the bracket was a good one. Continue reading

Dispelling some myths about US involvement in Libya: it isn't humanitarian and it isn't about democracy, either

by Rafael Noboa y Rivera

Earlier today, in the midst of writing other things, I engaged in a long-running conversation over email about the motivations for our war in Libya. Essentially, the question at heart was this: given that Khaddafy was threatening to massacre tens of thousands of rebels upon his recapture of Benghazi, the rebel capital, how could we not intervene? Could we really stand-by and watch people die, cut down in cold blood?

Let me posit the question in another way.

In the Second Congo War, which lasted from 1998 through, roughly, 2003 – though, really, it’s still going on – over 5.4 million people were killed, in the most horrific, barbarous ways possible. Continue reading

Do Svidaniya, Yuri and Vladimir

If you’re a Boomer, particularly a Boomer male, the “space race” resonates with you as much, maybe more than JFK,  Beatlemania, or Vietnam. You spent a lot of Saturdays wishing the most recent Mercury/Gemini/Apollo mission would release its hold and that all systems would be go so the spectacle of the launch itself could flicker on your TV – and you could get back to watching cartoons.

But the astronauts themselves were rock stars – before there were rock stars. They were real, live American heroes – and while I and many of my generation found ourselves torn between widely varying (although not so different, we now know) heroic types, no one doubted the couragesometimes tragically expressed – of our space explorers. We lost  some of our guys (including my personal favorite, Gus Grissom) – but we had to beat the Russians. If they took over space, life as we knew it would be over. Over….

And they had the first space hero – Yuri Gagarin. Continue reading

Cyber warriors race to Mars

The Hundred Year StarshipNASA and its spooky Sith-lord counterpart, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, are teaming up to achieve the impossible: interplanetary colonialism. DARPA, known for its role in developing such technologies as the internet and GPS, has also funded cyborg beetles implanted with electrodes that control their flight by radio, battery powered human exoskeletons, and ravenous robots called EATRs which find and consume biomass (read humans) for fuel.

The stated purpose of DARPA is to maintain military supremacy through technological superiority. During the dark nights after Sputnik first blinked overhead, Americans gathered in their bomb shelters and grumbled that we should do something before the other guys do it to us. In our innocence, we had no idea what that something might be, so we put together a crack team of scientific geniuses to discover it. Continue reading

Assange—Just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts

The great Wikileaks dump has been interesting in any number of ways. I’ve learned a lot. It’s true that a number of commentators have said that this is all stuff we knew before, but I’m not sure that’s the case. There’s a whole raft of detail that now confirms what many of our intuitions were, and that’s a step forward. One thing that’s of paramount interest, I think, is that thus far no one has disputed any of the facts contained in the data dump.

This is good—facts are good things. For example, we now know that it’s a fact that the British government’s slavishness to the US embarrassed even the US government, and that Prince Andrew can be an oaf, but a highly amusing one, particularly about geography, and that the Vatican was upset that the Irish government didn’t intervene to stop the investigations into priest child abuse in the Irish Catholic Church, and that the US government actively tried to undermine the Kyoto agreement at the Copenhagen Climate talks. These are all things that if we didn’t know them to be facts, we could at least have intuited them as being likely—but it’s always nice to have your intuitions confirmed. Then there are some facts we didn’t know, like the fact that the US government pressured the Vatican to take the soft US line at Copenhagen, among others. I’m a financial analyst, and I like facts. That’s what makes transparency important. Continue reading

What would a progressive society look like? The Tricentennial Manifesto

The Tricentennial ManifestoOne of my lists is currently engaged in a fairly dynamic discussion about “what is a progressive?”

In thinking about the issue, I realized that it might help to ask the question a slightly different way: what would a progressive society look like? Maybe I can better understand what it means to be progressive in 2010 if I reverse-engineer the definition from a vision of the future where things work the way they ought to.

I have argued that the success of the progressive movement hinges on seriously long-term thinking. It’s not about the 2012 elections or the 2016 elections or even the 2020 elections – those fights are about the battle, not the war.

Instead, if we do things properly, if we concentrate on and win the war, what does America look like on our Tricentennial? The following 40 articles suggest some ideas. Continue reading

A bipartisan call to arms

Don’t you love the smell of bipartisanship in the morning? It smells like … it smells like burning flesh, or victory. After all, those two smell pretty much the same, don’t they? Now that the American people have spoken, or at least a small percentage of them have spoken because it was a mid-term election with predictably low turnout, power players in the Republican leadership are in Ottawa dropping clues for Mr. Obama. If he wants to win their favor and cooperation, then all he has to do is attack Iran.

Last week, David Broder opined that if Obama wants to sail to reelection he only need start a war. That’s real political strategy there, people, never mind dealing with serious problems in the US; the trick is to incite an irrational fear and hatred in the American people. Get ’em all riled up for some vicarious killing and they’ll follow you anywhere. Some call it the “Bush doctrine.” Oh, hey, now don’t get Mr. Broder wrong: “I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get reelected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century. If he can confront this threat and contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history.”

Lindsay Graham agrees, to a point, and he too would just love to see Barack Hussein Obama be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history. Of course he would, loyal opposition and all that. So to that end, Sen. Graham took the opportunity afforded by his trip to Ottawa to outline his favored, possible future for the US in regards to Iran.
Continue reading

PhilanthroCapitalism – Why giving won't save the world

You’ll recall how, when George W Bush stood for re-election as US president back in 2004, outraged Europeans organised petitions and marches to demand that Americans vote for someone else.

And then, in 2009, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was trying to steal the Iranian presidential elections, millions of people around the world turned their web pages green and fired off thousands of Twitter posts to call for free elections.

Or how about when, in 2007, George Clooney went to Sudan to demand that the international community do something to stop the genocide taking place in Darfur.

As you’ll also remember, Bush lost to John Kerry, Ahmadinejad went into exile and Darfur is now peaceful and prosperous.

Oh, wait, no, none of that happened. Continue reading