Between war and peace: NATO, Russia, and the dumpster fire in Syria

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image courtesy of nbcnews.com

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 future of the World Cup: three burning questions

World Cup 2014 was a great one. But what does the future hold?

russia-2018Copa Mundial 2014 was a wonderful tournament, despite the bad officiating, diving and cannibalism. We saw the emergence of new stars (what do you mean it’s pronounced “Hahm-es”?), brilliant swan songs by old stars (here’s to you Miroslav Klose), dramatic overachieving (hail Ticos!), epic flame-outs (remember back in the old days when Spain was good?), spectacular individual performances in service of doomed causes (Memo Ochoa and #thingstimhowardcouldsave come to mind) and a whole lot more. Best of all, in the end the best team won.

Now we look ahead to 2018 and beyond with a series of questions on the mind of every avid football supporter. Continue reading

Are you proud to be an American? I’m not.

by JS O’Brien

Doubtless, the title of this piece made you think I was about to launch into a blame-America-first jeremiad on this July 4. Not the case. This is about pride; what it is and why it makes sense, or doesn’t make sense, to have it.

I grew up around adults who had a regional greeting when they shook hands: “Proud to meet ya!” I thought that was strange at the time, and I still do. Why would anyone be “proud” to meet someone? I suppose, theoretically, if you’d accomplished something really spectacular that got you into a meeting with someone powerful and famous, you could transfer your pride in accomplishment to that meeting, but that’s a bit roundabout, eh? More likely, it’s one of the manifestations — along with the phrase, “Proud to be an American” — of sloppy thinking and misplaced values that are an un-American as terrier pie. Continue reading

Nota Bene #123: Behold the Chickenosaurus

“There ought to be limits to freedom.” Who said it? Continue reading

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

Conspiracy or ineptitude: Why do so many bad calls seem to go against the US soccer team?

Ken Gude has some thoughts on all the calls going against the US at the World Cup.

It wasn’t the first time in this game that there were odd calls – all going against the US – in and around the Slovenan box. One play Dempsey was wrestled to the ground in the box, no call. On another, he was body check as Altidore got off a snap shot. Altidore was blocked off just outside the box by the last defender that only drew a yellow card. One earlier decision saw Altidore thrown down this time near the midway line only to find the infraction whistled on the American. You might think the ref just plain didn’t like the United States. Continue reading

Are liberals smarter than conservatives? Our nitwit media strike again…

CNN reported last week on a new study showing that liberalism, atheism and sexual exclusivity in males are linked to higher IQ scores. The findings are intriguing, for all the obvious reasons.

Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa at the the London School of Economics and Political Science correlated data on these behaviors with IQ from a large national U.S. sample and found that, on average, people who identified as liberal and atheist had higher IQs. This applied also to sexual exclusivity in men, but not in women. The findings will be published in the March 2010 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly.

Reactions have been all over the place, but there’s been strong suspicion of the findings from both “liberal” and “conservative” corners (especially conservative, as you’d expect). Which is good. Continue reading

Nota Bene #106: [no title due to budget cuts]

“Working for a major studio can be like trying to have sex with a porcupine. It’s one prick against thousands.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #105: The Illustrated Dick

“When all you are becomes defined as the amount of information traceable to you, what are we then? What have we become, in a world where there is no separation, no door, no filter beyond which we can say, ‘No. This is my personal space. Not yours. Here I am alone with my thoughts and free of any outside influence or control. This, you cannot have.’ I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out.” Who said it? Continue reading

9/11 happened on Obama's watch! GOP noise machine already hard at work on the history books of the future

Something wicked this way comes.

There are a number of problems with these assertions, not the least of which is that when Saudi terrorists started flying hijacked jets into large buildings on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush had been president of the United States for the better part of eight months. The lapses in memory noted above are all striking, but especially so in the case of Giuliani, who was, from September 11 until he dropped out of the presidential race on January 30, 2008 (a span of roughly 2,332 days, if my math is accurate), unable to say so much as “hello” without somehow shoehorning “9/11” into the conversation. Continue reading

Nota Bene #99: Heed the Peace Gnome

“You just pick up a chord, go twang, and you’ve got music.” Who said it? Continue reading

Democracy & Elitism 4: equality, opportunity and leveling up the playing field

Pulitzer- and Emmy-winner William Henry‘s famous polemic, In Defense of Elitism (1994), argues that societies can be ranked along a spectrum with “egalitarianism” on one end and “elitism” on the other. He concludes that America, to its detriment, has slid too far in the direction of egalitarianism, and in the process that it has abandoned the elitist impulse that made it great (and that is necessary for any great culture). While Henry’s analysis is flawed in spots (and, thanks to the excesses of the Bush years, there are some other places that could use updating), he brilliantly succeeds in his ultimate goal: crank-starting a much-needed debate about the proper place of elitism in a “democratic” society.

Along the way he spends a good deal of time defining what he means by “egalitarianism” and “elitism.” Continue reading

Democracy & Elitism: an introduction to the American false consciousness

Democracy+ElitismPart one in a series.

Is there a more radioactive word in American politics today than elitist?

Admit it – you saw the word and had an instinctive negative reaction, didn’t you? If not, then count yourself among the rarest minority in our culture, the fraction of a percent that has not yet had its consciousness colonized by the “evil elitist” meme. If not, you’re one of a handful of people not yet victimized by a cynical public relations frame that poses perhaps the greatest danger to the health of our republic in American history.

Pretty dire language there, huh? Perhaps we’ve ventured a little too deeply into the land of hyperbole? It might seem so at a glance, but in truth the success of any society is largely a function of the things it believes and how those beliefs shape its actions and policies. Continue reading

Happy Birthday to The Commonwealth: could this be Britain's future?

I was surprised to learn that 2009 is the 60th anniversary of The Commonwealth—the association of former British colonies that still, amazingly, continue to work with each and talk to each other on a variety of issues. This would be a cause for celebration, one would think. And it appears there have been some. But I only learned about it when we visited Marlborough House, which is where the Commonwealth members meet from time to time to have their pictures taken, and who knows what else. It’s actually difficult to know, because the UK government has made no effort to publicise this event, which one would think would be a cause for celebration. The entertaining but not hugely informative Commonwealth website is here–there’s certainly a lot of stuff going on.
Continue reading

Reality is making us sick, and fantasy can't cure us

You’re honey child to a swarm of bees
Gonna blow right through you like a breeze
Give me one last dance
Well slide down the surface of things

You’re the real thing
Yeah the real thing
You’re the real thing
Even better than the real thing

– U2

Fantasy stories, myths, legends, tall tales, fairy tales, horror, all these have been with us for a very long time. Science fiction, as well, has been with us since Mary Shelley found herself in a bet with Lord Byron about the possibility of writing a new kind of horror, one not grounded in the gothic.* So the presence in our popular culture of stories based in unreality of one form or another is certainly nothing new.

It seems to me that there’s been a lot more of it lately, though. Continue reading

The Summer of Hate provides a watershed moment for "reasonable Republicans"

I’m not a Republican, but I know many people who are. I have GOP friends, co-workers and family members, and for that matter I used to be a Republican myself. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, to be sure. But it’s true.

It’s no secret that I don’t agree with the GOP on much of anything these days, but there’s kind of an odd element to my conversations with Republican acquaintances lately: a lot of them profess significant disagreement with the platform and policies of their party, too.

Taken in a vacuum, this is hardly surprising. Continue reading

America and its presidents: what the fuck is wrong with you people?

Let’s begin with a brief Q&A with America.

Q: Let’s say you’re sick with a potentially deadly disease. Who do you want for a doctor?
A: The smartest, most experienced and highly qualified expert in the field.

Q: You’re looking to invest your life savings. Who do you trust to handle your money?
A: The brightest, most agile financial mind I can find.

Q: You’ve been selected to participate in a “private citizens in space” program. Who do you want in charge of building the rocket? Continue reading

Beyond the soaring rhetoric of Obama's Cairo speech: a toxic innocence at home

by Phil Rockstroh

Even as President Barrack Obama waxed eloquent in Cairo, Egypt, on the moral imperatives of the community of nations, public opinion polls released in the United States revealed that, by a substantial percentage, its citizens believe torture is an acceptable option for interrogation of suspects deemed terrorists by various US governmental agencies. In addition, other polls show a majority of the American public hold the opinion that the all-American theme park of state torture, located at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, should remain open for business and continue to welcome guests from around the globe, taking them for the ride of their lives through the dark id of the American psyche.

These revelations should not come as a shock. Torture, official secrecy, and other sundry apparatus and accouterments of the national security state are about the only viable enterprises remaining in this declining nation. Continue reading

Let the economy die?! Rushkoff's goals are noble but his plan needs work

A couple of weeks ago author and NYU media theory lecturer Douglas Rushkoff penned a provocative essay for Arthur Magazine. Entitled “Let It Die,” the essay explains why we should stop trying to save the economy.

In a perfect world, the stock market would decline another 70 or 80 percent along with the shuttering of about that fraction of our nation’s banks. Yes, unemployment would rise as hundreds of thousands of formerly well-paid brokers and bankers lost their jobs; but at least they would no longer be extracting wealth at our expense. They would need to be fed, but that would be a lot cheaper than keeping them in the luxurious conditions they’re enjoying now. Even Bernie Madoff costs us less in jail than he does on Park Avenue.

Alas, I’m not being sarcastic. Continue reading