Another Fourth, another episode of blissful national blindness

No red, white, and blue adorn my flagpole. No patriotic bunting arches over my front door. No fireworks await their flaming demise. I no longer enjoy the nation’s formal parting from Great Britain (which was on July 2, anyway).

2f45d-free_wallpaper_patriotic_eagle_american_flag_background-1-1024x768I suppose, at one time, July Fourth carried great meaning to all Americans. After all, because of the acts of the Continental Congress and subsequent versions of it, I can (and do) criticize my government without fear or favor. I can own a weapon. My home and person cannot be searched or seized without cause. I am not obligated to incriminate myself. I can practice the religion of my choice — or decide not to — without government coercion. I can peaceably assemble with others to protest almost any damn thing I want to. I can vote to select who will govern me. And Congress cannot prevent me from owning a press in which I tell others what I see and what I know and what I feel.

I love my country because of the ideals inherent in the Constitution and especially in the Bill of Rights.

But lately, I have come to dislike this overwrought holiday. Continue reading

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

Help me Governor McCrory, you’re my only hope

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image courtesy of wikimedia.org

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

Foreign policy: make Iraq great again

                                                       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

Senator Schumer: Be a statesman.

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photo courtesy of rt.com

Senator Schumer,

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

Iran Deal: open letter to Congress

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image courtesy of wikipedia.org

Dear Sir or Madam,

Thank you for your service to our country. As you know, President Obama’s historic peace accord with Iran is in jeopardy. Granted, we could smash Iran into little pieces without very much effort at all. However, to do so would precipitate a catastrophic descent into world war, destabilizing our military hegemony and costing millions or billions of lives. It would also place America firmly in the historical category of hubristic villain states, and could very well bring about our downfall, if not our complete destruction. A vote against the Iran deal is a vote for that second option. Continue reading

China, respectfully, stop poking the bear.

norse battlefield

image courtesy of alansondheim.org

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

Tantō

Kuratas Mecha courtesy of engadget

Kuratas Mecha courtesy of engadget.com

After a courageous performance
Against a team
That was clearly on fire,

And graciously ignoring
The obnoxious juvenile response
Of a nation defined by our wars,

Japan has quietly
Saved the world
By building a giant robot.

Megabot USA courtesy of businessinsider

Megabot USA courtesy of businessinsider.com

It has been a pleasure,
My fellow Americans,
To have served with you

In our common causes
Of freedom and justice,
But the day we feared has come. Continue reading

How aggression went from an act of war to a pathology

Aggression by a state, once considered just an act of war, ultimately became viewed as a pathological act.

Viewing a state’s aggression as pathology incurred punishment, not the understanding one might expect. (Photo: Bettman / Corbis)

Viewing a state’s aggression as pathology incurred punishment, not the understanding one might expect. (Photo: Bettman / Corbis)

I’ve been re-reading Sir Lawrence Freedman’s landmark work The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy (Third Edition) for a book I’m attempting to write about the rationalizations and counterintuitive strategies that inevitably attend a state’s development of nuclear weapons. (For his part, Freedman has written around 20 books.)

In the first part of The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, Freedman chronicles the rise of air power during the 20th century. He writes that, in the nineteenth century, the concept of aggression referred to a “‘military attack by the forces of a state against … another state.’” But, even before World War I, “the term had become pejorative, referring to a military attack that was not justified by law.” Continue reading

War & Peace: don’t wait until the bear eats you

Image courtesy of Getty Images via BBC

NATO intercepted 400 Russian military flights in 2014. That’s four times as many as in 2013. An intercept is necessary when the aircraft is flying with its transponder turned off to avoid detection. The Russian planes do not file a flight plan, meaning they are not supposed to be there, or they file as a commercial aircraft and turn off their transponder because it would identify them as a military aircraft. All NATO planes on all missions have their transponders turned on. Continue reading

Keystone XL: weaponized greed

If one wanted, hypothetically, to win a world war, and studied the previous world wars to glean what relevant information might be revealed, one would be struck by the fact that America is a formidable foe, with tremendous natural resources. Americans habitually throw away enough food to feed another continent. Or a war effort. It would be advantageous to remove this fertile ground from the equasion. What if Rome had salted the fields before waging war on Carthage? Continue reading

Captive Minds: the war on totalitarianism

“Whoever recommends and helps a good cause becomes a partner therein: And whoever recommends and helps an evil cause, shares in its burden.” – Holy Qur’an 4:85

There is no possible way to love your neighbor by killing him, yet radicalized “Orthodox Christians” are killing their way westward across Ukraine. There is no way to do good to the traveller by taking him hostage, yet this practice is routine in the “Islamic” State.

In an explosive performance art video, two Russians are seen dousing the doors of Lenin’s Mausoleum with holy water, chanting “rise up and go,” a twist on the resurrection of Lazarus, except the deceased is no friend, but a haunting. It’s an exorcism.

Isn’t it odd that the Donetsk Ukrainian airport and the Maiduguri Nigerian airport are so strategically important to these rag-tag bands of crusaders? Almost as if they were taking orders from the same general who is terrified of an impending airlift.

Do you really believe Africans don’t know about Ebola? As they say in France, c’est raciste. There have been twelve major outbreaks since 2000 AD, all of them in Africa, yet the people are incredibly suspicious of the unarmed doctors and aid workers. Who has been telling them that Ebola is a hoax? Continue reading

Who is ISIS? Time for an airlift.

So picture this scenario. A leader in a fledgling democracy creates a space for himself, a perch above it all from which to tame the beast. Sounds reasonable? Except, wait. No it doesn’t. Remember when George Washington turned down the crown? Remember when he set the two term precedent? That’s a leader. What we’re dealing with is a king. Let’s hope he’s not a tyrant. Continue reading

China denies my right to vote in NC

chinese-yuan-public-domain-750x400px-717x400I’m not registered to vote. I was registered when I voted early in the primary on May 6, but my status has been changed without my knowledge or consent. Several people who live in upstate New York are registered to vote here, likely without their knowledge or consent. I discovered this while helping get out the vote for the Democratic Party. Many of the registered Democrats on the list do not live here or do not exist. Many of the Democrats who do live here are suddenly and mysteriously unregistered.

It appears the voter rolls have been purged and then patched up to look like the old demographics. You can expect the worst voter turnout ever on November 4 because the only people allowed to vote will be Tea Party sympathizers. Republicans who do not bow to the almighty shareholder (China) will not be allowed to vote either. Continue reading

US war movie military policy: Baby Boomers grew up on films where battle was noble and Americans never died

America’s permanent war policy is a reflection of WWII movies, which offered an unrealistic vision of war’s motivations, consequences

My Depression-born parents raised me in a rural idyll during the Eisenhower years. As a child, I snuck into the Garden Theater to watch war movies. They enthralled me: Battle Cry, To Hell and Back, Away All Boats, D-Day the Sixth of June, The Wings of Eagles, Battle of the Coral Sea, and my favorites, the submarine movies: Run Silent Run Deep, The Enemy Below, and Up Periscope. I revered Steve McQueen in The Great Escape and John Wayne in Operation Pacific and The Flying Leathernecks. Later, I learned mediated definitions of traitorous betrayal in Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare. Continue reading

Ten years ago this week the Dixie Chicks controversy erupted: I’m still not ready to back down

CATEGORY: FreeSpeech

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. ― Theodore Roosevelt

On March 10, 2003, at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire theatre in London, Natalie Maines stepped to the microphone and said this:

Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.

As our old friend Greg Mitchell notes, “It was a little more than a week before their fellow Texan launched a war based on lies.”

When word of Maines’s comment made it back to the US, what ensued was…well, what ensued was an infuriating look at the festering soul of Bush-era America and an illustration of the good, bad and ugly of how free speech works. Predictably, the hillbilly right closed ranks around the president and his WMDs-are-real cronies. Country & Western stations purged their playlists of Dixie Chicks music, records were burned, fatwas were issued, and the Chicks’ career Mark 1 was effectively destroyed. The message – for the Dixie Chicks and anybody else out there with a brain and a conscience – was more than clear: if you value your career, shut up and sing.

In some respects, the controversy was really useful. For instance, the president responded by saying:

The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what they want to say.… they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out.… Freedom is a two-way street ….

The remarkable thing about this is that Bush, a man renowned for being wrong on just about everything, was actually right for once. Free speech does not imply a freedom from backlash, and if you’re an entertainer people who disagree with you are perfectly within their rights to boycott. What’s good for Hank Williams, Jr. and Mel Gibson is good for The Dixie Chicks.

Granted, you also have the right to be hateful and ignorant, and it’s certainly true that the Dixie Chicks backlash had more to do with the gleeful exercise of these rights than it did any informed understanding of how free speech was intended to work by the Framers. But that’s another argument for another day.

Now, how you feel about President Obama?

In April, 2009, S&R honored The Dixie Chicks as the 25th addition to our masthead hall of fame. I wrote, at the time (and while I was extremely angry):

History will validate, with a minimum of controversy, the sentiments Natalie Maines expressed at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire theatre on March 10, 2003. Hopefully the record will point to our present moment and note that already the momentum had shifted and that within a generation people would have an impossible time imagining how such an affront to freedom was ever possible. Hopefully.

For the time being, “mad as hell” doesn’t begin to describe the indignation that those of us working to move this culture forward by promoting genuinely intelligent and pro-human values ought to feel, even now. I won’t tell you how to think and act, of course – you have a conscience and a brain, and you can be trusted to take in the information and perspectives around you and form an opinion that you can live by.

But for my part, I have a message for the “shut up and sing” crowd: I’m not ready to back down and I never will be. Your values are at odds with the principles upon which this nation was founded and true liberty cannot survive if your brand of flag-waving ignorance is allowed to thrive. You will not be allowed to use the freedoms that our founders fought for as weapons to stifle freedom for others.

You have declared a culture war, so here’s where the lines are drawn: I’m on the side of enlightenment, free and informed expression and the power of pro-humanist pursuits to produce a better society where we all enjoy the fruits of our shared accomplishments.

What side are you on?

Natalie and her bandmates lost tons of money over the past decade, but they’ll get by. In the end, it seems like they got a pretty good deal. In exchange for all those millions, they earned the right to a special place in the American soul. Justice matters. Facts matter. Humanity and compassion and freedom matter. Integrity matters more than money.

Looking back, I think the lesson to take away is a simple one. Our freedoms are important, but they’re empty and sterile and prone to corruption in the absence of an enlightened, intelligent embrace of the responsibilities that come with living in a democracy.

In the words of another of our musical heroes, George Clinton, “Think. It ain’t illegal yet.”

America gets divorced: what about custody of the energy and the nukes?

Part three in a series.

First look at this map:

Now this one, which indicates the location of US military installations: Continue reading