Wednesday, February 25, 2015

More etc., etc.

Love of Country
I was trying to figure out whether or not I love the USofA.  Well, probably not, unless you count as love the relationship of a long-married couple who shuffle along side by side primarily because splitting up would be more trouble than it's worth.  In other words, I'm not about to "lay down my life" to "protect" some alleged "ideals" that may or may not have ever been put into practice.  Anyway, the plutocracy is strong enough and rich enough to look after its own ass.

Four Months for Greece
Greeks will continue to suffer as long as Greece is stuck with austerity, and if Syriza is pushed aside by the Germans and their fellow travelers, "Europe" is likely to find itself dealing with Golden Dawn.  Europe will be pulled, one way or the other, by Greece, and Europe has to decide whether it will be pulled to the left or the right.

Three British Girls
The three girls who recently lit out for the Islamic State were middle class, good students, and not especially religious until very recently.  So why did they take off for the alleged caliphate?  My guess is that they were made to feel more and more isolated and alienated from British society, and the IS was the only outlet they could find.  The hatemongers, both in Europe and the USofA, are doing more to strengthen the enemy than to weaken it.

Net Neutrality
So far, so good.  Back in the eighties and nineties, monopolistic telephone companies were forced to lease bandwidth to competitors, which led to steep declines in the prices of long-distance phone calls.  If Comcast and the other internet giants are forced to lease bandwidth to smaller competitors, what might the impact be?  Let's hope we get to find out.

Homeland Security
Maybe we should try getting along with a lot less of it for a while, and see if it makes a difference.  To bad for the employees who will have to work without getting paid, but since those who work for the Department are not allowed to unionize, I guess they'll just have to eat it.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

World Tour

It's getting to look a lot like a Russian win in Ukraine.  The most recent "cease-fire" never even got started, much less held.  There are those in Congress calling for the USofA to arm the Poroshenko Ukrainians, but that would do nothing to end the conflict or bolster the Poroshenko government — all it would do is confirm Putin's narrative that Russia is in conflict with an aggressive West led by the usual enemy (us).  The only remaining sanction that might make a difference is to deny Russian banks access to SWIFT, but that's something of a "nuclear option," and the USofA cannot do it unilaterally.

It's a mess, best avoided if at all possible, bearing in mind that just because some bunch of international criminals say they're part of Islamic State doesn't mean there's any real coordination.  If the Egyptians want to screw around there, let them, unaided by the USofA.  It's their border, and their citizens, not ours — and we always can be counted on to make things worse.

While the Goodluck Jonathan government is too corrupt and inept to stop Boku Haram, no likely alternatives have presented themselves.  Chad, we're told, is making some progress, and Niger and Cameroon are stirring, but only time will tell.  As long as oil prices remain low, nobody in the West will be bothered to do anything about Africa.

Israel and Iran
Netanyahu continues to agitate for a US military attack on Iran, but even American Jews are starting to have serious doubts about the sanity of Likud policies.  Hopefully, the era of knee-jerk Congressional obedience to AIPAC is ending.  Working cooperatively with Iran should not be any more difficult that working cooperatively with Saudi Arabia or, say, Turkey.  Face it, we don't give a shit about spreading democracy.

Let's just hope Cristina Fernandez de Kirshner's government can hold it together.  The bourgeoisie are wavering, but she still has the support of the working classes, and our State Department already is overstretched.  Yes, we're all curious to know who killed the special prosecutor, but we don't need another crisis in Latin America.

Syria and Iraq
If Obama prefers not to use the modifier "Islamic" when referring to Islamic extremists, I suggest he just refer to them as "those shitheads."  Throughout history, various groups have used religion to justify all kinds of awful behaviors, and will continue to do so.  Come to think of it, "those religious shitheads" just may be more to the point.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Hate Crime?

Everybody is talking about how Craig Hicks, the man who gunned down the three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is an atheist.  The family of the students, of course, is convinced that the shooting was a hate crime — as American Muslims, they've been living in an unquestionably hateful environment.  Just the same, I'm fairly certain that religion had little, if anything, to do with the murders.

Why would an atheist specially target Muslims?  If Hicks felt threatened as an atheist, you'd think he'd go out and shoot some Evangelicals.  Really, in the USofA it's the Christians who give atheists a hard time.  One of Hicks's neighbors characterized him as "an equal opportunity hater" — he was markedly unpleasant to everybody, especially those who used designated "visitor" parking spaces.

Less commented on than his atheism was his gun collection, an arsenal large and diverse enough to warm the heart of Wayne LaPierre of the NRA.  Quite a few of Hicks' guns were stored fully loaded, including the military style semi-automatic rifle.  Was he planning mayhem?

Probably not.  The arsenal was was far in excess of what he needed to kill a few dental students — but just the right size for a victim of severe paranoia.  The NRA will disagree, but I believe Hicks's gun collection indicates a serious psychological defect.

Okay, maybe he was paranoid about the threat of "Muslim extremists" mounting terror attacks against his condominium and its designated parking spots — but, if so, why kill dental students, two of them female.  If he was saving North Carolina from encroachment by the Islamic State, surely he could have found himself a group of scarier Muslims to shoot.

There well may be some real hate crimes being planned, and law enforcement should do its best to prevent them — but we'd all be a lot safer if the cops took a hard look at the owners of arsenals.  They don't call them gun "nuts" for nothing.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Obama's request for Congress to give him Authorization for Use of Military Force against Islamic State, like most Obama proposals, has failed to fully satisfy anybody.  Since it is an Obama administration proposal, nobody should be surprised that it tries to skate adroitly among the holes in the ice.

Since the requested war powers would expire in three years, some of the dimmer lights in Congress may be able to convince themselves that they are regaining control of warmaking powers.  That's not the case, of course, because without Congressional approval, the prez already is making war in Syria and Iraq, and nothing in the current proposal stops him from continuing to make war wherever and whenever it seems politically acceptable — based on his torturous interpretation of the 2001 resolution against Al Qaeda.

Nothing would stop Hillary either, and she is more of a hawk than Barack.  Anyway, some meaningless piece of legislation will pass, supported by pitchfork waving Republicans and torch pumping Democrats, and Obama will have what he wants — a "bipartisan" endorsement of whatever he happens to do.  When everything gets screwed up, as it has a way of doing in the Middle East, it won't be only his fault.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Eddie Ray Routh

Eddie Ray Routh, the troubled veteran who killed "American Sniper" Chris Kyle and Kyle's friend, Chad Littlefield, has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.  Did he "know the difference between right and wrong," all that Texas requires to find a man sane?  Beats me.

One way or the other, though, there was craziness involved.  It is thoroughly crazy to put a gun into the hands of someone who has shown clear signs of serious mental illness and then blame him for shooting somebody.  What asshole from the VA decided Routh would profit from a little gun range therapy?  Maybe that's the guy who should be on trial.  No, forget that.  After all, it's Texas.

While in the car with Routh, Kyle texted to Littlefield, "This guy is totally nuts."  Was Kyle thinking the gun range visit might not have been such a good idea?  We'll never know.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Measles, climate change, low-fat diets, etc., etc.

We gain some knowledge via personal experience, but not much.  Most of what we accept as "true" we learned from others, an accumulation of authorities like mommy, the third-grade teacher, that really cool kid from home room, the neighbor, the guest speaker, the clergyman, the self-described "scientist," and that amusing guy at the bar.  Toss in cable TV and the internet, and we can be seriously wrong about a lot of serious things a lot of the time.

If  things are repeated often enough, and if the "authorities" have the appropriate hair and clothes, we're inclined to believe them.  Still, since we're frequently lied to or otherwise misled, and since different "authorities" often offer contradictory "truths," we are forced to pick and choose.  We prefer "truths" that are repeated a lot, expressed with great emotional conviction, and which don't contradict our preexisting beliefs.  People who disagree, by definition, must be idiots.

My beliefs, I assure you, are both scientific and morally superior.  You are entitled to disagree but, of course, contradicting me makes you an idiot.  So there.