Friday, July 31, 2015

The Great Syrian Fuck-up

How fortunate are the Republican legislators, presidential candidates, and pundits who can sit back comfortably and rattle their sabers while the Obama administration muddles around hopelessly in Syria and Iraq!  A grand fuck-up it is, and so it shall be, barring, say, Divine Intervention, or something equally unlikely.

Remember those "moderate" rebels we were going to train, and who were going to beat back the assorted Islamists who have nothing in common save hating our guts?  According to today's Times, there are exactly 54 of them, and their leader and his lieutenant just were kidnapped by Al Nusra.  Then, in order to get Erdogan to let us use Turkish airfields to bomb what I shall henceforth call "the Islamist State" (aka all that other stuff), the Obamites have to sort of ignore the fact that the Turks are not especially attacking IS targets, but reserving their firepower for the Kurds, previously the most effective force against IS.

One reason we have been so unsuccessful in recruiting anti-IS fighters is that we refuse to go after the Assad regime, presumably because Assad is fighting IS.  Well, Mr. President, the PKK aligned militias under bombardment by Turkey are fighting IS too, Turkey wants Assad overthrown, Assad has committed war crimes, and nobody is supporting him but Iran.  Oh, wait!  I forgot that the Iranians are not quite so bad as they used to be.

Personally, I believe that the Kurds, PKK affiliated or not, are the only ones in the region worthy of support, and I sincerely hope they manage to carve out an independent Kurdistan from the shit gumbo the USofA is haplessly wading through in the Middle East.  I understand that Turkey has to remain in NATO for various geopolitical reasons, but maybe it's time for another secularist military coup over there.  Where's the goddamned CIA when you need it?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland may or may not have committed suicide in her cell, but either way, she was killed by racism.  Specifically, she was killed by Brian Encinia, the white highway cop who harassed her, threatened her, roughed her up, and arrested her.  His punishment, most likely, will be loss of his job.  Big deal.

From the dashboard video of Encinia's cruiser, and his interaction with Bland, it's not difficult to reconstruct what led up to their confrontation.  Bland was doing the speed limit, always a good idea if you happen to be "Driving While Black."  (We can be sure she was traveling at precisely the speed limit because Encinia did not charge her with speeding.)  Seeing a black female with out-of-state plates, Encinia played the tailgate game — pulling up dangerously close behind her.  This is a favorite game of highway cops, and if you've been driving for any length of time, it's probably been played on you.  You pull over to the right, and hope he just goes on by.

Sadly, Bland neglected to signal.  It's understandable, because one tends to panic a bit under the circumstances, especially if one is a black female with out-of-state plates.  If she'd signaled, ninety-nine to one he'd have found some other pretense for hassling her.  He asks if she's upset.  Of course she's upset, you racist, misogynous, fascist asshole!  You want her to be upset.

We all know what happened until she moved out of the range of the dashboard camera.  The next thing we see is a cell phone video of Bland, handcuffed and on the ground, with Encinia holding her down.  He claims she kicked him, and that's why she was jailed on $5000 bail.  The only evidence of her "assault on an officer" is Encinia's word.

All cops lie.  Bad cops lie a hell of a lot.  What happened off-camera is anybody's guess.  What happened on-camera, though, is egregious, like when Encinia threatened to "light her up" with his Taser.  Unfortunately, police work attracts far too many individuals with personality disorders like Encinia's.  We can't just eliminate the so-called "bad apples," because then the barrel probably would be half-empty.  The culture of policing has to change.

You can't answer "Black Lives Matter" with "All Lives Matter" until black lives stop mattering so much less than white lives — until black lives are no longer habitually pushed aside or tossed away.  There continues to be a significant advantage in being a white male, and it's time we white males admitted as much. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Odds and Ends

While I'm not terribly interested in outer space, I felt a burst of sympathetic joy for the teams of scientists working on the Pluto project.  What a great day that must have been for them when the first images arrived back on Earth!

Like a lot of other severely depressed young people, I suspect Mohammod Abdulazeez was already suicidal when he attacked the military base and recruiting station in Chattanooga.  How convenient for him that his religion offered him redemption for his "sins" (alcohol abuse and bad debts) if he took it upon himself to become a martyr!

Chelsea Manning
Yes, now that he's a lame duck, Obama is willing to take some of the political risks that terrified him before the Republicans swept the midterm elections, but I'm still not all that impressed.  It's very, very unlikely that when he issues his post-election pardons prior to leaving office he will add Chelsea Manning to his list, but it surely would lift him up in my esteem.

Now that same-sex marriage is the law of the land, it may be time to take a good look at arguments for polygamy.  The legalities are harder to work out due to the economic ramifications of polygyny, polyandry, and group marriage — how to figure out tax liabilities and child support responsibilities, for example — but logically, polygamy should be the next marital civil rights frontier.  Currently, many Americans practice serial polygamy — having multiple spouses, only not at the same time — and there are "traditional" polygamous (usually polygynous) households making a go of it.  Legal polygamy, at this point in our cultural evolution, deserves serious consideration.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Iran Deal

As long-term readers know, I couldn't care less if Iran becomes a nuclear power.  There are lots of nuclear powers in the world today, and none of them has used its bomb.  Even though it's well over half a century old, mutually assured destruction (MAD) still works.  India and Pakistan may rattle their silos from time to time, but they never launch.  Even if Israel didn't have enough nuclear weapons to vaporize all their antagonists in the region, Iran still would not risk using a nuke.  Hell, even Israel won't use its nuclear weapons unilaterally.

So, what's the benefit of a nuclear treaty with Iran?  More than anything, it brings the Iranians closer to the rest of the world.  By comparison with their neighbors, Iranians are better educated, less religiously fanatical, and much better disposed towards democracy.  After all, it was the democratic election of Hassan Rouhani that made the nuclear agreement possible.

Reintegrating Iran into the world economy will make it more responsive to external influence.  Alleviating the hardships suffered by average Iranians under sanctions will lessen the influence of the Revolutionary Guard and other right-wing elements.  Further sanctions will not work (see Cuba), and the only other alternative is war, which also will not work (see Iraq.)

The time to normalize relations with Iran is now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Greek Debt "Agreement"

Pretty clearly, no "negotiation" took place in Vienna.  The Germans — who, at last, seem to have achieved their WWII goal of taking over Europe — dictated the terms.  Tsipras, faced with the crash of the Greek banking system, had no choice but to agree.

Personally, I believe that immediate "Grexit" is preferable to yet another round of destructive austerity.  Maybe there are enough members of the Greek parliament to say "no," as the Greek people said "no" last week.  Okay, I understand that a substantial majority of Greeks want to stay in the Eurozone, but it won't do them any good if they have no euros to spend.

The euro was a bad idea from the beginning, as the British recognized when they opted to stay with the pound.  Not only Greece, but Spain, Portugal, and Italy would enjoy a great deal more economic autonomy if they had their own currencies.  If Europe ever is politically unified, that will be the time for a unified currency.  All the euro has accomplished is to put the bankers in charge.

In the meanwhile, it's time for Greece to cut its losses and default.  The future is grim for Greece no matter what it does, but real recovery will come sooner if Greece has its own currency.

Μην αφήνετε τους Γερμανούς να κατακτήσουν και πάλι στην Ελλάδα. Πες ΟΧΙ!

Saturday, July 11, 2015


I am thoroughly confused by Donald Trump.  It is clear enough what he is doing.  Far less clear is why he is doing it.

Trump is appealing to the racist, nativist component of the Republican base, and his popularity in recent polling indicates that it is a distressingly large group.  If his goal is to be taken as a serious contender for the Republican nomination rather than just a billionaire buffoon, he has been successful.  If his goal is to become President of the United States, his perception of the American public is considerably more negative than my own.

Trump, a real estate developer, almost certainly is a net winner from illegal immigration.  His contractors and subcontractors can offer him lower bids if some of their workers are illegals earning low or even sub-minimum wages.  He is rich enough to be immune from the kinds of "criminals" who may sneak across the Mexican border, just like everybody else in his social set.  Is he guided by some twisted sense of "social responsibility?"  Doubtful.

He may be an asshole, but I find it hard to believe he is a complete idiot.  He must know he is hurting the Republican brand by shouting out the ugly thoughts his competitors are content to merely imply, so party loyalty doesn't come into his calculations.  Is he a secret, Machiavellian Democrat, working to help Hillary Clinton (who accepted his donations in previous elections)?  Again, doubtful.

Some suggest he just enjoys publicity, attention, and doesn't especially care how he gets it.  I call that the "mental illness model" of Donald Trump, and cannot entirely discount it, but I suspect the Trump candidacy goes beyond that.

Trump, who is as rich as he says he is, can afford to place large wagers against long odds — and the odds against him becoming President of the United States are very long indeed.  Just the same, if enough Americans are sufficiently hateful, fearful, and knuckle-draggingly angry to vote for a pompous bag of wind like Trump, he just might win.

What would Trump do if he became the next "Leader of the Free World?"  Has he thought it out that far?


Monday, July 6, 2015

The NO Vote

The Greeks have soundly defeated eurozone efforts to depose their allegedly "leftist" government by a margin of 61 to 39 percent.  Even though they had no way of knowing the impact of their decision on Greece's future, they clearly understood that banker-imposed austerity policies have been a complete failure, and rejected them.  The next move must come from the "troika," and what that move will be remains to be seen.

Nobody — not even Wolfgang Schäuble — really wants to see Grexit, but serious obstacles stand in the way of the debt relief Greece needs.  Yes, the IMF admits that Greece will be unable to pay its debts, but the ECB and other lenders will resist: after all, one doesn't want to set a bad example for other southern European nations.  If I had to guess which European leader is most upset by the "no" vote, my nominee would be Spain's Mariano Rajoy, whose government already is under pressure from Podemos, the Spanish political movement that bears a close resemblance to Syriza.  Rajoy just might be serving his last term, and a Podemos majority in the Spanish parliament certainly would be disruptive across Europe.

In Greece, things are likely to get worse before they get better, but glimmers of light are just barely perceptible at the end of the debt tunnel — which would not be the case if the shameless European propaganda campaign had succeeded in effecting a "yes" victory.  More austerity can only feed into an endless downward spiral.  Even Grexit offers more hope.