Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

August 31, 2007

The National Regression: Despotism vs. Democracy

Filed under: culture, media, politics — codesmithy @ 1:19 pm

One of the things that I find striking is looking back at political media that was made during the 1940s and 50’s is to realize how such statements made today would probably get the speaker labeled a socialist. Even Eisenhower’s statements of a military-industrial complex run counter to mainstream political discourse in the United States. Despite the fact that embedded video would be rightfully considered propaganda by today’s standards, so cavalierly dismissing all it has to say would also be a mistake. It does a good job of framing wisdom about political freedom by societal indicators which can be the basis of further study.

If someone has a better set of indicators, feel free to post them and explain why they are better.

August 30, 2007

The Distraction from World Politics

Filed under: culture, politics — codesmithy @ 6:03 am

I keep forgetting if foreign wars are supposed to keep people distracted from domestic politics, or if domestic politics are supposed to keep people from noticing problems with foreign wars.  Maybe the purpose is cacophony, or maybe chaos and disparate events happening both at home and abroad is just the natural state of the world.

The Larry Craig scandal, I think for everyone’s sake needs to go away.  Larry Craig is guilty, he admitted it.  He is just denying it now, out of the same sexual fetish that got him in the bind to begin with.  He has had these allegations circling about him for nearly 25 years.  I don’t care if he considers himself gay or not, if he touches or gets touched by the member of the same sex for sexual gratification, he falls into a spectrum homosexuality.  He can still switch hit, but he has crossed the objective boundary that people like Fred Phelps will tell him to go to hell for.

The problem that I have with Larry Craig’s behavior is not the homosexual nature of it and calling it hypocrisy is being too kind.  Because, in reality, he is a sociopathic pervert.  Anyone that attempts to conduct sexual acts in a airport restroom receives my ire.  On the most basic level, I might have to use one of those, and a janitor has to clean it up for crying-out-loud.  Get a room.

But for Larry Craig, it is all part of his ego sexual fetish.  His status as an upstanding Republican Senator working for a “Family Values” campaign.  Degrading himself in what he imagines is the most sinful act, with a stranger, in a public area where he might get caught.  Getting caught just allows him to prolong the game, rail against his accusers, defend his former status and secretly know it is all a lie.  I don’t care how much Craig wants to be like Justine in a Marquis de Sade work, but just give it up.

Mr. Craig, I am sure you don’t care, but for once in life step-back and honestly reflect.  Consider other people, especially gay people, as intelligent, talented individuals who have hopes, dreams, aspirations and want to live peacefully, happily, free from persecution, and hate-crimes but have a disposition to be different.  I know you don’t consider yourself  one of them, you just wear their mask when it suits you to become the most disgusting thing you can think of.  Think about how you’ve tried to hurt them, how you’ve denigrated them, just so you could revel in it later.

I’m not asking Craig to atone to for his wrongs, just accept the jig is up, just like the moment he must have had when the police officer arrested him and before he started this crazy notion of trying to protect his former stature.  Everyone except the most blind see through it.  He isn’t fooling anyone but the fools.  Just go away.  There is serious business that needs to be discussed and Mr. Craig, you are a distraction.  For one moment, stop thinking about yourself and have a moment of honest decency.  All it requires is for you to stop making a scene and go away.

August 29, 2007

More Evidence of U.S. Planning to Attack Iran

Filed under: politics — codesmithy @ 8:18 am

On the heals of French President Sarkozy meeting with U.S. President George Bush, Sarkozy raised the possibility of bombing Iran.

Bush described Iran as such:

… Iran’s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust

Although, on the heels of the Vietnam/Iraq comparison fiasco, it looks like Bush may have lost a little bit of steam. To be fair, Bush did not call out the need for a strike yet, but rather economic sanctions to isolate Iran.

Given Bush’s recent backing Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, a good bet on who Bush will blame for lack of progress in Iraq is Iran. Much like the surge, such a move might make tactical sense but represent strategic failures. Given the current political climate in Iraq, it is unlikely that secular or moderate government will arise. Al-Maliki is Shia along with much of the population of Iraq, which means it will probably have closer ties with Iran than Saudi Arabia (a Sunni dominated country). The solutions are as follows: back Al-Maliki and watch a strong Iran-Iraq power block arise with much of the world’s remaining oil underneath them, have a military coup take place and install a Sunni/Secular strong man (call him Saddam Hussein the second), or divide up the country between the different factions declare victory and get out.

Divide and get out seems to be the most viable strategy at this point. Although, I highly doubt it will be one that Bush will ever endorse. However, there is a reason Al-Maliki is strengthening ties to Iran. To no surprise he was warned not to be too friendly because Bush is aware of Iran-Iraq power block issue also. So, Bush must be holding on to the dream of a unified secular Iraq, which means Iran is still the likely scape-goat in Bush’s state sponsored, good vs. evil world-view.

Additional evidence of this internal conflict is the U.S. battling Shiite militias, which appears to be part of the overall surge strategy. Fomenting internal Shia conflicts to obtain a balance of power between the factions. This would also require restriction of potential Iranian meddling or Shia solidarity.

August 28, 2007

Rolling Stone: The Great Iraq Swindle

Filed under: impeachment, politics — codesmithy @ 7:53 am

Rolling Stone has a great article about the corrupt money grab that is the Iraq reconstruction.  It is nothing really new, but a good summary to get up to speed.  The complicity of executive branch in the matter is unpardonable.  What is clear is that the money isn’t coming back unless criminal charges are brought.  I think we will all be witnesses of the legal joy of the limited liability corporation that will keep any legal action in court for years and make it difficult to recover the money.  I wonder how the judiciary will respond if charges are ever brought given 6 years of virtually unquestioned Bush appointees.  I guess they did find “Scooter” Libby guilty, so there is some hope.

The course of action is still clear: Impeach (Cheney First).  Withdraw from Iraq.  Prosecute these crooks.  How much additional money needs to be swindled, how many more people have to be maimed and killed in this war of lies, before the Democrats do their job.

August 27, 2007

Fred Rogers 1969 Senate Testimony

Filed under: culture, history, politics — codesmithy @ 7:47 am

This is off of digg. Richard Nixon proposed cuts to PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Fred Rogers appeared to challenge the cuts. Below is video of his testimony.

This kind of exchange is embedded in the mystique of the U.S. system. A passionate individual who sways a smug and no nonsense Senator with the power of their argument. Although, the champion of such actions is Ralph Nader. I don’t know to what extent this is possible anymore. According to documentary, “Why We Fight” and reinforced by the various media blitzes I have seen orchestrated over the past four years, much of the government policy apparatus is vestigial. Think tanks devise strategies, legislation, talking points, and coordinate the media blitzes. It is sad really, turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the amazing talent in this country. It only serves to impoverish ourselves.

August 26, 2007

Jesus Camp

Filed under: culture, film, politics, religion — codesmithy @ 5:28 am

I picked up and watched “Jesus Camp: America is Being Born Again.” It follows Evangelical ministries of Becky Fischer and focuses on a few kids, Levi, Rachael and Tory. Mike Papatonio is a radio host that represents a counter-point through-out the documentary.

The most remarkable thing about all the kids is that they are profoundly ordinary. Levi and Rachael have tremendous potential, both are smart and passionate. They’ve just been roped in and encouraged to engage in superstitious belief. At one point, one of them expresses the anti-enlightenment belief that said it was good for Galileo to recant his heliocentrism ideas in the face of pressure from the church.

One can hardly blame the children for the environment of fanaticism they are raised in. However, how can the damage to their world-view ever be undone? If they believe anything that they say is the “Truth” and anything I say is the work of the devil, how can there be any compromise? In fact, that is the property that Fischer’s ministry wants to develop in these kids: to be completely uncompromising.

Is this how egalitarianism destroys itself? By being too permissive of a faction that is actively seeking to destroy it. It is hard for me to imagine that people would abandon reason and go back into the dark. It is especially frightening knowing all the weapons and technology that can now be used.

It is ironic because egalitarianism and the ideas of the enlightenment have given the actors so much, although I am sure that they hardly realize it and frequently condemn it.  From my perspective, it is one thing to curse the geopolitical region that they are in, albeit cathartic, (warning: crude language), it is another to come up with ways to address the problem.

I would highly recommend watching the film to get a better understanding of the problem.

August 25, 2007

Quebec Police Caught Trying to Instigate Crackdown (Foiled)

Filed under: protest — codesmithy @ 10:38 am

Something to keep in mind when protesting is that the government, by definition, has a monopoly on legal violence. Although, the government is supposed to guarantee rights like freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, quite often, people who work for the state would much rather that people didn’t exercise those rights. Let’s call it a look but don’t touch brand of democracy.

Somewhat infuriatingly, there are people who demand to use their rights. The state is left with a dilemma, what to do with people that they don’t like but haven’t broken the law. Well, if the protesters were to attack the police, then the police could crackdown on the protest and the protesters. However, what happens if none of the protesters want to attack the police? Obviously, you put some undercover cops in the crowd to attack the police. Problem solved. It takes the chance bit right out of it. Also, it is extraordinarily useful because the state will go after the leaders. Obviously, the leaders of the protest were inciting violence because it happened ipso facto.

All is well, unless someone notices what the state is up to. Which is what happened in Quebec. Here is the video.

The Quebec police even admitted that the three they arrested were cops. Although, the police denied that the three were there to instigate violence.

Police said the three undercover officers were only at the protest to locate and identify non-peaceful protesters in order to prevent any incidents.

Exactly, that is why they picked up the rocks and refused to drop them. Although, I love how the police department tried to spin it.

Police said the three were told to monitor protesters who were not peacefully demonstrating to prevent any violent incidents, but they were called out as undercover agents when they refused to throw objects.

If Canada really wants to become a police state then they should learn from their neighbors to the South and set up “free-speech zones.” Basically, the state builds a prison and tells all the protesters that if they want to exercise their rights, they have to go inside. It is much more efficient.

On a more serious note, there cannot be any serious debate on this topic. Unrelenting ridicule is the only civil solution for those that willingly spout absurdities. Those that believe that this is isolated, deny or apologize for it need to open their eyes. Situations like this are written about in “The Grapes of Wrath” and the precedent likely goes back much further.

Update:  A few things that I didn’t address.  The fact these guys were wearing the same issue boots as the cops.  I believe the boots were a way to reliably identify the cops from the regular protesters during the crackdown.  It is not really a reflection of their intelligence since I don’t think anyone would have noticed if they hadn’t been caught or weren’t aware of police tactics.  It is not a case of these guys not thinking about their foot apparel.

The last thing is the probability the people that they picked up were not the cops is ludicrous.  I realize the police statement left some ambiguity to the issue.  Given 1) They weren’t charged. 2) The boot issue.  3) Their behavior of going into the police line as opposed to leaving.  4) How protective of their identity they were to the other protesters, but obviously not scared of getting caught by the police (which is the exact opposite behavior we’d expect).  There are likely others.  But the conclusion is the that there is no reasonable doubt that these guys were cops.  The ambiguity is just a word game and reading more into it is giving them too much credit.

August 24, 2007

Richard Dawkins: Enemies of Reason

Filed under: culture — codesmithy @ 10:28 am

Richard Dawkins is a hero of mine. He had an excellent special, embedded below, demonstrating the grip of superstition has on people even today.

I am highly sympathetic to Dawkins aims. Although, one aspect that I don’t like about Dawkin’s presentation is his unconditional lauding of science and rationality. The human race has not yet fully demonstrated whether evolutionary it is better to be smart than stupid. As for claims of free time: “Anthropologists estimate that typical hunter-gatherers worked at feeding themselves no more than seventeen hours a week, and were far more robust and long-lived than agriculturists, who have only in the last century or two regained the physical stature and longevity of their Paleolithic ancestors.” (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan pg. 279). Some technological progress has dramatically reduced people’s leisure time and seemingly decreased human empathy. Pushed to logical extremes, we see things like Scientific Management.

My point is that rationality needs to be coupled with moral values such as equality and egalitarianism. I disagree strongly that one necessarily implies the other. Social darwinism can hardly be thought of much of an improvement over divine right for reasoning behind social structures.

The second aspect is to be humble and cautious, reductionism and hubris of complicated system leads can lead to cataclysm. Detailed examples are available in “The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations” by Dietrich Dorner.

I’m not disagreeing with Dawkins specifically because of works that I read, watched or listened; I believe he generally holds these values also. However, I do think he does a disservice by focusing too much on the irrationality without offering an alternative for the basic humanity, which is at the heart of much of the appeal for the nonsensical things Dawkins attacks.

If one does not recognize the ability of a scientific approach to one-track people’s minds, focus only on measurement (and therefore ignore things that are tough or impossible to measure) and the subsequent tuning to maximize and minimize the various metrics, then humanity hasn’t gained anything. A sense of awe, wonder and respect is also essential to seeing the big picture.

I think fundamentally, Dawkins does not completely get the distrust of science rooted in the power structure. Scientists and science has been used by power structures to protect interests from smoking, to “Agent Orange,” to the current debate about Ground Zero respiratory problems and the effects of depleted uranium. Individuals don’t have access to the laboratories or the the necessary data. However, I am sure he can recognize the powerful political and corporate interests involved in suppressing or downplaying links.

We don’t live in some utopia and science is a tool that can be abused. Not to recognize the capitulation to power structures and the veil of esoteric jargon that the academics routinely employ as a form of intimidation is to be willfully blind and ignorant of the current failings of contemporary rationality as a complete belief system and problems with academia in general. The degree to which superstition still exists, I think is as much of an indictment of the failure of social structures to bring knowledge and the advantages of society to the less fortunate than willful intent of people to be superstitious and ignorant. People don’t believe that institutions necessarily have their people’s best interests at heart, and there are good, rational reasons to believe that and to be skeptical.

In short, I think the causality is wrong. I think if we have a more egalitarian society, we will get a more rational society. But, if there continues to be class division and mistrust, we will see superstition and irrationality rise up as a mere reaction due to prominent scientists (such as Dawkins) claims to primacy on scientific issues. However, I do respect Dawkins’s strides to have us recognize how superstition pervades our society. This is as much of a challenge to the intellectuals as to the superstitious, and it is our duty as a society to do better.

August 23, 2007

Bush: Vietnam is to Iraq as Cambodia is to?

Filed under: history, politics — codesmithy @ 9:15 am

Admittedly, this is a foggy. Yet, anything that deals with the future always is. I do believe people have the capacity for free-will which throws off all attempts at fortune telling, but people are rarely very good at completely disguising their intentions.  I will try my best not to make connections appear stronger than what they are. Alternative explanations in the comments will be appreciated, since I’m only trying to make the pieces fit. There are four key facts that I’m trying to reconcile and there is seemingly only one way to do it.

Fact 1, Karl Rove and Tony Snow are stepping down, and Snow hinted at other departures. The excuses tend to be universally lame. Snow’s reason was for financial reasons despite the fact that he has a $168,000 salary as press secretary, and Rove wants to spend more time with his family, now.

Fact 2, Karl Rove made a the following statement on his farewell tour.

America needs to think and act differently. We face a brutal enemy who will kill the innocent for one purpose and that is to gain control of the Middle East and use the leverage of oil to bring down the West and will attack us again. – Karl Rove, Meet the Press 8/19/07

It is in the part 1 video on Crooks and Liars. This is a new meme that I hadn’t heard before. Under this rubric of the enemy we face, who then is the greatest threat? Who else in the region is an enemy, has lots of oil and this administration will accuse of interfering in the region and harboring terrorists?

Fact 3, former CIA officer says US to attack Iran within 6 months. Although, Baer’s other point was that the administration didn’t trust the military bureaucracy and did not want a leak. Is this the reason the Petraeus report is being written inside the White House? Will the White House emphasize connections between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and IED’s in Iraq? Is that why the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is going to be labeled terrorist organization? Is the reason behind Karl Rove’s leaving because Bush no longer trusted him to keep information private? The trust that he violated with the Valerie Plame affair.

The final piece is Bush’s Vietnam comparison. The rhetorical point he seemed to be making was: the U.S. should have stayed in Vietnam and there were wider problems in Indochina that he emphasized in Cambodia. Wait a second, the U.S. bombed Cambodia.

Iran is a country that we know this administration has had its eye on from the original axis of evil days. This is coming to a head after years of posturing. I don’t think this president has any intention of going out with a whimper or being a lame duck. I can completely see him trying to carry out a grand vision in the face of what would otherwise be a withering gauntlet. I hope as much as Baer that this is wrong, but on the flip-side, these pieces of evidence are the ones in hindsight we would kick ourselves and ask: “how did we not see this coming?” I’m not trying to overstate the case and I’m not saying invasion, just bombing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and nuclear sites. From the best I can tell, we have two carrier groups in the gulf and every article I’ve come across about the carrier deployment mentions Iran. In all, I don’t think Baer’s informal poll seems as far off as it first appears, and I don’t know what other explanation carries as much weight.  We’ve certainly seemed to have passed the threshold for mere coincidence.

August 22, 2007

The Best Op-Ed on the Iraq War to Date

Filed under: politics, protest — codesmithy @ 7:23 am

“The War as We Saw It” is a NY Times Op-Ed written by seven members of 82nd Airborne Division.  The piece demonstrates the challenges and obstacles U.S. policy in the region faces.  It confirms predictions made before the policy was implemented, is consistent with the history of such occupations and best explains data we are currently seeing out of Iraq.  In comparing year-over-year averages, the situation does not look much improved and is still trending upwards.  Did anyone honestly think adding the amount of troops that we did and trying to aligning ourselves with militias with questionable loyalties was a serious change in direction?

This Op-Ed differs in outlook from a “A War We Just Might Win” by Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack and the accompanied media blitz.  There is a piece Paul Rieckhoff “Trust Airborne or Brookings Institute?” which does a good job of going over credibility of the two articles.  I recommend checking out the discussion as well to get a sense of the true spectrum of opinion on this matter.  It is also where “oldmole” demonstrates his credentials as a thread warrior.

The most important aspect of this op-ed is that it is for the people, so we know what it going on.  It is very unlikely that it will affect the political leaders of this country.  They will stand behind the O’Hanlon and Pollack pieces and whatever the Petraeus report finds.  The Petraeus report itself is unlikely to find anything that can not be  spun given that it is being written by the White House.  Regardless, there will always be war apologists asking for more time.  This war will not end until enough people are marching on the streets of Washington D.C. demanding it to end.  The 2006 election proves how weak internal change is for the elites that run the country.  We can even look back at the Vietnam war and look what that took.  The leaders have to be pushed externally, and it is up to the people to do it; not through elections, but through protest.

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