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February 02, 2018

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Why are Navy Seals not hunting down and killing Alex Jones

When I am king, Alex Jones will be sentenced to a life-long carnival dunk-the-clown gig.

As the clown, not the guy who hands you three balls for a dollar.

For an extra buck, you get to piss in the dunk-tank.

The beer tent is right next door.

“with respect, more fool you.”

That’s fine. My theory is that in America ( and probably most places) the truly terrible crimes committed by people in office, the ones that should earn life imprisonment with no possibility of parole, are never treated as crimes, but as at best policy disputes. We move on. We take pride in that. The criminals are treated as statesmen or get hired as consultants on TV and everybody consorts with everyone else. Kissinger is everybody’s pal and right now the old war criminal is telling Trump that nuking North Korea is tempting. It is the middling level stuff that people treat as the coming of the apocalypse. There is absolutely nothing in Russiagate that most Americans wouldn’t yawn about if we did it to some other country and that is assuming it would even make the news. I would yawn myself. There are a zillion worse things we have done.

My theory ...

Trump might have gotten less blowback if, instead of calling a country a shithole, he had just bombed it.

There is absolutely nothing in Russiagate that most Americans wouldn’t yawn about if we did it to some other country

is what Russia did acceptable or not?

simple question.

"is what Russia did acceptable or not?"

Since Russia did 'a bunch of stuff', you'll have to be more specific.

Hacking (attempted? successful?) into voter registration systems?

Hacking into email systems?

Employing troll-armies of Twit-sters?

Sending money to "not part of the campaign, but up to their neck in politics" orgs like the NRA?

Offering dirt on opponents?

Plus a bunch more. Russia is large. It contains multitudes (of crooked operators).

Donald: There is absolutely nothing in Russiagate that most Americans wouldn’t yawn about if we did it to some other country

My problem is not with the foreign ratfuckers but with their domestic collaborators. Mark Kleiman makes my point more eloquently.

That Kissinger is a war criminal is not news to me: I have cousins in Greece who personally suffered for their opposition to the junta Kissinger was cozy with. It wasn't Kissinger himself who tortured them, it was his Greek collaborators.

And not for nothing, but Putin and Kissinger probably like each other more than either one of them likes democracy. Democracy can, in fact, support crimes and treat them as mere policy disputes. The Putins, Kissingers, and Trumps of this world do not like policy disputes. But I doubt that's their actual objection to democracy.

--TP

"is what Russia did acceptable or not?"

Since Russia did 'a bunch of stuff', you'll have to be more specific.

Hacking (attempted? successful?) into voter registration systems?

No, not acceptable.

Hacking into email systems?

No, not acceptable.

Employing troll-armies of Twit-sters?

OK. I don't like it. But free speech includes the inability to save fools from themselves.

Sending money to "not part of the campaign, but up to their neck in politics" orgs like the NRA?

I think I'd go with OK for outsiders to do it. Not OK for the recipients not to say it was happening.

Offering dirt on opponents?

OK to offer, provided it wasn't obtained illegally (see above).

Just my opinion. YMMV

That’s fine. My theory is that in America ( and probably most places) the truly terrible crimes committed by people in office

I think you underestimate the capacity for malfeasance in the private sector, but in general I don't really disagree with you.

I think the reason I'm less disturbed by it is that I don't really have an expectation that states will be particularly virtuous. And people who find themselves, or place themselves, in the position of speaking or acting in the name of the state quite often find themselves speaking and acting in ways that would be unacceptable for a private person.

For some of them, Kissinger likely among them, that's the good part.

All of that said, Russia is a kleptocratic authoritarian mess, and an ambitious one to boot, to a degree that we have not yet achieved. Mostly. And thankfully.

They are, basically, a mafia masquerading as a polity.

Having them interfere in our public life is not, and will not, be without consequences. For everyone, pretty much everywhere. In ways that are actually, I suspect, quite close to your own heart.

It's not an issue of secondary importance. Whatever you think of the US.

I was actually picking up on cleek's point above: we can't take our eyes off Trump and are thereby falling for his cheap but very effective trick that got him where he is now - so it might be time to re-examine our strategy.

But do carry on with your deeply moral fervor, I'm sure if we call him a fascist long enough, he will just go away.

As for FP my views are well known and won't find many friends here (well, things have changed since hilzoy ran the place) so there is no need to endlessly rehash this.

But it is a sad fact that some here seem incapable of imagining what it is like to live at the sharp end of US FP or to consider the possibility that US FP might actually be a morally wrong.

This narcissism and defensiveness is completely alien to me, probably because I'm a rootless cosmopolitan.

My theory is that in America ( and probably most places) the truly terrible crimes committed by people in office

While we haven't had World War 3, after WW2, Korea and Vietnam, we probably had any number of people walking around who had done things that would curl your hair.

Maybe our problem is that we no longer have the ability to send people off to kill and be killed. Carter Page and Stephen Miller would have probably been fragged, Alex Jones would never have made officer, but would probably have been taken out behind the latrine and made to eat crap either before or after his front teeth were knocked out. Maybe we ought to get off-planet colonization going so we can send them there to screw up.

it is a sad fact that some here seem incapable of imagining what it is like to live at the sharp end of US FP or to consider the possibility that US FP might actually be a morally wrong.

I doubt this. Some of us may even have tried to do something about it.

How about you?

I think the reason I'm less disturbed by it is that I don't really have an expectation that states will be particularly virtuous.

I don't think that "states" have moral agency. They may be built on various moral imperatives, and when they are those principles should guide those acting on the state's behalf. Obviously, humans fall short. We fall short intellectually - trying to determine what will make things better. We fall short personally, because humans are known to be flawed.

As voters in a democracy, our job is to try to weigh policies, and to find people to implement them who are intelligent and aren't corrupt.

It seems that allowing the stupidest, most blatantly corrupt, evil and unprepared person to win the election, assisted by a dictator whose values don't coincide at all with any of the core values of the United States (even if they are aspirational, and not always realized), is despicable. People who shrug with indifference to this situation (a situation that includes rejection of refugees, climate denial, refusal to aid disaster victims, looting public resources at the expense of the poor, bellicose statements and planned multibillion dollar parades, and blatant corruption and racism) are beneath contempt. Keep cheering yourselves on, moral purists! Sometimes I hope there is a God.

Perfectly normal.

Shrug, say the incredibly hip free-thinking purists. "The whole Russia thing .... I'm bored," shrugged they.

So having peeked behind the pie wall, it seems that some folks think that a first strike against North Korea is a bridge too far.

Of course, I agree.

And it is quite likely to happen, and to kill untold numbers of people. A lot of people (for numbers counters - maybe it's you? Or maybe, if things go small, maybe just your kid?).

We've been keeping nukes at bay for a long while. Hope we keep the nuke avoidance thing going. Trump was a problematic answer. Maybe we'll live to discuss the fallout!

it seems that some folks think that a first strike against North Korea is a bridge too far.

Of course, I agree.

And it is quite likely to happen

I think rather that it is likely to be ordered. Probably because Trump decides that a war would be a useful distraction from, or even an antidote to, something threatening out of Mueller's investigation.

But I think that there is a good chance that the military will, absent a convenient attack from North Korea, push back. Maybe just stall (something that the whole executive branch has gotten good at during this administration), while they ask Congress for a Declaration of War. But something other than just opening fire.

An erosion, of civilian control of the military in one sense. But a reassertion of the Constitutional requirements regarding military action on the other.

I was going to spare you folks my blatherings for a bit of time, but this, from a professional, is just too good to remain unshared:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/even-the-brilliant-martin-amis-cant-stop-talking-about-trump?via=newsletter&source=Weekend

Also this:

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/

wj has filled us in on the rancid nature of the cult murderer republican party in California, which is, for now, in the minority. The story in Texas is about the radical cult murderer republican party in the majority in that state and how they are now feeding on their own.

Either way, the problem is not whether these filth are in the minority or the majority. That's like arguing that zombies in temporary stasis, snapping idly at the air as they stagger aimlessly in the wilderness, are somehow less dangerous than masses of them coming over the wall.

The problem for the country is that republicans are alive.

This not an endorsement of vegetarian Democratic zombies.

Off to read.

But it is a sad fact that some here seem incapable of imagining what it is like to live at the sharp end of US FP or to consider the possibility that US FP might actually be a morally wrong.

there are many instances where US FP is morally wrong. there are many more where it is neutral or even a positive good.

what that has to do with Russia is beyond me.

"Jimmy can't be punished for pissing in Jerry's corn flakes because Jerry is mean to Alice" is morally wrong and a logical fallacy.

I don’t want to get into a polite disagreement with sapient since our disagreements tend not to stay polite. But I will say this — on foreign policy US nastiness is bipartisan, with Republicans on average worse. Trump brings the extra factor of his own mental instability to the mix.

So imho the leading issue should be that we give way too much power to Presidents to start wars. On this issue there are some Republicans who agree. Probably not enough. Over at the American Conservative torture apologist Yoo was quoted as saying that Congress has the power of the purse to stop wars but that isn’t good enough. It might stop abominations like Yemen, in theory, but it wouldn’t prevent a President from starting a war with some country that could actually shoot back and might not be willing to wait for Congress.

So imho the leading issue should be that we give way too much power to Presidents to start wars.

Tim Kaine has been the leader in Congress on this issue.

On Cleek’s question—

It depends on what they actually did. The social media stuff is incredibly trivial. I have this sneaking suspicion that we might broadcast things or say things intended to influence other countries from time to time.

On the emails, it is illegal to hack, I think, so if people can be caught, prosecute them. I imagine every intelligence agency does such things. Again, if we could release embarrassing info about a foreign politician we didn’t like, I suspect we would do it, probably behind some intermediaries so we wouldn’t get caught. We openly supported Yeltsin in the 90’s and he was catastrophic for Russians.

Where I would start taking it seriously would be if actual votes were changed by Russian tampering. We need paper ballots counted in public. If the Russians could hack voting machines, anyone could.

Whether various Trumpists broke the law is for Mueller to figure out and then the courts. We already know Flynn colluded with a foreign power trying to undermine the Obama administration’s policies. He was colluding with Netanyahu, attempting to persuade the Russians to support Israel in a UN vote. Russia turned him down.

And Trump seems to be colluding with the Saudi regime to continue causing chaos and destruction in the Mideast, bombing Russia’s ally Syria and seeming to want a war with Iran down the road, another Russian ally and of course supporting the Saudis in Yemen ostensibly because Iran s supporting in some way the Houthis.

How many FBI guys would you need to investigate links between US politicians, foreign governments, and our forever wars?

I have this sneaking suspicion that we might broadcast things or say things intended to influence other countries from time to time.

and there it is again. once, just once, try it without the equivalence.

cleek, I wasn't talking about Russia

This conversation brings to mind Viet Thanh Nguyen's factoid in his invaluable meditation on the Vietnam War "Nothing Ever Dies". He quotes photographer Philip Jones Griffiths:

"Everyone should know one simple statistic: the Washington D.C. memorial to the American war dead is 150 yards long; if a similar monument were built with the same density of names of the Vietnamese who died in it, [it] would be nine miles long."

That's not counting the Cambodian, French, and Laotian dead. Not even the Hmong who loyally fought along side us.

I'm sure medals and promotions have been handed out in private ceremonies to a few Americans for their "service" in the Yemen catastrophe.

What about the one million Yemeni heroes dying and debilitated by cholera?

When I'm tempted to criticize * Donald Johnson for his "pox on both houses" point of view, I think about these things.

Carry on.

*This is the most important news yet in the mp/Russia mega-scandal:

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/rachel-brand-stepping-down

She'd rather work as a greeter at a Walmart than stick around for what is coming.

Donald: Where I would start taking it seriously would be if actual votes were changed by Russian tampering.

I think you mean "ballots", not "votes". When you or I or Vlad try to persuade people, by fair argument or by disingenuous propaganda, what are we doing but trying to change their "votes"?

I repeat: "meddling" in a country's election requires collaborators in the targeted country before it can succeed. My problem is with Putin's American collaborators, only a handful of who are actually named Trump.

--TP

I think it would be great if Congressional authorization was required before we commit to military action. Unfortunately, Congress seems less than interested in asserting their prerogatives there. They seem perfectly happy for the POTUS to do it.

I'm sure all nations do their best to influence the internal politics of other nations in the furtherance of their own interests. I think it's less common for close advisors of people running for national office to encourage, invite, or even participate in that interference from other nations.

It's true, the US blows up a lot of people, and helps other nations blow up a lot of people. Hard to argue the point, and I won't. We all live here, we're all culpable for that, and are responsible for whether that power is used in justifiable ways or not.

These three issues are independent of each other. It's less than clarifying to conflate or equate them.

“Try it without the equivalence”

No.


“It's less than clarifying to conflate or equate them.”

I am not equating them. Blowing up people is more important and receives less attention. I believe the kids today call that “privilege”. We have superpower privilege. Even on the self interested level, it is weird to me that people don’t see putting constraints on Presidential warmaking power as a top priority.

And it isn’t just Korea. We could also blunder into war with Russia in Syria because our respective proxies are trying to kill each other and both of us have forces there. Israel and Syria and Hezbollah and Iran seem on the verge of something today and we were bombing Syrian forces just a few days ago.


And even on the self interested level, it is much more important to place limits on Presidential nuking power, particularly with someone like Trump in power. It’s weird to me that

I thought I deleted that last paragraph. Apparently not.

Blowing up people is more important and receives less attention.

I think this is right on. I have no disagreement with you.

Back in the 80's friends of mine were very active in Catholic Worker circles around NYC. Including protests and non-violent direct action against our policies of the time in central and south america. their actions earned them low-level harrassment from the feds and a night or two in jail. Some of the other folks involved earned quite long stints in jail.

Maybe their actions helped to modify our policies there. Maybe the policies themselves were simply too freaking brutal to have sustained support. I don't know. Over time the policies moderated, mostly. It took a long time, years.

I can vote and contribute $$$ to support people who would like this nation to have a less aggressive foreign policy. I'm not in a position to go to jail. I could be in a poition to do so, but it would require detaching myself from other obligations I have, financial, familial, and otherwise.

So I don't know what to *do about things like what you discuss*, above and beyond what I currently do.

what price can I pay? what price can you pay? it can cost a lot to try to turn a ship the size of US foreign policy.

We also live in a nation where quite a lot of people either are fine with US FP, or just don't think about it all that much because they have too much other stuff on their plate.

So, your voice and perhaps mine are not the only voice.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that, if there was a magic wand that we could wave that would transform US foreign policy into one that involved less of the blowing people up part, most folks here would be happy to wave it.

no such wand exists.

so I appreciate your sense of outrage, and I appreciate your willingness to raise the issues that you do raise. But I don't understand why you assume nobody else here gives a crap about this stuff, and I don't understand what response you expect from the rest of us.

yemen is being crushed like a bug by the saudis, with our help. and the saudis are freaking kleptocratic tyrants who reap personal fortunes beyond imagination by exploiting their nation's mineral patrimony.

they are our BFF. that's FUBAR, in about 1,000 ways.

I'm at a loss how to change that.

I, for one, am willing to write a strongly worded comment on this blog.

*I, for one, am willing to write a strongly worded comment on this blog."

I am willing to strongly support those parts of hsh's comment I agree with by commenting "what hsh said".

Though, only if the count doesn't disagree strongly enough to threaten death, then I agree with the count.

I also like articles on FB that decry violence.

What Marty said.

But I don't understand why you assume nobody else here gives a crap about this stuff, and I don't understand what response you expect from the rest of us.

Don't want to pile on, but what Russell said. The Saudis and indeed, the whole Middle East, is wrapped up with our need for cheap oil, which brings its own dynamic. Yemen was preceeded by Biafra, you can read Kurt Vonnegut's essay here, which made a big impression on me when I was a kid. A relatively recent JSTOR article on it is here
https://www.jstor.org/stable/40206616?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Biafra, like Yemen, had the bad fortune to go up against a country that has control of oil taps. The Yemeni have the problem of losing the ability to control what happens inside their borders and now 'host' (for various shades of the term) Al Queda, which is the 21st century equivalent of cooties. Dealing with the Yemeni appropriately would require that we are able to treat SA as a normal country AND look at AQ logically, which is never going to happen as long as we have the need for fossil fuels and we have governments in the ascendancy that want to use anti-Muslim rhetoric to shore up their base. It would also require us to treat the Middle East as a normal region, which is not possible because of Israel and the aforementioned oil. It's like the final round of a jenga game, some bright spark might be able to figure out a way to pull out one more block, but replacing the blocks is not part of the rules, and even if you did start doing that, you would have just as much a chance of knocking the whole pile over that no one is going to do it.

Dealing with the Yemeni appropriately would require that we are able to treat SA as a normal country AND look at AQ logically, which is never going to happen< as long as we have the need for fossil fuels and we have governments in the ascendancy that want to use anti-Muslim rhetoric to shore up their base.

But here's the thing, lj. Currently (and for some time now) we are a net exporter of fossil fuels. So while we remember needing Saudi oil, we actually aren't dependent on them any more. Just need to adjust our perceptions to the modern world. Admittedly that can be a challenge . . . and not just with respect to oil.

Saudi oil is still needed in keeping the price of oil down.

what's the price of keeping the price of oil down?

That's true wj, but because of our postwar history with the OPEC in general and the Saudis in particular, it is difficult to imagine us changing. And our status as an exporter of fuel is wrapped up in the web of state links. We think of oil as fungible, but it isn't really, the oil we export is a better fit for some foreign refineries while the oil we import is a better fit for our refineries. Add to that the influence of Big Oil, and it is not simply a question of adjusting our perceptions, it is that there is an active interest in keeping our perceptions unchanged.

While I knew vaguely of the import/export market, your comment pushed me to do a bit of googling. These two articles, from the magazine that our president likes use to spank prostitutes with, were interesting.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2017/09/30/why-the-u-s-exports-oil/#2bf5cd343b07

https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2017/10/05/where-the-u-s-exports-oil-and-petroleum-products/#3d2ebb53f269

“But I don't understand why you assume nobody else here gives a crap about this stuff, and I don't understand what response you expect from the rest of us.”

On the personal level, people pick their issues. There are a lot of important ones. I don’t even think Yemen is at the top.

But I don’t buy this response. People everywhere on the liberal side of the fence spend enormous amounts of time castigating Trump on Russiagate. If I have time I will look up the FAIR study comparing MSNBC coverage of Russiagate vs Yemen. The ratio is ridiculous, obscene. You get more coverage of Russiagate in one day— probably without exaggeration in one hour— than you get of Yemen in one year.

I have heard people in real life bring up Russian bombing in Syria or Putin interfering whatever the current media bad guy happens to be. Not once does anyone ever mention that we are complicit in crimes against humanity in Yemen. These aren’t bad people I know in real life. This is what our political culture is like. This is what we are told is important and it does not include what we do to others unless it fits a convenient political narrative.

And it goes beyond this. I have about one minute and then I have to go, but one could do a very long extended rant about the utter lack of interest in who we murder or help to murder as shown in the amount of coverage given and in what our politicians are allowed to do on these issues.

People everywhere on the liberal side of the fence spend enormous amounts of time castigating Trump on Russiagate. ... You get more coverage of Russiagate in one day— probably without exaggeration in one hour— than you get of Yemen in one year.

liberals complaining on the internet and the people who write news stories are not the same people.

liberals complaining on the internet and the people who write news stories are not the same people.

True.

...but one could do a very long extended rant about the utter lack of interest in who we murder or help to murder as shown in the amount of coverage given and in what our politicians are allowed to do on these issues.

Also true.

What to do about it is another question, but it's a valid observation, to be sure.

I care deeply about Russiagate. I care that I retain some ability to influence what happens in my country, even if with regard to foreign policy that influence is small.

I have zero say in what the Saudis do. I have very little say in the alliances that the US has held for decades. (It was pretty clear to me when Obama was in office that his relationship with both Israel and the Saudis was tense, but that he made concessions to both of them so that the Iran deal could happen - of course, navigating between those horrible choices is something never addressed by Donald.)

My vote has made a difference at times on issues such as healthcare, immigration policy, public safety net programs, environmental policy, education, civil rights, and many other things. On all of those issues, there is no question that one party has been (even at their worst) much more proactive in benefiting my fellow human beings (and animals) than the other party.

If, even considering all of this, the foreign policy decisions of Republicans were better than those of Democrats, there might be some merit in Donald's position of constant complaining about the "priorities" of Democrats. But the foreign policy decisions of Republicans has long been more belligerent than that of Democrats - they were even worse than Democrats about the "Democrats' War" in Vietnam.

People like me tend to ignore issues they feel helpless to control in favor of things that they can do something about. In fact, put me right there with those people who care more about "our democracy" (translated as "our ability to affect anything") being destroyed by Putin than about most other issues out there. It's bad enough that we can't save Yemen. I'd like to at least be able to save my next door neighbor.

It may also be worth noting that there are government-caused disasters all around the world. Quite often, those governments are ones that we have supported in one way or another -- not least because we have relations with most governments, and have provided support (military, economic, or humanitarian) to most of them.

Everybody necessarily cherry-picks which issues they will talk about and attempt to act on. Donald happens to have picked Yemen; sapient has picked Russian interference in the last election. Still others will be concerned about climate change (which seems likely to end up killing rather more people than the entire population of Yemen).

Who picks which one appears to me to depend on a combination of factors including how much they feel they can do about the particular problem and, especially, which one they happen to be aware of. There doesn't seem to be much to be gained by castigating others for picking a different cause than the one which is exercising me. Talk about it to make them aware that it is happening? Sure. But being outraged that they don't make the same selection of causes that I make? Not helpful at all.

More later,maybe, but I think what one finds on TV and in the press pretty well reflects what most people talk about when they do talk about politics. On center-left blogs you find people mostly sticking to center-left positions. On far left blogs (and at dissident right blogs like the American Conservative) you find much much more about the ugliness of US foreign policy.


Russell asked what I want him to do. So since he asked, I will start with inner thoughts.

1. Everytime someone says the Russians attacked "Our Democracy" in hushed reverent tones, roll your eyes and ask several questions--
A) If this is worth so much extended outrage, what about our far more violent attacks on others? Freaking social media ads and embarrassing emails stolen and released don't even come close.
B) And what about "our democracy"? The one where we all feel helpless to stop the fact that both parties to varying degrees support stupid, brutal policies overseas? If you feel helpless to stop something you think is mass murder, then maybe that is more important than the freaking facebook ads. Maybe that aspect of "our democracy" is worth discussing in private, on the internet, and in letters to the editor and to our representatives than what the Russians did or did not do. Maybe the fact that we are complicit in the literal starving to death of children ought to play a bit of a bigger role in our narcissistic fucking stupid worthless piece of shit political system.

You can start to think that in the privacy of your thoughts and then go from there. You can talk about it to your friends. They will think you are a bit of an obsessive, because you will be talking about stuff that is only rarely mentioned in the press. There are debates in Congress, some of the people there (including Al Franken, btw, which is one reason I was sad to see him go) take the right positions, but there is clearly also a bit of Kabuki theater to it. They allow the debates and even that took some doing, and it changes nothing and that was almost certainly part of the plan.

But until it becomes part of our political culture, the open discussion of how we murder people overseas under both parties, it isn't going to change. There is no reason why it would if there are reasons for supporting the Saudis or the Israelis or for goodness knows what reasons people think we need to keep supporting rebels in Syria. And Trump, or rather his adult supervisors, obviously think it is a great idea to keep our war in Syria going. Syria, the place where the stupid press pretended we didn't intervene and where Obama was constantly criticized by mainstream liberals and conservatives for not intervening, where we spent billions of dollars on weapons intervening.

At my church we have an annual fundraiser for various groups and I put Yemen (specifically CARE) on the list. Someone I knew, a very well educated and smart guy, said he wasn't sure how much good it would do since the Saudis were obstructing so much aid. I said that yeah, we were helping them with their stupid war. This was news to him. And he sounded a bit skeptical and rightly so. If we were really doing that, wouldn't it be front page highly controversial stuff, constantly talked about, complicity with something that has come close to genocide?

And you can still vote Democratic. I do. No point in voting third party unless it actually led to the rise of an effective third party, and so far there is no such animal.

And you can also think that Trump or his associates or both should go to jail for whatever crimes they are found to have committed. Like Al Capone did, for tax evasion.

If this is worth so much extended outrage, what about our far more violent attacks on others?

What other democracies** have we attacked (violently or otherwise) in say the last 10 years? And how? Just curious.

** I'm willing to stipulate that we have attempted to influence non-democratic governments in various ways. But the closest thing to a democracy that we have attacked (that I am aware of) is Iran. And, so far, that hasn't gotten particularly violent -- although proxies, e.g. in Syria, have been attacked.

Quick clarification, sort of implicit before, but since I am being very dismissive of the russiagate scandal I probably should be conciliatory on something. So I concede most of what sapient says. You should support Democrats over Republicans for most of the reasons sapient gives.

If we were really doing that, wouldn't it be front page highly controversial stuff,

WaPo, for one example, has done 11 stories in the past 12 days on Yemen.


Google tells me the American Conservtive has done five this year.

Everytime someone says the Russians attacked "Our Democracy" in hushed reverent tones, roll your eyes and ask several questions--

I know people have pointed this out to you before, Donald, but you do seem to keep forgetting that it's not what the Russians did that most of us are so exercised about, it's what various Americans may have done in colluding with them to subvert your democracy. Treason, to quote your President, why not?

Apart from that, I agree with much of what sapient says at 12.00, and all of what wj says immediately after.

I for one wish to express my admiration for Donald's focus on the wrongness of our foreign policy. Consider the lack of attention it seems to attract these days, yet here we are still in the midst of a war that has been more or less going on for, what, nearly 15 years?

Highly unusual if you ask me.

But....Somebody's got to bring it if things are going to change. That's kinda' sorta' how change happens.

So I say, bring it, Donald!

We'll have national health care before we (as a nation) ever get around to seriously re-examining our assumptions with respect to our foreign policy.

Bosnia, Kosovo. Rwanda, Darfur. El Salvador, Nicaragua. Myanmar. Syria. Yemen.

A long and depressing list of fratricidal atrocities. Is there a single, consistent "foreign policy" the US should have or could have adopted toward all of them?

--TP

I have to say, I kind of agree with almost everyone on this thread recently. Very little of what people have written necessarily contradicts what anyone else has written.

yet here we are still in the midst of a war that has been more or less going on for, what, nearly 15 years?

Does it occur to anyone else that, if you don't want us involved in unending wars, the best thing you could do is reactivate the draft? If everybody's family is at risk, suddenly a lot more attention gets paid.

As an aside, it is still the case that all 18 year old males are required to register for the draft. Maybe we could expand that to include the gals, too....

If nothing else, being subject to a real chance of getting drafted and shot at might motivate younger adults to get out and vote. It did seem to have that effect on my generation.

If everybody's family is at risk, suddenly a lot more attention gets paid

But everyone's family is not at risk. What do Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden, George W Bush, Bill Clinton, and Dan Quayle have in common? None of them fought in Vietnam.

And nor of course did Donald Trump.

"At risk" is not the same as "certain to get drafted into the military." But it's still a step closer to having to worry about wars we get into than the current situation.

Their votes are a drop in the bucket.

The votes of people like Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman, Joe Biden, George W Bush, Bill Clinton, and Dan Quayle is what I meant.

wj,
you may have forgotten to remember that many of us standing in line to take the draft physical could not yet vote, so i am a bit uncertain what effect VN had on younger (male, i dare say) adults in that era as regards their official civic participation.

Their votes are a drop in the bucket.

some drops have more power than others, but i kinda' agree with you.

since oil was mentioned, maybe we should also consider arms exports:

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/R44716.pdf

I get the "so what can we do about it" question, but it shouldn't lead us to indifference or cynicism.

Not so long ago it was considered perfectly acceptable to be racist, sexist homophobic etc. - things have changed in this regard (though there is currently some pushback) and that's great.

So why is it still considered perfectly acceptable to advocate, excuse or condone war as a form of conflict resolution?

So why is it still considered perfectly acceptable to advocate, excuse or condone war as a form of conflict resolution?

it's human nature.

So why is it still considered perfectly acceptable to advocate, excuse or condone war as a form of conflict resolution?

Because sometimes you have to fight movements run by sociopaths. Sad, but true.

you may have forgotten to remember that many of us standing in line to take the draft physical could not yet vote, so i am a bit uncertain what effect VN had on younger (male, i dare say) adults in that era as regards their official civic participation

I remember. I also remember that, as a result of that, there was a lot of agitation resulting in the voting age being lowered, so that those who were "old enough to die" were also "old enough to vote." And, as soon as we could (and that was before the war was over), a lot of us did.

wj,
That Amendment was ratified by the states with alacrity in 1971. But see this chart. What's going on there from 1970-1974? Why, to hear you, the line is sloping the wrong way!

I'd wager that ending the draft has some explanatory power with regards to that!

All the best!

bobbyp, taker and passer of the draft physical, pulled #128 in the '71 lottery (whew! 1-125 got the call).

it's human nature.

i'm relying on memory here, but i seem to recall respected commenters here, even some good librul ones asserting that racism was "human nature".

And not all that long ago.

But I don't think any of them would condone, excuse, or support it on that basis.

Because sometimes you have to fight movements run by sociopaths. Sad, but true.

So we should take up arms against the Trump Administration and the GOP?

Might be a bit early.

Guess who abolished the draft, and passed the 25th Amenment? The hated generation - parents of those who were serving. Robert McNamara's generation. It's all very complicated, because that generation actually had reason to be paranoid about crazy sociopaths taking over the world. The really smart ones rejected the most extreme McCarthyism, but didn't dismiss the threat of Soviet autocracy.

They were wrong about a lot of things, but by the time of Vietnam, they had much less of an excuse. As Vietnam went on, their excuse became thinner. After Vietnam, there was a new ballgame. A lot of folks (including Reagan) played in the past. Iraq I? It was justifie. Yugoslavia was a new moment. Afghanistan was a different war. Iraq II was based on a lie.

Obama's "war on terror" was a responsible effort to address the past. It was also an answer to a real problem - terrorism from radical Islamist groups. Obviously, they were successful in fighting that, and now domestic terrorism is much more of a threat.

There are threats to which military action is the answer. So anyone who's not a confirmed pacifist has to get into the weeds of policy and figure out what's what. "Bombs are bad!" I can sign on to that until we decide someone deserves to be bombed.

I don't think that traitors in our country are immune from our considering a violent answer to them. We're not there yet, and even if we were, we're not prepared. I'm going to vote in 2018. I'm going to hope that my work (voting, working for immigrant/refugee rights, working for candidates) isn't thwarted by Putin (or his Republican lackeys, or the Koch brothers, the Mercers, Jared Kusher's partners, etc.).

What makes me angry, and makes me lose my s&*! here, is that it's so obvious that we could be making progress instead of taking so many steps backwards, if Hillary Clinton were President, and if people had voted D in Congress. Would Yemen be solved? No (but maybe it would be better). Would DACA folks be deported? Most definitely not. We would be working harder to accept refugees? Yes. Would we be talking about privatizing the crowning jewels of our federal government? I don't think so.

So, sorry. Although I'm not going to be rude, I feel really rude.

Yeah, I got a call for a physical in 1966 (pre lottery). My draft board district suffered from an excess of kids going to college, so 1 year of student deferment was all you could get. Fortuately, my ROTC detachment was willing to pull some strings for me. But I could definitely have slogging thru the jungle myself.

Might be a bit early.

One (1) year early.

Sorry, folks for the keyboard and cognition problems in my earlier rant. The cat on my lap as well.

I managed to bypass the jungle by enlisting for four years when I was drafted. But, horror of horrors, I ended up in Iceland instead. :)

Might be a bit early.

See my unfortunately non-self-edited rant. Yeah, about a year too early.

I waited until late '73 and enlisted. Took 5 months to pass the psych screen and then they let me in, and everyone else they could entice to sign up. No more jungle deployments by then, I even managed to avoid Germany, field work in the forest.

Ft Leonardwood, Gordon, Hood, Huachuca. Didn't even have to get north of the Mason Dixon line, so I avoided the real enemy.

More Arlo Guthrie, less George Patton. Although I met George Patton jr. Nice guy.

Well actually George Patton IV. Still a good guy.

Interesting discussion. I was trying to figure out what to say in reply to Donald. I'm still not sure, but when he says "But I don’t buy this response." I'm not really sure what he thinks we are selling. I'm certainly not trying to sell him or anyone else that what is happening in Yemen is something I want him to buy. I guess I am trying to sell him on the fact that Yemen is underreported because of the mix of circumstances that are hard to impossible to separate and address and simply moving them to the front page of the NYTimes does not mean that they will be addressed in a way that improves things.

Also, the comparison of stories about X vs Y is one that is used in Manufacturing Consent where Chomsky compares the articles on Cambodia with the number of articles on East Timor, arguing that the atrocities in Cambodia were covered more extensively than those in East Timor, and had there been no media bias, they would have been covered equally. But there is a flaw in that, in that Indonesia controlled the coverage of East Timor to a much greater extent than Cambodia was able to control reportage, we had more of a presence in Cambodia and the genocide in Cambodia _was_ worse than the genocide in East Timor. So the increase in column inches is probably more attributable to the differing situations. Certainly, the fact that Indonesia was an anti communist ally led us to do pretty much the same thing we are doing in Yemen, does not mean that the genocide in Cambodia was somehow overreported. It seems more like a combination of a presence in the country and reporting to reduce our agency in what happened in Cambodia led to the difference. You see the same thing with the Holocaust, with the focus on those nasty Germans and a failure to acknowledge how not only the US and Great Britain both looked the other way while it was going on, there was complicity with what was happening.

And while there were/are lots of people lying in wait to pounce on Chomsky, and did so concerning Cambodia, it was not something he covered or contiues to cover himself with glory on. So the scientific experiment of comparing column inches seems to be problematic in this case.

So when you are argue that there are more column inches about Russiagate or Trump's waistline than Yemen, I'm first wondering how we would get to an environment where there would be more stories about Yemen than whatever the Trump crisis de jour was and then wondering if that makes sense as the primary metric.

If I had to say what is occupying my thoughts at the moment, it is
-Minamata disease: some colleagues I work with have found that mercury poisoning is occurring not only in South America with gold prospecting (which intersects with another interest, endangered languages), but is occurring in Thailand
https://www.hurights.or.jp/archives/focus/section2/2012/06/map-ta-phut-thailands-minamata.html
and Canada
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontario_Minamata_disease
and been going there to work with the victims. This aligns with my interest (sadly academic rather than going out in the field) with endangered languages.

-Trying to figure out #metoo. Questions I have are how much of what I feel is generational, how much is male privilege and how little of what I think may actually correct, with the auxillary point, how much should I get a pass because of generational issues. I have a suspicion that a lot of #metoo is tied up with Anglo-American puritanical notions of sex and its role in our lives, but trying to sort that out, much less make a post about it, seems impossible

-Korea. North Korea seems like the rejoinder to any argument about disarming the military. The term 'meatshield' is one that seems spot on, in so far as we have troops stationed in South Korea not to stop an attack, but to be overrun so as to guarantee a response. And while Trump and Pence's posturing has created the conditions for rapproachment, I'm not sure it's meaningful. What happens after the Olympics is key

-healthcare. another place where I find I have skin in the game. Bizarrely enough, since it seems like there is an anglo-american desire to create a health system that screws the maximum number of people in order to the outcomes to help the 1%, I'm wondering if there is some link to #metoo. The recent Daily Mail article about increases in the rates of prostate cancer as being indicative of gender bias
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/05/men-dying-prostate-cancer-reason-gender-bias-daily-mail

-Japanese constitutional revision Given that Japan has gone the furthest in advocating the rejection of war as a policy tool, the push by Abe to redefine Article 9, and the voices cheering him on
https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21730646-its-pacifist-wording-hindrance-global-peacekeeping-time-japans-prime-minister

make me think that this is something important

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/14/national/politics-diplomacy/opposition-revising-constitution-grows-55-kyodo-survey/#.WoIG05P1VTY

I don't begrudge if people aren't intently aware of any of these things, and I'm not sure if making them aware of it actually helps anything unless they are interested and want to find out more.

i'm relying on memory here, but i seem to recall respected commenters here, even some good librul ones asserting that racism was "human nature".

i don't recall.

people kill each other. that's literally the core of human history.

it's not going to be an easy one to get past.

This is the only place I visit on the internet where I'm not considered a librul; forget being considered a "good" one ... but I was one of those who said "tribalism" was human nature with racism being one example of that.

I was clear to say this was not an excuse; just like being horny isn't an excuse for sexual assault.

Much of the seven deadly sins are about packing away our lizard id brains and finding our better angels. Tribalism is just another example.

I had intended to comment earlier, but PdM's comment above provides a nice intro to what I was going to write.

Racism, war, sexism, tribalism, maybe even nationalism should get its own mention in these modern times despite arguably being another more recent form of tribalism, and, hell, just greedy exploitation, are all things I highly doubt humanity will ever rid itself of - short of humanity ridding itself of itself.

But they have to be fought against constantly, because there will always be people fighting for them (and because those things suck). You will never win. You will gain ground, and you will lose ground. Maybe over time you can gain a lot of ground on some of them in some places, but you will still have to fight to hold that ground.

I'm not much for framing things in terms of good v. evil, but that's kind of what it is. And evil has entropy on its side, because there are so many more ways to be evil than to be good. So good has to be fought for forever, even though it will never win an ultimate victory over evil.

Endless struggle is as good as it gets, but it's better than letting everything go completely to sh1t.

Short version: People suck.

Racism, war, sexism, tribalism, maybe even nationalism should get its own mention in these modern times despite arguably being another more recent form of tribalism, and, hell, just greedy exploitation, are all things I highly doubt humanity will ever rid itself of - short of humanity ridding itself of itself.

Quite possibly. But what we can do is continue to redefine "tribe" to be ever larger groups. Time was when "tribe" was strictly a not-very-extended family. Later, it was up to something comprising a few hundred people, many of them barely related. These days (for most people) it's up to being a nation made up of millions of unrelated people. Or, for the less modern, at least a race within a nation -- again millions of unrelated people.**

Does that make nationalism or racism something to be embraced? Of course not. But it does show that we have made progress. And suggests that further progress is not impossible.

** And note that some people have even moved cross-species: their "tribe" consists of them and their pet. ;-)

But it does show that we have made progress. And suggests that further progress is not impossible.

Progress in the context of racism and nationalism may simply mean bigger wars.

Someday, we'll be able to say we've always been at war with Eastasia.

why can't we all just get along ?

(article referenced without explicit or implicit approval)

From cleek's link:

Some Americans would feel less polarized and alienated from their fellow citizens if they recognized that some of the people fighting on “the other side” of a polarizing issue actually hold values and beliefs that are strikingly similar to their own.

I've seen and participated in a number of arguments here, most memorably on gun control and taxation, during which arguments on the generalities would have you believe there was no common ground between two given people. But once they got into the specifics of what sort of policies they would like to see, it became apparent that they wanted very similar things.

I don't know that it's the basis for a Unified Political Theory, but it's an extant phenomenon.

1. Everytime someone says the Russians attacked "Our Democracy" in hushed reverent tones, roll your eyes and ask several questions--
A) If this is worth so much extended outrage, what about our far more violent attacks on others? Freaking social media ads and embarrassing emails stolen and released don't even come close.

what Russia did with Facebook against us is wrong. maybe nobody died directly as a result.

but, other groups are using Facebook to help carry out actual genocide.

it's the same tool and the same use of that tool as what Russia did against the US election, just with different target audiences and a different message.

"In his latest book, Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party Sorting, and Political Stalemate, Fiorina argues that Americans actually agree with each other on fundamental issues such as immigration, marriage equality, and pot legalization. The polarization we hear about is mostly restricted to political activists and media elites who mistake their own extreme views for those of the common people."
Surprise: Voters Aren't More Polarized than Ever, Only Pols and Media Are: Stanford political scientist Morris Fiorina says it's media and political elites who live in ideological bubbles, not regular Americans.

Americans actually agree with each other on fundamental issues such as immigration, marriage equality, and pot legalization.

Mostly true for (2) and (3).

Probably not for (1).

For that matter, there seems to be a fair amount of agreement on abortion. Yes, people have different sound-bytes on their position ("pro-choice" or "pro-life"). But once you get down to the details, their actual positions tend to be not all that far apart in most cases.

part of the problem is that there is a large industry based on selling division; and keeping all sides separate is fundamental to the businesses.

Fiorina aside, it has been my experience that politicians do not instigate, push, and then lead issue parades. The issues and their constituencies come to them, and they try to jump to the head of the parade.

But once you get down to the details, their actual positions tend to be not all that far apart in most cases.

Your average person most likely holds a mosh pit of positions that a partisan would find incomprehensible and utterly contradictory. Taken in isolation, said positions tend toward the extreme.

But when you blend it all together in political parties comprised of various interests, well, then you get apples and oranges.

Near total agreement: The system of private property and "free enterprise". (hence the paucity of left wing kooks like yours truly).

Not so total: Government regulation and intervention in the event of market failure (cf health care-when is some too much?).

Near total agreement: The USA should remain the world's pre-eminent power, and the ability to project that power is essential to the national interest and the maintenance of the world order.

Not so total: Big existential wars OK. Little ones....not so much. Some wars are better than others. Support and/or opposition contingent on party affiliation.

Near total agreement: Favor racial equality and racial justice for all.

Not so total: Public policies to ensure it actually becomes manifests in actual reality.

Near total agreement: The uncontrolled spewing of carbon into the atmosphere could well result in environmental calamity.

Not so total: Who pays and how?

Near total agreement: The Roe framework is a reasonable compromise on abortion.

Not so total: When abortion is equated to murder, the discussion has or all intents and purposes ceased.

Near total agreement: We need less single family zoning in residential neighborhoods in urban areas.

Not so total: Over my dead body (figure of speech). Blood in the streets.

one last one....

Near total agreement: Immigrants built this great country.

Not so total: Why can't they just come here, pick the lettuce, clean the toilets, and then go home?

Why can't they just come here, pick the lettuce, clean the toilets, and then go home?

Because we abolished the Bracero program (in 1964, but some of us remember) -- over exactly the kind of hysteria over them taking jobs that prevails today.

It is, perhaps, noteworthy that, then as now, the people who carry on most about "immigrants taking jobs" are virtually never inclined to take those agricultural and other lowly jobs themselves.

Near total agreement: involuntary immigrants into the US through the maternity ward are entitled to citizenship.

Also near total agreement: involuntary immigrants who entered any other way have to beg for it.

Don't believe me? Find me a few people who agree that DACA is a right, not a privilege.

--TP

I actually don't buy the "near total agreement" on pretty much anything except marijuana.

But there's a ton of money to be made in private prisons, so the feds are unlikely to change that policy at the national level anytime soon.

To be honest, I'm not sure that all that many people have a clear idea of what they think about most matters of public policy. Or probably more accurately, they're just not all that interested beyond the points where it touches them, personally.

I'm not sure what "agreement" means, in that context.

I'm not sure what "agreement" means, in that context.

Near total agreement: Ignorance is bliss.

surely we can all agree that the Corporation For Public Broadcasting needs to be abolished?

Yep. NPR, to hear from some of my lefty type compatriots, is just another neoliberal corporate shill. But hey, what do you expect from public broadcasting, Danny the Red?

All they need is a single Sunday morning show entitled "Trump is Awesome!" and he'll be all in on funding them in the future.

over exactly the kind of hysteria over them taking jobs that prevails today.

My impression is the hysteria is more about their skin color, the language they speak, their proclivity to hang out together with their foreign ways, opening businesses with signs that do not use English, and their inability to immediately "assimilate". No "decent" person "wants" the jobs they perform.

And they entered the country ILLEGALLY because that's what truly matters (i.e., Whatever gave you the idea it is about race?).

sigh.

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