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Great read. And what a great description: "Big Dick School of US Patriotism." Indeed!
The Big Dick School of US Patriotism: And What We Make of It
Tuesday, 17 March 2015 13:23
By Nan Levinson, TomDispatch | Op-Ed
Let's face it: we live in a state of pervasive national security anxiety. There are various possible responses to this low-grade fever that saps resolve, but first we have to face the basis for that anxiety -- what I've come to think of as the Big Dick School of Patriotism, or (since anything having to do with our present version of national security, even a critique of it, has to have an acronym) the BDSP.
The BDSP is based on a bedrock belief in how America should work: that the only strength that really matters is military and that a great country is one with the capacity to beat the bejesus out of everyone else. Think of it as a military version of 50 Shades of Grey, with the same frisson of control and submission (for the American citizen) and the assumption that a good portion of the world is ripe to be bullied.
The BDSP is good citizenship conflated with JROTC, hosannas to sniper kills, the Pentagon's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War -- what are we celebrating there anyway? -- Rudolph Giuliani pining for a president who loves America in Reaganesque fashion, and the organizers of South Boston's St. Patrick's Day, who wouldn't let the local chapter of Veterans For Peace march with their banners because, so the story goes, they didn't want the word "peace" associated with veterans.
Of course, the Big Dick School of Patriotism isn't new -- revolutionary roots, manifest destiny, history as the great pounding of hooves across the plain, and all that. Nor is it uniquely American, even if there is something culturally specific about our form of national hubris on steroids. Still, there have been times in our history when civilians -- some in power, some drawing strength from numbers -- have pushed back against the military and its mystique, or at least have demanded an accounting of its deeds. And of course, until the Cold War bled into 9/11, there was no national security state on the present gargantuan scale to deal with.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Mar 18, 2015, 10:29 PM (0 replies)
The Ayatollah's response to the letter, as reported in The New York Times:
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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said the letter warning that any nuclear deal could be scrapped by a new president was “a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.” The statement was posted on his website.
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“All countries, according to the international norms, remain faithful to their commitments even after their governments change, but the American senators are officially announcing that at the end of the term of their current government, their commitments will be considered null and void,” Mr. Khamenei wrote. He said the letter was a “sign of declining political ethics.”
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Well, played, Republicans -- well played! Not only have you managed to cast the Ayatollah as the adult in the room, but you have cast the United States as an errant child in need of a lecture on political ethics by the Ayatollah. Brilliant! Just brilliant!
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Mar 12, 2015, 04:38 PM (14 replies)
Here is the text of a comment I posted to this NY Times editorial (an excerpt of and link to the editorial follows my comment):
These 47 Senators, in their twisted political calculus, thought they had come up with their masterstroke: in one fell swoop, so they apparently thought, they could discredit eh President at home, undermine his conduct of foreign relations and thereby casting themselves as the "competent ones" when it came to questions of national security, secure their 2016 presidential prospects, and satisfy their deep-pocketed, defense contracting industry donors by destroying the possibility of working out a peaceful solution with Iran and ensuring that their long-desired war with Iran will come to fruition.
What they have succeeded in doing, however, is to demonstrate to friend and foe alike around the world that the U.S., irrespective of who is President or what party he/she is a member of, is too politically unstable -- indeed, too radical -- to be trusted to negotiate any matter of international concern. Republicans telegraphed a thinly-veiled declaration of their intent not to honor any deal whatsoever, regardless of its terms and despite of any good faith effort by Iran to meet its obligations. They have told the world not only that war is an option, but that it is an inevitable outcome. That casts the U.S. as a far greater threat to stability throughout the world than Iran has ever presented. We are already perceived by much of the world as a rogue, bully state, drunk on its own military power. Now we will be seen as wantonly reckless besides.
And here is an excerpt of the editorial itself:
Republican Idiocy on Iran
After helping to ignite a firestorm over a possible nuclear agreement with Iran, Senator John McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate, is now sort of acknowledging his error. “Maybe that wasn’t exactly the best way to do that,” he said on Fox News on Tuesday.
He was referring to the disgraceful and irresponsible letter that he and 46 Senate colleagues sent to Iran’s leaders this week that generated outrage from Democrats and even some conservatives.
The letter was an attempt to scare the Iranians from making a deal that would limit their nuclear program for at least a decade by issuing a warning that the next president could simply reverse any agreement. It was a blatant, dangerous effort to undercut the president on a grave national security issue by communicating directly with a foreign government.
Maybe Mr. McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, should have thought about the consequences before he signed the letter, which was drafted by Tom Cotton, a Republican of Arkansas, a junior senator with no foreign policy credentials. Instead of trying to be leaders and statesmen, the Republicans in Congress seem to think their role is outside the American government, divorced from constitutional principles, tradition and the security interests of the American people.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Mar 12, 2015, 04:23 PM (2 replies)
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Mar 11, 2015, 01:48 AM (1 replies)
The President’s Weak Privacy Proposal
by THE EDITORIAL BOARD MARCH 6, 2015
President Obama has said that the country needs a strong privacy law so consumers can protect personal information from advertisers, Internet firms, employers and other businesses. But the country is not going to get it from Mr. Obama. The bill his administration recently offered will do little to help individuals while giving companies great leeway in determining how they collect, use and share personal data.
Americans are increasingly worried about their privacy. About 91 percent of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center last year said they felt people had lost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies. Mr. Obama has been aware of those concerns for some time. In 2012, he called for a privacy bill of rights that included lots of admirable ideas. He said individuals should have the right to “reasonable limits” on the collection of personal data by businesses, and that people should be able to see and correct information that companies have collected about them.
The draft bill released by the White House on Friday only vaguely reflects those ideas and is riddled with loopholes. It seems tailored to benefit Internet firms like Google and Facebook and little-known data brokers like Acxiom that have amassed detailed profiles of individuals. For good reason, many privacy groups and some Democratic lawmakers have criticized the draft.
Under the bill, companies would be allowed to create their own codes of conduct governing how they collect, use and share personal information. The Federal Trade Commission would have to approve those codes, but the legislation would make it hard for the regulator to reject weak ones. Companies would be required to notify individuals about the information they are collecting. But they would not have to get permission first.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Mar 6, 2015, 07:48 PM (0 replies)
This was Netanyahu in Sept. 2002, providing his "expert testimony" to Congress about the "threat" it posed, as well as his rosy predictions of all the good things that would result from a U.S. invasion. Watching it twelve and a half years later, and seeing just how completely, thoroughly wrong he was in every respect, it is simply mind-boggling that anyone in this country would listen to anything this man has to say about anything.
It was unprecedented when Bush declared that the U.S. had a unilateral right to conduct a preemptive strike. Many Americans are willing -- far too willing, if you ask me -- to forgive themselves for their blind and uncritical willingness to be taken in by Bush's disastrous plan because, hey, it was post 9-11 and "we were 'skeered." I never did buy that crap, but even if I did, we have no such excuse in the present moment.
If ever there was a case study in the folly of undertaking a preemptive war based upon a perception of a threat -- real, imagined or, as was the case with Iraq, deliberately hyped -- then surely the Iraq war was it. Yet here we are nearly 13 years later, having yet another overheated debate about the need, even in the absence of hard evidence, to take preemptive military action against an alleged, and similarly hyped, threat. And the result was half a million dead Iraqis, 2 million displaced from their homes, thousands of dead American soldiers, and tens of thousands of soldiers who must cope with profoundly life-altering injuries, physical and mental, for the rest of their lives, and for WHAT? No one in the region or anywhere else in the world has been made one iota safer. If anything, the people in the region are at considerably greater risk now than they were before the invasion. The fact that Congress is even discussing the possibility of yet another preemptive strike against a country based upon scant and heavily disputed evidence is enough to make me want to go looking for a very high bridge.
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Mar 3, 2015, 01:47 AM (1 replies)
From President Washington's 1796 farewell address:
. . . (N)othing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Mar 2, 2015, 06:34 PM (3 replies)
Another "jewel in the crown" of the DOJ under the ever-fabulous Eric Holder!
From the New York Times:
Justice Dept. Won’t Charge George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin Killing
MIAMI — The Justice Department on Tuesday closed its investigation into the shooting death three years ago of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager in a hoodie who became a symbol of racial profiling and expansive self-defense laws, without filing hate-crime charges against the gunman George Zimmerman.
The department began a civil rights investigation shortly after a national furor erupted over Mr. Martin’s death, which set off protests, demands for justice and an emotional response from President Obama. The shooting was the first in a string of racially tinged cases involving the death of young black men that have prompted a rethinking of the nation’s criminal justice system and police procedure.
Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted in a state court of second-degree murder in 2013; some jurors said they believed that Mr. Zimmerman had shot Mr. Martin, 17, in self-defense.
The conclusion of the Justice Department investigation came as Attorney General H. Holder Jr. completed his term in office and was one of several racially fraught cases that he said the department would finish investigating before he stepped down. The Justice Department is also conducting two separate civil rights investigations into the shooting death of Michael Brown, another unarmed black teenager who was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., last August. In that case, violent demonstrations sometimes erupted after the shooting. A grand jury declined to indict the officer.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Feb 24, 2015, 05:05 PM (7 replies)
The Terror We Give Is the Terror We Get
By Chris Hedges
We fire missiles from the sky that incinerate families huddled in their houses. They incinerate a pilot cowering in a cage. We torture hostages in our black sites and choke them to death by stuffing rags down their throats. They torture hostages in squalid hovels and behead them. We organize Shiite death squads to kill Sunnis. They organize Sunni death squads to kill Shiites. We produce high-budget films such as “American Sniper” to glorify our war crimes. They produce inspirational videos to glorify their twisted version of jihad.
The barbarism we condemn is the barbarism we commit. The line that separates us from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is technological, not moral. We are those we fight.
“From violence, only violence is born,” Primo Levi wrote, “following a pendular action that, as time goes by, rather than dying down, becomes more frenzied.”
The burning of the pilot, Jordanian Lt. Muath Al-Kaseasbeh, by ISIS militants after his F-16 crashed near Raqqa, Syria, was as gruesome as anything devised for the Roman amphitheater. And it was meant to be. Death is the primary spectacle of war. If ISIS had fighter jets, missiles, drones and heavy artillery to bomb American cities there would be no need to light a captured pilot on fire; ISIS would be able to burn human beings, as we do, from several thousand feet up. But since ISIS is limited in its capacity for war it must broadcast to the world a miniature version of what we do to people in the Middle East. The ISIS process is cruder. The result is the same.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Feb 20, 2015, 09:29 PM (0 replies)
That much is true: President Obama wasn't raised by a violent, ne'er-do-well-thug-turned-mob-enforcer. Nor, thankfully, were most of us. From a July 4, 2000 article by Wayne Barrett in the Village Voice (back when the Voice still had some journalistic teeth):
The Shocking Secret History of Harold Giuliani, the Mayor’s Ex-Convict Dad
By Wayne Barrett, Jul 4, 2000
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On April 12, (1934) in the case of People v. Harold Giuliani indicted as Joseph Starrett, Giuliani was charged with four felonies: robbery in the first degree, assault in the first degree, grand larceny in the second degree, and criminally receiving stolen property.
The crime occurred on April 2, 1934, at 12:05 p.m. in the unlit first-floor corridor of a 10-family residential building at 130 East 96th Street in Manhattan. Shortly before noon, Harold Giuliani and an accomplice positioned themselves in shadowy recesses near the stairwell. Within 10 or 15 minutes Harold Hall, a milkman for Borden's Farms, entered the building to make routine payment collections. As he began to make his way up the stairs, Giuliani emerged from the shadows and, according to the indictment, pressed the muzzle of a pistol against Hall's stomach. "You know what it is," he reportedly said. He forced the man into a nook behind the stairwell, where his counterpart was waiting. The other man plunged his hand into Hall's pants pocket and fished out $128.82 in cash.
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Giuliani grabbed Hall's pants and yanked them down to his ankles. He told Hall to sit down. He grabbed the man's hands, pulled them behind his back and bound them with cord. Squatting, his back to the wall, Giuliani leaned over his victim and began tying his feet together. Before he was finished, a police officer, Edward Schmitt, burst in the front door of the building.
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And then there's this:
One afternoon, a man reluctantly entered the bar to apologize to Harold, saying that he didn't have the money—could he have just one more week? Frowning, Harold reached under the bar, out of sight, and gripped his baseball bat. As the man before him continued pleading for an extension, Harold swung the bat, cracking him flat across the face, sending him back a few feet. "Don't be late again," Harold said, according to an eyewitness.
That was the gist of Harold's job: enforce Leo's law through threats or violence. He shoved people against walls, broke legs, smashed kneecaps, crunched noses. He gave nearby Kings County Hospital a lot of business.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Feb 20, 2015, 12:09 AM (3 replies)