Saturday, August 19, 2017

Iraq and Iran - changing the balance of power in the Middle East?


Iran has been heavily involved in Iraq since the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime.  In recent years, after the US withdrawal of combat forces, its surrogate troops have been the backbone of resistance to ISIS and Kurdish separatists.  It's been widely assumed that Iran would seek to dominate Iraq once the conflict was over:  but, now that it's visibly drawing to a close, another dimension is entering the picture.  Strategy Page reports:

With ISIL no longer a major threat Iraq has surprised Iran (and many others outside the Arab world) by rebuilding relations with Sunni Arab neighbors and telling Iran to back off with any plans it had to dominate Iraqi politics. Senior Shia Arab religious and political leaders have been leaning this way for a long time and Iran thought the war against ISIL was an opportunity to weaken the traditional Shia Arab distrust of Iran. That did not work.

Since 2005, when accurate opinion polls and generally free elections were once again available it became obvious that both in Sunni Arab areas (where there used to be a lot of support for al Qaeda) and Shia areas (where there used to be a lot of support for the kind of religious dictatorship found in Shia Iran) that Iran was seen as the enemy. This was obvious to familiar with Iraqi history. Fear of Indo-European Iran has always been greater than the fact that most Iraqis share their Shia faith with Iranians. Blood is thicker than religion. This is why more there was always so much violence along the ethnic border between Kurds (who are ethnically related to the Iranians) and Arabs, especially in oil rich Kirkuk.

From 2005 on it became increasingly clear that the vast majority of Iraqis, including Kurds and most Shia Arabs, feared increasing Iranian influence. Although most Iraqis are Shia, they are also Arab, and do not want to be ruled by their fellow Shia in Iran. That's because the Iranians are Indo-European people and have long treated their Arab neighbors with disdain and cruelty. Iraqis could now see this happening regularly in western Iran, where the Iranian Arab minority (about two percent of the population) is constantly being persecuted by the Indo-European Iranians. The Iranian Arabs also get it from the Azeri Turk minority (25 percent of all Iranians). Iraqis have bitter memories of centuries of domination by the Ottoman Turks (who now control only Turkey), whose empire once stretched into North Africa and the Balkans.

One reason Saddam Hussein had some support from all groups in Iraq and from his Arab neighbors was his ability to keep the Iranians out. After Saddam was overthrown in 2003 many Iraqis (and most Arabs) feared that, without a badass like Saddam, there would be no one to motivate Iraqis into blocking Iranian moves to occupy Iraq, or control its rulers. But now the Shia Arab Iraqi leaders (political and religious) appear confident that they can stand up to the Iranian threats. The is one thing all Iraqis can unite behind and apparently one of many reasons why Iraq is openly demanding that Iran back off while just as publically establishing economic, political and military links with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states in the region to oppose Iranian plans for expansion and domination of Arabia.

The new alignment means more technical and economic aid from the Sunni Arab states to the south and more vigorous efforts by those Sunni Arab rulers to ensure their Shia Arab minorities (or, in the case of Bahrain, majority) are treated well and that there is little support for Sunni Arab Iraqis. The Saudi leaders had always tried to maintain good relationships with their Shia minority but that had become more difficult as radical Sunni Islam (as in al Qaeda and ISIL) became more popular. Now that form of religious zeal has become less popular in Arabia, at least for a while. But that’s another problem that is less pressing hat the immediate ones posed by Iran.

There's more at the link.  Interesting reading.

I'll be watching this with great interest.  Basically, Iran's surface link to Syria (where the Assad government only exists because of the military assistance, in equipment and personnel, supplied by Iran) runs through Iraq.  Iran cannot afford to have that link cut, because air and sea resupply could not replace the land route.  Air shipping is much more expensive, and sea transport must go through the Red Sea, where it's vulnerable to search and seizure by Saudi Arabia, and then the Suez Canal, where it's vulnerable to search and seizure by Egypt.

Iran simply cannot afford to have Iraq become too independent, thereby threatening the former's regional hegemony.  Will this lead to a putsch attempt in Iraq, as Iran tries to install its supporters in power?  Will the people of Iraq permit and/or tolerate that?  More to the point, will Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies permit it?  If they don't, how will they intervene to stop it?

This could become 'curiouser and curiouser', as Alice famously said . . . and very bloody.

Peter

Friday, August 18, 2017

What voter fraud? THIS voter fraud!


All those who contend that there's no voter fraud problem in the USA should read this report.

According to a new study of U.S. Census data, America has more registered voters than actual live voters. It's a troubling fact that puts our nation's future in peril.

The data come from Judicial Watch's Election Integrity Project. The group looked at data from 2011 to 2015 produced by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, along with data from the federal Election Assistance Commission.

As reported by the National Review's Deroy Murdock, who did some numbers-crunching of his own, "some 3.5 million more people are registered to vote in the U.S. than are alive among America's adult citizens. Such staggering inaccuracy is an engraved invitation to voter fraud."

Murdock counted Judicial Watch's state-by-state tally and found that 462 U.S. counties had a registration rate exceeding 100% of all eligible voters. That's 3.552 million people, who Murdock calls "ghost voters." And how many people is that? There are 21 states that don't have that many people.

Nor are these tiny, rural counties or places that don't have the wherewithal to police their voter rolls.

California, for instance, has 11 counties with more registered voters than actual voters. Perhaps not surprisingly — it is deep-Blue State California, after all — 10 of those counties voted heavily for Hillary Clinton.

Los Angeles County, whose more than 10 million people make it the nation's most populous county, had 12% more registered voters than live ones, some 707,475 votes. That's a huge number of possible votes in an election.

But, Murdock notes, "California's San Diego County earns the enchilada grande. Its 138% registration translates into 810,966 ghost voters."

State by state, this is an enormous problem that needs to be dealt with seriously. Having so many bogus voters out there is a temptation to voter fraud.

There's more at the link.

If you expect me to believe that fully three and a half million 'ghost voters' somehow got onto electoral rolls by 'accident' . . . particularly when they're almost exclusively concentrated in districts hewing to the left-wing/progressive side of the electoral divide . . . then I have this bridge in Brooklyn, NYC that I'd like to sell you.  Cash only, please, and in small bills.

Couple that with an earlier report that millions of illegal aliens probably cast ballots in the 2016 election, and you have a recipe for disaster.

I hope and trust that President Trump's Electoral Integrity Commission will find a solution to this problem.  Certainly, it can't be allowed to persist through the 2018 elections.  It needs to be dealt with now - otherwise our democracy will be in serious danger.

Peter

North Korea isn't the only danger zone right now


I won't be at all surprised to see Israel do something fairly violent about this.

An Israeli television report said on Tuesday that Iran is building a facility in northwest Syria to manufacture long-range rockets, and showed satellite images it said were of the site under construction.

. . .

The Channel 2 television news report showed images it said were taken by an Israeli satellite showing a site in northwest Syria near the Mediterranean coastal town of Baniyas, saying some of the construction indicated explosives would be stored there.

The images from the Eros B satellite showcase the site's ability to store underground missiles, the reports said.

It compared images of buildings it said were of a rocket factory near Tehran to structures at the Syrian site, and said there was a strong resemblance between them.

There's more at the link, including photographs.

There's no way Israel will permit the manufacture or assembly of such missiles in a location where Hezbollah or Hamas terrorists can get their hands on them.  It's too great a threat to Israel's security.  I've no doubt that warnings have already been dispatched to all concerned, setting a hard deadline for the demolition of the entire site.  If those warnings aren't heeded, I daresay Israel will do the demolition itself.  That won't please Russia, which sees Syria as a client state, but I suspect they'll understand, and probably won't protest too loudly.

Peter

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sounds a warning


The widely-respected Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-partisan group fighting online censorship and working for freedom of expression on the Internet, has sounded a warning over the actions of several Internet companies following the Charlottesville clash last weekend.

In the wake of Charlottesville, both GoDaddy and Google have refused to manage the domain registration for the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that, in the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is “dedicated to spreading anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, and white nationalism.” Subsequently Cloudflare, whose service was used to protect the site from denial-of-service attacks, has also dropped them as a customer, with a telling quote from Cloudflare’s CEO: “Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.”

We agree. Even for free speech advocates, this situation is deeply fraught with emotional, logistical, and legal twists and turns. All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with. Those on the left face calls to characterize the Black Lives Matter movement as a hate group. In the Civil Rights Era cases that formed the basis of today’s protections of freedom of speech, the NAACP’s voice was the one attacked.

Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected. We do it because we believe that no one—not the government and not private commercial enterprises—should decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t.

. . .

It might seem unlikely now that Internet companies would turn against sites supporting racial justice or other controversial issues. But if there is a single reason why so many individuals and companies are acting together now to unite against neo-Nazis, it is because a future that seemed unlikely a few years ago—that white nationalists and Nazis now have significant power and influence in our society—now seems possible. We would be making a mistake if we assumed that these sorts of censorship decisions would never turn against causes we love.

Part of the work for all of us now is to push back against such dangerous decisions with our own voices and actions. Another part of our work must be to seek to shore up the weakest parts of the Internet’s infrastructure so it cannot be easily toppled if matters take a turn for the (even) worse. These actions are not in opposition; they are to the same ends.

We can—and we must—do both.

There's more at the link.  Worthwhile reading.

That's the problem, right there.  These companies have taken it upon themselves to act as society's conscience, whether or not all of society agrees with their interpretation of that conscience.  That's the camel's nose, right there.  If we allow them to get away with silencing what they consider to be extreme right-wing voices now, what's to stop anyone redefining what constitutes an 'extreme right-wing voice' in the future, and banning it in the same way?  What's next?
  • Opposition to abortion?
  • Opposition to the admission, much less the legalization, of illegal aliens in the USA?
  • Opposition to excessive entitlement programs?
The progressive wing of US politics would regard all of those positions as 'extreme right-wing';  yet between one-third and two-thirds of Americans (including yours truly) hold one or more of them.

If these Internet companies are allowed to get away with this position today, we're going to face worse problems in the future.  It's as simple as that.  We cannot afford to endanger the freedom of speech, whether by government fiat or commercial diktat, because without it, we lack the freedom of choice that democracy is supposed to provide.

Peter

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I hope the silent majority is gathering itself for action . . .


Remember:
  • Memories Pizza in Indiana?  When its owner declined to cater gay weddings, and the store shut down under a monumental wave of hatred and backlash, a fundraiser collected over $800,000 for the owners.
  • Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Oregon?  Forced by a hostile state agency to pay damages to a lesbian couple for whom the Christian owners refused to bake a wedding cake, the case is now before the Oregon Supreme Court - and likely to head to the Supreme Court in Washington if it doesn't achieve resolution in state courts.  Supporters have so far raised over half a million dollars for the owners' legal expenses.
  • The Chick-Fil-A same-sex marriage controversy?  In a massive show of support, the company's sales reached a new record in the face of propaganda against it from the LGBT community.

Those are only the better-known examples of what happens when the left-wing, progressive community underestimated the strength of feeling among ordinary Americans - and the revulsion against their over-the-top attacks on anyone they regard as unsympathetic to their cause.  The same thing is visible in reaction to the neo-Nazi displays in Charlottesville last weekend.  Naked political propaganda is meeting rejection, and high time, too.

That phenomenon has just been on display again, this time in Santa Monica, California.

A left wing attempt to boycott a performance of the Santa Monica Symphony due to a guest appearance by conservative radio host Dennis Prager backfired on Wednesday night; the event was a sellout.

. . .

Liberals began to call for a boycott of the symphony due to Prager's presence, with the mayor of Santa Monica and a city councilman saying they wouldn't attend.

Musicians in the symphony even refused to perform, two of them penned an open letter saying "Dennis Prager is a right wing radio host who promotes horribly bigoted positions.

Prager is not a trained conductor and there is no musical rationale for his participation. Please urge your friends not to attend this concert, which helps normalize bigotry in our community."

But Prager's supporters showed up in big numbers, and the event was a sellout.

"I think it's a beautiful thing, it's the unintended consequence of stupidity," said Steve Kahn. "It may not have been sold out, but because the attention has now been given on a national platform, people who may have been less inclined to show up, who were either fans of classical al music or fans of freedom of speech, or fans of Dennis, have now decided to come support the concert and support Dennis."

"The people who ginned up the controversy show themselves in the foot," said Endre Balogh, a violinist. "When people mix politics and music for specious reasons, then they get what they get."

There's more at the link.

I'm sincerely hoping that the same effect will be visible in public reaction to the over-the-top displays of vitriol and violence by all sides in Charlottesville last weekend.  I have a feeling that the silent majority is rather larger than people might imagine, and angry enough right now to become a lot less silent.  I hope so, at any rate - because such nonsense must be challenged.  We cannot allow thugs - of either the left or the right wing of US politics - to rule our streets.  They have got to be stopped;  and if the law won't do it, we must.  How, precisely, that is to happen, remains to be seen . . . but I have a feeling that, if idiots carry on behaving like idiots, we may not have to wait very long.

Peter

Solve one health care problem, make another worse


It looks as if the law of unintended consequences has caught up with Obamacare.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson presents intriguing evidence that the Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare may be contributing to the rise in opioid abuse. According to a federal Health and Human Services analysis requested by the Senator, overdose deaths per million residents rose twice as fast in the 29 Medicaid expansion states—those that increased eligibility to 138% from 100% of the poverty line—than in the 21 non-expansion states between 2013 and 2015.

There were also marked disparities between neighboring states based on whether they opted into ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. Deaths increased twice as much in New Hampshire (108%) and Maryland (44%)—expansion states—than in Maine (55%) and Virginia (22%). Drug fatalities shot up by 41% in Ohio while climbing 3% in non-expansion Wisconsin.

Using open source court files and news stories, Mr. Johnson’s office also found 261 cases of people who were recently prosecuted for exploiting Medicaid cards to obtain opioids. Last month an Army veteran was convicted of selling oxycodone pills with forged prescriptions. His co-conspirator paid for the pills with a Medicaid card.

A police detective in Wisconsin told Mr. Johnson’s office that 240 oxycodone pills can be purchased with a Medicaid card for a $1 co-pay and resold for $4,000 on the street. A single Vicodin pill can fetch $50.

In a letter to the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, Mr. Johnson last month observed that “it appears that the program has created a perverse incentive for people to use opioids, sell them for large profits and stay hooked.” He’s asked the Inspector General to investigate Medicaid’s controls to prevent such abuses.

There's more at the link.  (The article may disappear behind a paywall.)

Expanding Medicaid seemed like a good idea at the time, to help control runaway medical costs;  but it hasn't been very successful in that.  Now, with this problem on top of cost inflation, one wonders what the powers that be will do to solve the imbroglio.  Karl Denninger offered a simple solution in two steps, but it would involve an immediate recession as prices realigned and stabilized, so it's not likely to be adopted.  However, anything else will probably lead to the same result, further down the road.

It's a mess.  I honestly don't see any solution to the US healthcare crisis in the near term . . . and all of us are going to get caught up in it in due course.

Peter

Was the entire Charlottesville imbroglio a setup from start to finish?


I'm beginning to wonder whether the events at Charlottesville, VA last weekend were deliberately set up and allowed to unfold, as a calculated political maneuver to put President Trump in particular, and the Republican Party and conservatives and the alt-right in general, into an impossible position, where anything they might do could be criticized by the massed battalions of the Democratic Party, their lackey news media, and the forces seeking to undermine the US constitution (George Soros, take a bow).

In order to forestall the inevitable idiocy of those who might wish to accuse me of Nazi sympathies, or anything stupid like that, let me state at once that I unequivocally condemn racism in general, and Nazism in particular.  I have literally exchanged gunfire with neo-Nazis in South Africa, about which I wrote some time ago.  That, plus my other articles on racism, xenophobia and discrimination, speak for themselves, IMHO.  However, I also strongly uphold the Constitution of the United States, particularly the Bill of Rights.  I uphold free speech, without restrictions or preconditions or limitations.  If you limit free speech for one, you necessarily limit it for all.  This is completely unacceptable.  (See Lawdog's take on the subject for a very good, balanced perspective.)

That said, consider the following political maneuvers that have been uncovered since the demonstrations:
  • It has been claimed by Fox News that police were ordered not to make any arrests without the specific permission of the Mayor of Charlottesville.  The ACLU has stated bluntly that police did little or nothing to prevent the violence;
  • Virginia Governor McAuliffe claimed that protesters had weapons 'stashed around the city' - a clearly inflammatory remark that was promptly denied by his own State Police.  I get the impression, from this and other reports, that law enforcement agencies and officers in and around Charlottesville were more than a little angered by the restraints imposed on them for political reasons, thereby giving violent demonstrators a relatively free hand.  City Journal called it 'avoidable mayhem'.
  • The 'hot button' issue allegedly driving the Charlottesville clashes was the removal of Confederate monuments in that city.  Since events there, calls to remove other Confederate monuments have redoubled, coming thick and fast from far-left-wing and progressive spokespersons in other major cities, including Chicago, Baltimore (where statues were immediately removed overnight, to forestall protests), and even a call to remove a Confederate memorial carved into the face of Stone Mountain, Georgia.  One can believe that these calls were all made on the spur of the moment by opportunist politicians . . . or one might suspect, as I do, that there was a certain amount of prearrangement and coordination involved.
  • Businesses are either acting on their own accord, or are being pressured by other customers and peers, to cut off services to those held responsible by 'public opinion' (note - NOT the courts or any official source) for the violence in Charlottesville.  As far as I'm aware, that backlash has been exclusively directed against right-wing groups and individuals, even though left-wing groups and individuals have publicly boasted about their own violent actions there.  Legal Insurrection calls the one-sided blame game a 'reversal of reality'.
  • President Trump is being attacked from all sides for failing to unequivocally condemn the right-wing demonstrators in Charlottesville - despite the fact that he has, in fact, done so.  He is being criticized for pointing out that there was violence on all sides - despite the fact that this was, in fact, the case.  This is clearly an orchestrated, organized, deliberate attempt to ignore the facts and paint him into a corner as a neo-Nazi sympathizer - an accusation for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

Putting all these things together, I can only conclude that a shadowy behind-the-scenes organizer (or organizers) is/are pulling the strings, coordinating responses to Charlottesville for the benefit of far-left-wing and progressive elements in this country.  I have a pretty good idea who's to blame, as well.
  • I have little doubt that George Soros, and organizations and individuals funded by him, are heavily involved.
  • I have little doubt that former President Obama's 'Organizing for Action' and its leadership is in this up to its neck.
  • It's very obvious, from their own statements and those of their leaders, that organizations such as Antifa, Black Lives Matter, etc. are behind much of what's going on.
  • I have little doubt that the national news media, so infamously in the tank for former President Obama and so clearly united in opposition to President Trump, are playing this up for all they're worth.

The question thus becomes, where will the next Charlottesville happen?  The left always looks to keep the momentum going, to pile on incident after incident, to build up a mass reaction to what they perceive as an evil or an injustice.  Charlottesville has been grist to their mill . . . but the furore will die down in the not too distant future.  Where will they strike next?  I have no doubt whatsoever that they're already planning the next incident like this, and already lining up publicity, calls for action, and everything else that will inevitably follow it.

Meanwhile, of course, let us not forget Newton's Third Law of Motion, commonly stated as:  "To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction".  Right-wing reaction to left-wing excesses is building.  Some are already calling this 'Civil War 2.0'.  Even the venerable New Yorker asked, 'Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?'  Even 4Chan is getting in on the act, with proposals to take down statues of Communist figures.  I'm also hearing verbal reactions from individuals in various parts of the country, who are furious that such a sequence of events was allowed to unfold by the Charlottesville city fathers.  The general tone of the comments seems to be, "If they don't stop that sort of thing happening here, I damn well will!"  I fear a backlash from ordinary citizens who've had enough of extremists of every stripe.  So do a number of law enforcement personnel of my acquaintance, who know they're likely to get caught up in it, whether they like it or not.

Individuals whom I know and respect have stated openly to me that they believe some kind of separation is inevitable, with left-wing, liberal states hiving off from right-wing, conservative states, and vice versa.  (The current 'Calexit' movement is a good example.)  My response is that I don't know of a single state that is monolithic in its politics.  It may be predominantly left- or right-wing, but in every case there will be a substantial minority of those from the other side of the political spectrum.  Absent some sort of (forced or voluntary) 'ethnic cleansing' (or, in this case, political cleansing), how is such a separation to be achieved?  I doubt whether it's practical.  If it happens despite being impractical, I fear bloodshed will result, just as it did in the former Yugoslavia a few decades ago.

The irony, of course, is that the two sides are far closer to one another in terms of their philosophical underpinnings than either would ever imagine.  A few days ago, I quoted Brendan O'Neill's comment that the conflict was essentially over 'the narcissism of small differences'.  Donald Sensing points out that Nazism's roots are emphatically and unequivocally in Socialism and Communism, as confirmed by Hitler himself.  One wonders what the neo-Marxists, neo-Trotskyites and neo-Leninists of the far Left would say to that?

Peter

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

*Sigh* Such is love . . .


I've been battling with a case of the seasonal crud that's going around at present.  It's no fun, but you know what they say . . . take medicine, and it lasts a week;  don't take medicine, and it lasts seven days.  It's that sort of crud.

Anyway, I knew I had it bad when I said to my wife this afternoon, in passing, "I love you."

She replied, "I love you too, my little plague vector."


*Sigh*


Peter

The Shadow no longer knows . . . he's become politically correct!


Courtesy of a link at John C. Wright's place, we find this absolutely magnificent - albeit magnificently profane - rant concerning how political correctness has invaded even The Shadow.  Mr. Wright writes:

Dynamite Comics just put out a new version of The Shadow. The Shadow is and has been my most deeply beloved character of my imaginative life.

They turned him into an SJW who lectures villains on their white privilege.

I am not making this up.

While in the middle of gunning down two Virginia Tech style mass murderers, The SJW Shadow tells them that they were born atop a pedistal of privilege, and their loss of power when the minorities lives improve erodes their “empire”, which is what drives them to their crimes.

. . .

... in a comic, the Leftist can reverse the polarity of reality, and have the most proto-Objectivist hardcore vigilante in comicbookdom turn into a morally ambiguous Antifas lefteroon.

The comic also pauses to have the viewpoint character, a Hispanic woman, say that there are no heroes in life, merely violent men. Heroes are merely gangsters in white hats.

Interesting message to put in a story about the most iconic vigilante of all time, the human version of an archangel of merciless wrath-of-heavenly vengeance.

. . .

If Walter Gibson returns from the grave as a ghost in a black hat and cloak, half unseen, heard only as a whisper or a mocking laughter,  armed with .45 automatics, to carry out a divine vengeance against these greasy leftwing harpies, who despoil every feast they cannot eat, it would be only justice.

There's more at the link.

Mr. Wright also embeds the video below, along with a warning that it's not safe for civilized consumption due to language and other issues.  I agree . . . but it's such a magnificent rant about how the PC (politically correct) and SJW (social justice warrior) brigades have ruined comic books, that I simply can't resist posting it.  Watch at your own risk!




Suffice it to say that if the older generation of comic fans - those who took the genre to the heights, back in the '60's, '70's and '80's - had had to endure this sort of crap, the genre would never have taken off as it did.  Instead, it would have been (more or less mercifully) euthanized.




Peter

I'm sick of political wreckage. Let's have some other wrecks!


Here's another series of rally accidents.  At least they're relatively bloodless, and everyone (except those in the vehicles) seems to enjoy them!





Yeah.  That'll get the taste of Charlottesville out of our mouths for a while.

Peter

Is Antifa the American ISIS?


I've been trying to analyze the behavior of the far left wing in America over the past few weeks.  I speak as one who's been through one national revolution (the transformation of South Africa from apartheid to democracy), and witnessed several others in the continent of Africa.  I know what political extremism means, what terrorism means . . . I've experienced them at first hand.

As a starting point, let's take Peter Beinart's view of 'The Rise of the Violent Left'.  I'll quote extensively from it, but you really should go read the whole article.  It's worth it.

To most left-wing activists during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama years, deregulated global capitalism seemed like a greater threat than fascism.

Trump has changed that. For antifa, the result has been explosive growth. According to NYC Antifa, the group’s Twitter following nearly quadrupled in the first three weeks of January alone. (By summer, it exceeded 15,000.) Trump’s rise has also bred a new sympathy for antifa among some on the mainstream left. “Suddenly,” noted the antifa-aligned journal It’s Going Down, “anarchists and antifa, who have been demonized and sidelined by the wider Left have been hearing from liberals and Leftists, ‘you’ve been right all along.’ ” An article in The Nation argued that “to call Trumpism fascist” is to realize that it is “not well combated or contained by standard liberal appeals to reason.” The radical left, it said, offers “practical and serious responses in this political moment.”

Those responses sometimes spill blood. Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism. They prefer direct action: They pressure venues to deny white supremacists space to meet. They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict them. And when people they deem racists and fascists manage to assemble, antifa’s partisans try to break up their gatherings, including by force.

Such tactics have elicited substantial support from the mainstream left.

. . .

Antifascists call such actions defensive. Hate speech against vulnerable minorities, they argue, leads to violence against vulnerable minorities. But Trump supporters and white nationalists see antifa’s attacks as an assault on their right to freely assemble, which they in turn seek to reassert. The result is a level of sustained political street warfare not seen in the U.S. since the 1960s.

. . .

What’s eroding ... is the quality Max Weber considered essential to a functioning state: a monopoly on legitimate violence. As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifascists don’t want the government to stop white supremacists from gathering. They want to do so themselves, rendering the government impotent.

. . .

Antifa believes it is pursuing the opposite of authoritarianism. Many of its activists oppose the very notion of a centralized state. But in the name of protecting the vulnerable, antifascists have granted themselves the authority to decide which Americans may publicly assemble and which may not. That authority rests on no democratic foundation. Unlike the politicians they revile, the men and women of antifa cannot be voted out of office. Generally, they don’t even disclose their names.

. . .

Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets ... may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.

There's more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

Where else have we seen such tactics recently?  Oh, yes . . . ISIS/ISIL!  The fundamentalist Islamic terrorist movement that has plagued Iraq, Syria, Libya and many other countries in recent years appears to follow almost exactly the same principles, albeit from a religious rather than a political perspective - but the results are the same.  ISIS dictates to people how they should and may behave, in moral, political, social and cultural terms.  Dissent is not only not tolerated, it's punished severely, frequently with death or torture.  There is no 'state authority' to whom to appeal:  ISIS is both the religious and secular authority, and makes no distinction between them. Its propaganda and indoctrination reach from the cradle to the grave.





Death sentences for conduct such as homosexuality are immediate and automatic, and there is no appeal.  Conform, or else!





If Antifa and its ilk are like ISIS (and I believe they are, although not [yet] so far sunk into terrorism and depravity), they can be expected to be just as intolerant of doctrines and positions that differ from their own.  Isn't that exactly what we're seeing on the streets of America right now?  It hasn't yet gotten to the point of Antifa throwing dissenters off buildings . . . but they will gather with sticks, stones, clubs and improvised flamethrowers, and attempt to disrupt the gatherings of those with whom they disagree - often violently.

What's more, Antifa's leaders and organizers are simply not prepared to accept that they might be wrong in their interpretation.  They are fanatical in their views, and are not open to discussion.  Take, for example, the views of Yvette Felarca, one of the organizers of the riots in Berkeley last year.





I see in her precisely and exactly the same fanaticism that I see in ISIS spokesmen.  Facts don't matter:  only her interpretation of those facts is relevant.  Her tactics may not be so far gone in violence and bloodshed as those of ISIS, but that may not last.  In pursuit of her ideals, her perspective, I doubt that she would flinch from personally using violence on her opponents.  She may already have done so during the Berkeley riots, for all I know.  Certainly, her Antifa allies don't shrink from the prospect.





(Readers may recall that I linked to the "It's Going Down" web site last Saturday, and provided examples of its propaganda.)

Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Occupy . . . all those movements appear to involve the same organizers, and follow basically the same principles.  They all try to disrupt the existing order and violently oppose it.  They refuse to entertain the idea that there might be another side to the issues they raise, instead insisting that only their views are correct.  In their intolerance, in their political and social obsessiveness (which borders on religious fanaticism), I submit that they have become the equivalent of ISIS in America.

The only question is, can we deal with them more peacefully than we have had to deal with ISIS in the Middle East?  That remains to be seen.

Peter

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Two new fun, short reads


Friends in meatspace and cyberspace, Tom Rogneby and Alma Boykin (the links are to their respective blogs), have each put out a new piece of short fiction in the past few days.

Alma's newest is a collection of five short stories titled 'Familiar Tales'.




The title doesn't mean that the stories are familiar;  rather that they're stories about familiars, the spirits (usually in animal form) who are 'assigned' to magicians and other arcane practitioners to help them in their work.  Alma's 'familiars' are sometimes a hindrance, too, due to their somewhat . . . ah . . . eclectic natures.  The collection of stories is a lot of fun, with several sections that had Miss D. and I laughing aloud.

Tom's latest offering is a short story titled 'The Boogeyman'.




It's about a private investigator with paranormal leanings, and a lot of experiences he'd rather not have had - hence his title.  He looks scary, but he's good at his job.  This story tells the tale of one such job, in a way that has you riding right along with the hero.  Good stuff.

Both books carry Miss D.'s and my seal of approval, and they're very reasonably priced.  Recommended reading.

Peter

Heh - Google edition


Crisis magazine offers this satirical take on the Google political-correctness imbroglio.

To: All Google Employees
From: Unoi’m Carasee, Vice President of Mutually Exclusive Propositions
Subject: The Recent Outrage

Dear Google Employees:

In light of the horrific assault on Google values recently made by a former employee, we feel it is necessary to add a few further propositions to the official Google List of Mandatory Beliefs. In order to retain their positions, all Google employees must assent to the following two Statements of Fact:

1) For the purposes of employee non-discrimination policy, there is no such thing as a male brain or a female brain. Any suggestion to the contrary is rank bigotry.

2) For the purposes of transgender policy, each person’s brain is either male or female. Any suggestion to the contrary is rank bigotry.

Perhaps the first reaction of some of you will be that the two statements above cannot both be true. That is Western, patriarchal, non-intersectional thinking. Such thinking is merely a sign that your brain has not been fully Googleized. Accepting the truth of what used to be called “mutually exclusive propositions” can be difficult for the uninitiated, who bitterly cling to outdated ideas. But once you internalize contradictions, affirming the logically impossible becomes easier and easier every day. As an exercise in proper thinking, I myself assent to at least three impossible contradictions every day before breakfast.

There's more at the link.  Good for a giggle!

The sad thing about the infamous memo and Google's reaction is that the whole thing shows the insularity of Google management.  They literally seem incapable of recognizing their own failure to comply with the fairness and inclusivity standards they preach.  Their institutional blindness is mind-boggling.

Peter

Errr . . . oops?


I've always regarded sex work as a lousy job.  This incident last week appears to prove it's a s***ty one, too!

A popular strip club in Abbotsford, BC has been closed until further notice after several dancers contracted diarrhea last Friday night. The cause of the incident, which remains under investigation, has been initially linked to a contaminated buffet at the venue. While the investigation continues, the venue has not been named.

. . .

Patrons at the venue who were sitting near the stage were the most directly affected by the incident, which occurred close to 11pm. According to a witness at the venue, three dancers were performing on separate poles when the first sign of trouble emerged ... ‘a stream of brown liquid soon gushed over the stage splashing onlookers’, according to the witness. “It was absolutely disgusting,” he told journalists. “A number of guests immediately puked. I personally ran for the exit, I lost all interest in the show.”

The other dancers on stage also suffered from diarrhea soon after and were forced to abandon their performance. “They had a hard time getting off the stage,” said one witness, who stayed to watch the aftermath of the incident. “High heels and diarrhea really don’t mix.”

There's more at the link.

Clearly, this particular strip club is (literally) not for the anal-retentive!




Peter

After Charlottesville: some very interesting responses


There have been a large number of comments and developments following last weekend's violence in Charlottesville.  Here are a few that I found particularly interesting.


1.  The ACLU questions whether law enforcement was deliberately trying to provoke a confrontation.
"It is the responsibility of law enforcement to ensure safety of both protesters and counter-protesters. The policing on Saturday was not effective in preventing violence. I was there and brought concerns directly to the secretary of public safety and the head of the Virginia State Police about the way that the barricades in the park limiting access by the arriving demonstrators and the lack of any physical separation of the protesters and counter-protesters on the street were contributing to the potential of violence. They did not respond. In fact, law enforcement was standing passively by, seeming to be waiting for violence to take place, so that they would have grounds to declare an emergency, declare an ‘unlawful assembly’ and clear the area."

2.  It looks very much as if the political leaders of Charlottesville were actively interfering in law enforcement activities.  Fox News reported that "officers were instructed to make no arrests without the explicit approval of the Charlottesville mayor".  Given the politics of that council and its leaders, this should give any objective observer pause for thought.  For more information on that, read the section 'Bonus: Report from the Field' at Stilton Jarlsberg's place (scroll down at the link to find it).


3.  This political interference appears to have stretched all the way to the head of the state government.  City Journal reports:
Almost at first contact, Charlottesville mayor Michael Signer and Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and cancelled the demonstrators’ permits, whereupon police began funneling the alt-right protestors away from the designated demonstration site—and, some reports have it, toward the counter-protestors. The carnage followed in short order. Whether the breakdown in police protection was purposeful—that is, intended to quash a constitutionally protected demonstration and provoke a violent confrontation—is a question unlikely to be pursued in Virginia’s present political environment. As partisan eye-gougers go, Governor McAuliffe, a Democrat, is near the top of the list; Mayor Signer, also a Democrat, seems to be cut from the same cloth.

But deliberate or not, the effect was the same: when the sun went down over Charlottesville Saturday, the First Amendment was lying in the dust, and the civic ties meant to bind all Americans were just that much weaker.

4.  Brendan O'Neill summed up the situation very well, IMHO.
"It's becoming so clear now why the war of words between SJWs and the new white nationalists is so intense. It isn't because they have huge ideological differences -- it's because they have so much in common. Both are obsessed with race, SJWs demanding white shame, the alt-right responding with white pride. Both view everyday life and culture through a highly racialised filter. SJWs can't even watch a movie without counting how many lines the black actor has in comparison with the white actor so that they can rush home and tumblr about the injustice of it all. Both have a seemingly boundless capacity for self-pity. Both are convinced they're under siege, whether by patriarchy, transphobia and the Daily Mail (SJWs) or by pinkos and blacks (white nationalists). Both have a deep censorious strain. And both crave recognition of their victimhood and flattery of their feelings. This is really what they're fighting over -- not principles or visions but who should get the coveted title of the most hard-done-by identity. They're auditioning for social pity. "My life matters! My pain matters! I matter!" The increasing bitterness and even violence of their feud is not evidence of its substance, but the opposite: it's the narcissism of small differences."

5.  Lawdog summed up the heart of the matter in his usual inimitable way.  Here's an excerpt.

Gentle Readers, free speech is messy.  It is ugly, precisely because free speech that everyone agrees with does not require protections.  Why would you protect speech that upsets no-one?  Why would you need to?

Even worse is the call for the government to declare that certain speech is "hate speech" -- because getting the government involved always works out so well -- and to give the government (and the flawed, flawed humans who make up that government) the power to declare bans on certain speech.

To put it in simple language even a college student can understand:

Do you really want President Mike Pence deciding what is protected speech, and what speech should be banned?

Because that is what you're going to get in the future.

How about President Greg Abbott after Mission Creep gets into the mix?

 How would you feel about President Ted Cruz deciding what speech you should go to jail for?

That, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what you're setting yourself up for when you start yick-yacking about the government banning speech.

"But, LawDog," I hear you snivelling, "Some speech is an incitement to violence, and should be against the law."

You know what?  Let's look at that.

I have heard folks chanting, "What do we want?  Dead cops!  When do we want it?  Now!" rather recently.  About me, and those like me.

Is that not an incitement to violence?  Ask Dallas PD, and their dead brothers.  Should it not be "against the law"?

No.  It is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

I can show any number of YouTube videos of imams calling for jihad, for the slaughter of Westerners, for the genocide of an entire people.

Is this not an incitement to violence?  Ask the dead in San Bernadino, at Ft Hood, at Orlando, at the Boston Marathon.  Should it not be "against the law"?

No.  It is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

"But, LawDog, Nazi-related speech is banned in Germany!"

I don't give two hoots in hell about how they do things in Germany.  You like their restriction on free speech -- move.  Delta is ready when you are. Scram.

So.  To break it down Barney-style:  your calls to ban speech -- even Nazi speech -- is un-American.  And once you've begged government to pass that first law banning speech, it's a simple amendment to expand those bans.  Think about the absolute worst politician you can think of in the White House.  Worse than Trump -- because they're out there, and they've got as good a chance at the Oval Office as Donald J. Trump had -- think about that politician being able to amend a law banning speech.

There's much more at the link.  Recommended reading.

Peter

Monday, August 14, 2017

Doofus Of The Day #970


A tip o' the hat to an anonymous reader for forwarding the link to today's award, which goes to a couple in Florida.

A Florida couple transporting a propane barbecue grill inside their SUV was injured Sunday after a woman lit a cigarette, sparking an explosion.

The grill was turned on and the propane tank was open in the back of the red Kia Sorento when the couple left a barbecue at the Central Florida Fairgrounds, Orlando police Lt. Cindy Lane told the Orlando Sentinel.



After the explosion, the vehicle kept traveling until it crashed into a pole, according to Lane.

There's more at the link.

Let's see . . . roof ripped open and blown upward . . . windscreen blown out . . . I'd say they're lucky to be alive!  Why the hell didn't someone check to see that the gas was both switched off, and disconnected, before they loaded the grill?




Peter

That'll put the cat among the penitential pigeons!


I note that Australia is considering forcing priests to reveal child sexual abuse that might be mentioned in the sacrament of penance, commonly known as Confession.

Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended in a report on Monday that all states and territories in Australia introduce legislation that would make it a criminal offense for people to fail to report child sexual abuse in an institutional setting. Clergy who find out about sexual abuse during a confidential religious confession would not be exempt from the law.

There's more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

I can understand why the Commission is proposing this . . . but it's going to produce a head-on clash with the Catholic Church, because priests are required - on pain of instant, automatic excommunication - to keep confidential any sin discussed during the sacrament.  There is no way the Church is going to relax that rule, even if priests may be jailed for refusing to obey secular law(s) to the contrary.

The irresistible force is about to meet the immovable object.  Get the popcorn, folks.  This is going to get heated.

Peter

Tourons in Yellowstone - a potential solution?


(For those who don't know it, the word 'touron' is an amalgamation of 'tourist' and 'moron'.  It's a fitting description of most of those portrayed in the video clips below, IMHO.)

We've already seen more than one incident where tourons at Yellowstone National Park learned the hard way that bison are not pets.








And, back in 2015, a touron actually wrote to the administration about their lack of trained bears.




Now comes news that the park is nearing its capacity for vehicles and visitors.  (Some would say it's already exceeded its capacity in practical terms.)

I have a suggestion.  Why not operate a lottery?  Every vehicle entering the park should be allocated a number.  Every hour, one number will be drawn at random, and the occupants of that vehicle get introduced to bison and bears at halitosis range.  In exchange for the injuries and deaths that will undoubtedly result, they get to park for free.  The other tourons get to watch and take pictures . . . until the next drawing, an hour later, when they may find themselves providing the entertainment.

I reckon that wouldn't take long to reduce tourist overcrowding quite satisfactorily, don't you?

Peter

Racial and extremist violence in Charlottesville, VA


By now I daresay all my readers are aware of the tragic - and totally avoidable - events in Charlottesville, VA last weekend.  I don't propose to add to the extraordinary amount of sturm und drang being flung around over the incident.  I would, however, like to make some sober, factual points about it.

First, this is what happens when two opposite political extremes decide to take their arguments to the streets.  Both sides are at fault, and both sides are equally wrong.  What's more, both sides got what they wanted.
  • The racist extreme Right should not have tried to force their right to express themselves - and yes, it is a right - on a city that did not want them to be there.  They could have chosen to hold their gathering in a less inflammatory place . . . but they wanted a confrontation, and the added publicity that they knew would result.
  • The progressive extreme Left (personified in this instance by those claiming to be Antifa, but including a number of other groups) should not have chosen to make this a battleground by deliberately arming themselves to confront and 'beat down' the right-wing demonstrators.  They could have held a counter-demonstration at a safer distance (for which coverage from a sympathetic news media would have been guaranteed);  but they wanted a confrontation, and the added publicity they knew would result.

Second, the authorities are at fault for what looks like a deliberate abdication of their law enforcement responsibilities.  I don't believe their excuses, as quoted at the links.  It is the job of law enforcement agencies to enforce the law equally across any and all political, social, cultural and economic spectra.  It seems very clear, from multiple accounts, that the police stepped back from the violence and allowed it to play itself out.  That is not policing.  That is abandoning the city to extremism.  It's a dereliction of duty, plain and simple - and, in this case, it made matters much worse.  Any and all armed demonstrators should have been disarmed before things could get out of hand.  If they resisted, they should have been arrested.  Plain and simple.

Third, as I've warned many times in these pages, extremism of any kind - political, social, economic, cultural, religious, whatever - is dangerous.  You can discuss, argue rationally, and debate with, any person of basic good will.  You cannot do any of those things with an extremist.  They will insist on their position, and react more and more aggressively - and, in due course, violently - to disagreement and opposition.  Therefore, it's time for all right-thinking Americans to shun all those, on either end of the political spectrum, who believe that violence is a legitimate expression of their perspective.  It is not.  There is no room for such nonsense in any civilized society.  If violence is allowed to take root in our politics - as appears to have been the case over the past few years - we risk the disruption and eventual destruction of our political system.  That cannot be allowed to happen.

Fourth, this cannot and should not be turned into an occasion to criticize President Trump's response to the crisis.  He did exactly what his predecessor did when faced with a similar crisis.  Compare and contrast President Obama's response to the Dallas police shootings, and President Trump's response to Charlottesville last weekend.  Both statements were temperate, trying to pour oil on troubled waters, and both acknowledged that there were many sides to the situation.  Both Presidents were heavily criticized by partisan sources for failing to come down more heavily against one side or the other - but both were correct in trying to address the whole nation's needs, rather than one part of the nation.  That's what being Presidential entails.  If President Trump is to be condemned for his statement, then let's hear his critics' perspective on President Obama's words a couple of years earlier.  Unless they condemn both statements equally, they're displaying partisan bias, and should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

Fifth, we need to look to our own security.  I've written on several occasions about the need to be elsewhere when something like this happens.  If you're caught up in it, you cannot guarantee your safety or those of your loved ones.  Get clear before it goes down . . . but if you can't, be prepared to defend yourself.  For example, here's a photograph of one of the demonstrators deploying a home-made flamethrower against some right-wingers.




The demonstrator wielding the flamethrower should have been either instantly arrested, or, if that had not been possible, he should have been instantly shot.  He was deploying deadly force, something that could injure and perhaps kill innocent persons.  He should have been taken out, right there, right then.

I won't be found among racist demonstrators like that . . . but as an innocent bystander, if anyone, of whatever persuasion, is ever so unwise as to try that against me, he's going to suffer the consequences.  I will not permit thugs like that to attack me, no matter what the subsequent cost may be.  They must be stopped.  Period.  I suggest that all my readers adopt a similar position.  We - and the country as a whole - will be safer that way.

I disagree equally with both extremes of political opinion on display in Charlottesville last weekend.  Neither deserves any place in American political discourse . . . but both are present, and in larger numbers than we might wish to imagine.  We are going to have to deal with both of them.  That's inevitable.  We may as well get used to the idea.

There is, of course, humor.  It's a much underrated response to such nonsense, and can help to defuse tensions.  This, for example, was found on Facebook by Miss D., and caused both of us to laugh.




Yep.  Racist doofi with tiki torches.  Says it all, doesn't it?

Peter

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday morning music


Since the violence in Virginia yesterday may suggest to some that we have another civil war brewing, I thought it might be appropriate to play some songs of the original American Civil War, or inspired by it.  I'm sure they'll be familiar to my readers.

Let's start with a folk song that was written long before the Civil War, but became popular with both sides, and was also widely sung as a sea shanty.  It's 'Oh Shenandoah', performed here by Chanticleer.





Next, a song popular in the South, celebrating General Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson.  It's 'Stonewall Jackson's Way'.





Crossing the line to the Union side of the war, here's a medley from the Merrill Staton Choir combining 'All Quiet Along The Potomac Tonight' with 'Just Before The Battle, Mother'.





'Tenting Tonight' was popular with Union Army troops, but 'crossed the line' to be sung in the South as well (not surprising, since its words are non-sectarian).





Finally, here's one that many people mistakenly think is a Civil War-era ballad, but was actually written after World War II by Irving Gordon.  Nevertheless, it fits the Civil War so well that it's frequently used as incidental music for re-enactments, film and TV productions, etc.  It's 'Two Brothers'.  My favorite performance is by the Johnny Mann Singers, but that doesn't seem to be available online;  so here's a 1967 rendition by Dusty Springfield.





Let's hope we don't sink any deeper into the current morass of political, social, cultural and sectarian division, to produce another crop of songs about a new civil war.

Peter

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Defining the internal enemies of the USA, in their own words


I note with considerable interest that an organization calling itself "It's Going Down" has set up a Web site.  On the principle of "Know your enemy", I thought it might be worth mentioning it here for my readers.

The organization describes itself as follows:

Who we are:

It’s Going Down is a digital community center from anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. Our mission is to provide a resilient platform to publicize and promote revolutionary theory and action.

What we do:

We publish original content alongside anonymous submissions as well as repost articles from websites which share our perspectives.

We maintain active Twitter, Instagram and Facebook social media accounts, in addition we publish a yearly magazine.

The organization's library contains various articles and links. They're fascinating, if you can call watching such a diabolical train-wreck of radical-liberal and progressive ideas 'fascinating'.  Here are a few examples.  If you want to know more, links are provided at the source, although I don't advise poisoning your mind with such trash.

Burn Down the American Plantation

The Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement is a political movement dedicated to freeing people from bondage and building resistance in the United States. We situate our political movement in the context of the abolitionist struggle against slavery and continue in the tradition, from Nat Turner to the Black Liberation Movement. We believe the Civil War was never resolved and the system of slavery transitioned into the prison industrial complex. Our struggle today must begin from this starting point. Lastly, as revolutionary anarchists, the abolitionist struggle must be extended to the state and capitalism, the perpetrators of oppression. The revolutionary movement in the US today is at a cross roads, as fascist movements are expanding, and the state becomes increasingly authoritarian. The Rojava Revolution, in northern Syria, provides us with a model for revolution today with its foundation in communal and council based political organization and militant defense.

. . .

Class Struggle and the Origins of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race

“Allen, however, was not an academic; he was a class conscious, anti-white-supremacist, working class intellectual and activist, who had researched and written on the historical development of the “white race” for twenty-five years, and he was not comfortable with the proposition that Frederickson described. As he“ explained in his internet-published “Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race” — viewing “race as a social and cultural construction” has value in “objectifying ‘whiteness,’ as a historical rather than a biological category,” but it is “an insufficient basis for refutation of white-supremacist apologetics.” The apologetics, or arguments, that Allen had in mind were from those who would argue that such social constructs are somehow natural or genetically determined. He stressed that “the logic of ‘race as a social construct’ must be tightened and the focus sharpened” and “the ‘white race’ must be understood, not simply as a social construct (rather than a genetic phenomenon), but as a ruling class social control.

. . .

Toward the Queerest Insurrection

Queer involves our sexuality and our gender, but so much more. It is our desire and fantasies and more still. Queer is the cohesion of everything in conflict with the heterosexual capitalist world. Queer is a total rejection of the regime of the Normal.

“Queer is not merely another identity that can be tacked onto a list of neat social categories, nor the quantitative sum of our identities. Rather, it is the qualitative position of opposition to presentations of stability – an identity that problematizes the manageable limits of identity. Queer is a territory of tension, defined against the dominant narrative of white-hetero-monogamous patriarchy, but also by an affinity with all who are marginalized, otherized and oppressed.”

There are many more entries at the link.  They're not worth reading unless you have to, but if you want to know what the enemies of the US Constitution and our republic are saying and planning, this is a good place to start.


*Sigh*


Peter

"How America lost its mind"


The Atlantic tries to explain in a long, interesting essay.  Here's an excerpt.

Each of us is on a spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational. We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories. What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, all of us free to reinvent ourselves by imagination and will. In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts. Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become.

Much more than the other billion or so people in the developed world, we Americans believe—really believe—in the supernatural and the miraculous, in Satan on Earth, in reports of recent trips to and from heaven, and in a story of life’s instantaneous creation several thousand years ago.

We believe that the government and its co-conspirators are hiding all sorts of monstrous and shocking truths from us, concerning assassinations, extraterrestrials, the genesis of aids, the 9/11 attacks, the dangers of vaccines, and so much more.

And this was all true before we became familiar with the terms post-factual and post-truth, before we elected a president with an astoundingly open mind about conspiracy theories, what’s true and what’s false, the nature of reality.

We have passed through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole. America has mutated into Fantasyland.

How widespread is this promiscuous devotion to the untrue? How many Americans now inhabit alternate realities? Any given survey of beliefs is only a sketch of what people in general really think. But reams of survey research from the past 20 years reveal a rough, useful census of American credulity and delusion. By my reckoning, the solidly reality-based are a minority, maybe a third of us but almost certainly fewer than half. Only a third of us, for instance, don’t believe that the tale of creation in Genesis is the word of God. Only a third strongly disbelieve in telepathy and ghosts. Two-thirds of Americans believe that “angels and demons are active in the world.” More than half say they’re absolutely certain heaven exists, and just as many are sure of the existence of a personal God—not a vague force or universal spirit or higher power, but some guy. A third of us believe not only that global warming is no big deal but that it’s a hoax perpetrated by scientists, the government, and journalists. A third believe that our earliest ancestors were humans just like us; that the government has, in league with the pharmaceutical industry, hidden evidence of natural cancer cures; that extraterrestrials have visited or are visiting Earth. Almost a quarter believe that vaccines cause autism, and that Donald Trump won the popular vote in 2016. A quarter believe that our previous president maybe or definitely was (or is?) the anti-Christ. According to a survey by Public Policy Polling, 15 percent believe that the “media or the government adds secret mind-controlling technology to television broadcast signals,” and another 15 percent think that’s possible. A quarter of Americans believe in witches. Remarkably, the same fraction, or maybe less, believes that the Bible consists mainly of legends and fables—the same proportion that believes U.S. officials were complicit in the 9/11 attacks.

There's much more at the link.

The most interesting - and worrying - thing about the article is the blind faith and non-evidence-based certainty with which each of these 'belief groups', to coin a phrase, believes in their particular credo.  You can't argue with many of them, because no matter what evidence you advance, or what rational reasoning you deploy, they will stick their fingers in their ears, scream "LA-LA-LA-LA-I can't hear you!", and go on regardless.

Yes, this includes religion.  I have religious faith, as is obvious to anyone who's read these pages for a long time . . . but I'll be the first to admit that my faith may be based on falsehoods.  I have chosen to accept the Bible as the word of God, and Jesus Christ as a real, historical manifestation of God made man.  I base my life upon those principles and his teaching.  Nevertheless, if I refused to admit that I might be wrong, I'd be as ideologically dogmatic as a militant atheist who refuses to admit even the possibility of the existence of God in any form.  There are many things we can accept and believe, but not be able to scientifically prove.  We need to acknowledge that reality.  If we don't, we make ourselves as guilty of the problem as anyone else.  Doing so does not mean we don't continue to live according to our beliefs.  We simply accept that we're fallible, too.

I'm not threatened by someone who doesn't believe as I do.  I shall continue to be as open and friendly towards him as his conduct allows me to be, and not worry about things that divide us unless and/or until they become a real obstacle.  I trust that one day, my hope and faith in God will be rewarded in the hereafter.  If there isn't one, I guess I'll never know . . . but that won't stop me believing, and hoping, and trusting.  That being the case, why should I deny the right to their own beliefs to anyone else?

The Atlantic's essay is well worth reading in full, and pondering.  Where do we fall on the spectrum of belief-versus-fact?  I think we'll all do well to consider that very carefully, and very honestly.  Blinkered vision and blinkered minds are a recipe for disaster, personally and nationally.

Peter

Friday, August 11, 2017

I don't know what to call this, but it's NOT camping!


I'm a bit mind-boggled to read this.

For a weekend camping trip last month, Chrissy Palmieri and Neil Kapoor packed little more than their hiking boots and a few changes of clothes.

After a 4¹/₂-hour drive to Firelight Camps in Ithaca, NY, with their dog, Bubbles, the couple arrived to a site that included a luxury safari tent, high-thread-count linens, fresh cold-pressed juices, homemade granola, a custom-blend of Nicaraguan coffee, and artisanal s’mores kits.

It’s like they never left Brooklyn.

As experienced campers from western New York, the Clinton Hill-based couple, both 30, are no strangers to roughing it. But for their two nights at Firelight (about $200/night), they wanted to relax in a natural setting without old-school nuisances such as canned beans and sweaty sleeping bags.

Dubbed glamping, or glamorous camping, superluxe stays in the great outdoors are quickly gaining ground as the weekend escape of choice among nature-deficient New Yorkers, who are accustomed to paying for style and convenience. At a booming number of area campsites, city residents with no patience for watching tent-assembly tutorials can now unwind in just-rustic-enough environs with comforts such as preconstructed shelters, memory-foam mattresses, saunas, firewood attendants and farm-to-table dining.



On the rental listings site Glamping Hub, where users can book stays in posh tents and teepees for an average nightly cost of $200 to $500, New York is now the fourth-biggest source of traffic (after outdoorsy California, Oregon and Colorado).

There's more at the link.

And they call that 'camping'???

Oh, well.  I suppose if you can afford it, you may as well enjoy it.  For myself, thinking back over many years of 'camping' in the African bush, with minimal facilities, and no luxuries except those you carried in on your own back or in the rear of your Land-Rover (if they survived African bush tracks, that is) . . . this has about as much to do with 'camping' as I have to do with the sex life of Polynesian parrots!




Peter

Terrorists and UAV's: reader feedback and further issues


In reader comments to yesterday's post about terrorists planning to use UAV's against aircraft, I feel that a few very important points are being missed.

The first is that our opinion of whether or not such low-powered, quadcopter UAV's have any chance of success is basically irrelevant.  ISIS terrorists do not share that opinion.  They have already 'weaponized' such drones and used them against enemy ground forces in Iraq and Syria.  They see no reason why they should not do so in the West as well.  Furthermore, it has now been demonstrated that they intend to try to use them against aircraft.  Thus, it's irrelevant whether we think they can or will be successful in the attempt.  They are going to try anyway. They just did, in Turkey.

Second, attempted attacks are perhaps even more important to terrorists than successful attacks.  The mere existence of such terrorist-operated UAV's will force airlines to suspend operations in affected areas until the threat is removed.  They simply cannot afford to operate there, no matter how often airports and security authorities play down the chances of success.  Let there be just one successful attack, killing a hundred or more passengers and crew, and the resultant lawsuits against the airline will probably be enough to cripple, if not bankrupt it.  Just think of the legal liability it will incur if it flies its aircraft into or out of an airport where there is known to be a threat of terrorist UAV activity.  It can't plead an 'act of God' or an 'act of war' or whatever.  It chose to operate there;  therefore, it knowingly exposed itself to liability.  That's a legal death sentence.

In that light, consider that an attack only has to frighten off potential passengers.  What if a terrorist flies a UAV, carrying a small explosive device, close to the inbound flight path of an arriving airliner, and detonates it where passengers in the air, and passersby on the ground, can see the explosion?  Instantly, a huge proportion of the passengers flying into and out of that airport will cancel their flights, and cargo shippers will seek alternate facilities.  They'd be fools not to do so, after all.  The terrorist won't have to actually damage or destroy an aircraft to produce an effect just as deadly to all the commerce and industry depending on that airport.  In exchange for a cheap, home-built UAV and a few ounces of home-brewed explosive, the perpetrators will inflict millions of dollars in economic damage.  That's a worthwhile exchange, from their perspective - and it's one we can't afford.

Thirdly, a number of commenters suggested that it would be very difficult indeed to fly a UAV into the path of an incoming airliner.  However, I think that's looking at the problem from the wrong direction.  Remember, flight paths approaching and departing from a runway are widely known - in fact, they're published for all pilots (and other interested parties) to read for themselves.  Courses, angles of approach, radio beacons, guide slope signals, etc. are all out there for anyone to see.

A terrorist (or a pilot who can advise and/or train terrorists) will know that he only has to put his UAV inside a narrow window of space, through which he knows an airliner must and will fly, in order to threaten it.  The glide path is a known factor.  If he can put his UAV within a few hundred feet of that path, vertically and/or horizontally, he's guaranteed to pose a threat to any aircraft;  and if he can position it more or less exactly on the glide path, the threat increases even more.  Many aircraft now follow that glide path slavishly under computer control, not relying on pilots to do so (because computer control is more precise, and crowded airspaces require greater precision).  Therefore, the odds of a collision go up exponentially.

What's more, if a terrorist or terrorists can put multiple UAV's into the same narrow window of space and time, the threat to aircraft using the glide path increases even further.  All it will take is a few hobbyist drones, a few small packages of home-made explosives, and a few operators with remote control units, who might be a couple of miles or more from the scene of action.  I suggest airport security authorities will find it extraordinarily difficult to prevent or deal with such an attack.

Some readers suggested terrorists would be better advised to fly a drone into power lines, or use an explosive-laden drone to attack critical infrastructure like airport radar systems and the like.  I think such attacks are very likely.  I recently mentioned the problem of, say, a series of UAV's attacking transformer stations scattered around a city.  That would lead to widespread blackouts, with predictable results.  However, I don't think that the greater ease of such attacks should blind us to the terrorists' need for spectacle.

One crashed airliner will attract headlines and screams of panic around the world.  It will only take one . . . and the airline and travel industries will be devastated.  To the terrorists, that's a result worth striving for.  They can afford dozens, even hundreds, of failures.  They only have to succeed once.

Peter