Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Republican Offensive

Here's Juan Cole on the Netanyahu State of the Union speech upcoming Tuesday:

There are many salient points in the Cole post--just read it. It is remarkable that the party of God-Bless-Merica would so boldly undermine an active, on-going diplomatic effort to reduce tensions in an area that could otherwise exhibit the first nuclear exchange in world history. Congress is rapidly overtaking the worst congressional historical moment in our history of exceptional history-making: among a number of worthy candidates, that would be rejecting membership in the League of Nations at the end of World War I.

Meanwhile, the criticism of "American Sniper" must be hitting a nerve at the base of the lizard brain: the gangleon that operates the slashing spiked tail of the dinosaur. Last night Mr. O'Reilly (yes, he's returned to the Dish) presented a remarkable editorial attacking "the internet" in toto because people are criticizing the movie. He particularly singled out a review on, a site I rarely visit:

I'll repost the link I posted yesterday:

This is not the review by Ms Taub which O'Reilly directly attacked. But for that matter, Mr. O'Reilly really didn't directly attack anything, except the character of Ms Taub, which he denigrated by quoting from a piece she wrote last year in which she tried to understand just what the hell the Taliban in Pakistan was thinking when they attacked a military school in the Tribal Region and killed over one hundred school children. From this premise, O'Reilly vaulted to an overall indictment of the internet (why he didn't say Internet Tubes I don't know), invoking as his conclusion the historical fact that Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia both used state news sources to affect their population's understanding of world events. Mr. O'Reilly didn't bother to mention that the New Yorker had published last year a major piece of reporting on the facts concerning this particular U.S. Army sniper, his service, his fairly bizarre post-service civilian career as a self-marketer, and his even more bizarre murder at the hands of a fellow serviceman. The New Yorker is of course one of the most impeccable of news sources, vetting their work to the maximum. As far as I've read anywhere, no one has denied the New Yorker story. Here's the link Mr. O'Reilly didn't bother to furnish, easily available on Google (took me ten seconds):

The criticism of the movie American Sniper concerns various omissions about the historical Chris Kyle which Clint Eastwood makes in the process of the portrayal of his freshly fictional doppelganger. This is of course the basic nature of almost every movie proporting to offer historical material. What is remarkable is not that it happens in American Sniper, but that the movie is in many quarters being described as "the truth about the war in Iraq," or about what it means to be a soldier in the Iraq theatre.

Yesterday on NPR an ex-Marine was quoted as saying that the movie shows that when soldiers return the civilians around them (such as their wives and children) shouldn't expect all roses and rainbows. Indeed not. The question is not this, but how to understand it. Are we to take the soldiers who have experienced pure hell, and four tours of it, as the final arbiters of the truth about war? What truth? Mr. Kyle is quoted as saying that the Iraqis were all "savages," and that he enjoyed killing them. Is that the truth? I wonder if it's even Eastwood's truth, for all of his weird appearance for Mr. Romney at the last GOP convention, and the empty chair muddle he presented as theatre.

When Mr. Bush committed our military to the appalling Iraq adventure, it was obvious to many that it would not end in May on an aircraft carrier with the banner "Mission Accomplished" and a grand marching band. Indeed, Mr. Bush committed to our withdrawal from Iraq before he himself withdrew to Texas, and it was only left to Mr. Obama to oversee the event later on. Mr. Bush prepared the ground for ISIS. The war prepared the ground for Eddie Routh:

The Washingon Post was not cited in Mr. O'Reilly's diatribe last night. It's not "the internet." But the fact that Clint Eastwood has picked Kyle to be the Captain America of the Second Iraq War is necessarily woven into the story of Eddie Routh, American Veteran of that war. Perhaps Eastwood will have to undertake a sequel, if his concerns are historical. It certainly doesn't take a propagandist to appreciate the many and deep ironies which abound.

This week in Iran people rioted because of the Charlie Hebdo cover responding to the massacre of its editors. The cover depicted Muhammed weeping over the murders. The people in Iran rioted because the Prophet is never supposed to be depicted at all, at least according to one dominant strain of the Muslim religion. This is a Homer Simpson moment. Another is Mr. O'Reilly declaiming against media being used as propaganda, or (for that matter), in naming his bit of nightly entertainment "The No Spin Zone."

It has been a commonplace since at least The Red Badge of Courage that there are different and to some degree contradictory levels which must all be comprehended and appreciated if we are to understand the human activity of war, and it's fundamental insanity. People in war can indeed be heroic, brave, even trustworthy and reverent. And they can exhibit all these revered human qualities in service to causes which cannot be respected or revered. If being courageous and brave was all there was to it, we could embark on wars willy-nilly, in the service of producing a generation of great warriors. It seemed to work for Sparta. Those were much simpler times, and actually, it didn't work for Sparta either. When Mr. Bush embarked on Iraq, a lot of people said he'd totally forgotten the lessons of Vietnam. Those critics were absolutely right. American Sniper proves them right. Eddie Routh's story is more obvious, that's all. There's nothing new to any of it. The Hurt Locker, another movie not mentioned by Mr. O'Reilly last night, gets it right too.

The authoritarians among us have only one real rule. Shut up. It doesn't take an internet. It was already there in print. Meanwhile, as the innocent amongst us focus on the alleged defamation of a brave American Hero by the left wing internet (never mind the plain facts of the story, Chris Kyle is now Chris Kyle (c) and don't you forget it), our congressional "representatives" are fashioning a strategy aimed at demolishing our President and State Department's active and ongoing efforts to deflect an on-coming war with Iran--a war which none of them will fight, and which will produce should it occur an even more gigantic tragedy than the one still ongoing in Iraq. What cheap thrills for O'Reilly and his band of cheerleaders.

Here's one last bit of information:

The deeper story of the movie American Sniper is its function in the manipulation of the American voter's perceptions. This is what Mr. O'Reilly was very concerned that you not notice, in his diatribe last night. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

One more link. This is a serious, responsible review of American Sniper, the movie:

Our American propensity for substituting comfortable myth for uncomfortable reality is hardly new. It is deeply, perhaps ultimately fatally unfortunate that we now have whole mainstream networks devoted to serving the myths, propping them up, never even allowing the smallest question to filter in from somewhere outside the bubble. Perhaps this was the true motivation for Mr. O'Reilly's diatribe the other night: somehow commentary on the internet was at least bruising the bubble of Chris Kyle, American Hero. Aside from the advent of Mr. Murdoch, nothing else is very new. You want to watch something that will shake your fantasies of America? Try Barefoot Gen, parts 1 and 2. Hey it's just a cartoon, how hard can it be? No one was "really" killed. If you do watch it, I'll bet it's the first time in your life you ever really tried to imagine the truth of Hiroshima: that there was simple human life going on at the moment the atomic bomb went off that August day. If we are to be adults, we must eventually face the facts, whether it's Chris Kyle or Hiroshima. Too bad Mr. O'Reilly isn't interested in helping the long hard process.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

At Least It's Not Freezing

From Charlie Pierce:

The GOP has also announced it will be offering a Spanish-language rebuttal, which will be delivered tonight by freshman Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a young conservative from a diverse Miami congressional district. But there's a wrinkle. According to a press release from the House Republicans, Curbelo will not be sharing his own thoughts and words with the public. Instead, he will only be reading a Spanish translation of Ernst's speech. Curbelo's office confirmed that he will not be delivering his own remarks. By the way, Ernst has endorsed English as a national language and once sued Iowa's secretary of state for offering voting forms in languages other than English. Her office did not respond to requests for comment. Curbelo has broken with his own party on immigration to support a path to citizenship for undocumented residents. Ernst has repeatedly expressed opposition to "amnesty."

I couldn't watch the SOTU last night. Fact, it was my birthday and our anniversary, and after a great meal of beef stew and some bon-bons, I went to bed at about 9 pm. I knew the speech would be good. Libby said people reported it to be one of Mr. Obama's best. She said when Mr. Obama said he would not be running again, the Republicans clapped. He's good at setting them up, in this case allowing them to show just how infantile they are. After a perfect pause he said, "I already won."

This isn't a new observation, but I'm very sorry, in retrospect, that Mr. Obama did not fully realize that he is dealing with an opposition party that has no interest at all in governance, and does not see the plain truth that there is always a need for governance connected to reality, to the Now. The Republicans have been working the Past and the Future since the moment Mr. Obama was elected. They represent the same body of Americans who, in 1968, got rid of the last charismatic black leader actually capable of effecting deeper change in a social structure that they liked just fine. These Republicans stand behind the idea that it makes great sense to co-join a holiday commemorating Martin Luther King,Jr., with the commander of the Confederate Army and as profound a traitor to the United States and the vaunted "founders" as Benedict Arnold: Robert E. Lee. Robert E. Lee. He was asked by Lincoln to lead the U.S. Army. Had he done so it is likely that there would have been no American Civil War. At worst he would have decisively won the first battle of Bull Run, and that would have been that. It is likely that many of the best West Pointers would not have resigned and joined the Confederate Army, following Lee's example. This is Lee's legacy. In Arkansas and other states, he is commemorated on the same day as Dr. King. Well, they were both Generals. Why not toss in MacArthur?

I wish Mr. Obama had never had the thought that he could work with the Republican Party and build a coalition, and actually get things done. I wish he'd allowed the Bush Tax Cuts to expire when they were supposed to, and never given an inch on the Debt Ceiling blather, and used his powerful skills at rhetoric to show these Republicans for what they truly are: the servants of oligarchs and racists, and the deceivers of the innocent. To assume there is some place a reasonable man can meet with these people is to start out a failure. By making the long long effort Mr. Obama has simply allowed his time in power to drip away. Now he's left with speeches and little else. Before his speech yesterday, Mitch McConnell said "Sounds like his proposals are just more 'tax and spend.'" When I heard that I decided I wouldn't even watch. What does it matter that Mr. Obama can easily make them all look like fools. That's still playing on their turf, where that's the whole point of gaining power. Get elected and get rich.

Here in NC we're racing in retrograde. Last week the Republicans, who've gained total control of state government, fired the President of the Consolidated University of North Carolina without cause. The speculation was, the lone fact against him was he'd been appointed by a Board of Governors which had been controlled by Democrats. That's it. But Duke University trumped that. After proclaiming that a Muslim call to prayer would be broadcast from the Duke Chapel bell tower every Friday at noon (there being quite a number of Muslim students at Duke, a seriously international university), they backed down because of some sort of "threats." NC's own Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, chimed in with his criticism. Lord how the money rolls in. Maybe they need Coach K to jump over to the Duke academic leadership side of things. He don't quit at least.

As it is, the two top educational institutions in North Carolina have each received vicious wounds in the same week, with precious little succor so far. We're about back to the Speaker Ban. With two Republican Senators, NC may this year resume its place at the pinnacle of bigotry and ignorance which we reluctantly gave up when Jesse Helms retired. Oh fraptuous joy.

Update: I read this today.

The marketing of outright lies is endless and constant. Ads for this film are at the moment endless too. It'll probably win a lot of awards. Most people will then believe the implications of its framework. Voters don't have a chance.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Place Where the Circle Squares

Mr. Edroso takes note today of a fresh new column by Ron Dreher:

In the column, Dreher follows the corkscrew tail of Satan right up Satan's... errrrm... fundament, and never even notices. Here's his genius conclusion, after two chalk-boards of equations:

...But the decadence represented by Charlie Hebdo is probably a greater threat to Western civilization than anything the Islamists can dream up, and it’s important to keep that straight even as we defend the right to free expression and a free press.

Dreher then goes on to put Lena Dunham's tv show, Girls, into the same bucket with the swill he's sloshing, based on a brief glimpse of a sex scene which for reasons unknown to me in 2015 has apparently caused some sort of "stir" amongst some folks or other:

Scrolling my Facebook feed last night, I found this New York magazine feature about the season premiere of HBO’s Girls, which featured a scene in which a man performs oral sex on his girlfriend’s anus. It turns out that this is a thing in pop culture now.

Edroso rightly questions the "pop culture" reference, which can mean little more than "on the teevee". What's shocking--but also revealing--is the ease with which Dreher essentially defends the real actual no shit murder of a bunch of cartoonists (one of them was 81 years old, another just 18) as a blow for I guess you could say the 'murrican way.

Here's something everyone needs to get straight. It's a lesson in logic I guess. The deal is, you can't actually just say one thing, and then a contradictory thing, and then by simply stipulating that there is no contradiction, go right on to whatever conclusion you might desire to achieve before your space limit is attained and you can draw your check from your publisher. This is one way that logic is rather like math. And a corollary of this is probably that if you do mix in a contradiction or two in your argument, you'll find that you can seem to conclude damn near anything you want to conclude, and even convince yourself. And once you've convinced yourself, if you're a decent writer, you can probably convince your readers, or some significant percentage of them. This is how we are making our sad way to a fully American authoritarian, fascist society, one red state at a time, one police force after the next. What would DesCartes make of the new police dictum: "I thought he had a gun."

In point of fact--I watched the episode of Girls in question, as HBO was free last weekend--and what exactly Ms Williams' boyfriend was doing is not actually depicted in said scene. Mr. Dreher has lept to yet another conclusion, as has the New York magazine's reviewer (if indeed such conclusion was lept to in Dreher's cited source). We don't know what exactly is happening between Ms Williams' character on the show and her character's partner on said show. We can only say that they were having sex, as later Ms Dunham's character on the show has sex with her boyfriend. Ms Dunham, by the way, engages (acts) a scene of traditional woman-on-bottom facing man-on-top sex, thus defending the barricades alongside of Mr. Dreher, against the charging Orcs. Moreover, Dunham's fingernail polish is as perfect as my mother's was, in 1958. Orcs surround the bed in their death throes by the end of the scene, and Dunham leaves for Iowa, where possibly Dreher is scheduled to teach an elective course in blather in the coming semester.

Meanwhile, Presidential Hopefully Mike Huckabee (sheesh, he was actually elected to a governorship one time!) has taken a shot at the Obamas' parenting abilities, suggesting that they should not "allow" their teenage daughters to view Beyonce's videos. Does he think that task would be easier that trying to get the Tea Party Congress to actually cooperate in governance? And as was pointed out by a blindfolded archer, this same Huckabee hangs around with Ted Nugent, who had a published song back in his rock days lauding sex amongst the preteens. Hell, even the Stones got the girls into teenhood before they pointed out the truth: "it ain't no hangin' matter, ain't no capital crime."

The right trades in this Major Hoople rocking chair shock. Why it never grows too old to work it's hard to say. Maybe blood just trumps every logical synapse. As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, the French parliament voted 488 to 1 to attack ISIS militarily, in a reaction to the murders at Charlie Hebdo. The voices who ask the right questions are buried under the hurricane's wind.

The question is: why does the radical islamist movement want the West in a mindless tizzy. Because. OBVIOUSLY!! That is the goal, just as it was on 9/11. As happened then, now fourteen years ago, the trap worked. George Armstrong Custer must be turning in his grave. David Seaton spells it out in his most recent post:

If these attacks cause anti-Muslim sentiment in western countries, so much the better... France's Marine Le Pen and Germany's Pegida movement are some of radical Islam's most valuable western assets as they prove to the masses of "Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan" the Islamist message that their unelected rulers are collaborators with the enemies of their religion and culture.

In Saudi Arabia last year the government beheaded 83 people.