United States: The US and Israel

I didn’t waste my time watching the foreign policy “debate,” but I caught a recap on RT last night.  They edited a bunch of clips together of Obromney and Rombama heartily agreeing with each other.  In one segment Obama was smiling as Romney fell all over himself in an attempt to demonstrate his approval of one of the president’s war-mongering policies.  I was waiting for Obama to say, “You know, Mitt, I kinda like you.  You’re not nearly as much of a douche as my supporters say you are.  I have an idea.  Why don’t we quit all this pointless debating [big air quotes around that last word] and work together?  I have a cabinet position that I’m sure you’d love…”

In a similar vein, here’s Raimondo on how the debate was more like a contest to see who loves Israel more.  I used to think the idea that Israel has too much influence on Washington was just an obsession among Alex Jones listeners and other fringe types always on the lookout for threats to “our democracy” or “our sovereignty,” depending on whether they were coming from the “left” or “right,” but at this point you’d have to be deaf and blind not to notice that demonstrating fealty to Israel has become all but an official qualification for any serious white house aspirant.

This is your brain on Fox News

At a family dinner the other night, the subject of the protests against austerity measures in Greece and elsewhere was brought up.  The person who brought it up predicted that a worldwide depression was going to happen soon because “the Greeks are going to default on their debts and drag the rest of us down with them.”  He went on to inform the captive audience at the dinner table that the reason for this unmanageable level of debt is that the Greeks (and other Europeans) want all kinds of free handouts from the government but are “too lazy” to work more than 30 hours a week.  He then began to mock the mandated 30-hour work week in some countries:

Imaginary worker who just can’t get enough of toiling away for the boss-man: “But I want to work more.”

Boss-man: “Nope, sorry, you’re only allowed to work 30 hours.”

This little bit of fantasy theater was followed by a tedious paean to the glorious American work ethic, which is what has allowed us to stay “ahead” of all those latte-sipping Euro-bums all these years.

Somebody, perhaps sensing that they were being fed a pre-fab line of bullshit, said, “Is it because they’re lazy, or is it something else?”

“Oh, it’s because they’re lazy,” the instigator (and his wife) shot right back.

At this point I had to chime in: “Who wants to work 40 hours a week?  I don’t.  And who decided that we have to work 40 hours anyway?  It wasn’t the workers.”

The conversation more or less fizzled out after that, but it occurred to me later (of course) that what I should have asked was: “It wouldn’t by any chance have anything to do with the banker-thieves crashing the financial system with their pyramid schemes, would it?”  But then again, maybe it was better to not ruin the simplistic “narrative” that it’s us against the lazy Greeks, and that Wall St. isn’t giving us the shaft, too.

Creating the NSA Subjects of Tomorrow

“What kind of lesson does it teach our children if they’re chipped like cattle and their every movement tracked?” asks Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the ACLU’s Washington, D.C. office. “It doesn’t create the kind of independent, autonomous people that we want in our democratic society.”

It may not create the kind of independent, autonomous people that you want in “our” democratic society, but I imagine there are some people—like, the ones in power—who think this is exactly the kind of lesson “our” children should be learning.  Hence, the public school system.

Cigar Store Candidate

Been trying to avoid the RNC as much as possible, but I can’t help noticing that the Romney camp is anxious that their candidate is coming across as a bit of a stiff on the TV.  The other night I caught a clip of Mitt’s wife assuring us that one of his defining characteristics is his sense of humor.  I’m sure he’s a riot in person, but something tells me the “who would you rather have a beer with” contest has already gone to Obama.  Ol’ Mitty is the Republicans’ answer to John Kerry.

In that vein, this morning I caught some conservative talk radio host bemoaning this whole emphasis on personality.  He said (paraphrasing), “What’s it matter if Romney is wooden.  The only thing that should matter is whether he’s competent for the job.  We’ve seen what Obama’s done.  He’s destroyed America…”  This was followed by some guttural noises and gnashing of teeth, then the signal went dead.

I guess you go to “competence” when you know you have a dud on your hands, because of all the meaningless ideas crapped out during these ridiculous campaigns, the notion that we’re looking for a “competent leader” or “the most qualified candidate” has got to be the worst.  The president’s job is to do things like sign the checks when Wall Street comes asking for a bailout and order the troops to invade or bomb whatever country is next on the foreign policy establishment’s list of intolerable threats to freedom.  He doesn’t need to be competent.  He just has to be compliant.

Looney Tunes Media

If PJ Media didn’t exist, you’d have to invent it.  Then again, you probably wouldn’t want to.

Here are a couple of gems, one lamenting the “the great silence that envelops the sacrifice of the best Americans of this generation”—the “silence” referring to ordinary Americans’ apparent lack of interest in the never-ending war on whatever—and suggesting that if we were serious about this war, which we should be, we’d be thinking about how and when to attack Iran, which is evil incarnate because it declared war on us in 1979 for no particular reason at all.

The other is a tribute to Tony Scott, whose movies laudably extolled the virtues of tough guys and righteous violence.  And anyone who might laugh at such one-dimensional depictions of manhood are just fools who “are kept so safe by (mostly) macho men with guns in the military and our various police forces that they can feel free to pretend they are somehow better and more civilized, doncha know, than their protectors.”

No wonder they always caricature their political opponents as ineffectual “leftists” clinging to “discredited” beliefs.  It’s a lot easier to defend a cartoonish worldview if your opponent is also a cartoon.

Bicycles and Killing Machines

Good line from a post at Mimi’s Musing:

I looked it up, discovered that the Air Show–the penultimate thrill of bullies and fascists–is scheduled from 10:00 until 3:30, so advised him his friends should have no particular problem going south.

It reminds me of being in Ocean City, New Jersey during an air show two years ago.  We were down there for the weekend at the place my mother-in-law rents for a week every September, and a bunch of us had rented bikes and rode down to the boardwalk.  While we were there, the air show started up.  It consisted of a succession of vintage planes doing the usual assortment of stunt dives and loops out over the beach and ocean, moving, if I recall, from older and slower to newer and more powerful aircraft.  Then, for the big finale, modern fighter jets came screaming in from out beyond the bay.

We were on our way back when the war planes came in.  The rest of the group had rode on ahead, leaving me and my daughter, who was six at the time (and a much slower rider than her older cousins), behind.  People stood all along the boardwalk, and on the decks of the houses facing the ocean, watching these planes rip across the sky with what I took to be a mixture of awe and civic pride.  When we reached the end of the boardwalk and descended to the street, the town itself was pretty much deserted.  Down amongst the houses and other buildings, the noise from the jets was deafening, and by about the third or fourth pass my daughter had had enough.  “I hate these stupid planes,” she yelled, wobbling on her bike and hunching her shoulders as if attempting to ward off the sound.

It didn’t take much effort to imagine that this is what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of U.S. military “aid,” except that instead of dodging bombs we were just having our eardrums blown out.  Maybe next time, in the interest of putting on a more realistic show, they could work in some live explosives—not close enough to kill anybody, of course, just close enough to send a few hundred patriotic fools scurrying for the nearest sand dune.

See No Evil

I’m not usually inclined to quibble (too much) with anything that exposes the pile of horseshit upon which any of US Inc.’s so-called wars, past and present, are built.  But still, this notion (see the block quote from “Davis’s unclassified paper” a little past the halfway point of the article) that congress only continued to go along (for ten years) with the occupation of Afghanistan because it was deceived by the military into believing that things were going much better than they actually were is just too much.  Congress knows exactly as much as congress wants to know—which, granted, isn’t much, considering all of the various contracts on the line and the kickbacks your local representative can expect for being a reliable yes-vote whenever it comes time to decide whether to keep the money flowing into the war services industry.

Eugene Lucifer Gore Vidal

Nothing unifies people on opposite sides of our hairline fracture of a political divide quite like a public figure who openly ridicules their shared sacred cows.  Here we have a conservative and an apparent progressive reviling the prince of darkness himself, Gore Vidal, for more or less the exact same reasons.  You might think the man was a cannibal or something, but no—his real sins were sympathizing with terrorists, having the gall to believe that a U.S. president might have been involved in a conspiracy to drag the country into war, and, of course, anti-Semitism, that catch-all smear for anyone who opposes America’s pro-Israel foreign policy or, worse, suggests that Israel might actually be involved in a land-grab rather than defending its poor innocent self against those bloodthirsty Palestinians.

Not surprisingly, the Slate piece was the more humorless of the two, adding racism and elitism (i.e., conservatism) to the list of crimes.  You see, apparently there was a split in the progressive movement around the time of WWI, with the Woodrow Wilson and Teddy R. strain, the true progressives, bringing us the New Deal, and the other strain, embodied by Vidal’s grandfather and presumably Vidal himself, morphing into “Heartland conservatives” who hated immigrants and European cosmopolitanism, and who were isolationists (which, in case you didn’t know, also means anti-Semite).  A couple of nice ironies here.  First of all, I don’t think you could find a better example of a European cosmopolitan than Gore Vidal, who lived in Rome and had a villa on the Amalfi Coast and who relentlessly ridiculed the cultural backwardness of bible-thumping Americans (and who proclaimed that all people were naturally bi-sexual).  And second, Woodrow Wilson, exemplar of the right and true progressive path?  He may be the closest the U.S. has had to a Klansman-in-chief.

It’s true that Vidal was an elitist.  Just the other day I heard an excerpt from an old radio interview in which he said that all social change comes from the people at the top, not the bottom.  I guess that explains his inability to completely shake his affinity for the Democratic Party, and his belief that Hillary Clinton would have been something other than just another typical president.  To my mind, these are surer signs of malign influence than any sympathy he had for the victims at Ruby Ridge.

Quibbles with his politics aside, though, his essays (haven’t read any of his fiction) are a pure pleasure to read.  He was a master of deadpan mockery and the elegant put-down, and watching him (in print or on TV) destroy the self-appointed guardians of the political status quo, like the two clowns linked to above, is about as enjoyable a spectator sport as there is.

When the national religion is war…

This is possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever read, and literally not worth the minute it takes to read it.  So here’s the shorter version: Americans so strongly support the troops because it’s the one issue, in our hopelessly fractured political culture, upon which we can all agree and thus satisfy our collective yearning for a sense of national unity.  And here I thought it was because we’ve been fed a relentless barrage of propaganda our entire lives about how the soldiers fight and die to protect our freedoms and only an ingrate or a heretic would fail to profess his support.

Happy War Glorification Day

Remember to take a little time out today from stuffing your faces with hot dogs and drinking beer to pay tribute to the brave men and women who are busy protecting your freedom by killing people who have no intention of doing you harm, in places you’ve never heard of.