Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

What The Hell?!

Life has been fairly busy lately, and I’ve devoted more attention to my blog about my current (mis)adventures in Southwestern Asia than I have to here – but I think it’s time I add some commentary here, because while I’ve been quiet, I’ve still been watching the rest of the world’s adventures.

Dear America: What the hell is going on in your country? It’s as though every time I look at American news or my Twitter feed there is more absurdity to politics than I’ve ever thought possible. It started with the debate over healthcare, and now that you’re getting into an election season, it’s become some kind of circus of Republican candidates trying to outdo each other with saying more insane or simply stupid things.

It’s not as though that’s totally a surprise though. It’s been clear to any observers that the fringes of any party in probably any jurisdiction usually are a little nuts, but in the States it seems like that fringe is all that’s mattering. Is that normal in a primary, that candidates have to try to appeal to the most insane factions of their organizations?! Throughout the primary campaign I couldn’t help wondering what awe-inspiringly stupid thing would be said next. And I wasn’t disappointed at all throughout the process, either.

I’m almost getting weary of talking politics, because it seems generally to happen in right wing echo chambers, especially Canadian politics, because of the forums I tend to look to. Or it’s dealing with the hot-headed (but slow to think their arguments through) left amongst my friends – a couple in particular who are experiencing a phenomenon I’ve never heard of before – “newly rich guilt”. I think that’s probably something that should wind up on stuffwhitepeoplelike.com – the ultimate causehead condition.

I can’t count how many people I’ve read whine about “fascism” coming to Canada because the current Prime Minister and his government, which won a majority in the last election, are doing things they don’t like. That’s not to say there aren’t legitimate things to be angry about – but screaming “fascism” is like a dog whistle – it is only heard by like-minded hotheads who don’t make intelligent arguments.

I’ve actually lost “friends” for suggesting that kids protesting in Montreal are mostly mollycoddled middle class kids who even after proposed tuition hikes will still enjoy one of the cheapest postsecondary educations that can be had in Canada. It’s true that after I made that statement it became clearer to me that they had some legitimate grievances, and that most were of course not interested in the kind of trouble that’s come of the process, but what galls me is the suggestion that destroying property and such things is some sort of basic liberty. It’s not. It never has been.

The “discussion” degenerated when one of the parties brought up military service, and I suggested that no, her family did not fight for the right of people to smash windows and set fires. They did however stand up for the right to assemble peacefully, to protest, etc. There is a line there though.

It only got worse from there. But that’s life. I can’t deal with hysterical morons, so fuck them.

When, though, did the process get so toxic that all we can do is scream at extreme positions rather than actual discuss real issues? When did we start falling for this trickery?

I’ll tell you something related. I’ve been reading Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family which I think is one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. I’ve always understood that religion is poison but when you start to understand how much it has influenced politics in the USA, it gets very scary. The fact that a network of religious lunatics who actually believe on the bullshit that is Christianity, particularly The Family’s insidious version of it, has as much influence as they do scares the shit out of me. The book gets into what impact these nuts have had on Somalia, Uganda, Indonesia, and so on. It will sicken any reasonable person.

So, again, what they hell is going on?

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Canada Free Press – What A Joke!

Every now and then, I stumble across someone (usually an intellectually-barren right winger) who cited http://www.canadafreepress.com to support an argument. Even more amusing is that occasionally people seem to think that writing for this blog is some kind of journalistic credential.

When your tagline is “Because without America there is no free world…” I have to wonder what the “Canada” part is all about. CFP started as a print paper in Toronto, a right wing free birdcage liner, but it’s now rarely about Canada, and more a haven for American conservatives, and frankly, not good ones. There used to be a comedic value to it, but even that’s gone. Now it’s just… well… I can’t describe it. So let’s look at one of their articles, about the evil (well, if you grossly misinterpret it) UN Agenda 21) and its impact on the military, by Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh. The article is here. Read carefully, because some of the hilarity is subtle.

The good doctor’s article is based on a US government directive about sustainability and designs for military bases – to make them more “walkable”, something that’s been, as I understand it, an urban planning concept for a long time. Most military bases I’ve been on aren’t, don’t offer much in the way of incentive for transit or ride share, and are thus often traffic nightmares. A base I spent a lot of time on has three gates fed by a series of collector roads, and it’s not uncommon to spend 15-20 minutes or more trying to get out at the end of the day, sitting in traffic. To travel a kilometre or two. That’s a lot of cars idling for no good reason. But I guess, if you’re a right wing moron, that’s not a big deal.

She wastes little time to turn an architect’s report on the community around the US Air Base at Aviano into a snipe at Italy – suggesting “they can defend themselves”. Which, of course, they do, which a fairly large and well-equipped military. I’m not entirely sure who or what the US base at Aviano defends Italy from, and would guess it primarily serves US and not Italian interests.

I particularly love this paragraph:

The military leadership explains that transit-oriented development reduces traffic congestion and accident rates while encouraging walking, bicycling, and overall healthy communities. This is a ridiculous excuse since a soldier, by definition, has to be healthy and fit in order to serve in the military. Walking and biking actually increase accident rates of hit and run. There are retirees, even young ones, who are handicapped, and biking and walking is not an option for them. We have thousands of soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Iran with severe, life altering disabilities.

I literally cannot make any sense of this. Where to begin? First, military communities don’t just include “soldiers”. Bases employ civilians. Military families use their facilities as well. And ultimately, that soldiers have a fitness standard that the general public doesn’t has pretty much nothing to do with this. Increased rates of hit and run? Okay, whatever. Conveniently, the Good Doctor offers no statistical support for this, and I somehow don’t think it’s particularly important. Biking and walking aren’t an option for lots of people, sure, but nothing in the ideas of better urban planning makes it impossible. Thanks to not right wing people, after all, we have laws about making sure that we accommodate disabled people. Of course, if you’re a certain class of conservative, you think those laws are an encroachment on your civil liberties and free enterprise, but we’ll try to leave Paultards out of this, shall we? I also love she says soldiers “returned from Iraq and Iran”, to help build the case that on basically the entire subject matter of this post, she has absolutely no idea what she’s talking about. Iran? Really?

Another gem of a paragraph:

Because of drastic cutbacks in the military for cost-saving reasons, at a time when the world threat to our country is at an all time high, we do not have money to refurbish and modernize the military capability. We let soldiers fight in Afghanistan and Iraq with scarce resources and protection, having to duct-tape their body armor to non-armored vehicles in order to provide some level of safety.

Well, “we” sent soldiers to fight a way in Iraq without proper equipment because there wasn’t enough of it to go around. By invading Iraq, Afghanistan was neglected with victory declared early, and it was allowed to fester. And the war with Iraq was totally unnecessary. By the way, which political party has members that actually voted against better equipment for soldiers? Ooops.

The military is more concerned with rules and regulations, like a soldier being licensed properly to drive an un-armored SUV through a war zone. Those who make ill-conceived rules from the safety of their offices in Washington, D. C. do not worry that this soldier might be blown off by a roadside bomb because his vehicle is not armored.

Why are soldiers “licensed” to drive UP-armoured (not “un-armoured”) SUVs? In the case of some places, because they’re less conspicuous and easier to maneuvre around cities. Big convoys of armoured vehicles are juicy targets. Consider the attack on the Rhino Bus on October 29, 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan. It was a big, heavy, armoured vehicle, and a vehicle-borne IED destroyed it and killed all its occupants. It was a clear, significant target. SUVs disappear into traffic, theoretically. Why are they “licensed”? Because they have to pass a driving test that’s a little more than what most people do – how to drive evasively, and maneuvres that increase the safety of the driver and their passengers. Not just anyone should be thrown keys and told to have at it.

“Which would you rather have? Would you rather spend $4 billion on Air Force Base solar panels, or would you rather have 28 new F-22s or 30 F-25s or modernized C-130s? Would you rather have $64.8 billion spent on pointless global warming efforts,  or would you rather have more funds put towards modernizing our fleet of ships, aircraft and ground vehicles to improve the safety of our troops and help defend our nation against the legitimate threats that we face?” (Sen. James Inhofe as quoted by Caroline May)”

I like the solar panels thing. I recently read an article about the US Marine Corps using them on FOBs in southern Afghanistan, saving massive amounts of fuel that would be needed for generators to power the installation. Not only does using less fuel save money, and hey, it’s good for the environment (particularly relevant when the US military is under fire for the air quality on their bases, generator emissions are not exactly good in that sense) – but it saves lives potentially because less fuel consumption means less convoys to transport fuel, means less vehicle movement on the roads, regardless of whether the vehicles are armoured or unarmoured.

Yet we spend billions to needlessly restructure military bases into global environmentalism compliance. It is more important for our executive branch to “sustain” the so-called endangered environment, and please the environmentalist wackos, than to defend our country.

Actually, as I understand it, the directives apply to new base construction and chages thereto. Environmental compliance not only is good for the entire world, it saves money, and in most cases, if you look at what sustainable communities are actually about, it makes them more pleasant places to live. Saving money on defence facilities (the massive of cost of which she references in her article, oddly enough!) leaves more money available for defence, or whatever else. There’s literally nothing bad I can see about that, at all. Unless, like The Good Doctor, you want to make a series of arguments from ignorance to hear yourself speak.