Archive for the ‘teabaggers’ Tag

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.

Advertisements

Random points on Sunday afternoon.

It’s a cold, lazy Sunday.  I’m really doing a lot of nothing today, except for research on our upcoming vacation trip, one that I wish was going about a month later because I’d have much more of a budget for it given that work has been quite productive lately, I just won’t be able to cash in on it until later in August.

It’s almost August.  We made the move to Nova Scotia in January and it’s almost August.

But I’m glad overall we came.

Last night, my father and I were sitting on the deck in the twilight, he’s been reading Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People, and I’m reading Diamond’s fascinating Collapse.  As we sat out, I was watching my neighbours, a Sikh couple – or rather my neighbour and his father-in-law lighting some kind of fire.  I realized eventually that it was a small charcoal barbecue and they were trying to get it going, presumable to make themselves some dinner.  It was not going very well for them.   So, as good neighbours, we wandered over, and started trying to get it going.  They hadn’t used any sort of starter fluid or much for kindling, but eventually I managed to get it going for them.  It turned out that they had made the food already, and just wanted to finish it on the barbecue, and we joked that at the rate they were going they’d be waiting until breakfast.

I wound up sitting and talking with them for at least an hour – I had had a few beers earlier on in the day and they insisted on sharing a bottle of Nicaragua’s finest (Flor de Cana rum) with me, so it’s possible I didn’t sound as smart as I thought, but we had quite an interesting discussion about India, the history of the Sikh people, about Indian food, and all sorts of things, it was really a great way to spend a warm evening under a nearly full moon, around a fire, just talking about all sorts of things.

And getting a couple of pieces of tandoori chicken out of the deal is nothing to scoff at.  I think I’ll have to cater the next lesson on barbecue, but we’ll get them straightened out on how to do it, without the normal starter that is apparently traditionally used in India – cow dung!

It’s amazing how easy it is to get along with almost anyone in such a setting, and I have to wonder if there was some way that more people could do that sort of thing – sit around a communal meal and realize that we aren’t really all that different.  I’ve heard anecdotes from many friends in Afghanistan that the best bonding opportunities they had with the locals and the ANSF people they worked with was over food, when they’d get sick of Army food and go out and trade with the locals for more interesting meals.  That’s some sort of primal bond amongst people I think – it’s sort of the key to a lot of things.  What made me think of that over the conversation last night was the concept in Sikhism of the gurdwara in a temple – a communal kitchen which feeds everyone who comes to the temple – they won’t let you go away hungry basically.

So what else, then, to write about?  I’ve been paying more attention to work than anything else, but was fascinated by the shitshow started when blogger/idiot Andrew Breitbart released an edited, out of context video of a woman who worked for the US Department of Agriculture making a speech to the NAACP in which she appeared to admit to being a racist.  Except, as we all know, the clip was cut and she was actually talking about how she came to realize that perpetuating or reciprocating racism doesn’t help anything.  If you aren’t familiar with this story, you probably shouldn’t be reading this.

Breitbart is a disturbing fool.  This of course is not the first time he’s done something like this, and he’s tried to spin this as him being the victim, then tried to claim the attack was on the response to the story (before the “redemption” part), that it “proves” the NAACP is racist and thus has no business condemning that rather bizarre Tea Party movement in the USA.  None of this actually holds up to scrutiny if you watch the tape, though.  And this ain’t Breitbart’s first “discredited video” rodeo, either.  He does, however, reveal a deluded sense of his own importance, as apparently, and I haven’t see the tape, he claimed his “journalism” was … well, it doesn’t matter what he claimed it was, that isn’t the point.  He’s not a journalist to begin with.  Then he tried to claim he’s “public enemy number one” because of his “journalism”.  Please.  Mr. Breitbart, you’re a piece of shit hack artist that no one of any real importance cares too much about – and I hope you find yourself on the receiving end of a significant lawsuit for the shit you’ve pulled here.

I think I’m just continually staggered that things like this can happen in a country that is supposed to be so advanced as the USA.  The fact that people like Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Rand Paul can have any sort of influence on politics like they do just astounds me.  It’s as though on the right at least stupidity is revered as some sort of necessary quality of a politician.  It’s almost as though they think that if they elect the inept that they can’t do much harm.  Unfortunately, we’ve seen that is anything but the case, all you have to do is look at the Lost Decade under Bush – surplus squandered, goodwill squandered, two wars, etc etc.  I think that doesn’t bode well for a country whose trajectory for the last little while has borne some discernable resemblances to the empires of Rome and Britain before they were finished.

Even if Obama, who seems to have gotten more done as POTUS in a year than his predecessors did their whole time in office, is a miracle worker, I often wonder if, as someone on Twitter I saw put it, he just volunteered to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The Oil Spill – And The Strange Impacts Thereof

What’s going on right now in the Gulf of Mexico is a disaster.  Not that that’s a particularly insightful statement, but it’s true.  It’s a demostration of the very, very awful things that can go wrong in modern industry.  As much as companies will say that they plan for every imaginable contingency, the Deepwater Horizon disaster is proof that it’s impossible and unrealistic to assume that indeed we can handle anything.

What’s really shocking is that like so many other disasters, it’s been turned into some sort of perverse political football as well.  It shows a lot about conservatives/teabaggers who hate big government, but curiously have been pleading for government intervention.  Probably the funniest example of this was raving lunatic Michelle Bachmann.   Commandeer boats?  That sounds like tyranny to me. 

Then there was the world’s biggest moron, Sarah Palin, posting on her ludicrous Facebook page blaming “liberals” for offshore drilling, and trying to qualify that when she said “drill baby drill” she didn’t mean that.  Again, the media mocked her, and deservedly so.

These same people are the ones calling this “Obama’s Katrina” and demanding he do something about the hemorrhaging wellhead.  I don’t know what these people figure Obama could do.  I think the comparison to Katrina doesn’t work, either.  I got the impression – though I’ve not looked into it as much – that Dubya simply accepted the administrative incompetence of FEMA in dealing with the aftermath of that event.  In this case, the catastrophe is ongoing, but it doesn’t seem that no one is doing anything about it.  I’m sure BP’s engineers are working long hours trying to figure out how to handle the problems.

The laugh is that it all is coming down to these champions of the free market looking like complete hypocrites.  They’re basically calling for socializing the costs of the mess, when they should of course be advocating for BP, TransOcean, Halliburton, Cameron, and any other firms who might be found to have contributed to the disaster to pay up.  If they are bankrupted in the process, so be it.  Of course, they have to get around the ludicrous liability gap that was another great conservative gift to the world.  I hope that can be done easily.

It certainly seems as though BP’s got lots of resources to fire up the PR machine, and I have to say they are doing a pretty good job of messaging on the whole issue, Tony Hayward and his US subordinates have been visible, and it seems to me fairly candid.  I don’t think Hayward is a bad man, nor do I think anyone in the industry is necessarily intentionally a villain.  Accidents always happen, and it seems like BP is trying to come out looking the best they can and hopefully can do this thing right.

This morning, however, the Nova Scotian magazine that I get with my Chronicle-Herald had a small article about the Niger Delta, and the environmental disaster there.  The amount of oil spilled there annual rivals Deepwater Horizon, apparently, never mind that they flare tremendous amounts of gas, and the companies operate with relative impunity. One source suggested that the equivalent of around 40% of Africa’s total volume of natural gas consumed is flared in the Delta annually.  Never mind the needless air pollution this causes, the release of greenhouse gases, etc, that’s natural gas that could be used for proper, necessary consumption.  The trick is that AG (associated gas) is expensive to separate and put into production, it’s cheap to just burn it off and maximize crude oil production instead.

 Most people in the Delta haven’t got access to any uncontaminated water, and suffer ill health as a result of oil production, and get no real benefit of it.  The terrible story of Ken Saro Wiwa is just one example of the problem. 

That’s not the only story of the misery of oil production – virtually everywhere, it’s the same.  Huge pollution problems, suffering amongst the local population, and a curious absence of direct benefits to those who live in the area in production. 

The only real thing I can see as a solution has been the obvious one for many years – we need to start weaning ourselves off of oil.  We need to work harder to find alternatives and making better use of what we have.  The fact that we’ll have to keep going further and further offshore to find and produce more oil and risk repeats of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is the best evidence of that, leaving aside climate change and all the other associated problems.  If we don’t start working at this now, we’re only going to see more problems – and we don’t even see all that are already here.

Arguing With Idiots, Indeed

If I ever needed proof of how Americans – right winger ones anyhow – are being dumbed down by the media they choose to follow, I got it today in a couple of shining examples on Twitter.  Started when I discovered @Newfederalists engaged in some manner of debate with another tweeter I follow.  This dude said something pretty ridiculous, can’t remember exactly what, but I responded in a little bit of a chirpy way, as I do from time to time, “Says a man evidently chock-full of right-wing bullshit. Move along now.”

Well, obviously, he didn’t move along.  And the exchange just went from there.   And it was just pretty pathetic.  The whole thing was about the rather asinine beliefs that so many right wing nutjobs have about political ideologies.  What I have never really gotten is how these folks like to label Barack Obama as a socialist, Marxist, and Nazi all at the same time.  I frequently like to point out that contrary to the bullshit spewed by their sources, Nazism is not related to socialism at all, that it’s most closely related to fascism and is considered by virtually all scholars, theorists, historians, basically everyone of any intellectual capacity to have been a extreme right wing movement.  Like fascism, though, it is syncretic – drawing from across the spectrum.  In fact, Nazism and fascism to me are pretty good illustrations of why the simplistic ideas of a simple bi-polar linear spectrum don’t really work.

The crux of their argument is the most incredible logical fallacy I’ve ever seen.  The Nazis were actually the Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeitspartei, or the National Socialist German Workers Party.   The “proof” that their views are left wing, in the view of these uneducated fools, is that the word “socialism” exists in the title.

My favourite counter to this is to point of that by the same logic, North Korea – formally, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, MUST be a democratic republic.  It’s in the name, so it must be correct.  It’s about as logical a statement to make.

I’m not going to rewrite the history of the Nazi Party and their rise to power in Germany.  The “socialist” part of their ideology was a not socialism in the sense that most people in modern times would know – and Hitler detested the concept of it.  The infamous “Night Of The Long Knives” was actually a coup against the SA faction of the party, getting rid of the social issues interests of the party, consolidating Adolf Hitler’s power, and launching Nazism as we know it today.

Alright, alright, I said I wasn’t going to take you into the Third Reich.  Suffice it to say that any reasonable assessment would not at all conflate Nazism with socialism, much less with Marxism, an ideology intensely hated by the Nazis.  The whole discussion, ultimately, in the context of American politics, is ridiculous.  The most extreme interpretations of the platform of Barack Obama would probably fit into right edge of the social democrat/Third Way model, though I’m not totally sure about that.  I could dive into that more, but I again can’t be bothered.

What really got me as we progressed were brilliant tweets from both @Newfederalists, and then the next person to come into the mix, the similarly brilliant @mach1broker.  I couldn’t believe what I saw these people say, it’s so stunning.  It’s like they’re revelling in their own ignorance, almost like they’re bragging about their unwillingness to actually get more information, to go read, study, ask question.  It makes no sense to me.  None at all.

This is the kind of shit my American cousins are going to have to put up with for the next little while.  A pack of vile, ignorant right wingers who’ve suddenly decided to become politically aware – without actually investing any time in learning what they’re so passionate about.  It’s shocking to see this sort of thing.

And the power of this sort of ignorance and idiocy becomes pretty clear when you start to see things like what was shared with me today – about those crazy bastards in Michigan.  Apparently, one of them was primarily motivated in her hatred of President Obama based on a bullshit Facebook rumour.  You simply cannot make shit like this up.

When I read stuff like this, when I see what influences these people, the bullshit they subscribe to, I just feel a lot better that these people are the minority, and will likely never amount to anything – and the more extreme, ignorant, and stupid they sound, the more likely they’ll wind up more on the fringes.

Expanding On Comments On Teabaggers

When I started using Twitter I was immediately very absorbed by the #tcot group and it’s more radical subset, #ocra. These are the arch-conservative types. Amusingly enough I always used to think myself pretty conservative, and by Canadian standards, for the most part I am. My views generally fall on the side of personal initiative, of free markets, and so on – but having studied economics with particular emphasis on public finance and healthcare being themes I enjoyed, I understand that there is a crucial role for governments to play in the economy, because markets are not perfect.

The study of economics pays close attention to these shortcomings of markets and studies how and why they work. Many of them are applicable to the issues brought out in US political debates raging now.

It seems among many American right wingers their ideal is a small, nearly non-existent government. The irony in my view is that they want this small government which will barely tax them, to do a lot of particularly expensive things. Like wage wars abroad against those they perceive to be enemies of America. In testament to this, consider their attitude toward Iran currently. Look also at their continued attempt to justify the invasion of Iraq whose cost was staggering, both in blood and treasure, for no discernable purpose except perhaps to line the pockets of the defence industry who are generally speaking in bed with politicians.

I could spin off on all sorts of tangents from here, about the basics of guns vs butter (an elementary economic study in tradeoffs), or about the rather ominous idea that all the kerfuffle about Iran, Israel, and the Middle East is rooted in the bizarre apocalyptic fantasies of religious nutcases in the US, but I’ll try to stay out of the weeds there.

The common theme amongst the disenfranchised right wingers, at least those on the internet, seems to be a perception that their country has been stolen from them by the current administration, whom they seem to want to blame for the current budget mess the US faces, the massive debt the US owns (which they rather aptly refer to as “generational theft”).  Of course, one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize that the current US administration in fact inherited the budget mess in large part from its predecessors, and more importantly, they don’t seem to have much to offer in terms of alternatives.

This has been illustrated to them numerous times.  One of the best examples I happened to hear the audio of on CNN – Rick Sanchez interviewing Judson Phillips, the fool in charge of the Tea Party nonsense in the States.  You can watch it here: http://vodpod.com/watch/2988674-tea-party-profiteer-downplays-bushs-fiscal-mess-before-throwing-him-under-the-bus–  If the link doesn’t work – Google what I did: “Rick Sanchez tea deficit” and choose the second link.  This is the kind of thing I observe from most of these conservative types – their vitriol is based on misinformation from the get-go, so it’s to be expected that their arguments are unsound.

(As an aside, while scouring YouTube for the clip, I found a lot of videos by the excellent Canadian band The Tea Party – one of my favourites)

In any case, I’ve tried to see the arguments that these folks are trying to make from their point of view.  So repeatedly, I ask them to identify what specifically their gripes are, and more importantly, how they see they can be addressed better.  To the date I’m typing this I’ve not seen anything particularly substantive.

The argument often starts with “returning to Constitutional government” or something like that.  Of course, that’s not an answer in itself, and leads to me asking for a specific example of how the current administration has deviated from the rules of the US Constitution (which I’ve read rather thoroughly, repeatedly, and read plenty on its interpretation), and I get nothing but vague comments about bailouts (well, TARP happened during Bush’s watch, and I don’t really see how any other option was possible), or more nonsense about healthcare reform that shows they don’t really have a clue.

The fact that seems undeniable is that there’s a racist undertone to the whole thing.  I’m not saying those who support the Tea Party “movement” are racists merely by virtue of supporting the movement, nor that the movement itself is outright racist, but there’s a lot of racist rhetoric coming from their “grassroots” movement that utterly discredits whatever it is they might otherwise be trying to say.  And it’s not as though there’s a plethora of minorities involved.

The other thing they keep talking about is taxation.  US taxes are already quite low, particularly given the size of the US budget and unfunded liabilities.  And more than that, I fail to see how tax cuts will get any real traction for the economy currently.  While it is reasonable and economically sound to state that lowering taxation will increase disposable income which should theoretically stimulate the economy by increasing consumption spending, there’s a good argument to be made that it has a low likelihood of working for two reasons: first – most of this disposable income is likely to go to dealing with the tremendous amount of household debt carried by Americans.  Paying off interest on credit cards isn’t stimulative.  Secondly, for those who aren’t drowning in debt, it seems that there’s been an increase in savings rates – perhaps it’s some manner of uncertainty about the economy (and perhaps it’s being fuelled by the shilling for gold that’s common on TV and radio in the US, particularly on right-leaning outlets), but it seems like savings rates in the US are rising.  (source:  (source: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/data/PSAVERT ) Putting money in the bank is also not stimulative.   The jury seems to be out on whether the “stimulus checks” of 2008 accomplished any meaningful stimulus – I can find a myriad of sources arguing both sides – but I know that if someone sent me a cheque for $1000 or some other amount – I’d be using it to pay down my own debts, not to buy more stuff.

So the debate gets onto massive deficit spending that started before Obama took office.  In my view, Keynesian ideals about spending one’s way out of recession are logical and reason in certain cases – if the spending is investment in future competitiveness.  Spending money as Canada has on building roads and other infrastructure projects, on schools, hospitals, retraining, etc is good.  I’m not panicked about the deficit our government is running currently because it’s not structural in nature,  and the money is going to projects which generally are both necessary and will give a long-lasting economic benefit.

I haven’t really looked in detail at what the stimulus money has been going to in the US but it does seem like it’s controversial at the very least.  There’s an argument to be made there about accountability – but again, that in and of itself isn’t a good condemnation of the Obama administration, and without any sort of clear alternative presented, I always have to circle back to “what would you prefer to happen?”

No one has really answered that yet – and until they do – in a reasoned way, I’m going to have to dismiss them for the most part.