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America plays the hegemon while ruled by fear and machismo. FAIL.

2 September 2014

Summary:

“Most mainstream US foreign policy “debate” is over tactics of imperial management: how WH should be better controlling other countries, etc.”
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald), 1 September 2014

Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood, the epitome of US foreign policy

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Contents

  1. Machismo as a grand strategy
  2. Daily fear-mongering. Wet your pants on command!
  3. Warnings about our mad rush to war
  4. For More Information

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(1)  Machismo as a grand strategy

There are many forms of realistic grand strategies. In American today we have the belligerent strategies of the neocons (and their allies) in both parties (Obama made his allegiance clear in 2008; Hillary recently reaffirmed her membership). There are the sugar-coated belligerence of the humanitarian militarists (social work with guns). There are a few advocates of rational grand strategies, of the kind that have worked in the past.

Then there are mad emotional “strategies”, suitable for manipulating the pawns of the inner party and the wider audience among the proles. It appeals to men watching gender roles change, and a middle class watching its economic foundations wash away. War, especially violence against weaker powers, restores our self-esteem. Jeremy Egerer plays us well in “What kind of men are we?“, American Thinker, 31 August 2014 — Excerpt:

If we share anything with the Romans, it is their delinquency, laziness, and effeminacy right before they remembered who they were. But if the Romans were overrun with pirates, we’re overrun far worse with illegal immigrants; the former required a war, and we require only a wall. If Rome was embarrassed by Jugurtha {King of Numida, now Algeria; executed by Rome 104 BC) , we’re embarrassed far worse by the Islamic State {whose} advancement could be stopped with a faceless but insistent bombing campaign.

If Rome was infested with layabouts, we’re infested far worse with race-rioters; Romans rioted partially because their citizens were unjustly overrun with usury – as ours are currently by national and private bankers – and Americans riot not when innocents, but when known robbers, thugs, and menaces are shot by the police.

The question, then, may not be a matter of what kind of men we are. For unless men take stands in the Senate and remind us who we are before we become Mexico; unless preachers go to their pulpits and spur us into battle against an inexplicable yet stoppable Islamic evil; unless our fathers teach their sons that trials for citizens and not ignorant marches for robbers are the closest we’ll ever come to justice – a justice admittedly flawed, but the best we can manage outside Eden – then we are asking the wrong question entirely.

A challenge to our manhood composed mostly of falsehoods and fear-mongering. It’s the Right-wing world view. Consider this this confident statement:

“Islamic State’s advancement could be stopped with a faceless but insistent bombing campaign.”

How often have massive American bombing campaigns failed since WW2? Almost always. Also hear the echoes to 1914, another war fought amidst cries that it was necessary to prove our manhood. Consider this paragraph:

Sometimes they ruin themselves because they become so proud that they pick fights they shouldn’t, but more often they become so secure in their happiness that they forget that happiness is the result of reason, justice, labor, and war.

He’s speaking of America. A nation whose military and intel spending are almost half of the world’s total, and with its allies are most of the world’s total. A nation with hundreds of bases around the world, who this decade invaded and occupied two nations — fought in a dozen more — expanding into Africa in order to increase that number. Where’s this effeminacy Regerer speaks of?

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AFP: Defense Budgets Around The World

Narrow use of “military”, not including all US spending on intel, nukes, military pensions & health care

Read more…

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Before your celebrate Labor Day, look at the reality of America’s workers

1 September 2014

Summary: On this Labor Day let’s revisit the lost history of the union movement, and its vital contribution to building America’s middle class. Before you celebrate, look at the situation of America’s workers, and the trends.

“If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool.”
— attributed to Abraham Lincoln

Union: bargain or beg

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Contents

  1. Talking to the workers of America
  2. Rise and Fall of America’s Middle Class seen in graphs
  3. We throw away 150 years of effort
  4. For More Information
  5. A note from our past

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(1)  Talking to the workers of America

“There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve alone.
— attributed to Lyndon Baines Johnson

I travel a lot. Usually in a narrow circle of airports, hotels, and business districts. Lately I’ve gone to a wider range of events: farmers’ markets, gun shows, stock car races, etc. I chat, looking at the faces of the people I meet. Looking into their eyes. Here are my impressions, totally subjective — FWIW.

Most of the people I meet are white. I ask what they think about many things. To grossly oversimplify, in general I get similar responses. The economy (it sucks), about gold (they trust it), the government (the enemy), Blacks and Hispanics (they don’t like them), immigrants (they hate them), Asians (envy and some mistrust), police (strong but mixed feelings), the military (admiration), Obama (a wide range of unfavorable impressions).

These are strong hard-working people. They see their cultural washing away. They’re under increasing economic stress, with their class experiencing severe downward mobility (by now unmistakable). They’ve been subjected to generations of information operations by conservatives and liberals. As a result their view of the world is a confused mish-mash of discordant elements, much of which is false (about our past and present, about science and culture).

Most important, the concept of collective action has been erased from their consciousness. No matter how great their strength of the will and bodies, their worship of individualism makes them as easily controlled as sheep. This is easily seen when asking how they’d respond to a great disaster, perhaps the social collapse so many of them expect. Guns, gold, family — perhaps combined with a retreat to the hills.  A guaranteed futile fantasy.

These are the people revolutions are made of. They are soldiers waiting for a cause and a Leader. Let’s hope they get neither. My guess (emphasis on guess) is that the result will be painful for America.

(2)  Rise and Fall of America’s Middle Class seen in graphs

The economic drivers of this class struggle are easily seen. Since 1990 wages are falling as a share of Gross Domestic Income (GDI), especially for the lower middle class. Corporate profits are rising. The reasons are complex, the result has by now become unmistakable: a shift of our national income from return on labor to return on capital. Since the nation’s wealth is so highly concentrated, the result is rising inequality of income.

Wages paid as a share of Gross Domestic Income: at a post-WW2 low and falling fast.
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FRED: compensationGDI
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About half of this lost share of national income has gone to boost domestic industries’ share of Gross Domestic Income: now at the highest level since 1968, and rising.

Read more…

Shut the Robo-whining: The Robocop Remake Has Something on its Mind

31 August 2014

Summary:  Today we have another guest post by film critic Locke Peterseim, reviewing the new Robocop film. He shows how it provides a mirror into which we can see ourselves, 21st C America in all its glory. It discusses our view of heroism, our love of violence, and the shift of films from politically challenging to safe mindlessness. Post your comments about the film — and this review!

Robocop (2014)

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Shut the Robo-whining: The Remake Has Something on its Mind

By Locke Peterseim

Posted at the film blog of Open Letters Monthly
17 February 2014
Reposted here with his generous permission

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There was no compelling reason to remake Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 RoboCop. And there’s no great reason anyone has to go see José Padilha’s 2014 remake. A healthy, happy, culturally fulfilled life can be easily led without it. Even those jonesing for a mid-winter hit of PG-13 sci-fi action violence can probably find suitable sustenance elsewhere.

And yet, if you must see the Brazilian director’s remake (itself work-for-hire in the service of Sony’s perpetual franchise machine), there’s enough going on both in front of and behind the camera in the familiar Frankenstein tale of cyborg vs. crime and humanity vs. security to make it tolerably engaging and almost not a waste of your winter doldrums time.

A mid-February week that saw the wide release of not one, not two, but three ‘80s remakes (updated versions of About Last Night and Endless Love also oozed into the Cineplexes) naturally sent the film geeks a chattering about Hollywood running out of ideas and how remakes are never as good as the originals. Of course none of this has anything to do with “Hollywood running out of ideas.” Director John Landis put it very clearly in his angry truth-to-power speech last fall at an Argentinian film fest. Listen up, because the auteur behind Animal House, The Blues Brothers, American Werewolf in London, and Three Amigos is spot on:

“There are no original ideas. What … no one understands is that it is never about the idea, it is about the execution of the idea… The film studios are all now subdivisions of huge multinational corporations … It really has to do with desperation, because they don’t know how to get people into the theaters, so they bring back 3D and make all this kind of shit … It’s very common now to spend more money selling a movie than making a movie. So the reason they make remakes and sequels is because they’re brands, like Coca Cola. They remake movies because they have presold titles.”

Robocop: Joel Kinnaman & Abbie Cornish

Joel Kinnaman & Abbie Cornish

“Hollywood” didn’t put out three ‘80s remakes in one woe begotten Valentine’s Day weekend because there are no good new ideas out there, it put them out because the titles — along with recent releases like The LEGO Movie, Vampire Academy, Jack Ryan, The Hunger Games, and The Hobbit — have built-in “poster awareness” thanks to franchises, boxes of old VHS tapes, popular books, and classic toys.

I hate to be the one to crap in your morning bowl of fiber, Generation X, but we’re the new Baby Boomers. We’re old. Studios don’t care what we want or how much youthful nostalgic geek-glaze we’ve covered 25-year-old films like the original RoboCop in. They want to sell tickets to the only people still reliably wandering into theaters on Friday nights in hopes of copping a feel over a bucket of popcorn: teenagers and Millennials who don’t know Peter Weller from Paul Weller.

That said, good films are good films, bad films are bad films, and passable films are passable films, whatever their hellish marketing-driven, spreadsheet bottom-line origins. And the new RoboCop is a solidly passable film.

Read more…

Police grow more powerful; the Republic slides another step into darkness. Can cellphone cameras save us?

28 August 2014

Summary: Our system is changing; the Republic is dying. Events in Ferguson illustrate some aspects of this the police’s militarization, alienation from the community, and increased use of force. Today we look at the last component of this cycle — their immunity from consequences. It’s not “just happening”. Day by day our elites change the system to better suit their needs; our passivity and apathy allow it to happen. We can still force reform; that might not always be true.

Lady Justice

Becoming an illegal alien

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A darkness falls over the Republic, like a shroud. It will deepen so long as we read stories like these below as entertainment — an opportunity for faux-outrage and righteousness. Only anger and resolution can save us, while the clock runs against us.

How the Supreme Court Protects Bad Cops“, Erwin Chemerinskyaug, op-ed in the New York Times, 26 August 2014 — Excerpt:

In recent years, the court has made it very difficult, and often impossible, to hold police officers and the governments that employ them accountable for civil rights violations. This undermines the ability to deter illegal police behavior and leaves victims without compensation. When the police kill or injure innocent people, the victims rarely have recourse.

The most recent court ruling that favored the police was Plumhoff v. Rickard, decided on May 27, which found that even egregious police conduct is not “excessive force” in violation of the Constitution. Police officers in West Memphis, Ark., pulled over a white Honda Accord because the car had only one operating headlight. Rather than comply with an officer’s request to get out of the car, the driver made the unfortunate decision to speed away. The police chased the car for more than five minutes, reaching speeds of over 100 miles per hour. Eventually, officers fired 15 shots into the car, killing both the driver and a passenger.

The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and ruled unanimously in favor of the police. … This is deeply disturbing. The Supreme Court now has said that whenever there is a high-speed chase that could injure others — and that would seem to be true of virtually all high-speed chases — the police can shoot at the vehicle and keep shooting until the chase ends. Obvious alternatives could include shooting out the car’s tires, or even taking the license plate number and tracking the driver down later.

The court has also weakened accountability by ruling that a local government can be held liable only if it is proved that the city’s or county’s own policy violated the Constitution. In almost every other area of law, an employer can be held liable if its employees, in the scope of their duties, injure others, even negligently. This encourages employers to control the conduct of their employees and ensures that those injured will be compensated.

Read more…

The promise and peril of automation: now everyone sees the challenge

27 August 2014

Summary: It was long denied,  but now everybody sees the coming of the next industrial revolution. We enter the next phase, when experts assure us that the obvious will not happen, that the dynamics of past industrial revolutions would not repeat (although they don’t explain why). Today we look at experts grappling with these issues, and see some simple truths.

Robot-human partnership

Don Klumpp | Photographer’s Choice | Getty Images

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Now that the 3rd industrial revolution has appeared on the front pages, Pew Research polls experts to learn its consequence: “AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs“, Aaron Smith and Janna Anderson, 6 August 2014 — Excerpt:

The vast majority of respondents to the 2014 Future of the Internet canvassing anticipate that robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025, with huge implications for a range of industries such as health care, transport and logistics, customer service, and home maintenance. But even as they are largely consistent in their predictions for the evolution of technology itself, they are deeply divided on how advances in AI and robotics will impact the economic and employment picture over the next decade.

… Some 1,896 experts responded to the following question: Will networked, automated, artificial intelligence (AI) applications and robotic devices have displaced more jobs than they have created by 2025?

Half of these experts (48%) envision a future in which robots and digital agents have displaced significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers — with many expressing concern that this will lead to vast increases in income inequality, masses of people who are effectively unemployable, and breakdowns in the social order.

The other half of the experts who responded to this survey (52%) expect that technology will not displace more jobs than it creates by 2025. To be sure, this group anticipates that many jobs currently performed by humans will be substantially taken over by robots or digital agents by 2025. But they have faith that human ingenuity will create new jobs, industries, and ways to make a living, just as it has been doing since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

Most of the answers are exercises in making stuff up, just faith-based guessing (see examples here). Which is sad, as they disregard the painfully gained knowledge from previous industrial revolutions. History, economics, political science, and sociology give insights as to what we can expect from the massive increase in productivity that might loom ahead. But using our imagination is more fun.

There are others with a more scholarly approach, such as the study described by Matthew Yglesias in “Robots won’t destroy jobs, but they may destroy the middle class“, VOX, 23 August 2014 — Excerpt:

Read more…

The long-simmering conflict in the Middle East breaks out, surprising US experts

26 August 2014

Summary: In our multi-media flood of news it’s easy to miss important inflection points. One might have just happened; something long predicted by experts in 4GW: the outbreak of complex violent conflicts in the Middle East as the conservative regimes respond to the jihadist ideologies sweeping through region.

Muslims victory

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Content

  1. The oligarchs strike back
  2. Watch this story. It’s just starting.
  3. Update
  4. Who will win?
  5. For More Information

(1)  The oligarchs strike back

With the aid of the Western nations, since WW2 corrupt oligarchs have dominated their peoples. Now a competing ideology has arise to oppose the free-market democracy ideologies which have failed those peoples. The oligarchs maintained a delicate balance, upset by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan by foreign infidels which set the region aflame.

In response these regimes have adopted different strategies, hoping to suppress the coming revolutions.

How will this play out? We can only guess. But we do have a model for a worst-case scenario: the 30 Years War (1618-1648), in which a dozen themes of evolving western society metastasized in a complex war — destroying Germany, creating the modern political regime of nation-states still ruling today.

This conflict has long simmered, and appears to be breaking out into a visible and more violent form. Oligarchs against their peoples. Different ethnic groups against each other (e.g., Kurds against Arabs, Arabs against Persians). Sunni against Shia.  Like the 30 Years War, strange alliances will form and shatter. Reliable predictions are impossible.

Western pseudo-experts will reduce this conflict to fairy tale simplicity to suit their domestic political agendas, involving us in conflicts we don’t understand — only to be mocked by events, leaving us to mourning our wasted money and heroic dead sacrificed in futile causes.

(2)  Watch this story. It’s just starting.

To learn what’s happen today we turn to this excellent reporting, an example of America’s journalism at its best: “Arab Nations Strike in Libya, Surprising U.S.“, New York Times, 25 August 2014 — Opening:

Twice in the last seven days, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have secretly launched airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli, Libya, four senior American officials said, in a major escalation of a regional power struggle set off by Arab Spring revolts.

The United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines. Egyptian officials explicitly denied to American diplomats that their military played any role in the operation, the officials said, in what appeared a new blow to already strained relations between Washington and Cairo.

The strikes in Tripoli are another salvo in a power struggle defined by old-style Arab autocrats battling Islamist movements seeking to overturn the old order.

… Egypt’s role, the American officials said, was to provide bases for the launch of the strikes. … The officials said the U.A.E. — which boasts one of the most effective air forces in the Arab world, thanks to American equipment and training — provided the pilots, warplanes and aerial refueling planes necessary for the fighters to bomb Tripoli out of bases in Egypt.

This will be a complex story, as conservative Arab oligarchs take different paths to ride the tsunamis sweeping through their world (which the Western nations prefer not to see):

Read more…

The core of the climate debate: how much of the past warming did we cause?

25 August 2014

Summary:  Today we have a post by Judith Curry, a leading climate scientist, going to the very heart of the debate: how much of the warming since 1950 results from us? Before making predictions, how confidently can we see our past?

Climate change presents one of the greatest challenges in humanity’s history. To accurately assess long slow changes in Earth’s biosphere, discerning the effects of our effects from natural cycles. Equally difficult, our political machinery must accurately see the conclusions of climate scientists, and take appropriate steps. These are largely sociological processes, called upon to work on a level seldom seen in our past.

Voltaire: Doubt & Certainty

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Contents

  1. The 50-50 argument
  2. About Judith Curry
  3. Vital info about climate change
  4. For More Information
  5. Advice from Bertrand Russell

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The 50-50 argument

by Judith Curry, at her website Climate Etc
24 August 2014
Posted here under her Creative Commons license

(a)  Choose which hypothesis you prefer

Pick one:

  1. Warming since 1950 is predominantly (more than 50%)  caused by humans.
  2. Warming since 1950 is predominantly caused by natural processes.

When faced with a choice between 1 and 2,  I respond:  ‘I can’t choose, since i think the most likely split between natural and anthropogenic causes to recent global warming is about 50-50′.  Gavin thinks I’m ‘making things up’ {see the discussion in comments here}, so I promised yet another post on this topic.

For background and context, see my previous 4 part series Overconfidence in the IPCC’s detection and attribution.

(b)  Framing

The IPCC’s AR5 (2014) attribution statement:

It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together. The best estimate of the human induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.

I’ve remarked on the ‘most’ (previous incarnation of ‘more than half’, equivalent in meaning) in my Uncertainty Monster paper: “Further, the attribution statement itself is at best imprecise and at worst ambiguous: what does “most” mean – 51% or 99%?” Whether it is 51% or 99% would seem to make a rather big difference regarding the policy response.  It’s time for climate scientists to refine this range.

I am arguing here that the ‘choice’ regarding attribution shouldn’t be binary, and there should not be a break at 50%; rather we should consider the following terciles for the net anthropogenic contribution to warming since 1950: >66%, 33% – 66%, <33%.  Hence 50-50 refers to the tercile 33-66% (as the midpoint)

Note:   I am referring only to a period of overall warming, so by definition the cooling argument is eliminated.  Further, I am referring to the NET anthropogenic effect (greenhouse gases + aerosols + etc).   I am looking to compare the relative magnitudes of net anthropogenic contribution with net natural contributions.

Further, by global warming I refer explicitly to the historical record of global average surface temperatures.  Other data sets such as ocean heat content, sea ice extent, whatever, are not sufficiently mature or long-range (see Climate data records: maturity matrix).   Further, the surface temperature is most relevant to climate change impacts, since humans and land ecosystems live on the surface.  I acknowledge that temperature variations can vary over the earth’s surface, and that heat can be stored/released by vertical processes in the atmosphere and ocean.  But the key issue of societal relevance (not to mention the focus of IPCC detection and attribution arguments) is the realization of this heat on the Earth’s surface.

Read more…

“Edge of Tomorrow”: Cruise, Again and Again

24 August 2014

Summary:  Today we have another guest post by film critic Locke Peterseim, reviewing Edge of Tomorrow. He shows how it provides a mirror into which we can see ourselves, in effect a riveting documentary about modern warfare (as we see it from the homeland). Battle scenes crammed full to the frames with CGI armament and hyper-gritty destruction splayed out against a backdrop of overblown escapist realism. It embodies everything and signifies nothing. It’s almost the opposite in nature of films made during WW2. Post your comments about the film — and this review!

“Battle is the Great Redeemer. It is the fiery crucible in which true heroes are forged. The one place where all men truly share the same rank, regardless of what kind of parasitic scum they were going in.”
— Words we find inspiring on the screen, showing our lack of self-confidence and fears of inauthenticity. It’s a common attitude held before wars (e.g., before WWI).

Edge Of Tomorrow

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Edge of Tomorrow: Cruise, Again and Again

By Locke Peterseim

Posted at the film blog of Open Letters Monthly
25 June 2014
Reposted here with his generous permission

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I once reveled in mocking and deriding Tom Cruise for the obvious reasons: the shallow All-American Super-Jock swagger; the intense self-deprecatingly positivity; the mish-mash of film choices from soggily pretentious Oscar-lickers (Born on the Fourth of July, Rain Man, The Last Samurai) to cloying, image polishers (A Few Good Men, Jerry McGuire) to silly popcorn pandering (The Firm, Mission Impossible, and of course Interview with the Vampire).

Even when the actor took otherwise admirable steps to try something relatively daring with Eyes Wide Shut and Vanilla Sky, it still felt like the ridiculously handsome and charismatic quarterback slumming it in the theater department’s avant-garde spring production. (Like Glee’s Finn, without all the overdosing.) (To be fair, Kubrick reduced Cruise to a prop, but Kubrick reduced nearly all his actors to props.)

In the midst of this came the one truly brilliant Tom Cruise performance—the only post-Risky Business role that shows actual acting ability, as opposed to the usual wind-up charm masquerading in dress-up costumes as “Serious Acting!”

That was in P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia, and of course the irony there is that Cruise is so genuinely good in it because he appears to show us a glimpse of what I suspect is the Real Thomas Cruise Mapother IV: A vicious, insecure huckster constantly attacking at full speed to hide the dark emptiness within. In other words, his best came from simply letting slip the carefully constructed mask for a moment.

(The Runner Up would be his hilarious – and once again, I suspect self-revealing – Tropic Thunder cameo as a profane mad-dog studio exec.)

Read more…

Events in Ferguson show why we read the news: entertainment

23 August 2014

Summary:  When the hysteria began following the revelations about NSA surveillance, I predicted that we’d have an enjoyable hissy fit — then nothing would change (details here). And 14 months later little has changed (perhaps nothing). Now the events in Ferguson MO have sparked a new cycle of outrage over the militarization of police. My prediction is that again little or nothing will change. Here we consider why public outrage has so little effect: news is just entertainment.

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Citizens read news in order to become well-informed, and so able to help manage the Republic’s business, as well as their own. Why do subjects read the news? That is, why bother if we don’t act on what we learn? Entertainment! Scandals give us the thrill of righteous indignation. The excitement of a two minute hate at the designated bad guys. The thrill of submission before power, when we realize our Leaders pretend to care about our opinion, but in fact ignore us.

Then back to our lives, refreshed, glowing with the knowledge that reform is impossible — so we need do nothing but dream of the great day when we arise and smite our unworthy rulers.

What connects the news with our actions? A sense of responsibility, of citizenship. Otherwise the news provides insights of use for personal and business use, but little else. The news is a product, manufactured by professionals to meet our desires for fun mock-serious light entertainment, plus personally useful information. Journalists and editors are masters of constructing emotional narratives that feed our prejudices and excite our emotions.

When we change, journalists will change to accommodate our new needs. Their business is giving us what we want.

Other perspectives on these events

The fault lies not in the news, but in ourselves. The most common response in comments to these stories is pre-emptive surrender. It’s hopeless, so we need not do anything.

Read more…

Before we start a new war with ISIS, let’s remember how we stumbled into the last two

21 August 2014

Summary: As we gear up for new wars in Syria and Africa, and rejoining old wars in Iraq, let’s a pause to think. Success will depend on learning from our failures since 9-11. Our greatest failures have been our initial failures: seeing the situation incorrectly and beginning before we have accurate information about our foe. The combination creates almost insurmountable barriers to success, barriers that we construct. We can do better.

Learn from mistakes

Contents

  1. Familiar bad news about our new wars
  2. Reminders from the past
  3. We’re winning! Like always.
  4. Let’s remember the great advice we need the most
  5. For More Information

(1)  Familiar bad news about our new wars

It’s become the one of the two standard themes for the starts of our wars: US intelligence tells us that we know little about our enemies. As Eli Lake explains in “ISIS Baffling U.S. Intelligence Agencies“, The Daily Beast, 14 August 2014 — “It’s been two months since ISIS took over Iraq’s second-largest city. But U.S. analysts are still trying to figure out how big the group is and the real identities of its leaders.” Excerpt:

The U.S. intelligence community is still trying to answer basic questions about the jihadists who tried to wipe out Iraq’s remaining Yazidis and who now threaten to overrun the capital of the country’s Kurdish provinces.

In a briefing for reporters Thursday, U.S. intelligence officials said the government is re-evaluating an estimate from early this year that said the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) had only 10,000 members. These officials also said intelligence analysts were still trying to determine the real names of many of the group’s leaders …

While many U.S. officials have warned publicly in the last year about the dangers posed by ISIS, the fact that the U.S. intelligence community lacks a consensus estimate on its size and the true identities of the group’s leadership may explain why President Obama over the weekend said the U.S. was caught off-guard by the ISIS advance into Kurdish territory.

{the usual fear-mongering follows, presented as analysis}

The second theme which marks the start of our wars: errors and outright lies about the wars. The sinking of the USS Maine and the Spanish-American War, the Tonkin Gulf Incident, Saddam’s WMDs and alliance with al Qaeda, and Afghanistan’s key role in 9-11. Let’s hope that what we are told about our enemies in this new phase of the Long War is more accurate than what we’ve been told so far.

Read more…

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