Wednesday, September 23, 2009

the real reasons for "war" in Afghanistan

the old saw says a picture is worth 1,000 words.

in this case I'd multiply that figure by perhaps 1 million.

click on the image to get it full-size, because it's got all sorts of info on it.

note: PNAC = Project for a New American Century. Now "formally" disbanded in the wake of lots of negative press, it has been continued under Obama/Biden under the name Center for a New American Security

Monday, September 14, 2009

serena williams gets robbed

30 years ago I was a lousy tennis player who loved to play and since I was still a young lad who had been weaned on the TV, I even watched a lot of tennis on the television. I remember well the "bad boys" Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe, both of them semi-famous for their inclination to show anger at themselves, and at line judges and umpires who made bad calls. I was a sort of temper-tantrum athlete myself, but most of my tantrums were inside my noggin, me yelling at myself for making the most minor of strategic or technical errors. Such is the lot of the perfectionist. All this I say to mean that I understood why Nastase and/or McEnroe would have their outbursts... and as I got older and began playing golf, my golf playing friends would surely be able to tell you today, I had a bad habit of throwing clubs when I popped my cork. I was a latter-day Tommy Bolt.

This past weekend I was sitting around in an antisocial mood, and I caught some of the US Open women's semi-final tennis match, Kim Clijsters vs Serena Williams. I haven't watched women's tennis forever, other than to catch a quick scene here and there when flipping channels. I was amazed at how hard the two ladies hit the ball, how fast and powerful their serves were. The color commentary was annoying so I stopped listening and just watched. Clijsters was playing very solidly, composed and methodical, responding well to Williams' power and placement. I hopped to another channel and then came back just in time to see the foot-fault call late in the 2d set, on instant reply. I didn't get to see Williams' outburst, I saw the slow-mo of Williams' footwork and I thought "jesus, what a shitty call." I understood why Williams might flip out at that call, given that it was the semi-final of the US Open and she was playing a very tight match against Clijsters.

I flipped channels for a moment and returned to hear Clijsters announced as the winner. And not because she'd beaten Williams in 2 sets straight. Nope.

Because Williams received a mandatory forfeit for "unsportsmanlike" play, for berating the line judge who totally fucked up the call. Well what the fuck is that?

Johnny Mac blew up at umpires and referees all the time, it was practically a part of his schtick, like Earl Weaver when he was Manager of the Orioles.

For some reason, Americans were pretty accepting of McEnroe's tirades. But now, some 25 years down the road, it seems that anger isn't allowed. Nope.

People are fond of calling such events "meltdowns." I guess that makes the person doing the labelling feel superior... as in, "well, I never melt down, I'm too composed for that, but this ...fool... melted right on down, like Chernobyl."

I think it's shit that Clijsters won the semi on such a nonsense point. A line judge in tennis should expect to be blasted for being so fucking wrong on something. A player who blasts the judge should be allowed to vent. The fact that Ms Williams pointed her finger at the line judge? So what... big fucking deal. The fact that Ms Williams said she'd ram her racket down the judge's throat? So what... big fucking deal. Does Serena Williams have a record of violent assault on others? Couldn't her venting have been... well... merely some venting?

I mean, let's be realistic folks. Business meetings that have adversarial facets sometimes have that sort of heated discussion when the dollar or power stakes are high enough. I've heard lawyers in a law firm yell at each other that way. I've heard politicians yell at each other that way. Heard couples yell at each other that way. Heard other athletes yell at each other that way.

We're going to pretend it's not possible? That the stakes of the US Open aren't high enough for emotions to run high?

If that line judge can't handle an emotional outburst after a shitty call, the line judge needs a new job.

And Ms Williams deserves to finish her set with Ms Clijsters.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The tribe, the tribe... it's always about the tribe!

One of the "liberal" -slash- "progressive" pundits in Blogtopia that I sometimes follow with mixed feelings is David Michael Green, a professor at Hofstra. Green is a very partisan sort, full of vituperation regarding Republicans, so full in fact that even when he finds it within himself to criticize a Democrat, it's always couched in terms of lesser-evil-ness where he'll criticize a Donkey but then say "at least McCain isn't president" or the like.

In other words, no matter whether a Democrat is behaving identically to a Republican, at least the Democrat still calls him/herself a Democrat. Who knows what would happen if a leading Democrat actually switched parties. It might cause Green to implode.

Such juvenile partisanship presumably is valuable to the "liberal" -slash- "progressive" segment of America. I mean, Green keeps getting published outside his own blog, which suggests that many find him useful. I struggle to understand that perspective most of the time, although recently I have witnessed an occasional DM Green willingness to see Obama as a fraud. Case in point: a recent essay published at Smirking Chimp.

Following that essay are some interesting comments, most of which reveal immense naivete and insecurity in the form of a very serious tribal identification. But one following comment stood out to me, and I've reprinted it below.
I didn't notice your rejoinder until today so I'm site-mailing you this to open up a dialog. It was this statement:

"I can't help but wonder how Smirking Chimp moved so smoothly and so swiftly from an anti-Bush site to a join-the-R's and-hate-on-Obama site?"

that triggered my response to you. That and my continual fury at watching my country plummet headlong into oblivion. I believe, correctly, that all we did was change the branding on the fascism. You believe that my anger with Obama over his policies puts me in the same corner as the "R's". This is insulting, and deserves a response.

"you have no idea what my thinking is"
No, I only know what you purport to be thinking by what you write. I respond to that. Isn't that the purpose of a comments dialog? I admire your political and human-rights activism. I was always too caught up on the economic treadmill to engage in activism, but I helped out on a smaller scale (taking in homeless people, talking to crazy people who can't afford a shrink, literacy volunteer teaching a retarted guy to read, etc...) I've always lived my life in such a way as to make the world a better place however I can. And maybe you live in a nice, peaceful American Utopia where everybody is honest and politicians always work for the common good, but I grew up in the NE and know that there is very little to be gained by working within the system. For example, a friend of mine managed to be elected mayor of a fairly large (65k people) town. She spent four years accomplishing nothing, then the mayorship was turned back over to the crooks. The entire previous administration was indicted and the brand was too toxic so they let a reformer run the place for a term while blocking her every move. I speak from knowledge and experience in my cynicism, dear. Also, as a belligerent atheist, I reject out of hand all superstition-based NGOs and therefore "work" alone.

"Or of needing the comfort of smart, like and right (*correct*) thinking minds"
The moral absolutism here is worthy of bushie himself. You are right and I am wrong and to persist in your rightness you need a continual pat on the back from other people sharing your worldview? I'm sorry, but that was never the purpose I took from the SC. I thought it was a narrow window into the real workings of our political process. I thought it was journalism, not a group hug. And what's wrong with vulgar, anyway? We live in vulgar times. The good people need to develop the vocabulary to deal with them. I certainly managed to engage you, and might possibly change your perception to one closer to what is actually happening.

"your rude efforts to deny MY opinion"
I'm not denying it, I'm challenging it. There's a difference. Opinions that stand unchallenged are worthless. I can believe there's an invisible goat who demands I face SSE and swallow one wooden nickle five times every day. That's a valid opinion and, if never challenged, would never be remedied.

""The Smirking Chimp" was specific to Bush"
Well then, why did we all give them another ten grand to continue the site? If that's all it was, why not shut it down? Ditto MoveOn. Their raison d'etre expired in 2000. I believe that, by drawing a group of like-minded people together in the first place, these organizations continue to serve a viable purpose. We really need some sort of public message-board to sound out ideas of what that purpose should be. And, yes, this frequently resembles the traditional Democratic circular firing squad. Would you rather we subsumed our individual ratiocination and marched in lockstep like the wingnuts?

"As for your rudeness"
Yep. I'm rude. I'm rude in real life, too. Not that I can't be gentle, I'm not a monster, but I think it's goddamn fucking well time to get a little cunting rude over this subject. Millions of people are dying, and you are concerned about the language with which I choose to express my disagreement? Civility never accomplished anything. The labor unions were rude, the women's suffragists were rude, the civil rights protesters were rude and the abolitionists were eventually rude enough to murder a couple hundred thousand people in their cause.

"You're new here, apparently"
No, I'm not. It was summer of 2k4 that I started googling "liberal news". I'm still an occasional reader of, which was the top result at the time. Eventually I found the SC and became a loyal, albeit intermittent, fan. After Kerry gave away his presidency, I declared the entire system broken and tried to ignore the political world for a few years, with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, I'm a political junkie who's been reading the paper, and preferrably the editorials, since I was in single-digits. The editorials here are wonderful. JamesPB is usually better than the article about which he's commenting. Nedlud makes great points. Ditto NightGaunt. I even like our resident socialist, although he appears to be new here. Every liberal organization needs one. I don't recall anything else I've ever read by you. You never registered on my perceptions.

"Your need for instant gratification"
Now you partake of the exact same misapprehension of which you accused me when you said "you have no idea what my thinking is". I understand the legislative process takes time. I also understand that there are some things that can be done quickly. I won't bother with the particulars because you already know them, but 'Bama has managed to do terrible things very quickly while spurning good things that could be done quickly and, to all evidence, intentionally tanking the good things that need to be done slowly.

"your obvious and, IMO, shortsighted hatred of him"
Not true. Granted, he's a despicable weasle with the spine of a twinkie and the ethics of an ant, but so is almost any other politican. Those are necessary attributes to hold public office in this country. I actually like the guy. I'm sure I'd enjoy spending time with him, unlike his predecessor or opponents (although I do get an evil twinkle in my eye at the thought of debating palin. Jon Stewart should kidnap one of her kids and force her to appear on his show.) My hatred is for his policies, hon.

"They eat, sleep and live on negativity"
True. A point of agreement. Liberals are driven by happiness, and want everybody to be happy. Conservatives are driven by anger, and want everybody to be angry. But, like pacifism, that's a self-defeating position. It's much easier to breed anger and violence than happiness and peace. If we refuse to get angry, we lose. Fact. If, eventually, we refuse to use violence, we lose. Fact. It's long past time for liberals to get angry and, until we do, nothing is going to change. I'm hoping we can get angry before we're reduced to using violence.

"Do you really believe that insulting other liberals on a liberal website; that vilifying those on the same team, ostensibly, will help to heal us?"
Aye, there's the crux. And, no, I don't. But I don't value the same things you do. I don't value "healing". Democracy is an open wound. Always has been, always will be. What I am attempting to do is draw your attention to the fact that you are supporting right-wing policies. It's transparently obvious, now, that a polite approach wouldn't get through to you. It's also obvious that I tweaked your nipples and engaged your mind. Basically, we're not on the same team. We have the same goals but differ tremendously in how to achieve them. Your team has had since Watergate to accomplish liberal goals. And has shown some success, it's true. But you've also shown tremendous, society-destroying failures. You are clinging to a failed ideology.

"rather than being a large part of the problem"
I can say the exact same thing about you, with a vastly larger catalog of factual points to back it up.

"It seems one of us is on the wrong site here"
Just one point to back up my previous assertion. Neither of us is on the wrong site. We're engaging in a free exchange of ideas, a debate. This is how minds, societies, and democracies grow. Your approach encourages the atomization of society into microscopic mutual-support groups. Run and hide if you want. Eventually you'll be on a site of one. I like this site because it's the only place on the internet I've ever found like-minded people. Radicals. Liberal radicals. You can find an Obama apologist under any rock.

"More importantly, who cares?"
I really pissed you off! *pats self on back* If you don't care about the difference between logical debate and ranting, if you are positive your position is the correct one and it is so calcified that tit'll never change, if the world of ideas can be measured on a linear scale depending on how closely they reflect your own, what makes you better than a fundie bush supporter?

"I still hope that you find some measure of peace"
Ahhh, I finally got a little snark out of you. Good. You want me to find peace? Legalize the green. I can get nice and peaceful any time I want. Until then, I'm going to view the world with open eyes and be angry that ignorance trumps knowledge, hate trumps love, violence trumps peace, and anger trumps kindness.

"Arguing with anonymous strangers on the internet is a sucker's game because they always turn out to be, or be indistinguishable from, self-righteous sixteen year olds with infinite free time."--Neil Stephensen, Cryptonomicon

Those who are aware of history are still doomed to repeat it because the ignorant are in charge.

Submitted by Michael Hunt on September 9, 2009 - 5:16pm.
Bravo, Mr Hunt!