Plane Crash Not Necessarily the News

I just checked out Huffington Post to see the latest news.  I think if anything Huffington Post is a good place just to check headlines as it is comprehensive, even if many of the articles themselves are not worth reading.  The front page headline is about the European plane crash.  150 people died.  While this is tragic and horrifying, and definitely sensational, one must keep in mind that 457 people have been killed in just the state of Texas on the highway this year.  Maybe this is news, but it is not front page, top of the page news.  If it is news, and I mean this in no way disrespectfully of those who might have lost loved ones in the crash, it is something that should be acknowledged for a brief amount of time and moved on from.  I wish this accident hadn’t happened at all, but since it did, that it was the worst thing that we had to deal with.  However, given the conflicts that are taking place around the globe, the environmental calamities that are threatening us, and the fact that so many people still exist in a constant state of poverty, let alone many other tragedies that are happening all around us on a regular basis, this is distorting our perception of the world.

Netanyahu Speaks to Congress

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Salon On Netanyahu Speech

Above is Salon’s take on Netanyahu’s speech to Congress today.  Although I tend to agree with them, my point today isn’t really to focus on this one write up.  At the end of the day it is one write up and you should be reading a bunch of them, mixing and matching, and trying to come to your own conclusion.  However, this is an event that you should be reading about.  A foreign head of state is trying to sway US policy.  This is highly unprecedented in the fact that this head of state actually spoke directly to our congress to try and change our policy.

I have long viewed Netanyahu as a thug and a bully whose intentions do not run in accord with the best intentions of our country.  Nor do I think that his intentions have long term Middle East peace at the heart of them.  I think he is someone that is about self-serving political and military power above all else.

But don’t take my word for it.  Read, read, and read some more.

Black Site Discovered in Chicago

Chicago Black Site Discovered

The Guardian has just put out an article, one which Huffington Post is also headlining with, that claims that there is a secret black site used by the Chicago Police to interrogate U.S. citizens.  This site is being compared to CIA black sites that are used overseas in the War on Terror.  I find this scary, but not surprising.  This seems to me to be the endgame of years of fighting a war in which the boundaries haven’t been clear.  All throughout our War on Terror our police here at home have become more militarized.  A lot of the gear that has been used overseas in the War on Terror has made its way stateside.  There are also tactics that have made it home from these wars.  But while soldiers main job is to subdue a hostile population, unless they are on a peacekeeping or humanitarian mission, the police should be working alongside the community.

I think that there are two additional things one should keep in mind.  The first is that there is a history of law enforcement abuse in this country.  A great place to read about this is in Tim Weiner’s book Enemies: A History of the FBI.  Obviously there is a difference between the Chicago Police and the FBI.  However, both are domestic law enforcement, and the book will give you an idea of how those in power abuse the law for political purposes.  The other book that I keep recommending is Matt Taibbi’s The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, a book that examines the way that justice is applied differently to people depending on their economic background.  I think the fact that there is a history of abuse is important.  J. Edgar Hoover often punished people he viewed as “communists and subversives”.  (left wing)  If you know that history and combine it with what Taibbi says about modern times, while looking at this new information in light of the overall War on Terror, it’s not that hard to see how we ended up here.

Matt Taibbi On American Sniper, Hollywood, and War

Matt Taibbi

This is another article from the always interesting Matt Taibbi, about not only the movie American Sniper, but also the way Hollywood distorts war. 

I have read several books about how the military influences the outcome of movies and how entertainment is taking over every aspect of life.  On the first subject, a real simple fact:  The military will give access to military equipment to productions that paint the military in a favorable light.  If a production does not paint the military in a favorable light, they will not get that access, which in turn can often lead to increased budgets.  As I do not know the backstory, although it very well may pertain to this film, this is not to imply that this is the case with American Sniper.  

My point in any post is not to pass judgment on a film I have not seen, nor to present facts that I don’t know.  I simply want people to think critically when going to movies that have a political nature to them.  Movies take millions of dollars to get made.  What is a movie trying to say?  Who benefits both monetarily and ideologically from a film?  If the movie is a fictionalized version of real events, what are the distortions and why were they made?  These kinds of questions and more should be asked when seeing a movie of any political stripe. 

And yes I said I would not put up any more thoughts having to do with American Sniper until I had seen it. However, I thought this article was too thought provoking not to share. I also think that it deals with ideas and themes outside the orbit of that single film.

Have Americans Gone Crazy?

Have Americans Gone Crazy?

A family member just sent me the above article from Salon.  It is about how many people in the world are increasingly viewing America as something to be watched closely, if not outright feared.  Although I have traveled less extensively than the author, I have been in several foreign countries over the last few years and can vouch for the overall sentiment of the article.

I remember specifically being in England during the Bush years.  Many people would be slightly cold and then sheepishly ask me what I thought of Bush.  Once I explained that I voted against him and hated his policies, it was like a party had started.  Shots and embraces came out, and suddenly I was everyone’s best friend.

So many Americans have no idea not only how the rest of the world views us, but also how much they know about us.  When you go to foreign countries you are often asked deep political questions by average people concerning the U.S. Often these are questions that you are not sure if many of your own countrymen and women could answer.

My Dad has related to me many times a story from a trip to Kenya.  He was walking down the street, in an area that was slightly impoverished, and a man walked up to him.  After finding out he was an American, the man asked him, “So tell me about Jesse Helms?”  Meanwhile I have gone out to drinks with girls here, during a U.S. presidential election, and been stupefied to find out they didn’t know who the vice-presidential candidates were.  Now I know that I am drawing conclusions from limited experiences, but there are many more stories that I have personally witnessed on both sides that make me believe that the author of the above article knows what they are talking about.  It’s strange out there…

The Real American Sniper

Real American Sniper

An interesting article in The Guardian that makes the case that American sniper Chris Kyle is not the hero that many Americans make him out to be.

I don’t know enough about Chris Kyle to add weight to this conversation.  However, this article made me again think about how we should not send our soldiers into war unless it is absolute necessity.  War so often makes good people commit acts that not only dehumanize their targets, but also dehumanizes those committing the acts.  Someone that may be a loving, kind, and decent person at home is forced to kill others for possibly the wrong reasons once they are put in a survival situation.  Not only should we not put soldiers in harms way unless it is absolutely necessary, but we must also only ask them kill others if it absolutely necessary to the safety of our country.  To ask these men and women to kill for any other reason is wrong.

Navy Uses Lasers

Watch: Navy Ship Uses Energy Weapon In Arabian Gulf

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/12/10/369922915/watch-navy-ship-uses-energy-weapon-in-arabian-gulf

The best part of this is close to the end where you see the guy controlling the weapon using something that looks a lot like an Xbox controller.  We had a good run…

It is going to get a whole lot cheaper to kill people!  Unlike ridiculously expensive missles, this weapon only costs a dollar a laser. 

“Something is squeezing my skull / something I can barely describe / There is no hope in modern life…”