Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Policing the World

OK. Libya. So it looks like we're in a third war in the Middle East.

Looks like. Doesn't mean is.

There are a few important distinctions between Libya and Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan is easy to exclude from any analogies because it's never really been a state. Even under the Taliban substantial portions of it were under rebel control.

Iraq had a jerkbucket dictator. Libya has one too. Iraq had a big-ass army. Libya, not so much.

Now basically, Obama is in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation in Libya. Sort of like Clinton in Bosnia. "Why aren't you doing anything?!" and then "OM God! Don't do that!!"

Right. So lets look at the military actions the US has taken since, say, 1980. These are just off the top of my head. I'm sure I'm missing a whole bunch of them.

Grenada -- sloppy operation, killed lots of civilians. Supposedly to free students. Result: Grenada actually a working democracy. Bonus points: is, and was, a Crown Colony. So we were attacking the British Queen. Minor whining from the British government ensued, made up for by attacking the Falklands.

Panama -- attacked country when we decided we didn't like the dictator we'd installed. Result: Panama basically the same, but with a working democracy.

Kuwait (1st Iraq War) -- Iraq attacks Kuwait (after asking, and getting, permission from the US). US decides to push Iraq out of Kuwait. Result: Kuwait still not a democracy.

Bosnia -- a major humanitarian mess and a genocide (or two). We tried bombing them but then brought the war criminal Slobodan Milošević to Dayton Ohio and bored him mercilessly until he capitulated. Result: concentration camps disbanded.

Haiti -- Ooh. This was an odd one. The CIA throws a left-leaning president out of the country and installs their cronys. Then the Congressional Black Caucus gets all behind Aristide and we set up to invade Haiti to re-install their leftist, democratically elected, president. Then it got weirder because rabbit-fighter Jimmy Carter flies to Haiti and persuades the general who was the "acting" president of Haiti to leave. Result: Haiti, traditionally a banana republic still a banana republic but with something of a democracy and fewer gross human rights violations.

Afghanistan -- remember "Clinton's Generals"? After 9/11 big coalition force with lots of money moved in and took Kabul. As with every other military force in the history of mankind, can't actually control much more of the country than the capital. Result: presumably girls are allowed to go to school again. Future of the entire joint still up for grabs.

Iraq War II -- US decides it really, really, really wants to invade Iraq. Doesn't even bother providing plausible reason. Hundreds of thousands die. Result: not terribly stable, and plenty o'people still die, fledgling democracy.

World War III -- yo, this almost happened. I'm talking about a hot war with Russia. Now, you could argue that the US sat this one out, but the State Department was practically goading Georgia to attack Russia (for emphasis that's Russia). Then the US decided to put a missile "defense shield" in Georgia which made the Russians go (almost literally) ballistic. This, remember, is why Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Because he didn't start World War III. I know, it's a pretty low bar, but it's what we've got.

So, what are we looking at with Libya? Well, sometimes we're able to stop atrocities (albeit rather sloppily) like in Bosnia. Much of the time we just mess things up even more. Sometimes we do something absurd and are still able to walk away without hurting... well... ourselves.

And of course, Libya has been in our sights for a very long time. Heck, apparently the US Marines even have a song about them. But in and of itself there's no reason to presume we're getting ready for a long war with Libya. There's already an insurrection -- that's a huge difference between it and Iraq.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Anarchists on TV

On Community there's an actual anarchist character. There's one in Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent too, but that's not on prime time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rebecca Black

Do I have important noise to add to the screaming around Rebecca Black? Why yes, yes I do.

  1. When I first saw the video I thought "Wow, she does not look like the sort of teen a major label would pick up. She looks like... well... a girl."
  2. Then I realized that she'd just made a video on her own. She is, in fact, just a girl who made a video of a song. Not on a major label.
  3. So what's with all the hate? How, precisely, is this song substantively different from any other pop song? Have you ever listened to the radio? But seriously, what's the difference between this and other songs? Do you think it's because it's a heavily auto-tuned vocal set to an electronic track in 4/4 with an accent on the second and fourth beats of the measure? If so, you better sit down because I have some very bad news for you.
  4. OK, so she's a 13-year-old girl who sang a song you don't like. Big deal. Hey, at least she sang a song. What have you done? Oh. Posted comments on YouTube. Well excuse me then.
  5. So then the hate turned onto this company the Ark Music Factory. Because, dear Lord, the girl's parents paid them to write a song and produce a video -- for $2000. Now note that Ark made a single with an unknown teenage girl -- they wrote and produced and mixed it -- and I thought it was a single put out by a major label. You probably did too. I'm a professional in both the Sound and Picture fields and if you'd told me the single cost about $15,000 and the video was another $40,000 I'd have said "That sounds about right." If they really did do the work for $2000 they are seriously being underpaid.
  6. Hey society, way to go policing girls to make sure they don't do anything.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


There's a couple new memes the Right has picked up on of late.

One is the meme that these government union workers make so much money. Barring that, they make so much in benefits.

This is an unusual meme for the Right because by-and-large these are the same people telling non-union workers how much worse off they'll be if they join a union. But they gotta go with trying to get people to build class-resentment against people who are in their same class.

The other meme is all about how Islam was responsible for slavery.

Now, of course, that meme doesn't really make any sense, but that's what it's all about. The anti-Islam memes now include the idea that "Radical Islamofacists" have penetrated the highest levels of the State Department, the Pentagon, and the CIA. Which is, of course, nuts. And really this is all about having a Communist/Muslim/black President.

It does seem that these memes aren't really sticking though. It's hard to convince the critical "undecideds" that Barack Obama really is a threat to our way of life, or that there are communists Muslims under our beds. But there are clearly a lot of people who believe this malarky.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cranky, and on the opposite of crank

Maybe I haven't been clear*. But here goes.

1. Unions shouldn't get automatically certified without an election. (This is a position I take which goes against Barack H. Obama's position, I maintain that position although every other time I have disagreed with policy with the man I have turned out to be wrong.) There's no reason elections can't happen fair and quickly. Protip: if you're the owner of a company and your workers hate you so much they want to go union: fire all your managers. Consider that the problem may be you. So quit. Get better managers.

2. Every worker should have the human right to collectively bargain. Let individuals or groups of workers bargain together with management.

Protip: if you have cranky workers you have bad management. If only one guys is cranky, fire him. If it's the whole crew, fire yourself.

Protip: if you provide good benefits your workers will be less cranky.

Unions are not endowed with mystical powers. They can't force workers to do things, they can't force management to do things. Everyone has to get together and agree. We call that "negotiations".
Protip: "The Union won't let you do X" is malarky. The union has no control over you, your employer does. Now maybe your employer has made an agreement with a union and has set down particular rules and you need to follow those rules. But you have to follow them because Management told you, not the Union.

*About my very important opinion on this matter.