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If you don’t fight a war, someone else will…

As a tax paying American, it would be hypocritical of me to criticize Russia for launching a military invasion into Ukraine after one of our presidents placed a couple hundred thousand US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. That was a decade ago, and though the US still has troops in Afghanistan, we’ve exited Iraq and our latest president’s way of showing military might is through drone warfare. Drones aren’t troops, therefore drones generate less headlines. 

Drones also generate a lesser display of American power and military might. Starting with the Vietnam War, the US military has taken a lot of hits: Vietnam was lost, the second Iraq invasion ended poorly and that country teeters on the brink of civil war; the US military couldn’t do anything to prevent the catastrophe that is now Syria.

Now the Obama administration has announced drastic military cutbacks which will reduce the size of our armed forces to pre-WWI levels. It’s at this moment that Russia is launching an invasion into Ukraine. This is not a coincidence. 

Putin sees Ukraine as being within the sphere of Russia influence - just like the former Soviet satellite and now purportedly independent country of Georgia, which Putin invaded in 2008. Along with brazenly harboring a criminal named Edward Snowden, Putin is making these antagonizing moves at a time when American power is weak.

Iraq failed. Afghanistan failed. US citizens no longer have the stomach for seeing troops in overseas military action. Are all of these factors in Russia’s aggressive stance? Surely other factors play a bigger role: the Russian economy being dependent on the price of oil (which will go down as the US drills for more oil), Russian nationalism being pegged to the old boundaries of the Soviet Union. 

But. 

To accept that US military weakness is playing a role in Russian actions means that US military strength would help prevent Russian aggression. 

But. 

This means supporting the US launching foreign invasions. 

It’s a vicious circle we’re trapped in here. It’s really tough to be a dove and criticize US military actions if military ineptitude aids Russian aggressions. Simply put: if America could project power, Russia would back down. 

Sigh. If only the United Nations Security Council actually had power. 

The View from The Square, and the View from Nowhere (@TheSquareFilm)

Before reading this piece you should watch The Square, the Oscar nominated documentary about the Egyptian Revolution from the view of the revolutionaries. Generally, I think all of these awards shows are BS and gratuitous in their frequency - but sometimes they get it right. By nominating The Square, the Oscars did the right thing by bringing attention to this important film. 

The Square documents the how Egyptians toppled the Mubarak regime, and their battles with Egyptian politics since then, from the viewpoint of the revolutions. “Revolutionaries” are new to the Egyptian political scene because most of them are young, educated adults who are tech savvy and connected to the outside world via the Internet and social media. How The Square was produced makes these connections clear: the film was shot on digital cameras, funded in part by Kickstarter, then produced and made available to the world by Netflix. Indeed, The Square might be, to date, the most important thing produced by a youthful generation that the mainstream media loves to deride as selfie tweeting narcissists.

Perhaps this is why some people who write for the mainstream media just don’t get it. One such writer is the Washington Post’s Max Fisher, who describes (derides) The Square like this

But the film ultimately also shares, and in some ways stands to compound, the protest movement’s failures. Rather than reaffirming the pluralistic ideals that made early 2011 so hopeful, it contributes to Egypt’s poisonous atmosphere of polarization and distrust, by its one-sided and often polemical portrayal of the Muslim Brotherhood.

There’s a lot wrong with this description - and it cuts to the heart of the problems in the mainstream media, who prefer to have a “View from Nowhere" instead of show bias towards one side. 

To see how Fisher comes at this with a view from nowhere, let’s discuss the Muslim Brotherhood first. Egyptians Revolutionaries are the new guard in politics, but the Brotherhood (or Ikhwan, their abbreviated name in Arabic that’s often used in the media) are Egypt’s old guard. The Ikhwan have been around since the end of World War I and they play a vital role not just in Egyptian politics but global politics as well. Sayid Qutb, a man regarded as the philosophical forefather of al-Qa’ida, was in the Ikhwan. Ayman al-Zawahiri, known in the Western world as “Number Two” in al-Qa’ida; but, in fact, was the man who lured a Saudi millionaire named Osama bin-Laden over to his side while both fought with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, was in the Ikhwan. 

You should know about al-Zawahiri’s background as well: he was raised in a middle class Egyptian family, well educated, spoke English very well, and become a medical doctor. In many ways, the young al-Zawahiri was similar to Egypt’s current revolutionaries. More importantly, pertaining to a discussion about the Ikhwan, al-Zawahiri’s background is a reflection on the backgrounds of many members of the Ikhwan: they are doctors, engineers, businessman, educators, middle class, well off.

And Islamist. The Ikhwan are adherents to a vision of bringing an “Islamic” government to Egypt. This was displayed in their battles against Egypt’s first president, Gamal Nasr, who banned the Ikhwan as a political party back in the 1950’s. This vision was also displayed when the Ikhwan assassinated Nasr’s successor, President Sadat. When Mubarak came to power after Sadat’s assassination, he placed Egypt under martial/emergency law for three decades before the Revolutionaries ousted him. 

Remember that the leadership of the Ikhwan come from Egypt’s middle class, because that opens up the another side of the organization: they were rich enough to become a charity organization for Egyptians stricken with poverty. Before Mubarak’s ouster, the Ikhwan were described with phrases like “They’re Hamas without guns.” Hamas generates support from the Palestinian populace in part by providing for the poor - and so do the Ikhwan with Egypt’s poor.

When a Revolutionary touches upon this point in The Square, Fisher dismisses it:

Ahmed Hassan, an otherwise idealistic young revolutionary, explains that the Brotherhood has so many supporters because it bribes them with cooking oil and bread and brainwashes them with religion.

Sorry Fisher, but this is exactly what’s been happening in Egypt for decades. The governments of Nasr, Sadat, and Mubarak didn’t create get educational systems. Many Egyptians, even in the country’s most cosmopolitan areas, are poor and illiterate. If an organization offers them charity while preaching the Islamist world viewpoint, what would you think is going to happen? 

Fisher goes on to describe the actions of the Revolutionaries as actions which have exacerbated Egypt’s political problems - all without touching upon the Ikhwan’s violent history. Also, speaking of organizations with a violent history, the word “army” does not appear once in Fisher’s piece. If the Revolutionaries are to share equal blame with other sides for Egypt’s troubles, then I suppose it was Revolutionaries who murdered over 600 Ikhwan protesters on August 14, 2013? No, it was the Egyptian army that committed those atrocities. 

Fisher’s mindset of enforcing impartiality is a manifestation of the mainstream media’s biggest problem, what Jay Rosen has called “The View from Nowhere.” You should read Rosen’s article about this phenomenon, but to give you a summary: The View from Nowhere is how the press, in their effort to not be accused of any sort of bias, applies equal weight (and blame) to all sides of an issue. This is how, for example, creationists and climate change deniers are able to gain such prominence in the mainstream media despite the broad lack of acceptance (or factual basis) for their viewpoints.

And this is how an American journalist can equate Egypt’s Revolutionaries as causing just as many problems in that country as the Ikhwan. Having knowledge of a country’s history and culture is no longer needed because that knowledge might induce someone to be “biased.” 

The Square isn’t afraid of being biased; it is unabashedly such. The View from The Square is not just biased, it’s correct. The mainstream media insists on giving us a view from nowhere because they aren’t brave enough to take on corrupt governments and dictators. The Ikhwan is able to bring Egyptians to their side by giving them charity, the mainstream media is able to keep the populace under the viewpoint of the government by giving them a miseducation. Can you think of any other reason why there hasn’t been an outcry from the American people to have our government halt the billions of dollars we’ve sent in foreign aid to Egypt’s dictatorial government? 

The Square isn’t a view from nowhere - it’s view looks out upon the truth. Great documentaries show its viewers the truth in very stark, black and white terms, and The Square is a great documentary. 

amazingatheist:

I’m so glad to see the younger generation waking up to this hypocrisy. 

(Source: seriouslyamerica, via pime)

Spending way too much time thinking about my next smart phone

Moto X v. iPhone 5S… iOS 7 v. Android… Is there anything more first world problems than this?  But I spend half of my day with my smart phone in my hands, I want to make sure I’m comfortable with it. 

Currently, I have an iPhone 4S but I can get a new phone in January.  I’ve held the Moto X in my hands, and it’s slick — feels nice, looks nice, it’s a lot thinner than the iPhone, and it has better battery life.  My biggest compliant about the iPhone is it’s shitty ass battery life.  I need to make sure it’s at a 100% charge before I leave work at 5:00pm; and if I’m out late, my phone will barely make it.  

So jumping to Android is a no brainer, right?  Not exactly, because there are some things I’m addicted with on the iPhone.  Little things, like the ellipses that show in in iMessage when you’re texting a friend to tell you when they are typing.  And emojis, which can convey an emotional state better than words can.  These features are only available on the iPhone - since most everyone else uses an iPhone, there’s a strong inclination to drink the Kool-Aid and stay in the cult. 

There’s also the issue of app-rot on Android.  I have a Nexus tablet and I like it, but occasionally apps just die and I have to either reinstall them or find a new app to use for a time before the app that I like is fixed.  App vendors don’t seem to know how to handle Android system updates. My MLB .TV app still can’t play video after the last Android update, and MLB doesn’t seem to care.  That kinda sucks since I liked watching baseball on my tablet.  Simply put, the iPhone has less app-rot. 

The iPhone is also big, clunky, and feels like a brick in my pocket. 

Grrrrr… I really want the Moto X, but I’ll probably end up just upgrading my iPhone.  If Apple made an iPhone that looked like the Moto X, that would be fucking perfect.  Because don’t get me started on the minuscule screen size… 

On Protein Shakes and Brain Cells

Went to Vitamin Shoppe today to get some mix for post-workout protein shakes. I’m leery of protein shakes because I think they suck the brain cells out of people, so this past week I tried eating a Clif Builders bar after workouts. But the fact that I wasn’t building on my current strength over my past couple of workouts was noticeable, unfortunately — back to the protein shakes while putting myself on a reading regime to make sure my mind is strong enough to fend off their jocktacular attacks. 

I chose casein protein, which I haven’t used before.  Since I’ve had bad experiences with some whey protein brands, I asked the sales clerk “What is the difference between casein and whey?”  The clerk told me that casein releases protein slowly, and while you sleep your body is still processing new amounts of protein.  If you use whey protein, you may have to wake up in the middle of the night and drink another protein shake. 

Only an incredibly vain idiot would think it’s a good idea to interrupt their sleep just to drink a protein shake.  So I’m correct: protein shakes NOMNOMNOM on brain cells. Even though casein releases protein slowly and won’t interrupt my sleep, I’ll still be guarding myself against that little fucker… 

The Syrian Failure


"War is killing as many of your enemies as you possibly can and making life insufferable. If you can’t do that, you’re not going to win. And [Assad] is trying to punish everybody, because if the opposition ever were to unify, setup a good government where they supplied government services — everyone would trample over to the other side. [The rebels] haven’t been able to do that, [and Assad’s] best ally is the fact that they’re dysfunctional."

That’s a quote from Joshua Landis, the Syrian expert behind the blog Syria Comment (which has been around long before the Syrian Civil War started), in the podcast I posted from journalist Lara Setrakian. I think that quote illustrates just how fucked the situation in Syria is, but do yourself a favor and watch the whole podcast.

As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, the intervention I wanted in Syria should have happened 18-24 months ago; because that’s when it would have been effective. The question being debated now is whether the US should intervene now, but nobody is discussing what that intervention should entail, whether it can be effective, and what are the unintended consequences?

All of these topics are more important than simply asking whether we should intervene, because what the intervention entails will determine if the intervention is successful. I’m not your classic peacenik who applies the imperial thought framing to every US military move. Indeed, anyone who thinks that Obama actually wants to go to war with Syria hasn’t paid attention to the situation for the past couple of years; and I doubt half of those people could even find Syria on a map. But I’m not a hawk either, and my bar for deciding when to commit the US military is pretty high. Intervention and military actions must be pragmatic, with goals clearly set and plans to achieve those goals laid out and able to be executed.

So, my first question regarding intervention in Syria — and not to be crass — but what the fuck is the goal? Seriously, what is it? Do we want to topple the Assad government, or just drop a few bombs? Are we going to take out chemical weapons stock piles, or Assad government buildings? Since those stock piles and government buildings are likely in densely populated areas, how can we avoid killing Syrian citizens? Or do we arm the rebels? If we arm the rebels, how do we make sure that we’re not inadvertently arming al-Qa’ida and other extremists? What happens if we topple the Assad government, will we commit 400,000 - 500,000 troops needed to quell the chaos and looting that comes after a government has fallen?

In short, what are we going to do? Amazingly, I haven’t heard anyone ask this yet, the question has only been should we do something. The answer to that question is “Yes, if the outcome is positive.” Like in Libya — NATO intervention early stopped their civil war from expanding to levels of Syrian brutality.

If the Obama administration isn’t going to present to Congress answers to these questions, then I hope Congress votes down his attempts to intervene in Syria. It’s not that I wish to see the utter brutality of the Syrian civil war to continue — I just don’t want to see it get worse.

Syria will go down as Obama’s primary foreign policy failure. He didn’t stand up to Russia or China in the UN to intervene early when success would have been more likely; then he ignored the Syrian situation until Assad used chemical weapons. Despite Assad’s egregious actions, Obama lost the support of even our stalwart ally Britain in his efforts to put together a coalition to intervene. Obama hasn’t displayed any forethought or ability to plan ahead while witnessing the crisis in Syria unfold. Any action Obama takes now, without a clear plan, would only make the situation more grave. Haphazard bombing could quickly lead into a need for ground troops in a war where Assad will launch a chemical weapons attack on us. At that point, if Obama doesn’t have the resolve to fight a war, he’s going to lose. This is a situation that we cannot get involved in. Syria isn’t Iraq, but Bush’s misguided/criminal actions resulted in too many needless deaths of Iraqis and Americans. Enough is enough.

How to Create a Disaster #syria #intervention

The international community is playing with fire when they support foreign interventions, and there will be years of debate over whether NATO’s intervention in Libya essentially created a civil war there that led to 30,000 Libyans being killed.  Conversely, without intervention, the international community risks seeing the Syrian government commit another massacre similar to the Hama massacre in 1982, where 20-40,000 Syrians were killed.

I wrote this back in December, 2011.  These words are still haunting me. 

This was after the US put a coalition together to intervene in the Libyan conflict.  The result of that conflict and our intervention was a death toll of 30,000 Libyans — but the question is whether more would have perished without intervention?

Syria isn’t Libya, but, unfortunately, I think we have an answer to that question. When you know that Syria, unlike Libya, had a history of killing tens of thousands of its civilians before their civil war began, the question goes from being merely academically inquisitive to burning; searing.  The question brands itself onto your conscience, and the shame rises up like steam that brings tears to your eyes.

I’m not for intervention in Syria now, I’m for it yesterday.  A year ago, or more.  Back when intervention would have made a positive difference.  I can’t think of positive aspects to the intervention being offered now.  By not wanting to take the situation seriously - as seriously as Libya was regarded, at least - Obama has painted himself into a corner by allowing over 100,000 Syrians to die before Assad’s chemical weapons attack.  Obama didn’t build coalitions in case the Syrian conflict escalated to this point, and now even Britain isn’t with us.  (Let that diplomatic blow sink in for a minute.)  Since 2011, violence in Iraq has skyrocketed and the world might see two full blown civil wars in the region, a destabilized government in Egypt, and blowback in Lebanon.  Israel might feel threatened and stage an attack.  What happens then? 

This is a nightmare scenario.  If Obama thinks it can be avoided by dropping a few bombs on Syria - likely killing more civilians than anybody else - then he’s out of his fucking mind. 

This is what happens with you let problems fester.  This is what happens when you see a wound and don’t treat it properly.  And this won’t just set back the whole MidEast region a couple generations of development, but it will also cause more people to lose faith in the US government. 

We certainly got the change that we voted for.  I’m not sure what happened to the hope, though.

No control, costing lives

With the Obama White House about to bomb Syria, I’m most bothered by how uselessly perfunctory this exercise will be.  I doubt Obama has a military plan to execute that will be effective — at least the Clinton administration had a plan in Serbia, and executed it.  I doubt that Obama even knows what the fuck he’s doing.  Obama drew a “red line” regarding chemical weapons, they were used, and now he feels he must bomb Syria because that’s what he said he would do. 

From the beginning of the Syrian uprising, nobody in the White House gave thought to containing the situation.  Libya was a different story, where Obama immediately put a no-fly zone in place.  Of course, Libya has much more oil than Syria, so protection of oil supplies governed foreign policy there.  But with violence in Syria and Iraq — where we destabilized the government, then said “Fuck it, we out bitches” — both escalating, regional oil routes are in danger.  So the price of oil is rising anyway.  Nice forethought, guys.  Really, just fucking brilliant. 

Since Obama refused to try and control the situation, now more people will be killed by American bombs for what?  Well, nobody fucking knows. 

With the amount of lives Obama’s moments of indecision, inaction and lack of control have cost, he should give that Nobel Peace Prize back to the committee.  He could even attach an explosive to it and drop it from a plane since, right now, that seems like the preferred method of delivery. 

Why discussing journalism with journalists is impossible

I’m trying to read a New Republic article that postulates why Jeff Bezos purchasing the Washington Post is bad, but I can’t get around the gigantic chip that the author has on his shoulder. For example:

The public discussion of newspapers’ decline tends to focus on circulation, but newspaper people know that the devastation came as much on the ad side and above all in the lowly classifieds, which in their humble agate type had for decades delivered a disproportionate share of newspaper revenues. This was where the digital revolution first exacted its toll—how could you keep charging $10 a line for a used car or apartment or job listing when there was a guy who was letting people post ads for free online—all the while subsidizing that operation by charging $5 or $10 for prostitution ads of the sort no respectable daily newspaper would ever think of running (the law eventually made him shut it down, but not before it was bringing in $36 million per year).

Apparently, the newspaper industry is suffering huge financial losses not because those in the industry ignored a ground breaking medium called the Internet when it was in its infancy; and made fun of bloggers when blogs were new and starting to provide better coverage than them; then other aspects of social media branched off from blogging and ran circles around newspapers, who react by limiting the amount of news they cover and putting up pay walls. Nope. The ignorant fucks in the newspaper industry didn’t ruin the industry by being ignorant.

Instead, EVIL PEOPLE conspired to run websites where people could avoid the unnecessary buttsex of paying for a two line classified ad by running ads for free — AND THEY MADE MILLIONS OFF OF SMUT!!1#!!#$#ONE!!

Just ignore the fact that the newspapers ignored the Internet until it was too late, and blame everything on the smut peddlers. Ironically, this shitty, biased account of the demise of the newspaper industry comes from a “journalist” whose job is to, well, report the news. You know, reality. A task that newspapers have had trouble with lately, hence they receive fewer readers and fewer revenues. Fucking duh.

Honest to beer and everything else that is holy, this “journalist” couldn’t see the truth if it slithered up his leg and gave him a fucking blowjob.

When I moved to the Boston area in 2010, I started feeling aesthetically inadequate. A lot of people feel this way, I think, and it causes them to do stupid things. Just yesterday, I saw a women out for a run who had to be, at most, 90 lbs.  Everything about her appearance said that the most healthy thing she could do is go on a cheeseburgers and milkshakes diet for the next month.

My levels of stupidity didn’t sink that low, but at some point I decided that my heart rate needed to be around 150-160 bpm for 15-20 minutes during my cardio workouts. I haven’t felt right since then.

In the past, I’ve learned that my body flips out when I go below 170 lbs.  It seems like a very unreasonable response, especially if you get my height and the government produced BMI chart into account. (That chart is totally bullshit, BTW.)

But the body is more intuitive than I thought. If there’s one conclusion I can take away from the blood tests I’ve had recently, it’s that my immune system isn’t exactly strong.  I’ve always known my immune system wouldn’t handle exercises like running in cold weather, no matter warmly I dressed; but it’s really just weak in general.

This means I could use extra meat on my bones at all times, should I come across some virus that I have trouble fighting off. No wonder my body threw up warning flags when I increased the intensity of my workouts.

In my mono recovery, I’m at the point where I can — finally — perform small workouts again. I’m treating these workouts like I’m in physical therapy, trying to recover my strength after an injury; except I’m trying to recover my energy instead. Most of my strength is still around, and my body has settled in at a weight that I’m not worried about. (It seems to like the weight, and it seems to know what’s right.). But I have a problem with blood flow and becoming exhausted because I haven’t been able to exercise in a while.

So, I’ll take it slow and steady. I have modest strength goals I intend to meet, and adding muscle mass to my frame that would be lost if I became sick means that I’d remain decently strong.  Adding that muscle mass is important, but I think I’ll cover it with a layer of fat and only get my pulse up to 90-100 in shorter cardio workouts. Better healthy than blarrrrrgh.