Archive for October, 2008

The BBC reports:

More than 20 people have been killed in two suspected US missile attacks in northwest Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, security officials said.

About 15, including an al-Qaeda leader, were killed in an attack near the village of Mirali, North Waziristan.

In a second attack, seven people were killed in South Waziristan.

The US military has not commented. It has launched many missile strikes from Afghanistan against suspected militant targets recently.

Officials named the al-Qaeda leader in Mirali as Abu Akash, believed to be Iraqi.

Local officials told the BBC that at 2030 (1430 GMT), a drone fired two missiles and destroyed the target – a house in the Esori area about 30km from the town of Mirali.

Are you kidding me? Refer to yesterday’s post. By conducting attacks on other nations’ soil, we are doing nothing but helping al-Qaeda & Co. with their recruiting. We are, in an attempt to destroy them, becoming like them, except with full-fledged state sponsorship and a professional military. These attacks are doing nothing but helping them justify their anti-Western ideology.

When will we learn?

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A week or so ago, thebeadden posted a comment on MusEditions’s blog, lamenting the corruption in charity and “every social structure” in the world. This post is intended to be a response to that comment.

I’ll tackle bead’s argument point for point, doing the best I can (you can read the full comment/post here!). The first part:

The only problem I have is that when we start donating aid and money, it doesn’t always go to helping the people it is meant for. Believe me when I say that a lot of money goes to the wrong hands. I work around people from many different countries and some of them tell me about the scams, some of them have opened businesses here with that money. And I have been told how I can get in on it too. I just about choked try to keep my mouth shut but inside I was seething.

Totally agreed, and this points to a lack of morality on the scammer’s part, and a lack of discretion on the donator’s. While it seems like whoever is donating to these NGOs and charitable organizations is getting scammed when the funds do indeed get scammed (and they are!), a chunk of the responsibility is the donor’s, no ifs, ands, or buts. It is the donor’s responsibility to exercise serious discretion when selecting a charity to donate to, just for this reason – one should check exactly where the funds go and who sponsors the charity for the sake of security. If the charity doesn’t seem legitimate, nobody should donate to it; no one’s holding a gun to the head of the donor and saying they have to donate to any charity at all.

Another reason is that there are people out there just dying for a one world government. I wish with all my heart that it could happen and be a good thing. Small movements are started, and everyone on the lower level thinks they are doing this for all the right reasons. In truth many of these efforts are only stepping stones to pave the way for people to give in to the bigger plan.

One world government would end the world, or at least set the stage for a dictatorship of the majority, whatever that happens to be. There are simply too many voices on this earth for a single, unified government to work — think of how many political parties there would be. With that many parties, all the voices would be drowned out in the white noise.

You allude to some movements losing their integrity after they assume control. Yes, while there are cases of corruption destroying a leader/movement, more often is the fact that what works in theory doesn’t necessarily work in practice. As things start to go wrong with their agenda, it appears that the movement is self-destructing, and, as that happens, leaders turn dictatorial.

And the ones running the show don’t have the goodness in their heart that all these people have. All that has to happen is one of them getting to be the one running the show. We elect people who don’t know anything put power, corruption and greed.

Not necessarily – there are some who are indeed good people. In fact, I’d wager that most of the elected officials are good people. But, the System has constraints, and these people have to keep their jobs by being in bed with corporate interests and especially the military-industrial complex. The people at the tops of those ladders are the ones who need replacing with able-minded and pure people, not those in government. It’s the corrupt lobbyists and corporate infrastructure that corrupts the legislative process with their “gifts” to the legislative bodies (also known as bribes).

Part 2 is coming tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Today’s good, bad, and insightful:

The Good

The Evangelical vs. Liberal sex issue is quite hilarious, as reported by the New Yorker.

James Fallows of the Atlantic Monthly talks about China shooting itself in the foot during the Olympics.

The Bad

Matt Yglesias notes the pitiful emails being sent out by the Obama campaign to raise more money today. Do they really need more money?

The Insightful

From an article in today’s Independent on the thin line between love and hate:

One major difference between love and hate appears to be in the fact that large parts of the cerebral cortex – associated with judgement and reasoning – become de-activated during love, whereas only a small area is deactivated in hate.

“This may seem surprising since hate can also be an all-consuming passion like love. But whereas in romantic love, the lover is often less critical and judgemental regarding the loved person, it is more likely that in the context of hate the hater may want to exercise judgement in calculating moves to harm, injure or otherwise exact revenge,” Professor Zeki said.

Via the Guardian’s Michael Tomasky:

WARNING: MAY CAUSE EPILEPTIC SEIZURE, DIARRHEA, AND/OR SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION. DO NOT PLACE NEAR OPEN FLAME.

I’m sorry, dear readers, but this ad makes me fear greatly for the future of this country. This ad represents the pinnacle of idiocy and religious fundamentalism (both go hand in hand) that exist in this country in quite large quantities.

Accusing someone of being “evil” or unfit for public office just because they are an atheist (never mind the fact that Kay Hagan is NOT an atheist) is truly terrible. I thought that the attacks on Obama for being a Muslim were bad; but this is worse, mostly because I’m an atheist. They spew the words “Godless” and “atheist” like they would speak of a criminal or miscreant, when, in reality, that’s simply not true.

Remember, folks: freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.

Before I start typing massive amounts of expletives and strong language, I’ll click the publish button.

P.S. I wonder what Christopher Hitchens will say about this in his column ‘Fighting Words‘ in Slate Sunday…

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The BBC reports that in Damascus, a mass of thousands marched in protest of the American attack on a Syrian village on Sunday, which killed 8.

Many at the government-backed demonstration carried banners, shouted anti-US slogans and waved pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Riot police surrounded the US embassy in Damascus, which American officials closed blaming security fears.

The Syrian government has demanded that Washington apologise for the incident.

The US state department and the White House have refused to confirm the alleged attack.

Slogans

The protesters, including many civil servants and students, converged on the central Youssef al-Azmi square.

Closing the Damascus embassy on Thursday, American officials cited “violence and significant damage to US facilities and other embassies” in past demonstrations.

Officials warned US citizens to avoid the area and an American school was also shut temporarily.

Is it any wonder how terrorist organizations manage to recruit young men to do their bidding against the evil West and especially America, when we kill innocent people and don’t even admit our crimes? These people feel a need to fight back against the Americans, who, as far as they know, have only killed their innocent friends, family, and countrymen while clearly violating international laws. The only way they can even dream of taking the fight to a much stronger opponent (that would be us) is to use terrorism’s tactics (in this case) of IEDs and suicide bombings.

The reason? Simply because our army is far better in conventional warfare than they are; they would be much less successful than they are if they fought like an actual army. By employing terrorism, they gain a little advantage: they make sure they can kill some Americans before they die.

We talk about how these terrorists are killing in the name of God. For some, that may be true, but for most, I’d expect that they’re killing in the name of their loved ones that our soldiers took away from them.

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The Good

Anatole Kaletsky has a piece in the Times about the need to act in order to rescue the country from the economic meltdown.

Johann Hari of the Independent has a chilling story about the Congolese genocide – and how we’re supporting it.

Keith Thomson has a piece in the Huffington Post detailing how McCain could win with 22% of the popular vote, never mind the projected 47%.

Cass Sunstein of the Daily Beast reminds us all that redistribution of wealth has been a core component of this country for quite some time now. After all, taxation is merely redistribution of wealth with a different name.

Tom McNichol has a hilarious parody on the Nigerian E-mail scammers.

The Bad

The BBC reports that the Fed’s cut interest rates again, which will probably drive us deeper into a long-term recession. Seems like the Fed is only interested in the shoot first, ask questions later mentality.

The Insightful

From Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish:

It’s very encouraging to see thugs like Chavez and Putin get the wind knocked out of their sails a little; and obviously many Americans are relieved to have some relief in their budgets. But the sad truth is: only high gas prices will ever wean us off Middle Eastern oil and provide the real market incentives to pioneer non-carbon energy. Falling oil prices could derail a serious move toward energy independence, which will be achieved in the end by the private sector, not the government. My own view is that the one thing the government can do right now is keep gas prices high, by raising gas taxes.

Within the past two months, we have launched two attacks to capture al-Qaeda leaders in other countries’ (that is, countries that aren’t named Iraq and Afghanistan) territory. Yes, I realize that we were potentially going after high value targets, but that doesn’t justify going into a sovereign nation’s territory and killing innocent civilians in order to track down a terrorist. Our government seems to forge that this is the real world, and that there are actual international laws to be complied with. To not do so, obviously, will have implications.

That is, if other countries, including our allies, are willing to call us out on it.

Here’s what I find most unsettling about our actions in the Middle East: Russia invades Georgia because of Georgia’s human rights abuses in Georgia’s own unethical invasion of their own territory (see here), and our leaders are up in arms, saying that Russia has no business invading a sovereign nation and we are all Georgians and all that other nonsense. (Let’s also note that Barack Obama jumped on that bandwagon as well, pandering to those whose primary source of news is cable television, which accounts for 70% of the population, if I were to estimate that figure.)

But we send troops into Pakistan and Syria to pursue our own agenda, capturing al-Qaeda members, without the consent of said countries. How is this not different than Russia’s “invasion of Georgia”, except on a much smaller scale? Violating a sovereign country’s territory is crime enough, no matter the size of the invasion.

Take this hypothetical, for example: suppose we received word that Russia launched a helicopter raid in the US, trying to track down a criminal ex-KGB officer, who killed innocent civilians, and so on. In the process of the raid, they killed a few innocent Americans. What’s more, the Russians failed to release an official statement regarding the attack, or its violation of the United States’s border security.

Would we not retaliate against the Russians, citing their unlawful “invasion”, even though the raid would only consist of a number of troops in the double digits (at most!)? Wouldn’t America be up in arms that Russia killed civilians? Wouldn’t we whine to our allies in the European Union and the UN that Russia broke international law? Of course we would. Now, when the Syrian foreign minister accuses us of using “criminal and terrorist aggression”, we know exactly where he’s coming from. If we were in his shoes, we’d think the same exact thing.

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Today’s good, bad, and insightful:

The Good

The first two aren’t so much great as they are hilarious:

Martin Varsavsky lets us all know, that, as of today, Volkswagen is the wealthiest corporation in the world.

An Israeli child dressed up as a Palestinian gunman and took to the streets hoping to provoke a reaction from the police, the BBC reports. For a school project. Hey, he wanted to get an A!

Raymond Whitaker from The Independent’s blog Open House correctly surmises that, in America, it doesn’t even matter if you’re with us or against us: we’ll attack you no matter whose side you’re on.

The Daily Beast’s Christopher Brownfield explains exactly why the Syrian attack was bad, bad news.

The Bad

Nothing today.

The Insightful

Money quote from a post today in the Edge of the American West:

So, as I understand it, Obama’s plan to tax the really wealthy consists largely (or entirely) of letting the Bush tax cuts expire instead of extending them. * This is derided as a socialism; but aside from the ridiculousness of the difference between Real American Taxes and Evil Islamic Arugula Socialism being 3% and roughly half a billion bucks…. does this mean we were already socialist during the Bush administration before the tax cuts and didn’t know it?

I thought the socialist barricades would come with a little flag to wave.

No massive commentary today, but I stumbled upon (no, not using stumbleupon; I found them via delicious) some awesome websites that will surely grant you more knowledge, should you use them enough.

The first is MIT’s Open Courseware, a site run by MIT that keeps lecture notes, assignments, and exams for over 1800 courses (yes, real MIT courses) in the pdf format. You can access them for any course, and do the work, though, obviously, no textbooks or professors are included. I find this most useful for sciences, especially math, where no real class discussion is necessary and you can correct your mistakes on your own using the notes provided. Want to brush up on your economic theory? Dive into the reading for the Principles of Microeconomics/Macroeconomics. Want to go teach yourself quantum physics? You’re in luck. The quantity and depth of information presented is simply mind-boggling, as there are just so many options… However, like going to MIT itself, actually trying to teach yourself the information is incredibly tough (especially without a teacher!) and takes a lot of discipline. But, I feel that the payoff is too good to pass up; it’s like getting an MIT education for free, except you ultimately decide how much you learn. And what could be better than that?

The other is busuu.com, a social language learning website. No, it’s not a joke, and yes, it’s really awesome. The premise is this: you choose one (or more) languages to learn out of English, French, German, and Spanish, and you choose different learning units, or groups of 20 or so related words, to learn at a time. For each learning unit, you’ll be presented with vocabulary, a dialogue-comprehension test, a test to describe a picture using the vocab words for the unit (which can be corrected by native speakers on the site, which is, by far, its best feature), and an exam. During any unit, you can also choose to chat (using busuuchat) with a native speaker, testing your grammar and use of the vocabulary words. I’ve done a little so far and it’s definitely addicting and rewarding. I’ve learned quite a bit, and I’ve helped some other people learn as well, by correcting native Spanish/French/German/Whatever other language speakers’ posts in English. It feels good to learn from a native speaker and it feels better to help someone else out, considering how confusing English is to learn as a second/third/fourth language.

Check both these sites out! Of course, on busuu, I’m leapsecond. Happy learning!

Today’s good, bad, and insightful:

The Good

I realize that it was published two weeks ago, but the Economist’s article Capitalism at Bay is way too good not to mention.

Roberto Lovato has a plan for when (if?) the election gets stolen. There will be riots in the streets, people!

Christopher Hitchens has yet another seething attack on the GOP’s anti-intellectualism up at Slate.

The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg attacks Joe… the Senator (Lieberman, that is).

The Bad

We’ve launched a helicopter raid in Syria, and the BBC reports that the Syrian foreign minister has called the U.S. out on terrorist aggression. He’s absolutely right. (More on this to come, I feel it)

In quite possibly the most hilarious blog post I’ve ever seen (okay, maybe it’s just sad), Elaine Lafferty says that Sarah Palin’s a Brainiac. And no, it’s not a satire.

Oh, and Ted Stevens is guilty!

The Insightful

‘Twas a good day for the Guardian…

Michael Tomasky says this on Rev. Wright’s revival:

I see that Reverend Wright is resurfacing, just a bit, and I see that Obama said something on the radio seven years ago that pisses conservatives off. Boy. I don’t know, I’ve been wrong before, but it seems to me like they’ll need more than this.

The American people have sized up Obama for the better part of two years now. Polls indicate very clearly that swing voters have decided that he’s not nearly as dangerous and risky as four more years of conservative governance. Late reminders can influence some votes, and depending on how sleazy things get, states like Missouri and Indiana can be tipped back to McCain. But he needs a lot more help than that, and I don’t think Reverend Wright takes him where he needs to be.

And this article by George Monbiot is awesome. Money quote:

Besides fundamentalist religion, perhaps the most potent reason intellectuals struggle in elections is that intellectualism has been equated with subversion. The brief flirtation of some thinkers with communism a long time ago has been used to create an impression in the public mind that all intellectuals are communists. Almost every day men such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly rage against the “liberal elites” destroying America.

The spectre of pointy-headed alien subversives was crucial to the election of Reagan and Bush. A genuine intellectual elite – like the neocons (some of them former communists) surrounding Bush – has managed to pitch the political conflict as a battle between ordinary Americans and an over-educated pinko establishment. Any attempt to challenge the ideas of the rightwing elite has been successfully branded as elitism.

Obama has a lot to offer the US, but none of this will stop if he wins. Until the great failures of the US education system are reversed or religious fundamentalism withers, there will be political opportunities for people, like Bush and Palin, who flaunt their ignorance.