Bill Maher, liberal interventionism, and racism

“We’re not miracle workers…some nations are never going to change.”

The white man’s burden is alive and well, despite all the listless undergrads in Humanities 324 being instructed to place Kipling in the historical context of his time. I saw that Bill Maher was having Ta-Nehisi Coates and Greenwald on and thought it might be worth watching. It wasn’t. It was ruined in large part by Paul Rieckhoff, some former Wall-Streeter turned grunt whose smugness nearly exceeds Maher’s. He got loud, spouted State Dept talking points. Greenwald snapped back that he respected Wikileaks, then lied about publishing “thousands of documents.” A conservative woman whom Reickoff wants to fuck was ignored. La-di-da. The end.

After the panel discussion, Maher did his “New Rules” segment. As anyone who watches the show knows, it usually runs about 5-8 minutes where Maher makes some witty quips about pop-culture and then, for the last 4 minutes or so, he rants on a single topic. On Friday, he tackled nation building. During the 4-minute stint he sanctimoniously compared America to a woman trying to change the ways of her wayward lover.  In this poorly thought-out metaphor, he described the countries that America has invaded as “assholes, badboys, whore-chasing drunks, poorly located businesses, and broken people.” The central premise is that countries like “Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Pakistan, [and] Somalia” and its people are uncivilized. They are therefore unable to wield the gifts of freedom and democracy that America bestows on them.

Maher also throws insults at Iraq for apparently no reason at all, “I’m sorry Iraq, not to be mean, but you’re a shitty location.” Apparently there is something inherent in the Iraqi landscape that makes the country ill-suited to gerrymandering, grift, and freedom. While that may be true for a mountainous country like Afghanistan without easily navigable roads, it certainly isn’t true for Iraq, the fucking cradle of civilization and all that. Even more offensive is when he takes shots at people who refuse to live in large enough herds, “some of them aren’t even nations, they’re just tribes.” The disdain he has for the hold-outs who prefer not to cluster in nightmarish megacities is palpable. He cannot fathom the idea that some people actually prefer herding goats to earning $1.15/day to stitch together his skinny neckties.

At the core of his belief is the American mythology of noble intent. No matter when and where the country might go astray, it was acting for some greater good.  For these believers, there is forever a disconnect between what the country does and what the country is. What always matters, is the latter. During the 1960s, some Ivy leaguers got the bright idea to arm 500,000 men and fly them to the other side of the world. Nobody really knows why or how it started. Something about a parlour game involving dominoes that got out of hand. Long story short, those men murdered an entire ecosystem along with a million plus people in 3 countries: Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. A similar story would later occur in Iraq. In the nearly 20 year siege (yes, 20 years), millions fled and hundreds of thousands were killed.

What does Maher takeaway from these American invasions? Some people just can’t be helped; “whenever presidents dealt with [those countries] and got bad results, we always blamed the president. But maybe it’s not the president, maybe it’s the place.” This victim blaming is pathological and psychotic. He uses “dealt with” to describe the interaction between the two countries, the verb dripping with connotations of paternalism and disdain. Omit the euphemism and it becomes clear how insane it is, “whenever presidents [invaded those countries] and got bad results, we always blamed the president. But maybe it’s not the president, maybe it’s the place.” It’s the fault of the invaded country for failing to live up to the standards set by the invader? Yes, if you’re an imperialist monster.

Maher has also been going on for years with this looney idea that the middle-east is stuck in their own dark ages, beset by a religious schism. The chattering classes regularly call this “sectarian conflict,” as if wars could have any other kind of conflict. So-called regional experts get on TV and after 10+ years of war, do little more than tell us this is a fight between the Sunni and Shi’ite. They conveniently forget that we set the Shi’ite on the Sunni with unlimited crates of cash, weapons, and power-drills. Back to the point, Maher routinely barks about how “this is JUST LIKE the protestant reformation and European wars.” From that astute observation he concludes that the Muslims are simply behind-the-times, stuck in the 16th century and we need to let them fight it out. One problem with this analogy is that the Sunni and Shi’ite split right after Muhammad’s death. This is not some recent development that the two camps are still trying to come to terms with. It’s disgustingly disingenuous to regularly meddle, prop-up, overthrow, and invade multiple countries in the region and when all that goes to shit, throw your hands up and exclaim, “well, that 1,400 year old schism is a bugger, isn’t it?”





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The NY Times offers Judith Miller her old job back

Reading the Times today, and holy hell;

“The names floated so far [to replace Prime Minister Maliki] — Adel Abdul Mahdi, Ahmed Chalabi and Bayan Jaber — are from the Shiite blocs, which have the largest share of the total seats in the Parliament.

Mr. Chalabi is a complex figure who has alternately charmed and infuriated the Americans but has ties both to them and to Iran. His biggest liability could be his uncompromising support for the systematic purge of many Sunnis from government jobs after the American-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party a decade ago.”

The NYT doing what they do best, bringing fog machines to war. Yes, Mr. Chalabi is a “complex” figure. In case you’ve forgotten, Mr. Chalabi had his home and business raided by the US and Iraqi forces after widespread involvement in fraud (against both US and Iraq), torture, divulging classified information to Iran, and, last but not least, the guy at the center of the false intelligence over WMD and the man who oversaw the De-Ba’athification of the government.


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Solar FREAKING roadways!!!

Aren’t these futuristic mock-ups amazing!

Have the people spamming this all over everywhere never seen new developmental proposals passed around their local city council meetings? The proposed projects ALWAYS look spectacular. Putting shit on paper is relatively easy. Funding it is difficult.

I don’t want to be cynical simply to point out how dumb these solar roadways are. That would be easy; a road pressure-weighted for a moose yet durable enough to handle a 40-ton tractor trailer? I could go on but I won’t. What’s important is pointing out that this false hope is suffocating the environmental movement. There is no technological panacea for our current predicament. And certainly not one which exists in order to save the god-damned automobile of all things. The sooner this reality is accepted, the sooner we can shift the focus to the means of dismantling the technological systems that are making the planet uninhabitable for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of different species of plants and animals. Others put the modern world together, it’s time for us to take it apart. 



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Water carrying

Kevin Drum’s back must be strained from all the heavy-lifting. To say that Benghazi is not, or is, a scandal is absurd. You can’t say anything about it b/c we know next to nothing about what happened, and even less about why. Aside: I’m 32, a bit older than the millennials but I’m single and live abroad so I hang out with a few of them on occasion. They are, as we’ve repeatedly been told, the most connected generation evaaar. They LIVE online! Nevertheless, when I’ve been out with said generation and some guy or gal brings up the latest viral video/vine/meme/whatever, it’s about 80/20 those who haven’t seen/heard it to those who have. Our mindspace is much, much less connected by Twitter and the internet than Silicon Valley and the Tom Friedmans would have you believe. Back to Libya. Less than 15% have regular access to the internet. The idea that some viral youtube film trailer inspired the torching of the Benghazi diplomatic mission is perhaps the stupidest official statement ever believed. The entire story is laden with bullshit. I dare say more ludicrous than Saddam’s desire to attack America from his mobile weapons labs.

Drum tells us that there are “10 things” we should know about the Benghazi event. Not surprisingly, the following doesn’t make his list. The FBI spent the summer of 2012 investigating the Petraeus affair. Much ado. Then on October 27, Paula Broadwell, the woman (formerly) fucking the director of the CIA, let it slip “that the CIA annex at the Benghazi consulate came under assault on Sept. 11 because it had earlier ‘taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back. It’s still being vetted.” The next day, phone call to Rep. Cantor about the affair and within 10 days, Petraeus is gone. Now, maybe that’s coincidence. Regardless, it is still relevant information. And this tidbit has been almost completely disappeared by the media when discussing Benghazi. 


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Today, we are all neocons


Computer-generated humanoid, Reihan Salam, pissed off alot of people two weeks ago when he renewed his vows with neoconservativism. I’m not sure why. His piece was so historically inaccurate, self-serving, and simplistic that it resembled an abbreviated version of some Obama speech that the president might deliver to a packed hall of doe-eyed Eurotrash. They’re both best, ignored.

There were, however, a couple points that made it worth reading. One, Salam’s tortured logic which turns the Nixon/Kissinger-Benghali massacre into justification for more US state interference based on the fact that the US, though it supported the massacre of hundreds of thousands, could have done the opposite of what it did. Ponder for a moment the insanity of a country that offers a mind this fractured regular column space and TV time on ‘expert panels.’

Two, Salam defined neoconservatism as principally based on the idea that “the U.S. should maintain an overwhelming military edge over all potential rivals, and that we as a country ought to be willing to use our military power in defense of our ideals as well as our interests narrowly defined?” I like this. Defining it so, he plants his much derided neocon banner firmly on top of the US capitol. Many predictably objected to this definition as overly broad. According to the doctrine of a priori American political distinctions, if your category can include both Bush and Obama, it is meaningless. “Like, c’mon; one of them enjoys illegally invading countries and murdering people, the other likes to paint! Oh, shit.” Face it demlibs, there are few definitions of neoconservative which couldn’t include Obama.

Salam also includes the usual American dogma; “American strength is the linchpin of a peaceful, economically integrating world.” The linchpin of peace? I haven’t a clue how this delusion takes hold. America is the most violent country on the planet and has been for some time (probably since it’s founding). How many countries did North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, and Libya (the ‘evil’ countries) invade in the last decade? Zero, combined. How many did the US? 4? 6? 10? The US has dropped so many bombs on so many different countries that I’ve lost count. 




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For your amusement

Was linked to this WaPo article reading Sartwells latest. From the article on the mass sentencing of 683 people to death in Egypt;

“The Obama administration quickly condemned the ruling, saying that it defied ‘even the most basic standards of international justice…’ Whitehouse spokesperson continued, ‘Egyptian leaders must take a stand against this illogical action and dangerous precedent, recognizing that the repression of peaceful dissent will fuel the instability and radicalization that Egypt says it wishes to prevent.’

[Final paragraph of the article] ‘Last week, the Obama administration said it would deliver 10 Apache helicopters to Egypt, marking a partial resumption of Washington’s annual $1.3 billion in military aid, which was suspended after last summer’s coup.”

It’s really the hallowed proceduralism of the courtroom that bothers Washington. Raining hellfire missiles down on people from the safety of a helicopter cockpit is ok (wink.wink), but if you’re going to break out the blackrobes and stenographer, there are standards of decency to adhere to.

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A glimmer of hope.

Tax issue finally resolved. The tar heel state, while living up to its nickname, came after me in the fall of last year for back taxes–from 2007. They mistook capital losses for gains. Easy enough mistake I suppose. I wonder how many people pay the money though rather than deal with digging through old records. Fortunately, I have time.

Unlike most, I took the initial notice of unpaid taxes cheerily. The marginal revenue curve for that kinda tax-delinquent dumpster diving must be pretty flat while the cost curve is well, not. I have no doubt the states can keep hounding the increasingly broke for quite some time, but really, if they’re coming after me for a couple hundred bucks from 6 years ago, the writing’s on the wall, isn’t it?

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