March 20th, 2012


Hail to the Press

Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.Thomas Jefferson

Yes. I know this video by filmmaker Jason Russell has been discussed before. However, it was done in the context of the Invisible Children’s Fund only. An American is exploiting an unfortunate situation for his own financial and personal gain once again. There are no surprises there.

What still hasn’t been discussed is the content of the video and what it hopes to achieve. This video is ½ hour long and can get tedious to watch. I have watched it so you don’t have to. I will summarize it under the spoiler.

[Click to expand]

In a nutshell:

  • It starts by exhibiting the power of social media
  • Jason Russell dotes over his son
  • Jason Russell explains his film making background and his trip to Uganda
  • He chronicles the trials and tribulations of Jacob, his Ugandan friend, and the Ugandan people
  • He then talks about the atrocities of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army
  • He promotes a call to action to arrest Kony and bring him to trial before the world court
  • He takes credit for having 100 military advisers deployed to Uganda by our government
  • He hawks his action kit and bracelet. He also calls on celebrities to participate.
  • He designates April 1 as the day to litter the world with posters and leaflets
  • He sets an expiration date of the end of 2012 to complete this mission

Even if the cause he solicits is legit, it is a plan of action for finding your lost pet, not for bringing revenge justice to an international criminal. The numbers and enthusiasm of Jason Russell's followers is frightening. What is even more frightening is that this video is being presented as news and not the empty infomercial that it is. It is even being considered for an Academy Award.

Joseph Kony has passed his prime on the world stage. He has had his Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame and is reputed to be in the Congo with a force of a couple hundred instead of the 30,000 that is implied in the video. I was happy to see the New York Times bring it into perspective.

This is a massive oversimplification of a difficult problem. The proposal smacks of the First Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993. Something like this illustrates the complexity of a military intervention in a nation dominated by a weak government and rampant human rights violations imbedded in its culture.

What's more, the message ignores lessons we should have learned from Iraq and Afghanistan. After the myth of weapons of mass destruction was debunked in Iraq, the justification for military action was to bring Saddam Hussein to justice. Also, the premise for Afghanistan was to bring Osama bin Laden to justice as well. After the passing of 10 years, the death of thousands of American troops and a couple trillion dollars later we have learned the true cost of these missions.

For all the outrage that is directed toward the American media and the mainstream media in particular, at least there is a code of conduct that tempers it. With all the claptrap about left leaning and right leaning bias in media, it beats the living crap out of the douchebaggery that is presented in this video. I know I have the option to go to BBC or al Jezeera for an alternate view of the news, but as news goes, I can respect that the American press can rise above this trash.

I can only hope that the KONY2012 type videos don’t become the standard lens through which we view our world.

Si se puede

An Extraordinary Officer: The Exception to the Rule‏

Ali Soufan is a naturalized American citizen who recently published a memoir of his stint working for the FBI. He describes his experience interrogating members of al-Qaeda in order to obtain actionable intelligence on subsequent operations. He also details some of the more serious problems caused by "enhanced" interrogation methods and the practice of rendering suspects to despotic regimes. Soufan's memoir is a must-read for anyone looking for sinister activity on the part of the American intelligence community. The fact that Soufan found refuge in the private sector is a testament to the bitter in-fighting he encountered while working for the Bureau.

Soufan is not a typical Hoover boy. he does not fit the mold of the corn-fed fundamentalist Christian zealot that people think of when they think of the FBI. He did not grow up in the rabidly anti-Communist environment of the American bosom. He did not spend time kowtowing to the American flag each day as a young child. His wealth of experience made him an exceptional FBI officer.

J. Edgar Hoover once remarked that he refused to read the Washington Post because it reminded him of the Daily Worker. This gives you an idea of the closed nature of the mind at the top of the organization back in the day. When he was alive, people lived in fear of his ruthless methods. A visit from the FBI to the workplace often resulted in dismissal. Visits to neighbors could precipitate isolation of an entire family from a community. The Bureau used mere suspicion as a weapon against free thought and free association. The Bureau worked with local police forces to sow the seeds of internacine conflict among dissident groups. Ward Churchill documents some of their tactics in his book on the Bureau, Agents of Repression.

Soufan contrasts sharply with W. Cleon Skousen who fits the mold of the Hoover boy to a tee. The latter served as the inspiration for Glenn Beck and his brand of conspiracy crusading. It is refreshing to see that the Bureau has opened its ranks to a more cosmopolitan breed of recruits such as Soufan. It goes to show that reform is possible in the most unlikely places.

Do you have any experience with the tactics of the FBI?
The Swallows have won!

Toyi-toyi, the dance of freedom

"You can take everything away from us, but you cannot stop us from dancing"

Traditional music, particularly protest songs have been an inherent part of the South African culture since time immemorial. In the apartheid era, the protest dance called "toyi-toyi" was the primary means of expression of the oppressed masses. It originates from Zimbabwe and was soon adopted by the black majority in South Africa, who were living in miserable conditions, without political rights, and were treated as semi-slaves.

The toyi-toyi dance has endured ever since, even in post-apartheid times. Today, when our government gives generous promises, like providing permanent home to people and reducing poverty and crime, and then fails to deliver on that promise while still not missing to fill its pockets, people seek for outlets of their frustration. But they do not have money to make their voices heard in politics, and neither can they grab the guns and take to the streets. So, instead, how do they make themselves heard?

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A hypothetical...

...Inspired by a question from Kylinrouge in this thread.

Let us suppose for a moment that proponents of Critical Race Theory are correct and that true objectivity is impossible. That any claims of rationality, objective truth, and judicial neutrality are in fact simply effeorts by those in power to hold onto thier power, as a result Blacks and other minorities are at a distinct disadvantage because the fabric of society itself is rigged against them.

Let us also suppose that there was a procedure, pill, or device, that could quickly and cheaply and permenantly alter someone's Race, Religion, or Sexual Orientation.

Would it be ethical to use such a device?

In what way would prescribing a "treatment" for somone's race or religion differ from prescribing treatment for any other physical or mental malady such as impared-vision or depression?

I haven't been able to come up with a good answer.
Godzilla, default

Don't these people have more important things to worry about?

Like whatever the 23 people that live in Idaho have to worry about?

Another Republican lawmaker made an inflammatory and stupid comment about abortion, this time raising Ye Olde "Women will falsely cry rape" tripe to "make a case." To me these comments illustrate a fundamental lack of comprehension about women's issues in general and abortion in particular on the part of so-called social conservatives, and this also continues to illustrate a pattern where social conservatism is long on emotional sucker-punches and short on policy. Your thoughts?