Category: Politics

Watch Logan (2017) Full Movie Online Streaming & Download

image for movie Logan 2017

Quality: HD
Title : Logan
Director : James Mangold.
Release : 2017-02-28
Language : English,Espanol
Runtime : 135 min.
Genre : Action, Drama, Science Fiction.
Synopsis :

What happens when our superheroes get old? It’s essentially something that never happens in our movies, where our heroes are always virile and robust, and if they get a little long in the tooth, we just reboot the series and start over with a younger model. But that’s not the case with Logan, which follows maybe the most famous of the X-Men, Wolverine, as he not only deals with his own broken-down body, but with nursing the longtime leader of the X-Men, professor Charles Xavier. Xavier is now in his 90s and struggles to take care of himself, occasionally slipping into dementia and having trouble recognizing Logan or understanding just what’s going on at any particular time.

And this is just part of what separates Logan from any other superhero movie we’ve seen. I’ll admit that I’ve grown a bit tired of superhero origin stories and crash-and-bang ensemble pictures, but Logan is neither of those things. The characters here feel lived-in and real, and the violence is shocking and gritty. When innocent people are killed in this movie, it doesn’t feel like collateral damage; it’s genuinely disturbing and actually makes us realize that real people’s lives are at stake in this universe.

And even all of this barely scratches the surface. Logan gets involved in trying to save a little girl who’s far more like himself than he’d like to admit, and we eventually follow them as they work with a group of young mutant refugees trying to cross the border into Canada to escape persecution. If that doesn’t resonate with our times, I don’t know what will. The X-Men stories have always reflected racial and ethnic tension and fear, and that’s brought to the forefront here in ways I won’t spoil.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

But ultimately, it’s the grounding in reality that makes Logan a special film. We see the broken bodies of our superheroes laid bare, we feel the difficult emotional reality of trying to care for an elderly loved one who has difficulty understanding his own condition and can snap in strange ways at any moment, and we know that nothing can last forever, not even our greatest heroes.

Why Gays and Guns Win

gaysnotguns02For the past month the media, unlike the actual public, has been obsessed with the issues of gay marriage and gun control. The issues have been portrayed as twin harbingers of a new more liberal age, a 1960’s redux, that has brought out all of the old battle lines. But this, in fact, is not true. These debates, and the inexorable success of gay marrige, and the equally certain failure of gun control legislation, are very much issues and outcomes of our current time. Though their discussion is happening at the same time, the two issues couldn’t be more different except for the one constant at the center of them both- the power and control of government.

It is not overstating the case to say that America is as polarized today as it has been since the Civil War, which was the blueprint for Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” that still represents the Republican Party today. These lines have become hard baked over the last two decades by the lucrative squirting of media lighter fluid onto the bonfire of social and economic discontent. But the most common mistake that talking heads and the general public make is the constant complaint that “government is not working,” or that our representatives are not “doing their job.” On the contrary, they are working, and doing their jobs- which are not to pass legislation, but to represent their constituents- very well indeed. Extreme members represent extreme districts and states, and do so very well by polling and focus grouping the landscape on an hourly basis. And this is exactly why gays and guns are winning the day.

There are several reasons why opposition to gay marriage has eroded steadily over the last twenty years. First and most powerful, sadly, is the AIDS crisis. Before the AIDS epidemic, gays and lesbians were not that far from Stonewall. Towns had gay bars and major cities like New York and San Francisco had thriving gay communities, but at best there was a prevailing “live and let live” ethos. AIDS changed that. AIDS was a clarion call to “come out,” and over the decade of the 1990’s America realized that gays and lesbians were not “them,” but “us.” The result was that the generation of Sally Rides, who hid their lives and loves in order to be functioning participants in society and culture (functioning, that is, without the legal and tax benefits of marriage), gave way to a generation of gay and lesbian people in all walks of life holding hands and openly declaring their love for one another.  Another powerful factor has been the increasingly powerful portrayal of gays and lesbians in the media that has helped inure a younger generation. Over the course of the last twenty years, America has come to know that gay and lesbian people are not just the clowns like the dimwit in picture above in the pink net dress, who clearly was not helping the debate, and “dykes on bikes” but everyone else in all walks of American life. Being gay became no big deal and even those like the man in the dress now fail to get all the attention they crave.

The acceptance of guns in our lives and culture have taken a very similar trajectory. Guns, like gays, have slowly overcome their negative, supercharged, media stereotypes. Though they are obviously not similar or analogous in any other way, the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School doesn’t represent gun owners in American any more than a morbidly obese man crawling on his hands and knees wearing nothing but a leather thong and a dog collar represents gay people. Your gay dentist and your neighbor with a handgun responsibly locked in a drawer are not news but they are really who we are.

But it’s really in their relationship to government and its power where these two issues intersect. Two decades ago, Will Portman would probably have not come out, to his family let alone the public, out of respect for his Republican father’s political career. But doing so made the government’s role in obstructing him from the legal benefits that all other Americans enjoy all the more obvious and onerous, to the senator and to everyone else who isn’t benighted by retarding religious dogma. Government restrictions on the American people’s rights to make their own choices is antithetical to the fabric of our nation. And so it also is with the right to own a gun.

None of the proposed gun restriction laws would really have much impact on gun violence in America. Background checks would remain easy to get around and would be impossible to enforce. Large ammunition clips are all over the nation and would remain easy to get. There will most certainly be another terrible episode where a mentally deranged person will kill others with an assault rifle. That just is, and will remain, part of American life. But as tragic as that will be, like assault weapon violence in general, it will represent an infinitesimal percentage of gun deaths, the vast majority of which come from handguns- which themselves don’t even approach the numbers of violent deaths caused by baseball bats, knives, crowbars and the like.

In a month or so, the memory of Sandy Hook Elementary School will pass from all those Americans who didn’t lose a loved one. The next Sandy Hook will create a momentary clamor to once again do something about gun violence, which will once again die down after a few months having initiated no new legislation. But while the Supreme Court will be loathe to decide on gay marriage, and will look for any opportunity to punt, nevertheless, state by state, statute by statute, restrictions to gay rights will fall away because at the end of the day, we Americans just don’t like the government- and worse, odious, self-important Napoleon complexers like New York mayor Michel Bloomberg- telling us what to do. We prefer it when corporate America does that.



The Case for Citizen’s United

Imagine for a moment that you put your credit card down to finally buy the 52″ HD, big screen television you’ve wanted for years. And then the clerk hands you a public disclosure form to announce your purchase to the world- and to the fellas who will be looking for a place to watch the game as well as the local meth heads searching for a quick score. Or, imagine the same thing happening when you purchased a vibrator to go with Fifty Shades of Grey? Wink, wink from the UPS guy. It’s an outrageous idea that almost no American citizen would find even remotely acceptable. We like to think that we have a certain level of privacy in this country and that, as long as we follow the law, where we spend our money is our business and our business alone. The same thing goes for our vote. You might work in a union shop but be a Republican who would certainly be shunned if your workmates knew how you voted. Or you might be a closeted gay Republican who will pull the lever for Obama this Fall. No one would get very far making the case that our purchase or our votes should be public.

Yet, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, there has been a great hue and cry made about political contributions made without public disclosure and the clarion call from the “progressives” is that “we have a right to know” who makes contributions. But do we really? And why exactly would that be? Why should anyone have a “right” to know how anyone else legally spends their money, from big screen televisions to vibrators to political contributions? (With “anyone” meaning actual people. Corporations have their own business decisions to make and are, at least in theory, responsible to their share holders.) We have a right to know, progressives argue, because of the power that those contributions wield in our process- and this is the great weakness in the progressive argument because the real problem for them is not the money, or the ads. The reason progressives cry foul is that they don’t like the election results. You don’t hear a peep of complaint from the conservatives because ever since Richard Nixon hired Roger Ailes in 1968, who is now the head of Fox News, the right wing has been much better at exploiting the public who lack the sophistication and education to understand politics. Just look at what goes into most American mouths, let alone into their vote. And that is a very, very different problem. From the “Silent Majority” to “Morning in America” to the Swift Boat ads, the conservatives have written the book on conning the rubes while progressives can only stand in a puddle of themselves and whine about the lack of “fairness.” Newsflash: Life ain’t fair. There ain’t no “social justice.” Get over it.

The great problem with American democracy is not money. As columnist George Will pointed out, we spend more on condiments like ketchup and mustard than we do on politics. The real problem is how susceptible the American public is to advertising. We all face a virtual onslaught all day, every day, from rolling billboards to magazines to television, even on our cell phones. And most of it is lies. Straight up, bald-faced, lies. But we continue to get them because they continue to work on us. Too many of our fellow countrymen and women believe that one cigarette “tastes better” than another, or that one laundry detergent really does “get whites whiter.” And with regard to food? We line up to pay for our portions of mystery meat-like substances handed out of drive-through windows and microwave-ready processed pseudo-food material of unimaginable origin that we can quickly heat up and eat right out of the container. The very word “meat” no longer has a viable definition beyond originating, at least marginally, from some part of a mammal or a bird. Yet Americans flock to “value meals” and gorge themselves until they require insulin injections and two seats on the bus. “Fat Free” cookies? Hell yeah, load up the cart.

The great failing of liberalism since the end of World War II, now conveniently re-dubbed progressivism, has been in blaming advertisers and businesses rather than holding people responsible for their choices and behavior. Like New York Mayor Bloomberg’s laughable ban on big sodas it’s been an endless game of blaming the rules and not the team. Liberalism exhausted itself playing helicopter mom to the American people as it built an endlessly complex legal labyrinth that only became more and more absurd and unenforceable as it grew (who today, for example, can even define “Affirmative Action?”). This led to the election of Ronald Reagan, who just a few years before was universally considered a wingnut, under the banner that government- the government edifice of alphabet agencies, the FDA, the USDA, the FEC, SEC, etc, built by forty years of liberalism- had “become the problem.” As a result, those agencies are all now zombies, gutted and run entirely by the very industries they were created to regulate. From Vioxx to the Massey coal mine disaster to e coli in our vegetables from mountains of untreated, infected cowshit in the water, we are on our own now. And this is clearly how the American people like it.

And so here is the good news. What the Citizens United decision did was to take the training wheels off. This summer and fall we will all see an avalanche of advertising unlike anything we’ve seen before, particularly in the swing states. It will be wall-to-wall Reverend Wright, Kenyan birth certificates, Mormon cults and how Bain raped one business after another. It will be the nastiest, meanest- and yes, most unfair- campaign of our time. Instead of having the government regulation as a filtering intermediary- a task for which it is stunningly unsuited- it is now up to the American people to make their own decisions upon what they see and hear. Faced with this flood of ads, will they make better decisions in their politics than they do about their food? No, probably not. But that’s what democracy is all about. Voters will have to decide who will serve their best interests and if they think that’s going to be handmaidens to billionaire casino owners and the Koch Brothers, then that’s what we’re going to get. And that is almost certainly what we’re going to get and it will be what we deserve.

But then, at some point, that will change. The pendulum will swing because, while they may be able to con the rubes, the rich and the corporate have shown over and over that they too cannot help themselves from going too far. They too gorge themselves until they crash, from the Gilded Age, to the Depression, to the S&L scam to Enron to AIG and the banks in 2008, they just can’t stop themselves. And, of course, when they go, they take us- rubes and all- over the cliff with them. The best of the derivative scam is still yet to come and when it does, “socialized medicine,” regulation of banks and tax breaks for “job creators” might- just might- look very, very different.

Eventually, there will emerge a new breed of progressives who will rise up and take on the world they live in- by that time it will be a world gasping on pollution baking in solar radiation. They will no longer take stale bong hits of “social justice” race politics and will have long ago given up on backpedaling while they defend the shambles of 20th century liberalism altogether. They will be more media savvy and learn how to design their own advertising to share their message. Eventually, the American people will learn how to ask questions and navigate through political ads the same way they did with 19th century offerings for snake oil and “elixirs of youth.” It won’t be tomorrow, or even in the lifetime of anyone reading this, but Citizens United is actually a crucial step in the right direction.

Perils of a Ref in Chief

In 2008, most of America thought Barack Obama was a new political colossus that had been given the keys to the most powerful office in the world and would change America forever. The Right feared he would usher in a new era of higher taxes and legalized weed and same sex marriage to sound of James Brown beat out on African drums. The Progressive Left hoped that the web of evil corporations would be driven back into their caves, the planet would be saved from the disaster of climate change and the social safety net would be defended. While both extremes were unrealistic, neither side was prepared for the shockingly ineffectual president that Barack Obama actually turned out to be. In reality, almost nothing has changed at all and there has been, to put it mildly, no Obama Revolution.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to burn our money and our people, Guantanamo Bay is still open for its horrific and indefensible business, “too big to fail” banks operate on even riskier lines than before on borrowed money, Goldman Sachs people still run the Treasury and “climate change” has virtually disappeared from politics, despite epic weather events and record heat waves. And one hopes that no one seriously brings up the words “heath” and “care” in the same sentence in Obama’s defense. The monstrosity that was finally dismantled enough to pacify, and obscenely benefit, the health insurance lobby to be signed into law was not only a farce but it was not even his plan to begin with. From the start he punted to Congress who naturally turned to lobbyists to write the legislation.

The President handled the debt ceiling disaster, which was created in the vacuum that he himself so naively left in the lame duck sessions in December, exactly the same way he’s handled every political challenge that has come before him, and no one should be surprised. Instead of being on the field mixing it up and pushing the ball forward, he opted to play referee and we all should now clearly understand that this role is essential to who the man is. He is conflict adverse himself, but relishes resolving the conflicts of others, and that is exactly how he has seen his presidency from day one- to be the person who could bring “red and blue America” together, and to become the Lincoln of our times. But he, and we, were all tragically mistaken. He never got that he was supposed to lead the blue team. A referee who treats all parties impartially and instinctively steers towards the middle ground was the very last thing we needed. It’s why America got half a lifeboat in the storm and is now essentially leaderless and in political crisis.

What Barack Obama didn’t understand was that his election in 2008 was a handoff from the American people, not the start of a working relationship. People worked to get the vote out and then cried in joy on election night, drank toasts on inauguration day and then went back to work, at least those of us who still had jobs, and expected him to get on with making the world a better place. And then a funny thing happened. Nothing. He proposed no legislation, laid down no directives, set no parameters and basically just spoke in mushy, professorial generalities. Were it not for the dynamism of Speaker Pelosi, who politics aside was one of the most skilled Speakers for decades, we would certainly not have seen any of what was produced in his first two years, the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act- or even the dismal Health Care bill which never felt Obama’s fingerprints until he signed it.

The presidents America remembers as great are the ones who seized the debate and, well, dictated. That really is what we want. Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt steamrolled legislation over the congress often with dubious legal authority and we love them for it. Even Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush managed to get their disastrous way. Barack Obama is not a stupid man, quite the contrary, and as the Ossama bin Laden episode testifies, nor does he lack the guts to gamble. But while he’s gifted at painting in broad rhetorical strokes on the campaign stump, he clearly lacks “the vision thing” and the ability to drive the agenda. But the Tea Partiers have clearly overplayed their hand and now is exactly the moment for him to break out and really show some leadership. The country is ready, begging for it, and we can only “hope” that he will “change.” But, sadly, don’t put any money on it.

And so we should all understand how the stage is set for the rest of the Obama presidency, however long it lasts. The Republicans will continue to show resolve born of conviction and the Democrats en mass will continue to waffle and squeal ineffectually about “fairness” and “hypocrisy” as they get spanked and backpedal from a debt they can’t defend. They will continue to look at each other in the hope that someone else will step up and make a play, but no Democrat will because that’s the president’s job. But this one ain’t gonna do it either. And since no Democrat is going to present our first black president with a primary challenge no matter what he does, so unless Obama slams his fist on the table and starts hitting back, we can look forward to the Republicans being the only team on the field and controlling the debate for years to come.

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Reagan Again

Soon it will be “Morning in America” again. We’ll see endless iconic images of farms and statues and fireworks and candidates will play dress-up in flannel and sit on tractors and shake hands in diners they would never otherwise dream of urinating in unless they were truly desperate. The American people will be urged yet again to “take America back” from the enemies which threaten our very existence so that we might return to a mythic and idyllic past when a cold glass of milk and a slice of pie waited on the kitchen table for every kid after school.

Those who are surprised by the emergence of Michelle Bachmann as a serious player in this game need a history lesson. Gaffes and breathtaking displays of ignorance and stupidity have never been disqualifiers in presidential politics for those like Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush who can play the part in the big arena political theater. They only kill the Gerald Fords, Walter Mondales and Barry Goldwaters who can’t.

Many Democrats hoped that former California governor Ronald Reagan would win the Republican nomination in 1980 because they were sure he was too right wing, and too stupid, to actually win a general election. Like Bachmann, Reagan said some jaw-dropping things, such as that he saw no problem with the University of California selling off it’s collection of Mark Twain’s handwritten pages as long as they photocopied them first, or his “seen one redwood tree you’ve seen ’em all” line. His subsequent adoption of “Star Wars” missile defense boondoggle made good on the rich promise of his dim-wittedness. But what Democrats didn’t count on was an actor’s ability to play a scene and for a simple man’s ability to connect with simple people.

Reagan’s staff borrowed the Nixon Playbook and reduced their candidates narrative to that of a cowboy facing the impending menace of a Soviet bear ready to pounce any moment and maul what was left of “the shining city on the hill.” His 1984 Bear in the Woods campaign ad, with it’s horror movie music and dire warning, worked just the same way exterminators try to sell you on the threat of termites to your healthy house so that you might engage their services. There was no “bear in the woods,” of course and the Soviet’s never budged an inch after World War II. The best they ever managed was pathetic proxy wars in places like Angola. Nor was there ever a remotely serious threat of “commies” here in America. Communism posed as much of a threat in the 20th Century as “Sharia law” does today, but that doesn’t stop the Nixonian fear mongering.

As Michelle Bachmann’s campaign proves, that old theater schtick still works. She catapulted herself into the national spotlight reading from the Nixon script, telling MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that congress should investigate “anti-Americanism” not only among her fellow congressmen, but specifically concerning presidential candidate Barack Obama. She did not, of course, actually define what “anti-Americanism” is or make any specific accusations. Vintage Nixon.

What Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes understood, and what Bachmann clearly gets, is that politics in a democracy, is the game of making the complex appear simple to simple people. Those candidates who are the most successful are not those who cite CBO figures or discuss tax policy, but those who are able to stir the imaginations of the people and then enlist their support to their imagined shared goal. The pertinent skill is to produce meaningless, fluffy cliches such as “Putting People First,” “Morning in America,” and “Hope and Change” and let the anxious people who care, or are frightened, enough to vote fill in the blanks as to what they mean. Republicans aspiring to the “Southern Strategy” with its bounty of uneducated, uber-religious voters trained to eat garbage and accept things unblushingly on faith without any evidence have an even easier job.

Don’t be surprised if a nation with 15% real unemployment standing wide-eyed and mesmerized with fear as airport employees rummage through their underpants lines up behind this year’s Reagan model. If Ms. Bachmann plays her media cards right, as Reagan did, and doesn’t say anything really stupid, she could send Hillary Clinton sprinting to the bathroom to hurl and become the first woman to become President of the United States. It would be as American as apple pie.

america’s Rwanda dilemma

It is no coincidence that the voice announcing America’s participation in the Libyan “no fly zone” was that of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In her Saturday press conference she laid out her “action not talk” hard line, which unsurprisingly was followed by a missile attack on Colonel Ghaddafi’s forces. It was the hawkish side of Clinton that recalls the pugnacious Margaret Thatcher and cost her the Iowa Primary, and hence the presidency. It is the side of Clinton the elected official that most surprised so many on the traditionally dovish American Left, a part of her husband’s coalition that many assumed she’d inherit and combine with women voters more broadly and a sizable chunk of “Reagan Democrats” who would remember fondly the days of government surplus to carry her into the White House.

During the 2008 campaign, many on the Left opined that Ms. Clinton’s deference to George W. Bush’s harebrained scheme to turn Iraq into a blooming garden of democracy by gunpoint was by virtue of her being a woman and needing politically to appear to the American electorate as tough as any man out there. The first credible woman candidate for president, they said, could not afford to be seen as “a softie.” She has not only remained essentially unapologetic about the Iraq fiasco, however, she has also been steadfast in her support of the current Aghan boondoggle. The reality, it has turned out, is that Ms. Clinton really is “a hawk.” What that really means in today’s America is that Ms. Clinton buys into a Wilsonian, neoliberal (and not, neoconservative as it’s commonly referred) agenda that believes that America’s power must be around the world to “spread democracy” and “American values.” This vision has two wings, the moral led most notably by the infamous journalist Christopher Hitchens, and the strategic, housed in and around the Weekly Standard.

For Hitchens, the calculus is clear and self evident. Those who have power owe it to those who don’t not to stand idly by when they are being slaughtered. His defense of George W. Bush’s Iraq endeavor was largely based on his experience in that country in the wake of the first war and the unspeakable misery inflicted there by Saddam Hussein. It was, Hitchens argued, our duty to clean up our moral mess and to “finish the job.” Hard to argue the morals of that one.

But it is not images from Iraq, Bosnia or Afghanistan which dominate this perspective, but those of the horrific slaughter in Rwanda in 1994 to which the world played spectator- including Ms. Clinton’s husband who happened to be the the president at the time. It was Bill Clinton’s expressed greatest regret of his presidency, a sentiment assuredly shared by his wife. Both were stung by the accusations that the apparent indifference to the genocide in Rwanda was attributable to the color of the victim’s skin. The images of the killing fields has haunted them both ever since.

While the question of maintaining and wielding military power may be settled for Clinton, Hitchens, the Weekly Standard and the assorted Likudniks who view America as Israel’s military arm, with unemployment rising and gargantuan budget deficits looming it may be less so for the American people. The Libyan “no fly zone” alone will cost $300 million a week to uphold. And that is, needless to say, on top of the billions we have already poured into the Iraqi and Afghan sinkholes in the mythic search for the al Queda dragon. There is also the question of tens of thousands of killed and wounded American soldiers and a least a hundred thousand Iraqis and Afghans, the vast, vast majority of which were civilians.

Rwanda- and the violent death of 800,000 people- was a tragedy of grisly and unimaginable proportions. Some, perhaps even most, could have been prevented had the international community stepped in. The Taliban in Afghanistan was, if not genocidal, certainly atrocious. The world, sadly, is never short of dictators and assorted bad actors. The question for America is what can and should we do about these events? When we literally ring the globe with military bases and hardware does it then become our job to use them all? Is the price we have to pay for steering 25% of the world’s energy towards our 2% of the world’s population that we have to literally be the world’s policeman?

While his continued occupation of Afghanistan remains inexplicable, President Obama has otherwise shown restraint in deploying the US military and has set the tone in Egypt and Iran for Uncle Sam taking his thumb off the scale and letting the rest of the world get on with their lives for better or worse. It was only when the Arab League and the British and French finally had to step up that he acquiesced to get involved in Libya. He is naturally being called a wimp by the ever hawkish Republicans who’s avowed goal is to reassert American dominance around the world in order to “protect American interests,” which means oil and shipping lanes, etc, and to bring gas prices back to “$2 a gallon.”

The question for the rest of America, as problems at home escalate as they most certainly will, is what to do about the Rwandas of the world. If we continue to maintain our gargantuan global military complex, at a cost of $700 billion a year, it will be hard to justify sitting on our hardware while slaughter happens. But if we pull back and exit our absurd bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea, and stop making endless weaponry that has virtually nil practical use, we will become just another global citizen unable to exert our will whenever and wherever we want. It would mean the loss of “American exceptionalism” and having to learn how to play with the other kids. The answer is already clear and it’s just a matter of accepting the new reality.

why afghanistan is not vietnam

The similarities are hard to avoid, the United States sending it’s young men and women into a quagmire of a war with no way to achieve anything remotely resembling a victory. Worse still are the misleading assessments coming out of the White House that try to tell us all that things are going swimmingly when just about everyone can plainly see that this is not true. It’s all too easy to think that Barack Obama has been consumed by the ghost of Lyndon Johnson and steadfastly refuses to be a president who loses a war. The media, of course, loves to play history games, and this one is an easy fit. But in fact it’s not.

The prevailing truth about the Vietnam War is that it was a folly to get into, a mess from start to finish, and the result was inevitable from the beginning. From the very day that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed in August of 1964, which allowed President Johnson to begin his ill-fated troop escalation, the end was already clear. With no credible South Vietnamese government, and no popular support for one, Saigon was destined to fall the minute the Americans got tired and gave up. Unlike Korea, which did partition successfully…sort of…that was never a serious potential outcome for Vietnam. When the dust finally settled it was destined to become a united socialist republic of some stripe. But equally important was the reality that “the domino effect” that so worried consecutive White Houses from Truman on, turned out to be a ridiculous idea. The Americans left, Saigon fell amidst a dark wave of cruel retribution, Cambodia had it’s grisly problems, but in the end there was almost no serious geopolitical fallout from the U.S. withdrawal other than to egos in Washington and the Pentagon. Both Vietnam and Cambodia were poor countries with little global or tactical significance.

The prospect of hurt pride or damaged ego, however, is not all that is facing President Obama. While much is made of his being a “post-Vietnam” baby, as though that might make him less able to understand the lessons from that era, he is a very prudent and thoughtful man indeed. While Afghanistan too is a poor and largely powerless country, unlike Vietnam, it has never been the focus of the current efforts in the region. While we often hear lip service paid to the prospects for “democracy” and Afghan girls and women, nobody seriously thinks that nation building is possible there. As in South Vietnam, what passes for a government is nothing but a thoroughly inept and corrupt regime with little popular backing. If Vietnam was about a ridiculous notion of stemming the spread of “communism,” anyone who seriously holds out any hope of using the military to change the face of Islam in the region is equally ludicrous.

But this is not about Islam or the Afghans. It is about a nuclear armed Pakistan teetering on a knife’s edge. Regardless of the wisdom of sending troops there in the first place, and the role those troops have played in undermining Pakistan’s stability in the first place, now that the Americans are there they are stuck like the proverbial Dutch boy with his thumb in a hole in the dike. The Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who owes his office to the death of his wife, is a witless buffoon of astonishing proportions whose most celebrated occupation is his unsavory focus upon young Pakistani women. It’s hard to imagine worse place holding partners than Zadari and Karzai in what is increasingly looking like an impeding crisis of the sort human kind had never before faced- a coup d’etat in a nuclear state.

Whether or not this is a problem of our own creating, from the ill-advised, British backed creation of the “Muslim state” to recent military expeditions and drone attacks, America and the rest of the Western world has more to worry about in Pakistan than we ever faced during the “Cold War.” Like all theocracies, Pakistan has always been a magnet for extremists and true believers, the very sort who find religious motivation for decidedly unreligious acts, from suicide bombing to the covert proliferation of nuclear materials to al Queda cells to a potential nuclear first strike assault. With the Zadari government holding on by a thread, and a military and secret service/police force notoriously riddled with Islamic extremists (the notorious ISI who fostered and nurtured the Taliban’s ascension in Afghanistan in the first place), our presence is now about preparing for an almost unthinkable task- the overthrow and occupation of a nuclear state.

In Vietnam, the worst we ever had to fear, beyond the needless death of almost 60,000 American servicemen and women, and the slaughter of the Vietnamese allies we abandoned, was hurt national pride. That is not at all analogous with what we face today. Forget about all the yammering about the corrupt Karzai government and the night raids in Kandahar, now that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a key Zadari coalition partner, has abandoned his government and joined the opposition, focus your eyes and ears upon Islamabad. The fortunes of that city, and not Kabul, are what this horrendous mess is all about.

Understanding a Tea Partier (Really…)

For anyone really interested in understanding, or at least really trying to understand, some of the Tea Party folks, the video interview below is a really good one. It was done by the website, and the guys who made it have a good laugh at what this woman had to say. Rather than unpacking her comments and trying to understand where she was coming from, instead they only come off like self-righteous, yuck yuck jerks. But if you really listen to her, she’s not a nut or a crazy. She doesn’t always make sense as you’ll see if you take a few moments to check it out. But if you do, bear in mind that it’s a lot harder to do a spontaneous, on camera interview for folks like her who are not experienced than you may think. Words don’t always come out right and trains of thought can get jumbled. But let’s look at what she actually said.

To the question “When did America lose her honor,” she replied “a very long time ago…but I was sleeping…and not paying attention.” Depending upon what your definition of “honor” is, and whether or not it’s “lost,” she nails the larger point exactly. All of our current problems- 100% of them- have been many years, decades, in the making (Bill Clinton sowed the seeds of our Wall Street Meltdown, for example). She says that she didn’t notice because her life “keep rolling along,” and this is true of almost all of us. As citizens the vast, vast majority of us all basically tuned out and ignored what was going on around us, from the banks to corporate corruption to dodgy mortgages to jobs being exported and all the rest. Instead we focused on bigger cars and newer gadgets and leaned ever harder on our own credit cards. As citizens we not only let the swine run the trough, we kept our own snouts in it too, and now we’re getting the bill and it’s shocking. Ben Franklin would be ashamed of us and rightly so.

To the question “What woke you up?” her answer is of the sort that sends the MSNBC crowd howling- “Reverend Wright.” She says that she can’t be convinced that President Obama did not go to Wright’s church for all that time without buying into Wright’s “God Damn America” philosophy. This single idea is not unreasonable. Any political candidate who sat in Jerry Falwell’s church for twenty years should be held accountable for that church too. The reality is that Obama rarely went to that church and probably didn’t pay much attention to what was going on there, which is something he no doubt regrets now. He almost certainly only joined that church because it was a political powerhouse and without Wright it’s unlikely that any of us would know Obama’s name today. He wasn’t exactly seeking out the Good News.

But next, in what seems at first to be a thoughtless contradiction, she claims that Obama is really a secret Muslim, which for many people is the turn off switch for listening to her. But if you really do listen to her, you find that she is not “a hater.” She even goes so far as to say that if he were a Muslim that would be fine as long as he were just open about it (It’s unlikely that she actually means this even saying it shows that she is not just bitter and nasty). The smug interviewer makes great hay from the contradiction between Obama being a “Wright follower” and a “secret Muslim,” but if you take a moment and think about it you can see what this woman is really trying to say.

Without knowing what her own religious views are, though if she was at Beck’s rally it’s highly likely she considers herself “a Christian,” it shouldn’t actually be that surprising that she conflates the radical Reverend Wright with radical Islam. What she hears from both sounds like anti-American demagoguery- from “God Damn America” to “America is the great Satan,” and all the rest of it. For her and so many like her, neither Wright nor Obama espouses what at least a solid quarter of this country, if not more, considers “Christianity,” Wright, because he is clearly an extreme radical, and Obama simply because he doesn’t say anything about Jesus or faith at all beyond the standard presidential boilerplate. Obama does not go to church, any church, and is never seen with a prayer book, singing a hymn or anything else. Unlike Clinton, he doesn’t even try to bullshit it.

What is at the heart of this woman’s words is confusion and fear and we should all relate to that. While we can argue that hows and whys, she is not wrong that the country is in serious and deep trouble. She is right to be scared and it’s to her credit that she has gotten up off the couch to do something about it even if it’s only going to a rally. What is troubling, however, is that like so many of her cohorts she is conflating our economic mess with increasing ethnic diversity and acceptance. That hard times divide people is an all too common theme throughout History across the globe but the reality is that the argument that our diversity makes us stronger does not resonate with people like this woman who are losing their financial power because it’s just not true for her in her world- which she shares with more and more Americans every day. She doesn’t see the top notch heart surgeons, the scientists and inner-city cops of all difference backgrounds and religions. Instead, “diversity” for her has become a code word for “illegal immigrants” and “welfare queens” and people who will sue her if she says the wrong thing. Like a lot of Americans who would never use “the N word” in their own lives she may well resent being told that she can’t use it if she wants to keep her job. Like all of us, she is looking for someone to lead us out of this mess, or at least make a good show of trying.

Clearly at the top of the list of Obama’s biggest mistakes was not to wear a love for Jesus, old school, on his sleeve. His skin color aside, had he done this- bullshitted it as he would have no doubt had to- he would not be facing anywhere near this level of malevolence. During the campaign he was aware, and even lowered himself to so porcine and grubbing a figure as Rick Warren in order to get some Jesus cred. But it was a one night stand and Warren’s Hawaiian shirt, cheese on toothpicks, self-help book brand of Jesus hucksterism was not what people in Middle and Southern America recognize as authentic anyway. It is ever his opaqueness, his seeming lack of a core, that bedevils his relationship with the American people and will almost assuredly result in a one term presidency. It is this opacity that makes so many feel leaderless and adrift at best and highly suspicious at worst. It the vacuum of this opacity that is so easily filled with all of this conspiracy horseshit and thus far Obama has been Dukakis-like in his inability to counter it.

So, yes, the woman in this video makes some confusing statements and the “secret Muslim” stuff is clearly not rooting in anything resembling the truth. But she is not stupid and she is not crazy, and most of all, she is not sitting on her ass. She says: “I think we are truly a divided country, I think that both parties are corrupt, and that each of us has a responsibility to ourselves, our children and this country’s future to pay attention.” She certainly has got that right!

When anger reaches for stupid

People in America are pissed off, no doubt about it. And rightly so. The America we thought we knew feels like it’s falling apart- and that means all of us not just those who can’t abide a black president. From the run away deficit to Katrina to the bank meltdown to the oil slick filling up the Gulf of Mexico, corruption seems rampant and nobody seems to be able to do anything right anymore. None of us are happy, save a handful of bankers, and few are optimistic about the future. But forget the politics, let’s just talk about good ol’ downright stupid for a moment- and the problem stupid presents for us all.

Is anyone really surprised to find out that Wall Street firms were engaged in shady deals that reaped billions of dollars? No, of course not, but when the average American feels his own pants getting pulled down, he gets upset and grabs a pitchfork and a torch. The reality is simply that our most sacred political agreement has been breached. The age old American axiom- that we don’t really care if government is a grab bag for cronies and corporate interests who line their pockets as long as we, the average American, can hang on to enough of what we earn to live at a basic level of security and consumer comfort. The great problem with a pissed off public is that, untrained as they are in how things really work, they cannot navigate the complexities of solutions and are lead by those who simply call for hanging and burning. That is where we are today and the great problem is that those voices of leadership are, for lack of a better word, stupid.

In one of her speeches during the 2008 campaign, Sarah Palin scoffed at wasteful government spending projects like research into fruit flies. As most anyone who took High School Biology should know, and as anyone in the science field will tell you, fruit flies are one of the most valuable subjects for scientific research available because their life cycle is so fast. They are heavily used in genetics research among other things. It was a really stupid thing to say and what’s more damning than just her saying it is that no one on her staff apparently had any clue either. Even if you excuse Ms. Palin for not knowing this herself, as a potential president, she should at the very least have someone around her who does have a clue. But she is stupid surrounded by uniformed.

But the rightly oft-ridiculed Ms. Palin is not alone. Last week Rush Limbaugh told his radio audiences that the oil pumping out into the ocean was not really that big a deal because, like the ocean itself, oil is part of the natural world and nature would absorb it. As Bill Maher noted, mercury is also part of the natural world but you don’t put it in your Cheerios. Crude oil, of course, is not found in the ocean and nature has gone to great lengths to keep them separated. It was an amazingly stupid thing to say and shows just how lacking in basic education Mr. Limbaugh also is.

Remember Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal? He was the Great Brown Hope for the Republican Party for a few minutes until he sashayed into a video performance like a stylist during Fashion Week. Homophobia aside, while the less than macho aura was problem enough for the Republicans, Mr. Jindal also, in that same speech, railed against $140 million for something called “volcano monitoring.” “Instead of monitoring volcanoes,” he opined, “what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington.” This comment was worse than either Palin or Limbaugh’s because, ignorant of basic science as those two are, coming from the very state where poor planning created the most notorious disaster this century, you’d think he’d be among the last to ridicule disaster planning. It was a stupid thing to say.

And then there is the increasingly pathetic specter of John McCain as he ransoms his dignity in the face of a challenge to his senate seat from a Neanderthal who can do nothing but mimic. Never known to be a towering intellect, the 2008 presidential campaign revealed an intemperate, scatterbrained airhead with an appalling sense of judgment. This was a person who, with no understanding of the history and dynamics between Russia and its former state Georgia, nevertheless when a conflict broke out rashly proclaimed that American’s “were all Georgians now.” When it turned out that the Georgians themselves initiated the conflict to try to manipulate NATO countries, McCain looked…well, stupid. But there is a pattern here. He made a great show of “suspending” his campaign to return to Washington as the financial crisis unfolded only to sit slumped in a chair with the dumbfounded look of a student facing a test he had no clue about.According to the book Game Change, rather than getting a briefing on the drive from the airport to a meeting at the White House, he instead talked on the phone for an hour about dinner plans and then turn to his briefer at the last minute as he was getting out of the car and asked “what do I kneed to know?”

What ties all of these dimwits together is not conservative or right wing politics. What they all share is the idea that political success is simple and that it’s tied to nostalgia. They think the way to get people’s votes and to win elections is by promising to take them back to the good ol’ days when life too was simple. That is the really stupid idea, because there is never any going back televisions with four channels and dial telephones. The naked reality is that human existence is far more complicated, for good and not so good and that going forward will be difficult but it will also be complex as all progress invariably is. Following pissed off simpletons and hotheads waving pitchforks and torches who don’t understand science ain’t gonna lead any of us back to the past, mythical or otherwise. New Orleans will never be the same and the millions of Spanish speaking immigrants ain’t going anywhere. Our days of being the big, bully, “exceptional American” pig around the world also need to be over if we are going to survive. We are all going to have to learn to live on, and with, less.

It’s understandable that the realities of today’s world, and our diminishing place in it, will cause grief for many Americans who used to view the world as two camps- fellow Americans and those who wish they were. The world is equalizing whether we like it or not and the sooner we all move on from the anger and denial stage towards the bargaining and accepting stages the better it will be for all of us, and more importantly for our children. Stupid won’t get us there and the longer we listen to stupid the harder it will be for all of us.

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Who’s the Real Idiot?

For all of the jokes and snickering about Sarah Palin and her lack of knowledge about politics and policy, consider this. Girl is getting paid and in a major, major way. For her 45 minute appearance at tonight’s “Tea Party Convention” she will drop a check for $125,000 into her back account. That’s more than she made in a year as governor of Alaska. With an entry fee of over $500, however, the event will be light on those who are actually supposed to constitute the whole “tea bag” movement, the regular Joes and Janes who drive their flag adorned camper vans filled with “Obama the African Lyin’ King” posters from protest event to protest event. Instead it’s a conference for high rollers who want to associate themselves with the movement people who won’t actually be present, let alone represented. It will be like calling an event a black empowerment conference and hiring Jesse Jackson to address a room full of rich white people who want to look like they care. But girl is getting paid and in a major, major way.

Then consider her book. It was written to sell to all those folks in the camper vans and their ilk who consider her a leader and want to hear what she has to say- or rather want to hear her say what they want to say and are sure she wants to say too. But, given her notorious inexperience with the written word, she had Lynn Vincent, a features writer for the uber-conservative World Magazine, write it for her. We can’t know what Vincent’s deal with Palin was, but we can bet pretty safely that it’s a paltry percentage of Palin’s reported $7 million haul.

Lastly, consider her gig at Fox News for which she’s clearly also getting a very fat paycheck. Fox and company are probably smart enough to know that Palin’s value is in direct correlation to her scarcity. The more she’s on the screen, the less valuable she’ll become and they must know that it’s only a matter of time before she’ll say something mind blowingly stupid that will blow her whole deal. Fox’s answer to Rachel Maddow she is clearly not, but she obviously knows this and has zero interest in wading through policy details or masterbating into a microphone for three hours like her pal Limbaugh.

But perhaps she and her snowmobile husband have figured all this out too? Perhaps, after having been through it once and being a national laughingstock, they have zero interest in running for a public office again. Perhaps they know the smart play is to cash in as much as possible while she’s hot enough to command these big checks and before she is relegated, as she most surely will be, to the Ross Perot/Monica Lewinsky pantheon of “used to be’s.” Until then, girl is going to get paid and in a major, major way.

So who’s the real idiot here?