Conciliation

Today we read:

Job spoke, saying: “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of a hireling?
He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been told off for me.
If in bed I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.”

And then:

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
sing praise to our God, for he is gracious;
it is fitting to praise him.
The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
the dispersed of Israel he gathers.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He tells the number of the stars;
He calls each by name.

Great is our LORD and mighty in power:
to his wisdom there is no limit.
The LORD sustains the lowly;
the wicked he casts to the ground.

And this is my experience of God in a nutshell recently. Alone I feel absence only. Frustration at my own sinfulness and in that an unwillingness to change or to move towards what I know, reconciliation and conciliation. And then in the very moment, in the forced and almost hollow feeling sacrament of confession, Job washes away and the Psalmist’s words are revealed.

 

All Hail the Blorg

A very interesting take on religion and psychology. The real question is whether or not a generation of adults would consent to what is an admitted ruse, and how faith could be retained in light of this being a likely documented and intentional ruse.

“I think that we should seriously prepare and equip the future Martian astronauts with an appropriate system that enables coping with stress and fear,” says Szocki. “Unfortunately, NASA and others think of Mars colonies in terms of nuts and bolts.”

He stresses that we must consider the mental and spiritual well-being of future humans in addition to providing for them physically. “However, as long as we are human beings, not robots, we should care for our emotions and psyche. It is not doubt that religious stories — of course, for believers — are much much more efficient in providing sense and hope than science, technology, or philosophy.”

–Sarah Sloat @ Inverse Science

 

Never Understood This Myself

Why are we surprised to see this new holy Russia extend its protecting arm over the Christian-backed Ba’athist regime in Syria? Russian regimes have been staking a claim to guard that region’s Christians for 250 years.
-Philip Jenkins on CT

I am no huge fan of Russian imperialism, but I really don’t understand evangelical reactions to the Middle East and most foreign affairs. They always go for whatever is most damaging to local Christians.

Obama’s War in Iraq Could Soon Spread to Iran And nothing—not Russia., not the UN, not common sense—can stop him

The New Republic has a laughable piece on Russia’s intervention in Crimea and the evil, evil Putin. Not that I support Russia, I’m rather on the side of any non violent group and Ukraine seems largely of that sort. But the evil behavior the author so deplores is so much more present in the US than in Putin. Yes, they invaded Georgia. And left. We’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan after how many years?

Anyway, here is the article rewritten to talk about the US and the “Arab” Spring.

Obama has asked the Senate—the upper chamber of the USA’s dummy congress—to authorize the use of force not just in Crimea, but “on Ukraine’s territory until the socio-political situation is normalized.” And though Russian Spies and Russia Today categorically ruled this out just days ago, this was not entirely unexpected. The situation is changing rapidly, but here are some initial thoughts.

Why is Obama doing this? Because he can. That’s it, that’s all you need to know. The situation in Syria—in which people representing one sect in the country are attempting to wrest power from other Muslim sects, secularists and Christians—created the perfect opportunity for the US to divide and conquer. As soon as the revolution in Syria happened, there was an unhappy rumbling in the USA, which has vested oil interests in the region and a seeming desire for political instability throughout the region. It was a small rumbling, but just big enough for Obama to exploit. And when such an opportunity presents itself, one would be foolish not to take it, especially if one happens to be president of the United States.

 

We didn’t think Obama would do this. Why, exactly? This has often puzzled me about rationale analysis of the USA. It is often predicated wholly on logic: surely, the US won’t invade [Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, whoever’s next] because war is costly and the US economy isn’t doing well and surely Obama doesn’t want another hit to an already weak dollar; because the US doesn’t need to conquer Syria if Syria is going to have a revolution on its own; the US will not want to risk the geopolitical isolation, and “whats really in it for the USA”—stop. The US, or, more accurately, their various presidents, sees the world according to their own logic, and the logic goes like this: it is better to be feared than loved, it is better to be overly strong than to risk appearing weak, and the USA was, is, and will be an empire with an eternal appetite for expansion. And it will gather whatever spurious reasons it needs to insulate itself territorially from what it still perceives to be a large and growing “terrorists/Chinese/Russia/everyone-else” threat. Trying to harness the USA with our own logic just makes us miss their next steps.

Pessimism always wins. One of the reasons I left my correspondent’s post in Washington was because the US, despite all the foam on the water, is ultimately a very boring place. Unfortunately, all you really need to do to seem clairvoyant about the place is to be an utter pessimist. Will the corporate interests allow the ostensibly liberal Green or Libertarian parties have a chance of taking office? Not a chance. There are protests in the streets of New York and LA. Will they send the police to crackdown? Yup. There’s rumbling in the Middle East, will Obama take advantage and take the Arabian peninsula? You betcha. And you know why being a pessimist is the best way to predict outcomes in the US? Because Obama and those around him are, fundamentally, terminal pessimists. They truly believe that there is an world wide conspiracy afoot to topple the US regime, that US liberals and libertarians are traitors corrupted by and loyal to the terrorists, they truly believe that, should free and fair elections be held in the US, their countrymen would elect half-decent people, rather than corporate dogs. To a large extent, Obama really believes that he is the one man standing between the US and the yawning void. Putin’s White House is dark and scary, and, ultimately, very boring.

Remember the U.N.? America loves the U.N. Anytime the Russia or China want to do anything on the world stage, the US pipes up, demanding the issue be taken to the U.N. for the inevitable US veto. As anyone can see America does not seem to even remember that the institution exists today. Ditto for all that talk of “political solutions” and “diplomatic solutions” and “dialogue” we heard about in Georgia/Ukraine. In other words, what we are seeing today—the USA’s unilateral declaration of war—is the clearest statement yet of the USA’s actual position: Obama empathizes with various dictators around the world (Notably in Saudi Arabia where women are beating for driving, rape is always the woman’s fault, and slavery of Christians rampant) as a fellow leader holding his country back from the brink and doing the dirty work that needs to be done to accomplish that, and the U.N. is just a convenient mechanism for keeping nay-sayers with large armies at bay.

As I wrote earlier this month,the USA, like the Russia, projects its own mindset onto the rest of the world. So when you hear Obama and his foreign minister John Kerry and the talking heads on CNN crowing about Russian cynicism and machinations, well, keep in mind whom they’re really talking about. 

Speaking of Russia. Today’s meeting of the Senate was an incredible sight to behold. Man after Soviet-looking man mounted the podium to deliver a short diatribe against…you name it. Against Russian fascism, against Assad, and, most of all, against Iran. One would think that it wasn’t the legitimate secular government of Syria engaged in civil war—which, lordy lord, if we’re going to get ethnic, lets recall that this whole thing is a result of Western colonialism mashing together antagonistic groups—but Hitler. The vice speaker of the Senate even demanded recalling the US ambassador to Syria. Iran was amazingly, fantastically behind events in Syria and proved utterly inept at influencing them, and yet none of that seemed to matter. Russia and Iran, the old foe and new foe, were everywhere, their fat fingers in every Middle Eastern pie. Watching the Senate, where few of the speakers seemed to be under the age of 60, I couldn’t escape the feeling that this was an opportunity for the USA not just to take back some land it’s long considered its rightful own, but to settle all scores and to tie up all loose ends. You know, while they’re at it.

Double standards. This is another howl you often hear rending the skies over Washington: Russian double standards. But let’s get real for a second. We’ve spoken already about the U.N., but what about the holy American mantra of non-interference in a nation’s internal affairs? When it comes to the Ukraine, to take a most recent example, the fight between Assad and the rebels is something only the Ukrainians can sort out. Ditto every other country in the world—unless it’s anywhere the US considers a part of its corporate backyard, where America still experiences phantom limb syndrome. The internal issues of former colonies and puppet nations, you see, are not truly internal issues of sovereign nations. This is because, by America’s very conscious design and very deliberate border drawing and population movement, most former Western colonies are ethnic hodgepodges. So Syria has sizable populations of various Muslim sects that hate each other. Ditto Iraq, ditto Afghanistan, ditto all the Middle East. And, according to the US’s unspoken doctrine, anywhere US corporations are determined to be at risk, Uncle Sam can intercede with force on their behalf.

In other, blunter words, American corporate interests trump national sovereignty. At the very least, they provide a convenient pretext for US sponsored regime change, as they did in Iraq and Lybia, where the US was also ostensibly protecting “democracy”—also newly minted for the occasion.

The US manufactured this crisis to create a pretext to give corporate shills bonuses. There are now protests swinging the flag of “democracy” and pretending to support America not just in Syria  a but all over the Middle East. Just a few years Syria and other Arab spring nations were calmer than calm. There was little more than the usual hubbub. A muckety-muck in the city’s administration told me, “If they send new people in to replace us, we’ll leave peacefully, we won’t try to hang on.” The same was the case in Lybia. And then, out of nowhere, men with unmarked uniforms were taking over government buildings and airports, and huge demonstrations were pumping on town squares all over the regions. The White House often refers to “a well-organized informational war” when their enemies broadcast something they don’t like on repeat. And now, looking at the alarmist, blanket coverage on US television—now all loyal to the corporate interests that spawned them—about the evils of Assad and the literally heart-eating, Al Qaeda freedom fighters staging a revolution in Syria it’s hard to think of a better term. This was indeed a well-organized informational war. 

Neither Russia nor the UN or common sense can stop this. They’ve shown they won’t in Iraq, because nobody wants to start a war with nuclear-armed America, and rightly so. So while Moscow and Brussels huff and puff about lines and sovereignty and diplomacy, the US will do what it needs to do and there’s not a thing we can do about it.

America’s next target is Iran. Because pessimism conquers all, don’t bet that Obama is going to stop once he wrests Syria from Iran’s orbit. Oil rich Iran is looking pretty good right now. And if you’re thinking “Why would Obama take Iran?,” well, you haven’t been reading very carefully.

Late to the Party

And I don’t really care that much about the Trayvon Martin case. (I wonder if there is some sort of bias revealed by describing the case with the name of the victim or the name of the defendant: I’ve seen both.) But since so many people do, my daily reading has included some interesting posts on this topic.

One of the things that I think is most disturbing about this whole case is the outcry for further prosecution and even some inferring that prosecutor needs more power to prosecute. There are a lot of people upset about this case, and understandably so. What is to my mind perfectly clear is that Zimmerman should never have left his car or confronted Trayvon. That he did may or may not have been racially motivated. But the fact is that there is most certainly reasonable doubt about the crime and that we, and especially minorities, should be glad that Zimmerman was acquitted. I’ll let the Economist explain this better than I would:

However, on the whole, our criminal-justice system is so frightfully racist because it’s too easy for prosecutors, not because it’s too hard. Of course, in a racist society, rules that help defendants are going to help the most privileged defendants the most, and that’s maddening. But that shouldn’t stop us from recognising that the least privileged, the most oppressed, the most discriminated against, are far and away most likely to stand accused. That’s why I suspect that a legal system making it harder for the likes of Mr Zimmerman to get away with it would be a system of even more outrageous racial inequity.

I think Zimmerman was wrong. A murderer? Possibly, but I’d think no. Irrelevant though, he killed someone, and used what certainly seems to be excessive force. But the one fact that is certain is that the facts themselves are blurry. And the fact that we are clamoring to make it easier to prosecute should be especially scary to anyone who is already likely to be unfairly convicted. While it’s hard to think so when a guilty man goes free, all of us would if we found ourselves in such a spot prefer that the guilty go free than the innocent go to prison.

Should we make it easier to convict people of crimes in order to reduce injustice against the weak? How foolish. The weak already suffer because it is too easy to convict — because we love to pass criminal laws, but hate to pay for an adequate defense. Thanks to “law and order” and the War on Drugs and our puerile willingness to be terrified by politicians and the media, one-sixth of African-American men like Trayvon Martin have been in prison, trending towards one-third. […]

It’s tragic that Trayvon Martin was killed, and I believe that George Zimmerman bears moral responsibility for his death. The banners of racism that have unfurled in defense of Zimmerman repulse me. I would be damn worried about my kids if I lived in George Zimmerman’s neighborhood.

But ultimately I am more afraid of the state — and more afraid of a society that thinks case outcomes should depend upon collective social judgment — than I am of the George Zimmermans of the world. Critics might say that view reflects privilege, in that as an affluent white guy I am far less likely to be shot by someone like Zimmerman. Perhaps. But I am also vastly less likely to be jailed, or be the target of law enforcement abuse tolerated by social consensus.

Weakening the rights of the accused — clamoring for the conviction of those we feel should be convicted — is a damnfool way to help the oppressed.
Popehat

The one thing that is correct in all of this is that there is institutional racism, and it is ridiculous, absurd and wrong. The one thing that is definitely wrong is to think the solution is to make it more likely that Zimmermans of the future get convicted. Instead, we should make it less likely minorities are treated unfairly.

And finally this article from TheDailyBeast:

“Black-on-black crime” has been part of the American lexicon for decades, but as a specific phenomenon, it’s no more real than “white-on-white crime.” Unlike the latter, however, the idea of “black-on-black crime” taps into specific fears around black masculinity and black criminality—the same fears that, in Florida, led George Zimmerman to focus his attention on Trayvon Martin, and in New York, continue to justify Michael Bloomberg’s campaign of police harassment against young black men in New York City.

And this is spot on as far as it goes in highlighting some of our racist assumptions in these crimes. But I think it does not quite respond to one concern that is voiced when people argue these sorts of things. And that is that the media is far less likely to cover “black-on-black” crime. Crime within minority communities is ignored compared to crime in privileged ones. In fact, pretty much the only time you read about a minority person being killed is when it is by a white person. And that is racist; not against whites but minorities. Because we treat minority crimes as inconsequential compared to those that happen in our sheltered burbs.

News Flash: He’s Just Lying

This week Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a June 21 letter in which he apologized for his “clearly erroneous” answer to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) about mass data collection by the National Security Agency. This represents Clapper’s third explanation for his failure to tell the truth, and for all I know he is coming up with a fourth even as I write. He might be better off if he picked one and stuck with it.

 

There’s nothing noble about it either. As has been pointed out numerous times, terrorists are not foolish enough to use companies like Google, Microsoft, ect. for communication: there are plenty of easy enough ways for them to communicate clandestinely. And their spurious claims of having stopped numerous terrorists attacks via this program, which they can’t tell us anything about though because it might reveal the way these plots were stopped. Except, if it was PRISM that stopped them, we already know how they were stopped. But don’t think of that, or the the governments past tendency to flaunt every success as a reason for expanded intrusions and justification of prior erosions of your rights, even when (as is often the case) it turns out that it was the government behind the very plot. Don’t think either of how the program is not meant to spy on US citizens-it’s completely accidental-but they still store every single bit of data they collect on you. Nor how, even if PRISM hypothetically weren’t directed at you, the Verizon, ATT, and Sprint collections are, as is the collection of every single piece of USPS mail.