Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Peggy Noonan Braces For Next Emotional Breakdown

Posted in Barack Obama, Bush, politics, torture by allisonkilkenny on April 25, 2009

john_wayne_toughThe American media has a shockingly short attention span and is prone to bouts of hysteria. Just as September 11th was a game changer that was the Event to Change All Events, so the media tells us that the economic downturn is the new Event to Change All Events. These are unprecedented times. The law must be cast aside in the name of our collective panic attack. Torture be damned! There’s no time for rules! 

We’ve been here before. We even have the same cheerleaders leading the frenzy. I wish I could dismiss people like Peggy Noonan as a silly blogger, but unfortunately she’s considered a “serious” political expert who frequently makes the rounds on Sunday morning panels. So her words are fair game for analysis. Here we go!

Peggy Noonan is a terrible columnist whose first response to tragic events is to rip open her shirt and throw herself at burly men who claim to have a “plan.” When there’s the slightest hint of an impending conflict, Noons practically shouts that she wants a penis inside of her. During the critical weeks after 9/11, she freely expressed her longing for John Wayne because he fits her image of one of those “burly men,” even though Wayne was a draft-dodging, woman-abusing drug addict. 

Now, the Noons chastises Democrats for not thinking critically enough, and falling victim to the “Leader Knows Best” syndrome under Obama’s reign. Fair enough, but Peggy Noonan can’t seriously be lecturing from a pedestal. This is the woman, who just said we shouldn’t investigate into possible war crimes because “some of life has to be mysterious,” and it’s important to “just keep walking.”

Noons opens her column citing the agenda-setter, Matt Drudge, who has sarcastically labeled Obama’s First One Hundred Days, the “Best President Ever Campaign,” something Noons describes being (my emphasis) “marked by an abandonment of critical thinking among otherwise thoughtful men and women who comprise, roughly speaking, the grown-ups of journalism, the old hands of the MSM who have been through many presidents and should know better.”

Sometimes, I wonder how Peggy Noonan doesn’t experience constant brain aneurisms from all of the cognitive dissonance rattling around in her head. Yes, Noons. We need critical thinking. We need investigations into the Bush torture memos. Bush officials need to be held accountable. We can’t just “keep walking.” You’re one of the grown-ups you’re writing about. Except, you’ve regressed to a childlike state (again,) and you’re trembling behind poppy’s legs. Grow up.

Suddenly, the Bush apologist is summarizing those glorious years of Bushie’s war as something that “angered major allies. For seven years there was constant agitation, and the world was allowed to make a caricature of U.S. leadership.” But wait, I thought the Noons loved caricatures. At least, she did in the wake of 9/11. She masturbates writes:

I missed John Wayne.

But now I think . . . he’s back. I think he returned on Sept. 11. I think he ran up the stairs, threw the kid over his back like a sack of potatoes, came back down and shoveled rubble. I think he’s in Afghanistan now, saying, with his slow swagger and simmering silence, “Yer in a whole lotta trouble now, Osama-boy.”

Make sure John doesn’t crack you across the face during one of his drunken stupors, Noons. You wouldn’t believe how fast the romance of saving you from a fictional burning building wears off. Now, Noons performs mental gymnastics to explain why we need critical thinking, but we mustn’t stir up too much trouble will any silly investigations. 

A problem with the release of the [torture memos] is that it opens the way—it probably forces the way—to congressional hearings, or a commission, or an independent prosecutor. It is hard at this point to imagine that what will follow will not prove destructive to—old-fashioned phrase coming—the good of the country.

Here we stare into the eyes of the beast. Yes, Noons. This very well could lead to independent prosecutions, and all kinds of truth-telling, and it could besmirch the names of men you’ve been shamelessly defending for close to a decade. And wouldn’t that be terrible for the country you?

It’s time all parties grow up and pay penance.

Noonology

Posted in Barack Obama, media, politics by allisonkilkenny on April 24, 2009

“Some things in life need to be mysterious,” Peggy Noonan explained. Americans needed the Noon’s guidance. You see, the unenlightened herd needs political elites to explain complicated and seemingly contradictory lessons in morality. Why is it okay if America tortures? Didn’t we sign that Geneva Conventions thingy? 

Nevermind. Aunt Peggy is here to explain away the bad thoughts. “Sometimes you need to just keep walking.” Indeed. 

Roger Cohen agrees, and as usual, wrote a succinct summation that would have made Hemingway blush at his own rambling oeuvre: “In a thicket of words lies plausible deniability when the time for horror’s accounting arrives.” Cohen translates a few paragraphs down: “I’m wary of the clamor for retribution.” Oh.

Senate Democratic leaders, teaming with the Obama White House, rushed to support the study of Noonology, and said they would resist efforts to investigate the harsh interrogation methods used on detainees. (Emphasis mine).

Mr. Reid, who repeatedly denounced the use of harsh interrogation techniques when Mr. Bush was president, suggested that naming a special panel would signal an intent to exact “retribution” and he sought to paper over the disagreement with members of his own caucus, like Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, who want a commission.

Apparently, upholding the law is now a fringe issue. Those on the “hard left ” want accountability, and the serious beltway “journalists” want to “keep walking” away from “retribution” so as to maintain life’s sweet “mystery.”

Sweeping away the government’s crimes is no longer the behavior of apologist sycophants. It’s called Noonology, and now you can try it at home!

Got some unpaid parking tickets? Not a problem. You march right into your local courthouse, look that mean ole’ judge right in his beady eyes, and say, “I’m not paying these tickets! I’m moving forward!”

Just lost your job? Never fear! Go rob a convenient store. When the cops try to arrest you, explain they’re shattering life’s sweet mysteries by prosecuting you under the law.

Neighbor playing loud music? Shoot him!** If society, or “the man,” starts harassing you about murdering a human being, explain that retribution is pointless, and by trying to hold you accountable for your deeds, the cops are tearing at society’s very fabric.

Noonology (n): 

Main Entry: noon·o·lo·gy
Pronunciation: \ˈnün-ä-lə-jē\
Function: noun
Etymology: English, creation of a smartass blogger
Date: 2008
: the study of  juvenile, pathetically sycophantic individuals, who think the law was designed only for poor people, and it doesn’t apply to a corrupt oligarchy. 
peggynoonan1

** I’m kidding. You’ll totally go to jail because you don’t work for the government and so the law applies to you.

Media, Miseducation, and Mumia Abu Jamal

Posted in BTR, Citizen Radio, media, politics, prison by allisonkilkenny on April 22, 2009

Listen here: http://www.breakthruradio.com/index.php?show=6692.

Mumia Abu Jamal

Mumia Abu Jamal

After the Unfunny But Totally Real Headlines, Citizen Radio discusses Australia, the cursed liberal media, torture memos, miseducation, prison, and Mumia Abu Jamal.

What’s more gross than grown adults pleasuring themselves to the thought of the U.S. military? When the press does it! Citizen Radio discusses the mainstream media, and how they’re miseducating America.

Next, Jamie talks about dropping out of high school and Allison comments on Noam Chomsky’s “On Miseducation,” a book that explores how institutionalized education encourages ideological domestication.

Upcoming guests include: Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Janeane Garofalo, and Jeremy Scahill.

Citizen Radio aids every Wednesday on BTR. Listen to our archives here. Join us on Facebook!

A Little Torture

Posted in Barack Obama, law, politics, prison, torture, War on Drugs by allisonkilkenny on April 17, 2009

justice“There is no such thing as a little torture.” — Alfred M. McCoy, author of A Question of Torture

The Bush administration is really an impressive force of nature. Whenever I was absolutely certain that their dastardly deeds couldn’t possibly get any more nefarious, Dick Cheney shot a family friend in the face, or George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to invade another country. When they finally left office, I assumed they couldn’t harm America’s reputation ever again.

I was wrong. The Justice Department finally made the infamous memos that sanctioned torture public this week. The details are horrific. Not only are barbaric measures like “walling” (slamming a person into a wall,) and stress positions deemed acceptable by legal experts, but also more inventive interrogation methods like placing live bugs in a confinement box (and telling the prisoner they’ll sting him). 

Politicians repeatedly regurgitate the fairy tale that America is a Nation of Laws. Except, the laws get broken all the time, and the archetypes of anarchy usually aren’t held accountable. Barack Obama has sought to reassure CIA operates, who participated in torture, that they can use the same defense Nazis could not use during Nuremberg. Namely, that they were just “following orders.”

This doesn’t bode well for justice enthusiasts, who hoped that maybe (just maybe) the Big Guys would be help accountable this time. That maybe John Yoo, Douglas Feith, Jay Bybee, Dick Cheney, David Addington, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and William Haynes would have to stand before the American people and explain why they thought sanctioning torture was acceptable.

That maybe they would finally have to explain why a little torture was okay.

We are a nation of laws only if the people in charge get to benefit from the rulings. We are a nation of laws only up until Lynndie England, but justice stops short of Donald Rumsfeld. We are a nation of laws for thieves and crooks, but justice can’t touch Goldman Sachs CEOs. The hypocrisy is rampant. It infests every facet of the justice system, and has left us with a broken two-tier system of justice.

The debate over torture is frequently aimed at Guantanamo. However, the problem is also domestic, although the victims are still the unprivileged. While the United States is home to just five percent of the world’s population, it contains 25% of the world’s prisoners. More than one in 100 adults are in prison. Most of those prisoners aren’t homicidal sociopaths. They’re nonviolent drug offenders. America is the only western industrialized country to still use the death penalty, but apparently injecting someone will a chemical that paralyzes their organs doesn’t constitute torture, even though the Nazis used the same method. Those that live inside our prison-industrial complex experience a form of torture every day. Prisoners face the threat of rape and are more likely to contract H.I.V., hepatitis and tuberculosis. 

This kind of domestic torture is frequently overlooked because it’s the “right people” suffering. Bad guys. Bottom-tier justice types: poor people, immigrants, people of color. And after all, it’s only a little torture. Terrorists and criminals deserve whatever happens to them. Waterboarding doesn’t even count as torture! It’s just a light spritz in the face! (Of course, even Bush’s own legal team knew it was torture and expressed their concern in footnote form.)

This cartoonish, simplified scope of reality would be laughable had it not been the ideologies held by the Bush administration for eight years. Innocent people are accused of crimes all the time. That’s why our smart ancestors put in place that whole “justice system” in the first place. Ya’ know, that thing about being able to face one’s accusers and present evidence to defend one’s self.

If justice is to come to Guantanamo (and it should,) it must also come to the United State’s domestic prisons where draconian drug laws continue case overcrowding and strain stark resources, which then breeds inhumane conditions. If justice is to come to torture victims, it must mean than the archetypes of the torture memos will stand beside the CIA agents that carried out the orders.

The American two-tier justice system must end, and a good start would be for the Obama administration to recognize that a little torture is never okay, no matter who is doing it.

G. Gordon Liddy Hates Allison, and Other Fun Facts!

Posted in Barack Obama, BTR, Citizen Radio, politics by allisonkilkenny on April 15, 2009

Listen here: http://www.breakthruradio.com/index.php?show=6633.

Citizen Radio discusses Allison’s amazing encounter with former Nixon operative (and prison inmate,) G. Gordon Liddy.

G. Gordon Liddy: Not a fan of Allison.

Next, Allison and Jamie discuss the ongoing Somali pirate standoff, and why the mainstream media is only explaining half the story.

Hope Watch! continues this week with Citizen Radio listing the various Obama promises that our new president has already broken.

Upcoming guests:

* Glenn Greenwald
* Matt Taibbi
* Janeane Garofalo
* Jeremy Scahill

Tell your friends about Citizen Radio!

Join us on Facebook.

crlogo300x300

Citizen Radio is on BTR every Wednesday. Episodes are archived here.

Blowback Amnesia

Posted in politics by allisonkilkenny on April 15, 2009

It seems like only yesterday when Ron Paul was nearly guillotined on live television for suggesting that 9/11 was caused by this thing called “blowback.” It was 2007, and the Republicans were jockeying for the position of frontrunner during the national debate season. Rudy “9/11″ Guliani, never one to pass up reminding everyone of a national tragedy so we’ll forget what a horrible, little human being he really is, lept for Paul’s jugular. 

Some pirates operating off Somalia's coast claim to act as coastguards [GALLO/GETTY]Salivating, Rudy made a series of unchallenging commonplace remarks: “That’s really an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attacks of September 11th…” (Pause for awed silence…two…three…four) “..that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq.”

Of course, Paul was right. The attacks on September 11, 2001 were carried out by a group of 19 hijackers (15 of whom were Saudi Arabian), and Al-Qaeda clearly cited their principal grievances as:

1. America’s unwavering support of Israel.

2. America’s military presence in the Middle East, particularly near holy landmarks.

Instead of learning a valuable lesson from 9/11, America (led by its mainstream media, political hawks, and overinflated military) seems hellbent on inviting more cases of blowback. As Paul mentioned way back in 2007, America has built an embassy in Iraq that is bigger than the Vatican. But that probably won’t pissed anyone off. …Right?

Now, certain hawks, led by the ever vivacious John Bolton, are discussing a ground invasion into Somalia as retaliation for the kidnapping of Richard Phillips. Bolton wants to do this with – I shit you not – “a coalition of the willing.”

Can I pay someone to beat John Bolton with the 9/11 Commission Report?

“We need to look at what we do from the perspective if someone did it to us,” Ron Paul said that fateful night. This simplistically beautiful sentiment called the principle of universality often invites the sneering rebuttal: “So you’re saying we (or the victims) deserved this?” That was the question the moderator posed to Paul during the debate. 

Paul’s response: “I’m suggesting we listen to the people who attacked us.”

Surely, this is the only way to break the cycle of violence. If we refuse to listen to our enemies, then we don’t know their grievances, and we can never make amends. We’ve learned that bombing and bullying alone cannot build bridges between us. Iraq taught us this, and Afghanistan will teach us the same lesson.

Somalia waits to offer us the same lesson (yet again.) As anyone with even a basic understanding of history could have predicted, the killing of the three pirates may set off a domino effect of retaliations.Waiting to reenforce the message are a slew of angry Somali pirates, who vowed to avenge their fallen comrades. “This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it,” said Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, the commander of United States Naval Forces Central Command. The New Zealand Herald reports

Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, said: “Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying. We will retaliate [for] the killings of our men.” 

To put it another way: Blowback.

On Tuesday, armed pirates attacked an American cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden. The Times article concludes with a quote from John Wick, the director of International Security Solutions, a maritime security firm in London: “Somali pirates have typically not mistreated their captives.” Of course, now we’ve killed three of their guys. That may change their policy toward American hostages. Such is the danger of letting men eager to make war make our policy decisions.

My last piece, in which I sought to explain the causes of Somali piracy, inspired some colorful hate mail. Americans seem comfortable with the mainstream media’s cartoonish depiction of villainous pirates, and they aren’t interested in humanizing the three men who were just executed by Navy snipers. 

The media certainly isn’t helping to explain the Somali situation. Apart from Democracy Now, most newscasters and journalists seem comfortable with recycling the old explanation for these acts of aggression: terrorists hate out freedom, brown people are incapable of running a functioning state, etc.

Determined to repeat the same sick exercise that led the American citizenry, blind, into an illegal war, the mainstream media spent the day after the pirate executions drooling over the awesome awesomeness of the US military. Aren’t they great, everyone? Those bullets just pierce flesh so wonderfully!

Even the progressive messiah, Rachel Maddow, called the spectacle of the US Navy shakily standing-off against four poorly armed pirates “riveting.” Maddow further commented that the Navy-Somali standoff had Americans brushing up on their, “How freaking impressive are Navy Seals-ology?”  

(Really glad that 9PM slot on “liberal” MSNBC went to someone aggressively challenging America’s bloated military. Oh well, what can one expect when Ms. Maddow operates on a network owned by G.E., which manufactures some of the very weapons used by the navy?)

I explained in my original article that Somali pirates claim their motives stem from the West overfishing in their seas, and then dumping nuclear waste in their waters. Unable to sustain themselves with traditional modes of employment, they have turned to acts of piracy out of desperation. The nuclear waste dumping charges have been confirmed by the United Nations envoy for Somalia.

Though the mainstream newspapers have documented the Somali’s qualms with western powers, they have not gone the extra step to link these grievances with acts of piracy. Furthermore, most of the major network conversations about Somalia are worryingly moving toward a place of militarism. I always grow concerned when news networks break out their extra spiffy graphics during War Game time: showing Navy snipers shooting faceless bad guys, troop deployments in a “theoretic” ground invasion of Somalia, etc.

It reminds me of the lead-up to Iraq. The chatters starts to sound like war drums.

Everyone needs to take a deep breath. If Americans can collectively act like adults and think past the next thirty seconds, they’ll see that a ground invasion into Somalia is an awful idea. Another awful idea would be bombing Somalia’s coastline, which is roughly as long as the eastern seaboard of the United States. Imagine blanketing such a huge swath of land with bombs. Imagine how many innocent women, children, and young men will die. Yet another terrible, terrible idea would be to harass innocent fisherman and profile all citizens because of the acts of a minority of young men.

All of the above terrible, terrible, terrible ideas breed blowback. The opposite of these mind-numbingly stupid plans comes from addressing the Somalis’ grievances and offering them aid and support as they try to rebuild their country. Western states need to end their overfishing and the dumping of hazardous waste.

If America fails to understand the world’s grievances with its militaristic, imperialist agenda, then it is destined for decades (maybe centuries) of blowback. America must break this endless cycle of blowback if only to finally (please God) stop the pirate puns.

In Defense of Pirates

Posted in Citizen Radio, media, politics, terrorism by allisonkilkenny on April 10, 2009
Hazardous waste on Somalian shore (scidev.net)

Hazardous waste on Somalian shore (scidev.net)

If I’m to believe the mainstream press and pundits (most disappointingly, Rachel Maddow,) there are bands of inexplicably evil men sailing around the Horn of Africa, pillaging ships and terrorizing sailors simply because they are pirates. And pirates are evil. End of story.

Except, that’s a rather shallow interpretation of what’s happening in the Somalian waters. Acts of piracy are acts of desperation, and not the acts of evil men. Of course, terrorizing civilians is never acceptable, though I would like to point out my own government is guilty of crimes against humanity that far exceed any acts of Somalian piracy.

In his excellent article, Johann Hari writes of a fascinating exchange between Alexander the Great and a pirate. The pirate was captured and brought before Alexander.

[Alexander] demanded to know “what he meant by keeping possession of the sea.” The pirate smiled, and responded: “What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor.” Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today – but who is the robber?

Hari went into further detail about Somalian pirates when I interviewed him for my show Citizen Radio. During the interview, he explained that Somalian pirates are actually poor fishermen. It was only after Somalian waters were poisoned by western nations, and the livelihoods of Somalian fisherman were destroyed, that civilians turned to acts of piracy as means of survival.

What happened in Somalia is that in 1991, the Somalian government collapsed and the country imploded. Two processes began in different parts of Somalia; bearing in mind it has a 3000 km coastline. A European shipping fleet, mostly Spanish, Italian and some British came along and basically started industrially fishing Somalian fish, which is one of the main sources of food in a starving country. Suddenly these tiny little fishermen with nets were being out fished by these industrial trawlers and the fish started just disappearing, so there was a massive increase in hunger in Somalia.

In another part of Somalia, industrial waste from Europe begun to being dumped just off the coast, because it’s expensive to get rid of waste in Europe [whilst] it costs nothing to take it in a boat and dump it outside Somalia. The most incredible thing that was dumped was literally nuclear waste. So after the tsunami, barrels of all sorts of random shit started to wash up on the coast of Somalia, including nuclear waste that we now know [as a result] radiation sickness killed around 300 people but no ones bothering to count or check. That’s [what] the UN special envoys estimate to me was, 300 died, could be far more, no one’s looking, cleaning or doing anything.

Imagine if this happened in Florida, imagine if the government of Florida didn’t have any resources and suddenly Italians came, stole all the fish and everyone was going bust in Florida, and they started dumping nuclear waste. People of Florida would be calling for the nuking of Italy.

The Somalians with very limited resources sent what they called the ‘National Volunteer Coast Guard’ to try and stop these people, and the people we call pirates call themselves the coast guard. This is not that implausible when you bear in mind the context. It’s absolutely true that the some pirates have committed unacceptable acts, I don’t believe it’s ever right to take a hostage, [but] they haven’t killed anyone, harmed anyone, but they have taken hostages. That’s not right, they do it to get money but they then in some cases give it back to [their] communities, which have been desecrated in several instances. So it’s a good example of how something is presented as mindless insanity when actually it’s actually completely different.

Pundits (even our beloved Progressive pundits) adore simplicity, and the pirate coverage off the coast of Somalia presented to them an orgasmic, cartoonish stand-off between “noble seamen,” and “evil pirates.”

The truth is more complicated than that.

Somalians live in  a shockingly volatile environment complete with stark poverty and religious fundamentalism. Their environment has been poisoned by the west, their source of food and income destroyed, and now desperate men are resorting to desperate acts.

To stress again: it’s never acceptable to harm civilians, and hostage-taking is never a valid means of negotiation. Still, when considering the stress placed upon Somalia’s civilians, it’s actually pretty surprising that there hasn’t been more violence, and that most nautical conflicts with pirates have been resolved peacefully. (Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, even admitted that “in most of these cases to date, [the] crews have ultimately been released unharmed.”)

It’s important not to demonize Somalians, even the Somalian pirates. When we demonize our enemies, they become less than human, and it becomes easy to apply such blanket rhetoric as “terrorists.” Demonization (particularly by our media) allows hawkish figures an excuse to say that Somalia “must be invaded,” that poor fisherman AKA pirates “must be destroyed,” and that the “axis of evil” has a new peg.

Johann Hari’s official website: http://www.johannhari.com/

Allison Kilkenny’s official website is here: allisonkilkenny.com. Also available on Facebook and Twitter.

Interview with author and activist, Tariq Ali

Posted in activism, atheism, Barack Obama, BTR, Citizen Radio, politics, religion by allisonkilkenny on April 8, 2009

tariq_061229102525399_wideweb__300x375Citizen Radio interviews Tariq Ali, celebrated intellectual and the man who famously debated Henry Kissinger. A world-renowned activist, who the Rolling Stones named the song “Street Fighting Man” after, Tariq Ali spends the hour talking with Citizen Radio.

Tariq Ali talks with Citizen Radio about a range of subjects from the true definition of Socialism to his discussions with Malcolm X, and how he thinks atheists and religious people can work together to make the world a better place.

Listen here. Transcript is posted below. Please feel free to repost both the interview and transcript, but please credit Citizen Radio.

Tariq Ali is the author of the new book, The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power.

Citizen Radio airs every Wednesday on BTR. Episodes available 24/7 in our archives.

Jamie Kilstein: Recently, on FOX News – and actually all news stations – we’ve kind of been hearing Obama denounced as a Socialist. They’ll be like, “No one wants socialized healthcare,” or “socialized banks,” and I think, for the first time, there are some people who are like, “Yeah, we do. We kind of do. That sounds really nice.” But Obama didn’t have anyone who represents single-payer healthcare at his health conference, and the banks are getting our money, and we’re not getting anything in return. So first, I wanted you to give the actual definition of Socialism because I think it’s mischaracterized a lot here, and second, why you think decrying Socialism has been such a successful scare tactic in a country where rich-poor divide is so large.

Tariq Ali: There are many definitions of Socialism. The simplest way to define it, I guess, would be: the ownership of public utilities and things important to the economy and the land by the state in the interests of the common people. I would go beyond that and say where public utilities are owned by the state, my definition of Socialism would also include the people, who work in these utilities, playing a part in determining how they are run, and not allowing the state to nominate bureaucrats to them. That has never really happened anywhere, but given the crisis into which Socialism fell in the ‘90s, I think you need more and more democracy at every level of functioning.

Read the rest of the interview behind the cut.

(more…)

Shameless Democratic-Socialist Propaganda

Posted in atheism, Democrats, media, politics by allisonkilkenny on April 8, 2009

YM001405Typical. The Times is at it again. The liberal rag published another thinly-veiled, socialist rant in Tuesday’s edition. Though, this time, the diatribe came from an unlikely source: David Brooks, the Canadian-American columnist, who has served as senior editor to the Weekly Standard, contributes his thoughtful analyses to the Atlantic Monthly, and identifies himself as a “moderate conservative.”

Of course, David is completely unaware that he makes a perfect plea of his readers to join the Democratic-Socialist cause. His column explores the roots of morality, and rattles off scientific theories about where our morality comes from, and how it benefits us as a society to have “morals.” It’s actually pretty interesting, though the best part comes when David steps back and analyzes “morality” i.e. communal spirit:

Like bees, humans have long lived or died based on their ability to divide labor, help each other and stand together in the face of common threats. Many of our moral emotions and intuitions reflect that history. We don’t just care about our individual rights, or even the rights of other individuals. We also care about loyalty, respect, traditions, religions. We are all the descendents of successful cooperators. 

But David, what of that “rugged individualism” that Conservatives so cherish and praise? Are you saying that gallivanting around a dude ranch, refusing to pay taxes and/or care for our fellow humans, is not only the behavior of a selfish, childish asshole, but also detrimental to society itself?

The first nice thing about this evolutionary approach to morality is that it emphasizes the social nature of moral intuition. People are not discrete units coolly formulating moral arguments. They link themselves together into communities and networks of mutual influence.

Like unions, perhaps? But those are the things your Conservative brethren are fighting tooth and nail to suffocate! They’ll be the reason the Employee Free Choice Act fails in Congress. You should really share with them your revelations about all of this “help thy neighbor” stuff, and how it’s so great for our society.

And don’t let Rush hear you talk like that. On the other hand, you may be safe. He’s too busy packing (thank you, Jesus) his things, and moving out of New York. 

The second nice thing is that it entails a warmer view of human nature. Evolution is always about competition, but for humans, as Darwin speculated, competition among groups has turned us into pretty cooperative, empathetic and altruistic creatures — at least within our families, groups and sometimes nations.

Tell your Wall Street buddies that, David. Drop some knowledge onto their finally coifed ‘dos, and let them know competition isn’t everything, that human beings are more than stocks, portfolios, credit default swaps, and speculative mortgages. Ask those financial firm CEOs if jumping out of the burning building with $23 million in severance is an altruistic act, or the act of a pirate.

I’m sorry. That’s not fair. Pirates were actually very democratic creatures that allowed voting and egalitarian debate. They also didn’t profit from suckering poor people into bad loans. Of course, they raped a lot, which is definitely a tick in the “Bad” column.

But I digress. As if he knew I would be reading him today, David throws this curveball at the last possible moment:

[The rise and now dominance of this emotional approach to morality] challenges the new atheists, who see themselves involved in a war of reason against faith and who have an unwarranted faith in the power of pure reason and in the purity of their own reasoning.

…What? Did David Brooks just cite a scientific theory at length, and then in the last paragraph of his column, thumb his nose at atheists who believe in — wait for it — science and reason?

On behalf of the human species, I apologize to the trees that gave their lives for David Brooks’ pointless musings to be published in otherwise highly usable column space.

What an embarrassment.

Obama, Nukes, and the World

Posted in Barack Obama, Citizen Radio, politics by allisonkilkenny on April 6, 2009

nagasaki_nuclear_bombPresident Obama has seized upon North Korea’s missile launch to talk about a new approach to nuclear disarmament. Most people agree with the swell commonplaces associated with Obama’s vague rhetoric. Sure, we shouldn’t blow up the planet. Yes, nuclear weapons are extremely dangerous.

But beyond that, the rules for nuclear armament are very hazy. Who can pursue nuclear weapons changes depending on time, place, and what the United States can gain from allowing (or forbidding) nuclear ambitions.

Certainly, reducing armaments is the pathway to abolishing nuclear weapons. However, the United States has placed itself in the position of favoring/allowing some countries’ nuclear pursuits (United States, United Kingdom, France, Israel, India, China, Russia) ahead of other countries’ sometimes-identical quests (Iran, North Korea, Syria). There was some good in Obama’s Prague speech, but there were also bad pockets. Let’s explore the minefield, shall we?

Good: reducing nukes

Few people adopt qualms for statements like this. It would be nice to live in a safer world where we’re not consumed with the fear that some general somewhere has gone bat shit crazy and sold the nuclear armament codes to Al-Qaeda.

Bad: The complete lack of universality

The United States picks and chooses which countries can, and cannot, pursue nuclear technology. Whilst holding Kim Jong-Il’s missiles just out of his reach, America gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up to Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons in an extremely volatile region of the world.

Soon after North Korea’s missile launch, President Obama gave a speech in Prague during which he declared, “Rules must be binding…Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” True, but what words? What are these rules, and why do sacred rules only apply to certain people?

Who can have missiles? Who can pursue nuclear technology, and why are 1,000-2,000 nukes on the U.S. and Russian sides any less dangerous than 5,000(PDF)?

Furthermore, “nuclear” describes a range of pursuits from missiles and bombs to energy. Iran claims it wants nuclear energy to power its state, while Israel and the United States claim their true interests lie in nuking Israel off the map. Such a move would be pretty dumb, considering Tehran would be obliterated instantly during the retaliation, but there it is – the strange double standard, combined with vague guidelines: Israel may have nukes, but Iran may not pursue nuclear power because we clairvoyantly believe Iran’s true intentions are to nuke Israel. And yes, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch document all kinds of human rights violations on the part of Israel that should lead us to believe it too is a reactionary government incapable of living humanely with its neighbors, and therefore shouldn’t be trusted with nuclear weapons, but nevermind. Step aside: confusing standards to uphold here.

North Korea’s pursuit of a missile is another illustration of such a variance in priorities. While certainly crazy, Kim Jong-Il is hardly a looming threat to the west. His sputtering rocket is the equivalent of a five-year-old’s tantrum. He got the attention he’s been craving, but he’s unlikely to blast Alaska to smithereens. Call this the flexing-for-attention strategy. Sarah Palin needn’t stakeout the coastline with Todd, and her armed children, just yet.

Bad: Fear-mongering for the sake of geopolitical conquest

I recently interviewed activist and author of several books, Tariq Ali, about the volatility at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Obama’s rationale behind expanding the covert drone operation within Pakistan is that we can’t let the Taliban get a nuclear weapon. (Pakistan is one of those “nuclear no-no” countries that we curse having the bomb). Mr. Ali very patiently explained to me how absurd this notion is:

I think this is one of the stupidest, fear mongering things. It is true Pakistan is a nuclear state. It is also true that the Pakistani military is half a million strong, that these nuclear facilities are amongst the most heavily guarded facilities in the country, just like they are in the United States, in Israel, in India, in China, in Russia now. So the notion that any armed group of extremists could even get near these facilities is a joke.

But let’s suppose they do. All the nuclear weapons require codes to be fired. These codes are now imbedded in all these weapons. There’s a handful of top military people who know what these codes are. There are also rumors, by the way, that the United States defense intelligence agency has its own personnel in there. This has been denied, but it wouldn’t totally surprise me if it were true.

So there is no problem on that front unless the Pakistani military splits. Were it to split, then all bets are off. And the only reason it would split is if the United States expanded the war into Pakistan, making it extremely difficult for lots of nationalist-minded military officers to go along with this. Because there is that current and they say, “Well, it is our country. Why is the United States using our military bases to bomb our own people?”

What I am saying to you is now news to the administration. There are intelligent people behind Obama, who know all this. And that is why its puzzling as to why they trying to destabilize the country.

Someone explain to Mr. Ali that the United State’s policies don’t have to make sense. The U.S. has nukes, so it gets to make the rules. You don’t have to make sense when you can kill the world with your arsenal of deadly, deadly weapons. Of course, if the U.S. disarms, it may have to shield itself with logic and justice instead of contradictory ideologies, gross favoritism, and the ability to vaporize the world a hundred times over.

If Part 1 of Obama’s Al-Qaeda-with-nukes fear-mongering is Al-Qaeda’s ability to steal a nuke, part 2 is Al-Qaeda’s ability to build a nuclear weapon, a claim impressively more absurd than the one made in part 1.

Building a nuclear weapon isn’t like cooking up some meth in the back of a Chevy Chevette. It takes decades to enrich uranium (ask Iran). With a halfway competent intelligence community (something I would never accuse the U.S. of having, but rather something they should aspire to have,) we’d spot something suspicious in no time. Namely, dodgy, bearded dudes crouching in caves, their faces aglow in an eerie green light from their tubes of uranium.

While Obama’s pursuit (meaning, something beyond pretty words) of nuclear disarmament would be noble, there are other problems with the U.S.’s nuclear philosophy that needs his attention. Double standards, favoritism, and fear-mongering are cancerous elements that rob the U.S. of respect and leverage in the nuclear debate.

Cross-posted from allisonkilkenny.com. Also available on Facebook and Twitter.

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