Tag Archives: war

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Oh, Hillary. No. Just, no. These refugees are fleeing wars that profit the West, supported by the West, but now the West wants to wash its hands of responsibility for those wars.

Month by month, I am becoming more and more baffled by why I enthusiastically supported the Clintons.

Tommy Chong asks Obama to pardon him for his bullshit drug paraphernalia bust

When federal agents banged on his door and asked him if he had any drugs, he said, “Of course I do! I’m Tommy Chong!” Now he wants his criminal record to go up in smoke .

There’s a serious point to this. The war on drugs ruined the lives of millions of innocent people and is a stain on America’s claim to being a land that cherishes freedom. Chong’s life wasn’t ruined, but he can shed light on their problems.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I smoked a lot of pot in college, never suffered any legal harm from it, and walked away from it in 1985. Now that it’s virtually legal maybe I’ll give it another try sometime. Or maybe not; I gave it up because I realized I’d stopped enjoying it.

(Full disclosure: I also shared a joint at a wedding in 1993 or so. But nothing between 1985 and then, and nothing since. I’m not going to claim to be “clean and sober,” because that would be an insult to people who struggle with addiction. It’s just something I did for a while, and decided it wasn’t working for me so I stopped.)

However, there’s an alternate universe where I got busted for marijuana possession, spent time in jail or prison, and had to get by with a felon conviction on my record. As millions of people do — all for doing a thing that me and Barack Obama did with impunity.

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

Claire North unmasked! Why one life isn’t enough for “Harry August” author

Charlie Jane Anders interviews the pseudonymous author of “The First First Fifteen Lives of Harry August,” which Julie and I both loved.

The author’s real name is Catherine Webb, who write her first book when she was 14, and who wrote seven more successful young-adult novels and a series of fantasy novels for adults using the pseudonym Kate Griffin. Pseudonyms keep a writer from being pigeonholed, but they have their own pitfalls.

Webb made the protagonist of “Harry August” male because a female protagonist would have inevitably made gender more of a focus of the novel than Webb wanted it to be.

The biggest reason for writing a male protagonist was the history of the 20thcentury itself. When Harry August is born, women still don’t have the vote; by the time he dies, the women’s rights movement is a loud voice fighting battles across the world. The change in society in that century is massive, but women were – and are still – discriminated against. Knowing what I do of my own politics, it seemed unlikely that I’d get through the book without being drawn massively into the world of gender politics and the changing battle for women’s rights throughout the century, and while this is vitally important and a story that must be told, the story of the kalachakra didn’t feel like the right way in which to tell it. Writing a male protagonist, therefore, allowed me to focus on the story of the Cronus Club that seemed most appropriate to the narrative.

Webb has training as a historian, and says writing a historical novel requires a mind-trick:

 A great deal of the history wasn’t about big events – Harry August spends a lot of time dodging World War Two, for example – but about zooming in on little things that made the time come alive. Thus, 1936 would not be described by someone living in it as ‘a year when war became inevitable’ since in 1936, war wasn’t inevitable and no one without the burden of retrospect would think of it in terms of war, whatever history has to say on the subject now. Rather, it is a year of jazz, economic recovery and the rise of ‘talkie’ movies. A generic knowledge might point to Charlie Chaplin as being active in this era; a quick internet search reveals the movies he made; a look at the movie of the year (Modern Times) shows that by then talkies were well underway; another click through gives the names of rival ‘talkie’ movies and fairly quickly, from just a general sense of what was happening in a decade, you have the kind of details of leading actors and popular musicians that can bring a year to life.

Trump cites Iraq withdrawal he passionately supported to say Obama “founded ISIS”

Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott, Buzzfeed:

Donald Trump has said repeatedly during the campaign that President Obama “founded ISIS,” a remark that has come under scrutiny in recent days.

“He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS,” Trump said at a Wednesday rally.

Trump has cited the conservative critique of President Obama’s Iraq policy — that the withdrawal of troops in 2011 led to a power vacuum that allowed ISIS to flourish — in making the claim.

“He was the founder of ISIS, absolutely,” Trump said on CNBC on Thursday. “The way he removed our troops — you shouldn’t have gone in. I was against the war in Iraq. Totally against it.” (Trump was not against the war as he has repeatedly claimed.) “The way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, OK?” Trump later said.

But lost in Trump’s immediate comments is that, for years, he pushed passionately and forcefully for the same immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. In interview after interview in the later 2000s, Trump said American forces should be removed from Iraq.

“First, I’d get out of Iraq right now,” Trump said to British GQ in a 2008 interview. “And by the way, I am the greatest hawk who ever lived, a far greater hawk even than Bush. I am the most militant military human being who ever lived. I’d rebuild our military arsenal, and make sure we had the finest weapons in the world. Because countries such as Russia have no respect for us, they laugh at us. Look at what happened in Georgia, a place we were supposed to be protecting.”

The “greatest hawk [and] most militant military human being” got multiple draft deferments when it was his time to serve.

New evidence: Easter Island civilisation was not destroyed by war

Centuries ago, Europeans first visited isolated Easter Island and found more than 800 enormous stone statues. Europeans assumed that the island was once home to an advanced civilization called the Rapa Nui, which destroyed itself through war. More recently, Jared Diamond’s bestselling book “Collapsed” stated that the Easter Island civilization destroyed itself by consuming all the natural resources of the island, even cutting down all the trees so they couldn’t build canoes to get off the island, and imploded in an orgy of violence and cannibalism.

But new research shows that the statues could have been built by the existing population of the island, that there’s no evidence the population of the island was ever much larger than it is now, and that there’s no evidence of a massive population collapse caused by ecological exhaustion or brutal war.

The research shows that “systematic violence” between groups is not inevitable, even “in cases where resources are scarce (such as Easter Island),” archaeologist Carl Lipo tells Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica. “But when we look more broadly at human history, we find generally that we are pretty good at living in social groups and getting along with one another,” Lipo says.

Citing the evolutionary biologist Peter Turchin, famous for developing a theory of history called “cliodynamics,” Lipo believes that the common thread in human history is cooperation rather than war. The fate of the Rapa Nui on Easter Island is often used to illustrate how humans destroy their communities with environmental destruction and warfare. But it might actually provide a good model for sustainable civilizations of the future.

People who go into combat suffer significant hearing loss. But they won’t wear earplugs.

In combat, being unable to hear what’s going on around you can get you dead. So electronics engineers are working on making smart earplugs that muffle noises that can harm you, but let you hear what you need to hear. The 99% Invisible podcast has more: Combat Hearing Loss

[Doctor Eric Fallon, former chief audiologist at Walter Reed Medical Center and now on the staff at 3M,] believes the solution to all of these problems is a device called TCAPS (Tactical Communication and Protective Systems). Designed as either internal earbuds or external earmuffs, TCAPS protect a person’s hearing while still allowing them to hear the world around them through built-in environmental microphones. In some cases, these devices are integrated with radio capability.

TCAPS work thanks to sophisticated technology that detects high-decibel noises then lowers their intensity; they also pick up and amplify soft background noises. The result is a more balanced experience of sound, providing protection for the wearer while facilitating situational awareness.

But TCAPS isn’t battle-ready yet.

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Great powers such as the US and China are soon going to start fighting limited wars using all-robot armies – unmanned, bloodless successors to the proxy wars we saw between the US and USSR during the Cold War, says blogger John Robb.

These battles could be short and over in hours, fought with robotics and cyber combined arms. In some cases, they could go on for decades. An eternal contest until one side or the other runs out of money or the political need to distract an angry population.

The Return of the Great Power War [John Robb – Global Guerrillas]

Obama Has a Refreshingly Clear-Eyed View of “Allies” Like Saudi Arabia

Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis — our allies. The Middle East isn't strategic to America's interests anymore and the less we're involved there the better off we are.

Kevin Drum:

We failed in Lebanon. We failed in Iraq. We're failing in Afghanistan. We failed in Libya. No matter how cold and distant it seems, there's simply no reason for America to expend vast resources on an impossible task urged on us by a bunch of putative allies who are only interested in using us as a mercenary army. We should protect ourselves against the export of terrorism from the region—which might sometimes require a military solution—but that's about it. It's far past time to ratchet down our engagement in the region and let other countries take the lead if they really want to.

Stop blaming Israel for the violence. Stop blaming the Palestinians.

Stop saying that if Israeli children were dying, Palestinians would be celebrating.

Stop writing articles like this: “It’s a game of tit for tat, except one side is the world’s sixth largest arms exporter (11th in terms of “global firepower”) and the other an imprisoned slum with a poverty rate of 70 percent.”

And this: While Hamas tries to kill civilians, Israelis try to spare them.

Any attempt to paint one side of this conflict as more in the wrong than another just creates a more welcoming environment for violence.

You think that simply pointing out the enemy is wrong will help you win? You think that violence will help you achieve your goals? Not going to happen. If it could have worked, it would have worked already. It’s been at least 50 years. You want to go for another 50 years of blood and violence and death? You want more children to die? Keep finding blame.

How Coffee Fueled the Civil War

It was the greatest coffee run in American history. The Ohio boys had been fighting since morning, trapped in the raging battle of Antietam, in September 1862. Suddenly, a 19-year-old William McKinley appeared, under heavy fire, hauling vats of hot coffee. The men held out tin cups, gulped the brew and started firing again. “It was like putting a new regiment in the fight,” their officer recalled. Three decades later, McKinley ran for president in part on this singular act of caffeinated heroism.

At the time, no one found McKinley’s act all that strange. For Union soldiers, and the lucky Confederates who could scrounge some, coffee fueled the war. Soldiers drank it before marches, after marches, on patrol, during combat. In their diaries, “coffee” appears more frequently than the words “rifle,” “cannon” or “bullet.” Ragged veterans and tired nurses agreed with one diarist: “Nobody can ‘soldier’ without coffee.”

Union troops made their coffee everywhere, and with everything: with water from canteens and puddles, brackish bays and Mississippi mud, liquid their horses would not drink. They cooked it over fires of plundered fence rails, or heated mugs in scalding steam-vents on naval gunboats. When times were good, coffee accompanied beefsteaks and oysters; when they were bad it washed down raw salt-pork and maggoty hardtack. Coffee was often the last comfort troops enjoyed before entering battle, and the first sign of safety for those who survived.

How Coffee Fueled the Civil War

Via the 5 Intriguing Things newsletter, by Alexis Madrigal, who writes: “This little essay is, ostensibly, about how much Union soldiers loved coffee, but it’s really about closing the distance between their time and ours.”