Random: Whiffs in the Air

Political Opinion

Can you smell that? Can you sniff it in the air? Views are changing. And it’s pretty nauseating. In the office and in the news, people who have usually been very pro-Bush are now claiming they don’t like him anymore. A good enough smear-job in the press on immigration and the NSA have had an effect on public opinion. Now these people who swore by Bush don’t like him anymore.

This is why I just don’t pay attention to what most people think. What most people think is exactly that: what most people think. Whenever the leaders of that group change their opinion, everyone else steps in line too. I don’t think people really have opinions based in much of anything. What they believe is based in cheap catchphrases and political debate-shaping.

These people who no longer like Bush now like McCain, because he’s so independent. Whatever. That guy’s record is all over the place. But he falls into line when he really needs to. And those same people also still think John Kerry is a flip-flopper (which I thought was never a very solid assertion) and Al Gore is boring and stodgy (yet now he’s doing what he’s best at, and that is a partial observer/partial practitioner of technological benefits to the world). They also think Democrats love Hillary, who as everyone knows might as well be a Republican.

What kills me about the daytrading IRC channels is that they pride themselves in being ultra-fast and ahead of the “sheeple”. Yet they are the ones bashing stocks as those stocks exhaust themselves of sellers and form bottoms. They are the ones trying to short a stock that has become bullish. Their opinions are shaped by the latest press articles on the company, which, since they are reporting the latest news, have already been factored into the price.

I just think a lot of people are vapid. I think there’s only a small set of people who really see the truth behind things and then surround themselves with those truths as they build themselves up. Everyone else’s heads are just spinning the whole time, trying to comprehend.

Freedom of Information

This weekend a number of potentially significant things happened. First of all, General Michael Hayden was confirmed as the head of the CIA. The Senate not only voted him in overwhelmingly, but they also dismissed all the original questions had of him. Only Arlen Spector voted against his confirmation from the Republican side. And if my math is right, only 14 out of 43 Democrats voted against him.

It’s not that Hayden isn’t a good person, but his promotion sheds a lot of light into what the priorities at the highest level are. We have a program that no one is really getting worked up about, one that is trying to catch a small handful of terrorists hiding in our country (which would be pretty ballsy even before 9/11) with a massive network that’s allegedly collecting information on hundreds of millions of innocent Americans.

I just don’t think people comprehend the implications of what’s being outed in the press.

Of course, these days everything’s being walled up and classified. Stuff is not being declassified when it should. Information is going private, and is staying that way. My question to you is, do you really think that they would hoard all this information if it wasn’t useful to anyone, if it wasn’t being used for anything?

I happened upon another link today, one which mentions how the intelligence czar Negroponte has been granted “broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations.”

So now these defense contracting companies don’t need to report their financial numbers? Now, granted, the chief way of collecting intelligence on other militaries’ capabilities is done primarily through open source analysis of financial numbers. And it makes sense that we should hide these numbers. After all, they say that the books for black ops in the U.S. is slushed through other government agencies’ budgets. At least now I guess they’ve dropped all pretense for secrecy.

Business and government have become even more inter-mingled. Business is even more protected by “national security”. This is the road to corruption. And that’s the best-case scenario.

It’s funny but the Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer hit me pretty hard. In it, Snake, the hardened old war veteran, laments the passing of the old days of war. War for Snake’s world has turned into a world of PMCs, or Private Military Contractors … mercenaries. The U.S. government has outsourced its military technologies and training so much that other organizations now rival its military in projection of power. War is fought by genetically and mechanically controlled soldiers who feel no pain. War has turned into big, profitable business in the Middle East and disconnected states. It’s the perpetual war of “1984”.

I want Iraq to work but I’m thinking about what the region will be like in ten years. Despite our having destroyed what must be hundreds of thousands of munitions by now, we have also been export-flooding new weapons (many AKs of which have allegedly been lost to insurgents on the way) and, in particular, advanced strategic and tactical training, and a reason for jihad to a bunch of disenchanted Sunnis and alienated Shi’ites who are both wary of the powerful Kurdish influence in the Iraqi parliament. I am afraid that it won’t be long before Iraq bites us in the ass with the teeth we gave it. Not unless we radically change what the plan over there is.

Just something to think about.

And then there’s this funny little anecdote from the WaPo.

“Jolie and Pitt had powerful help protecting their privacy from the government of Namibia, which refused to grant entry to reporters seeking to cover the birth without the actors’ written permission. The government arrested photographers, confiscated film, ringed the couple’s hotel with heavy security and set up large green barriers on the beach to shield their family.”

Well that’s cool! The Brangelinas are doing what a lot of companies have been doing for years. Move operations outside of the restrictive borders of the American legal system. Cozy up to a foreign nation’s leaders and pretty much have a private security consultant protecting your interests. Granted, since Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are like the perfect celebrity couple whose children can transcend time and space, they probably deserve some privacy. But it certainly helps having a government acting as your private security consultant.

“Combat Diary” and Context

So I watched Combat Diary on A&E the other night. It was a documentary about Lima Company, a unit of Marines who deployed to western Iraq and who had the reputation of being the hardest hit unit deployed to Iraq.

To be honest, I didn’t think there was much to the documentary. It glossed over the Marines’ lives. Interviews with Marines would share some funny anecdote and it would show a photo of one of the Marines. Then it’d go into detail about how that Marine died. Then they would interview the Marine’s family, about what they went through after they saw those two Marine representatives standing at the door to their house.

The reviews of this documentary lauded it for avoiding politics. But I think this was its greatest flaw!

The program made no attempt to understand anything, or put anything in context. These Marines would go out on a mission and then just die. A random IED would hit them or something. The other Marines would come back, sober up, and go out on more missions.

The tragedy is that this is how it really is when you’re deployed. You just continue to drive on with the mission no matter what happens. You’re not really supposed to stop and reflect and say goodbye until you come home. So you just keep your daily routine. Shit happens. People die. You deal. There’s no politics or whatever when these Marines die. Their buddies come back inside the wire and see their dirty laundry by their hooch, their stuff still laid out on their bed.

But the survivors would talk about honoring the fallen in everything they did. To me, this would mean getting smart on Iraqis, Arabs, Muslims, extremists, terrorists, politicians, international affairs. This would mean trying to figure out how the Global War on Terror fits into history and what the ramifications of it will be. To me this would mean knowing everything I could about what led up to my friend’s death and what his death contributed to the future.

Back home, it’s clear to me that most everyone is ignorant of these things. The main problem of course is that we see the war from our point of view and the extremists see the war from their point of view (which the program conveniently ignores despite its relevance — after all, IEDs don’t just pop up by the sides of roads, and for every fallen Marine there’s a fallen martyr and a cause he died to promote just like the Marines did), so we just tend to ignore that which is too difficult to make sense of.

And to me that means these kids are dying in vain. Or perhaps more accurately, they are dying in the fog of war. That randomness, that meaninglessness, that emptiness of war, where the mere presence of people with guns crammed into one area results in death, civilian and military. They went far away, they died a gruesome death, and they were forgotten.

But that’s not how these Marines died. They died in a clash of unchecked globalist consumption and unilateral foreign policy versus reactionary, hopeless ideological purity. They died trying to break foreign supply lines into Baghdad. They died as both sides of this war have ramped up production, expertise, and propaganda in order to win, becoming more militaristic societies in the process.

I just cannot comprehend how it is okay to gloss over the politics of this war when it comes to honoring our fallen. There has to be a relevant reason for what we’re doing. It doesn’t have to be a flattering reason. (and with that, more information about Pat Tillman’s friendly fire death emerge) But I can guarantee you the terrorists don’t gloss over the politics. They don’t just think that people just happen to die.

We need to keep the context. Otherwise it just becomes the brutality of nature running its course.