Monday, April 10, 2017

Brain hacking

"Technology is not's a call to distraction."

See also Marshall McLuhan.

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Muddle on the left

Market Watch

Like everything else he does, of course President Trump's attack on Syria was "ill-conceived."

But David Talbot's column yesterday is more ill-conceived than the attack itself (Ill-conceived aggression our legacy of being born in the U.S.A.):

The United States has never been fully at peace in my lifetime — and I was born when Harry S. Truman was president. This “forever war” escalated as my young sons watched wide-eyed while the World Trade Center turned to dust. The U.S. retaliated by launching a “shock and awe” offensive at a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no threat to us. “When will they start bombing us?” my 8-year-old asked me. He instinctively understood that even great imperial powers must at some point pay their dues and are not immune from the consequences of their mighty actions.

Bringing the kids onstage while you're making a political/historical argument is never convincing. But it also helps if you don't get your wars mixed up. Talbot distorts history by ignoring that the US "retaliated" for 9/11 by attacking and invading Afghanistan, where Osama Bin Laden was based and most of the 9/11 attackers were trained. But if Talbot mentioned Afghanistan, he would have a hard time arguing that that war was an unjustified exercise in "imperial power." The "shock and awe" show and the disastrous invasion of Iraq came 18 months after the 9/11 attack:

Thousands of civilians have died in the U.S.-led onslaught against the Iraqi city Mosul that has raged off and on since 2014, including scores killed in a March 17 air strike. But this never-ending flow of collateral death in the Middle East and Horn of Africa is simply seen as an inevitable, if regrettable, part of the flexing of American power.

No mention of ISIS, which has controlled Mosul since 2014, the only reason the US is part of the "onslaught" on that city to take it back. That struggle is being fought almost entirely by Iraqis and Kurds. Yes, civilians are getting killed during the siege just as they were killed during World War 2 and Vietnam. The difference now is that the US no longer targets civilians as a matter of policy. The March 17 air strike was a tragic mistake:

Little has changed since the long, grinding Vietnam War that Springsteen sang about, except our soldiers are now being sent to kill brown-skinned people instead of “the yellow man.” When these warriors return, they are honored for their service, but it all rings hollow. Vietnam veterans were allegedly spat on when they came home, but, in my experience, the antiwar movement was more likely to embrace them and care for them. Nowadays there is no peace movement, except for the scattered and brave efforts of groups like Code Pink.

The US prefers killing people of color in its wars? That casual slur is contradicted by our carpet bombing of German cities during World War 2. Talbot also knows that it's nothing but a right-wing legend that Vietnam veterans were spat on by anti-war demonstrators when they returned. Why not just say so? 

And the people in Code Pink are "brave" for being anti-war in the US? Bullshit. They are periodically hauled gently out of Congressional hearings for being disruptive, but they don't seem to suffer any long-term consequences, which is how it should be. 

The leftists at Counterpunch also like to congratulate themselves for "Fearless Muckraking Since 1993." 

It's been a long time since being a dissenter in the US involved serious risk.

See also To the anti-war left, US is the bad guy.

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Priority problem

A letter to the editor in the April 9 SF Examiner in response to Transit officials reconsider ‘watered down’ Turk Street bike lane.

The SFMTA has a priority problem

I’m horrified that our city government prioritizes bikes ahead of public safety. I have witnessed firsthand the disaster that the SFMTA has created, confiscating public infrastructure and repurposing for a vocal minority. Watching from Davies Symphony Hall, we were shocked to see an ambulance unable to get through Van Ness due to the newly confiscated lanes for a ridiculous bus lane and bike lanes.

During a ridealong with the SFPD, officers had to slam over speed humps and screech around bulb-outs getting to an emergency call. I can only imaging what that would do to an ambulance occupant. And recently I turned right onto Eighth Street and nearly slammed into a concrete island that appeared in the middle of the right lane.

Why are we putting billions of dollars toward street redesign when we can’t even maintain them, can’t even plant trees? When seniors and disabled object to street redesigns, why do their voices fall on deaf ears? Why are the Bicycle Coalition and the SFMTA so powerful that they dictate an anti-car policy that endangers public safety?

When the Fire Department objects due to public safety concerns, they should be prioritized first. I pale to think the nightmare we will endure when they next earthquake hits and our emergency services, food and water can’t get through. It’s clear we’ll get no sympathy from the mayor, the Board of Supervisors and especially not the SFMTA (now affectionately known as Motorist Torment Authority).

As a 28-year resident of San Francisco and a supporter of subway expansion, I find myself unable to vote for funding for the SFMTA. They only cause misery and favor the 3 percent (or less) vocal minority.

Jamey Frank
San Francisco

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Thanks to Politico.