Archive for Opinion
This is a damned shame because I’ve been waiting a while for AC2, but now Ubisoft has gone way over the top on their DRM schemes. Their new idea of an “acceptable” solution is to require you to be online the entire game and if you go offline then it boots you from the game (losing your play from the last checkpoint). Frankly that’s just stupid and broken compared to the console versions.
Ubi’s response to the concerns raised by gamers is typically dismissive and frankly reeks of an expectation that people should throw money at them regardless of the crap they shovel out. I’m not playing that way – it’s my money and I can choose to not spend it.
Yes, piracy is a significant concern and this dumb move just made the pirate’s product a lot more attractive. Good job at alienating your customers, Ubi.
What else can I say about a government that’s decided torturing and convicting on coerced testimony is all a pretty good thing for anyone they declare fitting for such treatment, not to mention an opposition that is so lost and floundering that they can’t actually put forward a popular case on why torturing people is actually a bad thing and not a “necessary tool”.
Been reading some interesting books lately that are definitely worth a browse: John Dean (the same one who testified against Nixon in Watergate) has some good commentary on the current US politics in “Worse than Watergate” and “Conservatives without Conscience”. Rather than a commentary by someone with progressive leanings, this is by someone who has been at the highest levels of government and seen how it operates from the conservative side of politics. While the do paint a dim light on the current administration (not that it’s really necessary to do so – they are painting a dim enough light all by themselves), the books go into a lot more detail that is often missed in the media’s rush to press.
Anyway, both good reads and not too expensive as ebooks (my current preferred reading format).
Never forget what? September 11th is a ridiculous day to “never forget” – especially in a campaign against terrorism, because it’s probably the single largest terrorist victory to ever occur against the United States. Rather than “never forget”, perhaps it’s a good time to sit back and look what we’ve apparently learned from that day:
- You can be a hero by being in the wrong place at the wrong time and dying without doing anything. I’ve heard it many times said there were “2749 heroes lost”. It’s a lot of meaningless garbage that cheapens the few instances of true heroism on that day. Someone sitting in an office getting hit by a plane isn’t a “hero”. They are just unlucky innocent victims of a battle that no one still understands particularly well. I for one turn scorn on the abject abuse of that word and mourn the few dozen heroes of that day that are lost among the 2700 or so who were just unlucky.
- Americans (and probably everyone else in the world too) are weak and afraid. They are so afraid they’ll go out in masses to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting for no logical reason. They’ll drive their children to work to avoid snipers when the chance of being shot by a sniper is lower than the chance of being killed in the car. They’ll drive places rather than fly when an aircraft is still safer per passenger-mile than a car. They’ll panic at the smallest thing on an airplane, even when someone owns up to it with a perfectly good explanation. They’ll vastly overstate the impact of terrorism when you have about the same chance of getting hit with a meteor than getting killed by a terrorist.
- The government likes people scared. They are more pliable that way and give it more power.
- Ideology, belief and zealotry aren’t enough to win over oppressed people, especially when you go into a fight without a good idea of what it means to win, let alone how you’ll get there and how you’ll get out again once you are there. Hint: “Stay the course” is not a plan, it’s a political platitude.
- Ideology, belief and zealotry are enough to win over your own people though, especially when your political opponents are so disorganized that they couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery.
- Ideology, belief and zealotry are sufficient to convince leaders that despite the contradictions of the only democracies in the middle east being the ones furthest away from America’s political goals, attempting to force more democracies on people that care more about food, water and electricity than politics is a goal worth spending tens of thousands of dollars from each and every American taxpayer on even though it’s never worked before.
- Truth and Justice are the “American Way”, except when things get a difficult. Then it switches over to assumptions, inquisitions, witch-hunts and state-sponsored disappearances.
America’s reaction over the last five years is depressing. This is a nation that is flailing about like a dog stung on the tail by a bee, trying to catch whatever is causing the pain and end it. This is a nation where the major political parties are so busy trying to convince people that each can protect the voters so much more than the other that neither has the chance to step back and ask exactly what is protection and what is oppression. This is a nation that has lost it’s way and has no one to guide it back.
On the bright side, democratic nations sit in a relatively stable equilibrium. Things do eventually right themselves as people start to wonder what they really were thinking. Freedoms given up during blind panic are slowly won back by those brave enough to stand up for them. It takes decades, but it does come good eventually.
So, what should be never forgotten on September 11th? Nothing. September 11th is nothing special beyond a temporary victory for a terrorist group that isn’t even well supported by America’s enemies. It’s a day that one day I hope America will forget. That one day the self-pity, the fearmongering and the overreactions will end and people will wake on a September 11th and all I’ll have to think is that it’s the birthday of my best man at my wedding, and not the day America temporarily lost itself.
Apparently anyone who doesn’t agree with George Bush simply doesn’t know how the world works. It’s the kind of argument you’d expect from a kindergarten playground – “Yeah, well you’re dumb!”
Of course, this sort of argument would hold the ring of truth if the person making it had demonstrated an ability in the past to accurately predict how the word did, in fact, work so in fairness to George let’s have a look to see just how well he and his advisors know how the world around him does actually work (and I’ll even be nice and ignore his “Bushisms”):
- Saddam has WMD and we know where they are
- We’re talking weeks, not months [for the Iraq effort]
- The Iraqi people will welcome us with open arms.
- [The Iraqi violence] is the actions of a few dead-enders
- Mission accomplished
- Terrorism is the opposite of Democracy” (yet, Hamas and Hezbollah both won many democratic seats)
- Bring it on
- The violence is a last ditch effort that will end soon
- The timetable for Iraq finished when the government was formed
- If you aren’t with us then you’re against us
- I have political capital and I intend to spend it
In fact from all of that, I find it hard to remember a President who knew less about how the world worked than the current one. He’s really managed to bungle practically every foreign affairs matter that he’s touched, so when George Bush stands up and says that he has to spy on Americans for their own protection and if you don’t agree with him then you don’t know how the world works, it’s a fairly good bet that, once again, George really doesn’t know how the world works and sometime soon another of his half-baked plans will come crashing down on America once again.
Iran has effectively achieved its goal of becoming a major player in the Middle East, and it’s biggest allies in attaining that goal have been time and the United States. This may seem contrary to stated US foreign policy, but it’s emerged as a simple fact on the mishandling and misunderstanding of the politics in the region by the current US administration. Without going into whether particular actions were necessary from a US point of view, here’s the timeline of the last 5 years from Iran’s point of view:
2001 – The US removes Iran’s primary distraction on their eastern borders in the destruction of the Taliban regime. Prior to that time, Iran had spent a lot of effort protecting Hazaris in the west of Afghanistan from the slaughters the Taliban liked to conduct there. Without the Taliban in power, Iran’s self imposed obligation to defend these people vanished.
2003 – The US removes Iran’s primary distraction and primary enemy on the western borders with the destruction of the Hussein regime. Aside from the catastrophic 8 year war with Iraq in the 80s, Hussein offered aid and protection to the opposition factions operating within Iran and was continually a threat to Iran’s ambition to be the majority local player.
2004 – The US efforts in Iraq fail to quell the Sunni insurgency and the revenge culture of the nation makes the political scene ripe for the thousands of Shi’ite clerics and businessmen pouring over the border from Iran to establish themselves as leaders withing their communities. To date, it is estimated Iran has over 40,000 trained and armed operatives within Iraq and Iran funds virtually all of the Shi’a militias who are so wantonly dragging Sunnis into open streets and shooting them in Baghdad.
2005 – Elections in Iraq push the Iranian backed Shi’ite parties into majority power. This was a massive win for Iran in the area as they now have allies in positions of power all the way from India through to the Mediterranian. It was nicely summed up by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, leader of the Guardian Council in Iran when he said “Iraq is now going through its election cycle. The election results are very good.”
2006 – Iran’s nuclear ambitions come under heavy fire in international politics but are all but ignored after Hezbollah (an Iranian controlled group in Lebanon) successfully taunt Israel into starting the bloodiest general attacks on Lebanon in a decade, diverting the world’s attention from Iran to the rekindled Israeli/Lebanese confrontation.
Now we find that the US has exhausted its political will for occupation of Arab nations and the world is crying against Israel’s attacks on Lebanon, and the US’s inaction on the matter. Iran continues with its nuclear programs and continues to pour trained and armed troops in Iraq. Iraq’s Prime Minister Malikii, a strong Hezbollah and Iranian ally, receives ovations on the floor of the US congress even as he refuses to renounce his strong condemnation of Israel.
Iran has the US right where it wants it. Iran can ignore US threats and refusals to deal diplomatically while stretching its arm across the Middle East to spark off wars. Iran can sit “innocently” by on an international stage condemning the Israeli government and their US allies for the loss of Lebanese life as they continue to arm and strengthen Hezbollah. Iran can now spark fires wherever and whenever it wants to distract the world’s diplomatic process. They took the “if you aren’t with us then you’re against us” rhetoric and drove it to the ultimate conclusion of isolating the US as it tried to cast players in black and white in the hopeless shades of grey inside the Middle East.
All I’m waiting for now is the Iranian response if and when the US decides to attack their nuclear facilities. Given America’s rapid retreat from Beirut in 1983 when 241 Marines were killed by Hezbollah, just what will the reaction be if Katushya rockets start flying from the Shi’ite majority factions into the Baghdad Green Zone where US forces are conveninetly packed on top of each other in a nice pile for rocket targets?
Iran did nothing of note in the last 5 years. They just let Time and America take out their enemies for them so they could establish a commanding position in the region.
Thanks to this article in the WaPo for most of this post. Sinon and Takeyh are leading researchers at the CFR.
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