But this is a kingdom not a democracy. I have an advanced degree in philosophy and love debate. I’m very tolerant of unpopular “politically incorrect” views even when I disagree with them. What I won’t countenance is outright nonsense, venom, and spleen. “Hit and run” posts by anonymous posters won’t be tolerated. Name calling I’ll handle on a case-by-case basis. Something like “James, you’re an idiot if you believe…” would likely be tolerated whereas “James, you fucking kike…” probably would not. Let’s keep our abuse of each other free of scurrilousness. I hope I don’t regret starting this blog, which I’ve done in response to the astounding lack of real discussion and debate in everyday life, especially when it comes to certain topics like religion and gender. Got something on your chest? Well here’s a good place to vent. Let’s see how it goes.

If you’d like to start a topic, get in touch with me with an abstract if not a full post and I’ll let you know if you can be a guest poster.

The 2014 elections are on the horizon and in past months the GOP has almost smugly assumed that it’s going to take back the Senate. However, if it goes on driving a wedge between white men on the one side and ethnic minorities and the majority of women on the other, it is doomed.

I think anyone can see that the GOP needs to split into two parties: one which promotes fiscal restraint and another which promotes reactionary social values based on their particular interpretation of fundamentalist Christianity.

The problem, of course, is that while the current GOP is a viable opponent to the Democrats, neither the fiscal GOP nor the religious GOP would be.

Whether or not the GOP wins the Senate back later this year, the current GOP strategy will lead to its doom. On the other hand, if they make the necessary change by splitting, they won’t be able to oppose the Democrats for many years.

The GOP committed political suicide in time to lose the Presidential elections in 2008 and 2012. They did it through losing enough female and minority votes to put Obama in office.

Losing a huge proportion of the female vote is a given between Republican opposition to abortion and the absolutely wild and scurrilous things dingbat GOP’ers say about women from time to time.

The black vote is a virtual lock. The GOP lost them decades ago and only  a very exceptional black person votes Republican. The Asians are up for grabs, but they are a relatively small contingent.

By contrast, the Hispanics have become America’s largest minority and, based on the last two Presidential elections, they appear to be mostly in the Democrat column.

Any GOP hope for the long-term future has to include winning a goodly number of Hispanics back into the Republican fold. This means doing something in the immigration area that Hispanics will view as constructive.

But what did the GOP’dominated House of Representatives do just before heading off to vacation? Read this MSN article for specifics, but what it boils down to is speeding up deportations of the current glut of undocumented children fleeing violence in Central America, revoking work permits of immigrants currently working here legally, and sending the so-called “dreamers” (children of undocumented immigrants who have never lived anywhere but in the United States and may not even speak Spanish).

In short, they have alienated the very voting block they cannot survive without, and all in the name doctrinal purity. The radicals have taken over the GOP and the GOP is now on a deathbed of its own making.

Etymologically speaking, “radical” refers to a root. Radicals adhere to their doctrinal roots. To a political radical, being pure is more important than being successful, and the GOP will pay the priced.

In past months, winning back the Senate has been talked about like it’s a done deal, but in typical Republican fashion in recent years, they may be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The GOP has become split in several different directions which are pulling the party apart. You have the fiscal conservatives. You have the religious fundamentalist faction. You have the screwballs who just flat-out hate Obama (presumably for being black), hate non-whites, or who want to roll American social culture back to the 1940’s or 1950’s.

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The population of Gaza is about 1.8 million. Here’s a little math: Assuming that this money could have been used to build industries, create greenhouses, dig wells, and initiate irrigation farming, Hamas stole (or diverted, if you prefer less inflammatory terminology) $50 from every Gazan man, woman, and child to build tunnels and build or buy weapons in a vain attempt to destroy Israel.

So, the problem with Gazans is that they get no love from anyone, least of all their Hamas leaders.

I’m pessimistic. I’m unable to imagine how the world can stop Vladimir Putin from annexing all or almost all of the states that used to compose the old Soviet Uni0n by using the ploy of protecting “Russian speakers” and people with Russian blood, who exist in all of those countries.

No Russian tanks will roll in. No bombers or fighters based in Russia will attack. No Russian troops will invade. Rather, it will be done in the style of asymmetrical warfare pioneered in modern times by Mao Tse Tung. Insurgency warfare.

The sad fact about countering insurgencies is that it can take anywhere from hundreds to millions of times the resources (in dollars) to counter them. Only a few countries, and perhaps only the United States in today’s world, have the economic resources to even attempt a counter-insurgency, and with very little prospect of success.

Why?

In an asymmetrical war, a handful of soldiers (frequently called “rebels” or “insurgents”) oppose a well-financed, well-equipped professional military. Unfortunately, professional militaries are most effective in battlefield situations where the sheer volume and quality of soldiers and hardware can play a huge role in the outcome.

Modern armies seem almost helpless to counter insurgencies. Sure, they can go house-to-house hunting down insurgents, assuming they can identify them. But since insurgents blend into the population, the soldiers will make many mistakes. Each mistake may recruit one, two, or three people to become—or at least to sympathize with—the insurgents. This makes the old school military lose the PR war for the hearts and minds of the uncommitted public in the insurgents’ area.

Often, the ways of countering high-tech military weapons are breathtakingly cheap by comparison. This goes back to medieval times when commoners found themselves in opposition to horse-mounted armored knights. A charge by a group of knights was, for a while, the end of the story. Until, that is, someone had the bright idea to sharpen a long pole. When the knights charged, the commoner would plant the blunt end of the pole in the ground, then when the mounted knight charged, the sharp end went into the horse, the knight fell off the horse, and was easily dispatched with a club of some sort.

In modern times, a torpedo or missile costing perhaps several hundred thousand or a million dollars can sink a destroyer costing almost a billion dollars. Antitank weapons cost far less than tanks, and while it may take several hits for such weapons to find a sweet spot that KO’s the tank, they will still cost far less than the tank.

When it’s insurgent against a professional soldier, it’s much the same. It costs a lot to train and arm a soldier. Here’s an exchange from a recent congressional hearing:

Keeping one American service member in Afghanistan costs between $850,000 and $1.4 million a year, depending on who you ask. But one matter is clear, that cost is going up.

During a budget hearing today on Capitol Hill, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, asked Department of Defense leaders, “What is the cost per soldier, to maintain a soldier for a year in Afghanistan?” Under Secretary Robert Hale, the Pentagon comptroller, responded “Right now about $850,000 per soldier.”

Conrad seemed shocked at the number.

“That kind of takes my breath away, when you tell me it’s $850,000,” Conrad said

A Pentagon spokesman later said a more accurate figure is $815,000 a year. (source)

What we’ve seen in the Crimea is the recipe for how the USSR will rise again, no longer Communist, and under the name Russia, not The Soviet Union.

If there’s a way to stop Putin, I don’t see it in so-called “sanctions,” especially since so much of Europe and Asia is dependent on Russian goods and natural resources.

Recently, the downing of a commercial airliner with almost 300 innocents aboard, about a third of them children, has some people thinking that things have finally gone too far and that Putin will have to pull in his horns. That may be true, but only for a while.

Why?

Because he has a recipe that works. Whether speaking of the old or the new Russia, it has always excelled at disinformation. It will weather the storm of the downed Malaysian airliner and in a year or two, that will be the vaguest of memories for most of us. And Putin isn’t really the problem. It’s likely that, once Putin is gone, the new leadership will also want to bring back the glory days when Russia had a virtual empire in Central and Eastern Europe.

 

Whoops!!!. With the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, a trend has been started that will cost the GOP votes in 2016 and further entrench the ACA (Affordable Care Act), making it harder to get rid of.

Specifically, many of the female swing voters who will have their birth control options reduced or eliminated will swing toward the Democrats. For other women, it will be further evidence for the conservative’s (and, by implication, the GOP’s) supposed “war on women.”

It’s expected that, despite the “narrowness” of the decision, many companies will feel they have a green light to push further into the religious exemption to the ACA area. After all, contraception is just the camel’s proverbial nose under the tent. There are also religious objections to blood transfusions, antibiotics, vaccination, and, in the case of faith healers, to any kind of medical care at all! Given this decision, it’s hard to see how the Supremes could justify denying the wishes of corporations in those cases.

One can also imagine two other consequences of this decision.

The first is cynical business people pretending to have religious objections if they can find a benefit of doing so.

Worse, perhaps, may be that people who hate gays, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, and women may feel they have at least a potential green light to start discriminating.

I think we can expect a few or a lot of these cases between now and 2016, each of them driving voters toward the democrats. 

They won’t drive many people toward the GOP. The Republicans already have the votes of people who oppose abortion and hate ethnic or religious minorities and/or want to keep women in their current place.

The Republicans are pushing hard for continued congressional investigations into Benghazi (supposed misrepresentation of facts by the Obama Administration) and the IRS scandal (some in the IRS targeting Republican/conservative political organizations more than Democratic/liberal ones).

Obviously, they see these as important matters. And they may be important matters, but the problem for the GOP seems to be polls showing very little interest in these matters by the general public. These investigations are clearly aimed at the Republican base, because its hard to imagine a woman, Hispanic, or black person going GOP over either one of these matters.

At the same time, immigration reform, which not only is crying out for attention, and is important to Hispanic American voters, is on the back burner. The strategy seems to be to wait until they defeat the Democrats in 2016, and then pull the reform rabbit out of the hat to play the hero role. The problem with that strategy is that if they want to win in 2016, they won’t be able to do it without the Hispanic vote. Perhaps, then, they understand that almost nothing they do will win over enough Hispanics to make a difference.

And so we have the typical Republican pattern of not giving a shyte about racial minorities except in terms of figuring out how to keep them from voting or making their vote count for less through gerrymandering voting districts.

Personally, I don’t see a window for a Republican White House victory in 2016. If we’re stuck with a divided Congress again, we can look forward to even more years of nothing of consequence happening in Washington.

 

Like a lot of Americans, this last week or so I discovered the game the rest of the world calls “football”  but we call “soccer,” and I asked myself if perhaps it might take a place alongside football, basketball, and baseball on American TV. My conclusion is that it would take some big changes to TV, because the game can’t be changed.

Before I go any further, I’m going to stipulate that I’ll be calling soccer “futbol” from now on here, because that is the official name of the sport. It’s pronounced a bit different from “football,” the “foot” part rhyming with “snoot” or “coot” or “toot.”

Let’s consider what it would take to make running futbol matches commercially feasible for TV. And let’s put it up against the most profitable sport on American TV, NFL football.

One of the reasons NFL football is so popular is all of the money behind it, a good deal of which comes from highly profitable TV contracts.

Unlike a game between two NFL teams, where the clock stops several times an hour for several different reasons, thus giving opportunities for the TV network to insert very expensive advertising, the soccer clock stops for nothing. Rather than stop the clock, one official keeps approximate track of how much time has been lost to play being stopped for injuries, substitutions, delaying tactics, and other reasons. This time is then added on at the end in what is called “stoppage time.”

Since the clock never stops, trying to run ads during a soccer match would necessarily involve missing play, injuries, substitutions, etc., including sometimes missing a goal. That simply won’t fly. In particular, it won’t fly with the international futbol crowd.

Maybe futbol has a place on a currently nonexistent PBS-style public sports network, but I expect the major networks would fight that tooth and nail. They would prefer that you simply not watch futbol at all.

Of course, there’s a possible end run around the advertising issue, though I’m not sure how well it would work. In the rest of the world, teams tend to represent cities and countries. Suppose American pro futbol teams played on behalf of corporations instead of geographic entities. The Ford Motors Kickers? The Exxon Tigers? That might fly. Then players drawn from those teams would represent the United States in world competition.

I’m not holding my breath.