Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Variously...

A headline that sums up everything wrong with the politics of groupthink (from Slate):
"It's Time for Gays to Start Supporting Gay GOP Candidates"
No. It's time for gays and everyone else to support the candidates who best reflect their own individual values. Emphasis on the word individual. If Alan Keyes attained the Republican nomination, should black people vote for him as they voted for Obama?

Demagogues have always loved identity politics; the rest of us should have outgrown it by now.

Cruise control. Remember when Michael Hastings died? Remember how everyone scoffed when a few wild-eyed crackpots (such as...a-HEM!) suggested that his car's computer systems could have been externally hacked and commandeered?

That idea is no longer scoff-worthy.
For about $20, Javier Vazquez-Vidal and Alberto Garcia Illera built a device that's smaller than a smartphone. If it's physically connected to a car, the device causes things like windows, headlights, and even crucial functions like brakes or power steering to malfunction. Cars have an onboard network called a Controller Area Network (CAN bus) that coordinates and operates all of these features. When attached, the hacking device draws power from the vehicle's electrical systems and connects to the CAN bus via four wires to input commands over Bluetooth from an attack computer.
Vazquez-Vidal and Garcia Illera aren't the first to show how cars can be hacked, but this device is dirt cheap to build, and similar ones could easily spread.

As Reuters reports, lawmakers are looking into the danger posed by vulnerabilities in cars, including Sen. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, who is talking to top automakers about the situation
No mention of Hastings, of course.

Computerized car-jacking is one of those ideas that exists in a twilight zone of thinkability/unthinkability. The notion is thinkable when presented as an abstract concept. It becomes unthinkable the moment someone suggests that the tactic has been used in a covert operation.

I like this guy. Please understand that I do not advocate the breakage of either laws or vases. But Maximo Caminero's motives were understandable.

The art world is unfathomably debauched and senseless, bestowing great value on this and sneering at that, even though no argument based on logic or taste can possibly elevate this so far above that.

The art world reminds me of the time Spock set out to scramble the minds of twin beauties: "I love you..." (turns to the other) "...but I hate you." When told that the girls are identical, Spock replies that this is the very reason why he loves one and hates the other. The girls turn out to be robots. I think I've stretched this metaphor as far as it will go.

It's time to pay attention to the Ukraine.
Paul Craig Roberts puts the matter in terms of tax dollars:
A number of confirmations have come in from readers that Washington is fueling the violent protests in Ukraine with our taxpayer dollars. Washington has no money for food stamps or to prevent home foreclosures, but it has plenty of money with which to subvert Ukraine.
The protestors are being directly paid -- not a lot, on a per-capita basis, but a little goes a long way in that part of the world. The main player here seems to be Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who despises Russia and desperately wants to jab her finger in Putin's eye.
Nuland is the Obama regime official who was caught red-handed naming the members of the Ukrainian government Washington intends to impose on the Ukrainian people once the paid protesters have unseated the current elected and independent government.

What Nuland means by Ukraine’s future under EU overlordship is for Ukraine to be looted like Latvia and Greece and to be used by Washington as a staging ground for US missile bases against Russia.
And speaking of protests...

Thailand. A huge protest -- including the takeover of government buildings -- has broken out against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who stands accused of corruption.

The primary issue concerns alleged mismanagement of a rice subsidy program. Rice farmers have been struggling in recent times, so Yingluck got into office by promising that the government would buy the product at higher than market rates. Alas, the price of rice has fallen worldwide due to a glut. Because the government can't sell the rice it already owns, the program ran out of money, the farmers stopped being paid what they were promised, and everyone got very angry.

So it's all about rice. On the other hand, maybe not really.

Let's zoom out for a wider picture -- a picture that takes in not just the Thai protests but all recent protest movements. Patrick Cockburn, writing in the Independent, has argued that, in the wake of the Arab Spring, "street heat" is now being used to undermine democratically-elected leaders in the third world.
Revolutionaries must have some idea of what they are going to do once they have displaced the powers-that-be. It is not enough to say that anything is better than the status quo, particularly, as happened in Egypt and Syria, when people find their lives are getting worse. What happens when foreign powers, once so eager to support the risen people, want a share of the political cake? The success of those first uprisings meant that the revolutionaries, always better on tactics than strategy, had lethally few ideas about what to do next.
I think that these words hit the target. But how does this analysis impact our view of what's going on in Thailand?
Some in the opposition were trying to win on the streets what they had failed to win at the ballot box.

This was certainly so in Thailand where three-month long anti-government protests in their final spasm have been openly anti-democratic, seeking physically to prevent people voting in the general election on 2 February. The protesters' own solution to the crisis is the appointment of an unelected council of "good men" to run the country. The protests are trying to get rid of the government of Yingluck Shinawatra acting on behalf of her exiled elder brother and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose party has repeatedly won elections. Backing the protests is a Thai establishment connected to the royal court, judiciary, civil service and the opposition Democratic Party. The opposition's aim has been to destabilise the government by paralysing Bangkok through street protests and provoke a crisis in which the judiciary or other state agencies could get rid of the Shinawatra government.
In 2006, a military coup ousted Thaksin (who made his fortune in telecommunications); he now lives in exile, but remains popular in much of the country.

Cockburn does not speak of outsider meddling in Thai affairs. Yingluck was educated in Kentucky and seems very friendly toward European and U.S. investors.

The larger question here has to do with massive street protest as a tactic. Most people loved what they saw in Tahrir Square -- a popular uprising which led to the overthrow of the dictatorial Hosni Mubarak. But Yingluck Shinawatra is not a dictator. Maybe she's guilty of corruption, or maybe (as she claims) the charges against her are a smear. I don't know. But I do know she won a landslide election fair and square.

We were all enthralled by those uprisings which promised to create democracies. But now, similar protests are being used to end democracies. The second Egyptian uprising put the military in charge. A rebellion in Syria threatens to put al Qaeda-linked fanatics in charge. And in Thailand, a grass-roots protest movement hopes to put an unelected council -- a cabal -- in charge.

That's different. And troubling. Could it happen here?
Comments:
Asking if it could happen here presupposes that we've actually got a functioning democracy here, which we don't.

As you've mentioned repeatedly, the assassination of JFK was the beginning of the end of democracy in this country. Ever since, we've been subject to the same cabal of players. They control the media, they control the military, then control industry, and they most certainly control the government.

That's why Obama seems so milquetoast now that he's had a few years to actually "run" things; the power behind the throne will never allow this country's leadership to be determined by a legitimate election.

They assassinate the character of anyone they feel they couldn't control, and they physically assassinate those they can neither control nor discredit.

In short, we're fucked.
 
I did a work-up on Victoria Nuland a couple of weeks ago:

http://www.dojorat.com/victorias-not-so-secret-meddling-in-ukraine/

Her husband is neo-con Robert Kagan, one of the main founders of "The Project For A New American Century". His Brother is Fred Kagan, who has helped set policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nuland also set the stage for Susan Rice's bad roll-out of Benghazi talking points by pulling language that would have set the record straight.
The Nuland/Kagan cabal is the new version of the Dulles brothers and I believe they are working to undermine Obama's foreign policy.
 
Anonymous, you didn't get me. I was making the point that populist insurrection (not assassinations or anything else that was running through your mind) can be a means of subverting democracy. My point was that rebellion -- which so many people mythologize and romanticize -- is not necessarily a good thing.

This is a hard nut to crack. I consider myself at least halfway sympathetic to revolutionary sentiments and to some forms of populism. But if those anti-authoritarian instincts can be subverted to anti-democratic ends, count me out.

And if there IS ever an anti-democratic insurrection in this nation, the rebels will probably be believers in all sorts of conspiracy theories -- some valid, most not.
 
Dojo: Thanks for the link. I encourage everyone to read your piece and to dig into Nuland's past.
 
Good catches, Joseph, and yes, to tactics that include engineered uprisings.

I was reading up on Cecily McMillan who got caught up in an Occupy WS crackdown and was groped by an undercover cop, and now has to stand trial for reflexively elbowing him back.

His grope left finger-bruises on her breast and it turns out that there were multiple reports of women being sexually assaulted by police that day, so this was an outright tactic which has remained unexamined.

The ever-receding low continues to dip...
 
Sometimes democratic instincts demand authoritarian rule, Joe.


 
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