Thursday, June 27, 2019

Tulsi Gabbard Blazes Impressive Trail At First Democratic Primary Debate

It has been said by political minds far more astute than my own [read: pretty much every candidate going into today's 1st Democratic Primary debate] that a 'win' here is securing 'cut-through'. Standing out from amidst the crowded, twenty-candidate field and managing to reach out through the television-camera's silvery lense to make that all-important connection with the ordinary American voter on the other side of the screen.

Now, before this debate had even begun, there were several clear 'favourites' amidst the DNC's 2019 stable; figures who were supposed to make that all-important salience. And, due to a microphone-gaffe part-way through, it now seems like the DNC is once more prepared to help 'guide' attention towards their 'designated winners'. Nothing new there, then.

But here's the thing. Even though the questions, the moderation, and the overarching tactical terrain were arrayed against her from well before the start ... Tulsi Gabbard looks like she's managed to make a positive impact, a splash. Below, we've got search analytics data for the Congresswoman both during and after the debate. I've also seen immediate post-match polling which has Gabbard a clear 'winner' - in fact, the clear Winner - edging out even predicted 'people's-choice-but-establishment-bete-noir' Elizabeth Warren.

What's even more interesting - to me, anyway - is the seeming dysjunction between some of the immediate reception which Gabbard and her points received in the room itself versus out there in broader America. I mean, apart from a few loud positive responses from some in the physical audience, her military background and her opposition to continued American imperialist adventurism ... did not find fecund soil with those in attendance. At one point, the moderators deliberately attempted to stop Gabbard from speaking about Saudi Arabia and its role in financing terrorism.

Yet out there in 'broader America' beyond the room, which is not so easily impressed by a field of candidates falling over each other to push forward a 'united front' of 'Democratic National Consensus' on various policy positions, or compete over who can gesticulate the loudest about this or that minority demographic, Gabbard's views and background appear to have found considerable purchase. Turning her, in the span of a few hours, from somebody who's been almost deliberately ignored in just about any mainstream media reporting of the Democratic Primary - through to a figure of emerging prominence.

She may not - not yet, anyway - be quite a "household name"; but it seems like a lot of households are, indeed, googling her.

The importance of this also lies in Gabbard's ability to 'reach across the aisle', out beyond the Democrats' preferred 'safe' voter-base, to those who are leery of the party and may even have voted for Trump at the last Election. Not by engaging in some sort of social-media slanging-match race to the bottom in the manner that Trump successfully trounced the 2016 Republican Primary field .. but by resonating with the strong regard that many middle-of-the-road American voters have for authenticity, military service, and anti-interventionist foreign policy (particularly when said 'Adventurism' just means more body-bags and far less federal spending turning up in their local community, in service of some fundamentally nasty foreign regimes who don't seem to wish America anything but ill).

As a brief aside, I am genuinely of the opinion that it was Trump's perceived anti-interventionist stance which won him the 2016 Presidential Election - flipping key counties in Ohio, and winning over thousands of voters in the communities that have borne the [domestic] human cost of the previous decade and a half worth of Neocon-ism-in-overdrive via being major military recruitment hotspots etc.

Hence the significant importance of Gabbard's stances - but also personal record of service, which gives her vitally needed credibility when speaking against ongoing military quagmire-ism - in these areas; especially when held up against a Democratic 'establishment plus' field which looks increasingly interested in navel-gazing and 'turning inward' to focus on shoring up its own base against any potential 'contagion' of 'further-left' sentiment a la Sanders 2015-16, or AoC et co last year.

Now, it's true that this debate was not an ideal performance from Gabbard. She displayed hints of anxiety, and more worryingly, in the first half of proceedings was far too 'polite' I suppose you might say - not creating the opportunities for herself by shouldering aside others, and instead waiting to be called upon to speak. That's courteous, and it's no doubt borne out of an underlying attitude towards others, even adversaries, which is built upon the principle of respect ... but this is politics, and up against a potentially rigged system with pre-picked 'favourites' who're designated to get more of the air-time and less-trappy questions, such considerations must by necessity fall by the wayside.

Fortunately, Gabbard improved on these scores over the course of proceedings; and I have every confidence that she'll continue to grow and shine more with further experience, practice, and exposure.

As applies the 'anxiety' dimension ... this is actually not nearly as hazardous as it might first appear. Various politico-psychological analyses have demonstrated time and time again that ordinary American voters like seeing something of themselves in their presumptive representatives. Hence, when George W. Bush botched his lines and came across as less sophisticated, less intelligent ... less know-it-all and slickly "polished", you might say ... than Al Gore in 2000, a lot of Americans actually decided they liked him more as a consequent result!

Coming across as more 'human', as displaying shades of some authentically real traits which we can empathize with, makes us more likely to both subconsciously and intentionally choose to support a leader.

So in other words, especially considering her continued blossoming through the course of this debate, even one of her more noticeable 'weaknesses' is actually a reasonable potential strength.

Going into this debate, myself, I had relatively low expectations for Gabbard's positive outcomes. I figured she might manage to get in a few good hits on her core campaign theme, maybe boost her polling up to the high-end of the single figures, and breath some much-needed 'life' into her ongoing prospects for the next phases of the race.

'Breathe life', she has indeed managed to do! In point of fact, I'm pretty blown away by the actual immediate outcomes of this debate. Fighting in decidedly unfriendly terrain, she's managed to get a sweeping salient of that absolutely vital 'momentum' going. People excitedly talking about her, looking into her, and then going back to talk about her some more armed with fresh insight and information into who she is and how she measures up as compared to the rest of the Democratic field.

The Media and no doubt the DNC shall continue to try to find ways to do so, no doubt - but for the American voter [although this is not necessarily the same species in all particulars as the [Democratic] Primary voter], it shall be increasingly hard to overlook, much less outright ignore Tulsi Gabbard from here on in!

In conclusion, gentlemen:



Friday, June 21, 2019

Why America Might Have Wanted Iran To Down Its Drone - A Warning From History's Rhyme

Now, here is an interesting thought pertaining to the recent Iranian downing of an American drone.

Way back in the late 1990s, it is alleged by then-serving US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, General Hugh Shelton, that he was approached by a high-ranking member of the Clinton Administration's Cabinet with a request that he allow an American U-2 spy-plane to be shot-down over Iraq as an effective pretext for starting a war to ouster Saddam Hussein.

General Shelton did not name the Cabinet member in question when detailing the encounter in his 2010 memoir; however, it is speculated based on various elements in the text and elsewhere that the requestor may have been then-Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.

Anyway, that is beside the point.

What is directly relevant here, is that a surveillance drone operating in Iranian airspace is the modern-day equivalent of the last century's U-2 spy-flight missions. And, fortuitously, one that can be shot down by the country whom it is surveilling, without some poor American pilot having to make the ultimate sacrifice as a dangled lure-bait.

Much has been made of the rather curious pattern of the United States often seeming to start its wars via fishy incidents involving boats - the USS Maine at the outset of the Spanish-American War, for instance, or the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin which preceded the significant upscaling of US entanglement in Vietnam.

Yet little attention has been directed towards another comparable instance to this week's shoot-down - namely, the downing of an American U2 spy-plane over Cuba towards the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

While it is seriously doubtful as to whether this was an intentional occurrence on the part of the Americans the immediate reaction of then-Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Nitze, is rather telling. “They’ve fired the first shot,” he said.

So, if you are outright trying to start a war - having the country you wish to shortly be at war with, carry out an act of armed "aggression" against a border-penetrating reconnaissance effort, can be adequately sold as your bete-noire "firing the first shot", and thus rendering rather more rhetorically 'legitimate' all the ensuing 'return' shots from cruise-missile range that may perhaps thusly ensue.

Marx famously opined that history seemed to repeat itself as tragedy, then as farce. The Americans appear to go the other way, from time to time - with the trumped-up attempts at sparking a war with Iraq under Clinton, that seem downright farcical with retrospect, being succeeded with actually-successful and thencely tragic whipping up of a 'Coalition of the Willing' to actually invade Iraq for real this time, less than a decade later under George W. Bush.

And, because the 'rhyme-scheme' of History is evidently a rather regular one, we have recently seen a bit of a shift in focus from straining to have Iran declared a Weapons of Mass Destruction seeking international pariah to be tarnished and toppled as Saddam's Iraq was by Bush and Blair ... through to what looks suspiciously like an attempted actual going ahead of the late-90s sacrificial-spy-flying-lamb gambit mooted for war-starting use against Iraq, except against modern-day Iran this time.

Given their previous predilections in these areas, I am almost surprised that the Americans did not haul a Catalina flying-boat out of a museum so as to attain the maximum faux-'freedom' synergy for this stunt.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Newspaper Is A Dangerous Mind-Altering Substance

You ever get the feeling that your news media's attempting to push a particular narrative that's ... not really all that concerned with the truth?

I mean, seriously. Take a look at this story, from the front-page of yesterday's NZ Herald. Now, going off that headline ... and pretty much everything else in the article ... you'd be forgiven for thinking that cannabis was the *only* factor [or, indeed *a* substantive, salient factor] in the accident that occurred. Because it's repeated - over and over and over again, for two pages.

Yet you look a little closer, and there - nestled in a small sentence that would be altogether too easy to just gloss over if you're reading swiftly - is the actual reality of the situation.

Cocktail of prescription drugs.

Now, it doesn't specify just which "prescription drugs" are being talked about. Wouldn't go very well with the 'corporate line'! Especially if it turned out the guy was legitimately prescribed them!

But I would hazard a guess - and let me be clear about this, this is my uninformed, speculative opinion - that if they were being recreationally used, they were likely the sort of anti-anxiety or other meds which would stereotypically come with a "DO NOT OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY WHILST UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF" disclaimer.

Or, in other words, the sort of meds you *really* shouldn't be driving upon ... and which would, odds on, be far more - even *exponentially* more - likely to have *actually* had a salient, significant role in the causation of this regrettable accident.

I'm not even going to get into the actual science around the impact of cannabis upon driving, here; although I *will* note that the addition of multiple drugs to an individual, in simultaneous use, can have 'quadratic' rather than mere 'additional' effects.

The fact is, that somebody, somewhere, doesn't want cannabis legalized via referendum.

And in order to deliberately frustrate this particular democratic outcome, they're going to pull out all the stops in order to do so.

No tragedy is going to be too great, no detail too small, for them to distort out of all proportion. They'll find the dirt to throw and the mud to sling - whether it exists there or not.

Now, we can tell from various developments over the past few years, that they've narrowed in on an 'attack angle' around 'drug driving'.

This has partially been driven by the previous National-led Government presiding over some popularization of the concept via some rather odd televised ads; and various attempts to look into bringing Australian-style roadside testing here.

It's also a tangential development to the legitimate expression of horror at our ever-high and lamentably lingering road toll. People want it to come down, so in desperation, will look in all manner of directions in order to try and do something about an escalating human tragedy. That's understandable. And when you're trying to make sense of a tragedy, it's only human nature to go for what seem like the 'easily preventable' "BUT WHY" factors in its (narrative) causation.

So going off the steadily increasing saliency of these "but why would we want to legalize cannabis, when our road toll is already so high??" talking-points all across talkback, social media, and letters to the editor ... it seems pretty clear that whomever, whatever's directing this agenda, has identified a strategy that works.

This kind of broad-based anti-PR snowjob offensive is rather like playing a game of Battleship. You fire out your volleys, and when you see the plume of smoke from having scored a hit on something .... you zero in and bombard that particular point with everything you've got, in the hopes of taking the whole thing down once having hit the magazine via repeated fusillades.

The National Party, as well, has chosen to capitalize directly upon this avenue of attack - bringing in several strikes at the present Government (including the Speaker of the House) as allegedly being "soft on drugs"; inviting victims and family of victims of crashes caused by, inter alia, *synthetic cannabinoids* [and let's remember - the comparison between consuming cannabis and consuming synthetic cannabinoids ... is perhaps akin to that between drinking alcohol, and drinking methylated spirits, while on meth] to come along to Parliament to add to the human pathos of the whole thing; introducing a private member's bill; and both getting themselves kicked out of the Debating Chamber and riddling the Minister for Police with questions upon the apparently epidemic crisis of "drug driving" here in New Zealand.

The goal of such things is quite clear, and - as always - at least as two-fold as it is reprehensibly two-faced. First and foremost, to make the Government of the day look bad, duplicitous, morally and otherwise. Like it's too limp-wristed to care about ordinary Kiwis' voices and vehicular safety.

And second, to keep trying to drive public opinion *away* from what's previously been pretty full-throated support for cannabis law reform, in any meaningful variety. [Which also helps to hammer the government - because apparently, giving ordinary New Zealanders their fair say on cannabis legalization makes everybody even tangentially proximate to the Cabinet of the day a raging pot-head]

You keep saying something often enough, repeatedly enough, and with sufficient permutations upon the same basic theme ... people start to believe it's this absolutely huge, overweening issue that's at crisis-epidemic-insurgency levels. And therefore, that Something, anything, Must Be Done to stop it. Somehow.

So over the next twelve to fourteen months, expect more of these stories, once again blown out of *any* semblance of reality, to be broadcast and shouted from the rooftops in superliminal propagandtastic efforts, with increasing frequency, right up until Polling Day for our cannabis legalization referendum.

Because the only "mind altering substances" THEY want you to have access to - are alcohol, newspapers, and National Party electoral leaflet material. Perhaps that's in ascending order of social destructiveness.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Teen Euthanasia That Wasn't

Here's something potentially rather interesting. You know that 17 year old Dutch teenager whom an appreciably large proportion of just about everybody's newsfeed and/or Letters To The Editor section is jumping up and down about? The one apparently legally euthanized, and therefore how terrible a thing legal euthanasia is we can't have it here?

Well, apparently ... that's not actually what happened at all. Instead, it appears that what actually transpired was the kid applied for euthanasia, was refused, repeatedly attempted suicide anyway, and then eventually, just straight-up stopped eating/drinking - at which point, her family and medical team finally acquiesced to her wishes, and agreed not to force-feed her, moving her to palliative care.

Now, your mileage may vary as to ... well, pretty much this whole thing.

It could certainly be argued that actually having let the child go 'on her own terms' prior to all of this, would have been an awful lot less traumatic than having several months worth of repeated suicide attempts, endeavours to have her subjected to electro-shock therapy, before finally conceding that in the absence of ye olde feeding tube down nose, she was going to get her way eventually anyway.

But it seems like, at this point, an array of both news media organizations - and, for that matter, jump-up-and-down-hand-wringing social conservative pseudo-political groups, have deliberately bait-and-switched a story up, in order to try and oppose any meaningful progress on euthanasia law reform in their own countries, riding high off the back of one obviously tortured girl's personal misery.

I can understand why the idea of the state allowing 17 year olds to put themselves to death would be scary. Because it is. [I personally find the idea of forcing teenagers to carry pregnancies to term to also be rather scary, but then I am over here in the #ProDeath camp, apparently, so once again, YMMV]

But I'm not of the opinion that there's a very sensible comparison to be made between "we allowed a teenager to access a state-supported facility for getting us to kill them" - which is what everybody seems to think happened;

and "after many months of effort, we stopped attempting to force-feed or otherwise forcibly keep alive against her own wishes, a person".

It could be argued that the overall outcome is the same. And yeah, sure, one less person on the planet.

But I don't think that it is. Not really. And not least because only one of these things apparently happened.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Saudi Call For Getting Tough On Terrorism Case Of Serial Arsonist Taking Over Fire Department

So I see King Salman of Saudi Arabia's kicked off Saudi's chairmanship of the OIC by demanding that the world (and the Muslim world in particular), get tough on the supporters and enablers of terrorism. The country-level supporters, financiers, directors and enablers of terrorism.

Now, this is perhaps unfair to other insects, but this strikes me rather like a mosquito rolling up and shouting loudly: "I HAVE THE CURE FOR MALARIA!"

Or, I suppose, declaring Tony Blair has the answers when it comes to bringing about peace in the Middle East. But that one actually happened (with Blair transitioning into the role in question almost the same day he stepped down as UK Prime Minister), so clearly we are already well and away into the realms of blatantly counter-factual satire when it comes to a certain geopolitical grouping's activities in that region.

Seriously, for those who do not "get the joke" inherent in what the Saudis are saying - they are regularly identified as being lead vectors in the creation, financing, and other support/enabling of terroristic groups and operations, both throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Never mind ISIS, or their own ongoing links with Al Qaeda (for example in Yemen and in Syria- which has lead to the once again prima facie ridiculous, and therefore apparently straight-up outright de rigeur situation of forcing US co-operation with Al-Qaeda in both locales). The British intelligence establishment literally attempted to point out that Saudi Arabia represented the single most significant funder and proliferator of extremist ideology in Britain (so, you know, their so-called ally!) - and wound up with the report in question being suppressed out of fear that it'd damage the UK economically if the Saudis slapped an oil price-hike on them for daring to acknowledge the facts.

I hesitate, perhaps, to term that "economic terrorism" - yet given King Salman's recent remarks attempting to panic the world at large into aggressive action against Iran on grounds that the latter's sovereignty represents an allegedly unacceptable threat to global oil supplies ... the weaponization of economic interactions by Saudi itself (as has already happened to Canada, at The Kingdom's black-stained hands) suggests that this, too, is a case of bitter, bitter irony all the way down.

Let us be clear about this. Taking the Saudis seriously as anything other than a threat, when it comes to dialogue around combating terrorism, is to indulge their wilful penchant for fact-free chicanery.

Suggesting that they have a lead role to play in opposing the spread of terror, in any way other than by stopping funding and facilitating it themselves, is worse than useless.

It is like deciding that an arch-arsonist with an apparent pathological proclivity for criminal acts of combustion be appointed town fire-chief, whilst simultaneously mandating that everybody drive Ford Pintos, and drape bone-dry paper towels over their heating units. Followed by rolling out regularly-scheduled "come into our home, why don't you" 'inspection' opportunities.

And then - when somebody, whether Canada or Iran, actually says "enough is enough", and attempts to draw attention to the problem via diplomatic/publicatory or direct assistance to deleteriously affected countries, the defenders against Saudi-sponsored terror are either attacked directly, or sabre-rattled against as Next In Line For Some Good Ol'Fashioned Amerika-McWorldist FREEDOM (tm).

The whole thing's a charade - except with real guns, and real deaths. it is saddening and it is sickening that it has been allowed for so long to continue.