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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bad Reputation

 

C’mon. What did you expect? Welcome, Sonny? Make yourself at home? Marry my daughter? You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know ... morons.
   - The Waco Kid to Black Bart, Blazing Saddles, 1974.

 

Face.

That’s the concern. 

Prestige. Standing. Reputation. Face.

The conflict in Ukraine teeters dangerously on the razor’s edge of self immolation.

Vladimir Putin regards his neighbors with pale icy blue eyes and toys with the idea of a reborn Russian hegemony.

Stock markets around the world tremble in fear and uncertainty. Oil barons seethe in impotent rage and furiously speed-dial their pet politicians in white-eyed panic and demand that the sweet Russian crude be kept flowing at all costs.

The shade of Tom Clancy grumbles in dire warning from his flag draped tomb as warships circle like angry hornets in the Black Sea and the ring of Russian steel crashes through the chilly gray streets of Sevastopol like ghostly echoes of one of his Cold War thrillers.

The European Union holds its collective breath and cups a trembling hand protectively over its genitals and hopes that sanity and reason will prevail – they won’t, of course, prevail, they never do, not until enough people have died, not until enough blood runs in the streets, not until enough cities have burned and enough rage has been spent … but perhaps this time it will be different. Perhaps.

Meanwhile, in America, it’s all about face.

The old graying warhawks are raucously crowing “I told you so! I told you so!” while grimly polishing their brass campaign buttons and girding on their sword-belts.

This is it! They’ll finally get the glorious war with the Soviet Union they’ve always dreamed of. To arms! To arms! Man the bunkers! Open the silos! Launch the bombers and bring the subs to firing depth! Stand out the fleet to sea! The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming at long last! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!

Or …  maybe not.

Frankly, it’s hard to tell exactly what the creaky old Cold Warriors think America should do.

The ever sneering face of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on CNN yesterday and angrily demanded, “Well, number one, stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators. It is not your strong suit. Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine. We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression. President Obama needs to do something.”

Oh yes, of course, it’s Obama who invites aggression. Yes indeed.

If only it wasn’t for Obama there wouldn’t have been six hundred years of history between Russia and Ukraine, Ukrainians wouldn’t have aligned with Russia prior to WWI and then been violently absorbed into the Soviet Union in a conflict that killed nearly two million Ukrainians and left a smoldering hatred for Moscow that exists to this day and laid the foundations for the current conflict. Why if it wasn’t for Obama, the Ukrainians wouldn’t have split away from Russia after the late lamented USSR went tits up and decided to set up their own sovereign country in the first place. And if it wasn’t for Obama, the newly independent Ukraine wouldn’t have suffered economic hardship and political turmoil all through the 90’s until they grew so sick of it they rewrote their constitution, reformed their political system, ousted their government, and brought Viktor Yanukovych to power. And of course, Obama’s weak indecisiveness is the cause behind Ukrainian disgust at Yanukovych’s corruption and abuse of power and attempt to align Ukraine with Russia once again. And, of course, Obama’s weak indecisiveness resulted in widespread Ukrainian aggression against their government and its eventual collapse which left the country wide open to Russian intervention.

Oh, yes, it’s so clear in hindsight. Gee thanks, Obama!

And now, now Obama needs to do something to clean up his Ukrainian mess.

Lindsey Graham has obviously been reading from the Sarah Palin coloring book. Something! Do something! He needs to do something! I’m not really sure what, but something! Something with warships and guns maybe! We must defend the Crimea! Russians! Ook! Ook! Let charge the Light Brigade! Into the valley of death! Nuke ‘em ‘till they glow, Kill ‘em all and let God sort it out! Something, Goddammit! That’s what we need!

And speaking of assbackward into the unknown, John McCain roused grumpily from the foggy bamboo cage of his raging PTSD and angrily shouted “Pickles!” as he often does when provoked. Then he too demanded that Obama do something. “Every moment that the United States and our allies fail to respond sends the signal to President Putin that he can be even more ambitious and aggressive in his military intervention in Ukraine!”

Now I’m no expert on senile dementia, but it may be that John McCain is mixing up his invasions. By God, we can’t let Ho Chi Minh and those yellow commies get away with this! Dammit, Man, if Obama won’t do something, by God I will. Ready my plane and let’s take the fight to those slanty-eyed bastards! For Honor and Richard Nixon, follow me! 

Both Graham and McCain figuratively smacked their manly fists into their horny palms to the sound of trumpets and rattling sabers and the mournful stirring notes of The Minstrel Boy

… but then both stopped short of demanding actual military action.

In his usual garrulous old man whine McCain snarled, “There is a range of serious options at our disposal at this time without the use of military force.” Dagnabit!

Head of the House Intelligence Committee, Michigan Republican Mike Rogers said, "There is not a lot of options on the table. And candidly, and I'm a fairly hawkish guy, sending more naval forces to operate in the Black Sea is not a good idea."

Senator Marco Rubio said on Meet The Press, "If you're asking me whether the U.S. should be taking military strikes against Russian troops in Ukraine or in Crimea, I would argue to you that I don't think anyone is advocating for that."

Well, sure, Marco, nobody but retired Admiral James Stavridis, who used to be NATO's former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, and who said in a Foreign Policy column last weekend that we need to send the fleet to the Black Sea and that NATO needs to dust off its cold war contingency plans and bring its 25,000-member Response Force to full alert.  Now, exactly what those forces are supposed to do, if not engage Russian troops in combat, Stavridis didn’t say – I mean, if they’re not there to fight, what are they there for? To ensure Putin doesn’t violate gay people’s human rights? Hello, hello, is this thing on?

Honestly, if these screeching chickenhawks aren’t talking about actual military action, then what are they complaining about? 

Without the use of military force what’s left but exactly the economic and political sanctions President Obama immediately proposed and threatened Putin with? 

Isn’t that exactly what McCain, Graham, et al are demanding? But what? They just don’t like Obama being the one to do it?

Maybe if Obama donned a flight suit and brandished an AR-15 while declaring “Yer all either with us or against us, damn yer eyes!” from the deck of an American aircraft carrier (The USS Ronald Reagan, of course) steaming up the Turkish Straits toward the Crimea? 

No?

And are we to go it alone again, or should we maybe take the time to form a united front with the international community? Or hey, we could just ridicule France and hate on the Dixie Chicks.

Should we maybe send, oh, hell, I don’t know, a high ranking member of the State Department to Ukraine and Russia to seek non-military options and to ascertain truth on the ground – you know, since charging headlong into the fray without proper intelligence and an adequate understanding of the battlespace worked so, so very well for us the last time around … ur, last two times I mean, ur, uh, last three or four times or, well hell, how many times between now and Korea is it? I lose track.

But what about our reputation? What will people think if we don’t do something that at least looks military in nature? And we have to do it right now!

If it’s not the sanctions Obama proposed and it’s not a declaration of war, what then is it conservatives want? A number six?

What?

Oh, you don’t know what a Number Six is?

Think John McCain played by Slim Pickens as Hedley Lamar’s henchman, Taggart, in the great Mel Brooks farce, Blazing Saddles.  Taggart explains conservative military geopolitical strategy thusly, “We'll work up a Number Six on 'em! That's where we go a ridin' inta town, a whompin' and a whumpin' every livin' thing that moves within an inch of its life! Except the women folks, of course…”

 

Note that conservatives agitating for action aren’t particularly concerned with how this crisis will ultimately affect any actual Ukrainians.

 

The concern here is how this conflict will impact Americans.

After all, most Americans can’t find America on a map let alone the Crimean Peninsula.

The vast, vast majority of Americans couldn’t tell you how the Russia of today differs from the Soviet Union of the long defunct Cold War that they pine so nostalgically for.

Most couldn’t describe with any but the vaguest notion the kind of government Ukraine has as compared to the one they had before, nor could they tell you what actually caused the current crisis – well, other than to grunt and shout “Pickles!” I mean.

Hell, most Americans couldn’t describe the difference between “Ukraine” and “The Ukraine” or why it matters, even if their lives depended on it – the press certainly has no idea.

I’d be willing to bet whatever sum of money you like that you can ask any random group of Americans to describe how a Russian navy base came to be located in Sevastopol, or even what body of water that base is located on or what its strategic importance is to the Russian navy, and not a single one would have any idea whatsoever without checking Wikipedia and its so, so accurate database first.  

Most Americans have no idea beyond the ingrained Cold War bogeyman of “Russia Bad! Evil Empire! Boris and Natasha, Moose and Squirrel!” and can’t be troubled to find out any more than that – despite having access to the accumulated knowledge of the entire human race at their fingertips. 

For all they really know, the Ukrainians could be a bunch of child murdering pudding sodomizers who wallow naked in the blood of little Christian babies under the light of the full moon.

And the Russians could be avenging heroes of righteousness and good.

Sure they could. I mean, after all, wasn’t it just last month that these same exact American conservatives were vocally praising Vladimir Putin for his stance on homosexuality and Western immorality?

These are the exact same people – the exact same people – who themselves want to solve all of America’s problems with guns and military force and think that they can liberate the Third World by dropping freedom on brown people from the belly of a B-2.  

But they’re hollering about Putin?

That’s rich. It really is. It’s like the jokes just write themselves.

Folks, and pay attention here, the politicians and pundits currently complaining the loudest about the White House’s response to the Ukrainian crisis have more in common ideologically with Putin than they do with Obama.

You might want to think about that. Think about it hard, because the irony is mind boggling.

Most Americans don’t know and they don’t care about any actual Ukrainians.

No, the real fear here being not the deaths or oppression of actual people, or the collapse of yet another modern nation’s stability into pillaging and rape and the bloody chaos of civil war, or the possibility of an expanding global economic catastrophe just as we were finally climbing out of the last mess, or even the possibility of a large scale war between nuclear powers and the resulting carnage and bloodshed and insanity. 

The real concern here is American Prestige.

That’s the real casualty of a war in the Crimea, right? Prestige. Face. Reputation.

"Everybody says 'no' to the U.S. these days without cost or consequence," laments Aaron David Miller, a former adviser to six secretaries of State and fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars – which is just plain goddamned Ironic as all hell given that Woodrow Wilson was the American president who got himself reelected on the slogan “He kept us out of war!”  Miller told Fox News that the last "truly effective" foreign policy was under former President George H.W. Bush. "There was a cost for saying 'no' to the United States. Right now, there is no cost."

I honestly have to wonder if Miller can actually hear what the words coming out of his mouth sound like. Particularly what those words sound like to the rest of the world.

If you’re hearing the tromp tromp tomp of goose-stepping, you’re not the only one.

With a straight face, Conservative blog American Thinker (an oxymoron if ever there was one) hails Sarah Palin as “astute,” and worries based on her vague 2008 comments regarding the Russia/Georgia conflict (which somehow proves her word salad gibberish to be as accurate and reliable as Nostradamus), that Putin will next invade America and take back Alaska in a fit of seller’s remorse.

Hey, it could happen. 

And, of course, Russia will dare this because, as the big-haired big-breasted foreign policy “experts” at Fox News pointed out today, the world just doesn’t fear us the way it used to.

Face, prestige, that’s what this is all about.

That’s what these people are really afraid of, that unless we attack, unless we unleash yet another ill-conceived war, unless we charge pell-mell into yet another conflict and leave several thousands more of our best and brightest dead on the battlefield, unless the world fears us, either our military might or our insanity, why, men like John McCain and Lindsey Graham will have to hang their heads in shame.  

But you know, here’s the thing: Pearl Harbor, Korea, Israel and the Arab states, Tibet, Mau Mau, Cuba, Cambodia, Algeria, Suez, Vietnam, Tibet again, the Congo, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Angola, Yemen, Sino-Indian, Rhodesia, Colombia, The Dominican Republic, Chad, Libya, The Six Day War, Nigeria again, Tibet again, The Troubles in Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Bangladesh, Black September, The Yom Kippur War, USS Liberty, USS Pueblo, Cyprus, Iraq and the Kurds, Iraq and Iran, Iraq and Kuwait, Iraq and America, The Dirty War, Libya and Egypt, Uganda, The Munich Massacre, Libya and Chad, The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, The Falklands, Lebanon, Grenada, Sri Lanka, Laos and Thailand, The Lord’s Resistance Army, Panama, Liberia, Somalia, Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya, Korea again, The first WTC bombing, The Kobar Towers, Iran, Korea again, The Line of Death, the Berlin Disco Bombing, Pan Am Fight 103, Korea again, The Kenya Embassies, TWA 841, Mumbai, Oklahoma City, Syria, USS Cole, and on and on and on, I mean, fuck, when exactly was this idyll time of peace and tranquility imposed by the fear of American might?

No really, please tell me. When exactly was this magical time when America’s military power and brilliant foreign policy so intimidated the world that all the other nations toed the Red, White, and Blue line like good little vassal states?

Because I spent more than twenty of those years in the United States military, engaged time after time around the globe from Libya to Iraq, from one crisis to the next, and frankly I just must have missed this peaceful golden age. 

But, Obama, he came along and screwed it all up, eh?

It’s Obama’s fault, not Putin’s, not Yanukovych, Obama.

It’s Obama who makes America appear weak, who has tarnished the nation’s credibility and reputation.

Of course it is. Why, certainly it’s not senators and congressmen and former has-been politicians and pundits and media personalities who publicly entertain outrageous debunked conspiracy theories and fight the president at every turn and who stand like strange bedfellows with our adversaries against the Commander In Chief. 

Oh yes, of course, calling their own president and their own neighbors unAmerican and communists and socialists and fascists and Nazis and the Anti-Christ and the enemies of America and the enemies of humanity and gangsters and of palling around with terrorists and just plain evil, no it’s not those people who damage America’s reputation with their raging insanity. No, certainly not.  And, of course, it couldn’t possibly be that these same people routinely weaken their own country with government shutdowns, threats of open rebellion and secession and outright civil war. No, it couldn’t be that.

Hell, when Obama gave in to Republican objections and openly sought permission from conservatives before using military force in Syria, they publicly denigrated him as weak – and they did so specifically because Obama actually listened to them and didn’t defy congress and attack Syria anyway.  That’s what a strong Republican patriot would have done, you know, attacked against the specific vote of congress. When Reagan thumbed his nose at congress and sent the military covertly into Afghanistan, why that wasn’t unconstitutional, well, alright, it was, but by God it showed balls – and it intimidated the hell out of our enemies like the Taliban … okay, that’s a bad example but I think I’ve made my point here.

Certainly the current administration’s foreign policy could stand some significant improvement, notably an aggressive campaign to repair the last 50 years of bluster and chest beating, but to blame Obama for Putin’s aggression now is more than a stretch, it’s outright lunacy.

Ah, hell, I guess at this point, after five years of this nonsense – did I say just five years? Oh never mind – I shouldn’t expect anything else. 

If these people are really concerned with reputation, maybe they should spend just a little less time worrying about Obama’s and a little more time improving their own.

 

WE THE WHITE, GODFEARING CITIZENS OF ROCK RIDGE wish to express our extreme displeasure with your choice of sheriff. Please remove him immediately! The fact that you have sent him here just goes to prove that you are the leading asshole in the state!
     - Harriet Johnson, letter to Governor William J. LePetomaine, Blazing Saddles

85 comments:

  1. I grew up with Mel Brooks and Monty Python. I so totally can relate here....Probably explains a lot about me....

    The sentence: " John McCain roused grumpily from the foggy bamboo cage of his raging PTSD and angrily shouted “Pickles!” as he often does when provoked."

    Is a structure of pure brilliance. Now where that big band music....

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    1. Yeah, I grew up with them, too. Also Spike Jones' "right in der Fuhrer's face". And Rocky & Bullwinkle of course. "Boris and Natasha, Moose and Squirrel!"

      Yeah. "Do something to somebody, quick!" The R&B writers, in the height of the Cold War, perfectly channeled the war mongers of every age. And I wonder if, as with the Three Stooges, it was intentional...

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  2. A Cool Head. A thoughtful commentary. Common sense. Reality. Why aren't YOU in Washington running things, dear Exalted Ruler of the universe? We'd all be better off; US and everybody else.

    ABR

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    1. I am unelectable in America, even if I was so inclined - which I'm not - the religious requirement makes that a certainty.

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    2. Understandable; no one in his right mind would want to go through the mess that is an election these days. Guess there's an answer in there, huh?

      ABR

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    3. The religious requirement that's expressly prohibited in the Constitution? Oh, yeah -- carry on.

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    4. I've only been following Mr. Wright's blog for a short time so my two cents probably ain't worth much. But here it is: Jim Wright is like that little kid in the story. You know, the one who points out the Emperor's wardrobe malfunction. I like little kids like that. Don't go suggesting he should corrupt his child-like freedom from religion to join the Emperor's entourage. That right there, and a nickel, will get you a good five cents.

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    5. Hey Jim, Don't forget that you have an open invitation from your local MatSu Democrats to support you in a run for public office. We don't give a damn about your religious convictions! A lot of our Tea Party types may end up running unopposed.

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  3. Just an excellent article! The only base that you did not cover was the fact that President Obama had on jeans when he talked to Putin - who could see President Obama through the phone. Oh yeah, McCain and Graham obviously have a man-crush on Putin - especially when he shows his man-boobs when he takes off his shirt.

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    1. You also forgot that Putin is white.

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  4. Right on target again, Jim.

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  5. Wouldn't the right just hate it if Obama turned out to be the hero of this situation, though?

    Here's to conservative heads exploding!

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    1. After the conservative head exploded, they would deny that any of it happened.

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    2. They would never admit it. The president could single-handedly (and personally) prevent all out Armageddon and the wingers would find a way to give credit to Shrub, and perhaps dead-Reagan.

      I'm so tired of men and their pissing contests. Who the fuck cares who "looks bad" if lives are preserved -- on both/all sides?

      P.S. Oh yeah... who died and made Lindsey Graham the expert on all things military?

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    3. Miss Lindsey is a national guard lawyer ( i think) .If he is ,that makes him/her an expert. National guard troopers were the chickenshits of Nam. Talk tough behind everybody elses blood,but will not put themselves at risk. Been there. Not done with it.

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  6. Amyzon the OracleMarch 4, 2014 at 10:16 PM

    Wikipedia? Really? It's nice for settling bar bets, or yet another goofy question from your family, but you have better options. For a internet resource, I'd go with the CIA World Factbook. If I was really doing something in print, I'd hit the Statesman Almanac. That resource is excellent, and for a dry work of data, it's not a bad read.

    I didn't look it up, but I understand the importance of the Ukraine. Russia is a cold place, and it's inconvenient to get your ships through sheets of thick ice. Having a warm water port on the Black Sea has always been a priority..even if that port means you have to go through that little strait near Istanbul to get to the Med.

    If you look at the incursion into Georgia five years ago, Russia is all about making sure it's not cut off from it's warm water ports. No one takes a Russia winter more seriously than a Russian. Making sure that you have more than seven months of trade and industry a year is important. Most of Russia slows to a crawl in the winter and that includes Siberia. There's a reason Catherine the Great honored Potemkin because he was key to territory on the Black Sea. (Though I hear his being great in the sack sweetened the deal.)

    I don't know how Obama has anything to do with a conflict that has been going on centuries. Many Ukrainians want to ally themselves with Europe. The Russians want them to remain Russian in identity. This is not new. The Russian identity has always been odd. The Mongols invaded first. Within three generations their decedents had Russian names. They weren't the last. Russia has been invaded many, many times, but it never lasts. In the end, Russian is always left to the Russians. Mix in the fact that Russians have always liked to dabble with the West, Ivan the Terrible proposed to Queen Elizabeth the First. Peter the Great admired all things European in dress and architecture, but he was distinctly Russian in his actions. Russian history is littered with a desire to be sophisticated and modern like the Europeans while stymied by being intrinsically Russian. There is no place like Russia, and I'm a wee bit tired of Cold War relics pretending they understand the Russian mindset. The Russians don't understand the Russian mindset.

    The situation in Ukraine will eventually be hashed out. I'm not sure that our involvement would help anything. Sanctions are probably our best bet. Sending Jimmy Carter in with his group to monitor elections and make sure they are fair would be another option. I'm not sure Russia is helping themselves by invading. The Ukrainians may get to the point where they won't even deal with Russian in the future and it's a constant struggle to keep them in the fold. Russia doesn't need another Chechnya.

    (This entire little spiel was out of what I remembered about Russian history. Any inaccuracies are purely my own. All I looked up was spellings.)

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    1. I believe that you are missing the sarcasm behind Wikipedia's "so, so accurate database."

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    2. "I don't know how Obama has anything to do with a conflict that has been going on centuries."

      Bingo! The reason you're able to make this comment is because you know and understand history!!! There are too many Americans who don't know jack about the histories of the nations they want to invade. They seem to think that military might = dominance and winning. This is something only someone who doesn't study/read history would think. Imho, the idea that military might = dominance and winning was also a major reason GWB was so ready to send members of our military to Iraq. Had he stopped long enough to study the history of the region, he would have known that Mesopotamia has always been a region of conflict, but nooooo, he and his supporters didn't need to know anything about the region's history, all they needed was their gut feeling that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. Every time I think of the loss of lives and the maiming of members of our military, I get angry. Invading Iraq ended up being a clusterf*ck of major proportions and is something neither GWB nor his supporters will admit to this day.

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  7. Glad to get a longer view of history from you, thank you!

    One edit: "... laid the fountains for the current conflict..." I believe it should be 'foundations'.

    Read this through eagerly at 2:00 am... Yup, going to work tomorrow morning too. :/

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  8. Jim's post is not about geopolitics, but it seems to that people want to discuss that, so here is my entry in the Ukrainian geopolitics discussion: Ukraine: The Great Game, v2.0. It's long, and there's some links I like at the end.

    Also, swing by The Blog Fodder's blog. He's a Canadian with a Ukrainian wife, living about 150 miles north of Crimea. He started out blogging about family and cats, poor guy, and then politics got interested in him.

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  9. Another good one Jim
    Nice to have someone who clarifies my understanding of just about everything including cats.

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  10. Breathless. Your prose and your common sense, which is not so common any more, has laid me breathless.

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  11. "Most Americans have no idea beyond the ingrained Cold War bogeyman of “Russia Bad! Evil Empire! Boris and Natasha, Moose and Squirrel! ..."

    Analysis, insight, clarity, logic AND laugh-out-loud-funny cultural references I actually know ???

    Jim, you make feel (almost) relevant.

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  12. .

    Thank you. Your skills of clearly articulating the nuance and complexity of the situation are outstanding. You put the situation in perspective.

    Ema Nymton
    ~@:o?
    .

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  13. "America should be the biggest bully, with the biggest dickhead - uh, stick ... at the head ... uh. Anyway McCain/Palin 2008 yeehaw!" Never mind that most of us did not want them then and we are glad of that decision.
    Chandra in MO

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  14. It is important to remember that reputation, prestige and face work both ways- Putin is working on his and his gets better when he can rattle the cages of the west and get away with it. I mean holy cow if there were some Russian speaking folks being pummeled by barrel bombs in Syria I suppose Putin would have road up on an armored car and personally removed Bashar al-Assad from power. Geo politics is a complicated thing and often makes for some interesting "allies", remember in the not so distant past we were helping Saddam and Osama bin laden. The point being, the world is a very fluid and dynamic place and often requires one to act and act decisively then history works out if it was the right thing or the best thing. Personally from my stand point, as the President of the U.S. I should not speak to another world leader and offer up vague threats. If I am going to issue an appeal, a warning or a threat then I am also going to detail specifically what the consequences will be and I follow through immediately. Period, end of discussion and if I am not in position to do so I don't mention then at all. Maybe before you have a 90 minute conversation with Putin you have a 20 minute call with all parties about what exactly is on the table- not maybe but a clear road map of where this can go.

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  15. It never ceases to amaze me how people who spend their time lecturing us that America can't afford to feed, house, educate or treat the illnesses of American children and constantly point out, 'OOK! Debt!' want the U.S.'s first response to every single last international incident to be plunking a few thousand young lives & another few trillion dollars of our money into a military intervention. They want us to march troops in there, and roll Ivan all the way back to Moscow & keep going, as if that's worked out well for the last 4 countries who have even tried. Hell, I'm amazed that McCain managed to resist working a call for tax cuts in there somewhere while we're at it.

    This is, in part, the result of us spending 50 years militarily-opposing the satellite states for being Communist, and failing to engage them as capitalist economies once the curtain fell. The only result of a Russian leader finally doing what an American President told him to do (tear this wall down!) was that they suddenly became utterly insignificant to us. Little wonder Putin has dreams of reconstituting the Soviet Union & why he might have more than a little following; either way you still stand in line to buy toilet paper, but at least you're important on the world stage.

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  16. The NotRight's reaction to this situation is no different than their reaction to anything else President Obama does. They don't like it, they excoriate him, they demand that he handle it differently, but they have no workable suggestions as to what that different action should be. Guiliani's praise of Putin's "leadership" made me want to cry and puke at the same time. He and the rest of the disloyal opposition have condemned the President for the use of executive orders, calling him a communist dictator, yet now they're slurping all over a real communist dictator.

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    1. And I love the fact that Giuliani's definition of "leadership" is, apparently, "act without thought."
      Impulse! Knee-jerk! Shoot first, ask questions later!
      Nothing could possibly go wrong with that.

      Bruce

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  17. Senator McCain traced back the Obama/Ukraine conspiracy to an undergraduate paper that the president wrote in 1983. (http://tinyurl.com/ngg32vy)

    Would anyone like to compare Mr. Obama's class standing to Mr. McCain's? Hmmm. Where did the senator place at the Naval Academy? I used to like (at least, begrudgingly admire) McCain. Someone needs to brush the old coot off the stage, now.

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  18. I love this. Thank you so much.

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  19. Just in case anyone else immediately decided they had to have a copy of a Sarah Palin coloring book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0615332773

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  20. Then there's this--U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry criticizing Russia: "You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped up pre-text." Huh? Did he really SAY that? You can't make this stuff up. It could easily be a headline from the "Onion," but here's Kerry saying it with a straight face. Ain't that America.

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  21. I hang my head in shame.Yes, I am one of the millions of Americans who know virtually nothing about history. (Gee. Weren't those high school history classes boring?) Even if I'd gone to college I wouldn't have a history degree. There's just so MUCH of it! My little skull would have collapsed when my brain imploded. (And why DID we have that revolution? Oh yeah. That British king was a poopy head.) Heck, most of us have trouble reading our bank statements, much less history books. (Can't trust books anyway. Or the media, of course. Movies are best unless they have subtitles.)

    I'm trying to catch up. Really I am, but first I have to feed the cat and watch that Andy Griffith rerun.

    Somebody forgive me. I'm having trouble forgiving myself.

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    1. It's not that the history classes were boring. They were lies.

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  22. Jim, thank you as always for making me laugh at the current insanity (or inanity) that passes itself off as political leadership in this country. Every time something happens in that mysterious zone comprising the rest of the world, the response plays out like an opening skit on SNL. As you aptly point out, ignorance is a choice if you have a computer on your desk. I think you are correct in your analysis that what purports to be the conservative movement has little agenda beyond somehow making Obama lose face. From a traditional point of view, they show no absolutely no interest in the long term welfare of the nation or its people, and most of the economic and social policies they advocate are necessarily limited by the fact they are not based in reality. In a different historical context, they would simply be presented with a card which reads "Go Directly to the Tower of London, do not pass Go, and do not collect $200" and the matter would be quickly resolved. On the topic of jackboots, I would highly recommend Greer's last few blogs on fascism in the Archdruid Report. I recently returned from a cruise in the Caribbean - most of the people on the boat were Canadians, and it was almost eerie to be able to sit and talk about world events with people who had some historical perspective.

    As for Putin, I see him as someone who is slow playing a pair of aces before the flop in a game of Texas Hold 'Em. The only really valuable resource on the planet is oil and gas, Russia is the second largest producer, exports nearly twice what it uses, and likely has the largest remaining reserves. I am certain that there are people out there who understand that if he ultimately decides to retain them for purposes of national security, the rest of the industrialized economies unravel rather quickly. Cheers to ShopKat!

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    1. I would add fresh water to your list of valuable resources.

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    2. Regarding his petroleum resources....his economy is reliant on customers to his west. He would be cutting his own throat if he turned off the spigot. (or slowed it down)

      Bigtoe

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  23. Righteous rant, Jim.

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  24. Palin Putin Does anyone see the similarity besides me?

    Danny

    kyivpost.com
    themoscowtimes.com
    http://holodomorct.org/index.html

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  25. Putin can see Palin's push-up bra from his front porch.

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  26. It's all just so depressing. I tell my kids (6 and 8) how far this country has fallen at the hands of these moron/extremists, and I really worry about the world they are going to inherit.

    And you left out what happens at the No. 6 dance, but I guess I can understand your restraint there.

    Keep fighting the good fight! You inspire me.

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    1. They're gonna do that too. Been working on it for a while with their anti-woman legislation at all levels of government. Though Senator Graham may just stand and watch.

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  27. "John McCain roused grumpily from the foggy bamboo cage of his raging PTSD and angrily shouted “Pickles!” as he often does when provoked." Wow, McCain shouts my husband's middle name when provoked? That is kind of scary…don't tell his fellow homophobic Arizone-outs!

    Thank you for this; the shrill screeching of the chickenhawks has driven this old analyst nuts this week. I've known a couple Ukrainians -- one taught me Russian at the Defense Language Institute, one was a mail order bride here in Washington. I imagine both (if the former is still alive) are glad to NOT be in the Ukraine right now.

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  28. Just love your history lessons and your wit, Jim. Most of which I slept thru during high school. (Not your wit! I lived with a man that could match yours and I sure miss it.)

    A GREAT Grandma who has lived thru much of the history you listed!

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  29. "Miller told Fox News that the last "truly effective" foreign policy was under former President George H.W. Bush. 'There was a cost for saying 'no' to the United States. Right now, there is no cost.' "

    I think the more important development as far as costs or the lack thereof are concerned is the fact that the legislators of the most powerful country on the planet, along with their media enablers and the chattering bobbleheads of the pundit class, can misrepresent, misinterpret, misunderstand, misread, mislead, misfire, miss the point and just flat out lie without paying any personal or professional costs at all. There's certainly no electoral downside to doing so -- if one's Congressional district is safe enough, it's damn near impossible to actually lose a general election regardless of how crazy one is. Primaries -- particularly Republican primaries -- are another matter, of course. Then the question isn't "am I too crazy or corrupt for public office?" but rather "am I crazy enough?" Unfortunately, for a distressingly large number of American politicians both at the state and federal level, the answer is all too often "yes, yes I am!" (Canadian politicians -- yes, I'm Canadian, and therefore a Communist -- are, or can be, just as bad, but they don't get to speak in public quite so often.)

    Love the blog, sir. Please keep writing.

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  30. Thank again Jim, I learn so much from your posts and that in turn enables us all who understand and support you to keep moving in a positive direction.

    If history is correctly written (there is hope), President Obama will be known as one of the greatest Presidents our nation has had (I think I just heard Nugent's pedophile/draft dodging ball sack fall off - "tink"). What other President has inherited such a mess during a decades long era of head-in-ass politics backed by the might of corporate billions. It matters not at all what he does, it is vilified by the GOP/TEA idiots simply because it did not occur on their watch. What these folks can't fathom is even if they are on watch, they have not the capacity to do what is right. It seems they all collectively had their umbilical cords wrapped twice and tight around their necks at birth.

    President Obama grew up like many of us, no silver spoon in hand. Yes he inhaled, frequently and that was the point. He is real, he is genuine, he has a brain. He is the greatest person this country truly needs but too many are too stupid to see past their racism, religion and sheer ignorance.

    My father (27yr Navy man) who up until George "whats his nuts, where is the brush" Bush came along had been a staunch Republican. I had never seen my father so repulsed as he was with Bush. He voted for Obama on the first leg and even then (as today) he stated that an exception should be allowed for Obama to run for 3 consecutive terms because based on my fathers view, that is how long it will take to correct that mess. I couldn't agree more. Sadly, no matter how many term President Obama could be in office, until our GOP/TEA folks pull there heads out of their ass, nothing will change.

    Thanks Jim for the Blazing Saddles quotes, I think the full #6 is what these Repubs really want to do to us and the world. Mel Brooks is a man that is light years ahead in his vision of our country and government as well as yourself. His 1974 movie is one that should be required viewing. To those reading this, if you have not seen that movie - do so.

    Peace and goodwill to you all.

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  31. Thanks. Truly enjoyed, and hopefully learned some history. Triple points for a quote from the Waco Kid.

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  32. More than excellent, if that is possible. I think you want "Colombia", not "Columbia" though.

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    1. I just put that in there to see if you were paying attention.

      It's fixed. Thanks for the assist. //Jim

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  33. "Unless the world fears us." That's the crux of the matter, innit? This a Right-Wing Syndrome. They just have to behave like their puny divinity that acts like a spoiled brat 5-year old. "Fear me! Or I'll kill everyone!"

    That's the problem with our foreign policy. The chickenhawks want everyone to fear us. Fear! Fear! Fear! BY GOD!!! You can almost see the spittle flecked on their lips. The problem with fear is that no one can think clearly in a state of fear. The amygdala gets overloaded and shuts down the reasoning part of the brain. Not that any of these loonies could be accused of having a brain. Or being reasonable.

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  34. This may be your best one yet, Jim! I so appreciate your righteous anger with the stupidity in American (and all) politics. You are fierce in your words. Thanks!

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  35. From a slightly different point of view. I'm what's called Byzantine (Ruthenian) Catholic. I often go to Divine Liturgy at the local Byzantine (Ukrainian) monastery. I also did 21 years in the Navy and retired as a YN1. And I have a BA in history - focus military history - sub-focus WW-1 so I do know where the Ukraine and Crimea are. The nuns at the monastery are pretty much highly opposed to Russian action, and want just about everyone but the Arabs to intervene and get Russia out.

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  36. Let's give the Right a rest for a second, hey? Check out some authentic frontier gibberish from...our side? Whoa. Obama's supporting the Nazis in Ukraine, huh?

    There was a LaRoushie running for something or other in Chicago, back in the early '80s. I remember watching her give either a speech or press conference, and noting that she had the same chrome-plated-eyeballs look you see in the insanely religious/spiritual. She lost, thank dog. These are some straaaange people. I caught one of their guys on "Access Houston" back when I had cable, and he gave a very entertaining talk. When it was over I realized that he had neatly tied together every dingbat conspiracy theory known to man. Elvis was still alive, I think, and living with JFK on the dark side of the Moon with the Illuminati, Hitler, and what was left of the Nazis. Or maybe it was the Nazis and what was left of Hitler. Maybe in a jar. Seriously, they don't make movies that good...

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    1. Add to your Truth is Stranger Than Fiction files the factoid that the uninformed Texas Democrats turned out in large enough numbers to vote Kesha Rogers into the run off. We have met the enemy and they are us (Walt Kelly). Now Texas D's have the unenviable task of spending rare and meager resources to tell people NOT to vote for one of their "own" just to prove that our side is not as stupid as their side. Argh.

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  37. Now I know why I find you so much a kindred spirit. Streaming across my desktop screen is the "you know........Moron's line.

    As an American I do not want to be feared, nor do I want to be envyed. I want to be respected and I was always taught that you need to earn respect by showing respect. So if my president chooses to respect the law and the intentions of the world community in combatting the law breakers, then I stand right beside him, as all supposed law abiding members of congress should do. On the other hand when my president, IE. GW, chooses to break the law and lie to me then I will fight him with everything I can muster. I sleep well at night with my convictions.

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  38. But...Benghazi! These folks are spoiling for a fight...they love to watch the Teevee (Fox News) minute by minute "show of force". They ache, truly ache for their beloved long lost world. I hope we can stay out of the fight but lend some real thought to the process. This is an old dispute and we are not directly involved. Like I said, I hope. Good post. Thank you.

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  39. Since I actually live in the west and in rather rural area I see way too much of that "common clay". It is one of my favorite movie lines, among others from Blazing Saddles. Changing tracks a bit I would suggest that if the Right loves Putin so much they should all move to Russia and renounce their citizenship in this country. Then they can kiss his ass at much closer range. They can take Fox along to report on their fabulous adventures thus killing two birds with one stone so to speak.

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    1. But, who would be left to spread the worship of Putin's glorious ass to the America?

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    2. The Snowald Circus Cult.

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    3. no, DON'T!!! you're like the department-store Santa who's promising me what i'd LOVE but cannot have.... I've been panting for Texas to secede and Nugent to go to jail for many moons!

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  40. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lyKgeg6qwY

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  41. I suppose Obama could gather the neocons and tell 'em, Hey, I really really want to marshal resources and go wage freedom in Ukraine. However, we can't afford it. So, we're gonna need a couple of Trillion just to get started. So, go tell your people we need the money and be sure to vote and raise taxes by 100% (200% for the billionaires), eliminate tax loopholes, eliminate off-shoring of corporate profits, put a tariff on Barbie dolls, tax all Wall Street transactions, tax bank transfers above 100k, etc. Get back to me when you've got all that done and we build up some Trillions. In the meantime, we'll stall 'em with diplomacy like we've been doing.

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  42. "There was a cost for saying 'no' to the United States. Right now, there is no cost."

    This is the typical reaction of a bully used to getting his way when his bullying tactics don't work anymore. Period. Republicans want the type of "respect" talked about by gangs and prisoneers.

    Freeportguy

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  43. By the way, why didn't conservatives hold similar positions in 2008 when the US did not intervene in Georgia after a Russian invasion? Blind partisanship…?

    Freeportguy

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  44. I just watched PBO on teevee laying out a very serious and level headed policy for de-escalation of the crisis...saving face has killed many people...and Jim, the McCain/pickle comment was ahhh, a good call...
    A little off topic. Jim, you mentioned the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan...being a kid of Navy origins and growing up on Cape Cod, I have an appreciation of Navy vessels...I watched them sail through the Cape Cod Canal, and chased em with our little boats...The USS Reagan is currently docked in San Diego, and apparently glowing from the Fukushima explosions...there are some health problems starting to show up in her crew...news has been slow and/or not looking too good...just saying Master Chief...The last time I visited the Cape, I was treated to watching Sailing Crews from Annapolis in their ten meter sail boats...Five boats, full sail, fair winds and trailing seas....Twas a sight to behold...and no camera....

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  45. Pickles!

    Sigh. Just more of the same from the usual creaky, cantankerous flag-wavers who are always anxious to fire up the war machine.

    When will we ever learn?

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  46. Right now it seems the old saying "Politics ends at the water's edge" depends on which party holds the White House. I'm just glad we currently have a real leader who's strong enough to keep us out of wars and, Lord knows, he's had plenty of opportunities to wade in, guns-a-blazin' in Egypt, Libya and Syria but instead had the strength of character to ignore the taunts from his political opponents and think things through. Now that's something I can respect.

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  47. It's funny how these morons with the screaming meemies can scuttle a bill which would greatly benefit veterans because it would "cost too much" and then fall all over themselves to demand the POTUS "do something" about Putin. Like you said, they all stopped short of calling for military action but I think not a one would shrink from creating more veterans that they're not prepared to support. That is, unless they're shrieking at the other side and accusing THEM of being un-American. Their opposition to this bill is a perfect illustration of who does and doesn't care about these people who serve. They should be ashamed but then the media is more concerned with shaming John Travolta for bungling a name at the Oscars. News sources should be shouting about this travesty so everyone will know how these hypocrites operate.
    Pam in PA

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    1. Actually, I think it might be their solution to the overpopulation problem their anti-abortion position would result in.

      Think about it: Make women have more babies > Lack of a social safety net means life for most of these kids would suck, so they'd want a ticket to a better life > Recruitment posters make career military service look good, so these kids are encouraged to enlist in droves > With a massive (compared to today) military buildup, the United States can project even more forc- sorry, freedom to all corners of the world > The numerous brush wars, interventions, and skirmishes that would inevitably result create both veterans and job openings in the military > With reduced VA service, only those veterans best able to cope with the consequences of war get to live, thus depleting the surplus population.

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    2. You scare me. That makes soooooooooo much sense.

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  48. I have to respond to the following and what followed it;

    "If only it wasn’t for Obama there wouldn’t have been six hundred years of history between Russia and Ukraine,"

    With a joke I saw during the Iraqi reconstruction. It went like this:

    An Iraqi officer tells an American trainer "That guy is my sworn enemy, his grandfather killed my grandfather", The American responds "How awful, When did it happen?". "1340". "Are you people f***ing nuts!"

    The end!

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  49. Some wingnuts can't seem to decide if they hate Putin or have a crush on him.

    “I feel so uncomfortable answering. My instinct on that is: I don’t know. I would think Putin would be just as lawless, but he would have actual leadership and gravitas. It pains me to say it. But I’d go with him [over Obama.]”

    Good grief.

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    1. They don't know whether to kiss him or kick him, and it's driving them nuts.

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  50. Of course it's about "face"
    "For all they really know, the Ukrainians could be a bunch of child murdering pudding sodomizers who wallow naked in the blood of little Christian babies under the light of the full moon.
    Though I'm sure they don't have anyone trying to fuck a pizza, eh ?

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  51. Bet that felt good, getting this off your chest! As a vet, you "see" a picture that many don't.

    Even though certain GOP hotshots served also, they are so removed from the current military/real world (except for funding more more more to the military suppliers), that there's so way to take what they say seriously. So long their own families are NOT affected, they just ignore consequences.

    PMom_GA

    PS - it's a wonder some really foul language didn't manifest itself in this post.

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  52. There was a time when I felt John McCain had some integrity, I don't understand why he jumped the tracks and joined the "crazy train". He could have been a voice of "reason" for the Republicans, instead he chooses to throw gas on the fire. Partisanship, the new "norm", rather than doing what is best for the country, work to divide us and tear it apart..."Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice" thanks, Barry, and how's that working for ya and us? Another excellent post Jim, as usual. Loved the Blazing Saddle references, and Slim as well.

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  53. We can fix this. Vote the crazy Republicans out of the House this year, and things will change for the better i promise! Tangible action now people!

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  54. What's with the Wikipedia snark? It's not the be-all and end-all, but it's a great place to get the basics, just like any encyclopedia, and it's just as accurate as the others.

    How accurate is Wikipedia?

    I would think that at least looking up the basics for yourself is far preferable to having carefully selected "facts" spoon-fed to you by Faux News, and most of the articles have suggestions for further reading--in fact, the first site in the list of links is the World Factbook suggested by one of the other posters.

    Given that most of us are no longer in school, you have to start somewhere, and you could do far worse than Wikipedia.

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  55. Amazing irony that while reading this, Cheney and Paul Ryan are on Face the Nation making Jim's points so venomously.

    I swear Jim is omniscient.

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  56. I'm just glad we don't have a Republican Senate, House, and Presidency. We'd probably have troops and ships on their way to the Crimea as I write this....

    Excellent article, Jim.

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  57. Unfortunately, most Americans will never read this, or anything remotely like it, because- you know, there's so many sentences!

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  58. Jim, I wish you would let some comments from the mouth-breathers post. Just to break up the monotony of the 'Great job Jim' posts. Just sayin'. ;-)

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  59. Over on the 'TV Trope's" On-Topic Conversations board there is a discussion of Crimea. I get the feeling a lot of Tropers are young and American. There was at one point discussion was about winning a nuclear war - because Russia has a very short reaction period, and a top down command structure - they couldn't react.

    I asked that as someone who was a teen before most of the commenters were born, could we stop thinking a nuclear war was winnable. I've lived within 30 miles of London all my life - that big target in South East England, except for the 3 years in Plymouth - Britain's major naval base. I know about laying in bed as a scared teen, wondering if I would wake up tomorrow. A guy from Berlin a couple of years younger joined me.

    No one on the Right seems to be able to answer what military options NATO has.

    Puts Chamberlain and Munich into perspective. For info Munich was 38. Britain had been preparing for war with Germany since 36- watching the SCW, the modern Luftwaffe pulverise towns, and thinking "Fu..."

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