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Just Another Young White Male Nutjob? The Isla Vista Killer and His Discontents

June 2, 2014

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When the Isla Vista massacre story broke last week, I was about to file it under “So what else is new?”: antisocial young white male loses marbles, arms himself with a semiautomatic and goes on a shooting spree in which he blasts multiple individuals he doesn’t know personally. Typical American news event, repeated like old episodes of “Friends” on late-night TV. Except that 1) it’s no laughing matter, 2) we should never let ourselves grow numb to such events simply because they’ve become part of the American cultural landscape, and 3) this particular rampage was especially instructive about the current state of life in our republic.

So why did the late Elliot Rodger enshrine his name in perpetuity with all the other young male maniacs by acting out his homicidal fantasies in public? Opinions sprouted like spring dandelions: it’s all about guns, shouted the anti-gun activists. No, it’s about the breakdown of marriage and morality, lamented the conservative Family Research Council. No, it’s more about our faulty mental health system, noted the well-meaning “therapy cures all” contingent. No, it’s about misogyny and white male privilege, scolded a black female columnist who (somewhat predictably) also teaches both gender studies and “Africana” studies.

I don’t entirely dismiss any of the above explanations for the Isla Vista massacre. The problem is that these explanations more accurately reflect the biases of the explainers than the motives of the murderer.

The guns-gone-wild explanation. Granted, the murderer had bought three handguns, including a Glock semiautomatic pistol, and used them to spray bullets at a sorority and a deli, killing three college students. There’s no doubt that the guns in his possession emboldened him, and that semiautomatic weapons in particular tend to bring out the worst in mentally unstable American gun owners. And yes, we need to ban those deadly ammo clips, which have no place in the homes of American citizens unless they’re planning to join a “well-regulated militia” to defend their country. (Second Amendment diehards can look it up.) But Rodger also stabbed three young men to death in his apartment and used his BMW to ram several unsuspecting pedestrians. This was a mixed-media massacre.

The morality explanation. Sure, the prevailing culture in the U.S. has tended toward decadence and dissolute behavior for decades now — but Western European culture is at least as decrepit as ours, and yet the annual gun-related death statistics there are minuscule. (In the U.S. recently, there were 3.6 gun homicides per 100,000 people; in the U.K. that same year, the figure stood at a barely perceptible 0.o4.)

The mental health explanation. The believers have a point here about our tendency to let American psychos fall through the cracks, but not in the case of Elliot Rodger. Quite the contrary. The lad had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (high-functioning autism) and had been undergoing intensive therapy since the age of eight. Anyway — and more to the point — we can’t start locking up every post-adolescent American male with maladjustment issues, and therapy obviously isn’t a cure-all.

The misogyny-and-white-male-privilege explanation. Please, enough with the defamation of white guys (and remember, I’m a former white guy, so I no longer have a stake in this issue). So the murderer felt entitled as a white male to take the lives of women and nonwhites? First of all, Rodger’s parentage was half white and half East Asian, which makes him genetically as white (or nonwhite) as Obama. Second, he murdered four males and two females, so there goes the misogyny angle. Yes, Rodger frequented some anti-feminist websites, but he clearly resented sexually active young men as much as he hated the young women who accommodated them.

Elliot Rodger left behind a rambling 140-page manifesto to recount his frustrations and account for his motives. I haven’t read it; I’d rather not spend that much time locked up inside the mind of a psychopath. But I did the next best thing: I watched his infamous 10-minute “day of retribution” video on YouTube. It was a fascinating experience, something akin to watching a Shakespearean villain stripped of his throne and plotting a bloody revenge — except that we’re talking about a 21st-century suburban kid from Southern California.

Seated inside his BMW, young Rodger preened for the camera and delivered a creepy but surprisingly articulate video soliloquy — a speech full of self-righteous bombast, apocalyptic threats, more than a little self-pity, and an appalling sense of entitlement. And yet his manner was soft and deliberate, as seamless and controlled as an actor reciting his lines onstage.

Visible madness: Newtown mass-murderer Adam Lanza

Visible madness: Newtown mass-murderer Adam Lanza

This was no grotesque, wild-eyed madman like Newtown butcher Adam Lanza or Jared Lee Loughner, the Tucson shooter. There was nothing weird about

Visible madness II: Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner

Visible madness II: Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner

his appearance, unlike the carrot-topped James Holmes, who gunned down all those unsuspecting moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado. He punctuated his diatribe with an occasional villainous chuckle, but even his sinister laughter seemed civilized. He was no ruffian.

No, Rodger came across as a dreamy-eyed young gentleman, obviously angry but refined and almost languid in his demeanor. I thought there was something a little too pretty and passive about this “kissless virgin” — especially for a young buck who purportedly lusted after all those young blonde sorority sisters who had eluded him or scorned his advances.

But wait a minute… had he actually been rejected, or had he never even approached a young woman with an awkward request for a night on the town? I heard him say that they “would have” rejected him — important phrasing here. Apparently Elliot Rodger never moved far enough outside his own head to test the waters of post-adolescent social and sexual combat. Was he unready for sex, or latently gay, or just too socially clueless to convert his fantasies to action?

No doubt his Asperger syndrome tripped him up as he struggled to master the intricate unwritten code of interpersonal relations. And it could well be that his effete, petulant personality radiated negative vibes that caused his peers to shut him out. But in the end, all those imagined rejections by comely blondes enabled him to transfer the blame for his nonexistent sex life from himself to the outside world… to the upscale, well-adjusted kids he observed cavorting in public and enjoying the tempting fruits of youth.

Ah, those upscale Southern California kids. Now we’re moving closer to the epicenter of Rodger’s fury. It turns out that his father, Peter Rodger, is a Hollywood director and photographer — surely a ticket to fame, wealth and an enviable social life. But, in fact, the elder Rodger was struggling — roughly a million dollars in debt as the result of a failed documentary he had filmed and produced. (It netted just $38,000 at the box office.) He and Elliot’s mother were divorced, and the son was acutely resentful of his family’s precarious finances.

Over and over, in his video, young Rodger repeated the mantra that he deserved to live the high life… that his good looks should have catapulted him to the glamorous top tier of Southern California society… that as a “beautiful Eurasian,” he should have enjoyed an unfair advantage when it came to attracting those desirable California blondes. Yet those blondes never swooped into his orbit. He’d see them lavishing their attentions not only on rich white frat boys, but on “ugly” (his word) full-blooded Asians and (can you believe it?) even “inferior” (his word again) Mexicans and African Americans. Admire ME, he seemed to be screaming (though he never raised his voice). They wouldn’t listen.

The postmortem portrait of Elliot Rodger reveals a young man so obsessed with looks, money, status, race, glamor and sex that he could almost serve as a funhouse mirror reflection of contemporary American popular culture. Distorted, yes, but a reflection all the same.

He had more material goods than most (how many 22-year-old kids drive a BMW?) — but not nearly enough to please him. He saw himself as a sexual and financial have-not in a society that worships sex and money. He had been transfixed and permanently warped by the gaudy images of celebrity life and conspicuous wealth that bombard us daily in our homes.

Above all, Rodger was a 24-karat narcissist. Here was a young man so thoroughly consumed by that deadly mix of self-love, self-aggrandizement, self-entitlement and self-loathing that he could serve as a textbook example of the disorder in its most lethal form.

Here’s how the Mayo Clinic website defines narcissistic personality disorder:

…a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

Wikipedia adds that narcissists are “excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and to others in the process.” You could probably tag most writers, artists, tycoons and politicians with the narcissist label, at least casually. But I think it’s spreading to the general population.

Our culture encourages and feeds narcissism now more than ever: our social media make mini-celebrities of us all. Our Facebook profiles look and read like amateur editions of People magazine. If we’re in therapy, we enjoy the attentions of a paid professional who listens raptly to our life stories. If we still read the news, we can gravitate to online articles that flatter our own political biases — and ignore everything that doesn’t. Even our schools help feed the notion that self-esteem is paramount. It’s all about us.

Of course, self-esteem can be a good thing, as long as it doesn’t cross over into arrogance or trump the needs of others. As with just about everything else in my peculiar view of the world, it’s a matter of moderation. And as I’ve discovered through hard observation and experience, moderation isn’t an especially American trait.

Americans have always been a little too enamored of “the good life,” the notion of winning big, being “king of the hill, top of the heap” (to quote a song made famous by one Francis Albert Sinatra, a working-class kid from Hoboken). In the financially unregulated, decreasingly middle class America of the early 21st century, we’re more conscious than ever of the difference between winners and losers. The difference is more visible — and more insurmountable — than ever. There’s less middle ground to support us if we don’t make it big, and we’re desperate not to be trodden under with the losers, the weak and infirm, the sad sacks, the bearers of substandard genes.

As a poor stepchild of Hollywood, Elliot Rodger probably smarted more than most of us when he glimpsed the difference between the elect and the damned. He felt entitled to live in paradise, but it was tantalizingly, exasperatingly just out of reach. And it drove him mad.

Six innocent young people had to pay for his madness. To Elliot Rodger, they were simply interchangeable symbols of his frustrations. To their parents and friends, they were everything.

Elliot Rodger’s infamous “day of retribution” YouTube video has been taken down, but you can read the full transcript here, courtesy of CNN. If you have the stamina and intestinal fortitude, you can read his complete 140-page manifesto here, brought to you by ABC.

Rick Bayan is founder-editor of The New Moderate.

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149 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2014 4:45 pm

    “The mental health explanation.”

    In his “manifesto” he said that he had been prescribed a drug used for schizophrenia, but according to him “that’s not for me” and he didn’t take it.

    Schizophrenia is a very serious mental illness that can take a person totally out of touch with reality (which might go a long way to explaining his misogynistic statements). What I fail to understand is how mental health practitioners wouldn’t test him to see he was taking those drugs – it is that serious and potentially dangerous condition. I believe a large number of previous killers like this also were already known to have serious mental issues.

    So the idea that we are not serious about identifying and treating people, even if against their will, for some dangerous kinds of mental illness does seem to have some basis in reality.

    regards,

    lwk

  2. June 2, 2014 5:11 pm

    I hadn’t heard that he had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. (You’d think it would have been newsworthy.) It could be that they prescribed a drug that’s also used by schizophrenics. For example, my son, who has ADD, takes a pill that’s normally used as an anti-depressant, but for whatever reason, it’s known to work when treating attention issues. In any case, you’d think Rodger’s therapist would have checked him periodically to see if he was taking his meds.

    I have a feeling that his therapist, like the police who had investigated him prior to the incident, were deceived by his gentle manner and articulate speech. They couldn’t see the psychopath lurking underneath the cool surface.

  3. June 2, 2014 8:00 pm

    So why are you writing about this ?

    Best as I can tell beyond venting, and some information, your suggestions are some vague limitations on firearms.

    We can do better with mental health.

    With a dash of blame, society, our culture, and I guess his parents.

    The world is not perfect. It is not perfectable. Bad things are going to happen. But contrary to the implications of your post, they are actually getting better.

    Since this event occured more children have been killed by drunk drivers than young adults by rogers. While I do not think we need to turn the nation into a police state to address drunk driving, the small numbers killed each year by those such as Rodgers are inconsequential in comparison to many other problems. The various advances delivered by free individuals each year whether life saving or prolonging measures such as new drugs or medical technology, or merely improvements to our productivity or quality of life that allow us to enjoy more of the life we lead dwarf incidents such as this.

    Though I am not aware of a single person dying as a result of drinks they bought at a lemonade stand – throughout most of this country kids can not legally make and sell lemonade. Something generations of american children have done is no more.
    I see that as a far greater problem.

    Whether you like it or not, guns and the size of ammunition clips have nothing to do with this. These disturbed mass killers are smart and creative. I can think of atleast half a dozen ways to horribly kill people using materials readily available at Kmart. Unfortunately the security experts at the TSA are even better at conceiving of such horrors, so all too soon we will have to fly naked with no luggage and receive a state adminstered enema first.

    Guns and large ammunition clips are merely minor conveniences in the quest for efficient means of mass murder.

    We could subject the entire population to pyschological screening tests. We could then incarcerate those that psychologists deem likely to do evil int he future – is that what you wish ? If so there is an expert who beleives he can predict the likelyhood of an already known criminal repeating a violent offence to a 50:50 certainty. He thinks with more funding he can get to 75%.

    Are you ready to incarcerate people for life on that ?

    Should we throw more money at the problem ?
    This obviously occurred in a distressingly poor neighborhood devoid of services. Government could certainly step in and help out. Free psychological counseling for the distressed children of Hollywood ?

    Or maybe we need to force people to be better parents. After all the average parent might see their teen for a few minutes each day as they glide through for dinner. Our government run public schools have then 7-8 hours a day and demand total suspension of parental rights from the moment they cross our threshold on the way to school until they pass over it again on the way home. And should a child fail to completely pass through the door of their home at the end of the school day, they could remain wards of the state through the remainder of the day.

    Some of us are better parents than others. That is just life. Yet the children of excellent parents still sometimes become mass murders and those of absent parents grow up to be president.

    Maybe we should ban facebook . Or twitter or squiggle or whatever the new thing is that has attracted teens today ?

    Is it only the current moment that produces this ? Is something about modern society especially sick leading to this ?

    Reading your post one might think so.

    Yet violence has been trending down since the first cave man bashed in the skull of a cave mate for the affections of some cavewoman – probably a perfectly coifed barby doll eurasian blonde. Down since the renasaince, down since the enlightenment, down since the industrial revolution, down since the 20th century, down, down down.
    We still beat and kill each other far too frequently – but about 25 times less than cave mean, 4 times less than the middle ages, and so far half as much as the 20th century.

    Maybe rather than yearning for a past that was more violent than the present – just absent the live blood from the other side of the world in ten media we have today. you might ponder why the world is actually getting better – in most every possible way.

    Maybe much too slowly for most of us, but inexorably so.

    Maybe Elliot Rogers is just an increasingly rare aberration. Maybe as humans we can never become perfect, only consistently improving slowly over time.

    Maybe that is enough ?

    • June 3, 2014 8:39 am

      Dave: I didn’t write this piece to vent — or to prescribe anything (other than restating my belief that semiautomatic ammo clips don’t really belong in private hands, any more than a bazooka or tank would). I was more interested in challenging all the one-dimensional explanations of Rodger’s rampage and exploring how contemporary cultural values might have shaped the guy’s pathological narcissism.

      I wish I could be as optimistic as you about our times. Yes, if you draw a rough graph of human violence from the Middle Ages to the present, the line would keep descending, with occasional blips like the two World Wars. But we have pockets of violence today that are much worse than they were during the mid-20th century. Our inner cities are war zones, and even suburbanites have to worry about crime. (When I was a kid, our parents felt confident enough to let us roam around unsupervised; that’s unthinkable today.)

      Mass killings by psychopaths are still an aberration, but they were virtually nonexistent until the late 20th century. It’s too late to ban semiautomatic guns because there are already millions of them in circulation. But if we banned the clips, we’d at least be putting up a hurdle that would force potential shooters to be a lot more resourceful — or ultimately give up on their lethal plans.

  4. June 2, 2014 8:29 pm

    Rick;

    I have not been following this much. Frankly I found mass murders boring. My real life has far to much drama to fixate on an event like this on the other side of the country.

    Diagnosis are flying all over. Aspergers, ADD, schizophrenic, psychopath, ….

    I beleive true psychopaths make up about 3% of the population. According to Robert Hare – pretty much the expert, they make up about 20% of the prison population.
    Though they are more prone to violence than ordinary people, and they are far more likely to break any rule they can get away with, most of them never become violent.
    We most commonly encounter psychopaths as CEO’s, Lawyers, TV and Radio Media personalities, sales people, surgeons, journalists, police, clergy, chef’s and civil servants.

    I personally worry most about those who are police and civil servants, and I can mostly avoid a psychopath in private life. Better still the intelligent ones tend to leave people alone if the get what they want.

    I have the personal misfortune to have two in my extended family – probably about double the number one would expect. I have a great deal of empathy for those who have been targeted by a psychopath. I desparately hope that one of the actually commits a crime (against someone other than a family member) so that she gets caught – the rest of our lives would be so much better. But even having to deal far to closely with a real psychopath, I am not prepared to pre-emptively incarcerate them – that is given we can even diagnose them. Robert Hare admits to having been repeatedly fooled by criminal psychopaths.

    The fact is that the state of mental health care and assessment is not all that good.

    We are still abysmally bad as assessing, diagnosing and predicting future behavior.
    Maybe some day we can do a brain scan, identify budding violent psychopaths, insect them with a miracle drug and cure them.

    Today we are not so good at telling ADD from ADHD, from OCD, from ….. normal, and pretty bad at treating them.

    We are a long long way from being able to empower experts to act premptively – even in a purely utilitarian society where the ends justify the means.

  5. Rob Anderson permalink
    June 2, 2014 9:24 pm

    Excellent essay, Rick.

    • June 3, 2014 8:44 am

      Thanks, Rob. I probably should have written it while the story was still “hot,” but on the other hand I had more time to think about what was going on in the kid’s mind — and how our worship of glamor and wealth might have influenced his psychosis. I actually could have written more, but I thought the essay was already long enough.

  6. Ron P permalink
    June 2, 2014 10:27 pm

    Rick, your article pinpoints the real problem that exist with murderers like this. All the experts can speculate, but the real reason will never be identified. Like most of these murders, the perp is usually killed so little testing can take place. Where a serial killer will try to avoid arrest, they still have a desire to live, where most mass murderers like this have a mental outlook that their life does not mean anything and they would rather be dead.

    Everyone with an agenda will pick that as a reason and run with it, no matter if it is the real reason or not.

    • June 3, 2014 7:41 am

      If a guy like Roger would rather be dead, I see no issue at all. Sadly, these nut jobs feel that they need others to go with them.

      As the old saying goes: Suicide IS an option.

    • June 3, 2014 9:03 am

      Ron: I thought it was remarkable, too, that most of the “expert” opinions about the murderer’s motivations reflected the pundits’ personal agendas. I’m probably no exception, with my critique of American culture and its worship of money, sex and power. But yes, it’s complicated — who really knows what drives a young, maladjusted guy over the edge? Most likely it’s a combination of all the factors mentioned.

      jb: It’s probably their anger at the world that makes these characters want to take others out with them when they go… although I don’t think I’ll ever understand what motivated Adam Lanza to shoot all those first graders in Newtown.

  7. June 3, 2014 7:39 am

    As always, Rick, very nicely done.

    My quick two cents is that there is always a tendency among the news media to hyperventilate when these issues occur. Yet, the “answer” they seek is always simplistic an points fingers. These cases are rarely simple, but they are rare (thank God).

    In this case, most seem to point at the “need” for more control:

    Gun control
    Forced mental health therapy

    On its face, this sounds OK to the masses. Gun control good, more guns bad.

    As you point out, there is no shortage of ways to commit murder if that is your intent. Guns, cars, knives, machetes, bombs, chemicals, well, you get the point. This guy used three methods, which is creative, if you like that kind of thing.

    Forced mental health? Hmm, if this guy was under care since he was 8 yrs old and was currently under care, then how can you make the forced mental health care play? In fact, I might suggest that we need far fewer on mental health meds and seeing so-called mental health therapists.

    As an aside, back when I took the EST training, they had a question on the application that asked if you were in therapy. If you answered yes, they asked if you were “winning in therapy?”

    I think we can all agree that this bird was not winning in therapy.

    My last comment is about society’s (read government) attitudes towards crime. Our treatment of criminal behavior defies rational thought.

    If you caught the story, the guy who took his car and killed 9 people by running into a crowd in San Monica 8 yrs ago was just released from his forced mental hospital stay.

    Apparently, this guy is no longer a threat to others, so it is OK to let him go free?

    Hmmm. I would say that the very institutions that we pay to “protect” society may be working at cross purposes.

    BTW-Did you notice that the media as decided that illegal immigration into the US is now a “humanitarian crisis.” That means that we MUST allow these “refugees” to enter and become our next “dream act” candidates.

    Argggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

    • June 3, 2014 9:18 am

      jb: Thanks. And you’ll notice that I avoided “nanny state” solutions to the problem of armed psychos. We can’t just decide that every mentally unstable person should be banned from using guns, even though it would probably save lives.

      The problem is where do we draw the line: can someone diagnosed with mild depression use guns while someone with narcissistic personality disorder goes on the restricted list? It would require too much top-down control. And the psychos who are denied access to guns would probably vent their anger in other ways.

      Who knows… eventually we might just be able to cure mental illness by zapping a part of the brain with a laser. But for now, we have to live with a flawed mental health system.

      I hadn’t heard about our illegal immigration problem being dubbed a “humanitarian crisis.” How noble. Welcome to Los Estados Unidos, amigo!

      • June 4, 2014 8:27 am

        Language is a curious thing. Apparently, I can no longer be a medium height Caucasian at 5’9” tall. I guess if I declare myself to be a tall African American, I can do so.

        If a man can declare himself a woman just by using the words and demand that others treat him as such, I feel I can do the same.

        So, from now on, I shall be known as Kunta Kinte!

      • June 4, 2014 9:29 am

        I hear you. That transgender thing is a whole ‘nother issue we have to deal with now. I wonder how women will respond to seeing a 6’3″ guy in a dress stroll into their restroom. At least they don’t have to line up at the urinals. (What an image.)

      • Ron P permalink
        June 4, 2014 11:43 am

        Rick, once the transgender reaches 65 then the taxpayer can pay for his sex change operation since Medicare has so much money to spend on elective surgeries.
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/ban-lifted-on-medicare-coverage-for-sex-change-surgery/2014/05/30/28bcd122-e818-11e3-a86b-362fd5443d19_story.html

        At least the 6’3″ person in the female restroom will be “female” if over 65.

      • June 4, 2014 11:55 am

        I saw that one recently. Seriously? Are we to suggest that this is in ANY WAY a legitimate use of MEDICAL CARE?

      • June 4, 2014 6:18 pm

        I’ve read about this issue, too — and I checked Ron’s link. Yeah, this would strike me as elective at best, rather than something taxpayers should have to fund. (These people are going to have their sex “reassigned” at the age of 65? Good luck with that.) It’s fortunate that the transgender population is only 0.3 % of the general population — and probably only a fraction of those would go for a sex-change.

        I used to think this transgender business was a case of overactive imagination. But in my neck of the woods, I’ve seen women who essentially come across as men in their looks, dress, speech and body language. (Maybe some of them are taking hormones.)

        So it’s not quite as goofy as I used to think, but unless the transgender people can prove that they have opposite-sex chromosomes, I’d still regard them as members of the sex they were born into — with complications. If they want to switch, I guess it’s their right — but we really shouldn’t have to pay for it.

      • June 4, 2014 6:37 pm

        Agreed. Show me the DNA and we will talk.

  8. June 3, 2014 11:23 am

    I read this post with interest, but found that I was hampered in my reading because of an early but (to me) erroneous association that colored the way I read the remainder of this message. I was flabbergasted by the early allusion to Asperger Syndrome because enough readers of this column will associate that with destructive mental disorders. Asperger’s is too misunderstood by the general public to include that diagnosis even briefly in this narrative.
    Roger may not have had Asperger’s at all. Many other psychological–and even physiological–maladies express themselves with symptomology that share several basic characteristics of many autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Often, psychiatrists prefer to label with Asperger’s (or any “lesser” disorder) for children, not because nothing else is suspected, but because any more serious disorder follows a child throughout life, and may be the wrong diagnosis anyway. As a former special education teacher and a continuing crusader for childhood learning and behavioral disorders, I want to make that a clear statement.
    Besides, it is difficult to reconcile Asperger’s and narcissism. With ASD, it is not that the individual is narcissistic–it’s that they care about themselves no more than they care about others. There is not social expression with Asperger’s because most people with Asperger’s cannot look outside themselves to compare their behaviors and responses to those of others. It is not even terribly clear that people with Asperger’s are aware of themselves as a part of a social group to any degree that yields socialization. When caught early enough, children with any ASD can be taught to be more self-aware in relation to those around them. They can be made aware of how their “anger” responses contribute to problems with peers, and they can be taught methods to temper their more outrageous responses. I guess I’m tired of the use of ASD to explain or add to reasons why behaviors in sociopathic individuals function the way they do. In general, because ASD is so popular in the press, it is used as an underlying cause when the truth is that the relationship of ASD to extreme anti-social behaviors has not been established in the psychological literature. As with any disorder of mind, psychiatrists and psychologists struggle to address distinctions between and among disorders based on extremes in behavior that characterize those disorders. It’s why there is so much training involved when one or more pathologies are to be diagnosed. Diagnoses are often based on personal or group interpretations that may not be at the levels of extremity that pathology identifiers were meant to represent. Such errors are more common to people who are newer to the field, as their experiences may be colored by the clients or patients with whom they have had contact. Many individuals with the worst symptoms may never see a psychiatrist or psychologist at all–or, at least, not until they are arrested and put through the court system.
    That society in general is going to the dogs (and I apologize to all canines out there for using this old and trite phrase) is not so much a “going to” as a “returning to.” History is so full of writings from people in “higher classes,” because it has only been in more recent historic times that “lower classes” were offered education. It’s hard to get your story out if you can’t write; and it’s almost impossible to ruminate on subjects outside yourself when you can’t read about them and do a comparison to begin with.
    Bottom line: let’s leave ASDs out of the equation and concentrate on the loss of mental health services for the truly maladapted. Roger had more going on for him than ASD; he had far more serious psychological disorders, none of which should be connected in any way with ASD. In addition, his family lived far above the poverty line in a community where psychological counseling is worn as a badge of honor, not as a stigma.
    And if you want to blame the dissolution of marriage and family in our society, that is also unfair. Many marriages dissolve; many families function quite well after a dissolution; many “broken homes” have a child with a disorder, but the child’s dysfunctions are noticed and addressed. This is not a function of some breakdown of family values; this is a function of parents’ level of awareness and caring for their children. If you have disinterested parents, the chances of missing a pathology or maladaptation in a child increase.
    The real culprits are the continual decrease in mental health funds and lack of education about mental health in general. The funding decreases have not only thrown too many people with psychological difficulties on the streets, but have virtually closed access to what used to be called “half-way houses” or other facilities where care could be provided based on functional level. Only those with certain income levels can afford services for their family members, since insurance companies continue to fund mental health services to any adequate level of affordability, and uninsured individuals cannot afford to avail themselves of services at all. Societies in general–not only in the US but world-wide–cut services in the following order: mental health first; education second; social services third.
    That social services and socialism tend to be lumped together in the eyes of many politically conservative citizens is a problem. But when we cut funding to education, we are ensuring a society that cannot or will not take out a dictionary or do an internet search to identify the differences between the two.
    As for the white male misogynistic involvement in this heinous event–I have seen too many posts by males of all ages who brought this up in the aftermath of Roger’s spree. That non-misogynistic men are screaming about this problem is a good thing, but the killing of so many women is not a product of a misogynistic mind set. Roger’s “misogyny” is the direct result of a pathology that built on his need to blame women for his own inadequate social skills with females. He did not “see” that his poor social and/or conversational skills resulted in being shunned by the very beauties he longed for. Sociopaths will never see their contribution to the responses of others; they need someone to blame–someone outside themselves–for anything that goes wrong in their dealings with the world around them. Women were his scapegoat in the same way that Jews were Hitler’s scapegoat.
    What Roger did is horrific. To blame anything other than a mental health pathology far more serious than ASD is unfair and unsustainable.

    • Ron P permalink
      June 3, 2014 12:19 pm

      I think Rick has written a column that will raise alot of comments from his readers on each item he has listed as a possible cause.

      What each reader must realize is this article is not “blaming any one of the issues he has listed. What Rick has done is listed each “blame” anyone with an agenda has offered as a cause and the press has picked up and run with it.

      The problem with the media today, compared to what I can remeber even 20 years ago, is they have an agenda today compared to just reporting the news in the past. Gun control was not front and center when JFK was shot, nor when MLK was shot. The media just reported the news and who did it from what I can remember. It was not until Hinkley shot Reagan did gun control really take off. Today, like Rick has written about, many different issues have been raised by many different people and reported as “THE CAUSE” when no one may ever know why he did it.

      You mention one of the causes for problems is the continued decline in mental health funding. What one finds when looking at historical funding is state funding for mental health in 1955 in converted funds into todays dollars, states spent about $261 billion. Today most of that funding has been transferred to the Medicaid program which has lumped mental health funding into medical funding for every medical issue for the most part. It seems like more of the dollars have gone to funding medical issues outside the mental realm. And the trend will continue as long as the funds are all lumped into one pile of money. And with Obamacare increasing the number of individuals on Medicaid, one would expect more funds to flow to medical issues than to mental issues, thus increasing the problems for mental treatments.

    • June 4, 2014 10:36 am

      Ellie: I wasn’t implying that Asperger syndrome would lead anyone to commit mass murder. I was just pointing out that Rodger was diagnosed with Asperger’s at an early age, and that he had been in therapy for 14 years. In other words, he hadn’t fallen through the cracks of the mental health system. But obviously he was seriously under-diagnosed. Just watching his 10-minute video was like a crash course in narcissistic personality disorder. He must have hidden this side of his personality from his therapists — or they were grossly incompetent.

      I don’t know if an increase in mental health funding would have solved Rodger’s problems, changed his diagnosis or prevented him from going ballistic. We do need to put more funding into mental health facilities so they don’t have to keep discharging seriously ill patients onto the streets. (I knew a woman whose grown schizophrenic son kept shuttling from institutions to the street to jail and back again, when it was clear that he should have been permanently committed.)

      But what to do about cases like Elliot Rodger? He was mentally competent enough to attend college and live on his own, and yet he privately harbored murderous resentments that made him more dangerous than a typical schizophrenic. Unfortunately, you can’t lock up somebody like that until he acts on his fantasies.

      So in the end, I focused on the peculiar American values that might have warped Rodger’s thinking: our national obsession with status, looks, sex, “fitting in,” and, in general, being a “winner.” I think it puts too much pressure on individuals to perform beyond their limitations.

      • Ron P permalink
        June 4, 2014 11:54 am

        Rick, there are many issues with mental health facilities or the lack of. Since the mid 90’s our area has had multiple healthcare facilities apply for a certificate of need to add beds for psychiatric care and each time they have been told there was not a need for additional beds in the MSA. That is with patients in this area being sent miles away when beds can be found in other states or at the other end of this state. This seems to be a backdoor way of limiting state exposure to increased mental health cost. If one can not find a bed, one can not cost the state any money.

        The whole mental health system needs a complete review by private independant consultants to make recommendations for everything from funding to facilities. But who believes our federal and state officials will ever give up control that they have managed to obtain over the past 45 years. I have no optimism that the problems with mental health will improve anytime soon, just as I have little optimism that much will happen with government delivered VA medical care after the November elections.

  9. June 3, 2014 6:56 pm

    I remember back in the 1980s, the state of MA simply decided that we needed to move to “community-based” MH programs and started dumping MH patients out into community homes. Well, more like half-way houses, where the patients were supposed to be better off, you know with “community based care.”

    Yeah, that worked really well. Soon, the streets had folks wandering about, clearly not belonging there or knowing where they were.

    The state’s response?

    Declare victory and move on.

    You got to love politicians and bureaucrats.

  10. June 6, 2014 12:57 am

    Can we talk about what a shitty father this kid had?

    The father became concerned enough with his son’s mental health to have alerted police to his potential rampage, only after years of ignoring signs of the kid’s severe mental illness, and allowing his son to live in an unsupervised environment.

    And, now….. now that the crazy kid has killed people and himself? Well, it’s all political for Daddy dearest. The father is meeting with the parent of one of the victims, to promote more gun control legislation.

    That should be helpful…..yep.

    • June 6, 2014 7:45 am

      Yes, indeed. As usual, you have nailed it.

      “It is always someone else’s fault.”

      Pathetic, isn’t it?

      • June 6, 2014 9:12 am

        The blame game and all of its ramifications is a real problem….

        I do agree with Rick – Americans are preoccupied with winners and losers, and possibly always have been. But we now seem to be so deeply divided on the values that lead to winning. Is “winning” the end result of working hard, learning your lessons (both textbook and otherwise), overcoming obstacles and being persistent? Or is it the accident of being born to privilege?

        I was reading about this new catchphrase, apparently ubiquitous on college campuses these days: “Check your privilege.” It is used as an all purpose retort to white straight males who say anything that can be construed, by anyone, as offensive to people who are not white straight males. But, more insidious than the obnoxious banality of the slogan is its underlying assumption that winning and losing is all about accidents of birth and has little to do with any “old fashioned” values.

        Are we really going there? Isn’t that so 18th century?

      • June 6, 2014 10:23 am

        Again, I say it starts at the top and trickles down. When the drumbeat from the WH on down is consistently divisive and finger pointing it the first and last response, small minds will take this and run with it.

        I long for the days of rich dialog and tolerance. We seem headed in the other direction.

        Perhaps Catholic school wasn’t such a bad way to go.

  11. June 25, 2014 7:20 am

    I think the guy up on the left has the best damn smile of the lot of these mug-shots!– It should be published as a Pop art wanted poster.

  12. Pat Riot permalink
    June 27, 2014 6:49 pm

    Rick, you are one of my favorite writers. I don’t agree with all of your views, but reading your essays I am always in the presence of an analytic and witty mind, an open-minded thinker, a good companion, a reasonable human being. A pre-brainwashing American! You give me hope. I’m glad you are out there. Nice job, Rick. You, sir, are a reasonable human being!! haha. You are a damn good writer.

    • July 2, 2014 12:55 pm

      Thanks, Pat… and it’s good to see you back in action here. I always appreciated your wisdom and your cool-headed approach to hot topics.

      I’m just back from a two-week vacation myself. Almost immediately I started a firestorm on Facebook by stating that I could understand both sides the Hobby Lobby controversy — although I concluded that the Court’s decision set a potentially dangerous precedent. (Imagine if a Muslim-owned company insisted on imposing sharia law on its employees.)

      Anyway, the Hobby Lobby discussion morphed into a debate about abortion and women’s rights because, apparently, Hobby Lobby planned to restrict free access to contraceptives that kill a newly-formed embryo. I committed heresy by suggesting that there were some legitimate arguments against abortion-on-demand.

      I’m starting to think there’s a real distinction between liberals and progressives. A liberal is generally open-minded, good-natured and big-hearted; it’s their spiritual generosity that makes them liberal in the first place. On the other hand, a progressive is a rigid ideologue; dare to go “off the reservation” on certain sacred topics and you’ll be excommunicated. (My late sister-in-law, a progressive activist, supposedly gave my ex-wife a hard time because she married “outside the faith.”)

      It’s a shame that two women I’m especially fond of were my hardest critics during that Facebook debate. I made a truce with one of them (she has a sense of humor and doesn’t hold a grudge)… but I’m afraid the other has essentially dismissed me as a wanton Neanderthal — and frankly, I was getting weary of her relentless ’70s-style feminist posts on Facebook. Maybe we can still be friends, but I’ve really had a lifetime’s dose of one-sided progressive gender politics, and that’s more than enough for me. Feminism was important and even necessary back around 1970, but the diatribes continue to this day, and there’s no compromising with these people. Enough’s enough.

      Whew, I need another vacation already.

      • July 2, 2014 1:04 pm

        The key things to keep in mind about the Hobby Lobby case is that it:

        1-Only applies to closely-held companies.
        2-Only applies to what procedures will be paid for by insurance, not whether an individual has the right to get that procedure.
        3-Hobby Lobby actually covers about 18 specific forms of BC, just not the one’s they consider de-factor, abortion.
        4-The right to certain forms of reimbursement for elective abortions is nowhere part of existing law that I know of and is far outside the perspective of the US Constitution. It is simply an made-up right that we must now all cow-tow to.

        These abortion on demand folks are simply irrational. Yes, under current law, one can have an abortion (assuming you are OK about terminating a life). What is not true is that you can force someone else to pay for it.

        I can hold nose and deal with current law. I will be damned if I will pay one cent towards taking a human life. If that makes me a heartless bastard, so be it. I can live with it.

        In the end, they can all go F themselves if that is what they want. I am not playing.

        PS-If you can’t afford BC, then perhaps having sex is NOT your biggest problem?

      • Ron P permalink
        July 2, 2014 4:49 pm

        JB..One thing you forgopt to mention was the way the reporting of this decision is being put out. On one hand we have one network being very clear that this is closely held family owned corportations and that it is only going to cover the abortion causing drugs.

        On the other hand, we have the major networks plus MSNBC reporting “corporations” do not have to provide contraceptives and it is a war one women. Many Americans do not understand if an individual and their family start a business, the way to protect presonal assets is to incorporate. They are then a corporation. What is being reported is “corporations” and most Americans relate that term to GE, GM, Ford and other large Wall Street traded firms.

        And this will not change as most all the press and reporters are left wing wackos.

      • July 2, 2014 5:47 pm

        Yes, there should be some form of journalistic malpractice that could be applied to these birds. This HAS to be on purpose, no news room could be so inept as to misrepresent a story as this one has been.

  13. Pat Riot permalink
    June 27, 2014 6:54 pm

    When a glass breaks in another room we ask, “What was that? Who did it? Then we want to know why it happened: oh, I see, the glass was on the edge of the table and YOU weren’t paying attention to what you were doing. Case closed.

    With any loud noise or anomaly in general we want to know WHAT IS IT? (singular), what’s causing IT? Is it a threat/danger, and if so how do we stop it or stay clear of it. It’s instinctual. Is it a saber-toothed tiger??

    Unfortunately we humans try to apply such simple (reptilian? whatever) reasoning to more complex situations, such as, say, OUR CURRENT REALITY, OUR POLITICAL SITUATION, MASSACRE SHOOTERS, A FAILING MARRIAGE, et cetera. We want a culprit, a reason, an explanation, and too often we want ONE reason, or at least one main reason, even though complex situations are almost always a culmination of a combination of intertwined factors influenced strongly or subtly by forty-two other cause-and-effect combinations times six others over fifteen more within a context that resembles a dense, tangled jungle. .

  14. Pat Riot permalink
    June 27, 2014 6:56 pm

    So thank you, Rick, for saying that the “single reason” explanations point more to the biases of the explainers than to a real explanation. What makes a good stew? The carrots? The potatoes? Time cooked? Spices? What makes a car move? Gasoline? Spark plugs? Wheels? The ignition switch? The engine?

    • Ron P permalink
      June 27, 2014 10:28 pm

      Pat..I love your comparative example for stew, a car running, a gun shooting, etc. I will use this the next time I get into discussions about the need for gun control with those that believe guns need to be restricted.

      I doubt those examples will convince anyone with this mindset to decide guns are not the real problem, but it is a logical example to use in support of my position.

  15. June 30, 2014 10:25 am

    Good to see you back in the comments, Pat! I think that this column is particularly illustrative of Rick’s ability to rationally debate the massive gray areas of our social and political issues, without sacrificing his personal point of view.

    And you’ve identified the sad reality that, more and more often these days, what passes for political debate is not just polarized and simplistic (“guns are the problem- case closed!” “guns are NOT the problem- case closed!”), it’s barely debate at all.

    Here in NJ there is a popular internet “weather guy” – he has been famously accurate in predicting major events such as hurricanes and blizzards. He identifies, in great detail, specific time frames, areas, amounts, etc. Once in a great while he whiffs on a prediction, but, in general, his accuracy is astounding, especially in comparison to the TV and radio weather reports. He publishes his predictions on a Facebook page that gets over 100K page views a month.

    He also writes a weather column for a fairly large circulation newspaper in the state. A month or so ago, he wrote a column in which he discussed his views on climate change. In a nutshell, he wrote that climate change is real, that increasing levels of CO2, which can be largely attributed to human activity, have, in fact, likely been responsible for rising sea levels, global temperature anomalies, etc. He wrote that it is important and necessary for us to reduce our carbon footprint and become better stewards of the earth. He strongly advocated for a reduction in the use of fossil fuels and development of clean energy resources.

    He then went on to say that climate changes are occurring at negligible rates that could not possibly be responsible for short term weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy, nor would they result in any major population areas going underwater or waking up to the climate of Venus – at least not for hundreds, or maybe thousands, of years.

    It was a sober and scientific essay, clearly identified by the author as an opinion piece based on his own knowledge and research. Yet the paper in which the piece appeared was- and continues to be – deluged by demands that he be fired for suggesting that hurricanes, blizzards, tsunamis and such are not the direct result of increased levels of greenhouse gases.

    As, the saying goes, “The debate is over!” Unfortunately, that seems all too true on many issues…….

    • July 2, 2014 1:08 pm

      Thanks, Priscilla. I believe you witnessed part of that debate on Facebook yesterday. Ann Coulter, a woman I generally don’t cite as a shining exemplar of enlightened discourse, wrote a book in which she compared progressive politics to a church — a secular church, of course, but one with just as many articles of faith, taboos and punishments as an established religion. It’s true; I’d be considered a heretic for spouting my moderate opinions in front of a progressive congregation.

      • July 2, 2014 1:16 pm

        Oh for sure. The progressives seem to hate religion (except Island of course) but are as dogmatic as pretty much an religious zealot.

        Simply argue against the “right to an abortion” and see how open minded they become.

      • July 2, 2014 1:48 pm

        JB: I had my baptism by fire on Facebook yesterday for doing just that. Whew.

      • July 2, 2014 2:28 pm

        Yeah, they are an intolerant lot, those fems.

  16. Pat Riot permalink
    June 30, 2014 7:52 pm

    Hi Priscilla Yes, I agree that real debate has been on the endangered species list. We’ve talked about it before here at TNM–one of those important symptoms of our confused culture–the vehement, often obnoxious, attack from one camp to the opposing camp, and how this “us vs. them” shouting match has supplanted civilized debate, compromise/problem solving, and the like. I think the degrading is encouraged from segments at the top as part of a larger divide and conquer strategy. How dare that weatherman give an informed OPINION that goes against a big agenda!

    It seems an increasing number of folks truly don’t know the difference between opinions and facts. One set of statistics/data seems to be enough for some hooligans to paint their faces and lead a charge, doubts be damned, rather than careful scrutiny from multiple sources, and an openness to new information, and…imagine this: continuous open-minded thinking! What? Wouldn’t that be weak? We have to WIN!

    On the other hand, I’m starting to see some sober backlash in the defense of expressing opinions, here and there, even from the U.S. Supreme Court lately. 3 or 4 “pro-freedom”/”pro-liberty” decisions from the top very recently. Unfortunately I’m skeptical like a conspiracy nut: I worry they are merely trying to calm down the growing “libertarian discontent/uprising” (keyboarding fast here & oversimplifying) by separating themselves from the executive branch a bit, when really they will continue to undermine liberties in other ways. I worry they’ve been advised to let some pressure out of the anti-statists, tweaking public sentiment like others try to tweak markets and the economy. I don’t know. I don’t have enough free time to look at all the decisions from the 3 branches to know whether we are turning a corner back toward sanity or being further duped.

  17. July 2, 2014 7:15 pm

    Comments re: Hobby Lobby, the Facebook thread of doom and more….

    1) JB, I posted on that FB thread and brought up a couple of the very same undeniable facts that you have mentioned about Hobby Lobby and the SCOTUS decision. Amazingly (but not really) no one cared…well, Rick did, of course. They kept right on with the War on Women narrative, even after Rick, who actually did evaluate the facts in forming his opinion, decided that maybe the Hobby Lobby decision wasn’t “THE WORST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED!” thereby becoming an apostate. Progressive activists do not want or care to know the truth, if it does not fit their narrative. They simply do not. The truth, in fact, is an often an obstacle and needs to be denied.

    2. Under the ACA, non-profits were granted religious exemptions from the contraception mandate, but for-profits, even small ones, run by religious owners were not. When this became a problem, it would have been very, very easy to fix. Obama, HHS and the Democrats in Congress knew how easy it would be, yet let the Hobby Lobby case go forward. I cannot help but believe that this was intentional. They had an outside chance of having the decision go their way, and, if it didn’t , they could fundraise off of the progressive fury that would ensue. Freedom of religion? Screw that.

    3. There are many newer, more effective drugs to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis, MS, mental illness and cancer, among others, that are not covered by most Obamacare plans. And, I mean not covered at all. These are not experimental drugs – they are just very expensive drugs, some from Pharma companies that have not lobbied themselves sufficiently into the good graces of the government.

    But we don’t hear about the War on RA patients, now, do we?

    • July 2, 2014 9:24 pm

      Priscilla: “The Facebook thread of doom” — I love it. It was like a bottomless bog; I knew I was sinking into it without a chance of prevailing, but I thought I’d ride it down as long as I could.

      Ginny and I have bickered (mostly) good-naturedly for decades, and we’re generally quick to patch things up. We understand each other. It’s the other one who concerns me — my old high school classmate and junior prom date, who seems to have become a zero-tolerance progressive/feminist ideologue. Her manner is polite, and she’s still a good-hearted person, but she made it pretty clear that we’re not allowed to go off the reservation on matters of progressive faith. You’re dead-on when you observe that these folks can’t let anything — even facts — interfere with the sacred narrative. And it’s this mindset that dominates academia today.

    • July 2, 2014 9:44 pm

      No, we don’t, because the progressives have an agenda and it freedom is not on that list.

      • Ron P permalink
        July 3, 2014 11:44 am

        The right may have won the battle, but can the right win the war? (That being the 2016 elections). I have my doubts given the fact that the progressive press will not provide the truth in its reporting. So we end up with information that will play well against the the GOP such as the contraceptive issue in this ruling and the war on women, the immigration issues where the GOP will not bring up a bill this year due to a num,ber of reasons where they border most likely would not be secured, so their is a war on immigrants and we still have the rich and poor arguement, the entitlement arguement and all the other major issues that will adversely impact America that are in some way a “GOP War” on something.

        I beleive the best we can hope for is a congress controlled by the GOP that will push conservative issues and make a liberal president block that agenda or compromise like the founding fathers envisioned when they wrote the constitution. But here again the progrssive press is manipulating information to make it appear that the GOP candidates stand for something they do not. In states where the senate races are toss-ups, that information can make the difference between a GOP win or loss.

  18. July 3, 2014 9:28 am

    Just to dig into this a little bit more…..it really is “progressivism,” rather than “liberalism,” that has driven the intolerance and, sometimes, the outright hate, toward dissenters. I suppose all progressives are liberals, but not all liberals are progressives. I was a liberal for most of my life, and I would guess that most – or at least, many – of my friends still are. Liberals are fed a lot of BS about conservatives and moderates, but, for the most part, they are willing to hear them out. Or at least overlook their “wingnut” views. Progressives are, as their name indicates, always agitating for greater control, even if it means steamrolling over the truth.

    Pat, I hope you’re right about the backlash that you’re sensing…..

    • Pat Riot permalink
      July 4, 2014 10:19 am

      oops, supposed to be contested-concept in my long-winded comment

  19. Pat Riot permalink
    July 4, 2014 10:19 am

    Oh these cotested-concept political labels! Such moving targets!

    We’ve got Progressives who are strict atheists who now worship science and who see organized religion as a barbaric hindrance to human progress. We’ve got Progressives who are “social democrats” or socialists or closet communists who want to wrestle power away from corrupt capitalist pigs. We’ve got new age hippie tree hugger environmentalists who think “industry” is automatically a dirty word.

    We could say all of the above are “Liberals,” but we could also say we have “Conservative Progressives” who think human progress is best achieved through bottom-up freedom vs. top-down centralized administration (the Wallbuilders guy, who knows the U.S. Constitution and the Founding Fathers fairly well, and Anne Couter, who were both causing “extremist ripples” by talking about how women voting helped undermine the family and conservatism is America, come to mind), but such “Conservative Progressives” are far less visible these days than the “Left Wing Progressives.”

    Oy veh, that’s just a wee bit of the tangled mess. Oh yeah, one of my favorite large demographics of progressives: college kids, male and female, in the process of breaking away from the authority of mom and dad, who are “progressive” just because it’s not “old, stuffy, conservatism.” (“Psyche 1, Psyche 2, what do you know…”—Billy Joel.) I wonder how many distinct “profiles” the NSA/FBI/DHS have Americans divided into? I think we should create a board game out of it. There’s an idea for an entrepreneur…

  20. Roby L permalink
    July 4, 2014 11:58 am

    Hi Pat! Just like old times! Greeting from the progressive state of Vermont, where we have huge political progress: the state’s only nuke plant is shutting down, we are supposed to convert to a single payer Health care system in 2015 and we now have a GMO labeling law and a fight with Monsanto making lawyers of all stripes salivate.

    I’m against all of it. especially the last part, as a biologist I can say that the anti-GMO activists are as far from the ideas of mainstream science on the left side as the climate-change skeptics are off on the right. Ideologically based (non)science is equal opportunity! We visited friends last night, our hostess was sure I would be troubled that the corn chips were not GMO free, boy did I surprise her by telling her that I could care less, GMO food is not harmful, or at least not due to the purported possibility of the deadly GMOs. Oh my, there are some changed DNA base pairs in one corn gene out of thousands (that is called evolution by the way, I thought the left was gung ho in favor of it), my body is sure to detect that infinitesimal difference and I’ll sprout extra fingers and maybe a head! The extra fingers might be nice for my guitar playing?

    But, go figure, I am still happier in silly old Vermont than I would be in any other part of the US, political nonsense aside, except for in March and April, our nasty fifth season.

    Priscilla, I appreciate your distinction between progressive and liberal, its like the health difference between being 10 pounds overweight or 100 pounds. The first is a bit inconvenient the second is trouble.

    Sorry guys but I have to balance the right tilt of the conversation here by twitting the conservative side of things. Liberals may have a lot of wrong ideas about conservatives as a group, I agree with that, but a lot of that is the fault of the sane conservatives who do not do nearly enough to distinguish themselves from the insane ones, with the insane ones being by far the largest US insane voting block and that block appears to be growing. Very few nutty progressives vote for democrats, and even if they did they are not more than 3-5% of the population. They are much better at making noise and calling attention to themselves than they are at getting elected (other than in Vermont, which has about 0.2% of the US population).

    My sympathies to all but I still fear the right extremes much more than the left extremes in the US.

    • July 4, 2014 12:06 pm

      I will push back on your last point. If by Right Extremes, you mean the Tea Party, then I think you off base. Anyone who is for less government interference and more personal liberty is no threat in the slightest, if that is your benchmark.

      The progressives are the ones that I fear, as they use government coercion to have their way. Most of us want to be left alone, not told what food we can eat and what doctor we want to go to.

      • Roby L permalink
        July 4, 2014 12:15 pm

        We’ve become good respectful buddies here and I’ve enjoyed that immensely. But we are going to sharply disagree on some things. Ann Coulture for example represents to me something very far from freedom and liberty and voting followers of her style of politics are a much larger group than voting progressives.

        (The band is now working out Surfer Girl and Good Vibrations. I get to sing the falsetto parts. Its a gas. I think that Surfer Girl has become my favorite BB song, I never get tired of it, just gorgeous.)

      • Ron P permalink
        July 4, 2014 5:01 pm

        JB.. You are right about the Tea party and their views on smaller government. However, check most Tea Party supported candidates views on social issues and you will find a lack of individual freedoms and person responsibility. You will find more christian conservative views and that is anything but smaller government and individual rights.

      • July 4, 2014 5:18 pm

        Aside form the Birth Control issue, I don’t agree. The TP is not trying to impose more rules but to remove many.

        In that sense, they are very much aligned with the Founders.

      • Ron P permalink
        July 4, 2014 11:31 pm

        JB..the website “onthe issues” has an explanantion of the various political views that I have to agree with for the most part. That list is:
        A “hard-core liberal” would answer social questions to minimize government involvement, but would answer economic questions to include government intervention.
        A “hard-core libertarian” would answer both social and economic questions to minimize government involvement.
        A “hard-core conservative” would answer social questions to include government intervention, but would answer economic questions to minimize government involvement.
        A “hard-core populist” would answer both social and economic questions with proposals that include government intervention
        Now we may replace “populist” with progressive based on some of the coverstation that has taken place the past few days. And note moderates are not listed since they are not “hjard Core” like tea party candidates.

        Yes you are correct about abortion, but there are other issues where the tea party conservatives would impose their social views. Gay marriage is one example. Is it really the governments position to “approve” and allow two people (through a license) to marry regardless of sex? If the government does not want to be involved in gay marriage issues, then the best thing for the federal government to do is to eliminate whatever benefits people gain in federal benefits and make everyone equal. Single, married, gay or straight. Whatever legal issues arise would need to be the individuals responsibility to insure they are covered in issues of health, death, etc. Single people have to do this all the time. Why should a license allow for something different?

        But in our society where people have grown to expect the government to protect their rights, we can not expect people to take responsibility for themselves

      • July 5, 2014 9:12 am

        Yes, the TP is a bit stuck on the gay marriage issue. While I sympathize with them a bit, I would take the line you take for the most part.

        That said, if I had to choose, I would take the TP line on most issues. The approach I personally take is this: Leave me alone and I will take care of myself.

        Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand, at least to me they do.

      • Ron P permalink
        July 5, 2014 12:23 pm

        Most likely I have said this before, but will say once again. Your position, when faced with a decision about political party positions on individual social values compared to positions held by the left, is to accept those positions that affect individuals, whereas a large percentage of under 45 year old voters find those positions unacceptible.

        Moderates that will compromise, unlike the Tea Party, are a dying breed, leaving voters to have to choose what they may believe is lessor of two evils. In most cases, older voters will vote for economic issues while the younger voters will vote for social issues. And the Tea party, as viewed by the majority of younger voters, is out of touch with them. That is why in states like my own, North Carolina, we have a democrat senator up for reelection that voted with Obama on more than 90% of legislation and she is still slightly favored against the Republican challenger. And this is all while the state voted for Romney in the general election. And the ads against the republican are all based on education and social issues. Not economic issues. The outcome will all hinge on who turns out the vote in November, but its an even bet on either at this point which given a GOP challenger with less Tea Party positions would not be the case. Someone more moderate would most likely be out front and the likely winner.

        So we hold our nose and vote.

      • July 5, 2014 1:00 pm

        I always hold my nose when voting. I don’t see any way around that.

      • Ron P permalink
        July 8, 2014 11:22 am

        JB. This is another example of why I think the GOP is in trouble.
        http://finance.yahoo.com/news/ted-cruz-investigation-appalling-mississippi-115235443.html

        Is it my imagination that the political divide is much greater in the GOP and that the Democrats are much more united, or do they just hide it better and find solutions to their differences behind closed doors.

        I can understand one party reacting like this to an opposing parties election, but to do it within the party seems to be damaging to me. Right now being united is more important than anything else. Once elected, these differences can be worked out. Or maybe its time for a true third party, with the GOP splitting, forming two parties, the conservative party and the moderate party.

      • July 8, 2014 12:01 pm

        I think one of the issues is that many folks who consider themselves to be
        “conservative” think many GOP pols are RINOs. I have to admit, half the time, I agree with that.

        So, I think conservatives in general are tired of getting “rolled” and are rebelling a bit. I can’t speak for the Dem side of the house.

        PS-When the feds send in Federal agents to put down a protest in CA over illegals, you know the country is going in the crapper IMHO. Who the hell do the feds think they are?

        Reminds me of black shirts and Nazi Germany. I bet they won’t try that in Texas!

      • Ron P permalink
        July 8, 2014 3:07 pm

        I guess to be a true Republican you have to be a conservative. To be a Democrat, you can be a liberal or a moderate. That does not play well when about 25% to 30% are liberal, 30-35% are moderate and the rest “conservative”. Nothing will ever get done if this country is governed by a mixture of liberals and conservatives. Leaving the moderates that will work out solutions out in the cold provides no leadership at all. That’s what we see today and that is what we will see in the future unless we get one party rule again like we had in 2009-10 until the GOP took over the house. I find it hard to believe we will ever see a GOP dominated government, but it may happen.

        The way to fix our debt and deficits is a mixture of entitlement reform and tax increases. Anyone think that will ever happen?

      • July 8, 2014 3:23 pm

        I think symbols mean much to the average schmo. For example, when we see the Feds send money to the mid-east to fund both sides of a conflict, it really gets me going. Now, in the larger scheme of things, you think: Well, it isn’t that much money.

        On the other hand, the feds are hinting that indeed, we must cut social security. My response: Stop pissing money away and then we will talk. $44M for Obama vacations also piss me off. Doesn’t he have a home he can hang out somewhere when he just has to “get away?”

        I think the libs think I am being unreasonable. I am not. When food stamps and welfare are cut FIRST, I will think about moderating my demand to be paid my SS and Medicare.

        It is kind of like immigration reform. Build the damn fence and then we will talk. In other words, no one believes the feds when they say anything anymore. Can you blame them?

    • Ron P permalink
      July 4, 2014 4:56 pm

      Roby.. I fear any extreme position equally.In the extremes we see in the USA today, both sides will impose their extreme views on others that do not believe in those positions. Now if you equate “extreme” to Libertarians, then that is a much different set of circumstances as a true Libertarian believes in individual freedoms with the least amount of government or third party influence in others lives.

      However, there are too many on the two sides to accept individual freedoms as both the right and left have views they believe is the only correct way of life and therfore, everyone must follow those views. They believe the libertarians have extreme views as to individual rights and personal responsibility.

      • Roby L permalink
        July 4, 2014 5:22 pm

        Ron P I totally agree. The last two posts of yours underline why you are the poster I find it easiest to agree with much of the time on TNM. In some ways we are right of center–left of center mirror reflections (but not reflections from positions that are far from the center), while in many ways we are very much on the same page. You are a moderate conservative/libertarian while I am a moderate liberal. I sure wish that the political debate in the US went on between those two goal posts.

    • Pat Riot permalink
      July 4, 2014 7:10 pm

      Hello Roby L! I didn’t know this new “handle” of yours, but I recognized you by your style even before you mentioned your band! (an element of “friendly aloofness” one might say, as in staying slightly above the fray, lest you would be driven to jump down into the pit and chop some Black Knight’s limbs off again and he remain alive and well anyway, haha. Interesting highlights of goings-on in Vermont. “Good Vibrations” is an awesome tune. I wish we were regularly feeling more good vibrations in this country! Too many political “camps” and they ALL disappoint me…too much misunderstanding and miscommunication. Obama should sign an executive order making the Beach Boys MANDATORY in all new GM cars–that might help us!

      • Roby L permalink
        July 6, 2014 10:32 am

        Fantastic Idea Pat!

        I believe that “friendly aloofness” may have been lacking in my posts under some of my previous aliases, its one reason I came back under a new name. But Aloofness is a great moderate quality. We moderates need to rise above the food fight and avoid getting sucked into the bad mood partisan trap. Its a negative ticket to an early grave and an unhappy trip to it.

        As to good vibrations, one has to create them in their own life first of all, even if the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. The larger the percentage of happy people in the world, the better things will go in general.

        Happy 4th everyone, BTW, and I have never been more grateful to my good luck to be born in the good ol’ USA.

  21. July 4, 2014 12:31 pm

    The desire to control the thoughts and behavior of the rest of us is actually what the far right and the far left have in common. Both sides at that extreme are reprehensible and dangerous, but I have to go with JB on this one and say that the Left today is ascendant and has largely succeeded in identifying garden variety conservatives as “extremists” in the popular culture. The far Right has been marginalized almost completely out of power, but the far Left has seen its agenda advanced.

    So, just as I differentiate liberals from progressives, I differentiate conservatives from….well, I guess there is no “polite name” for the far right – which kind of serves to back up my hypothesis that they have no real political power right now….but I’ll say differentiate conservatives from wingnuts. But, in no way are tea party conservatives trying to overthrow the government or “transform” in any significant way. Their agenda is pretty much standard conservative boilerplate, mixed in with some moderate libertarianism.

    Conservatism is not an ideology, while liberalism is, so it is problematic when debating the “agendas” of the two. I read an article last week calling conservatives the “Tim Howard of American politics” because they pretty much see themselves as the last line of defense when it comes to traditional American values and constitutional government, but have no significant ability to score on their own. So, the “party of no” moniker is really pretty applicable most of the time, but I don’t necessarily think that stemming the tide of the progressive agenda is a bad thing. It’s what conservatives should be doing.

    • July 4, 2014 1:55 pm

      Roby, I posted the above comment before I saw your last comment (even though yours is above mine)….and I recalled that, some time ago, I think that you had made the observation that our political points of you are determined, in large part, by what we fear.

      This current thread would certainly seem to back you up on that, wouldn’t it?

      • July 4, 2014 1:56 pm

        points of view, not points of you*

      • Roby L permalink
        July 4, 2014 4:43 pm

        Very true Priscilla. About the fear I mean.

        I am pretty sure that I can back up my point with numbers about the sizes of the extreme left and right with poll figures. Just as a first shot at it, simply there are a lot more conservatives than liberals, its something like 40-20. We are going to see where the dividing line is between honest liberals and conservatives and “insane ” ones differently due to our different political preferences.

        I do not literally mean the word “insane” when I use it here, naive is closer to the truth of being at the root of the extremes. You do not have to be insane or extreme to think we should have a balanced budget, just as you do not have to be insane or extreme to think that the inequalities of capitalism are at times obscene. The nutty part comes in by how much you think that one can very simply fix these things with some simple sounding ideological magic pill and the extent that you declare all out war on the other side of the spectrum. Right wing talk radio with an audience of ~ ten million, columnists like Coulture, candidates like Palin and Bachman have made it easy to be scared of the nutty faction of conservatives, who do not seem to me to lack political power, other than in presidential elections where the GOP just cannot win with the drag of the social conservative part of the party, as Ron P often talks about.

        The progressive left scores on its agenda due to activist courts, I do not see that they score very often by elections. There is something in the legal DNA that leads to this avenue of progressive victories.

  22. July 6, 2014 9:56 pm

    “It happened to the Roman society that its shortcomings finally overwhelmed the state, and that a great society became merely a historical sanctuary. Burke said it definitively, that a society, to be loved, must be lovely. The consensus, on the Fourth of July, seemed to be that the American people still think it that, but that some probationary signs are flying.” ~William F. Buckley, 1998

    I worry that we are not very lovely, Lovely really is such an old-fashioned term, but I’m afraid that our leaders have become coarse. I like that “Surfer Girl” God Only Knows” world.

    • July 7, 2014 7:50 am

      Amen, Priscilla, Amen.

      Hard to see lovely for all tattoos and selfies.

  23. Pat Riot permalink
    July 7, 2014 7:19 am

    Lovely vs. course
    And of course there’s worse
    And much better
    And whichever we cultivate
    We’ll get ‘er.

    • July 7, 2014 8:30 am

      Why, that’s just lovely, Pat 🙂

    • Roby L permalink
      July 7, 2014 10:44 am

      Wow, a cross between Ted Geisel and Ogden Nash. I am impressed.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        July 7, 2014 5:26 pm

        Ug. I’m so coarse–only 5 short lines with a typo on line 1: supposed to be “coarse” with an “a.” I hadn’t finished my first cup of coffee, then off to work. Oh well, sounds like the meaning came across.

  24. Roby L permalink
    July 7, 2014 11:01 am

    Zogby in Forbes: Voters to Democrats and Republicans: ‘Stop, You Both Stink’

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnzogby/2014/07/06/voters-to-democrats-and-republicans-stop-you-both-stink/

    I know that my positive thinking message (my wife replants it in my head daily) flies in the face of the message that political junkies (that’s us) get from the daily news. When Bill Bradley unexpectedly quit the Senate he said his reason was that he had realized that the political world is not the center of the American experience (or words to that effect.) Its a good thing to remember. I don’t advocate living in a bubble and not caring or trying to change things. But all happiness, just alike all politics, is local, very local.

    Our political leaders are less than mediocre. Fortunately, none of them live in my house.

    • July 7, 2014 11:10 am

      “Never give power to a man (or woman) who seeks it.”

      • Roby L permalink
        July 7, 2014 11:19 am

        At this point would be completely fine with filling one branch of congress via a lottery from a pool of candidates that meet some minimum requirements. I would bet the proposal would receive more ayes than nayes in a poll right about now.

        I might not be against having a 5 person board of directors instead of a president, formed from a pool of former governors each serving one 5 year term with terms of the group being staggered, one new board member per year. Maybe its a stupid idea, but it would eliminate imperial presidencies.

      • Ron P permalink
        July 7, 2014 2:55 pm

        If congress would do its job and reel in the power the presidents have taken over the years, then we would not have an “imperial president”. If one reads the constitution, the federal government only has the power that the states grant it, and the president’s main focus is foreign policy. All other issues were to be approved by congress in most all cases. But then each president has encrouched on the powers limited by the constitution and the opposing party has done little to stop them. Why? I offer that they want their president to have these same powers when they take command, so they moan and groan, but do nothing to stop them. Private citizens can stop them through the courts (recess NLRB app’t), but congress is doing nothing to take away powers presidents have expanded over many years.

    • Ron P permalink
      July 7, 2014 2:46 pm

      I would hope that past leaders such as MLK, JFK and RR would still provide the wisdom in todays environment as they did during their time.

      JFK said “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future”.

      One has to look far and wide to find any politician that is willing to live by these words today. Many will say works such as this, but only a handful will follow the wise words of exception leaders from the past. That is why most people think they all stink.

  25. Roby L permalink
    July 7, 2014 11:24 am

    To amplify, the requirements would be all citizens from 18-72 who had graduated HS and had a clean criminal record. I would not do this for both the Senate and the House, there needs to be one body with an institutional memory. I’d pick the House that way.

    • July 7, 2014 12:23 pm

      Roby, you’re starting to sound like William F. Buckley……
      “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University”

      Seriously, I agree with most of what you’ve said. JB’s point about not trusting those who seek power is unfortunately true. Also, the imbalance of power in favor of the executive branch has created enormous opportunities for corruption. Your 5 person leadership panel ( a quint-bunal?) might mitigate that.

      Not sure how any of this good stuff happens. Over to you, Pat…..

  26. Pat Riot permalink
    July 7, 2014 6:28 pm

    TNM isn’t a blogsite; it’s a think tank! Interesting ideas above. A panel of former governors instead of a single figurehead, congress from a lottery of decent citizens—sounds…lovely!

  27. Pat Riot permalink
    July 7, 2014 7:08 pm

    Ron P, I would also like to think that leaders will emerge, but interesting that the 3 you mentioned (MLK, JFK, and RR) were all shot. If the media doesn’t destroy a person, then hired “dark ops” might…There’s a public service billboard for “persistence” that I see from time to time with Abe Lincoln that goes: “Failed, failed, failed, failed, failed, and then…” And I want to lean up a ladder to spray paint: …then shot in the head!

    Ug, that’s not lovely at all. I’m more optimistic in the mornings.

    • Ron P permalink
      July 7, 2014 10:19 pm

      Pat, how interesting about those leaders being shot and RR coming within a few minutes of being dead like the other two. I had not even thought about that when I picked them as those I find providing leadership far above any others that have held the office.

      Maybe those that accept responsibility for outcomes during their administration become a target, while those that blame prior administrations deflect attention for their actions, thus allowing them to live to benefit financially after leaving office. If this is the case, I would not expect Obama to need any secret service protection as well as becoming one of the 1%’ers after he leaves office.

      • Ron P permalink
        July 7, 2014 10:20 pm

        Yes MLK did not hold that office, but was considered by many to be more important than the president in many cases during that period of time.

  28. Pat Riot permalink
    July 17, 2014 5:55 pm

    Okay, so, we were talking about leaders, in part about our disappointment/frustration/lack of trust with our polarized political leaders, et cetera. Some are ready to flip open the phone book (online white pages?) to find replacements!

    Rick B. had steered his post here to the idea that our culture promotes the kind of narcissism that can lead to the unprecedented level of “massacre violence” in our warping nation (paraphrasing, my quotes). Hopefully Rick B is word-smithing his next well-wrought post, I don’t know what takes him so long ( ! ) , but in the meantime… a question about the very idea of leadership in our rapidly-changing culture:

    Who thinks it possible that we are currently crossing a threshold beyond cynicism and distrust and disappointment to a new era in which the idea of a political leader “rescuing us” with his/her policies and charisma will be as outdated as the concept of kings, queens, and divine right?

    In other words, we are realizing as a culture, maybe as a species ( ! ), that power does corrupt at so many levels, and therefore we need to rely on more bottom-up cooperation and networking and self-determination–you know, like the Founding Fathers tried to set up. So we would still have leaders, but more like 100 million leaders out of our population of 300 million, rather than a small number of puppet leaders paraded in front of the confused masses expecting the impossible from a few propped-up human beings.

    So, we’re not just disappointed with particular leaders but now beyond fed up with the whole structure of our leadership, fed up with allowing top-down, absentee leadership to control so much. Will we turn off our TV sets en masse and start talking to our neighbors? I wish.

    • Ron P permalink
      July 17, 2014 11:14 pm

      Pat. Yes power does corrupt. The problem to me seems to be that many have already turned off their TV’s “en masse” and do not know what is happening, or they don’t care since they are being taken care of by the “leadership”. Nor do they read the news or look it up .

      As you say the founding fathers set up a government based on personal responsibility. The freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, the right to privacy, the right to trials, etc all assume that people are responsible enough to handle those rights, along with others. However, over the 200+ years of our country, leaders have taken steps to infringe on those rights since a few have demonstrated they can not handle those responsibilities. And as with many who achieve levels of power, leaders have found they can assume more power that has led to the government we have today.

      Israel invades Gaza. rebels (or Russia) shoot down a passenger plane in Ukraine. Thousands of kids cross our borders illegally and turn themselves in. Leadership is out fund raising, giving the appearance of not being engaged. Why should we, as citizens, care when leadership does not seem to care? So we tune out and allow leaders to assume more power since we are not paying attention.

      And I use the term “leadership” loosely since what I see in government today is not what I call leadership. We have a crisis with kids coming in illegally. We have a problem with highway funding. We have a problem at the VA. We have problems…… So the way to solve the problem is to throw money at the problem. Ask congress for more, but where is the leadership? Where is the leader that has the plan for the money? You want to borrow money for a business, you go to the bank, provide the bank with your request that includes a business plan for the money, how you will monitor effectiveness of the plan and how you will pay the money back. Absent of a plan, you get no money. Leaders in government do not expect to have to provide a plan. They just want more money.

      Nor do they seem to have any leadership plans for foreign policy, entitlements, violence, etc.

      And no, we will not start talking to our neighbors. Those that have some interest in the problems today seem to be content to send e-mails to like minded people bitching about the news and our leadersip, or lack of. Had the same environment of today been around in the 60’s and early 70’s when all the marches took place to gain blacks equal rights and the anti war demonstrations took place, all they would have done was sign onto a computer, wrote an email and complained about how they were being treated and how bad the Viet Nam war was. I doubt much would have come from that.

  29. July 18, 2014 11:13 am

    I agree with both of you that there is little to no leadership coming from the federal government these days. It’s been a long evolution from relatively balanced, limited government to out-of-control political oligarchy, and Obama did not begin that evolution. But the breathtaking incompetence and lack of leadership that his administration has exhibited, coupled with the corruption and money-grubbing that seems to be SOP for politicians on both sides of the aisle has reached a tipping point, I think.

    Any optimism that I have – and I do still have some – is due to the states and the fact that there have been governors who have turned this kind of thing around on the state level and who have turned back – or at least are attempting to turn back – the federal leviathan. I do think that it is federalism that will save the day, if the day is going to be saved.

    • July 18, 2014 2:15 pm

      I have always been a federalist and more so, as I age. Local influence and the ability to move if you don’t like the outcomes tend to breed more responsiveness, on balance. And, Barry is easily the worst POTUS of my lifetime. At least the other President’s appeared to give a damn what happened to the country. This POTUS is more interested in March Madness and fundraising.

      Useless POS in my opinion.

      Hey, I am from Jersey, we have a mouth on us!

  30. Pat Riot permalink
    July 18, 2014 4:49 pm

    I agree that Federalism could be part of what we save ourselves with/through, if we save ourselves. Oh the beautiful 10th amendment:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    I love those words.

    • July 18, 2014 5:37 pm

      Yes, and if only the Supreme Court would start to comply with that wonderful sentiment, all would be better.

    • Ron P permalink
      July 18, 2014 5:51 pm

      Pat, I love those words also. But almost daily there is an activist judge making decisions overturning laws that states have passed for their own good. Gay marriage is a very good example. If a state (lets say Utah which is one of the most conservative) does not want to recognize gay marriage, has the states given the federal government the power to regulate marriage? Where in the constitution is the federal government given the right to regulate marriage? So I say the 10th amendment is no longer valid, the constitution has been amended without the 2/3rds states approving the change and again, no one cares. (When I say no one I mean enough people to make a difference). And the more congress evades the issue of executive power, the more usless the constitution becomes.

      JB..as for SCOTUS, are these really judges that the founding fathers envisioned as being the last step in limited government? To me they are just another political wing for the right or left either supporting or opposing agendas on either side of the issue. Long gone are the SDO’s, Kennedy’s and other moderate judges that rule on law and not positions. Yes kennedy is still there, but where are those to replace a sitting judge that has his same perspective?

      • July 18, 2014 6:04 pm

        Valid point on the SC. Really, the federal government just assumes power and the states seem to be fine, especially when money comes back to the states. Why not stop the money flow in the first place?

  31. Roby L permalink
    July 19, 2014 9:38 am

    Since the article is about murderous white male nutjobs its seems appropriate to note that meanwhile Vlad the Impaler is taking the country he owns down the path to complete western isolation and the collapse of his economy by fomenting a Ukrainian revolution, while pretending, with zero credibility, that he isn’t. Vlad has had control of Russian thoughts and minds for so long that he cannot seem to imagine that it does not work past his borders. In short, he is mad. And clearly, murderous. In other words, Elliot Rodger with control of the country with the worlds largest supply of nuclear weapons according to some measures, a permanent seat on the UN security council, and a energy based headlock on Europe. Add that to events in the middle east and we are having a hell of a year.

    From another angle, I have noticed that the world seems to interpret the 2nd Malaysian airlines tragedy exclusively through the lens of what this means to the continuation of hostilities in Ukraine. In fact, I just did it myself. What a sad weird world it is sometimes. How happy and proud the relatives of the victims will be if it turns out that their sacrifice changed political momentum in Ukraine. That is sarcasm.

    • July 19, 2014 9:42 am

      I wonder why any commercial airline would fly over that area or any area remotely like it. Would you fly over Gaza now? Over Iraq or Syria?

      It is strange, indeed, the world we live in.

      • Roby L permalink
        July 19, 2014 9:53 am

        I am sure the passengers had no idea of their flight path. But many airlines were using that region, its a corridor and the war did not change that until now. The fact that the Malaysian Airlines picked the short straw for a 2nd time is just a weird coincidence. What is more significant is that (see, I’m doing it again, even when I know its ugly) the western world now cannot fail to react to Vlad and his hijacking of a very large and critical portion of the world, much of it beyond the borders of his country.

      • July 19, 2014 10:11 am

        The “world” is a very large abstraction. Who exactly doe you suggest should respond to Putin and in what way shall they respond?

  32. July 19, 2014 10:11 am

    PS-I was referring to the airlines in my earlier point. The passengers likely had not idea and certainly no say as to their flight plan.

  33. Roby L permalink
    July 19, 2014 10:21 am

    The western world. Economic isolation of Russia. All well under way and as of my news read today even Russian economic strategists who are not part of the government are predicting this is inevitable if and when Putin’s proxies are compellingly linked (and there is already a great deal of evidence pointing to them and thus far none pointing to the Ukrainian military) with the missile. As of today, Putin is still blaming Ukraine, his proxies are removing bodies and parts of the jet and hindering international observers. Expect some serious screaming to result from that as the passengers belonged to many western nations. This is not a 3 day affair and then back to Business as usual. Even some Russian analysts say that is a huge fail by Putin with severe consequences.

    • July 19, 2014 10:29 am

      That said, the EU has been very weak in this regard. Each country is looking at the effect of sanctions on their own economy (imagine that!).

      To me, the real issue here is when Obama dropped the Shield that was being developed. That was the signal to Putin that Obama was weak, stupid, or both.

      Game, set, and match.

      PS-the sanctions can work both ways. Putin is getting ready to evict all western credit card companies and replace them with his own Russian brand. Not surprisingly, these companies are in DC right now, lobbying for an exemption.

    • Ron P permalink
      July 19, 2014 11:57 am

      Roby, yes it is business as usual in Europe.
      http://rt.com/business/172888-9-eu-block-sanctions-russia/
      I doubt much has changed, even though there might be a few leaders talking more loudly about Putin. But in the end, there own skin will be saved at the cost of instability along the Russian border. I do not see the Europeans doing much about anything other than something that will not impact them directly. And economic sanctions will have a direct impact on their countries.

      I support the US efforts to make changes in the region through economic policy, but that is all. If the Europeans will not take action after almost 300 passengers, and the majority of them being European, are killed by Putin and his supporters, then let the Russians have Ukraine and the rest of the Baltic territory. At some point when Russia is back on Germany’s doorstep, maybe they will become concerned and take action.

      It is time the US begins to give the same attention to our southern neighbors as we have given to Europe for years and work to make life better for them, the same as we have for Europeans so there will not be a need to send their kids to the US for a better life.We can build a fence to keep them out, but with this comes a chance to build a relationship to make the fence more secure as fewer will be trying to get in.

      • Roby L permalink
        July 19, 2014 12:14 pm

        Regarding your first two paragraphs I hope you are not correct, We will see.
        Regarding paragraph three, you have my complete agreement.

  34. Roby L permalink
    July 19, 2014 10:44 am

    Sanctions do of course cut both ways, however, the US economy is not going to tank, its the Russian one that is tanking and will decline further. Which is the idea. Merkel has made some very strong statements about Putin and the Russian path but also has dragged her feet on sanctions for the reason you mentioned. That will be much harder to do now as Putin’s little green men drag some of the bodies away, rummage through their possessions and leave victims to rot while preventing the investigators and humane workers access.
    Most educated Russians want to be European-Russian, rather than Asian-Russian. They speak western second languages, vacation in countries that are part of NATO. They do not wish to learn Chinese (who does?) and vacation in Bejing, but that is where Vlad is taking them. Eventually, slowly but slowly, Russians will start to question the thick web of lies they are fed and mostly accept as of today. Accelerating the pain that leads to that process is the target.

    • Roby L permalink
      July 19, 2014 11:05 am

      As a sort of correction, reports of looting appear to be dubious, Ukrainian government propaganda. No shortage of parties lying and bending the truth. But the obstruction and rotting victims are real enough.

  35. July 19, 2014 11:56 am

    I trust statements from all sides of this conflict about the same. That goes double for Kerry, who has made a life out of lying while keeping a straight face.

  36. Roby L permalink
    July 19, 2014 12:22 pm

    I heard that same statement, without the Kerry part, from a leftwing ultrafeminist student last semester when I made a remark about the lies flowing from the government controlled media in Russia. Its exactly the same here, she said, evil corporations prevent “the people” from knowing the true (radically left wing) news.

    Really, no, we in the west have a far different and far more honest and truthful system of news reporting. We can all point to its faults and find outlets we don’t like or trust but the system as a whole digs for the truth. There is a vast difference between Putin being the executive producer of every TV news story and most print or online journalism and our system. I promise you, you WOULD notice the difference if we switched to the Russian system tomorrow. Cynicism may be called for at times but it can go way too far.

    • Roby L permalink
      July 19, 2014 12:25 pm

      I realize you were talking about governments and not news outlets but the difference remains. Putin has no scrutiny, he evaluates himself. Out Pols in the west have real scrutiny and are greatly constrained by it. Which is a very good thing and a huge difference between our society and Russia.

      • July 19, 2014 1:59 pm

        No, if you are Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, or B. Obama, there is virtually no scrutiny, save Fox News (when it is convenient for them).

  37. July 19, 2014 1:57 pm

    I would have agreed with you on the US media about 15 yrs ago.

    No more. The media is simply dominated by the liberal point of view. They pander to Obama more than any POTUS in my lifetime.

    • Ron P permalink
      July 19, 2014 3:56 pm

      JB I think there is still a difffernce between our news and Putins news. Where Putin tells the media what to write and they do it or else, our media picks and chooses what to write. If it fits their agenda, then they report it. We have two sides, from MSNBC to Fox, reporting what they want to report and ignoring what might be advantagious to the other point of view, Now politicians may try to influence what is reported, but the comapnies basically make the decision themselves.

      • July 19, 2014 4:07 pm

        Yes, there is a difference, but not much of one IMHO. The mainstream media proclaims to be “in the middle” yet we know that is far from true. So, yes, even though there is no guy in the Kremlin directing, the outcome is not all that different.

        IMHO.

  38. Roby L permalink
    July 19, 2014 4:46 pm

    Again, its just silly to compare our media system to the Russian/North Korean/Chinese type of government propaganda media system.

    Aside from just that fact that there are enough different media organization on the right, left, and center, as well, you cannot simply make up lies here and keep your job in the respectable part of the media. There is no shortage of cases of people losing their jobs at say the NYT for having played loose with the facts in story. Dan Rather himself got wacked, remember for reporting on Bush in an untruthful way. In Russia the government invents the facts, and although it is not possible to lie 100% of the time, they come as close as they can. And people believe it, another difference from our system, becasue they have both little experience and little incentive to criticize the government, they will just be ignored or worse if they do. Whereas under our system the media can bring the government to its knees, get a president impeached, embarrass a congressperson to resign, and generally muckrake, and fact check all over the place. Try living in a society where none of that happens and if the dictator slowly loses his mind due to the corruption of ultimate power, no one can say anything about it.

    That is NOT what we have here, as history shows. There are mountains of criticism of Obama and not just from the right, from the left as well, in the media. More arrives daily from every side, look at the Real Clear politics site you will have no trouble finding it. Reagan had a “Teflon presidency” in spite of the scandals and age related issues, but relative to the Russian/Chinese/North Korean model, Reagan was raked over the coals, as were Clinton, Bush II, and yes, Obama.

  39. Roby L permalink
    July 20, 2014 9:02 am

    Two of the world’s most dangerous nutjobs in power in the process of recreating Reagan’s “axis of evil.” With friends like Kim Jong Un Putin is not hiding his intentions. The west may finally unite against him but he will always have lil Kim. Barechested photos with Kim’s Harem the next PR ploy for Putin? Better act fast before Kim executes them. I’m awaiting Dennis Rodman’s clarifying input on Russian involvement in MH17. Yeah, I know I’m writing purple prose. I’m in a dark mood.

    http://asia.nikkei.com/magazine/20140710-Latin-America-Asia-Emerging-routes/Politics-Economy/North-Korea-finds-a-new-friend-in-Russia

  40. July 20, 2014 10:22 am

    There is plenty to bash when it comes to our European allies, but, as long as the US is going to restrict its response to aggression and persecution by expressing “dismay” and, in extreme cases “outrage,” I cannot blame the Europeans one bit for hedging their bets on Putin. He may have temporarily overplayed his hand in Ukraine, but he’ll wait it out. As long as America does nothing but threaten investigations – heck, we’re not even threatening to investigate anything ourselves, just calling for others to do it. (Only one measly American citizen killed in that plane shootdown, after all, no biggie), there’s no downside for him.

    In other international news, ISIS has called for Christians to leave Mosul or be killed. They can pay to stay, of course, if they choose a life of religious persecution.

    I am sure that we will express “outrage”.

    A world without American leadership is a world where guys like Putin, Kim Jong whoever, and ISIS rule.

    • July 20, 2014 10:33 am

      Maybe it is time for Germany and France to dial back there social giveaways and grow a set? Putin understands they are wimps and is taking full advantage. It is time for the Frogs to get off their ass and man up. Fund and build a military or buy one from the Israel.

      Sorry for the male/sexist language but this crap is simply annoying.

      • July 20, 2014 11:00 am

        Well, sure it’s time for that. I’m not disputing the fecklessness of Europe….although I do kind of think that Angela Merkel is a tough broad (as long as we’re using sexist language 😉 ).

        But, the Frogs are busy rioting over Israel going to war against poor Hamas and England the same. None of us can be bothered to put in place a serious set of sanctions against Putin or anyone else. Hell, we removed the sanctions on Iran, and got…..and got……oh yeah, nothing.

        We barely back Israel’s right to defend itself from constant rocket attacks, and act as if it is Israel’s fault when the children used as human shields in Gaza are killed after multiple advanced warnings by the IDF. It’s all outrageous outrage when the NYT publishes the pictures of dead Palestinians, but when Hamas kidnapped and slaughtered 3 Israeli teenagers who were out hitchhiking…..crickets.

        We are becoming as weak and wimpy as the Europeans, so I have a hard time demanding that they do what we won’t.

      • Ron P permalink
        July 20, 2014 12:17 pm

        JB…AMEN!!! And funding a military goes for all “our allies”, not just a select few.

    • Ron P permalink
      July 20, 2014 12:11 pm

      Priscilla, why should we do anything the Europeans are not willing to do that is in their back yard. It is time for the Europeans to begin spending money on their own defense and stop thinking the US is going to be there when things go wrong. We can be of assistance in supplying defensive equipment that they want to buy and we can support their efforts in economic sanctions. We can also make decision in this country that will help others when economic sanctions might hurt those countries. The Russian economy is reliant on energy and western europe needs energy. We can make decisions to increase production in the US to provide energy to western europe to take the place of Russian energy products. And we can provide military hardware to those countries in the world that need hardware to defend against those like the rebels in Ukraine if ask.

      What we can’t do is make decisions that are not supported by those that are directly impacted. We can do many things to impact Russia, but as long as the rest of the world is not going to stand behind those decisions and support them, then let them take the lead and we can support them. Yes, there was only one “measly american” (with duel citizenship), but there were 200+ Europeans. If they won’t stand up for whats right. then yes its “no biggie”.

      Wonder how many dead Europeans equals “a biggie”?

      • July 20, 2014 3:04 pm

        Ron, I do agree. Where I differ with you and JB is on the idea that Europe is not willing to spend money on its own defense. No doubt, there was a time when the Europeans did expect the US to carry a good portion of the load. But that time, I think, has largely passed, and what they are looking for now is clarity and leadership in dealing with Russia. They have a lot more to lose than we do, at least in the short term, so , presumably, they want to know that we at least would back them up economically and defensively if they stood up to the the Russians (I almost typed “Soviets”….)

      • Ron P permalink
        July 20, 2014 6:03 pm

        Priscilla, I can only go by the information that I can find and some of it is not up to date. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the 2011 percentage of GDP spent on defense per country show the US with 640 billion or 3.8% of GDP.France spends 61 billion (2.2%), the UK 54 billion (2.3%) and Germany 48 billion ( 2.8%). Per capita, the 2009 numbers indicate the US spends $2,141 per citizen, France $977, UK $940 and Germany $558.

        Sorry, but when the US spends over twice as much per citizen (and 4 times Germany) and is expected to lead in all the foreign catastrophies I have a problem. When we are expected to lead and when we do, many people say we are trampling on other countries rights, I have a problem.

        I will reconsider my position when I see Germany, France, Italy, the UK and Japan all spending the same amount per citizen that will get them to about the same percentage of GDP as the US. Even Israel does not spend as much as the US per capita, but they are at around $1,800 per year. That is still more than twice what the EU spends! And they protect themselves and take action when it is necessary.

        As a good friend says of me, “thats the Libertarian in you talking and how many Libertarians win elections?”

  41. Roby L permalink
    July 20, 2014 11:41 am

    Priscilla there were 3000 protesters in France rioting, I could not tell precisely whether all were actually of Palestinian descent but all the names of those interviewed were middle eastern. So, I do not believe that the “Frogs”, who number 66 million, where all out rioting.

    My youngest daughter had just returned from a trip to Israel and Greece with her boyfriend (her second trip to Israel) a week before the kidnapping, so I really paid attention. I found pictures of the 3 slain Israelis teens everywhere on the news, are you saying the NYT did not publish any? The fact that hundreds of civilians have died in Gaza is simply news, of course they will show pictures of the dead, that is just journalism, they should not do that? My sympathy, believe me, lies more with the Israelis, but it is also a complicated situation in which Israel does not always do what would be right, decent, humane, or helpful. We are planning to visit Israel in November to see my wife’s son and his wife, my wife seems drawn to vacation in war zones or at any rate war zones seem to spring up everywhere her son needs to be. I ain’t going if its at war, but my wife will make her own choice, strong willed like Merkel.

  42. Roby L permalink
    July 20, 2014 12:25 pm

    I’m not sure where everyone here is getting the idea that European powers are not going to act. Its not what I am reading. Its not lightening fast but its happening, and by diplomatic standards its happening quickly now.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/20/us-ukraine-crisis-airplane-idUSKBN0FP02O20140720

    • Ron P permalink
      July 20, 2014 5:28 pm

      Roby, thanks for this information. It is somewhat different from reports from Bloomberg news yesterday afternoon that reported a split in sentiment in the EU. It was reported the Netherlands and Britian were ready for more and deeper sanctions, Germany was hesitant for more and Italy did not want any sanctions at all.

      But the problem still exist that the US is taking the lead on this issue as written in this article and not the EU. The EU should be the ones planning the sanctions and demanding the US support them, not the other way around! It was not our plane, it was not our citizens and it was not on our continent that this took place.

      Is the US the only country in the world that has the intelligence to come up with a plan to sanction Russia and ask for support from the allies? Maybe if the EU was more like Israel, Putin would not be doing what he is doing. They do not need to be invading, but they do need to give support to their neighboring countries.

      But what the hell, we have neighbor to the south that are run by gangs and thugs causing thousands to flee to the US and we are not helping, so why expect the EU to do anything different?

  43. July 20, 2014 1:33 pm

    You aren’t kidding, Roby….weddings in Ukraine, vacations in Israel – your wife is one fearless babe (sorry for the sexist language!)

    And, actually, to some degree I think we agree about the Europeans. My concern is that calls for France and Germany to “do something” about Russia are going to fall on deaf ears if we won’t at least be party to the something. Merkel has suggested stronger sanctions than the US has, but then backed off when we didn’t appear to sign on. And, the EU is pretty dependent on Russian oil, so their strategy has to be different than ours. And it’s not like we have been the most dependable at backing up our allies, so I think that they fell that, as long as they’re expected to go it alone, they might as well do so in their own way.

    My problem with the reporting on Gaza is the fact that outlets like the NYT rarely mention the fact that civilian deaths are largely caused by Hamas’ reliance on human shields. When it is mentioned, it is on page A17 after the headline story and giant photo have shown dead Palestinian children. The fact that the children were put in harm’s way, intentionally, gets a glancing mention…..and the fact that Israeli forces warn, through leaflets, phone calls and dummy bombs, the families of those children to get out of the buildings where they protect rocket bunkers, is almost never mentioned.

    The Israeli teenager kidnap/killings got a fair amount of press, but much of it was focused on the fact that Hamas denied the murders, despite evidence to the contrary. The wanton slaughter of innocent kids was not the story…..had Israelis kidnapped and murdered 3 Palestinian teenagers, just because, I think the reporting would have been different.

    I suppose my point is that, while it is not necessary for the US to support every decision that Israel makes, it is unnecessary and even dangerous for our government to appear to be buying into Palestinian propaganda about Jewish “atrocities.”

  44. Roby L permalink
    July 20, 2014 2:21 pm

    I would have gone with my wife to Kiev, I wanted to but it did not work out with my schedule. The kids (my wife’s son and his very lovely now wife) got married there in a hurry (a baby was on the way) because they could not get married in Israel as she is not Jewish. Did you know that if you are not Jewish you cannot get married in Israel? He is, she is not. No dice, no wedding in Israel. I’ll go to Israel if all is calm. (But I would rather go to Greece, my daughter brought back pictures of the islands, oh my god, the most beautiful place on earth.) We were in Moscow in November to see my wife’s family there, that is enough travel for me for a year. I’m not actually rich, at least not in money.

    Human shields are in use everywhere, Ukraine, Israel, Afghanistan. How many wedding parties have we demolished in Afghanistan, how many civilians killed in Iraq, Panama, Vietnam? They are all atrocities, war is an atrocity. No one has ever figured out how to fight evil without doing evil in return. We justify our evils because we believe in our own cause, our own people, our own civilization. What a thoroughly objective alien observer would think of us…

    Hamas is perfectly willing to expose civilians to harms way with their idiotic and mostly harmless rockets. Golda Mier said that when the Arabs decide they love their children more than they hate us there will be peace in Israel. Hasn’t happened yet. Disproportionate casualties, as occurred in the intifadah 20 years back are newsworthy, if our media did not note it they would be guilty of being the same kind of propaganda I complain of in Russia/China/North Korea.

  45. July 20, 2014 2:40 pm

    Well, I would challenge your statement that human shields have been used by Ukraine and Israel. At least in the “war crime” definition of human shield. It is one thing to build settlements and businesses in a disputed territory. It is quite another to knowingly and purposefully house women and children in houses that are built on artillery storage bunkers known to hold the very rockets and missiles being launched at your enemy, because you know that your enemy does not want to kill civilians. That is an atrocity in my opinion, and if the Ukrainians and the Israelis have done that, I am unaware……..

    Hamas’ rockets are harmless largely because Israel has refused to give up land that would be used to fire at closer range and because of the Iron Dome. It will not always be so. And I agree that Israel has its own propaganda machine, and cannot be trusted to tell both sides of the story. But the fact remains that Hamas presents an existential threat to Israel and not the other way around.

    • July 20, 2014 2:47 pm

      “The Gaza conflict is likely to be remembered as a terrible watershed, not because the IDF has unintentionally killed Palestinian civilians but because Hamas has made the use of human shields a primary military strategy. Buoyed by the unforgivable silence of leading international NGOs, Hamas deploys two complementary tactics that mock and debase the humanitarian core of international law: thousands of indiscriminate rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians and the massive use of Palestinian civilians—including women and children—as human shields.”
      http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2009/01/09/the-threat-of-the-human-shield-strategy-hamas-uses-extends-beyond-israel-gaza

      As far as I know US News is not a particularly partisan periodical. But I honestly don’t know.

  46. Roby L permalink
    July 20, 2014 2:56 pm

    I expressed myself poorly. By Israel, I meant the conflict, not the state. Israelis are not using civilians as human shields on their weaponry. As well, when Israeli’s murdered a Palestinian they were brought to swift condemnation and justice is on its way. Not so for the 3 murdered Israeli teens of course. Civilization difference. I was just skyping with the kids, they are unworried and tell us all is calm and safe.

  47. Roby L permalink
    July 20, 2014 3:22 pm

    All my kids (this sounds awful, I know) are Jewish because their mothers are of Jewish descent. Its how my youngest daughter got two free trips to Israel for the price of listening to a religious lecture each day. She is not religiously Jewish. I myself am not Jewish (sometimes it seems I am by default and I certainly love many Jewish violinists, but not the religion.) My wife is also not Jewish, but her son is because his father was Jewish and his grandparent are in Israel. Which is why he was accepted to live there as a teen on a program. His father was killed before he was born in a Soviet munitions explosion during his compulsory service. My wife has been separated from him since he was a teen, other than visits. The choice was made to send him to Israel because there was no money to feed him in Ukraine when the Soviet Union collapsed and the economy completely collapsed with it. Obviously a heartbreaking decision with many consequences. She saw him face to face for the first time in years in Moscow in November. This may explain why she will travel to difficult places to see him. She is a really, really tough woman and always cheerful and optimistic. One might suspect that I am inventing this and I would not blame anyone for thinking that, its a pretty wild set of biographies. This era has both its wonders and horrors.

  48. July 20, 2014 6:36 pm

    100% agree. I don’ recall making a pledge to the world’s traffic cop. Why exactly do we have the UN?

    • July 20, 2014 7:02 pm

      Well, I don’t recall the US making a pledge to be the world’s traffic cop either. But, I vaguely recall the US entering into a voluntary alliance with European democracies for the purpose of mutual defense and security. And, being the largest and most powerful country in that alliance carries with it the mantle of leadership. No other ally has the fiscal or military capabilities to lead. That doesn’t mean intervention or sole responsibility, but it does mean that we have to be engaged strategically. Most of the people killed in that plane were Dutch. Are you saying that the Dutch should decide how to handle this on their own? Or that they are capable of sanctioning Russia in a meaningful way? Or that we should go to the UN and ask them to send “peacekeepers” to Ukraine?

      I’m sorry, I just don’t understand how the risks of isolationism are off set by its benefits. I am open to hearing arguments, I just haven’t heard any that convince me that disengagement and abdication from leadership are in our long term benefit.

      • July 20, 2014 7:26 pm

        It is time for the EU to grow up and be an “adult” organization. Are the EU countries supposed to solve our immigration mess are is that our job? It is our job.

        If Russia wants to muscle into the rest of Europe, perhaps the Germans and French could muscle a bit back. Moreover, the Norwegians have plenty of oil and money. Are they helpless?

        In case no one noticed, we are 17T in debt and climbing and we have a ton of issues that need our attention, here.

        Lastly, I am sick to death of US soldiers flying off to die. It is time to stop that crap once and for all. We have very nice, very bit weapons. The world should know that we are not afraid to use them.

        In other words, “don’t poke the bear!”

      • July 20, 2014 7:45 pm

        No, the EU does not have responsibility for our southern border/immigration problem. They have immigration problems of their own, and we do not get involved with theirs either (the whole world interferes with Israel’s border issues, but that is a whole nother story). And, I would agree with Ron and with you that the problem of our southern border is a huge one, and one that affects our national security as well as our economy.

        But, again, fulfilling our commitments to our allies is not something we should ignore. That does not mean sending soldiers off to die, and I don’t think anyone has suggested that we send soldiers to Europe for any reason at this point. I do question how England or France or even Germany “muscles back” against Russia without our tacit support. Suggesting that America is the most powerful country in the world and needs to be engaged in global leadership strategies with its allies is not the same as suggesting that those allies are helpless.

        I think we agree on your last point, if your point is that there is more likely to be peace if the US exhibits strength.

      • July 20, 2014 9:55 pm

        As always, your observations are quite insightful. My question I guess is this: what obligations do our Allies have to us?

        Seems like a reasonable question, no?

      • Ron P permalink
        July 20, 2014 11:34 pm

        Priscilla, I agree with you that the US has commitments we can not ignore. I also agree the US needs to be engaged in global strategies. What I do not agree with are those that expect the US to take the lead on every crisis that occurs around the world. I do not expect the Netherlands to determine on their own how the response to this crisis should be handled. What I expect from every major country is to take the leadership role in a crisis in their neck of the woods. If the problem occurs in the Japanese area, I expect the japanese to take the leadership role and determine a response. This response would have agreement from Australia, the US and any other country in the area with an interest. For this crisis, I expect the EU to take the leadership role, determine with input from the US what response is necessary and carry out that response.

        What I do not agree with is Kerry meeting with Russia and determining what is going to happen. The EU appointed representative, as well as the Dutch, should be leading. If they determine it is not in their interest to slap financial and energy sanctions on Russia to cripple the Russian economy, then fine. The US should accept that decision as the plane was not American, it was not in American territory, and there were no true Americans on board, other than the one with duel citizenship that lived in the Netherlands.

        Times have changed since the last great war when any response to a crisis like this was military. There was no way in those days for the smaller countries to take on a major power (even though Hitler did a pretty good job for a few years and Japan was not a push over). Today, economics can have a much greater impact than a military response. But the economic response takes everyone to cooperate, including Italy, France and the rest of Europe.

        I also expect the US to met requests from other countries when they need defensive weapons to defend their territory. In early March Ukraine asked for military aid and Obama rejected that request since it might inflame tensions with Russia. How’d that work out?

      • July 21, 2014 7:43 am

        Ron, I agree with pretty much everything you said in this comment. I think that, perhaps, the point of disagreement that I have had with you and JB has to do with the way we each define “US leadership,” in international affairs, and regarding NATO in particular.

        I do believe that the US must lead NATO. The alliance will crumble otherwise. US leadership, however, does not have to take the form of America doing it all, spending it all, or sending in troops every time there is a crisis. Certainly, the Obama administration has shown, repeatedly, that it has little interest in being involved in European affairs involving, say the euro crisis or the expansion of NATO.

        On the other hand, Russian aggression into sovereign territory is exactly the kind of situation that calls for American involvement and leadership. While the Obama administration has been busy cozying up to Russia, in hopes of getting Putin to help us out in the Middle East, the US commitment to European security has taken a pretty serious hit – from backing off on Poland’s missile defense system to the lack of military aid to Ukraine.

        We do have a vital security interest in stopping Russian aggression, and the kind of tough economic sanctions that it would take will only happen if we push the EU into doing it, and assure them that we all stand together.

        As you have pointed out, sending John Kerry gallivanting around the world like some latter-day Neville Chamberlain, to no apparent avail, and resulting in our allies wondering whose side we’re on, is not the way to lead.

      • Ron P permalink
        July 21, 2014 12:21 pm

        Priscilla, I agree and disagree. Yes, I agree that the US has to be involved in NATO and be a leader in that alliance. Even though Ukraine is not part of NATO, it is more aligned with the west than Russia for the most part other than the eastern part. In that regard I did say I supported the US providing military hardware and intelligence to Ukraine in their efforts to stop Russian aggression. That was asked for months before the MH17 flight. I also believe in the US working behind the scenes in support of tougher economic sanctions and helping the EU understand it is in their best interest to put these in place. In that regard, the UN should be working to make thing happen. That’s what they are there for, even though they are almost useless these days.

        What I do not believe is the leadership role the US should be taking in the downing of the plane. That is an European issue, just like the 9-11 attack was an American issue even though people from other countries died. If the EU will not step forward and demand certain things happen from Russia, then where do we stand?

        The face of the Ukraine issues should be someone from an European country, with the President announcing support of actions taken by those countries. We can announce sanctions, but if the EU does not go along, they will mean nothing. I do not agree with hawks that say the President is not being forceful enough. If the Eu does not care enough to risk their economic safety, then why should we?

        As for the US backing off support for Polands missle systems, I too thought Obama was the problem. But further research indicated that the majority of Pol’s were not in favor, there were demonstations in Poland against that system and the leadership of Poland ask that this be stopped. There are good arguements on both sides either blaming Obama or blaming Poland for that decision. So I am neutral on that one.

      • July 21, 2014 12:43 pm

        Candidly, I think US involvement in Ukraine has been more than we have been told and certainly done nothing to reduce tensions. The state dept. actively supported the overthrow of the Ukraine President but never admitted it. They have been taking shots at Putin and yet, have no firm plan for dealing with him. It seems they want to piss him off more than he is.

        This is pretty standard stuff for our state dept. Support the overthrow of pretty much anyone and then walk away when the revolution goes bad. Kerry is simply a jackass and I am sure Putin would start a war just to annoy him.

        Candidly, have these guys EVER played chess or have they EVER managed employees or negotiated deals? They (Obama, Kerry, Clinton, Rice) are simply the worst I have had to witness at practicing state craft.

      • July 21, 2014 8:57 pm

        JB, I realized that I never answered your question regarding our allies’ obligations to us. In short (and I am referring specifically to our NATO allies, since most of this recent comment thread has been about Europe), it is to abide by the agreements specified in the original treaty, almost all of which were for the purpose of working together to block the geostrategic goals of the Soviet Union.

        Where I’m going here (I think) is to say that NATO is an geopolitical alliance against Russia, our common geopolitical foe (remember Mitt’s famous debate answer, for which he was mocked, even though he was 100% correct?)….and it is the obligation of all of the NATO countries to consult with each other and work towards developing effective strategies that will keep Russia from emerging as an economic or military aggressor in Europe.

        That doesn’t necessarily mean military strategies (could be cyber strategies, intelligence sharing, trade agreements, etc), and it could even involve working with Russia, which was the strategy that Obama tried to employ, a bit too unilaterally, until recently. But whatever the strategies are, it shouldn’t be the US going it alone, and the European allies are obligated to the US in equal measure, according to their resources and capabilities.

        (keep in mind that in all of the decades since NATO was formed, the military obligation has never been triggered….all military assistance has been voluntary )

  49. Roby L permalink
    July 21, 2014 7:46 am

    Everyone raises reasonable points. Priscilla did a very clear and persuasive job of defending the US leadership role. That role was forced on the US through the 2 world wars and we accepted it reluctantly, its been a painful job with more cost than reward to the US in many ways. As badly as things go with this job, the world would be worse off if we walk away from it.

    Regarding the Russia vs. the west situation, the ship is turning and Russia will find the well running dry on future investment and Europe will find other sources of energy to prevent Russia from having them in a stranglehold in the future. NATO will be a greater force in the region and supply weapons and training to Russia’s NATO neighbors. Russia will have to then spend more or defense, while having less income. Sounds to me like the plan that slowly ended the Soviet Union. Now, that is a plan. It will take years, it cannot be done overnight, but Russia will not have the same relationship in the future with Western nations that they had in the recent past. Thinking that there is some immediate fix to this is naive. There are plenty of smart Russians in positions of some power who see that this is coming and are not cheerful about it or happy with Putin. This is a long haul, not a sprint, but MH-17 is a turning point.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-20/russian-billionaires-in-horror-as-putin-risks-isolation.html

    • July 21, 2014 8:29 am

      I really hope so, Roby. Both Bush and Obama have mistakenly thought that they could “deal” with Putin….I am sure that those smart Russians were face-palming it on many occasions.

  50. mike permalink
    January 10, 2015 4:53 pm

    LMFAO! Obama to the T, THE definition of narcissism

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