Daily Archive: 02/25/2015

Feb 25 2015

Feeble-Minded Fantasies

I have not lightly chosen to re-think my categorization of sub-normal intelligence, but it has recently been pointed out to me that the range of 80 – 100 IQ is technically termed Feeble Minded.

“Despite being pejorative, in its day the term was considered, along with idiot (Goddard, Binet-Simon age of 3 or less), imbecile (3 to 7), and moron (8 to 12), to be a relatively precise psychiatric classification.”

We know that “Intelligence” is an oxymoron (there’s that word “moron” again) but your testosterone fueled delusions don’t quite kick in until your teens.

Spies, lies and fantasies: leaked cables lift lid on work of intelligence agencies

by Seumas Milne and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian

Wednesday 25 February 2015 13.10 EST

Intelligence agencies thrive on impressing politicians and the public with their mystique, exploits real or imagined, and possession of information that supposedly gives them a unique understanding of the world.

The reality is often bureaucratic and banal, the information unreliable, uncheckable or available in open sources and their judgments frequently politicised and self-serving. All of those elements can be found throughout the spy cables leaked to al-Jazeera and the Guardian.

(I)n the world of espionage, today as in the past, spies peppering reports with half-truths, rumours, the outlandish and the downright ridiculous is par for the course, the secret cables show – and not that remote from the lucrative fantasies and inventions of Graham Greene’s fictional MI6 agent in Our Man In Havana.

Many of the reports, in spite of being marked “confidential”, “secret” and “top secret”, contain information openly available elsewhere, often written by journalists. One South African intelligence report on Israel’s Mossad quotes Chris McGreal, the Guardian’s former correspondent in Johannesburg and Jerusalem, who is now based in the US. “Chris McGREAL has claimed that ‘Israel provided expertise and technology that was central to South Africa’s development of its nuclear bomb’,” the report says.

So much of the spies’ work is banal, dominated by mundane liaison meetings with counterparts from other intelligence agencies. Far from swapping factual information or carefully analysed data, the agencies often supply one another with little more than their government’s political line.

Much of the rest of the time is taken up with watching one another, tracking movements through airports, logging phone calls, keeping tabs on their car registration and checking credit card transactions – or storming out of meetings and commenting acerbically on each other’s weaknesses and “arrogance”.

Oh, my B-S?  I’m too modest to brag but were the scale reversed I’d be a drowning turkey looking up at the rain.

Arrogant am I?  You betcha.

Feb 25 2015

Dispatches From Hellpeckersville-Okay, Unfriended

I have a lot of facebook friends, and by that I mean plenty of strangers I friended for gameplay and maybe 100 people I actually know, kind of know, or people I used to know. I see a lot of hateful divisive crap posted, mostly political, and mostly from people I don’t really know. Game players, team mates, I just scroll on by or hide their posts for the most part, but lately I’ve started unfriending them. And I’m talking both left and right, yes, mostly right-wing, because they have some really far out there hate, but I can’t deal with the hateful shit from either side. I don’t even care if I need team mates for that game anymore, if I see one more post that makes me feel slightly ill just looking at it, unfriended.

I just had to unfriend somebody I kind of knew. She used to live around here, she was friends with one of my nieces, nice kid, I thought. She moved away and we were facebook friends, facebook game team mates for a game or two, and she would post the kind of things anybody in their teens would post. Then things changed. Ugly posts. A few months back I saw a post where she basically argued against a living wage. I couldn’t believe it. Are people so petty that because they make too little they believe everybody should? Fifteen dollars an hour for burger flippers? NO WAY!!! I wanted to say, come on, little girl, anybody who works 40 hours should earn enough to live, but I didn’t.

The last straw came when she posted her deep thought that it wouldn’t surprise her if Obama changed the pictures on our currency. Now, WTF? Why? I mean, to what end? Plus, it was poorly punctuated, with misspellings aplenty, and most of all–ridiculous CT. Why does the right wing hate Obama for all the wrong reasons? And, if you call them on their crazy, why do they automatically assume that you’re a huge Obama fan? I got called a grammar nazi, okay, that’s fair, and also told to “come over here and say that.” Um…sweetie? That’s not how facebook works. This is the internet, I’m not standing anywhere nearby. I’m so tired of this “I’m hatefully ignorant and proud of it” crap. Unfriended and blocked.

I have a lot of conservative facebook friends who dislike the President, most of them don’t go posting hateful racist crap or ridiculous CT. I dislike a great many of the President’s policies. I think if you’re going to hate on a President, do it for what he’s actually doing, do it for what he’s responsible for, not for some crazy assed bullshit you think or heard he might do. This President has a veritable feast to choose from, come on, people.

When I post anything political on facebook now, it’s generally about a specific issue, an issue that I believe affects us all, like Social Security, the environment, or how both parties serve the 1% and not us, the average American. Now, I know the tea party people think they’re trying to do something about that, but they’re so not. Being divisive and hateful? Divvying people into who’s deserving and who is not? Voting dickheads who will not serve their interests any more than the last jackass into office? No, that’s not helping shit. Oh, and btw, your little tea party is funded, gets it’s talking points, and is run by people who don’t have anything but the interest of billionaires at heart. Democrats? Not much better. OFA? Go suck an egg. And that goes for most of the so-called progressive groups out there. You don’t serve our interests anymore either, and I learned that the hard way.

So yeah, I’m done with it. The only exceptions I’m making are for comedy. Some things are just downright hilarious. The YouTube of the homeschooling mom who thinks the dinosaur bones came from dragons? Yeah, that cracked me up. But if people just have post after post of ugly hateful shit? Done. I am done. The great unfriending has begun.

Feb 25 2015

United States Black Site

What?  It could never happen here?

Only all the time.

Chicago’s Homan Square ‘black site’: surveillance, military-style vehicles and a metal cage

By Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Tuesday 24 February 2015 10.34 EST

From the outside, you have to concentrate to realize Homan Square is a police facility. At first glance, it’s an unremarkable red brick warehouse, one of a handful on Chicago’s west side that used to belong to Sears Roebuck, complete with roll-up aluminum doors. No prominent signage tells outsiders it belongs to the police. The complex sits amidst fixtures in a struggling neighborhood: a medical clinic, takeout places, a movie theater, a charter school.

Brian Jacob Church was taken to Homan Square after police picked him up in 2012 on terrorism charges he beat at trial. He said police first photographed him for a biometrics database, took him down a long cinderblock hallway on a second floor, and handcuffed him to a bench bolted to the floor. He spent the next 17 hours there – approximately, as it was a windowless room and the lights were kept on overhead – while police attempted an interrogation he described as a fishing expedition.

Homan Square struck Church as the police equivalent of a CIA black site. Inside, he saw “big, big vehicles” that looked to him like the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected used by US soldiers and marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. When his lawyers were finally permitted access, Church spoke with them through a 12ft x 12ft metal cage.

Interrogations aren’t the only thing that happen in Homan Square. It’s a headquarters for a number of special police units, including the anti-gang, anti-vice and bomb and arson squad. Published reports describe a surveillance “wire room” inside.

The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’

By Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Tuesday 24 February 2015 16.43 EST

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

Homan Square – said to house military-style vehicles, interrogation cells and even a cage – trains its focus on Americans, most often poor, black and brown.

Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.

“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.

Chicago civil-rights attorney Flint Taylor said Homan Square represented a routinization of a notorious practice in local police work that violates the fifth and sixth amendments of the constitution.

“This Homan Square revelation seems to me to be an institutionalization of the practice that dates back more than 40 years,” Taylor said, “of violating a suspect or witness’ rights to a lawyer and not to be physically or otherwise coerced into giving a statement.”

Homan Square is “analogous to the CIA’s black sites,” said Andrea Lyon, a former Chicago public defender and current dean of Valparaiso University Law School. When she practiced law in Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s, she said, “police used the term ‘shadow site'” to refer to the quasi-disappearances now in place at Homan Square.

Do you think this is the only one?  This “democracy” is not the one our grandfathers died on the beaches of Normandy defending, it’s more like the one that got people lifetime sentences in Spandau.

Feb 25 2015

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: A National Call for Criminal-Justice Reform

On the heels of the Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin tragedies-and in light of more recent injustices like the fatal shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed Mexican national whom Pasco, Washington, police officers saw fit to shoot multiple times despite his apparent surrender-there’s plenty of reason to despair the sorry state of our criminal-justice system and the havoc it wreaks on the lives of too many innocent victims and their families.

But these days, there is some reason for hope. In the wake of so much cop-on-civilian violence, we’re beginning to hear a national rallying cry for criminal justice reform-and not just from protestors and progressives, who have been leading the charge for decades, but also from unlikely allies, including the Koch brothers and Newt Gingrich. This is an issue that unites the ACLU and Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for American Progress and FreedomWorks. And given this broad-based enthusiasm behind fixing our criminal justice system, it’s time we paid attention to a critical component that’s been missing from the conversation: the crisis in our nation’s local jails.

Although we hear plenty about increasing rates of mass incarceration within state and federal prisons, we hear much less about the role played by local jails. This silence should be startling, as there are 11.7 million local jail admissions every year in the United States – twice as many as there were twenty years ago-compared to 631,000 state and federal prison admissions. The problem looks especially stark-and constitutionally troublesome – when you consider that, at any given moment, some three-fifths of the 722,000 prisoners in America’s local jails have not been convicted of the alleged crime for which they’re being detained. Many, in fact, are simply too poor to post even a small bail to get out while their cases are being processed.

Zoë Carpenter: A 2-Day Revolt at a Texas Private Prison Reveals Everything That’s Wrong with Criminalizing Immigration

The latest uprising at the Willacy County Correctional Center began quietly on Friday morning, when prisoners refused to go to their work assignments or to breakfast. Then, inmates broke out of the massive Kevlar tents that serve as dorms. Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence told reporters some had kitchen knives, sharpened mops and brooms. Prison officials sprayed tear gas; a SWAT team, the Texas Rangers, the FBI and the US Border Patrol all showed up. It took two days to quell the demonstration. Now administrators are beginning to transfer the 2,800 prisoners-undocumented immigrants, most serving time for low-level offenses-to other facilities, because the protest made the center “uninhabitable.”

But reports suggest that Willacy has been uninhabitable for years. This is the third disturbance at the center since the summer of 2013, when inmates protested after their complaints of broken, overflowing toilets were ignored. “I feel suffocated and trapped,” a prisoner named Dante told the American Civil Liberties Union, which released a report (pdf) on conditions at the facility last year. Dante and others described the 200-man tents they were housed in as “dirty and crawling with insects…. the toilets often overflow and always smell foul.” The ACLU also found that “basic medical concerns are often ignored or inadequately addressed.” Reportedly, inadequate medical care is what sparked the weekend’s demonstrations.

Amanda Marcotte: Watch Out: Scott Walker Just May Shrug His Way Into The White House

It appears that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin believes he can shrug his way into being the Republican nominee for president. Journalists are quickly learning that if you ask Walker to comment on any of the issues that are riling up the fundamentalists, birthers or other right wingnuts these days, Walker will be respond with his impression of a popular emoticon: ¯(ツ)/¯. [..]

This entire situation is so comical that it’s hard to imagine it’s doing anything but hurting Walker’s chances. Yet there is actually a method to his madness. While Democratic-leaning voters can be driven to distraction by politicians who refuse to take a side on contentious issues like this, the dodge-and-weave actually plays right into the hands of Republican voters, both of the Tea Party variety and the people who don’t care for all that culture war nonsense and just want lower taxes on rich people.

Amy Davidson: Why ‘Citizenfour’ Deserved Its Oscar

“Thank you to Edward Snowden for his courage,” Laura Poitras, the director of “Citizenfour,” said as she accepted the Oscar for best documentary. Neil Patrick Harris, the award show’s host, noted that Snowden couldn’t be there “for some treason.” Treason isn’t one of the crimes Snowden has been charged with-the government wants to prosecute him under the Espionage Act-but both the praise and the joke point to why this Snowden Oscar mattered. What he did was useful, and dangerous. [..]

What the country still has to work out is whether the Snowden documents were simply revealing or actually transformative. That’s the question about a good movie, too, though one shouldn’t underestimate the value of revelation, or truth, alone. Snowden has his silent moments. There is a scene, when he is getting ready to sneak out of the hotel in Hong Kong, after he has revealed himself, in which he stands in front of a mirror. Wearing a black shirt, he has put in contact lenses, shaved (after debating the amount of stubble that will make him look least like the pictures now playing on television), and, with a handful of foam, tries to slick back his hair. Watching it again on Oscar weekend, one thinks of Poitras and her team, and all the other filmmakers and actors, getting ready to step out. Snowden tries, and expects, to look different. When he sees that he doesn’t-his hair won’t stay down-he crumples a little, and looks as scared as anyone. There is no magic mantle of power. But outside the hotel room, things really did change.

Michelle Chen: What Happens if You Refuse to Pay Off Your Student Debt?

Every day, people who struggled to finance their educational advancement slip deeper into a financial mudslide on a mountain of student debt. For borrowers who collectively hold this burden of about $1 trillion nationwide, the student loan has become a ball and chain that restrains them from starting their careers, or even paying rent, as their wages are sucked into a financial vortex. But what if you just decided to not write that check this month? A small group of people have chosen to do just that, hoping to start a movement to break out of the debt cycle-or at least to bang against the walls of student-debtor’s prison.

The debt strike, which launched Monday as part of the Debt Collective campaign, is led by the Corinthian Fifteen, former students of Everest College-part of the scandal – ridden for – profit Corinthian college chain. They’re undertaking financial civil disobedience against the private lending industry, demanding cancellation of federal student debts and voicing dissatisfaction with piecemeal debt relief programs. The actual financial impact of their campaign is negligible, but for the former students, this collective action is a way for them to reassert their economic sovereignty:

Feb 25 2015

The Breakfast Club (Die, Winter, Die)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Ferdinand Marcos flees the Philippines; Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denounces Josef Stalin; Samuel Colt patents the revolver; Muhammad Ali becomes world boxing champ; Musician George Harrison born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.

Albert Camus

Feb 25 2015

On This Day In History February 25

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 25 is the 56th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 309 days remaining until the end of the year (310 in leap years).

On this day in Japan, the Plum Blossom Festival is held. The Festival at the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto is one one of the most beautiful. The shrine was built in 947, to appease the angry spirit of bureaucrat, scholar and poet Sugawara no Michizane, who had been exiled as a result of political maneuvers of his enemies in the Fujiwara clan.

The shrine was dedicated to Michizane; and in 986, the scholar-bureaucrat was deified and the title of Tenjin (Heavenly Deity) was conferred.

The grounds are filled with Michizane’s favorite tree, the red and white ume or plum blossom, and when they blossom the shrine is often very crowded. Open-air tea ceremonies are hosted by geiko and apprentice maiko from the nearby Kamishichiken district. The plum festival has been held on the same day every year for about 900 years to mark the death of Michizane.

Sugawara no Michizane, August 1, 845 – March 26, 903, was a scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian Period of Japan. He is regarded as an excellent poet, particularly in Chinese poetry.

He was educated in a private school run by his father where he studies to become an official in the Court of the Japanese Emperor. His training and skill with Classical Chinese language and literature afforded him many opportunities to draft edicts and correspondences for officials in the Court in addition to his menial duties. Records show at this time he composed three petitions for Fujiwara no Yoshifusa as well as the Emperor. Michizane also took part in receiving delegations from the Kingdom of Parhae, where Michizane’s skill with Chinese again proved useful in diplomatic exchanges and poetry exchange. In 877, he was assigned to the Ministry of the Ceremonial, which allowed him to manage educational and intellectual matters more than before. While serving as governor of Sanuki Province, he intervened in a Court matter on the side Emperor Uda over Fujiwara no Mototsune and at the end of his term returned to the Court in Kyoto where he served in many positions.

He was appointed ambassador to China in the 890s, but instead came out in support of abolition of the imperial embassies to China in 894, theoretically in consideration for the decline of the Tang Dynasty. A potential ulterior motive may have lain in Michizane’s almost complete ignorance of spoken Chinese; most Japanese at the time only read Chinese, and knew little to nothing about the spoken language. Michizane, as the nominated ambassador to China, would have been presented with a potential loss of face had he been forced to depend on an interpreter. Emperor Uda stopped the practice of sending ambassadors to China by what he understood as persuasive counsel from  Michizane.

Within the end of Emperor Uda reign in 897, Michizane’s position became increasingly vulnerable. In 901, through the political maneuverings of his rival, Fujiwara no Tokihira, Michizane was demoted from his aristocratic rank of junior second to a minor official post at Dazaifu, in Kyushu‘s Chikuzen Province. After his lonely death, plague and drought spread and sons of Emperor Daigo died in succession. The Imperial Palace’s Great Audience Hall (shishinden) was struck repeatedly by lightning, and the city experienced weeks of rainstorms and floods. Attributing this to the angry spirit of the exiled Sugawara, the imperial court built a Shinto shrine called Kitano Tenman-gu in Kyoto, and dedicated it to him. They posthumously restored his title and office, and struck from the record any mention of his exile. Sugawara was deified as Tenjin-sama, or kami of scholarship. Today many Shinto shrines in Japan are dedicated to him.

Feb 25 2015

The Daily/Nightly Show (Abū al-Qāsim)

Look, as a stone cold atheist I think all religion is fundamentally ridiculous and faith of any sort mostly superstition and certainly no substitute for reason, logic, and science.

That said, I don’t find Islam any more reprehensible than Mormonism, indeed they share several characteristics that make them simply Christian heresies like Arianism and Rastafarianism (two totally different things mon).

For instance, both believe in prophets after Jesus who were divinely inspired by God to write ‘corrected’ testaments of His Word to substitute and extend the generally accepted texts of Abrahamaic revelation.

Interestingly enough Americanism (“A group of related heresies which were defined as the endorsement of freedom of the press, liberalism, individualism, and separation of church and state, and as an insistence upon individual initiative, which could be incompatible with the principle of Catholicism of obedience to authority.”) was condemned by Pope Leo XIII on his letter Testem benevolentiae nostrae in 1899.

So if you’re even reading this I can virtually guarantee you’re going to Hell just like me if I believed in that sort of thing.

I think what pisses off Christians so much about Islam is that faithful practitioners are genuinely holier than thou (pray 5 times a day, no booze, no pork) and that they so kicked butt as a military force and an enlightened civilization that didn’t barbarically destroy every bit of ‘pagan’ knowledge as witchcraft out of sheer ignorance they in short order created an Empire (Caliphate) larger than Rome, a fact you won’t often hear admitted because they were (gasp) interracial and not usually covered in filth.

So that sentiment drives the vast majority of Islamophobic racists.  Now sophisticated pretenders like Bill Maher claim that Islam is inherently political and dedicated to conquest and it is, but so is Christianity and Judaism (you can make a case that Christianity is pacifistic but those who do are generally martyred in ways much more gruesome than mere beheading).  In reality it is the same egocentric exceptional racism that leads them to this conclusion and if they were true atheists (rarer than true Scotsmen) they’d spend just as much time or more condemning our own cultural biases instead of buying into them out of piss-pants fear some evil Ay-rab is going to boogeyman out from under their bed and slit their throat while they sleep.

Fear something real, like the next asshole who runs a Stop Sign and T-Bones your body to a bloody pulp.

Last night only the panel had to keep it 100, but the monologue was funny.


He ruined my adulterous ‘Love Shack’

Yes, it is in fact true that the driving motivation for establishing the NYC Emergency Command Center at the World Trade Center (literally the largest target in New York City) is that it was only a block away from the apartment Rudy was using to bang Judy Nathan so his wife didn’t know.

This week’s guests-

What I like about Lynsey Addario is she’s a homey, born in Norwalk which while part of the Fairfield County Gold Coast is not as tony as you think.  She’ll be on to plug It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.

Christine Lagarde’s two part web exclusive extended interview and the real news below.

Feb 25 2015

Arrest Warrant Issued for Queen Elsa

Unless you are living in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is summer, Latin America, a Caribbean Island or Hawaii, a good part of the the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing some really rough winter weather, especially the northeastern United States.

The police department of Harlan, Kentucky think they have found the culprit who is causing the cold temperatures and snow storms (It’s not Mother Nature) and issued a warrant for her arrest.

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All points bulletin!!! HPD has issued an arrest warrant for Queen Elsa of Arendelle. Suspect is a blonde female last seen wearing a long blue dress and is known to burst into song “Let it Go!” As you can see by the weather she is very dangerous. Do not attempt to apprehend her alone.

The weather is getting more extreme. An article in Scientific American discusses the link between the rapidly warming Arctic and the wavy jet stream that is causing the weird winter weather:

One thing we do know is that the polar jet stream-a fast river of wind up where jets fly that circumnavigates the northern hemisphere-has been doing some odd things in recent years.

Rather than circling in a relatively straight path, the jet stream has meandered more in north-south waves. In the west, it’s been bulging northward, arguably since December 2013-a pattern dubbed the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” by meteorologists. In the east, we’ve seen its southern-dipping counterpart, which I call the “Terribly Tenacious Trough.”

These long-lived shifts from the polar jet stream’s typical pattern have been responsible for some wicked weather this winter, with cold Arctic winds blasting everywhere from the Windy City to the Big Apple for weeks at a time.

We know that climate change is increasing the odds of extreme weather such as heatwaves, droughts and unusually heavy precipitation events, but is it making these sticky jet-stream patterns more likely, too? Maybe.

Feb 25 2015

The Exceptional Ugly American

Back in 1958, the novel “The Ugly American” hit the best seller list and was made into a movie in 1963 starring Marlon Brando. Although the book was fiction, it was obvious that the country it was set in was based on Vietnam and some of the characters were real people.

The book describes the United States’s losing struggle against Communism-what was later to be called the battle for hearts and minds in Southeast Asia-because of innate arrogance and the failure to understand the local culture. The title is actually a double entendre, referring both to the physically unattractive hero, Homer Atkins, and to the ugly behavior of the American government employees.

In the novel, a Burmese journalist says “For some reason, the [American] people I meet in my country are not the same as the ones I knew in the United States. A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They are loud and ostentatious.” [..]

The “Ugly American” of the book title fundamentally refers to the plain-looking engineer Atkins, who lives with the local people, who comes to understand their needs, and who offers genuinely useful assistance with small-scale projects, such as the development of a simple bicycle-powered water pump. It is argued in the book that the Communists were successful because they practiced tactics similar to those of Atkins.

According to an article published in Newsweek in May, 1959, the “real” “Ugly American” was identified as an International Cooperation Agency technician named Otto Hunerwadel, who, with his wife Helen, served in Burma from 1949 until his death in 1952. They lived in the villages, where they taught farming techniques, and helped to start home canning industries.

Another of the book’s heroes, Colonel Hillandale, appears to have been modeled on the real-life U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Edward Lansdale, who was an expert in counter-guerrilla operations.

After the book had gained wide readership, the term “Ugly American” came to be used to refer to the “loud and ostentatious” type of visitor in another country, rather than the “plain looking folks, who are not afraid to ‘get their hands dirty’ like Homer Atkins” to whom the book itself referred.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Today’s US foreign and military policies are no different than the 1950’s. Since World War 2, America has lost much of its stature mostly because of the concept that the United States is exceptional, that this country is unique because of its democratic ideals and the personal freedoms of its citizens. While that may have been true in the early 1800’s when the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville described the concept in his writings, “Democracy in America,” it no longer applies today. The US disregard for the rule of law, its own and international, spying on its own citizens and those of other countries and their leaders, waging illegal wars, killing innocent civilians with drones, torture and targeted assassinations from secret lists are just a few of the reasons the US is no longer that country of de Tocqueville’s writing.

Yet, far too many refuse to admit it. Too many of elected officials, advisers and the media glorify the “war on terror” and our interference in the internal affairs of sovereign nations. It has been glorified by the entertainment industry in films like Academy Award nominated “Zero Dark 30” and this year’s “American Sniper.” Both movies were mostly ignored for awards by the Academy members much to the chagrin of the right wing media. The people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and others, see Americans as the terrorists. The don’t hate the US for its freedoms, as is oft repeated by those who would perpetuate war, they hate Americans because it is killing them and destroying their homes.

Adele Barker, a professor in the Russian Department at the University of Arizona, recently spent six months teaching at Fatima Jinnah Women University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. After she had seen “American Sniper,” she recalled something one of her students had said in an e-mail and wrote this

In Pakistan, my classes were unusually small, 10 students compared to 100 students for other professors.

Then I found out the reason why.

“No one wanted to take your class,” my former student explained to me in an email. “You were American; we hated you. You come in here and kill our people and then call us terrorists.”

In the minds of those who live with ongoing daily violence in the Middle East and Pakistan, America has become part of the problem. We have become the terrorists we seek to eradicate. [..]

My student had put her finger on something so essential, so basic as to why we keep getting the Muslim world so wrong.

Who for people like my students are the terrorists?

Of course they are the Taliban and those responsible for sectarian and ethnic violence. But America is right there in the mix, sowing hatred as we attempt to bring peace.

You can’t have it both ways. [..]

And that is what is the matter with American Sniper. It celebrates the very values that are driving a wedge between the U.S. and the Muslim world. It celebrates hate, it celebrates Islamophobia, and it celebrates killing.

We are living in a highly charged, highly sensitive time in our relations with the Muslim world in general. [..]

As I walked out of the theater I thought of Chris Kyle’s tortured plea in the movie to a young Iraqi boy to put down the Kalashnikov rifle he has just picked up lest he have to shoot him. I remembered the 132 school boys who were gunned down in Peshawar with another 121 wounded on Dec. 16 this past year by the Taliban. [..]

The fact that it won in no major categories is irrelevant.

What is relevant is this: in the misguided belief that we can police the world we export the very hatred that incites the countries we are trying to “save” to more violence. No one wins these kinds of wars. No one wins from this kind of film.

Least of all the people we think we are saving.

Much like Homer Atkins in “The Ugly American,” Prof. Barker went to help the people in a constructive way but found out that because of the ugly behavior of the American government and Americans like Chris Kyle, she became hated.

Until Americans start electing leaders who recognize the need for a major change in foreign and military policy, its citizens will be viewed as ugly and hated by those they are trying to help.