Obama’s other ongoing war

Apart from all the other wars that president Obama has inherited, started, and is planning to start, his biggest battle may be with the English language. All politicians twist words, as George Orwell pointed out in a much-quoted passage: “Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” [Read more…]

Snowden the chess master

Much of the attention has been focused on the revelations contained in the documents released by Edward Snowden and rightly so. It is what has been revealed and what it says about the way the government works that is important, not the people involved. But at the same time, I want to step back a little and observe that when it comes to strategic thinking, Snowden has revealed himself to be an exceptionally able at it, even though he is up against the US government propaganda machine. [Read more…]

Seeing our own brains at work

It is a little frustrating that we cannot see the workings of our own brain without the aid of external devices. But optical illusions are a fun way of getting some insight into the interplay of vision and cognition. I have a fondness for optical illusions and have shown and written about some of them in the past (see here, here, and here). There is something about the way that our brain manipulates the visual input to create something new and sometimes dynamic that fascinates me. [Read more…]

The ‘End Game Memo’

Greg Palast is an investigative journalist. In an article in Vice, he says that a source has given him a secret memo whose “content was so explosive, so sick and plain evil, I just couldn’t believe it.” The document that he calls the ‘End Game Memo’ reveals how top US treasury officials secretly colluded with the heads of major banks to implement the deregulations that led to the financial collapse. Once again, this was something that was suspected but it makes a difference to have it actually spelled out. [Read more…]

Ghost riders in the sky

The late great Johnny Cash takes his turn at interpreting a strange but fascinating song, arguably one of the best cowboy songs ever written. I remember loving it for its great rhythm whenever it came on the radio, but never listened carefully to the lyrics. I just did so and found them weird, but the song is still great. Here is a live performance from 1987 [Read more…]

Shocking defeat for British PM on Syria

David Cameron called parliament back from vacation thinking that they would quickly approve a resolution giving him effectively a blank check to attack Syria. He argued that it was clear to him that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons and that the UN investigation was unnecessary, which is also the Obama administration position. When that ran into headwinds and he seemed likely to lose, he agreed to a watered down resolution that would revisit the issue later depending on what the UN inspectors reported. [Read more…]

Obama comes clean

Sometimes, we need a bit of dark humor to get through periods of political darkness. Humorist Andy Borowitz has the scoop on the reasons that Obama is considering bombing Syria.

Attempting to quell criticism of his proposal for a limited military mission in Syria, President Obama floated a more modest strategy today, saying that any U.S. action in Syria would have “no objective whatsoever.” [Read more…]