Sunday, November 15, 2009

Commie Plots, Cholesterol, Frank Burns, Hugo Chavez, and 2012

In the "good old days," when I was growing up, a vocal portion of the American populace were convinced that commie plots were behind just about everything they didn't like.

By the time I was paying attention, they had a declining influence over the American government's decisions. In my opinion their greater contribution to the culture was a fairly steady stream of gaffes, and being a highly identifiable group for comedians to joke about, satirists to satirize, and writers to use as the basis for memorable - if somewhat two-dimensional - characters like Frank Burns of M*A*S*H.

That was then, this is now. Acid rain, the terrible dangers of electrical transmission lines, and global warming, have replaced "commie plots" as effective rallying cries. Although not for the same people as were swayed by the likes of Wisconsin's Senator Joseph McCarthy, of course. It's hard to imagine a politician building his or her campaign on the claim that there are some number of known communists in the State Department.

Or, if some politico was crazy enough to try - winning a state or national election.

Hugo Chavez, Weather Control, Democracy and All That

This afternoon, discussing western-hemisphere politics and cultural history with my oldest daughter, we ran over the idea that democracy was the only viable, or for that matter, decent, form of government.

The idea died at the scene.

Our conversation ricocheted in another direction: which has even less to do with the general topic of this blog than this post.

The encounter with one of the basic assumptions of many Americans - that democracy is the only "right" way to run a country - reminded me of something I wrote about a year ago:

Military Rule as the Ideal Form of Government

No, I don't really think so, but look at this:
  • Government by Religious Leaders
    Example: Afghanistan under the Taliban
    Result: Terrorism
  • Government by Monarch
    Example: Saudi Arabia
    Result: Terrorists
    • (15/19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis)
  • Government by Elected Leaders
    Example: Somalia
    Result: Terrorists - and pirates
  • Government by Military Ruler
    Example: Guinea
    • Assuming that the elections were as faked as critics claim
    Result: No terrorism (and no pirates, either)
You see?! That 'proves' that military rule is superior to old-fashioned monarchies, theocracies, and constitutional democracies.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Pretty obvious, isn't it? I carefully selected examples that supported my claim. That can make for effective propaganda, but it's not good reasoning.

As a matter of fact, I don't have the visceral, reflexive revulsion that many Americans have toward the idea of having a country run by military or religious rulers. I think it depends on what individuals are running the show, and which side of the eighteenth century most of the country's people live on.
(December 29, 2008)
Hugo Chavez is the leader of a constitutional democracy. Venezuela's current constitution dates from December 30, 1999 - and President Chavez was elected in 2006 by a respectable margin: 62.9% to 36.9%. The next election for the Venezuelan president is in 2012.1

The Mayan "Long Count," and 2012; and 7138; and 12263; and 17388; and ---

Which brings up the point of this post. Quite a number of people seem to assume that 2012 will be when the world ends.

As a matter of fact, December 21, 2012, is when a "Long Count" cycle of the Mayan calendar will end - assuming that the current Long Count started on August 11, 3114 BC. If it started on August 13 - which is possible - the cycle re-starts on December 23, 2012. It'll also re-start in the spring of 7138, summer of 12263, autumn of 17388, and so on.2

Western civilization's calendar uses a base-ten numeric system, and involves centuries and millennia. We just experienced the end of one of our 'long cycles' - December 31, 1999 - and Y2K went past without an apocalypse. (Yes, there was a real issue with legacy software - which encouraged some long-overdue upgrades and re-engineering.)

I don't expect to influence people who are convinced that:
  • Commie plots are behind every disagreeable event
  • We're all gonna die from
    • Acid rain
    • Cholesterol (high or otherwise)
    • Global warming
    • The end of a Mayan calendrical cycle
On the other hand, I think there's some merit in reminding the rest of us that assumptions are a convenient mental shortcut - and should be re-considered now and again.

Related post: In the news: Background:
Hugo Chavez may, eventually, be the basis of a character as colorful and memorable as Frank Burns. From today's news:
"Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez says he will join a team of Cuban scientists on flights to "bomb clouds" to create rain amid a severe drought that has aroused public anger due to water and electricity rationing.

"Chavez, who has asked Venezuelans to take three-minute showers to save water, said the Cubans had arrived in Venezuela and were preparing to fly specially equipped aircraft above the Orinoco river.

" 'I'm going in a plane; any cloud that crosses me, I'll zap it so that it rains,' Chavez said at a ceremony late on Saturday with family members of five Cubans convicted of spying in the United States...."

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.