Gülen and the CIA

Fethullah Gülen is a leading figure in the politics and religious affairs of Turkey, and is exiled in Pennsylvania. According to Erdogen, he played the pivotal role in the attempted coup against his regime earlier this year. The Turkish government thus demands Gülen’s extradition, yet the US State Department requests credible evidence of his “terrorist” activity before they do anything. They could allay doubts by going up to Gülen’s 26-acre compound in the Pocono Mountains at any time – a place once visited by FBI alumnus and recovering neo-con Paul L. Williams – and see his adherents training for an explosive homecoming; but they may bump into the CIA agents delivering shipments of weapons, so have prudently decided against such a trip.

The Turkish demand brings to mind the US ultimatum given to Afghan authorities in 2001: hand over Osama bin Laden or suffer grave consequences. The Taliban similarly requested evidence of bin Laden’s guilt – Bush Jr responded with, “there’s no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he’s guilty” (and there is a glowing example of the Rule of Law he promised to bring to the Orient). Afghan deputy prime minister:
“If the Taliban is given evidence that Osama bin Laden is involved” and the bombing campaign of the country stopped, “we would be ready to hand him over to a third country.”
In response, the Americans intensified the bombing campaign and initiated the ground invasion they’re still mired in. Imagine, if you can, Turkey doing the same to the US right now. Would all those sickening pundits at the Washington Post, the NYT and elsewhere – including such bastions of sanity like the Nation – maintain consistency and cheer on Erdogen’s steely resolution?

In 2015, Gülen was awarded the grandly named, but meaningless accolade The Gandhi King Ikeda Peace Award. This prize appears to be have set up as a vanity project-cum-publicity ploy for the last of those (no surprise there): Daisaku Ikeda, the leader of the cultish and politically savvy Soka Gakhai. Yet notice how the award is described as “prestigious” in the very, very few places it gets a mention on the web. (Interesting further details can be found here.)

If you’re wondering why the CIA would throw their lot in with this preacher and twobit thinker – so much so that former Station Chief in Kabul for the CIA Graham Fuller supported his successful bid for a Green Card. Well: he has a large and devout following, is pro-Israel (just look how that issue in particular has blown up so recently with Erdogen and Trump’s tit-for-tat, highlighting the latter’s desperate need for allies in the region), supportive of big business, is against Assad and for aligning Turkey further with the West, through the EU and NATO.

Don’t misread this and think it’s a defense of the awful Erdogen. Everyone with a shred of decency rightly hates that Islamist zealot and obsessive jailer of journalists. But the above points to another, vital level of understanding that underscores current coverage of US-Turkey relations, and hints at how the world really works.

Hazlitt on the House of Commons

“Talk of mobs! Is there any body of people that has this character in a more consummate degree than the House of Commons? Is there any set of men that determines more by acclamation, and less by deliberation and individual conviction? — that is moved more en masse, in its aggregate capacity, as brute force and physical number? — that judges with more Midas ears, blind and sordid, without discrimination of right and wrong? The greatest test of courage I can conceive, is to speak truth in the House of Commons…”

On the Difference Between Writing and Speaking

Post-modern university. Is the art of conversation and scientific discourse in jeopardy?

Let me admit that I am a bit late in my response to the Bret Weinstein incident, which prompted this post. Some of us have full time jobs and little time to spend on reading poetry and doing fuck all, Paddy. Anyway. I don’t want to spend too much time describing the situation. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google it, there are plenty of news reports and youtube videos about it. In short, it is a story of a mass outcry over a faintest pretext blown out of proportion. Of students of a higher education institution shutting down any attempts at a reasonable discussion. Of professors and faculty members being shouted or chanted at, cornered by mobs and facing ridiculous accusations. All of  it over, as I said before, the stupidest reason ever. All of it could have been averted if one side took of their social justice warrior ear muffs and listened for a second or two.

You might have guessed whose side I’m on. I support and agree with Bret Weinstein. But that’s not what this post is about. There is a force growing in the universities. A force, which the incidents at the Evergreen State College, Silliman College at Yale last year or University of Missouri in 2015 are symptoms of. That force is called Post-modernism.

As the name suggests, post-modernism is a school of thought concerning itself mostly with the post modern, born in 1960’s France. Postmodernists reject the existence of objective reality. They reject the Enlightenment and the scientific methods, logic and reason stemming from that era of human development. They are seen as Eurocentric, and in many cases tools of oppression and dominance created by the white man. There is more to it, and I recommend you read upon it. I don’t want to spend too much time on explaining that philosophy. I would however like point out one part of the postmodernist thought, that relates to issue discussed here. That is its approach to education.

Postmodernism rejects the perception that the main goal of education is to train students’ cognitive ability for
reason to produce a fully independent functioning citizen, but rather a citizen with a full social identity.

That is a quote from Chi Hong Nguyen, The Changing Postmodern University, 2010.  She writes further:

It also opposes any oppression
that offers benefits and priorities to “whites, males, and the rich at the expense of everyone else” (ibid., p. 17)
because such a mode of education just serves the rights and interests of those in power.  Therefore, education
must be recast wholly with a newer focus on marginalised groups and the voices of those who have traditionally
remained silent, and it should critically remind students of the historical sins and crimes of the colonial ones in
authority.

On the surface none of those concepts is dangerous. But if you dig a little deeper and consider what behaviour might be stemming from them, they become quite problematic. I’m not going to sing the hymn in praise of “cognitive ability for reason” and all it’s done for mankind. I’m pretty sure that’s self evident. So I’ll move on to the second part.

I’d be in favour of refocusing education on the marginalised people. If it means giving everyone equal rights, opportunities and treatment. Making sure that kids and adults from the historically disadvantaged and more vulnerable populations have the same chance to succeed as everyone else. Sometimes that means giving them a little extra help. Nothing wrong with that. But it seems that this idea is working towards creating a system of accountability. Wherein the white men of the present is doomed to pay for the “sins and crimes” of his ancestors. Some of whom had nothing to do with the colonial system, plantations, slavery etc. The payees of these reparations would be people who themselves have not experienced any of it. During his appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience #970 podcast Bret Weinstein mentions the notion put forward by some supporters of such ideas, that white people should vacate employment opportunities. All to make them more available to people of colour. Not all people of colour mind you. Asian men are apparently part of the problem. They too should make more space for black people. A sign of it can be seen in the idea of racial employment quotas (don’t know how else to call them). There is an idea that a certain number or percentage of an institution’s workers must be of ethnic minority. Now, I’m the sort of person who believes that people should be hired on basis of merit alone, not their race, gender or else.

I’ll move on to other possible explanations. Firstly, audit culture (something I ought to write more about). In simple terms it means bringing things like audits, performance indicators and quality control methods from the financial/business sector into the higher education institutions. Thus running them like business rather than academic organisations. In principle it aims to improve the quality of education provided by universities, and making faculty members more accountable to the stakeholders. Meaning the students and other investors. Hard to argue against better quality and accountability. But what it actually means is changing universities from places of learning and academic endeavour into factories. Yes, factories. Places where teachers are morphed into docile and productive little worker bees, who produce the next generation of docile and productive worker bees. What is really hidden underneath the aforementioned slogans is profit. The only thing that matters. Tutors and classes they run are rated on the basis of student satisfaction and outside indicators assigned by, well outside controllers. Therefore, any university officials are more likely to side with the students and sometimes throw their workers under the bus. Because doing otherwise could upset the stakeholders and switch off the investment tap. (Note: there’s more to it than I’m making it sound, but there’s not much more space left in this post)

Now if you allow me to sound like an old grumpy man. I blame social media. The ‘activists’ (I use that term lightly here) have been quite keen to record and post videos of their… social justice crusades. Sure, some of it might be to highlight the problem. Share their struggle with the world and bring attention to the problems they try to solve. I however see a different motivation there. What they are essentially doing is seek validation and approval. Their desire for attention drives them to gang up on their victims, shout and chant at them. All to show everyone how smart and brave they are. All so they can be showered with applause from their peers and likes and shares from the audience. One of the videos from the Evergreen State College shows students cornering Bret Weinstein. Afterwards they talk how they didn’t corner him and were very open to discussion, despite telling him to shut the fuck up moments earlier. Repeatedly one of them shouts something or does something that is followed by an ovation form other mob members. It appears to me that through those conversations the students have created a safe space. Where they are surrounded only by those who agree with them. Everyone who doesn’t, questions or challenges their ideas and arguments is viewed as the ultimate evil in need of utter destruction. It’s worth mentioning that most if not all the videos have been uploaded by the ‘activists’. Once they didn’t receive the desired response but the opposite of it, the petitioned for them to be removed from  the internet.

Lastly. I have to admit that they might have a point. From a certain point of view. All these protests, mobs and chants might be a reaction to grievances coming from legitimate sources. We can agree that there is still systemic racism, especially in America, where most of the incidents have occurred. With all those police shootings in recent years. Still unresolved problems with water in Flint, Michigan, which mostly affects black communities. And the continuous bias of the law enforcement and judicial officials. Higher search, arrest and conviction rates of the non-whites. The students are aware of all this and are rightfully outraged. The problem is that their outrage is misdirected at a wrong target. Universities cannot defend themselves against accusations of racism and bias as well as police and politicians. That links us back to the whole audit culture rating and quality control methods. In going for the softer target, young people have found an outlet for their frustration and desire for change. But again, they don’t actually go against the source of that frustration.

Whatever the reasons behind all the actions of the social justice warriors, their methods cannot be condoned. If this trend continuous we might face a real threat to scientific discourse. We might lose the art of debating and discussing ideas, of putting ideas to the test. The students involved in all those incidents were too eager to jump on a band wagon and go on a social justice crusade. Universities should be the place were young minds are equipped with the best weapons against prejudice and hate, reason and science. After all it is science that now proves that there is no difference in intelligence between races or genders. Post-modernist universities are shaping up to be places were social justice overshadows everything else. Where people jump at an opportunity to impose their own views and will on others under the guise of political correctness. Where a portion of the population is more than happy to shout their views into the faces (literally) of their perceived oppressors. If only they just as eager to listen to the other side. To engage in a proper discussion. I’m sure the problems would’ve been resolved without making national news.

P.S. Isn’t it a bit ironic that the social justice warriors were fighting to make their universities into ‘safe’ spaces. At the same time making others feel threatened and unsafe.

POLE

 

 

The reason behind stupidity.


Last year has brought us much surprise. Well, maybe not that much. Brexit and Trump becoming president did not sneak up on us. We could see them coming from miles away. Yet many, myself included, still didn’t believe it would actually happen. That belief was based on hope. Hope that people would see through all the deception, all the misleading facts, all the lies and make the right choice. I think it’s clear I am in the Remain camp. Even though as an immigrant I was not allowed to cast my vote. After all people could not possibly be that stupid. Because that must be it. The only reason anyone would vote for Brexit or Trump, is because they are inherently stupid. Right?

Well, not really. Labeling Leavers and Trumpists as stupid is unfair and not accurate. It hides a more serious problem and is actually an obstacle on the road to true understanding and open discussion. It’s unnecessarily antagonistic. Calling someone stupid is meant to shut down any argument from the opposing side. It is more in place on a playground, in an argument between children, than a rational discussion between adults. Yet during the election we saw American TV show hosts talking to Trump’s supporters at rallies in an effort to emphasize just how blindly stupid they are (granted, all it took was just asking a few questions, using the term was unnecessary) . A number of articles online showed up claiming America is becoming stupider. I think we can all remember Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” remark.

When people use it, it is meant as a sort of an umbrella, with a number of other terms and concepts underneath it. All depends on what you’re thinking about when you call someone stupid. The simplest implication is that someone simply doesn’t know or understand something. But is it because they lack the mental capacity to comprehend what is being said? If yes, then it might mean that that person has IQ below average. It can also be due to low education, or just lack of appropriate education. If you talk to me using specific medical or legal terminology, quoting textbooks, with every third word being in Latin, I wouldn’t be able to understand you. Despite being a well educated individual. That doesn’t really make me stupid, or even dumber than you. Just that I have a different set of knowledge in my intellectual bank.

There is also a possibility that people refuse to understand or rather acknowledge facts. In other words they are ignorant. This is where the real problem lies. Uneducated can be educated, uninformed can be informed. Even those with lower intellectual capacity can have things explained to them in a way they can understand. Though we run the risk of oversimplifying an issue, thus reducing its gravity. However there is little we can do when someone chooses ignorance over reason. And ignorance is not synonymous with stupidity. Even the smartest person in the world can be guilty of it. Reason dictates that we look at all facts and evidence laid before us, we examine them as thoroughly as possible and we arrive to a conclusion based on our analysis with use of logical thinking. It’s not that simple, of course. We don’t live in a purely rational world. Emotions, morality, ideological and religious beliefs, personal experiences and many other external factors affect our judgement. Therefore different people can arrive at different conclusions.

Ignorant people take that process and turn it upside down. They have a conclusion, an opinion and then try to prove/rationalize it. In order to do that they cherry pick their evidence. Choosing only those facts, figures and statements that support their opinion. Now this is not that bad, on its own. We all do that. Choose supportive information over the one that challenges us. However, ignorant people take that to another level. They automatically discredit anything that’s being said in opposition to their own views. Claiming it’s all malicious lies, spread by people who mean them nothing but harm and are themselves inherently evil and stupid. To a Trump supporter anything the ‘Liberal’ media says is…

Same could be said for a liberal’s feelings about the right wing media. Yes, the pro-Trump and pro-Brexit media had its fair share of falsehoods, misinterpretations etc. But that’s not the point.

The point is that these people some might call stupid are not intellectually impaired any more than your average Joe. The point is that people supported Trump or Brexit not because they were stupid. Some of them might have done that out of misguided sense of nationalistic duty. Some might have done it because of all the Fake News, which dominated 2016 more than any other year, and people were too eager to like and share those shocking, new stories. Some might have even done it because of xenophobia or racism. But I’d argue those were in the minority. Some might have had a legitimate, rational reason. Just as much as those who supported Clinton or Sanders. One thing that united all of them was fear of the future and a genuine desire for change. Change which Clinton did not offer. When things are getting worse and world grows darker, when people’s livelihoods are in jeopardy. They look for alternatives. In times of crisis a change, any change, looks pretty appealing. I hate to bring this up, but Hitler was voted into power in a general election because he promised radical changes to  people who felt betrayed by the establishment during Germany’s worst economic crisis. I’m NOT comparing Trump to Hitler or current situation to that of  the Great Depression era. What I’m saying is that’s how things work.

There is however a group of voters I’d call somewhat stupid or naive in the least. Those who voted pro-Brexit as a protest. So you decided to vote because you were angry and wanted to be heard, but you didn’t actually support Brexit? You thought it wouldn’t matter or actually happen? Maybe you didn’t know what Brexit actually means, but decided to vote anyway, just to piss of those Tory bastards? I’m sorry that’s just dumb.

In the end I want to say that just because someone doesn’t agree with you, that doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Nor is voting for Trump or Brexit caused by one’s diminished faculties. We need to look for the reason behind this supposed stupidity, so we can really understand their motives. This would allow us to identify problems and look for solutions. Rather than just saying: “These people are stupid, nothing we can do about it.”

Pole.

Choice or life?

Recently there has been something happening in my homeland. Something that has brought out both the best and the worst in my countrymen. Something that concerns an issue – one I don’t think anyone likes to talk about but has to be talked about. The Polish parliament has received two new proposals, both pertaining to the same law. The abortion law.

Protesters in front of parliament in Warsaw, author: Kaja Palusińska.
Protesters in front of parliament in Warsaw, author: Kaja Palusińska.

A little context first. By European standards, Poland has some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws. Not the most restrictive – that title goes to Ireland and Andorra. In most countries on the continent, abortion is available without restriction, provided a legitimate reason is given. In Poland, abortion is allowed only in order to save the woman’s life or health (both physical and/or mental), when a pregnancy results from rape or incest, or if a life-long impairment/disability/illness has been detected in the child. That law has existed in Poland since 1993. Prior to that, the laws were like the ones in all those other countries: nonrestrictive. This resulted from being a member of the eastern block during the Cold War, where abortion was seen as means of population control. After the law change, it wasn’t really touched. None of the political parties wanted to risk losing support of the public over this extremely divisive issue. During the most recent election, the Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (PiS, eng. Law and Justice) party won both the parliamentary majority and the presidential seat. This party’s views on morality and social issues are heavily reliant on Catholic fundamentalism, and it gets most of its support from devout Catholics.

So the two proposals are to liberalize the law – to the European standard – on the one hand, and to make abortion completely illegal on the other. In addition to that the ruling party also wants to make it punishable by law to cause a death of an unborn child. Mostly, this targets doctors who perform abortions, but it also goes after would-be mothers. Interestingly the Church is against this, the latter bit that is. Polish bishops have spoken out against punishing women for undergoing abortions. So, it seems, PiS MPs want to take us further back into the Middle Ages, than even the clergy dare.

That’s the worst in my countrymen. The best? There have been protests and demonstrations against the strict proposal, and it wasn’t just a few women. Over a thousand women and men protested outside of the parliament building in Warsaw on Sunday 18th September. Out of 215,000 signatures collected in support of liberalizing the law, approximately 70,000 were men. Also, there are videos showing something I never expected. The Polish Church released a letter in support of the second project (with exception of punishing women). It was read out during a Sunday mass’ sermon and people started leaving churches in protest. Again, both men and women. Now, these were not feminist, or liberal, activists without a god. These  were devout Catholics, the kind that spend their day off in church.

Let me throw some stats at you. Firstly, it’s hard to find statistics about those two projects. I’ve seen conflicting reports from Polish news outlets. Newsweek  claims that most Poles agree with liberalizing the law, while Wiadomosci claims most are in favour of keeping the current law. So I wouldn’t rely on those reports too much. Faced with that problem, I’ve looked at what CBOS (Public Opinion Research Center) has to say about that. It turns out, that in 2016:

  • 84% of Poles said abortion should be available if there is danger to a mother’s life
  • 76% if there is danger to her health
  • 74% if pregnancy was a result of rape or incest
  • an average of 80% were against abortion being allowed for socio-economic reasons (i.e. if a woman can’t afford or doesn’t want a baby)

Whichever way you look, Poles are against making the law stricter.

Out of curiosity, I looked at some international figures as well. More specifically, figures from another European country, with a predominantly Catholic population and more liberal abortion laws. French law allows unrestricted access to abortion (with a legitimate reason) within 12 weeks of conception since 1975. Trying to see how the law change affected the abortion rates proved impossible, much to my disappointment. The records started only following the law change. According to The French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED), abortion rates have remained stable over the past 40 years. Less women get abortions, but the number of women with repeated abortions has risen.

Now comes the hard part (that’s what she said): what do I think about all this. Well, let me start by saying what I’m certain about. I am certainly against making abortion completely illegal, and even more against making it punishable by law. This is where thing get complicated. You see, I believe that abortion should only be available under certain circumstances. Specifically, the ones mentioned by the Polish law. I do not see socio-economic reasons as legitimate. “But what about a woman’s right to chose?” I hear you scream. I’m not denying the woman’s right to choose, but it’s not just about that. We also have to consider the right to live. Now, I’m not a religious man, so I don’t see that right as god given, or abortion as a sin for which you shall burn in hell for all eternity. Like all human rights, the right to live is an innate part of being human. Some of you might argue that it’s just a bunch of rapidly multiplying cells, that it doesn’t look human, that it doesn’t even have a brain. Yet, that sort of thinking is… upsetting to me. I will fall on the ruling made by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal. To paraphrase: a child is human from the moment of conception, regardless of its development stage. I agree. We cannot put a timer on humanity as if it’s a roasting chicken.

On the matter of choice now. A woman has the right to choose, of course. We can’t force a rapes woman to give birth to the assailant’s baby. We need to consider the psychological torment. However, if she chose to have sex, she should be ready to accept its consequences. So should the man for that matter. WARNING! Sexual intercourse is the leading cause of pregnancy. So what should a teenage girl who accidentally got pregnant do? I know it sounds harsh, but she shouldn’t have had sex if she wasn’t prepared to have a baby. And again, the same goes for her partner/boyfriend. I’m not advertising abstinence, god no. I’m merely advocating taking responsibility for one’s actions. That includes using contraception and getting a job if it didn’t work. If it was fully consensual and everyone is healthy – then grow up, you’ve got a baby to take care of.

That’s what I think about all that.

Pole

British Truisms

This post is dedicated to those pearls of wisdom Brits can’t help splurting out when mistakenly given the vaguest encouragement. They will cover a multitude of subjects: politics, culture, and, of course, the weather.

I wouldn’t want the Queen’s job

Stephen Fry – a national treasure

This country’s gone to the dogs

The Tories fix the economy and Labour break it

Whatever else you say about ‘im, that Enoch Powell ‘ad a point

We’re just an island – there’s no more room!

I like snow, I just can’t stand the slushy stuff

Diana was the People’s Princess

‘R’ Diana was knocked off by Charles

Poor Diana

While alive: she’ll open ‘er legs for just about anything

This wouldn’t ‘ave ‘appened under Thatcher

We’re a nation of animal lovers [Has no one actually seen a battery farm?]

We ‘ave TV so who needs books?

No one ‘as any respect from the old anymore

Bloody French

On buses and similar things: there’s nuffin and then fifteen come at once

I’m not racist but…

On rain: it’s about to piss it down

That London’s too big for me

A Englishman’s house is his castle

That restaurant/wine/degree of personal cleanliness is too posh for my liking

I ain’t being funny but…

A few words about No Man’s Sky.

No Man’s Sky is… eeeeeehm… mediocre… at… best?

Ten hours of gameplay and I’m running out of excuses to play that game. It’s bare bones, underdeveloped, and repetitive with little to do. More suited for an early access, than £40 full game release. But, Pole, it’s procedurally generated, endless universe, with so much to see and discover. Yes, but exploration and discovery feels more like a chore. Walk/fly to a place, scan for a few seconds, walk/fly to another place, scan for a few seconds. Rince and repeat. The landscape, flora and fauna are just as repetitive. Take a few pieces, randomly assembled, resized and splashed with different paint. Get unlimited ‘variations’ of animals. Ooh, this one has a straight horn and stripes, and aaah, this one has a curvy horn and spots. You get what I mean. Discovering and exploring is not as rewarding as you think. As of yet, there has not been a simple moment when I felt amazed by what I found. Almost every time my reaction has been: “Meh”, occasionally: “That’s alright”.

Combat is basic, very basic. Point and hold down the button. Not bad, not good. Unless you’re in space. Then, combat is slightly more exciting, but doesn’t work well. Especially if you play on mouse and keyboard.

Fuck anyone who came with the idea, that you need to hold down a button to perform almost any action. Enter the ship – hold; craft – hold, transfer stuff – hold.

Speaking of inventory. You continuously keep running out of space. Capacity is up-gradable, but you need to find a special place for it. Tech upgrades in your gear take up space in inventory.

The list goes on, and on. More evidence of mediocrity. Here’s the thing though. For some reason, I’ve played the game for ten hours, and I’ll play a little bit more. Though it starts to get boring, even for me, and I love open-world, survival, games. Shame that most of them are in early access. Shame that this one wasn’t. But I see potential here. No Man’s Sky is yet another over-hyped game, which fails to deliver and can/maybe will be saved by DLC and mods. That’s what might make it worth the price.

For now though. I’ll say this, wait until mods and DLC come out and the price is dropped, before you get No Man’s Sky.

Final verdict: “Meh. I’ll wait for the mods.”

Pole.