US Politics & Foreign Policy for Dummies

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”


A bit of a change from numbers this Friday.

I found this piece which purports to explain and enlighten us about US politics.

It is in the form of a conversation between a father and his child and as children do, some very telling questions are asked to which the answers are to say the least confusing.

Some of it is a little bit dated, but the basic principles hold good today. It highlights yet again the deeply flawed thinking that is still behind the decisions that affect us all.


foreign policy for dummies


Q: Daddy, why did we have to attack Iraq?

A: Because they had weapons of mass destruction honey.


Q: But the inspectors didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction.

A: That’s because the Iraqis were hiding them.


Q: And that’s why we invaded Iraq?

A: Yep. Invasions always work better than inspections.


Q: But after we invaded them, we STILL didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction, did we?

A: That’s because the weapons are so well hidden. Don’t worry, we’ll find something eventually.


Q: Why did Iraq want all those weapons of mass destruction?

A: To use them in a war, silly.


Q: I’m confused. If they had all those weapons that they planned to use in a war, then why didn’t they use any of those weapons when we went to war with them?

A: Well, obviously they didn’t want anyone to know they had those weapons, so they chose to die by the thousands rather than defend themselves.


Q: That doesn’t make sense Daddy. Why would they choose to die if they had all those big weapons to fight us back with?

A: It’s a different culture. It’s not supposed to make sense.


Q: I don’t know about you, but I don’t think they had any of those weapons our government said they did.

A: Well, you know, it doesn’t matter whether or not they had those weapons. We had another good reason to invade them anyway.


Q: And what was that?

A: Even if Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein was a cruel dictator, which is another good reason to invade another country.


Q: Why? What does a cruel dictator do that makes it OK to invade his country?

A: Well, for one thing, he tortured his own people.


Q: Kind of like what they do in China?

A: Don’t go comparing China to Iraq. China is a good economic competitor, where millions of people work for slave wages in sweatshops to make U.S. corporations richer.


Q: So if a country lets its people be exploited for American corporate gain, it’s a good country, even if that country tortures people?

A: Right.


Q: Why were people in Iraq being tortured?

A: For political crimes, mostly, like criticizing the government. People who criticized the government in Iraq were sent to prison and tortured.


Q: Isn’t that exactly what happens in China?

A: I told you, China is different.


Q: What’s the difference between China and Iraq?

A: Well, for one thing, Iraq was ruled by the Ba’ath party, while China is Communist.


Q: Didn’t you once tell me Communists were bad?

A: No, just Cuban Communists are bad.


Q: How are the Cuban Communists bad?

A: Well, for one thing, people who criticize the government in Cuba are sent to prison and tortured.


Q: Like in Iraq?

A: Exactly.


Q: And like in China, too?

A: I told you, China’s a good economic competitor. Cuba, on the other hand, is not.


Q: How come Cuba isn’t a good economic competitor?

A: Well, you see, back in the early 1960s, our government passed some laws that made it illegal for Americans to trade or do any business with Cuba until they stopped being Communists and started being capitalists like us.


Q: But if we got rid of those laws, opened up trade with Cuba, and started doing business with them, wouldn’t that help the Cubans become capitalists?

A: Don’t be a smart-ass.


Q: I didn’t think I was being one.

A: Well, anyway, they also don’t have freedom of religion in Cuba.


Q: Kind of like China and the Falun Gong movement?

A: I told you, stop saying bad things about China. Anyway, Saddam Hussein came to power through a military coup, so he’s not really a legitimate leader anyway.


Q: What’s a military coup?

A: That’s when a military general takes over the government of a country by force, instead of holding free elections like we do in the United States.


Q: Didn’t the ruler of Pakistan come to power by a military coup?

A: You mean General Pervez Musharraf? Uh, yeah, he did, but Pakistan is our friend.


Q: Why is Pakistan our friend if their leader is illegitimate?

A: I never said Pervez Musharraf was illegitimate.


Q: Didn’t you just say a military general who comes to power by forcibly overthrowing the legitimate government of a nation is an illegitimate leader?

A: Only Saddam Hussein. Pervez Musharraf is our friend, because he helped us invade Afghanistan.


Q: Why did we invade Afghanistan?

A: Because of what they did to us on September 11th.


Q: What did Afghanistan do to us on September 11th?

A: Well, on September 11th, nineteen men, fifteen of them Saudi Arabians, hijacked four airplanes and flew three of them into buildings, killing over 3,000 Americans.


Q: So how did Afghanistan figure into all that?

A: Afghanistan was where those bad men trained, under the oppressive rule of the Taliban.


Q: Aren’t the Taliban those bad radical Islamics who chopped off people’s heads and hands?

A: Yes, that’s exactly who they were. Not only did they chop off people’s heads and hands, but they oppressed women, too.


Q: Didn’t the Bush administration give the Taliban $43 million dollars back in May of 2001?

A: Yes, but that money was a reward because they did such a good job fighting drugs.


Q: Fighting drugs?

A: Yes, the Taliban were very helpful in stopping people from growing opium poppies.


Q: How did they do such a good job?

A: Simple. If people were caught growing opium poppies, the Taliban would have their hands and heads cut off.


Q: So, when the Taliban cut off people’s heads and hands for growing flowers, that was OK, but not if they cut people’s heads and hands off for other reasons?

A: Yes. It’s OK with us if radical Islamic fundamentalists cut off people’s hands for growing flowers, but it’s cruel if they cut off people’s hands for stealing bread.


Q: Don’t they also cut off people’s hands and heads in Saudi Arabia?

A: That’s different. Afghanistan was ruled by a tyrannical patriarchy that oppressed women and forced them to wear burqas whenever they were in public, with death by stoning as the penalty for women who did not comply.


Q: Don’t Saudi women have to wear burqas in public, too?

A: No, Saudi women merely wear a traditional Islamic body covering.


Q: What’s the difference?

A: The traditional Islamic covering worn by Saudi women is a modest yet fashionable garment that covers all of a woman’s body except for her eyes and fingers. The burqa, on the other hand, is an evil tool of patriarchal oppression that covers all of a woman’s body except for her eyes and fingers.


Q: It sounds like the same thing with a different name.

A: Now, don’t go comparing Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are our friends.


Q: But I thought you said 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11th were from Saudi Arabia.

A: Yes, but they trained in Afghanistan.


Q: Who trained them?

A: A very bad man named Osama bin Laden.


Q: Was he from Afghanistan?

A: Uh, no, he was from Saudi Arabia too. But he was a bad man, a very bad man.


Q: I seem to recall he was our friend once.

A: Only when we helped him and the mujahadeen repel the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan back in the 1980s.


Q: Who are the Soviets? Was that the Evil Communist Empire Ronald Reagan talked about?

A: There are no more Soviets. The Soviet Union broke up in 1990 or thereabouts, and now they have elections and capitalism like us. We call them Russians now.


Q: So the Soviets – I mean, the Russians – are now our friends?

A: Well, not really. You see, they were our friends for many years after they stopped being Soviets, but then they decided not to support our invasion of Iraq, so we’re mad at them now. We’re also mad at the French and the Germans because they didn’t help us invade Iraq either.


Q: So the French and Germans are evil, too?

A: Not exactly evil, but just bad enough that we had to rename French fries and French toast to Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast.


Q: Do we always rename foods whenever another country doesn’t do what we want them to do?

A: No, we just do that to our friends. Our enemies, we invade.


Q: But wasn’t Iraq one of our friends back in the 1980s?

A: Well, yeah. For a while.


Q: Was Saddam Hussein ruler of Iraq back then?

A: Yes, but at the time he was fighting against Iran, which made him our friend, temporarily.


Q: Why did that make him our friend?

A: Because at that time, Iran was our enemy.


Q: Isn’t that when he gassed the Kurds?

A: Yeah, but since he was fighting against Iran at the time, we looked the other way, to show him we were his friend.


Q: So anyone who fights against one of our enemies automatically becomes our friend?

A: Most of the time, yes.


Q: And anyone who fights against one of our friends is automatically an enemy?

A: Sometimes that’s true, too. However, if American corporations can profit by selling weapons to both sides at the same time, all the better.


Q: Why?

A: Because war is good for the economy, which means war is good for America. Also, since God is on America’s side, anyone who opposes war is a godless un-American Communist. Do you understand now why we attacked Iraq?


Q: I think so. We attacked them because God wanted us to, right?

A: Yes.


Q: But how did we know God wanted us to attack Iraq?

A: Well, you see, God personally speaks to George W. Bush and tells him what to do.


Q: So basically, what you’re saying is that we attacked Iraq because George W. Bush hears voices in his head?

A: Yes! You finally understand how the world works. Now close your eyes, make yourself comfortable, and go to sleep. Good night.


Q: Good night, Daddy.


politics for dummies



‘A Sad Ray Gun, Man’

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

‘A Sad Ray Gun, Man’

Did you get it?

Yes. its ‘Anagram Sunday’.






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woman hitler

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‘David Letterman’

nerd amid late tv

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‘snooze alarms’

alas no more z’s

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‘To cast pearls before swine’

One’s labor is perfect waste

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‘Vacation Times’

I’m Not as Active

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‘The Hilton’

Hint: Hotel

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‘Payment received’

Every cent paid me

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Stamp Store

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‘School master’

The classroom

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‘The Hurricanes’

These churn air

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A stew, Sir?

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‘certainly not’

can’t rely on it

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‘Emperor Octavian’

Captain over Rome

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‘a perfectionist’

I often practice

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‘A shoplifter’

has to pilfer

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‘asteroid threats’

disaster to earth

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Bra sets

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Accord not in it

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‘I think therefore I am’

I fear to think I’m here



Hidden In Plain Sight

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”



I always remember during the Vietnam War how the Viet Cong soldiers were able to hide themselves in plain sight of the South Vietnamese and US forces. In one remarkable incident a Viet Cong intelligence officer rented a house beside the local police station. Then there were the remarkable tunnels of Chu Chi. Remarkable for two things, one, because of their vast size and the number of enemy soldiers that they provided a base for; and two, because of the unbelievable courage of the Tunnel Rats whose unenviable job it was to enter this tunnel complex and search out the enemy. Remarkable indeed.

On a much lighter note, I’m sure you are all very aware of the saying, “It’s as plain as the nose on your face.”

The strange thing is that although our own nose is constantly in view of our eyes we never see it, because somehow our brain filters this image out of our vision as unimportant, or rather, unnecessary. Good job too for some people. I know a couple of dudes with enormous honkers! If their noses were in their vision they wouldn’t see anything else.

Joking aside, however, this got me thinking as to how much other information does our brain filter out of our vision equation without letting us know. How much do we not see although it is right in front of us? It can be a rather scary thought.

I have always been particular about what I write and I always check to see that everything is spelled okay and sentences make sense. (Proof reading you own work however is one of the hardest things to do, because you know what you meant to write an after a while loss of a little concentration can lead to mistakes.)

But it turns out I have just been wasting my time because, spell checkers be damned, apparently they aren’t even necessary. I guess some of you will already have seen this piece about how the mind works when reading. If you haven’t you’re in for a bit of a surprise.


Can you read this:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.


Which written normally is this:


According to a researcher (sic) at Cambridge University, it doesn’t matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself but the word as a whole.


During a period in my life when I was in the construction business I once drew out a plan and asked the carpenters working for me to assemble it out of some 2 x2 timber that was lying around. Strangely none of them could manage it, but a couple of them puzzled over it for quite a while. The drawing I gave them was much more detailed than this with measurements and fitting instructions, but the finished object was to look like this. Officially it is called a Penrose triangle.


A Penrose triangle
A Penrose triangle


Then there are loads of very interesting and amusing optical illusions based on the eye-to-brain ability to process information. One of my favorites is this Einstein rotating head. Is it hollow or is it protruding? Depends how your brain processes what it sees.




There is also the Ballerina illusion which is interesting. If you stare at a girl’s feet she appears to be swiveling back and forth. But if you look at her head she appears to be rotating 360 degrees. Try it out. Weird!




And there’s another spinning dancing girl who, if the right side of your brain is dominant appears to be rotating clockwise, and if the left side of your brain is dominant she appears to be rotating anti-clockwise. To make things even more weird if you stare at it for a little while you can make her change direction. Duh…




But by far the weirdest thing of all is our ability to concentrate and count baseball passes. I hope you haven’t seen this one before, but even if you have, take another go at it. I won’t tell you the answer and don’t read the rest of this blog post without viewing the video, or you will spoil the whole thing for yourself.

It explains it on the video too, but there is a team in black and a team in white and what you must try to do is count the number passes the white players make to each other and ignore what’s happening with the team in black. It’s quite fast and there is a lot of movement so you do have to concentrate. Also, if you happen to be on a slow internet connection let the whole video load before you play it.


Basket ball count test



So how did you do?

Did you get the correct number of passes?

Actually I’m not going to say any more about this just now, but I’ll return to the subject in a few days hopefully, because there is an interesting and slightly disturbing question that arises from all this.

Meantime, if you feel like it let me know how you got on with the basket ball count.

And rmeemebr trohw aawy that slpel ccehekr.