Tag Archives: war

Violent games, war and PTSD

Within the last twenty years, I’ve seen video games get more violent. The graphics and the capabilities of today’s games are mindblowing. They can portray blood and gore better than at any time before.  Violent games are also more popular than ever. One could even call them a rite of passage for kids. Everybody gets to play them at one time or another and some kids play them for years, even into early adulthood.

And yet, when faced with real war, all these “seasoned veterans” of violent video games are unescapably and undeniably floored, mentally and physically. They cannot handle the harsh reality of war, of real conflict, of real blood and real guts and body parts flying about. Their minds reel from the punch of that sickly brew and start to develop serious conflicts. When these people get home, they’re riddled with serious mental issues, many of which fall under the umbrella of PTSD.

It seems illogical, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t these kids be more prepared for war? They certainly act tough. They love to shoot people down when they’re playing games. They have no problem with digital violence. But when it’s happening all around them, they shut down, they vomit, their bladders and intestines empty involuntarily, etc.

Perhaps war and violence had best stay digital. Or perhaps in today’s modern world, with all its laws and rules and regulations, when you can’t even beat up a hoodlum who’s attacked you without being charged with violence yourself, we, its law-abiding citizens, are being turned into mush. We’re too far removed from the reality of life, which in many realms means defending your domain and your family by any means necessary. Or maybe that’s a discussion best left for another post.

Right now, I’m curious if any of you have insights on the subject of this post.

I’m not asking why video games aren’t better at making our youth more violent, less caring when it comes to life and people. I’m trying to understand why they’re so popular when they provide no real value. All they do is waste people’s time. And yet, when kids to go to the store and have their choice of various games out there, they go for the violent games.

I know the military has met with success when training its special forces with special video game scenarios, and has also used video games to train its general troops to fight in close quarters, like in cities. On the whole, I would expect today’s soldiers to be better prepared for war, given their obsession with video games about war, violence and the like — but they aren’t.

Let's recap where we are economically

A video compilation of various Peter Schiff TV appearances (2002-2009) is available on YouTube. The quality isn’t that great, but the message is pure gold. He’s been saying since 2002 that the US economy would collapse, and he gave solid reasons why it would collapse every time. His messages got more pointed with each appearance, they made sense, and yet he was ridiculed over and over for his opinions by so-called pundits on various TV networks. Ben Stein once said to him: “Sub-prime is a tiny, tiny blip.” I bet he’d like to eat his words now…

In 2004, I wrote an article where I said some of the same things Peter Schiff was saying — namely, that an economy financed by debt would not go on forever, and that we might be headed for another Great Depression. Back in 2004, the real estate market hadn’t even hit its peak, so I based my observations on common sense. I have no education in finance, but I can spot a turd no matter what it’s called.

I wrote then that the slowing US economy was being falsely propped up by the war spending in Iraq, but that wouldn’t last. You see, the government operated under a false assumption. The thought that what pulled us out of the Great Depression — the ramped up spending for WWII — would do it again in modern times. They were wrong. As I also wrote then, the WWII spending paid off: the world wanted American products after the war — they were hungry for them, and the manufacturing economy, which had been making weapons, shifted into making lots of things for export, like cars and clothes and other badly needed things in war-torn countries. Back then, we had a manufacturing economy, and there was real demand for our products.

History unfortunately does not repeat itself. In 2004, things were different. The US had no American products to export (unless you count weapons of war). It had moved most of its manufacturing overseas, leaving little to make at home. It was going into massive debt to finance a war that would (among other doubtful goals) stimulate a slowing economy, yet, from the get-go, they were not building American goodwill overseas in order to stimulate demand for American products. Even if they had done that, there were no American products to export, since we did not have a manufacturing economy any more.

A quick aside: some were saying a while back that the US is in the information services business — you know, IT, expertise, analysis, consulting, research, etc. — white collar stuff. I don’t buy it. For one thing, not everyone in the US can hold a white collar job. There are a finite number of people out of the US population (percentage-wise) that can do those jobs, and there are a finite number of such jobs available. To make things worse, information products lose their market value fast in times of economic hardship: when you need money to buy bread, you aren’t going to worry about knowledge; your stomach comes first. Also in the “things get worse” department, India and China are only two of the countries that can steal a large number of our information jobs as more of their people are educated. Don’t forget how many Indians work for Microsoft and other tech companies, and how many Chinese are involved in research. Unfortunately real products that fulfill real, tangible needs are still the king, because they are always in demand if they’re quality goods.

Okay, back to the war. It took people’s minds off the economy until the real estate market ramped up, and when that bubble burst, the whole ugly truth came to life. We had no economy to speak of, it was all propped up by debt, and all that debt was crashing down on us, as some, including myself, predicted. In my article from 2004, I said the following:

… unless we get someone in the White House who is willing to address the problem of debt head-on, I think our country is headed for certain disaster.

Fast forward to 2008. At the end of September of that year, I laid down my thoughts about the impending economic crisis. I was saying pretty much the same things I said now, except I approached the problem from a different angle. You see, we hadn’t yet elected Obama. Later that year, my wife and I, along with many other people, voted for him, because he was better than the alternative, and we hoped he’d do some good.

While the jury is out on that last part, and part of me says I should just sit back and wait to see what he does with his presidency, part of me goes back to the problem of debt and wonders if he’s tackled it head-on, like it needs to be handled. Unfortunately, he’s headed in the very opposite direction. He’s going to put our country into yet more debt in order to keep stimulating the economy. All this stimulating makes me wonder what status quo the government hopes to achieve. Just what state of the economy do we want to return to? Where do we want to go after we’ve spent all of that money? These words from Jim Kunstler say it best:

“… to what state of affairs do we expect to recover? If the answer is a return to an economy based on building ever more suburban sprawl, on credit card over-spending, on routine securitized debt shenanigans in banking, and on consistently lying to ourselves about what reality demands of us, then we are a mortally deluded nation.”

So, we’ve been going into more and more debt, for years and years, propping up a sick economy that has no more manufacturing backbone to stand on its own, and we’ve never taken our medicine. The US economy is like a sick man who’s hyped up on speed and other crap to keep from crashing into a bed and going through a proper recovery from a serious bout of the flu. It can’t go on forever. It has to at some point end. It doesn’t make sense otherwise. Like I said in an article from February of this year, there will be an ugly third act, where the fat lady will sing and the curtains will come down, and believe you me, it’s going to be a doozy.

Will it have to do with the severe de-valuing of the dollar and cause it to be replaced as the world reserve currency? Possibly, since some countries out there, like China and Russia, are already calling for a new global currency. I think there will be more unrest beyond the dollar debacle. And who knows, perhaps behind the scenes, that was the plan all along: bring on a crisis where bargains are to be had for those with the money to get them, and the sort of economic unrest that would make it easier to move certain pieces of the big puzzle into their place.

Signs of overpopulation

Signs of overpopulation are virtually everywhere — and can even be seen when it comes to the basics of life, like food and shelter. Besides the obvious signs, like crowded cities and roads, and rampant consumption of our natural resources, there are other signs that may or may not be readily apparent, depending on your outlook.

First, let’s have a look at the current world population. As I write this, the figure stands at well over 6.7 billion people. Given people’s reproduction habits, particularly in developing countries, and the fact that population growth goes virtually unchecked, thanks to our being the dominant species on earth, with no natural predators of any kind, how many more hungry mouths do you think our planet can support, particularly when most people’s diet consists of meats instead of vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and other plants?

Housing

Have you thought about housing lately? Those of you who read my articles regularly know how worked up I am about the flimsy plywood boxes they build and call houses in the US these days, and for good reason. But, other than greed, why is it that houses nowadays are built with a 30-50 year span in mind? Even important buildings are built for only 100-year life spans. In the past, buildings were made to last several hundred years or even thousands of years, and certainly many of them still stand, centuries and millennia later. Some say it’s because tastes change with each generation, and there’s no reason to build something for a longer lifespan when it’s only going to get torn down. Perhaps. Then again, Roman and Greek architecture is still in fashion, entire millennia after it was laid out in stone.

Could it be that cost is being used to drive people toward cheaper and flimsier building methods? Have you checked to see what it costs to build your house out of stone or bricks, with nice ceramic roof tiles? And have you stopped to consider if there can be enough building materials out there to build everything, for everyone, out of thick, solid rock or brick? It’s not feasible or sustainable. We’d have to grind down a lot of mountains and dig up countless valleys, and we still wouldn’t have enough raw materials to satisfy demand. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt the pocketbooks of those who produce and distribute the building materials if the cost is higher…

Wood

How about timber? One statistic puts the rate of deforestation (for rainforests) at three football fields per second. That’s only the rainforests, mind you, not the temperate forests, which contain most of the hardwoods that are used for construction. The history of the eurasian temperate forests is a sob story onto its own. The thing is, trees regenerate at a much slower rate than current demands dictate. At the end of the day, there simply aren’t enough trees in the world.

I’ve seen what deforested land looks like, and it’s a sad sight. It’s full of stumps and clumps and roots and holes, and it looks like it’s been through war. I’ve seen entire mountainsides in Romania and elsewhere cleared of trees, mindlessly, putting the people in the valleys at risk for avalanches and mudslides and rock falls.

Very few timber companies obey the rules once they’re left to their own devices on the land. They’ll clear the trees out with no thought for tomorrow or for the life of the forest. They simply don’t care what happens after they’ve made their money. What they do is to provide a momentary abundance of wood and a long-term lack of supply, matched by increasing demand. Sadly, we’re currently in the long-term lack of supply part of history, while demand is still increasing.

Cost is once again being used to drive people to flimsier wood, if you can even call it wood. Most furniture you can buy nowadays is not made out of wood, but out of pressed wood pulp — basically, bits of all kinds of crappy wood stuck together with glue and pressed together into boards. You just try buying some furniture made out of real, solid wood — that is, if you can afford it.

On one hand, I’m disgusted by this, and on the other hand, it’s logical. In order to use trees economically, you have to use them in their entirety, even their bark. You can’t afford to only get a few good, solid planks out of a tree trunk. You have to grind it down with its bark and branches, turn it into pulp, then glue it together to get particle boards. That way you get a lot more “planks” out of a tree, and you can build more stuff out of it.

Unfortunately, companies are really cheapening out on particle boards. They’re using less glue, which means the boards will start to fall apart when put through normal use, and they’re churning out thinner boards that can’t carry any amount of significant weight. This means you can’t use your bookshelves to hold books or any sort of significant weight, and the doors on your new closet stand a pretty good chance of falling off after a few months, because the screws that hold the hinges and door handles in place can’t grip the fake wood and start slipping out. To add insult to injury, even if you manage to keep your “new” furniture in decent shape, you can’t move with it. Furniture these days will fall apart or get really wobbly if only moved around the house, much less moved around the state or the country. It’s just not made to last.

Food

What can I tell you here? It’s a mess. On the one hand, you have people who are doing the right things, like eating healthy, organic foods, and on the other hand, you have the majority of the population out there, who’s happy eating meats, drinking their sodas, and snacking on all sorts of crap food made with fillers and artificial substances and colorants and test-tube flavors. And why not, right? It’s cheaper to make that crap, cheaper to transport it and to distribute it to people, and there’s more profit in that than in healthy fruits and vegetables, which spoil. Artificial crap pumped full of preservatives doesn’t spoil. It can still be sold and turn a profit months down the road. You can’t do that with an organic apple. What’s good for the corporations in this case is also good for overpopulation. It’s much easier and more profitable to distribute crap food to lots and lots of people than it is to stock them with real food.

What’s also happening is that our food chain is being hijacked. There are several large corporations out there bent on producing genetically modified foods. The benefits quoted to the public sound good on the surface, but they’re not real. The only real benefit is to their bank accounts. You see, what they’re doing is destroying the seeds’ capability to generate life. Each new crop made from their seeds is unable to germinate. Farmers have to turn to those same corporations each year and buy the seeds, and the fertilizers and pesticides made for those seeds in order to get new crops. In essence, they have once again been enslaved, become serfs, not to medieval lords, but to corporate executives.

We, on the other hand, have become a large experiment for the long-term effects of genetically modified foods. What really gets my goose is this: how dumb do you have to be to realize that it’s not good to mess with seeds, and with their God-given right to germinate and yield new life? What sort of devilish greed runs through your veins and blinds you so much that you don’t realize that by destroying the life-giving properties of seeds, you have set yourself up for a major food supply disaster? When you’re a single point of failure in a big, global food chain, you’d better believe you’ll fail at some point, and everyone will suffer as a result of your stupidity.

I also don’t buy the recent food safety measures the White House is talking up. I think they’re really just double talk for pushing the small farmers out of the marketplace, through heaps and heaps of regulations and hoops they have to jump through. I think the goal is to make the process so onerous that only those with deep pockets will be able to afford to reach the marketplace, and once again, that will allow the large corporations that already control most of the food chain to gain more of a foothold just when things were looking brighter.

What about the famines in Africa? For decades, there have been famines in Africa. And there have been efforts to “eradicate” those famines for those very same decades, yet we still have famines. What’s really being done about it? Not much. I know this will sound cruel, but, hypothetically speaking, if you could somehow control the situation, why do something effective about those famines when you’ll only be contributing to an already out of control overpopulation?

Each year, tons and tons of corn and wheat are destroyed in the US because selling them would mess up the commodity markets. Those same tons of grains could go to Africa, or to other places where they’re needed, couldn’t they? Say they could get there through the benefit of some aid societies. Unfortunately, most of that aid still wouldn’t make it to the people. It would make it to the warehouses of the corrupt people in charge of those countries, where it would get re-distributed among those who prop up the same corrupt regimes.

Wars

While we have no more global wars — thank God for that — we do have little wars these days, and they manage to wipe out undisclosed numbers of people each time. Yet, somehow, with all our modern census methods and computers, we still can’t seem to figure out just how many people get killed in these wars.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it the mission of the UN and NATO to stop wars? Let me quote you the primary reason for the existence of the UN, right from their charter:

“To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace”

And yet, with all of those heads of state gathered together, and with all of that clout and power, all that the UN really does is talk — nothing more but empty talk. It and NATO send peacekeeping forces to the regions where wars occur, but almost always, those forces are puny compared with what’s needed, and they have no teeth. They do nothing except stand by while the killing and raping occurs miles or even furloughs away. That’s incomprehensible.

Do you honestly think that wars cannot be stopped or dictators toppled? These things can happen very quickly through the use of spies and elite forces. You don’t need to take out entire armies, only their leaders and key points in their logistical structure. But if you did that, then certain corporations and governments couldn’t profit from all those weapons they get to sell to various governments, and that would be a disaster, wouldn’t it?

Medicine

We have all of these organizations dedicated to wiping out chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes and whatever else there is, and they’ve been at it for decades, yet no cure is in sight. Perhaps I’m more cynical than most, and maybe I have good reason to be that way, but maybe it’s not in the best interest of the world that these diseases get eradicated. They’re some of the only things keeping our population in check.

After all, we’re collectively living longer while more of us are being born each second. When you ask someone older how they feel about death, most will say they want to stay alive as long as possible. They won’t care how, they won’t care if they’ll be a bag of bones kept alive by drugs alone, they’ll want to keep living. To what end?

Better not wipe out the diseases, there should be something to make us kick the bucket. After all, who would believe you if you told people to stop eating crap and start eating raw foods, and then they wouldn’t suffer from any diseases and they’d live longer, too? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Then we have stuff like all these kooky viruses that certain labs out there get to play with and mix around, sometimes with very deadly results. Oops, how did that happen? No matter, move along, nothing to see here. Does it matter there is now a virus that could literally start a plague and clean a billion people or so from the face of the earth? No, it’s not important, right? Who knows what other nasty stuff is being cooked up for us in some government-funded test tube somewhere…

In closing…

Doesn’t it all seem like a long-term passive-aggressive punishment from a greedy yet moronically short-sighted bunch of overseers? Oh sure, on the surface, what’s important is the quality of our foods, cures for our diseases, eradication of wars, quality housing and the comforts of modern living, and yet… something’s still rotten in Denmark. It’s when you look a little deeper that you find greed is driving this freight train, not social responsibility, no matter what the short-term and long-term costs may be.

I’d like to know if we can sack the current “overseers” and get someone intelligent, kind, balanced and responsible to take care of things. This poor planet could use some better leadership.

George Bush is a dead ringer for Guinn Williams

I was watching Rafter Romance a few months ago, when I saw Fritzie, the cab driver with a supporting role in the movie, and my mouth dropped. There, on the screen, in front of my eyes, was GW, in 1933! It was almost the same man — the resemblance was uncanny.

There it was: an incredibly similar voice, the same face, the same facial expressions, the same stature (although Fritzie was a little taller than GW). Here’s a short clip from that movie; it’s a scene where Fritzie defends the heroine from the clutches of her lecherous employer.

See this video clip on YouTube

That cab driver was Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, a popular actor with a very long career, who appeared in over 200 movies from 1919 till 1961 [reference]. At first a silent film star, he made the transition to talkies just fine, but his popularity as a leading actor waned in the 30s, and he started taking supporting roles as a character actor, which were his staple for the last 30 years or so of his career. Although smart and polished in real life, he “portrayed characters who were long on muscle and short on brains and grace, and he often emphasized their comedic aspects” [reference].

I invite you to look for photos of Guinn Williams. The facial and bodily similarities between him and George W. Bush will amaze you.

Guinn “Big Boy” Williams George “GW” Bush
Initials are GW Known as GW or W or Dubya
Born and raised in Texas. Moved to Texas.
His father was a politician. His father was a politician.
His father unhappy with his choice of career, practically disowned him. His father unhappy with GW for a long time, almost disowned him.
Played the hero in many movies. Wanted to be a hero in real life, things didn’t quite work out.
Liked to punch and shoot villains. Liked to shoot rockets at the axis of evil.
Portrayed slightly dumb but lovable characters in movies. Behaved like a dumb character while in office.

If you find more similarities, feel free to post them as comments, but please, don’t offend the memory of Guinn Williams while you’re having your fun. From what I’ve read about him, it looks like he was a decent human being. Here are a few biographical resources to get you started:

All these similarities got me thinking. What if W had been an actor? Hmm…

  • W would have made a nice action movie star, sort of the Chuck Norris of the 21st century. He could have teamed up with Chuck Norris, come to think of it, or with Stallone. Imagine W and Rambo, deep in North Korea, hunting for dictators…
  • The War on Terror would have made a nice series of action movies, and we’d have been victorious.
  • W could have taken on Saddam, single-handedly, and he’d have chucked a grenade in the hole where he hid.
  • He could have murdered Bin Laden, by shooting napalm into his cave, after spending months tracking him down in the mountains of Aghanistan.
  • He’d have made mince meat of Kim Jong-il, after catching him at home, in his underwear.
  • What about Ahmadinejad? Dead as nails. Seriously, W would have put them all down while leading elite Delta Forces into enemy territory.
  • We wouldn’t be in Iraq right now. Or in Afghanistan. Or threatening Iran. And pissing off the rest of the world.
  • We wouldn’t have mangled soldiers coming back from the war — you know, entrails sewn back together, heads stapled together, missing arms, missing legs, missing other body parts, etc. We wouldn’t have broken families because soldiers were deployed for too long. We wouldn’t have the massive numbers of PTSD and other pervasive syndromes in so many of our men and women, stuff that’s going to haunt them for the rest of their lives.
  • We wouldn’t have spent trillions of dollars on this pointless war with no benefits. No, we’d have spent at most 200 million on each action movie, most of which, if not all, would have been recouped at the box office.
  • Dick Cheney would have remained in the past, not haunted us for the last 8 years as the evil VP from hell.
  • Rumsfeld would have continued to wear his cardigans around the office and hope for “transformation”, but without presiding over the disastrous Iraq invasion and the Abu Graib torture scandal.
  • This list could go on and on…

What a pity W didn’t become an actor. This country would have been a better place, the movies might have been more entertaining, he would have gained a nice reputation as a likable all-American action hero with a Texas accent, and we wouldn’t be in the huge mess that we’re in today.

How pressure changes a man!

Take a look at these two photographs of President Abraham Lincoln. One was taken in the midst of the Civil War. The other was taken after the Gettysburg Address, and after North had won and managed to keep the country together. Slavery had been abolished, and the goals that had been set out at the start of the war had been achieved.

Can you guess which is which? More to the point, can you believe how much pressure changes a man? In the second photo, Lincoln looks older, more frail, literally spent after the long war effort, but is smiling. Amazing.

Photos are public domain, and were taken by Alexander Gardner. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Photos from Antietam Battlefield

Last weekend, on a fiercely hot Sunday, my wife and I visited the Antietam Battlefield, located near Sharpsburg, MD. It’s quite easy to get to it from DC. You take 270-N to 70-W, then keep going on 70-W until you see the signs for Antietam. Once off the highway, you’ve got another 8 miles or so till you get there. You can’t miss it. There’s a big National Park Service sign by the side of the road. All in all, it’s about a 1 hour and 30 minute drive, give or take 15 minutes, and the history lesson is priceless.

Antietam is “the bloodiest one day battle in American History”, according to the official NPS website. In 12 hours of “savage combat”, over 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing. Six generals were killed during this battle. The human price of this battle was driven home by a photographer: Alexander Gardner. His haunting photographs of the dead at Antietam were said to have brought them “to our doorsteps” by the New York Times. And it’s true. It’s one thing to sing of battles won and of bravery on the battlefield, and it’s quite another to stare at the dead in front of you and see the horrible price of that thing you call victory.

What always strikes me when I look at war is how senseless it all is. Even when I’m far removed from it, by a century and more, I can’t help shivers from running down my spine when I think the ground I stand on is the same ground where countless men lost their lives.

Why? How many more people need to die horribly until humanity as a whole realizes war is bad? Forget humanity as a whole, how about the United States alone? When will we get it? Ever? At the first sign of trouble somewhere (preferably in the Middle East), we’re more than happy to send our soldiers in there to die for some trumped up cause, and to spend trillions of dollars and bankrupt our economy as well. At least the Civil War had a good reason. The country needed to be kept together, and slavery abolished. Still, in spite of those good reasons, far too many people died during that dark time in American history: around 360,000 lost their lives, and countless more were injured or maimed for life.

I’m going to show you how Antietam looks today. But I want you to have a look at the way it was back then, too, especially through Gardner’s eyes. Never mind the fact that the dead bodies may have been arranged in a photo or two. Death is still death, and it’s still just as grim and nasty regardless of the pose.

First, the Library of Congress has a LOT of scanned negatives from the Civil War — an amazing resource. Here is their collection of Civil War photographs. That’s where I got the few photos shown below (taken by Alexander Gardner). Most of the photos are in the public domain, which means they can be used freely, although it would be nice to give the LoC credit for their work in scanning, archiving and curating the photographs. It’s also worth looking at the October 1862 issue of Harper’s Weekly, which features illustrations and reports by eyewitnesses to the battle.

This is Abraham Lincoln at Antietam, after the battle ended.

Abraham Lincoln with two generals at Antietam

Assorted photos of dead soldiers, in the aftermath of the battle.

Gardner’s notable photographs from the battlefield are listed in an album on the NPS website. Have a look at them, and even download them, should you want to have your own archive.

What does it look like today?

Dunker Church is the spot where truce was called at the end of the battle. If you’re interested, there’s a nice historical summary available.

The church is visible in this photo taken by Gardner as well.

The approximate spot where those soldiers died is now the site for a war monument. I hope you won’t find me irreverent, but I find war monuments woefully inadequate at paying back the men that gave their lives in battle. They’re pretty much useless at teaching people lessons against war as well, since they usually depict some victory symbol, or men charging, or some other idiotic thing like that.

What is that supposed to mean?! Tens of thousands of men died here, and we have an eagle on a column? Whoopee…

You know the expression “war on the doorstep”? Well, the people who had farms at Antietam got to know it full well during that battle.

Just remember, the next time a politician makes the case for war, this is really what he or she means. Those are going to be your sons and daughters.

Historical photographs courtesy of the Library of Congress. Photographer: Alexander Gardner. The recent photographs are naturally, my own.