ISIS and cancer: We’ll never get anywhere if we only focus on the symptoms

As was to be expected, the usual suspects are already trying to use the deaths in Paris for their own political agenda. But even the ones that are not openly xenophobic seem to mainly think of calling the attackers “barbarians”, hunting them down, bombing ISIS positions etc.

Which is just idiotic, if one thinks about this for a second.

Consider ISIS a cancer, if you will – an image that should jive with the supporters of the police/surveillance/military state, with those that fear that “Christian culture” is superior, with those that want to keep all the black, brown, poor away from the countries where they are the elites.

What causes a cancer? The immediate reason is a mutation in a cell’s DNA that hasn’t been repaired and leads to uncontrolled multiplication of the cell. But we’re not faulting the cell for that. We also accept that mutation is a necessary condition for evolution by natural selection – traits develop by mutation and are selected for or against, based on the environmental conditions. There are certain cells that are more likely to mutate and cells that divide more often – they are more likely to develop cancer but we don’t decide that we should react to this with eradicating those cells from the human body. And there are species that are much less likely to develop cancer – the Naked mole-rat comes to mind – without us considering them necessarily more advanced than us.

When cancer finally develops, we attack it ruthlessly: we use surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy. We cut, we poison, and we irradiate. But we also agree that prevention is better than having to deal with cancer once it develops – hence we try to avoid environments that are conducive to the development of cancer. We tell people that they shouldn’t smoke because it increases their risk of lung (and many other) cancer(s), we limit the amount of radiation that we subject humans to, we discuss whether we should reduce eating processed meat and whether we should stop using RoundUp.

So what we blame, what we try to control, are the proximate causes of cancer, those that increase the risk of mutation. Yet when it comes to ISIS, this thinking is repeatedly rejected. We focus on the cancer, or on the mutated cell, but we ignore the environment that’s conducive to the development. Presence of risk factors does not lead automatically to the development of the disease, neither in cancer, nor in the case of the millions that are Muslim and non-Muslim, live in dictatorships and/or in poverty and/or are marginalized and oppressed, and still don’t turn to terrorism. And absence of risk factors doesn’t mean that nothing will happen, as Anders Breivik demonstrated so horribly. But creating an environment of that increases the risk and then expressing one’s anger about the mutating cell is stupid at best and willfully ignorant at worst!

Edit: And by the way: whenever someone knows about the carcinogenic effects of certain substances and doesn’t reign in their presence but actively create environments where people are over-exposed to them – soy farming in Argentina, for instance, cleaning up Fukushima without appropriate protective clothing, continuing to hawk cigarettes and deny their harmful effects etc – it’s because they make a nice profit. You know, like when it comes to poverty, exploitation, oppression…

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It’s the two-facedness that’s really pissing me off

EU officials have “warned” the Russian government w.r.t. the air strikes their forces are flying:

EU foreign ministers meeting on October 12 warned Moscow to focus its military actions in Syria on Islamic State extremists and not target moderate opposition fighters.

Let this sink in for a second! Governments of states that fly air strikes within Syria without having been invited by the Syrian government to do so tell an independent government, not a NATO member, which has been invited by the Syrian government which targets to attack. And that after staying largely silent when Turkish forces, technically those of a NATO member country, flew uninvited attacks against Kurdish forces – opponents of IS – in Syria.

I am under no illusions about Russian interests in Syria – those attacks do nothing to improve the situation in Syria, and I doubt that the Russian government has any scruples when it comes to the means used to back the Syrian government. But the hypocrisy of European governments is always breath-taking!

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Jacobin both good and bad

I guess that I should really get a subscription, given how often I read JacobinMag nowadays. This morning, for instance, I read a piece where they point towards the role of the Netherlands as vanguard of everything that’s wrong in the Eurozone (and much of the industrialized world), as a tax haven:

Many corporations (including Google and Starbucks) and celebrities (like Bono and Mick Jagger) dodge taxes through the Netherlands. Last year, 48 percent of Fortune 500 companies had a shell company in the Netherlands.

Royalties, in particular, are not taxed. Corporations pay fabricated royalty costs to mailbox companies in the Netherlands, artificially lowering their profits. The royalties are untouched in the Netherlands and, after returning to the mother company, are untaxed in the home country because they were already taxed before (albeit at a zero percent rate).

So while the supposed social democrat Jeroen Dijsselbloem — Dutch minister of finance and head of the Eurogroup — routinely denounces Greece’s “unwillingness” to reform its tax system, the Canadian mining company Gold Eldorado uses the Netherlands to avoid paying taxes in Greece.

In 2013 and 2014, Ukrainian oligarchs were invited to the Dutch embassy by private Dutch law firms for a seminar about how to avoid taxes using the Netherlands. The Dutch Ministry of Finance and multinationals make so-called fiscal deals, the contents of which aren’t even disclosed to members of parliament.

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“Pro Life” explained in 6 panels

At Cyanide and Happiness:

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No left on the media

Watching “Real Humans” currently – very timely with the misguided immigration discussions in Europe. (They’re also trying to tie non-heterosexuality and anti-terrorism laws into this.)
What’s depressing to me, however, is that there are only two sides presented: racists (that blame them for taking away jobs etc.) and “tolerant people” who want equal rights for them. Not one person in the entire show even mentions that maybe something is fucked up when there are intelligent exploited machines on the one hand, and jobless or overworked humans at the same on the other hand.

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Patriot Fanboy Conspiracy Theory

The stuff of parity: NFL punishes quarterback for winning too much

writes John Teti about “Deflate-gate”. His claim:

The outlandish punishment leveled against Brady and his team isn’t just an overreaction to an inconsequential offense. It’s also an implicit admission that all along, Deflategate has been about the NFL taking one of its most successful teams down a notch, and not about the “integrity of the game.”
For the NFL’s owners, a big selling point of the modern league is its parity. When every team has a fighting chance, the theory goes, fans are more likely to stay interested, enlarging the captive audience.
There are billions of dollars tied up in the idea of parity, and the Patriots are defying it. They aren’t in because they tinkered with some footballs.

This is not a very convincing claim, when you think about it: Tom Brady has been an awesome story for the NFL – a sixth-round pick that made it into the spotlight, (supposedly) good-looking, with a model wife, never in any trouble with the law. If the NFL were to design a poster boy, it couldn’t do much better.
Also, yes, New England has won four Superbowls…over the course of 13 years! That’s certainly successful and given that it’s always been the Brady/Belichick duo, one could talk of a dynasty. But apart from 2003/2004 (ten years between Superbowl wins three and four, btw), this is not dominant and therefore not a problem for parity.
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Borgen is (relatively) realistic political TV

I’ve written my piece about “The West Wingbefore but to recap:

  • Everybody in the show is idealistic and has only the people’s best interest at heart – even the right-wing (Republican) opposition
  • Realistic politics in the show are always center-right: having to “fix” social security, balance the budget etc.

By now, I’ve been subjected to several episodes of “House of Cards“. Six, to be specific, so I might have missed some aspects:

  • (Almost) everybody in the show is extremely cynical, and has only their own interest at heart. The few exceptions get steam-rolled.
  • Center-right politics, e.g. standardized testing for teachers, are pushed through to hurt the Democrat president, the unions (also cynical bastards) are flattened in the process. Nothing left of these policies is mentioned.

I’ve also run into “Scandal“, watched the first season:

  • The Republican president is remarkably reasonable, even willing to pass legislation allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens, being gay is almost fully accepted, when people fuck up, they mostly made honest mistakes.
  • Clinton and Bush the youngest get name-dropped positively.
  • The US are the beacon of democracy in South America while their left-wing opponents are ruthless dictators.
  • The far right in the Republican party is so deranged that they’ll have a young Christian fanatic fake having conceived the president’s baby, kill her when things might come to light, and kill the reporter who has found out about it.

So all of those are very much black-and-white, and incidentally leave no space for left-wing alternatives to the shit that’s currently passing for government politics in the industrialized world.

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