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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Truth And Consequence

Ian Welsh is always thoughtful, instructive and awesome. Scoot over to for nourishing food for thought...

Update (12/16): OK, maybe not always. This Star Trek/Jetsons/Blade Runner future fantasizing is so 20th Century. The problem is that future technological dreams flounder on a double whammy: Dependence on cheap energy, and on the sort of human specialization which requires the underpinnings of complex society, which always encounters its collapse, and this one is on the decline of its arc...

Sorry, Ian, but you are much better when you are discussing what is rather than what shall be. Then again, aren't we all...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Thought Experiments On Personal Power And The Non-Candicacy Of Al Gore

Al Gore

I was musing over a personal situation - on which I shall not elaborate at this time - and some thoughts occurred to me. I must note that there are dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who have more insight into the thoughts and motivations of our former Vice President that I can pretend to have, but that doesn't stop the active mind from filling in its own blanks. And so, with the caveat that I have absolutely no grounds from which to speculate, my personal certainty that psychological activity has certain universal properties permits me to proceed with abandon.

With that in mind, one can also assume correctly that this is not about Al Gore the man, but more accurately it is about an archetypal myth - you know, the fellow who we are mostly reacting to, seeing as this "Al Gore" is really just the image of Al Gore, as it is steeped in the milieu of the drama of today's politics, hopes, and dreams.

One assumes that our "Al Gore" is sincere about "saving the world," or humanity, or howsoever one wishes to put it. One would further assume, if one is serious, that one would be only concerned with that which advances such a goal, or those actions which would be most effective.

The first signpost one encounters on this road - again, if one is serious - is the important question of whether one really knows how to go about this. More to the point, does one actually know what constitutes what is best? How much of what is considered "best" is coloured by personal desires, prejudices, and preconceptions?

Is this even knowable?

It is not, of course - and this leads me to my first observation: One is a fool to seek to expand one's own influence. One observes that the day is filled with immediate experiences, with their own attendant decisions required, all to simply fulfill the wish to to the right thing.

This is a simple task when one's attention is in the moment, but one that takes on an Herculean complexity the moment one steps out of now, replacing the clarity of immediacy with the calculations of a mind steeped in lessons about what is right. This is what must occur when one wishes to expand the horizon of right-living beyond what is directly in front of oneself.

Without invoking any notions of divinity or directed cosmic purpose, but from a simply existential basis, one feels safe in pointing out that one is already tasked with saving the world from one's own point of existence. Seeking to expand beyond what is in front of one's own face is a de facto dereliction of that duty. The happily ironic fact is that one has the most influence when the immediate is handled correctly, for all actions ripple outward from one's center, and the quality of those actions determine the quality of that influence.

How does this apply to our mythical "Al Gore?" Perhaps he has seen this. Frankly, my thought experiments on his non-candidacy seem to fit this speculation. While it is irritating that he has not outright and unequivocally ruled out running for the nomination - doing absolutely nothing to either forward or discourage a candidacy, thus frustrating the multitudes - it occurs that putting forth a position one way or the other is contrary to the idea of the immediacy of the moment. Any position taken by Mr. Gore in this context would be a premature calcification of intent, a signal attribute of personal expansion of influence.

To wit: It is far wiser to remain ignorant as to what one is going to do next. "Next" is not immediate.

Now this is heavy stuff when applied to something as base and common as political calculation - indeed, it is un-serious, irresponsible and ripe for ridicule. May I point out that in Al Gore's case, this just might prove my point. Ridicule is exactly what has occurred any time Al gets all egghead on us and says philosophical stuff and all.

I think that while he is certainly fed up with this dumbed-down version of national dialogue (see Al's eyes roll), I still see the fresh vitality of an aware mind, ever ready to step up once the kids want to get serious about things.

Action can spring from intent, or it can be borne of the moment - it cannot be both. As intimated earlier, "intent" is bound up with personal desires, prejudices, and preconceptions. The best that can be done when it (inevitably) rears its head is persistent observation and contemplation, until it slinks away in shame. Only then is one free to act in the moment, and such action is no longer personal, but instead is infused with a "rightness" that is truly universal, that is truly in the interests of the whole.

[I am fully aware that assigning the real Al Gore with "enlightenment" is terribly presumptuous and rather childish. I am, of course, just projecting.]

Friday, October 26, 2007

Really, Al...

...if you don't plan to jump in this fall, maybe you should tell us sooner rather than later.
We know Gore can do the job. And we know we want Obama. Imagine these two smart, visionary people leading the country back to where it belongs. Back to greatness. Do you believe in justice? Do you believe it's possible? Do you believe that we can make dreams come true? Do you believe we can make America great again?

A constituency of broken hearts is not a very useful constituency.

[This is a reposting from July, apropos the fast approaching deadline for Mr. Gore to credibly jump into the race. I've been lax in posting due to economic distractions, but I hope to put them behind me soon...]

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Don't You Wish It Was True"

A little brain balm from John Fogerty's new album Revival.
...But if tomorrow
Everybody under the sun was happy just to live as one
No borders or battles to be won
But if tomorrow
Everybody was your friend
Happiness would never end
Lord, don't you wish it was true...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

We Are All Victims Of Our Own Ideas
...Can It Stop Now?

Decline and Fall of the American Empire
"Decline and Fall of the American Empire"
Roger Baum
Courtesy of Adam Baumgold Gallery
In a deft article titled "The Theology of American Empire," posted at The Smirking Chimp (ferreted by Jon Swift hosting Mike's Blog Round Up at Crooks and Liars), Ira Chernus discusses the philosophical underpinnings of what drives American's reactions to failed foreign policy. With a nearly-universal revulsion to the Iraq debacle, it is interesting to see what drives we, the critics.

The problem boils down to familiar basics. Do you feel that Man is essentially selfish, or is there a more enlightened essence to humanity that is being besmirched by our fears and search for security and prosperity? How one answers this question goes a long way in determining how one would interact with others, be it on the personal, business, political or foreign policy level. I find this binary question is pretty fundamental, but Chernus finds fruit in breaking it down into three mindsets, or "groups." I see two of those groups as simply nuanced versions of the "essentially selfish" mindset, but in practical terms his distinction is relevant and useful.

Following a review of American worldview as expressed by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and reactions to same from various American philosophical and political factions (a must read, really), Chernus observes [emphases mine]:
...If you look at the current debate about Iraq from the standpoint of myth and theology, the complainers fall into three broad groups.

First there is the mainstream of the foreign policy elite, made up of Democrats and more moderate Republicans. They complain that the Bush administration is pursuing the right goals but using the wrong tactics...They give most of the world a bit more credit for rationality; they fear the impulses of original sin a bit less.... They are more willing to take a multilateral approach and use the carrot as well as the stick - to pull diplomatic and economic levers before calling out the troops.

...The liberals among the elite, too, want their sense of moral clarity and certainty reassured by seeing it played out in a global drama of good against evil. So they make a huge exception for the supposedly pure and innocent motives of their own nation, the chosen people. They believe that the U.S. has a higher moral standing, which gives us the right and duty to rule. That’s how they can justify the most ruthless policies against anyone who stands in their way...

The second group of war critics is on the right... These hard-core “realists” want the United States to recognize that it too is a sinful nation, limited in its goodness as well as its resources, all too likely to overreach and eventually destroy itself if it doesn’t scale back its hubristic dream of enduring empire.

Thus the right-wing “realists” become strange bedfellows with the third group of war critics, the left-wingers, who, starting from very different principles, arrive at the same anti-imperialist conclusions... They do not accept the doctrine of original sin; they don’t think people are inherently doomed to be selfish and unreasonable...

Leftists who are consistent extend their Social Gospel view to its logical conclusion: There are no monsters - no inherently bad people — only bad conditions. So the good guys versus bad guys myth always distorts reality. But a surprising number of leftists sacrifice logical consistency for the emotional pleasure of the traditional myth. For them, of course, the monsters are the Bush administration, the neoconservatives, sometimes the mainstream Democrats too, and always, above all, the corporate elite whose hand they see behind every gesture of U.S. imperialism.
I confess that I often frame things in this manner, demonizing corporations and the elite for the woes of today. I like to think that I am merely pointing out undesirable aspects of human behaviour "by proxy," as it were - the underlying assumption being that we are all capable of caprice or sinister calculation under various circumstances. Such noble sentiment, however, is often hidden when one points fingers at other people, classes, symbols, nations, etc.

It is worth reminding ourselves, frequently, that we are all "tied in a single garment of destiny."
With [Martin Luther King, Jr.] as our guide, we could have a distinctly American foreign policy based on the conviction of absolute moral certainty we find in the Social Gospel and nonviolence traditions.. Our goal would always be to move the world one step closer to becoming a universal beloved community. We would no longer act out the myth of good versus evil. We would not demonize a bin Laden or Saddam — or a Bush or Cheney. We would recognize that when people do bad things, their actions grow out of a global network of forces that we ourselves have helped to create. King said it most eloquently: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

We can never stand outside the network of mutuality, as if we were the Lone Ranger arriving on the scene to destroy an evil we played no part in creating. Just as Bush is tied to Osama, so each of us is tied to all those who do things that outrage us. We cannot simply destroy them and think that the outrages have been erased. To right the wrongs of the world, we must start by recognizing our own responsibility for helping to spawn those wrongs. Indeed, fixing our own part in the wrongs we see all over the world may be all that we can do.
Such advice seems so simplistic and not the least daunting. Most of us feel, with some validity, that old, gnawing question, "What can one person do?" The stage is huge, the scale of the drama leaves the bit players reeling in the face of enormity. Big things happen. Yes, but if we are cognizant of our own attitudes towards fellow human beings, we can see how we underpin the social attitudes that permit these horrible outcomes. Really, if the average, consensus worldview was healthy, then these impulses of greed, which are acted out on such a huge scale by our ostensible "leaders," would be summarily dismissed as banal, foolish, childish and mad, and they would gain no traction.

Once again, it is us, and only us, one person at a time, who bear the responsibility and the ultimate solution for the state of our world today. Indeed, the "big" actors with their "big" actions have demonstrated to an exhausting degree that those that have "power" are ironically impotent in the face of this problem.

The day that the pursuit of power (wealth, security, etc.) is finally scorned by the least among us, that will be the day that the powerful will evaporate. Our covetousness provides them the oxygen - they cannot exist without us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Question Of Karma

Fish Good/Evil
Cartoon lifted from
I was having an e-discussion with a very good friend of mine over what constitutes "right action," and she rolled it up with this poignant question:
Do you think there is any hope (or truth) in balancing [bad] karmic points through other activities?
I responded:
This is a delicate matter you have raised with me. Before I go on, I want to stress that I have no right to arbitrate what is right or wrong. Life is difficult and complicated for people, especially today, and, regardless of what one does to make ends meet, it is a far greater evil to pass judgement and force people into waters deeper and more turbulent than they are prepared to navigate. It is instead more proper to wade in for oneself if one is so inclined. Those that can see and can follow will, the others are understandably entwined in challenges more immediate....

[The] question is illustrative of my point. When one begins to bargain, then one is wading into waters too deep. Only perception answers this question, and then the question of (right) action becomes moot. We are essentially trapped in our circumstances and, while so circumscribed, it matters not whether we are co-conspirators in that imprisonment. If we *reason* that we are responsible, then we are inclined to begin rearranging the deck chairs inside the prison, which serves to make one feel that one is perhaps evolving. But the doors remain locked.

To answer the question directly: No. Truth has no relationship with the particulars. Ideas of "good" or "bad" are particulars. The law of unintended consequences haunts efforts to do "good," with results which sometimes rival overt "bad" behaviours. For example, this very discussion is fraught with horror and danger. For, after *reasoning* that whatever one is doing is harmful, one might be inclined to change this. Well and good, but reactive behaviour is tainted with the thing one is reacting against.

It would be well to do away with any ideas of "karma." It is only a way of talking about things, but unfortunately it has acquired the sheen of some sort of Cosmic Truth - alas, we do that with all of our insights. The biggest problem with "karma" is that it is inevitably tied to the dualistic illusion, reduced to inventorying the content of action and experience as "good" or "bad." These classifications are only useful if one has a goal in mind, and inevitably what is "good" and "bad" is not weighed against Truth, but against the goal. Truth has no goal - it's outside of the wheel. While being willfully "bad" is obviously not desirable, it is equally nefarious to set about doing "good." History illustrates this folly.

So, when one is confronted with "evil," what is the right action? If I have an obsessive aspect of my personality that is compelled to create suffering in some fashion, shall I shun and alienate that part of myself, or am I better served to acknowledge that it is indeed me, and all should be held close, psychologically, so that a more holistic being may emerge?

By the same token, when I encounter an enemy of peace, shall I label him, shun him, alienate him, drive him further from the pack of humanity? Or are we better served to fold him into the tapestry of humanity, so that a more holistic world may manifest?

It is true that all questions contain the answer within itself. In deconstructing your question, one sees that "balancing... points" is a de facto rejection of holism in and of itself. One would simply get caught "in the weeds," as there are just too many "points" out there to react to. One cannot evolve out of this - there is no time, death comes too soon to all.

It is perception, not action (which is really reaction under these circumstances), that must be sought out first. With perception comes an action that is not borne of calculation. It is immediate, and one has no choice.

Only the confused mind encounters choice.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Humboldt And The DFH's

The Corporation

Good on Humboldt County for their "municipal civil disobedience" (once again, gotta love Mike's Blog Round Up):
In 2006, Humboldt County, California, became the latest, and largest, jurisdiction to abolish the legal doctrine known as "corporate personhood."

...[The] all-volunteer campaign came together to pass a law that bans non-local corporations from participating in Humboldt elections. The referendum, which passed with 55 percent of the vote, also asserts that corporations cannot claim the First Amendment right to free speech.

By enacting Measure T, Humboldt County has committed an act of "municipal civil disobedience," intentionally challenging "settled law." But voters also recognize that Measure T is an act of common sense. We polled our community and found that 78 percent believe corruption is more likely if corporations participate in politics.
Humboldt County is no stranger to controversial, people-power politics, but this is one big tiger to grab by the tail. Let's see how long it takes for this to be tested squashed in the Federal Courts...

[Personal note: I hope to return to more regular posting again soon. I've been distracted by a few personal issues, a condition that should pass in short order...]

Sunday, August 26, 2007

To Be Worn With Pride

Tinfoil Hat
Tinfoil hat courtesy of

A great many of my posts have been on the subject of the
bases of the Iraqupation and our shameless
and bloody grab for the dwindling pools of the world's oil. I have only been blogging since February of this year, but I remember all too well those of us who were pointing out that the aggression towards Iraq was about the oil. And I remember all too well how we were characterized as conspiracy theorists and simpletons:
The anti-war Left, then, sees the oil factor in overly simplistic terms. In their anti-corporate, anti-capitalist demonology, all oil companies are evil, by definition, and in collusion with the US government to profit through war. In this case, however, as we have seen, there are competing factions within the corporate elite, each contending for the prize, and bidding for support from the US government.
This is from an anti-war blogger, back in December of 2001. Frankly I don't see how his going on about competing interests is germaine to the central point - the U.S., regardless of how many spices are in the Empire stew, deploys taxpayer-supported might for economic purposes. In a related vein, he claims [emphases original]:
The leftist dogma that it doesn't matter which wing of the "ruling class," the capitalists, wins out in the end is refuted by this reality. Capitalism, per se, doesn't breed war: indeed, laissez-faire requires quite the opposite. And don't think the ordinary capitalist profits from war: this privilege is reserved for those with the right government connections.

The very real economic harm done by war – the cost in wasted wealth, as well as wasted lives – could pull the US, already mired in a sharp recession, into a full-fledged depression. The stock market is not going to like World War III...
I'll get back to this "the market hates war" business in a minute, but today I want to celebrate a wider acceptance amongst "serious (leftist) people" that we are indeed engaged in a naked theft of other people's natural resources for the most despicable of reasons, however historically traditional they turn out to be (and they are very traditional.)

It seems we have a freshman Democratic Congresswoman who refused to be blinkered by the Powerpoint presentations of the military brass in her maiden visit to occupied Iraq. I spotted this via Pachacutec at FireDogLake [emphases mine]:
But the real test came over a lunch with Gen. David H. Petraeus, who used charts and a laser pointer to show how security conditions were gradually improving — evidence, he argued, that the troop increase is doing some good.

Still, the U.S. commander cautioned, it could take another decade before real stability is at hand. Schakowsky gasped. “I come from an environment where people talk nine to 10 months,” she said, referring to the time frame for withdrawal that many Democrats are advocating. “And there he was, talking nine to 10 years.”


...the military presentations left her stunned. Schakowsky said she jotted down Petraeus’s words in a small white notebook she had brought along to record her impressions. Her neat, looping handwriting filled page after page, and she flipped through to find the Petraeus section. ” ‘We will be in Iraq in some way for nine to 10 years,’ ” Schakowsky read carefully. She had added her own translation: “Keep the train running for a few months, and then stretch it out. Just enough progress to justify more time.”
This, from Digby (Digby!) [emphasis mine]:
Why permanent bases? I think the great sage and oracle Ann Coulter said it best:
"Liberals are always talking about why we shouldn't go to war for oil, but why not go to war for oil? We need oil."
That's pretty much what we did and deep down we all know it. The usual dirty hippy conspiracy theories. Sure, there were other reasons. All the grown-ups had at least a few. Some may not have acknowledged this one, even in their own minds. But this was the fundamental reason, beyond "suck on this," beyond Osama, certainly beyond "spreadin' Demahcracy." We know for a fact that if Iraq had been Liberia or Rwanda or Darfur or even Pakistan we wouldn't have interfered. There are Saddams and Taylors and Liberias all over the world.

The world is running out of oil and the US government wanted to insure that they had a permanent beachhead in the biggest oil rich region in the world...
I wonder what would have happened if they'd spent the trillion or two (by the time it's all done) on alternative energy instead.?
Actually, ma'am, nothing of significance, but that is another aside I will address later on.

Also, via Crooks and Liars (welcome back, Mike Finnigan!), we have this from Lambert at Corrente:
Silly. The idea was to make another Friedman Unit’s worth of war profits. And that will be the idea for the next F.U., and the next F.U., and the next, and the next...


Yep. If the Beltway Consensus holds, we’re in there for as long as the money holds out. Good to know.


It’s all crap. The chain of command is deliberately confused and the accountability obfuscated so the lying and looting—the real purpose of the endeavor—can continue unabated. Smedley Butler, thou shouldst be with us in this hour…
Lambert links above ("real purpose") to a Rolling Stone Magazine feature, "The Great Iraq Swindle" - a great piece to read as I segue to my first aside, a response to the assertion up top that "the market hates war."

Anybody remember the neutron bomb? I remember back in the '60's that the popular image of it was one which could kill populations and still leave the infrastructure intact. This is not entirely true, but this view informed a particular argument over how evil this was - the ability to kill people and save precious dollars on reconstruction. Well, I think the "market" has figured out that reconstruction is very, very profitable, so the evil goes on, squared. Breaking things and then rebuilding them, especially when both activities are directed by the same cadre of greedheads, has turned into a marvelous thing for Wall Street (update: no matter how shabbily done.) So much for how "the market hates war."

I've already gone on too long for this post, but I wanted to address Digby's question:
I wonder what would have happened if they'd spent the trillion or two... on alternative energy instead.?
I've ranted posted on alternative energy before - mostly biofuels, but the principle is the same for all.
Fine, here's the math. All life on this planet is fueled by annual sunlight. The "biomass" we've been harvesting - oil - was fueled by sunlight past. As in long, ancient past. Once we begin burning currently fueled biomass (i.e., corn, animal fats, etc.), then we will see the math - you only get so much solar energy a year. Period. And that quantity pales in the face of the vast amounts we have become dependant upon this past 150 years...
Unless we learn how to use the ergs that Nature gives us at the rate they are provided, then this foolishness will continue until this reality is forced upon us.

We're not eating the seed corn, we're burning it.

Update: John Amato is on the Schakowsky story today, too.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The New "A.B.B."

Anybody But Bush
2004 "Anybody But Bush" Campaign Button
The DNC has launched a campaign aimed at the Iowa primaries, None Of The Above: Republican Candidate For President (via Crooks and Liars.) Its humourous value alone justifies it, certainly, and I hope they have better luck with that than those of us who jumped on the "A.B.B." campaign. (In all fairness, this appears to be limited to the Republican primary, thereby simultaneously avoiding burying the Democratic candidate's name, as the "A.B.B" one did, and jacking the humour value up even more.)

I gave out dozens of those "A.B.B." buttons in '04. It was a lot of fun, too - the president enjoyed more popularity at that time, so confrontations were sweet.

George Bush was elected anyway.

(It looks like they're actually taking donations for the DNC, through the site - one hopes that noone is boneheaded enough to be confused by this...)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Arthur Sez: Smell The Coffee

Oil over Democracy
Indymedia Anti-war Poster
After some difficult down time, Arthur once again speaks truth to power the people (please read the whole thing, there is much more to his logic than what I've selected for this post):
Once again, the leading liberal bloggers profess utter bafflement in response to the Democrats' actions. Several days ago, Atrios wrote:
Don't Get It

I'm really not sure why the Dems are even bothering to pretend (or, jeebus, not pretending) to take Bush seriously on this FISA stuff. He's been breaking the law for years.
Yesterday, in a post decrying the great haste with which the Democrats moved to accede to the administration's demands (which is, I note again, precisely what the Democrats did with regard to the MCA), Digby said -- with "Deep, Heavy, Sigh" (just so we know exactly how distressed she is):
Obviously, I'm not the only one who can't for the life of me figure out why the congress is doing this.
I suggest we take these leading lights of the progressive blogs at their word: they most certainly do not get it, and they absolutely cannot "for the life of [them] figure out why the congress is doing this."


The reason for that is very simple, and it goes to the progressives' central articles of religious faith: The Democrats aren't really like this, not in their heart of hearts. The Democrats don't actually favor a repressive, authoritarian state. The Democrats are good, and they want liberty and peace for everyone, everywhere, for eternity, hallelujah and amen.

People who continue to believe this have evicted themselves from serious political debate, and they have willingly made themselves slaves to their enthusiastically embraced self-delusions....
I want to say that this is a touchy area for me. Arthur points out (correctly, in my view - again, I edit for brevity, read his entire post to better grasp his case):
The corporatist system itself is irreversibly corrupt. To restore anything even approaching the original design of a constitutional republic, another revolution is required. There is still time for a peaceful revolution, one led by those with a radically different political vision, but just barely. An attack on Iran and its likely aftermath, or an attack or series of attacks here at home, would almost certainly finish us off. But the liberals and progressives who remain devoted to Democratic electoral victory... remain committed to the story that gives their lives and their precarious sense of self meaning and succor: the Democrats will save us.

They will not. Try to grasp this finally, before it
is too late: the Democrats may differ from the Republicans on matters of detail, or emphasis, or style. But... everything that has happened over the last six years... is what the Democrats want, too.

This should not be a difficult point to understand. The historical record is compelling in its clarity, and overpowering in its length and volume.
A corporatist, authoritarian state is what the ruling elites want, and it is precisely what serves their interests, Republican and Democrat alike. They know it; they count on your inability or refusal to see it.
This is all true, irrevocably so. The reason I say it is a "touchy area" is because of the nature of the American citizen consumer. It is a natural impulse, when one's eyes are opened to the motivations and mendacity of the ruling "elites," to just wash one's hands of the whole thing and refuse to participate any longer with this government that purports to represent "of, by and for the people." When Republicans see the meme of "they all do it" being accepted by the electorate, they delight in this small victory, for then only the rabid base turns out at the polls. This is damaging to any opposition, even if the opposition is weak tea, indeed. I am frequently torn by this, and, for this reason, I tend to separate my "politics" posts from my admittedly apocalyptic posts on the overall condition of human society and its tendency to failed Empire. I try to maintain a fragile balance between my Quixote-esque advocacy for political change and my (apparently rather accurate) vision of the coming fall.

But that does not mean it can be ignored. The trick is, I think, is to recognize and acknowledge the pressures on the "elites" (we are complicit in this) to "secure" our economy (and the concomitant opportunities it provides them to bolster their own "economic security" under cover of such pressures), and do the hard work and ferret out the truth whenever possible. But this requires participation.

I must admit, however, that Mr. Silber makes a strong case that it is very, very difficult to "participate" without spattering one's own hands with blood.

Update: To wit, Scarecrow, at FireDogLake, writes:
...the Democrats allowed themselves be be stampeded into passing a wholesale gutting of FISA that goes far beyond any rationale the President’s misleading statements covered and far beyond every description the President has given of his Terrorist Surveillance Program for the past two years.


We are a nation represented by sheep.
Sheep? Or aspirant elites?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Building A Home, Building A Life

skills for living

I just wanted to highlight a site, Lichenology, newly brought to my attention by a correspondence over at Joe Bageant's site. Great posts on back-to-basics, simple, honest living. It's important to know people are doing this.

[Photo from post at the site, skills for living.]

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Oh, The Irony

Fairy Dust

I really have no interest in trashing respectable Democratic candidates, but this cannot go unanswered. Charlie Brown, running for Congress in California's 4th disctrict after a near-miss in '06, is over at DailyKos with a post titled A Green, Energy Independant Military?

One can at least show gratitude for the question mark.
The Air Force is listed as the largest U.S. fuel consumer, using 2.6 billion gallons of fuel in 2006. According to recent press reports, it is certifying its B-52 fleet (a fleet used heavily during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom by the way) to run on alternative fuels, has launched an effort to make all Air Force aircraft certified to run on synthetic fuel by 2010, and 50% of all aircraft flights in the United States running on synthetic fuel by 2016.
Synthetic fuel? And what would that be?
So far, the Air Force program has focused on using synthetic fuels made from natural gas. Future efforts will look at fuels made from animal fats. Tyson Foods is partnering with Syntroleum to build a $150 million dollar production facility. This will create ample amounts of biodiesel for aircraft...

From commentor ANKOSS:
Has anyone done the math?

How much American topsoil has to be burned to keep America's out-of-control war machine running? Forget guns or butter; how about corn or jet fuel?

The absurdity of running a gigantic global military establishment on biofuels does not seem to prevent diarists like Mr. Brown from dreaming about a "green military."

Show us the math, Charlie.
SS Eye responds (I am tempted to snip this comment to what I consider its salient points, but in all fairness the SS Eye leaves himself with some "wiggle room" by claiming this can work in tandem with other solutions):
go live with the Amish then

We have plenty of other sources of energy and plenty of ways of converting it to something useful.

Take a long view of history and you'll see that biofuels are a part of the solution, not the whole solution.

I don't see anyone claiming that simply substituting biofuels for oil will be the entire energy solution. That's what hydrogen and electric cars are for.

But people such as yourself who love to attack biofuels - I'm not sure what the motive is, frankly, and I don't care - also love to make all kinds of other silly extrapolations, like the idea that biofuels mean powering the entire economy on big monocultures of corn.

Everyone who knows anything knows that the current corn-to-ethanol thing is one part "what we can do now" and two parts farm subsidy. But there are lots of other fast-growing crops that don't need pesticides and fertilizers and don't need to displace existing farmland. The processes for extracting fuel from them are not quite ready for full-scale production, but there are many, many competing attempts (there is money in this, you know), and some of them are going to become The Real Thing in the next 5-10 years. So biofuels do have life beyond the current, experimental phase of doing it with corn.

Got any more straw men? Even better, why don't
you show us your math, and then maybe we can talk.
Fine, here's the math. All life on this planet is fueled by annual sunlight. The "biomass" we've been harvesting - oil - was fueled by sunlight past. As in long, ancient past. Once we begin burning currently fueled biomass (i.e., corn, animal fats, etc.), then we will see the math - you only get so much solar energy a year. Period. And that quantity pales in the face of the vast amounts we have become dependant upon this past 150 years (and I guess that would be your "long view of history," BTW.)

When we look at the limits to this resource, are we really prepared to burn food in order to continue to try to prop up this ridiculous energy economy?

In freaking military vehicles, no less?

The Decaying Infrastructure Of Complex Society II

Bridge Collapse
AP photo, August 1, 2007
I posted about infrastructure collapse less than two weeks ago when New York had that steam pipe explosion. I wonder how fast and furious these failures are going to come at us? It doesn't look good.

From The Christian Science Monitor:
According to engineers, the nation is spending only about two-thirds as much as it should be to keep dams, levees, highways, and bridges safe. The situation is more urgent now because many such structures were designed 40 or 50 years ago, before Americans were driving weighty SUVs and truckers were lugging tandem loads.

It all adds up to a poor grade: The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation a D in 2005, the latest report available, after assessing 12 categories of infrastructure ranging from rails and roads to wastewater treatment and dams.
[emphasis mine]


"One of America's great assets is its infrastructure, but if you don't invest it deteriorates," says Patrick Natale, executive director of ASCE.

Among scores of recent examples:
  • Last month, a 100-year-old steam pipe erupted in midtown Manhattan, killing one man and causing millions of dollars in lost business.
  • The inadequacies of levees in New Orleans became horrifyingly clear in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The city is still recovering.
  • In 2003, the Silver Lake Dam in Michigan failed, causing $100 million in damage.
The investigations on the Minneapolis bridge collapse have barely been undertaken as yet, of course, but it's a safe bet that this is yet another example of the state of our complex society's core infrastructure, upon which so much of the modern economy depends, is in danger.

We are beyond "warnings" now... it's happening.

Update: I don't know if the Treasury could bear it, but is it time for another FDR-style WPA? With economic uncertainty at the workers' level looming, the shameful (but inevitable) bubble-pop of the home mortgage situation, and the general predilection to elect more liberal politicians into office... is it possible? We certainly have a lot of things which are aching for public attention. Personally I feel that, with oil reaching peak production vis escalating demand, the vast highways of America are probably the last place for wise investment at this point. A lot of oil is consumed in the construction and structure of these highways, which are designed after all, to enable vehicles to burn oil whilst they zip across the country.

Of course, we could afford quite a bit if we stopped dumping money into the failed Iraqupation. But, then again, we're there to try to secure cheap resources. A ghoulish dilemma...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Barack Attack

Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty
Barack Obama is itchin' for some war action:
The US presidential hopeful Barack Obama will today say he is prepared to send troops into Pakistan to hunt down terrorists if he is elected to the White House.

The remarks, from a speech to be delivered later today, appear to be an attempt to show strength after Hillary Clinton, his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, described his foreign policy approach as naive.
It looks like the two Dem "front runners" are racing to the bottom on this one.

Could we please - please - have some responsible alternatives in our choice for leadership? We've got enough warmongering on the Republican side.

Eff this infant and his rival.

Update: I respecfully disagree with Kevin Drum:
I understand the political imperative to sound tough, but on a substantive level there's less here than meets the eye. Covert ops in the FATA territories are distinctly limited, and full-scale invasion is out of the question. The rest of Obama's speech might have been less attention-grabbing than his Pakistan baiting, but it was also more important. The boring bits usually are.
Sorry, but saber-rattling has its consequences. We've had enough of that.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

C&L Does Peak Oil!

Great to see this. Go read Mark Groubert [emphases mine]:
Just so you understand what we’re up against.

If we hybridized every stinking car on the road today, we would still be consuming the same amount of gasoline as we are now in just 5-7 years. With each year demand grows enormously. With no end in sight.
The alternative fuels everyone has been jabbering about lately don’t cut it. If you added all the alternative fuel sources up, that is if they were even ready and functioning at massive levels, it wouldn’t even make a dent in the loss of oil.

Oil is that cheap.

"We pay more for a bottle of drinking water than we do for a gallon of gasoline," explains David L. Goodstein, professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology.

If you went nuclear alone, we would need 10,000 new nuclear plants immediately and then the damn uranium would run out in 10 years anyway. Unless you’re France. Their entire country is powered by nuclear power. Just watch were you put the trash, Jacques.


Hydrocarbon Man’s days are severely numbered.

Oh, and if you think hydrogen is gonna save you, think about this: It currently takes 3 – 6 gallons of gasoline to make enough hydrogen to drive a car the equivalent distance that one gallon of gasoline would drive it.

Coal? Too dirty. We’ll choke to death. Wind power? Keep blowing. Hydroelectric? Every river is already dammed. Biomass? Too much energy to create it.
[My note: Biomass = Food. Crops for cars? Ahem.]

In fact, the only science that seems to have any chance in hell is solar. How ironic. But there is a catch. A huge catch. It would take a field of solar panels half the size of California to power the country. The sun. Of course. How could we miss it?
Not to mention the unintended consequences of diverting that much solar input from its "natural" deployment, affecting weather patterns, biomass growth (life), etc. (the same goes for wind and hydroelectric, IMO.) No - there is only enough per-annum solar energy input to support 1.5 to perhaps 2 billion human beings (one assumes that would be without automobiles.) We've pumped up to over 6 billion by consuming ancient sunlight.

It is time to pay the piper.

Monday, July 23, 2007

"He Collaborates With The Invaders"

I posted over a month ago how the Nationalist faction of the Iraqi Parliament, who hold a tentative majority, want us to simply get out of their country. These Nationalists, however, are characterized as destabilizers and insurgents, when the fact is that they are really the true patriots of Iraq, wishing for (gasp!) true sovereignity and control of their natural resources, as opposed to the U.S./corporatist puppet government which is being pilloried as obstructionist and do nothing - not "stepping up" so that we can leave. Well, in an amazing conversation at FireDogLake last night, an Iraqi Pediatric Oncologist joined the commenters in a no-holds-barred discussion on the occupation, and let me tell you, the doctor, Maryam, really plumbed the consciences of the FDL community. I wanted to highlight her response to a question regarding Al Maliki, a leader of this puppet government:
Al Maliki is a traitor to Islam and a traitor to Irak. He collaborates with the invaders. [preferred Anglicized spelling of "Iraq" by the doctor]
Every patriotic Iraqi gets this, and almost no American following the official line on Iraqi politics does. The "government" in Iraq which is being blamed by even the Democratic candidates for not "stepping up," it must be understood, is not considered a legitimate representation of Iraqi interests. They simply want us to get the fuck out of their country.

Got that?

I will leave out Dr. Maryam's money quote, however, as I think it deserves more context - it's a solar-plexus shot, link here to find that.

Update:TRex at FDL highlights a comment by litbrit, from which I excerpt:
...I cannot fathom the despair, the anger, and the pain she must feel after witnessing one such tragedy; after trying to care for just one child wounded in this horrific, immoral, illegal war; after looking into just one little pair of eyes searching for a mother who will never appear. It defies my imagination to even try...

Her anger must become our anger. Real anger, I mean. Not the make-nice, politics-as-usual tv anger our elected officials effect when it behooves them to have a sound bite published. Real, action-fueling anger.
What is the chance of that, by fellow countrymen? I mean - really? For the love of all that is good and holy, what is the fucking chance of that?

Tell Congress to Begin Impeachment Proceedings NOW

Narrated by Seymour Hersh - Warning: Extremely disturbing images in clip.
I think I've mentioned this a time or two in the past. Details at Crooks and Liars.

Update: Russ, I love ya, but this is some mighty weak tea.

Update II: Scarecrow piles on (emphasis mine):
So I’m going to appeal to whatever remaining instincts the journalists in our media might still have as news people, and as Americans. There’s a story here, folks; a really big story. The details may be hard to follow, but the basics are simple: we are already deeply into a constitutional crisis deliberately provoked by a brazenly lawless Administration, a regime that is violating the laws with impunity because it regards itself as above the law, and a regime that is openly daring Congress to impeach it. Can any of you smell a story here?
Update III: Christy, though falling short of mentioning impeachment, sure writes up a good indictment (the FirePups in the comments sure bring it up, though.) This could be an in-ter-est-ing week...

The "Beggar's Cup"

Beggar's Cup
Image courtesy Le Colonel Chabert
Joe Bageant posts and responds to an email from an English senior citizen, from which I excerpt:
...Fifteen years ago at age 55 they decided I was far too old and they pensioned me off with a year's salary as a sweetner.

We bought a stone cottage and twelve acres of rural England. We have broadleaf woodland that provides our heating. It has a stream of good water and we grow vegetables and fruit for ourselves. I don't have a mortgage, we have very little money, and we are as happy as pigs in shit.

When you live a mile from your neighbour you have to rely on each other and other locals and that breeds a kind of community. I think that will get stronger as energy gets scarcer and we need each other's skills.


I'm 70 now and no longer feel I can make a difference to politics and the world, and what I have done by retiring into the country is to pull up the drawbridge and abdicate any responsibility for it all, All I can do is look after those near and local as best I can and live my life in a way that I don't despise too much.
I quickly wondered how Joe would respond to the "pull up the drawbridge and abdicate any responsibility" comment, because I think that what the gentleman has done is the very epitome of responsibility. Joe:
...In parts of Asia it was once accepted that men, even the wealthiest of men, should in their later years "take up the beggar's cup," that is, to live at the absolute simplest land humblest level possible, and contemplate the ages. In our own way, I believe you and I are both humbly attempting to do that, inasmuch as it can be done in this terrible post-modern age of our own...
Ah, Joe, you don't disappoint. Fine wine, and a steady cup from which to drink.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Michael Moore At Crooks And Liars

Michael Moore
Michael Moore is live-blogging over at Crooks and Liars right now.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Dickwatch: LOL

This deserved a "Dickwatch" post. The scream is precious. Thanks, Brendan Calling.

Hit Man Speaks

Secret History

Richard Power at Words of Power has a short interview with John Perkins on the occasion of his new book, The Secret History of the American Empire. I have not yet read this new book, but I enjoyed the eye-opening Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by the same author. Perkins worked for decades as a sort of corporate enabler, observing, documenting, and sometimes wielding the blunt, rusty axe of profitability and Empire around the world. Power:
Bush and Cheney, as offensive as they are to many of us -- left, right and center -- did not emerge suddenly, as if from nowhere. They did not amass such power, with so much impunity and hubris, over night. Bush and Cheney, and the Cult formerly known as the Republican Party are the end result of granting corporations the rights of human individuals and declaring that money is free speech. These two delusional notions have led us into a hell realm here in the USA. And getting out of it demands real change inside of ourselves especially... [emphasis on two major pet peeves of mine is, well, mine]
Perkins (excerpts from the interview):
...Most importantly we must each follow our individual passions and use our talents to create a sustainable, stable, and peaceful world...

...People want to learn the truth and they want to understand the opportunities for creating a better world...

...Let me just say that, for me, indigenous cultures have shown that when people are motivated to change, we can make it happen very quickly. Today, the world we know is threatened...

...We must convince ourselve and them that there is a more important goal and that our very survival as a species in a world we recognize depends upon achieving that goal of a sustainable, stable, and peaceful world...

...we must persuade our leaders to set a single overriding goal of creating a world our grandchildren will be proud to inherit.
John Perkins is a bit more optimistic about these things than I am (and that is a very good thing), but toddle over and read the interview, and pick up his books while you're at it.

(Thanks to Mike's Blog Round Up.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

YearlyKos Convention '07 - Ask The Candidates

YearlyKos '06
Photo of YearlyKos '06 © Lenny Lind
Christy points us to a webform where we can suggest questions to be asked of the candidates attending YearlyKos '07 (confirmed so far to attend are Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Mike Gravel, Sen. Barack Obama, Gov. Bill Richardson, and Sen. Christopher Dodd.)
My question for the (regrettably) leading candidate, Hillary (but frankly meant for any corporatist candidate):
You have been elected President, now fully briefed and advised on the state of the nation, and it has been revealed to you that without aggressive policies geared towards securing a continuing flow of relatively cheap energy, the United States faces dire, if not terminal, economic stress. As Chief Executive, would you continue with this policy, or would you raise a moral objection to this and force the US to "take its medicine?" And, if the former, would you be willing to do this transparently, so the United States population would have the opportunity to either reject this policy or to take "ownership" of it?
Go on over there and submit your own question - you might get lucky and hear it asked!

The Decaying Infrastructure Of Complex Society

NYC Pipe Explosion
From the War Room, by Tim Grieve at
Wednesday, in New York, a pipe installed in 1924 finally gave way and ended up killing someone. Imagine that. They built things to last in those days, but I doubt anyone ever dreamed that they would have to last for nearly a century.
Given that it is an American tradition to do what is necessary, now, for the gilding of the currently ascendant generation, future generations be damned, I concur that any dreaming about the future maintenance of vital infrastructure was probably not happening, much. Perhaps the engineers themselves exercised professional due diligence with these thoughts in mind, but certainly the commissioners of these great works were not distracted by such concerns.

However, he goes on:
Rick Perlstein has been writing about what he calls "E. coli conservatism" for a while over at his blog the Big Con, where, among other things, he's chronicling the increasing incidence of ... sinkholes. That's right, these days it's quite common to be driving or walking along a street in Anytown USA and be suddenly sucked into the ground because of the neglected infrastructure of our towns and cities. You can read about it in local papers every day. Wednesday he wrote:
We've warned here again and again about the decrepitude of our underground infrastructure, about what happens when a nation consecrates itself to no higher domestic goal than the cutting of taxes. New York had a Republican mayor, in fact, who now spends his days boasting that he cut taxes 23 times. Cut spending, too, he's proud to say.
This is the legacy of the past 25 years of neglect. We shouldn't be relieved when we see a huge cloud of smoke and dust... It's a warning as important as a magenta terror alert or the rumblings of Michael Chertoff's gut. There is a price to pay for this free lunch the conservatives have been selling for the past 30 years and the bill is coming due.
Now, I'm one to pile on this new brand of conservatism that has vowed to drown government in a bathtub, and certainly since at least Katrina we have seen the stunning incompetence which results from such a "philosophy." However, it is profoundly dishonest to lay the blame for our decaying infrastructure solely at the feet of "30 years" of neglectful conservatism.

First of all, this neglect has been going on since the day the ribbon was cut on each and every mega-project, be it a dam, a bridge, a subway, a railroad, a sewage system, natural gas lines, etc., etc. The marginal returns realized from diligent maintenance of infrastructure is simply not robust enough to turn the heads of the captains of industry (and make no mistake that nearly all of these projects would not have even occurred except for the interests of big business, the public subsidy of capitalism is another American tradition.) So, of course, maintenance of these "public" projects is left to the public.

One problem with this dynamic is that no politician could ever successfully run on a platform of "maintenance" or status quo. The public will is not swayed by the mundane. And so we see our roads and bridges decay, slowly, inexorably, we as frogs in a slow boil. (The increasingly popular prescription canard of privatization of infrastructure is already showing how the profit motive only exacerbates decay.)

The larger question being ignored here is the inherent characteristics of complex societies, which I've discussed before here, here and here. In a growth-based system - a primary and fatal characteristic of all complex societies - there is a constantly decreasing marginal return on all activity, whether performed by profiteers or by public service. It is easier (and more "growth-oriented" ) to take it for granted that the toilets will flush for five more years, that the interstates can handle another decade of trucks pounding our goods cross-country, that the dam will hold another twenty years. Truly comprehensive maintenance is simply too expensive, and becomes increasingly more so in the face of profit lost during periodic shut-downs. People bitch and grumble about potholes, but that's nothing compared to the bellyaching when a street is shut down for a bit of profit-draining maintenance. That's just a political reality, emanating from the economic "reality."

This is why I tilt at windmills, aching to carve out an intelligent public space for making decisions, outside of the profit motive. And here is where it is easy to lay the blame on "conservatives" - especially of the "neo" sort - but the truth of the matter is more fundamentally in the DNA of America, in the DNA of each and every one of us.

The truth is, the infrastructure collapse is all but inevitable, and it would behoove us to, at the very least, see it for what it is. Finger-pointing gets us nowhere.

Update: Tom Hull posts on an AP story on decaying infrastructure and comments:
Needless to say, this is going to get worse before it gets better.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Constitutional Heroes!


OK, this is getting too obvious. The fact that the White House, along with apologists within the Pentagon, is invoking executive privilege over releasing documents relating to the Tillman affair, that it has "ordered" Harriet Miers not to even show up for testimony on the USA firings, and engaged in various and well-publicized other obstructionist behaviours has led to an aha! moment.

These guys are the best watchdogs of the Constitution we have. No, really.

Particularly with this Tillman maneuver, which Jonathon Turley characterized on Countdown last night (thanks, Crooks and Liars) as being "as clever and as elegant as a meat cleaver:"
Why...why...anyone would stand on Executive privilege instead of giving a conditional waiver, I don't know. It baffles the mind.
Be not baffled. Here we have Harry Reid being forced to resurrect old-school filibuster rules against obstructionist Republican Bush-backers, the Congress is dusting off the old "Inherent Contempt" weapon against Harriet Miers (who knew about that one?), and the sheer vapidity of the Tillman stonewalling is surely going to provoke some other rad Constitutional fencing... well, it all adds up, doesn't it?

I've had these guys wrong all along. They're so disgusted with the lack of balance in our government that they're pushing the Legislative branch to drag out the strong medicine, to cure the Republic once and for all. The patriotism of these die-hard Americans, willing to send their own party into the political wilderness for possibly two generations, all for the sake of the robustness of the American Experiment, well, one could just weep.

Behold the Constitutional Heroes!

Update: Marcy at FireDogLake agrees with me... OK, not really, but she has more on the calcium supplements that the administration is providing the Congressional spine...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Case For Impeachment

Logan Murphy at Crooks and Liars is hosting this clip from Bill Moyers' Roundtable, and it is worth a look.

Much is made of the fact that the Bush/Cheney administration is coming to an end anyway, so impeachment would be superfluous at best, disruptive at the worst. This is missing the point, according to John Nichols and Bruce Fein (and I agree.) Impeachment is more about setting parameters on the power of the Presidency, about strengthening the checks and balances intended by the framers, about restoring the rule of the people without the crudities of armed rebellion.

As Nichols points out, Nixon's unconditional pardon, devoid of any repentance, never "closed the circle" on his abuses of the Executive. It left a space for certain people in the circles of power to continue with their distorted view of what is exploitable in how the Constitution parcels out power. It is starkly illustrated in the clip above, where Nixon, three years after his ignoble resignation, has the temerity to utter these cluelessly un-American words, "Well, when the President does it, that means it is not illegal."

It is no coincidence that this White House is staffed with Nixonites, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld's personal assistant in the Nixon White House, who never got over the leak of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.

I have been banging the drum for an impeachment of Cheney first, as nothing seems so stupidly terrifying to me as the prospect of Big Dick being Commander-In-Chief even for a dangerously brief nanosecond. Then we can go after Bush, right? Well, the flaw in this (and I wish I could remember who alerted me to this - perhaps in an update) is that Cheney could raise a credible defense in asserting that he was just following the directives of his President. Now we know that is utter bullshit, but it is legally credible (funny how often that happens.) So, the best and only appropriate action is to impeach the both of them simultaneously.

This is not vindictive extremism, this is the sober application of a mechanism supplied by the Founders to facilitate a properly-checked government, without the pitchforks and torches.

Update: Poll: Bush Approval Hits New Low, Ties Nixon During Watergate

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Babysitting The Oil

Permanent FOBs

Steve Benen at Crooks and Liars calls to our attention an op-ed in the Washington Post by one Stephen Biddle, in which he makes the case for a complete withdrawal from the Iraqupation. He argues credibly, in practical terms, that there is no compromise position on the occupation - either be all hawkish and maintain a large U.S. presence there (as if we could afford that), or just pull the hell out altogether.

Now, I have always argued that, all practical, credible, and realpolitik aspects aside, we should get the fuck out of there for sheer moral reasons. Morals do matter, right? OK, I'll play for awhile, but I am going to get back to that.

Matthew Yglesias:
Stephen Biddle makes the point that while withdrawing some troops and leaving many behind to continue training makes a certain amount of political sense as a compromise, it's nonsense on the merits. If you're going to have a whole bunch of troops in the country, you need enough troops to make a difference. Withdrawing tens of thousands of Americans is only going to leave the tens of thousands who remain in a more dangerous and fundamentally untenable position. If we want to withdraw troops -- and we should -- we need to get essentially all the way out.
Problem here is, as I see it, that these practical arguments fall flat if one takes into account those nefarious permanent bases, which the nutjob elites have all intention of maintaining and manning, all for the sake of securing Middle East resources (oil), which requires a hulking and imperial presence. These folks, who control "the greatest military evah", are completely serious about staffing these bases with thousands of troops to secure the perimeter from the troublesome brown people who happened to have spawned there (goddamned natives!), and to give the corporate oil interests some semblance of order so they can go about their business.

More on permanent bases from Global Policy Forum.

I think I see what Karl Rove means when he says that, by the time the 2008 elections roll around, there will be a reduction of troops which will mollify the voters. They fully do intend to have a dramatic draw down. But, watch for where the remaining troops are assigned. They will be assigned to the latest outposts of the Empire.

This is why the moral position is the only position. Regardless of the fact that the expense of such an adventure will ultimately bring the United States to her knees (a practical fact), these delusional greedheads will stubbornly proceed with these plans until all is in tatters.

It is up to us, the people, to howl loudly and often against the immorality of this situation. Debating practical matters just keeps this in just enough limbo to enable them to complete their intentions, and if you think it's tough to contemplate "redeployment" now, wait until all of the oil contracts are settled, and our troops are seen as "necessary" for "national security" (economic) interests.

At roughly five percent of the Earth's population, consuming roughly 25 percent of the non-renewable energy resources of this world, we are doing nothing less than evil, in the name of "national security."

Get out now. There is no compromise position.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


The Dick
Photo: Ron Edmonds

From the Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau:
"The Office of the Vice President asserts that it is not such an “entity within the executive branch,'' Durbin said in a statement issued today. "Serious questions have been raised recently about both the legality and the appropriateness of the Vice President exempting his office from the rules that apply to all other Executive Branch officials.:

So Durbin's committee today "took the step of restricting funding for the Office of the Vice President for fiscal year 2008 unless and until they comply with the executive order."
This bill has a few hurdles to get through, of course, not the least of which is the president's signature.
C'mon, George - we all know you're annoyed with the dude. Do that passive-aggressive thang.

In the interests of full disclosure and accuracy and stuff:
Cheney can sleep well at night, in any case.

Durbin notes that funding for the official residence of the vice president comes from a different account and is not affectied by today's committee action.
Still funny, though.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Barack Joins Hillary...

Cheny/Bush my Pantheon of the Contemptible.

Candide's Notebook has posted his article in Foreign Affairs, Renewing American Leadership, along with an excellent deconstruction by Pierre Tristam, The Audacity of Fraud (the title says it all, and thanks once again to Nicole for alerting us to it).

First, let me say that the title of Obama's piece - Renewing American Leadership - is a troubling choice. After four years of foot-stomping display of American Exceptionalism (if you draw the bright line at the Iraqupation), yes, a mere shadow of what could be called "American Leadership" remains - just enough to torment the memories of the True Believers. Obama seems tormented as well, and it behooves us to inspect his thinking here.

True "American leadership," as it existed at all in fact, has always been a reflection of our stated values and of just how successful we were in living up to those values. Only the most craven and power-entwined ever held our might in awe. Which loss is of most concern to the other "top" candidate for the Democratic ticket? [Emphases are mine]:
As Roosevelt built the most formidable military the world had ever seen, his Four Freedoms gave purpose to our struggle against fascism. Truman championed a bold new architecture to respond to the Soviet threat -- one that paired military strength with the Marshall Plan and helped secure the peace and well-being of nations around the world. As colonialism crumbled and the Soviet Union achieved effective nuclear parity, Kennedy modernized our military doctrine, strengthened our conventional forces, and created the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Progress. They used our strengths to show people everywhere America at its best.
Uh oh.
This century's threats are at least as dangerous as and in some ways more complex than those we have confronted in the past. They come from weapons that can kill on a mass scale and from global terrorists who respond to alienation or perceived injustice with murderous nihilism. They come from rogue states allied to terrorists and from rising powers that could challenge both America and the international foundation of liberal democracy. They come from weak states that cannot control their territory or provide for their people. And they come from a warming planet that will spur new diseases, spawn more devastating natural disasters, and catalyze deadly conflicts.
Oh, BOO!
The American moment is not over, but it must be seized anew. To see American power in terminal decline is to ignore America's great promise and historic purpose in the world. If elected president, I will start renewing that promise and purpose the day I take office.
What are you proposing there, Barack, a surge? In any case, any discussion of "America's great promise and historic purpose in the world," at this point in our history, is an abominable dog-whistle the Exceptionalists. It shouldn't need be mentioned, but whatever "exceptionalism" the U.S. has ever had the temerity to claim with any justification whatsoever lies in its (at least doctrinal) fealty to the people as the true stewards of their government and its actions. It is this noble humility (a flower yet to fully bloom) which must be regained, and American "might" has no place in that equation - it never has. Oh, there are many of us who have been seduced into entwining the two - sixty-odd years of fife-and-drum triumphalism can do that to a population.

But this message has no business being "catapulted" by any self-described agent of change. Which is what we need right now. Opposing "compassionate conservatism" with this sort of faux liberalism is no opposition at all, and the corporate war-profiteers would be right in rooting for this candidate.

This young triangulator is needing, at the least, an intervention. That would be losing the nomination. Perhaps it will mature him. So, into the dust-bin with Hillary you should go.

Read Tristam's piece - he has more of a stomach for the details than I do.

As I've said before, there's very little danger in supporting a principled long-shot like Dennis Kucinich in the primaries. However it washes out, there will be a (nominal) opposition candidate in '08 to support. (Note to Al Gore: If you're really not running, you should tell us sooner rather than later, and perhaps you could use some of that huge political coinage you've managed to amass and get Dennis more into the limelight. Endorse him, hit the stump. The consequences could be enormous.)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Not To Repeat Myself... Oh, Wait


Ian Welsh at FireDogLake takes a look at a study today:
The study, carried out by Kimberlee Weaver and colleagues, found we can tell that three different people expressing the same opinion better represents the group than one person expressing the same opinion three times - but not by much.

In fact, if one person in a group repeats the same opinion three times, it has 90% of the effect of three different people in that group expressing the same opinion.
Ian [emphasis mine]:
This is about all you need to know about why 70% of Americans wound up thinking Saddam was behind 9/11...


Under the fairness doctrine both sides of a political argument had to be given equal airtime. The repetition factor was thus balanced out and the two ideas could then compete, hopefully, on the merits. Add to that the fact that most liberal positions are, in fact, majority opinions, which means people would, in their everyday lives, hear more liberal than conservative opinions, and in general you would wind up with more accurate impressions of what the majority belief was (and people are reluctant to go against the majority belief. If “everyone” except some “dirty hippies” thinks Iraq was behind 9/11 and has nukes, well, why wouldn’t you? You don’t have time to study it, but the media is repeating it, so why wouldn’t it be true.)
The demise of the Fairness Doctrine is a pet peeve of mine, and it is, so far, the only subject I've posted on which has garnered reaction (pushback from National Association of Broadcasters types), even at the mere mention of it. My last post, not to repeat myself, was on the subject.

There's something else in his post I'd like to embellish on:
And repetition isn’t just about getting an idea of how many people believe what. It isn’t just about group think. It’s about learning. You learn by repeating things...


It sinks in, it becomes a part of you and how you think, when it’s worn in like a rut.

Beliefs and opinions then are a lot like the old say “you are what you eat”. Hang out at FDL long enough, and you’ll see the world one way. Hang out at Little Green Footballs (no, no link) and you’ll wind up thinking a very different way. Listen to Rush Limbaugh every day; or have Fox on all the time, and you’ll wind up believing a lot of what they say...

This isn’t inevitable. There are always those few iconoclasts who stand against the tide, who see through the fog of lies and who have the guts to say so. But add in social approval of the people we spend our lives with, and its few enough of us who will be able to cut through and see that just because “everyone” thinks something doesn’t make it so.
I recently sold my copy of Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification, an excellent, if somewhat dry, empirical study of the dichotomy of formed vs. expressed opinions, by Timur Kuran (please visit my storefront). The author documents just how naturally craven we all are when it comes to expressing our true feelings: We basically do a gut-check on how much approval we will win or lose before we open our mouths, and that, more often than not, tempers us from expressing what we really feel about a given subject.

This is particularly insidious if our media is fooling us about what "most people" think. And so, not to repeat myself, I really think that the Fairness Doctrine needs another look.

The guy I started blogging with, Kevin Brennan, was perhaps the savviest political observer I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to and writing with. He doesn’t blog anymore and the reason he doesn’t isn’t just the standard “time constraints”, it’s because "I’ve said everything I wanted to say". He’s right, he did. He said it all… once. And even those few people who read him, mostly won’t remember, because he didn’t say it, say it again, then tell everyone he told them so.
Thanks, Ian, for pointing that out. Sometimes I feel like your friend did, and I am now heartened to continue to repeat myself.

However, so as not to repeat myself, I'll let Ian do that for me:
So, at a political level, the Fairness Doctrine needs to come back.