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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Oh, For The Love Of...

Howie Klein has done and is doing extraordinary good work with his Blue America project, and he is over at FireDogLake hosting a discussion with one our (sadly rare) fine Congressional freshmen, Jerry McNerney.

I am loathe to give the impression of criticizing Mr. Klein, and I am stating up front here that I am not doing that. But this turned up in his post:
...The dangers America faces from fanatics is not something Bush made up, although it is something Bush screwed up– and exacerbated...

This is a narrative I expect from the "other side," as it were, and should not be uttered by any thinking person. Goddamit, America faces no danger from fanatics. One could argue that some Americans might, but the only thing which has the strength to threaten America is America herself. Which she is doing with great energy at this moment.

"Terrorist" fanatics are criminals - they are not a threat to any government, only to their unfortunate victims on the street. Our government has harnessed a perceived threat against citizens, clutched that threat to its breast as its very own, and convinced a staggeringly large swath of credulous citizens that it must, at all cost, defend itself. Defend itself by putting us in double-jeopardy - the harms of loss of freedom being piled onto the already present threat of "terrorist" criminals.

Please, please, let's stop helping the corporate toadies who have seized the reigns of power in this country "catapult the propoganda."

Oh, and did I mention that the "War on Terror" is 24-karat bullshit?

That is all.

(My apologies to Howie.)

Update: BTW - I do believe that the mantra "The only thing which has the strength to threaten America is America herself," when offered in debate with self-styled "patriots," might cause some satisfying sputtering and stuttering.

The Courage of Speaker Reed, And You

I would like to highlight something about Thomas B. Reed, Speaker of the House in the late nineteenth century, brought to you (and me) by Arthur Silber (emphasis Arthur's):

...The angrier the Democrats became, the cooler Reed remained, bulking hugely in the chair, "serene as a summer morning." Although his secretary saw him in his private room, during an interval, gripping the desk and shaking with suppressed rage, he never gave a sign in the hall to show that the vicious abuse touched him. He maintained an iron control, "cool and determined as a highwayman," said the New York Times.

The secret of his self-possession as he told a friend long afterward, was that he had his mind absolutely made up as to what he would do if the House did not sustain him. "I would simply have left the Chair and resigned the Speakership and my seat in Congress." He had a place waiting for him for the private practice of law in Elihu Root's New York firm, and "I had made up my mind that if political life consisted in sitting helplessly in the Speaker's Chair and seeing the majority helpless to pass legislation, I had had enough of it and was ready to step down and out." Coming to such a decision, he said, "you have made yourself equal to the worst" and are ready for it. This has a very "soothing" effect on the spirit.

It did more than soothe: it gave him an embedded strength which men who fear the worst, or will yield principles to avoid the worst, can never possess. It endowed him with a moral superiority over the House which members without knowing why could sense in the atmosphere.

What is the worse thing that can happen to you? What, if anything, are you holding back from doing, or standing up for, in order to avoid this possible eventuality? Is there a consequence you avoid at all costs, a terror which keeps you from being a meaningful member of the human community?

There are, sadly, far too many people in this country (and elsewhere) who do just that. One is tempted to remind them that the actuality of a feared consequence is far less uncomfortable than one imagined afore. While this is a stone cold fact, it nevertheless will have no purchase on those who are in the grips of their own imaginations.

Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in the prime of his life in prison, was not an extraordinary man - he was simply one who saw that the truth was more important than the welfare of one person. This brings its own grace, and that is why he was able to not only endure his persecution, but history shows that he was able to enjoy it. He made friends with his captors, and in all likelihood improved the quality of their lives and the lives of their families through his example. That is real work, the kind of work that I am struggling to articulate with my "Living Religion" series.

I am fortunate to have experienced much of what "the bottom" is like, and I am here to tell you that true joy has absolutely nothing to do with security, unless of course one is in the grips of an envy of others who are "doing better." When I was panhandling for quarters and suffering the indignities of classist snobs who looked down their noses at the healthy teenager who should "get a job," or the clerks and shopowners who didn't want their storefronts besmirched by bums, my day was peppered by meeting truly compassionate people who gave their change with a smile. These are truly the salt of the earth, and it is a privilege to encounter them in the midst of their little mercies.

There is a homeless man in my neighborhood who zips around in his electric wheelchair (he filches power from wherever he can), merrily panhandling as it is merely his daily work. Joe is his name, and he is one of the happiest people I know. He gushes over children and dogs, and never fails to have an optimistic word - be it the about weather or the generosity of the people he has met throughout the day thus far. (By the way - I live in Phoenix, Arizona, and being homeless in 115 degree heat is about as "bottom" as you can get in America.)

There is restaurant in my neighbourhood that has outdoor tables, and one afternoon I was fortunate enough to corral Joe to share a proper meal. Oh, he knows his "place" - he insisted on ordering "to go" so that he wouldn't "bother" me and my ladyfriend as we had lunch. I was able to persuade him to stay for the meal, and he ate his fish and chips out of the styrofoam container while we had our proper settings, but not until after the waitress asked me, right in front of Joe, if he was "bothering me." These, my friends, are the kinds of indignities that many of our fellow citizens endure on a daily basis, and yet they still have a smile to spare for the rest of us.

Try a thought experiment - who, really, is a happier person? On the one hand, we have a career police officer, who draws a fair salary and supports a family, generally able to live the "American Dream" (oh, how I loathe that cliche). On the other hand, we have the likes of Joe. The kind of people, or people in unfortunate circumstances, which the police officer is required to interact with in the course of his duties requires a monumental effort to avoid the poisons of cynicism, and it is an extraordinary man who can shake that off over and over again. Joe, on the other hand, is more likely to meet compassionate and very human folks, on their best behaviour, from sunup to sundown. Really - who has a better shot at a good night's sleep (temperature notwithstanding)?

The next time you look the other way when you could make a positive difference, because you are being a very sensible person and not jeopardizing yourself in your comforts, remember Joe. While it is highly unlikely that your "worst" is to become disabled homeless person, remember that your little contribution to the human community is far more important than the welfare of one person.

Arthur Again...

Arthur Silber once again waxes passionate. He often simultaneously embodies despair and hope in his writing, and he does not disappoint here.

He highlights astute observations by Matt Taibi over at AlterNet, who does a credible job filleting our spineless representatives in Washington, and Arthur goes on to compare that body with two exemplary and courageous members of Congress past - Senator Robert La Follette and Speaker Thomas B. Reed - a comparison which does none of our contemporary legislative representatives any credit. I would also like to note that I am ashamed that I did not know of these two true American heroes - of course, their absence in the usual public schooling on American history is no doubt deliberate, but that is no excuse.

I urge you to go and read these essays. They go a long way in instilling some glimpse of just how important it is to stand up against popular sentiment when necessary. They also, tragically, demonstrate just how futile it can be. But then again, this tragic fact only polishes the trophy of nobility we should confer to such actors.

This was a tough read with my first cup of coffee. Damn and praise to you, Arthur.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Living Religion IX: The Fallacy Of The Goal

[Some may want to catch up with parts I, II, III, IV , V, VI, VII and VIII.]

I was having discussion recently with a friend of mine regarding the fictional nature of the self and the false nourishment of belief, and to his credit he was giving me a fair hearing and struggling mightily with the implications thereof. (It never ceases to surprise me just how hard it is to cross that threshold - until I remember my own obtuseness before it all came together for me.) At one point, he asked me, "What about goals?"

"Goals are completely useless," I replied. That's where I lost him, and I decided to tackle the issue here.

First of all, goals are constructs of thought. That in and of itself is enough to settle the matter for me, but I understand that others may want to explore it more in depth.

I'd like to note here that Krishnamurti (whom I consider an important mentor of mine), when discussing matters such as these, would often concede utility in the "outside world" for application of organized thought such as goals, etc. (I apologize for not citing him directly here, but I only want to note this as a general point.) I cannot pretend to know whether he really saw things this way, or if it was merely a semantic concession to help bridge conversations and avoid being dismissed altogether. After all, this subject is difficult enough to tackle without people objecting with, "But without goals, how would we ever build X or Y, or accomplish Z?" That is a perfectly reasonable rejoinder, and only a lunatic would argue with that, right?

Well, I am that lunatic, and I will go into that later in a Part II post. Dismiss me now, if you will.

First I will approach this in a safer area, that of human behaviour and psychology. The example my friend could not get past was regarding a personal goal - "getting in shape." In his version of things, one sets a weight and physique target, and then works "towards" that goal. That indeed is the "normal" way we go about that.

Well, there are a whole lot of unexamined things going one when one sets a goal like that - narcissism, vanity, insecurity, sexual conquest and what have you - a mix of some or all of it. Personally, I would ferret all of those out before I took any action, but let's not get into those weeds here, and concede that, for all of it, "getting in shape" is indeed a good thing. So we posit the situation of one who is pure-in-heart and wishes he or she were "in shape" - except that such a one would probably better define this as "good health."

I would argue here that setting a goal is actually counterproductive to a good outcome. What we are really talking about here is health, and setting metrics like "weight" and "physique" can easily subvert good health. Indeed, it often does - anorexia, bulemia, steroid abuse, risky cosmetic surgery, etc. all come to mind. For even though they can be used to serve this "goal," in the long term they often have nasty consequences. Ah, you say, but I will do this by eating right and performing healthy physical exercise and activity.

Great! I say. Except, um, isn't this what you're supposed to be doing anyway? Are you saying that in the absence of a conceived "goal" to "follow", you will naturally decline in decrepitude? Actually, the true utility of this "goal" is merely to make it happen "faster" than it normally would and, above destructive techniques aside, doesn't the constant measuring between where you "are" now and the ideal of where you would "be" in the future create a negative tension? A tension that could easily result in frustration, and its unhelpful cousin "giving up?" Doesn't this happen more often than not?

Is it really too hard to see how much simpler it is to toss the goal altogether and just do the right thing by your body and health, and let nature do its thing, without artificial psychological interference? Because, after all, that is what will follow.

Having neatly disposed of that foolishness, in my next "Living Religion" post I am going to show what a naughty deconstructionist I am and tackle the "outside world" utility of goal-making. This is the place where I show what a dangerous person a philosopher is to the world of organized security. I will expect the jackboots and truncheons at any hour.

Laying Bare The Fascism

Scarecrow and Christy have two great and important posts up today regarding the very real and present threat our country faces from incipient fascism. In What's Left of the Republican Pary?, Scarecrow quotes from Zbigniew Brzezinski's op-ed in the Washington Post, which is spot on and doubly sobering in that it comes from one of our more bloodthirsty realpolitik hustlers (emphases mine):
The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration’s elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America’s psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

The damage these three words have done — a classic self-inflicted wound — is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves...


But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue.

On the other side of the issue, he also discusses bedwetter David Brooks' capitulation to the fear. Brooks' shameful and pathetic acceptance of an authoritarian nanny-state as the only way to stop his night-shivers really leaves this citizen shaking his head in disbelief.

Christy Hardin Smith's Politics, The Rule Of Law, And You, boldly explores the wider implications of the power grab, and connects the dots between it and the emerging revelations regarding the shenanigans in the Justice Department.

It's good to see these posts. I hate to say it, but many of the more "mainstream" progressive blogs have ridiculed or outright blocked commentors who soiled their threads with just these sorts of "conspiracy theories." I understand this - there are some "out there" websites and blogs which damage their credibility by running with every little CT that comes along. But now that this particular issue is becoming "mainstream" enough to be discussed by these extremely credible bloggers, there is a chance for us to do something about it.

As Christy says (emphasis mine):
Stand up today and be counted. Send a letter to the editor to your local paper. Call into a local talk radio show. Call or fax your elected representatives and tell them how you are feeling about these issues. Talk with your co-workers or family or friends. Reach out beyond the usual bloggy hangouts, and do something to advance the notion that in this nation of ours, whatever change we wish to see is up to all of us. Every single day. And, I don't know about you guys, but I have damn well had enough.

So have I, Christy - for years now.

Now, about September 11th...

A "Nice Try" Narrative

New narratives are bright shiny objects for a deconstructionist, and Fade at House of the Rising sons (via Mike's Blog Roundup) alerts me to one from George Friedman from Stratfor (subscription required).

Shorter Friedman: The United States has been at the least stalemated in every conflict in which we've been engaged since World War II. He goes on to list Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Iran and Iraq [what, no Grenada?] Even so, we have grown ever more powerful in spite of these misadventures. He then throws up three possible "explanations" in order to lend a an air of thoughtfulness to his analysis, before proceeding to his conclusion that may have been actually very successful "spoiling attacks," such being a preemption of events which might have actually been a threat if they action not been taken.

To his credit, Fade doesn't exactly buy into this, and instead (with some snark) sees it as a useful narrative to assuade the warmongers in our midst that "Defeat is Victory," as it were. Such things make a deconstructionist wince, but I do have a sense of humour so, you go, Fade.

Now, one of Friedman's "thoughtful" straw-man explanations is:
1.That U.S. power is derived not from winning wars, but from other factors, like economic power. [Fade]
"The U.S. preoccupation with politico-military conflict has been an exercise in the irrelevant that has slowed, but has not derailed, expansion of American power."

This is actually closer to the mark than Friedman's "spoiler attack" narrative, except his assertion that these conflicts have "slowed, but not derailed" expansion is flat wrong. These military-industrial activities have accelerated our economic expansion. This is why they go on, and this is why they are profoundly immoral.

It is also a false conclusion to say that this has been helpful for the United States, and the unspoken corollary that they can just go on with no negative consequences for our "great power" is just flat wrong, as we can see the imminent crumbling of the edifice of our "power" quite clearly at this point.

A better explanation regarding the world situation can be found in Jonathan Schell's The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, in which the case is made that it is the people (as opposed to the State) who have been the victors of all of these conflicts, hardships and horrors suffered aside. I recommend this book, especially in these dark times, as it is a welcome dose of humanistic optimism in the face of all of the unforgivable actions of today.

I forgive Friedman his machinations of logic, because he fails to see one thing that many of us also fail to see: That the State is a fiction of our imagination, we created it, and it could disappear tomorrow with no ill effect on the survival of humanity or its enjoyment of life here on Earth (to the contrary, I submit it would have a good effect.) Those of us who think the State is a necessary or inevitable thing necessarily spend a lot of brain power trying to keep it as a permanent factor in their analyses of our world's events. While it is a factor, it is not a necessary one, and simply subtracting it makes the whole process much easier.

(I define "State" here as different from "government," as the former is a false corporeality with an identity and a flag to protect, while the latter is simply a gathering of humans getting things in their common interest done.)

Ultimately, when the State is ignored as just another unfortunate gathering of paranoid monkeys, best avoided and ignored, then we'll see some real progress towards peace.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

How Embarrassing

Just great. Like I need Fidel Castro agreeing with me.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro considered "sinister" the idea of United States President George W.Bush to convert food into combustible, saying that if successful millions of poverty stricken people will die of hunger worldwide.

Many people, among the hungry masses of the planet, will die if food is converted into ethanol, said Castro in an article published Thursday by the official daily "Granma."

I said back in February:
I would like to direct the reader to another essay that casts a critical eye on a vogueish energy alternative - biofuel - which is gathering attention, Ethanol Production Increases but is it a Valid Alternative to Oil?. There is a darkly hilarious (to me) quote embedded in that discussion which goes "The amount of grain that is required to fill a 25-gallon tank with ethanol, one time, could otherwise feed one person for a year".

OK - can anyone - anyone! - morally reconcile filling up a gas tank with feeding a person? Alas, we have all become elitists. The horror expressed in the story of "Soylent Green" is but a hollow mock horror. In willful ignorance, we would accept not only the demise of the "useless eaters," but indeed their appropriation to keep our shiny metal boxes snappy and at our service.

Man, it's a topsy-turvy world when a dictator displays more moral authority than our own President. Who is not a dictator. Oh, wait...

Blood In The Water?

The administration of George W. Bush has put the United States on its heels in virtually every important international arena, be it military strength, diplomatic credibility, or its increasingly endangered economic influence. Does this story in the New York Times augur a trend among other nations (h/t Nicole again at Crooks and Liars and The Agonist)?
"In beloved Iraq, blood flows between brothers in the shadow of illegitimate foreign occupation and hateful sectarianism, threatening a civil war," he (Abdullah) added.[emphasis mine]

Saudi King Abdullah's also cancelled attendance of a White House dinner in April. I can't help but wonder if the rest of this planet is coalescing around an idea that the heretefore unchallenged Empire may be weakening? I mean, this is the King of Saudi Arabia, after all - a longtime friend and booster of the Bushies, and a huge consumer of one our country's biggest exports - death machines.

If this is true, it only makes it more urgent that we, the citizens of this nation continue to push to return our government to Constitutional normalcy. I think we all can agree that it would be much more palatable for us to step back on our own, than to be leveraged from without. I personally feel that there is very real danger of that, and it would be very, very ugly for us.

By "Constitutional normalcy," I mean restoring the checks and balances in our government branches, which have been terribly abrogated. The hearings today in Senate regarding the U.S. Attorneys putsch demonstrate this sorry fact. One can only hope that it is not too late already.

In addition to this, I hope that we can move on and do something about the nefarious influence that corporations have built up within our people's government. If not, then this problem will reappear again and again until this coutry is finally and utterly ruined.

Iraqupation, As I Said...

Thank you Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars:
I made a big deal a couple of months ago of not allowing the White House to frame the debate on Bush's "surge" and to refer to it as it plainly is: an escalation. Unfortunately, it's been pointed out to me that I need to follow my own advice and stop referring to our military action in Iraq as a "war," but what it truly is: an occupation. And that's absolutely right. To call it a war lends credibility that Bush's actions do not deserve.

I made this very point over three weeks ago (excerpt):
First of all, we need to stop calling this aggression in Iraq a "war." It is an occupation, and I wish I had the readership (hell, any readership) to help turn this narrative. Far too many people characterize it as a "mistake," or that it was executed "incompetently" (Arthur Silber's deconstruction of John Edwards' problem clarifies the matter far better than I can, and the essay neatly encapsulates the thrall in which most Americans are ensconced.) These characterizations are helpful towards the end of masking the responsibility we all share for what is going on there.

There never was an Iraq "war."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

OK, Count Me Charmed

This post by Eli at FireDogLake has pushed me over the edge. Watch the video of Al Gore before the 2000 election run, before the savaging of his image took place.

Our. Next. President.

"Them" Is Us

Divide and conquer. This is how it's done.

One popular canard which is, sadly, easily accepted by the average person is the notion that "the government" is some sort of "other." As in, "they" are after your freedoms and your salary. Taxes, laws, regulations and other interferences are very unpalatable, indeed, and it is easy to nudge any stool-warmer at the local pub to commiserate with vigor over the injustice of it all.

It's so darned intuitive, it's like falling off a log. Indeed, for most of my life I have, in varying degrees of intensity, not questioned this easy cynicism. I'd like to explore this more thoughtfully here.
"I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." - Grover Norquist

While the above sentiment has lost some of its sheen due to events of late, it is a clarion depiction of government-as-pain-in-the-ass. And it is indeed a pain in the ass, as well as the locus of a lot of horror and injustice (see Iraq.) But is the proper response to the problem of government to drown it?

I would like to make clear right here that I consider the very need for government, insofar as is conferred upon it the arbitration of justice, an unkind assessment of the maturity of the human race in general. I might even take that further and say that those things which currently require community assent and cooperation - the only part of "government" which I find defensible - could easily be served by more organic and ad hoc means by an enlightened populace, one that has reached a sort of tipping point. With that utopian caveat aside, I will proceed.

The gut-check syllogism of "gummint is bad" has been exhaustively used to great effect by the right wing. (I say "exhaustively" with some optimism.) I've only been on the planet for fifty years, and my memory only reaches back to the John Birch Society, for me an archetype of Luddite-esque anti-government sentiment. (Ironically, other aspects of wingism are marked by the unfortunate acrobatics of Joe McCarthy - who died four months after I was born - which illustrate a contradictory posture taken by the right wing by personifying exactly what is wrong with overweening government interference.) This has lent great weight to popular acceptance of the virtues of the "free market" as a prescription for all that ills Man.

While most of us have only a layman's comprehension of the notion of the free market, it of course has a weighty and impressive history of philosophical exploration. One sterling exposition of its merits is documented in Murray N. Rothbard's book, Man, Economy and State. It is a pillar of logic, and I forced myself to read this extremely long and torturous (for me) work a few years ago. I am by nature a credulous reader, and I internalized much of the "purity" of the perspective espoused by the Austrian school of economic philosophy.

I credit that lengthy tome (and it is lengthy - nearly 1,000 pages) for my enlightenment nearly as much as I would credit the works of Krishnamurti. It is so intellectually unassailable that it immediately provoked an epic battle between my head and my heart, as it were, and something had to give. Thankfully, it was my head. Therefore, I boldly say here - no doubt to the possible objection of the credentialed academics - that it is, in the end, a tautology. As all logic is, however sophisticated, in the end.

I turn to this, from a fine post from Nitpicker:
The problem is this: Tattooed around the heart of every true Republican moneyman are the words of Adam Smith, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest." And, for many of those on the right, those words are sacrosanct. They believe that nothing should get in the way of one's self-interest: Neither laws nor the well-being of one's fellow man. This kind of mindset, oddly enough, seems incompatible with an organization like, say, the entire United States government, which is dedicated not to self-interest, but to the desire to "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..."

This is correct. Rothbard's - and other economists' - attempts to intellectualize the deus ex machina, or the animator of human relations, is the root of the problem. The key error here is the unquestioning acceptance of the self, the existence of which I have unerringly debunked here :).

(I want to posit this "selflessness" with a notable point. I have always been inflicted with a shameless - shameful? - individualism which has led to strong iconoclastic tendencies. This has, I submit, paradoxically contributed to a maturation of the intellect. It is this sort of intellectual clash, the holding of two true but irreconcilable notions which paralyze the mind, that creates the delight of the koan (or "aporetic oscillation") which leads to this maturation.)

Getting back to the theme of this post - it is the positioning of the government as an "other," endlessly fettering the otherwise flawless clockwork of a free market Utopia, which has given the corporate world the purchase, in the popular imagination, to criticize and cripple collective efforts to keep them in the human community. And that is what government actually is (sans corruption) - a collective effort. A government is us. It is the public voice. Those who rail against it simply want an arena where accountability is somehow quaint. The market takes care of everything.

Just as Timothy McVeigh broke the back of an ascendent anti-government militia movement with his unconscionable attack on government workers and their children, and a shooting in Ayn Rand's epic "Atlas Shrugged" undermines the ostensible non-violence of Objectivism, then perhaps the current administration has served a useful purpose after all.

Nitpicker says, he gave the free-marketeers unprecedented power and access, and:
There is a lot of talk about how Bush's reign has damaged the long-term political viability of the Republican party. I can't say whether or not that's true. I will say this, though: Americans who are truly interested in the long-term viability of our republic should make it clear to their friends and neighbors that the Bush administration has fully tested whether contractors and corporate lackeys can run government better than the mythically cold, unfeeling government bureaucrat. What we got were hundreds of small-scale government versions of Enron, Tyco and Worldcom; self-interest running rampant with no oversight from the former Republican-led Congress.

So - I hope that this is sufficient demonstration for the wider public to give more pause and deliberation when it comes to the worship of free market capitalism.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Popular Trends Look Encouraging

Although I have often said (not here, this blog's too new) that one does not poll the public to discover the truth of anything, these trends at The Pew Research Center (thanks, Silent Patriot at C&L) are pretty encouraging. Although I am not a Democrat, the fact that the public is distancing itself from the obviously corrupt Republican machine is heartening - especially since the corporate media is still doing its level best to skew the developments in Washington, D.C.

What I am most pleased with, however, is the response to the proposition "The best way to ensure peace is through military strength." While just five years ago, in 2002, according to Pew the polling indicated a spread of 62% agree/34% disagree (widest split since '87), it appears that today that has been reduced to 49%/47%.

So, while still nearly half the population still are deluded into thinking that a defensive posture (and perhaps, for some, and aggressive one) is the approach to take to ensure their safety, it seems that some lessons have inadvertently been taught to many of us since that spookfest which was September 11th.

I think even more would agree that our sorry President's "with us or against us" declaration was a pretty rotten idea.

Global Bullying

From The Washington Post online (h/t Christy Hardin Smith at FireDogLake):
American warplanes screamed off two aircraft carriers Tuesday as the U.S. Navy staged its largest show of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, launching a mammoth exercise meant as a message to the Iranians.

This is far too dangerous bullshit to be merely about intimidation or sending a message. These crazy bastards are trying to provoke a Gulf Of Tonkin incident.
"If there is strong presence, then it sends a clear message that you better be careful about trying to intimidate others," said Capt. Bradley Johanson, commander of the Stennis.

I'm inclined to agree with the Captain. Um, how about you take your own advice then?

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Note On The Edwards

I'm not much of a fan of John Edwards' run for the Presidency - I find his views on the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular to be ignorant at best or possibly even disingenuous. I'm also not eager to continue the ghoulish conversation which is currently taking place regarding his wife's health. But I would like to give the Edwards a philosophical hat tip for their responses to Katie Couric's appalling 60 Minutes grilling. They were a beacon of clarity, and for them to be able to cut through her repetitive bullshit questions with such clarity speaks well to the question of just what sort of President he would make.

The stupidest thing which Couric pointed out was that Elizabeth had a "finite" time here on Earth, and was the campaign trail the place to spend it? Thank you, John and Elizabeth, for schooling poor Katie on the fact that we all have a freaking "finite" time here. Sheesh.

They came across as refreshingly mature, as far as public figures go, especially for a man who is in politics.

Thanks Crooks and Liars, Taylor Marsh and David Sirota.

Update: Faithfull Progressive gets it right, too.

Myopia Is Too Kind A Word

Siun posts at FireDogLake on the perspective of the Iraqi people, and it should break the heart of every American, except perhaps the sociopaths who have pushed the criminal policy of the United States government. There are many links and quotes at that post, so please go review them. But the poignancy of this simple quote from Khalid Jarrar in Baghdad goes to the heart of just how much responsibility we all bear (emphasis mine):
So as a conclusion i have to say: That it's shameful enough, and hurtful enough to say, and sad enough yet truthful enough, that for most Americans it actually requires terrorism that kills innocent people, and resistance that kills thousands of Americans and burns billions of American money, to make them demand an end to an occupation, but still basing on their own losses and not because of the feeling of responsibility or guilt over what they did to Iraq, now correct me if i am wrong here, but there is something seriously wrong with this moral equation here.

Anyone care to correct Mr. Jarrar? No, I didn't think so.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Had To Share

Heywood J. at Hammer Of The Blogs posted this takedown of Jonah Goldberg. It's a classic in snark (h/t watertiger at FireDogLake.) My favorite sentence (on Goldberg's conflation of Democrat/Republican behaviour):
The permanent revolutionaries have finally been kicked out on their snouts, and they're still trying to steam-clean the hoofprints out of the furniture, and here's Helpy Helperton smugly asking why everything's the same as it ever was.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Shhh, Adults Talking

Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter joins Rober Sheer, on stage and with audience, at Truthdig for what turns out to be a very enlightening discussion regarding Iraq, Iran, North Korea, nuclear proliferation, the "War on Terror," the misleading media and the American peoples' resultant ignorance on all of these subjects. It's around 40 minutes of viewing, and as Mr. Ritter points out, if have opinions regarding U.S. foreign policy, you will be better served if you are armed with knowledge - the kind of knowledge which is dished in that conversation. Please find time to watch it.

You can pick up Scott Ritter's book, Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change, here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Howler Monkeys

If you can spare a half hour, get on over to and watch our next President's testimony before Congress on global warming. Of course, there is pushback from the party of corporate interests. Digby at Hullabaloo notes (h/t Jane at FireDogLake):
I think my favorite thing about the know-nothing wingnut argument is that Al Gore is said to be all hysterical on this silly little problem by the same people who are screeching like howler monkeys that the oceans don't protect us anymore and "they're" comin' to kill us in our beds! The fact that ridding ourselves of our dependence on oil might mitigate both of these problems escapes their notice. But then, they are incredibly stupid.

What Digby said.

Living Religion VIII: On Judging Our Fellows (Walking The Walk II)

[I have decided, with dubious wisdom, to continue the LR series. Or, rather, I find that some of the things I feel compelled to chatter on about seem to best fit under the LR rubric.]

[Some may want to catch up with parts I, II, III, IV , V, VI and VII.]

I have spoken of the illusion of the self, and I would here like to explore one of the many implications of the fact of this illusion. Of course, if the reader has quibbles regarding the fact of the illusion of the self, none of this follows, and so one should either go back to Living Religion II: The Self or simply move on.

The ethereal nature of the self naturally implies that when one meets another, one is not meeting a fixed entity. Our companions, family members, and strangers are in a constant state of flux. There is an appearance of consistency of character, but I would submit that this consistency is a very high maintenance effort. We are all in the business of self-definition, obsessively propping up a vision of ourselves, and this has a spillover effect on how we are perceived by others. (Perhaps ironically, what actually takes purchase in other peoples' minds regarding our character or personality rarely matches what we intend, but there is a consistency, however unintended.)

As one who is aware that the self is a fiction, what then is our obligation or responsibility when we encounter the other? Do we assist the person in their self-illusions, or are we required to leave space for the full flowering of their human nature? Is it not immoral to be coconspirators in any illusion which may be held by those around us?

In asking these questions, I would like the reader to consider the full range of human relationships and problems - from marital relations to the criminal justice system. When I am confronted by someone who has established themselves to be of "bad" character, what is my responsibility to this person? If my characterization of the self as illusion is fact (and I argue that it is), then why should any judgment borne of past memory regarding an individual have any weight at all?

One could argue here that once a person has caused injury or insult or some-such that it is very reasonable to protect oneself from further injury. Under the circumstances which prevail in our world today, I would certainly concur that this is reasonable. However, I would argue that what is "reasonable" is a poor standard for human relationship. Frankly, the adherence to reasonableness results in a perpetuation and reinforcement of character, whether it is deemed "good" or "bad" character.

What I am shooting for here is simply what I term "effective action," in the arena of human relations. If I am aware of the illusion of the self, what, again, is my responsibility to the other? Do I not have the moral imperative to free the other from his/her own self image? If I see the immediate and present danger of self image, does this not compel me to suffer any injury and insult which may come forth due to this self image? After all, there are two parties who are responsible for the creation of any self - the individual himself, and the community surrounding that individual. That a person has a self image is bad enough, but am I to commit the sin of furthering that image, of buttressing it?

As regards insult or injury, it would be well to at this point reorient the reader by asking the question, who is it that is being insulted or injured? If one is aware of that he, himself, is an illusory being (please - I am not being mystical here. Of course we exist, just not in the way that we imagine ourselves), then there is no "self" in which an injury can take purchase. When I wake up tomorrow, there is simply no reason to remember at all any action which has happened today. I can face the day afresh, ready to respond with my naturally loving concern.

Going back to "effective action," let's hypothesize a "goal" to "make the world better." I say "hypothesize," as I find goal-making to be paradoxically counterproductive to goal-fullfillment (hmm... I think that may require a post all on its own.) However, in order that we may talk about things, let's just agree that we would like the world to be "a better place." This is obviously restricted to human relationship, since it is we who have made the world, to whatever degree, "bad." I baldly submit that any attempts to manipulate the behaviour of our selves or the others' have proven to be woefully inadequate - as a matter of fact I have found that the "blowback" from such manipulations only exacerbate any problems we may have. This is as true with interpersonal relationships as it is with the criminal justice system or international relations.

No - effective action, in interpersonal relationships, is only possible when there is a space left for preconceived "selves" to step outside of the illusion. And this is only possible when the effluvia of illusion is simply ignored, and one remains steadfast in love with the other. This is where a transformative effect results, when there is effective action.

Many have been witness to this, and it is our only hope.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Cracking Up?

I've experienced a lot of anxiety over the last six years, watching the egregious power grabs and usurpations of the people's rights made by this appalling President and his men. Things are looking interesting now for Bush, in a Chinese kinda way.

The scandal bubbling up over the U.S. Attorneys purge may well be his Alamo, which I'm thinking the neo-Texan is not remembering all that well, but...

In "What's Bush's Game?", posted at Daily Kos, Kagro X outlines some disturbing realities regarding just how much leverage the Legislative Branch doesn't have as regards its duty to check the Executive.
That's some game, eh? Enforcement of the contempt power falls to the U.S. Attorneys -- the political strong-arming and contamination of which brought us to this crisis in the first place. Heck, you'd almost think they... planned it.

Hop over there and read about the mendacity and cynicism in play. It certainly bummed me out sobered me up.

On a more encouraging note, I find this pushback particularly intriguing, and the kind of thing which signals that real change is in the air (h/t Cause for Concern, via Mike's Blog Roundup at Crooks And Liars:
WASHINGTON – An alliance of prominent national conservatives will hold a news conference on Tuesday, March 20, to announce the formation of the American Freedom Agenda (AFA), a coalition established to restore checks and balances and civil liberties protections under assault by the Executive Branch. The restoration would bind the current and all future occupants of the White House, irrespective of party affiliation. The group will present a legislative package to restore congressional oversight and habeas corpus, end torture and extraordinary rendition, narrow the President’s authority to designate “enemy combatants,” prevent unconstitutional wiretaps and mail openings, protect journalists from prosecution under the Espionage Act, and more.

They will present a “Freedom Pledge” to all Presidential candidates of both parties to sign, and call for a bipartisan grassroots campaign to protect the vision of the Founding Fathers — that no single branch of government should have excessive power.

Now, a "Freedom Pledge" doesn't seem to have the gravitas of, say, a clarifying Constitutional amendment (which, in my opinion, wouldn't be a bad idea - just an unrealistic one), but I am glad to see that there may still be some honest patriots in the party of corporate interests.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Oh, this is just too good not to mention. Is Our Dear Dick more directly involved with the firing of U.S. Attorneys? And we're not talking about intervening on behalf of cronies, but what has Darth himself been up to? According to at-Largely (h/t, once again, Crooks and Liars), Carol Lam, one of the purged Attorneys, may have been investigating this:
"An explosive report, obtained in part by RAW STORY, and soon to be released by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), fingers high-level officials both on the federal and local California level in allegations of influence-peddling ensnaring members of both parties.

According to documents and whistleblowers concerning a San Diego wastewater treatment plant to be built in Tijuana, Mexico,
Vice President Dick Cheney, Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Bob Filner (D-CA), and former congressman and current Republican congressional candidate Brian Bilbray have allegedly advanced the project despite serious concerns from those involved."


Cheney is alleged to have pressured the Department of Justice and the Council on Environmental Quality to give Bajagua a pass on clean water concerns and the no-bid contract for building the treatment facility.

You really must read the story. And dream.

Living Religion VII: Walking The Walk

[It has been three days since my last post, and nine since my last in this series. I have excuses. All of my Saturday was taken up with working the beer taps at my favourite pub for St. Patrick's Day, a wonderfully exhausting ordeal. And the political news has lately just left me buried in catching up with the analysis in other blogs. Now that that is momentarily out of the way, I shall now buckle down and tackle my final post (at least for now) in this series.]

[Some may want to catch up with parts I, II, III, IV , V and VI.]

I'd like to return to what I have coined "aporetic oscillation." What I mean to convey with that term is the condition whereby thought, after honestly and thoroughly examining the various logical constructs that can be applied to a particular problem (i.e., "feeding the poor," or the appropriate response to insult or flattery, or even the problem of "problems" in general), becomes paralyzed with confusion. This confusion is inevitable if honesty is in play, for there really is no correct "point of view" from which to proceed. Try this for yourself, on anything. It is a lot like arguing a position that you don't personally hold for a debate club, for example, except that what you want to do is keep the position you do hold in mind at the same time. By being equally faithful to all sides, you will inevitably see the folly of holding any position whatsoever.

Now this is where conventional thinking would have it that such liberalism is "woolly-headed", effectively cutting off the possibility of meaningful action. I can only respond that this is a projection of conventional thinking - it is thought imagining "what it would be like" if it were paralyzed. Do not dismiss it so summarily. If this is intellectually rejected without the actual experience, then whatever conclusions thought may make about it are uninformed conclusions.

Although this may be difficult at first, it does not, paradoxically, require "practice." What takes time and effort is the tracing and the chasing around of thought, up until the moment when the folly is fully perceived. Once that silliness ends, it is a thunderclap of instant perception.

This installment is called "Walking The Walk," and as such it is about action. Nearly everything else I have written in this series was on thought and thinking, and here I will try to get the rubber to meet the road. What is the relationship between thought and action?

There is no relationship between thought and action. Or rather - to whatever extent thought has a relationship to action, then that "action" is always reaction. It is a movement in a never-ending chain of errors, each born of un-contemplated thought. ("Un-contemplated thought" - now there's a phrase. It is an intentional redundancy, as I have held that thinking, in the conventional sense, is quite blind to its own limitations. I also hold that it is not necessary to see one's limitations - an impossibility - but only to know that they are there.)

What is action that is not reaction, that is unlinked from thinking? First of all, it certainly cannot be described, not here or anywhere. Descriptions are the stuff of language, and are all hooked up with thinking, and something which is unlinked from thinking cannot be described. But action does exist. The question here is, do we, you or I, ever "act?" If one thinks about it carefully, one can see that all the "acts" that we do are really reactions. There is a proper place for reaction, of course - if one is in the path of a speeding bus, it is entirely sane to react to that scenario. But is it reasonable, or sane, to react based on thought? Thought is entirely made up, and "actions" which spring from thought can be dangerously inappropriate to the situation-at-hand.

This is a serious matter, for all of the ills of Man, from war and assault to insult and resentment, are caused by reacting to thought, which is made up. Conventional thinking has it that one has to think "better" - come up with more informed analysis - to properly address these problems. This ignores the fact that it is thinking itself which causes the trouble, and more gasoline on the fire never works. It is only by removing this relationship and consigning "reaction" to its appropriate place - a response to events, not your head - that appropriate "action" can arise.

It is here that I can cautiously "describe" action as "reaction to events without the intervention of thought." Now those of you are playing along here on a superficial level will probably want to say that it is just stupid to not think before you act. Well, if you are already tangled in a thought-based reality then that seems pretty obvious. I can only suggest to you that you have never acted without the intervention of thought - or never noted when you did - so that whatever you imagine the consequences to be are simply, well, imagined. Stop doing that. Try putting thought in its proper place, and remove its interference with your action in the world. Yes, it will upset pretty much everything you have woven together. So see what happens when it is upset. One must be intrepid if one is to live an authentic life.

Let me put it this way. Whatever in our lives that is vulnerable to upset is sustained by the artifice of thought. What is real, balanced, and sustainable can only be come upon when we "let go" of whatever we have imagined of ourselves thus far, let go of the defenses we have elaborately constructed.

That is some trite stuff, and homilies have been around forever and have never made a difference to anyone. The reason is that, although one must "let go," one cannot simply "let go." It is not a thing for positive action. Rather, there is a "falling away" of these things, and this comes naturally when the operation of thought is removed, when a space is made for the real, the authentic to come into being.

One way of looking at the effect of this change is that one is transformed from the state of an obstacle in competition with, in the way of, all of the other obstacles out there, into being a facilitator for unimpeded being - for oneself, and for those one encounters. It is through eschewing a "center" from which one operates that one finds oneself in a constantly refreshing, restorative and authentic "center."

I'm going to close the "Living Religion" series here with the question "Why?" Why do I, personally, want "the authentic to come into being?" Why am I a "deconstructionist?" My honest answer will sound disingenuous and self-serving (in the sense of serving my propositions) without the prelude of a conventional answer. The conventional answer is that I want to be happy. But it is not the honest answer - rather, not so much dishonest as it is an unhelpful answer.

I can "want" until I am blue in the face, as it were, and we can easily see that that is exactly how one stays in the trappings of thought. Indeed, most of my life has been a frustrating lust for something called "enlightenment" or "grace." It is only in the paralysis of thought, "aporetic oscillation" - the state of grace itself - that I can honestly answer the question, and I exhort the reader to understand that I say it with all the sincerity that a human being can muster:

I do not want it. It is merely present.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Showing Hillary The Door

I've never thought that Hillary Clinton is a good candidate for President. Her tepid and cautious term in the Senate shows that triangulation is even more a religion for her than it was for her husband. I'm glad to see that the left is on to her - it shows a level of integrity not in display in the lock-step right (although I'm pleased to see that pretty much all of the Republican candidates for their party's nomination seem to be having trouble getting traction, like Rudy, for example.)

I'm disappointed, though. While the Clintons were being pummeled by the VRWC funded by Richard Mellon Scaiffe, I found her a sympathetic figure, and it would be nice to have a woman President sometime. Just not her. She has clearly been sipping the Empire Kool-Aid, and I think she wants more.

Update: Hillary's position on the criminal occupation of Iraq may be contemptible, but it's still our own fault (h/t Pachacutec at FireDogLake):
Given all of this, it's clear why people like Hillary Clinton operates the way they do. She believes that blaming the Iraqi government - a government we set up - for our problems in Iraq is a politically useful tool and a substantive policy answer. It's not. It's immoral and impractical. But 70% of the public is with her, and that means a lot of Democrats are there with her as well. And if we do pull out of Iraq, and all of a sudden do have to shut that trillion dollar trade deficit, we will have to build a genuinely new economy based on different legal and economic structures. That's a huge ask, and there was no mandate for that in 2006.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Fools' Endgame

A good friend pointed me to this July 2005 MotherJones article, on the breathtaking and ongoing transformation of Dubai into an Oz of greedhead excess. It includes a link to a promotional video for "The World," a massive man-made archipelago of customizable beachfront property. Really, I think you should go watch it before reading the rest of this post, or even the MotherJones piece. It'll put you in the proper mood. (There is also a photo of what is called "Jebel Ali Palm Island," an artificial island, one of three "configured as palms within crescents and planted with high-rise resorts, amusement parks, and a thousand mansions built on stilts over the water." Anyway, I Google Earthed (tm) it, now two years later, and it looks nearly, if not completely finished now.)
Your jellyfish-shaped hotel is, in fact, exactly 66 feet below the sea surface. Each of its 220 luxury suites has clear Plexiglas walls that provide spectacular views of passing mermaids as well as the hotel's famed "underwater fireworks:" a hallucinatory exhibition of "water bubbles, swirled sand, and carefully deployed lighting." Any initial anxiety about the safety of your sea-bottom resort is dispelled by the smiling concierge. The structure has a multi-level failsafe security system, he reassures you, that includes protection against terrorist submarines as well as missiles and aircraft.

That is nothing compared to the rest of the "delights" outlined in the article.

I must quote this particularly disgusting fact, which is illuminating:
Today, Dubai's security is guaranteed by the American nuclear super-carriers usually berthed at the port of Jebel Ali. Indeed, [Dubai] aggressively promotes itself as the ultimate elite "Green Zone" in an increasingly turbulent and dangerous region.

Read that again. Not only are our taxpayer dollars being used to finance nuclear bouncers for the elite's uber-nightclub, but check out the stones on these people. They're using the image of a barricade in a bloody occupation ("Green Zone") as a marketing device!

As my friend Mr. Urbanus said to me in an email (emphases mine):
They have been "Global" for years. Through my years of research of banking, I found an interesting thread relating to the type of personality involved in all this, especially while reading numerous biographies of the big players, Warburg(s), Morgan(s), Rockefeller(s), Rothschild(s), Getty, Harriman, Morgenthau, et al, is that these people have no loyalty to being human or to the community they live in. Their loyalty is to money and power in itself. They will destroy, ruin, or kill any one or thing in their way to their rotten goals. The people alive currently pursuing the same rotten goal, are no different. Due to the age of mass media, they have carefully crafted their image to look like ordinary people. The people running Halliburton for instance consider themselves to be elite, and above the rabble. These people are dark in deed [sic - intentional?]. I always laugh at the politicians or career government and corporate bureaucrats trying to mimic them.

While I at times find his language hyperbolic, I think he has got this exactly right. I would like to point out, however, that we are all complicit in the enabling of this nightmare. How many of us "common" people chase sea cruises, spend hard-earned dollars on "vacations" in ritzy atmospheres, worship at the altar of "status?" We look up to these people. We enable them, bloat their egos, mask their shame. We buy diamonds, minks, SUVs.

I had a layover in Dubai 20 years ago, and I too was naively impressed with the (much smaller then) "jewel in the desert." It was real shiny, and had an impressive array of duty-free electronics, jewelry, and other toys. I even bought a state-of-the-art calculator/computer that I had not seen before (it was stolen from me in Kennedy Airport, so I didn't even get through the manual.)

So I am aware of the hypnotic nature of this tragic consumerism, and I sympathize. But I do not excuse.

I titled this post "The Fool's Endgame" for a reason. The "fools" are the elite, who are flocking to exotic gated communities and resorts which are (mercifully, for their souls) out of the reach of the "useless eaters" of the world. They feel they deserve this hyper-exotic life, and the rest of us exist to fuel it, to labour for them and to agree that our Earth is merely a "resource" to be exploited. Why, even ecologists unquestionably use the term "natural resource" when speaking of preservation.

We all buy the narrative. We think that we just haven't "made it" into the "big-time" - yet. Only the "best" make it, after all, so it'll be my fault if I don't. Better try harder, work more, The "endgame" is to make it.

We are fools along with the ones who are dancing like it's 2099. Because if we keep this up, the Earth is going to go all spasmodic on our ass.

If the water levels rise as a result, I don't think Disney-on-Dubai is going to be the place to be hanging out. I'm just sayin'.


Glen Greenwald over at has a post aptly titled "Dick Cheney's warped vision of the world" (h/t, once again, to Crooks and Liars.) He quotes copiously from the veep's AIPAC speech this week, which is quite the glittering display of boo boo batshit nuttiness, as well as Richard Hofstadter's 1964 Harper's essay The Paranoid Style In American Politics. That is worth a read as well, and it leaves one wondering: And we're still dealing with this shit?

There really is nothing to add to Glen's comments, as I have posted on Danger Dick's paranoia last month here and here.

Oh, well, OK - this quote from AIPAC speech, just to dress up this post with a little drama:
An enemy that operates in the shadows and views the entire world as a battlefield is not one we can fight with strategies used in other wars. An enemy with fantasies of martyrdom is not going to sit down at a table for negotiations.

Ooga booga, Dick.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bush's Nixonian "Massacre"

Gonzales Admits "Mistakes"

I find it not a little bit delicious that these clowns have succeeded in pissing off US Attorneys across the land just as their little feifdom is falling apart. We may see some justice after all.

I know, I know - but I'm a little buzzed on an exceptionally fine vintage of Shadenfreude at the moment...

Update: Crooks and Liars has the clip of Gonzales'execrable excuse for a press conference up. His sudden stiff march at the "end" of the questioning says it all. The man's sweating.

The Universal Tactic

What do the following items all have in common?

  • James Dobson's "War on Christmas"

  • AIPAC and allegations of "anti-Semitism"

  • September 11th, 2001 and appeals to patriotism

  • Medieval feudalism

  • First, create a group identity, with "insiders" and "outsiders." In James Dobson's case, it is "christians" versus "secularists." AIPAC? "Jews" and "non-Jews." 9/11? "Americans" and "un-Americans." And as for feudalism, it's "our" kingdom versus that other gang that would loot and burn your villages if it weren't for "our" king's patronage.

    Next, "represent" the group.

    OK, we're finished here. The representatives of the "group" are now free to do whatever they like, and if anyone objects, they are automatically "outsiders" who "threaten" the group. They are Godless secularists, anti-Semites, terrorists, and barbarians.

    It's all very simple, really.

    How about we all cut out this group identity nonsense and behave like adults? It would absolutely castrate these greedheads.

    Withdraw NOW!

    Phoenix Women over at FireDogLake, in a post titled "Flustered Cluck," makes the case for immediate withdrawal. It is an ugly one, but that is all that is left. She quotes Evan Kohlman, who believes the opposite, but only has this to offer:
    We have to give people a reason to stop supporting al-Qaida. And the only way to do that is to punish the people who are harming them. We have to show that democratic forces can also hold up justice. Right now, democracy for Iraqis amounts to Shiites in control of the police force and running everything. The things that might convince Sunnis to move back in the other direction would be a real step at trying to reform the Iraqi police force, the Interior Ministry, and try and bring some of the individuals in those places, which have committed gross crimes, including crimes on the scale of Saddam Hussein, to justice.

    To which Phoenix Woman aptly observes:
    …but of course he doesn't propose to show how all of this can be done — probably because he knows that it CAN'T be done.


    But Kohlman is probably right about this:
    If we withdraw from Iraq right now, there's no doubt what will happen. First there's going to be a war for control of Baghdad and then once Baghdad is ripped to the ground, the battle is going to spread across Iraq. It could potentially be like Rwanda. Right now, hundreds of people are being killed each month, which is awful and horrifying in itself. Imagine if that figure was 100 times bigger. Also, if we withdraw, a widespread war is going to be entirely our responsibility. It's easy to say it's Iraqis killing Iraqis. But nobody else is going to see it that way. Everyone is going to affix blame to us. We will ultimately cause a situation that forces us to reinvade Iraq and create even more casualties. It's an awful Catch 22.

    Catch-22, indeed. But let's look at the core of his argument, really:
    Also, if we withdraw, a widespread war is going to be entirely our responsibility... Everyone is going to affix blame to us.

    Um, Evan - whether we withdraw or not that bloody mess is entirely our responsibility. Whether or not we can "respond" to this "responsibility" is irrelevant. The crime has been committed, and we must accept the shame in all humility (hah! A "humble" U.S. - not very likely). "Everyone is going to affix blame on us." Ya think? Awww - poor, poor us. Whatever will we do? Accept the truth? We can't handle the truth, it seems.

    If we don't put the murderous bastards who started this occupation with neocon dreams in prison, then we are all complicit. More so than we already, unavoidably, are.

    Filibuster For Peace

    I just signed this, because Arthur asked me to (h/t Nicole at Crooks and Liars.)

    Has 9/11 Broken Us?

    I avoid television. To me it has become an even greater nightmare of propaganda than has been predicted by broadcasting critics and dystopian sci-fi writers who have been warning us since the early days of radio. But SilentPatriot at Crooks and Liars has posted a segment from 60 Minutes last night which is a rare departure from the disinformation mill, and it just left me ill with shame.

    The story is bad enough - it exposes the abject depravity in our abandoning Iraqis who, however misguided, cooperated with and helped the United States military in the execution of our criminal and illegal occupation. Watch the whole thing. Here, however, I want to highlight one aspect that has graver implications for Americans - without diminishing the tragedy of the main story.

    After learning from former Assistant Secretary of State Julia Taft that the Ford administration absorbed over 100,000 Vietnamese refugees in an eight-month period after the fall of Saigon, the correspondent confronted our current Assistant Secretary Ellen Sauerbrey with these numbers. Sauerbrey insisted that we cannot process more than around 2,000 Iraqi refugees this year. Why? he asked. What has changed?

    Wait for it... 9/11. Yes, "Homeland Security" concerns have clogged the pipes so much that we cannot even do the right and moral thing by these people even if we wanted to. Note that there was widespread opposition to the Vietnamese refugees until after they arrived and our xenophobic tendencies were mollified by their humanity. So most Americans probably still don't want "those people" today, so it would require the kind of leadership as demonstrated by the otherwise execrable President Ford in order to do it again.

    But now we have an excuse now - 9/11. 9/11! 9/11! 9/11!

    Will we ever shake the fictions we have adopted since that infamous crime (which may never be solved)? Or has it utterly broken the back of the United States?

    Retired General Paul Eaton on the message to potential allies:
    "...if you throw your lot with the United States, they'll use you for a while and then they will – they'll just cut you off."

    This is what we have become. This is what we deserve.

    Monday, March 12, 2007

    Sending The Injured Back Into Battle

    Salon via Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars:
    As the military scrambles to pour more soldiers into Iraq, a unit of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga., is deploying troops with serious injuries and other medical problems, including GIs who doctors have said are medically unfit for battle. Some are too injured to wear their body armor, according to medical records...

    Lessee - Walter Reed scandal, the stain on the United States from torture and abuse, crass and criminal resource theft, the murder of innocents, the burgeoning and destructive costs of Empire, other things I am too weary to mention, and now this disgusting development.

    How many of these huge issues would be mitigated if we Get. Out. Now.

    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Pentagon Insider Verifies U.S. Ambitions

    There is a remarkable interview over at Truthdig with retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwaitkowski, a former Pentagon worker who verifies what is being said here and elsewhere about U.S. ambitions in the Middle East. Thank you to Mike's Blog Roundup over at Crooks and Liars.

    The interview is about a half-hour long, and well worth listening to - Truthdig also has the transcript.

    Every American who has any vestige of commitment to government of, by, and for the people need to hear this. They need to see just how far out of our hands the mighty machinery of power that we have funded has fallen. That is our military, and it has been criminally hijacked to a degree which just may be too far gone to do anything about anymore.

    "I think we just need to wake up and see what’s being done, and then we need to decide if we want to be a part of it. It’s like that old thing, I’m not a child of the 60s, but you’re either working to fix the problem or you are the problem." So says Karen towards the end of this interview.

    (BTW - This is the first I've heard of four permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.)

    Again, listen or read the whole thing. Here is what I want to highlight (edits and emphases are all, of course, mine).
    These [neocons] had an agenda. In fact, one of the things that I did learn as a result of having my eyes opened in that final tour in the Pentagon is that neo-conservatives, their foreign policy is very activist, you could say that’s a nice way to say it, very activist, it’s very oriented towards the United States as a benevolent dictator, a benevolent guiding hand for the world, particularly the Middle East...

    ...Most of which, in fact, probably all of the Pentagon shared a neo-conservative world vision, which has a particular role for us, and that included the topping of Saddam Hussein, and it includes the toppling of the leadership in Tehran. These guys are...putting all the propaganda, they’re spreading stories, planting stuff in the media. They’re doing that to people in The Pentagon, the Civil Service core in The Pentagon...and...uniformed military officers...

    [Karen goes on to be quite specific in just how they manipulate our own military with false intel. It is fascinating.]
    ...While we as American citizens do not like being lied to, particularly being lied to into a stupid quagmire that makes no sense [Oh, it makes sense, all right, and Karen herself goes on to say why]...Congress doesn’t like being lied to. However, many in Congress, and certainly in this administration agree, and this is Democrats and Republicans, like the idea that we have gone into Iraq, we have built four mega bases, they are complete. Most of the money we gave to Halliburton was for construction and completion of these bases. We have probably, of the 150,000, 160,000 troops we have in Iraq probably 110,000 of those folks are associated with one of those four mega bases. Safely ensconced behind acres and acres of concrete. To operate there indefinitely, no matter what happens in Baghdad, no matter who takes over, no matter if the country splits into three pieces or it stays one. No matter what happens, we have those mega bases, and there’s many in Congress and certainly in this administration, Republican and Democrat alike that really like that. Part of the reason I think that we went into Iraq was to reestablish a stronger foothold than we had in Saudi Arabia, but also a more economical, a more flexible, in terms of who we want to hit. If you want to hit Syria, can you do it from Iraq? Of course you can. And now you can do it from bases that will support any type of airplane you want, any number of troops in barracks. I mean we can do things from Iraq. And this is what they wanted. So, yeah, we don’t like being lied to. But quite frankly, many people in the Congress, and certainly this administration, when they call Iraq a success, they mean it, and this is why.

    We’re in Iraq to stay...

    ...They are illegal bases, okay. But yes, they’re gonna stay, absolutely, they’re gonna stay. And I’ll tell you, there are guys that have been with this administration for awhile, people, in fact one of the guys was an Air Force General...[Jay Garner]...gave an interview in Government Exec Magazine, February 2004, he said “we will be in Iraq, and the American people need to get with this program, we will be in Iraq like we were in the Philippines for anywhere from 20 to 30 more years. That’s the time frame that we’re looking at. And that is the life span of the bases that we’ve constructed there. Yeah, we are not leaving these bases, and a Democratic president, I don’t care who they are, will keep those bases there. They will justify them and they will use them and we love that. We love it. So it’s not about what the American people think is right or wrong, it’s not about if we got lied to, what matters is, they did what they wanted to do, and as Bush says, and as Cheney says, “it’s quite the success.” And this is very frightening. Because none of this has ever been admitted to the American people, it’s only been hinted at by people that know. And of course the facts speak for themselves. The facts are, we are in Iraq, we have the finest military installations in the world, the newest military installations in the world, and we’re not leaving them. We’re not turning them over to a Shiite government, we’re not turning them over to a Sunni government, we’re not turning them over to a Kurdish government. We’re not doing that. They are American bases. We’ve got our flag there. And this is kind of the way they used to do things, I guess back in the Middle Ages. Maybe the Dark Ages. A king decided he wanted to go do something, he went and did it. And this is George Bush. We call him an elected president. I mean, he’s operating much as kings have operated in the past...

    ...The number of soldiers being killed will probably actually reduce in many ways because we will withdraw to our bases and we will not interface with Iraqis who hate us. This idea of what they’re doing right now, this so called three-block program, let’s meet more Iraqis so they’ll like us, that’s totally for show. The more Iraqis meet us, the more they hate us. So I actually do think though, over time, fewer Americans will die, and look how easily, look how easily this country has accepted the loss of those 3,200 soldiers that have died...and America has eaten it up, we have not complained one bit. They’re spread out over 50 states, hey, it’s no big deal. So I think we can certainly, as a country, accommodate future deaths and I think the death rate will drop. The problem is, it’s immoral, it’s illegal, it engenders hatred for Americans, contempt for Americans. It makes every American in the world a target for terrorism. It’s just plain wrong, it’s unconstitutional. I mean, there’s a lot of problems with it. Dead Americans [or dead Iraqis - mjp], unfortunately doesn’t seem to be the problem for most of us, which is a shame. We don’t like looking at ugly people, I will say that. And we’re seeing a lot of folks come back pretty deformed, mentally and even more obviously physically, deformed from their experiences in Iraq. And I think that could, that might give, I hate to say give hope, but realize the real moral price that we’re paying for this, that that can help. But quite frankly, I have no hope of us leaving Iraq. I think the intention was for us to put bases there, to stay there, operate militarily from there. And I think that’s what we’re going to do, Democrat, Republican, Independent, I can’t imagine anybody but Ron Paul, if you elect Ron Paul as president, those bases will be closed down. Otherwise…

    JOSH SCHEER: Or Dennis Kucinich.

    KAREN KWIATKOWSKI: Or Kucinich, there you go, Kucinich would do it too. So these are the guys we are able to elect, but chances are, I hate to say, the machine is not behind these men. So yeah, we got a problem. ..I’m pessimistic that any single American can do much to prevent what seems to be going to happen here, attacking Iran and also this terrible thing we’ve done to Iraq which I think will continue to go on for many years. It will fester, fester for many years...

    Karen Kwiatkowski goes on with many interesting observations regarding the "war on terror" that are well worth reviewing. Please go and read the whole thing.

    Saturday, March 10, 2007

    Firedoglake Posts On Peak Oil

    I'm glad to see this showing up on this popular blog site, fresh after picking up who knows how many new readers following their awesome performance during the Libby trial.

    Hugh at

    Living Religion VI: Deconstruction And The Ecstacy Of The Aporetic Oscillation

    ["Aporetic oscillation" is an irreverent coinage of mine, based on the term "aporia," and I hope I will be able to adequately define it in this post.]

    I have found that deconstructionism, when seriously applied, is the closest that thought, the intellect, can come to the sacred. I cannot say whether or not this is only true for me or those who, like me, are thinking-oriented - but as I have discussed in earlier posts in this series I am of the opinion that a large portion of our experience is dominated by the action of thought. So I am inclined to think that my experience with deconstructionism is of a universal nature.

    Deconstruction was born from the scrutiny of text, and seems to retain this primary assignation in most attempts to define it. I, however, cannot see a whole lot of difference between text and thought itself - the former merely being a "snapshot" of the latter. (Of course - to continue this analogy - it is much easier to scrutinize a photograph for detail than the passing scene, so that would go quite a ways towards explaining this, but I feel that if one is nimble enough, then the passing scene can be effectively scrutinized as well.) My (hardly original) contribution to this struggle to define is to merely point out that deconstructionism itself is an exercise in shrugging off all definitions. To understand that is all the "definition" one needs to come to grips with its nature.

    I would like to highlight once again the relationship between thought and text, because to do so is to go to the very heart of why I find deconstructionism such a leap in the maturation of the intellect. I find that critics of this school of thought have a belief not only in fundamental truths, but that these "truths" are resident in the mind, and it is only language which distorts them. It is appalling and unsettling to these believers to strip away this vestige of authenticity in the human psyche. There is text, which is derived from language, which is derived from thought, as it goes, and then the rather specious leap that this relationship continues in the sense that thought is "derived" from being itself, which is where true authenticity lies. I submit that there is no relationship at all between thought and being, and that it is within this logistical gap between the two that mystery lies.

    As I have established that deconstructionism is applicable only to thought and its by-products, then I hope that I can here come to the elusive "definition" of the term by the useful circumscription that it cannot be applied to the "problem" of being. Being cannot be thought about, it can only be revealed, and since thought is the great obscurer of truth, and since deconstruction is the great slayer of the fictions of thought, so then I hope the reader can understand why I find it such a fundamental tool in the revelation of being. (Of course, this is a proposition of logic - thought - and as such is utterly meaningless and quite deconstructible in and of itself - using "being" in a chain of logic is easily discreditable, so please spare me any of that. It is personal corroboration of the fact that allows me to dangle it out there so, personal corroboration which I again encourage the reader to engage in themselves before thinking they "understand" any of this - lest the sophomoric dismantle your logic. These are all merely words!)

    An "aporia" is what results when thought is deconstructed, and "aporetic oscillation" (my phrase) is the resultant state of grace. I am here to tell you (of course you cannot and should not take my word for this) that it is visceral, that it has sensual qualities. I do not want to get too descriptive here, as that will only encourage a "concept" which will only be one more tiresome thing which must be deconstructed out of the way on the journey to revelation. For me, it is as if all of my neurons are tingling at once, and this tingling, or thrill, is propagated throughout my entire body by my nervous system. I have no idea if this is a physiologically sound way of talking about it, but there it is. I like to call it the "philosopher's reward." Physical sensation aside, it is also accompanied by the sense of an alert and innocent mind, and the world around me is as if new. It is quite ecstatic, and this is why I am inclined to equate it with spirituality and the revelation of being.

    And this is why, as I opened this post, I asserted that this is the closest that thought can come to the sacred.

    My last post (I hope) in the "Living Religion" series is un-glamorously called "Walking The Walk," in which I explore the practical implications of the sacred state of the "aporetic oscillation."