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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.

[snip]

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"

Begone!
Begone!
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.

[snip]

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 Salon.com:
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!

Cheny/Bush

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

Dickwatch

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."
Mwahaha.
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

...in 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

Repetition

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...

[snip]

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...

[snip]

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 Amazon.com 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.

Ian:
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.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Let The Market Sort It Out


This shit really pisses me off:

FTC abandons net neutrality:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided to abandon net neutrality and allow telecoms companies to charge websites for access.

The FTC said in a report that, despite popular support for net neutrality, it was minded to let the market sort out the issue. [emphasis mine]
Oh, yea, the free market. It has served the public trust so very well lately, like in power and water, feeding the troops, security... oh, and the health industry.

If there is anything we should have burned into our collective DNA after this Treasury-robbing free-market-fest that has been the last six plus years, it is that the profit motive has absolutely no place in matters of public interest. Despite the purist ideological dreaming of libertarian philosophers, whereby the social Darwinism of the magical invisible hand solves all of humanities needs without all of that interference by gummint regulation, the fact remains that the profit motive is not an appropriate motive for basic human needs.

In an ideal world, no real human being would put money over the life of other human beings. Perhaps that is true in this, real, world - in which case it is clear that there are a lot of non-real human beings out there. Advocates of free-market-solves-anything libertarian thinking seem to proffer that somehow this "unnatural" greed would simply evaporate if the market became truly unfettered - implying that greed is somehow stoked by the resentment of the restraint of market.

Well, we've seen, recently, a lack of restraint which rivals the Gilded Age, and over one hundred years later the results are the same.

Net Neutrality is important because permitting the profit motive to guage the speed with which a public website or blog is accessible allows players to tweak the "prestige" of a site. If it's "fast," it must be more "professional" and "official" than that "dirty fucking hippie" website over there.

We've all suffered with what has happened with the corporate media, and recent laments over the loss of the Fairness Doctrine this past twenty years attest to that. Besides reviving some oversight of the public airwaves, it is extremely important that the people, through their goddamned representatives, exercise their responsibility for oversight of the public resource we call the Internet.

If you think things were bad right now, where do you think we'd be if these sites, along with all the others which are partially represented in the links to the right of this blog, had been relegated to slow-crawl, second- or third-tier status? The Aussie, the Mouse and their ilk would have dominated the conversation here the way they do on the television and radio which, while never having been particularly good mediums for truth, have grown conspicuously worse with the free market deregulation they have enjoyed these past decades.

Like I said, this shit really pisses me off.

Say No To Hillary

Michael Moore's Mad Mojo

Michael Moore

Well, this one is hard to believe, but I sorely want to believe it. Texan Josh Taylor spins a dizzying tale, and he swears that it's true [all emphases mine, and thanks to Mike's Blog Roundup at Crooks and Liars for pointing me to it]:
...As everyone knows there’s no more conservative state in the Union than here. And I don’t just live in Texas; I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Dallas isn’t some pocket of hippy-dippy behavior... It’s probably the only spot left in America where you stand a good chance of getting the crap kicked out of you for badmouthing the president.
So Josh goes to view Michael Moore's SiCKO in:
...a random mall in the mid-cities, where folks were likely to be just folks. As I sat down, right behind me entered an obligatory, cowboy hat wearing redneck in his 50s. He announced his presence by shouting across the theater in a thick Texas drawl to his already seated wife “you owe me fer seein this!”

Sicko started; the stereotypical Texas guy sat down behind me and never stopped talking. He talked through the entire movie… and I listened. The first ten to twenty minutes of the film he spent badmouthing Moore to his wife and snorting in disgust whenever MM went into one of his trademark monologues... Somewhere along the way, maybe at the half way point, right before my ears, Sicko changed this man’s mind. By the forty-five minute mark, he, along with the rest of the audience were breaking into spontaneous applause. He stopped pooh-poohing the movie and started shouting out “hell yeah!” at the screen.
This is remarkable. I really must see this movie. But it gets better:
...When the credits rolled the audience filed out and into the bathrooms. At the urinals, my redneck friend couldn’t stop talking about the film, and I kept listening. He struck up a conversation with a random black man in his 40s standing next to him, and soon everyone was peeing and talking about just how fucked everything is.

I kept my distance, as we all finished and exited at the same time. Outside the restroom doors… the theater was in chaos. The entire Sicko audience had somehow formed an impromptu town hall meeting in front of the ladies room. I’ve never seen anything like it.
I admire Moore's projects, but, really, I haven't thought much about their impact - after all, he's pretty openly partisan and a divisive character. I figured I'd mosey in to see his newest picture at my leisure. I mean, I'm as liberal as you can get, and I do love dry policy crap, but the health industry? Now that's dry stuff. Not to mention the biggest windmill that Moore has taken on yet. But, I really have to see this movie:
...The black gentleman engaged by my redneck in the restroom shouted for everyone’s attention. The conversation stopped instantly as all eyes in this group of 30 or 40 people were now on him. “If we just see this and do nothing about it,” he said, “then what’s the point? Something has to change.” There was silence, then the redneck’s wife started calling for email addresses...
Holy crap. What is this, a NORML conference?
Suddenly everyone was scribbling down everyone else’s email, promising to get together and do something… though no one seemed to know quite what. It was as if I’d just stepped into the world’s most bizarre protest rally, except instead of hippies the group was comprised of men and women of every age, skin color, income, and walk of life coming together on something that had shaken them deeply, and to the core.

In all my thirty years on this earth, I have never ever seen any movie have this kind of unifying effect on people. It was like I was standing there, at the birth of a new political movement...
If Sicko truly has this sort of power, then Michael Moore has done something beyond amazing. If it can change people, affect people like this in the conservative hotbed of Texas, then Sicko isn’t just a great movie, seeing it may be one of the most important things you do all year.
And I have never read a review like this before, either. If this Josh fellow is not bipolar or not on the upside of a manic/depressive cycle, then I really really must see this movie.

I hope one of my friends with a job will spring for the tickets and popcorn...

(The review is really good - although I've quoted extensively from it, the full text is definitely worth a read. Go do it.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Superior Choice

Whole Earth

Joe Bageant writes eloquently on the Obvious Emergency that is being downplayed by the elites:
Those pagans who allowed themselves to feel and not just intellectualize about the earth's condition, and those scientists who did not require computer modeling to do simple subtraction, recognized that these are the most challenging of times in human history, "challenging" being a polite term for the fact that that humanity is gonna die off big time, if not sooner, then later. Call it the secular version of The End Times.

But not much later, in light of the brief span Homo sapiens hath shat, frolicked, killed and exceeded their MasterCard limits upon the earth, which is less than a second in geological time. Already we are on the way out because we did not have the common sense of lizards, which lasted tens of millions of years longer without so much as a calculator, much less computerized eco models.

[snip]

When forced to look at catastrophe on this order of magnitude, we either go numb in shock or look in delusion to something bigger, or at least something with more grandeur than Mother Nature flushing humanity down the toilet. Otherwise, one must accept the both ugly and the weirdly beautiful prospect of oblivion. Meanwhile, we begin too late to "make better choices." Grim choices that do nothing but postpone the inevitable, which are called better ones and sold to us to make ourselves feel better about our toxicity. Burn corn in your gas tank. Go green, with the help of Monsanto. But not many can be concerned even with the matter of better choices...

Still, there is choice available, even a superior choice -- the moral one. Accept the truth and act upon it. Take direct action to eliminate human suffering, and likewise to
eliminate our own comfort. We can say no to scorched babies in Iraq. We can refuse to drive at all and refuse to participate in a dead society gone shopping. We can quit being so addicted to the rationality and embrace the spirit. Rationality simply turns back on itself like a mobius strip. Too much thinking, too much cleverness on the monkey's part leads it to believe it can come up with rational solutions for what ration itself hath wrought. [emphasis mine]
That last bit is very Krishnamurtian. It is precisely our ability to be so clever which has enabled us to exploit our envirnoment beyond the bounds of its ability to replenish (which, realistically, boils down to the rate at which the energy of the sun enters our ecosystem.) It is cleverness unbounded, and it is profoundly foolish not to see that this cleverness is always destructive without the temperance of respect for that which brings us into being in the first place.

A moral choice. Al Gore last Sunday:
This is not a political issue. This is a moral issue, one that affects the survival of human civilization. It is not a question of left versus right; it is a question of right versus wrong. Put simply, it is wrong to destroy the habitability of our planet and ruin the prospects of every generation that follows ours.
Back to Joe:
All the green energy sources and eating right and voting right cannot fix what has been irretrievably ruined, but only make life amid the ruination slightly more bearable. Species gluttony is nearly over and we've eaten the earth and pissed upon its bones...

So we postpone transformation through truth, and stick with what has always worked -- empire and consumption. And we twiddle our lives away thorough insignificant fretting about mortgages and health care and political parties and pretend the whole of American life is not a disconnect. Hell, all of Western culture has become a disconnect. Somebody needs to tell the Europeans too; progressive Americans give them entirely too much credit for the small positive variation in their cultures and ours. We both get away with it only so long as the oil and the entertainment last.
Ah, yes. This, in fact, is the only place where morality even has a chance to raise its voice: After "the oil and the entertainment" have dried up. Otherwise, we are too gassed-up and amused to really consider morality in our life.

Morality is not adhering to accepted social norms or to the delicate sensibilities of civilization. That is mere contract-making. Morality is not obsessive attention to what constitutes acceptable manifestations of sexuality - that is adolescently masturbatory on a popular scale, and I place that under "the entertainment."

What is morality? As Krishnamurti might have put it, morality only comes into being when all other activity stops.

Monday, July 2, 2007

You're Not Putting Our Boy In The Fuckin' Can

Cheny/Bush


Christy here and here.
Jane here.
Marcy here:
Well, George did it. Made sure that Scooter wouldn't flip rather than do jail time. He commuted Libby's sentence, guaranteeing not only that Libby wouldn't talk, but retaining Libby's right to invoke the Fifth.

This amounts to nothing less than obstruction of justice.
I'm thinking that this administration does not want to piss these formidable women off.

Update: I like what Kung Fu Monkey has to say (all emphases mine). First, this:
This just hammers home my realization of what the Cheney Administration -- and yes, damn you this is the first time I've indulged in that neologism, and the first time I think it perfectly appropriate -- what the Cheney Administration has discovered. They have found the "exploit" within the United States Government. As I watched Congressmen and Senators stumble and fumble and thrash, unable to bring to heel men and women who were plainly lying to them under oath, unable to eject from public office toadies of a boot-licking expertise unseen since Versailles, it struck me. The sheer, simple elegance of it. The "exploit".
I forgive the Kung Fu Monkey for his apparent prior delicacy on this "Cheney Administration" business.
We are faced with utterly shameless men. Cheney and the rest are looking our representatives right in the eye and saying "You don't have the balls to take down a government. You don't have the sheer testicular fortitude to call us lying sonuvabitches when we lie, to stop us from kicking the rule of law and the Constitution in the ass. You just don't. What's beyond that abyss -- what that would do to our government and our identity as a nation -- terrifies you too much. So get the fuck out of our way."
"Oh, and by the way, go fuck youself." I think he's caught the Cheney character quite eloquently with that quote.

OK, let's see the testicles, Oh Legislative Branch. They are beating the shit out of the Judiciary, well and truly.

Dickwatch: "That Little Smile"

Cheny/Bush
AP Photo
Gellman & Becker again in the WaPo:
...Dan Quayle recalled the moment he learned how much his old job had changed. Cheney had just taken the oath of office, and Quayle paid a visit to offer advice from one vice president to another.

"I said, 'Dick, you know, you're going to be doing a lot of this international traveling, you're going to be doing all this political fundraising . . . you'll be going to the funerals,' " Quayle said in an interview earlier this year. "I mean, this is what vice presidents do. I said, 'We've all done it.' "

Cheney "got that little smile," Quayle said, and replied, "I have a different understanding with the president."

[snip]

In a bunker beneath the East Wing of the White House, Cheney locked his eyes on CNN, chin resting on interlaced fingers. He was about to watch, in real time, as thousands were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

When the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, "There was a groan in the room that I won't forget, ever," one witness said. "It seemed like one groan from everyone" - among them Rice; her deputy, Stephen Hadley; economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey; counselor Matalin; Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby; and the vice president's wife.

Cheney made no sound. "I remember turning my head and looking at the vice president, and his expression never changed," said the witness, reading from a notebook of observations written that day. Cheney closed his eyes against the image for one long, slow blink.
No doubt nurturing an inner "little smile," by my lights.

Wikipedia, on a report by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), on which Big Dick was a signatory:
Section V of Rebuilding America's Defenses, entitled "Creating Tomorrow's Dominant Force", includes the sentence: "Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor"
Hawaii, November 2004:
"We are standing just a few miles from Pearl Harbor, the site of a sudden attack ... Three years ago, America faced another sudden attack,"
Said the man with "that little smile."

[Emphases all mine.]

Now that it's all but definite that his consigliere is going directly to jail, one can imagine, or at least hope, that The Dick is feeling the heat. Even though it's highly unlikely that the Scooter will rat him out, it's still one more body to add to the piling-on of Vice President Richard "The Dick" Cheney. Feel free to jump on!


Update: Son of a bitch. Bush commutes Libby's sentence.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Surveillance Society


This, from Raw Story:
...In a scene eerily reminiscent of Orwell's dystopian vision of 1984, loudspeakers in one small-town center in northern Britain scold anyone they catch engaged in “anti-social behaviour,” including littering, drunkenness, or fighting.

[snip]

The “speaker cam” may be only the first in a row of new surveillance techniques to emerge in the British public sphere... police and officials are discussing the widespread installation on pre-existing cameras of highly sensitive microphones that can detect “aggressive tones” based on the decibel, pitch, and speed of words spoken...

Citing a leaked memo from a January meeting of the Home Office, the London–based daily The Sun recently revealed that the government was also considering the installation of X-ray cameras in lampposts on public streets. “Detection of weapons and explosives will become easier” the memo read, but added bluntly, “Privacy is an issue because the machines see through clothing.”

...police in the county of Merseyside unveiled Britain’s most dramatic surveillance contrivance to date: a CCTV camera that flies. Propelled by helicopter-style rotors and directed either by remote control or pre-programmed flight plans, the nearly silent two-foot drone can be outfitted with thermal-powered cameras and loudspeakers.
This is chilling stuff, and remember that the echelons of the British government rub elbows with the same interests who have the attentions of our own, U.S., elite.

This is not tinfoil-hat - this is now.

John Anderton! You look like you could use a Guinness!