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Sunday, August 26, 2007

To Be Worn With Pride

Tinfoil Hat
Tinfoil hat courtesy of Digg.com

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

[snip]

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

[snip]

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


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


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

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


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

Friday, August 10, 2007

The New "A.B.B."

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

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

George Bush was elected anyway.

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

Monday, August 6, 2007

Arthur Sez: Smell The Coffee

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

[snip]

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

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Building A Home, Building A Life

skills for living

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

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

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Oh, The Irony

Fairy Dust


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

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

From commentor ANKOSS:
Has anyone done the math?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In freaking military vehicles, no less?

The Decaying Infrastructure Of Complex Society II

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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


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

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Barack Attack

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

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

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

Eff this infant and his rival.


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