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Saturday, December 27, 2008

There's No Such Thing As Clean Coal... Or Clean Solutions

TVA Spill
Image from
OK, this one hurts:
A coal ash spill in eastern Tennessee that experts were already calling the largest environmental disaster of its kind in the United States is more than three times as large as initially estimated, according to an updated survey by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Officials at the authority initially said that about 1.7 million cubic yards of wet coal ash had spilled... [b]ut on Thursday they released the results of an aerial survey that showed the actual amount was 5.4 million cubic yards...

A test of river water near the spill showed elevated levels of lead and thallium, which can cause birth defects and nervous and reproductive system disorders, said John Moulton, a spokesman for the T.V.A., which owns the electrical generating plant, one of the authority’s largest.
While I feel personally stung by this desecration of our common environment, my heart goes out especially to those who are immediately displaced and proximately injured by this outrage.

This aspect of the cataclysm - its utter desolation of arable soil and freshwater - is the worst part... and it is also the most visible to all with a beating heart.

I want to highlight another hurt - a minor note in the crescendo, but a hurt nonetheless. T.V.A. is a government-owned - as in "nationalized" - concern. Federally.

As noted in my last post, of a few weeks ago*, we're about to embark on an audacious common-works orgy that, I've noted, we need to do, and do robustly. With as little pushback from Chicagoan ideologues, and meritocrats in general, as possible.

This story is about an ecological disaster, a desecration of the commons, done by the goddamn Commons, and frankly this is the kind of message one would like to not have to cogitate over at this time. But we must. It is of no small note that this exceeds the inforgivable externality visited upon the northern Pacific coast by the Exxon Valdez.

Negative messaging about gummit-run concerns is not particularly helpful, at this time, in fostering the kind of boldness that is needed to make any stimulus attempt bear fruit. It is bad enough that the situation in and of itself will naturally dampen leftist braggadocio regarding the merits and demerits of profit-driven vs. common-good driven enterprises. It is more chafing to know that ideology-driven free-marketers will do anything they can to megaphone the public nature of the offenders' incorporation.

Get ready for the "But, what about T.V.A."? retorts.

A couple of credible ripostes:

Complex systems have catastrophic failures from time to time. When it is a common-good works, however, one does not have to crowbar the judiciary in order to compensate victims, etc.

Our government has been norquisted for the last 30-odd years. Hello, Katrina? Once we refocus on the virtue of common-works, this intentional strangulation of government efficacy will relax.


*I'm suffering from a motivational block brought on by post-election syndrome:

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

Saturday, December 6, 2008

He's Going For It

Obama FDR

Happy days are here again. Right?

I was pulling for this.* All of the economic gurus I respect made it clear that, regardless of the success of a New Deal-ish initiative, not doing one would be intentional "econocide." Also, I consider the human element of this venture infinitely more significant than any balance-sheet point of view, so the ruminations that follow shouldn't be interpreted as per se cautionary, but rather thoughts to give sense to possible further challenges we may face.

I am concerned that the new hustle and bustle of public works might mitigate, if not obliterate, the demand reduction for oil which has occurred of late. Will the new "WPA" drive the price of oil back to more realistic levels (north of what was seen this past summer)? How will this affect the economic pressure on the middle class - the very constituency for whom President-Elect Obama has pledged relief? How will it affect the costs of the works projects themselves?

I am also curious about whether, this time around, the value of our infrastructure investment will underwrite the debt we are valiantly pledging to incur. (This is less of a concern to me personally - as I've said the human-element trumps.) We are poised at a different point in the arc-of-history than we were the last time we did this. Perhaps some of this is hindsight, but it is pretty clear why the investments of that time produced such thunderous returns. It wasn't the prescient wisdom of the particular investments themselves, it is that they were introduced into such a nutritious culture of yet-to-be-exploited natural resources, in an environment that offered literal geographical room for growth.

I am not so sure we've got such a rich culture now. We can't just explode into space again this time. We have to figure out how we can have a sustainable economy - that is, one that does not depend on growth to remain viable, to me the most intellectually insulting aspect of accepted economic practice (which in fact, come to think of it, might be in itself partially responsible for the instinctive disdain most laypeople have for economics. Anyway...) This is qualitatively and quantitatively very different from that old sugar rush. I think that some (gasp!) real thought might need be applied here.

These are truly, and blushingly, interesting times.

*In my small, influence-those-around-me way (mostly in the pub). I was certainly much too busy absorbing the arcana of this tragic, but beautiful (in a crystalline sense) economic reckoning, to post any opinion on it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

McCain 2010?

Courtesy of Comedy Central'sIndecision 2008
Back in January, I wrote of McCain:
When he loses - loses - the first general election which he finally scrapped his way into, can we now, finally, put a fork in the Arizona Senator?...

Oh, and when Joe Lieberman loses the race with him as the VP pick... do we dare to hope that we can knock both of these asshats out of the Senate as well?
OK, I was was wrong about the Lieberman pick (he did want to pick him, though). But the question lingers - will we see the Senator renewing his charter in 2010, when he, along with around 34 of his colleagues, will be coming up for review?

Chances are good, I am rather despondent to predict. As was foreshadowed by his "gracious"* concession speech, John Sydney McCain III is fixin' to throw a barbeque for all us liberals, progressives, Socialists, and pal around-ers. We shall be treated to a saucy dish, folksy and contrite (McCain knows contrite), about how downright tickled he is that such a young and energetic former adversary bested him because, "after all, he's only doing what I wanted to do for America."

This of course assumes that President-elect Obama (delish typing that, as we are wont to point out) will be at that point delighting us all with his presidentin' (OMG - the Bushspeak lingers) - given that, I am certain that Senior John will be hanging ten on that wave for all he is worth.

* I quote "gracious" not to be facetious, but only to acknowledge the adjective which has been universally - and accurately! - applied by the "MSM" and the "new media".


I want to make a sober point regarding my flip quote above ("delighting us all with his presidentin'"). To my mind, "delight" is not of that shiny-object everything-is-okie-dokie what's-on-the-teevee-tonite kind of delight. Delight is seeing that real challenges are being realistically perceived, and that, with the consent of the public, actions are being drawn up, debated, and put into play.

Delight is the wrong word. This is excitement. Go USA!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Birth Of The Cool: Congratulations, President-Elect Barack Obama

Obama Blue Vote
Image by Marco Acevedo, via BAGnewsNotes
Now, the real work begins.

On a personal note (due more to voter turnout than result), my faith in the American people has been vindicated, and for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.

Now that felt good.

Random teevee observations (hey, I don't watch much):

Chris Matthews, after interviewing disgraced House Leader and rainmaker Tom Delay (why, oh why put this hollow soul on the teevee?): "Sir, I love the way you hate."

Bret Hume, upon receiving cookies from Karl Rove, "They look like Baccarat chips." Chris Wallace (paraphrasing), perhaps betraying his Everyman delusion, "I wouldn't know that." Bret looks slightly startled at this, and betrays a rather sheepish grin after repeating his thanks.

Eugene Robinson: "It feels... different... to be an American tonight."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

An Endorsement?

Reliable Oil Change

I love the Silly Season.

I was out on a walkabout with a fresh burrito on my mind (weather gorgeous today in Phoenix), and ran into this hacktastic sales slogan. Of course I have no idea about the political leanings of the proprietor of the Lube, but it must mean something besides "we give really reliable oil changes." Or not.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Eggman Goeth?

Drudge Elephant Song

caught my eye over at Crooks & Liars. Nicole highlights a post at Media Matters which notes (distilled to the point by moi, and emphasis is moine, er, mine):
The race is unrecognizable in terms of where the players are situated now and where they were five weeks ago... Now ask yourself: What role has the Drudge Report played in that burst of campaign movement? The answer, of course, is zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. His trademark flashing red lights have gone missing.

The dynamics of the campaign have irrevocably changed, and the mighty Drudge Report, the news site Beltway journalists trip over themselves to genuflect in front of, has been a complete bystander in the closing weeks of the 2008 campaign. [..]

The reason is simple. ...we're now in serious times... the Drudge Report doesn't do serious. The American public's attention has shifted from the campaign to the economy, and that's why the Drudge Report remains largely irrelevant to that unfolding story...
This non-news I would, normally, just give a pass, but this is personal.

I have a dear friend, a self-professed liberal - one of those "sellouts" we gnashed our teeth and tore our garments over during the Reagan-era Wall Street zombification of the True Believers (a sincere pedigree, indeed... how many of us weren't?) This man is a Deadhead, and to his eternal credit often was on his heels in shame during some of my more pious rants of the last two decades (for which I reserve my own share of shame, but that is beside this point). (This song still freaks him out, to this day.)

Oh, but when it comes to Drudge - whenever I iterate that I never link to that accursed fool and he rejoins with the smug information that he checks in with The Eggman daily, well, he's like a guy on the subway gripping a Wall Street Journal snootily eyeing some schmuck chugging through the New York Post. Like, he's gettin' the "inside." (Well, he is a broker.) Quite infuriating.

Hey, Jeff: The Drudge Report doesn't do serious. Hey now!

GD Bears

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Two Weeks Is Too Loooooooonnnnngggggg!!!

Shock Doc
Photo courtesy of stolen from The Shock Doc Show
I have successfully requested to be relieved of my Sandwich Artist duties for and on this coming Election Day. This will be one of the rare, scattered days in a given decade on which you will find the teevee on at my place.

I will be drinking.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cheery Words From Wolcott In These Difficult Times


In getting right to it, Let the Hieronymous Bosch Worm Dance Begin!:
...I don't want the Republican Party simply defeated in November, I want to see it smashed beyond all recognition, in such wriggling, writhing, anguished disarray that it can barely reconstitute itself, so desperate for answers that it looks to Newt Gingrich for visionary guidance, his wisdom and insight providing the perfect cup of hemlock to finish off the conservative movement for good so that it can rot in the salted earth of memory unmissed and unmourned in toxic obscurity.

I really don't think that's too much to ask, even in these frugal times.
It really is almost worth the ruination of Western civilization.

Seriously, though - even if this situation goes all "New-Deally" and the upward arc begins anew, these ideas, and their heirs, will be back again. Even if humankind felicitously breaks down into local, greeny, sustainable tribal units - well, the pursuit of wealth (which is more accurately characterized as the lust to be "betters") will decimate even these dulcet arrangements.

The question is - will enough hearts have been set right, proportionally speaking, to keep the greedheads busy at the docket, too busy to hawk their madness?

This hope amidst catastrophe, by the way, is why "they" say "we" hate America. Just remember that we are "hating" America, Inc. - not the America of the Enlightenment, the Constitution, the "of, by and for" America. You know, the real aspirational one.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Publicly Laughing Again

Jack is Acting

This sign was posted outside of my neighborhood pub, on the busy thoroughfare of Camelback Road, close to central Phoenix.

With AZ being a) John McCain's Senatorial turf, b) a Real Estate dependent economy, along with Senator John's multi-home memory problem, I find this especially hilarious.

Take the man down.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Well, Lookie Here

US Constitution

(I first considered using the beautiful Rousseau image that Words of Power used for their post, but this is an update to an earlier post on the Constitution.)

In an earlier post, I made some reference to what I consider imperfections in the U.S. Constitution, with the hope that the march of post-Enlightenment documents would continue to evolve as regards to "civil protections." I didn't go into details, nor will I here, but I will say that I consider the enshrinement of the "right to property" a problem.

In any case, it seems that Ecuador is blowing past me on this issue (thanks, Words of Power).
Ecuador's proposed constitution includes an article that grants nature the right to "exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution" and will grant legal standing to any person to defend those rights in court.


Art. 1. Nature or Pachamama
[Ed. - loosely translated as "Mother Earth"], where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.
Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the public organisms. The application and interpretation of these rights will follow the related principles established in the Constitution....
Read the details, the whole thing seems pretty extraordinary.

I'm liking the trends in America del Sur.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Ever Present Siege

US Constitution

Power flows from power.

A tautology, yes, but we all know this. Post-Enlightenment history is largely about wrestling down just where power is truly vested - are we satisfied with outcomes from Darwinian power-struggles, ceding authority to those with the ambition and wherewithal to grab the most marbles? The answer to that is an unequivocal "no" - while there are cynics with a conservative bent who accept the "power = power" tautology as is, the march of history shows that this is a highly unstable, and violent, arrangement. People get tired of cake, as it were, sooner rather than later.

(Jonathan Schell, in his excellent book, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People, argues that the horrible upheavals of the 20th Century are testaments to this.)

In short, the march of history led to the American Revolution and the penning of the U.S. Constitution, the penultimate* word on the Rule of Law over the Rule of Men.

Of course, The Ever Present Siege against enlightened ideas like this goes on. Even here in the United States of America (!), we are familiar - nay, downright comfortable - with the idea that the wealthy and the powerful (a redundancy in Capitalist America) have a bit more wiggle room when it comes to the application of the instruments of Justice. Sure, once in a while one of the big boys go down, but perhaps only after thoroughly and publicly stankifying his relationship with his colleagues.

Cynics may shrug, but these things require vigilance, or so I've been told.

Looks like our chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, is a shrugger (h/t Steve Benen at Crooks and Liars):
Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Tuesday that the Department of Justice would not pursue criminal charges against former employees implicated in an internal investigation on politicized hiring practices.

"Where there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing, we vigorously investigate it," Mukasey said in a speech at the American Bar Association. "And where there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime, we vigorously prosecute. But not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime."
He didn't say "power = power" - that would be indelicate - but that's what he means.

Keep it up, is all I can say. History shows that these fools will have their reckoning. It is sad, unfortunate and lamentable that so many will suffer on the road to that reckoning.

[*OK, I'm an optimist. One would think that after the shredding that my beloved Constitution has gone through, the next iteration, the next revolution, will produce an even more enlightened set of civil protections. And it will be the last word. And it will be reverently observed. Yea, right - The Ever Present Siege and all...]

Update:Looks like Ecuador is on it?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama Explained: Don't Worry, Be Happy


(I am, for the most part, refraining from overly-strident criticism of the Democratic candidate for the time being, since I would like to see him win. This, though, was too interesting to pass up on sharing.)

Joe Bageant has posted an email from a professed "high powered," anonymous political consultant, who offers his/her take on the ascendancy of Barack Obama.

It rings true, and is thusly all the more disturbing. (All emphases, etc. are mine.)
Inside a Democratic Party primary there is no demographic or political reason that a male first term African American senator from Illinois with an unorthodox name should come any where close to beating a white female senator, who happens to be the wife of the last Democratic President whose approval ratings are still above 70% with Democratic voters and who also happened to earn the endorsements of the substantial parts of the Democratic Party establishment.

The conventional analysis...
[credits Obama] with running an innovative and inspiring campaign that excited primary voters and brought many new and especially younger voters into the electoral process.
While this is certainly true, the "consultant" recognizes this as just as much effect as cause.
There is some truth to this analysis, but as a whole it misses the underlying social change in society that had already laid the groundwork for a possible Obama victory.
[S]he goes on to describe some of this dynamic with a thesis which credibly cites the transformation of American citizen to American consumer, and the consequent impact on American politics - or "post" politics. Go read the whole thing - the accuracy of this cynical proposition deserves a look-see.
In the post political world the candidates who can best thrive in it have tremendous appeal to the economic elites; these candidates thrive in a system that does not dwell on issues and will never ask the question, "who has power and why", but simultaneously creates a social and media environment of stupefying distractions while destroying traditional social mores (under-credited as a source of much social solidarity). This can only benefit their continued rule of that society.
This goes a long way towards explaining why the normally irresistible Leviathan of corporate media might was so toothless against this "out-of-the-mainstream liberal" candidate.

(The deconstructionist in me is attracted to the parenthetical non sequitur that "social mores [are] under-credited as a source of much social solidarity." This anonymous political consultant does not indicate which political party with which he or she is currently aligned, but I'm going to guess at Democrat. It seems to me that it would be a liberal who would feel the nagging urge to reflexively defend "social mores" right out of the blue, as it were. I could take it further and, given the rather dark assessment of the source of Obama's fortunes, posit that this person worked for Hillary. But that would be pushing it... Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to.)

The hair-raising, say-it-ain't-so bit comes at the end, though:
At the precise moment that the intellectual underpinnings of conservative free market ideas that have dominated politics for the past 30 years are crumbling across the globe. Obama calls for a post ideological and partisan world.

At the time when the American military industrial complex is despised around the world, he is a front man out of central casting which will buy it more goodwill and new room to maneuver in the first 15 minutes after being sworn in that John McCain could in the next 100 years.

His very presence, the color of his skin, the very strangeness of his name is the best guarantee of his betrayal of the expectations of the constituencies that will vote to elect him. Barack Obama is in short order a far more reassuring prospect for the continued dominance of the financial elite than another four years of neo-conservative rule which in an almost historically unique combination of greed, ill will, incompetence and stupidity have brought the country to the edge of disaster.
Ouch, and ouch.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

About That New Yorker Cover...

Jaw Drop
Courtesy of Bonnie Rockwaller
Amidst the spectacle of the media scrum churning over the whys, wherefores, and whatnots of the latest cover of The New Yorker cover satirically depicting the Obamas as terrists, I have not heard this pointed out, so I am here to fill a vacuum.

Subscribers and regular readers of The New Yorker tend to be a tad more sophisticated than your average Fox or CNN couch-potato. Elites and elitists, dare I say - capable of discerning this sort of medium-grade (OK, obvious) satire.

Splashing this "controversy" all of the media which is not The New Yorker exposes the cartoon to less discriminating eyes.

The hullabaloo is a self fulfilling clusterfuck.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Laughing Again

I wonder what motivated Mr. Schwarzenegger to adopt this point of view?
...And I always say that, uh, you know, better done, eh, well done, is better than well said.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Must. Laugh. In. Public.

Jack is Acting

I was just lurking through another great thread, as I regularly do, and had had me a brew-spew moment, damn the Pups. Only this "Pup" was David Iglesias, one of the US Attorneys who were forced to resign for Rovian political reasons. Mr. Iglesias is participating in an FDL Book Salon on his book, In Justice which, as Christie says, "lays out the evidence of this attempt to taint the US system of justice. "

David Iglesias is a funny guy.

David Iglesias in the comment thread:
Weh’s comments made me think of Col Jessup’s comments in “A Few Good Men” when he admitted on the stand, “You’re __damned right I ordered the Code Red.” Weh is a retired USMC Colonel. No disrespect intended, I have lots of Marine friends, it was a weird case of life imitating art…

emptywheel observes:
In more ways than one, huh? That’s a great analogy.
Well - I can only add: "Goddamned right it is!" From Wikipedia (as of today - ahem):
[Allen] Weh, chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, said said he complained in 2005 about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to a White House aid for Karl Rove, asking that Iglesias be removed. Then in 2006 Rove personally told Weh “He’s gone,” Rove said. Weh was dissatisfied with Iglesias due in part to his failure to indict Democrats in a voter fraud investigation. Weh followed up with, "There’s nothing we’ve done that’s wrong."
Um - as you were.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Food FISA Fight!

Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake
has alerted us to a coalition of bloggers and citizens concerned with the way the FISA battles are tilting in Congress (link on over to her post):
Enough is enough.

The deal that's been cut by the Democratic leadership to give George Bush everything he wants and grant retroactive immunity to the telecoms is an outrageous betrayal of the public trust. With the passage of this bill, we'll never be able to discover the extent of the lawbreaking that the Bush Administration and the telecos engaged in as they spied on American citizens.

So we're joining together with some strange bedfellows indeed -- the ACLU, the Break the Matrix folks (who did the money bombs for the Ron Paul campaign), and others we are in discussions with to go after the people responsible for this travesty. The ACLU has a press release here.
If you have a blog, you can join the fight.

Update: Simon Owens of Bloggasm has alerted me to a post he as done wherein he reports on his interviews with members of the food FISA fight coalition. It's interesting and very encouraging.

Update II: Well, it looks the deal went down. Thanks, Steny, Blue Dogs, Bush Dogs, just, well, dogs. Jane says we're Screwed, Blued, and Tattooed:
...We'll never know what happened. We'll never know the extent of the lawbreaking. That possibility will be gone forever...

We've now raised $207,573 $211,433 to exact a pound of flesh from Democrats who did this.
Here's to making a difference.

Update III: Will Obama weigh in?

Update IV: Oh, bollocks.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is Bug Juice The New Crude?

Bug Juice
Apparently we've created critters that take their nutrients and go straight to crude oil, without the inconvenient eras of incubation this normally requires. From the article:
...The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.
At the risk of being tagged a knee-jerk curmudgeon on this subject (heh), I predict a spike of interest in this before this shiny object goes the way of biofuels, for pretty much the same reasons. Sure, processing wood chips instead of corn removes the obvious stigma of food abuse, but bio is bio, with all of the attendant conservation-of-energy issues (per-annum solar, people!).

I would also like to explore where the, er, "surplus" carbon ends up in this process. Might be important...
Anything will do as long as it can be broken down into sugars, with the byproduct ideally burnt to produce electricity to run the plant.
Hmm... is this a clue?

A friend of mine emailed me this question:
Crazy, what if they get out, we end up with crude oil all over the place?
A fair question. I pointed out that the GM scientists probably took that into consideration... but then again, we've all seen Jurassic Park.

And then there's this...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Considered Appeal For The Abolition Of Superdelegates In The Democratic Primaries

Superman emblem
Courtesy of Sriram Krishnan

This latest article in the American Prospect (thanks, Jon), discusses ongoing Republican assaults on the natural voting rights chartered for this republic. It is a serious problem as it stands, and must be rectified, but if continuing efforts are successful, then meaningful input from the population into the direction and priorities of our government will be lost.

You can't call the cops on the cops. When the checks-and-balances of our government go wobbly (and they clearly have) the only recourse for American citizens is a robust opposition party, and the ability to elect them. Oh, and having a robust opposition party. (This can get a little Oroboros, as the two are necessary for healthy citizen participation in our government.)

Voter manipulation, happily, has a built-in fragility inasmuch as the people being disenfranchised by such shenanigans are likely to get a bit angry and restive in the long run. These people include (at least for now), the "opposition" party - the Democratic Party. As it looks that they are about to ride a tide of popularity into power (none too soon! - and a tide that is likely to swamp Republican voter manipulation, at least this time), one can reasonably imagine that many of these efforts will be swatted back. But that, of course, depends on just how "robust" the "opposition" party is these days.

While I will be thrilled on the day that President Barack Obama is sworn in (and I am banking on the sweet shadenfreude of Election Night in November), let's not kid ourselves. Many Most of the Democratic party and its current crop of candidates, including Obama, are still way too in-the-sway of corporate influence. Howard Dean, Obama and many of the roots candidates across the nation are altering this dynamic with their stunning capture of small-money donations from the people.

This is a positive development. However - the superdelegate model that was injected into Democratic intra-party politicking in the 1970's only serves to weaken the "robustness" of the "opposition." It's very purpose was to put a "governor" in place to modulate the popular influence on the Democratic candidate - ostensibly to preserve Democratic "electibility" - but really, how cynical is that about "small d" democracy?

To the proponents of the superdelegate system (they sure seem to be quiet, BTW - they all just act like the system was signed off on in 1776 or 1787), "robust" equals "radical."

Well, radical is in the eyes of the beholder, and the superdelegate system represents a bunch of folks who are overly-invested in the status quo. We the people are becoming increasingly disturbed at the status quo, and vox populi is becoming more at odds with vox superdelegates - an entirely predictable state-of-affairs as the very creation of the system was intended to temper the public voice.

It is wonderful that the "opposition" party will in all likelihood be victorious come November. Now let's work on making it a more "robust" opposition party.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

They're Cousins!

This is just too funny, May it go magnificently viral.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Is Ben Stein Really This Stupid?

Ben Stein

Short answer? Yes.

Ben bloviates in the New York Times business section - "Running Out of Fuel, but Not Out of Ideas":
...But we have become addicted to gasoline. (I, of course, include my own bad self.) Even if we all bought smaller cars, we would need gasoline and lots of it — although a great deal less than what we use now. And while I have previously said, and I believe, that we are in a temporary price bubble, the prognosis for gasoline is grim in the long run...

...What are we going to do? If there were another oil embargo, we would be in real trouble. If Mexico fell into chaos, if Venezuela stopped sending us oil, there would be extreme hardship.

Beyond that, what if we are close to peak oil — that point at which we have pumped out more than half the oil on the planet? What if supply slips and demand continues to skyrocket, as they are already doing, and these trends continue indefinitely? What if the world has a bitter fight over its remaining oil? Even if this battle is fought with money and not guns, we are at a disadvantage with our pitiful currency and our budget and trade deficits.
Oh, yay. Conservative blockhead acknowledges Peak Oil - but then...
So, what to do? First, we do not kill the geese — the big oil companies — that lay the golden eggs. We encourage them and cheer them on to get more oil. They need incentives, not hammer blows.

BUT most of all, we treat this as a true crisis. As my pal Glenn Beck, the conservative commentator, says, we need a new moon-shot mentality here. We need to turn coal into oil into gasoline, to use nuclear power wherever we can...
Oh, please. "Glenn Beck" and "moon-shot" in the same sentence.
...and to brush aside the concerns of the beautiful people who live on coastal pastures (like me). And we need to drill on the continental shelf, even near where movie stars live. This must be done, on an emergency basis. If we keep acting as if the landscape were more important than human life, we will make ourselves the serfs of the oil producers and eventually reduce our country to poverty and anarchy.
Did you just say "If we keep acting as if the landscape were more important than human life...", Ben? Why, yes you did. To Ben and his ilk, our planet, the mother and source of all life, is merely "landscape." And then he goes on...
...The hour is late. The clock of destiny is ticking out, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said...
Oh, no, you didn't paraphase Dr. King, did you?
Let’s roll.
Let's roll? Jumpin' bejeezus.

Head over here for a sanity check. The venerable James Kunstler:
...One of the basic differences between a child and an adult is the ability to know the difference between wishing for things and actually making them happen through earnest effort.

The companion belief to "wishing upon a star" is the idea that one can get something for nothing. This derives from America's new favorite religion: not evangelical Christianity but the worship of unearned riches. (The holy shrine to this tragic belief is Las Vegas.) When you combine these two beliefs, the result is the notion that when you wish upon a star, you'll get something for nothing. This is what underlies our current fantasy, as well as our inability to respond intelligently to the energy crisis...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Janet For VP?

Janet & Joe

Is Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona, positioning herself to be more palatable as the Democratic Vice President pick?
An executive order signed by Gov. Janet Napolitano has prompted state police to cancel a $1.6 million agreement with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and, instead, use the money to create a fugitive task force.

The move effectively stripped two squads of Sheriff's Office deputies from a statewide multiagency team designed to go after crimes dealing with human smuggling. It also took away Arpaio's ability to tap some of the squad members to supplement immigration sweeps at the state's expense.
The odious "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio is a notorious media grandstander. His hubris and reflexive hunger for attention could well make this a nationally visible spat, and that would serve to escalate the governor's name recognition nationally, which is, currently, puzzlingly low for a female governor of a largely conservative Southwestern state.

In addition, her pushback against the jingoistic Maricopa County sheriff could help burnish her progressive credentials, a side of her not exactly trumpeted in her gubernatorial runs in this marginally Red state.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fair And Balanced

You've seen this one (well, almost 7.5 million of you have so far).

Here's the riposte (/snark).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dark Landscape

Dark Landscape

Watch Bill Moyers talk with Philippe Sands on America's peculiar predicament of accountability (h/t Christy Hardin Smith at

There was a time that the very word "torture" evoked the chill of a dark landscape, the chill of the evil "other" - a territory so foreboding that one shrank back from even a prolonged gaze.

Now, we have found that we are not merely gazing at it, but we are exploring and mapping the edges of this black geography. It is becoming "familiar."

How long after this trek do we begin to populate the forbidden land, becomes its residents, its very landlords? Will the front doors of Our House make the creaking sounds of diabolical intent?

Perhaps we are at a turning point. Perhaps not.

It's In Our Hands

Earth Burns

Bill McKibben, scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, has something to say (via, h/t Mike's Blog Round Up):
The World at 350
A Last Chance for Civilization

By Bill McKibben

...All of a sudden it isn't morning in America, it's dusk on planet Earth.

There's a number -- a new number -- that makes this point most powerfully. It may now be the most important number on Earth: 350. As in parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

...NASA's Jim Hansen, submitted a paper to Science magazine with several co-authors. The abstract attached to it argued -- and I have never read stronger language in a scientific paper -- "if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm." Hansen cites six irreversible tipping points -- massive sea level rise and huge changes in rainfall patterns, among them -- that we'll pass if we don't get back down to 350 soon; and the first of them, judging by last summer's insane melt of Arctic ice, may already be behind us.

...It's like watching the tachometer edge into the red zone and knowing that you need to take your foot off the gas before you hear that clunk up front.

In this case, though, it's worse than that because we're... stomping on the gas -- hard. Instead of slowing down, we're pouring on the coal, quite literally. Two weeks ago came the news that atmospheric carbon dioxide had jumped 2.4 parts per million last year -- two decades ago, it was going up barely half that fast.

And suddenly, the news arrives that the amount of methane, another potent greenhouse gas, accumulating in the atmosphere, has unexpectedly begun to soar as well. Apparently, we've managed to warm the far north enough to start melting huge patches of permafrost and massive quantities of methane trapped beneath it have begun to bubble forth...

We're the ones who kicked the warming off; now, the planet is starting to take over the job.
Melt all that Arctic ice, for instance, and suddenly the nice white shield that reflected 80% of incoming solar radiation back into space has turned to blue water that absorbs 80% of the sun's heat. Such feedbacks are beyond history, though not in the sense that Francis Fukuyama had in mind.

...A few of us have just launched a new campaign,

...if this campaign is a Hail Mary pass, well, sometimes those passes get caught.

Hansen's words were well-chosen: "a planet similar to that on which civilization developed." People will doubtless survive on a non-350 planet, but those who do will be so preoccupied, coping with the endless unintended consequences of an overheated planet, that civilization may not.

Civilization is what grows up in the margins of leisure and security provided by a workable relationship with the natural world.
That margin won't exist, at least not for long, this side of 350. That's the limit we face.
(Excerpted, with my emphases - find the whole article at

I just have a couple of things to add to this. One, I think the well-intentioned efforts of McKibben's fall short of a "Hail Mary pass" - rather, I feel that they are imploring that humanity even muster one up... and, further, while very romantic, they are rarely caught.

Two - at 51 years old, I think my senior years are set to be mighty entertaining ones, and not in a good way. The microwave will probably be out of the game by then - will it be immoral of me to pop the corn the old-fashioned way? Alas, I think so...

Update: Tick tock...
Scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii say that CO2 levels in the atmosphere now stand at 387 parts per million (ppm), up almost 40% since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years...
Update II: It's Out Of Our Hands

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


This cheered me up some today (my bold):
...Were there only a big man with a big stick somewhere up there, I'd go back to the bedtime prayers of my youth and ask him to whack the shit out of George W. Bush and his corporate minions who have done more damage to this country in eight years than any thinking intelligent person could have imagined.

You wouldn't guess this from a former conservative who will never forgive himself for voting Bush into office two times. Only in the last couple of years has the ether finally started to wear off... how our ilk have consistently selected to leadership those who have the greatest capacity and willingness to bend us over and screw us the hardest without mercy or regret.

So why the about face? In short, it was a fortuitous immersion in the very bullshit conservative media shit storm of talk radio that finally convinced me that I was very much on the wrong track... Hour after hour, day after day, months into years. That kind of tiresome, repetitive exposure to "The Right" should long ago have solidly entrenched me on their side.

But something very different happened. The more I heard them talk, the more I realized what a disconnect I was observing between their lying bullshit and what I was observing around me. I was witnessing the general deterioration of the lives of hard-working people around me, simultaneously coming to see and know just how corrupt and evil are those we vote and depend on for leadership and security. Everything the talking heads on the right warned us about liberals and progressives never materialized. Most everything they promised would happen to our country in the honest capable hands of good conservative leadership never happened either...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Collapse, Or Suicide?

I have a highly-trained American mind.

As the jeers and howls rising from the gallery make clear, this is not a point on which to boast.

Normally, when economic matters are touched on (I will not say discussed) in the national conversation, the materials required rarely rise above the sophistication of a 64-color Crayola box.

Lately, we've dragged out the 128-color set, and things are heating up.

I recently watched a video of a one-hour lecture given by Elizabeth Warren of Harvard Law to an audience at UC Berkeley last June entitled "The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class." (h/t Mike's Blog Round Up and Corrente Wire).

Professor Warren presents some stark data demonstrating the economic fix that American families find themselves in after 30 years of the rise of the dual-income model. It's a great talk, as it begins by tingling the counterintuitive nodes, and ends with the "but of course" that signals a truly successful presentation. Block an hour and watch it yourself, but what I came away with is that while we find that "normal" families (two heads of household) enjoy greater income, the majority of that income is imprisoned by non-discretionary expenses. Consequently, they are so imprisoned.

In this post, I highlighted the national fantasy of wealth, and Warren's talk drove home just how fantastical it really is. I mean, really - even one so bitter about such matters as I am is taken aback. Did I mention that you should watch it?

Now, having a highly-trained American mind is useful in understanding these matters.

The American mind is trained to identify with the successful, and any attacks upon "the high life" are perceived as tyrannical impediments to My Personal Future Success. They are seen as advocacy for a model which is based on Keeping Everyone Down. They are un-American.

In a nutshell, that is it. That is why progressive income distribution is impossible here. It is traitorous, communistic... un-American to not be a capitalist and worship at the throne of success. Even the most progressive of lefty socialists, if they are to be considered a serious contender for public office and be allowed to even get close to the levers of economic policy, must go out of his or her way to toss paeons of idolatry to the American Dream. Which is, of course, to be successful.

America is in trouble, we can see that and say that. But what, really, would a "saved" America look like? Given the depth of the root of the tree that is American thought and identity, would a "saved" America even be America at all?

Joe Bageant (emphasis mine):
...A couple of weeks ago at a speaking engagement I asked the audience to raise their hands if they thought total collapse was the only catalyst that can bring meaningful change to America. Every hand went up.

I was struck damned near speechless. Three years ago when that question was asked, a hand seldom went up in the audience.

Something is afoot inside Americans, something no candidate dare talk about nor the media dare mention.
Afoot, indeed. Not to sound un-American, but it looks to me that in terms of the American identity, our choice is between collapse or suicide.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jeffrey Sachs Believes In Fairy Dust, Too

Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, was on Real Time with Bill Maher (h/t Crooks & Liars), and rather glibly pronounces:
...a small part of the Mohave Desert could provide more than half of the electricity needs of the United States without emitting any carbon dioxide, just using the solar power that's available...
Yes, all of that solar energy is just going to waste, baking sand. And it would have absolutely no effect on the climate whatsoever to begin diverting that energy to the vastly more important work of transportation and artificial climate control.

We humans clearly have a vast amount of humble pie to consume before we find our proper place on this planet. Need you add crow to the menu, sir?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Look Over There! Something Shiny!

Muzzled By FAA:
Air traffic controllers in the main tower of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport saw last night's bizarre spectacle of red lights flying across North Valley skies, but the Federal Aviation Administration won't let them talk to the media.


I'd like a rational explanation for these new lights, and soon -- because the media abhors a vacuum. And there are plently of people who will come out the woodwork to fill that vacuum with all sorts of ungrounded nonsense...
What Mr. Stern said.

For those of us who would prefer to avoid fantastical speculation (me), this is just stupid. Or rather, for those of us inclined towards donning the tin-foil hat (also me), it's quite ingenious. Regardless of whether this is some odd natural meteorological phenomenon or whatever, the optics of the guvmint refusing to permit "official" eyewitnesses to speak to the news media smacks of intentional public incitement.

The only two possible explanations that any reasonable observer can offer are that either there is really something to hide, or that some want us to think there is something to hide.

In light of recently observed behaviour, I'm inclined towards the latter position. Unless there is someone out there smarter than me who can point to a third option... and please keep in mind Occam's razor if you do.

Update: For those who might say that paranoia regarding government motivation violates Occam's razor, I would point out that in times like these, it makes perfect sense to keep the population distracted and unbalanced.

Friday, March 28, 2008

"Come on in! The free lobster buffet is straight ahead on the right."

Brilliant At Breakfast is, well, brilliant this morning (h/t Mike's Blog Roundup). Jill writes about the "next wave" of our rolling credit crisis - home equity loans - and closes with this "What's The Matter With Kansas?" observation (emphases mine):
Then the 1980's came along, and people watched Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous on television and got this idea in their heads that they could have everything that rich people had, even if they had to go into hock up to their eyeballs to get it. You could drive a luxury car by leasing it. You could have that extra bathroom by taking out an equity loan. You could have the trappings of the rich -- the bigass entry foyer with the chandelier, and the luxury cars and the multiple garages and the vacations in St. Barths -- and the fact that the rich could buy this stuff out of ready cash while ordinary Americans had to go into hock to do it never occurred to people.

And so the debt culture was born. Creative forms of debt allowed ordinary Americans to kid themselves that they were gaining entry into "the club" -- and now they too could look down on the poor and the "welfare queens", because those above them on the economic ladder were opening the doors and saying, "Come on in! The free lobster buffet is straight ahead on the right." Except that there was no free lobster buffet, and the debt culture was designed not to enrich the lives of the middle class, but to anesthetize it to what was really going on -- a massive transfer of real wealth to the richest Americans, hidden by the debt being made available to the middle class.

And now the bills are coming due and Americans are only now realizing that the free lobster buffet is off limits to them. But instead of blaming the people who made the debt available and helped them get in over their heads, they're still pointing their fingers down the economic ladder and preparing to elect another Republican president who will continue to screw them over seven ways to Sunday until there's no more blood that can be wrung from the dry stone that used to be middle class life in America.
Being one who also indulged in this despicable fantasy, I attest that Jill is exactly correct. I'd also like to think that since I have come to see it, there must be millions more who have woken up as well and, as this economic slo-mo train-wreck proceeds, the breakfast brilliance should continue to alight upon American minds.

I wonder what that's going to look like. Oh, and up yours, Wall Street.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Quaintness Of Pensions

Monopoly Men
Image from BBC News
Another corporate media journalist has defected and now publishes at his own blog. Go there to find refreshingly frank observations on contemporary economics and politics. I like to consider Jon Talton a friend, though having only met with him once. I had been reading his business column in the local paper for some time, and was struck by the observations he "got away" with in that paper, and just had to arrange a chat through a mutual friend. We had a fascinating (for me) conversation discussing some of the arcanities of Phoenix economic development (such as it is).

So now I quote from and link to one of his posts, The time bomb ticking in American pensions. Please go and read it:
...People forget that for decades stocks had value because of their dividends, not their continuous upward price movement. If that upward movement is based on forces that are unsustainable, then Shareholder Nation is screwed.... the only hopeful math the "conservatives" can throw back depends on including the huge gains of the very rich.

The world of pensions and the old middle class was based on real work, producing real things. We've killed that world. The new world of 401(k)s is based on unsustainable bubbles and "creative destruction" as more Americans are pushed into marginal service jobs...
Thanks for adding your voice, Jon!

(Check out his fiction writing at, too.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Who Is Cindy McCain?

Commenter druidity36 over at FireDogLake dug up this 1994 Phoenix New Times story on Cindy McCain - Opiate For The Mrs.
You're U.S. Senator John McCain, and you've got a big problem.
Your wife, Cindy, was addicted to prescription painkillers. She stole pills from a medical-aid charity she heads and she used the names of unsuspecting employees to get prescriptions...
Read on. Enjoy.

Update: Jon Talton has a fine breakdown on Senator McCain's questionable mastery and decidedly unpalatable positions on the U.S. economy. And this over at Crooks and Liars on the Senator's oh-so-patriotic economic positions (from the Kansas Democratic Party:
...In 2003, Sen. McCain authored an amendment undermining “Buy American” rules requiring U.S. military equipment, defense systems and components to be manufactured in the United States. By allowing the Department of Defense to purchase American military equipment from foreign companies, the McCain amendment laid the groundwork for the Air Force’s decision to outsource the production of refueling tankers for the American military....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hillary's Problem

Hillary Clinton 02/02
Image from TIME
The blizzard of analysis over the Hillary Clinton campaign, while often wanting in depth, is at the very least breathtaking in scope. I've not weighed in much, partly because every possible angle is being covered, partly because I don't have any special insight to offer, and partly because I don't feel like ducking the rhetorical pots and pans that get hurled at pretty much anyone who ventures into the debates.

(Like, for example, some might say - heh - that my metaphor is sexist in nature. Except that, since I'm referring to the punditocracy and the blogosphere and not Senator Clinton, it's not.)

Well, I have a crude, 10,000 mile, view that I'm finally willing to share, and since it appears that Barack Obama has the irreversible momentum forward (barring a proverbial dead-woman/live-boy problem), I feel safe that my enormously influential blog no longer is in danger of skewing the primaries.

It appears to me that Clinton has the same problem that Al Gore had in 2000, but for entirely different reasons. In spite of the differences, however, I see it all as of a piece, and triangulation could, fairly, be its name.

I remember when that ridiculous, albeit transfixing, kerfluffle was going on back in the day, and the single thing which angered me more than anything else, and fittingly the thing that gave said kerfluffle traction, was Bill Clinton's inability to confront the situation directly. Most of us would agree, I think, that the proper reaction would have been along the lines of: "WTF business is that of yours? STFU!!" A reasonable person could see the whole business being done with at that point. Nothing to belabour on this point - I'm just saying.

In 2000, Al Gore had an unhappy dilemma. How could he effectively ride the coattails of a largely successful presidency (I imagine even the most rabid Clinton detractors have softened their view somewhat after this fucking administration), while at the same time distance himself from a presidency tainted, ironically, by the aforementioned kerfluffle? Well, he couldn't. If Bill had said "STFU", or if Al could have found a way to dismiss the whole affair (nearly impossible, of course, after it had been so mishandled by the President), I don't think the Bushies would have had the margin in which to throw the election.

Hillary has faced a similar problem except, as I said, for different reasons (Chris Matthews aside.) This occurred to me while ruminating over Obama's resonance over the "hope/change thing." How could the Senator harness the energy of the original Clinton campaign, which was all about just that same optimism (the Man from Hope, "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," etc.), without being also being yoked to the inevitable snides over nepotism and dynasty? Politically speaking, that was an incredibly effective meme they had going there, and I'm not ashamed to say that I felt a bit giddy about it, coming off of Reagan/Bush and all. Well, she couldn't fully harness it this time, because...

I say, because there seems to be a bit of a yellow streak, manifest in that particular constellation of the Democratic camp at least, about directly confronting situations and forcing the framing and setting the priorities. This fear factor produces the very triangulation that the Clintons have come to personify, and it is a sad thing to behold, indeed. It is especially troubling, since this tendency appears to bleed into policy formulation as well.

I would like to see the back of it, and I suspect many Americans would as well and, for now, Barack Obama allows us to pretend that we just might. His "audacity of hope" sounds like it has courage, too. Just because it sounds like it doesn't mean it does, of course, but it might. Or he may feel that so many will "have his back" that he will have a virtual spine, at least.

I think this partly explains his trajectory over the Clinton campaign.

Update: The attempts to take Obama down are really hilarious and shrill (h/t Mike Finnigan for the pointing me to the laffs.)

Krugman Sluggishly Responds To Clue

Tom Tomorrow Peak Oil Cartoon
Cartoon by Tom Tomorrow
Fealing a bt peaked:
Peak oil, that is — a dismal theory that keeps getting more plausible.
I consider Paul Krugman the go-to guy for honest economic analysis. The fact that he writes that Peak Oil is only becoming "more plausible" is somewhat depressing, but I'll take what I can get at this point.

Friday, February 15, 2008

American Fascism, Manifest

This places the fight over telecom immunity in a brighter, if not entirely new, light (my emphasis):

Business Class Can Shoot to Kill in the Event of Martial Law
The FBI has launched a clandestine alliance, which allows privileged US citizens (rich people) to kill without the possibility of prosecution. InfraGard is composed of over 23,000 representatives of the private sector, as well as the FBI and Homeland Security. By imparting the FBI with information, the wealthy members of InfraGard are allowed to protect their interests without condition and given secret intelligence about supposed “terrorist threats”.

Article author Matthew Rothschild quoted a whistleblower as saying, “One business owner in the United States tells me that InfraGard members are being advised on how to prepare for a martial law situation-and what their role might be.” The whistleblower continued, “Then they said when-not if-martial law is declared, it was our responsibility to protect our portion of the infrastructure, and if we had to use deadly force to protect it, we couldn’t be prosecuted.”

The “infrastructure” InfraGard is permitted to protect at all costs is comprised of agriculture, defense, energy, food, information, telecommunications, law enforcement, public health, transportation, chemical industry, and of course, banking and finance. Any perceived threat to the power of these representatives gives them the authority to assert their power over you with special rights that they have and you don’t.
(Manila Ryce at The Largest Majority - h/t Mike's Blog Roundup.)

Ah, so these are the stakes. If we permit judicial review of illegal wiretapping by corporations, in partnership with government, then certainly actually shooting people might make some trouble for the elites. Yet another reason the Judicial Branch is being subsumed with such vigor.

One definition of Fascism is the partnership between business interests and government or, more precisely, particular, elite business interests. Here it is, laid bare. The rise of quasi-military private security firm Blackwater further tingles the tinfoil hat.

See also:

The ______ War Exception To The Fourth Amendment
Fascist America?
The Future?
Draw Your Own Conclusions
Laying Bare The Fascism
The Plot to Seize the White House
And Must The Thing Go Its Course?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The ______ War Exception To The Fourth Amendment

Civilian Gunner SWAT
Image snagged from
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

- Pastor Martin Niemöller
Before the Infamous Date that whiplashed America's attention and helped in the consolidation of corporate power, I was a fairly vocal critic of the "War on Drugs." A particularly galling aspect of that charade, which of course still goes on, is the "Drug War exception" to the Bill of Rights.

Looking back, that was kid stuff. Now we're really in it.

I hope that all of you people that didn't "have anything to worry about" because you didn't, after all, have flushable contraband at your house can now see that the ratchet of oppression has now clicked to include your sorry asses as well.

It is not far off, and legally it is doable now, that when some government or corporate individual feels threatened by your poignant criticism, you may now be arrested and interrogated for Hating Amerika. After you explain to the kind officials that, yes, you actually were thinking about blowing up X, you can join the hundreds of thousands of non-violent drug offenders in their state-sponsered digs.

Free room and board! Woo hoo!

Now go watch American Idol and keep your fucking mouth shut.

Update: Firedoglake has a petition for you to sign urging the House to stand behind the the RESTORE Act:
...The House's RESTORE Act is an infinitely superior bill...

...We urge Democratic House members to stand firm behind the bill they passed and not capitulate once again to the bullying, manipulative demands of the Bush administration for ever-greater unchecked power, as embodied by the warrantless eavesdropping and telecom immunity provisions of the Senate bill.
Sounds good to me. Sign it. Because you care, right?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Joe Bageant: "Commons" & The United States Of Jabba The Hutt

Sand Jabba
Rarely is reading about our dark human situation more entertaining than when Joe weighs in. He is especially incandescent in this latest essay, Nine Billion Little Feet:
..."Commons" may be the current precious little term embraced by environmentally concerned American writers and activists ­ including me but it rests on old European "ours together and my own private" concepts of the earth...

Sad lot that we are as a species, not everyone is a moral pig. Millions of individuals, some governments even, are unnerved by what is happening. In America the best among us are outraged, and protest that officialdom has failed us. Unfortunately, we are officialdom, indirectly as that may be. Because we are mankind and mankind is all inclusive, organically and forever ­ forever having turned out to be rather shorter than we thought. If officialdom has failed us, it is because we have failed ourselves, and in many respects, our official governments provide us with a collective excuse not to act personally.

Mainly though, aware Americans are watching and waiting for someone else to make an important move. Guts are nonexistent in Americans these days, programmed out of us during the posh captivity of the "cheap oil fiesta" that drove our grotesque and brief civilization. Still, if ever there were a time to show some guts, it's now. Not by protesting ­ -- which has become a security state supervised liberal pussy sport -- but by giving up the material life, the consumer life. Damned near all of it. Including all those leftie and alternative books from Amazon -- sitting on our asses reading and drinking green tea just because we can afford to is just another type of inaction and consumerism. It's the only real act of protest possible by the prisoners of our consumption driven monolith. True, you'll be just one iPodless and carless little guy throwing a single stone at the United States of Jabba the Hutt. But assuming you're still capable of any kind of life after the stellazine mind conditioning we've all been administered for past 40 years, I've got folding cash that says you will own your life in a way that seemed previously impossible. Hanging onto or chasing the bling is over with anyway, as dead as the economy. The Olive Garden and Circuit City are still open, true, but only because the hair and nails still grow on Jabba's corpse. Would somebody please quit pretending he's alive and yank the feeding tube?

Optimistic doomsayer that I am, I highlight the one sparkly gem of hope in his dark meditation. While I'm not inclined to discuss my personal life in this blog, I will say with some authority, however, that Joe has that exactly right.

If you're a thinking person, I highly recommend visiting Joe and reading the whole damned thing.

Dickwatch: No Explanation Necessary

The Dick
Photo: Ron Edmonds

It is a mark of the times, of the Zeitgeist, when an unembellished, pithy remark says it all. Crooks and Liars has the video of KO stating simply, no explanation necessary:
Yeah, but you're crazy.
To further illustrate, here's Jon Stewart (C&L again - yes, I'm on that site every day) going all Hemingway on Mitt Romney:
Fuck you!
See - no need to explain anymore. Out.

Friday, February 8, 2008

I Believe Something's Wrong Here

Athiest Eve
Image "borrowed" from The Athiest Community of Austin

PZ Myers at Pharyngula points us to a twist that the student adminstrators at Wilfrid Laurier University has gotten themselves into. It seems that a student group is just a bit too secular for this secular institution - they'd applied to start a group to "to promote science, freedom of inquiry, skepticism, and a good life without the need for superstition or religious belief."
While the Campus Clubs department understands the goals and visions of your organization, they are not compatible with the guidelines of what may be approved and incorporated into our department. While the promotion of reason, science and freedom of inquiry are perfectly legitimate goals, what is most in question in regards to your club's vision is the promotion of "a fulfilling life without religion and superstition". While this university is indeed technically a secular institution, secular does not denote taking an active stance in opposition to the principles and status of religious beliefs and practices. To be clear, this is not meant to say that the promotion of science and reason are illegitimate goals. But due to the need to respect and tolerate the views of others, the Campus Clubs department is unable to approve a club of this nature at this time. If you wish to adjust and rethink your club's application and vision, you may resubmit a revised proposal at any time.
Now, this doesn't require a whole lot of parsing here at Deconstructing The Manifest. The rejection and the reason for the rejection are manifestly absurd to the point that it boggles the mind that it survived a final edit for dispatch to those secular, secular kids.

I mention it only because I think it would quite easy to resubmit this in a sufficiently politically correct manner, with the redaction of a single word: promote science, freedom of inquiry, skepticism, and a good life without the need for superstition or religious belief.
I would, personally, find this deliciously subversive as the statement would challenge the superstitious nature of belief, even amongst those who hold no religious beliefs.

See my thoughts on the utter pointlessness of belief in general here.

Oh, and be sure to link on over to PZ's post and have a peek at their discussion on this. They've got great commentors over there.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Apocalypse, Interrupted

Mad Scientist
I envy these bio-engineers. They have the coolest of cocktail hour chatter on the tips of their tongues. "Oh, we almost destroyed the planet fifteen years ago, didn't ya know?" This occasional raconteur is, well, green with envy. (Edited excerpts follow, please link through and read the whole thing. Article brought to my attention by kirk murphy at FireDogLake, thanks very much.)
The first fourteen species [of Genetically Modified Organisms] that we worked on - microorganisms, bacteria. and fungi - were organisms incapable of surviving in the natural environment. Putting them in the world would be like taking penguins from the South Pole and dropping them into the La Brea tar pits. Would there be any ecological effect if we dropped a penguin into the middle of the tar pit? Probably not; the impact would be rapidly absorbed by the system.

These first fourteen species of GMOs that we tested had a similarly negligible impact....

GMO number fifteen, however, was a very different story. Klebsiella planticola, the bacterium that is the parent organism of this new strain, lives in soils everywhere. It's one of the few truly universal species of bacteria, growing in the root systems of all plants and decomposing plant litter in every ecosystem in the world.

The genetic engineers took genetic material from another bacterium and inserted that trait in the GMO to allow Klebsiella planticola to produce alcohol. The aim of this genetic modification was to eliminate the burning of farm fields to rid them of plant matter after harvest. [Y]ou could, instead, rake up all that plant residue... inoculate it with the engineered bacterium [and] you would have a material that contained about 17 percent alcohol. The alcohol could be extracted and used...

So what's the problem?...
The article describes some controlled experiments which prove that this bacteria did indeed result in "drunk dead plants."
...extrapolate it to the real world. Given that the parent organism lives in the root systems of all plants, what's the logical outcome of releasing this organism into the natural environment?

Very possibly, we would have no terrestrial plants left....
It goes on to discuss the resistance to acknowledging the very real dangers posed by unrestrained genetic modifications and the need for the "no duh!" research done on the killer bacteria at the United Nations "biosafety protocol meetings" (Ah - so that's what they're calling the the CYA apparatus for Monsanto multinationals.)
How far does a single-point inoculation of a genetically engineered organism spread in one year? An engineered Rhizobium bacterium that was released in Louisiana in the mid-1990s spread eleven miles per year and has by now dispersed across the North American continent...
David Blume's "addendum" to this article lends a real chill to the whole affair, and winds up deliciously droll:
I talk about the Klebsiella debacle in detail in my book, Alcohol Can Be A Gas, and it was actually a lot worse than this post relates. The original researchers threw out samples behind the lab and discovered the dead plants, got curious and discovered that the Klebsiella was alive and they had to dig up all the soil and incinerate it. Dr. Ingham subsequently elucidated the mechanism. I would add that the organism was engineered to eat cellulose and make alcohol. So in addition to the alcohol poisoning of the roots the bacteria was also eating the cellulosic root tips of the plants. I often tell this story and add that we really need to lock up all the genetic engineers in a very nice country club type prison since they have nearly ended life on earth several times already with bonehead projects like this.

Slightly off topic, but if you follow the link to Blume's book, Alcohol Can Be A Gas, you will find that it is another hosanna for bio-fuel, which I have ranted against before. I poked around the blogs and found some discussions, and this one is pretty representative. I'm sorry, but I could find nothing substantive to sway my position. Indeed, this
David Blume makes the powerful argument that ethanol is simply liquid solar power...
compels me to childishly write "no duh!" twice in this post, and tell me again how diverting solar power from its current duties to allowing us all to go putt-putt around the planet at our leisure is an "energy solution?"

The planet has been "doing something" with its solar bath since before we appeared on the scene, and she is still using that energy. Blume relies a whole bunch on his "philosophy" of energy use transforming our world view so that we would use this energy in "synergistic" and nifty ways. Of course, we would only require just a teeny bit of it, we being so disciplined and all...


Update: kirk murphy at it again. Troublemaker, he.