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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 WallpaperGate.com
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?

More...
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:
...to 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...

Sigh.


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

Saturday, February 2, 2008

I Am Moved



No further comment.