Friday, November 30, 2007

The Beginning Of The World As We Know It (Part One)

Having gotten all the nice spiritual Rumi-stuff out of my system in the previous post, on to practical things; to the world's problems, and their solving. My ersatz leaders keep telling me how anything wrong is all my fault, so I thought, why not? Let's have a go and make it good. Our problems are only as big as the wind and the waves, as the sun and the rain.

At first, my working title was 'Why Democrats Are A Bunch Of Drooling Catamites.' You see, my case of Two-Party Immune Deficiency Syndrome (TPIDS) is late-stage, and the Democrats surely play their part as Complicit Mommy Government to perfection, as a companion and helpmeet to our Abusive Daddy Government. Whom it's our enviable task to either kill, beat sense into, or run away from. So, yes, let's start off with the Party of the Damned, or what I choose to call "the Dims." I changed the title above to something more active, with an eye to an ongoing series; by way of power law and microcosm, Dims are great projectors for our Big Problems. As the old military recruiting jingle goes, "what a great play-ace, it's a great start!"

Isabelita, the thoughtful cookie at Learning to Sequence, noted in the comments section of Shorter Clinton, Shorter Obama that Hillary:
'seems like a "kinder gentler" form of the GOP, and Obama seems insubstantial. There's not a single Democratic candidate I'd vote for; wonder if we can outsource the leadership of this country to, oh, say, New Zealand?'
Iz sums up my sentiments well. If Hillary gets elected, we will be renting and watching "Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS" as en-masse comfort food. Paradoxically, though, the inmates of Casa Lord have given money to Obama and were invited to lunch with his wife. We have an Obama sign hanging in our window. Yet, something inside me still wants to crisply slap each side of the guy's face with a pair of wet leather gloves and bellow like George S. Patton, "Be a man, fer chrissakes!! There are brave candidates out there fighting and dying, and you're hiding in the make-up room like a coward!" Sigh.

But what else is left? I've considered supporting Dennis Kucinich, and even Ron Paul, because at least they take an unequivocal stand against The War. The obvious political lesson they, or any well-choreographed goose-steppers provide, is this: Take a stand, you existentially challenged boobs, take a stand! (Note: See goose-steppers.) So at least Kucinich and Paul "get" the basic prerequisite. Fortunately or not, however, neither can get "elected."

It all starts with The War. In the beginning was The War. The War is run by the War Machine, which now makes up most of the country's remaining manufacturing know, just like it did for The Soviet Freaking Union back in 1984. That being the case, if the Democrats truly didn't want us to invade/occupy/eternally exploit Iraq, would we still be there, or ever have gone? Would Cheney still be President? Would Hillary Clinton have been the one who first used the phrase after 9/11, "You're either with us or against us? (Yep, she was first, and beat Dumya to it.)

The truth is, the Dims support The War Machine, and that's why they support The War. They're bending over, busy slurping at the Money River, looking up to carp threats occasionally and then backing down to slurp again at the life blood of this nation, this precious gift of governmental innovation, as it runs in rivulets and rills down into the scuppers of FACISM. The same ugly thing this country pulled out all the stops to defeat 60-odd years ago, bombing every major city full of evil German and Japanese people to smithereens, not to mention the Italians and French who got in the way. People keep wondering and marveling how craven, how caved-in and sold-out Congress can be, but it's really simple. It's as simple as buying and selling hogs. Fascists love hogs. [Sotto voce: And fascism's better, because run! Cower! Twitter like fluffy yellow chicks, and be afraid! (Looking left and right for spies.) The only alternative is so-cial-ism. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!]

To paraphrase the idiot son of an asshole, "Being an Empire is hard work." Yes...yes, Fearless Leader, you masturbatory imbecile, it is hard work. So here it is, the answer, the solution to our problems: smarter work. The only way to save what's left of imperial standing melting away like run-off from a denuded hill, and our domestic freedoms at the same time, two-birds-one-stone style, is to wise up. And make a big, hard, brave yet obvious choice. A choice which is ultimately necessary anyway. Amongst smaller hard choices, the Democrats have to not only renounce The War, they must renounce The War Machine. Nothing much other than a tack into the wind, merely risking political and physical assassination domestically and a heapin' helpin' of Humble Pie internationally. So how, other than fitting our alleged representatives with electro-shock collars and pumping them full of 100 mikes of LSD, do we work them up to the gargantuan tasks common to vertebrates?

Somehow I can't picture my Senators (Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell) driving that bus in Selma. Actually, I'm picturing it right now as they're dragged off the bus by police and savagely beaten with batons. Ha-ha! To be realistic, look, we're dealing with a government that told us with a straight frigging face to go out and buy duct tape in case of a nerve gas attack, and that kerosene can melt steel. (Mental Note: I suppose duct tape could be used as a way to cover your mouth and nostrils so as to induce a less painful death. Kerosene and jet fuel don't melt steel, not in my back yard.) A direct frontal assault on The War Machine won't work. It would simply send Terminators after us like Skynet and shoot us with plasmatic death-rays.

But what we can do is start small. An insurgency they don't see coming, an infiltration, a Rat Attack. It's already got plenty of foot soldiers, even investors. We can do things that my darling Senators, the Bobbsey Twins, will enthusiastically support. They just won't know the full implications, and when they finally glom, it'll be ok by them. Because they care about money. Every Constitution, every Estate, is based on money, on a currency. A currency is a metaphorical basis for storing power and wealth. We need to switch the fundamental basis of our power and wealth.
The US has switched its currency basis at least four times in its history, and it will do so again.

Power and wealth. And beer! Mmmm. The focus of our big ol' technologized Teddy Bear, our throwing-candy-to-the-children-while-it-kills-them War Machine, is oil.
Our currency isn't The Dollar. Our currency is oil. This is a VERY BIG problem. First, its worldwide production has begun to go into decline--9.5 million Saudi barrels a day wen down to 8.5 over the past year, but they "could pump more if we wanted to!," sure, and Iran, well, they're desperate for nuclear power because the mullahs know how wildly overstated their reserves are, and the rate at which their wells are declining--plus, we're losing control of the damned stuff anyway. That's why we're building military bases on top of wherever we can find new, relatively helpless sources of it. Even if that quixotic effort starts getting a lot cheaper or miraculously succeeds, well...we're still, for all practical purposes...Going To Run Out of Oil.

We need to switch our currency. This implies a future Manhattan Project, a huge national investment and roll of the dice, on sustainable energy. And that will, at some point, happen. But the Rat Attack doesn't have to wait for a Manhattan Project. It can germinate and advance incremental change. Its weapons are not just wind farms and solar panels, not bipolar Priuses and biodiesel Passats, but all manner of gardening, all sorts of ruminants (including ponies), tree-planting, urban bee-keeping, de-centralized heating, and simply giving a damn. Raising chickens on your patio, damn the Bird Flu, full speed ahead. This is how the Amish and most of the world survive on two bucks a day. We should probably do A-OK on forty thou per capita. And if a schlumpf like me can do organic gardening,anyone can.

This might be a good place to note that Exxon's corporate profits were bigger than the Gross Domestic Product of all but about a dozen countries last year. Exxon and other distended, artificial, inhuman structures like it are The Enemy. These are the enemies who are stealing your money. By the way, they also want to kill you, slowly, so they can wring every last bit of useful output and consumption out of your body. They've calculated the calories, and want to turn the world into one big "Arbeit Macht Frei" concentration camp, their kapos as commandants, and they're succeeding. Every drop of oil you don't use and every ray of sunshine you do sends these monstrous mutants, and many of their large shareholders, into fits of depression and murderous rage. Because they know, deep down in their black insatiable selves, that no one owns the wind, the sun, or the rain. Although they've hired lobbyists to address that disadvantage.

We need to start an anti-oil insurgency, and it's going to be surprisingly easy. I belly laugh at the prospect because, you see, we're not going to have much choice. Soon enough, driving 40 miles to save five bucks on t-shirts made by slave labor fed by slop troughs in some distant Work Zone is going to look exactly like what it is: stupid. We're going to live in a world where you can walk, float, or teleport to bars and stores. I'm not speaking from high moral terrain here. It's simply going to be cheaper than going through violent machinations and invasions to coax flammable goo from under far-off ground.

I am the glorious Sun,
the ocean laden with pearls.
Within my heart is the grandeur of heaven,
Outside, the lowly earth.

I travel in this world like a bee in a jar.
But don't listen to my woeful buzzing
My house is filled with honey!
Rumi, The Dome of the Inner Sky
Better Than Conscious

New Scientist magazine has a happily intriguing article about a recent conference session in Germany titled The subconscious mind, your unsung hero. While working to replicate via machine how people make smart decisions, the extent to which even the most analytically oriented minds rely upon induction was a revelation. In the scientific method, the power of intuition and imagery is so discounted it amounts to persecution. It's also denialistic claptrap.

We have three brains in our sapient heads at least. The subconscious mind should be called the First Brain because it is automatic, always "on," ever chewing on the experiences, the myths, and, I suspect, often reaches back to the touchstones of genetic memories which may underpin and define human cognition. It goes in dream where reason is too unwieldy to lumber, too clumsy and fearful to tread. Like a bee in a jar flying between and across zeros and ones to carry pollen, the First Mind finds eternal beauties, weaves breath-taking insights, and comes up with honey-combed answers.

Einstein, for example, and many (if not most) great scientists were led to their discoveries by images which sprang whole from the subconscious. Einstein did not imagine the universe in a theoretical sense, it was rather something he perceived deep in his fibres and was always "back-processing" as a little boy. He didn't hit upon the theory of relativity as a logical deduction; it came to him as an irrational induction (or perhaps a process better called mental morphogenesis) whilst he was gazing up at the sun through half-lidded eyes, lying on a grassy hillside one sunny afternoon in Switzerland.

The phenomenon of inductive insight is probably very common, and hopefully it's something we all share from time to time. Of course, what set Einstein and others apart was superior ability to translate their inductions into rational, sequential codes, marrying their First Brains off to their Second Brains and creating offspring both brilliant and facile.

From the article:
The more I listened to what the assembled scientists had to say and talked to them about their work, the more it seemed that our higher consciousness alone is not what sets us apart from other animals. In fact, far from playing second fiddle to the conscious mind, subconscious thought processes may play a crucial role in many of the mental facilities we prize as uniquely human, including creativity, memory, learning and language.
New Scientist doesn't allow access without subscription or purchase, so I'll look around for a free online version.

Recent Iran Attack Hints

Blowing stuff up isn't all glory and honor. It takes a lot of logistics work to make things happen, and logistics are very expensive to fake. If you go to all the trouble of putting materiel in spot X, it's twice the trouble to move it back to spot Y. Logistics leave a trail. The Persian Gulf is getting crowded with aircraft carriers again, and Centcom is stockpiling jet fuel at its long-range bomber base in the Indian Ocean. Remember US Admiral William Fallon's statement that an attack on Iran won't happen on his watch? Sure hope he meant it. Other signs to look for will be the whereabouts of tanker planes necessary to rendezvous with the big bombers for mid-air refueling, with Diego Garcia a likely candidate.

(via Larisa Alexandrovna's blog and Naj's Stop the Second Holocaust)
"LONDON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. military has stepped up chartering of tankers and requests for extra fuel in the U.S. Central Command area, which includes the Gulf, shipping and oil industry sources say. A Gulf oil industry source said the charters suggested there would be high naval activity, possibly including a demonstration to Iran that the U.S. Navy will protect the Strait of Hormuz oil shipping route during tensions over Tehran's nuclear programme.

The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) has tendered for four tankers in November to move at least one million barrels of jet and ship fuel between Gulf ports, from Asia to the Gulf and to the Diego Garcia base, tenders seen by Reuters show. It usually tenders for one or two tankers a month to supply Gulf operations, which include missions in Iraq."

A separate requirement is for a tanker to move 147,000 barrels of ship fuel from Singapore to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, close to the Gulf and Arabian Sea.

As Larissa notes:
'that is indeed unusual according to a military friend of mine, who in an email this morning wrote: "It has gotten my attention. I don't have an explanation."'

Diego Garcia:
The US is secretly upgrading special stealth bomber hangars on the British island protectorate of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to military sources. The improvement of the B1 Spirit jet infrastructure coincides with an “urgent operational need” request for £44m to fit racks to the long-range aircraft. That would allow them to carry experimental 15-ton Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) bombs designed to smash underground bunkers buried as much as 200ft beneath the surface through reinforced concrete.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wake-Up Call For Mr. Deep Throat

Feline-festooned bloggers Zoey & Me note that, as we enter the holiday season, Bush dramatically cut pay raises for Federal employees. So..if you were a government worker expecting a 15% wage increase next year, the one you'd been promised, how would you feel about getting, say...3%? Just a little lump of coal for 2.6 million to sit on while idling in Beltway traffic jams.

"Deep Throat" refers to a disgruntled federal employee who was the Deputy Director of the FBI, William Mark Felt. Felt served as deep background to Mssrs. Woodward and Bernstein. For the benefit of any youngsters who come here by accident, Woodward and Bernstein were the reporters whose investigation and articles fueled the Watergate Scandal, which in turn brought down another real hellhole of a Presidency, Richard Milhouse Bat-Shit Nixon's. The Nixon Administration had passed a less-qualified, politically chummy Patrick Gray over Mark Felt's head to be the new FBI Director. Felt didn't need to ask, "What's my motivation?" One may surmise he wanted Nixon, CREEP, the Plumbers, and pretty much anyone near the White House to rot in hell. Did a decent job of it, too. Regarding where anti-Bush disgruntlement can lead, Z&Me had a quality insight:
What’s really funny is history shows that when any president slashes or cancels raises to the underlings, moles appear from everywhere and news organizations are hopping with spicy inside tid-bits the administration would not have wanted made known. Hey, maybe we’ll finally find out who outed Valerie Plame.
True, and the Emperor's servants have a natural penchant for hollowing out the grain stores. But the moles don't exactly have a smorgasbord environment of leak options, the Washington Post ain't what it used to be, and the press already knows damned well who outed Valerie Plame. For example, the news that Halliburton got the $10 billion contract for cleaning up Iraqi oil fields before the war even happened, well heck, that was no leak--they proudly announced it all by themselves, like, "Get ready, America! We're gonna take a dump right on your face, woo-hoo-hooo!"

By all means, please, leak the dastardly documents, heap up the damning evidence. If any of pissed-off federal workers come across anything juicy, let me know in the comments section. But let's face it. The Washington Post or the MSM isn't going to bring this government down. Never was. For at least 6 years in the United States, a literary review magazine (The New Yorker, circulation less than one million) has been the #1 place where you go to break another Bushco-mondo crime/idiocy/lying/torturing/murdering/screwing Republican scandal. So enough with the newsprint. Call up Oprah, Colbert, the Daily Show. And here's hoping some of The Newly Screwed get all impromptu and hold a Bring Your Napalm To Work Day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Psyche's News Roundup

TAPPED Archive | Hillary Clinton is bringing the Co-mentum and hinting that she'll appoint Colin Powell to help restore our standing in the world

Matthew Yglesias (November 28, 2007) - Bill Opposed the War? (no)

Head of Rove Inquiry in Hot Seat Himself - (wiped Rove's hard drives)

Fake News and Propaganda: Shaping Our Reality

S 1959 Will Label Us As Terrorists! Take Action to Stop It. American Everyman

The Associated Press: FCC Wants More Data for Cable TV Report

YouTube - FOX News Takes 32 Seconds to Explain We're in Iraq Forever

US withdraws subpoena seeking identity of 24,000 Amazon customers - International Herald Tribune

NPR : Connie Rice: Top 10 Secrets They Don't Want You to Know About the Debates

In precedent, Google to hand over blogger's IP

US airstrikes kill civilian roadworkers in Afghanistan | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

Alaska's `Papa Pilgrim' gets 14 years - Yahoo! News

Media Matters - Buchanan: "America [is] committing suicide" while "Asian, African, and Latin American children come to inherit the estate"

The tax cut ratchet - Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog

Fed Official Opens Door To December Rate Cut | Durable Goods Orders Fall for Third Straight Month | Home Sales, Prices Fell Further In October -

The real reason why stocks are plunging - Nov. 28, 2007 Recipe for a meltdown

Pimco's Bill Gross: Our shadow banking system - Nov. 28, 2007 We have a secret banking system built on derivatives and untouched by regulation

Air-Mobile Blogging

The young luggage carrier zipping through the airport above is the biggest worry in my world, and will probably continue to be for some time. He is known in these parts as Lord Running Boy. But there are a lot of things to worry about. For example, I'm very anxiety-prone when it comes to racial differences, gays, and lesbians, these issues occupying spots on Page 27 of my single-spaced list of worries, right after my entry for "Do Koreans eat too much damned garlic?"

Air travel comes early on Page 2 of my List of Worries, whereas it used to be high on Page 1 of my List of Sinful Pleasures. In my younger days there as a word for people like me: "jet-setter." Air travel still held vestiges of glamor, adventure, and mystique. Now I'm not sure what connotations it should carry when a nation is deliberately and sadistically torturing a generation of travelers in the name of security.

Heard of "waterboarding?" Yeah. Victims call it dying, sure, but it's mercifully quick (as long as they don't revive you and repeat the process 5 times a day--then it's very annoying). By contrast, there is no end to "airboarding," a training process intended to induce cow-like obedience and placid paranoia, the abbatoir-queued tableau punctured only occasionally by the insane screams of travelers as they're tazered to death. This might be less disturbing to the seasoned, thick-skinned traveler if the entire world weren't being turned into one giant Airport Arrival Centre. ("Your Honor, there was reason to believe the subject might have had explosive charges/guns/knives/nuclear device/et cetera hidden in his shoes/pocket/jacket/trunk/et cetera, so I had no choice but to shoot.")

But allow me to share my reveries. Once upon a time, I was coddled by Icelandic stewardesses. Yes, that was the proper word, and every one of them would've looked at home in the pages of a men's magazine; they would touch your arm, and I assume were trained if not encouraged to pleasantly violate your personal space by resting their hand on the back of your neck while asking if you needed anything else besides the entire bottle of champagne at your disposal. One of my most delicious meals ever was a rib-eye steak with red wine glaze in the lonely Aer Lingus first class on a Christmas eve. Once upon a time, before Homeland Security, immigration-check guards greeted me with a welcome and a smile, showing what, for lack of a better word, seemed like respect.

Respect was all well and fine, but what about the glamor? You want glamor?? Glamor is when you're waiting in line for the bathroom on a 747 and a girl people pay money to take pictures of taps you on the shoulder and gives you her phone number. She doesn't care if you have to pee like a race horse. You're on a 747, flying to Tokyo, so you must be interesting. You might even be somebody. Over the ice caps of Greenland in the middle of the night, over Siberia, Sakhalin, the Mediterranean, and Formosa, I've imbibed umbrella drinks and smoked cigarettes while standing in the back of the plane with ten other people, having parties. Remember the Mile High Club? It existed.

Now, if people attempt to have sex on a plane, obscure fines and charges are levied and levelled at and against them. Sex on a plane is a crime against humanity, the hapless participants are pilloried in the press as perverted fools, and governments practically come out and say "Ewww!" I suppose it's a security threat of some sort, and potentially inconsiderate, but sex on planes was generally once considered a Good Thing. Or at least an acceptable thing which individual humans might discreetly do, as individuals, against better private judgement. Even for me, it's hard to believe it ever was so, hard to track the dots of change which led us to this place in which a stewardess does not caress my neck but has morphed into a flight attendant and looks at me like she wants to spray me with disinfectant or bug killer and says, "Fill out your arrival form." I ask, "Could I borrow a pen?" She's Dutch, on KLM, and coolly remarks, "You must be an American." This was in business class, and I assumed one could ask for a pen without being directly insulted. "Ah, yes," I reply..."and you must be a German." Then she makes the facial expression for I Will Have You Killed.

The cliche says that all good things have to come to an end. I had hoped it didn't encompass air travel. It was so grand not having to undress, get x-rayed, take off your shoes, squeeze out your toothpaste tube, have your leatherman confiscated, your baby woken up, held on a runway without heat, food, drink, or the freedom to leave your seat to use the bathroom for 6 hours, and it was lovely to never hear a woman burst into sobbing tears of angry frustration and her husband say, "Oh now that's just great! That's all we needed!" It was wonderful not being officiously treated like a perpetrator, a bother to disregard, a malefactor in waiting. It was the best, and I miss it so. Maybe if you work hard enough in the Ownership Society to own your private jet, it gets better.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Are The Comedy Writers Still On Strike?

I mean, somebody's been doing loop-dee-loops in the upper reaches of the snarkosphere:

Without doubt, this is professional-level output, and apparently some writers are crossing the keyboard line. It has all the signs of The Daily Show at its best; the bite-off-your-tongue to keep a straight face...the vicious irony, the perfect timing! If language be the food of love, what be pratfall?

(Note: Post truncated. Lord Wife thought the paragraph that used to be here was not only too jaded, but might get me arrested.)

Have We Met The Enemy, Pt. XIX: Wal-Mart

From Mother Jones:

Just when you think that Wal-Mart had already exhausted every last
possible strategy for screwing over its employees, here comes this
story in the Wall Street Journal. Deborah Shank, a Wal-Mart employee gets
into an accident with a semi and ends up permanently brain-damaged a
few years back. Her Wal-Mart health insurance paid her medical bills, but
she also sued the trucking company for damages. She wins $700,000,
which after legal fees and expenses, nets her about $400,000, which was
put in a trust to pay the nursing home she now lives in.

But Wal-Mart gets wind of the settlement and turns around and sues
Shank for $470,000, the money its insurance company paid for her care
from the accident. Now, the woman is reliant on Medicaid and Social
Security and Wal-Mart apparently got a much needed windfall.

Wal-Mart isn't alone in such behavior. Insurance companies seizing
lawsuit winnings from catastrophically injured Americans is a common
practice that gives lie to the notion that anyone gets rich off a
personal injury lawsuit these days, as insurance companies often get first
dibs on any judgment or settlement in such cases. But Wal-Mart's cruelty,
as always, is extreme in this case. Not only is Shank profoundly
disabled, but while her family was fighting off the company in court, her
son was killed while fighting the war in Iraq. Not even bad PR like this,
apparently, can eke out a drop of compassion from the retail giant.
Not sure if the story is apocryphal or not, or what the suit's outcome was. Will check further before my HQ is overrun and I'm forced to call artillery down onto my own position. (Research credit to Lord Wife.)

Update: the above story is legit, Wal-Mart won its suit, and the practice of health care cost "recovery" by corporations is becoming common policy, written into the fine print of health care plans. From the Wall Street Journal health blog:

A collision with a truck left Deborah Shank brain-damaged and in a wheelchair. A settlement awarded her $700,000 but what’s left of that money — after legal fees — is slated to go to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., her former employer, WSJ’s Vanessa Fuhrmans reports in a Page One story.

Wal-Mart’s health plan covered Shank’s medical costs, which were more than $460,000. Later Wal-Mart won a lawsuit against Shank seeking $469,215 in medical costs, legal fees and interest for the cost of suing.

The move by Wal-Mart is one that’s becoming increasingly popular by employers, insurers and union-administered who are struggling to deal with rising health costs. A provision, commonly found in health plans, allows the employer to recoup settlement money that it paid out in medical costs.

The argument that Wal-Mart and others makes is that Shank shouldn’t be paid for the same medical care twice. (In a similar dispute, a Supreme Court ruling sided with a health plan.) However, Shank’s lawyer argues that she could use the settlement money for future care and she wasn’t fully compensated for her injuries, a common claim in large settlements.

Companies are even starting to go after smaller claims.

A cottage industry of auditing firms helps recoup payments and they estimate that between 1% and 3% of health-care spending is potentially recoverable. Hospital-chain HCA says it has seen recouped claims rise to $1.8 million in 2006 from just under $800,000 in 2000 after hiring one such firm, Benefit Recovery Inc.

“In the past, employers used to think of this as an afterthought,” says Tom Lawrence, Benefit Recovery. But now they’re apparently banking on it as a revenue stream.

Monday, November 26, 2007

My Thanksgiving Prayers Had Nothing To Do With This...

Vice President Dick Cheney was hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat today. Wouldn't it be just...terrible? And just in time for the holidays! Come to think, though, it probably would be terrible for whichever one of his clones they're planning to harvest organs from next.

This knowledge came to me via Young Goodman-Blogger Who is IOZ, who filed it under "Headlines We Love." Above the headline, IOZ put up a video of a pertinent dark song, so that inspired me to go Youtubing for a version of Nick Lowe's 'The Beast in Me.' It's a great song, and someone set the track to images of Henry the Eighth (VIII), and I hereby dedicate it to the health, physical and mental, of our dearest leaders.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Olympic Peninsula Thanksgiving

Lord Mother, at her secure location somewhere in the Olympic Mountains, roasted a dearly departed turkey with all the fixings yesterday while we traveled through a traffic guantlet to intercept it. The completion was made, the tryptophans, mixed with cranberries, squash, and stuffing, hit right on schedule. We all were thankful.

Today I breakfasted on leftovers and, later, can look forward to freshly smoked trout. Lord Running Boy will be taken to a suitable river to blow off some steam, throwing as many rocks as he can find, and then we will learn about oysters. He will surely pronounce judgement upon them as "vewy icky."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Venezuela: The Left And The Right

On the left side of the picture above, about 90% of people vote for Chavez. On the right side about 90% of people vote for someone else, form student unions to subvert the villainous paradigm, and get funding from shady US pro-democracy groups with intelligence ties.

The right side of the picture, on the whole, should consider itself lucky. Worse things could've happened than having to put up with a blowhard who gives three-hour long speeches and uses oil money to build schools.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The McDonald's Rule

Until there are Mickey Dees all over the Mideast, it won't be truly settled. "I'm hungry as a bulldog! Baby, how about you?"

The best McDonald's I've ever been to, and like the privileged in my empire I've been to quite a few, was opposite the train station in Basel, Switzerland. It could compete with any grandesions in Munich, London, Tokyo, trumping any quiet men in the hinterlands of Hungary or Prague. Jung and Marx and Freud and Lenin would've been happy meeting in my golden arches, right there in Basel, so close to their apartments. 50 years before, on that spot, they were fresh off their trains and razors' edges. Their lies were whoppers, announced on the special to expand the mindspace and the palate of homo sapiens. With the arches, they have a natural home.

As for the Swiss, well hey they don't make no bad burgers, and the fries...were all done to perfection. In some places, the concept of fast food is misbegotten, and we're still trying to learn how to make it better. Many were the days and nights when I had worked long, and was hungry. When I lacked food and was attracted by those Golden Arches. They meant the promise of a simulated meal, and some meat when I got down too low in the cold to take good care. The Arches were a few blocks from my apartment, beckoning and mocking my anonymity. When there was no one I could trust and my future reached for crutches, the McDonald's was still there.

(graphic via Cat in the Bag)

Chavmadenijad: Disaster Is Seen As Catastrophe Looms

Pay some attention to the men behind the curtain:
At the third OPE summit in 47 years, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that the price of crude oil could reach $200 a barrel. "The basis of all aggression," said Chavez, "is oil." During a private meeting that was accidentally televised, the oil minister of Venezuela suggested to the oil minister of Iran that OPEC stop using the crippled dollar for pricing; the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia countered that public discussion of the weak dollar would cause US currency to lose value. "Kill the cable!" shouted a security guard as he ran into the meeting room. "Kill the cable!"

Monday, November 19, 2007

Shorter Clinton, Shorter Obama

The Drudge Report has an "Obama Break-out in Iowa" ABC News Story up as its featured Big Red Link. Bottom line, Iowa's still up for grabs because it's difficult to trust Hillary (so much to not talk about). Barack Obama continues to have occasional lapses into sincerity, his staffers dreading the next I'm Not Nuking Iran Moment. So I thought of glossing over all pertinent detail to boil Clinton and Obama down into one bipolar statement each. Slogans encapsulating their pros and cons. You know. To try my hand at a voter. Here we go:

Clinton: Health Care...For Corporations

Obama: A New Breed...Of Exercise Regimen

People sense these things intuitively. Hillary would get universal health care through, but she'll do so by freeing corporations from the burdens of providing it. People will, on average, pay even more for it. Obama represents a new way of doing things, which unfortunately involves eschewing the financial cocaine tray, getting into the gym, and sweating like pigs.

Psyche's News Roundup

Matthew Yglesias (November 18, 2007) - This Sounds Like a Really Fun Mission (Neocons ramping up for another war - not Iran)

James Watson: To question genetic intelligence is not racism - Independent Online Edition

Security experts: NIST encryption standard may have NSA backdoor

Stumper : Making the Case... for Hillary Clinton. By Sean Wilentz

The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush: Politics & Power:

Guantanamo document confirms psychological torture - Wikileaks FishbowlNY Strike Watch: 90 Percent of SNL Staff Was Fired


ABC News: 9/11 Firefighters Plot Anti-Giuliani Ads

Raw Replay - Revisiting History - UK TV hits Giuliani on 9/11 record

Questions About Carville and CNN - The Caucus - Politics - New York Times Blog (debate was rigged)

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | We're trapped in a prison and the walls are rising higher

Intelligent design, Creationism | Salon News (American creationism doesn't die, it just adapts)

Race and Intelligence | MetaFilter

Brain size does not predict general cognitive ability within families -- Schoenemann et al. 97 (9): 4932 -- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

g, a Statistical Myth

Yet More on the Heritability and Malleability of IQ + AAPA Statement on Biological Aspects of Race

Evolutionary Map, Ten Thousand Million Years | histomap.jpg (JPEG Image, 3212x8748 pixels)

Art & Architecture | Guardian Unlimited Arts | Rembrandt reaches the web

Fortress Britain: Party Member Hauled Away, Held As Terrorist

England is the Blarney Stone of traditional Western freedoms. Magna Carta was made while commoners and royalty sat by the ancient sacred tree at Runnymede to invent habeas corpus, and courts which ran on rule of law. Much future intellectual and economic prosperity were granted solid foundations that day, so it is discomfiting to watch as England begins descending a steeper stairway into paranoia.

As the Labour Party held its conference in Brighton, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Britain was in Iraq for one reason only--to help the Iraqi government. At which point 82-year old Walt Wolfgang yelled, "That's a lie and you know it!" He was descended upon by security guards, and party members say they handled the old gentleman rather roughly while ejecting him from the proceedings.

Mr. Wolfgang is a Vice President of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. As he was being wrestled out, party chairman for Thamesmead Steve Forrest said, "Leave him alone, he's an old man." Forrest was immediately hauled away by more guards. Wolfgang, a refugee from Nazi Germany and Labour Party member since 1948, has no dearth of perspective:
"When you have an international debate that does not deal adequately with the international issues of the day, the least you can do, if someone is talking nonsense, is say so."

At first Sussex police denied that Mr Wolfgang had been detained or searched but a spokesman later admitted that he had been issued with a section 44 stop and search form under the Terrorism Act.

Mr Wolfgang said: "We have reached a situation where freedom of expression has been threatened. I am not surprised, because the Labour Party has been taken over by a gang of adventurers who are on their way out."

On their way out. Yes, rather...well, let's hope you live to see that day, sir. Until then I'm making a new tag entitled 'Fortress Britain.'

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Leatherstocking High

Follow-up to last post, which provoked some fairly strong reactions akin to revulsion regarding children taking hunting rifles into school (hey...what could possibly go wrong?), Rasputin holding Czars in thrall, Columbine revisited, etc. Daniel, Bruce, Phil, Isabelita, and mom, yes, you deserve some explaining.

In the Mohawk Valley and the Adirondacks in 1980, we knew guns were dangerous. No one had to tell us that. But deer hunting season was paradise, and that meant guns. We were free, you see: we carried projectors of violence strong enough to slam a ten-point buck off its cloven hooves at 250 yards like it was hit by a pickup truck. Under our levity and joy, I'll tell you true. We felt the counterbalance of responsibility. It's no small thing to take a life, and even in my most bashful bonhomies, over all the beers a Buick's trunk can hold, I've made apologies to animals' spirits. Classmates I knew for years, they tried to hide their tears over the blood trails of dead deer. There's an implicit, perhaps sacred understanding that you're taking part in something wrong you can't come back from.

Some boys in my homeroom were true outdoorsmen, more inured to death and animal suffering. Darren Loucks, who sat right next to me over four years, checked his trap lines above Caroga Lake in the early mornings and sold beaver and muskrat furs. He was doing what his Hessian forebears had learned from the French Canadians who came down with their Algonquin wives to those rich lakes in search of pelts. Down to places where two of my great-grandparents came from. Grandpa Page was a hunting guide, Grandma Duquesne was descended not far from the Indian populations who made it through the smallpox.

To clarify, we're not so far removed from killing. The meat comes from somewhere, and the truth is, the problem for us wasn't in hanging thirty-ought-sixes and 12-guages in our lockers next to our wool hunting shirts. The danger was common to boys through the ages: we yearned to become men by gaining experience, by taking everything an innocent animal has, and risking our lives in the process. It's an ancient urge. Where can it go? From the comment thread:
The truly dangerous part was letting kids hunt with each other. Leatherstocking High is a world away now, in the town with the oldest continuously serving court-house in the US. They would let us out of school at 11:45 to go deer hunting, and we didn't imagine, say, shooting up the school with a Browning semi-auto 16-guage. Not part of the mythos yet. And few if any things would make a boy prouder than to put venison on his family's table.

I was near-missed once while climbing through pine boughs, inches away, and our quarterback shot the tips of his middle and ring fingers off when his shotgun discharged. Could just as easily have been his head, close enough to get powder burns, or one of ours.

All the same, I'm glad I wasn't there when they stopped letting us take guns to school, or not let us take off to go hunting. Can you imagine that kind of freedom, and trust? We had it once.
Between you and me: I've never recovered from that freedom. It was delicious. Not sure I want to extend it to my society, or even to my son. Odds are you'll wantonly kill something innocent, mourn its glazing eyes, and struggle to understand what people keep out of sight. Yet it's what we've always done. Once you've had it, everything else is sharper. You can't buy a steak in a store without knowing, down in your gut and up in your nose, where it came from.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Mr. Gunwrench"

A friend tore a story out of the local paper and gave it to me, and of course Phil over at Perils of Caffeine in the Evening beat me to posting it.
This article will satisfy neither camp in the culture wars. While it seems to indicate that Darwin is losing influence (the guy lived), it also resoundingly refutes the concept of Intelligent Design. From today’s P-I:

SOUTHWORTH — A man trying to loosen a stubborn lug nut blasted the wheel with a 12-gauge shotgun, injuring himself badly in both legs, Kitsap County sheriff’s deputies said.

The 66-year-old man had been repairing the car for two weeks at his home northwest of Southworth and east of Port Orchard and had gotten all but one lug nut off the right rear wheel before getting frustrated Saturday, Deputy Scott Wilson said.

From about arm’s length the man fired the shotgun at the wheel and was “peppered” in both legs with 00 buckshot and other debris.

Wilson described the injuries as “severe but not life-threatening.”

Now, the big mistake here was using buckshot in the Gunwrench. He might've thought his gun was loaded with a slug, which, from the proper distance and angle (point-blank, 90 degrees to side), would’ve worked on your standard Lincoln Continental frozen lug nut by fracturing the top off so you could then drill out the threads. Skating on thin Darwinian ice? Sure, but buckshot guarantees disaster from any angle. And wouldn't work. Of course, by relating this bit of trivia, I realize what it discloses about my socioeconomic and geographic the Land o' Gun Racks.

At my high school, the principal came on the loudspeaker one morning during deer season and told us boys we were to never, ever, ever leave our rifles and shotguns in our cars; as someone might be tempted to steal them, to do so was irresponsible and unsafe. We were henceforth only allowed to store them in our lockers while at school.

World Figures Painting

Impressive and fun. (But where's Mohammed the Prophet? Ok, ok, just kidding!) Click here for larger view and download options.

Psyche's News Roundup

Woman has 200 orgasms every day | News of the World (Ha! That's nuthin!)

On the fake campaign trail | Salon News: Hillary evades every question (I feel your Meg Ryans)

Glenn Greenwald - Salon - WSJ Op-Ed decries hatred of the president (Don't Cry for Me, Wall Street Journal)

AlterNet: Blogs: PEEK: Bush Still Refuses to Admit Ever Making An Error As President (Jesus...send another pretzel)

Bush vetoes domestic spending bill on health, education and jobs - International Herald Tribune

Judith Regan Sues Murdoch Empire - November 13, 2007 (Tapes of Bernie Kerik!)

Think Progress: Majority believe Bush has committed impeachable offenses

F.B.I. Says Blackwater Guards Killed 14 Iraqis Without Cause - New York Times

AlterNet: Dick Cheney's Sadistic Passion for Shooting Tame Animals

Fifty states face voting machine lawsuits | Clarksville, TN Online

Are reporters doomed? | Media | The Guardian | Citizen journalism is here to stay. But in the rush to embrace new media we risk destroying the soul of traditional reporting

US dollar will get stronger: Bush (another doobie, Mr. Preznit?)

Why we need a recession -- soon - MSN Money (this is new...)

GE Fund Latest Victim of Subprime, Mortgage Losses - Financials * US * News * Story -

NPR : In Drought, Upscale Homeowners Dig for Water

Wikileaks - Wikileaks

Real Geek Heart Beats in Xkcd's Stick Figures

BBC NEWS | Health | 'Delay' in ADHD children's brains

Gene Expression: James Watson Tells the Inconvenient Truth: Faces the Consequences (*)

Zombie Attack at Hierakonpolis

Twenty Sided Blog Archive DM of the Rings I:The Copious Backstory

"The human whose name is written in this note shall die."| MetaFilter

There once was a girl named Lenore | MetaFilter (old but brilliant Mefi) Figureheads of Mankind (incredibly detailed painting) | World Figures on Flickr

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Maintaining Illusions Of Control

" major trend in twentieth-century power politics, the rise of the superpowers, as beginning to interact with another, newer trend--the political fragmentation of the globe. In the Social Darwinistic and imperialistic atmosphere that had prevailed around 1900, it was easy to think that all power was being concentrated in fewer and fewer capitals of the world. Yet the very arrogance and ambitiousness of western imperialism brought with it the seeds of its own destruction; the exaggerated nationalism of Cecil Rhodes, or the Panslavs, or the Austro-Hungarian military, provoked reactions among Boers, the Poles, the Serbs, the Finns; ideas of national self-determination, propagated to justify the unification of Germany and Italy, or the 1914 Allied decision to assist Belgium, seeped relentlessly eastward and southward, to Egypt, to India, to Indochina.

Because the empires of Britain, France, Italy, and Japan had triumphed over the Central Powers in 1918 and checked Wilson's ideas for a new world order in 1919, these stirrings of nationalism were only selectively encouraged; it was fine to grant self-determination to the peoples of eastern Europe, because they were European and thus regarded as 'civilized'; but it was not fine to extend these principles to the Middle East, Africa, or Asia, whre the imperialist powers extended their territories and held down independence movements.

The shattering of those empires in the Far East after 1941, the mobilization of the economies and recruitment of the manpower of the other dependent territories as the war developed, the ideological influences of the Atlantic Charter, and the decline of Europe all combined to release the forces for change in what by the 1950s was being called the Third World."

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers Paul Kennedy, page 392

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"I feel that we have been lied to and betrayed by this Administration. A crime has been committed against the Constitution. It is the duty, the obligation of every soldier, and specifically the officers, to evaluate the legality, the truth behind every order — including the order to go to war. How could I order men to die for something I believe is wrong?"

Happy Veteran's Day: Lieutenant Ehren Watada

A lieutenant from Hawaii stationed at Fort Lewis was the first officer to do it. He refused to go to Iraq, and when pressured to knuckle under, he made a public statement. The Army threatened him with jail time, and he said "OK." He accepted a 6-month sentence. The Army found that response unsatisfying, so it court-martialled him with full measures of wrath and bureaucratic mendacity, seeking to put him away for six years. Watada stood firm as a kangaroo court stooped to nonsense. Last Thursday, he won his case. I doubt the Army will pursue an appeal, and preferring to devote its energies to keeping the outcome quiet (if you've heard of this in the MSM, please let me know). Via Truthout:
On Thursday, November 8, Hon. Benjamin Settle, a federal court judge, issued a preliminary injunction halting any further court-martial proceedings of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada and effectively ruling against the Army on virtually every issue in the case. This injunction not only extends the stay until the conclusion of the habeas corpus proceedings, but also addresses the specific request for relief from further legal proceedings, stating, "the remedy sought by Petitioner, while rare, is appropriate."

Although the Army issued a press release claiming to "look forward to the opportunity to further explain to the District Court judge the full extent of the protections and safeguards that are afforded to a military accused," (Seattle Times, 11/9/07), anyone who glances at the court ruling will agree that the Army's only lingering hope is to appeal this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Settle wrote "for several reasons ... it is likely that [Lt. Watada] will succeed on the merits of his double jeopardy claim" (Order, p. 22; a copy of the order is attached). The court held that the military judge acted "irrationally, irresponsibly, precipitately" (Order, page 31) in failing to consider feasible alternatives to a mistrial, and there was no good reason to stop the proceedings.

This ruling came after the repeated refusal of the military appeals courts to free Lt. Watada of the burden of a second court-martial. Lt. Watada's attorneys have consistently argued that the military should not be allowed a "do-over." The military judge halted the first court-martial in the wake of admissions by prosecution witnesses regarding Lt. Watada's integrity and statements that Lt. Watada's decision not to deploy was an act of conscience.


It takes one kind of bravery to storm a machine-gun nest to save what's left of your comrades. It takes another to storm a hostile establishment to save what's left of a nation. A few people have both kinds. Thank you, Lieutenant Watada.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Giuliani's Bernard B. Kerik Complex

If you like Rudy Giuliani as a presidential candidate, or know someone who does, here are the only two words and valid in any language, that you will ever need: Bernie Kerik.

In today's NY Daily News, Sports writer Mike Lupica updates us on the latest moves of the former Passaic county jailor, Giuliani driver/bodyguard, NYC Corrections Commissioner, NYC Police Commissioner, Judith Regan trystee, Homeland Security Director, and Administrative Authority of Iraq thug-or-other. In short, Kerik may be going to jail on the 30 counts he was recently indicted with, and Lupica finds this ironic. Not least because Giuliani re-named "The Tombs," Manhattan's infamous detention center, the Bernard B. Kerik Complex. He waited a whole three months after 9/11 to extend that honor (what, don't you want to have a prison named after you?), and to make Kerik a partner in his firm, Giuliani Security. The firm's relationship with
Taser International, earth's largest maker of human stun guns, has earned Kerik more than $6.2 million in pre-tax profits through stock options he was granted and then sold, mostly in November 2004.

Wait a minute. Giuliani. Kerik. Security. Right. Giuliani and Kerik know a lot about security. For example, on the morning of 9/11, as a kerosene cruise missile flew over my unwitting head to spear WTC 2 like a shish kebab, Giuliani and Kerik were conducting a chemical warfare drill with the Federal Emergency Management Agency at Pier 19. It's about a mile north of the trade center off the West Side Highway. What a view they must've had, huh? Kerik must've looked at Rudy and said, "Gosh. We were just in there...for a fake terrorist attack...and there's a real one...right out here! Holy cat-houses, Batman. Ain't that a coincidence!?"

Weird. Admittedly, it's not as weird as Giuliani leading the all-important "Polls." Still. But, umm...America? This is nuts. It's like inviting Tony Soprano's crew over for dinner. Do it only if you're serious about adding some real excitement to your life. Mental note to nation, and self: when Giuliani runs things? Just because things are fascist doesn't mean they're secure. In fact they, ahh--how do I say this? They blow up.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Heading away for a blog absence this weekend to Port Townsend, a.k.a. The City the Railroads Forgot. Other than being a good harbor and the once and future-planned capitol of Washington State, it doesn't really have a good excuse for existing. So the iconoclastic sorts who stayed there, and now move there, made a bunch of reasons up, like kinetic sculpture races, theatre, artist collectives, jazz and wooden boat festivals, restaurants people (literally) fly to, topped off with Victorian architecture made with the best and most plentiful timber of the late 1800s. From Wikipedia:

Originally named 'Port Townshend' by Captain George Vancouver (for his friend the Marquis of Townshend) in 1792, Port Townsend was immediately recognized as a good, safe harbor, which it remains to this day. The official settlement of the city took place on the 24th of April, 1851. American Indian tribes located in what is now Jefferson County in the mid-19th century included the Chemakum (or Chimacum), Hoh (a group of the Quileute), Klallam (or Clallam), Quinault and Twana (the Kilcid band — Anglicized: Quilcene).

Port Townsend is also called the "City of Dreams" because of the early speculation that the city would be the largest harbor on the west coast of the United States.

Psyche's News Roundup

Daily Kos: Suddenly, Impeachment Hearings Are Looking Like a Strong Possibility

Senate Deal on Immunity for Phone Companies - New York Times (The Fix is in)

FRONTLINE: spying on the home front: watch the full program online | PBS

Bush presses Musharraf to hold elections: ("You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time," Commander-in-Chief Bush said)

Israel says UN nuclear chief should go for failure over Iran - Yahoo! News (Israel - 300 nuclear bombs, non-member of Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, not subject to IAEA inspections)

Think Progress Lieberman: .Paranoid, Hyper-Partisan, Left-Wing Blogs...Wrote Conspiracy Theories On Iran

Think Progress Poll: Iraq war opposition at all-time high

Glenn Greenwald - Salon: Democrats in big, big trouble because of the Great Iraq War -- again

TPMmuckraker | Talking Points Memo | U.S. Aid to Musharraf = Largely Untraceable Cash Transfers (Sleeza: "We gave to the Pakistani people") Exclusive Bankruptcy Law Backfires on Banks as Foreclosures Offset Gains

The dollar | Ready for a rout? | Decline accelerates

Calculated Risk: WaMu and The Rep War

Global Markets-Dollar fall hits stocks, boosts gold | Reuters

Democrats adopt new campaign plan - John Bresnahan - (Become Catamites Now?)

Dept. of Criminology: Dangerous Minds: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker: Criminal Profiling 101

Study: Vets a quarter of the homeless - Military Affairs - Study finds that veterans constitute a quarter of America's homeless (supporting the troops)

Truthdig - Reports - The Cancer From Within ( Air Force Academy wing of Evangelical Christianity)

There You Go Again: Orwell Comes To America (your corporate media at work)

Encrypted E-Mail Company Hushmail Spills to Feds | Threat Level from (Hushmail not so quiet)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Silver And Gold, Silver And Gold

As the graphic from the Onion above says, are we suddenly in "Fear of everything but gold?" Not quite, but we get the picture. Gold settled at a record nominal high today. The previous high was $825.50, set Jan. 21, 1980, or $2,128.09, adjusted for inflation, according to the Minneapolis Fed Calculator. Official US inflation estimates have been laughably conservative through much of that period, so the all-time high probably clocks in nearer to USD $4-5,000 per ounce in today's value.

Gold, the stock markets, and oil are starting to correlate as as you would traditionally expect, meaning they're starting to move in opposite price directions. This is news because it has not
been the case for much of the past several years, when both gold, oil, and stock indices had surprisingly strange correlation patterns. This amongst other things led some observant market-watchers (such as the Canadian Govt. Pension Fund) to conclude that a) US stock markets were being gamed back upwards via derivatives buying, and b) that the US, or somebody, was selling its gold reserves in order to finance such buying.

If those sound like conspiracy theories, one might bear in mind (rimshot) that the Soviets emptied their gold reserves via under-the-table sales in the early 1980s while their armies were fighting protracted asymmetrical conflicts with Islamic insurgencies. Of course our government, being so fiscally conservative, could never suffer a similar fate in a million years. But you do have to put your money somewhere.

There are other places offering relatively good value besides gold. For example, Jay-Z, a popular rapper, is flashing Euros like Japanese folding fans in a music video while Gisele Bundchen no longer accepts payment in dollars. Wholesale drug dealers started switching to the Euro three years ago...which means American intelligence agencies are also now, insofar as possible, Euro-denominated. Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar is at an all-time high, as silver nears its nominal all-time peak. Rolls of ordinary copper wire at Home Depot have nearly tripled in price since 2005.

Not espousing any sort of panic here, just an eye to conservative diversification. Besides, everything's FINE!! The city of Cleveland is allocating $100 million to demolish vacant homes. Plenty of building opportunities there, and the new construction markets are still going very strong in Iraq, Africa, and Central Asia. Citicorp, America's largest bank, may have lost a third of its value over the last few weeks, but it hired former (Clinton) Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin to more effectively grovel for a bailout at the Fed's door. Speaking of the Fed, it pumped another $40 billion shot into the credit markets last Thursday. Best of all, the American economy grew at a faster-than-expected rate, unemployment is lower than expected, and the core inflation rate is clocking in at, oh, about 2% or so. Mother Russia would be proud.

Monday, November 05, 2007

History Never Repeats...But It Can Rhyme

Bush will go down in history as the torture president. I hate that this country ever had a president who made the torture of human beings official government policy.

-Tristero at Digby's Hullabaloo

The following piece by IOZ, It's All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating, came to me via The River Blog. If you're not in a "raw food for thought" or "this is not my beautiful house" sort of mood, skip to the next post. If you are, go for it. It's push-back on Tristero's somewhat purposeful naivete' above, using a mind also pushing lots of electrical current back through a molten ball of mercury vapor. The result is a brightness which exposes much in the way of Real vs. Fugazi. Again, proceed only if you are comfortable with intellectual nudity, take your moonshine by a Mason jar, or both.
"American liberals accuse their conservative counterparts of atavism, but they themselves are equally guilty--if not guiltier--of eying an imaginary past. Because their program is untethered from the history and reality of the actual United States, a vapid, vacuous series of exhortations to the better angels of our nature without the slightest attempt to grapple with the real actions of our country over the past centuries, they propose it as a reinvigoration or restoration of a peaceable, humanitarian, democratic tradition that never in fact existed.

As partisans, it's understandable that they would want to exculpate their own political and intellectual forebears. Likewise, it's easy to see why the myth of a Just America plays so heavily in their rhetorical contortions. I'll make the point again: all politics is conservative in the sense that it seeks to fulfill the promise of an heroic past. (Italics added.) The impediment is that the past wasn't heroic, but that's never stopped anyone.

Tristero, AKA Richard Einhorn, was born in 1952. The School of the Americas, wherein the United States Military trained allied armies in the techniques of state terror and torture, was founed in 1946. The Vietnam Conflict, in which millions of Vietnamese were slaughtered in order to satisfy the theoretical fancies of American paranoids, began with the arrival of American "advisors" right around the time Tristero was born, and it was prosecuted alternately under Democratic and Republican leadership for twenty years. The Iranian coup, "Operation Ajax," occured in 1953. The number of foreign dictators supported directly by the United States, not even in secret, despite their affections for torture, mass murder, sand all other manners of human savagery and indignity is too long to list. The practice of "extraordinary rendition" began not under Bush, but as a presidential directive issued by Bill Clinton. The use of black sites, CIA prisons, secret transfers, and torture date at least to the beginning of the cold war. Torture has long been the official policy of the United States.

What sets the Bush Administration apart is only that it has been unabashed where others have been circumspect. This has made it easy for partisans like Tristero to fulminate against abuses that they would have otherwise been happy to ignore. How, you ask, do I know they would be happy to do so? Because they did--in this case for many decades. They ignored the dispassionate critiques of people like Chomsky or else dismissed them as lunatics. They believed that people like Jim Bovard were hysterics and heretics. Somewhat more moderate critiques of empire--Vidal for instance--were more palatable to them because the writing was prettier. But they never accepted the heart of the critique. (Ibid.) If it were true that Bill Clinton sought to expand, and did expand, the powers of government to combat "terrorism," to kidnap and to torture, and to prosecute foreign military actions, then it would hardly do to spend hours a day and thousands of words figuring out which member of his identical political faction to bless with the keys to the kingdom.

The idea that George W. Bush occupies a lower rung on the ladder into the inferno than, say, Harry S Truman is preposterous on its face. As good liberals everywhere worry that Bush will launch a war with Iran, with the fortunate collusion of their own liberal politicians, perhaps even using a "preemptive" nuclear strike, let us recall that Harry S Truman did, in fact use nuclear weapons on a civilian population. Twice. (Ed: when he had already received two requests for peace talks from the Japanese govt.) They note that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dying at the hands of our invasion under Bush, but how many Vietnamese died under the escalations of Johnson and Nixon? These aren't cavils. I have already written about the similarities between Bush and Clinton when it comes to the catch-all usefulness of terrorism to consolidate state power and to subvert the basic rights of man.

What accounts for this deliberate blindness? Is it intellectual laziness? Is it political "tribalism," to use Arthur Silber's going term? To a degree. More substantially, it's blindness motivated by moral and intellectual cowardice. If, after all, President Bush is the continuation of an historic trend; if present policies are the apotheoses of past practices; then the complete hollowness of choosing Obama over Clinton over Edwards becomes readily apparent. The bankruptcy of investing time and energy in people who will do nothing to change the fundamental principles of the American empire because they are products of the empire becomes evident.

If, however, that were the case, then one would be less inclined to imagine himself vaguely as a revolutionary for the courage of pulling a democratic lever in a curtained-off little room. He would first have to confront his sundry importance. His dispensibility. His irrelevance. He would then have to confront what it means to be one more disposable body in a vast military and mercantile empire. He would have to see that the only real politics are a more radical politics than he is willing to entertain, and he would have to admit that if change comes, it will not come within his lifetime.

The principle here is Copernican. To understand your actual place, you must first discover that you're not at the center, and then discover that you are very, very small. There's a different kind of power in that knowledge than in the delusion of grandness and centrality. But it isn't a power that bears quadrennial rewards of falling balloons and butterflies on inauguration day."
Made it this far?
All politics is conservative in the sense that it seeks to fulfill the promise of an heroic past. Yeah. And creative adherence to that principle is how Hitler won over Germany. Like Germans, I think that to change, we first have to admit what we are, and have been. Welcome to my smallness. Here...have some butterflies, and some balloons.