Thursday, August 31, 2006
Friends don't let their country be run by fools and liars so don't give any of Dubya's rubber stampers another term.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
There are only two working months until votes are counted [we hope]. Its time to start drumming in the inconvenient truths, of which there seem to be more than one.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Much better than having intermediaries deliver your kindness, give it in person so that it is fresh.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
It does not matter how many hoops the biotechnologists jump through. Until the preachers and acolytes yield their science policy jobs to real scientists and are demoted back to their pulpits, we will suffer a near standstill of progress. That would be both technical progress, and the humanitarian progress it enables. The trend of American administrations away from seriously taking impartial scientific advice into consideration began with the election of a figurehead president who had never studied a word of any science and by the time he entered office at age 69 may have forgotten what he had learned of economics back in 1932. [One wonders if the onset of his Alzheimers actually dates to the 60's when he forgot labor and new deal politics he had spoken for in his first fifty years. Seriously! In a free country we can certainly change our minds but clinically, this looks almost like a personality change.] We know Ronald Reagan could not do the figuring in his head. Clinton reversed this trend briefly. Bush resumed it and took it to its often bizarre anti-science extreme. Our nation is now lead by the blind: a party without one expert who could give you a rudimentary explanation of the mainstream science behind a strictly physical phenomenon like global warming is none the less setting our goals for [not] tackling problems that will strangle our economy or leave us as diseased as we were a decade ago.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
...one of the points that had intended to make in my post about "why do iSometimes there seems to be a bit of Cabernet on his keyboard but I'm damned if his perception is not stone sober. He's right I suppose: a view from the outside is always so much more clear. One thing he particularly wanted to point out was that Americans didn't just start being overbearingly "benign" with the Bush presidency.
hate America" was the fact that even though people like yourself are
whinging about the "current" situation, it has been going on for a VERY
long time, this antipathy, antagonism, created by american arrogance.
The reward progressives get for being aware of the bloody bootprints and the resented ease with which we formerly bought influence in less developed nations is to be called "America haters" by cheap tricks and loud mouths who profit only from outraged complacency. The struggle to have a more informed and realistic view of our place in the world does not make liberals haters of America's past or present. Who here is old enough to remember the old "my mother, drunk or sober!" sloganizing of the Viet Nam war era? There is nothing new here. What dismays me is having to fight the same old fight with these ignorant fools. I do not want to become a mourner for America's potential.
That trend of arrogance is long running: before we "stopped communism" in Viet Nam['75?], before "Ugly American" was published. The fortunate combination of natural resources, expatriot european physicists and lack of battles fought on our soil that left us strong and victorious at the end of WWII went to our heads in the worst way: we took it as a sign of god's election of our noble ways, a just reward for our superiority. Every conquering nation before us had the same delusions. What angers Davo saddens me...I live in a country that could f__k up cold beer. We had all the lessons on the table after Viet Nam. Did we learn one damn thing? Not so's you'd notice.
I cannot entirely excuse my brilliant self. I have always felt this was a special country, a better model of how a people can live well by working hard and governing themselves fairly. That belief is tattered now, badly shaken by the abuse of wealth and power that Republicans call a kinder and gentler conservatism. But when did I notice the arrogance? It is one thing to think you have a better way and quite another to assume it works for everyone else and force it down their throats...so I came to think as the Viet Nam war ground to a halt. Much later I understood that conflicts like that do not arise because the idealism of one population is at odds with the idealism of another: that difference can only be used to sustain a will to fight but never starts the fight. It is just a tool for leaders who have been counseled that war is in the best interests of their advisors and supporters. And these advisors and supporters include idealogues, men and women burdened with a grotesquely arrogant form of the same idealism they will tap to recruit the population. The interests of the ideologues and counselors for war is neither shared by the majority of their own nations people nor considerate in any humane way about the lives of people in other nations. What a gift Bin Laden gave these bastards. And Bin Laden was, in a way, returning a favor, a professional courtesy between arrogant armageddonists who otherwise have trouble rousing working people who'd rather put up with arrogance than make war.
Slackman gives a further reading of the political fallout as the dust settles around Israel's contended borders and there is no comfort in it at all for the US. Our clumsy, phony claim to be delivering democracy is just noise and tears lost under the rubble from Beirut to Baghdad.
In my readings and travels, I observe of Arabs that their outlook is marked by a long history of being poor in money but rich in pride. Pride is an uneven tent that easily encompasses a family or a tribe, can be stretched to cover the identity of a nation but under pressure from outsiders, will do for an entire linguistically distinguished culture. The symbolic humiliation of a people and a culture that scenes from Abu Ghraib represent will be redressed even though our government and its talk-show lackeys persist in saying "whats the big deal?". It is a hideous possibility that if our soldiers had simply shot those prisoners and taken no pictures, less damage might have been done to the process of restoring peace in Iraq. Recurring offenses to Arab character and Arab pride will go on because they arise from cultural myopia...not the conscious clash of cultures foreseen and welcomed by Osama Bin Laden and the neocons, not a religious clash, but one that is just dumb cultural miscommunication brought on by forcing the two cultures into contact through miscalculated military campaigns. But the real damage will be the way the pride of the culture will be restored through the ascendancy of the religion as a political force. "Death before dishonor" was a slogan that once meant more to Americans, say in the days when men dueled to the death over an insult or other matter of honor. But its meaning has slipped away from our relatively sybaritic western minds and it is not much heard except in tattoo parlors near Camp Pendleton and in grotesque caricatures like the 1987 movie with that title. But certainly, "Death before dishonor" fits a suicide bomber better than his vest full of plastic explosives.
The people in the grip of this Islamism are not unintelligent about its workings even as they ignore its impact on the peace in their region.
"We need an umbrella," said Mona Mahmoud, 40, Jihan's older sister. "In the 60's, Arabism was the umbrella. We had a cause. Now we lack an umbrella. We feel lost in space. We need to be affiliated to something. Usually in our part of the world, because of what religion means to us, we immediately resort to it."And the pundits of the region see clearly enough that Arab pride has been consistently damaged by western meddling and do not seem alarmed at the price that present regimes will pay for the restoration of dignity:
"The losers are going to be the Arab regimes, U.S.A. and Israel", said Dr. Fares Braizat of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. "The secular resistance movements are gone. Now there are the Islamists coming in. So the new nationalism is going to be religious nationalism, and one of the main reasons is dignity. People want their dignity back."The only Arabs Bush ever dignified were the princes who would sell him oil. I think $70 per barrel does not begin to account for the real price we will pay for that oil.
Beware Arab pride, it is so thick it could cut you with a knife.
This was a bit of "wisdom" I have always considered unacceptable for posting because, like all generalizations, it is wrong in some ways. It could be read as inflamatory and even cowardly. But if, by speaking in their own language, it would give my crusading neocon administration a clue about the way they are stomping on the sensitivities of the hearts and minds they so desperately need to win, it is worth risking the ways it can be misread. It is politically incorrect but then our present course in world politics is in even more dire need of correction.
We Americans have our pride too of course. And the wanton destruction visited on us by al-Qaida in 2001 damaged that pride. Now, does anyone see how productive and beneficial our measures to restore pride have been? Where the hell is the world going, folks? [clue: the answer was in the question.]
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
The bedroom has been emptied
which was hardly tidy to begin with,
so that carpentry and painting can be done before the new carpet arrives. If god could make the world in 6 days, surely I can do a little framing, plastering, trim carpentry and painting!
Monday, August 21, 2006
HuffingtonPost also has "a wide variety of avenues" in terms of an exit for venture investors, Hippeau said. While it could conceivably go public one day, it seems more likely to become an acquisition candidate--either for a Web portal, a traditional media company or a content-driven online suitor.
And, the lead investor assures us, this will have no impact on the politically independent voices Arianna has assembled.
Hippeau said he was unconcerned about HuffingtonPost's left-wing political slant upsetting limited partners and did not regard the investment as akin to a political contribution. "We have no involvement in the editorial side, and we are a minority shareholder," he noted.This should be interesting to watch unfold. We know selected bits of the web-as-media smell like cash to MSM investors: Murdoch felt moved to buy up MySpace. The political uses of MySpace are speculative for now but far from nonexistant. Was Huffington looking for the money or did the money come looking for a place to grow [as Hippeau seems to claim]? How would Huffington have responded to Murdoch money, in the unlikely scenario that any would be offered? Though its a vague question, what intrigues me most is whether serious money comes to Huffington merely "unconcerned" about its distinctly un-Republican voice or if it is more a matter of some investors finally hedging their typical bets on the mostly paleolithic conservatism of big-money-media investing. What winds are really shifting here?
But always available is the suspension of false needs which permits a very good approximation of happiness: the savoring of difference.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
You can't start to find god until you lose man.
That can be read in two very different ways. Which way came to you first? I'm not sure why it pleased me to have that pop into my brain. More on its context when we come back.
(Note: If you are going to take up a religion centered around life cycle events, birth, marriage, death etc., then find a very small congregation. Otherwise, they will wear you out.;)
Friday, August 18, 2006
Whatever the question was, the Hummer was the wrong answer on so many levels!
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I was one of the last people to have something like a normal conversation with him, a few days before he died in his home at the age of 51. He spent that hour asking after my well being and that of my family, a focus so disarmingly natural with him that I did not notice until later how starkly it contrasted with our relative conditions. All the while we talked that afternoon, he asked the nurse to measure things and adjust his breathing apparatus...he was concurrently conversing and in detailed command of his very deliberate and active health care...as if will alone were what really kept it all going. Only later too, did I realize the few moments of restfulness that crossed his face were the only lull in the constant tension of his battling for life. He was in his own home, able to see his garden, and not in some hospital. For his poor health, that was an unusual situation and all by his decision and his quarterbacking of all the help he could raise and the red tape he could untie.
He completely overhauled my notion of "quality of life": that is to be judged by determining if the person lived according to their own will. The quality of the person, if we may use so gross a concept, must be relative to their oportunities and whether they connected with fellow humans.
Our poets tell us we are each reduced when one of us dies. This I must qualify. I note many who see themselves on one side of a clash of cultures call for the deaths of those on the other side and exalt when those deaths are produced. Maybe we aren't all poets?
On average, in every minute of 2005, 108 people died. It would tax me, introverted nerd that I am, to recall the names of 108 friends. Not being in politics, management or sales, I doubt I have spoken face to face with more than a few thousand people in my entire life. That is fewer people than die in any given hour on this planet. Did those deaths diminish me? I had no thoughts about those people until I read the statistics. A name, a picture, a story to make them real is all one needs but lacking that news, numbers are not people and only by effort of imagination can one stir oneself with joy at their arrival, grief at their going or alarm at how much groceries, diapers and square miles of cemetary are needed per day. Few think of death in that close-up way until it has knocked on their door and I think that is too late. The lives in which you invest some of your own life or see some of your self are felt as a greater loss.
At the funeral today, I cried for the first time in perhaps a decade. In spite of, no because of its inevitability and because it had become a struggle in which so many of us had become involved, there was unbearable poignancy to the end of this amazing fight to be alive .
The "sacredness of life" as a "value" become mere words falling like dirty scraps of meat from the mouth of George Bush while he commits more soldiers to war in Iraq, strives to make unwanted pregnacies end in hazardous back alley abortions and prevents otherwise wasted stem cells from ever saving a real life. Come! Look here instead! See what it means to value life, see what can be done when you actually believe and practice that value.
Mark was not just a mascot or emblem for a battle others fought. Certainly others did fight. The sacrifices of his parents were right to the limit of strength and solvency at times. But Mark galvanized all this. He was a leader. If you imagine a battle scene, enemies emerging from din and smoke plunging at your disarrayed forces from all direcions when someone picks up your fallen banner, yells "this way" and by brute example gets you coordinated and under way, you call them a leader. Our battle is with our collective and individual mortality. In our disarray , some wonder if life is worth the struggles though their struggles are light, some hope that they get a second chance in a magical hereafter, many numb themselves to their ultimate future. Today used to be the future. The future is to rot in a box on which shovelfuls of earth mournfully drum. And Mark rallied us all with a rousing effort to be as much as he could be every moment he could be. We are here. He was here. This is all we know for certain.
Today, August the 17th, new stats on world population were issued by the Population Reference Bureau. Only 107 people die per minute nowadays. To me the saddest thing in these numbers is that 2 and 1/2 times as many will be born in the same time span as die...even though the bulk of the deaths that accompany them are to some degree deaths due to overpopulation. They may have wanted to live but not one in a million of those 107-per-minute will be blessed with the will, wits and resources that Mark had. As numerous as we are, we can hardly afford to help each other live up to our full potentials and we dilute rather than enrich the lives around us.
The dead always serve us well,
Speaking to us through our imaginations,
Validating hopes and claims as the living can not.
And who can argue with them in their sober, stable orbits?
To us who live, they work like gods,
Addressable but not persuadable.
May any real gods guard the dead from misinvocation by the living until our consciences need no such crutches.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University recently released a report analyzing the security vulnerabilities of three of the most commonly used electronic voting systems. The results are sobering.
All three voting systems were found to contain significant security and reliability vulnerabilities. The Brennan report also concluded these vulnerabilities pose threats to the integrity of national, state and local elections.
We all have a lot of local issues and world grief on our plates just now. And it will get worse as November approaches. Just remember that the people who are in denial about making the world blow up in our faces are the same ones who take Diebold's money. Don't let there be any hint of suspicion about the honesty of our next vote or that grief will just stay there on your plate and keep piling on.
The first duty and permanent struggle of anyone who seriously presents to others and themselves that they are scientific is to stop fooling themselves.
They will succeed only to the degree that they are not blinded by the many hazards of ego, by affiliations or any other self centered need to be right.
A lack of education about how science works, or an education hostile to its workings, disposes one to cynicism and the expectation that science just makes stuff up for aggrandizement of its cult, like any other religion one has been raised to mistrust.
In the so-called "soft sciences" where instrumentation and meaningful numbers are rare and theories don't often lead to experiments or at least to those we could ethically perform, the workings and results of science are held to be less trustworthy and more culturally determined than in the physical sciences. If I were more widely read, I'd have my own opinion on that but such, I gather, is the reputation of studies in the social sciences like sociology and political science.
That is both understandable and unfortunate. We all know the benefits of hard science can be, are being, swamped by the disarray, disharmony and many crossed purposes of our social realms. Because of the widespread ignorance of a usable, generally accepted sociological framework for conducting the vital discussions of humanity's best courses and cures for the ills of its ill-distributed resources and disenfranchised peoples, we fall back on tribal ways, even in the worlds richest nation. The tribal is threatened by and militates against the global framework, whatever it might be.
But this does not mean the attempt to be scientific about our social problems is not made. Even without a theory at the outset, one can say "let me guard against my own biases and assumptions and catalog all our institutions and trends...we are the data." Has anyone tried? Like I said, I am not widely read. But for other reasons, I bought a copy of Morris Berman's Dark Ages America, the final phase of empire. The right kind of dry academic praise appeared on the dust jacket. Flipping to random pages I found phrases and sentences that snapped into place among my own perceptions:
"...as possible causes of this massive destruction of community, [Putnam] cites in particular the impact of television, which has privatized American lives,..."
"...community-based enterprises [replaced] by multinational outlets. Shopping malls are now America's most distinctive public space, and mall culture is about being in the presences of other, but not in their company."
But the book went unread at the back of an overflowing to-do list. Then my brother, the natural born philosopher, happened to mention the book to me and praised the author's resolve to look into the roots of America's demonstrably decaying trends without any prejudice or attempt to discount any evidence. He told me the guy may have succeeded. So, that's what I am reading now. The harsh reviews for the book mostly characterize it as an America-hater's screed and that alone tells me he has breached the invisible barriers of self-congratualtory bias in which the American psyche cocoons itself. If the author has failed, will my own biases obscure that? Let my review attempt to replicate the results of others, for that is our method.
Don't you know? The last bit of news you ever get is that you haven't been hearing the whole story about your own situation.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
A government that schemes to prevent the votes of some people is not government of the people, by the people or for the people and will take many down with it when it perishes.
Majority and minority should both be outraged for it is only cleanly working democracy that makes those demographics mean anything or have any hope of trading places from time to time.
[hat tip: Majikthise and TruthOut]
Monday, August 14, 2006
I heard his jet above the flow.
He did not hear me crying here
for crumb of hope or place to go.
The real help he sent away
to join a trumped up foreign fray.
Not one to plug the bursting lake,
Instead he plans a pork buffet.
Storms aren't things that leaders make
But "Horse Show" Brown was his mistake.
His jet has passed, the waters seep.
Bones in razed houses recall him for my sake.
The waters rising, dark and deep
disturb him not nor his veep.
To him, my death is only sleep.
To him, my death is only sleep.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Bush gave and continues to give a series of justifications for why we spend nearly 100 billion a year trying to kill bad people in Iraq. We don't seem to know who most of these bad people are but that hardly stops us: 50 thousand Iraqis are dead. And one by one, these justifications die as well, falling apart before our eyes on the evening news, pretty much as critics and liberal bloggers predict. The list has gotten rather long so I will briefly recount them. Isn't it a little odd that American voters tolerate this? How patiently must we watch thousands die as we wait for each of his fatal fibs to show how false it is:
- No WMD found,
- Only Chalabi showed up to greet our tanks with roses.
- We were told we have the resources to fight this war and don't need friends...what crap. We don't have the resources to protect, or failing that rebuild, one major city ravaged by a hurricane. Perhaps Bush forgot to tell us about the Al Qaida in New Orleans?
- Before the war was announced we were told the perpetrators of 9/11 would be captured but even at that date, war was already planned. Yet Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are still on the loose. If it really is open season on these bums, then we are terribly sloppy marksmen.
- Not much in the way of antiseptic, quick and clean pinpoint combat[I'll spare you pictures and links to atrocity and collateral damage stories and casualty figures],
- Who is shocked? Who is awed?
- We were told we were going in to get Al Qaida. But it had no presence to speak of in pre-war Iraq. Our invasion attracted far more Al Qaida into the country than ever could have been there under Saddam. In the two years it took us to hunt down one Jordanian, how many hundreds more fighters made their way across the borders?
- Invasion has led to civil war and sectarian fighting that completely overwhelm our democracy building...so much so that any claim to have invaded for the cause of democracy looks suspiciously like an empty cover for some other purpose. Not all the candidates we attempted to back were using us, not all were puppets for our use..but those have fallen away and we are left with aggravated camps of sectarian extremists from which to form a coalition..mission abolished!
- Far from stabilizing a troubled region, our demonstration of the fatigued militarism and inept empire building have made old enemy Iran and its proxy Hezbollah bold enough to pursue their dream of annihilating Israel and not flinch from Israel's bloody attempt to return the favor. Those two were true and long standing sources of terror and would have been far more effective targets for constructive rather than military engagement and addressing them would have been far more likely to reduce tension in the region.
- "Pullout would be a disaster!" [OK this is more of an admission that going to war was a mistake than it is a reason to let war drag on...but don't tell the Republicans that.] Would it be a worse disaster than perpetuation of the daily bloodshed we have now? We destabilized the country, we blew away the cruel forces that held it together without a workable plan for what would replace them. Anybody but the US would have more credibilty in patching up what we leave behind...try the UN, try the neighboring states...for heaven sakes Dubya, TRY peace!
- Its come to light lately that this unadvertized justification proved a dud: A pro-war stance is a good way to get elected.
The images and words of terrorism and the relentless appeal to the horrors we viewed on Sept. 11, 2001 [year included for those who forgot it] are seldom left out of this president's speeches. When not offering specific justifications for military action, Bush just vaguely appeals to residual fear and makes claims yet more vague that we are more secure now than we were when he took office.
This sort of post and the scary news that prompts it seem to me like the last nail in the coffin for Bush's war justification as I will explain, but first witness how widely this vicious nonsense is repeated. From NYTimes, Bush reacts to the arrests in Britain:
President Bush called the arrests “a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom.”And the papers can find Americans who buy that line:
"I think they're doing just fine," Ron Spangenberg, 69, of Jacksonville, Ill., said of the Bush administration. "This is a big deal. I don't [know] where the doubters are coming from, but apparently they don't think we're at war. We are at war."
And in another NYTimes piece, Adam Nagourney, parphrases Cheney, equating opposition to his war with support for terrorists. Cheney's leap of bad faith claims certainty that these "dangerous times" require a war against a country that has much oil, many bodies but, until recently, has been underrepresented among the nationalities of terrorists. The only way to have Iraq show up in the statistics as a terrorist country is to do as the US Army does and include all the insurgent's and sectarian killings as "terrorism". [none of which went on prior to our invasion, need I remind?]
And finally, Atrios catches a typical Republican in a typical moment of delusion or stupidity:
Lieberman (on video): “If we just pick up as Ned Lamont wants us to do and get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England, and it will strengthen them and they will strike us again.”Really? Not the "same people" at all! Who believes the number and ubiquity of such bitter schemers and willing suicides is less today than it was before we invaded Iraq? Those who would now commit acts of terror against Americans find enduring justification for their hatreds and plans of retribution: in our invasion on false pretenses, in our disregard of international calls for restraint, in the subsequent isolated instances of atrocities well outside the norms of warfare we espoused. These latest plotters are all British, not 9/11's recruits from Saudi Arabia. What prompts Muslims living far from the middle east to volunteer to kill hundreds of strangers and themselves? What state do we attack next to make ourselves safe from this threat, Britain? We lost 3000 innocent lives in an unprovoked attack. Instead of getting the charismatic and the dogmatic instigators who are financed by oil-rich Muslim Country That Is Puting Out, we captured a few lieutenants, let the big fish hide out in Muslim "Ally" Country With Nuclear Weapons and then went next door to the oil-rich Muslim Country That Is Not Puting Out and precipitated the killing of 50 thousand people. How many of those dead were more guilty than our 3000? How many, like our 3000, unfortunately got in the way of some ideolgue's politcial statement? Isn't it a little odd that Mr. Bush and his supporters are so mystified by the lack of love young Muslims feel for America? How could he say with a straight face that we are under attack because "they hate us for our love of freedom"? Yep, there you have it folks! They hate our freedom. I have to confess, I was unaware our constitution provided any freedom to invade far-off oil republics.
I beg readers to add any rationale for war that I have overlooked. Dear leader might have over looked it as well!
Based on his statements and those who are/have stuck with him, President Son-of-a-Bush has left only this tissue of an argument for continued war: somehow it staunches the flood tide of terrorism. His very own presidential web page concludes as much in its claims of success:
The United States and its allies have made great progress in the Global War on Terrorism, but we must maintain our dedication and vigilance. While many terrorists have been brought to justice, others are plotting to attack us.After I dashed off this post on the day the would-be bombers were cuffed, I pulled it because I owe it to myself and to my readers to not just post reactions and guesses about how wrong the Bush/Cheney/Lieberman interpretation is but to add a well supported criticism of these claims. What if I were wrong? That takes time and digging through the diverse array of lists and databases of terrorism incidents available on the web. Your patience will be rewarded now with a clearer picture of what US warfare in Islamic countries really does for terrorism, a picture I invite you to quote or throw in the face of idiots who blithly contend armed intervention in the world is making us safer. This simple graph is a thorough demolition of their easily told lie.
I have pointed to an appendix of other sources and interpretations for those who do not trust my numbers. But wingnuts quit reading my little blog a year ago, so for most of you, I'll cut to the tail-chasing:
How is this success against terrorism? This is utter failure! The database I used was the one that was most complete for the period plotted. Rand Corp. keeps it up to date, explains its criteria for including incidents and provides data analysis tools on line. It lumped all Islamic terror organizations into "religious" as opposed to Nationalist/separatist [such as IRA or Basque ETA] which are the other and longer running category of contributors to the world's pile of innocent dead. The non-Islamic religious terror incidents could be removed with a another week of work and barely change the graph. The pathetic dodge of only considering attacks on US soil, in order to show numbers that support claims that we have been protected, will not go over with even our closest ally, Britain. The Spanish, likewise would not care for the Bush view that dead people outside the US border just don't count. US actions have made the world a dangerous place and sooner or later, if we don't stop those actions, we will find out that we actually do live in that world.
The US has enjoyed this supposedly hated freedom for about two centuries. Muslim countries and even empires exhisted far longer so the freedom haters could have come after us any time. When did they start coming over here to do us in? There is a lot to know about the when and by who against whom of terrorism. Fortunately,several compilations of all 20th century terrorism incidents exist. No two of these lists say quite the same thing and some are compiled for propaganda purposes without stating definition of the terms or methods of collecting the data. But not one of these databases or chronologies that includes the ten years of data ending in 2005 gives any impression other than what I graphed. What has caused this increase? Why has it happened when it did? Hmmm?
So, Sen. Lieberman, Dubya and you too creepy VP, you ought to know it is so much simpler than you can admit. We in the US have taken to killing Muslims with only a bit more discrimination and in far greater numbers than they kill us. Unless you consider that killing to be one of our freedoms then its not our freedom they hate. Our much-tampered-with intelligence community has just managed to save more lives than all our guns, bombs, cruise missles and Haliburtons combined. Why can't this administration just look at what works and do more of it? If George Will asked that question, would Dubya listen? Instead it enflames the world, harvests fresh crops of angry Muslims and, having provided the intelligence services with that many more angry young men, ignores the deaths abroad and applaudes the increase in plots foiled...it is the most vicious circle in human history and on an unprecedented global scale.
BTW, I am NOT ignoring the deepest problem: the United States' perceived one-sided support of Israel in its struggle with the Palestinians for a precious piece of dirt to stand on. But that is the original problem that can't be approached until we first douse all the flames on which Bush has poured so much gasoline.
The Neocons have not fought terror, they have bought terror...with our money!
Every one needs a little power, and the more frustrated that need becomes the more apt some of us are to demonstrate the ultimate in power: killing. I find that kind of psychology when I look into most criminal or intentional taking of lives: rapes, muggings, bar fights, gang wars, revenge killings, ethnic bloodshed... The ape within us is an ugly being we just don't want to look at. It seems more understandable when these deadly reactions work out on the personal level than when carried out by nations through the involvement of thousands who neither had direct losses nor got blood on their hands. A lack of power and a feeling of insecurity are much the same thing.
If the US can't put its own house in order, its misguided attempts to save the world will continue to bring havoc and hatred.
People who talk like the the Son-of-a-Bush or Mr. Spangenberg are, to put this as decently as possible, unaquainted with the information. The only slack I could cut such "thinking" is that perceptions do indeed warp in the face of emotionally charged matters like terrorism. That is the potentcy terrorists strive for. But terrorism is always a deal with the devil: once fear is loose, your adversary can turn it on you. Terrorism wants to make fear a tool for political ends. Once fear is in the air, it can be played from both ends. Bush and all those who support him desperately need to get a clue that deranging politcial will is the whole idea of terrorism and asymetrical warfare...if you stay rational when someone tries to scare you then you win. Who is trying harder to scare us? Islamic terror organizations [for reasons we understand, by means we dispise] or Bush [for reasons I find dispicable, by means of piggy backing on terror]?
It took him a week, it took him three years, but Thom Friedman has come around to a sensible view...more or less.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
And what a surprise that the same legislation would shave $100 million off of Paris Hilton's tax liability while the hotel chain with her name and fortune is busy screwing its workers.
We will never know the net effect of current middle east hostilities on the portion of Jewish voters who were in Joe's core support constituency. The vote was closer than I hoped to see. Would support-Israel-no-matter-what voters have looked at the current mess as having a likely detrimental outcome for Israel? Do voters see the war in Lebanon as a spill-over from our war in Iraq, a consequence of Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors becoming bold with the demonstration that America can't fight or won't fight effectively in the middle east and has exhausted itself? How do the voters add up all these questions during their one moment of power in that booth with only one lever to push?
NOT REALLY AN UPDATE:I just had to tune in this morning to see if the close outcome reversed itself over night in a Florida-Flip-Flop. Nope, not this time. The candidacy of Joe Lieberman is still seriously dead. Stay tuned for any miraculous improvements in its condition.
REALLY AN UPDATE: We have been analyzing this Lieberman upset for two weeks now and it seems less and less correct for me to have said "we will never know...". Josh Marshall has pretty respectable opinons and the best depth of sources of any blogger I know and he says the Iraq debacle is a recognized disaster for Israel.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
A certain mountain climbing episode, not successful by the usual standards, was the seed of a post last december. In that post I said the peak is not always the high point of the climb. Nice try. It certainly isn't the high point if you don't reach it.
My son the outdoor adventurer and trepid yours truly returned to scale Mt Washington, as vowed. Knowing my haphazard taste in equipment, junior pointed me to a few good purchases and talked me out of about five pounds of unnecessay gear. What a difference seven months can make. No snow, sunny, 20 MPH winds at the summit and temperatures in the mid 50s. That is about as good as hiking weather gets. We got up at 4:30, drove to up to the white mountains and made a day hike of it. This time we reached the peak with barely a stop, doing the 4200 foot climb in about five hours. There were a few hikers who appeared to be doing the whole hike at a running pace. We made it up and back down before sunset.
Lots of people trudged up that day. I wonder if they are all as sore as I am.
Most of the crowd at the summit don't do "sore", they drive up the road to the peak. The people who consider "lawn chair" an outdoor activity will not be there on our next hike because the road closes once it snows.
Tuckerman's ravine is a relatively sheer walled box canyon with a severely exposed trail snaking up the sidewall. Water runs across the trail in places making the footing a bit more treacherous. This trail closes in the winter too, when avalanches sweep down from the rim and the trail becomes an ice climbing challenge. But its gorgeous. You have to make yourself look up from your attention to where you put your feet because every few hundred yards, it looks like a different place.
It was a much longer day than the sum of six hours of driving and seven or eight of hiking with other chores and people moving, about 20 hours of constant motion and eight hours of sleep in two days. I had to either recuperate or post...hence the delay in this posting. Yesterday, I could not keep my eyes open at work nor take stairs without some pain. Looking back at the trails I've traveled, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.
Travelogue completed. Sermon optional
I do not know of a major religion that is without sayings, imagery, allegorical tales or key myths that involve going to or being on mountains. A favorite metaphor of those who strive for ecumenical and interfaith outreach is of climbers on a mountain so vast that its scattered foothills have very different climates. Believing their senses, the climbers are led to describe seemingly discordant experiences and preparations, but those who reach the top are all in the same place and know it. Nice thought. A bit to the left of and, IMO, well above nearly all western religious thinking are certain thoughts of Krishnamurti. Even he relies on the geography of mountains to depict his sense of which way is spiritual up. One thing he did say was that Truth is a pathless land. There is a place on Mt Washington where this expression can be visualized.
There is nothing but a tumble of jagged lichen encrusted rock. There is perhaps the idea of a trail poorly suggested by cairns and painted blazes which do not stick as well nor look visually distinct from the lichen. More subtle than cairns or paint, the scratches made by the tips of trekking poles show where the most people have gone. But you see climbers bounding or painfully creeping well off the "trail" and actually all over the rock pile, each making a progress satisfactory for reaching or departing the summit. The summit, now that I have been there, still isn't the high point of the hike.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
This "Bush Resigns" hack of a Time Magazine cover was posted in the department office, prominently. It was up at least two hours before someone took it down.
The office is administrative HQ for one of the technology development programs run by the laboratory where I work. I did not find out who put the picture up and I was surprised enough to see it that I thought it wiser not to ask. Most of the paychecks here ultimately flow from DoD or DoHS and the customers are often in uniform. I would never have dared to put that thing up even in my office behind my coat rack. But there it was one morning, drawing chuckles and comments about the US's most-hated-nation status.
Are we autistic? Do we take no clues from the feelings of the world's people? The go-it-alone ideology has to make a virtue out of indifference toward the esteem other nations accord us. "Its not a popularity contest" the conservatives insist. "It is about security and only power can guarantee that" we are told. Is that why JFK launched the peace corps? Such thinking reveals how very little trust conservatives put in democracy for when democracy is at work, power flows from popularity. Conservatives will cite polls too but only as long as the crowd smiles on their brand of selfishness. Smoke and mirrors public relations and domestic psychological warfare can manipulate popularity only temporarily. Images conjured and interpretations insinuated into popular discussion start to crack and peel away from the minds of a population whose work-a-day realities degrade year by year from the consequences of empire pursued in the name of security. Empire is always pursued under the justification of "defense" against the world. How did we take arms against whole countries and threaten several more when in fact a miniscule faction of that world were all that good reasoning could blame? Why did "Terror" become the name for every inconvenient power, every offended sensibility that stood between the US and oil reserves?
The game has been changed by the current administration. It has been accepted for decades that "defense" departments are mostly in the business of marshalling offensive capabilities. Noone complains of the misnomer any longer. Who is simple or drunk enough to spend trillions of dollars taking literally the brutish maxim "the best defense is a good offense"? People inclined to base opinions of war on what they know of football should be issued a gun and a uniform. The "assurance" of the old MAD has been replaced by uncertainty all around because MAD only works if noone pulls a trigger: once a shot is fired all bets about rationality and restraint are off. Offense WAS the product and muscle behind what we called Defense ...until we actually used it. Now we have so badly squandered our popularity among nations that we do indeed need to protect ourselves. The disproportionality glaring at the world from a policy that might as well be the bully's "the best defense is a good offense", whether US policy or Israeli policy, will win us nothing but insecurity. That sad, angry joke may have come down but the checks will continue to come in because as things are going, we do need to protect ourselves. Better long term policy, and much less expensive, would be to rebuild our reputation as the world's buffer against other agressive nations and live down our new reputation as the worlds most agressive nation.
As to Bush's popularity: There is a certain quality of intellect which cleaves to the man and his mission: This letter to an editor is an exemple. How can a person ignore that we have lived with friskings, checkpoints at our borders and subway stops and ever wider spying on civilians yet do not feel safer and are in fact more threatened than ever? How can one ignore that thousands have died because resources were diverted from places in dire need of civil defense to sites of foreign adventure? If the war in Iraq has somehow stopped terrorism, what WERE the Madrid and London bombings or the recent arrests in Canada? Like a decoy for the hate-filled muslims [whose small numbers, we have greatly multiplied] who want a shot at Americans, we threw our troops into Iraq with half a plan like so much hamburger to a menacing doberman. When we run out of hamburger, will they hunt closer to our home or just declare victory? I am speaking of consequences, not intentions. There was not some calculation of policy that considered our soldiers as bait, only stupid arrogance and goals of oil and empire. The reality, for those of us who are reality based, is that our troops are, in effect bait for the idealistic suicides that Bin Laden's brand of islam begets. I am not talking about malice aforethoght but the malice of poor thought. I like to think I know the difference between brave and stupid. Stupid is the one that always calls itself brave
By the way, you might be amused, in light of Turkey's understandible step back from its sometimes cozy US relationship, to read up on the Turkish culture's reading of Bush's favorite hand gesture.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Coturnix tagged me with a Book Meme and, since he is my greatest source of traffic, I cannot say No. The temptation to qualify and explain my choices is strong because of the arbitrary constraint of this meme: that a single book will have been the stand-out, if not sole influence on some aspect of my life or thought. Baloney! Wrong answers will be arrived at if wrong question is asked! [A complaint I share with Coturnix]
A few words of general qualification to cover the strangeness of all the books to be named: I am a weak reader and always was. Half-read books outnumber finished books by a wide margin in my library. If you leave out Kurt Vonnegut, I have read virtually no novel-length fiction since my high school days [when mastodons and Winston Churchill roamed the earth] though I still pick up the occasional biography, some of which verge on fiction these days. The books I list are in some cases insignificant and forgotten books but the most important book in your life is not always the best book in some critical or absolute sense but the book you read at the best moment relative to your particular state of learning.
1) One book that changed your life?
Our Friend the Atom by Heinz Haber and Disney Studios single handedly steered my 6th grade mind away from a budding interest in paleontology toward phyisics. This interest grew and kept me going until grad school. My mom lugged my old science books to the curb years ago and now, incredibly, I see this one is going for $149!
2) One book you have read more than once?
The Pentateuch...way more than once, in many English translations and parts of it in Hebrew. It is, strictly speaking, more than one book and appears to have several contributing authors...does that still count as one selection for this goofy book club?
3) One book you would want on a desert island?
Any good field guide to distinguishing edible from poisonous plants and sea creatures, including insects and preferably from a gimmicky children's book publisher who puts a Fresnel lens magifier in a pocket on the back cover.
4) One book that made you laugh?
Collected Stories by Mark Twain
5) One book that made you cry?
None I read myself. But dad reading R. L. Stevenson's Black Arrow when we were small enough to sit on his lap? That was some harrowing shit!
6) One book you wish had been written?
You may be reading it now.
7) One book you wish had never had been written?
The Pentateuch with all its extensions, outgrowths and adaptations. The wisdom they contain is constantly rediscovered, it can not be lost as long as intelligent people live. But the peace these works have banished from the planet...can that be recovered before the intelligent people are killed off?
8) One book you are currently reading?
The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James [yes, still reading this one]
9) One book you have been meaning to read?
Collapse by Jared Diamond.
10) Now tag five people -
ETBNC who is carefully putting together the pieces of a gorgeous blog.
Amy ['bout time I paided you back]
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Are you really old but still want to meet people? If you want to find that special someone between the ages of 3750 and 80000, someone who is still radiating, we can help.
If you can just enter our URL, our servers will do the rest.
Software is still in beta. Sorry, singles only, no mummies.
Unless you are being tortured.
For the principle of the torturer is simple. Like retrieving a clenched gem by breaking the hand, obtaining prized information is presumed to be easy if you have the means to dissolve the will, to so disorient and fracture the fragile "self" that the interrogated loses even the barest sense of time, place or purpose. Then, having effectively demolished sanity itself, the prizes should fall free.
But, frankly, all that can be got by such means are the rantings of a desperate madman.
What do you obtain if the interrogated was already schizophrenic?
What do you say to a man whom you had to torture to find out he was the wrong guy?
What does his village want to say to you?
Now, gentle reader, I imagine you don't count yourself among the "you" addressed by those questions. You have not acquiesced to your government's policies in matters of interrogation. At least I trust that you are not among those who speak publicly in favor of torture, demonstrating completely numb conscience and more than a little lack of imagination:
- Michael Savage on torture.
- Ann Coulter on torture
- Rush Limbaugh on torture:
- And slimiest of all, Jonah Goldberg, torturing logic and his readers to argue we should feel uncertain about the evils of torture in the midst of his paean to the utility of dogmatism. This guy just sucks and his cattle prod has a shift key!
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Kansas is recovering from an embarrassing bout of minority fundamentalists insisting their religious dogma be taught in science classes.
The curriculum changes, coming after years of see-sawing power struggles between moderates and conservatives, drew widespread ridicule and, critics complained, threatened Kansas’s high standing in national education circles. But Steve E. Abrams, the chairman of the board and a veterinarian from Arkansas City, said the changes only subjected evolution to critical scientific scrutiny.In downplaying the derisive attention this brought on the state's education system, Abrams neglects the more salient development: creationist's biblical literalism crawled out from the parochial dark places where civil tolerance had left it undisturbed and IT withered in the glaring analyses it provoked. No good was done for science or for religion so let us hope the befuddled fundies learned to keep their story telling to themselves and leave science and other foundations of shared and civil culture alone.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Well then, If I am so smart, how do I now converse with my few friends or aquaintences who still talk about the good we have done and are doing in Iraq? Do I first listen patiently to see how they became convinced of the good intentions? So many people change their story or otherwise do what they can to salvage a bit of self respect. But I listen anyway. I have been listening for a long time. I heard things before March of 2003 that told me, more clearly than my own misgivings about Bush's honesty and probity, that the war was going to be a moral catastrophy even if all military and economic objectives were promptly achieved [how are we doing on that score, BTW?]. I worked on contract as an engineer for a large defense contractor back then, coding interesting pieces of a large educational toy for soldiers. A very senior coworker had retired several years earlier, at high rank, from the military and become a consultant for this defense contractor. In and out of uniform, this man helped tens of millions of tax dollars find new pockets. I liked the guy. He was smart enough that a non-technical education had not prevented him from developing a useful intuition about what computer technology could do for the military. Long ago, he had seen combat. He was affable and always spoke with both enthusiasm and the gravity of someone who knew many things that were not for sharing. Senior to almost everybody, he was not the least bit aloof and often went a bit out of his way to make little career building suggestions to one or the other of us. But one day, during the months between the state of the yellowcake speech and the invasion, this guy discreetly suggested that I make sure my passport was handy because the war was sure to be short and an incredibly lucrative era of "rebuilding" contracts was sure to follow for anyone with the pluck to go over there and pitch in. Was he typical of the tiers of bureaucracy and contractors who pull Rummie's war wagon? Hard to say since we all like the paycheck. Was he prompted by boyish enthusiasm for the American way or odd lack of worldliness for a man who'd spent years stationed in other countries? I have not seen this man since the summer of 2003. How his story has changed I have not heard. I hope for the sake of his conscience, he can at least make the complaint of the generals. To him I offer a fig leaf.
Does all the talk of tipping points presume we are still a working democracy? Or is it more about some hope that collections of proud foolish humans could suddenly all turn at once, like a school of fish, to face the facts? If we offer neither olive branch nor fig leaf, when will we be of one school?
I didn't get a chance to cache all the wonderful commenting, playful and plangent and perplexing. You were throwing good punches! I'd stand right beside you, shaking my own liver-spotted fist at the same massed armor of greedy evils and apathy! But now who's gonna have the encouragement of your unvarnished example, your unsparing criticism?
Blogicide: is it a crime or does a blog have a right to die with dignity?
Ah, but 'tis done. The thing is done
The Discourse ceases livin'.
Our options dwindle down to one:
Fare well. All's forgiven.