Tuesday, October 31, 2006
The truth? You want the truth? Your TV network news can't handle the truth!
Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/31/2006 10:09:00 PM
That sort of person is the easiest to lead, but only in the sorry direction he is already headed.
The hope I cling to is that any kind of laziness is less the inertia against difficult or unpleasant effort and more an acculturation to expect little of oneself.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
I was at another memorial service this past Saturday. It was lovely. It was for a man I barely knew, the patriarch of a wonderful family in our town. That family has, among other things, provided musical instruction and opportunities to perform to nearly two generations of kids, mine included. It was moving for me because I could take the Reverend's remarks about death being more of an horizon than an end or limit to life as something with more substance than mere comforting metaphor. The deceased, whom I was only getting to know from the eulogies, clearly imparted his character, particularly the vital collaboration of enthusiasm and loving discipline, to his son who in turn was a both amusing and inspiring as the conductor for the orchestra through which all of my children grew and learned both the art and the poise of playing their instruments before a crowd. It is in perfectly real although not exactly concrete ways that we each have the threads of our life bound into the fabric of our family and community well beyond our own span of days. We are hoped for by our parents and grandparents, we teach, exemplify and are remembered by our heirs and friends. This is not literal immortality. Transported somewhat in the grip and spirit of such occasions, it is easy for us, unavoidable for some of us, to go from thinking "(s)he would have wanted it this way" to feeling that the departed person is vaguely present in making their wants felt. The tug is there like weak gravity, inviting belief but without providing any specific clue that could not have come up from the unconscious. I have felt it.
Another interesting thing was the venue and what I will refer to as the culture of the service. It was held in a church. The title of the cleric presiding was "Reverend" and I don't know what denomination. The remarks he made, as noted, were touching and appropriate. The service began and concluded with hymns from hmynals found on the backs of the pews. But the only other mention of deity, and I consider it one of the greatest, was a recitation of the Kaddish, the one prayer Jews must say for their dead yet a prayer with no word about the departed and only exaltation and blessing for the holy one. I have attended other memorials in this church that were not so diverse of creed. I knew a few of the people in attendance, mostly via musical connections but the rest were an older generation of townsfolk whom I know of rather than know. What I know about most of them was echoed in the remembrances of the deceased: they give themselves to the good causes of education and conservation that had made our town a particularly rural and restful place to live. Some of them went to fight in Europe or Asia in WWII. Some of them were responsible for the little "peace park" in the center of our town where vigils against war are held once in a great while. We do not have conspicuous memorials to the fallen of 20th century wars and you will look hard to find commemoration of civil war dead. There is a stone commemorating the hardy few farmers, squires and shopkeepers who mustered and fought on April 19 1775. We still send sons off to war but it is nothing we celebrate here.
Those people in that church, like the people in my synagogue, are people of whom I know only good things and people who I will stand with at town meetings, at anti-torture vigils and, come election day [and judging from the prevalence of "vote for Daval Patrick" signs], at the polling booth too.
The great question that troubles me after these observations is the discord of influences in my own life that such events bring to the surface:
On the one hand, I see wonderful an constructive citizens facing their mortality within a religious setting. I see them using criteria from their creeds as grounds for acting for social justice. They can't all be atheists who just go through the motions of convention at these junctures where the life just ended must bring to each a very sharp focus on the purpose of their own lives. Though I do not get to hear their doubts or other inner thoughts, I see their works and there find encouragement about my species.
On the other hand, nothing whatsoever in my own experience persuades me that there is any supernatural consciousness, either embodied or somehow diffused in the universe. It all seems so much more likely to me that we project when we think we are having religious experiences. It would be a simple enough explanation for both the diversity of so-called beliefs and for the animal ferocity that overtakes many in defense of these imaginings. The outer certainties that some religion's profess and make into political agenda's for rather narrow benefits to imaginary beneficiaries have to be set beside the kind thoughts and good works.
That drives me nuts. I suspect that if I will see any resolution of this good-religion/bad-religion dilemma, it will be personal and come from some special vantage point or accommodation that could be difficult to find or sustain in anyone else's reality. I would like to find accommodation. I would like to start with the logic that many atheists accept: "The hope in an afterlife and the imagining of spirits and powers unseen which control those aspects of this world that we cannot control is ubiquitous and yet in its particulars it is full of disagreeing beliefs, usually breaking along tribal and cultural boundaries therefore these hopes and imaginings have no source but human nature, For if there were a god, we'd all know the same things about god". But I would like to pare it back to the mere observation: "hope in an afterlife and the imagining of spirits and powers unseen which control those aspects of this world that we cannot is ubiquitous" and add to it the simple observation that there are also atheists: "hope in an afterlife and the imaging of spirits and powers unseen which control those aspects of this world that we cannot is ubiquitous but not universal". Those are observations. That is a statement of what is. I will try not to descend into the codas each camp adds to the observation: The atheists may point out the self serving and identity enforcing nature of the beliefs and the believers may point out the blindness or claim the egotism of the non-believers in attacking or repudiating a great source of comfort to mortals. Do I need to go there? We do not disagree that we are in this physical world, all of us together. We do agree on at least some common notions of good such as freedom to think and speak, safety from war, subjugation and persecution and a life providing the animal basics of food, health, protection from the elements and perhaps good company of family and friends. Then if we only agree to have a neutral means to negotiate our differences when our particular definitions of the common good do not agree in details that affect how our common wealth and resources will be disposed, call this neutral means government, why would we not live well enough? I hear everywhere in the news only discord and mounting strife of factions that cannot share the commons of this planet and that strife is both between beliefs and between belief an non-belief. I saw in the rows of pews a quite diverse group of people who have, in their own town, done a very effective job of both sharing the commons and otherwise staying out of each other's affairs.
I have said "you can't ignore religion if it won't ignore you" which I admit, is a defensive posture and implies the believers won't leave the non-believers alone to act according to their own consciences. I won't take it back. As a decent human being, it is simply not an option to preemptorily say one party has a conscience that can dictate to others in matters that are strictly personal. And yet I am uneasy with the broad language, the unqualified term "religion".
I am aware of outreach and ecumenical efforts among faith groups who do not stand for the repressive and ugly narrowness presented as "faith" by the righteous-wing allies of the Bush administration. I invite them to reach out a little farther to the faithless like myself. I go on record here as regretting some of the rocks I have thrown at religion's way of interfacing one's mind to the world. Where it begets helpful attitudes and positive results, who am I to criticize?
The political climate brought me to blogging as a activity and an outlet. The sick use of religion on the part of Republicans that has given national emphasis to the least healthy and least helpful forms of religion in this country has brought religious criticism into my blogging. The blurry connection between terms like "family values" and the ideals of Christian values have come about because the habit of the fundamentalists is to code the less salable "Christian" with the more marketable "family" in their well oiled hunt for influence. Personally, I find the Dodsons and Fallwells have traded in their love-the-good-in-each-person in for a fear-the-evil-in-everyone, a superficial and weak but more easily carried faith. These are NOT the Christians I would care to make peace with but they bear the label "Christian" as fairly as Jude or Rev. Timothy Simpson. I want better categories so at least I can toss my rocks through the right windows.
There are of course many sects of Christianity. And for that matter Judaism too has flavors that I might not like. How are Jack Abramoff's prayer's received on high? How would I daven next to such a person? The distinction I am hoping to enable is between helpful religious observance and faith and selfish and uncivil religious observance and faith. Won't be easy, of course. But there certainly are strings that tie together a collection of religious groups that I would put in the uncivil category. The most amazing collection of little known connections about "conservative" Christian politics can be found in the biographies of the "council for national Policy"...a huge number of embarrassing connections such as having Tom DeLay and all his relationships to various churches spelled out and how rich [DuPont] their supporters are... These are too many connections for people of positive and humane faith to have to explicitly repudiate. The progressive religious person shouldn't need to distance themselves from that kind of "Christianity" . The voice and the conscience of the civil and constructive Christians are plainly heard if one is listening. But..I'd like a tag that lets me speak of such folks without readers thinking I also meant the leadership of the Southern Baptists. I'd like a tag that would let me speak of Jerry Fallwell that would not let my readers assume I also meant progressives in faith.
To this HuffPo post about the betrayal of a zealous believer at the hands of the Whitehouse, I commented with a similar question:
It is a shame we can't reframe this religion+republicanism topic a little. What might do it is to get two or three words recognized as distinct connotations of the sloppily used label "Christian". Iddybud is a Christian too. Why hurt friends or shame innocent bystanders? The "Christians" being seduced are certain fundies, brains fueled by unadmittable fears and shallow understanding, who, for all their proclamations of the ultimate power of the kingdom of heaven, are desperate to wield some of the power of our new king George. The lusting of evangelicals after political power should be seen as an admission that they don't expect god to act for them, not physically nor in the hearts of men, and that they must have laws to say what their reading of the bible has not made audible to the wider world. What can I call that lusting?I admit to having tossed a few rocks myself so I am a fine one to be asking. But we progressives all need each other just as much as the neocons needed the fundamentalists and I think we, if anyone, should be able to talk with each other in more harmonious ways that will outlast the expediencies of getting Bush and buddies out of office. A lot of us with common political goals might not have the same spiritual goals but we can still do better than to bruise one another over those differences.
The hardest part of this essay has not been written yet. The most important part has though, so there it is. I will return to this topic when better words come to me.
I open the floor to any suggestions about good tags for the two faces of religion.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Through the diligence of Chris Bowers at myDD, a list of moderately to thoroughly damaging coverage of the sleazy club that call themselves Republican congress persons. These are links to stories published in mainstream news papers and written by MSM journalists, not KOSsacks. This is their dirt and no body made it up. They own the stink in this sore nation.
--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl
--AZ-01: Rick Renzi
--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth
--CA-04: John Doolittle
--CA-11: Richard Pombo
--CA-50: Brian Bilbray
--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
--CO-05: Doug Lamborn
--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell
--CT-04: Christopher Shays
--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan
--FL-16: Joe Negron
--FL-22: Clay Shaw
--ID-01: Bill Sali
--IL-06: Peter Roskam
--IL-10: Mark Kirk
--IL-14: Dennis Hastert
--IN-02: Chris Chocola
--IN-08: John Hostettler
--IA-01: Mike Whalen
--KS-02: Jim Ryun
--KY-03: Anne Northup
--KY-04: Geoff Davis
--MD-Sen: Michael Steele
--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht
--MN-06: Michele Bachmann
--MO-Sen: Jim Talent
--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns
--NV-03: Jon Porter
--NH-02: Charlie Bass
--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson
--NM-01: Heather Wilson
--NY-03: Peter King
--NY-20: John Sweeney
--NY-26: Tom Reynolds
--NY-29: Randy Kuhl
--NC-08: Robin Hayes
--NC-11: Charles Taylor
--OH-01: Steve Chabot
--OH-02: Jean Schmidt
--OH-15: Deborah Pryce
--OH-18: Joy Padgett
--PA-04: Melissa Hart
--PA-07: Curt Weldon
--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick
--PA-10: Don Sherwood
--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee
--TN-Sen: Bob Corker
--VA-Sen: George Allen
--VA-10: Frank Wolf
--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick
--WA-08: Dave Reichert
have fun reading!
Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/27/2006 06:55:00 PM
Reaching for generalizations more specific to blogging than "its a new way to communicate" is hazardous. The varieties and exceptions are myriad since the content has only a few constraints imposed by the web page as media. McLuhan would be much vindicated by the characteristics which the technology impose: the short shelf life, a mere moment of relevance of each blogged page so at odds with the longer stories we might want to tell. And the short attention span of the audience voracious yet impatient for not just news but stimulation. Having been there and done that, newspaper tradition lends its "below the fold" concept to bloggers. There is no standard dose of blogging though the most heavily trafficked sites such as Daily Kos or Atrios suggest a dose that has market appeal.
In the winter edition of reconstruction, I expect to read a few good essays on whether bloggers are journalists, a football much scuffed by comment and a few judicial rulings but not yet put through any goal posts. For economic reasons, journalists by trade have an interest in the question that bloggers, most of whom are bloggers by avocation, do not. I find it convenient to categorize my sources as "for-profit media" and "for-cause media"...and so I don't particularly trust or take unfiltered anything I read. That is my categorizing for blogs centered on news and comment. There are many other categories of blog but as I said, generalization breaks down. It is, even now in its early years, a media so customizable and with such low barriers to publication that personal creativity and idiosyncrasies will give you a thousand niches. I am sure this amorphous riot of style and subject are in fact the problem that makes a decent business for Technorati and other enterprises who make findable, under some taxonomy or other, whatever you want to find in blogs.
Ah but that is the great empty promise of blogging: You can say anything you want and imagine it is visible to the 100 million connected browsers the minute you hit "Publish Post". You lay out your cool idea, your expose' of local corruption or your insightful essay but nobody comes round to read it. It is up to you to do some of the work for the present crop of blog search facilities: you have to decide a category and audience that best fit your writing. You have to find the blogroll, the blog alliance or the blog carnival where the traffic is more likely to come looking for your particular color and flavor of blogging. In short, if you want readers, you have to be of some recognized kind and bear the tags of that kind or plug your blog into an appropriate syndicate. To be sui generis, no matter how compelling, amusing and excellent your work, is to court obscurity. After that, there are many short lists of tricks and habits of blogging-as-craft which help you hold an audience. If you want to review these basics I would recommend Coturnix because his blogging sucess is the proof of his suggestions, even for laying a blog to rest. Of all the tips you will find on many lists, putting out at least a post a day is perhaps the most important. If you are just looking for hits, write up the hot news or commerce topics of the day with frequent repetitions of the key words. Say anything. The search engine will touch your hit counter, but your prose will touch no one from the back of a list of 100000 page matches.
Why one starts a blog is not necessarily why one continues it. Long running blogs are part of your identity, even when you blog under a pseudonym. It is of course a projection of some aspect of yourself to take on some voice and, in that voice, reflect on the world or report something in your life. This seems to be the dubious bedrock on which much non-professional blogging rests: "hey! Look at me". It is a need to be or at least imagine that you have been seen/heard/known/understood. As motive, that can always be put down but never put away. It abides. I took an enforced rest in August and September and found that I felt diminished both in confidence, capacity to write and sense of connection to the small audience I imagine I have. If one is not paid to blog and one is not seduced by and addicted to the hit counter, motive is not so clear. I have never personally met and mostly don't even know the real names of people I have gotten to know via my commenting on their blog or their commenting. All the other substance of conversation among friends is there except that obligations are minimal. That is a kind of community. A community of a few dozen odd souls scattered all over the planet that virtually convenes when the RSS feed coughs up a new post. Often it seems like a kind of party to judge by the spirit and the wit of the commenting. That is not what I imagined when I started blogging. It is better than what I had in mind originally and not nearly so stale and sterile. When I began, I had a list of things I wanted to say and no imagined or real persons to whom I would say them. Still, I remind myself once in a while that even serial killers have had blogs or web sites. Asking yourself who is talking and who is listening is a good exercise.
Eventually, at times, the blank text entry box becomes a hungry child or a haunting mistress to which you can give nothing that satisfies. Its emptiness scares or mocks you. If you only write newsy things, only write when there is news worth reading : nobody reads filler on a blog. Its a terribly impatient media. But if you write because thinking is fun, do not underestimate the reading of blogs as a promoter and motivator for the writing of blogs. Its not just cut/paste/link either because we react to other peoples thoughts with thoughts that are often our very own. The business feeds on itself in this way.
I claim little or no objectivity in my observations of how blogging has changed me, turned me toward a new face of society. We are electronic nomads who can redefine our boundaries and groups at will. Boredom and fashion tug at us making our clicks ebb and flow. Certainly, my memory is weaker, in my late 50's than it used to be. Yet my reading, though in ever smaller snatches, has become incessant and wide ranging. I fear not to read from a dozen different MSM news websites and twice that many blogs every day, buttressing and overlaying multiple impressions and selections of the days news until I feel like I have a grasp of the whole world on this day, or as much of it as interests me. And if I cannot recall the fact or the name or the date, I have bookmarks and always keep up a copy of Notepad to paste in URLs and paragraphs. And I mail this digest of the digest to my infinite google mailbox at the end of the day. Fearless of ever forgetting or missing either the news or its meaning, how shall I age? Living and being in this world is not an exact science yet it is an experimental one. Each of us has a unique voice but many of us have not yet spoken. I'd invite you to start a blog because it is easy and because it subjects you to the self discipline of an imagined audience [which could materialize, who knows?]. Under those experimental conditions, write. Forget what you think will happen and just see what changes you undergo.
Like eyeglasses and phones, the computer, serving up the world configured as I wish to know it, must become ever more integral to my life. The glasses became contacts and then Lasik. The phone became a cell phone and then a Bluetooth ear piece worn almost constantly. Our new eyes, our new ears ... and now, our new voices.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Would you give a wheel chair to great wide receiver or crutches to a great sprinter? Not every listener needs the aid of simple categories. We get simple categories because of the needs of the speaker to control our thought.
Stoller and Bowers are experienced at sorting out the murk and mud of politics. They warn against trusting even the most cheerful of polls and they urge personal involvement and I have come a long way from my apolitical youth to agree with and endorse that approach. I don't think a person can justify blogging or otherwise complaining about how bad things [or certain politicians] are if they have only done the minimum, i.e. voting, or, god forbid, less than the minimum in supporting better alternatives either financially or by more active participation.
I don't know who reads this or what local campaigns they have to sort out but I'll describe what I do to get informed and get involved. myDD has a link to the blog of some liberal or Democrat affiliated blog for each state on its left side bar. For all my surfing and reading, I'd not run into bluemassgroup.org. That helps. For balance, I went to an official republican party blog to make sure I was giving my news spun in both directions. And then I read. As much as anything, the growth of my concern with politics might be characterized as an educational process, or thinking lessons. You have to do a lot of filtering. People get excited and talk mean but in the end what they say either stacks up against the facts or the average of the reporting you have gathered from all other sources...or it does not. This sort of reading tends to cause headaches but it also keeps you from taking anything for granted. I will have to write another post on the special perversity of politics as it is played on the internets...but for now, lets just say you'll often wonder if right wing and liberal blogs are actually written by people living in one and the same country.
In my back yard,Massachusetts, the political climate is more progressive than in most areas of the country but that hardly means that politics can be safely left to others. We have a decades old habit of electing a Republican governor...with the usual result that the Democrats who generally take a majority of the legislative seats are in a stalemate with the executive on some important issues. Three of the last four governors, all GOP, used the office merely as a stepping stone to cushier jobs: Weld ducked out to take an appointment [he went on to demonstrate his business acumen], Cellucci is one of the few Republicans who felt a need to flee to Canada, where he is now safe from the backlash against his party's recent blunders, and now Romney who has all but declared a run for president in 2008 and is seldom seen in Boston. Jane Swift had to make a quick disappearance from politics after presiding while terrorists boarded planes a mile from her office. Right now we have an occasionally nasty governor's race . A desperate Lt Gov. Kerry Healy with a negligible record that amounts to taking credit for anything positive that happened in Romney's administration is trying to spin Daval Patrick's effectiveness as a lawyer and his ability to do even a distasteful job well into a "don't vote for the guy who likes cop killers" advertisement. Digging into these claims is unpleasant work but the alternative is America's worst disease: shallow voter complex. The positive must be examined as carefully as the negative. In her sound bites, Healy claims she will cut taxes, the Republican mantra, but the facts are that our bridges, roads, university system, police forces, health care and natural resource protection all suffer from financial problems that the recent administrations in this state have not addressed. To promise to cut taxes when the services we need are in disrepair is irresponsible, or just a cynical appeal to the selfish side of voters. In her detailed proposals, either the promises are empty or she has a billion dollars she means do donate.
Umm, did I say occasional? The Republican, still behind in the polls after [or maybe because of] some irrelevant disgrace about a relative of Deval Patrick was fed to the Boston Herald and Healy claimed no responsibility, stepped up the nasty and rumor is we will be carpet bombed with negative ads from the Republicans until election eve. What do you do? Do you turn off to one of the candidates? Start listen to a Muzak station, avoiding newspapers and polling places? What I have learned to is how to spin things myself: her first negative ad shaved off 1/3 of Patrick's lead in the polls and, being conservative, she is going to stick with what works ad nauseum. Other ways to look at her ads that say Patrick gets murderer's off the hook are (1) when he was a defense lawyer, he really did his job and (2) Healy really wants to play the fear card. Why the fear card? Looks like that is a Republican theme this season. But like they say "crazy is repeatedly doing the something that failed and expecting it to work". The negative advertising is a reflection on her character or her desperation and it has served to put a ceiling on her own popularity. And at least one commentator from the local MSM is coming to the same conclusion.
The start of my delving into this muck was just to feed my blog. The result is that I give more money and time to the good guys that I come across...and I keep digging. On some issues, I got beyond my intuition: I could do a lot better than my general distrust of the Bush administration in reaching the conclusion that their own National Intelligence Estimate eventually did: the Iraq war makes us less safe. My ease and pleasure at seeing the toxic folly in places like Townhall.com where fear is the ghost in their political machine is a nice byproduct of bearing down on a long reading list of diverse sources. My favorite is still NYTimes. Look, nobody, is neutral OK? You can get twisted facts and missed understandings from any source and the only cure is read a lot of different ones and trust your own intelligence. I think the "Select" features are not a total rip off. The blogroll and the list of sources on campaign finance on The Caucus is a great starting place for a little self education in American politics. I'm not looking exclusively for writers that agree with me but its nice when they do:
It's time we start worrying about America's Orwell deficit. Too many people in public life lack George Orwell's talent for engaging with inconvenient facts. Instead partisanship rules. Any ideas and data points that challenge one's ideology are conveniently dismissed, while the partisan Other is demonized and considered stupid, criminal or worse.I'm reading for things I would have been worried about but never heard of before. And just because a mainstream Democratic party strategist provides them is no reason to shun explanations of things I knew mattered but was unsure how they worked, like redistricting.
It's no accident that members of Congress caught up in scandal, such as former Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California, Representative Bob Ney of Ohio, former Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, and Representative William Jefferson of Louisiana almost always come from safe districts where they know their actions will never face real scrutiny. In the hands of a Congressional majority that loses touch with the people, safe seats can lead to real danger.
One of the commonest accusations that crops up in the less formal political writing of blogs, right wing talk shows and once in a while a MSM piece is "drinking the Koolaid": the other side is stupidly sucking up lies. The imagery of political opponents as hapless wretches doing themselves in like the true believers in Jonestown is ugly and more often selfcongratulation than we admit: "we know better" is the unwritten rejoinder. Everyone with one or few sources of information is not playing politics with a full deck. My own due diligence samples everyone's Koolade and finds even the most severely distorted selections and interpretations at least tell me what their readers wanted to hear and what they need to deny. People who don't know how things are going to turn out, people who get let down by the leaders they elect or, on the other hand, shocked that those leaders even got elected...neither of these categories of political herd can be said to have been realistic in informing themselves prior to the disappointment: there is koolaid poisoning for you but its more like a hangover and lots of people have had it in this country the last five years.
After all,how much due diligence could the average person who voted Republican in the last election have done? Did they get the promised security? No: referring to the Republicans as the party with the strong interest in security is like referring to pornographers as having a strong interest in anatomy: they are only interested in the parts that bring them money or votes and they appeal to people who don't want to consider the fuller context of what they so anxiously consume. Did they get fiscal responsibility after all the "tax and spend" accusations reflexively hurled at Democrats? No: we have so weakened ourselves with debt that schools, domestic infrastructure, environmental protection, basic science and even key medical research programs at NIH have all been flat funded or cut back. We are going broke making our country the most-hated-nation and have nothing to show for the spent money except Haliburton's bottom line. You see, I too have an abundance of discontents: the diligence doesn't dull one's edge or attenuate one's anger. But with so many targets on the political landscape and so few arrows in the average voter's quiver, the diligence keeps you from shooting decoys while worse menaces advance.
Anger is cheap fuel for politics, and it has worked well for the Republicans. But hope is a better fuel. We are not just against something but also for progress. If you haven't got those two in your tank, you will sputter out. Diligence, thorough reading lists and time to read, is how you get beyond the "rid us of tyrants and crooks" stage. That stage, even if it succeeds, only chops off the heads of the current crop of malfeasant fools, preparing the ground for the next crop...a guillotine ushering in a Bonaparte. The diligence should take you to the "building a better, cleaner government" stage. You need to inform and exercise your instincts about how the country could work and what would be the most beneficial order of priorities and intiatives if government was to enable us to improve our, all of our, lots rather than a few super-rich. Though many of the most liberal blogs fault DLC's sawmill for political planks, its not a bad start in forming opinions on what the positive side of one's politics should be. Just don't stop there. After all, anger may send you to the polls to oust fools but in fact a vote is cast for someone. You want candidates with constructive, inclusive and realistic plans. When and if politics gets healthy, we can again focus on the plans rather than the politicians.
My oldest impression, that politics is a dirty business full of distortions remains unchanged. But ever more clearly, US national politics and the local politics of which it is comprised, illustrate the old addage that all that is needed for evil to take root is for good men and women to do nothing.
Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/22/2006 10:11:00 PM
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Investigators and prosecutors, even though they are acting under the direction of DoJ or state Attorney's General or special legislative mandate, have shown a brave and commendable streak of independence.
I would suggest their independence has often worked like fourth branch of government to save us from pure despotism and corruption. But that independence is precarious and under great threat from the desperation of the culpable powerful. Do not sit by while the last hope of having a goverment that abides by its own laws is taken from you. Write the media editors who ignore the story, phone your congresspersons to complain their governing sleeps through corruption, blog, vote and support those who make sure your vote is not miscounted or discounted. If and when an honest vote count occurs and the one-party rule has ended, I will still prefer the watchful eye of a fourth branch of government to the roiling of laws and the mistrust that cramp our civil lives and discourse just now at this Republican-flavored juncture in our history. Republicans have demonstrated that they cannot rule democratically. But I trust no party any more.
There might be a fifth branch of government, while we are numbering them. It is the sad defualt, the desperate fall-back even though its power is claimed to be the source of all power: it is you and I. But how can we wield power if not through a government that was designed to express the collective will of us all? Shall we withold our taxes? Shall we take to the streets with pitchforks and placards? Shall we stay home in protest and do no work? None of these third world options is showing much sign of success where they have been tried so far. No, let us insist that our government be run as specified by its laws and let us keep an eye on it.
And who IS keeping an eye on things? Lewis fired 60 investigators, leaving only 16. By digging back through the attributions in TPM, TruthOut and Majikthise, I found two original $ources. Google news/US didn't have it anywhere in the top 20 stories and a general search only digs up stories about how investigations were starting to point toward Lewis. Maybe I should give Google a little more time to crawl for that story. I think there should be a more of a stink when you hear that Congressman Lewis has just shredded all pretense that he knows or cares what the term "conflict of interest" means. I don't understand the disinterest.
Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/21/2006 08:32:00 AM
Friday, October 20, 2006
If only they spent more time talking about [or even understood] foreign policy that would do what was promised for security. If only the values they have practiced matched their pompous talk. If only they knew or cared what their spending will do to our economy and what it already has done to our capacity to heal, house or rescue our own citizens. If only they asked the CIA for facts instead of telling them what the facts should be. If only Bush could tell competence from confidence. If only they listented to constituents instead of Jack Abramoff, William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Dodson, Pat Robertson. If only they had done some of these basics of decent political leadership, they would not be having their heads handed to them on a poll. When the people talk, when will the Republicans get around to listening?
Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/20/2006 12:24:00 PM
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I share the misgivings of Mr. Singer at myDD and he expresses them better than I could. It is naive to imagine politics can be done without cash for campaign advertising, traveling to the many rallies and other engagements and provisioning of phone and polling operations. And it is equally naive to hope that those who have paid the candidates bills will not have the candidates ear, will not have their wishes well known to the candidate. If there are as many liberal voters, or disgusted Repbulicans as we like to tell ourselves, then the little that we could each give to honest candidates who haven't screwed the country, and have sensible reforms they want to legislate would be enough. Every news source you check will tell you the Republicans are shaking down their donors in desperation. They will spend like crazy to stave off a congress that could mount investigations or impeach. We don't have to match the fat cats, just chip in enough to counter the expensive smears and scare tactics. Voting is not the only important thing I will do. I cracked open my little purse for Senator Bryd, and will do so for a few other candidates who need to put up a few ads. Don't let some industry own your representative or senator. In the present climate, an individual or PAC liberal donation probably enjoys a healthy multiple of effectiveness over the money of an oil or telecommunication or coal company or evangelical churh.
Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/18/2006 07:24:00 PM
Eh, maybe. Another reason will show up in that book in a few years after we dump the pro-industry and anti-science administration: they migrate so they won't become food for parasites. Just as our beef and pork feedlots feed us meat but pollute the environment, the burgeoning ring of fish farms around our coast are breeding grounds for marine parasites that escape to kill anywhere from 10 to 90% of the young fish in salmon schools with which they come in contact.
We suppose the rivers and forests and skies still look similar to the day europeans first set foot in America. But don't be fooled. Our footprint leaves no square inch of the country untainted. We will constantly discover yet more ways in which our excess consumption, by an inappropriately celebrated excess of humans*, has wiped out whole species or made them, and therefore our whole world, less healthy. You won't like soylent green.
*Hate to appear to disagree with a fellow progressive. Amy , I am solidly with you on what a social catastrophe this nation has bought by letting immigration law ooze forth from a collision of greed and phobia...but to look at our numbers as if only humans mattered will eventually hurt even the humans.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I then spent about an hour in hell shuttled between a series of clerks who searched their records in vain to see which rung and precisely which torment was destined to be my eternal repayment for 50-odd years of screwing up.
Then POP! I was back in the hospital bed, the orderly who plugged the electrodes into the wrong connection was being marched off for retraining and the priest who had been summoned to perform last rites was asking whether I'd experienced any "near death" phenomenon. I had to say yes, I'd accidentally gotten the grand tour. The priest begged for my fullest recollection.
Well, it was strange I must say. Both places were physically identical. The weather was a little warm and their were palm trees. The skies were a cloudless blue. It reminded me of Los Angeles on good smog day. "WHAT?" exclaimed the priest, "How can they be exactly the same?"
No, they were not, I assured him. It was most decidedly south central LA in both cases, but in heaven, no one pulled the trigger, they just looked at me and shook their heads with a smile. In hell, nobody dies before the ambulance gets there despite gallons of spilt blood and shattered limbs. Doctors, being punished for being too good at hiring lawyers when they were alive, work out their eternal damnation in permanently busy ERs and never lose a patient. But many are discharged with amputations and disfiguring wounds. Even those with hideous head wounds are not allowed to become unaware of where they are and how much they owe the hospital. And then they go on about their business until they get shot again. But I didn't get assigned a rung of hell, that was just the waiting room of hell's bureaucracy. Under presumption that you belong in hell, you are made to read newspapers while you wait as a foretaste of your final punishment.
Today, there were to be demonstrations against the "military commissions" act signed by a man who probably hasn't even read what he signed let alone read the constitution it violates. On NPR I heard report of the Washington DC protest...google news knows nothing of it at this hour.
Four of us made it to the post office on a busy street out in a "metro west" Boston suburb. Last minute messages to several area churches and the mosque were probably too late for anyone to respond. Nobody called us any names, 6 people signed the National Religious Campaign Against Torture petition. A small number until you know that was around 50% of the people we actually got to talk to in the parking lot of the post office. We tried to take up more visible spots but people in cars should not be mistaken for people who are actually present. A cop [the police station was just across the street] chased us away from the intersection. His gruff "I know what's good for you" mien probably meant he figured we'd get run over trying to talk to people stopped for the light. What?! A professor of computer science and a software engineer can't handle a situation hundreds of homeless people hawking papers and flowers do every day?
On second thought, don't answer that. You are all a bunch smartasses and I don't want to hear it.
One of us is quite resourceful and whipped my "holloween costume" into a proper placard:
Some people did read the sign if the traffic slowed but all the rest had a phone or a cup of coffee in hand and remain, even now, doggedly unaware the world is going to hell around them. That is worse than being called names. After an hour, the P.O. manager came out and told us we were on government property and would have to leave. No lawyers here, just tax payers, end of vigil.
How do you tell a nation it no longer wears the crown of "conscience of the world" and is in fact, far from it? What a change there has been here, even in my lifetime.
The data entry from the petition, which I also signed, is world class and I got an email back from them by the time I got to work:
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Dear [did you think I was going to dooce myself?],
Thank you for endorsing the NRCAT Statement. Your name has been added to our
growing list of supporters. Please add firstname.lastname@example.org to your friends list
so we may keep you informed about the campaigns progress.
National Religious Campaing Against Torture
Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/17/2006 07:25:00 PM
Monday, October 16, 2006
I sit for several hours a week in poorly airconditioned MoveOn.org office space crammed with phones, rickety chairs and tables and determined volunteers. One call at a time, we are finding the seven to ten percent of all MoveOn members who think its so important to get out the vote that they will put aside a few hours of their week, brave the interesting wierdness of calling strangers and help us make the calls. There are few lulls so we don't spend much time chatting with each other but we can't help but try our pet slogans and pitches out on each other. That is how I have come to trust these volunteers have asked "What should we be fighting for?" rather than "How can we win?" In that choice is an opporunity to make a seductive mistake. Even at this foot soldier level, you can see that opposition to the corrupt and cowardly congress and the bush regime is spontaneous and multifacited. There are college kids here, a few gray heads such as mine and 30-somethings.
We now witness in the newspapers the unraveling of the unwholesome coalition of neoconservative and cryptofascist theorizers, corporate influence marketers and the narrow and biggoted excesses of the religious right wing. What put that tacky marriage together in the first place? Tough that wedding of antidemocratic factions seemed to work, the source of their fears and desperation were distinct. It was brokered by folks like Karl Rove who would only ask this question: "how can we win?" There must be a war or some other metaphor that revolves around winning. No principle comes before winning. And so "winning" comes first and all its costs come later. Mr. Rove, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Bush: history has presented you with your tab and its time to pay up. You have taken far more freedom from us than Osama Bin Laden ever dreamed of. You have become the enemy and even your admirers see it.
The crush of things that must be done this month leave me little time to blog but there appears to be a theme so bear with a post that wads together what might better have been two or three short reads. My friend Shokai finds synchronicities but for me the coincidence of the several occasions for blogging is to be understood as arising from a common cause: the poisoning of many aspects of our lives by the pervasive reach of neoconservative policy: the starved arts and sciences, the life-wasting and money-wasting foreign policy, the pall of fear that dims political vision...all these taint a life we used to enjoy living. Everywhere, like rising vomit, we are soon going to try and heave out the poison.
Late last night [why oh why do such good authors get shunted to the deadest time slots] on C-SPAN bookenotes, I caught a wonderful talk by Thom Hartmann promoting his book "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class -- And What We Can Do About It". The guy taught more insight in to history in 40 minutes than Bush slept through in his years at Yale. It bothers me to be reminded that over 30% of my income is taken by the IRS because I work for a living while the dividend-funded lifestyle parts with only about 15% of its income...not to mention what obscene things are done and what vital things NOT done with that money.
The musical 1776 has just completed a run at the Lyric Stage in Boston. When we took in the show Saturday, the producer introduced the show with the news that it was the best attended performance this company's 32 year history. Ben Franklin's punchlines adorn a serious struggle to get the declaration of independence written by a bunch of men who could easily [and some did] have hoped to keep their comfortable station in life by appeasing King George. The audience gave it a standing ovation. It was not anti-war [probably why it beat out HAIR for the Tony award in 1969] but not too subtly anti-conservative. It sang of how the conservative urges among the continental congress provided all the resistance to declaring our independence. And then last night I was hearing Hartmann reminding me that G. Washington and Thom Jefferson were self identified liberals: the cummulative result of all this stimulation is that I awake this morning aware that our history is still alive, our great experiment is neither dead yet nor forgotten but needs to be defended from its internal enemies, the sightless selfish who find in true democracy a chaotic threat to their priveleges.
The time of separation between moral pondering and political action has past. For too many of us that separation has meant that uninhibited greed, fear and xenophobia have worked their will on the character, policy and enterprises of our nation. We now witness the stinking debris in the wake of that will. Act. Act now. Get your face down to the party meetings, the candidate coffees, put a sign on your lawn and support the Get Out The Vote efforts. Act even though mistakes may be made, because systematic destruction of lives, human rights and the environment are not likely to be among those mistakes.
Yesterday I got an email via a fellow congregant from a group of rabbis against torture.
How frightfully inured we have become to Bush wiping his ass with the constitution. The dubious points in support of this act raised by Bush apologists would not be relevant even if they were legally sound: the man already pays far less attention to the laws than his toadies and this one only gives him further latittude.
Vigil Mourning the Death of Our Most Cherished Values
Tuesday, October 17, 2006 at 9 a.m.
Lafayette Square or at a Post Office Near You
"Don't mourn -- organize!" It's time to do both. On Tuesday, October 17, at 9:00 a.m., President Bush is scheduled to sign the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This is the much-opposed bill which eliminates the right to habeas corpus for detainees, allows them to be tried without access to evidence against them and places decisions about interrogation methods solely under the President's control. The Washington Regional Religious Campaign Against Torture (WRRCAT) is calling for a "vigil mourning the death of our most cherished values" and for signing a counter-statement to the one that President Bush will sign that day. Vigil participants will attempt to get this statement to the President.
RHR-NA is a proud co-sponsor of this event and we are writing to urge you to participate in this event or in solidarity events in your local area.
Sad to report only a few of us from the congregation are willing to show up with signs on a work day morning. It does benefit the Bush league that being in the middle class now means "working too many hours to show up for a protest". Sick as we are of Bush, it would benefit us all if a few more were ready to have America vomit him and his congress out of office. We are looking to other synagogues and a local mosque for some show of solidarity. I have a costume in mind, if I can figure out how to hold my arms out straight for an hour:
I expect a few idiots to lean out of their pickups and yell "traitor" or such at us Tuesday. For them I have the same answer as to the question that begins this post:
Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/16/2006 11:11:00 AM
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Hayes said... the local political climate for individuals may be more important than the national climate. Self-censors probably are more concerned about how their opinions will be viewed by their immediate friends, neighbors and co-workers
For these shy people the first ammendment is already half dead. By citing the rancorous incivility that increasingly characterizes political speech, the research makes me wonder if a larger than ever before and a growing segment sit out the game, as if determining our nation's leadership had become a spectator sport only played by mean, overendowed professionals. The lack of particpation in political debate on the part of individuals impoverishes the election results even if this silenced minority does vote. Nominally, we are citizens by merely having been born here. But the laws affect every one. I don't grant the title "citizen" to any who have not worked to affect the laws through the democratic channels of vote and free speech. "Citizen" is a rank above any office but only if one does the work of citizenship. If you vote like cattle, you get a cowboy for president.
Note: According to the top US law enforcement official, A. Gonzales, doing the job he was appointed by the president to do, the laws do not apply to the president. The congress has put up with this state of affairs. That really ought to get you off your butts to do something about this congress.
Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/12/2006 04:50:00 PM
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Since selection of fittest requires a reasonably consistent application of some "selection pressure" to prevail in the environment, Darwinian success comes from a reaction to circumstances. This means that the great survivors often have succeeded by doing what humans caution themselves NOT to do: plan and provision for winning the previous war. A species that can manipulate genes in anticipation has a huge advantage in the world as Darwin has explained it to us.
The Question: In the natural evolution battles, does any advantage go to the first antagonist that can nearly wipe out its nemesis? Once ahead, do they stay ahead? Is the logic entirely different for host/parasite compared to two species competing for the same resource or niche?
How far can one stretch a generalization? I know that if you only see Darwin's idea as promoting individuals that can outfight, out forage or outf__k, you miss the whole idea of cooperative adaptation being selected...its a natural mistake for conservatives to make. But when evolution driven by the competion of host/parasite is the context, can you just assume an arms-race like spiral where the balance see-saws from time to time as long as the environment is supporting the host? Probably not that simple but there are certainly applications if it is: I want biological control of winter moths which are presently denuding whole forests in not-too-distant parts of Massachusetts...I want to head them off with a well tuned parasite before they get started. After that, if things are so simple and there is a first mover advantage, the blighters will be held in check as they battel with the germs I give them.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I suggest the GOP put its love of free enterprise to good use in their hour [well two months would be better ] of need. They should posit that everybody with any power on capitol hill has an "indiscretion allowance" that permits them to nail exactly one page with impunity..no one will tell on them and no one will confront them: business as usual and as it has been for at least the last 5 years. Let them choose the gender of the page...we aren't hypocrits here! For those who find power to be too much of an aphrodesiac ( and what a powerful one it must be if the man with the congressional specialty of protecting underage people from sexual preditors cast caution to the wind more lustily than a sailor on leave?), there would be a market in "congressional lust and cover-up credits" whereby representatives and staffers who keep their pants on and their keyboards pristinely businesslike can sell their allowances to the Lascivious Legislators in return for a favorable vote [but that requires the Lascivious Legislator to actually show up in the House during business hours, bummer!] or a negotiable sum of unused campaign monies if the Lascivious Legislator is so endowed. Now there may not have been enough money and votes for the Republican Foley* to buy his way out but at least Hastert [a name I have labored in vain to not use in the same sentence with the word "sex" as it will surely cause nightmares] could buy a cover-up credit from the staffers from whom he is now fixing to steal those credits. See how free enterprise works?
Oh. Yeah. Well, strictly speaking you are right, we still have pollution. But its paid for! Free enterprise cleaned up the environment, surely it can clean up the House of Representatives!
*note, it is necessary to correctly label all lascivious legislators as to party affiliation in order to correct someone at Fox News who just can't stand it that their favorite party puts sexual predators in congress...so they misreport the guy's party in their coverage!
On a slightly less snarky note, does anyone have the data on whether Foley only went for pages of Republican Representatives? I could be mistaken but since both Democrats and Repulicans have been with us for more than one generation they both manage to procreate. Thus it seems likely libido could be found on either side of the isle. If sex isn't an equal opportunity sin, the Republicans have only their up tight religious backers to blame. [Gawd, can't you just here Bill Clinton smiling and saying to himself "what goes around.."?]
[Have I been reading too much Wonkette?]
And, all snark aside, I agree with every liberal commentator who finds it somewhere between ironic an truly sick that a patern of sexual misconduct and coverup brings down an administration when any amount of thoroughly exposed
- lying to precipitate a mistaken and badly run war,
- violating human rights,
- abrogating the constitution,
- letting civilians die horribly for want of competant emergency management,
- vetoing a law passed to express the nation's wish to investigate stem cell based medicine,
- putting the nation in ruinous debt,
- botching the diplomacy needed to isolate the countries that really were developing WMD and
- possibly tampering with vote counts
Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/10/2006 05:32:00 PM
Would you recognize that phrase? Bush, not one for details, seems to have forgotten that oath.
If voters don't fight for it, and the president and his party fight against it, soon it will fail to protect the average citizen from his own government. That document was drafted with that very protection foremost in the minds of the the nation's founders based on bitter lessons. Will we now have to relearn those lessons?
[updates will dribble in here as I recount for you all the ways the neocon agenda has been a program for the dismantling of the rights that made this a uniquely felicitous country for the growth and prosperity of the individual citizen.]
Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/10/2006 01:21:00 PM
The Wikipedia explanation of "insecurity" pretty much does my work for me in the above contention, saying
"Insecurity is often rooted in a person during their childhood years. "It is only left to me to connect "fear" to "insecurity" which I don't think is much of a stretch. Slightly more of a stretch is needed to claim that the insecure create their own troubles and foster situations in which their apprehensions become justified...for which Wikipedia also has a succinct explanation of an ancient observation with a modern name.
Those inclined to apprehension are also apprehensive of therapists, so what IS the way out of this mess of self perpetuating fear-of-every-strange-thing? Wikipedia even points toward a solution, saying:
"Although difficult, insecurity can be overcome. It takes time and patience and a willingness to believe each person is of great value."
"...a willingness to believe each person is of great value"...that is more of a hurdle for conservatives than for liberals but even conservatives can talk a good game of tolerance acceptance and compassion...at least on Sunday mornings and campaign rallies. We should either hold them to their talk or let no person coddle that lie in their heart.
I think we always have a choice but rarely make it explicitly: life on earth will often present you with contexts where your thought could be either " I am not enough like a fortress" or "The world is a bad and dangerous place." Though neither is terribly enlightened, one is on the right path.
What fortress never fell to the pounding of heavy weapons? What cloud was ever captured or even hurt by arrows and cannon balls?
Monday, October 09, 2006
I am having a bit of a crisis. Mediocre complaining to no-one-in-particular about what dreadful f--kups run things is garden variety, no not even that, is a weed of discourse to be heard in every barroom, truckstop, writhewing talk show or anywhere ignorant gossip and insecurity flow unchecked. I berate us all and myself in particular for getting angrily self indulgent rather than engaging as personally as possible all the wrong headed persons who have assented to the several poisonous lines of policy this administration follows. I did not want to waste any more time chiseling sentences out of feckless anguish. I went back to using my spare minutes to design software and buildings and fix up the house as I did in days gone by. I never had time for blogging, I stole it. I am not a blogger, just an old guy with a job, a family, a house and too much to do. I quit reading TPM and Atrios and well, just about everything.
As this silence wore on, I came to feel vaguely estranged and disconnected from life. Though my role and station in life do not require me to voice anything, not outrage, not insight, nor drivel, something about me has changed so that it feels natural and necessary to bear witness to the folly of our nation and join those who speak against it. I know in my bones I only exist so that my children will succeed me. To let my country lose its bearings and to let our economy and our ecology fall apart for the benefit of a few thousand very wealthy and selfish companies and individuals and their media lackies is to leave my children a hopeless and impoverished world. I cannot detach that much no matter how distasteful involvement in politics may be. Making phone calls to strangers is the last thing I would have imagined doing...yet I do it now. Blogging too is a way to reach a few more people so it is back on my rioting to-do list. Not only is my disengagement from determining the leadership of the US unacceptable, NOBODY has an excuse even though it is a dirty and trying business. The alternative is to leave it to yet dirtier and more selfish parties. The alternative is to abandon your own future to the entropy of greed.
And then I voted in the primary election. I am so lucky. I actually had some choices.
And I still read my science magazines. Even from that corner, I feel scorn for my apathy. Screw Bush and all who go about on his behalf saying scientists are cassandras in search of a budget: There is so much to know and it will help us slow the damage we do if we learn how the world operates. Yes, I grow angry. So what?! I am angry because common sense and simple ideas of right and fair are being systematically violated and I am less of a good neighbor, less of a human being for shirking my job to not let the world remain broken. I am damned if I will let it get more broken than it already is.
Back on the 21st of Sept, when doubts quite unplugged my keyboard, accidents of timing and miscued car repairs put me in earshot of Open Source. Lydon was wrapping up an interview with Niall Furguson. It was so easy, so unhesitatingly easy for this historian to run down a checklist of why empires lose wars...their military equipment hardly matters, but "legitimacy" of the claims made to support the war, the causes, is paramount. Why is it so hard for so many of my fellow citizens to see what others can see so readily? Why are we in Iraq? Well, if we had only understood Bush's campaign promises, we would have known why from the very start:
I promised a series of homespun white papers on all the issues I personally found important. That is forthcoming. I have been supplied with a constant stream of what is wrong with the polices and practices of the currently powerful...more difficult to suggest what would be right but I will take a stab.
Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/09/2006 08:53:00 AM