Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I admired him

Norman Mailer, as you may guess from the title of this blog, is a character and a writer I admire. The root of my admiration, since I dare pack whole lives into a few sentences, is that he struggled, to our benefit, honestly and quite publicly with the demons of the human condition that no thoughtful person escapes. Its a praiseworthy stance in a world with exactly one certainty...even though no definitive answers are likely to result from the struggle. Note that my admiration is not any endorsement of the man's views on birth control, sobriety or patience in marriage. It is his courage in surrendering to his muse that gave him fleeting stature and us fleeting glimpses of the bones of our existence.

Where Didion said of Mailer's craft "His sentences do not get long or short by accident, or because he is in a hurry. ", my accidents sometimes have punctuation. Whereas Mailer sometimes seemed to know where he was going, I have bumbled and leaped from fascination to fascination. That the web puts this aimless exploration into fast forward has not been a real help to me, quite the contrary at times. That is why I am unsurprised yet unable to account for why one of the very earliest bookmarks I ever set was for a site called Caskets on Parade, a database of obituaries and a betting parlor of sorts laying odds on when the famous and infamous living may shuffle off. They were already up to date this morning with Mr. Mailer's demise, an inevitability on which they began making book as far back as 1979, a year long predating the web's existence...but then death is old news in all ages.

The New York Times is the source I have quoted or linked most often in this blog. That is one reason Saturday's bit on Mailer by Charles McGrath would be a good way to wind up this potpourri of a blog. In that piece, a fine quote from Gore Vidal [another of my hero's of reason who stand their ground and stare right through the oncoming stampede of the unreasoning]:
Mailer is forever shouting at us that he is about to tell us something we must know or has just told us something revelatory and we failed to hear him or that he will, God grant his poor abused brain and body just one more chance, get through to us so that we will know. Each time he speaks he must become more bold, more loud, put on brighter motley and shake more foolish bells. Yet of all my contemporaries I retain the greatest affection for Norman as a force and as an artist. He is a man whose faults, though many, add to rather than subtract from the sum of his natural achievements.

No one taught me to blog and it shows. Mr. Mailer is an example but not a teacher. My teachers listen to me which causes me to listen to them. Someone who did listen to me enough to say a kind word about my early efforts was Cul "ratboy" Heath. There is news, if you read the comments at his blog, that Cul is in failing health. He is robbed of even the ability to get on line by weakness and the financial evisceration that medical crises entail in a country where only the wealthy and the corporate employee can get sick without paying directly out of pocket the king's ransom proper care requires. That I wrote anything at all after my first few pages can be laid more to the encouragement of a few kind strangers like Cul than to anything else. He was literally the first blogger in the PBA to post a link here. I say "stranger" but I have read too many of the biting intros with which he prefaces his posts to feel I do not know and like his view of the world. His own plight now reteaches the views he, and most progressives, have espoused on the slow-burning disaster that is health care in the US. If Cul cannot drop by here any more to blast the dust off my complacency, one more reason to put my dust elsewhere.

I punned a title for a blog two and a half years ago that I have come to regret for every reason except the attractive collision/synergy of skimpy underwear, search engines and hit counters. I do not wish to parade further under a banner of bent wit and borrowings from the deceased. Bent wit alone will do. But there is enough Google-crawled verbiage here that my ego won't let me kill this blog. So The Executioner's Thong simply comes to a halt and various links and pointers to new enterprises will begin to festoon its rusting hulk like so many kudzu vines creeping over an abandoned pickup truck on the back acres of a failing tobacco farm. Returning from a trip to London last month, I left my spiral bound sketch book of blogging notions in the seatback. I had jotted a sentence or two nearly every day for the first year and spun some of them out into posts. Oddly, I actually feel unburdened and I think the weight was the accretion of a thousand fizzled triumphs imagined vaguely but in truth, better off forgotten. Longer essays may come in the place of this, a more book-like format perhaps, or dead silence, or since I am ruled by impulse, maybe only a name change will occur. The most addicted writing seems to have passed. The drug in addicted writing is merely the self. The little blogroll will stay up or perhaps become annotated since it represents the greatest benefit this blog has brought me: addictive reading and partying or parrying with commenters at Pandagon, Phyrangula, Crooked Timber, Agonist and all those wondrous venues where media turned with the turn of the century: we do not merely read the news, we handle it.

I leave you a pile of pages thick with the worn themes and unanswered questions with which I continue to be obsessed: are humans innately evil? Don't we spend most of our time and make most of our decisions in selfish and deluded states? Why do the world's religions have both endless talk of turning from evil and a record of historical acts written largely in blood? Here is one last observation about good and evil, and one on which minds as diverse as C.S. Lewis and Norman Mailer seem to have implicitly converged:
"Good" is a theory, a guess at what is missing based on what we do not like in our lives. "Evil" is a pervasive fact so familliar only a thoughtful writer would even think about it in a fresh way while preachers and politicians aim a feckless gale of warm worthless conventions to left and right of it. When Mr. Lewis took on the voice of the devil in The Screwtape Letters, he was expert, trenchant and enjoyable. And...
Mr. Mailer’s [last] novel, The Castle in the Forest, which came out [in 2007], was about Hitler, but the narrator was a devil, a persona he admitted he found particularly congenial. "It’s as close as a writer gets to unrequited joy," he said. "We are devils when all is said and done."

Well, that is your problem.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The work of the cursing class

Most of my adult life I have been haunted by the disparity between my high intelligence and my low wages. But if you can't fix one end of a dilemma, you can perhaps hack away at the other. I have found a solution in strong drink, the steady consumption of TV programs and the unquestioning acceptance of thoughts provided to me by politicians and preachers.

Monday, October 29, 2007

regarding the recent paucity of posts

Sometimes you can't hear yourself think.
Sometimes you don't want to hear yourself think.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

FCC asks to ratify media monopolies.

I am just mailing this in, sorry.

There are a few problems that are the seeds of many problems. Campaign finance reform is also a huge problem. But we need to concentrate on those about which we can the most.

In my book, media content dictated by a handful of conservatives with more interest in promoting a view of the world that favors the growth of their wealth than they have ever had in fair and balanced news is one of the worst problems. But it is not on the verge of a leap in severity. Today's reason to get up and call you congressman TODAY, and to write the FCC is that the media moguls want to shut out the liberal and honest voices before they can do harm to any elections...this is a seed problem about to be sewn and fertilized. You didn't find your protests effective when congress had a chance to do the right thing about children's health care. It would be easy to give up in disgust...I nearly did. That is just what the Ruperts of the world want and expect of us.

As you will note in the Times article and as Ian Welsh spells out at Agonist, this time around its more desperate than last because the supreme court was all that saved open access to media from monopoly...and Bush has altered that court. Whatever is to be done, you and I are going to have to do it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

One of my value judgements is shifting

Given a choice between ending selfishness and ending stupidity, I always used to prefer and sometimes brashly spoke for ending stupidity. In my arrogance, I considered intelligence the master of reflex and emotion: a proper amount of reflection should lead anyone to adjust their grabbing and self gratifying ways toward the more sustainable relationship with friends and fellow citizens. Thought alone is one tool available to poorest human, I reasoned. The benefits of a yielding consideration of others seemed to me almost as evident as the shorter term benefit of taking for number one whatever was not nailed down and a little meditation would pull you over to the benign.

Now I see selfishness more often as betraying fear: it is the constant practice and the general response of those who think, or more accurately: feel, they won't have enough to get by sooner or later. And while there is a bit of theory to the effect that we may have inborn inclinations toward or away from altruism that vary from person to person, I know it is experience, especially in childhood, that determines our expectations of want. Those experiences are compounded later in life by acquisition of goods and power: having "something to lose" often exacerbates the hostility toward the welfare of others when the sense of insecurity is falsely equated to possessions. And they are determined in ways that won't be changed, not even by a life of wealth and surplus. Surplus, in fact, is rarely defined in our society as having more than the minimum you need to get by, a minimum most of us above poverty cannot and do not want to reckon.

Working counter to that dynamic is the instilled sense of security or adequacy. And that sense can be as irrationally disconnected from one's finances and physical jeopardy as can its opposite fears. And it can be as unacknowledged even as it determines daily choices. That sense that one need not be overly worried about how they will fare next year may come from a constructive childhood where one was guided to experience their own adequacies or from a belief in a deity who watches out for us and imbues us with confidence and hope when we muster faith. Generosity is not so much a matter of having the material wherewithal to give.

I also used to believe that of those two choices, stupidity was more realistically vulnerable to education and exercise of the mind whereas "curing" selfishness seemed to require some unattainable magic. I do not feel so sure of these things now.

Adam Smith viewed the rules of commerce and the freedom to set prices and sell to the highest bidder as "the invisible hand", a benign and almost divine force inherent in the simple rules of the market. To this day, hundreds of years later, many hold with that incomplete vision and think it is all that is needed to account for the increase of wealth since the idea was set to paper. I say "incomplete" because we logged and mined and burnt the world to reach our present state of abundance. Do you deny that it is at best pockets of abundance amid fields of want...and getting more lopsided by the year? Smith was quite right in one thing: The simplest rules and the particular definition of fairness ["honesty in commerce", perhaps?] are all it takes to structure a social order in an economy. I look upon the divisions of wealth and their sick trend and upon the catastrophic one-sided way we share nothing with the earth that has so long given us whatever we wanted and I am certain the invisible hand is the right hand. It is time to change the rules so that the invisible hand is the left hand. Our present state of degradation and poverty in the shadow of towering wealth is not accidental or temporary. And unfortunately because selfishness is the prevailing spirit of the rules that structure humanity's dealings with itself, intelligence is the subservient trait, applied to devising efficiencies that benefit the well to do far more often than those who couldn't or didn't grab a bigger share for themselves.

I have no solution. The choice is a rhetorical device and actual accomplishment of either improvement seems to require magic. There is no magic.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

does every president have one of these?

Maybe I should put Phil Nugent on my reading list. There are lots of little things someone else notes and nails in a way you not only agree with but would have written up yourself if you hadn't been busy saving the world and raking the lawn. Crooked Timber points me to a post of Phil's from which I fashion:

  • Nixon: "I am not a crook"
  • Clinton: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman"
  • Bush: "We do not torture"

[And of course, I would think it fair to ask, which insistent prevarication was in denial of the greatest evil?]

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nobel Committee gets one right

Good morning!

Nobel Peace prizes are generally given to someone who has worked to inspire or broker more peaceful relations between waring factions of humans. I think the Nobel committee's choice of awarding the prize to the most salient and influential [but hardly the only] parties working to end a war heedless humanity has waged against their own environment is long overdue.

Many wars are ultimately fought because that seems more logical to the waring groups than trying to share the dwindling resources for which they are contending. How much more sensible it is to work instead against wasting those resources in the first place. We have a long way to go before Planned Parenthood or any ZPG/NPG activists get the peace prize but at least we see here a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A well trodden way

Not surprised, I find that when some insight life beat into me finally sharpens to a statement in a terse tart phrase, I am the 10 millionth person to have reached that bit of wit.

I meant by that that evidence is miraculously abundant for someone with a preconception to support. In one way or another, so imply thousands of others to whom the expression occurs spontaneously. No wonder science is such an unfamiliar and even hostile profession to the average American. Getting anything less than just what you want appears to be a substantially repellent feature of reality when encountered by minds conditioned by advertising as much as by experience.

The perplexing thing, the fact that puts all our endeavors under a cloud is that despite the insight being well documented, its violations are virtually the main content of MSM. I am fond of Krishnamurti's very deep expression that truth is a pathless land. But it seems that truth is at hand constantly and not far from the most well worn paths. It is just that those paths are circles on which our peculiar species repeatedly approaches the truth and then just passes it by to be rediscovered and re-ignored in endless repetition.

When you watch the news, just remember, you are not so much watching history's telling or an unfolding of a causal chain. You are hearing foolish humans picking and choosing things to say about other foolish humans. The real import of the news will be more the display of the disturbed processes of our collective and individual minds than it will be a coherent narrative or a tale with any meaning or end.

This ape is not ready for anything. He leadeth me beside black waters.


Political leaders or the populations that either choose or tolerate them: of whom is this observation more critical?:

It is easier to mislead than to lead.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Its not safe

The hidden persuader, the low brow half truth that has propelled the Republicans even before some sons of Saudi Arabia had their egotistical triumph of death in lower Manhattan, was the miasmatic insinuation that you should be worried. Yes, YOU should be afraid. Yep, there's tax wasters out there and there's bad people and you gotta trust a tough decision maker to stomp 'em out. Tough did not mean personally courageous either, just callous about the disposition of the lives and well being of others...none of that bleeding heart empathetic humanity crap.

Well, the chicken hawks have come home to roost, and the Republicans are increasingly characterized as out of touch with reality and even with the electorate. And, as this slightly modified logo for the Republican 2008 convention may imply, they have become a bit of a laughing stock. While they want you to remain dazed and seized with amorphous fear, they now have the problem that getting hit on in the men's room by a stuck-in-the-closet Republican is a more common fear among Americans than the dread of a bomba from Osama. Thanks to the ever-readable Dark Wraith for relaying that hackery from BrassBlog

But now its my turn to say it: It is not safe.
Safety is never more than relative. The worst thing about it is that it is more likely to be smugness than any reliable guarantee which lends that feeling of security. Knowledge is the one sure possession that is always safe once you have it at all. Seeing the low poll numbers of Republicans may comfort you. And the growing economic strain of selfishly stupid policies eroding and fragmenting the Republican "base" patched together by Rove may delight you. But do not be complacent. Just as the minority of American people who still support the neoconservative's war to gain a foothold in the oiliest part of the world cannot keep clear in their minds the vast difference between the correct meanings of "Arab", "Muslim" and "Al-Qaeda", so too, the rest of us need to remain vigilantly clear on the distinction between Neoconservative, Republican and Conservative. While the Republicans should lose elections based on their abysmal morality, their pathetic polling numbers and their disdain for the constitution, they are just a political party, a label. Conservatives are not all identified with that party and some of the richest of them are better identified as corporatists or some other label that says wealth can be concentrated to give pathologically disproportionate political power to a small clique of people. As free as conservative media moguls are from taint of oil, blood, cash and cum the Republicans have smeared on themselves, they burrow on through the timbers of the republic unchecked. As long as this "money buys truth" paradigm holds sway in American political discourse, we will be continually surprised at how a dumb party with a disgraceful and at many points murderous record will still do well on election day.

Like the militantly pious and intolerant Islam of Al Quaeda, the base of the republican party is not single minded. It exists in pockets wherever insecurity and ignorance in its many forms are found: the uneducated fear of foreigners, militantly pious Christian intolerance, the fear of losing power that afflicts the wealthy etc. Only their inclination to fear really binds them and when the media owners blow the dog whistle, you will be surprised how they assemble and vote as one. (And to whomever gave Mr. Rove's handiwork the name "the Republican base", my eternal gratitude. I wonder what it sounds like in Arabic;)

And do not celebrate any victory over mere Republicans that may turn up in November...At that point in time when the advertisements and editorials have exhausted the vocabulary of mistrust and marred every meaning words ever had, you will tend to forget the names of any but the immediate victims. Don't. Rove, Cheney and a handful of advisers to this administration threw the switch that put an erstwhile democracy on a collision course with world political and economic forces which a more realistic government might have adapted or averted. The messes made will not be restored to order by a change of leaders and the parties responsible should not enjoy the kindness of belated tongue wagging. We are bled, we are haggard and we will be worse off later but oh so much worse off if we forget why mistakes were made: politics of fear are really spoiling the party and not just the Republican party.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Starts with an "F", ends with "CK"

And we are.

The long periods of stability and the generally very gradual changes of earth's thermal profiles argue that in all eras prior to human pollution, nature had found the balance points at which small perturbations were damped by negative feedbacks. This gave rise to mild oscillation in the short term and only in very long term could larger effects such as ice ages play out the more extreme oscillations. And even those were still oscillations, periodic departures from some normal for which there was always a gradual return.

While nature has never given us dead calm stasis, it is not possible for her to tarry around conditions in which positive feedback is at work...instability is always necessarily transient. But if you screw up badly enough, positive feedbacks nature has never shown us come out of the woodwork. It had been realized in the last few years that a thawing arctic could release trapped CO2 from tundra ice and hasten the rising levels of green house gases now that we pushed them above a threshold that could start the thaw. That added carbon in the air sped up models for global warming. It has been suggested that if the warming goes on long enough to affect temps at ocean depths of a few thousand feet, there might be rapid release of CH4 from methane hydrate ice that is known to blanket some slopes at the margins of continental shelfs. That would be a monster positive feedback both because of the enormous amount of methane now sequestered in the deeps and because methane is 20 times better at trapping heat in the atmosphere than is carbon dioxide. The first positive feedback was more obvious and postulated decades ago: ice reflects the warming rays better than dirt and vegetation so a shrinking ice cap meant yet more heat piled on to, you guessed it, melt yet more frost. That is positive feedback and, as predicted, that particular effect is here already and hard at work dismantling our notions of seasonal variation and agriculture's geographic limits. Another positive feedback that is in operation in temperate climates that used to get enough rain: wildfires. Obviously, wholesale combustion of vast forests puts millions of tons of carbon in air, pronto. Only slightly less obvious [unless you are Senator Inhofe] is the connection that a warmer atmosphere dries or outright drives out the rain that fell in a cooler climate: some may get more rain, most will get less ... and that will increase the likelihood and severity of wildfires. Just ask the Australians.

And now comes yet another curve ball: enough melting to break the ice free is all you need to let the winds push the unmelted remnants to warmer latitudes where water temperatures and less glancing solar radiation finish the job well ahead of the schedule a simple model would predict. Another positive feedback.

If you haven't studied engineering or physics and don't have a feeling for what the difference of behavior is between a system in the grip of negative feedbacks vs one in the grip of positive feedbacks then just think of something like a runaway freight train that is approaching a long downhill grade...its present uncontrolled excess of energy is about to yield an even greater excess of uncontrollable energy. Or think of positive feedback as the simplified physical example of the "vicious circle".

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gods knowable and gods imaginable

Eros is the shabbiest god, just as your preacher taught.
That he rules us more surely than all others is not so odd:
He lives on earth and touches us, the others are just thought.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Since the Dems don't have the balls...

...to take the liars, the wastrels, the incompetents, and the felons to task or to court, I suppose we will have to settle for the the parade of disgraced administration minions masquerading as good, if misunderstood, public servants and talking up a pall of normalcy around the resignations of the likes of Michael Brown, Tom Delay, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, the all-but-pardoned fall guy Scooter Libby and now the gibbering sycophant Alberto "the embarrassment" Gonzales.

So the reign of idiots may end with a bang when Cheney gets his war on with Iran. But if not , it will just peter out like a bad runny nose: the miscreants can point to the lack of indictments and impeachments and go off to their country clubs to chat about how best to invest the consulting fees they will get from the lobbyists. That will leave the Democrats, who have no fight in them, to pick up the pieces of a barely salvageable financial, moral, military and political mess the Neocons have made. And the Dems will catch all the blame, despite their feckless finger pointing, for the very high price the US will pay for all that it as broken in its international relations, all that it has squandered of its wealth, all that it has cast away of its moral leadership and all the forestallable energy and environmental disasters that it has neither attended to nor strengthened its technology or its students to face.

With the fines and penalties that could be assessed for all the cooked books and crooked profiteering of Halliburton alone, a department of special prosecutors could be funded at no additional cost to taxpayers. A few people remain who have not be bought and have the vigor to bring the culture of corruption to a final accounting. We would not burden the wimps in congress who are so afraid of upsetting the apple cart for all the fantastic improvements they have made in Iraq, immigration and health care.

I am sick of the gum flapping lot of them.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

one flaw

satisfaction or even pleasure was all that I had planned
but many outcomes only served to tire or to disturb
as if some god reviewed each script and panned
one flaw of intentions small and grand
my flesh reports that I am a noun
bruising continues until I see mind is just a verb

Friday, July 27, 2007

What should I do with this blog?

I have gotten annoyed and bored with my blogging. Vacation cannot go on for ever. Note the poll at the top of the right sidebar. Suggestions in the comments are welcome. The idea that I would write pithy little sentences to help us remember that sense of right and wrong that Carl Rove has nearly erased from American discourse was where I began this blog but nothing particularly valuable seems to have come of that. And I am getting long winded as I age here.

As I have hinted, I find steady engagement in the outrageous politics of our times requires personality traits I don't wish to hypertrophy by exercise. The focus on wrongs and problems is natural but life is too short for taking shortcuts to feeling righteous. Rather, I'd like to work in a more positive and constructive way. Building things, solving problems or at least fixing things...these have been the essence of my professional life as an engineer and my also of my most rewarding hobbies. The course I seem to have gravitated to in this blog, while within the rhetorical fashions of the liberal blogosphere is just not on a satisfactory bearing.

The time it takes to blog interestingly and frequently does not exist in my life at this time, so this is partly a way of deciding what will have to give way. The talent to blog interestingly at any frequency may be lacking but readers will know what they think I do better and what worse. This is your big chance here to get what you want with flattery.

Note: "Fold it up until it is all sharp corners and stick it up where the sun don't shine." is not one of the options. Neither is "give it a rest", though I am doing that a bit just now. I may nearly be over my withdrawal symptoms from my hit counter addiction.

I linked this blog into a few causes: Saving the environment, ending the dark age of bushes and neocons and staving off the many collapses that dark age has fetched neigh. These causes I remain supportive of and for that reason, the blog may simply emerge as a less random outlet and relay station for the news and views supporting those causes. But if so, I am looking for ways to make some contribution to those causes others have overlooked.

To all who have left comments, I am particularly grateful as many of you have been fairly tactful and helped me see things differently. You are the flickering starlight of common sense in a black void of silently suffering masses and mindless numbing noise the telly says is the news.

Monday, July 23, 2007

MSM: not just stealing from dot-orgs, bragging about it.

An article in today's New York Times says of an upcoming CNN broadcast of candidates answering recorded video of queries culled from YouTube:
The first of a new kind of presidential debate is scheduled for tonight, one in which members of the general public pose questions to the candidates via homemade video.
"First"? Not really. This is exactly the format of the candidate response we showed at about 1300 MoveOn house Parties for the Planet two weeks ago. The turn out was good for those so maybe CNN is just casting about for a way bump the ratings. I watched late last night as CNN took pains to give a peephole of transparency to the process by which they winnow down hundreds or thousands of videos. Basically they don't have a way or don't trust the ways they do have for polling: they said partisan hacking of a poll or vote was likely so their editors and consultants were deciding what was best or at least representative. That is bs. Why don't they just finish the job and swipe MoveOn's entire method. MoveOn does trust its members and polls them regularly for the issues and questions foremost on their minds. In theory, the Times is a newspaper and one of the better ones read for its information...so it can't be that both writer and editor were simply uninformed of what nearly 100 thousand people in this country just watched.

The supporting quote in the Times article comes from someone who should be even more aware of the trends but who, I suspect, considers MoveOn a threat to her party's grip on power and to her very paycheck:
“These debates are the first real political foray into citizen journalism,” writes Morra Aarons, a blogger and political director for BlogHer.org, which covers women’s issues. Ms. Aarons is also a Democratic consultant who supports Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton but is not affiliated with her or any campaign.
Perhaps I should not be surprised that one MSM outlet is scratching the back of another as it attempts to make money through use of media with which they have not been able to innovate as well as groups who have only democracy on their minds and not advertisers. I can see what they are doing and unless they take to scratching people's eyes out, eventually we will all see it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Creeping toward the exit

...patting myself on the back as I go.
I have spent enough time reading and getting upset and posting and finally blowing hours I should spend working just to do a particular kind of blogging. Not Jewish, not Buddhist, not Humanist, not wise, not even witty, just political outrage. The time has run out, and not been well spent. I bore even myself. This post is not my last but I hope it is the end of the perfunctory, egotistical repeating myself and others. I don't have time to write this...something must be boiling over somewhere in my so called life.

I will plead that it is easy to become obsessed. The rewards however are scant. I can, with no better sources than a few on-line newspaper articles, develop a slight sense for what crap should hit the fan next, or at least, writing two million characters of indignant posting, a few sentences are bound to match a footnote or a headline somewhere. Yesterday I protested we should be told what deals Cheney cut with the oil companies. Today TPM peels back the wraps on those old meetings. A few weeks ago I sarcastically suggested we give Bush a third term. The idea is so nauseating, MoveOn, coincidentally, used it in an email plea last week that began:

Dear MoveOn member,

What would a third Bush term look like? Endless war in Iraq, continued torture and spying, more ultra-conservative judges, more and more people without health care, and so on...it'd be awful.

But that's impossible, right? Well, maybe not...

What does it mean that my anger becomes tuned to the anger of the reality based? What have I sunk to? What have we all sunk to? Am I so different from or any less formulaic than a Limbaugh or a Coulter? Did my hit counter's success not hang upon the outrageousness of my topic vis-a-vis our liberal values more than upon its significance to any wider audience or even its accuracy? Judgments of accuracy may be a matter of perception to some extent but I call myself a liberal because I found more accuracy on that side. What have we given up in order to get a little attention? Are we damned from the start when we decide that to slant things a bit is justified if being ignored is the alternative? Must hyperbole and emphasis of only the grotesque be adopted if those are the techniques of the other camp? I do confess I hate those who push corrupting and degrading half truths but why would that make their methods worth emulating?

For example, look up some puddle of poo like this presumably real plea for a third Bush term. Easy to find with google. Easier to throw rocks at. So easy I get tired of it. This could become habit forming but it is not respectable blogging. Enough.

I have heard you can dislocate your arm trying to pat yourself on the back but I am good at it. There is a callus back there big enough to make me look like Dumas' bell ringer. But the hunchback did not let his soul become grotesque.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Beating the drums for impeachment

The AP did most of the reporting I have found on the latest little tussle over whether we have a constitution or a monarchy. CBS writes it up pretty clearly as a disagreement this administration is having with the constitution...and the loser is you, dear citizen. That the white house and the vice president have their own peculiar understanding of what law means and to whom its obligations apply is familiar territory but still alarming. What self-styled democracy, what legislative branch would stand by and do nothing? The congress still thinks because we are in a war they cannot lay a hand on the executive while troops are afield. Bullshit. We are in a debacle this incompetent administration concocted, led and mismanaged. They should not be allowed the vicious circularity of arguing an ongoing war somehow justifies the war going on. They have had more than enough time and money to have taken out Osama Bin Laden and chose instead to let him regroup on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border...our real enemy lives to plague us further and we have sown a new crop of enemies just for good measure. We have destroyed the country we were told we meant to save. We have so angered and alarmed the Iranians they no longer take dollars for oil. A development like that preceded our invasion of Iraq. If only there were oil fields in Waziristan, perhaps we'd have been sold a war that, as a side effect, brought a little justice to the inspiration for the 9/11 plotters

Note in that CBS writeup that Gonzo, incompetent to the core, has had half a year to work out the legality of the Vice President's office excusing itself from executive branch reporting requirements on how secrecy is used but he has failed to deliver any guidance. Instead, the creepy VP has been pushing to abolish the watchdog agency ISOO that sees to it laws about government secrecy are used only as intended and effectively

Digging a bit deeper, note in this version of the AP story from PR-inside, that about one tenth of the 20 million documents that get some kind of secrecy clamped on them get that way without justification of why they should be classified. And since 2002, Darth Cheney has not even been submitting his paperwork to the ISOO.

Let me remind everyone, especially you, sick Dick, why we have the notion of classified documents and the elaborate protocols and bureaucracy for shepherding those documents: There is some information believed to useful to those who would harm us militarily or economically. NOT POLITICALLY. Your fellow citizens and other members and branches of the government are not the enemy. It costs us tax payers an arm and a leg once a piece of paper gets that red stamp on it. All the work done with that information going forward is done under expensive contained and guarded conditions. The one to two year back log to obtain a clearance [unless you are Paul Wolfowitz's girlfriend] means much of the work does not get done in a timely fashion....which may be exactly what Darth Cheney is aiming for. Confusing the interests of Halliburton with those of the people of the United States might be forgivable were it not for the huge appreciation in Cheney's personal wealth that resulted from this war he worked so hard to start. I find it reasonable, based on all the misrepresentation and mismanagement that has already been exposed, that we should be suspicious of what Cheney has been up to, starting with his "energy policy" closed door meetings with oil company executives early in the first term. What has Mr. Cheney and company got to hide from its own government? No one has asked that paperwork of the VP office be read onto the airwaves or even to the Senate Democratic leadership...just that everyone in government should follow the laws.

I am just one more citizen who has taken up pounding the drum for impeachment because its clear creepy VP is not listening to me, to you or to congressional subpoenas. And I herewith abandon my wait-and-see hopefulness about the congress we tried to turn blue and true...they as a body are behaving like gutless fools. Pelosi: sic sick Dick or you will pay come next election, your party will pay.
You will hear this again and again. You will hear it from others, experts like Greenwald who have prepared the cases against these usurpers and destroyers of democracy. I have not listed the economic and domestic failings, some that literally got thousands killed. I will not apologize for adding nothing but volume to the debate. The volume needs to be turned up.

Monday, July 16, 2007

why I watch Huffington Post

yes, "watch". Sometimes I read it and I take the handy Daily Brief email too. But it both has the news and, for media watchers, is news. I predict their page hits per day will begin to climb. They have been tinkering with what I call the "slashdot afterburner" in which commenters rate other commenters. Works for Kos.

Arianna is pretty good snoop. Kristol may never learn to shut up but at least he is going to learn to whisper.

And they get good pics: here is William Kristol, trying to look thoughtful while passing a brick right on Fox news.

And here is dear leader, getting a little rush by inserting the brick.

just us words

just us words

He who drafted us and toiled with us and finally left us thus arrayed,
Not certain he is done, he left us as he came to us: strayed.

Chaos is the tendency of all things and life a motif bobbing on that stream
As all forces flow toward cold uniformity, joining, mixing, splitting, briefly resisting.
Desperate for the meaning, the tools of sense ask: Where is the sense?
From tools fashioned for survival, the appetite for meaning is an accidental byproduct
Forever reflexively scanning for portent, we have to drag in cause.

Just us words remain, fossil of a still coursing thought.
If all the letters on the spilled dice fell as a good sentence,
Greater yet would be the miracle that there was a reader for them.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Gimme a break

I wanted to shut up for a while and see what quiet felt like but damn, there is such sick folly afoot.

The NY Times, you don't need me to tell you, has a mixed record on getting their facts straight but when they report congressional testimony of several recent Surgeons General to the effect that the Bush league routinely pressured them to water down any health policy or reported findings that didn't look good for Rethuglican supporters, I assume that the Surgeons General have not garbled their facts. It is a fresh provocation to see old lies and disservices to the republic laid out afresh like the corpses of so many dead truths unearthed.

As Seen on the Internets: turning over a rock so that you won't have to...

I was still coming down from a bit of a high I had over the great turnout for Live Earth/Party for the Planet last weekend, when this horrid pile of lies crashed me jarringly back to the realities of the fight for our planet. I don't know if I should have done them the favor of a link but rather than go there, just see a few of their headlines:
Origins of Environmental Religions
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. - July 12, 2007
Conventional religions have been under attack for some years from liberals who have drifted into secular humanism and away from any devout belief in God. ...

Global Warming Scapegoat
James M. Taylor - July 09, 2007
Regarding “Officials discuss health, climate change” (July 2), it is amazing how global warming is becoming this generation’s version of UFOs; anything that a cursory analysis doesn’t immediately explain must be a UFO… or global warming....
And there is much more merde where that came from...they get some ignorant liar to write a crank letter to the WaPo and then publish it in their little web page of bought and paid lies as if it were news that bore repeating. Who is this "Heartland Institute"? Pretty much the spewers of specious conclusions that only bush league supporters could swallow. Herbert J Walberg, from the Hoover institute, heads their board of directors. He managed to get in a career in academic psychology before he found it more appealing to denounce school desegregation and argue that total free market treatment would leave no child with a behind. Joseph L Bast, frequent contributor of articles and co-author with Walberg did not even earn his stupidity: he is blatantly a paid liar who just repeats the lies of others.

How very Bush League of them: a PhD adviser to the department of education with his name all over a web zine of utter rubbish denials of well established science on the environment.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

If the constitution were written in the era of King George Bush II

The bill of rights would have added to separation of church and state, a requirement for separation of corporations and state.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Whither my activism, wither my blogging

Some days a dreadful inertia mires all action.
Causes and excitements lose their attraction.
I have no heart, I have no faction.

Or perhaps I just have too many.

I admit, I am developing a resentment, in spite of the pleasures of self expression, to the time it takes me to blog. I could be doing something about all the broken things I end up merely writing about. I could be face to face with others rather than at the distilled isolation of an anonymously authored web page. The satisfaction of going overtime in 40 minutes of intense conversation with 22 perfect strangers who have shown up at Casa Greensmile to hear what the candidates have to say in answer to questions about global warming, that satisfaction is much more engaging than the faint hope that three or four people might read the occasional post, often hours in the writing, that is not utterly repetitive of what they can read elsewhere. Today, the only reason I can make myself write is the vain hope that someone knows a few words to dispel these doubts:
  1. The public whose mind I wish I could change or awaken is not reading this blog.
  2. The case for amateurs writing about political issues is weak at best: we start with borrowed facts and come to similar conclusions to what readers have seen better written in a dozen places already.
  3. Looking beyond the liberal blogosphere, we have become a jelly dough nut of a nation, fat, insubstantial in our interests, addicted to pleasures and entertainments, tolerant only of the very shortest appeals to our conscience and the very nearest and personally painless horizons in considering the common good. And many are now content to take the pseudo-sectarian shortcuts to feeling right about skipping all the old questions about our fellow humans. We have in short, become a very poor stock, getting Bushwhacked as we deserve for dropping the yoke of democracy.
  4. The infrastructure on which we communicate is frayed, frail and under attack. A few disgustingly rich people want to own the roads and the Internet as soon as a few rule changes make it profitable to do so. Even where private enterprise raised money to lay wire, they did so as sanctioned monopoly, employing technology developed with heavy public subsidy. It has been a gift to publish pages for no cost at all save leaving my words as fodder for some one's advertising scheme. When "publish post" has the same effect as hitting "call" on my cell phone, will I still write? would you pay one cent to read my drivel?
  5. Since the FCC and Reagan effectively obliterated the idea that broadcasters are permitted to use the electromagnetic commons as a trustee licensed to make responsible and beneficial use of a public resource and since the supreme court 1976 Buckley vs Valeo decision, "free speech" means* "how much can you afford to publish or broadcast". As long as the rich-get-richer, poor-get-poorer trend continues its march to an obscene lopsidedness, nothing we little people can put in words cannot be completely drowned out.
  6. The "Paris-Britney-OJ is all that you are interested in ... we are telling you that" journalism will be the Wal-Mart of information as long as "informing people" and "making money" are essentially tied together. The mightiest liberal blogs are, in the scope of national politics, just the little independent bookstore or cafe that has such loyal customers, Wal-Mart couldn't put them out of business and the smart conversations are still going on there...what we needed to do was put the Wal-Medias out of business or at least stop them from packaging whole demographics the way huge chain stores package Chinese dog food. To get the attention of an addled consumer nation, a lot of people carrying signs in the street may be necessary.

In contrast to such misgivings, I have the very positive impressions from discovering that right in my own neighborhood there are a crowd of people who care as much as I do about global warming. I only signed up to host 15 people. Turned out they were people like me: not kids and not too bad off and able to imagine, and care, about the world as it will be when they are gone...people with other ideas and more complete knowledge that I only learn of when I start talking with them. They will put aside their own interests and pleasures occasionally to help make an impression on our leaders that we need to change direction. I don't know if any of those people who showed up at my party for the planet read this blog. So, even if I am not reckoning only from the negatives, I find it reasonable to question why I blog.

MoveOn queried its members today as to which of several current political causes they should focus on. I am not telling you the choices. Join MoveOn and get yer own damn ballot. They apologized for giving a list, all of which you would like to support for some positive change in public policy, and making us pick one. But they are right...the American public, its mind reduced by TV journalists to equating Paris Hilton's celebrity incarceration with Scooter Libby's cannot be schooled or moved on more than one issue at a time. We have a long row to hoe.

*It was from one of my guests Saturday night that I learned of that terrible precedent, see what I am starting to think real people work better than HTML pages?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Antepartum Patriarchy

An interesting report in PNAS, also summarized in Nature, is not about the gender biases built into our culture but about the endocrine machinery that influences childbearing outcomes. Those outcomes have such dreadful weight in a society that prizes and promotes fecundity. It is we cultured apes who tend to lay these outcomes heavily at the feet of nurture and behavior. Very briefly, for the ultra lazy who won't even read the Nature explanation: extensive birth and marriage records, from a period and place where no modern reproductive choices or mores held any sway, have shown that females with a fraternal [that is male] twin were only getting married and if married only having kids at about 2/3 the rate of the women who had no in-utero testosterone exposure. The researchers went to some length to eliminate the likeliest sources that could skew such statistics. That is just an observation. What to make of it?

One can raise a lot of eyebrows and ire by offering mechanistic biology, dumb and billions of years amassing its complexities, as an explanation for any consequential difference in mating success. 50 pages into Louann Brizendine's book "The Female Brain" [which, plodding reader that I am, I will eventually review] it has become believable to me that hormones alone can account for much behavior by rewiring that spaghetti bowl of neurons that is the seat of behavior. I insist that if you pay any attention at all to this post, you go read at least the abstract of the paper. I will tease you with the most controversial claim about the findings:
...Nor are our results explained by after-birth social factors (females growing up with similarly aged brothers) because females born with a male co-twin have reduced success even when their co-twin dies shortly after birth and are raised as singletons after birth. Our findings suggest that hormonal interactions between opposite-sex fetuses known to influence female morphology and behavior can also have negative effects on daughter fecundity and, hence, maternal fitness, and bear significant implications for adaptive sex allocation in mammals.
When you consider the social pressure, the weight of convention and community expectations around marriage and having children, and you put that together with the crap shoot called conception which produces the people on whom these expectations weigh, it is a wonder we don't have more feminists, ... or more suicides.

When some one figures out a way to get clean and meaningful data about which in-utero effects alter male behavior [Anthony Bogaert has tracked down one phenomenon but there are perhaps others] so that we don't have a lot of whining "but you didn't study my situation", maybe we could all just lighten up on what people are "supposed" to do with their lives, reproductively speaking.

Extra helpings of John Edwards.

I have been too busy to properly blog the party for the planet...but the turnout at my house party was overwhelming. I will say a bit about it when I have time but I just want to pass the word that Bora got a lot more of John Edwards thoughts than there were time for in the format of the MoveOn Town Hall Meeting for candidates to answer questions about their plans to prevent a climate change disaster.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Go See Sicko!

It is, as many will tell you, Michael Moore's best yet. Me and Mrs Greensmile were crying by the end of the Cuba segment.

Its better late than never

For the people we have not killed yet, its is not too late. Belatedly, the New York Times, who sucked Cheney hard enough, and helped get us into a complete abortion of a war, now call for our exit from that war. Its not like we don't have better places to spend the money. Who knows, maybe some folks even care about the lives.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

party for the planet

My blogging has been somewhere between lame and empty momentum of habit the last few days and today it is even worse. I have a party to host today. Quit reading blogs and go to a party this evening. My party is oversubscribed but I hear there are 30,000 people signed up across the country so you could meet some of the cool people. There are over a dozen parties within 30 miles of our zip...put your zip code in and find the party nearest you. Your stupid country will not sign on to the Kyoto accords but YOU can make a difference.

Friday, July 06, 2007

What is congress waiting for?

Found at Talking Points Memo: The will of the people is to be rid of Cheney. And Bush is not far behind. I you have been paying attention my Google News toy on the sidebar, you'd notice it is defaulted to fetch whatever is brewing about Cheney...and the pace and the ire have been notching up slowly for most of the past month. I see the occasional blog there but of late, its editorials from LA Times and plenty of other "establishment" sources...and they hate the guy. In a fair and sane republic, Cheney would have resigned, [as Olberman has urged ] some time ago.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Do you also shoot at passing cars just for fun?

I don't have a city or an ID but I do have an IP address for the person who left this search string on my hit counter log:

"how to slip Viagra into drink"

I don't know who you are but whoever you are, please be careful.

...which cues my usual gratuitous moralizing....
"Seeking fun with no sense of responsibility" describes a substantial portion of our prison population and several members of the present republican administration. Democrats may not be as much fun [you are thinking of Gore right now aren't you!] but fewer of them go to jail after being elected.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I found a live one!

Have you ever wondered who supports the Republican administration and actually likes their agenda? I found a live one: Americapile.blogspot.com. It is incredible...and yet it explains so much. Someone send the poor guy instructions on the use of shift-lock. I would have suspected a spoof site but this creature leaves comments just a brain-stunting as the posts.

just a matter of scope

Ouch. Brain on holiday. Did not want to think and I have commenters Naomi and Patricia calling me on my gushy attitude about patriotism a couple of posts ago.


I am not quite ready to go as far as "my mother drunk or sober". That was our standard retort to the flag wavers when we protested the Viet Nam war. Not everybody who loves their country is blind to, or even tolerant of, the failures of character or of policy in the nation's conduct.

It is true that patriotism is a very loaded word. It is probable that it gets heavily misused when politicians want to use our emotions to blur the vital distinction between feeling like a good citizen and acting like one. Emotion is not a trustworthy mechanism, but it is all we have when you get down to it. Logic and politics only pretend to have much to do with each other.

It may sound like I am making a case that there is good patriotism and bad...not quite. Perhaps in agreement with the reservations people have about patriotism, I see one inescapable flaw in it: it gets touted for uniting the country but by exactly that same means, it divides the world.

Nu? Is there a good patriotism? You could love your country and your world but that is much easier said than done...starting with knowing all the people in your world.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The maturity needed to raise kids = maturity to have none

Well, I have gone and got tangled in another thread over at Pandagon. Amanda Marcotte was more or less celebrating the findings, dredged up in a few liberal blogs yesterday, of a Pew Research Center survey on American attitudes and practices around marriage. The big deal was the clearly eclipsed myth of having children as the most important attribute in a happy marriage. I do tend to get my feathers ruffled when that subject comes up but this time out, I am reassured at what a bunch of solid and sensible citizens hang out their commitments on that thread. To the reactionary complaints of Barbara Dafoe Whitehead of Rutgers University's National Marriage Project that this survey signaled the demise of decent family values and depicted a country where:
“Child-rearing values — sacrifice, stability, dependability, maturity — seem stale and musty by comparison.”
Amanda remarked:
Whitehead is concern trolling people right to the divorce court.

I don't know if Whitehead is really of the opinion that there is a kids vs sex life trade off. Many commenters had practical experience that this is not so. I do think I see what is so irksome about Whitehead's opinion though:

If one recognizes that they are not going to be comfortable giving up a sizable chunk of their time, their money and that mental and physical personal energy that goes into an enjoyable social life [intimate or public], even if we just call that "spoiled and selfish", then they are better off not having children. Such children, had they come along, would have sensed the neglect and brought forward that subtle and deep sense of low value as a person to another generation. If such a child occasionally reaches the cusp of awareness that that feeling of worthlessness was not innate but imposed, they must decide where to battle a foe that has long left the field. To cease cycling such drama into this world, it is vastly more important for a person to know what will make them happy than it is for them to conform to any convention of happiness.

The idea that you should always be happy is a bigger myth and more dangerous than the myth that "a baby will bring us together". Following either is a slow motion train wreck. Pursuit of happiness is a right, we allege, but the state of happiness itself is an illusion oh so popular for two minutes out of every fifteen on television. There is, however, a difference between the myth of "entitlement to happiness" as antagonist to the myth of "have babeez, be happy" and the compromise struck when one [or more often, a couple] is realistic about how children will impact them and still take the plunge knowing some things from the Before Kids life will have to go. I counted at least a half dozen comments from parents who knew these waters and reported satisfaction with that upstream swim to the spawning grounds. It is one of the most common reckonings in the world. Its just a shame some people make it badly. But as Paul Simon sings, "the information is unavailable to the mortal man" [the mortal man should ask a mortal woman! Then maybe this part of the survey would not surprise you:
The survey noted that 37 percent of U.S. births in 2005 were to unmarried women, up from 5 percent in 1960, and found that nearly half of all adults in their 30s and 40s had lived with a partner outside of marriage.

The word "sacrifice" does properly belong in this calculation. In fact all of them: "sacrifice, stability, dependability, maturity" are exactly what I would call for as terms of a procreation contract. And, hoping not to put words in other's mouths, I think those commenters exemplify being conscious of those values as you work at having kids AND a reasonably fun marriage. Where Whitehead gets it wrong is that she is judging all the country through this survey. She denigrates those who know the sacrifice is not for them as if they were evil shirkers of a universal obligation. Quit judging people, Whitehead! Those values are not "musty" they are just not necessary unless you do choose to have kids nor are they for everyone. I wonder if a social critic like Whitehead could imagine how much less burdened and conflict riddled this world would be if the people for whom children were an option were free and informed enough to recognize it would be a mistake in some cases and go on their well adjusted childless way. That would be a greater "maturity" than the one Ms Whitehead judges to be lacking.

It looks like America is not waiting for Ms Whitehead to figure this one out.

Gonzo underlings caught red handed

This bit appears to be a TruthOut exclusive at the moment: Kyle Sampson deleted presumably damaging emails after congressional committees began asking for documents. Strictly speaking, that is not legal. But then in Gonzo's perverted version of the nation's law enforcement branch, neither "strict" nor "legal" mean what you and I would assume they mean.

Monday, July 02, 2007

no holiday for upsetting news.

Hit counter has gone to sleep. Nation has gone to the beach. But that is always a good time for bad news to slip by.

The bad news:

This just sucks. Bush has tried to avoid the appearance of saying there is nothing wrong with what Libby did for Cheney and Rove...and Bush. But for my money, he has not succeeded. One more board for the impeachment gallows. Maybe the Imperror thinks the Putin punch in his approval rating is the best time to try and slip this dagger into an already damaged justice system. Of course Bush's lose-lose options were discussed weeks ago and I don't think anyone is too surprised. Just disgusted. Suggest taking names of those who were urging a pardon. Those fans of Libby are all contemptible creeps who despise rule of law. Virtually any liberal blog that covers the political beat will point out the instances of strict and maximal punishment Bush has routinely delivered. As Texas governor, he found death not too harsh for 150 men and two women yet 30 months in jail for covering up an act of treason [that is more or less the category for blowing the cover of a valuable secret agent working to stop traffic in nuclear weapons materials] was "excessive". The Imperror said back when Plame was exposed that he would demand ruthless prosecution of those responsible. Yeeaah, riiight, Mr. President. Bush is a liar who will blithely contradict his tough talk if the alternative is doing anything untoward to his cronies. Firedoglake and TPM are among the better original reporting news and analysis blogs and if you want the details on this national embarrassment, start there.

News that is only bad for people you probably don't like anyway:

Meanwhile, some pesty scientists have been fixing to pull the rug out from under that Bio tech Venture Capital market: This story has been brewing in the labs for a while. By now, if you head over to the science blogs of Seed magazine, you will find some helpful elaborations of the scientific impact of this dawning realization: the one-gene-one-protein-one-biological-function idea is not always right. Networks of genes, through the interaction of their individual effects, produce end-result biology and medical consequences at least in some cases. From a combinatorial argument, it says something awesome about the economy of Darwin's great machine: 22,000 genes seemed puzzlingly small for the hundreds of thousands of different functions our bodies execute like clockwork when we are well. But the combinations of 22,000 things taken two or three or five at a time is a staggeringly big number. Ownership of genetic ideas, gene patents, are going to be shaken hard now. Notice that this is a Business story listed in the science section...all the questions about whether big pharma has enough financial incentives to undertake billion dollar drug discovery get a bit hazy when intellectual property has to be reassessed and companies might have to collaborate the way the genes they "own" have been collaborating. Silver lining?: if the drugs ever do get produced to effect illnesses stemming from networks of genes, maybe no company will have a monopoly and the prices will reflect actual production costs....nah, not in my lifetime.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Since the "fourth of July" is going to last for about 7 days this year, I feel obliged to say something about patriotism.

We sat in the Koussevitzky Shed at Tanglewood Saturday evening in the audience for the live broadcast of Prairie Home Companion. Garrison Keillor's star guest was James Taylor. We have never seen the show before, not even when it comes to us because the tickets sell out months in advance. But this year some friends who are big fans of the show bought tickets for a van-full of us back in February. We made a day of it with the picnic on lawn and the whole nine yards.

The entire Tanglewood grounds were packed, around 13,000 people according to a Tanglewood employee we know. Keillor could run for president in Massachusetts and get away with it. He really had a knack for working a crowd. His wireless mic must have an incredible range because he walked through the crowd to open the show, all the way to the back of the shed and stood on benches to wave to the sea of folks with lawn tickets.

This crowd was not quite a slice of Massachusetts. Readers of The Boston Globe would have outnumbered readers of the Herald. Keillor got plenty of applause for jokes that mentioned the Redsox in a favorable way. Plenty of other material in the show reflected that Keillor or his writers knew the sympathies of the audience. The one joke that tells much about that knowledge was a skit in which James Taylor's worst secret fear was revealed: that George Bush was a fan.

So I am left to wonder, and hope someone can explain, how Keillor could get that audience on its feet to sing the corniest patriotic tunes [ the show started with the national anthem and later, we did a great job on America The Beautiful] and run a nominal 2 hour show a full hour longer with encores of equally sentimental favorites. These people are, by comparison to the crowd YOU happen to be standing amongst, fairly liberal but you could have heard the same warmth for patriotic songs in Dakota or Kansas. What is patriotism? Its just what you were taught: loving your country, having a good feeling about the place you come from.

I just said two things in that last sentence and first is everybody's claim but in particular conservatives and especially the Bush league: love of country, whatever that means. But the second is exactly what the neocons have sullied and deprived us of: how can we be proud of being a country that tortures people, spies on its citizens and stages deadly invasions of other countries on false premises? Keillor made us feel good but its a kind of parlor trick in which we feel good about a country to be found mostly in songs and memories. At least he can make us feel good. He knows those memories and can spin a yarn that leads us back to them. That Bush and the petty fascists that prop him up have made those old favorites ring more hollow than ever before is something I don't intend to let anyone forget.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

all publicity is NOT good publicity

Well maybe the USMC decided the case might not go their way. Every case is different. Ehren Watada made a stink because Iraq was a totally bogus incursion and he had the balls to say so. Entertainers, including conservative commentators, clearly act according to the old PR saying that "all publicity is good". But I wonder if the Military have concluded that "making examples" of persons in uniform who resist an immoral war has reached the point that it will backfire.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Let's give Bush a 3rd term!

I am about half serious here. Just think of how it would play out...

If it doesn't kill us all, Cheney and his chimp are not only their own worst enemies but supply endless proof of the toxic consequences that grow from the polluted "principles" and vacuous "values" hacked up from conservative stink tanks over the last two decades. Leave these cowards and corrupters no room to claim they were stabbed in the back. That would indulge one of their favorite political passion plays involving their martyrhood which is a recruiting tool of savage effectiveness. Don't let them see even the appearance of an excuse that they were held back from fully implementing their "reforms". Leave the "reformers" now in jail where they are. But, since one of the things struck and killed by the triumph of conservative will is the US Constitution, wink away the 22nd amendment and insist that the blame duck serve his nation as farsightedly as ever, insist that his looting lieutenants ignore reality until the last soldier dies or deserts and the Chinese foreclose on our national debt.

The 25% who still suck up to him and his coterie of fascists might be reduced to 10% in another three years. There will always be some small percentage who will go down into the bunker with Cheney at the end, bearing cans of gasoline for their gotterdammerung bonfire. That remnant we can kick to the curb and get on with the impeachments. The die-hard dimwit conservatives of Rove's patchwork coalitions will be slow to learn what a majority of us have been appalled at for the last 6 years. But it may be worth the pain of more deaths in Iraq and more Katrina-sized domestic neglect to open the eyes of an undeniable majority, larger than the 51% who "lost" the election in 2000. It may be useful to have a yet deeper and even more dramatic divide between the small wealthy class, who might think Bush an idiot but a very useful idiot, and the rest of us who earn our shrinking dollars. The rest of us may be ready to dine on the one percent who will be able to actually afford health care in a third Bush term. Change will finally flow from every vein rather than be coaxed by wily political stratagems. We must do better than having only the Thom Hartmann's and a few economists join the hardy liberals in wonder at a tapped out nation with its staggering no-growth economy in the shadow of a record Dow Jones average. If we just leave the corpse of neoconservative administration to hang right where it its lines to heaven have tangled around its neck and leave it there long enough, the stink will be undeniable and inescapable.

It is a shame. Many of us wised up long ago or were never fooled at all but not enough of us. It will be a much healthier country when a solid 80% or more of us repudiate the warmongering and the privatizing: the dumbass foot dragging congress will be gone and the obstructions to peace, the sabotage of domestic infrastructure and education can be steamrolled. The whiny neurotics like Jonah Goldberg who have made a living for the last 20 years scripting and enabling our nascent tepid American fascism will have the truth shouted in their faces even by children: a majority of the people who want their taxes spent for the common good is NOT fascism.

Nothing like a long painful hangover to give you a long term aversion to drinking...or picking a president primarily because you thought he'd be more the more fun guy with whom to share a drink.

Note from my shrink: Greensmile, you did not have enough time to do any proper blogging or gather corroborating links this week but events and news have wrought their usual toll on your equanimity. Even without benefit of any particular factual news items or insight, it will do you good to rant as though fresh and specific outrages burn you up. What are blogs for anyway?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Your tax dollars buy more irony

Peeking at you from between the lines of this somewhat technical debunking of the latest twist taken by the global warming denialists, you might notice a bit of irony. The twist is the "saturation" argument against human impact, to wit, that there is already too much carbon dioxide in the air and more won't matter. The proof that, hell yes, it does matter lays in a mountain of expensive data on atmospheric absorption of infrared radiation. Do you suppose the Cheney administration worries much about adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere? While Cheney's puppet postures at the G8 summit with his recently discovered concern for the climate, we still spend billions of dollars per week and many lives to secure a supply of Iraqi oil. Where is the carbon in that oil going to wind up?

So who paid for that inconvenient data? The Department of Defense.

I really don't think we are getting our money's worth.

My Operation Democracy group will be hosting a "Live Planet" event on July 7. Look for one near you. Its a town hall meeting to watch candidates answer our questions about climate problems and a chance to see what others are doing about global warming.

In ways big and small today, the NY Times reminds us that if we don't pay more attention to real leaders like Al Gore, or even Robert Redford, and give less attention [but more subpoenas] to Darth Cheney and crew, we will be reading headlines about drought, famine and bloodshed for decades and the numbers dying now will pale by comparison.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

braking the news

This is the full text of an e-mail I am sorry to have recieved. A few of you may have gotten this but Radio Open Source deserves a bigger community:

This is not the news we ever dreamed of sharing with you.

After tomorrow's broadcast we are putting Open Source on a summer hiatus. We learned late last week that a brand-name media company that had asked to partner with us had changed its mind. So for now, the best hope on the near horizon of relaunching the program and refinancing it has gone aglimmering.

Without a substantial new funder, we cannot keep paying our bills. Your help and support has helped bridge the cost of production these last six weeks and helped pay some of our debts. For now the most responsible thing seems to be to regroup and think realistically about a new program for the fall.

We are actively dedicated, all day every day, to the essential mission: seizing the epochal opportunity of the web to stretch the public conversation... to hybridize media, to enlist the audience, to extend the palette of colors in the cultural as well as the political conversation; in short to democratize and globalize one model forum of constructive talk for the new century.

Many of you have told us to forget about conventional public broadcasting and concentrate on producing the best damn podcast on the Internet. So in order to clear our heads, accentuate the positive and focus resolutely on the future, we need to step back for the moment from daily production.

Keeping the OS website alive and dynamic is a top priority. Please don't just watch the site. Help fill it. We want to post content regularly. What would you like to see or hear? We'll post conversations we've already scheduled with Harold Bloom and Larry Summers. We've asked Sonny Rollins if he would care to stretch out again before his 50th anniversary trio concert with Roy Haynes and Christian McBride in Carnegie Hall in September. So many things to talk about, so little time! You've helped us create this space... now what do you want to do with it?

If you can help us reconceive all the fundamental things -- a conversation that's a little different, that's global and alert to the interactive possibilities of the Internet -- by all means consider yourself enlisted. If you see a threads of successful shows -- passion series, race-and-class series, musical series -- that could be models going forward, please speak up.

By far the hardest part of this decision is disbanding our amazing staff. They've stuck by us over the last two years in an intense colleague-ship of work and learning together. They have contributed mightily to the interest of the show and the website. We want to work with them again.

As always, Emerson speaks to a great deal of what we're feeling. This comes from the end of his marvelous essay "Circles."

"Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit. No love can be bound by oath or covenant to secure it against a higher love. No truth so sublime but it may be trivial to-morrow in the light of new thoughts. People wish to be settled; only as far
as they are unsettled is there any hope for them."

Thank you for passionate, engaged listenership and commentary these last two years. And let us all together keep this "community of the curious" alive and growing.

In the spirit of Emerson: Onward, ever onward!

Christopher Lydon and Mary McGrath

Our postal address is
15 Mt. Auburn Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
United States

This makes me sad, even though I gave Christopher a bad time for his frenentic pacing on the show, it was sometimes an astounding thing to listen to and always, always thought provoking. He has been a bit of a Phoenix before, keep an eye on the ashes. Does this mean radio has been killed by the iPod? Does it mean intelligent talk radio is an oxymoron? Does it mean web+radio mashups are a poor bet? Does it mean we didn't send in enough money when the main sponsor pulled out a month ago?...keep an eye on the ashes.

my faith

If you start with the "why" because you think you know why and work out the "how" from that, you have a religion and it is founded on the fog they call faith.

If you start with the "how" as you discover it and as you can prove it and work out the "why" when that is possible, then you have a science and it rests as solidly on reality as your logic will support.

In the latter case, your one article of faith is that there is any knowable consistency in nature which the senses neither lie about nor explain.

Monday, June 25, 2007

a new feature

I know better by now than to ask your opinions on anything because hardly anyone comments on this blog. I have more or less democratic impulses and don't think I have a clue unless I have seen a lot of comments. On the other hand, I think there are some things I can post where even one response is a tiny blow for freedom, a halting step in the right direction.

I have causes, you know. I click through at the drop of a polling email and add my name to any plea or petition that sounds just. The lame "nobody reads those things" is not quite true as I have found out from collecting signatures for MoveOn write-your-congress-critter campaigns. If you think you should only do activist things if they have guarantees of high drama and maximum impact, you are a useless poser. You should go for the most effective things that you can actually and regularly get off your backside and follow through on your good intentions. If you don't have time for meetings or the energy to go to rallies or run a phone bank, that is a really lousy excuse to not at least sign a petition or send an email to your representative when the opportunity is handed to you. Time is precious for all of us but if you don't devote a little of it to expressing demands for more justice and research and less warfare and corporate welfare, you will find the quality of life obtained in all that time you hoarded is shoddy.

One of the ways to burn out the "volunteer" who hardly does anything anyway is to overflow his or her inbox with pleas for more money, more letters written, more get-togethers to plan how to budge the establishment a few more millimeters. I know. I have one or two of those in boxes.

So I inaugurate "The Daily Cause" RSS feed from a blog that recaps all the "action alerts" emails for the various causes I think you should be aware of. Those emails always want me to pass on the message to 50 friends--by email. How long would you stay in touch with someone who sent you 5 or ten solicitations for good causes every day? I am going to offer you the " you call me, I won't call you" approach. You can take or leave it but the feed will be in a box on the sidebar. You can act like a responsible liberal without wading through a tide of well intended emails that by dint of sheer volume, begin to feel like a spam tsunami. There will always be a link under the subject to which you can go if you get the urge to do a little good in the world.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I did hot wire it

I said I would not install and remove circuits in a live 200 amp breaker panel and I reasoned, at the prospect, along the lines of an old post in which I observed my own long journey into caution. But when I opened the breaker panel and looked at each step to be taken and the armamentarium of tools I possess it didn't seem so daunting.

maybe the over caution of a conservative attitude is not so much learned reflex or misfired cognitive development but a matter of what you do on autopilot and assumption vs what you do with your eyes open, with a simple consciousness of what is present before you rather than its history, its associations and your habits having the lions share of your thought.

I should face the fact that my handyman-foo and my hot water heater drama is the stuff of a haircut blog, but if I were that honest about the cosmic significance I try to milk out of my mundane doings there would be no blog at all. You may want to pass by the rest of this post as it really isn't anything more than you would see in five minutes of This Old House...during a writers strike.

The new heaters were set on a proper level slab of blue stone and plumbed as a subsystem. That allows pressure testing before turning off the old heater. The extra valving serves several purposes:
  • cutting back to a single 30 amp heater when its just the two of us here. Either unit can be isolated from the house water system and electrical system.
  • a bypass arrangement in the cold water supply. This can be used to preheat the cold water via a heat exchanger. Several sources or potential sources are available.
    1. We have a "hot water bank" coolant loop in our heat pump which we have never hooked up.
    2. We could exchange heat with the pool which typically is 20 degrees F warmer than our well water.
    3. And there is 3/4 inch copper pipe plumbed up to the pitch of the roof which is oriented exactly south and pitched a fairly efficient 4-in-5 considering our 42 degrees north latitude. Yes, I new 15cents/kwh electricity was only a matter of time, even 25 years ago. So did your power company and the DOE but screwing you with profitable old technology is preferable to them. Our break-even threshold for solar collector with a 20 year life to preheat domestic hot water is around 13 cents/kwh and we just hit 11 cents.
  • provision for draining either hot water or cold water side of the system independently
  • from my software engineering, I know to always design for testability.
The last two were project savers because on the first test, water squirted every which-a-way and draining and resoldering were needed.
My plumber's nightmare turns out to be Home Depot's wet dream

The worst part of wiring a live breaker panel is how stiff, 8-gauge wire has a mind of its own. The rest is good tools, common sense and lots of practice. The 50-amp breaker was putting the children of the power company's shareholders through college. Its gone. The orange wire is the first of the new circuits wired to the 30 am breaker with the more tractable 10-gauge.

The wiring did not leak. So I cut the dying behemoth out of the system and sweated the final two joints that put the new heaters to work. The old heater was so tall it had to be tilted to get it to clear the floor.
So the bottom line is that we will save money now, go a little easier on the planet and, when penny pinching comes to shove, be able to alter usage to yet greener means.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

essentialism by another name?

[this is another one of those posts that was only a comment but I grew impatient with the moderation dwell time.]
Amanda Marcotte put up an challenging post that cuts into a particular way in which Democratic party hopefuls attempt to please all the people all the time and wind up unidentifiable in their position or character. But in the comments she shines an especially clear light on one of her big issues:

Lakoff’s take on abortion is interesting—he thinks and I agree that it’s a debate over how to define “woman”. The conservative view is that because women can have babies, that’s basically our essence and to have an abortion is to assert otherwise. The liberal view is that each person and situation is different and a woman’s whole being needs to be the consideration when deciding if abortion is right, and since that’s so individual, it’s best left up to the woman herself.

The confusion arises over what always creates tension between essentialist and humanist views of women—most people have a hodge podge. We agree, for instance, that women have a right to be educated, but we blanch at suggesting that it’s perfectly fine for a woman to dress masculine. That’s how it goes with abortion, I think. A lot of people recognize the right intellectually but are made uncomfortable by what is coded in our society as a rejection of essential womanhood.

Which is why it’s so powerful to point out that most women who have abortions are mothers or will be mothers. It reminds people that the perceived conflict between “human” and “female” is a falsehood.

I just had to thank her for putting the matter in such suitably harsh light.

It seems to me that Marcotte and Lakoff are offering the essentialist view [as Chris explains it at mixing memory] as a theory of the cruel and broken incompleteness of much conservative "thinking". In a way, the mistake of essentialism, i.e. ignoring the complexity of real entities and organisms and especially people in favor of a token idea of the "nature" of that thing or being, reminds me strongly of the thesis that in the process of rendering a population susceptible to political manipulation via appeals to emotion, leaders carry out a campaign of substituting symbol for substance. Lobel & Loewenstein are legal scholars looking into how emotion takes over what should be more deliberative processes in law, national policy, politics and economics but they wind up finding fascists to be the most effective and the most intentional users of this kind of manipulation.

Applied to the abortion debate then, hammering the simple notion that women=mothers is like saying "Motherhood is the symbol for women... "[and, to finish the sentence with words Amanda might use to characterize the abortion opponents: "..., so shut up and bear children"]. And, like any other use of emotion in place of reason for political ends, power is the ultimate goal of the manipulator.

You may recall I mentioned that Lobel and Loewenstein paper maybe a year ago but I did not make the connection between essentialism and the casting of complex players into simple symbols until just now.