Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Executioner is definitely cracking up

Having put the matter to a practical test, I know that I will not be hired to work the netroots side of any presidential campaign. But I still worry about offending people, believe or not. I would resent it if that timidity put some of the most interesting discussions and some of the most heterogeneous parties out of reach. The subjects I was taught not to bring up in polite conversation are the staples of blogging and would be a loss to my blogging fun if I just never took them up. So I am going to try to keep it more comfortable here in the Thong by opening up another place to talk about sacred [or not] things.
Its an experiment.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

If the real women are the feminists,

Who are the real men?

I am having so much fun in the comment threads over at Pandagon.

A man who wants a relationship where he can't be outmaneuvered, is founding his house on a sand dune.

Let me try out this definition on you...

Feminist: A woman who is trying to be who she was meant to be.

Ok, that definition is weak on explanation and long on assumption but at least it can be mirrored for the case of men. That symmetry is a favorite criterion of mine. I don't much care if some philosopher has some proof that it is a flawed criterion. More explanation? Think "self acutalized" in place of "who you were meant to be".

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sick sense: I see old people

I see them migrating when they know they are going to need a lot of health care.

This report in the NYTimes of a surprising demographic trend of the elderly returning north after a decade or so of retirement in the warmth and lower CoL of the sunbelt tries various explanations for the trend.
For the first time since the Depression, more Americans ages 75 and older have been leaving the South than moving there, according to a New York Times analysis of Census Bureau data.
The reversal appears to be driven in part by older people who retired to the South in their 60s, but decided to return home to their children and grandchildren in the Northeast, Midwest and West after losing spouses or becoming less mobile.

William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, said, “The South, and Florida especially, has been a magnet for yuppie elderly: younger seniors with spouse present and in good health.
“These are a catch for communities that receive them, because they have ample disposable incomes and make few demands on public services,” he continued. “The older senior population, especially after 80, are more likely to be widowed, less well off and more in need of social and economic support.”
“Many northern states seem to have better senior services than Florida,” Dr. Frey added.

Mildred Morrison, administrator for the Area Agency on Aging of Allegheny, Pa., which includes Pittsburgh, described return migration as part of a natural progression. “They usually leave after retirement to a warmer climate, and return in good physical health, but maybe on the cusp of declining health, 10 years or so later,” Ms. Morrison said, mostly to “reconnect with family.”
Calvin Beale, senior demographer of the Economic Research Service at the federal Department of Agriculture, said: “After age 75, as health diminishes and/or widowhood occurs, there is some measure of return flow back to areas of origin, or wherever a caretaker-minded son or daughter lives. And this means a net outflow from the South.”

Most of the article is presentation of telling anecdotes that illustrate the "natural pattern of aging" where retirees return to family when they are no longer able to enjoy the idleness of their retirement. But I think Dr Frey has it right...its not just family but better medical infrastructure and support services that must have some appeal to a person sensing that sickness and age are getting the upper hand.

I found a very interesting web page put up by PBS as documentation of a Bill Moyers investigation of where the strain of mounting medical needs of an aging population will fall most heavily and where there is an adequate net to catch it. I colored in the map according to the listed data so you can get the tale that the data
tells. I will underscore one aspect of this map of which states have the highest and which the lowest portion of their citizens living with no health coverage at all: Look at the "rust belt" states where manufacturing and union labor were the economic and political giants for a few decades before and after WWII. There are exceptions like KS, NB, IN and NJ but I see a pattern that states once strongholds for organized labor STILL have the widest health coverage. Why would that be?

That Moyers report, the NYTimes article and dozens of such published sightings of icebergs bobbing dead ahead of our bow in the fog of politics ...all these would be worthy places to spend half a trillion dollars. Why is anyone anywhere silent about the upside down federal budget and mind boggling medieval priorities of the administration that proposes it?

Note: New York would also seem like an exception but its an interesting case. The rural and agricultural western counties of upstate NY had insurance enrollment rates similar to regions of appalachia where industrial base is slight and employer paid health coverage is not common. In the late nineties, the latest date for which comparable data were available from all states, NY numbers would reflect that low enrollment. But in strong divergence from the trends elsewhere, state and regional programs have sharply cut the numbers of uninsured in the last six years in western NY counties.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

One thing about abortions...

Most people who have had an accident can get into the ER and be treated. Most people but not certain people.

Most people think its a good and necessary, if collectively expensive, deal that in exchange for our admiration and their license to practice, doctors in the ER will treat whoever is wheeled in. Most people but not people who are more certain than doctors about what is alive and what is not.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

You doubted Edwards was serious about netroots respect?

Most people that read liberal blogs probably already know this. Word gets around fast. No time to read blogs today but you could say I got the news in the mail. Here is a search of my Gmail inbox for the name "Brandzel". Just note the domain changes.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The war on Iraqis, veterans and all you little people

I just watched the movie "The Ground Truth" as part of my activism. It is a documentary composed entirely of interviews with vets of the "war on Iraqis" [I can no longer call it "the war in Iraq".]

Their comments and stories are intense. My wife who was born in Baghdad could not watch and left. The first segments are on how systematic dehumanizing is necessary to make killers out of the recruits. Then it progresses to just how effective that training is. It will always be hard to watch a brawny grown man, alternating between vacant stare and going to pieces, describe how humans got to be targets to him, men women or children. A paraphrase of what several soldiers describe: "We go into a place where there are no clear targets and we don't even know how to say "good morning" to the natives but in the fraction of a second after we come under fire, must decide who to shoot at..we shoot everything". Our war, by training and by tactics utterly mismatched to the insurgency, has become randomly lethal for Iraqis and more psychologically damaging to our own combat troops than any previous war. These experiences absolutely rewire a person, never for the better.

The comments are organized into several themes and two that are most poignant are how PTSD is actively misdiagnosed by the Army at discharge time as "personality disorder" so no VA benefits will be available. The next theme is just as hard to watch. Having wasted lives in Iraq, we then abandon the killers to their waking nightmares when they come back. Intrusive thoughts, suicidal thoughts, instantaneous violent rage at everyday annoyances and various kinds and severities of depression..the catalog of breakage to these people, and it is a wildly underestimated percentage of the soldiers due to the army policies, is heartbreaking. I use "we" because it is on our behalf allegedly that all this is being done.

I recommend the movie by the way. I cannot describe the intensity of my disgust for this war and the "leaders" that sold it or the followers who bought it. We can't blame everything on Bush. But if we don't take the guns away from that child, more will die. The longer we fail to rise up and stop the war, the more blame we should accept. Emotions were manipulated to get us into the war, high time they were enlisted to get us out.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

You can always be under attack, get over it!

You can't move forward once you have circled your wagons.

Defensive just isn't an attactive posture f
or a progressive.

You'd think it would be easier to defend the untried idea than the failed idea.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A commotion of meditation on growing older

I am trying to see if this constant dissatisfaction that quickly finds every task unappealing to the point nothing at all gets done and finally, nothing even gets planned, is some how an artifact of my advancing age. I consider this possibility because I do recall that when younger, I could maintain intense focus on at least some projects, even if they were tiresome and not guaranteed of results. One of the clearest such memories is of an undirected, unpaid, months-long struggle to develop a novel alternative to correlation techniques for machine vision immune to lighting variations. In recalling, I see that the master of the effort was ego gratification. It was a long shot and still worth it because it got published and I, the dismissible farm boy who nearly didn't get his BS, got to present a paper. My basic nature, the ease of distraction, the way I fall from a task to turn left or right the minute the grade begins to steepen...I have always had this but now, even necessary chores are neglected unless others force and remind me.

My wife was at a conference for 3 days and for 3 days, I would not even write a to-do list, putting it off and putting it off.

But in this period of solitude I did flit between a couple of interests and blogged and read quite a bit. And watched my mind flail about. I think one can still practice a kind of meditation as one "does" some things though perhaps the best forms of meditation are willfully and, with practice, eventually effortlessly, "doing nothing". I will call it moving meditation, though I actually sat [in front of computer] most of the time.

Near the end of this little vacation of the will, I was driving back from a barely necessary trip to Home Depot. Unlike my usual trips there, no imagined task gripped me, no tool jumped into my shopping cart on the mere promise of its potential utility...I was nearly pure disinterest. Not like me. Am I depressed? Why should NOT buying things I never need to buy in the first place be alarming? By most standards, it was the impulse buying that betokened an unhappy mind.
Driving back from this odd shopping experience, the vague, nameless and faceless unease that haunts impulse and distraction rose up in my awareness, as if frustrated that no tasty pursuit had been provided to put it to sleep. And in that moment, these words: "the self is empty, the self is emptiness".

In younger days, before life has focused us or forced us to moments when all we know is the whirring of our own machinery, in youth, it is possible to ignore the self for we have not seen it. It is there of course and the more a foil for us because we do not detect its operation in our doings. But now, I can almost talk to it and it to the me that does not care. And self seems bereft at times and says "what is worth doing? What is there to look forward to? Do I know anybody well?".

On the radio, that crafty breathless Christopher Lyden was yammering away on Open Source as I drove home. He gives no impression of any nuance applied to the term "boomer". Is there some incompatibility between "hip" and "nuanced"? I never thought so. We of a certain age were, for the hour of his narration, all the same. The generational differences he paints on today's politics are a damn sloppy average. Whether or not you shared the idea, from the get-go, that Iraq was a "dumb war" is NOT a function of what year you born. Mightily to BarakObama's credit that he said it and voted it when others were afraid to lead and afraid to have a conscience. Very much to his credit but hardly a property of his cohort. I don't know which of the collaborative of writers provided the one sentence in Lyden's lead in for the show that had a clue: "Or do you think harping on generational divides is a way of over-simplifying politics and human behavior?" Most of the show avoided any such insight. But a few of the commenters were not buying it.

Amanda Marcotte once picked up my attempt to understand why some, maybe most, people grow more conservative as they age. That was the most traffic I ever got and with my flaws as a writer thus exposed, I can understand how things quickly went quiet. Or maybe those readers also resented a pigeonholing scheme where the little boxes have nothing more explanatory on them than a year. A row of categories in which to bury all human potentials, a morgue with the drawer fronts disguised as a calendar. I don't recant the observations I made. And the idea, that the advancing cowardice and conservatism that creep on with birthdays for some people is perhaps explainable by some theory of cognition, was only offered as a speculation. I remain vigilant and neither with nor with out hope that I shall not age to that pattern. Oh please may that never be me. And damn anybody who puts me in the wrong box.

Amanda's busy these days and not 30 yet. You old readers who aren't old, pass this one on to your friends. I have become curious what this particular station on our little journeys is like from the inside. What the hell difference does your age make? Since time and our place in it are so very subjective, how can it change us when we invent it? I beg and permit your thoughts! You too, Aunt Vicky. And any of you lurkers in Kelowna, or elsewhere in BC. Anyone in Reno? Wisconsin? North Carolina is rich in reflective souls. Oostrayans? I know yer out there, mates. Florida, Oregon, Washington? UK? Sudbury? [the Sudbury of your choice, Lincolns and Springfields are also fine, ambiguously located towns]

Just leave comments. I can wait.

Per request of Davo, a minimum of hyperlinks were exploited in the development of this post.

And if anyone from Memphis or greater metropolitan Williamstown, MA suggests that the first step down the slippery slope to drooling curmudgeonhood is getting snappy about being put in boxes, I shall unmask you, or at least tell you to get off my lawn.

IQ could also stand for...

Intelligence Quashing. Yeah!, how d'ya like them apples?! Our own CJCS, very publicly questioning the case even as Bush's battalion of crackerjack fact-fudgers beats the drums for more war.

I think its fair to question how intelligent your intelligence is when your spies and analysts don't have enough knowledge of the language spoken in the country they claim they are probing to even fake the writing on the munitions they claim they have found. You have seen these pictures all over the news, this from a story in the Casper Star Tribune:
Why do the Iranians only label their explosives in English? Maybe there is a reason, did we sell them the equipment? But certainly there is a credibility gap. Hollywood would come up with better props. It might seem sarcastic to ask why the administration is not faking evidence but so very much of what they have told us in the past was paint on muslin, a flimsy simulacrum of a cause for war. Its coming apart in tawdry bits at the Scooter Libby's trial these last three weeks. We should demand far greater proof, something absolutely convincing.

Suppose such evidence were produced? Did Iranians start exporting these weapons before we invaded? Why would their putative meddling in a war that rages right on their own border and opens an opportunity to settle old scores that the US and Saddam racked up surprise anyone? If you plan a little war, you are spposed to think through all the things that would keep it from being a bigger war...unless a bigger war was what you wanted. Now as I recall, we were sold a little war. Why would it be grounds for the US to bomb or invade Iran if they are guilty only of trying to steer a conflict they did not start and which was marked by futile carnage before they ever got involved? If they start sneaking bombs into the US, and do so without the provocation of any military action on their soil then there would be a case . In effect, the administration is using the predictable outcome of hostilities it started as an excuse for more hostilities. This is as empty of sense and morality as anything that pathetic bunch of desk bound warmongers has yet done.

This is how your president's men get the intelligence they want so why on earth do they expect us to believe them? Aren't we already hurting badly from the last time they cried wolfowitz?

Todays rant was fueled by Truthout and TPM

Some local meta this happening where you live?

Via the excellent media blog run by Jay Rosen at NYU, I learn from Lisa Williams that the roiling turnover of consolidation of paper media under pressure from web media is just picking up momentum. I have blogged all week about MSM not understanding what blogging is doing on "their" turf. One of my other gigs is compiling and maintaining an online database of media contact information for my local Operation Democracy council. That chore has led me to whine where ever I find an ear that keeping track of local newspaper contacts is like chasing down butterflies. Turns out some change is good. "The" newspaper in most towns in our area is likely to be owned by Gateway, a New York based newspaper chain. They have just placed most of their content under Creative Commons copyright. But that is the small part of the story. The big part is the pioneering effort of this maverick among the for-profit press establishment to get a grip on citizen journalism

I will get back to you when I know just how much news "Wicked Local" will let us dump into the stream. Up until now, most of the search options I have seen for Wicked Local have not been on news content but on classified advertising....we will see.

people who read this post were also interested in:This cool new website

Keep writing those cards and letters, folks! Your congressman gets scared and lonely when there is no one around the capital but lobby-bots and creatures from the corporate lagoon to talk to. And there is so much you need to tell your congress critter.
[much obliged to TPM]

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Showmentum and biting the hand that news-feeds me

If words like "groundswell" and "revulsion" are about right to describe the massive rebuke voters delivered to the neocon dreams of empire last November, then what words will describe the cumulative tsunami of outrage that is now breaking on the diminishing beachhead the neocons stole via their ties to the Bush administration? This administration is so willfully out of tune with its own country that in its marbled halls and oak paneled offices the only talk is of war and more war while in the cubicles and around the dining room tables the talk is more like this message I just sent out to others who are showing the movie "The Ground Truth"?:
If you haven't yet, better log in to the host coordination page for your screening of the movie. You may be in for a pleasant surprise. My showing was already fully subscribed by the time I got around to checking. I was expecting emails to notify me because the sign-up that I was running under Focus Films' hosting coordination software was kicking out e-mails. None of the guests via Move ON used the email. I am going spend today moving the gym equipment out of my den to make room for all the other people I invited via emails outside of MoveOn's accounting.

[...blah blah blah...I sure know how to type better then I know when to stop...]

And best of all, of the 14 people who are registered [I set a limit of 10 but 4 are bringing guests], only two are names I recognize. NEW FACES! So read the hosting suggestions and rehearse your responses for parking, food, your spiel to kick off the discussions after the movie, make sure your DVD player is working etc because this is turning out to be every bit the recruiting event I would have wished for.

I had hoped I'd be able to blog a successful sequel to my optimistic post announcing this event, looks like I will.


PS Just a thought. Probably you are getting people already against the war..the little blurbs that I have seen used on the 30 invites to other showings in our area mostly use the "stop the escalation" phrase suggested by MoveOn or words to that effect. My own invitation was a lot more neutral sounding: "There are many perspectives on the war in Iraq, none more authentic than that of those who are fighting "for us" there..." You may be getting some people who are merely curious whats up or even prepared to say things in support of the war [hard to imagine at this point, I admit]. One "reason" I expect I could hear is actually pure emotion: a sympathy for the soldiers somehow divorced from the lies and rationales that put them in the hellish places they now occupy or a blurring of the distinction between supporting the very human individuals in uniform and supporting the very inhuman dreams of empire held by an elite that manipulate with lies or don't know truth when it gets in their way. I mention this because the people coming to my event are mostly neighbors and townies and I know what they have been reading in the newspaper: Front page and opinion page space in my town paper has seen several lengthy pieces by and about a very nice gentleman, military officer, doctor and, as it happens, a friend of our family who has served in Iraq and speaks of the good we are doing or trying to do in Iraq. Don't be caught off guard if what you expect to be a pep rally of unanimity winds up needing some conciliation and healing...our country is torn by this war and that tear may come through your door this Thursday evening.

And, because its all just a little too germane, juicy and ironic, I paste the top of an AP story that my TruthOut subscription brought to my attention. The irony? This is the same AP that can barely get its facts straight if it is reporting on the embarrassment of a blogger...they think they know which side their bread is burgled..but cut'em some slack 'cause they [not me, not you] paid to have a reporter in Washington round up these facts:
Dems Seek to Limit, and End, US Iraq Involvement
By David Espo
The Associated Press

Saturday 10 February 2007

Washington - Even before they cast symbolic votes against the Iraq war, newly empowered congressional Democrats are clamoring for a chance to limit and eventually end U.S. involvement in a conflict that has killed more than 3,000 troops.
"Will I vote for a nonbinding resolution? Yes, but it's insufficient," says first-term Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, author of one of more than a dozen competing proposals that would impose a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
"I think eventually without a question that we will have the House move to that position," the former three-star admiral added. "The country is already there."
Sestak spoke in an interview just off the House floor, which will serve as a nationally televised stage this week for a marathon debate over Bush's war policy.
A vote is expected by week's end on a nonbinding measure that expresses disapproval of the president's recent decision to dispatch an additional 21,500 military personnel to Iraq. The measure also affirms support for the troops.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the Democratic leadership have firmed up support for the measure by repeatedly promising it will be followed by binding legislation. "Our goal is to end the war," one Democrat quoted Pelosi as saying at a recent private caucus.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has pursued the same course, hoping to enlist a bipartisan majority behind a measure that expresses disagreement with Bush's plans. Republicans have so far blocked consideration of the resolution.
Two Democrats have said they will oppose the resolution as too weak, even as a first step. But Reid's office has enlisted the backing of the anti-war organization for the strategy and defections have been few.

Note: The AP still hasn't got a clue about some things: is NOT an "anti-war organization". It is a people-enabling organization run largely by reflecting what it hears from its members, not by coming in with a predetermined agenda to sell. It is a for-the-people, by-the-netroots organization. It is a tiny operation if you only count its paid staff. It earns the trust of a man in Senator Reid's position because antiwar sentiment is where most of us are at just now and MoveOn is in touch with us. MoveOn was not predicated on any issue, it arose because finally, by effective internet use, the progressive voters who were shunned by the major parties and the MSM gained a voice. Does the AP think it is writing stories for the exclusive entertainment of some red state ranchers and hunting lodge proprietors? You'd think a market-driven news organization would know who was in the market.

People are actually thinking and deciding all the time. It is literally a constant process but not always a visible one. Showing a movie or calling a vote are just occasions for all that thought, some of it not too comforting, to come out in the open.
Its somewhat like the microscopic dust that helps a saturated atmosphere produce fog, then clouds and then rain. The potential was there all along but not readily seen.

Now, 'scuse me. I have some furniture to move.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Budget constraints, My Ass!

I must begin to sound like a shill for MoveOn. I'm not. I use them and they use me...both in just the ways we want to be used I suspect.

Not that any of Bush's rationale's are likely to take in anyone reading this blog but don't you get sick, tired and angry at this kind of crap?

MoveOn provides a link whereby you can weigh in quite easily on the matter. Please do so. You may be apprehensive of giving out your e-mail to MO. Don't be. Their privacy and email policy is right on the form and I know they stick by it. You can be in for this one fight and then bail. Or, maybe you will like this form of involvement. The way I think of it is "the parties have candidates and will muddy the issue to focus the candidate, the dot-orgs have issues and will bloody the candidate to focus the issue."...I am a multi-issue political animal, not a party political animal. And quick response plus connection to events is the pulse of netroots. Try it! There will be a box into which you can type your particular emphasis on the demand to save NPR and PBS. This was mine:
To Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy and to Representative Ed Markey:

Given the stands you have taken on key issues of our day such as the Iraq war and breakdown of health care I am sure that you appreciate how shows like Frontline have done your causes more good than harm. Beyond seeing a gross affront to civic mindedness and fiscal responsibility in the president's war-friendly,tax-stupid, service-cutting budget, it is hard not to suppose he wants to eliminate NPR and PBS because of their inconvenient habit of telling the truth. Trust me on this sirs, I would miss that news with its fidelity to facts and freedom from the attached strings of sponsorship and partisan meddling even more than I would miss your particular services. And if we lose the one, what stands in the way of losing both? Let us NOT keep having to save something of such obvious public benefit as neutral news and preschool educational shows that can reach the very poorest households!

We gave our congressional delegates their jobs. Its high time to ask them to do those jobs now that the preznit is so damned eager to undo them. The sonofabush already lost this fight once. This time we should put it out of reach. Its rather like making a house childproof: if you have a president so insulated from the world of his citizens by his coterie of yes-men that he keeps sticking his political tongue into proverbial electrical outlets, just take away his options. That is a possibility in the PBS funding fight.

Note: US citizens reading this blog probably know just who their congress critters are and may even have them on speed dial. But if not, go to the extremely valuable and informative Congresspedia page of and enter your zip code in the yellow box on the left sidebar. Don't know your zip? Ask your mom. You know, that woman who has been writing you letters and sending you things? She has your address. And if Frontline goes off the air, she will have to listen to Fox News to know what's up with medicare. Get the picture?

Friday, February 09, 2007

One Escalation begets another...

You gotta love a "leader" so pigheadedly wrong that he achieves through stubborn arrogance a mobilization of his opponents that the opposition leadership could not. I just clicked through to see how many parties had registered with MoveOn to show "The Ground Truth" within 30 miles of my town. As of 10 AM on Feb 9th, THIRTY different screenings, a few in large venues like churches! The call to host these parties only went out on the 7th. Most of the blurbs provided by hosts specifically mention "Stop the Escalation" in their title or description. Heckuvajob there Dubya.

They say if you love sausage, never visit a sausage factory. I will review the movie after I show it but I get the impression this is going to be the sausage factory tour of Bush and Cheney's war that the war lovers don't want to see. I read comments in blogs like Pandagon where the hurt and anger of war supporters seeths against the majority who want this stupid deadly adventure curtailed. People who confuse being against the war with being disrespectful of the sacrifices, bravery and good intentions of our troops should just STFU and listen to what some of those very troops have to say.

What will the war's supporters be showing? Mel Gibson movies? Leni Riefenstahl moofies? Newsreels of Joe McCarthy hearings? Fox news reruns? Porn?

The street is no longer the only place where you can assemble a crowd because elbow-to-elbow is no longer needed for a murmur to move through the people. The only thing that has not changed is what they murmur: "If I were endowed as the emperor is, I would wear clothes!"

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bless Bloggers!

Why did blogging take off? The sophisticated web publishing hidden under your finger tips and the plunging price of storage, connectivity and your latest PC all enable it but, taking away ego and commercial interest, what is the fire that puts such a nice head of steam in the blogosphere? Is buzz that damned addictive? I think part of the story is not in the bloggers or the technology which most of us take for granted five short years into its life...not unimportant but not entirely the motivator. I think the energy we have been throwing into the reading and the writing of liberal blogs owes a lot to the bought and packaged half truths the MSM just seems unable to vary or avoid. I have used the term "for profit" media and "for cause" media and that doesn't quite say what I want about our motives but its in the ball park. To give another example of the force I see at work here, consider the growth of Wikis, especially Wikipedia vs the dead tree encyclopedias. We all know to beware of the polluted topics in Wikipedia but in spite of that I have not made use of a printed encylopedia or even Encarta in years. Not that they are so hard to use but that they leave much out, some omissions owe to limitations of the organizations that produce them, some to the quiet kowtowing to sacred cows, the same cattle MSM worships and bloggers barbecue.

This week provides us with a wonderful case in point. There has been a huge stink about the two great liberal bloggers hired by the Edwards campaign [did they get fired? Gladly NO!]. A conservative Catholic guardian of public morality named Donahue, a man who demonstrates what bigotry is by feeling the need to apply that word to half the people he writes about, cried out that Edwards' new left wing writing talent had written naughty words and often ridiculed faith and the failthful, particulary of Mr. Donahue's denomination. That is all the closer Mr. Donahue ever reads Pandagon posts, all the more subtlety he can bear. Coturnix, one of the most avid scanners and assiduous collectors of the scattered welters of news and opinion that like the cascaded firing of neurons through the blogosphere, has put most of the development of the story together in one voluminous collection of links. By mid day the drama of whether or not Edwards would dismiss Amanda or Melissa was resolved in a way that relieved most liberal bloggers but involved enough equivocation for the righteous wing partisans to predict some blowback and the least compromising liberals [i.e. those whose life's work in science has been baselessly attacked by fundamentalists] to complain that Amanda in particular has been damned by faint praise. You really ought to read some of the stuff Coturnix has linked to get the flavor of the "discourse". It is way too much to put in focus and in fact I am not sure any one conclusion I have read could pass for the "last word".

For what it is worth, these events have settled a few things in my mind:
Disliking party politics as much as I do, I have not yet taken a hard look at any of the candidates and so had no particular impressions of Edwards' character. But now I think:
  • He sticks by people for their character and ability rather than abandoning them for their inconvenient peccadilloes.
  • He does not bow to wingnuttery, I hope he learns how to sink swiftboats.
  • Edwards can deal with the realities of political communication in an online world.
And it is that last point that matters as an example of where I think the fire is that makes blogging hot. Time Magazine weighed in clumsily on the dust up and let slip one paragraph that glaringly exposes the collision [i.e the truck hitting the deer] of blogging media culture and MSM media culture:
But bottling the lightning of blogger authenticity is not easy. Many blogosphere activists suspect anyone signing on with a campaign of selling out. And in the era of drum-tight message control, campaigns are not inclined to tolerate the independence bloggers need to maintain their credibility.

Regarding disciplined and tight message control, Edwards' campaign does not need that as a Rove-run campaign would. Edwards is going to campaign by building consensus openly and by offering the nation a chance to rediscover its innate conscience. Consensus is the best art of a politician and not of great use to a blogger. A conscience on the other hand has been missing from our politics the last six years and these two women will redress some of that. Message control is vital to Mr. Rove's art of careful fibbing to diverse single-issue minorities. That craft built him an unstable majority and, except for vetoed stem cell research and neanderthals on the bench, produced few of the long term gains those minorities were promised. Time Mag can be forgiven for profoundly misunderstanding "message control" is largely an outdated product of the well controlled MSM of which Time is one of the prime exhibits despite a glitzy blogger on their site. The media culture of a blogged world is far different and puts the job of control and spin on the consumer. The "truth" of anything is suspect anyway nowadays and largely because of the way MSM have controlled stories and said what they got paid to and not what they were afraid to. Only a person with fear of alternative sources, no computer and a TV with one channel has an excuse to fail to quickly confirm offered facts and opinions in this era.

I do not hold so highly a truth I am just told.
I will interact with information before I am sold.

Damn bloggers!

I give up.

This conceit that I have a gentle thoughtful voice that can be cleanly partitioned from my upset and very critical voice is an unsupportable failure. There are other bloggers in me, running very distinct blogs. In those cases the separation comes naturally and does so because the forces of separation are all outside of me: the causes, motives, messages and readers. I barely mention those blogs here.

But for generally communicating thoughts [he calls this thinking?] and reactions and experiences in hopes the sharing seeks its own community, there are not multiple bloggers, just little ol' me.

Big deal. There wasn't much consistency here anyway. The practical effect of this admission is that I just post here. Most people handle their moods and subjects via tagging and new Blogger supports labels. What used to seem fit only for "A Bomb A Nation" now just blogged here at ET and labeled as political.

This retreat from self imposed schizophrenia should eventually have some payoff. I think without the extra hurdle of deciding where to file the thought. I have only one template to master or play with. Over time I may do user friendly things like better side show material and best-of lists...we'll see.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sometimes Action is the only wisdom

I am writing a letter to my congressman, the Hon. Ed Markey, who has a record I am generally pleased with. He better show some extra backbone the next few weeks or the sonofabush is gonna finish off congress altogether with one last flourish of signing statements. The letter writing was an exercise at today's MoveOn meeting. I rant at length over at A Bomb A Nation on the reasons for my action and my upsets. The usual lib'rul whining if you will but with my own little twists. I am going to be showing "The Ground Truth" at my place on the 15th and signing up all the likely MoveOn members for letter writing, congress calling and anti war demonstrations...the choices are plentiful and the hackles of anyone naturally disposed against fascism are up.

For a while, I was concerned that most of the people showing up for the meetings of the particular MoveOn group I attend were largely 50-somethings like myself. There were 30-somethings in the crowd today. Heckuvajob mobilizing your support base there, sonofabush.

There are far more people who will resist the abuse of political power than people who are otherwise attracted to the exercise of political power. That is why good times, bad times, conservative times and liberal times oscillate in turn once you leave out external factors that force the system. Just now, abuse is peaking and lagging 90 degrees out of phase, liberals are reengaging.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Why I am still spending my precious free hours doing things

Democracy does nothing for us: Its very definition is that we do things for ourselves.

[that is my QotD at a blog I do for a grassroots .org instigated by MoveOn.]

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Taxing Stupidity

I grew up in Nevada. We would joke among ourselves that the reason we had low sales tax and no income or estate taxes was because the state's share of the cash raked in by the casinos was a tax on stupidity.

If you can harness it, stupidity is a Pyrrhic, perennial bounty in good times or bad.

Now, the French want to tax a different stupidity. The US has an incredibly backward record when it comes to delaying crucial measures against global warming which every citizen of this planet and every country should subscribe to and implement. Within the lifetime of anyone reading this, more species will go extinct than in the preceding millennium. With its economic might pitted against any healthy change, the US has already made the world late in tackling the problem. Stupid consumers, stupid government, both operating without any apparent conscience and for no better purpose than their own near term comforts. A change of conscience by the US might already be too late to stave off a thorough planetary roasting given at least two positive feedback mechanisms that release greenhouse gasses are already starting to kick in:
  1. a warming, snowless arctic releases formerly frozen methane which needs ten years to break down to stable CO2 but is 20 times as effective as CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere
  2. a warming ocean is less effective at absorbing CO2.
[I had a wonderful wool gathering session on the science side of that question but that will be a post for the science blog I am probably never going to start.]

Of course it wont really work. If you hitch your prosperity to the stupid, you perpetuate misery under the cynical guise of providing a gently corrective service for the unreformed. The only decent course would be to reform ourselves instead of playing Teh Stoopid Planet Wasters to the French cop. Chirac will not mend our ways any faster than he mends his own. A NYTimes article points out that Chirac is not one to throw the first stone. Losers just keep coming to Vegas and the beneficiaries of the casino industry stay strung out on losers.

Reform? Study the carbon flow chart in this NASA report. It shows nature would be just about carbon neutral but our yearly fossil carbon input is double any natural imbalance. Burn less. Its that simple, its that difficult. Like other energy addicted nations, our government has been quietly hunting for a new fix for its carbon habit. That is the wrong answer. If Gore gets the Nobel, will anyone in the US use less energy?

UPDATE: Don't y'all find the conincidence of IPCC releasing its findings of certainty that humans are burning up their home planet on the same day that Exxon announces the largest yearly profit [39 billion dollars] of any corporation in recorded history just a tad rich in irony...and no damn coincidence at all?