Tuesday, January 31, 2006

It's war, stupid

While I enjoyed Carnacki's pep talk over at Kos, in the light of the Alito filibuster defeat, I think it's important for folks to realize -especially disaffected folks who are down on the cloture-weenies in the Senate- to realize, that goddamit, this is a war we're fighting. A war continued by other means.

And that means we have to fight it like one


"War is politics continued by other means," is the famous dictum by von Clausewitz, but the reverse is also true: Politics is war continued by other means.

The Repubs know this - and that is why, especially in the religious right circles war metaphors abound.

Make no mistake about it: the folks in charge of all 3 branches of government are playing for keeps, and it is our fortune and duty to remove them from political power, plain and simple. They have been at war with us "culture wars," class wars, etc., since the Air Traffic Controllers were fired way back when.

On the far left the word "struggle" appears a lot, but it appears that most of the time they're stuggling with themselves - they tend to lack a concrete strategy for obtaining political power in this country.  We need something successful, that will work.

So I would like to bring  Sun Tzu to the party to shed a bit of light on what we can do and where we can go, and why it is inevitable, if we are disciplined and dilligent, we'll win.

Let's just skim the surface, in fact to see what we can gleam from him:

1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State.

  1. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.

  2. The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field.

  3. These are: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline.

5,6. The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.

  1. Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons.

  2. Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.

  3. The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness.

  4. By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.

  5. These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail.

  6. Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:--

  7. (1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law? (2) Which of the two generals has most ability? (3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth? (4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced? (5) Which army is stronger? (6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained? (7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

  8. By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.


The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger... Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?

We know which of the two "sovereigns" - i.e., conservatives vs. progressives is imbued with the Moral Law.

From this it follows that:

  • We simply cannot under any circumstances tolerate corruption on our side.

  • We simply cannot allow the Repubs to use "wedge" issues or threats of terrorism without raising holy hell that casts the debate in terms of the immorality of the Repubs. They have been successful in attempting to creat the illusion of a moral high ground by "abortion, god and gays."  We must say, "But they're stealing from you. They're stealing from your kids. They're stealing your health insurance, your pensions and your savings."

  • We must be seen and expressed as having more of a moral mandate than they do. It's not hard; we used to speak in those terms.

The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness...Which of the two generals has most ability?

Think Bill Clinton for a second.  Why did the Repubs attack him on moral grounds? Your answer's right here. Why does Bush pretend to be a "regular guy" who does the codpiece thing? Same reason.

Therefore being a namby-pamby pushover will not fly with the American people. Joe Liberman take note. Maria Cantwell, take note.

With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth? ...Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons... Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death.

We have the "Heaven" advantage in the upcoming elections, but we are somewhat constrained by the right wing noise machine.  

Dean, I think is doing the right thing by building a grass-roots and bypassing traditional media. What else can we do; we must render traditional media and the "bully pulpit" of George W. Bush irrelevant. Then we will win if the other factors are present...

On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced? ...By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.

Indeed. We have to exercise discipline on the Libermans...

We need to have the infrastructure in place to win, as folks like Kos have been saying...

Which army is stronger?

I think there really is more of us potentially than them, but we have to continually recruit ...

On which side are officers and men more highly trained?

Uh-oh. Weak point for our side... We gotta work on that one.

In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

Exactly. James Dobson says maybe he'll bolt from the Repubs and they all suck up to him.  If we don't have the reward and punishment on our side, we will be at a disadvantage.

One last thought from the master:

 The general that hearkens to my counsel and acts upon it, will conquer: let such a one be retained in command! The general that hearkens not to my counsel nor acts upon it, will suffer defeat:--let such a one be dismissed!

Americans are reading their media like the Russians used to parse Pravda.

Check this out.

Opmtimism: If you want to change the status quo you have to change your status quo...

The confluence of the failed filibuster of Alito, "stuff at work," and a waxing of my capability to Buddhist-blog, led me recently to think of the above.

If you want things different in your life, you will have to make them different, or the cylce of cause and effect remains "on autopilot."

Sure there's folks in places of power about to do mean, nasty things. But the world's seen it before. As I noted previously, this type of meanness and nastiness sows the seeds of its own destruction, if only because others can gain an advantage from the meanness and nastiness of folks like that.

Looked at this way, it's easy not to be afraid, not to be angry.

With patience and constancy, and with the attitude of a frog waiting opportunistically for its meal, the good guys will prevail.

The previously-referred-to-rightie-colleague told me that Exxon-Mobil "earned" their record oil profits recently, which is the same thing as saying I earned my capital gains achieved in that commodity because I thought Bush would enrich oil companies at the expense of the little guy, and was proven right in spades. It was no special effort on my part to see this, not compared to some of the theoretical work I've done lately.

Is this taking which is not given? No, I don't think so, I think it was, as Henry Hill would say, a "gimme," except there was no coercion on my part; OTOH, the Folks Who Voted for Bush were sold a bill of goods, so to speak. But I sure as hell didn't "earn" the money in the sense that I worked my butt off for it.

It's easy to bet on the decline of the US; anybody can see it; look at the investment capital flows. The "Federalists" who want to return the US to an earlier time never quite figured out or don't care that that earlier time, prior to McKinley, was when the US was weak politically and most people were poor and some were enslaved, or nearly so.

People will have to change the status quo, if they want the status quo to change.

The Alito thing was a good start, actually. Attacking the latter day Yellow Journalism Media is starting to have an effect too.

At the very least, I'll be able to retire comfortably if Bush continues this nonsense; but I fear that I'll be living outside the US, and when I visit I'll be like those Japanese I used to see on 5th Avenue in the 1980s & 90s, who didn't think twice about scarfing up what other Americans consider luxury items. Not that I'd actually do that; I was raised austere and have an admittedly egotistical visceral reaction to guady trappings of wealth that is more thinking the purchaser of a luxury what-not was a greater fool than a beautiful person. But hell, everythings going to be real cheap in the US soon, at least in foreign hard-currency.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Becoming a sensei

Shokai has a rare look at the inside of somebody at the initiation ceremony.

Good thing it didn't go like this:

Roshi: Sensei, why did you join my beloved lineage?
Sensei: Sir, to save all sentient beings, sir!
Roshi: So you're a bodhisattva!
Sensei: Sir, yes sir!
Roshi: Then let me see your bodhisattva face!
Sensei: [nervously] Sir?
Roshi: You got a bodhisattva face! ARRRRRRRRRGH! That's a bodhisattva face, let me see your bodhisattva face!
Sensei: Ahhhh!
Roshi: Bullshit, you didn't convince me, let me see your REAL bodhisattva face!
Sensei: Ahhhhhh!
Roshi: You still don't scare me! Work on it!
Sensei: Sir, yes sir!

I might buy the Euro ETF

FXE, especially if the chickens are coming home to roost ...

The dollar, which theoretically should have declined under the debt load in 2005, was buoyed last year by foreigners' willingness to park their cash in higher-yielding dollar-based assets while other developed economies sputtered. Investors were also drawn into dollars because of political setbacks in Europe, like the defeat of the European Constitution. And Congress helped to prop up the dollar by offering a one-time tax break that induced many American companies to convert their foreign earnings into hundreds of billions of dollars. But now Germany and Japan are rallying, the tax break has expired for most companies, and the dollar is facing new challenges: China, for instance, recently stated its intention to invest more of the dollars it earns in other currencies.

For the past few years, the United States' economy has overcome the drag of big deficits, mainly because the housing boom let Americans borrow and spend, despite stagnating wages. But the boom appears to be moderating, a slowdown that will only worsen if America's foreign indebtedness leads to sustained downward pressure on the dollar and upward pressure on interest rates.

Deeply in debt, individual Americans can't be expected to keep borrowing and spending. And government, also deeply in the red, won't be able to help much. Yet despite an estimated budget deficit of $400 billion this year, further tax cuts still top the Republican agenda.

More on enlightenment...

Here's a bit more on what I wrote here, in response to this bit on Hardcore Zen. Brad writes:

Some see it as something like the ultimate college degree. You go through your course of study, you get your enlightenment, often with a certificate of completion, and you're done. It's all smooth sailing from there on in. No more crackin' the books, no more term papers to write. Finshed. Done.

For others "Enlightenment" is something which they believe can be defined for them. Lots of supposed "Masters" set themselves up as arbiters of Enlightenment. They'll decide who's got it and who hasn't. If you measure up to their criteria they'll declare you Enlightened. If you don't, you'd better work harder at living up to what they think you ought to be.

For some Enlightenment is envisioned as the ultimate peak experience. The biggest roller coaster ride ever. The thrill of a lifetime.

Well, first of all, as a guy with a Ph.D. in engineering, I tend to see getting the ultimate college a bit differently from Brad; in my case it means that I'm able to do certain things, that will consign me to a lifetime of further education. And, in a sense, I can understand why some branches of Zen authorize folks to present and "teach" what can't be taught: precisely because it's so easy to mischaracterize enlightenment.

But in a sense, getting a Ph.D. is indeed a bit like the journey to enlightenment. Both involve large amounts of solitary hard work whose end result is always in question until a certain point in time, which may or may not be reached when the journey is begun. Pretty much all the Ph.D.s I know describe or acted like their doctoral studies represented some of the darkest moments of their lives.

Luckily the journey to enlightement has been different, because in is a journey to transcend suffering, there is success now and then, even if the earth and heavens are not shattered.

Brad also writes:

Another of the ways I used to envison Enlightenment was, finding out for sure whether or not God exists.

I can understand that point; like many people who started out at Zen, there was a dark time in my life devoid of answers, which was not being fulfilled by relationships with deities, real or imagined.

I thought - perhaps from reading Kapleau's Three Pillars of Zen - that practice of Zen might resolve the question, or at least trigger "my" conversion experience. But the reality is as I practiced more I became aware of the many fires to extinguish, and so the gnostic questions were shelved, much to the chagrin of religious apologists.

I can agree here:

These days Enlightenment is one of the biggest scams going. Some guy says he's got Enlightenment. He has a story to back him up about how wonderful the day was when he finally understood everything about everything. He has a guy who has certified him as a member of the Enlightened Beings club. And now he's ready to help you learn to be just like him. You go to the guy. He trains you to imitate the things he says on cue, or if he's real clever he teaches you how to rephrase his pet phrases in your own words.
I remember seeing a senior student at the Zen Studies Society in NY drink a cup of tea, and realized that this guy was more skillful in doing that simple thing than Ivan Lendl was at playing tennis. I also knew that there must be scamsters in the enlightenment business, if only because there were Moonies selling flowers and Hare Krishnas in airports, and "holy rollers" who would sell you prayer cloths because of some bible verse if you were desperate enough, and all kinds of other religious phonies. So I kicked tires. And met a few scamsters. And some enlightened people. The odd thing about this is you, as an initiate, are the one certifying the master; it's not the other way around. But I probably just let the cat out of the bag.

My outlook differs a bit here, though:

When I say that I'll never be Enlightened, I mean that I will never make my efforts to conform to what someone else has defined as Enlightenment. I will never ask anyone to conform to what I define Enlightenment to be, either. I'll never play along with that game because it's useless...

Dharma Transmission is not the transmission of a set of intellectual ideas. Nor is it the transmission of some kind of great experience. It is the transmission of a particular outlook, a particular attitude. At the moment that attitude becomes clear, there is no need for anyone to define it for you, to certify it for you, or to approve it for you.

In effect, when a legit Dharma Transmission/realization of enlightenment happens, it is in effect a recongition of what already exists, what has already been appropriated into the marrow of one's bones, the "core of one's being". Or perhaps better put it is the realization that you have understood the core of your being. The Ten Oxherding Pictures (十牛画 ) describe stages on a path of one's spiritual develolpment. If you are sincere and dilligent you'll know where you are, and I'd agree with Brad you won't give much attention to those who would sell you some other picture, because it's not really for sale.

But thankfully there are those out there who aren't scamsters. Caveat emptor, though.

Finally, I should point out that Brad's narrative is in fact a pretty common one in the Zen sphere; narratives are like flypaper; it's hard to get unstuck from one.

Incompetent, evil, tin foil hat? All of them? Take your pick...

How else to explain why top al Qaeda operatives get out of Guantanamo, without a trial?

RABAT, Morocco -- For more than a decade, Osama bin Laden had few soldiers more devoted than Abdallah Tabarak. A former Moroccan transit worker, Tabarak served as a bodyguard for the al Qaeda leader, worked on his farm in Sudan and helped run a gemstone smuggling racket in Afghanistan, court records here show.

During the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001, when al Qaeda leaders were pinned down by U.S. forces, Tabarak sacrificed himself to engineer their escape. He headed toward the Pakistani border while making calls on Osama bin Laden's satellite phone as bin Laden and the others fled in the other direction.

Tabarak was captured and taken to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was classified as such a high-value prisoner that the Pentagon repeatedly denied requests by the International Committee of the Red Cross to see him. Then, after spending almost three years at the base, he was suddenly released.

Today, the al Qaeda loyalist known locally as the "emir" of Guantanamo walks the streets of his old neighborhood near Casablanca, more or less a free man. In a decision that neither the Pentagon nor Moroccan officials will explain publicly, Tabarak was transferred to Morocco in August 2004 and released from police custody four months later...

His case also highlights mysteries of U.S. priorities in deciding who to keep and who to let go. As the Pentagon gears up to hold its first military tribunals at Guantanamo after four years of preparations, it has released a prisoner it called a key operative. At the same time, it retains under heavy guard men whose background and significance are never discussed.

Eighteen months after he left Guantanamo, Tabarak, 50, still faces minor criminal offenses in Rabat, the capital, such as passport forgery and conspiracy. But his attorney predicts that it's only a matter of time before the case is dropped and all allegations of terrorist activities are dismissed.

This highlights another reason -besides closure- that people who weren't Bush extremists pushed for public trials of al Qaeda leaders early on.

Public trials not only give closure and finality and overt justice as a response to criminal actions, but they also serve as a check on the stupidity of the government.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

They give you this, but you pay for that...

iTunes lacks King Crimson. Screw 'em. I've got CDs that can substitute in a pinch.


This post at Hardcore Zen is well worth reading.

Even though I disagree with it in part...

I have to get a response post on this up, but it's running late now...

But in short:

(HT: Blogmandu)

The Trouble with Tough Love

Important reading from the Washington Post:

The trouble with tough love is twofold. First, the underlying philosophy -- that pain produces growth -- lends itself to abuse of power. Second, and more important, toughness doesn't begin to address the real problem. Troubled teenagers aren't usually "spoiled brats" who "just need to be taught respect." Like me, they most often go wrong because they hurt, not because they don't want to do the right thing. That became all the more evident to me when I took a look at who goes to these schools.

A surprisingly large number are sent away in the midst of a parental divorce; others are enrolled for depression or other serious mental illnesses. Many have lengthy histories of trauma and abuse. The last thing such kids need is another experience of powerlessness, humiliation and pain...

The Justice Department has released reports comparing boot camps with traditional correctional facilities for juvenile offenders, concluding in 2001 that neither facility "is more effective in reducing recidivism." In late 2004, the National Institutes of Health released a "state of the science" consensus statement, concluding that "get tough" treatments "do not work and there is some evidence that they may make the problem worse." Indeed, some young people leave these programs with post-traumatic stress disorder and exacerbations of their original problems.

These strict institutional settings work at cross-purposes with the developmental stages adolescents go through. According to psychiatrists, teenagers need to gain responsibility, begin to test romantic relationships and learn to think critically. But in tough programs, teenagers' choices of activities are overwhelmingly made for them: They are not allowed to date (in many, even eye contact with the opposite sex is punished), and they are punished if they dissent from a program's therapeutic prescriptions. All this despite evidence that a totally controlled environment delays maturation.

Why is tough love still so prevalent? The acceptance of anecdote as evidence is one reason, as are the hurried decisions of desperate parents who can no longer find a way of communicating with their wayward kids. But most significant is the lack of the equivalent of a Food and Drug Administration for behavioral health care -- with the result that most people are unaware that these programs have never been proved safe or effective.

Indeed this situation permeates our whole "corrective" system. If we were, for example to find that some ways of parenting produce horribly harmful effects should we not attempt to intervene and prevent them? Of course, for gross abuse we do that.

But what about the above?

"It's not illegal when the President does it,"

said Richard Nixon. The deep baritone yet schoolmarm-like intonation of his easily imitable voice, and its repetition on the Randi Rhodes show had me in stiches the other day.

And like Richard Nixon, even the NY Times is starting to call the lies what they are: lies

Only bad guys are spied on. Bush officials have said the surveillance is tightly focused only on contacts between people in this country and Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Vice President Dick Cheney claimed it saved thousands of lives by preventing attacks. But reporting in this paper has shown that the National Security Agency swept up vast quantities of e-mail messages and telephone calls and used computer searches to generate thousands of leads. F.B.I. officials said virtually all of these led to dead ends or to innocent Americans. The biggest fish the administration has claimed so far has been a crackpot who wanted to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch — a case that F.B.I. officials said was not connected to the spying operation anyway.

The spying is legal. The secret program violates the law as currently written. It's that simple. In fact, FISA was enacted in 1978 to avoid just this sort of abuse. It said that the government could not spy on Americans by reading their mail (or now their e-mail) or listening to their telephone conversations without obtaining a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The court has approved tens of thousands of warrants over the years and rejected a handful.

As amended after 9/11, the law says the government needs probable cause, the constitutional gold standard, to believe the subject of the surveillance works for a foreign power or a terrorist group, or is a lone-wolf terrorist. The attorney general can authorize electronic snooping on his own for 72 hours and seek a warrant later. But that was not good enough for Mr. Bush, who lowered the standard for spying on Americans from "probable cause" to "reasonable belief" and then cast aside the bedrock democratic principle of judicial review.

Just trust us. Mr. Bush made himself the judge of the proper balance between national security and Americans' rights, between the law and presidential power. He wants Americans to accept, on faith, that he is doing it right. But even if the United States had a government based on the good character of elected officials rather than law, Mr. Bush would not have earned that kind of trust. The domestic spying program is part of a well-established pattern: when Mr. Bush doesn't like the rules, he just changes them, as he has done for the detention and treatment of prisoners and has threatened to do in other areas, like the confirmation of his judicial nominees. He has consistently shown a lack of regard for privacy, civil liberties and judicial due process in claiming his sweeping powers. The founders of our country created the system of checks and balances to avert just this sort of imperial arrogance.

The rules needed to be changed. In 2002, a Republican senator — Mike DeWine of Ohio — introduced a bill that would have done just that, by lowering the standard for issuing a warrant from probable cause to "reasonable suspicion" for a "non-United States person." But the Justice Department opposed it, saying the change raised "both significant legal and practical issues" and may have been unconstitutional. Now, the president and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales are telling Americans that reasonable suspicion is a perfectly fine standard for spying on Americans as well as non-Americans — and they are the sole judges of what is reasonable.

So why oppose the DeWine bill? Perhaps because Mr. Bush had already secretly lowered the standard of proof — and dispensed with judges and warrants — for Americans and non-Americans alike, and did not want anyone to know.

War changes everything. Mr. Bush says Congress gave him the authority to do anything he wanted when it authorized the invasion of Afghanistan. There is simply nothing in the record to support this ridiculous argument.

The administration also says that the vote was the start of a war against terrorism and that the spying operation is what Mr. Cheney calls a "wartime measure." That just doesn't hold up. The Constitution does suggest expanded presidential powers in a time of war. But the men who wrote it had in mind wars with a beginning and an end. The war Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney keep trying to sell to Americans goes on forever and excuses everything.

Other presidents did it. Mr. Gonzales, who had the incredible bad taste to begin his defense of the spying operation by talking of those who plunged to their deaths from the flaming twin towers, claimed historic precedent for a president to authorize warrantless surveillance. He mentioned George Washington, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These precedents have no bearing on the current situation, and Mr. Gonzales's timeline conveniently ended with F.D.R., rather than including Richard Nixon, whose surveillance of antiwar groups and other political opponents inspired FISA in the first place. Like Mr. Nixon, Mr. Bush is waging an unpopular war, and his administration has abused its powers against antiwar groups and even those that are just anti-Republican.

Who will rid uis of this troublesome regime? Science Karma...

Now they're going after scientists, not simply with blaring pseudo-science, but with McCarthyism...

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

Good for you, Hansen...

Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency,...said other reasons for requiring press officers to review interview requests were to have an orderly flow of information out of a sprawling agency and to avoid surprises. "This is not about any individual or any issue like global warming," he said. "It's about coordination."

Which, of course is bullshit; there simply is no reason for research scientists to be expected to be "on message."

[Hansen] fell out of favor with the White House in 2004 after giving a speech at the University of Iowa before the presidential election, in which he complained that government climate scientists were being muzzled and said he planned to vote for Senator John Kerry.

But Dr. Hansen said that nothing in 30 years equaled the push made since early December to keep him from publicly discussing what he says are clear-cut dangers from further delay in curbing carbon dioxide.

In several interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Dr. Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly because NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet."

He said he was particularly incensed that the directives had come through telephone conversations and not through formal channels, leaving no significant trails of documents.

Dr. Hansen's supervisor, Franco Einaudi, said there had been no official "order or pressure to say shut Jim up." But Dr. Einaudi added, "That doesn't mean I like this kind of pressure being applied."

Dr. Hansen and some of his colleagues said interviews were canceled as a result.

In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.

Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority.

But she added: "I'm a career civil servant and Jim Hansen is a scientist. That's not our job. That's not our mission. The inference was that Hansen was disloyal."

The fact is, attacking scientists will only further weaken the US, since there'll be less good science being done here, and with that, the Republicans who are in power will be further weakened. Their days are numbered. Watch for fallout...

Friday, January 27, 2006

No fear...good morale; hit the target... Much fear...

It is, I think, what separates some people from other people...

There's a guy at work who is an avowed "Christian conservative" (but when pressed on elements of fundamentalism and biblical literalism he doesn't go there- he evidently is aware that arguing evolution versus creationism is a no win situation with an engineer). On economic issues, he's the right wing mirror image of the Khmer Rouge. And I don't mean that as a compliment.

Christian conservatives like to say "belief" and its cognates a lot, and hold "beliefs" sacred; I think as far as beliefs go, a Shunryu Suzuki "belief in nothing" which is more of an aware constant watching, than a belief in a specific anything or nihilism than any enunciation of a set of "believing points" of a faith that are espoused to differentiate one sects from another.

In a lunchtime discussion with this avowed Christian conservative, and somehow the conversation turned around to fear. This Christian conservative's "belief" was that "fear can be used to motivate" people, and that among other things the Roman Empire's use of fear in the population and army was a good use of fear.

I, of course opined otherwise; fear destroys the morale of organizations (as is well known). If you are afraid of getting hit with the baseball, you'll never hit the home run. Troops going into battle aren't inspired to be afraid; they're taught to just kill. Moreover, accounts of Stalin's Great Terror indicate a populace that was sleepless, unproductive, and drinking to excess to deal with the stress of the mass purges, arrests, and violence.

An interesting side question is whether or not this fear expressed as government-whipped-up terrorism scares has a deleterious effect on productivity. I bet you a dime that outside of all the horrors of airline security lines, it does; that is to say, the fact that this rents space in our collective head means that time and attention is lost on things that are more important and profitable. And that the guys in charge just don't give a shit about that, and if they do they probably actually like the lost productivity. But I digress.

This Christian conservative asked me if I was ever afraid.

And then it hit me: the answer was "when I was a kid" because within recent memory (oh, say the last 15 years) no siree, I can't remember being fearful or terrorized. Worried, yes, of course. Angry at times, yes. But fearful?

Looking up fear in the dictionary, I get:

A feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger

And nope. I haven't had this feeling. Not in watching movies. Not driving. Not in a house. Not with a mouse. Not with a fox. Not with a box...you get the picture.

The Heart of Perfection Wisdom Sutra says
(in the Mt. Baldy Zen center translation):

Indeed, there is nothing to be attained; the Bodhisattva relies on Prajna Paramita with no obstacle in the mind. No obstacle, therefore no fear. Far beyond upside down views, at last Nirvana. Past, present, and future, all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, rely on Prajna Paramita and therefore reach the most supreme enlightenment.

This thought has (obviously) been ruminated over in my head for a few hours, and I don't want to go down an ego-trip superhighway here, but I had a feeling that was like discovering, after thinking you couldn't compete at sports, that you were absurdly talented at one aspect of one sport far beyond those of your peers.

Now yeah, I know - and have written here- that this practice will, if practiced with constancy and earnestness will lead to a transcendance of suffering. And I've got a long long way to go.

But still...

There's a whole bunch of people, trained in a Pavlovian way to respond to fear in a certain way. Huge swaths of Christianity - especially of the conservative kind- are predicated on the existence of a gangster deity who demands tribute on pain of eternal damnation, and who further stipulates that nobody on his own can do anything but consign himself to eternal damnation. And furthermore, it's a matter of belief as to whether you've escaped eternal damnation or not; this can not but, in my opinion, make one fearful, and therefore ineffective at moral development in practice.

And I'm not like that.

Now note, all Christians don't have this experience, and among those that do, most would likely deny such an experience; it is nothing but shameful in our culture to admit you're afraid (one wonders than to whom appeals to fear are directed if nobody really is afraid...?)

But I'm saying it's really possible to dispel fear, and be the fearless real deal, rather than simply whistling past the graveyard.

It is intriguing to me that this may pose an opportunity both politically and socially; one would think that this living in fear constantly is a highly unnatural state expending energy uselessly, and short of a Stalin-like reign of terror is unlikely to be continue on its own, and that with "no fear" as a meme permeating the society, we can dispel the culture of fear.

I'm going to be in China on July 22, 2009

So my son can see a total solar eclipse...

Here's the next few of 'em...

Here's some more... one comes to the Portland OR area in 2017. Cool. That's in the summer...

Can't hurt

Any way to even try to filibuster Alito can't be all bad.

China will beat us without an energy policy...

And no, I don't mean drilling in Alaska or nonsense like that; I mean kicking the oil habit for good.

China's doing it:

CHINA will develop comprehensive energy legislation to encourage technological innovation, resource efficiency and improved safety at coal mines and other production facilities as it faces up to the challenge of fueling the country's rapid economic growth.

"China lacks an overall law outlining its energy strategy and policy," the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement on its Website. "The country needs a comprehensive law to regulate the energy sector."

Ma Kai, director of the top planning agency and the national energy office, will lead the team charged with developing the legislation. A timetable for completion was not announced.

The group is composed of representatives from 15 governmental bodies, including China's state planning agencies and its finance, commerce and science and technology ministries.

Experts on energy, the law, economics and public administration will be tapped to consult with the team.

Industry analysts said the new law will serve as a constitution for the energy sector, with energy-efficiency, production safety, clean energy and diversified fuel sources as its main components.

Li Zhipeng, a Xiangcai Securities Co analyst, said the plan should help China achieve a healthy and stable energy sector to drive its economic momentum.

China's energy industry now faces significant challenges, including its growing reliance on imported oil, coal mine accidents and high energy consumption, he said.

Coal is China's main fuel source, accounting for 75 percent of total energy use.

Rising coal demand has caused some private miners to violate safety rules to boost production and has led to thousands of deaths in mine accidents.

China's oil imports have increased since 1993, when the country became a net oil importer. At present, 40 percent of the nation's oil demand is met by imports.

The country's bill for crude oil imports rose 41 percent to US$47.72 billion last year due to price increases in the international market. China intends to boost the development of nuclear power, renewable energy and water power over the long term.

It's Chinese New Year...almost

See the moon thingy on the right.

More at Wikipedia.

Middle East Karma...

If you encourage fundamentalism and strife in the name of religion you get fundamentalism and strife in the name of religion.

The decline of the United States, continued...

Spying on vegans...and arresting them because they gathered evidence of illegal spying on them...

The ACLU of Georgia released copies of government files on Wednesday that illustrate the extent to which the FBI, the DeKalb County Division of Homeland Security and other government agencies have gone to compile information on Georgians suspected of being threats simply for expressing controversial opinions.

Two documents relating to anti-war and anti-government protests, and a vegan rally, prove the agencies have been "spying" on Georgia residents unconstitutionally, the ACLU said. (Related: ACLU Complaint -- PDF file)

For example, more than two dozen government surveillance photographs show 22-year-old Caitlin Childs of Atlanta, a strict vegetarian, and other vegans picketing against meat eating, in December 2003. They staged their protest outside a HoneyBaked Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County.

An undercover DeKalb County Homeland Security detective was assigned to conduct surveillance of the protest and the protestors, and take the photographs. The detective arrested Childs and another protester after he saw Childs approach him and write down, on a piece of paper, the license plate number of his unmarked government car.

"They told me if I didn't give over the piece of paper I would go to jail and I refused and I went to jail, and the piece of paper was taken away from me at the jail and the officer who transferred me said that was why I was arrested," Childs said on Wednesday.

Oddly enough Not surprisingly, in the days of Bush, this story of the US coddling a terrorist has been whitewashed from US media...

Havana, Jan 26 (Prensa Latina) Cuba forewarned Thursday of the danger that United States release infamous Cuban-born terrorist Luis Posada Carriles and send him to a third country, ignoring the Venezuelan extradition request to be tried there.

The US Immigration and Customs Office informed Wednesday of the possibility of sending Posada Carriles to a third country, but Cuban TV reporter Reynaldo Taladrid said the United States has not yet found a country that wants to receive the criminal.

He is documented as being responsible for the explosion in mid-air of a Cuban airplane off the coast of Barbados in October 1976 that killed 73 people.

Posada Carriles’ lawyers, stated Taladrid, are carrying out actions for his imminent release and have already sent the necessary documents and information, like monetary support, place of residence and future employment.

However, as Cuba has said, the case has become a hot potato for the US government, beneficiary in the past of misdeeds by the confessed mass murderer and from other Cuban-born terrorists who it needs to keep in silence.

The 77-year-old former CIA agent was detained in Miami, Florida on May 17, after having illegally sneaked into the country with false passport from Mexico.

During a farcical hearing at the Immigration Service Processing Center of El Paso, Texas, an immigration judge refused to extradite him to Cuba or Venezuela, arguing that these countries could torture him.

Posada was a torturer at the DISIP (Venezuelan secret police) and the mastermind behind a series of bomb attacks on Havana hotels in 1997, which killed an Italian tourist and wounded 10 people.

Here comes the Bush boom in all its glory

I am still hopeful, though it is increasingly clear that many Americans just don't understand what their government's about these days.

There is nothing one can do other than what one can do...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I find it increasingly hard to believe that Joe Carter was in the military...

Carter must be more ignorant of military history and military science than I had given him credit.

After all, what do anti-war protesters mean when they say that they oppose the war but “support our troops?”

Quite simply, we don't want them dead. Ever read Catch-22 Joe?

The effort in Iraq was flawed militarily from the start; that's why I joined millions of others in the streets.

You and Hewitt can't say you "support the troops" if you support a mission that is doomed to failure because of cockamamie military "theories" that fly in the face of history and statistics.

Any fool could have seen it when the Iraqi army "melted away"; me, I simply did the math beforehand (you know, the stat that says it takes 10:1 to 50:1 troops to quell a potential insurgency).

Which leaves you in a quandary, Mr. Pro-lifer: either you don’t know that you're sacrificing thousands to needlessly die, in which case you're morally ignorant, or you're actively encouraging a pointless slaughter, in which case you're not simply a moral coward, but something far more gruesome.

Finally, you have no way in your little moral universe to support the troops then without supporting the mission, no matter how nasty the mission is.

The supreme excellence, Sun Tzu said, was to achieve the objective without the bloodshed. Our objective was - really- to maintain ourselves and those of the world without dealing with nasty religious zealots for petroleum.

Rather than heed Jimmy Carter's advice to make getting petroleum independence the moral equivalent of war, Republicans chose the "steal the oil" option.

It hasn't worked but at least Latin America's getting out from US hegemony.

What we're up against...

Now if this guy writing at "renewamerica.com" ain't a theocrat bent on destroying America (take the exact opposite of what the religious right says, and you're in the vicinity of the truth) I don't know who is.

Right now our system of values is at war with radical Islam, Secular Humanism, Postmodernism, and general liberalism. The terrorists that killed 37 people and injured 700 more in London on July 7, 2005, the terrorists that killed thousands of Americans on September 11, 2005; and the terrorists that are seeking to destroy the fragile, young government that has recently taken control of Iraq are doing so in the name of Islam and Allah. Call it what you like, Christians are witnessing a dangerous social movement; one that seeks to destroy everything that we believe in.

The fact that that the Judeo-Christian values this country was established under have never been completely overthrown (though they are under constant attack) has created a false sense of security for Christians in the United States. Three-hundred twenty nine years of success has made us soft, and made us delusional to the fact that free societies can be and have been toppled by evil regimes in the past. Christians in America have the tendency to believe that Capitalism is our great savior, and that the brand of government that grants us freedom of religion is a static body that will, without challenge, forever stand. History has shown us that this is not guaranteed.

If we observe recent history, that being the twentieth century, we can see that Governments similar to ours have been brought down from the inside out. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the Fall of the Third Republic in France, the Vietnam War, and the Civil War in China are all examples of how changing ideologies within a country caused more destruction to powerful governments than outside attacking forces. American Christians can not become arrogant over our past successes and near escapes from emanate failure. If we do, we will find ourselves living in a "socialist paradise," or much worse an Islamic theocracy.

I understand that it is difficult to imagine a world in which the United States of America is not the world's lone super power. Until much of the historical reading I have done over the past few years I was blind to the relative weakness of all forms of government, especially those left in the hands of man. Ancient Rome, ancient Greece, and ancient Egypt (the world's first super power) never imagined a world without themselves in the driver's seat of humanity. It was this arrogance that left them open for the coming failures of their governments.

America is great for one reason. It is the first and only country on the face of the earth with a government and a constitution established by Christians and upon the values found in the Holy Bible. Buddhism, and Islam have set up theocracies around the world in which terrible atrocities have been committed against humanity including the abolition of the right for people to worship religions other than the one responsible for the founding of the country. In fact, the earliest pilgrims in this country were Christians running from an oppressive theocracy. Presently we have people from around the globe fleeing to this nation to experience the freedom of this Christian creation.

Buddhist theocracies in which terrible atrocities happened? I wouldn't call Burma or Cambodia a Buddhist theocracy. In Tibet, before the Chinese came in, some nasty stuff did indeed go down there, but largely due to the Chinese & CIA.

Vietnam? Are we supposed to forget that the US & France squelched "democracy" there because the Communists would have won an honest election?

Herein lies the perfect example of the problem: American wingers use "Christianity" to hide what really made America "great": Slavery, land theft, genocide, tobacco, rum, and the exploitation of labor.

Video Dharma...

Thanks, Thais, but there's an ebb and flow to these things...

Secret Police?

What else would you call it?

Geez, what nasty times we live in...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Michael Moore should be flattered...

Really, why are folks like Chris Matthews even on the air?

More signs of American decay...

Japan spends 3x as a percentage of GDP on nanotech than the United States...

Cientifica (London, England) says it interviewed government funding agencies and researchers around the world, and finds that many of them have only just begun working on nanotechnologies while government funding is harder to get than imagined.

The just published report, called “Where Has My Money Gone? Governemnt Nanotechnology Funding and the $18 billion Pair of Pants”, concludes that Japan spends three times as much on the technology as a proportion of its gross domestic product as the U.S...

They say government nanotechnology funding takes an average of two to three years before it even reaches the lab, and consequently the impact of nanotechnology will only start to be felt from 2007 onwards.

It also warns that much of the government spending is concentrated on research areas with little immediate commercial impact.

Commenting on the findings, Cientifica CEO Tim Harper said: "Only by talking to the people at the coal face of nanotechnology, the research labs, can you get a real idea of what nanotechnology is all about. These people speak a very different language from that of Wall Street, and the story that emerges is very different from the hype and over expectation that we have come to associate with nanotechnology."

Venture capital isn't going to any early stage start-ups...

[A]s a percentage of total venture capital investing ... late-stage deals hit a record high in 2005, taking in about 45% of the total VC investments during the year, according to the MoneyTree report released Tuesday.

Late-stage investing accounted for only 37% of the VC total in 2004. During the venture capital sector's record year in 2000 -- when more than $104 billion was invested -- only 15% went to companies in the late-stage phase...

For 2005, total venture capital investments were $21.7 billion, compared with $21.6 billion invested in 2004. Venture investing has picked up slightly from the post-Tech-bubble low of $19.6 billion in 2003.

Deal activity remained flat as well, with 2,939 venture capital deals inked during the year. The previous period saw 2,966 venture cap deals secured.

During the fourth-quarter, total venture capital investments were $5.1 billion, down from the $5.4 billion reported for the third quarter and below the $5.8 billion seen in the same period the previous year.

The sharp growth in late-stage investments came at the expense of companies in the so-called expansion stage. This segment raised only $7.8 billion in venture cap during the year, down 16% from the $9.3 billion raised during the previous year.

But take comfort; though the minimum wage is in no danger of rising anytime soon, McDonald's is raking in the dough.

Let them flip burgers!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Stop calling him smirking chimp!

Bonzo was smarter than his star, it seems; and at least when Reagan had advanced Alzeimer's...more human?

They already use basic tools, have rudimentary language and star in TV commercials, but now scientists have proof that chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than other great apes.

Genetic tests comparing DNA from humans, chimps, gorillas and orang-utans reveal striking similarities in the way chimps and humans evolve that set them apart from the others.

The finding adds weight to a controversial proposal to scrap the long-used chimp genus "Pan" and reclassify the animals as members of the human family. The move would give chimps a new place in creation's pecking order alongside humans, the only survivor of the genus Homo...

According to the scientists, whose study appears today in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the finding suggests some human traits only emerged 1m years ago, a fleeting moment on evolutionary scales...

In 1991, the Pulitzer prize-winning ecologist Jared Diamond called humans "the third chimpanzee", setting us alongside the common chimp (Pan troglodytes) and its less aggressive but astoundingly promiscuous cousin, the bonobo (Pan paniscus). By 1999 confusion over the biological status of chimpanzees prompted scientists in New Zealand to join forces with lawyers to petition the country's government to pass a bill conferring "rights" on chimpanzees and other primates. The move drew derision...

In 2003, researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit again ignited the debate when they found that 99.4% of the most critical DNA sites are identical in human and chimp genes, prompting the lead researcher, Morris Goodman, to declare that chimps and humans should be brought together under the same umbrella genus, Homo.

Which of course begs the question: Joe Carter has a problem eating human cadavers, if he is starving to death. (See comments.) Does he have a problem with chimpanzees?

Bush lie of the day: Nobody anticpated the levees would break...

Uh-oh...Katrina smoking gun time...

A 41-page assessment by the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), was delivered by e-mail to the White House's "situation room," the nerve center where crises are handled, at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, the day the storm hit, according to an e-mail cover sheet accompanying the document.

The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina's size would "likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching" and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair. Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.

In a second document, also obtained by The Washington Post, a computer slide presentation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prepared for a 9 a.m. meeting on Aug. 27, two days before Katrina made landfall, compared Katrina's likely impact to that of "Hurricane Pam," a fictional Category 3 storm used in a series of FEMA disaster-preparedness exercises simulating the effects of a major hurricane striking New Orleans. But Katrina, the report warned, could be worse.

The hurricane's Category 4 storm surge "could greatly overtop levees and protective systems" and destroy nearly 90 percent of city structures, the FEMA report said. It further predicted "incredible search and rescue needs (60,000-plus)" and the displacement of more than a million residents.

The NISAC analysis accurately predicted the collapse of floodwalls along New Orleans's Lake Pontchartrain shoreline, an event that the report described as "the greatest concern." The breach of two canal floodwalls near the lake was the key failure that left much of central New Orleans underwater and accounted for the bulk of Louisiana's 1,100 Katrina-related deaths...

President Bush, in a televised interview three days after Katrina hit, suggested that the scale of the flooding in New Orleans was unexpected. "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm," Bush said in a Sept. 1 interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

I guess we can add that to the Katrina time-line...

The NY Times on the WaPo Howell brouhaha

and the first words that pop into my head are a "Fuuuuuuck youuuuuu." Not very Buddhist of me, and I wish that were not my response... but still...

Coming after last summer's disastrous experiment in open-source editorials at The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post's disinvitation to the public could be seen as just another pratfall by the mainstream media.

But that is not the whole truth. Newspapers like The Post and The New York Times present a large, juicy target for dissent from both the right and the left. Finding an appropriate way to feature and moderate comments from the reading public is challenging not just for the old-line media, but for many of the Web's most robust destinations, including Craigslist, BoingBoing.net, Huffington Post and Lucianne.com.

Feedback, as any rock guitarist can tell you, is not always a pleasant-sounding thing. The trouble with a community built of one-way e-mail messages posing as two-way communication is that when people can say anything, they frequently do - a fact of digital life that goes back to The Well, the pioneering online community that presaged the potential and the potential pitfalls of digital social discourse beginning in 1985.

If the first e-mail message did not flame the recipient, the response probably did. There is a kind of permission that hangs over the keyboard along with anonymity that often leads to more over-the-top argument than reasoned exposition.

It is not a site-specific problem," said Jim Brady, executive editor of washingtonpost.com. He pointed out that the newspaper had many active discussions on other parts of the site, but that the signal-to-noise ratio in the post.blog discussion had deteriorated to the point that two Post employees could not keep up with filtering responses.

"As a certain point, you think, 'Why should we be handing them a weapon against us?' If all they are going to do is call people names, why would we do that? The question becomes whether we are able to set the rules of engagement on our own site."

Ms. Howell, a longtime newswoman who has heard and uttered her share of tough talk, was dumbstruck by how personal and vicious the debate had become. (Full disclosure: About 25 years ago, Ms. Howell turned me down for a job, but I was nowhere near the Post Web site on Thursday.)

"It was a mistake, but they wanted me to be drawn and quartered at high noon in the public square," she said. "This was a huge learning experience for me. I have to be very precise and have a very tough skin." Ms. Howell tacked back to the subject in her regular newspaper column yesterday, a move likely to provide more rocks for what she called "a public stoning."

Bull. In a world as profane and nasty as the one Bush has given us, the "they hurt me with their words" argument just doesn't cut it.

Now while I would probably agree with the late Phil Ochs that in an ugly world the true protest is beauty, I would also submit that ugliness and hatred set in motion further ugliness and hatred; witness Palestine, or Cambodia.

Ms. Howell worries about a "public stoning." Why should she worry about mere words, when the actions of the Bush regime and their corruption are what are really of concern?

National Sanctity of Human Life Day...

The myth and the reality under George W. Bush.

Beware of the Balut Eggs...

Joe Carter tries to raise the concept of eating fetuses to some moral arguement today. Which reminds me of my weekend...

Carter's post triggers reminiscinces of chuckles - nah, memmories of guffaws- unleashed in the gastronomic sancta of some very good but moderatly priced restaurants in Asia- because I am reminded of Mary Roach's book Stiffs: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, and especially the chapter entitled "Eat Me," which is of particular relevance to this discussion, in which it is made known that the stories about aborted babies being made into food in China was a made-up-from-whole-cloth story by the religious right (as was the Reuters story about two brothers, one of whom worked at a crematorium and another who worked in a Restaurant). But that doesn't mean that some medications in China are embryo-free.

It's possible they're not, according to Roach.

Well, let's leave that question there, and consider whether your yuck factor going into overdrive- as my dear wife's did - when she saw 2 dozen eggs at a very attractive price in the new Asian market that just opened. Only they were labelled Balut eggs.

Not knowing what Balut eggs are (after all, it's not a Chinese word), my wife bought the eggs, and returned home to make her rice cakes. She took out a mixing bowl, poured in the rice flour, the milk, but when it came time to crack the eggs, she noticed that the eggs had chicken embryos in them.

What my story illustrates, is, despite Carter's misanthropism, ("P.Z. Meyers would do it for a million bucks!") is that if you're making rice-cakes, Balut eggs or human fetuses simply won't do, and even someone who knows about the concept of consumption of the placenta of homo sapiens will be taken aback when a chicken fetus appears in the mixing bowl.

So I would have to say, it most certainly depends on the cuisine and method of preparation. As the Food Network show Iron Chef has shown, add enough truffles and caviar to a dish, and Asako Kishi will praise it to high heaven every time. And you know caviar are eggs, too.

In the bible, its passages that don't-condemn-eating-babies don't go into any great detail about the method of preparation, and so we can't really know what they tasted like. But perhaps with enough garlic and butter, ...who knows? People will eat snails if there is a sufficient quantity of garlic and butter present.

Now if that arouses your yuck factor, and righteous indignation, perhaps you can imagine how a vegan raw foodist like Tre Arrow might feel.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Thoughts on an actually dry Sunday...

You can learn a lot about yourself just by paying attention to how you are when served even just a cup of tea.

If you still had any doubts

about how rabidly right-wing the media is in this country, and how they will go to ridiculous lengths to promote Republican-fascist ideas in this coutnry, despite the danger to Americans, Media Matters has the cold hard facts.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Michael Moore responds, appropriately, to ChrisMatthews...

(A whole photo collage is here.)
When you understand that having the Bush regime in charge of acting against terrorists is like having them in charge of FEMA after hurricane Katrina, and that Matthews has been silent as a mouse on THAT topic, he's more than fair game...metaphorically speaking.

"The Profane Meltdown of the Left"

Warning: Salty, blue, risqué, off-color, ribald, dirty, FILTHY, potty-mouthed language ahead...with apologies to George Carlin...

Via Atrios, I saw a reverberation of the story about the Washington Post shutting down their comments section because Deborah Howell couldn't admit she was just making things up, or repeating Republican propaganda or both, ...and allegedly because some folks used some words that they probably shouldn't have.

So, the Washington Post.com's Jim Brady speaks to none other than Hugh Hewitt, the religious right's answer to Hank the Angry Drunken dwarf about it..

HH: Moving from an interview with the Vice President to an interview with Jim Brady, executive editor of Washingtonpost.com, the phenomenally successful online edition of the Washington Post. Mr. Brady, welcome. Before we get to the meltdown yesterday, and your response today, you were a very fine sports for many years, and you were covering sports at the Post from '87-'95, correct?

JB: Correct.

HH: And you were the sports editor there from '95-'99, correct?

JB: On the website.

HH: Yup. So I think you'd have to agree that the Cleveland Indians of '97 and '99 were perhaps the best team ever not to have won the World Series?

JB: Well, as a Long Island native, I'd have to go with the '86 Mets, but that's just me.

HH: Well then, well, we hope you're a better web editor than you are a sports judge.

JB: (laughing)

HH: Jim Brady, you had a meltdown...A) congrats on going online today and answering your critics, and congrats for coming here. Explain to the audience what happened yesterday.

JB: This actually all started on Sunday when the ombudsman of the newsman, Deborah Howell wrote a column about the Abramoff scandal, and in that column, made a reference to both Republicans and Democrats being the beneficiary of Abramoff donations. And what she should have said, and what she put up on the blog on Thursday was that he directed...he did direct contributions to Democrats, which is undeniable. There's lot of documents that show that. But when she wrote it in the column, it was phrased in a way that made it seem like he was personally giving money to the Democrats, of which there isn't proof of that at this point. So on Thursday, she put a clarification up, and we had already been getting hundreds and hundreds of comments about her column, and they were very, very nasty, using words that I didn't even know existed. And after she put the clarification up yesterday, it just got worse and worse, to the point where we just felt like we were not able to keep...we were unable to get rid of the offensive comments faster than they were coming. And so we decided, you know, to take the comments in that blog down for a little while, just to let things cool off, and for us, to look at how do we make sure this doesn't happen in the future. Do we get technology that makes it easier to weed these out? Or do we just pour more human beings on the case? So...

(Bullshit remark in red...)

Folks have pretty much aready debunked the "directed contributions" thing: there isn't a shred of evidence to show that Abramoff was directing contributions to anyone other than Repubicans, nor was there any evidence that there was anything illegal about some groups' contributions to Democrats.

Now, on to my real rant...profane? meltdown?

You want a profane meltdown? How bout considering for a microsecond a politically powerful group that equates zygotes and the brain-dead with living people.

That's fucking bullshit.

How about a regime that sees no problem with using scare tactics to maintain their political power.

That's fucking bullshit.

How about a regime that has screwed up Medicare, disaster relief, the budget, the long term viability of the US economy, civil liberties, the ability of the US to defend itself from foreign enemies, and has engaged on a relentless war against the truth and the English language itself?

Now that simply is ...worse than fucking, bullshit.

That's so profane I can't even find good potty-mouth words to express it.

And finally, how about a media that is nothing but a cheap, two-bit propaganda mill, with less truth in it than Communist regimes' propaganda rags runing full tilt?

Now that's really profane.

Welcome to the Neigbhorhood indeed!

So, if I'm not mistaken, Welcome to the Neigborhood's fate was in part at least was a substitutionary atonement , to allow for the justification and redemption of both the Disney Corporation and the Chronicles of Narnia.

Have I got that right? So that's the Christian allegory?

Ten days before the first episode was to be shown, ABC executives canceled "Welcome to the Neighborhood," saying that they were concerned that viewers who might have been appalled at some early statements made in the show - including homophobic barbs - might not hang in for the sixth episode, when several of those same neighbors pronounced themselves newly open-minded about gays and other groups.

ABC acted amid protests by the National Fair Housing Alliance, which had expressed concern about a competition in which race, religion and sexual orientation were discussed as factors in the awarding of a house. But two producers of the show, speaking publicly about the cancellation for the first time, say the network was confident it had the legal standing to give away a house as a game-show prize. One, Bill Kennedy, a co-executive producer who helped develop the series with his son, Eric, suggested an alternative explanation. He said that the protests might have been most significant as a diversion that allowed the Walt Disney Company, ABC's owner, to pre-empt a show that could have interfered with a much bigger enterprise: the courting of evangelical Christian audiences for "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Disney hoped that the film, widely viewed as a parable of the Resurrection, would be the first in a profitable movie franchise.

In the months and weeks before "Welcome to the Neighborhood" was to have its premiere, as Disney sought to build church support for "Narnia," four religious groups lifted longtime boycotts of the company that had been largely prompted by Disney's tolerance of periodic gatherings by gay tourists at its theme parks. Representatives for two of those groups now say that broadcasting "Neighborhood" could have complicated their support for "Narnia." One, the Southern Baptist Convention, with more than 16 million members, lifted the last of the boycotts against Disney on June 22, a week before ABC announced it was pulling the series.

BTW, am I supposed to get upset over this? Overjoyed over this? I mean they cancel a piece of dreck to appease a bunch of fundamentalists so that they shell out their cash for another piece of dreck.

What would the folks at the Free Enterprise Action Fund say about this? Oh, yeah...

Why is “corporate social responsibility” a threat?
CSR activists circumvent our democratic process by trying to implement their social agendas through businesses rather the public political process. They try to force businesses to adopt policies and practices outside existing laws and regulations. These activists define what constitutes “corporate social responsibility” according to their own political and social beliefs, and then pressure corporate managements to adopt their agendas. Targeted corporations—fearing organized boycott, negative publicity, shareholder controversy, litigation, and/or product disparagement—often choose to appease these activists.

CSR distracts business from business. CSR activists and initiatives distract corporate managements from their traditional responsibility of operating businesses in the long-term best interests of investors. CSR can harm a company’s ability to conduct business based on sound economics, sound science, and traditional business goals and practices.

But let's not be troubled by such issues and rejoice in the happy outcome for the neighborhood at least:

The producers say that it is worth noting that a show that exists mainly to dispel people's tendencies to prejudge strangers was itself a victim of prejudgments. They also note that in a universe of failed reality-show relationships, this experiment has actually succeeded, yet only out of public view.

Since September, when the Wrights moved into their four-bedroom home in the Circle C Ranch development in southwest Austin, they have had standing Friday-night dinners with one neighborhood family (the Stewarts) and Sunday-night dinners with another (the Bellamys), whose twin teenage daughters are now their son's regular baby sitters.

Meanwhile, the neighbor who was the Wrights' earliest on-camera antagonist - Jim Stewart, 53, who is heard in an early episode saying, "I would not tolerate a homosexual couple moving into this neighborhood" - has confided to the producers that the series changed him far more than even they were aware.

No one involved in the show, Mr. Stewart said, knew he had a 25-year-old gay son. Only after participating in the series, Mr. Stewart said, was he able to broach his son's sexuality with him for the first time.

Then again, we are talking about Texas. Reading a story about a show like "Welcome to the Neighborhood" is kind of surreal after reading about the St. Patrick's Batallion last night. In that context, the fundamentalists' actions aren't that out of place..

Friday, January 20, 2006

And besides that, the cows have already left the barn...

Salon has a great piece on the Dems and publicly perceived spinelessness:

The larger question hovering over the Democrats, like any other out-of-power
party, is how to strike the right balance between conviction and expediency.
Rich Galen, a Republican strategist, expressed the consultants-know-best
argument in the most bipartisan tone he could muster: "As we Republicans learned with Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition, those on the ideological edges are willing to lose an election on the grounds of doctrinal purity. Consultants
don't do that. Consultants are in the business of winning elections."

But Time magazine columnist Joe Klein ("Primary Colors") will argue in a new book coming out this spring, "Paradise Lost," that misjudgments by Democratic
consultants have played a major role in leaving the party without a power base
more influential than the state of Illinois. And from my own vantage point, the
Democrats' positioning on the eavesdropping issue invites comparisons to their
fetal crouch in the run-up to the Iraqi War. A majority of Senate Democrats
voted for Bush's go-to-war resolution -- including John Kerry, John Edwards and
Hillary Clinton -- at least partly because the pollsters insisted that it was
the only politically safe position, a ludicrous and self-destructive notion in

The problem with a consultant-driven overreliance on polling data
is that it is predicated on the assumption that nothing will happen to jar
public opinion out of its current grooves. As Elaine Kamarck, a top advisor in the Clinton-Gore White House and a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, argued, "These guys [the consultants] just don't get it. They don't understand that in politics strength is better than weakness. And a political party that is always the namby-pamby 'me too' party is a party that isn't going to get anyplace." Kamarck also shrewdly pointed out that if leading
Democrats follow the consultants and abdicate the field on the NSA spying issue
(Hillary Clinton, please call your office), "They're going to leave the critique
open to the far left. And that will exacerbate two problems the Democrats have:
one, that they look too far out of the mainstream, and the other, that they
don't believe in anything."

(Emphasis mine.)

But things have already happened to jar opinion out of its grooves and is likely to continue: oil.

LONDON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - OPEC producer Kuwait's oil reserves are only half
those officially stated, according to internal Kuwaiti records seen by industry
newsletter Petroleum Intelligence Weekly (PIW).
"PIW learns from sources
that Kuwait's actual oil reserves, which are officially stated at around 99
billion barrels, or close to 10 percent of the global total, are a good deal
lower, according to internal Kuwaiti records," the weekly PIW reported on
It said that according to data circulated in Kuwait Oil Co
(KOC), the upstream arm of state Kuwait Petroleum Corp, Kuwait's remaining
proven and non-proven oil reserves are about 48 billion barrels.
from KOC were not immediately available for comment to Reuters.
PIW said the
official public Kuwaiti figures do not distinguish between proven, probable and
possible reserves.
But it said the data it had seen show that of the current
remaining 48 billion barrels of proven and non-proven reserves, only about 24
billion barrels are so far fully proven -- 15 billion in its biggest oilfield

Really, it's time they showed spine and called the Repubs on this whole sham, on the whole dependency on this situation on oil, and came up with a plan to end our oil economy.

Chuck Jaffe gives us a knee-slapper...

I can forgive Jaffe now for his pan of PXN...he's got a really stupid investment here.

The Free Enterprise Action Fund opened last March, and has remained so small that it has yet to have a ticker symbol. It has, however, made plenty of noise, following a strategy that, politically speaking, is pretty much the antithesis of most social investment funds.

The fund claims on its Web site -- www.freeenterpriseactionfund.com -- to be the first mutual fund seeking "long-term capital appreciation through investment and advocacy that promote the American system of free enterprise."

It's hard to find anyone in this country who is against "free enterprise," but the audience for this young fund actually is the viewers of Fox News and the audience of talk-show host Rush Limbaugh. The fund's advocacy stance boils down to opposing many of the things supported by traditional "social investment funds," because issues like global warming or corporate governance distract business from its real role of operating in the best interests of shareholders...

In the case of Free Enterprise Action Fund, shareholders who believe strongly in the fund's mission probably will want to stay put, as their values are not about to change.

Alas, the value of their investment portfolio is not going to change much either.

Free Enterprise Action Fund is, effectively, an advocacy group in search of assets.

Co-manager Steve Milloy, a FoxNews.com columnist, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and publisher of junkscience.com, acknowledges that his job has much more to do with the fund's advocacy than with the actual investing (money management is farmed out to Thinkorswim Advisors in Chicago).

What's more, he's not trying to beat his benchmark; he's focused on the politics. This is where the concept falls apart from an investment perspective.

Milloy says that investors should expect the fund to deliver a stock-market return, akin to its appropriate benchmark, the Standard & Poor's 500. The problem is that the fund's money is not exactly where its mouth is; if Milloy feels strongly that a company is following the wrong path, he doesn't pull money from that stock. Likewise, a company standing up for the values Milloy espouses doesn't get an extra share of the asset pool.

Strip away the rhetoric and you're getting a very expensive, underperforming index fund, while Milloy and his partner Thomas Borelli get a platform for raising their pet issues.

An expense ratio capped at 2% -- ridiculously high for a portfolio of corporate giants like General Electric , Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil makes stock-market returns unrealistic. From inception on March 1 of last year through Dec. 31, Free Enterprise Action was up 2.32 percent; the S&P 500 was up 4.72 percent.

That's ugly.

It's also fairly typical for a fund with a gimmick. Those types of funds -- and clearly some social investment funds with a more liberal point of view are equally focused on the hook rather than the investment process -- get a lot of ink and then disappear in a sea of lackluster performance.

That might be Free Enterprise Action Fund's future too, but Milloy is neither apologetic nor concerned.

"For people who are interested in public policy, the fund is much better than making a contribution to a think-tank," he says. "They get to keep their money, have control of it, they get a market return, and their money is helping to make a difference.

"In a perfect world, we wouldn't do this, but there are people on the other side of these issues doing this already, and we feel we need to fight fire with fire."

My basic principle: unless there's market reasons to assume trends are contrary to what you can intuit from the trends themselves, the trends will continue... you know, a body in motion tends to stay in motion and all that.

BTW, socially responsible investing does work, as long as there's a good business plan as well as a conscience.

David Rovics answers a few questions...

I recently sent him several questions via his website. ( www.davidrovics.com & www.soundclick.com/davidrovics ). David Rovics, in case you haven't heard of him, is basically the best political singer around today. Musically sophisticated (he comes from a musical family), with biting, hard-hitting lyrics, his voice words and music are the sountrack to the left mass movements against the deleterious effects of globalization, Iraq, peak-oil, etc.

When I first hear him, I thought, really, that he is the natural inheritor of the tradition of Phil Ochs, Billy Bragg, et al. I just hope the government stays off his back, unlike what happened to Ochs. I'm sure there's likely fundamental differences in our viewpoints (I suspect I'm more of a pragmatist, but I could be wrong), but in this day and age, viewpoints like Rovics' are necessary; plain and simple.

So seeing his website, and his e-mail address, I e-mailed him. It's not everyday that talent is so accessible. Heck, to be honest, when it comes to what I get paid for, I have to create a psychological construct of a gatekeeper - though my admin sometimes does that role admirably for me.

But I digress. Anyway, David responded to my questions, for which I have great grattitude... so here goes...

1. What do you think of the possibilities for consensus with those like me, who are engaged in the "middle class" lifestyle, raising kids, dealing with HOAs, retirement, etc.? Personally, I think there's great room for consensus, there's a need for understanding though.
i think that if there's any hope for the future there needs to be an understanding about common ground among the vast majority of people in any given society, including ours. economically, what we call the middle class has a heck of a lot more in common with what we used to call the working class than it does with the rich. culturally this may be less the case, which is part of the reason for some of the divisions in society, i'd say. but most people are struggling in one way or another to make ends meet (whether that means really basic stuff like paying the rent or somewhat less basic stuff like sending kids to college). everybody breathes the air and drinks the water, and these things are rapidly being poisoned beyond recognition by the massive corporations who run our country -- and are running it into the ground very quickly.

2. Not all corporations, you might not be aware, are interested in rampaging the environment. My company - no doubt out of self-interest- is one of several Japanese companies expressly pursuing a "Green Strategy." While they do what they have to do for profit (it is capitalism, after all), there are socially responsible companies. Do you have a comment on this?
ok, bear in mind that i'm a musician and not an economist or anything like that. but i'd say it probably depends on what kind of business the company is in. if the company is in the oil or coal business it would be pretty hard for them to be a green company. if the company is in the service sector, or producing solar panels or something, it might not be a problem, in fact it could be an asset. for an energy company, or for many other types of companies, to be green generally would require very heavy government regulation. private enterprise left to it's own devices will not tend to be green. but there are also many in industry who support a heavily regulated market, or some form of socialism, because they, like so many others, realize that the world's environment is being rapidly destroyed by industrial society and that this must change immediately for our survival as a species. leaders of industry have also supported regulation in the past because it ultimately is good for business. for example, a well-paid working class buys more stuff.

3. China. My wife's Chinese. Chinese don't even grasp how big China's problems are. What do you see that's good and bad with respect to China?
well i'm sure that's a bit of a generalization about chinese people not understanding how big china's problems are. there are over a billion people there after all, eh? but anyway, it'd be pretty hard for me to summarize what i think is good or bad about china. what do we mean by china? the government? the people? if the latter, which people? if the former, which aspect of the government?
china, as a whole, is a country in the midst of some of the most unbelievable turmoil ever. over a hundred million unemployed, hungry people roaming around the country looking for work. on the other hand, a growing middle class. both of these things are happening as a result of government policy and the government's drive for industrialization. i'd say generally that the way china is industrializing is unsustainable and bad for most people in china and bad for workers in the rest of the world.
but what are the good things about china? far too many to name. lots of wonderful people, fascinating traditions, a culture so far ahead of most of the rest of the world for so long, in terms of medicine, science, technology, philosophy... i've been fascinated by china and chinese culture since i was a kid.

4. What is the best way to get enough folks together to see a truly pregressive vision in the US?
if i knew the answer to this, that would be great. in general i think that for people to have vision they have to have a lens thru which to view the world, otherwise it can be very blurry and confusing. education about the realities of the world, of u.s. foreign and domestic policy, of history, is necessary to make sense of things, to develop a progressive vision (which is what happens when you make sense of things). so i'd say people need, first, to educate each other, thru whatever means -- creating media, writing books, doing journalism, teaching in schools, singing ballads, etc.

5. What things that aren't changed are you willing to live with?
that's an extremely vague question, i must say. there are far too many things for me to even know where to start. but it kind of tells me something about where you're coming from. you're assuming i and people like me want to change things. this is not the case, in the main. i and people like me want to conserve things. industrial capitalism is changing society and the very planet itself at an unbelievable pace, in mostly very negative ways. what i want is to conserve the way things should be -- conserve the clean air, the forests we need for life, the clean water, the towns and cities that used to be so beautiful before wal-mart came, etc. i want us to stick with tried and true organic farming and crop rotation, not monocropping and pesticides. less change, more conservation, that's what i say!

6. What do you think of my blog? (Forewarning: I do include a bit of investment information on my blog; while I share lots of progressive's views on over-consumption, pollution, etc., I do think that it is immoral naievete not to acquire sufficent economic power to defeat the bastards on their own terms.)
just judging from that parenthetical statement i'd say that i think that's great, to acquire economic power to try to defeat the bastards on their own terms. a worthwhile thing to do. the progressive movement definitely needs money and other resources to function. but i'm currently on a plane, offline, and haven't had a chance to check out your blog yet...

7. What do you think of George Soros? Warren Buffett?
i don't really know enough about either of them to say one way or the other.

8. You are aware that pirates' lives sucked really badly, even without the violence, right?
that's yet another extremely vague statement. define "sucked really badly." if you are a slave and you gain your freedom, does your life "suck really badly" because you continue to be hungry, or is it a joyous and wonderful (if short) thing even despite the hunger, because you have freed yourself from your captors and have formed a community of freed slaves who are, if again briefly, making their own decisions on a consensus basis and having great parties in the midst of the violence and deprivation of the seafaring life?
so let me ask you the question: you are aware that pirates lives were sometimes full of the most incredible joy imaginable, that of a freed slave, even despite the violence, right?

(Me:)To answer that question: Yes, I'd say that freedom from slavery was quite exhilarating; but what also was on my mind was -slave or free- the incredibly short life-span; the thirst, the storms, the brutal physical labor involved, the scurvy, the lack of medical care, etc.. Getting a thing like a sailing ship driven by wind to actually maneuver on the high seas was backbreaking. And of course, finally, much of piracy was in furtherance of another country's national aims; a proxy war.

Thanks again David, and I hope that good things happen...