Saturday, June 21, 2008

¡Vete a la chingada!

My Spanish is a bit rusty (well actually very rusty - though I can read better than speak), but that sentence translates roughly to "go fuck yourself." Let's just say that I would love to say that to every blogger who has discovered Barack Obama isn’t Dennis Kucinich, hence this evening I am taking the opportunity to do so.

Buyer's remorse means very little to me.

I owe a huge hat tip to Doc Logan, for most of the links and the bit about bloggers discovering Barack Obama isn't Dennis Kucinich. Credit where credit is due and all that.

Spreading "freedom"

From Lenin's Tomb (How to run a counterinsurgency):
US military guide, from Wikileaks:
The manual directly advocates training paramilitaries, pervasive surveillance, censorship, press control and restrictions on labor unions & political parties. It directly advocates warrantless searches, detainment without charge and (under varying circumstances) the suspension of habeas corpus. It directly advocates employing terrorists or prosecuting individuals for terrorism who are not terrorists, running false flag operations and concealing human rights abuses from journalists. And it repeatedly advocates the use of subterfuge and "psychological operations" (propaganda) to make these and other "population & resource control" measures more palatable.
That passage above seemed like just a normal day in the US. As our ruling oligarchs view it, what's good for those residing within the US is good for the rest of the world. Last thing they want is for us rabble to actually have any semblance of control over our circumstances.

The FISA Rogues Gallery

Here's the roll call for HR 6304. I can guess who the usual suspects will be in the Senate when it comes for a vote there. I've had a list of Senators who voted to do away with habeas corpus from the last Congressional session. I'll be replacing that with a list of Senators who give the White House what amounts to carte blanch to spy on any of us. 1984 came 24 years late.

The latest on the Iraqi refugee crisis

It's bad. Very bad. I've mentioned before the mass human displacement that the colonization of Iraq has caused. Here's yet another article that lays it out:
Half a million Iraqis fled their homes last year creating the worst refugee crisis in the world, a report said yesterday.

Most went to Syria and neighbouring countries.

The US took 1,500 - less than half the number it promised to resettle.

The US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants said: "While Bush and the UK are busy trying to win the war, they have provided no leadership towards ensuring the rights and well-beings of victims."
Of course they've provided no leadership, because the rights and well-being of the victims was never a priority. To put it more bluntly, the US and UK leaders never gave a flying fuck about the Iraqis whose lives would be shattered. They were little more than fauna who happened to be in the way of a grand experiment in disaster capitalism. From an article I quoted before called Iraq's broken pieces don't fit together:
The orgy of failure and corruption in 2007 was an unmitigated disaster for Iraqi society, as well as an embarrassment for the American occupation. From the point of view of long-term American goals in Iraq, however, this storm cloud, like so many others, had a silver lining. The Iraqi government's incapacity to perform at almost any level became but further justification for the claims first made by Bremer at the very beginning of the occupation: that the country's reconstruction would be best handled by private enterprise.

Moreover, the mass flight of Iraqi professionals, managers and technicians has meant that expertise for reconstruction has simply been unavailable inside the country. This has, in turn, validated a second set of claims made by Bremer: that reconstruction could only be managed by large outside contractors.

This neo-liberal reality was brought into focus in late 2007, as the last of the money allocated by the U.S. Congress for Iraqi reconstruction was being spent. A "petroleum exodus" (first identified by the Wall Street Journal) had long ago meant that most of the engineers needed for maintaining the decrepit oil business were already foreigners, mostly "imported from Texas and Oklahoma".

The foreign presence had, in fact, become so pervasive that the main headquarters for the maintenance and development of the Rumaila oil field in southern Iraq (the source of more than two-thirds of the country's oil at present) runs on both Iraqi and Houston time. The American firms in charge of the field's maintenance and development, KBR and PIJV, have been utilizing a large number of subcontractors, most of them American or British, very few of them Iraqi.

These American-funded projects, though, have been merely "stopgaps". When the money runs out, vast new moneys will be needed just to sustain Rumaila's production at its present level.

According to Harpers Magazine senior editor Luke Mitchell, who visited the field in the summer of 2007, Iraqi engineers and technicians are "smart enough and ambitious enough" to sustain and "upgrade" the system once the American contracts expire, but such a project would take upwards of two decades because of the compromised condition of the government and the lack of skilled local engineers and technicians. The likely outcome, when the American money departs, therefore is either an inadequate effort in which work proceeds "only in fits and starts"; or, more likely, new contracts in which the foreign companies would "continue their work", paid for by the Iraqi government.

With regard to the petroleum industry, therefore, what the refugee crisis guaranteed was long-term Iraqi dependence on outsiders. In every other key infrastructural area, a similar dependence was developing: electrical power, the water system, medicine, and food were, de facto, being "integrated" into the global system, leaving oil-rich Iraq dependent on outside investment and largesse for the foreseeable future. Now, that's a 20-year plan for you, one that at least 4.5 million Iraqis, out of their homes and, in many cases, out of the country as well, will be in no position to participate in.

Most horror stories come to an end, but the most horrible part of this horror story is its never-ending quality. Those refugees who have left Iraq now face a miserable limbo life, as Syria and other receiving countries exhaust their meager resources and seek to expel many of them. Those seeking shelter within Iraq face the depletion of already minimal support systems in degrading host communities whose residents may themselves be threatened with displacement.

From the vast out-migration and internal migrations of its desperate citizens comes damage to society as a whole that is almost impossible to estimate. The displacement of people carries with it the destruction of human capital. The destruction of human capital deprives Iraq of its most precious resource for repairing the damage of war and occupation, condemning it to further infrastructural decline. This tide of infrastructural decline is the surest guarantee of another wave of displacement, of future floods of refugees.

As long as the United States keeps trying to pacify Iraq, it will create wave after wave of misery.
And since I feel the need to repeat myself, right after that quote, I said:
The far less feel-good narrative is that those who pushed for and executed the war knew exactly what they were doing, and are quite comfortable with the massive human displacement that has resulted. In other contexts, it gets referred to as "shock therapy," and indeed Naomi Klein refers to Iraq as just one more test case for Friedmanesque neoliberalism in her recent book, The Shock Doctrine (here's a video that gives you some idea of what to expect from the book - not a substitute for reading the book of course!!). Heck, RickB of Ten Percent makes something of a reference to Klein's book in his post The Surge Doctrine - which is what turned me on to the article I just excerpted (a tip o' the hat to you RickB!). The complete drain of qualified scholars and technicians has guaranteed that Iraq - or whatever it eventually becomes - will be stuck with US and UK firms running the country (for a hefty fee, of course), while the rest of the government is little more than a hollowed-out shell. For some corporate executives, it's quite a racket they're running. The masses of now-disposable humanity, kept largely out of sight and out of mind is by design. Those few Iraqis who manage to make any semblance of a living there will accept ridiculously low wages without complaint for fear of losing even that pittance. As long as the chaos remains contained outside of The Green Zone, everything is just hunky-dory.
You should also read this excerpt from Naomi Klein's book, The Shock Doctrine (oh, just read the whole book while you're at it). The Democrats, of course, will not do a damned thing to stop it. I realize this seems to come as a shock to most partisan "progressive" bloggers and commentators. When they ask the question, "was this what we voted for in 2006?", the best possible answer is, "Yes!" You got exactly what you voted for. It's what you will vote for this year too. Why you would want that...well, you'll have to do your own soul-searching there, sport.

Misleading headline

If all you saw was the headline, "Science teacher dissed evolution," you probably wouldn't think much of it. It's not uncommon to find some crackpots in just about any school district. Part of my job as a parent is to do some deprogramming when and if my kids encounter such crackpots, and of course when they encounter the inevitable propaganda that passes for social studies. As I said, if that were all to the story, there wouldn't be much of a story. What actually went on, and what the headline entirely fails to capture is the following:

The report confirmed that Freshwater burned crosses onto students' arms, using an electrostatic device, in December.

Freshwater told investigators the marks were X's, not crosses. But all of the students interviewed in the investigation reported being branded with crosses. The investigation report includes a photo of one student's arm with a long vertical line and a short horizontal line running through it.

The family of one student who was burned filed a federal lawsuit last week against Freshwater and the district, saying the student's civil rights were violated.

Yesterday, the family's attorney, Jessica Philemond, said it was "unfortunate" that the school district didn't do anything sooner to stop Freshwater.

"These concerns had been going on for at least 11 years, and the school had not done anything," she said.

The real headline should have been something like "incompetent teacher torture students." This passage, quoting the teacher's attorney, though is jaw-dropping:
"With the exception of the cross-burning episode. … I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district," he said.
Apparently, the "values" of the parents in that school district include what amounts to incompetent teaching (students from his classes were at a distinct disadvantage compared to students who had 8th grade science from other instructors). That district's administrators also have a lot of explaining to do.

I'm sure that Freshwater has a bright future as a torturer for the US government. He'd fit right in.

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Women and children first" (21st century edition)

Found over at The Fanonite (another blog worthy of regular readership). I'd say the picture speaks for itself. But for those needing a translation, let me offer you a sampler of items that will be of assistance. Given the news that the major oil conglomerates are now finally poised to profit off the carnage that has been wrought, maybe a few lines from my essay, The Iraq War Debacle Was Truly a Debacle For Some, would be a good place to begin:
The narrative we usually receive from center-left (as narrowly defined in the US) is of a war that was poorly executed. Get some competent folks in the White House, and Iraq will be put back together again.

The far less feel-good narrative is that those who pushed for and executed the war knew exactly what they were doing, and are quite comfortable with the massive human displacement that has resulted. In other contexts, it gets referred to as "shock therapy," and indeed Naomi Klein refers to Iraq as just one more test case for Friedmanesque neoliberalism in her recent book, The Shock Doctrine (here's a video that gives you some idea of what to expect from the book - not a substitute for reading the book of course!!). Heck, RickB of Ten Percent makes something of a reference to Klein's book in his post The Surge Doctrine - which is what turned me on to the article I just excerpted (a tip o' the hat to you RickB!). The complete drain of qualified scholars and technicians has guaranteed that Iraq - or whatever it eventually becomes - will be stuck with US and UK firms running the country (for a hefty fee, of course), while the rest of the government is little more than a hollowed-out shell. For some corporate executives, it's quite a racket they're running. The masses of now-disposable humanity, kept largely out of sight and out of mind is by design. Those few Iraqis who manage to make any semblance of a living there will accept ridiculously low wages without complaint for fear of losing even that pittance. As long as the chaos remains contained outside of The Green Zone, everything is just hunky-dory.

In another context, Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas referred to the mass-displacement caused by NAFTA as genocidal. That would seem quite an apt summary of what's going on in Iraq.
In the follow-up to that essay I strongly recommended Naomi Klein's writing on the topic. Although estimates of the death toll in Iraq vary, the ballpark figure of one million seems to be fairly reasonable. The vast majority of these folks were civilians (often women and children) who've been killed from 40,000 pound bombs, cluster bombs, depleted uranium bombs, and white phosphorous dropped from US war planes. The term "urbicide" has been used to characterize that war, and although the genocidal nature of urbicide should be obvious enough (Fallujah, like Guernica nearly seven decades before it), our elites seem to find its effects "reassuring". In addition to those killed directly from the US occupation, there are some 4.2 million displaced as a result of the US invasion and occupation. As I discussed in Structural Violence and the Iraqi Death Toll:
The displaced are systematically deprived of the basics for survival, resulting in poverty, malnutrition, premature death. That's what structural violence is. The physical harm suffered in this case usually falls underneath the mass-media radar because it is less salient, less spectacular than deaths due to IEDs or aerial bombing raids. The structural violence in this case (as is true of various colonial genocides of the past) will also fall underneath the radar because it is built into the very fabric of the oppressors' worldview. Starvation and malnutrition for example are simply written off as "those savages cannot take care of themselves." The more liberal of the oppressors might even acknowledge such phenomena as partially their responsibility, but cheerfully contend that in the end "it was worth it" as Madeleine Albright said of the half million Iraqi children under five who had died as a result of economic sanctions during the 1990s.

The deaths caused from the stress of being displaced, and without access to fundamental human needs for survival are no less real, even if they don't make their way to the front page of New Pravda or cause CNN to break away from its coverage of the latest Britney Spears meltdown. Sooner or later, there will be a price to be paid. Bet on it.
Americans may not wish to occupy their beautiful minds with such thoughts, but unless or until then, the bloodshed will be continued unabated. As I mentioned at the time,
We're largely desensitized to violence. We see it all the time. We play video games where we too can be murderers and tortures - at least in a virtual reality. We've been fed plenty of propaganda about the so-called savages who populate the Middle East and Central Asia, and about the supposed danger that practitioners of Islam pose. They've been dehumanized with such terms as "camel jockeys," "sand niggers," and "hadjis," much in the same way that a previous generation used terms like "gooks" as part of an effort to dehumanize another set of human beings on another part of the globe. Same act, different scene.
The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.
It's part of my value system to believe that nothing good comes out of lying. Contrary to the neoconmen who have been hell-bent to run the show in DC, there is no such thing as "the noble lie." Some lies are more egregious than others, and I would offer that the pack of lies that has led to over 2100 US deaths, somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 Iraqi deaths, and countless thousands of others permanently maimed and all psychologically damaged is particularly egregious. We all will be paying a hefty price for what has gone down these last two and a half years and counting.
We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. 'We don't do body counts,' said the American general Tommy Franks.
That tells you all you need to know about the elites who perpetrated this war.
Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.
We mustn't get "dirty" or worry our "beautiful minds" with such matters, eh?
Arthur Silber does a wonderful job of conveying the bloody realities of war that should be must reading. It is a necessary tonic for the usual propagandized version of the so-called "good wars". I also made mention of just how sanitized the language of war and empire is,
Phrases like "the American people" give the air of consensus, although in truth such consensus may not exist. Don't even get me started on terms like "freedom" and "democracy" which in the context of defending US policies have a different meaning than most of us would give those terms. As Wittgenstein might have said, it's a good idea to know the rules of the language games that our government employs in order to truly understand what they are saying.
The truth is, the War on Terror is a War OF Terror - one that has outright slaughtered over a million (certainly once one adds Afghanistan and Somalia to the mix) as well as starvation and disease resulting for millions more as a result of mass displacement, with the potential for much more in the years to come. The Democrats, who ran in 2006 on a misleading campaign to end the Iraq War have managed to not only fail to end it, but continue to generously fund the continued slaughter. They will likely do so over the next several years even if they have the absolute power that comes with the White House and Congressional majorities, contrary to their apologists on the usual partisan blogs. Like their neocon colleagues, they see the US war machine as "The Splendid Blond Beast."

So, why do you support?

Science Friday: Ice on Mars

I thought this was cool. The picture below shows some of the ice on Mars.

From the article:

In a photograph released Thursday evening of a trench that the Phoenix Mars lander has dug into the Martian soil, some white patches that were seen earlier in the week have shrunk, and eight small chunks have disappeared. Until now, scientists were not sure if the white material was ice or some kind of salt.

When exposed to air, water ice can change into water vapor, a process known as sublimation. Salt, on the other hand, is not capable of such a vanishing act.

“It must be ice,” said Dr. Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, the mission’s principal investigator. “The whole science team thinks this. I think we feel this is definite proof that these are little chunks of icy material.”

Water ice on the surface of Mars is not a new discovery. Scientists have known that the permanent ice cap at Mars’s north pole is made of ice. In 2002, measurements by the orbiting Mars Odyssey spacecraft found evidence for vastly larger quantities of ice not far beneath the surface.

In light of the Odyssey findings, the Phoenix mission was designed to land in the northern arctic plains and dig trenches in the soil into the ice layer, believed to be a few inches under the surface. Still, to actually see the ice was “tremendously exciting,” Dr. Smith said. “One of the biggest fears I’ve had on the mission is that we’d dig and dig and never find anything.”

Liquid water transforms minerals, so impurities in the ice could tell much about the climate history. While Mars is too cold for liquid water, in the past, if its axis occasionally tipped over, the polar regions might have warmed above freezing during the summer.

Liquid water is an essential ingredient for life, and this area may have been, at least intermittently, a habitable environment in Mars’s geologically recent past, in the past 10 million years or so.

One of the experiments on the Phoenix consists of tiny ovens to heat samples of the soil and analyze the vapors released. Data from the first run of the experiment, conducted over the past week, is to be downloaded from the spacecraft on Friday.

The Phoenix dug the trench on Sunday, dislodging the eight chunks, and it took another photograph of the trench on Thursday.

Meanwhile, digging in a different trench on Thursday, the scoop at the end of the Phoenix’s robotic arm hit a hard surface — possibly a hard icy layer — that did not yield after three efforts. The hard layer is at the same depth as the white material in the first trench.

The robotic arm has a scraper and, if necessary, a small drill to break off pieces of the hard material for analysis in one of the ovens, which would determine the chemical composition.

This is the sort of thing that fascinates me to no end.

Impeach Nancy Pelosi

Her "leadership" on the FISA bill catastrophe is just one of many reasons. There's even a reasonable candidate running against her, for those inclined to vote this November.

Oh, and before any of you haul off and say "yeah, the Dems have been disappointing but we have no choice but to vote for them any way," just stop. That drivel is not going to work with me.

The party is just getting started

contra AP, the deeper issues have not been addressed. There's some mention of the potential for the Napsterization of news articles if AP has its way. You remember Napster, right? The RIAA went on a rampage, managed to get Napster shut down (although it eventually reopened as a pay-per-download joint), a handful of individuals ended up being sued for downloading mp3s on other peer-to-peer networks, and mp3 downloads continued relatively unabated. RIAA won some battles but lost the war. AP is likely to see history repeat. In the meantime, the boycott continues.

Hollywood, Hollyweird

Somehow part of a line from Gil Scott-Heron's tune "B-Movie" leaped to mind almost immediately as I read the following over at Lenin's Tomb (Liberal imperialists: send Blackwater into Darfur):
According to the Financial Times:

Mia Farrow, the actress and activist, has asked Blackwater, the US private security company active in Iraq, for help in Darfur after becoming frustrated by the stalled deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force.

Ms Farrow said she had approached Erik Prince, founder and owner of Blackwater, to discuss whether a military role was either feasible or desirable.
Mia Farrow just luvs them mercenaries. I'd be willing to wager she's not alone. Of course, the justification to her would be "humanitarian", which is pretty typical of the "progressive" wing of our nation's warmongers. Of course Ms. Farrow also I'm sure is well aware that goons like those in Blackwater will be increasingly protecting the likes of her from the unwashed masses outside whatever "Green Zone" she happens to be cowering within.

The last thing the good folks who are just trying to survive need is Blackwater's mercenary goons going on shooting rampages in their neighborhoods.

See also Stop Me Before I Vote Again. Killing for kindness pretty well sums up the mentality.

What the war was really about

Oil giants return to Iraq.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Your Democratic Majority at Work

Capitulation on FISA seems to be the order of the day. Well, capitulation might be a strong word, given that there simply isn't much disagreement between the two anointed parties about the "need" to spy on us unwashed masses. I still say boycott the fuckers out of existence.

So, where's the change?

Looks like more of the same to me. Arthur Silber tells ya why. Ignore at your own risk.

Happy Juneteenth!

Read more about it here. My friend over at ¡Para Justicia y Libertad! has a very good post on Juneteenth.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

This would be an interesting class to sit in on

I've been following the blog Zapagringo for a bit, and noticed he's been facilitating a class at the Brecht Forum, Enter the Intergalactic! Zapatismo in the US & the World. The description is as follows:

Since their January 1st, 1994 armed uprising in Southeastern Mexico, the zapatistas have consistently reached out to people from around the world to join them in building a global network “for humanity and against neoliberalism." This network is sometimes referred to as the "Intergalactic"...

Whether you feel like you know a lot or just a little about the zapatistas, this class is designed to meet each participants needs AND ENGAGE ALL in a meaningful exploration of what it means to fight for a better world in these times.

We will explore the following questions:
I) What is the Fourth World War and what does it mean for how we struggle today?
II) What is the zapatistas' Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle? - What has happened since its release in the summer of 2005? - How do its initiatives for transnational (Other Campaign) and global (Zezta Internazional) coordination compare to other processes, such as the World Social Forum?
III) What are OUR analyses of the zapatistas' Fourth World War framework, their Sixth Declaration and the initiatives that have followed... and how do we relate to them?

RJ Maccani has posted summaries of the first two session for those of us who can't be there except perhaps in spirit (see here, and here). If you've noticed I've made periodic mention of the Zapatistas and are wanting a crash course, you could do far, far worse.

Mercenary corporation tries to bring Shari'a Law to US

Something else to make wingnut heads explode.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

AssPress commits suicide

Now they want to charge for the "privilege" of quoting their articles. Screw that. With so many other news sources available, bloggers can and will go elsewhere. Welcome to the dustbin of history, AP.

A harbinger

Assuming Plan Mexico is passed and signed into law (dangerously close to becoming reality as I've noted before), we can expect to see the Mexican government, flush with money from the US federal government, ramping up its harassment of Mexico's indigenous peoples under the ruse of fighting "the war on drugs." Kristin Bricker has translated a very recent press release by Fray Bartolome de Las Casas of the Human Rights Center, entitled, Counterinsurgency operations against indigenous communities in resistance intensify. It's a harbinger of what is to come. Once more, civil society needs to keep a light shined on the situation in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, etc., in order to prevent the Calderon government from perpetrating the sorts of abuses which it is all too capable of committing.

What's the difference between a great team and a really great team?

As we can see tonight, as the NBA Championship series concludes, the answer, to paraphrase a line from A Beautiful Mind, is "quite a lot, actually." I knew game six would be a bloodbath. The Lakers were going to lose - it was merely a matter of the extent of the loss. With Boston holding a 30 point lead near the end of the third quarter, it's safe to say that the piranha have not only stripped the flesh from the skeleton that is the Lakers, but have devoured the skeleton as well. Kevin Garnett is a force to be reckoned with in this game, and Kobe and crew simply are not up to the task this season. As much as I root for Phil Jackson, and had hoped he could make history this year, I see a lot to like about Doc Rivers, and his role in turning the formerly moribund Celtics into a powerhouse in just a year's time.

Both teams are young, and are well-coached. If I had to make a prediction for the next few years, it would be merely to expect that the old Lakers-Celtics rivalry of years past has been reignited. Let's get the party started.

I beg to differ

There is another choice, contrary to prevailing wisdom in what passes for a "left" in this country. Of course the Dem "leadership" will sell out on FISA, just like they will sell out on impeachment and ending these idiotic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the life of me, I can't understand why anyone still believes any of them. They have proven themselves entirely useless again and again.

Since I feel the need to repeat myself on the matter, let's try this again. If you want a "left" that truly lives up to the name, it's going to take a radical rethink of how we play the political game. The system is broken. Continuing to pretend that one can work "within the system" with the oligarchs currently entrenched in power is a strategy doomed to failure.

I start with a simple question: "Is less bad good enough?" My answer from nearly three years ago, which I stand by today is:
When lives and quality of life are at stake, the answer is no. As of late I have given the words of the late Malcom X a fresh read, and I have a couple observations. One is that in many respects, when we're talking about civil rights and human rights in America things really haven't changed much since Malcom's day. The images from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina of the dire poverty that has consigned so many of our fellow Americans to a lifetime of marginal existence (what the Marxists would call the lumpenproletariat) and neglect by the very government that is supposed to serve them, will haunt me for as long as I can still draw a breath. Those images should haunt all of us. The specter of racism and classism continues to plague our political and social landscape, just as it has all of my life. The second observation: politicians from one party or another haved talked a good game when it comes to promoting progressive ideas and policies - but with few exceptions they don't walk the talk. That was a problem that Malcom confronted with the issues that were salient to him, and is a problem that we on the left continue to confront. The Dems have assumed for so long that they have the leftists, the women, the ethnic minorities in their back pockets because presumably we have "nowhere else to go." The result is, as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, a not-so-benign neglect of our issues and values from the powers that be. And as long as we keep registering Democrat and periodically show up to vote when expected, nothing changes, except maybe for the worse. We have a party where its members say the right things more often than not, but then by and large approve laws like The Patriot Act, the bankruptcy bill that will end up burying working families who've encountered exhorbitant medical expenses; they've been silent when the White House nominated an architect of the current pro-torture policy to the office of AG; when it comes to the illegal war being fought against the Iraqis, many of the Dems want to send more troops and kill of even more people; they've been largely silent on the issue of voting irregularities both in Ohio and Florida; and we know that privacy rights are also no longer sacred in Dem circles.

What to do? In Malcom's last year on this planet he offered up some simple advice that I think we can all use: be organized, and don't affiliate with either the Dems or the GOP. That's the general idea behind American Solidarity: organize physically, financially, intellectually. Many of us come from varying backgrounds and have varying pet causes, but let's face it - those of us who are living paycheck to paycheck, those of us who value liberty, who value equality, who value justice, who value privacy have a hell of a lot in common. Technological advances in the last decade or so make it easier for us to coordinate and to exchange ideas and information than ever before. It's way past time to start using those tools to our advantage. Blogs are one of our tools, playing the same role that zines played in the 1980s and pamphlets such as Paine's played during the Revolution some 230 years ago. Blogging is only part of that picture. Cernig fills in some of the details elsewhere. Clearly, unions, thinktanks, civil liberties organizations are going to be salient as well.

Being unaffiliated with the major political parties is also crucial for an American Solidarity movement. The GOP can be written off as a lost cause. The Dems, I'm also skeptical of, but will note this much: if they think we're registered as Dems, they can assume that we'll continue to accept the status quo. Malcom was onto something back in 1964 and 1965 when he advocated refusing to back any candidate until it was clear that they were willing to walk their talk. If they turn out to be kosher, then by all means support them, but only to the extent that they are representing us. If they stop representing us, we should be willing to walk away from them. If they know that their constituents mean business, they'll be more careful to represent us in whatever legislative body they hold office. There's strength in numbers, especially when those numbers are independent.
I consider myself antipartisan. That position is borne out of frustration with those who promised for too many years to make a meaningful difference on the issues that struck me as most consequential. As much as I'd love to see alternative or third parties have a voice, the current system is rigged almost hopelessly against them. Instead, we get nonsense about how we have "no choice" but to accept the alleged "lesser evil." When Josh Marshall earlier this year said:

What I am saying is that no one can run away from the choice every American with the franchise will face in November. The next president will either be John McCain or the Democratic nominee. That's an immovable fact. Not voting or voting for some protest candidate doesn't allow anyone to wash their hands of that choice.
I called bullshit. As I said in March of this year:

Further, I'd strongly suggest reading Arthur Silber's The Tale That Might Be Told. The false choice that Josh Marshall is presenting us is one of selecting which one is "less bad." Continuing to make such "choices" only encourages the rulers to believe they are legitimate. If you try out Silber's gedanken experiment, you can imagine just how tenuous the elites' hold on legitimacy really is: after all, they're only legit to the extent that the people tolerate them, and withholding one's support is not a particularly difficult thing to do really. Psychologically, a small turnout (and by small, let's say less than ten percent of the electorate) would change things considerably. It's hard enough for a president to claim a mandate when less than a quarter of the registered voters support them (although they usually do somehow with a straight face). Once you start talking less than five percent of the registered voters supporting the eventual "victor", any remaining pretense of a "mandate" is taken away. One might also take away from Silber's essay the idea that the elites need us much, much more than we "need" them.

Said it before, and I'll say it again: ideally we'd have not only a mass boycott of the polls in November, but also a general strike to drive the point home that a very large number of Americans are plain and simply fed up with the status quo. I don't hold out much hope for something that organized to happen here as of yet, but perhaps I might one day be pleasantly surprised.

There's no running away involved: Not only am I refusing to vote for either the of the evils (be it in Donkey or Elephant form), but I have stated so publicly on many an occasion and no doubt will continue to do so for as long as I can draw a breath and find anyone who will listen. In other words, I've simply stood up and said "no" to evils, no matter how much "lesser" their supporters claim them to be.
Richard at American Leftist has been outlining similar, overlapping concerns in a series of essays – The Poverty of the Presidential Campaign (Part 1) and The Poverty of the Presidential Campaign (Part 2). Not only are they both well worth revisiting, but there is at least one passage (from the second essay in the series) that needs to be repeated again, and again, and again:

Accordingly, the question becomes, why dedicate such resources to an effort that is unlikely to reach much of the public and, hence, unlikely to educate people as to different approaches to current US policy? Especially when the inevitable result, a low percentage of the vote, is then highlighted by the media as indicative of a public rejection of them?

Such questions become particularly salient when we realize that Nader, McKinney and La Riva could channel their efforts into other activities that might well be more effective. For example, all three oppose the war in Iraq. Perhaps, instead of running for President, the three of them could form an organization dedicated towards ending the occupation by economically pressuring the corporations that directly benefit from it. Imagine a national campaign against corporations that contract with the Pentagon to provide equipment and services.

Of course, most Americans would find such an effort deplorable, but remember, you don't need 50% plus one, to win this sort of confrontation with a corporation just 2%, 3% or 5% could have a significant impact. Even if it objectively failed to change corporate policy, which is probable, it would also highlight the interrelationship between the US government, transnational corporations and the occupation in Iraq, a relationship that significantly explains the persistence of the US presence there.

In other words, it would, unlike a presidential campaign, successfully convey a political theme with the synergistic potential for new organizing campaigns. Imagine if such an effort went global. And, this could be done with other critically important economic issues as well. On Saturday, I published a post about a possible bailout of the international finance system through central bank purchases of mortgage backed securities.

There are almost unlimited possibilities with this one. Nader, McKinney, La Riva and others could create a coalition that would either oppose the bailout, or insist that central banks like the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan and the European Bank only move forward if the financial institutions in possession of the securities agree to provide more capital for an array of socially compelling needs, such as affordable housing, health care and education. After all, the banks are governmental institutions capitalized with our money, so, if they are going to dispense with the ruthless application of neoliberal policies in regard to banks, savings and loans, brokerage houses and hedge funds, shouldn't they do the same for us?

Again, starting domestically and expanding the effort internationally appears to be essential. But doing so requires abandoning a [narcissistic] perspective about the centrality of the presidential election, and instead moving to align ourselves with emerging global trends on the left. A campaign for President by a third, fourth or fifth party candidate has a beginning, a middle and an end, but an effort of this kind possesses the potential of creating an internationalized American left capable of playing an important role in the defeat of military neoliberalism.
There is no immediate gratification or hanging on to false hope from snake oil salesmen posing as "progressives." Rather, let's think about the long haul. The worthwhile struggles have required a tremendous amount of physical and intellectual nurturance, whether it involved whatever gains have been made in labor laws (do you really think that just voting for "progressive" candidates election after election brought about the eight hour work day?), civil rights, fighting empires, and so on. That means stopping traffic, physically and intellectually by whatever means necessary. Imagine what would happen if only five percent of the electorate actually bothered to vote this November. You think it's difficult to claim a mandate when one barely ekes out a majority when only half the electorate votes? With one tenth of those numbers, the charade would be over. Stopping traffic is all about waking people up. I'm not a "protest for the sake of protest" kind of person, but I do see a need to throw some monkey wrenches into the system. Whatever one does, working "constructively" within the system is no longer a viable option. Instead, as I stated over a year ago:

Certainly we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that if we elect one party or the other to office that suddenly everything will be peachy keen. It's safe to say that it hasn't worked out that way in my lifetime, nor do I foresee that happening any time too soon. There might be some superficial differences between Democrats and Republicans on some issues, but that's just the window dressing. As long as even the self-styled progressives are committed to the same imperialist agenda (as another blogger has noticed) as their more right-wing counterparts, we will continue to see a state of perpetual war and the continued justification for the 700 or so military bases around the world in the name of "national defense." We will also continue to see an escalation of the government's war against its own citizens in the form of draconian drug laws, PATRIOT Act-style legislation, "free trade" policies that impoverish an increasing number of Americans, and yes the condemnation of vast parcels of farm and ranch lands (along with the towns that exist in the vicinity) in order to build gargantuan military facilities. To expect any sort of substantial change in practice to correspond to a change in the fortunes of the two official political parties is folly.

The sane thing to do when faced with an insane system is to screw with it. That may well be the one tangible bit of power we ordinary folks possess given that the current political game is so badly rigged to the elites' advantage. Stop traffic. Wean yourself away from the prevailing consumer culture. Don't do anything that contributes to strengthening the system as it currently exists. Obviously I am not advocating giving up the fight for the causes one holds dear. I have no intention of doing so myself or to stop writing as time permits. I guess what it comes down to is taking a different perspective in light of the realities of our current situation, and to find a healthy detachment from the American political scene. That reality necessitates a certain amount of jadedness along the lines of Arthur Silber and Billmon's now defunct Whiskey Bar.
To go back to some words from just a few months ago:

I see the possibilities regarding "stopping traffic" to be practically endless - whether it's weaning away from consumerism to boycotting elections. It's quite liberating to not feel the need to pay attention to all the sniping between the Clintonistas and Obamistas, or at least to see it for what it is rather than to get caught up emotionally in something that is little more than a reality show for wannabe wonks.

Another world is indeed possible - heck, since the Seattle WTO protests as 1999 (that even continue to manifest themselves in my dreams from time to time), I think we're seeing the faint outlines of what that world might look like. It won't be paradise - just humanity making use of the remnants of what had been and moving on to something else. The potential for that "something else" to be mostly good is what keeps me going. It's still winter in America (as Gil Scott-Heron once wrote) - actually winter all over the globe - but spring will come. Those first tentative signs of new life are already there if one merely stops for a second and takes a good look. Until then...
Dare to dream. Dare to turn those dreams into reality. There is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Where's the outrage?

How can one read Fallujah's legacy and not feel outraged at what has been done? Or will one instead do as the protagonist of Wire's song The Other Window?

Lowest Common Denominator

That button was found at the GOP state convention in Texas. Of course the Democrats will need to contend with the racists who exist in their own midst.

Between word and deed

Letter 13

PROFESSOR KONRAD RUTKOWSKI DECLARES WAR ON FASCISM, OR PHAEDON, OR, THE SOUL


Dear Hilmar,

I assume yesterday’s letter offended you. Although you’ve never read Wittgenstein, you worship him. Although you didn’t understand Hegel, you worship him too. The same goes for Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. You owe this not only to your status as an academic, but also to your conviction that Ideas, especially philosophical ones, are a necessary corrective to the disgusting lives we are sometimes forced to lead. The idea that philosophy could inspire one such life, organize it, and defend it as ideal, seems blasphemous to you. I assure you however that something just like that is what’s going on. If philosophy doesn’t produce history, then it comes in afterward to explain and justify it. The fact that the majority of philosophical ideas aren’t fallacious but nonsensical, if one considers the crippled logic and clumsy language of their formulations, doesn’t sever the genetic link between Ideas and Reality. Fortunately, it limits the link occasionally. Regardless of whether they consider this world the best or the worst of all possible worlds, whether they accept it in its ordinariness and mediocrity, whether they refuse to think about it in terms of human values, whether they deny or acknowledge its purposelessness, whether they explain it or merely describe it – Ideas act, Ideas change things, Ideas create. Your naïve conviction (we’ll see how naïve it really is) that thinking philosophically means secluding oneself from reality and absolving oneself of all responsibility in connection with it – and that such seclusion is the conditio sine qua non of every unbiased philosophical view -- stems from an insidious wish, camouflaged in a general independence of the intellect, to disavow any responsibility for this world, whereby your harmlessness acquires a completely different meaning. It represents Ideas’ renunciation of their own deeds, the spirit in which the discoverers of atomic energy renounced the atomic bomb.

You refuse to believe in the existence and effectiveness of the Wittgenstein-Steinbrecher System. Fine. Maybe its principles were demonstrated on a reality as bloody and filthy as that of the Gestapo. The thought that logical speculation could be connected in any way with beatings and the mutilation of people’s souls seems to you to be a monstrous injustice – not against the people, but against the speculations. An injustice against Wittgenstein, not against Fröhlich. (The explanation that the Intellect, even when it leads to crimes, can’t be called to account for those crimes because they were unintentional cannot be accepted. Otherwise, all who kill out of negligence and recklessness would have to be excused from responsibility for their crimes). But you see Hilmar, as an historian you ought to know much more about the genetic relationship between Ideas and History. The Wittgenstein-Steinbrecher System isn’t the only one to demonstrate this relationship successfully. I won’t smother you with examples. I suggest you think about a single one, because it belongs in your area of expertise and many of its aspects are the historical dates you study.

Give Hegel a little more thought, Hilmar. Give yourself time to understand him. And then take a look at some of the states that have made the history of our century colourful. Think about Nietzsche, Hilmar (you can forget third-rate thinkers like Giovanni Gentile and Houston Stewart Chamberlain) and think about how much of Zarathustra there is in the Führer’s thought. (Devoid of the poetry of course that makes it easier for us to accept Zarathustra’s words as magical images of thought instead of calls to action.) In your work on the Third Reich, which was considered by some to be seminal, you very pedantically cite what Hitler read at various points in his career, without once pointing out the logical correspondence between those writings and his policies. Between Ideas and History. Between the Spirit and Reality. Thoughts and Deeds.

The detonator of the hatred for the Jews, along with the instructions for its use, was implanted into Hitler by philosophers (you don’t have to call them that if it makes it easier for you to swallow the painful truth): Otto Hauser in his Geschichte des Judentums (A History of the Jews); Werner Sombart in his Die Juden und das Wirtshaftsleben (The Jews and Economic Life); Gougenout des Mousseaux in his Le Juif, le judaisme et la judaïsation des peoples chrétiens (The Jews, Judaism, and the Judaization of the Christian Peoples); Theodor Fritsch in his Handbuch der Judenfrage (Handbook of the Jewish Question); and others. In addition to the aforementioned Chamberlain, his racial theories were based on such ghastly works as L’Aryen, son role social (The Aryans and Their Social Role). And in its context, a disdain for the weak, sick and unfortunate, disgraced and ignominious, was sparked by an academic monstrosity such as Die Tüchtigkeit unserer Rasse un der Schutz der Schachen (The Fitness of Our Race and the Protection of the Weak) by Alfred Plötz, M.D. The theories of Lebensraum were taken from Ratzel, Haushofer and Mackinder. Plato’s The State inspired the thousand-year aristocratic SS Empire. But the wise old Schopenhauer taught him the gloomy and hopeless pessimism that enabled the products of two other minds – Darwin’s struggle for survival, Malthus’ spectre of overpopulation – to be happily joined in a brutal settling of accounts with the human race. His love of the Will was in the Nietzschean mold, and his hatred for Christianity was borrowed from Nietzsche and Gibbon’s primitive idea that Christianity destroyed the Roman Empire. And let me put the icing on the cake. When you were in the Hitler-Jugend and you got carried away to the point of delirium during the Führer’s speeches, sinking deeper and deeper into a nightmare of fanaticism, you didn’t know he was simply applying Le Bon’s and McDougall’s philosophy of propaganda. (The Crowd and The Group Mind).
Found at Le Colonel Chabert's blog. The passage is from Borislav Pekić's book, How to Quiet a Vampire. When I think of the monstrous occurrences of the present decade, it seems necessary to note the influence of Leo Strauss, William Kristol, Milton Friedman, Francis Fukuyama, and a host of others. Whatever we may say about Bush's intellectual capacity, he certainly had the knack for applying the words of those authors, or at least surround himself with those with the capacity to do so. Le Bon's and McDougall's work on propaganda has also been used to good effect in the present decade; the technology might have changed, but the ghost of Goebbels can be felt. McCain is part of that same heritage, and himself has drawn (wittingly or unwittingly) on the Dolchstoßlegende since the Vietnam War. Obama is certainly a disciple of Friedman's neoliberal economic philosophy, which as I've noted before, has had genocidal consequences wherever it has been applied. Raphael Patai's The Arab Mind has influenced US military leaders, the current presidential regime, and no doubt plenty in Congress and in think tanks. The notion that we can divorce the words written in the ivory towers of academe or think tanks from the rest of human existence is folly. Words are meant to incite action.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Human Face of Torture: Ali Shah Mousavi

Photo credit: Tom Lasseter / MCT

His story:
After about three weeks, he was taken by helicopter to the detainment camp at Bagram Air Base.
He spent the first month there in isolation.
"For 15 days they did not let me sleep. They played very loud music the whole time. And a soldier at the gate commanded me to stand and then sit and then stand again. When I did not obey him quickly enough, he would tie my hands to the ceiling," Mousavi said. "Other times, four or five soldiers would come in and beat me, and then tie my hands to my feet and leave me like that on the ground."
After his month in isolation, he was put in a small cell, a cage made of concertina wire. Guards came for him once or twice a week and took him to interrogation. American men, who said they were with the CIA, accused him of having ties to al Qaida.
"I told them that Shiites are quite different than al Qaida," Mousavi said. "They showed a picture of me from the loya jirga and said your turban looks like al Qaida and your beard looks like al Qaida."
The Americans also said he was involved in a battle east of Gardez in March 2002 that the U.S. military dubbed Operation Anaconda, a battle with al Qaida militants that lasted about two weeks.
"I told them I wasn't even in Afghanistan when this fighting took place," Mousavi said with a shrug. "They kept talking about 'Anaconda.' I had no idea what they were talking about."
Ali Shah Mousavi would eventually be transferred to Guantánamo Bay, where he would be held until October, 2006. If you read the rest of the story, you'll learn that he was wrongly detained. Also, since he was Shiite, he had difficulty being held in a gulag populated primarily by Sunnis.

This is part of a series, The Human Face of Torture, that I have been publishing here since 2006.

Boycott AssPress

Here's the link to the petition. I don't think I refer much to articles from AssPress to begin with - there seem to be enough other news sources that do just as well, if not better, and which don't seem bound and determined to alienate potential readers. AssPress should be worried.

Our "War on Drugs" crowd return to their racist roots

Here's what the header says for the Spanish-language impaired: “I sell marijuana during recess.” Nice. H/t Emo As Fuck.

Say hello to

City of Sound. It's a fascinating place to visit. H/t Emo As Fuck.

Death squads in Oaxaca

John Gibler has been covering the situation in Oaxaca. Much of the focus is on two DJs from a community radio station who were assassinated recently. Something that jumped out at me:

Mar’a Dolores Par’s, a professor of rural sociology at the Autonomous University of Mexico, says that the state’s claim that Faustino, and not the two women, was the real target of the killers is “absurd,” though she says that women have not been targeted in regional violence before.

Dolores Par’s, who has worked with Triquis in Oaxaca and Triqui migrants in California for seven years, says the state government goes into the region to foment violence and then “washes its hands of it with theories that the violence comes from the nature of the Triquis themselves.”

“I feel certain that the young women were assassinated for their work with the radio station.” Then adds: “The intention has always been to strip the Triquis of their land.”

The driver, Faustino, who was injured in that particular attack, holds out some hope that justice may yet be served - assuming of course that there is sufficient international outrage and pressure from human rights groups.

As an aside, Gibler's other articles look worth a read.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

So much for my hot streak

That said, it's good Phil Jackson and crew get to play one more day. Given how the Lakers are playing, I doubt they'll survive a game six. Let's just say I'd be pleasantly surprised if they defy my expectations. Mark my words - this is the Celtics' series to lose. Of course, as we've seen tonight, I could be wrong.

The Lakers are collapsing like a house of cards

I've been watching the finals, and as of this writing have just witnessed the Lakers completely blow a huge lead for the second straight game. So the third quarter of what is probably the last game of the finals. If the Lakers somehow survive tonight's bloodbath, they'll be eaten alive like a hemophiliac in a river full of piranha at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

On Thursday night, the Lakers looked incredible early on (with the exception of Kobe who appeared to be mostly asleep), posting largest 1st quarter lead in NBA finals history, and maintaining that commanding lead through halftime. Then, a completely different team came out to play the remaining half, and by the time that final buzzer sounded, Kobe and crew stood there stunned. At least today, after nearly matching Thursday's 1st quarter performance, the Lakers had the good sense to fold early. When one of the commentators mentioned at the end of the first that the Celtics had the Lakers where they wanted them, I nodded my head in agreement.

I'm an unusual sports fan, in that I follow coaches (or in the case of baseball, managers) rather than players or teams. I've been a Phil Jackson fan for quite a long time now, and was hoping to see him make history this year by finally surpassing the legendary Red Auerbach's record for championships won as head coach. Both men have been tied since 2002. It won't happen this year. Phil will be around for at least a couple more years, so I'll just have to be patient for now.

Although I normally don't gamble, tonight would be the night to do it. I'd have placed my bet against the Lakers prior to the start of the game, and then dared Laker true-believers around half-time to double the bet. They'll lose by at least five tonight. I can feel it. It pains me to say it, but I have to tell the truth as I see it.

And I am on a hot streak right now. Yesterday, my wife and son bet me that our town's only restaurant would be open by the time we returned from Guymon. Long story, but my intention to treat my parents to Sheilos was thwarted when the place was still closed about a half hour after its scheduled dinner-time start. Hence, it's for them a safe enough bet for my wife and son, given that our local eatery tends to open later than scheduled, and we tend to be early birds when it comes to dinner time. I played my hunch that the place would still be closed. They were expecting an easy $30 from me - but they were dead wrong. Somehow, though, I get the feeling I'm going to be stiffed. I'm forgiving, though. They're family. So it goes. But I'm on a hot streak. I can't lose. Celtics by at least five.

Mark my words. You read it here first. The Celtics will have won the championship tonight.

Fill 'er up with bug poop!

The above picture is of a jar of diesel produced from the waste of genetically modified bugs. The Times has the lowdown:
“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”
He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.
Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.
Mr Pal is a senior director of LS9, one of several companies in or near Silicon Valley that have spurned traditional high-tech activities such as software and networking and embarked instead on an extraordinary race to make $140-a-barrel oil (£70) from Saudi Arabia obsolete. “All of us here – everyone in this company and in this industry, are aware of the urgency,” Mr Pal says.
What is most remarkable about what they are doing is that instead of trying to reengineer the global economy – as is required, for example, for the use of hydrogen fuel – they are trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.
Too good to be true? I wonder. If you read the rest of the article, LS9 is planning to have a demo production facility up and running in a couple years, followed - they hope - within a year by a commercial facility. If it doesn't create the problems that other types of "biofuel" cause - such as taking food off the dinner table in order to fill up SUV tanks - all the better. When one realizes that an economy that has run on cheap energy can show signs of strain at $120-$140 per barrel oil, and could easily collapse once that price tag gets significantly above, say, $200 per barrel, I suppose it makes sense to look for hope where one can find it. Like anything else, I'll believe it when I see it.

Oh, and on a somewhat related tangent, I found an article on the first electric cars, which were apparently operating in - get this - the 1830s. You read that correctly. Also, it's worth mentioning that Congress took a very small step in the right direction with regard to Amtrak (h/t Leanan at The Oil Drum). If I had one piece of advice for how the government could make itself useful for the next few years it would be this: stop wasting money on maintaining an empire (in other words, end these damned wars, start closing up the 700 plus military bases throughout the planet, etc.), and instead renovate the US infrastructure. In particular, the there is no reason why the US shouldn't have the sort of rail service that is taken for granted in Europe. If the nation is going to go bankrupt any way, we might as well have something to show for it. The ability to still be able to travel from point A to point B would serve the public much better than fading memories of failed wars. Saying that is not particularly PC, but from my perspective we simply don't have the luxury of walking on eggshells when it comes to US nationalistic and militaristic sensibilities.

Internet neutrality alert

Libby at The Newshoggers has the lowdown. We'll just cut to the chase:

We're only talking about a tiered system for usage here, but it's a small step from there to censoring content, which has already happened in numerous instances where critical remarks about Bush have been edited out of live performances. Neither is it a great leap to imagine them eventually charging according to what sites you want to frequent which would seem to be a handy way to track where you go as well, without the bother of breaking the law on datamining.

Clearly, if we don't ensure neutrality by statute, we risk losing what makes the internets so valuable and powerful a tool for citizen activism. Without neutrality we lose the freedom to communicate freely outside of the dictates of the corporate gatekeepers. If we wait until it's lost, it will be too late. See Save the Internet for much more information and how you can help save our last remaining vestige of truly free mass expression.

Knowledge is power.