Saturday, June 28, 2008

War as environmental disaster

Saw a reference to this earlier post at Left I and thought it worthy of repeating:
I have written before about how war and even the preparation for war is an environmental disaster. Today, a letter writer to The Nation steers me to this site with a long summary of the environmental cost of the war in Iraq, which I am going to reproduce here at length because of its importance:
  1. Projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover all of the global investments in renewable power generation that are needed between now and 2030 in order to halt current warming trends.
  2. The war is responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) since March 2003. To put this in perspective, CO2 released by the war to date equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road in the US this year.
  3. Emissions from the Iraq War to date are nearly two and a half times greater than what would be avoided between 2009 and 2016 were California to implement the auto emission regulations it has proposed, but that the Bush Administration has struck down. Finally, if the war was ranked as a country in terms of annual emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do. Falling between New Zealand and Cuba, the war each year emits more than 60% of all countries on the planet.
  4. Just the $600 billion that Congress has allocated for military operations in Iraq to date could have built over 9000 wind farms (at 50 MW capacity each), with the overall capacity to meet a quarter of the country’s current electricity demand. If 25% of our power came from wind, rather than coal, it would reduce US GHG emissions by over 1 billion metric tons of CO2 per year – equivalent to approximately 1/6 of the country’s total CO2 emissions in 2006.
  5. In 2006, the US spent more on the war in Iraq than the whole world spent on investment in renewable energy.
  6. US presidential candidate Barack Obama has committed to spending "$150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of green energy technology and infrastructure." The US spends nearly that much on the war in Iraq in just 10 months.
War is a racket that is costly not only in terms of the human lives lost and damaged during the course of a war, but in terms of the long term environmental consequences which are inherited by generations hence. When one looks at the amount of oil used to fuel the current War on Terra alone (which includes the Iraq and Afghanistan quagmires), one gets a sense of the empire's Achilles heel. I always found the amount of resources wasted on wars to be near the top of the list of their absurdity. Try to mention that to most folks, and if one is lucky one will be met with a blank expression, and then some babbling about how "we have to fight 'em there so we don't have to fight 'em here" or maybe some griping about how OPEC is gouging US consumers, and other such nonsense.

There's plenty of denial and acquiescence to go around these days. The birds are coming home to roost, and a day will come - sooner rather than later - when denial will become impossible, and acquiescence won't be easily excused. There will be much to account for.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I keep saying the neoliberal birds are coming home to roost

Have I not? Damn straight I have. There are others who keep sounding off similar warnings. Richard over at American Leftist had a good one yesterday - the news itself is dire, but the articles, coupled with his analysis paint the picture as well as anyone could. Here's the shakedown: folks who never dreamed they'd be on the margins of existence are facing it for the first time - including requiring both public and charitable assistance as their paychecks no longer cover even basic costs, and finding themselves in the position that those in poverty have been for a while (e.g., dealing with utilities shut offs, etc.). Welcome to my world. I've mentioned before that we country folks have been hit pretty hard as energy costs in particular have soared. Once fuel costs start eating up a tenth of one's paycheck, even basic activities such as commuting to and from work become excessively difficult. I figured the long commutes in the 'burbs would do likewise to its denizens before too long.

So, what are your elected "leaders" doing? Next to nothing. Aside from that "stimulus" check (I don't know about y'all but mine went to paying bills and sending my wife to see her dad one last time before he died), there's been practically nothing. The safety net that was put in place during the New Deal era has been largely gutted, as members of both anointed parties in the US fell under the sway of neoliberalism (the product of Friedman and the boyz of University of Chicago), including the great "progressive" hope, Obama. Instead of tending to needs of constituents, politicians tend to the wants of their corporate cronies. An astute observation of the Zapatistas' Marcos that political offices nowadays amount to nothing more than managerial positions seems apt, and as such these managers follow a customer service model of governing for the only clientele that matters. For the rest of us, who are not on the list of CEO clients, a different model is used. Just to give you a taste, here's what Richard says:
Meanwhile, we continue to see reports of an imminent attack upon Iran by either the US or Israel, with Israel allegedly carrying out a rehersal earlier this month. And, how does Congress respond? By pushing through a bill that imposes sanctions upon Iran and encourages the US to interdict Iranian shipping on the high seas.

Instead of dealing with the deepening economic crisis that is impoverishing more and more people, the President and the Congress accelerate towards a military conflict with the Iranians. At first glance, it seems irrational, but upon further reflection, there is a perverse logic.

Neither political party is willing to mobilize the public around an agenda that would provide meaningful relief, as that would entail an abandonment of neoliberal policies that substitute the market and the decisions of finance capitalists for the government in the making of economic policy. It would require a level of government intervention for people, instead of banks and brokerage houses, that would be unprecedented since the Great Society, and possibly the New Deal.

So, what is the alternative, when the political elite isn't willing to address growing poverty amongst the populace? The answer is obvious: war. In this instance, a war with Iran would provide an after the fact explanation for the hardship that many Americans are already experiencing. It would also have the grotesquely salutary effect of expanding this hardship across most socioeconomic groups, creating the accurate impression that almost all Americans are in this together.

Of course, there is a downside, most notably the prospect that a lot of Americans would be killed in such a conflict, and that it could spiral out of control. Social conditions could deteriorate so much that it becomes impossible to maintain order. But the President and the Congress have already put measures in place to deal with that, haven't they? And, when someone exposes a gap, like the legal exposure for telecommunications companies when they carry out the President's request for illegal wiretaps, Congress fills it.

Has this been conscious and deliberate? That is a question for future historians. But the practical consequences are clear. As I have said before, it appears that the only people preventing the politicians from leading us over the cliff are high ranking generals within the Pentagon. It's a funny thing for an anti-imperialist, anti-militarist leftist like me to say. The ability of anyone within the political system to resist the march towards war is non-existent.

Expect more violence at all levels: interpersonal, organizational, structural, and intrapersonal as stressors mount in the coming years. Two features of the US of the early 21st century that distinguishes it from the Depression era of the 1930s (really for those who were in the slums or on the farm, that era started far earlier, but I digress). First, the US no longer has the manufacturing or energy infrastructure that was in place back then. As a consumer and debtor nation, recovering from the next economic meltdown will be much more daunting, if it's even possible. Second, today there are fewer inhibitions to simply imposing an overt dictatorship to deal with the inevitable social unrest caused by economic hardship. Wars can always be used as a form of distraction - even if they end in disaster. As Richard duly notes, the groundwork has already been laid to take that particular path. It's possible, I suppose, that the elites, from their secured compounds in America's Green Zones will see fit to once more employ New Deal or Great Society style reforms in order to sufficiently pacify the masses. I wouldn't want to bet on that happening. The potential leaders for that sort of reformist approach have been marginalized as "radical leftists."

In the meantime, chaos reigns supreme, and chaos is good for business. While the victims of neoliberalism try to figure out what the hell is going on, the corporate looters will clean out the place practically undetected. Remember: you were warned.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

That giant sucking sound

Before NAFTA became an ugly reality, H. Ross Perot was warning whoever would listen that if it became law, there would be massive job loss in the US. Of course, he probably didn't give a damn about what happened to jobs in Mexico, but the same warnings were being uttered by voices in the wilderness. What we are seeing is the consequences of neoliberalism - the race to the bottom with regard to wages as the money men threaten to move their factories elsewhere. As I noted last November:
NAFTA boosted the profit margins of some corporations who could cut down labor costs, and yes, Mexico now has more billionaires than ever. Unfortunately, Mexico (and also the US) has merely become even more stratified since NAFTA went into effect. Funny how none of that wealth ever seems to "trickle down." Just a few clips from the article for your consideration:
By November 2002, the US Department of Labor had certified 507,000 workers for extended unemployment benefits because their employers had moved their jobs south of the border. The Department of Labor stopped counting NAFTA job losses, but the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC, estimated that NAFTA had eliminated 879,000 jobs. That was five years ago.

But US job loss didn't produce job increases in Mexico - it eliminated them there too. In NAFTA's first year, more than a million jobs disappeared in the economic crisis NAFTA caused.

To attract investment in Mexico, the treaty required privatization of factories, railroads and other large enterprises, leading to more layoffs of Mexican workers.

On the border, Ford, General Electric and other corporations built factories and moved production from the United States to take advantage of low wages. But more than 400,000 maquiladora workers lost their jobs in 2000-2001 when US consumers cut back spending in the last recession, and companies found even lower wages in other countries, such as El Salvador or China.

Before NAFTA, US auto plants in Mexico had to buy parts from Mexican factories, which employed thousands of local workers. But NAFTA let the auto giants bring in cheaper parts from their own subsidiaries, so Mexican auto parts workers lost their jobs, too.

The profits of US grain companies, already subsidized under the US farm bill, went higher when NAFTA allowed them to dump cheap corn on the Mexican market, while at the same time it forced Mexico to cut its agricultural subsidies. As a result, small farmers in Oaxaca and Chiapas couldn't sell corn anymore at a price that would pay the cost of growing it.

When corn farmers couldn't farm, or auto parts and maquiladora workers were laid off, where did they go? They became migrants.

The real, dirty secret of trade agreements is displacement. During the years NAFTA has been in effect, more than six million people from Mexico have come to live in the United States. They didn't abandon their homes, families, farms and jobs willingly. They had no other option for survival.
Hat tip to Earthside, which has all sorts of happy, uplifting economic news this evening.

How neoliberalism kills

Since I've discussed before the lethality of neoliberalism, perhaps this would be a good time to at least provide an rough guide of how its kills. To do so we should revisit some concepts that I've introduced before: interpersonal, organizational, structural, and intrapersonal violence.

Interpersonal violence is perhaps the form that we are most aware of, since involves identifiable individuals who injure their victims. Certainly, any imposition of neoliberal economics will require a certain amount of interpersonal violence insofar as someone has to do the dirty work of torture or "disappearing" dissidents, the displaced, the indigenous. That of course is the terrorism that is not called by its proper name since it is done in the service of the corporate and ruling elites. Also included is the violence between members of oppressed groups, often divided based on artificial classifications, who perceive one another as "threats" (e.g., border vigilantes who perceive displaced migrant people as "taking away their jobs").

Organizational violence involves explicit decisions made by individuals as part of their formal roles in organizations, such as the military, police, CIA, or a corporate bureaucracy. Although the decision-makers involved in organizational violence might have no direct interpersonal role in the harm caused to their victims, and in fact may even be abhorred by the actual process of violent actions such as torture and murder (e.g., Arendt, 1963), they are nonetheless committing a form of violence.

Structural violence refers to physical harm (including death) suffered by a particular group of people who do not have access to the same services and benefits as the rest of society. Those who are displaced would be considered victims of structural violence - in this case due to the collapse of their baseline socio-economic situation as a result of the whatever changes have been imposed upon them in the form of invasions or "free trade" agreements. Structural violence is often the most deadly and insidious forms of violence. To take a few words from the book, Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression by Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan (1985):
Structural violence is a feature of social structures. This form of violence is inherent in the established modes of social relations, distribution of goods and services, and legal practices of dispensing justice. Structural violence involves more than the violation of fairness and justice. [p. 136]

Structural violence is the most lethal form of violence because it is the least discernible; it causes premature deaths in the largest number of persons; and it presents itself as the natural order of things. A situation of oppression rests primarily on structural violence which in turn fosters institutional, interpersonal, and intrapersonal violence. Structural violence pervades the prevailing values, the environment, social relations, and individual psyches. The most visible indicators of structural violence are differential rates of mortality, morbidity, and incarceration among groups in the same society. In particular, a situation of oppression increases the infant mortality rate and lowers the life expectancy for the oppressed. [p. 155]
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, less shockingly noticeable than the mass killings by death squads. 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.

Intrapersonal violence should also bear mention. Here we'd include self-destructive behaviors such as alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide. Usually such behaviors are merely written off as "moral weakness" or as the result of some sort of "mental illness" which couldn't possibly have anything to do with the extreme stress that comes with being displaced or being threatened with displacement. And yet such hyperindividualistic explanations would fail to account for the massive increase in suicides among displaced subsistence farmers in India during the present decade or among factory unemployed factory workers during the Yeltsin regime in Russia in the 1990s.

The economic theory hatched at the University of Chicago, the theory which as Don Durito would say "is not in crisis, it is the crisis," has now a four-decade record of perpetrating all of these forms of violence. It is crucial that we refuse to decouple the interpersonal and intrapersonal violence from the organizational and structural violence. While the latter are perpetrated in the board rooms of Wall Street, World Bank, IMF, etc., the latter - in the form of interpersonal violence to enforce the suffering caused by the former, and in the form of intrapersonal violence caused by hopelessness - are necessary if the former are to continue unabated. That is the lesson we need to take with us as we try to make sense of the world after the end of the End of History.

Sheehan's run against Pelosi gets the Green seal of approval

This is good news indeed, as Nancy Pelosi has proven to be a miserable failure as a House Speaker. That was no surprise of course, but still.

From the article:
"We are glad she is taking on Speaker Pelosi, who has been a huge disappointment even to her Democratic Party base," said Erika McDonald, spokesperson for the SFGP.

"We admire Sheehan's bravery in standing up to the corrupt two-party system. She has suffered immeasurable loss because of the unwillingness of our government to stand up for justice," added McDonald.

The goals of the Green Party and Sheehan are similar – protect U.S. troops in Iraq by ending the war now, a position rejected by Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress who say they are opposed to the war, but continue to fund billions for it.

Greens, like Sheehan, have endorsed the impeachment of Pres. George Bush, vice-president Dick Cheney and other Bush Administration officials. Sheehan also comes from working class roots, which compares favorably to the Green Party's strong social justice platform.
Let's face it: Nancy Pelosi - along with the vast majority of her party's leadership - has been on the wrong side of history. She became installed as House Speaker in the aftermath of a midterm election in which her party ran at least in part on ending the Iraq War. War funding has continued unabated during her tenure, with no substantial opposition to speak of. Her hostility towards antiwar activists and antiwar groups is well-known by this time. There's good reason to believe that Pelosi has never been an anti-war politician (no matter how much movement conservatives or for that matter establishment "progressives" might claim the contrary), having been a staunch supporter of the Clinton regime's "humanitarian" military interventions in the Balkans as well as the various US bombing raids against the Iraqis in 1993, 1996, and 1998.

Pelosi was on board with the sham economic "stimulus" package that in fact did absolutely nothing. Of course her refusal to oppose the awful FISA bill recently, which gave the Crawford Caligula and his cronies everything they wanted, was merely the latest in a string of actions which place her on the wrong side of history.

Pelosi's refusal to impeach Bush and Cheney, who have committed plenty of impeachable offenses during the tenure of their sorry regime, is arguably her most unforgivable action (or perhaps more appropriately, inaction). Sheehan has done more to get the issue of impeachment into the public eye than Pelosi. She's run on a genuine antiwar platform - y'all remember the war right? Or is that now no longer PC to discuss now that the Dems are inheriting the Iraq War and other fronts on the so-called War on Terra?

I'd like to end by reminding y'all of something: Isolated individuals aside, there is no opposition party in Congress. Are we clear yet? To repeat: THERE IS NO OPPOSITION PARTY IN CONGRESS. None. Nada. Zip. Zilcho. To my progressive friends and acquaintances who keep hoping for more and better Democrats, and who seem perpetually disappointed by the ones who were their great white hopes in election cycles past, all that I can really say is that you're being played. I wish it were not so.

Update: I thought I'd provide a little back story for this particular entry, which I cross-posted from Daily Kos at the request of a friend who prefers not to link there. Sheehan was once upon a time a regular contributor to that blog until it became apparent that she was not going to be a loyal Democrat. Her announcement that she'd challenge Pelosi last July created a shitstorm that was legendary. There are some isolated individuals over at the Great Orange Satan whom I continue to respect, but for the most part it's just a mob of Kosswhacks who are in mentality no different from a mob of skinheads. I found the behavior exhibited over there last year to be both reprehensible and unforgivable. Hence the need to remind them periodically of that fact, and that their Dear Leader is an empty suit. I wish Sheehan well - whatever her imperfections, she'd certainly be a significant improvement over Pelosi, and as it turns out, the Bay Area is one of the few locations where Greens manage to do significantly well. Sheehan's message and whatever muscle the Greens have might at least cause Pelosi to sweat this election out a bit.

"Killing is our business, and business is good."

But please, don't tell anyone. Okay? We'd hate to deal with all those dirty hippies protesting in front of our office headquarters and boycotting our nonmilitary products.

I feel so much more comforted,

now that John Yoo has assured us that the Crawford Caligula would never use any powers he might theoretically have to order prisoners buried alive, nor would any other would-be US emperor would even hazard to even consider such a thing. Don't you feel better?

Well surprise, surprise, surprise!

Not really. In the Senate, the cloture vote on the awful FISA bill was for all intents and purposes the one that mattered. I'll give the fifteen who were all set to filibuster their due:
Biden (D-DE), Boxer (D-CA), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Dodd (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Feingold (D-WI), Harkin (D-IA), Kerry (D-MA), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Leahy (D-VT), Menendez (D-NJ), Sanders (I-VT), Schumer (D-NY), Wyden (D-OR).
Among the conspicuously absent from the vote were McCain, Obama, and Clinton - big surprise, eh?

So, from the top: Isolated individuals aside, there is no opposition party in Congress. Are we clear yet? To repeat: THERE IS NO OPPOSITION PARTY IN CONGRESS. None. Nada. Zip. Zilcho. To my progressive friends and acquaintances who keep hoping for more and better Democrats, and who seem perpetually disappointed by the ones who were their great white hopes in election cycles past, all that I can really say is that you're being played. It's time to just wake the fuck up and accept the distinct probability that these goons in the Senate actually have the jonez for some of that telecom money for their own campaign funds, and equally the probability that many of them think that the bad old days of COINTELPRO were just peachy.

You'll notice I've changed the right-hand sidebar to this blog to reflect the latest in a series of legislative outrages. Those identified as Democrats (you know, the ones for whom our prog bloggers will keep shilling) have been italicized just to make the point clear that there really is no opposition party in Congress. If you're really dumb enough to keep sending money to these folks' campaigns, at least you should have some idea of the worth of your investment.

I'll keep saying this over and over again: boycott the damned election in November. Strip the decaying system of its vestiges of perceived legitimacy. It really isn't that hard, when it comes right down to it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Holiday in Guantánamo

See Chris Floyd's latest. The more you read, the more outraged you should become:
Yes, the Pentagon has turned the Terror War concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay into a luxurious vacation spot for military personnel and their families – and military contractors, too, of course!

As the Daily Mail reported recently, the Pentagon has splashed out for white sand beaches, a golf course, movie theaters, a bowling alley, restaurants – even a Wal-Mart – right next to the holding pens where Terror War captives have languished in limbo for years, enduring endless isolation,"harsh interrogation techniques" and other holiday amusements.

We don't mean to imply that the serious business going on at Gitmo is ignored, however. Far from it. The gift shop features several items that make antic hay of the concentration camp's dread purpose. Barbed wire and guard towers are a prevalent motif on various cups and shirts, for example. You can sip your beachside latte in a cup that tells the world that the Bush gulag is "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom." And if you find froggies and dolphins a bit too frilly, you can always prepare your kids to take their rightful place in the Terror War imperium with a t-shirt emblazoned "Future Behavior Modification Instructor." It makes learning fun!

Here's more from the Daily Mail (via the Angry Arab):
The Guantanamo holiday trade was exposed by Zachary Katznelson, a British-based human rights lawyer and spokesman for Reprieve, the group leading the international campaign against the camp. "When I see the conditions the prisoners have to cope with and then think of the T-shirt slogans, I am appalled," he said. "To say I am repulsed is an understatement. Unbelievable as it may seem, the US authorities are proud of the 'souvenirs' and what they are doing."

Mr Katznelson represents 28 of the detainees and makes regular visits to the prison. "The military keeps a tight hold on everything that is available in Guantanamo Bay and someone senior has given their approval for this disgusting nonsense," he said…

His anger is shared by other human rights campaigners. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said Guantanamo represents a shameful chapter in American history. Amnesty International said: "These supposedly 'fun' souvenirs are in grotesquely bad taste and the fact that they are on sale at the camp quite frankly beggars belief."

There are currently 280 prisoners sweltering in cages in temperatures of up to 100F (38C). The camp, where 7,000 soldiers are stationed, was established in 2002 following the invasion of Afghanistan…

"The majority are kept in isolation in cells that are no bigger than a toilet," said Katznelson. "There is no sea view. Instead, if they have a window, it looks out on to a bleak corridor. The cells are lined with steel from floor to ceiling, including the toilet, sink and bed base. There is a popular misconception that these men have had trials and been found guilty. Nothing is further from the truth. Not one of them has…

Katznelson continued: "Inmates are offered three meals a day, but there are eight prisoners who have been on hunger strike for over a year asking either for a trial or to be set free. These men are force-fed twice a day. First they are strapped down with 16 different restrictions, including one that jerks their head back. Then a tube is fed through their nose and down into their stomach. The guards don't always use lubrication and regularly use the same tube for several different prisoners without bothering to clean it."
You can read more about the amenities enjoyed by the non-paying guests at Gitmo in this piece, which points you to a mass of material detailing their treatment, including the landmark series from McClatchy Newspapers.
One of the commenters makes an apt reference:
So Gitmo is now America's version of Theresienstadt -- the showcase Jewish concentration camp built by Nazis to convince the rest of the world that their treatment of the Jews was benevolent. I won't be surprised if we someday soon see a film depicting happy prisoners attending Muslim religious services, eating a nice Muslim diet, doing arts and crafts, and reading the poetry of Omar Khayyam, while American guards walk through the happy crowds throwing chocolate bars to the children. . . .
Or we'll be treated to some "Hogan's Heroes" style sitcom.

And now for something completely different - it's...The Dead Kennedys performing "Holiday in Cambodia":

A really crazy 9-11 conspiracy theory

Paul Campos sez:

The respectable version - the version that was more or less accepted by all Very Serious People at the time of the invasion of Iraq - goes like this: The 9/11 attacks were merely an early strike in a war against the United States. This war is being carried out by something called Radical Islam, of which the al-Qaida terrorist network is only one small branch.

Radical Islam is a global conspiracy, made up of a significant minority of the world's more than 1 billion Muslims. It includes the governments of nations like Iran and Syria, and one of its key supporters was Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime.

The goal of Radical Islam is world domination through the creation of a global caliphate, which requires, among other things, the complete destruction of the United States and the conversion of our surviving population to the most extreme form of Islamic fundamentalism, as practiced in nations such as Saudi Arabia.

Iraq had to be invaded because Saddam Hussein was trying to build atomic weapons - weapons that he might well give to terrorist groups that were his allies in Radical Islam's quest to destroy America.

This, I repeat, was (and to a significant extent still is), the respectable interpretation of the meaning of 9/11. When anyone questioned the evidence for this view, Very Serious Politicians like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would say things like "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Meanwhile, Very Serious Opinion Makers like Charles Krauthammer of The Washington Post argued (and continue to argue) that America must also go to war against Iran because we could wake up one day to the news that nuclear weapons have been detonated in several American cities, by order of suicidal mullahs who turned over their soon-to-be- acquired nuclear arsenal to the vast shadowy global jihadist network.

That the respectable interpretation of 9/11 remains respectable in so many important places should not obscure the fact that it is a paranoid fantasy of the first order - one as utterly unhinged from reality as the most extravagant imaginings of the 9/11 Truthers.

It's easy to lose sight of this because while the 9/11 Truthers remain quarantined on obscure Web sites, the paranoid conspiracy theorists currently in charge of American foreign policy continue to appear regularly on network television and on the opinion pages of our leading newspapers.

There, they make crazy arguments, such as that denying the president the right to throw people in prison for the rest of their lives without ever having to explain why exposes our nation to the risk of annihilation by terrorists. Meanwhile, almost nobody ever points out that these arguments are actually insane.

And that's the real truth about 9/11.

The pieces don't fit together

When I first read Iraq's broken pieces don't fit together by Michael Schwarz in Asia Times, there was an air of familiarity to that concept. The basic gist is that the Iraq quagmire wasn't merely an accident, but was intended from the beginning. Iraq isn't in crisis, but rather is the crisis, and that crisis is good for business. Then I remembered having read some words in a book called ¡Ya Basta!, which commemorates - as of the time of its publication - a decade of Zapatista resistance. In it, there was an introduction to the various EZLN communiques and essays by Marcos by Žiga Vodovnik that hit the spot (pp. 44-45):
According to Marcos, nowadays the planet is a battlefield of the Fourth World War (the Third was [the] so-called Cold War). The aim of the war is a conquest of the entire world through the market. Today's arms are financial, though millions of people are maimed or killed every moment. Those waging the war are aiming to convert the whole planet into one big business company, with World Bank, IMF, WTO, OECD, and the President of the United States as the board of directors. Thanks to computers and the technological revolution, the financial markets operating from their office are answerable to nobody but themselves, having been imposing their laws and worldview on the planet as a whole. Globalization is merely the totalitarian extension of the logic of the financial markets to all aspects of life. Meanwhile, nine-tenths of the world's population live with the "jagged pieces that do not fit." Marcos writes:

"What we have here today is a puzzle. When we attempt to put the pieces together in order to arrive at an understanding of today's world, we find that a lot of the pieces are missing. Still, we can start with seven of them, in the hope that this conflict won't end with the destruction of humanity. Seven pieces to draw, color in, cut out, and put together with others, in order to try to solve this global puzzle."

1. The first piece has the shape of a dollar sign and is green. This piece consists of the new concentration of global wealth in fewer and fewer hands, and the unprecedented extension of hopeless poverty.

2. The second piece is triangular (depicts the pyramid of worldwide exploitation), and consists of a lie. The new (world) order claims to rationalize and modernize production and human endeavor. In reality, it is a return to the barbarism of the beginnings of the industrial revolution with an important difference, that the barbarism is unchecked by any opposing ethical consideration or principle.

3. The third piece is round like a vicious circle, and consists of enforced migration. Those who have nothing are forced to emigrate to survive. Yet the new order works according to the market principle, that anybody who doesn't produce and doesn't consume and has no money to put into a bank, is redundant. So the emigrants, the jobless, the landless, the homeless, are treated as the waste that should be eliminated.

4. The fourth piece is rectangular like a mirror, and consists of an ongoing exchange between the commercial banks and the world's modern soldiers - financial globalization is enforcing the globalization of a crime.

5. The fifth piece is more or less like a pentagon, and consists of physical repression. The nation-states under the new order have lost their economic independence, their political initiative, and their sovereignty. Nowadays, the nation states are just departments of the corporation known as the world, and politicians only local managers. The new task of nation-states is to manage what is allowed to them, to protect the interests of the market and to control and police the redundant.

6. The sixth piece is in the shape of a scribble, and consists of breakages. On the one hand, the new order does away with frontiers and distances by telecommunication of exchanges, and deals by obligatory free-trade zones, and by imposing everywhere the law of the market.

7. The seventh piece has the shape of a pocket, and consists of all the various pockets of resistance against the new order that are developing around the world. The many pockets do not have a common political program per se. How could they, existing as they do in the broken puzzle, but exactly their heterogeneity may be a promise.

As you can see, these seven pieces will never fit together to make any sense, even if you try as hard as you can. This lack of sense, this absurdity, is endemic to the new order. Marcos warns, that the war which neoliberalism is conducting against humanity, is a planetary war and the worst and most cruel war ever seen.
You can read Marcos' description of the broken puzzle and its pieces here. If you look just a little bit, you can see each of the seven pieces in Iraq at present, from the concentration of wealth, to the forced emigration, physical repression, and of course the pockets of resistance.

This, my friends, is what we're fighting in word and in deed.

Search term fun (HST edition)

I've noticed that I seem to be getting a lot (for me) of traffic from variants of the search term "Hunter Thompson" & "September 12, 2001" this evening. What they get is basically this memorial to HST that I've been reprising and revising over the years since he passed away. In it, I take excerpts from his ESPN Page 2 column, Hey Rube ("Fear And Loathing in America"), in which he writes:
The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now -- with somebody -- and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy. Osama bin Laden may be a primitive "figurehead" -- or even dead, for all we know -- but whoever put those All-American jet planes loaded with All-American fuel into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon did it with chilling precision and accuracy. The second one was a dead-on bullseye. Straight into the middle of the skyscraper.

Nothing -- even George Bush's $350 billion "Star Wars" missile defense system -- could have prevented Tuesday's attack, and it cost next to nothing to pull off. Fewer than 20 unarmed Suicide soldiers from some apparently primitive country somewhere on the other side of the world took out the World Trade Center and half the Pentagon with three quick and costless strikes on one day. The efficiency of it was terrifying.

We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows? Not even the Generals in what remains of the Pentagon or the New York papers calling for WAR seem to know who did it or where to look for them.

This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed -- for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now. He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won't hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force.
The same words can be found in a book called Hey Rube, which, by the way, is well-worth looking into. It probably will appeal most to those already fans of HST's work (for newbies I suggest diving right over the edge and get Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and never turn back). He definitely tapped into a vibe with that particular column on that day, capturing the unease with which a few of us instinctively felt the moment it became apparent that the smoke coming out of the WTC towers was caused by some very fanatical individuals who had commandeered passenger jets. Before long, those who weren't waving the US flag prominently were viewed with suspicion, as were dissidents of all stripes, and of course anyone with brown skin. The Crawford Caligula would babble about a Crusade, a War on Terra, that continues unabated to this day. Said it before and will say it again:
In July 2003 (see the column "Welcome to the Big Darkness" reprinted in Hey Rube), he wrote, "Big Darkness, soon come. Take my word for it." Big Darkness is here my friends. In the years since his Sept. 12, 2001 column, what he said has come to pass. The US is in the midst of fighting Bu$hCo's Never-ending Holy War on two fronts (Afghanistan and Iraq), with a third front always one manufactured crisis away (Iran). The Constitution has become in Junior Caligula's words, "just another Goddamn piece of paper" to be shredded along with whatever other documents the White House chooses to keep secret. Bu$hCo spies on us, and barely a peep from Congress ensues. The draconian Patriot Act has become a permanent fixture, with minimal protest from our presumably elected Congress critters. Hell, those very Congress critters are outdoing themselves each year, with among other things, "Homegrown Terrorism" laws that will affect everyone but the real terrorists who occupy luxury office space along Wall Street, as well as those terrorizing the planet from inside the White House bunker. Habeas Corpus is now a mere historical artifact. Maybe having seen the worst of the Abu Ghraib pictures was enough to put the fear of God into those cats - that they too could meet the same fate if they rock the boat too much. Let's just say the accommodations aren't quite up to the Club Med standards that are more to their liking; and besides, any talk of impeachment would open up all manner of nasty skeletons in the old Congressional closet. Ho Ho! We can't have that, now can we!
From the looks of things, Big Darkness is here to stay, contrary to what my progressive friends and acquaintances keep trying to tell me. Call me cynical, I guess. Jadedness comes with the territory.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We're only in it for the money

Dems who flipped on FISA immunity see more telecom cash

In that spirit, here's some Zappa from the album, We're Only in it for the Money:

A brief moment of (almost) truth

The rest of Richard Cohen's column is completely, utterly forgettable. However, he does says this much, which is mostly true:
A presidential race is only incidentally about issues. It's really about likability and character.
Where he veers from truth is when it comes to character. If by character he means in the realm of perception, then okay. If he Cohen is referring to actual character, then he he's smoking something... The idea that either of those two goons running for dictator have any character is simply ludicrous even at face value.

Issues are not really even part of the whole pathetic sideshow. It's just like high school all over again. We all know that the assholes running for Student Body President will not keep their promises of abolishing detention and ending study hall. It's all about who is has the prettiest smile, or some such nonsense.

Otherwise, as is ordinarily the case with reading any Richard Cohen column, there went 30 seconds that I'll never get back.

Ugly truths to avoid

Something from an old friend written around the last general election spectacle (2004) that seems apropos now:
Colonialism is not new. The US itself was once a colony in a sense, a gaggle of European invaders was considered a colony by England. This period of American history is also notable for the fact that those invaders ostensibly "fled" England in search of religious freedom.

Upon their arrival in the "New" world, they immediately set about concerted and enthusiastic attempt at genocide against the people who lived there while imposing horrific punishments on anyone of their own number who did not share their religious beliefs.

This auspicious harbinger of the glory that wished to cast itself as the new Rome occurred few centuries ago, very few, about 3.

(When discussing earlier empires in relation to the US, it is always necessary to use Rome as an example, never the Ottoman Empire, or your words will be rendered inaccessible to western readers, most of whom have only a foggy notion of what the Ottoman Empire is, and many of whom are surprised, and a little disappointed, to learn that the term does not refer to a discount furniture outlet.)

The west measures its history in centuries. The US is an infant even within that youthful context. The Majority World measures its history in millennia, in the Americas, in tens of millennia.

There is no nation in Africa, in Asia, in Greater Arabia, in America in the true sense: one large continent artificially made two by a slash of Manifest Knife down in Panama, that is a stranger to either the concept or the consequences of greed.

Few, if any nations anywhere have escaped the thread of invasions, occupations, colonizations and various other actions being woven into the tapestry of their history, and at the time of this writing, all but the most recent have been repelled to a greater or lesser extent.

The most recent are works in progress. These would include secondary repulsions of the sticks that colonizers like to use to keep the cash doors from completely closing when they are forced out.

Occupations and colonial projects end when they are no longer profitable, when the cost of continuing them becomes too great compared to the revenues generated by them.

The US believes it has found a workaround: instead of classical colonization a la the British Raj, or even France in its beloved Indochine, just cut the frills and go for the money shot.

Domestically, the US is taking some bold steps backwards to bring back the profitable darkness of feudalism to its own huddled masses, encouraged by the willingness with which the house servants and yeomen gladly sally forth to cheer their lords, prodded only by the incentive of an extra ration of white sponge bread, delighted as a toddler at a Chuck-E-Cheese bash to be allowed the privilege of choosing which adjectives shall describe the glorious rainment of two naked would-be Emperors, and which one shall be accorded the honor of standing on the balcony to announce which tribe in which far off land will be slaughtered today.

Neither warlords nor house servants are great lovers of history, requiring as it does, quite a bit of reading, to establish timelines and a body of facts, and independent analytical thought to interpret and draw conclusions, however obvious.

This is probably just as well, for even the most cursory overview of empires of yesteryear will invariably touch on the fate of warlords and house servants when those empires reached their inevitable conclusion. Talk about harshing a buzz. And so close to the election, too.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
To-morrow will be dying
Consider it a harbinger, if you will.

We are truly a "Shining Beacon on the Hill"

Graphic found here. Bernard Chazelle cuts directly to the chase:

All torture should be prohibited:

* 82% UK, Spain, France

* 73% Mexico

* 66% China

* 54% Azerbajian, Egypt

* 53% USA
Real happy, uplifting stuff.

The jig is up

IOZ is right, of course when he sez:
There are the DailyKoskyites of the world, party loyalists for whom membership constitutes identity. Insofar as there's any policy left in politics, they remain largely unaffected. Party failures are invariably chalked up to apostasy. They are always in the middle of a gaudy excommunication--the Lieb, Steny Hoyer, the "blue dogs", and so on. The idea that the True Church might be flawed, though, that's the worst heresy of all. These people are interesting as targets for water balloons.

On the other hand, there are folks like Glenn Greenwald or the troupe at Unfogged who in some manner see that the jig is up, but who steadfastly refuse (I don't believe it's mere failure) to grasp the obvious conclusion: that the behavior of the Democratic Party isn't explained by fecklessness, fear, weakness, political calculation, supineness, or insufficiently brassy balls. They aren't an opposition party failing to oppose, but a colluding body hiding behind a tissue of opposition in order to maintain the façade of divided government.

On matters related to the smooth operation of the National Security State, we are governed by an imperial consensus that's both broad and deep. What differences exist are procedural. To say that the Democrats failed to "stop the FISA bill" is to assume that the Democrats wanted to do it. To say that the Democrats fail to effectively combat the "theory of the Unitary Executive" is to assume that the Democrats oppose the Executive state. Both lousy assumptions.

When a person or an organization consistently and explicitly acts against its own stated interests and its own claimed ideological committments, you can be sure that those interests and committments are bullshit, that another game is afoot.
From time to time I've tried to assert something along very similar lines - there may be a nickel's worth of difference between the two anointed parties, but that difference is merely a matter of packaging rather than of substance. Their members are entrenched in what can easily be called a failed state (or at bare minimum a failing state) - one in which its governing officials are so corrupt that the needs and wishes of their constituents don't even register. Something I wrote back about two years ago bears repeating:
You know your nation is a "failing state" when among other things the government simply through negligence and/or incompetence cannot act to help out its people in an emergency. I recall the lone physician who was there at the Convention Center in NOLA during the immediate days after Katrina had decimated the area commenting that 8-29 may very well have marked the day the nation started to fall apart. I would that the nation had been falling apart considerably before that day last year - it was only the footage from the devastated areas that made the rot visible for the first time. The ability of first responders to effectively handle a situation like the hurricanes that ravaged the Gulf Coast last hurricane season had been effectively hamstrung by severe budget cuts. That's been par for the course this decade so far. Poverty, which has, during my lifetime, increasingly plagued what is arguably the richest nation on earth was no stranger to the Big Easy - and the poorest of NOLA's residents tended to live in those areas most vulnerable to flooding. The decisions made by our federal government to neglect the state of the levees and to continue to neglect the coastal wetlands (which once upon a time served as a buffer between NOLA and hurricane-driven storm surges) were bound to affect these folks disproportionately. If one looks at the Lower Ninth Ward, as well as other coastal towns in Mississippi as well as coastal towns affected by Rita, one finds homes, businesses, and lives still in shambles. The government that promised to help has done little more aside from funneling some coin to their pals at Halliburton et al. And this year's hurricane season is only just warming up, y'all.

I'm willing to accept that there were many who were genuinely shocked and dismayed by the initial scenes of devastation, and by the devastation that still has yet to be repaired. Several news anchors and pundits were unprepared for scenes that seemed more fitting for a third world nation. And yet, as friends of mine who had spent time in the area (outside of the tourist traps) had told me, it had been pretty much third-world for quite a while in NOLA. In fact there have been folks (myself included) who have noted for at least a decade that substantial swaths of this nation have fallen into such severe neglect as to merit third-world status. So I was not shocked by what we were getting on the news stations at the tail end of August & the beginning of September. Rather, I was simply pissed off - at a government that has so thoroughly neglected its responsibilities that a large number of lives were lost (and we're talking a largely preventable loss, had the levee system been kept up adequately, had the wetlands been preserved, had equipment and potential first responders been in adequate supply rather than wasted on that atrocity of a war in Iraq); pissed off at the CEO carpetbaggers bound to profit off of the misery; pissed off at a corporate media that I knew would go largely back to sleep once the ever important stories about Jessica Simpson's impending divorce or the Olsen twins' eating habits hit the fan.

I'm not sure if there is a Huey Long out there in the woodwork, or plan on pinning my hopes on such an individual showing up. I'd rather get the word out instead. In the meantime, we can be rest assured that today's GOP doesn't give a rat's ass about most of us (at least those of us who don't count in the corporate and government's eyes as "substantial"), and that like the 1920s the Democrat party is all but useless. What I do know is that we cannot afford another moment of the status quo. This would be a damned good year to throw the bums out from both parties, a damned good year to take our country back - a damned good year, indeed, to begin the long road to fashioning something of a working democracy, and something that would hold far more legitimacy among the large proportion of currently disenfranchised citizens as well as abroad.
Whatever optimism may have been betrayed by that last paragraph has since been squelched. I doubt there was a country to "take back" ever. I stumbled upon something a dear (and sadly, departed) friend wrote four years ago that sums it up:
The United States is a failed state, with no legitimate government, it is run by a corporate designer version of Somalia-style warlords, whose purpose has nothing to do with the well-being of its citizens, and everything to do with stuffing a handful of already bulging profits with the sweat and blood of its own people, and the people of those countries it decides to seize, with multi-national sweat and blood, and the innocence of multi-national children.

There is no nation on earth whose people do not fear being invaded and overrun by US funded hordes of torturers and sexual predators, there is no mother who does not tremble at the thought that it could be her own child there in the "interrogation facility," providing a little R & R for America's brave gunmen.

America is feared and despised like the still-breathing corpse of the brute who raped your sister, you cannot feel pity, you can feel nothing but disgust and loathing, and the stench of his putrefication-in-life is a fetid promise that soon he will be no more.

A failed state, with no credible claim to sovereignty or nationhood, it is nothing more than a cadre of war profiteers who rule over a mass of serfs, who will live or die according to the grace and favor of the cadre.

Whether its figurehead is tall or short, literate and urbane or a neurological wreck living with challenges developmental and emotional does not matter to the next child to die, or wish he would, so that the ruling lords of Halliburton, or Heinz, or an optimist merger of Heinz-Halliburton can have more money than most American serfs can even conceive of.

As the glitterati and the politerati clink glasses and hobnob and pose for photos, those for whom a front porch is an impossible dream are neither deceived nor interested.

To those who crouch, weeping over the bodies of loved ones, in the ruined rubble of their humble homes, it does not make a bit of difference how war crimes are phrased or framed, what "face" is painted on them.

Those who scream, who still can make sounds, from the depths of the prisons and interrogation facilities, the cages and holes and undisclosed locations that dot the globe do not appreciate the nuanced quality of their torment, or the merits of an even-handed discussion of child rape.

America lies dying, and the neighbors gather, murmuring outside the death chamber, they do not enter,not out of respect, but revulsion, and while the family squabbles over the good china, someone slips in, and very quietly pulls the plug.
To become a President for such a failed state, what must be done? I'll paraphrase and adapt for my purposes six easy steps Subcomandante Marcos wrote back in 1994:
1. Carefully place a technocratic functionary, a repentant opposer, a businessman for a front, a Union Cowboy, a property holder, a builder, an alchemist in computational arts, a "brilliant" intellectual, a television, a radio, and two official parties. Set this mixture aside in a jar and label it: "Modernity."

2. Take a farm worker, a dissatisfied housewife, an unemployed person, an industrial worker, a teacher without a school, an applicant for housing and services, a displaced person from the Lower Ninth Ward, a touch of honest press, a student, a homosexual, a member of the opposition to the regime. Divide these up as much as possible. Set them aside in a jar and label them: "Anti-American".

3. Take a Native American. Separate the crafts and take a picture of her. Put her crafts and the photo in a jar and set it aside, labeling it: "Tradition".

4. Put the Native American in another jar, set it aside and label it: "Dispensable".

5. Open up a store and erect a huge neon sign that says: "America For Sale - End of the Decade Liquidation!"

6. Smile for the camera. Make sure the makeup covers the bags and dark circles under the eyes caused by the nightmare the process has caused.

Note: Always have on hand a policeman, a soldier, a mercenary, and an airplane ticket out of the country. These items may be necessary at any time.
You can read Marcos' original version here. Hopefully I did justice to his palabras in the present context (i.e., that of a decaying empire that has largely turned its government into a shell administered by contractors, subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors, as the neoliberal birds come home to roost). In our own failed or failing state, the elected positions are little more than executive-level and middle management positions in the service of a relative handful of corporate conglomerates. These incumbent and would-be managerial staff members are quite pleased with the status quo. Yes, there may be minor quibbles about who gets the corner office with the view of the beautiful scenery as opposed to the view of the wreckage and starvation. The latter occupants can simply keep their curtains drawn and pretend that the walls of their particular Green Zone will hold indefinitely. For those of us outside of the Green Zones, these elections are largely meaningless; that of course is the dirty little secret that we of the great unwashed masses are not supposed to know. Enjoy the spectacle if you must, assuming you have the luxury of watching the spectacle to begin with; just don't expect the spectacle to lead to any sort of real change come next January.

This decade's Nazi Doctors

If one delves into the profoundly depressing research on torture and genocide (something that has been a passion of mine since my teens), one will likely run into Robert Jay Lifton's book The Nazi Doctors. Even if one doesn't quite get to that particular classic, it becomes clear in a hurry that many members of the medical profession were implicated in Germany's genocidal activities during the 1930s and 1940s. This decade, it's a different regime, with our so-called helping professions implicated in torture. As someone who got into the field of psychology hoping to do some good for humanity, I've been horrified with what some of my peers have involved themselves in, and the seal of approval that the major umbrella organization for psychology (American Psychological Association) has given their activities. Thankfully, I'm not alone, as some of my peers have been speaking out against psychology's involvement in torture for quite a long time. Two who come immediately to mind: Steven Soldz via his blog Psyche, Science, and Society; and the psychologist who runs the blog Invictus. Both have been doing yeoman's work covering the latest developments regarding the role of the psychological profession in the perpetration of torture at Guantánamo Bay. Please read what they write. When I think of terms like "Nazi doctors" or "little Eichmanns", it's the so-called professionals who've devoted their lives to acting as perpetrators and/or apologists for the war crimes that have been committed this decade.

Monday, June 23, 2008

How elites think

These folks definitely think differently than the rest of us:
When asked whether a terror attack on US soil would help Mr McCain's campaign, Mr Black told the magazine: "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him."
I'm kind of thankful that I don't think like that. How about you?

History may not repeat exactly,

but sometimes it does one hell of a job of paraphrasing. Jonathan Schwarz sez:
The 1930 treaty reads almost exactly like U.S. proposals today, starting with the 2007 Declaration of Principles. Only the names have been changed. (Or rather, some of the names; the Iraqi prime minister in 1930 was also named Nouri.)

More George Carlin

Props to Doc Logan at Human Beams. The title of the video clip is Who Really Controls America. Let's just say that Carlin had a way of cutting to the chase - in this case, decoding the "ownership society" that was imposed upon us long ago. Hint: you and I ain't the owners.

McCain auditions for role as reality show host

Apparently he wishes to be on American Inventor:
Among other ideas, he'll propose inspiring "the ingenuity and resolve of the American people by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars."
There's something farcical about that, but so it goes. Americans love reality TV, probably because real reality just plain fucking sucks, and far too many of them have bought the old Horatio Alger mythology hook, line, and sinker. McCain knows that Barnum was right, and that there might just be enough suckers come election day. Obama knows it too - he's just using a different angle (i.e., tapping into that evangelical vibe that characterizes the Myth of American Exceptionalism with all that "hope" nonsense). Fortunately, I'm not alone in seeing through the bullshit.

RIP George Carlin

The world loses yet another great comedic voice. A few Carlin quotes that I happen to like:

The wisest man I ever knew taught me something I never forgot. And although I never forgot it, I never quite memorized it either. So what I’m left with is the memory of having learned something very wise that I can’t quite remember.

I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.

The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.

Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.

I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.
On that last line, I'd like to think that the duty of a blogger is quite similar! You'll be missed.

Bonus - Here's George Carlin about 15 years ago on the topic of the first Gulf War. Amazing how much of that monologue is every bit as timely today (including the very last few seconds of the video):

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Interesting essay on Kerouac's On the Road

Roobin's got an interesting take on the novel over at Lenin's Tomb. Over five decades later, we're still feeling the influence of that book, as well as the writings of numerous other beats. Heck, it was through my association with the punk and industrial subcultures back in the 1980s that I first got turned on to the work of Kerouac, Burroughs, Bukowski, and others; with the rise of acid jazz and underground & alternative rap at the end of the 1980s, we were treated to an update and refinement of the beat poetry tradition (seriously, check anything Digable Planets or A Tribe Called Quest did during the era - or Guru for that matter, or in the current decade Antipop Consortium, Beans, or Electric Barbarian). The beats opened a space for the gonzo journalism of Hunter S. Thompson, the dispatches from Chiapas by John Ross, the magazine Adbusters, etc. The cut-up technique was manifest in sound in the form of sampling and breakbeats. The nonconformity genie was summoned out of the bottle, and in spite of the oppressive forces at work today in the age of The War on Terra, shows little sign of being contained.