Saturday, July 12, 2008

How neoliberalism works

Cause more and more chaos, and rake in the profits.

A novel suggestion

William Pfaff has a few words for those in government: just get out of Iraq, NOW. All this bovine fecal matter about chaos if the US left Iraq, turning it into a breeding ground for terrorists, needing to secure oil access, or simply the importance of the appearance of an "orderly" withdrawal that would be dragged out for years is just that - bovine fecal matter.

H/t Chris Floyd.

Yup, this could be a problem

But quality of life remains the biggest risk to the Florida dream. So many Northeastern transplants are leaving Florida for other states with less congestion and better education systems that they have their own nickname: Halfbacks. In 2000, Florida attracted 19% of the nation's migrating seniors; by 2006, it was only 13%. Florida still has some of America's richest ZIP codes, but it ranks among the worst states in school spending and health coverage.

The GOP-controlled legislature has responded to the state's woes with protracted arguments about evolution and other Terri Schiavo--style social issues as well as legislation proposing crackdowns on bikers who pop wheelies, students who wear droopy pants and truckers who hang fake cojones on their rigs. It also slashed $5 billion from the state budget. "I just got in an argument about whether we're 50th or 45th in the nation in graduation rates," says Florida house minority leader Dan Gelber. "What a great debate to have."

Nerdified link

Friday, July 11, 2008

Headline I'd Like to See

Congress receives lower approval ratings than leprosy.

Telling it like it is

Just wanted to highlight a few things in the aftermath of this week's FISA vote in the Senate, which further consolidates the dictatorial powers of the Executive Branch. If you wish to get a brief synopsis of what happened from the perspective of the peanut gallery, start here, then work your way to here (wherein you'll find a link that names names), then here to learn about how your Congresslizards profited by voting as they did on that awful FISA legislation (and of course view a classic Frank Zappa tune set to video), and on to last month's failed effort to filibuster the bill in the Senate (in which I not only name names in a positive sense, by recognizing the handful of Senators who engaged in what was a Quixotic struggle, but make the simple point that outside of those occasional isolated individuals, there is no opposition party in US government). Because I seem to need to repeat myself, I told you so.

Chris Floyd reprised something he wrote the last time that Congress did something so breathtakingly monstrous, when a solid majority of the previous session's Congresslizards voted to gut Habeas Corpus. It's worth sharing:
Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes.
I'll say this, I don’t give a damn about your dreams.”
-- Bob Dylan, “Thunder on the Mountain”

Who are these people? Who are these useless hanks of bone and fat that call themselves Senators of the United States? Let’s call them what they really are, let’s speak the truth about what they’ve done today....

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Sold our liberty to keep their coddled, corrupt backsides squatting in the Beltway gravy a little longer.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Cowards and slaves, giving up our most ancient freedoms to a dull-eyed, dim-witted pipsqueak and his cohort of bagmen, cranks and degenerate toadies.....

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Traitors to the nation, filthy time-servers and bootlickers....

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Threw our freedom on the ground and raped it, beat it, shot it, stuck their knives into it and set it on fire.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
If there was an ounce of moxie left in the American system, these white-collar criminals would be in shackles right now, arrested for high treason, for collusion with a tyrant who is gutting the constitution, pushing terrorism to new heights and waging an unholy, illegal war of aggression that’s killed tens of thousands of innocent people and bled our country dry.

There is no honor in them. There is no decency, no morality, no honesty – nothing but fear, nothing but greed, nothing but base servility. Cringing, wretched little creatures, bowing to the will of a third-rate thug and his gang of moral perverts. This is their record. This is their doing. This is the shame they will have to live with. And this is the darkness, rank, fetid and smelling of blood, that now covers us all.
Arthur Silber's take is also worth sharing (as it hits on the question of why do you continue to support?):
As explained in many essays here, I emphasize that while the crudest of political calculations was involved in both instances, calculations which are almost invariably in error, it is also the case that Obama and Clinton positively believed in their votes. As is true of Democrats generally, they both support an authoritarian-corporatist state at home and aggressive interventionism abroad. It is a matter of considerable astonishment to me that, even at this late date and as even a brief survey of leading "progressive" blogs reveals, most Democratic partisans are incapable of grasping the glaringly obvious: the Democrats act as they do because they want to. If these self-blinded Democratic supporters ever wish to regain a tenuous foothold in reality, they would be well advised to up their desperate grasping at straws and face the truth. It doesn't hurt all that badly, and only for a few years.

Of course, they may have to question some of their most deeply held and comforting beliefs and give up many of their allegiances -- but then, those don't seem to be working out so well for them, do they? They certainly aren't working out at all well for those principles they claim to be so concerned about. Yes, the emphasis is decidedly on "claim."
The proverbial "next step" of getting better Democrats is one that will never be taken. What you've got is likely as good as it gets, and that really isn't saying much. For those who have been admonishing the rest of us to work within the party structure, to reform it from within, and so forth for the last couple decades, I can only ask, how well is that working for you? If you're honest with yourself, the conclusion will not be a particularly pleasant revelation. Speaking from personal experience, trust me, you'll get over it. Oh, and just to ward off any temptation to chalk all thus up to yet another PUMA (I've occasionally received that particular message), I would merely offer that in order to renounce Democratic Party unity, one needs to actually be a partisan - it's a necessary prerequisite. I haven't met that basic prerequisite for some time; it's that whole antipartisan thing that is central to my thinking and writing on this humble blog. So it goes.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

File under "I told you so"

Of course I wasn't surprised in the least to read about that final Senate vote on the FISA bill, which gave Bu$Co what it wanted. It was only a matter of time, since the most crucial vote - the one that would have permitted a filibuster - failed. My favorite line so far is this:
Next step is to get some better Democrats.

Good luck with that. Personally, I wouldn't count on that happening any time soon. Instead, I would suggest accepting that the sorry performance of the Congressional Dems is as good as it gets (in large part because the bulk of them are on the same page as their GOP colleagues). In other words, as I said a couple weeks ago:
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.
The Rogues Gallery that I posted at that point in time is still up on the right-hand sidebar, and will remain in place for now. Those who had the opportunity to block the FISA bill, but refused, deserve to live in infamy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Well, the traveling is over for now

We arrived at our destination a few hours ago. The trip was mostly uneventful - just the usual issues of motion among the wee ones, and the usual crankiness and frayed nerves that come from being cooped up in a vehicle for hours on end. Much to my amazement, we only forgot minor items and nothing major! From my vantagepoint, that is the mark of a good traveling experience. Yes, for some seasoned travelers, such expectations might seem modest, but to me that is grand indeed.

I of course know this particular route like the back of my hand, and have been through the I-40 corridor from New Mexico through the Mojave Desert in California many times now for a quarter of a century (give or take). I make mental notes of the little changes that mark the scenery. One observation I would probably make is this: the forest surrounding the Flagstaff area is in the midst of a transition - to what I am uncertain. What I can say is that in the mid 1980s, the pine trees looked healthy, and aside from the lower humidity, it reminded me a bit of western Washington and Oregon. I have watched a growing number of those same trees show signs of stress and illness - whether it's from extended periods of drought, vulnerability to diseases or predatory insects, or whatever, there are a striking number of trees that are dying or dead. I wonder, if I'm around to travel that route in another quarter century, what the area around Flagstaff will look like.

Until recently, the atmosphere in the high plains felt every bit as dry as the atmosphere in places like Winslow, AZ. Perhaps that will give some an idea of the sheer scope of the drought that my home has experienced this year.

Gas prices are high, but not quite as outrageous as I had expected. I'm glad that our mode of transport, while bigger than what I'm accustomed, gets okay enough mileage. Oh, and this was the first summer where I didn't actually have to worry about finding a vacant hotel room - at least thus far. We'll see if I am of the same opinion after the return portion of the journey.

One of the cool thing about traveling is encountering some really cool fellow humans. While we were getting some lunch at a truckstop just outside of Tucumcari, we met a young man named Hakim, who was in the midst of walking from NYC to Los Angeles. We chatted a while as Madame and the younger ones finished their meals, and learned a great deal from Hakim, including the importance of starting on the west coast rather than the east coast so as not to have to hike through the desert in the summer (or to have to walk against the wind the entire wary), and of course that if I ever were to get serious about weight loss, nothing beats a hike across the US. Although a native of Algeria, he's lived in the US for quite a while, and appeared like someone just young enough to have recently finished college. His basic message seemed to be this: if you want to do something, it's possible. Hakim has a website, if you're inclined to visit, called Paint Atlas. I'm sure he's got some stories to tell. Hopefully the rest of his journey is a good one.

So it goes. Be well, and I will have more to say here as time permits.

Monday, July 7, 2008

On the road again

As of today, we're off to visit the California contingent of relatives. A couple years ago, those empty days could be easily filled with some guest bloggers. Alas, Manny and Duke are very busy these days - their involvement with building The Sanctuary is quite worthwhile, and by all means visit and see what they and several others are collectively putting together. It's beautiful. Ductape Fatwa vanished without a trace late September 2006 and is presumed dead. In other words, this is pretty much a solo effort once more, so if perchance you get bored, just comb through the archives, read a book, or spend some time enjoying the outdoors. Life's short after all.


That just a long-winded way of saying, blogging will be pretty sporadic during the period from July 7th through July 16th. I'll have internet access where we're staying, so I'll probably post up something from the peanut gallery as time permits. Otherwise, I'll likely be at the beach (or on the road).

Catch you on the flipside.

On the road again

As of today, we're off to visit the California contingent of relatives. A couple years ago, those empty days could be easily filled with some guest bloggers. Alas, Manny and Duke are very busy these days - their involvement with building The Sanctuary is quite worthwhile, and by all means visit and see what they and several others are collectively putting together. It's beautiful. Ductape Fatwa vanished without a trace late September 2006 and is presumed dead. In other words, this is pretty much a solo effort once more, so if perchance you get bored, just comb through the archives, read a book, or spend some time enjoying the outdoors. Life's short after all.


That just a long-winded way of saying, blogging will be pretty sporadic during the period from July 7th through July 16th. I'll have internet access where we're staying, so I'll probably post up something from the peanut gallery as time permits. Otherwise, I'll likely be at the beach (or on the road).

Catch you on the flipside.

The Nativist Fantasy World

Click the image to see it full-sized. This was found over at kyledeb's place, Citizen Orange. Is that a world you wish to live in? It's definitely not the one for me. I can certainly think of much better.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

NYT states the obvious

Congress and the White House dropped the ball on energy, and as a result we're reaping the consequences. File under, "could see that one coming a mile away."

Sometimes wishes do come true

For example:
In a 1998 interview, Osama bin Laden — the terrorist organizer of 9/11 who still roams free — listed as one of his many grievances against the U.S. that Americans “have stolen $36 trillion from Muslims” by purchasing oil from Persian Gulf countries at low prices. The real price of a barrel of oil should be $144, bin Laden demanded.

Ten years ago today, the price of a barrel of oil was just $11. Heading into this holiday weekend, the price of a barrel of oil rested at $144 — a thirteen-fold increase.

One month after 9/11, the New York Times wrote of possible “nightmare” scenarios that would deliver bin Laden’s goal. Neela Banerjee warned that among the “misguided decisions” that would put oil supplies at risk would be “that the United States attacks Iraq.” The Times included this quote in its story:

“If bin Laden takes over and becomes king of Saudi Arabia, he’d turn off the tap,” said Roger Diwan, a managing director of the Petroleum Finance Company, a consulting firm in Washington. “He said at one point that he wants oil to be $144 a barrel” — about six times what it sells for now.

Bin Laden didn’t have to become king of Saudi Arabia to achieve his goal; in fact, Bush’s policies delivered it for him. The Bush administration’s catastrophic decision to invade Iraq, sink the nation into debt to pay for that war, and consequently, weaken the dollar have all caused oil prices to soar astronomically.

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee last May, Anne Korin, the co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, reminded Congress about bin Laden’s goal:

[A]bout ten years ago, Osama bin Laden stated that his target price for oil is $144 a barrel and that the American people, who allegedly robbed the Muslim people of their oil, owe each Muslim man, woman, and child $30,000 in back payments. At the time, $144 a barrel seemed farfetched to most. […]

I would like to impress upon this Committee that $144 a barrel oil will be perceived as a victory for the Jihadist movement and a reaffirmation that the economic warfare component of its campaign against the West is a resounding success. There is no need to elaborate on the implications of such a victory in terms of loss of U.S. prestige and our ability to prevail in the Long War of the 21st century.

Indeed, ten years later, a mission accomplished for bin Laden.

Assuming he's actually still alive (and I'll merely voice my skepticism for now), Osama bin Laden must be pleased.