Saturday, June 12, 2010

Inertia

That would characterize our current state of affairs quite aptly - especially when it comes to energy policy. I wish I were optimistic that the residents in Congress and the usual villagers would get their heads out of their collective arse long enough to actually do something that might matter long-term. Even if there were plenty of protests, emails, letters, phone calls and so on coming from US citizens demanding such change, given the way our system "works", I would expect nothing much of substance to come from it. File under "more evidence of a failing state".

Jurgen Habermas' latest interview

He has quite a bit to say with regard to the EU, the decline of the newspapers, etc. I've never been too keen on his contention that capitalism could somehow be tamed from within, but that aside I found his work to make for stimulating reading back in my younger days.

Iceland has now legalized same-sex marriage

The vote wasn't even close: it was in fact unanimous. Now if only we could get the US to join with an increasingly large share of the civilized world.

Flash floods in Arkansas

Absolutely awful disaster.

Friday, June 11, 2010

So much for the official version:

The "official" version (as told by our oh-so-"beLIEvable" US border patrol) of the recent border shooting that left a 14 year old boy dead appears to be bollocks.



Video via naked capitalism's Yves Smith who says:
This video from a Mexican news broadcast (hat tip reader Gonzalo Lira) is nominally off topic for this blog, but I thought I’d include it precisely because it illustrates one of the mechanisms of propaganda: how the non or under reporting of key facts is used to manage popular perceptions. This video appears getting play only on CNN and some local newstations in the US (and I see the YouTube has only a bit over 1000 viewings thus far).

The newswoman says the teenagers were throwing rocks, but as you can see from the video, unless they were using slingshots (and there is no evidence of that) they were so far away as to pose no threat to the border cop.

Gonzalo reports: “It’s getting a lot of play not only in Mexico, but in the rest of Latin America. The emerging consensus in Latin America is, the US is a country of trigger-happy crazy-people.”

As sad as this case is, in the overall scheme of things this is a minor incident, but it serves to illustrate how news reporting is tailored to fit conventional (and authority-flattering) narratives.

Update: A Google search does show The Daily News with a writeup of the video. It also points out the body of the slain Mexican teenager was found on Mexican soil. Since he appears to have fallen in place, this raises further problems for the “official” version of the story.

So many assholes, so little time

Case in point.

Feel like moving?

Sharon Astyk has plenty of potential excuses to do so in an era of increasingly scarce fuel and water resources. The questions she's asking are ones that I and my wife have pondered considerably over the last couple years. I'm realizing increasingly that the struggles that we face as a family are symptomatic of a community that is itself not sustainable over the long haul. Back in 2008 we got to witness first-hand what a spike in fuel prices could do to the supply chain of a very isolated and long-neglected rural area. While we thankfully did not devolve into some sort of Mad Max scenario, we came just close enough for discomfort.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Welcome to the world of the plastic beach"



h/t News of the Restless, with some timely commentary you should be checking out. Word.

"The Cove" falls victim to political correctness in Japan

Let me preface my very brief commentary by pointing out that I use the term "political correctness" differently than how it is typically used here in the US. When I use the term, what I mean is any speech that serves the interests of political and corporate elites. Check the link above for a more extended discussion.

Now onto "The Cove." If you haven't seen the documentary, you really should. It's a documentary that examines the slaughter of dolphins in Japan, and efforts by the Japanese government to maintain the status quo. It's not an easy movie to watch, especially in light of how highly intelligent our dolphin friends happen to be (late last year, it was suggested that dolphins be considered non-human persons due to their intelligence). There does seem to be some reason to believe that like humans, dolphins have an awareness of their own mortality and seem savvy enough to consciously commit suicide under conditions of captivity (a point mentioned in "The Cove"). The centerpiece of the film is the effort by several activists to record one of these slaughters in Japan in progress, juxtaposing its violent imagery with the propaganda cranked out by the Japanese government. It's one of those painful but necessary films to watch.

Needless to say, there is considerable pressure on Japanese movie houses to refuse to show this film to the public. The film takes direct aim at a practice in Japan labeled "traditional" and hence defenders of dolphin hunting have taken the film to task for insufficient political correctness. The film's detractors seem to be relying on a rather extreme form of cultural relativism, invoking the specter of "Western interference" in the process. Never mind that most Japanese residents don't consume dolphin meat. What I suspect the real fear is that the handful who profit from the slaughter would have to find another means of making a living.

What is the Internet doing to our brains?

Let's just say the transformation from the print media age to the Internet age has some considerable potential negatives attached to it.

Anatomy of a disaster

Let's just say that a large part of what led to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico can be summed up thusly: no one seemed to know who was in charge. One also gets a bit of an idea of how federal government regulators have historically failed to regulate the oil industry. It would seem reasonable to expect that with any activity that could have wide-ranging disastrous consequences if something goes wrong, there should be a clear and streamlined set of rules in place - and a clear and streamlined chain of command. In an age of relying on contractors, subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors, each with competing interests and motivations, combined with regulatory agencies that more often than not look the other way, disasters are harder to prevent and when they strike responses tend to be unnecessarily delayed.

On a somewhat related note, it would seem that Frank Rich has some good advice for Obama and his administration. A lot of my own skepticism about Obama has boiled down to a skepticism that I've had for ages about similar DLC style Democrats: they're too tied to a belief that private, for-profit conglomerates will act in our best interests. The last couple years alone should be proof positive of the contrary.

Trying something new

Once upon a time, I found Blogexplosion a useful source of new traffic to my website. Well, that dried up a few months ago. So some of Blogexplosion alums have created a new site, ExposeYourBlog, which looks promising. I'll be trying that out for a while, and see if it nets a new reader or two.