Friday, August 6, 2010

More on the collapse

Our long emergency continues unabated:
It's probably also worth noting this Wall St. Journal article from last month -- with a subheadline warning:  "Back to Stone Age" -- which describes how "paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue."  Utah is seriously considering eliminating the 12th grade, or making it optional.  And it was announced this week that "Camden [New Jersey] is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free."

Does anyone doubt that once a society ceases to be able to afford schools, public transit, paved roads, libraries and street lights -- or once it chooses not to be able to afford those things in pursuit of imperial priorities and the maintenance of a vast Surveillance and National Security State -- that a very serious problem has arisen, that things have gone seriously awry, that imperial collapse, by definition, is an imminent inevitability?
Greenwald notes that what is happening here is much akin to what one would expect see in developing nations during their economic downturns: the oligarchs get bailouts while the rest of us get squeezed. Personally I won't lament the end of the US' run as a hyperpower or whatever you might want to call it. What I worry about is the kind of society we will evolve into over the next couple decades.

The Zapatistas and Climate Change

What can the Zapatistas teach us about climate change? Quite a lot, actually.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wikileaks must not be stopped

It's served its function of keeping governments a bit more honest than they'd prefer. Contra some of its detractors (see here for a description of one), I hope to see the site continue to shine light in dark places. A friend, Arthur Silber, has much more to say on Wikileaks that is far more coherent than anything I could hope to offer up while I am in transit.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Embarrassed

It's interesting to read conservatives who are profoundly embarrassed by the sorry state of what has become of movement conservatism. Although I seriously doubt I'd agree with Professor Bainbridge on most political questions, we do share a disdain for the anti-intellectualism and anti-science stance that characterizes the current movers and shakers in the the GOP (or should we just go ahead and start calling it GOTea?). Really, in any civilized nation in reasonable health politically and economically, most folks would consider these loons little more than a fringe movement and would not be giving them the airtime, column space, and paid blog space that they currently get (let alone be serious contenders for public office).

I'd add to this simply that I'd love to see more civil, literate discourse than is currently the case. That would require a paradigm shift (for lack of a better term right now) in our country to transpire. What I see as crucial to debating and solving the problems that face us as a nation, and face us globally, is an openness to a variety of perspectives outside one's own pet perspective, a willingness to engage in reflective thinking (i.e., critical thinking, tolerance for ambiguity, etc.), a healthy respect for intellect (science, literature, the arts). In such an environment, demagoguery, appeals to authority, uncritical acceptance of urban myths, conspiracy theorizing, and so on would simply not be accepted. I'm not especially hopeful that we'd see such a transformation, but I do know this much: as an individual consumer of news and opinion I can and do refuse to support those media outlets and commentators who fail to rationally make whatever point they wish to make.

What would happen if the Bush tax cuts really expired?

It looks like that for the vast majority of us, we either won't notice a difference or will notice a slightly lighter tax obligation. Besides, the tax cuts are not a benefit for the economy (which wasn't that great before the crash of 2008) and if anything are a drag on the economy. Our fetish with trickle-down economics is the only powerful motivator for keeping the cuts in place. Really, when it gets down to brass tacks, our tax burden has been at a historical low. I'd prefer a focus on stimulating the economy short-term, and then focus on a sustainable economic policy as we transition from a cheap energy to a more expensive energy reality.