bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.
The American Dilemma
As many people warned before Bush took us into war, the problem was not the war itself. The really ugly problem would be dealing with the aftermath. Well, now we are well and truly stuck in a quagmire, with no end in sight. Today when the costs of empire are being exposed and both our soldiers and the Iraqis are dying, it looks increasingly like there are no good answers to our dilemma: how can we extract ourselves from this mess without creating greater carnage and leaving even more disaster in our wake?
One of the principle objectives of the Bush Cabal was to create the American empire. They believed that the reason America was endangered by terrorism was because it was not sufficiently assertive. Right after 9/11, the Weekly Standard published an article called The Case for American Empire stating that after dealing with Afghanistan, America should then take care of Iraq.
So, now we have our empire, but it is messy (or as Donald Rumsfeld put it "untidy"). And it looks like the opportunists that they were counting on to help run the country are not quite the partners we were hoping to find to help us with our war on terrorism.
The situation for our troops is becoming more untenable as Steve Soto reports. Now that it is increasingly evident that our troops are there for the long haul and starting to get pretty unhappy about this, what is the response from their leadership? Why, provide them a patriotic magazine that tells them what a wonderful thing they've done and why things are just peachy. (Courtesy of LesterNYC in a dKos comment thread.)
This seems so apropos of the Bushies. Remember how providing better media coverage of the US to the Arabic world was supposed to let them know that we are the good guys and we're on their side? The funny thing is, they see their propaganda working here, so they think that they just need to "massage" the message right and everyone will be happy and dumb. Why can't they understand that sometimes people want to have real substance and not just a fluffy ad that promises one thing, but never delivers. If the Bushies had really wanted to make an empire work in Iraq, they would have at least figured out how to get the hospitals, electricity and water back up and running before turning their attention to selling the oil.
Friday, June 13, 2003
Head over to the Barricades to find Renaissance Woman speaking about health care. Good stuff.
Courtesy of Alas, A Blog, I found this Trish Wilson post that previews her upcoming article on the "Use of Psychological Syndromes Against Mothers In The Courtroom". Also, check out Ampersand's praise of online cartoonists. (Full disclosure, Ampersand is a cartoonist himself, and a good one. See.)
The Eyeranian talks about the kind of regime change the people of Iran want for themselves, and the fronts being used by the (perhaps ironically named) People's Mujahideen to manipulate US public opinion into believing that violent, foreign sponsored overthrow is included in that.
I Protest takes on the Michael Savage lawsuits.
Courtesy of TBogg, South Knox Bubba tells us about kidnapping and the Underground Church. A story of fundamentalist paranoia (they do genuinely believe that the UN is planning to outlaw religion everywhere) gone bad. As if there was any other way for it to go, you ask...
Uppity Negro brings us some fun BtVS essays, and swears on the basis of a Joss Whedon quote never, ever to apologize for the title of his blog. (Aside: They've really got to bring back Firefly, and soon.)
Electrolite reminds us that when liberty dies in us, no document or court of law can save it. Also, how well rounded should a geek have to be, anyway? One commentor (and you must read the comments thread if you have any interest in geekdom) posted a great quote from Bruce Sterling, excerpt follows:
posted by Natasha at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK |
Thursday, June 12, 2003
Winning the female vote
Steve Soto reports that Republicans are already rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of winning a significant percentage of female voters from the Democrats in the upcoming 2004 elections because of the Republican edge on national security.
I think the real fight for women's vote comes down to hope vs fear. When women are terrorized by fear (because of the ubiquitious terrorist evil doers we hear so much about from this administration), then they'll vote for "the strong father" who promises safety at a steep price. However, if women understand that the choices in this election are either to let fear push you to vote for the "strong guy" government that delivers less or to trust that there is a future and ask for more from our government, then women will vote for the choice that works best for them.
American women need tools and policies that empower them to create better lives for their children and their parents. They need policies that empower them to find the best balance between work obligations and homelife, ones that help support good childcare because although it would be nice to have women stay home with their kids, most women need to work, and they also need to know their children are okay while they are working. They also need good policies that can help find healthcare and other options to care for an aging relative. [For you who are not part of the sandwich generation, just try to imagine being responsible for your children, your parents and your job so that none of them are cheated and all of them believe that you contribute to their well-being. Good policies can help.]
Democrats need to articulate messages that let women know that women can build a better world for their kids and their parents, but this is not done in a vacuum. It really does take a village to raise a child, and it takes that same village to help with dad and mom when they are old. But, women will vote for the Democrats IFF (If and Only If) Democrats can provide a solid message about why it is worth their while to vote Democratic.
BTW: I look at the Republican "wooing of the female vote" somewhat like the story of the abusive lover (a la: The Collector), who tells the lovely young thing, those guys are out to get you, but, I, your protector, will take care of you: all you have to do is to trust me. Meanwhile, he, the slimy cad, is the one who is trying to trap you into a home where he will control everything you think, do or believe. Sorry to be so cynical, but so many of these guys in the Republican leadership exhibit some of the worst characteristics of the stepford wives' husbands or that of Foster's collector.
The issue is not just choice about pregnancy (who decides), it is ALL choices that women need to make that is at risk under this hyper-paternalistic regime.posted by Mary at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK |
Caveat about the Hydogen-based Economy
There's been considerable interest in replacing fossil fuels with hydrogen. Jeremy Rifkin is one of the most outspoken advocates of this technology, while Iceland has taken steps to convert its economy to hydrogen. Here is a site dedicated to hydrogen fuel cells in transportation; it's by no means unique. Here's another site dedicated to hydrogen gas generation. For now, most commercial hydrogen is obtained from natural gas, not water, and if your reflex is to smell a rat anytime the Bush Administration embraces an idea, well, grab the traps: much DOE research undertaken in this field since the 1980's has involved atomic reactors.
I certainly like a lot of the idea of the hydrogen economy, although my tendency is to suspect that fossil fuels are an exceptionally difficult fuel to replace and it seems likely when we eventually do it'll be with a big variety of highly specialized fuel media. Hydrogen, of course, has to be obtained--perhaps by electrolysis of water--and then sent to the end user. Fuel cells, in which the reaction with oxygen would occur without combustion and create electric potential, is the most likely way hydrogen technology would be employed in moving sources. But hydrogen, in a liquid state, has several problems: it has to be kept at 20 Kelvins (-423 degrees F, -253 degrees C). At that temperature it weighs only 71Kg per cubic meter--C.f. water at 1000 Kg, and most commercial fractions of gasoline at 690-700 Kg. This means that the amount of chemical energy in a liter of liquid hydrogen (10.15 MJ) is much less than that for a liter of gasoline (30.36 MJ) even though liquid hydrogen has over three times as much energy per mass.
The NY Times published this article today about possible environmental problems associated with hydrogen gas leakage.
...In an article in this week's edition of Science magazine, researchers at the California Institute of Technology raised the possibility that if hydrogen fuel replaced fossil fuels entirely it could be expected that 10 percent to 20 percent of the hydrogen would leak from pipelines, storage facilities, processing plants and fuel cells in cars and at power plants.
None of which should really discourage hydrogen enthusiasts. The effects described in the article still aren't as bad as those from fossil fuels. Hydrogen technology, as a medium for carrying energy, will continue to be refined and used to enhance the performance of power delievery systems. But I expect it will remain in a supporting role, not in top billing. There probably aren't going to be massive supercooled pipelines of LH2 (liquid hydrogen) superceding high tension power lines, since the most promising efforts will be in localizing power generation anyway. And hydrogen has to be extracted--I hope we don't see atomic fission making a comeback to support our SUV habit. Imagine future conservative politicians teaming up with automakers to tout "green" SUVs powered--in effect--by atomic power plants.posted by James R MacLean at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK |
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Deepest apologies to our readers--this posting was lost to a posting error and I neglected to keep the original draft--I normally do. So I have reconstructed the post as well as I could. There will be omissions and errors.
Most journalists in most countries tend to use shorthand for describing international events. A common one that seems to confuse not only readers, but a lot of journalists themselves, is the nationalist metonymy. This is where an arm of the national government, or a representative of a business interest (American delegates to the Basel Accords, for example) is referred to as if the nation were speaking with a single voice. It's very commonly done, so much so that often it's overlooked entirely. Normally I would grumble and grudgingly acknowledge that, compared to AIDS, it isn't such a serious matter, but here I'd like to explain some of the pitfalls.
The problem of course is that it leads to people feeling traduced. I've had this experience often, of resenting an endless succession of allegations laid against "the United States" which depended entirely on unavailable evidence. During the 1980's, mostly illegally, the CIA funded a guerrilla movement known as the Contras in the tiny country of Nicaragua. The Contras were always a tiny movement of exiles who were, in their own right, entirely defeated on the battlefield and driven from Nicaragua by 1986; they were little more than a figleaf for the Reagan administration's agenda for liquidating the Sandinista government in Nicaragua by force majeur. While, as the links point out, the Reagan cabinet and its mighty Wurlitzer were public about demonizing the Sandinista government, they relied at all times on a tidal wave of propaganda well-tailored to the mood of Americans in the mid-1980's coupled with lies and covert action. That covert action invariably including begging the governments of countries such as Saudi Arabia to furnish the Contras with money, as well as wholly illegal trafficking in weapons (TOW missiles to Iran, for example). By "illegal," incidentally, I mean, "in violation of US laws." Lt. Col. Oliver North, who violated his military oath by traducing American interests and repudiating the US Constitution, managed to avoid prosecution for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair through a plea bargain.
In other words, when we say that "the US inflicted the Contras on Nigaragua" we are being sloppy in assigning agency. The Contras were almost entirely alienated from the rest of Nicaraguan society, dependent on foreign money and sanctuary in Honduras (or Costa Rica). The same may be said of the South Lebanese Army (SLA), itself entirely dependent upon Israeli support; and a number of destructive movements in Africa. But it is misleading to say that "the US" did this: first, because the vast majority of Americans were entirely lacking in accurate facts, or recourse, on the matter; because the perpetrating agency was breaking US law both to conceal its activities as well as to carry them out; and finally, because the perpetrating agency was usually conniving with a foreign equivalent precisely to subvert American recourse and oversight. This is why North and Poindexter were reduced to begging groups such as the intelligence agencies of third world countries...or drug lords... for a secret war against a Marxist government in a country with a GDP less than that of Irvine, CA.
It will be objected that Americans "ought" to have known about the deception worked on them, they "ought" to have voted out candidates who failed to act strenuously against the Reagan Administration's foreign policy, or "ought" to have rejected the absurd version of events purveyed in the American news media. That a tiny, impoverished country like Nicaragua whose capital city was in ruins decades after a massive earthquake leveled part of it, could pose a national security threat to the USA, was so absurd it is on one level reasonable to expect that Americans "ought" to have protested that they were being sold a bill of goods. However, since there are few, if any, examples of a government being thrown out of office because of an immoral foreign policy, I humbly submit that expecting Americans to break with all precedent in doing so is probably unreasonable. And most people in most countries have almost no idea what their governments are doing abroad.* Governments (in parliamentary states such the UK's) can dissolve over a scandal, but if the scandal involves foreign policy it is one of imprudence, not immorality. The only possible exception I can think of off the top of my head was a recent resignation of the Dutch cabinet over the failure to prevent the massacre of Bosnian Muslims by Serb militia in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1994. This was, however, "contained" within the bounds of a highly professional Dutch government and was a symbolic resignation.
It will be further objected that the American way of life is to blame for much of the atrocities done in secret by the US government. This supposes, perhaps, that Americans would--given our preferences--be sustantially worse off if our government did not undermine populist movements abroad. Fortunately, this is unlikely. On the contrary, it seems to me that American well-being would be enhanced by a dramatic change in how our interests are identified and served. For example, the USA differs from other developed nations in lacking a strong central government; we have what might be described as a "front office" state, in which decentralization of government powers has enabled business enterprise to make the 50 states their handmaids and lobbyists. While American foreign policy is unpopular among most Europeans and Northeast Asians, the financial press of those countries is usually quite supportive. It seems to me--perhaps I am wrong--that our problem is not that Americans have wishes which are dramatically at odds with those of the rest of the world, so much as that certain vested interests around the world can use our front-office state to do their bidding, and having done so, have neither the need nor the ability to get oter world powers on board.
Having touched on cases such as Nicaragua, where the covert action of American entities was mostly to blame for what happened, I would like to mention the case of situations where we were on the "wrong side." It has been said at this very blog that the "US instigated the Iran Iraq war." I think it is going much too far to say that we controlled Saddam, especially to extent of "making him" launch the largest conventional war since 1953. The US government was far from sorry to see Iraq invade Iran, and refused to condemn the invasion; on the other hand, diplomatic relations had been ruptured between Washington and Baghdad between 1967 and 1984, and during all periods of that war, Iraqi weapons purchases from other friendly countries far exceeded those from American sources. None of which excuses the atrocious behavior of the Reagan Administration after it altered Carter's policy of strict neutrality in the war.**
As a student of the social sciences, I believe that big events have big causes. The violence in Nicaragua was an atrocity mainly perpetrated by the CIA and a secretive coterie within the Reagan Administration. It was a horrible crime, probably intended by the perpetrators to intimidate potential Sandinistas in other countries. As such, I suspect it failed, although it might have motivated the Nicaraguans to vote the Sandinistas out of power in 1990 (I say "probably," because the vote occurred years after the Sandinistas were entirely liquidated and isolated; see links above for details). And for Nicaraguans, the death of perhaps 30,000 people was no doubt a big event. But the chain of causality is well established. In a much bigger crime, such as the carnage in Guatemala, our government played a comparatively smaller, but still atrocious role (link courtesy of Body & Soul). In the coup and genocide which accompanied Suharto's climb to power (30 September-November 1965), the CIA and other bodies played a still smaller, though highly damaging role.*** In all of these cases, the actions taken by the executive branch were cloaked in secrecy; mostly they violated American laws and stated policy in the region. In these cases and many more, it has become a damaging controversy among progressives as to how guilty America was, and how important our causative role was. In my humble opinion, American progressives have severely damaged their reputation with other Americans we hope to serve.
I'm tired of critics of American foreign policy being branded "anti-American" because we "blame America first." But I also believe something has to explain the puzzling failure of progressives to win the hearts and minds of the Americans with whom we share this country. If we "lefties" actually had a bigger role in making decisions, I think Americans would be better off and American ideals would have more acceptances abroad. Most resentment of the USA comes from our government or our businesses acting in a way opposite to what we would expect or desire. Domestically, Americans could enjoy many of the best social democratic institutions developed in Europe, possibly while paying lower taxes in the long run. We wouldn't need to "abolish capitalism" or even redistribute significant amounts of income. The latter two ideas aren't even popular with those of us at The Watch, so we aren't taking exotic political stands here.
But I hope my readers understand the algebra problem I've set up. Either it's the message or the messenger. I don't accept that it's the message (most of the time, although I hope it's understood disagreements arise among progressives just like everyone else). And merely insisting that it's the Wurlitzer's fault, or that Americans are ignorant, or that I am a dittohead for bringing it up, is compelling evidence that the speaker isn't really ready to contribute to the solution.
**For the most hostile plausible treatment of our government's role in this war, see this article in Zmag; be advised that the most inflammatory charges made by Shalom, while footnoted, refer to books by ideologically sympathetic writers. Shalom's version of all events is described in a way which gives massive weight to supposed motives of various actors; to make his point, he quotes low ranking, anonymous functionaries as if they stood for "America." But here again, no evidence is furnished that the role of the US government ever consisted of a distant accessory long after the fact.
***The events of 30 September 1965 are known to Indonesians and historians as Gestapu 30 Septembre, of the "Movement of the 30th of September. They began with an alleged coup attempt by the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), turned to a Pinochet-style coup by Gen. Suharto, and culminated in a mass slaughter. Because G30S was a massively complicated event, versions of events differ wildly because they cover different narrow aspects of the phenomenon. Here is one of the best accounts I've found on the Web, and addresses the role of men such as then-President Sukarno, the CIA, and M-5. This one is very good, and not terribly long, but does not appear to cover the Rwandan-style mob-genocide of East Java. Also, to my boundless frustration, there is little treatment of the violence and oppression against ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. The latter remains an ongoing problem of Indonesian society.posted by James R MacLean at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK |
Lies They've Told Us: "Everybody hates Hillary Clinton"
posted by Natasha at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK |
Israel and Palestine
Flagrancy to Reason brings us the map of the future Palestinian state currently on the table. Not the roadmap, mind you, but the geographical map. It doesn't exactly build confidence in the negotiation process.
Courtesy of Ampersand, we find that Pedantry has concisely explained why there can be no moral equivalence between the actions of the Israeli government and those of factions within a stateless group of people. It's good, so if you only click on one link in this post, make it this one.
And, in a depressing closer, the Mad Prophet takes on the old charge that Some People are teaching their kids to hate Other People.
Update: According to the Mad Prophet, from whom we originally picked up this hateful children story, it has been refuted by WorldNetDaily. While this is somewhat like saying that something has been refuted on the 700 Club, or that Geraldo Rivera swears it isn't true, they could in theory be correct. However, since I'm going to spend next couple days lounging, hiking, and generally pfaffing around (certainly not diligently researching stories from half a world away), it's only fair to note that there's an opposing viewpoint.
Update the Second: Ampersand points out that there are indeed some problems with the story of the hateful schoolchildren as reported, and even some good news relevant to the subject matter. Post edited to remove the reckless quoting of Beatles' songs and a quote which appears to have been partially incorrect at the source; the author apologizes for getting a bit carried away, and having been listening too much to a good local radio station.posted by Natasha at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK |
Better Bloggers Than Me...
How To Save The World has a follow up to an excellent prior post on how to establish new collaborative enterprises, a step to creating a post-consumer economy.
Ruminate This adds an important item to our activist to-do list: call your senator to oppose the nomination of William Pryor to the Federal bench. She links to Talk Left's excellent store of information on this family-leave-hating, anti-choice, civil-rights-opposing, no-environmental-protection-wanting, no-protection-needed for the (elderly/disabled/consumer/worker), and no-church-state-separation-please nominee. Tell your Senators (especially the Democratic ones) that you expect them to take this guy every bit as seriously as Miguel Estrada.
From the Agonist, Iranians have started demonstrating against their government. Again. Let's see if GWB can keep his mouth shut this time and let those people deal with their own problems, without being accused of traitorously working for America.
Cowboy Kahlil speaks persuasively on why people need to protest the deportation of 13,000 Arab and Muslim men whose only crimes appeared to have been a) waiting for the infernally slow INS to process their paperwork, and b) voluntarily appearing to register with the government when requested to do so.
PluckyPunk points out that the cowardly French have rescued Americans in Liberia, a country plunging into civil war, along with sundry other foreign nationals. But, as Flagrancy to Reason points out, no one seems interested in rescuing the Liberians.
Nathan Newman points out that if Senators voted in proportion to the population of the states they represent, filibustering Democrats would have a majority. Also, he finds that organized labor has a much better solution to dealing with graft than corporate America: make the buggers pay it back.
Sisyphus brings us the story of a bible-thumping Republican governor who's trying to reduce the tax burden on the poor of Alabama on the basis that Jesus said to take care of the least among you. Well alrightly then. If only this were the kind of thing that politicians had in mind more often when they talk about bringing morality back to politics.
Still Here goes looking for those Lucky Duckies who don't pay any tax.
Suburban Guerilla points out the elephant in journalism's living room; if you want high ethical standards and quality work, you have to budget for them. (links bloggered, scroll to The Real Story, 6/10/03)
Update (missed a couple): Ampersand brought us our Wednesday cartoon fix, wherein we are informed about the Bureau of Indian Affairs and it's endless shuffle to avoid actually doing its job. And a couple days ago, he pointed out this interesting post on the Head Heeb concerning the new Rwandan constitution.
Monday, June 09, 2003
As mentioned previous, very light posting out of me this week. But do please go read Late Night Thoughts (links bloggered) for the Thursday, May 29th, 2003 post on eduucation. Packs a mighty punch, so if you didn't catch it before I did, it's a must.
Then, BusyBusyBusy finds that Bill O'Reilly has the final word on whether or not the media is liberal. Verdict: No.
Peacetree Farm notices that someone eminently qualified to speak on the subject of presidential scandal is wondering whether the Bush administration's lies to congress constitute an impeachable offense.
The Bloviator writes about the pharmaceutical industry's lobbying agenda to stop cheap foreign prescription imports and dismantle public health care in Canada.
Ruminate This has a great Friday roundup of must read posts, and has written herself on the unpublicized denial of any Iraq-Al Qaida connection by Al Qaida detainees questioned before the war on Iraq.
Over on It's Still The Economy, Stupid, we learn about more government statistics that have been 'disappeared', and it turns out that they're unemployment numbers. Again. And they aren't pretty.
Electrolite brings us a highlight from the Crusading army in Iraq.
And Making Light has the kitchen wish list to die for. This was my personal favorite: "Optionally, I’d like an adjustable powered sauce and custard stirring device, with heat-resistant scraper blades, that I could attach to a saucepan for those “stir constantly at low heat for half of forever” recipes."
Update ('cause you can't have just one): The Left Coaster has been waging a one person letter writing campaign with his local newspaper as the focus, trying to raise awareness of the Bush administration's lies. He wasn't sure if anyone else cared, but it turns out that they do. If you've been despairing lately, or tempted to despair, you must go read this.posted by Natasha at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK |