best when viewed in low light


For Whom The Affirmative Action Bell Tolls?

How does one respond to the death of affirmative action in education?

The affirmative action policy is, of all the legacies from the super-liberal, actively political Warren and Burger courts, probably the most offensive example of judicial law-making.

By setting a legal precedent that introduced a standard into the educational system that had no history in society at the time, and no firm legal foundation, the US Supreme Court created an expectation that could not be fully met, and an intrinsic obstacle to enforcement.

In the 50s, 60s and 70s, Warren and Burger were ahead of the majority of society in their belief in progressive, inclusive, active social policy. They wrote opinions that acknowledge and reflect what they view as the failings of society to integrate and move forward. Their rulings compensated for popular improvement and innovation.

If their perception of society was correct, and their methods of encouragement successful, then we are better off now that we have applied their ideas. Better off that racial integration has occurred at a faster rate than our covert and overt racism would have allowed without that push.

As a believer in integration and racial appreciation [NOT equality, that is an eraser - acknowledgement and love of differences], I am thankful that we live in the society that came of these movements.

As a believer in judicial restraint, though, I can not support the active reading of the tenets of the Constitution, Bill of Rights [Amendments 1-10], and its Amendments [through 27], EVEN THOUGH it may lead the way to new perspectives. That is the job of individuals and their elected representatives.

And here's why: when the pendulum swings the other way, it swings back fast and hard, and we are forced into a MORE conservative reading that may, as in Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 et al, move us back into a world of de facto educational segregation.

As the 14th Amendment so eloquently states, no one should have opportunities provided or taken away based on all the superficial (but identity-crucial) differences that define us. And, back-step though this decision may be [they've been undermining this precedent since Bakke] in terms of racial integration in schools in some areas (and impacts in the society at large), it is about time that the judiciary retreat from an intrusive stance on this topic.

We should, by now, be able to recognize that racial integration, and the mainstream socialization that takes place in the school system are beneficial to our melting-pot mythology and equality propaganda. [And to the people that are actually exposed to differences that inspire them to consider other opinions, explore conflicting idea(l)s, and absorb varied cultural phenomena. But the behavioral mainstreamlining of US culture is a devastating loss.]

We should also be able to put in place other mechanisms of social control [er, influence] that will be more effective: mixed-income housing [a fantasy in property-obsessed US culture], work/social programs, application-focused educational institutions [not trade schools, but learning through the development of ideas and the execution of those ideas using the resources available and skills necessary to innovate] and a vastly improved electoral system with a policy-driven multi-party system.

We should. But, do we? Can we?

Damn those conservative jurists and their precedential purity! If only that translated across the board - I bet the Bongs 4 Jesus kid wishes the Supreme Court would back up even further.

You're So Cool

Oh my God, Russia! Why are you being so difficult? Playing by some rules and making up some of your own?!

Who do you think you are? US?!

The US and the rest of the West would have a much better time with our international relationships if we had some awareness of the way our actions look to people who aren't US citizens, don't benefit from our actions, and believe in values that - though they may be identical in theory to our purported values - look different in application in their culture than they do in ours.

Russia sauntered around the proverbial block a number of times before we even existed as a nation-state. And, though shocking to the Bush administration and much of the Western media, they don't really give a shit about what we think. [And with good reason.]

They play the international cooperation game because they have to - and they gain a lot from it. But they play it their own way: not buying in wholeheartedly to the US agenda, but not directly rejecting it, either.

If we took an unbiased toll of all the international agreements that Russia has signed on to and followed-through with, then compared it to a similar list for the US, my bet would be on Russia for more cooperation and consistency.

What I love about Putin [Astrologists click here] is that he's willing to stand up against the deluge and tell the US and the EU to fuck off. I wish for the sake of the Russian people that doing that more often wouldn't be so economically deleterious.

It's ok, I tell myself, the virulent Christian male domination fantasy that is the Bush administration's foreign policy can't last forever.


See What Brown Can Do For You

Congratulations, Mr. Brown!

Welcome to the forefront of global politics. [Extensive coverage from BBC]

Let's see what you can do for us!

Let Them Lead The Way

No one could possibly accuse me of "leaning left", unless it's so far left that it's almost right.

But, according to a recent poll [apologies, sub required - or scroll down to the text], the youth are.

Apparently, before the moral decay of adulthood has set in, the pragmatism of a global perspective, desire for innovation and respect for human value makes more sense.

So listen up, politicians!

The youth want a world that looks totally different than the one you are trying to refurbish. Those walls that you have built and are now working so hard to maintain - we don't want them! They do nothing but insulate you from imaginary threats and the futility of your quest for control.

An important caveat: they also think the war in Iraq is coming to a successful conclusion.


Is it possible that, as so eloquently put by Mr. Choate, "they're left-leaning and stupid"?

Here's what I want to know before making that call:

What were the questions asked on this topic?

What response was statistically equated to a 'successful conclusion' assessment?

What information - not from the poll, but from the media-world - might they be receiving that would lead them to this conclusion?

Part of our self-myth is that we are winners - the US (along with a long list of others) has a history of recording everything so that it comes out in our favor. Or, at least, appears to.

From birth to today, every US resident is bombarded with state- and culture-driven propaganda about who we are, what our ideals are, how we play our role in the world. Even though "the liberal media" has been characterizing the war in Iraq negatively for much of 2006-2007, it is a trickle in comparison to the majority of pro-US propaganda from other sources [schools, communities] and on other topics [world domination through sports, entertainment franchises, brand saturation, etc].

But there's also this: What's a successful conclusion?

And of course, what they really wanted to find out was who the kids are gonna vote for, and they realized that the kids are more likely to vote for a woman, a black man, or anyone else whose face and name has become ubiquitous.

At the very least, they're open to suggestion.

From the New York Times:

June 27, 2007
New Poll Finds That Young Americans Are Leaning Left


Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll. The poll also found that they are more likely to say the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion.

The poll offers a snapshot of a group whose energy and idealism have always been as alluring to politicians as its scattered focus and shifting interests have been frustrating. It found that substantially more Americans ages 17 to 29 than four years ago are paying attention to the presidential race. But they appeared to be really familiar with only two of the candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, both Democrats.

They have continued a long-term drift away from the Republican Party. And although they are just as worried as the general population about the outlook for the country and think their generation is likely to be worse off than that of their parents, they retain a belief that their votes can make a difference, the poll found.

More than half of Americans ages 17 to 29 — 54 percent — say they intend to vote for a Democrat for president in 2008. They share with the public at large a negative view of President Bush, who has a 28 percent approval rating with this group, and of the Republican Party. They hold a markedly more positive view of Democrats than they do of Republicans.

Among this age group, Mr. Bush’s job approval rating after the attacks of Sept. 11 was more than 80 percent. Over the course of the next three years, it drifted downward leading into the presidential election of 2004, when 4 of 10 young Americans said they approved how Mr. Bush was handling his job.

At a time when Democrats have made gains after years in which Republicans have dominated Washington, young Americans appear to lean slightly more to the left than the general population: 28 percent described themselves as liberal, compared with 20 percent of the nation at large. And 27 percent called themselves conservative, compared with 32 percent of the general public.

Forty-four percent said they believed that same-sex couples should be permitted to get married, compared with 28 percent of the public at large. They are more likely than their elders to support the legalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The findings on gay marriage were reminiscent of an exit poll on Election Day 2004: 41 percent of 18-to-29-year-old voters said gay couples should be permitted to legally marry, according to the exit poll.

In the current poll, 62 percent said they would support a universal, government-sponsored national health care insurance program; 47 percent of the general public holds that view. And 30 percent said that “Americans should always welcome new immigrants,” while 24 percent of the general public holds that view.

Their views on abortion mirror those of the public at large: 24 percent said it should not be permitted at all, while 38 percent said it should be made available but with greater restrictions. Thirty-seven percent said it should be generally available.

In one potential sign of shifting attitudes, respondents, by overwhelming margins, said they believed that the nation was prepared to elect as president a woman, a black person or someone who admitted to having used marijuana. But they said that they did not believe Americans would elect someone who had used cocaine or someone who was a Mormon.

Mr. Obama has suggested that he used cocaine as a young man. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a candidate for the Republican nomination, is a Mormon.

By a 52 to 36 majority, young Americans say that Democrats, rather than Republicans, come closer to sharing their moral values, while 58 percent said they had a favorable view of the Democratic Party, and 38 percent said they had a favorable view of Republicans.

Asked if they were enthusiastic about any of the candidates running for president, 18 percent named Mr. Obama, of Illinois, and 17 percent named Mrs. Clinton, of New York. Those two were followed by Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican, who was named by just 4 percent of the respondents.

The survey also found that 42 percent of young Americans thought it was likely or very likely that the nation would reinstate a military draft over the next few years — and two-thirds said they thought the Republican Party was more likely to do so. And 87 percent of respondents said they opposed a draft.

But when it came to the war, young Americans were more optimistic about the outcome than was the population as whole. Fifty-one percent said the United States was very or somewhat likely to succeed in Iraq, compared with 45 percent among all adults. Contrary to conventional wisdom, younger Americans have historically been more likely than the population as a whole to be supportive of what a president is doing in a time of war, as they were in Korea and Vietnam, polls have shown.

The nationwide telephone poll — a joint effort by The New York Times, CBS News and MTV — was conducted from June 15 to June 23. It involved 659 adults ages 17 to 29. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points for all respondents.

The Times/CBS News/MTV Poll suggests that younger Americans are conflicted in their view of the country. Many have a bleak view about their own future and the direction the country is heading: 70 percent said the country was on the wrong track, while 48 percent said they feared that their generation would be worse off than their parents’. But the survey also found that this generation of Americans is not cynical: 77 percent said they thought the votes of their generation would have a great bearing on who became the next president.

By any measure, the poll suggests that young Americans are anything but apathetic about the presidential election. Fifty-eight percent said they were paying attention to the campaign. By contrast, at this point in the 2004 presidential campaign, 35 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds said they were paying a lot or some attention to the campaign.

Over the last half century, the youth vote has more often than not gone with the Democratic candidate for president, though with some notable exceptions. In 1984, Ronald Reagan won his second term as president by capturing 59 percent of the youth vote, according to exit polls, and the first President George Bush won in 1988 with 52 percent of that vote. This age group, however, has supported Democratic presidential candidates in every election since.

The percentage of young voters who identified themselves as Republican grew steadily during the Reagan administration, and reached a high of 37 percent in 1989. That number has declined ever since, and is now at 25 percent.

“I think the Democratic Party is now realizing how big an impact my generation has, and they’re trying to cater to that in some way,” Ashley Robinson, 21, a Democrat from Minnesota, said in an interview after she participated in the poll. “But the traditional Republican Party is still trying to get older votes, which doesn’t make sense because there are so many more voters my age. It would be sensible to cater to us.”

That a significant number of respondents said they were enthusiastic about just two of the candidates — Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton — to a certain extent reflects that both candidates have been the subject of a huge amount of national attention and have presented the country with historic candidacies. Mr. Obama would be the first black president and Mrs. Clinton the first woman. Other candidates could begin drawing attention from this group as the campaign takes a higher platform.

More important, though, at least for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama is the impression this group has of them. In the poll, 43 percent of respondents said they held an unfavorable view of Mrs. Clinton, a number that reflects the tide of resistance she faces nationwide. By contrast, only 19 percent said they had an unfavorable view of Mr. Obama.

Marjorie Connelly, Marina Stefan and Dalia Sussman contributed reporting.


Update: The CIA Is Still Watching US!

In case you missed the news (or you're missing that hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck, why-are-you-asking-for-my-social-security-number, someone-is-watching-me sixth sense), the CIA has been spying on US for...well, for ever!

But at least now they're being honest about it!





Square Pegs

At around $150 apiece, these babies are the Gucci of the watermelon world.

Coincidentally, they prove that our species is doomed - because what the fuck do you need with a square melon?

EPA Sucks

Christie Whitman lying her face off in a Congressional hearing

Yeah, doesn't look to me like that could've caused any damage to people engulfed in the airborne detritus of burning humans, diesel fuel, and steel.

June 25, 2007 Ex-E.P.A. Chief Testifies on 9/11 Role


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ex-EPA chief Christie Whitman denounced as "downright falsehoods" the criticism of her assurances that it was safe to breathe the air around the fallen World Trade Center.

"There are people to blame. They are the terrorists that attacked the United States, not the men and women of all levels of government," Whitman said Monday at a hearing where she faced some of her toughest congressional critics.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat whose district includes the World Trade Center site, called the hearing after years of criticizing federal officials for what he says was a negligent and incomplete cleanup after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

He opened the session by saying the Bush administration "has continued to make false, misleading and inaccurate statements, and refused to take remedial actions, even in the face of overwhelming evidence."

Whitman, the main focus of much of that criticism, called such allegations "misinformation, innuendo and downright falsehoods."

She has insisted for years that her statements that the "air is safe" were aimed at those living and working near ground zero, not those who actually toiled on the toxic pile. Her agency, she has said, repeatedly warned that rescue and recovery workers needed to wear protective gear.
A delegation of activists and Sept. 11 rescue workers boarded a bus in Manhattan early Monday to be present for the hearing, which delved into the work of the Environmental Protection Agency when Whitman was in charge.

"People are still outraged," said community activist Kimberly Flynn. "This is our chance to see Christie Todd Whitman and EPA be held accountable for denying the dangers and the dust and the smoke that has damaged so many people's health. We are stunned that she's sticking to her story."

Since the attacks, independent government reviews have faulted the EPA's handling of the immediate aftermath and the agency's long-term cleanup program for nearby buildings.
A study of more than 20,000 people by Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York concluded that since the attacks, 70 percent of ground zero workers have suffered some sort of respiratory illness.

A separate medical study released last month found that rescue workers and firefighters contracted sarcoidosis, a serious lung-scarring disease, at a rate more than five times as high as in the years before the attacks.

US Supreme Court Knows What A "Bong" Is

The US Supreme Court handed down two (widely-reported) opinions today. Both cases worked that skinny conservative majority to the little bony fingers - slowly, meticulously pushing forward the neo-fascist agenda of the authoritarian right.

Interestingly, both cases take a shot at free speech [Amendment 1], but they draw the line so thinly between groups that are or are not entitled to exercise it, that it begs the question:

What part of "freedom of speech" don't you understand?

The first case is a protection of the pro-life organization that used graphic illustrations of the evils of abortion to influence the senatorial elections of Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin) and Herb Kohl (D-Wisonsin) - baby-killers, both.

The opinion overturns the element of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation that prevents private groups from sponsoring negative advertising within 60 days of an election.

I'm all for unencumbered speech, and the McCain-Feingold act is definitely questionable along those lines. And since the USSC is really only trying to read the law, and can't make suggestions as to how everyone's interests could be better served, there's not much else for them to do to improve the availability of opportunities and reduce the negative impact.

But I can: Rather than allow for private funding to support sensationalist smear campaigns, meeting no standard of credibility or 'decency', let's have the Federal Elections Commission indiscriminately fund all applicants for politically-related messages. No matter what, your campaign gets funded at the same level as everyone else - private organizations can blindly donate as much money as they want, but it will be evenly divided among the various camps.

In fact, radical that I am, I would suggest that the FEC regulate all campaign funding on a state and national level by filtering all political donations from private donors to all registered campaigns.

I know, I know, that conflicts with our belief in unhampered competition. But I don't think it does, actually, it just forces the competition in an election cycle to remain where it matters: in the policy.

The second was a case of student free speech, and demonstrates perfectly that students are not, in fact, citizens of the US, but inadequately-managed future cogs in the freedom machine that is our ideology.

Best line of the testimony: "Your honor, I wasn't talking about a bong! Or, at least, not the kind of bong that you fill with water and use to smoke marijuana! I was talking about the other kind of bong. I would never do anything to encourage illegal drug use."

Best line of the opinion: "Don't try to fool us, kid! We know what a bong is!"

So, in the continuation of an authoritarian liberalism, the Justices decided that students have rights only so long as they use them with the approval of their masters...I mean, parents...sorry, I mean,, principals.

June 25, 2007
Justices Loosen Restrictions on Campaign Ads

WASHINGTON, June 25 — The Supreme Court today loosened the restrictions on what companies and unions can spend on television advertisements just before elections, and in so doing may well have affected the thinking of political strategists for the 2008 elections.

By 5 to 4, the court ruled that an anti-abortion group in Wisconsin should have been allowed to broadcast ads before the 2004 race for the United States Senate in that state. In its ruling today, the high court opened a significant loophole in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, familiarly known as the McCain-Feingold law, to curb donations to campaigns.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that, when regulating what can be said in a campaign and when it may be said, “the First Amendment requires us to err on the side of protecting political speech rather than suppressing it.”

In another 5-to-4 ruling involving free speech, the court ruled today against an Alaska high school student, finding that educators can prohibit student expression that can be interpreted as advocating drug use.

Today’s ruling in the campaign-finance case focused on the Supreme Court’s decision in 2003, when there was a different lineup of justices, upholding a key section of the McCain-Feingold law. That section bars companies and unions from paying for ads even mentioning the name of a candidate for federal office in the 60 days before a general election or the 30 days before a primary.

The 2004 ads in question mentioned Senators Russell D. Feingold and Herb Kohl, both Wisconsin Democrats, and urged viewers to contact them and urge them to oppose their Democratic colleagues’ opposition to some of President Bush’s judicial nominees. The ads directed viewers to a Web site critical of Mr. Feingold, who was up for re-election.

Mr. Feingold and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, were the main sponsors of the campaign finance law. Its supporters see it as a valiant attempt to regulate the spigots that pour oceans of corrupting money into political campaigns. Its detractors see it as interference with free speech, and as unrealistic in view of the huge sums of money needed to run a political campaign.

The Wisconsin Right to Life organization sued the Federal Election Commission, seeking a judgment declaring that the pertinent McCain-Feingold section was unconstitutional. A special three-judge federal court panel ruled in favor of the anti-abortion group, finding that the ads’ text and images did not show that they were “intended to influence the voters’ decisions” but were “genuine issue ads” that the government could not keep off the air.

Today, the Supreme Court majority concluded that the special judicial panel was right in holding that the ads should have been allowed. “Because WRTL’s ads may reasonably be interpreted as something other than an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate, they are not the functional equivalent of express advocacy,” the majority said, using the term for ads that urge a candidate’s election or defeat.

To safeguard freedom of speech, the majority said, scrutiny of challenges to the McCain-Feingold law “must be objective, focusing on the communication’s substance rather than on amorphous considerations of intent and effect.”

In defining what qualifies as “express advocacy,” or ads zeroing in on a candidate to promote or denounce him, “the court should give the benefit of the doubt to speech, not censorship,” the majority said.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion upholding the special court. Siding with him were Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas, although the last three jurists would have gone further and declared the pertinent section of the law unconstitutional. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito said only that the anti-abortion group’s ads should not have been banned under the section.

When the McCain-Feingold law was upheld in 2003, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist was one of the four dissenters who would have overturned it. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was succeeded by Justice Alito, wrote the majority opinion.

In the case decided today, Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, No. 06-969, Justice David H. Souter wrote a dissent that Justices John Paul Stevens Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer joined.

“After today,” the dissenters said, “the ban on contributions by corporations and unions and the limitation on their corrosive spending when they enter the political arena are open to easy circumvention, and the possibilities for regulating corporate and union campaign money are unclear.”

The dissenters expressed dismay over today’s ruling and said it could portend a new wave of public cynicism about the role of big money in politics.When the case decided today was argued on April 25, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, arguing on behalf of the election commission, said that to find that the Wisconsin ads should have been allowed to run would leave the McCain-Feingold law “wide open.” Justice Breyer predicted then that a ruling like today’s could mean, in effect, “Goodbye, McCain-Feingold.”

Whether that is indeed true may not be clear for a while. But it seemed abundantly clear after today’s ruling that the broader debate over campaign money, which a California politician once famously called “the mother’s milk of politics,” will go on, especially with the 2008 presidential campaign already well under way.

Senator Feingold issued a statement today expressing disappointment. “The Federal Election Commission should not allow today’s decision to open the door for a return to the pre-McCain-Feingold days of phony issue ads and unlimited corporate and union spending on campaigns,” he said. “If that is the result, the court will have done the country a great disservice.”

In the Alaska case involving free speech, the court found that a high school principal and school board did not violate a student’s rights by punishing him for displaying the words “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” on a banner across the street from the school as the 2002 Olympic torch parade went by.
When the case was argued on March 19, Kenneth W. Starr argued — successfully, as it turned out — on behalf of the school authorities that, whatever rights students may have to express themselves, thumbing their noses at school officials’ anti-drug messages is not one of them.

Money For Nothing

So, after the sudden arrival of frozen "aid" funding, North Korea's government has suddenly [!] decided to close up that oh-so-troublesome nuclear reactor.

Remember the one that had the US news media predicting WWIII if Kim Jong Il wouldn't back down and let in some UN inspectors?

This is what we in the normal, not-coercing-international-state-governments-to-do-what-we-want world would call "bribery."

What makes it OK that the US government does this?

I am a fan of economic incentives. I am the last to criticize that method of influencing people - it has proven effective (even without agenda-directed manipulation) over hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. It is the best way to harness the billions of dollars worth of human capital AND provide opportunities for people to experience different sets of cultural expectations and social behaviors.

[It goes without saying that this observation does not translate to whole-hearted adoption, nor should it. It is a comparison method only.]

[It should also go without saying that I am not a proponent of US values, per se. I appreciate the freedoms I have, but I resent many of the "freedoms" I am supposedly granted, and horrified by the lack of many of those that I am not.]

When Coca Cola Co. goes into Azerbaijan, for example, and they buy a building, and they hire some Azerbaijanians to work for them, there is an obvious goal - sell more Coke, make more money - and an obvious reward for reaching those goals.

But inside the Coca Cola building in Azerbaijan there is another level of incentive - adapt to the corporate culture so you can get ahead and make more money. The underlying message is that you must adopt and apply Coca Cola values (based in US/Western cultural paradigms: competition, individualism, straightforwardness - liguisitic and behavioral, friendly & horizontal attitude across all segments of hierarchy, reward & remediate rather than punish, etc.) in everything from the way you dress and say hello to your colleagues, to the way you write your memos. The ability to do this successfully catapaults you into a global reach - if you can live Coke values in Azerbaijan, you can live Coke values anywhere!

The fact that the governments of the world use "humanitarian aid" packages for the same purpose is questionable - not in its aims, but in its execution, and the completely delusional presumption that it adheres to at base: buy your friends, starve your enemies.

This is an idiotic notion. Not only because your enemies will still be your enemies, but because friends can't be bought.

They say you get what you pay for, so do you really want the kinds of friends you have to bribe?


CIA Gets Honest?

General Hayden may be referring to past actions, but do not be fooled: this is just foreshadowing.

In another fifty years, they'll be declassifying all the fucked up shit they're doing today!

Meanwhile, someone broke into the Pentagon...
email system.
[It's a start]

Selfish... And Stupid, As Usual!

I like to make references to The Wiz as much as possible, so if you've memorized that movie as well as I have, you may note this.

But not only do I like to pay respect to great works of art - cinematic and otherwise - this entry title (and the scene from which it comes) actually applies to the subject of this post [unbelievable].

And now I'm going to give it all away...

In this scene, the Scarecrow (played by the eminent Michael Jackson) is up on his cross, lamenting his helplessness and oppression. The Crows, his quotidian torturers, are hanging around eating corn, dismissing poor Scarecrow's wishes "to get down."

I'm not going to get verbatim on your asses, but it goes a little bit like this:

Scare: Hey fellas, is today the day you're going to help me get down?
Crows: Get down?! Haven't we told you that you can't get down?
Scare: Just for a little while? Just to take a walk around?
Crows: Walk! You can't walk! You're just a straw paper dummy!
Scare: You're right fellas. I was just being selfish...
Crows: ...And stupid, as usual!

After the recitation of the Crow Commandments, and a funky Crow Anthem, Dorothy (over-played by the majestic, naturally-afroed and stunning Diana Ross) shows up. She scares away the Crows, and encourages Scarecrow to join her on a journey to the Wiz (the man behind this curtain is Richard Pryor!).

The first few steps are tentative, spastic and potentially hazardous, but the Scarecrow, with a little bit of help from his new friend, braves the trips and falls and eases his way down the road. [Cue brass]

The point I'm making is this: as long as we are convinced that the reduction of energy consumption, pollution and resource mismanagement is impossible, it will be.

Dorothy: You're just the product of some negative thinking.

The less support we provide for the market's natural inclination to innovate and solve these problems - coincidentally meeting the demands and preferences of consumers - the harder it will be to put in place the economic structures that a drastic change in our patterns of energy consumption will require in order to avoid an economic collapse.

Congress, as well as the Bush White House, have been talking a lot about how environmentally aware we are, how ethanol is the new oil (don't get me started on what a dramatic increase in the cost of corn will do to the economy), and how we have to set reachable, reasonable goals for industry. The record, however, is pathetic.

In the last presidential election, I didn't vote for Al Gore because I couldn't tell what his politics were. [that's kind of the disease of US politics, though, isn't it?] The only reason I would consider it now is that he finally seems to know what he's about - and has recognized that the only relevant issue in politics right now is energy - where it comes from, how it's used, how it's not used.

I'm not preaching Green, and I'm not advocating for Gore (even though he is a bit like Dorothy in this scenario). I'm saying that we can never get down off our collective cross (that of poverty, famine, property rights, gender and culture wars, etc) until we take those tentative steps towards collective empowerment. That means viewing the whole Earth as our home. Recognizing the finite nature of all resources, from the sun and water, to human souls. And, perhaps most importantly, taking responsibility for the systems we use to allocate value to those resources.

As in The Matrix, energy is power, and the control of energy translates into money, or ego, or material goods, or whatever. When we know that this lifeforce goes beyond simply gassing up the SUV and driving Damien and Patricia to tennis lessons, or even fighting to dictate the freedom-loving liberty of Democratic societies, it changes our focus from self-indulgence to self-recognition.

This is growth. And the future depends on it.


We Are Doomed. Yay!

Maybe it's just my gloomy mood, but when I see the (imminent) collapse of most of the world's power and organizational structures, I see how useless our control is, and how necessary it is that things fall apart (Yeats is a fucking genius, btw).

The EU may not be able to work itself out.

Global trade deals demand too much from those that have too little, and demand nothing but politically unpopular (yet economically promising) concessions from those that have too much.

The US persists in conquering Iraq, even though (like I said yesterday) we're getting our asses kicked.

The Pakistani Religious Affairs Minister is heading to the UK for a ceremonial suicide bombing.

And Britney's about to release a new album.

If that's not a sign of the apocalypse, I don't know what is.

Now We're Talking

Or, at least, Egypt, Israel, Palestine and Jordan are each other, for a change.

If I was The Economist, I would probably say something like...

"We can expect to see discussions on aid, immigration, education and regional politics, with each party likely to agree on the theory but not the execution." And it would go on from there.

All I can really say right now is: dialogue is key.


Too Much Fun In One Day!

I can't even keep track!

The EU might call it quits on a constitution! Finally, ze Germans inject some order!

Hamas was trying to take over?! Who put this genius in charge?

We like to brag about how much Iraqi ass we're kicking. (We just don't want anyone to know how bad we're getting spanked!) [text below]

Meanwhile, things are peaceful on the home front. If by "peaceful" you mean psycho-socially bereft and violent!

June 20, 2007
Fighting Heavy as U.S. Troops Pursue Iraqi Insurgents

BAGHDAD, June 20 —American troops continued their aggressively push today in Baquba, the capital of Diyala Province, in an effort to rid it of extremists believed to be part of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

The fighting was heavy in some places in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, with soldiers moving block by block through large sections of the city, clearing houses and removing roadside bombs.
At least 30 insurgents tied to Al Qaeda were killed and 14 bombs were dismantled during the first full day of operations, according to the United States military and the Iraqi Army.

With the exception of southern Iraq, much of the rest of the country was relatively quiet. In Baghdad, the death toll from Tuesday’s bombing at a busy square rose to 87 as more bodies were recovered and some of the injured died.

But south of Baghdad, in Shiite-dominated areas, violence appeared to be on the rise. In Hilla, three Sunni Arab mosques were bombed, signaling the rising tension between the Shiite majority in the area and the minority Sunnis.

Nasiriya, the capital of Dhi Qar province, about 225 miles south of Baghdad, was finally quiet today after American forces intervened in a battle with members of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, according to a statement from the American military and from the Sadr office in Nasiriya.

Several Nasiriya police force members had been badly injured in fighting on Monday and Tuesday, and Iraqi Army forces came to try to rescue them. The soldiers came under heavy fire from the Sadr militia men, who were positioned on rooftops and fired at them from every direction, the American military said. Iraqi soldiers returned fire, but were unable to overcome the militia gunmen. Later, the American troops called in an airstrike to suppress the fire from the Sadr militiamen, according to the American military statement.

Sadr supporters said by the time the American strike came, they were trying to retreat on orders from Mr. Sadr in Najaf.

“A delegation from Sadr’s office in Najaf visited Nasiriya and met with the leaderships there. A solution based on consensus was reached,” said Hussein al-Araji, one of Sadr’s representatives with the Sadr office in Nasiriya. “The Mahdi Army withdrew quickly. The delegation carried direct orders from Moktada that they were not to attack security forces even if they attack Mahdi Army.”

Over the last three days, three Sadr gunmen were killed and 45 injured, according to an American military statement, and Iraqi security forces took 30 casualties. It was not clear if any Iraqi soldiers were killed or if they sustained mainly injuries.

The American military in Baghdad also announced it had rescued 24 severely malnourished and maltreated orphan boys, some of whom appeared to be retarded. The rescue was first reported by CBS News on Monday. The soldiers discovered the orphanage on June 10. The children, aged 3 to 15, were found naked in a darkened room, some of them in pools of their own excrement.
Some were tied to their beds. They had hollowed eyes and were emaciated, their bones painfully visible through their skin. Some were unable to stand on their own when they were untied.

American soldiers found a room with food and fresh clothing for the children next to where they had been all but abandoned, the military said. The Iraqi Army and the local neighborhood council helped rescue the children and American medics gave them initial care. They have been moved to a nearby orphanage for girls from which they had initially been removed because of concerns that boys and girls should not live together, according to workers at the orphanage, the military said.

The military found three female caretakers and two men, including the orphanage director at the orphanage. The report on CBS said that soon after the boys were found, the director fled. The local neighborhood council was reported to be shaken by the discovery and immediately hired 10 caretakers to help care for the children.

Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Baghdad and an employee of The New York Times contributed from Diyala province.

Wide Open

Thank you, Israel, for throwing open the gates and letting in the Gazans living in the tunnel outside the walls of your country.

Next time, check the guest list. Palestinians are notorious party crashers, and there's never enough kosher wine to go around!

Maybe they'll get the point after a few raids.

In other not-being-reported-in-the-US news, anonymous rockets from Lebanon kill a car and a factory in northern Israel.

Hezbollah says they didn't do it.

Question: do you take a "terrorist" organization at their word?

That's something I have never understood. Why would you proudly claim responsibility for the death and destruction caused by a violent act?

Reminds me of government propaganda. Hmmm.


That's Offensive!

The US launches a major offensive in Iraq.

See what I mean? Bush is smarter than we'd like to think.

Because he knows that all US idiots are gonna battle, and read the news today, and call our congressmen, and make a big fuss...

And THEN, when no one is looking, he's just going to do exactly as he planned, and no one is going to do anything to stop him.

Surge or no surge, Congressional approval or no. That motherfucker is gonna fight this war (with other people's lives and money) and NO ONE, not even the entire US population, is going to stop him!


Salman "Fatwa" Rushdie

I wonder what would have happened if other books had been in print when Gutenberg started that whole best-seller-ever Bible publishing thing?

Because I bet a number of traditional theocracies would have really had a problem. Good thing there's no record of what they thought, otherwise we might have had to learn a lesson.

Everyone knows: sticking your fingers in your ears or eyes or nose is not going to just make it stop.

And by choosing to cut yourself off from unpleasant information and experiences, you thereby limit your own life experience, and the joy of knowing exactly who you are and what you think because even in those deepest, darkest moments of doubt, your integrity and beliefs come shining through as the only possible course of action...for you.

When the leadership of international governments demonstrates a complete inability to behave any other way, you must wonder how effective that social/political system can be.

So it would be really easy to look at Iran and Pakistan and think their traditionalism and religious beliefs are what make this behavior - collective and individual - possible.

But then, the US has its own system of avoiding negative feedback and incorporating criticisms into our decision-making. Banning books?! That's old hat.

What's more likely is a carefully constructed system of financial and social incentives, screened behind an "all-for-one-and-one-for-all" idealism. Rather than "fatwa", we call our campaigns "national security".

Same thing, different object.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Salman Rushdie, whose real message (not filtered by publisher representatives) is: Who the fuck cares?!

Cash for Cooperation - Obvious Award!

At least they're obvious!

Gotta love the US government (and all our cronies) for being straightforward about incentives.

Within moments of Hamas's takeover of Gaza and the subsequent sacking of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority, the US et al had suddenly found money to send in support of the Palestinian government!

This wouldn't, by any chance, be tied to a specific political agenda?

Interesting take on Democracy. Let's walk through this rationale.

1. Demand free elections take place in "Palestine" to secure diplomatic acknowledgement by the West and Israel (which is like a little oasis of Western authoritarianism in the desert).

2. Hold free elections.

3. Majority winners of the free elections are members of Hamas, or at least supported by them.

4. West refuses official recognition of the government because Hamas is "a terrorist organization" and, more importantly, thinks the West and especially Israel, should go to hell.

5. Wait for a violent coup by Hamas.

6. Elbow the sitting President to can the existing government and replace it with one that entirely excludes Hamas (and, therefore, the majority will of the people).

7. West-backed Pres selects new Prime Minister and government.

8. West officially recognizes "Palestine".

9. West finds a whole hell of a lot of money to support the new Palestinian Authority.

Sounds like US-brand Democracy to me!

Today this strikes me as funny. Tomorrow, probably not.


Keepin It Real...Gaza

As the West assigns blame and attempts to cover its collective ass, people are actually alive and thinking in Gaza...

Clean House

As I said yesterday, sometimes it takes a bunch of men with guns to do what needs to be done.

What horrifies me about the Hamas takeover of Gaza is not Hamas, or their anti-Israeli policies, or even that the grounds for a civil war (if you can call fighting between two bodies that occupy an area not officially recognized as a state a civil war) have been laid out in the road like so many carcasses.

What horrifies me is the idea that the only way for anyone to get their point across in this world is by shoving a gun in someone's face and screaming "Listen to me!"

There must be another way. And there is! It's called diplomacy.

And anyone who has any real concept of power knows that the moment you resort to violence, you are openly admitting that you have no power, no influence, no integrity and no commitment to your ideals. Because if you have to force someone to do something by threatening them with pain or death, you have descended into the depths of animal instincts and no recovery of human sensibility is possible.

If you can't convince someone that you are "right" on the basis of your reason and commitment alone, you can't convince them, and you'd better be ready to hold a gun to their face for the rest of your life, or theirs.

That's why any attempt to assign blame in this situation is useless, pointless, and completely devoid of meaning. It's a game of who-picked-up-the-gun-first, and it's an unanswerable, unwinnable game. Because it's not about having an answer, or about winning.

Ultimately, it's about how humans can live together, and conduct our lives with dignity and self-respect.

Hamas isn't teaching that, and neither is Fatah (or is Fateh?). Neither is Israel or the US, despite skillful manipulation of rhetoric and publicity. The Palestinian Authority has compromised itself so many times that global, regional and local respect are so far away it's laughable, if you are the type to think the debacles of international politics is funny. [And I am.]


Hama, Hamas, Hamatus

I worked really hard on that title, so don't think I'm just being cute. I worked the hell out of that free translation service!

Anyway, drama in Gaza, and Abbas decides to can the government? Sense in that? All suggestions/opinions being considered.

I'd think this was a real disaster if it seemed that a Hamas-driven takeover of Gaza would actually be problematic. I mean, Ireland has been at this how long? And in the middle east, they've been at this how much longer?

All I'm saying is that, maybe it's not such a bad thing. Violence is unfortunate, but perhaps the only way to bring about a unified Palestinian community that is prepared to do whatever it has to to bring about a globally recognized state.

Politics in this little corner of our world are so complicated, and I hate to allocate fault, because everyone is at fault. And where do you start?

It would be easy if one day a bunch of Jews had gotten together and just decided to infiltrate Palestine, massacre everyone, and set up camp - but it didn't happen exactly like that.

It would be easy if, one morning in 2005, a bunch of angry former Palestinians decided they were going to walk over to Israel and start killing as many people as they could.

And neither of these imaginary scenarios even takes into account the outside elements:
is Israel a US operative?
is Abbas kowtowing to the West?
is Hamas a terrorist organization?
is Iran funding all this chaos?

If I had the time and a postdoctoral grant (hint, hint), I could probably follow the money from today back and figure out EXACTLY why the governments and individuals involved in this debacle made the specific choices they made. And I still could not assign the fault to anyone in particular.

But as outsiders, what do we do?

For one thing, we can stop assigning good- and bad-guy roles to the groups involved - we do this with language subtly and with imagery not-so-subtly at all.

We can also take US funding out the equation, so that when the political winds inevitably change and we find ourselves on the wrong team, we can absolve ourselves from a time-limited, value-prejudiced course of action.

I have more suggestions. Each one more insane than the next.


Jesus!! Justice?!! Now??!

I know, I know. I'm a naysayer, and I'm always disappointed, and I'm taking the lord's...excuse me the "Lord's" name in vain, but Jesus! Now?!

Actually, I could also interpret this as the first signs of an awakening, like a spring thaw in the rigid, traditionalist, rule-creating, manifest destiny-achieving winter of the Bush administration's idiot-hold on the US population.

So, what I really mean is HOORAY!

Living In The Past

While most of the world indulges in crime, blame assignment, killing and corruption, a small group of highly obsessed individuals uses the future of communication technology to build...

What else?! A relic from the past!
I'm reading an extraordinary book - abandoned on the street, of course - about population density and behavioral manifestations as culture-formed and culture-shaping mechanisms in human society. Highly recommend.

Our senses are able to absorb non-visual information in a much more integrated, less conscious way than the learned visual interpretation mechanisms. So, when we delve into the past without sound, smell, touch, temperature, we only get half the experience.

The point I am getting to is this: a digital replica of Rome is utterly meaningless.

The desire to go back to this "golden" (ha!) age of Western history is a yearning for ...whatever is the opposite of evolution. Not destruction, exactly, but a desire to regress into the unknown safety of a past that did not exist.

Without the sensory feedback, the digital realm completely lacks the social and environmental information that we could absorb and apply to our present, and more importantly, our future. A US citizen, walking down the "street" in this rerun, has no sense of what Rome was like, especially for its inhabitants.

Great architecture, maybe, but shit in the streets? The smell of rotting flesh emanating from every crevice in the structure? The unwashed poor crowding you, heating your flesh and rubbing their scents all over you as you are pushed towards the hard stone seats of the Coliseum?

Does this sound good? Does this sound like the Rome you imagine?

Without it, does it come anywhere near "replicating" the original?

I am all for the use of virtual world technology to explore the impacts of our past and the implications for our future.

Maybe I'm just too demanding [maybe I'm just like my father, too...], or maybe the use of "high level" technology to reminisce over a past that wasn't that great anyway (cycles, people, cycles!) seems about as pointless as anything I can imagine.

Like a winged computer mouse, or an automatic electrical tent collapser (for the elite nomad), or...


You Asked For It!

And so you get it. Because that's just the kind of people person I can be.

From a Concerned Reader in Petersburg, VA: Elections Are A Game

The game also provides details on a variety of real-life reform measures, including a "fair play" law introduced in Congress by Rep. John S. Tanner, Democrat of Tennessee. It also provides an online forum for players to discuss these issues.

Swain says he hopes the game will be used as a viral, grass-roots lobbying effort to open the public's eyes to this issue and to get them to take action. --Josh Fischman [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

And from a Concerned Reader in New York, NY: Plagues Are A Game

Corrupted Blood

This article is about a virtual reality plague. For the legal concept, see Attainder.
Corrupted Blood was a virtual plague that infected characters in the computer game World of Warcraft; it was also the first disease to affect any MMORPG with a significant game effect.


Corrupted Blood Plague taking place in IronforgeThe plague began on September 13, 2005 when Blizzard Entertainment, the developer of World of Warcraft, introduced a new instance called Zul'Gurub into the game as part of patch 1.7. Inside this instance was a boss named Hakkar the Soulflayer, the god of blood. Players who fought Hakkar were affected by his debuff (a spell which has a negative effect over a fixed period of time). The debuff, in this case, was Corrupted Blood, a spell that caused 250–300 points of damage (compared to the average health of 5000 for a player of the highest level) every few seconds to the afflicted player. The affliction was passed on to any players standing too close to infected players. While the curse would kill most lower-level players in a matter of seconds, higher-level players could keep themselves alive (via healing spells and other means) long enough to spread the disease around the immense landscape inside the game. Death caused by the debuff did not cause any durability penalty, unlike most other causes of death in the game. NPCs, combat pets, and non-combat pets were key in spreading the plague.[1]

The disease would eventually go away as time passed or when the infected character died. The only way that a player was able to bring the disease outside of Zul'Gurub was by allowing a pet to get the debuff, dismissing the pet in less than five seconds, then summoning it in a populated area. (When dismissed, the pet retains the debuff and the timer of the buff is paused.) This debuff transmission technique was first seen with the "living bomb" debuff from Baron Geddon in Molten Core.

Scale and effect of Corrupted Blood

After a few days, Corrupted Blood had become World of Warcraft's version of the Black Death, rendering entire cities uninhabitable and causing players to avoid large clusters of other players, and in many cases, causing players to avoid major cities all together.

Due to the curse's peculiar behavior, it was never meant to leave Zul'Gurub - the ability to infect pets and NPCs was a side effect unconsidered by the developers. The intended behavior involves the final boss fight with Hakkar. Every so often, Hakkar will drain life points out of everyone in the group fighting him. However, if the group kills a much smaller, significantly less powerful enemy, the "Son of Hakkar", he releases a poisonous cloud that afflicts everyone nearby with the disease. Then, when Hakkar tries to drain life from the players, he is instead affected by the poison and is damaged instead of restored. Players need to do this procedure multiple times during the boss fight to ensure that Hakkar does not continue to restore himself. Blizzard Entertainment tried several times to fix the problem, including imposing quarantine on certain places. This "plague" was eventually "cured" by changing the mechanics of the Hakkar encounter to eliminate the spreading of the effect from player to player. Hakkar still has an ability called Corrupted Blood, but it now takes the form of a red bolt launched at a random player fighting the boss. The player and those nearby take damage, and receive a heavy damage over time, but the effect no longer spreads further.

Due to the large scale outbreak of the "plague" (some servers had half of their players infected), it drew wide attention from the media. Nina Fefferman, a Tufts University assistant research professor of public health and family medicine, calls for research on this incident, citing the resemblances with biological plagues. Some scientists want to study how people would react to environmental pathogens, by using the virtual counterpart as a point of reference.[2]

In addition, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had requested statistics on this event for research on epidemics.[3]


Modern Miracles


Don't have time to read and offer commentary now, so take a look and offer your thoughts on the "deal"!


Obvious Award - The Taleban's Back!

It's been a long time since someone (or some media organization) has earned the Totally Fucking Obvious Award, and today's winner is...

Drumroll please!

Abdul Jabbar Taqwa, the governor of Parvan province in Afghanistan! Applause!

He wins for being thick in the brain, just like anyone else who is willing to deny the totally fucking obvious conclusion that Peace Radio host Zakia Zaki was shot and killed by Taleban members that have finally amassed enough strength to come back at those US-sponsored freedom freaks with everything they've got!

She committed the following offenses:
1) Openly criticized the Taleban during its iron-fisted reign,
2) Founded and reported for Radio Peace, the US propaganda radio station established (and funded!) after the fall of the Taleban, and
3) She's a female, and she's expressing her opinion.

How many more reasons does a gender-biased, fanatically-militant, tradition-loving government-by-force (wait, was I talking about the Taleban, or the US? I got a little lost...) need to kill some uppity woman?

Reminds me of my favorite one-liner: What do you tell a woman with two black eyes? Nothing! You already told her twice!

WHAT?! It's funny! Horrifying, sure, but funny!

Eco Stand Up

Did I miss something, or did we really elect a comedian into the office of the President?

After touting the leadership of the United States in all things ecological (HA!), Bush takes one look at Andrea Merkel's proposed plan for the G8 to cut emissions, laughs his head off, and then starts teasing her about that haircut.

But seriously, yet another rejection of an aggressive international plan to reduce the deleterious human impact on the environment, and our international good will account drops into a negative balance. What is up with this guy?

I can see the economic argument. For a short time, the companies that have profited off of ecological rape and pillage will probably decrease revenues and size and in consumer confidence. But that's a good thing. We don't want to buy products that kill us, simple as that. (Well, actually, we DO want to buy products that kill us: cars, guns, cigarettes, alcohol, heroin...the list is long.)

OK, so maybe I can't see the economic argument.

Call me crazy, but I think there is economic potential in sustainable energy, conservative production methods, minimal & recyclable packaging... environmental synchronicity is possible, profitable, and necessary.

I can also see the "blame the developing industrial economies" model, because that allows us to continue on our no-holds-barred path to self-destruction without any moral or cultural hindrances. And who among us doesn't want that?!

I think that Bush must be
1) totally insane,
2) without long term memory storage in his brain, or
3) a stand up comedian

The way I see it, these are the only options that make his public statements and actions seem consistent.

And speaking of stand up...

Dear Dave Chappelle,

Please run for elected office! Most people don't care that you (used to) smoke weed, and we can probably overlook the fact that you're black if you pick the right district to run in.

We need you! And you have just as much of a chance of winning the next (Presidential) election as anyone else - you've got the money, and you could probably get Oprah on your side with a little bit of contrition over that n-word thing. In fact, the two of you might make a dynamite team - but then, she'd have to be President and you'd be VP, but still, sounds like a good deal, right?

Anyway, I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Those sorts of things can be determined by your campaign advisor.

I humbly offer my services as your anonymous policy advisor. So please get in touch.


the near future...


Lewis "Liar, Liar" Libby

Given the judge's willingness to proselytize on the virtue of "not do[ing] anything that might create a problem", one wonders why Libby was even convicted. Now, THAT's a problem.

Let's take extenuating circumstances into account.

Mr. Libby has spent the most recent part of his career faithfully serving the lyingest presidential administration since, well, the last administration.

He is married. A socially-induced state of self-denial and deception. [Thank you, Mr. Kubrick.]

He has children. A force-authority dependent relationship of hypocrisy and outright lies.

He's a lawyer, and made a huge amount of money defending extraordinarily wealthy people who also lied.

There's so much more juice on Wikipedia, I'll let you explore (and be shocked) yourself.

He's a founding member of the Project for the New American Century. Need I say more?

If I were LL's lawyer, I'd probably vote to fry him, but then, what a dangerous precendent to set! Actually convicting white collar criminals who defraud the public welfare through ruthless and underhanded politics?

Sounds like business as usual in DC to me.

Tell me again, why is he the only one up for a conviction?

In the past...