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  2006.01.16  13.30

To be honest, sometimes I just post here because I don't want to bother opening an account with the giant blogs.

Should Democrats filibuster Alito</em>?

One of the objections is that Dems didn't come across well enough during the hearings, and that was their opportunity to set the stage for a filibuster.

I don't understand that argument. How many people watch the hearings? How many people get their information and impressions firsthand that way? Surely there's another way to make a PR move against Alito. Haven't we learned anything from the Republicans?


  2005.12.08  08.00

Worse Than Fossil Fuel
by George Monbiot
Z Magazine, Dec. 7, 2005

Over the past two years I have made an uncomfortable discovery. Like most environmentalists, I have been as blind to the constraints affecting our energy supply as my opponents have been to climate change. I now realise that I have entertained a belief in magic.

In 2003, the biologist Jeffrey Dukes calculated that the fossil fuels we burn in one year were made from organic matter "containing 44 x 10 to the 18 grams of carbon, which is more than 400 times the net primary productivity of the planet's current biota."(1) In plain English, this means that every year we use four centuries' worth of plants and animals.

The idea that we can simply replace this fossil legacy - and the extraordinary power densities it gives us - with ambient energy is the stuff of science fiction. There is simply no substitute for cutting back. But substitutes are being sought everywhere. They are being promoted today at the climate talks in Montreal, by states - such as ours - which seek to avoid the hard decisions climate change demands. And at least one of them is worse than the fossil fuel burning it replaces.

The last time I drew attention to the hazards of making diesel fuel from vegetable oils, I received as much abuse as I have ever been sent by the supporters of the Iraq war. The biodiesel missionaries, I discovered, are as vociferous in their denial as the executives of Exxon. I am now prepared to admit that my previous column was wrong. But they're not going to like it. I was wrong because I underestimated the fuel's destructive impact.

Before I go any further, I should make it clear that turning used chip fat into motor fuel is a good thing. The people slithering around all day in vats of filth are perfoming a service to society. But there is enough waste cooking oil in the UK to meet one 380th of our demand for road transport fuel(2). Beyond that, the trouble begins.

When I wrote about it last year, I thought that the biggest problem caused by biodiesel was that it set up a competition for land(3). Arable land that would otherwise have been used to grow food would instead be used to grow fuel. But now I find that something even worse is happening. The biodiesel industry has accidentally invented the world's most carbon-intensive fuel.

In promoting biodiesel - as the European Union, the British and US governments and thousands of environmental campaigners do - you might imagine that you are creating a market for old chip fat, or rapeseed oil, or oil from algae grown in desert ponds. In reality you are creating a market for the most destructive crop on earth. Read more...Collapse )


  2005.10.29  09.33

This post on dailykos gets it perfectly.

My sense is that Fitzgerald has set up a domino arrangement here, but without any control over whether the dominoes will actually fall.

He indicts Libby but not Rove. Why? Because he actually doesn't have enough on Rove? Possibly. Because he doesn't want to get the administration where it hurts (more)? Not likely.

I think the goal is to turn Libby, if possible. If that doesn't work out--and it quite likely won't unless Libby gets extremely worried--at least they'll still have him on something.

Who would they turn him for? Who would he be willing to give information on? Rove, or possibly Cheney, as the indictment apparently suggests?

Meanwhile, as Joshua Micah Marshall has been covering, the false evidence for WMD is also ripe for a separate investigation.

Back to Libby, this puts the White House in a peculiar situation. On the PR side, they want to make Libby the fall guy, pin all the blame on him, make him seem like the bad apple--the usual. On the legal side, they are obliged to keep him feeling as safe and loyal as possible.


  2005.10.01  17.45

I remember around the time of the last non-election various debates on whether the Bush Administration was fascist or totalitarian. A few people with great outrage insisted that that the left etc would radically discredit itself if we used incorrect terminology, calling the current movement fascist rather than totalitarian. Although I found their outrage decidedly silly, I do find the question interesting. So I looked up Columbia Encyclopedia's definition for fascism and totalitarianism.

And so I discover that in fact fascism is a subcategory of totalitarianism. Which muddies the waters considerably. What exactly is the difference, then? It appears that what distinguishes fascism is:
  • a creative vision/relation to power rather than a relatively bureaucratic vision
  • a greater emphasis on elitism
  • the corporate state
  • a passionate appreciation of militarism for its own sake

    The Neocon-Dominionist-Corporatist alliance which has given us the government we know and love today, however, is an entirely different animal than the movements and governments of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and others. I don't think that in all the political hysteria which has taken place over history there has ever been an equally powerful yet equally bizarre expectation as that of The Rapture. If anything it is the Neocons who resemble more closely totalitarians of the past, with cynical political ideals and the calculations to carry them through. Dominionists however have the "creative" vision, and a concept of elitism that might even top that of the Nazis in its hallucinatory quality. The corporate state arises more or less incidentally as corporations happen to be ascendant at the moment, but the union is natural as fascism essentially embraces a certain corruption on the ground while keeping focus on some "high" objective. Totalitarians on the other hand target conditions on the ground and have total improvement as their objective, although the reality of course fosters corruption.

    So my basic concept, as we shape the terms totalitarianism and fascism into more general archetypes beyond their historical origins, is that totalitarianism is top-down, while fascism is top-up, treating the bottom of society as little more than a readily exploitable resource.

    The nature of the contemporary beast is that there is no entirely individual fascist movement in the US; the alliance of the Neocons, Dominionists, and Corporate forces however does bring together what are apparently the disparate fascist qualities.


      2005.09.24  09.23

    A fascinating debate on whether the US forces should move out immediately or on a short timetable on Juan Cole's blog. This really fills out the picture far more for me than Cole's previous posts.

    Nonetheless, I don't see an enormous difference between their desired ends. If US forces claimed to decide to move out immediately, in effect it would still take about two years. If they claimed to move out in two years it would take five. That is, unless things were really bad--far worse than I can even imagine.

    Ultimately, if Iraqis want to have a civil war, that is their right; we can't occupy them perpetually to prevent that, especially since the occupation is horrible as it is. I might feel differently--and many Iraqis might as well--if we were Scandinavians or somesuch, capable of treating them with respect and intelligence.

    Essentially I believe that the US does not and should not have any sovereignty whatsoever in Iraq. The UN, however--even with US support--could. They are also more equipped to make intelligent decisions, to respect the sovereignty of Iraq, and to profit little financially from peacekeeping. Although they aren't absolutely perfect in these regards, we can be certain they'd be better than the military which created or continued Abu Ghraib and similar horrors.

    Realistically, it is simply impossible for the US to hand over power in Iraq to the UN and support them fully. The Bush Administration has far too much hubris for that, and I believe the only reason they have antagonized the UN so much in recent years is to cripple the institution which could be a threat to US's so-called superpower status, as for example in such situations as these. However, I don't think it's less possible than an immediate pullout, or even a short term pullout unless Iraqi politicians play their cards extremely well. It's the only option which has US withdrawing, but still can prevent a larger scale civil war. It would transition power to an institution which is far more likely to respect sovereignty and human life and dignity in Iraq than the US forces have been able to do. There is no justification for the US occupation of Iraq so long as the UN exists in any viable form. The Bush Administration understands this, and that is why they are trying to make the UN unviable.


      2005.09.09  19.48

    Have finally put into words why I believe we should leave Iraq, in response to current objections that a civil war would be unleashed and minorities would suffer, after reading Another Winning Formula For Iraq.

    I have not heard any convincing conjectures of what would happen upon our departure one way or the other. I suspect that, given the chaos and the absence of reporters or experts on the ground in Iraq, there is simply not enough information upon which to base an educated guess. We know that the violence would continue in one form or another, and that's the only certainty. When it would worsen or lessen, against whom would be the harshest attacks, what the result would be; that we can't know. We also know that any state or states that are formed will be Islamic states; that is happening even now, with the US's desperate blessing. When the objection is that we must stay to prevent a civil war and violence against minorities, my simplest response is that in staying, even if we are protecting minorities and preventing major clashes between Iraqi groups in the short term, we are increasing hostilities in the long term, at great cost to everyone.

    I also find that there's some denial on the part of liberals who, however reluctantly, support staying, which one could call Kerryism. The fact is that our government, and thus indirectly our military, rampantly corrupt, disinterested in diplomacy and reconstruction even merely as indispensible aspects of strategy, violent and cruel even in ways that significantly undermine its own stated goals, and can see insurgents' radical Islam and raise them one Dominionism. Imagine a sociopathic thirteen year old boy in charge, and you get the idea. Kerryism doesn't work; to paraphrase Rumsfeld, You go to war--or not--with the government you have. You take over a war--or not--with the occupation establishment you have. Additionally, if we were so lucky as to replace Bush despite the Democrats' continually weakened state, the cronyism in the "Iraqi reconstruction" would still be irrepairably entrenched, among other major problems.

    Finally, to stay in order to attempt to prevent the formation of a radical Islamic state is much like our motivation to stay in Vietnam. Perhaps it isn't bad enough to be worth the horrors (known and unknown) we commit against it. Additionally, they both rose in influence as ideologies because they were modes of resistance against oppression and occupation. To stay in Iraq for the protection of Iraqis is to stab someone, and then stick the knife in further in an attempt to stop the bleeding.


      2005.09.04  20.35

    Billmon has another moment of brilliance. Also, G pointed me towards an article on Bush and Secrecy from a historian of religion and esotericism's perspective.

    The latter shows an eerie prescience on the part of the immoral Right...


      2005.09.03  20.53

    Rehnquiest has died.

    It's worth noting that politically, this isn't a dramatically bad thing. Rehnquiest was one of the most conservative members of the Court, and it would be hard to replace him with anyone more conservative. So in replacing him the conservative number in the Court will either stay the same, or get better. Not that things are likely to get better, but individually this isn't likely to make things worse.

    We still have to make sure our representatives examine Roberts and whoever the next nominee is quite thoroughly, though, all the more so when the Bushies try to hide their record and shield them from real questions.


      2005.09.02  23.04

    This is one of the reasons I am not a fan of international adoptions: Four babies stolen in Ukraine. The other reason I'm not a fan: I've never heard of anyone adopting an African baby, and I have also heard that there are a fair number of black orphans in the US that few people adopt. Start where you are.

    Not that I know the subject in depth, but I just don't feel comfortable with it.


      2005.09.02  21.33

    Media people are finally angry about lies: http://www.slate.com/id/2125581/


      2005.09.02  10.37

    An amazing interview with the Mayor of New Orleans, in which he just comes out and says it.

    One thing to keep in mind: Iraqis have been living with similar conditions for two years. When people talk about the lack of security in Iraq, this is the kind of situation they're talking about.


      2005.09.02  10.18

    I find all this hand-wringing about looting pretty ridiculous. Who cares even if some people looted non-vital goods, even if they weren't going to be destroyed in the water? In a major disaster this is normal behaviour. The harm it could possibly cause is pretty minor compared to what they are already going through, a lot of people aren't saints--would you be in their socioeconomic position?--and they've got a lot of chemicals surging through their brains. Their lives are far more important, as are the lives of the people around them who would also be endangered if the group of them are treated like criminals (by the current Guantanamo standard according to which they seem to be treating criminals).

    Snipers and arsonists, however--I'm not so sure their lives are important, in particular if they can be isolated from innocent people (which would include snipers, but probably not arsonists).

    So that's what I have to say: Who the hell cares if people steal at a time like this? And when that causes a change in policy from rescue missions to shoot-to-kill, we have the wrong priorities: Protect televisions, not people.


      2005.08.22  20.59

    Atrios makes a great point:

    The first issue is whether the Iraq war, and supporting it, was a good idea. ... War supporters don't want to come back to that issue, preferring to brush it under the table in favor of debating the "what we should do now" question. But, as a matter of political posture, the only way for the Democrats to be the "anti-Republicans" on the Iraq war is in fact to take the position that the war was a bad idea. ...

    Then there is the genuine "what should we do now" policy issue, about which I acknowledge there can be legimitate differences of opinion. ... "Get out now" doesn't really mean "get out now" - impossible to do with 130,000 troops - it means "there's an emphasis on getting out fast" because of some combination of not wanting more troops to die and believing that getting out fast is actually a better way to achieve a secure and stable Iraq because our presence there is actually a large part of the problem. "Stay the course" doesn't mean "sit in Iraq until the end of time" (leaving off the table The Military Bases Which Must Not Be Named), it means "we shouldn't pull out too soon as our presence there is necessary for achieving stability in Iraq so we can't leave until we do."

    The Democrats may not want to be the "Iraq was a bad idea" party. But, frankly, that's the only real coherent political posture available to them. And, while bloggers and pundits and everyone else can figure out where on the spectrum between "get out now" and "stay the course" they actually sit, it's largely a pointless policy debate. Given the complexity of the situation, the only real policy position is "put competent people in charge." We didn't manage to do that in '04, and I don't imagine that the "we should've gone to war but then not fuck it up" posture will work any better in '06 and '08. Given the rising anti-war sentiment in this country it will certainly do worse.

    I'm seeing a dangerous tendency among powerful Democrats to attempt to become Republicans, ostensibly in order to get a little of the victory cake that the Republicans are still gorging themselves on. A part of this rightward drift includes an unwillingness to own up to mistakes.

    If voters like what the Republicans are doing, they will vote for them, not copycat Democrats. If (or rather when) voters don't like what Republicans are doing, they will want to vote for a group that is different. The Republicans are running out of victory cake--this is not the time to try to squeeze into their party by imitation. Their party has reached the beginning of the end.

    Additionally, owning one's mistakes is the right thing to do. Opposing this war in a realistic way is the right thing to do. Putting competent people in charge, as Atrios puts it so well, is the right thing to do. I believe that the most appropriately competent people are the UN, with full support from the US. But in any case--it's time to simply do the right thing.


      2005.07.24  10.46

    Frank Rich points out that the Supreme Court nomination and the Rove scandal are more closely linked than Bush would like us to notice; consider, why didn't he nominate Gonzales of the Torture Fame?


      2005.07.22  10.03

    There's a lot of news today. In order of importance:

    House extended Patriot Act. Before the fact, Billmon wrote a bit about what this means. Hopefully someone will post a list of the Democrats who voted for this.

    The Chinese yuan is no longer fixed to the American dollar.

    On the Rove story: Perjury and media antagonism. Where did they get her maiden name.

    There's more but I can't spend all day doing this!


      2005.07.21  13.30

    Rove seems to have made a few enemies. Oops.


      2005.07.17  21.58

    Some are dour on the possibility of this being "like Watergate" given that there's a Republican Congress in place; in other words, no chance of Bush being impeached.

    I thought about this a bit, and this is my conclusion: impeachment wouldn't necessarily be the ideal outcome. After all, Clinton was impeached, it can't be that meaningful. Also, Bush doesn't need to be the primary target. No, he's not quite as stupid as we all thought at first, but he's still a hell of a lot more dependent on his administration than most presidents.

    I think the target needs to be the War in Iraq itself. The individuals involved are secondary. What needs to happen, historically and politically, is that it is fully demonstrated that it is an illegal war and that there are consequences to having instigated it. Those responsible will doubtlessly not be punished as fully as they should be, but nonetheless it is important that at the very least they are clearly and publicly marked as criminals for what they have done. Let them remain in office for a little longer if they want, but let the world and let history know that America is not yet completely senile. An official public recognition of this may be enough to make a difference, to stunt future generations of Bushies, and force the Republican Party to redefine itself.


      2005.07.17  16.30

    Meanwhile, Juan Cole points out that issues of democracy are never merely that in the Middle East.
    The important point in this whole story is that it reveals the Realpolitik reason for which the Neoconservatives (including Bush and Cheney) really want "democratization." They are convinced that multiparty elections can be covertly manipulated by the United States in countries where Washington has an interest in the outcome.

    ..."Democracy" can never be viewed in isolation in Middle East politics. Because there are always several questions. How much power in our country are foreigners going to have? Can our national independence be better preserved through authoritarianism or elections?


      2005.07.17  16.28

    I can't keep you guys completely updated on the Plame affair. There are just too many posts which consist in their novelty and interest of about one sentence that's different from what everyone already knows. You're just gonna have to read the blogs yourself: I can suggest some, if you want.

    The parallels to Watergate are, to a minor degree at least, stunning. What everyone is clearly hoping for is a similar outcome. Obviously the outcome cannot be exactly the same, because unlike Nixon, Cheney has no shame.

    Another interesting difference lies in the crime committed. I had to go to Wikipedia to get it all exactly straight. Burglarizing the Democratic National Committee headquarters is more clearly a crime than a bunch of brief phone calls where everyone can quibble over phrasings and such. And yet, revealing the identity of an undercover CIA agent is a more serious crime, violating more serious laws. (There seem to be so many laws Rove may have broken that it's hard to imagine him emerging unscathed at this point.) Additionally, Rove and Libby are more significant as the first defendants of a grand jury than a number of burglars.

    It is perhaps regrettable that such a deplorable president may in fact have kept his hands clean in this affair simply through delegation, though we all know that he is of a character to support and encourage any general wrongdoing on his behalf. Although depending on someone else to do your major dirty work (which in this administration is most of the work, judging by Bush's vacations and general accomplishments) may seem like a smart move in this case, it will have ramifications. Taking Rove out of this administration will leave it hopping around on one foot. Cheney handles the politicians, Rove handles the commoners; Bush is just on top for the ride. (Wheee!) Take Rove out of the equation, and Big Brother gets a lot smaller. They won't be able to replace Rove. We can only hope that Bush's designated successor, whoever that turns out to be, won't be able to use Rove either.

    Because this whole affair stems from the administration's use of bad intelligence to instigate the Slaughter in Iraq based on false claims of Hussein's possession of WMD, it draws even further attention to that open secret, and to the invalidity and illegality of this war. And there, to put it mildly, Bush has not kept his hands clean. There may have been a coupla laws relating to wars as well, you never know. It's definitely the spot under the carpet where they don't want independent legal people peeking, but as Juan Cole's post suggests, the Plame affair may lead in that direction.


      2005.07.15  09.18

    Juan Cole says it best: Rove is unfit for public office (but does he hold a public office?) and The Ghost of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan John Aravos.

    Rove & co have been trading in human life for political gain. Well, even besides the Slaughter in Iraq. This is a particularly sad sentence: "One key al-Qaeda goal is to topple Western democracies and push them into fascism so as to punish Westerners for having supported authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world."


      2005.07.11  12.27

    Oh boy, here we go again. I don't have time to read all this, but the blogs are all aquiver about Rove getting caught on having ratted Plame. Here's one, and another, and another, and something unrelated but kinda funny, and another. Tell me if there are any really juicy bits! It seems like the most amusing part right now is watching the spokespam McClellan squirm after vouching for Rove a million times. (I'm going to leave that typo in there.)

    What will happen next?


      2005.07.07  06.55

    There were a series of coordinated explosions in London this morning during rush hour.

    As horrifying as this is, let's not forget that innocent Iraqis die in similar circumstances every few days. And occasionally, as in the assault on Falluja, that is taken as a cause to celebrate by some, while others are often taken as a non-event.

    It is possible to take a position on these things that is realistic, but non-antagonistic. This is the only way to begin an approach of hope and compassion.


      2005.05.07  08.00

    I'm dipping back into the news a little, and I find this fascinating. I noticed people talking about one article in which the Russian government complained intensely to Rice about Bush's trip to Latvia and anonymous said "Rice doesn't scare easy." So I was curious.

    And then there's a dailykos article about Bush's trip to Latvia.

    During a talk by Julian Darley I recently attended on peak oil, I remember thinking that it's surprising that we have such good relations with Russia, considering their healthier oil and natural gas reserves. It wasn't a very clear thought, though.

    But when the Bush administration acts internationally, at least in their mind, they are moving big pieces around on a big chessboard. The goal is not beneficial peacetime trade; they really think there's going to be an endgame and they want to be in the right position when it happens. All signs indicate that the Bush administration expects a scenario much like what peak oil environmentalists expect, only they want to be on top when it happens, not creating an earthy renaissance at the bottom.

    You'd think that the US would want to be in a good bargaining position for Russian oil. But maybe they're sure that Russia will use its oil to suck wealth out of the US, and not be as cooperative as OPEC. And meanwhile there's the untransportable natural gas reserves there. So perhaps the Bush administration is deliberately encouraging the antagonism between the Baltic states and Russia, trying to hobble Russia's potential rise from the start.

    As awful as it is, it's certainly interesting to watch.


      2005.04.04  03.06

    To all those people saying "Who cares if the pope is dead?" I have this to reply:

    Stop watching so much damn television. If you don't care, that's most likely the only reason you're thinking about it at all.

    I should add that I can't remember if any of the people I've seen saying that were on LJ or elsewhere.


      2005.04.01  12.25

    There have been a couple of interesting posts on Terri Schiavo's death (that I've read). First, Juan Cole points out that Bush used her death in a press conference to draw attention away from a disastrously critical report on Iraqi intelligence, which he also had to address at the tail end of the conference. He also looks at the Schiavo situation in the anti-abortion context.

    On Dailykos, Armando notes that while (as reported in the NYT) many feel "some degree of relief, too, that the pope may be released from his long and painful years of illness" that kindness is not extended to Terri Schiavo.

    The fact is that we simply cannot rationally know for sure if this is the right thing to do, or if keeping someone like her alive is the right thing to do. So many questions are involved, and we don't know definite answers to any of them. First let's clarify terms, though: 'sapient' means 'thinking', 'sentient' means 'feeling' or 'aware'.

    First, there's the question of euthanasia. When a sapient person wants to die, does that mean that they should die? Is there a chance that they might change their mind, when it's too late? Is a deliberate death, in a metaphysical sense, the wrong kind of death? If a person says, during health, "don't keep me on life support" or "keep me on life support" does that mean that, when the time comes, they will still feel the same way?

    But Schiavo was not sapient, and therefore could not communicate her wishes, if she had any. It is questionable that she was sentient in any way, and could feel anything. If she wasn't in any way aware or feeling, is it better to keep her alive or let her die? If she was sentient, is it better to keep her alive or let her die? If she was sentient, what was her experience like? Was it excruciating and horrible, was it blissful, was it bland?

    We can have opinions and guesses, but the fact is that we cannot know for sure. Dogma provides answers, based only on the authority of dogma (and perhaps a few individual mystical experiences, reinterpreted over time). My best guess would side with her husband's choice, but more than anything in such a situation I distrust certainty and those who claim to have it.


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