Friday, November 12, 2010

Language and the Will to Power - Part 1

I’m bemused by the trend, in recent years, of obfuscating, conflating and downright deliberate abuse of our language – especially our political language. It has left people confused (perhaps intentionally) about some basic terms and that, in turn, has left them confused about the realities of our current social/political/economic situation. This may seem picayune to some, after all harping on the language used to describe events can’t hold a candle to actually dealing with those events, right? Well, not so much; to the extent that we use and abuse language we define or obscure what we’re talking about. This is done in two ways: first by ignorance, people who are not clear about their subject or the definitions of the words they are using are red meat for the propagandists. The second way is by design. This is the special world of propaganda/advertising where the word and the meme are deliberately twisted to serve a commercial and/or political end. As Orwell pointed out, this is an unparalleled tool for establishing and maintaining control of a market or a society. And tyrannies of the left and the right have used it assiduously even a casual look at history will provide numerous examples.

I‘m very concerned with how this is playing out today. Right here and right now the meanings of words are being twisted for public consumption – see anything written by George Lakoff and Frank Luntz for details on this trend. I want to examine the definitions of some political/economic concepts so we can try to determine how the concepts are twisted by the misuse of words and how that relates to the difference between what we’re told is going on to what actually happening in reality.

First, some definitions (I got these from Wikipedia for simplicity’s sake, if you distrust Wikipedia go look them up in the Encyclopedia Britannica, or any other unbiased authority you respect, they’re functionally the same).

Socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources. Additional definitions can be found here.

Democracy is a political form of government in which governing power is derived from the people, either by direct referendum (direct democracy) or by means of elected representatives of the people (representative democracy). Additional definitions can be found here.

Fascism is a radical and authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to organize a nation according to corporatist perspectives, values, and systems, including the political system and the economy. Additional definitions can be found here.

Corporatism is a system of economic, political, or social organization that views a community as a body based upon organic social solidarity and functional distinction and roles amongst individuals. Formal corporatist models are based upon the contract of corporate groups, such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labor, military, patronage, scientific, or religious affiliations, into a collective body. Additional definitions can be found here.

Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for a private profit. Additional definitions can be found here.

Right enough, I have some quibbles about these definitions – from my more leftward perspective and I’ll be mentioning some of them – I’m sure many others have rightward quibbles themselves. I’m less concerned with what these definitions say than with what they leave out or ignore altogether.

We throw these words around without examining their roots. We use them as epithets to cudgel our opponents and in doing so, we strip them of their meaning and substitute the buzzword soundbite – useful only as agitprop which stirs anger (with extra foam) and drowns discourse and understanding.

The roots of these definitions lie in our nature as humans and in our innate understanding of the world around us. It comes down to money and power and how we behave around them.

This can’t be a surprise to anyone who looks at the evidence but we generally don’t take the time to examine the structure of the ‘isms’ and ‘acys’, let’s take a quick look at them right now, maybe we can shed some light…

Parsing definitions

Let’s start with Socialism (guaranteed to drive right wingers crazy).

Socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources.

Well, first of all, I think it’s more than a theory. Socialism has been enacted, more or less successfully, by several nation states and other socio-political entities around the world. In fact, despite the frantic efforts of the corporatists/fascists to deny it, the most successful societies in the world today are socialist. I refer to the Scandinavian nations, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland (more about Iceland later). This is only, of course, if you believe that the purpose of society is to provide the best possible standard of living for all of its citizens.

Our own Anglo-Saxon heritage is socialist to the extent that it is based on the concept of ‘the commons’, a community supported grazing field that would support anyone’s cattle or sheep if there were a famine or a flood. More to the point, we have a sterling example of socialist behavior right here in the middle of River City: a public entity that provides cooperative management of the means of production and allocates resources to that end – the Pentagon… think about it for a minute and see if you don’t agree. Or rather see if you aren’t forced to agree…
These things get tricky once you really start thinking about them…
More on this later on…

Moving on to Democracy, the ne plus ultra of American political worship.
Democracy is a political form of government in which governing power is derived from the people, either by direct referendum (direct democracy) or by means of elected representatives of the people (representative democracy).

Very careful language here, almost as if the writers suspected a trap. That’s not surprising as there has been virtually no credible, viable, direct democracy, ever, anywhere.

Think I’m joking? Let’s look at the record:
First, there is not now, nor has there ever been, an ongoing, functioning direct democracy. It’s called a mobocracy or plebiscite democracy and it plain doesn’t work: too easily coerced by demagogues, too easily corrupted by oceans of money (hmmm… that sounds familiar). Even our cherished Athenian democracy wasn’t pure rule of the demos. Eligible voters were restricted to free men who had done their military service to the state. That is: no women, no slaves, no one who was not a veteran, no one who owed money and no one who had property close to the city walls (this last rule was because a contemporary tactic of invaders was to burn the grounds close to the city walls to prevent the inhabitants from reaping the grain and fodder). They forced out the corrupt kings and substituted a set of aristocrats and oligarchs called the Archons. The Archons of course were subject to the same kind of corruption as the kings and this was one of the main reasons why the Athenian democracy was eventually defeated by the outright militarist/fascist Spartans. Even in Solon’s Athens there were great restrictions on democracy but these are minor cavils when placed beside his staggering, revolutionary idea of people ruling themselves. We’ve still not gotten over it.

At best, these days, we have the Parliamentarian system (exemplified by the UK) and the Constitutional Republic system (exemplified by the US). These are both powerful bars to the progress of corruption and decay, if used properly. But their flaws are transparently obvious to everyone - how do we deal with the real problem: the will to power.

Democracy and Socialism, in the context of their stated aims, are very, very close, in power distribution terms. Each claims to want the best possible result for the greatest number of its citizens. Where they diverge is that Socialism avers that it is necessary to control the means of distribution in order to effect a just and fair dispersal. Democracy, being only a political system, has no comment on this issue – it punts.

This is a signal difference and we’ll return to it later on…

Next, there’s fascism:
Fascism is a radical and authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to organize a nation according to corporatist perspectives, values, and systems, including the political system and the economy.

This is the most troubling definition for me, mostly because there is so little agreement on what, exactly, fascism is. The definition, above, from Wikipedia is a little incoherent but none of the other definitions I could easily find were any more clear. The best description I remember is that fascism is political system where, the state, under the guidance of a dictator, directs and controls civil and business entities for the benefit of the state. I’m not sure that’s any better but it puts the focus on the dictator, where it belongs.

Everyone knows the shibboleths about this: Mussolini, Hitler, Franco; their mad world conquest fantasies, their horrible xenophobias and persecutions, their genocidal psychopathy. These monsters are only matched in ferocity and depravity by their communist alter egos: Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Actually, the lines kinda get blurred here: it’s difficult to parse the difference between Hitler murdering 6 million jews (and assorted catholics, homosexuals and gypsys) and Pol Pot murdering 2 million Cambodians (about a fifth of all Cambodians), not to speak of Stalin’s murdering of upwards of 30 million Russians or Mao’s staggering murder toll of over 100 million Chinese. Who cares what political name you call them? This leads directly to my larger point later on…

But the direct point here is: fascism is largely dependent on a cult of personality surrounding the dictator. His personality cult (this is pretty much a male party, unless you count Maggie Thatcher as a fascist dictator… hmmm… no… but it was close) drives the entire enterprise, egged on, of course by various (truly evil) businesses and organizations - See the history of Krupp, AG in the 1930s and read “The Family” by Jeff Sharlet.

…and corporatism: here’s where it starts to get fun:
Corporatism is a system of economic, political, or social organization that views a community as a body based upon organic social solidarity and functional distinction and roles amongst individuals. Formal corporatist models are based upon the contract of corporate groups, such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labor, military, patronage, scientific, or religious affiliations, into a collective body.

A “system of economic, political, or social organization”, that’s quite grand, isn’t it? And “based upon organic social solidarity and functional distinction and roles amongst individuals” seems a bit thick, doesn’t it? – almost like the writer didn’t really want you to understand what he’s talking about. The rest of Wikipedia’s definition reads like a classic case of double speak – Orwell would have been proud. Here’s the skinny on corporatism: where fascism has the state at the top of the heap running the corporations as satraps, corporatism has the corporations on top, using the state as the enforcement arm for corporate policy. …and you thought it was just corrupt Washington politicians going every man for himself. Turns out it’s not a chaotic mess at all, someone’s deliberately managing this, can you say: "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money," (H/T to Matt Taibbi). Goldman Sachs doesn’t get all the blame, mainly because there are so many, many others eagerly scrimmaging for a place at the groaning board.

Last, as it should be, is capitalism:
Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for a private profit.

“Capitalism is an economic system” that says it right there. Not a political system nor a social system nor a political ideology, not even a financial system, it doesn’t know or care about countries or constitutions, sees no difference between Senators and gangsters, lawyers and prostitutes, cops and robbers – it’s just an economic system. Capitalism has no business meddling in politics or social systems: it doesn’t know anything about them and it doesn’t care anything about them. The fact that we’ve let fanatical ideologues who neither know nor care anything about our society and political system, manipulate, pervert and control our country in the name of capitalism (AKA ‘free trade”) is a testament to our stupidity and cowardice not their acuity and/or amorality. They never said they had any moral standards and walked the walk; we said we did, and have utterly failed to follow through.

The middle distance point here is that when people make the accusation that Obama is a socialist, they are wrong - by definition. If, for example, Obama had expanded Medicare to Part E (”E” for everyone), then you could legitimately make the charge that he is a socialist. Obama does not do that, he never has, If you look at his record (thin though it is) you will see that, at every opportunity, Obama always, always, comes down on the side of corporations against citizens, large corporations against small ones, corporations against country. Obama is not a socialist - he is a corporatist… no, I won’t say the ‘f’ word, they’d burn me in effigy but given his all-consuming self-absorption it’s not very hard to see him as a dictator (it certainly isn’t very hard for him to see himself that way – in fact I think he already does).

That finishes Part 1 of this exercise. Part 2 will see a dissection of the real world structure of the ‘isms’ and ‘acys’ we defined above. We’ll take a look at how the real world intersects with our pigeonholes and presumptions and how the language we use defines what we see and changes who we are.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Trial of Geert Wilders

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has an article at the WSJ this morning, decrying the assault on free speech manifest in the trial of the bigot Geert Wilders. While I loathe Mr. Wilders, he is being railroaded by laws designed specifically to convict him - all for the convenience and propitiation of islamist fanatics determined to take over the Netherlands, it won't work.

The problem of ‘creeping islamification’ has been a growing problem for decades as Ms. Ali correctly points out. The current list of participants in Greet Wilders trial are evidence of the extent to which this trial holds up a mirror to us all. There are several players in this ongoing train wreck: the fanatic Islamists, the misguided multiculturalists, the deeply tainted ‘christian’ european nation states and the globalist corporate capitalists.

The multiculturalists are the easiest target, their ‘rainbows and unicorns’ approach is treated, frankly, to the contempt it deserves from the other parties. Certainly, the Islamists and capitalists have taken full advantage of their cupidity.

The Islamists situation is murkier: after the poor Muslims were imported into Europe to do the work that the Dutch, or Germans or French or English wouldn’t do for those wages (this’ll sound familiar to Americans), there were instantly segregated and marginalized, treated to the European equivalent of ‘Jim Crow’ laws – the multiculturalists have a point here – it can surprise no one that they were easy prey for the radical fanatics. And we say ‘fanatic, ‘radical’, ‘fundamentalist’ in an attempt to differentiate by definition. Islamic cultural divides are as complex as our own and not dissimilar in many ways. Like us (and by ‘us’ I mean the western cultural norm: European and American, judeo-christian-based cultural underpinnings – there’s a hint right there) they have a vast body of very quiet, respectable folks who are not very interested in what their neighbors do or don’t so long as it doesn’t get in their face. There are a few, however, who just can’t stand the fact that other people don’t follow the rules they do, this always breeds trouble.

The opening was made for the Islamic radicals, we should actually call them what they are: World Caliphate Islamists, and the WCI rushed right in. This is analogous to the Christian Nation fundamentalists here in the US being generally acknowledged as the representative of christianity to the world.

Unfortunately, this feeds into, or springs forth from, the judeo-christian heritage of Euro-American western culture. Not a pretty picture, that heritage, from the Council of Nicea on through the aptly-named “Dark Ages” and the infamous Inquisition (see Malleus Malificarum) and the devastating fratricidal wars of the 15th through 18th centuries… the West has no peg upon which to hang its hat of moral superiority.

Which brings us to the instigators of this latest round of religious world war: the capitalists (hobby horse alert). These clever folks have a habit of using whatever ’tools’ they can find for their purpose (profit) then dropping them instantly when a better scheme comes along. So we saw the great capitalists demand and support importing hundreds of thousands of Muslims into more or less stable western European countries, in order to pay them low wages and force the native workforce to either reduce their wages to the same level or go jobless – in the name of competitiveness and efficiency (read: better profits). Immediately upon realizing that they could do even better by exporting the business itself to the low labor-cost countries, they did so… and dumped the immigrants on the slag heap with the rest of the trash. What naturally follows, followed naturally.

At the last, we come to the question implicit in Ms Ali’s letter: what can we (the West) do about it (the WCI).

Well, for one thing, we can do nothing or rather we can slog along n status quo. That will mean more and more effort energy and costs related to combating the guaranteed-to-grow homegrown WCI terrorist agenda. We can be certain they’re not going to stop or even slow down by themselves.

Or, we could make some new laws directed at containment. Not silly press-op laws like banning hajibs (I think it’s a good idea but more of a morale builder, fruitless as a deterrent to the WCI). We could certainly ban sharia law anywhere in any western country, that would help. We could pass laws making fatwahs illegal, subject to instant arrest and prosecution, etc., etc.

But these are all palliative measures, they do not address the underlying problem: the WCI and their sympathizers are out to take over the world and will kill anyone who stands in their way. Not to recognize this is to make a mistake of Chamberlinian proportions… again. The answer is simple, direct and will be very, very hard to do. It has one advantage: it will work.

Any muslim who wishes to remain in any western country is free to do so, with the following conditions:

They must observe local laws and customs, that is,

There will be no sharia law in western muslim communities.
Local laws concerning freedom of speech, such as lampooning of political and religious figures, are sacrosanct.
No fatwahs may be issued by any religious figure, for any reason, against anyone
Citizens are expected to put their rights, responsibilities, duty and loyalty to their country and fellow citizens ahead of their religious obligations.

Abrogation of any of these conditions results in being stripped of citizenship and deported.

The list of conditions may be incomplete but the intent and result of these conditions will be consternation and bitter complaints by the WCI and their adherents. No doubt they and the multiculturalists will take to the streets, numerous obscenities will be hurled very loudly, a few Molotov cocktails will probably be thrown, some cars will be burned and there will be strikes and riots of various kinds and ferocity. But it would be wide for the West to stick to these principles – they’re the only thing that will work.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

[Blink!]… [Blink!] Dispatch #2

As the Gulf oil catastrophe continues to worsen, I've been checking with some sources on this matter:
From Matt Simmons:
…“In my opinion, what most likely happened when one of the largest surges of oil as gas blew out the BOP and within seconds, began melting down one of the world’s most technically advanced deepwater rigs ever built is that just the BOP and wellhead got tossed far away from the well bore but the riser which was attached to the rig floor was separated from the wellhead/BOP.

“What all the black crap coming out to create these plumes are is the oil from the reservoir and it is staying so deep under the ocean surface that only the recent tests by NOAA research vessels finally saw these giant plumes rapidly spreading across the sea floor of the Gulf of Mexico.

“BP is in total denial that this could be real.

“It is time for the government to ask BP to step aside and bring the military into to managing this colossal failure of judgment by BP.

“Spread this news as we all need to better understand what is really happening.

“Very tragic story.


and from Mike Ruppert:

The obvious collusion between the USG and the mainstream media leads me to believe that the USG has known that a nuke would be the only option within a week of the explosion. About two weeks ago we posted on this blog a link to a story from (I think it was) The Telegraph saying that President Obama had dispatched a team of nuclear scientists to study the situation and evaluate the possibility of using a nuke. One was a co-inventor of the H-bomb. It was a credible story that no press outlet followed up on. Why not?

I believe that the leaks are devastating for all life in the Gulf and that large portions of the Gulf will be dead zones from seabed to surface within maybe six months. I believe that an announcement of a pending nuclear detonation will come within a week to ten days. I predict that US Continuity of Government provisions will be activated and that FEMA will, before end of summer, be placed in complete control of the Southeast United States… limited martial law.

My original [Blink!]… [Blink!] post seemed a bit far fetched to me at the time but events proved it out. I have heard about the nuclear solution from the start of this debacle but didn't think it would get this far. Now I think Mike R may be right on target. At this point we have to ask ourselves whether we can stand another 2-3 months of an underwater gusher pumping 200,000+ gallons of oil per day into the Gulf and the Caribbean, it may well destroy both bodies of water completely.

It may be that the lesser evil would be to use the big nuclear hammer and just blast the well closed, that was 'Red' Adair's basic solution and I don't see a better one on the horizon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The World Boole Made

George Boole (1815-1864) is, in large part, responsible for our current technological society. His studies and discoveries in mathematics and logic were the necessary precursors for the development of computers. Boolean logic is fundamental to computer science and can reasonably be inferred to represent our capacity, as humans, to think rationally, to make evaluative judgments and to choose logically.

Here follows an extremely simplified description of Boolean logic. If you remember this stuff, more power to you, if you’re rusty, this may help warm up your high school math muscles.
Boolean logic deals with logical operations on two items or values (A and B, for example). There are, basically, six types of operations you can do: AND, OR, NAND, NOR, NOT and XOR. The Venn diagrams help to illustrate the operations.

The AND operation – This set is both A and B
I take cream (A) and sugar (B) in my coffee.

The OR operation – This set is either A or B
I take either cream or sugar in my coffee.

The NAND operation – This set is both not A and not B
I do not take cream and do not take sugar in my coffee.

The NOR operation – This set is neither A and B, nor not A and not B
I take neither cream nor sugar in my coffee. (but I might take sweetener and/or soy)

XOR operation – This set is the exclusive difference of A and B
I’ll have either cream or sugar in my coffee, but not both

NOT is self explanatory, I think, and not really relevant to this discussion. As you can see, it is implied in the XOR set.

If you know this stuff does it mean you’re ‘smart’?

Well I’m not really sure what ‘smart’ is and Boolean logic isn’t really that arcane - you use it every day: all the search engines use Boolean algorithms to build their queries. In fact, if you come to really understand Boolean logic you can make your favorite search engine sit up, bark and roll over.

But that’s not the reason I brought it up. Being a technologist, I tend to look for solutions to my puzzles using the tools I’m familiar with. So I was thinking about why it is that people seem to get caught up with (to me) transparent frauds like Reagan and Bush and Obama. There doesn’t seem to be any logic to it and in the end most people just throw up their hands and say “It’s a mystery”.

Well, maybe not so mysterious after all… Several studies have been done in Europe, on the internal effects of religious types of experiences on the brain. The results show that, for some people in the presence of charismatic figures, certain areas of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex) apparently shut down – not surprisingly, these areas are the ones concerned with differentiation and logical constructs. To see abstracts of their findings, go: here and here.

Another part of my nascent theory involves intelligence. Now there’s a word that’s guaranteed to cause trouble. What is it? What’s it good for? Why do we have it and other animals don’t? Why do some of us have it and others don’t?

Intelligence is far too simple a word for all the uses we put it to. Usually it refers to the kind of intellectual activity that shows up well on so-called ‘intelligence tests’. Those who score well add a little swagger to their walk (if they’re complete idiots) those who don’t may be resentful, but I’ve come to believe that there are many kinds of intelligence, going all the way from the Stephen Hawking variety to my cat who treats me fondly even though I’m just a slow, clumsy giant who can’t smell worth a damn and is virtually blind at night.

In the real world, over the past forty years, we’ve seen a succession of charismatic idiots come onto the political scene, one after the other. Each one tries to outdo his predecessor in how much more he can screw up this country. Yes, I’m talking about Reagan, BushII and Obama. I don’t leave out Bill Clinton because I was a Democrat (he did a number of things I was furious about) but because the actions he took on his own generally worked for the betterment of the country while the actions he took under Republican pressure invariably worked against us. How did these mental and moral midgets get elected?

I think there has been a combination of planning and serendipity working for the enslavers. There is now no doubt that key elements of this ongoing train wreck were well thought through and detailed plans were made to be implemented whenever conditions were right. Others have written and spoken about this at length: Naomi Klein, James Galbraith, Simon Johnson, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader, just to name a few. The elitist movement called ‘globalization’ has been revealed as a horrific scheme to plunder the entire planet and recast the population as indentured servants to their own destruction – unions destroyed, national governments suborned and reduced to penury, impossible ’restructuring’ plans designed to subjugate entire populations to corporatist rule while shifting the blame to the very governments that should be protecting their populace.

In current events, Chris Hedges has a revealing piece on the moral cesspool of the “Ubermensch” mentality that permeates our culture. here. James Galbraith recently made this statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee in reference to the serial pillaging of the American economy by ‘free’ market fanatics over the past thirty years. Yesterday, Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, incredibly, said “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.” Even as it becomes clear that BP lied about the size of the spill: apparently not 2,000 bbl/day as originally stated or even 5,000 bbl/day as they revised upward. More like 25,000 bbl/day, possibly as much as 50,000 bbl/day… and the beat goes on...

How do we deal with these horrors? How can we protect ourselves against these predators? Is there a kind of intelligence that would enable us to navigate in the dystopian world of corporate political savagery? What kind of intelligence would that be? And: can we test for it?
The answer, thanks to Danish researchers and Boolean logic, is: maybe.

There may be a combination of brain dysfunction and an inherent inability to deal with cognition that beguiles and then enslaves what might otherwise be a perfectly normal human. The proclivity to unskeptical belief doesn’t seem to have much to do with any measures of intelligence. I had a dismaying experience, in 2008, of weekly meetings with a team of lawyers, all very accomplished and experienced, people you would normally expect to have a jaundiced view of the world and a fairly cynical opinion of politicians. Yet several of this hard-bitten crew just couldn’t stop gushing about how wonderful Obama was and when presented with evidence of outright lies and fraudulent political actions, they only grew more vociferous in their praise and more hostile to any criticism. My anecdotal evidence echoes the Danish results.
So, here it is: I think we need to abandon our long cherished belief that everyone should have the right to vote. Not everyone is qualified to make decisions about our republic, not everyone should vote.Voting should be an earned privilege, not a right.

We’ve had all kinds of suggestions over the centuries on whether and how to limit enfranchisement. Some of our intellectual powerhouses of the past had long and vigorous discussions about it. Jefferson didn’t want to make the vote available to just anyone, he thought that only landowners were responsible enough to be entrusted with voting – he also thought they were, in general, smarter than the normal run of folks and more likely to have thoughts and values similar to his own. Voting rights were one of the main subjects of the suffrage movement for women in the 1800’s and the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. In fact, it’s become anathema to even speak of limiting voting rights. It’s one of those things we don’t want to talk about these days - there seem to be a lot of those kinds of ‘verboten’ subjects.

I think we need to talk about this one. We’ve gotten to the point where we can see the edge of the cliff for this culture: running out of resources, out of control greed, complete co-option of governance by money, the bottom dropping out of any concept of responsibility to one another. How can we put a stop to this slide?
It’ll take many ways and many actions over a maddeningly long timeframe, of course, but one of the things we can do is to start re-thinking our a prioris.

A lot of times these discussions only go over well-trodden ground. Everyone knows the arguments on both sides and, inevitably, we all just circle round and round until we’re exhausted and just drop the discussion. Every once in a while, however, there’s an opening.

The problem with limiting enfranchisement is twofold: why do you want to do it? And how do you do it in a way that everyone can recognize is fair?

Those of us who are ‘of a certain age’ can all recall (mostly apocryphal) stories about blacks being denied the right to vote on various absurd pretexts. Clearly these limits were put on by the Jim Crow south to prevent them from voting because they were black. All of the variants to limiting enfranchisement were vulnerable to the charge that they were just as absurd and were only mask for the intent to prevent the vote for blacks or women or Catholics or Jews or… pick your target. Even intelligence tests are vulnerable to the charge of ‘racial cultural imbalance’.

So what can we do if we’d really like to weed out the ‘sheeple’? And I would like to weed them out, for several reasons: First, they’re way too easy to fool, propagandists like Karl Rove and David Axelrod are detestable human beings but they are very, very smart and they have developed the use of their tools to a razor sharp edge. Their capability to determine election results with defamation, deception and outright lies, is deadly both in its accuracy and in its results. Second, I’m tired of my life being run by ‘sheeple’ (I’m being polite here, I usually call them something else), I imagine many of us are. It’s time to reset the rules.

Now there can be a lot of discussion about the rights of citizens who are denied the vote: why and who decides, is there recourse or remedy? How does this affect their other rights? What’s the relationship to the original tea partiers (“No taxation without representation”).
This is absolutely a discussion we should have, just not here and now – mostly because it’s huge and needs a bigger venue that one article in a blog.
And there can be a whole ‘nother discussion about other kinds of criteria for getting a voting card. How this would redefine our society: do we then have a two-tiered citizenry? What are the rights and obligations of those who fail to get their voting cards? Should they get a break on taxes? What if they’re in the armed forces? Would this lead to another kind of social stratification and discrimination (in the old classist/racist sense)? This also absolutely merits a thorough discussion but not here and now for the reason cited above.
Here I’m want to focus on how and why we can and should devise and use a test that determines your (or my) ability to think clearly and evaluate choices on the basis of reason, logic, horse sense, common sense… whatever you want to call it: just as long as you don’t use “the Force”.

In Boolean terms, everyone does AND and OR, a fewer number are comfortable with the concepts of NAD and NOR but the ones I want to screen for are the ones who ‘get’ XOR. These are the people I want for voters in this society. Everyone else should ‘live long and prosper’ but the XOR people should be setting the rules.

“Well, CDP”, you may say, “Isn’t this just another way of reserving the vote for smart people? Aren’t you just being an elitist?” My answer is that I think it would be great if we reserved the vote for smart people (the alternative seems counterproductive) but the last election shows us that ‘smart’ doesn’t necessarily mean smart. Look at the legions of dunces with degrees who voted for Obama – high IQ numbers and a bunch of letters after your name doesn’t guarantee you can think your way out of a paper bag.

What’s interesting about the XOR test is that it doesn’t purport to measure your potential or put a stamp on your putative relative value. It also doesn’t care whether you’re a liberal, a conservative, a stock broker or a Scientologist. It only tests whether you have discernment, the ability to evaluate the evidence and make a judgment: take this but not that.

The context of the XOR test is important too. We’re talking about politics so we should expect the test to measure deliberative capability in choices made in the political context: think of it as measuring your bullshit detector. And when you think about it: do you really want to share your right to vote with someone who obviously can’t tell a bald-faced lie when they hear one? (I won’t even bother to provide examples, I’m sure you all have plenty)

There is another way of presenting Boolean logic called the “Truth Table” (seriously, I didn’t make this up). Below is the truth table for XOR.

You can see here that p XOR q is only true when one, and only one, of the values is true. This is the kind of thought we should encourage, for example: listening to a candidate’s words and comparing them with past performance. For example: candidate Obama’s ringing words about the need for health care reform, contrasted with his actual record of derailing health care in Illinois. This might have been a clue that he was in the pocket of the insurance companies (he got a letter of praise from the insurance companies for his work in Illinois). Regarding political ads for what they are: propaganda (and therefore almost certainly untrue).

So, what would an XOR Voter Test look like? Well there are some models for a starting point: Situational Judgment Tests (SJT) have been used by many organizations, including the US Army, for decades. Employers often have their HR departments administer this kind of test to determine where prospective employees will best fit in the organization.

These kinds of tests are usually written for the specific situation and I would expect exactly that kind of thought and attention to be applied to a Voter Test. The Voter Test would come in the mail with your primary registration for every election (you get another chance to pass, or fail, at every election). It need not be long, perhaps a dozen questions, all designed to determine that the prospective voter is engaged in the process and has the capability of making a decision based on reason – whether they actually do make a reasoned judgment is another matter. We can’t control anyone’s actual behavior (nor should we want to) but we can do two things: first, make sure that our fellow voters are competent to make a decision and second, weed out the propaganda, i.e., political ads, political money, etc. Dealing with the second problem is another matter for a different discussion, right now, I’m thinking about the first problem.

Let me try to anticipate some objections.

Isn’t this just a disguised ‘intelligence’ test?

No, this type of test doesn’t measure your IQ or aptitude (like an SAT) or your knowledge competency (like a GRE, MCAT or LSAT). It measures your ability to judge a situation (or a candidate) using objective criteria rather than emotional attraction (or repulsion).

This is discrimination and besides, it’s unconstitutional.

Last charge answered first: it’s not unconstitutional. The Constitution only says “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” can’t prevent you from voting (Amendment 15), nor can gender: “on account of sex” (Amendment 19), or unpaid taxes: “by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax” (Amendment 24), or if you are 18 “on account of age” (Amendment 26).

On to ‘discrimination’. This is another loaded word, when people use it they generally intend it to be a euphemism for ‘racist’, but what the word really means is “to note or distinguish as different”.

[Sidebar here: be careful with dictionaries, Webster’s Third International, for example, defines words by their ‘common usage’. When in doubt, go to the OED for the actual meaning]

So, in fact, we do want people to discriminate, to measure, to compare, to test, to doubt, to evaluate. And we really don’t want anyone who can’t do those things to vote. There are a whole lot of people out there voting who aren’t interested in making their vote meaningful – they’re voting a party ticket, or voting for someone who has seniority or voting for the ‘kewl’ guy. Every one of those drone votes, every one of those thoughtless voters, damages you and damages me. They vitiate our ability to change the status quo, they dilute our power.

I want you to be very careful with your vote because your vote affects me – and mine affects you. This is one of the last things we all do together as a community and the oligarchs are doing everything in their power to make it superfluous. The barrages of political advertising that are nothing but lies. The incessant blaring of media hype of the chosen candidate, the absence of coverage of anyone else (or worse, the vitriolic savaging we saw in the Spring of 2008) and the utter vacuum of attention paid to anything that smells like real discussion or thought about actual issues.

They really don’t want you to vote, your apathy is a surrender to their onslaught. And if they can’t prevent you from voting, they want you to go for the cardboard cutout of the moment: the amiable old idiot, the stumbletongued cretin ‘who’d be great to have a beer with’ or the pretty, vacuous HopenChange clown, they don’t care about color or party, ideology or aspiration; if they can keep the electorate stupid and apathetic there’s plenty of money to spare for ensuring that the ‘vote’ goes their way.

Restricting the electorate to those who prove they can think would go a long way to preventing the continuing abuse we see all around and would also be a step towards repairing the damage already caused.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

[Blink!]… [Blink!]

Remember how that annoying light showed up on the dash? The incomprehensible graphic didn’t tell you anything and you had to look it up in the Owner’s Manual? And then the Owner’s Manual said something like: “The frammistat sensor is out of alignment.” ? You then did one of two things: you ignored it and it eventually stopped blinking or you stopped by your local Dashimotu dealer to get it checked out and the service manager said “Good thing you came in, your transmission was about to fall out of the car.”

This is one of those ‘blinky’ moments. Wayne Madsen – who apparently never met a conspiracy theory he didn’t like – has published a warning article that claims the BP oil spill is far, far, worse than we’ve been told. I wouldn’t normally give Madsen’s story too much credence but the way the clowns in Washington sequester and manipulate information these days makes me wonder who’s fooling whom.

With that caveat emptor, take a look at Madsen’s article:
Oil Spill

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bo(zo)’s Bright-Unique-Lovey-Loopey-Shiny-Hopey-Ideal-Twinkle plan for NASA

BO(zo) did a flyover and crapped on NASA at the KSC today on his way to a $30K/plate fundraiser. He’s now hawking his new plan that I’ve dubbed the B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T plan. Note: the original, bulleted, items are all taken from the White House handout.

Lets’ review the new
B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T plan, shall we?

• Advances America's commitment to human spaceflight and exploration of the solar system, with a bold new vision and timetable for reaching new frontiers deeper in space.

Standard campaign B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T we've heard this crap from every sleazy politician since JFK (who was the only one who actually meant what he said)

• Increases NASA's budget by $6 billion over 5 years.

Last year’s NASA budget was $18.69 billion. This year’s Pentagon budget is $708.3 billion. $1.2 billion extra per year is nothing, if he were serious about supporting NASA he would have doubled the budget and it still would be a rounding error on the Pentagon's spreadsheet =

• Leads to more than 2,500 additional jobs in Florida's Kennedy Space Center area by 2012, as compared to the prior path.

Since they were going to lose 7,000 jobs by 2012, this really means they’ll only lose 4,500 jobs =

• Begins major work on building a new heavy lift rocket sooner, with a commitment to decide in 2015 on the specific heavy-lift rocket that will take us deeper into space.

“with a commitment to decide in 2015” – in the last year of his second term in office, he gets to decide… or not =
B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T and btw, we already have several heavy lift rockets ready to go: the Atlas V, the Delta 4 Heavy, Direct 3 (otherwise known as: using the Shuttle engines we are already using) = more B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T

• Initiates a vigorous new technology development and test program to increase the capabilities and reduce the cost of future exploration activities.

This statement is semantically null = B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T

• Launches a steady stream of precursor robotic exploration missions to scout locations and demonstrate technologies to increase the safety and capability of future human missions, while also providing scientific dividends.

No specifics, which means he’s just co-opting missions already in the pipeline =

• Restructures Constellation and directs NASA to develop the Orion crew capsule effort in order to provide stand-by emergency escape capabilities for the Space Station – thereby reducing our reliance on foreign providers.

Turns Constellation: an escape velocity (25,000mph) crew life support and re-entry system, into a port-a-potty backup LEO system (17,000mph) in case the Russians stop sending up Soyuz capsules to rescue our ISS crews =

• Establishes the technological foundation for future crew spacecraft needed for missions beyond low Earth orbit.

Complete and utter crap – he just killed off our “technological foundation for future crew spacecraft needed for missions beyond low Earth orbit”: it was called Constellation =
B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T “likely beyond 2020” = B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T
“1- 2 years sooner”. Than what, using the Shuttle? = B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T

• Jumpstarts a new commercial space transportation industry to provide safe and efficient crew and cargo transportation to the Space Station, projected to create over 10,000 jobs nationally over the next five years.

All the supposedly ‘new’ commercial space industry companies are already up and running under existing programs, this is just campaign

• Invests in Florida, adding $3 billion more for the Kennedy Space Center to manage – a 60 percent increase.

More campaign

• Makes strategic investments to develop critical knowledge, technologies, and capabilities to expand long-duration human exploration into deep space in a more efficient and safe manner, thus getting us to more destinations in deep space sooner.

Utter crap, this is all about trying to shift the responsibility onto someone else =

• And puts the space program on a more ambitious trajectory that pushes the frontiers of innovation to propel us on a new journey of innovation and discovery deeper into space.

Utterer crap =

The 2012 campaign has certainly begun. I wrote this to then Senator Obama in 2007. Nothing has changed. Get ready to see Russian and Chinese space stations in the sky cause BO(zo) has just tossed our space program under the bus.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

This is what tyranny looks like…

I remember the day after George W. Bush opened his illegal, immoral, unprovoked war on Iraq – based on nothing but lies – when an email petition came through advocating that we start impeachment proceedings against him. I knew it was a non-starter, politically speaking, but I thought we should, at the very least, let those evil folks know what we thought of them. So I sent the email on to a few ‘friends’ who were a wee bit more to the right than I… and got back blistering responses of the barking mad variety (the word ‘traitor’ was used). Apparently impeachment was only to be used for blow jobs… one guy I’d known for 20 years threatened to call the cops if I ever emailed him again.

I was surprised then and I have the feeling I’m going to be surprised again…

Something happened today that has so far gone unmentioned in the Directorate of Propaganda (otherwise known as the Mass Media): we have today made a giant step down the road to tyranny.

Today Barack Obama issued a worldwide ‘kill or capture’ order on an American citizen. No indictment has been offered, no court has issued an arrest warrant, no officer of the court or the law was consulted, no military tribunal was invoked, JAG was not asked for an opinion, habeus corpus was not involved. The American citizen who is the subject of the ‘kill or capture’ order was investigated by Barack Obama, indicted by Barack Obama, tried by Barack Obama, convicted by Barack Obama and sentenced to death by Barack Obama… all very neatly and legally (the laws were perverted by BushCo for just this purpose and BO(zo) was happy to use them as such).

Note to the Right Wing Wacko Brigade: this is what happens when you allow abysmally stupid perversions of law in the name of ‘please, please protect us from the terrorists’. This is the real world, wackos, some people out there hate us. It’s time for you to grow some balls and stop trading in our rights for your cowardly macho notions of safety.

Note to the Faux Left Wing Sycophant Brigade: Darth Cheney pushed through this legislation in the GWB Thugocracy, but even Dubya, human stain that he is, couldn’t bring himself to use this particular piece of legal excrement. What does that tell you about “The One”?

Because I suspect that neither set of wackos has the mental acuity to think their collective way out of a paper bag, I’ll spell it out for you;

This is not about fighting terrorism.

This is not about whether Anwar al-Awlaki is a bad man (he is)

This is not even about whether Anwar al-Awlaki is a traitor (probably, but Hint: we need a TRIAL to find out)

This is not about protecting the American way of life (actually it is, just not how you’re thinking)

This is about the most fundamental property of Western Civilization: The Rule of Law (this should be animated and the sound should come from a burning bush and knock your socks off).

The Rule of Law means that no one, repeat NO ONE can KILL you without going through due process. YES, this IS about you. It may seem to be about some nameless fool who just doesn’t understand… no, this one really is about you.

This abomination is not about the people you hate, the gays, the rednecks, the furriners, the rightwingnuts, the haters, the racists… it really, really is about you.

For the brain dead among you, here’s how it works: we start out as apes, savages really, and we dance about beating our chests and howling insults at everyone else around us. This of course leads to real fighting and, in the grand scheme of things, the biggest, baddest, nastiest bastard wins. This goes on for a very long time. Eventually, the rest of the tribe gets a bit sick of it and they start casting about for another, any other, solution. Eventually (and you’ll have to go back to your civics classes for this, if you had any) the apes figure out that they have to have a set of rules that applies to EVERYONE or it doesn’t really mean anything.

This is called “The Rule of Law”, it is the basis of western civilization. It means that no man, or woman, can make a decision, all by themselves, about what is right or wrong – they have to refer to the law to decide that. The law being the set of rules everyone in the society agrees on.

Are you beginning to see what I mean? Does the enormity of the crime start to become apparent to you?

Just in case you are confused about it, I will state it for you:

President Obama has just overturned the most fundamental principle of western civilization and of any free society. He has arrogated to himself the right to accuse, try, convict and kill an American citizen without reference to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights without due process or Habeus Corpus or two centuries of ironclad, settled law of the land. …Just because he says so…

I can’t believe I have to say this, but: YOU could be next. Think about it, take your time and think it through (this is actually an insult but you’d have to have read Protector to get it).

In a, now typical, Obama blow job piece the toilet paper formerly known as the New York Times goes all the way back to Gerald Ford to rationalize this deeply criminal act here .

Glen Greenwald has a scathing article with many more details here about this disgrace, writing as one constitutional scholar to another.

So, knowing all this, do you think we should militate for the impeachment of President Obama? Or shall we wait for the next step on the road to dictatorship?

"All that is required for evil to triumph, is for enough good men to do nothing."
- Edmund Burke

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Honor Roll

Here's the list of Democratic Representatives who had the courage to vote against this atrocious Health'care' bill:

Every other Democrat should be voted out of office this November.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Smoke signals...

"Where there's smoke, there's fire." is a cliche but it's true nonetheless... I'm smelling smoke - haven't seen it yet but it's out there.

Charleston International Longshore Association Local 1422 leader Ken Riley:

"You can say “Don’t buy Wal-Mart” all you want, preach it till the cows come home; Wal-Mart’s gonna be boomin’. I can’t say to my neighbor, “Man, don’t shop at Wal-Mart.” He’ll say, “Well, that’s easy for you, Kenny; how much money do you make an hour? I’m only making $7.25.” So how you gonna tell all these poor people, “Don’t shop at Wal-Mart?” You want to get Wal-Mart’s attention? Stop the goods.

We have to get bold. We’re dying, and when you’re dying you explore radical medication because you’ve got noother choice. Maybe the medication will kill you, but the disease will definitely kill you. You have to get to the point where Martin Luther King was on that final night, when he said, “Like any man I would like to live a long life, but it really don’t matter to me now.” He had a vision. We are going to die anyway, so it really don’t matter; we have got to fight now. "

From "When You're Dying You Explore Radical Medication"

By JoAnn Wypijewski

Sounds like Harry Bridges and the IWW, doesn't it?

...smells like wood burning...

Norman Solomon writes in "Zero Public Option + One Mandate = Disaster"

"On a political level, the mandate provision is a massive gift to the Republican Party, all set to keep on giving to the right wing for many years. With a highly intrusive requirement that personal funds and government subsidies be paid to private corporations, the law would further empower right-wing populists who want to pose as foes of government "elites" bent on enriching Wall Street.

With this turn of the "healthcare reform" screw, the Democratic Party will be cast -- with strong evidence -- as a powerful tool of corporate America. But the Democrats on Capitol Hill and the organizations eagerly whipping for passage are determined to celebrate the enactment of something called "healthcare reform."

...throw another log on the fire...

The brilliant Chris Cooper writes in "Everybody Knows The Deal Is Rotten"

"It is not the job of Dennis Kucinich to prop up this disappointing president or the rotten, useless Democratic party. It is not the job of progressive voters to support lame candidates who lie to them and use them because "the other party is worse." It is not the job of the American public to "make a space for the president", to support "incremental improvements" in our wretched situation or to "force the president" to use his alleged giant brain and forceful oratory in pursuit of real and useful and meaningful governance by sending him letters or contributions or by "supporting him" just because he's not George Bush or John McCain.

This country is falling apart. People are dying. Despair is settled upon the land. These clowns are frigging around for no purpose better than the enrichment of Wall Street bankers and Connecticut insurance tycoons.

There has been no change. There is no hope."

...that's definitely smoke...

I'm still working on Part 4 of "Reflections..." which is starting to look like it wants to be a lot bigger and have a different form. But it's beginning to look like the springtime of our discontent around the web.

We're re-playing "Network" (1976)

Max Schumacher's parting rant:

"It's too late, Diana. There's nothing left in you that I can live with. You're one of Howard's humanoids. If I stay with you, I'll be destroyed. Like Howard Beale was destroyed. Like Laureen Hobbs was destroyed. Like everything you and the institution of television touch is destroyed. You're television incarnate, Diana: Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split seconds and instant replays. You're madness, Diana. Virulent madness. And everything you touch dies with you. But not me. Not as long as I can feel pleasure, and pain... and love."

Damn! I miss Paddy Chayevsky... I'm feeling that way about our political 'system'.

Many things that have been dormant through the winter begin to wake in the spring. It may be a rough time but if the rising tide of anger I'm sensing grows...

Stephen Hawking said "In the vicinity of a Black Hole, anything can happen." I think we're close to a Black Hole in politics right now.

...wait, besides the smoke, is that brimstone?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Once again the US ahows its leadership on human rights...

...oh, wait

India Wants to Give Women 1 / 3 of Legislative Seats

Filed at 1:15 p.m. ET

NEW DELHI (AP) -- India's upper house of parliament voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for a historic bill that would reserve one-third of legislative seats for women, despite a boycott by socialist lawmakers.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the 186-1 vote a ''historic step forward toward emancipation of Indian womanhood.'' The bill now goes to the lower house, where it is likely to pass.

Members greeted the announcement of the voting result by thumping their desks.

The vote came after socialist lawmakers blocked the parliamentary debate on Monday and forced the upper house to adjourn twice on Tuesday. The protesters later boycotted the voting.

The bill to reserve one-third of legislative seats for women -- in national and state parliaments -- has faced strong opposition since it was first proposed more than a decade ago, with many political leaders worried that their male-dominated parties would lose seats.

But socialist lawmakers' objection is that the bill does not go far enough: They would like to see seats reserved for ethnic minorities and people from low castes.

The Bahujan Samaj Party lawmakers, who mainly represent lower castes, participated in the debate but abstained from voting. They were protesting the government's rejection of their demand to reserve seats for women belonging to their community within the government proposal.

On Monday, angry legislators in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament, rushed to the chairman's seat as he presided over the session, tore up copies of the bill and tried to grab his microphone.

The bill is expected to be taken up the powerful lower house of parliament for voting next week. It will have to be approved by 15 of India's 28 states before it becomes law.

It is expected to pass since the main opposition parties, including right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party and communist groups, already have announced their support for the legislation proposed by the ruling Congress Party.

Arun Jaitley, a top leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said even 63 years after India's independence from British colonialists, women had only 10 percent representation in the powerful lower house of parliament. They make up nearly 50 percent of India's more than 1 billion people.

The proposal is an attempt to correct some of the historical gender disparities in India, where women receive less education than men and are weighed down by illiteracy, poverty and low social status.

The bill would raise the number of female lawmakers in the 545-seat lower house to 181 from the current 59. It would nearly quadruple the number of women in the 250-seat upper house.

What the hell is going on in this country? Why isn't this long settled law? How f***ing far backwards do we have to go before we wake up?

Whoops! I forgot... we're here:


Friday, March 05, 2010

Reflections in a Dark Room – Part 3

Obama is not the problem – we are.

I’ve been re-reading the “Anti-Federalist Papers” trying to get a feel for what the FFs were thinking as they gathered in the spring and summer of 1787 to hammer out a constitution. One pleasant surprise is that James Madison, acting as scribe and reporter of the various players, was possessed of a very trenchant wit. His sly observations on the speakers and their opining liven up what might easily have been a lugubrious exercise.

Three things come across, very clearly:

These were men who had thought long and hard about the issues being raised. Many of them warned against exactly the condition of corruption of the body politic we find ourselves in today.

They were men in and of their time. That is, they were aware of history and were glad to take example or make example of historical solutions to the problems besetting them.
By the same token, they were not able to see themselves clearly, in situ, nor were they aware of what was to come. (Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns”)

..and fourth, Jefferson was in Paris. A tragedy in my opinion, we would never have had to make the first ten amendments had he been present, for one thing, and I can’t help but think that the Constitution would be a much better document than it already is.

Two things should be taken into account when thinking about this time, these men and the work they wrought.

First, the context of the time. That context comes in several flavors depending on what we’re looking at.

Politics: the French Revolution hadn’t happened yet. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were still blithely coasting along with le Ancien Regime, unaware of the gathering storm. Marat, Danton and Robespierre were just dots on the political horizon, Napoleon was undreamt of.

Economics: The Industrial Revolution in England was just picking up steam [heh, heh!] and the textile mills were beginning Great Britain’s voracious appetite for raw materials which would lead them to found the greatest empire ever known (southern American cotton fields were part of the mix that fueled the American Civil War in the next century).

Legal: American jurisprudence was still based, in large part, on English Common Law. This ancestry was the story of a seesaw class battle (in Marxist terms) between the peasants (now the proletariat) and the Upper classes (in the person of the King). Nowhere in this mix was any consideration of, or thought given to, the corporation.

All of which leads us to my next point:

It was not possible for the framers, given their milieu, to comprehend, much less anticipate, the mind-numbing reach and power that would be amassed by deathless, faceless, amoral, avaricious, irresponsible corporations.

Neither could they have anticipated the nigh-logarithmic advances in science and technology that have occurred over the last 221 years. James Watt had received a patent on his steam engine only 8 years earlier, Morse’s telegraph (the first global internet) was 50 years in the future.

The point is that we have gone into legal/political/moral territory that constitute another dimension insofar as an 18th century viewpoint is concerned, enlightened as they may have been. We may not be their equals but I think we’re at a point where we have no choice but to try.

We need to take this system apart and glue it back together again, with a few improvements. Until recently I thought that a third party (and a 4th and a 5th party) would be enough to upset the duopoly that now exists but the corruption has spread too far and too deep. With the system as it now stands no individual can remain uncorrupted, no new party can be effective against the power now entrenched. Good luck to the Tea Party, btw, I’d love to be proved wrong on this.

What we need now is a reset - a full stop, down tools, wildcat strike, to hell with the bosses and the union reps too kinda reset. The US has run for 221 years on a pretty good set of rules but times change and so does circumstance. The visionaries who created the US Constitution were, frankly, a lot smarter and wiser than anyone I see around today but even they couldn’t anticipate the kinds of changes that have taken place in the intervening two centuries. We face a lot of the same threats they faced then but we also face some they could not have dreamt of. Corporate structures vaster and more powerful than nation-states: accountable to no one. Weapons that threaten life over the entire planet. Forget the weapons: deliberate actions by individuals and groups that threaten life over the entire planet. Crazed religious fanatics, within and without, who would kill every last person on earth who refuses to accept their creed… hmmm, well I guess they were familiar with that one.

Obama is not the problem – we are.

There is a well-trodden path for the kind of political train wreck we’re experiencing: a nation-state with a claim to some kind of democracy representing all or most citizens begins to experience broad-based stress. This can take the form of attack from without by other nation-states, economic difficulties deriving from any of a number of circumstances, internal strife created by opposing ideologies, deliberate sabotage by interested parties, general or specific corruption of internal control agencies by bribery or blackmail. Usually it is a combination of several or all of these ills that eventually breaks the system down. Inevitably, as frustration levels skyrocket, violence breaks out – which is what the saboteurs have been waiting for: some sort of insurrection begins to form and whoever is in control of the military moves in and declares martial law, massacres their enemies, sets up a tinpot dictatorship and goes merrily along their way. Alternately, there is a civil war and the victor declares martial law, massacres their enemies, sets up a tinpot dictatorship and goes merrily along their way. Or there is a general breakdown of society from, say, a biological attack and the nearest military force declares marital law… well, you get the idea.

Think of it, aside from the American revolution, just about every political revolution in the last 200 years has worked out this way: the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution (the second one), several of the so-called ‘communist’ revolutions – they all devolved into savage dictatorships unrecognizable even by their most devoted followers. There’s no compelling reason why we won’t head in that direction as well.

How do we avoid this trap of history?

We need to start seriously thinking about convening a constitutional convention.

Article V of the US Constitution:

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.” [my emphasis]

I know that ‘constitutional conventions’ (CC) sounds almost funny, like we should dress up in periwigs and frock coats, but it’s a legitimate process that we have the right to use. There are, however, some very serious questions to be asked first:

Why propose this path?

Because it’s the only thing left that will forestall the slide into insurrection/dictatorship.

Can we do it?

Maybe, the first option provided by Article V is closed to us, I don’t see any way that Congress would agree to opening a Constitutional Convention when it’s obvious that we mean to deprive them of their money and their power. On the other hand, once you convene an Article V CC, all bets are off. I notice that there several proposals in Congress purporting to deal with the ‘Dred Roberts’ decision – all of them strictly adhering to that single issue. I think they’re (justly) terrified of what would happen if the ‘people’ ever got their hands on this process.

How would we do it?

Go through the state legislatures, there may still be enough uncorrupted folks at that level to see the value and necessity of a CC. Try to do it as a simultaneous effort in all the states so as to vitiate the tons of money that will be thrown against the idea.

How do we keep out the wingnuts – from both wings?

We can’t, they’ll be there in force and will try to co-opt the process for their own ends. This means ‘we’ must be organized to prevent this kind of takeover, especially from the corporate fascists, this is just the kind of opportunity they think they can take advantage of.

How do we keep out the money?

Ah, there’s the rub: the transnats will see this as an opportunity to twist the laws to their own ends and will release a tsunami of money in order to do so.

What’s the real danger here?

Once you open up a CC, it can pretty much do whatever it wants. We could end up with President-for-Life Obama – for real, or a true corporatist/fascist state like the Randites and other nutjobs want. If it gets too wacko some MacArthur wannabe could declare martial law…[see above]. We might actually start the civil war we’re trying to prevent.

So, this could be dangerous, couldn’t it?

Yup. But I think it’s become abundantly clear that we’re going to have to take some kind of risk. If we stick our heads in the sand now, it’s quite likely that we’ll end up with a true corporate/fascist state run by Hank Paulson, Bernie Ebbers, Jeffery Skilling or one of their clones.

What do we want out of a CC?

We want to update the Constitution to deal with 21st century problems.

Howinhell do we do that?

See Part 4

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reflections in a Dark Room – Part 2

Note: I wrote this before the SOTU and waited to see if I needed to change anything - I didn't

Obama is not the problem – we are.

OK, what does that mean? It means that Obama is just a symptom of whatever the disease is. It means that he was obvious, even elementary, and why did we - as in 'the electorate' fall for it? It means that we have to start looking in the mirror and really seeing what's there... I came across this review of a critically acclaimed TV show and I think it sheds some light:
“Maybe we deserve it for watching in the first place. Or maybe this is the price those of us who can't chuckle at absolutely everything under the sun will be forced to pay, over and over again in this spectacle-driven nightmare culture, for still having some shred of humanity deep inside us.” -Heather Havrilesky writing about the “Dexter” finale in Salon

“spectacle-driven nightmare culture” is an accurate description, I think, an old friend calls it “modern bread and circuses”. I keep thinking of Sturgeon’s Law: “90% of everything is crap.”

“Buy Rinso Blue, Rinso Blue, Rinso Blue, Rinso Blue, Rinso Blue, buy Rinso Blue…” [and so on for the full 30 second TV spot]... and watch Rinso Blue sales skyrocket while all the smugly oblivious tell each other that they’re not affected by those TV ads – hmmm, I wonder if it would work in politics…
Another vapid, content-free cinema extravaganza by James Cameron goes over the $1 billion mark in sales – in two weeks - guaranteeing yet another decade of valueless drivel from Hollywood, all with happy endings (the focus groups say it adds at least $50 million to the bottom line).


The ranks of the homeless swell, the poor remain unfed, the ill remain untreated, the unemployed are reduced to begging and yet our several wars go merrily on their way: one useless quagmire, propping up a staggeringly corrupt kleptocracy is winding down just as another is ramping up and of course, after we’ve poured out blood and treasure in an doomed attempt to create a nation-state out of a tribal culture by force majeur in Afghanistan, why we’ll have Pakistan just ripe for yet another American Expeditionary Force.

I’d have a lot more faith in us if we stopped thinking that the Marines are the same thing as the Army Corps of Engineers or Medecins sans Frontiers, but I digress…

The unholy confluence of thirty years of gigantic political lies (supply side “economics”), political sabotage (Ken Starr and the persecution of the Clintons as only one example) and sheer, unadulterated political cowardice (“Impeachment is off the table”) combined with the monstrous entrance of advertising techniques (and amorality) into politics (thank you Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, David Axelrod) has all combined to produce a spineless, feckless, deliberately ill- and under-informed, gullible ‘electorate’ who can be led contentedly down the garden path and blatantly lied to with absolute impunity, (see David Axelrod’s recent remarks on the North Carolina primary: “Yeah, we were behind in the polls so we decided to call Clinton a racist and that did it.” – yes, I’m paraphrasing but he admitted it.

Obama is not the problem – we are.

We now live in a vapid culture of overarching ignorance, obsessed with the ‘now’. We blithely ignore the past (see Santayana).

I’m being bludgeoned into incredulity by the superimposed banality of contemporary life. I was reading, the other day, about the Boskops, a race of hominids whose remains were found in South Africa in the early part of the 20th century. This was a race, very closely related to us (about as close as we are to Chimpanzees) but whose brains were about 25-33% larger than ours especially in the cerebellum (where cognitive thinking occurs). These folks would be geniuses in relation to us and would have probably played a major role in the development of civilization. Incidentally, they appear to have had very child-like faces, 1/5th of the head frontal area vs 1/3rd for Homo Sapiens – much like the non-threatening aliens of sci-fi lore. We don’t know what wiped them out: disease, ecological disaster, attacks by Homo Sapiens… I’m thinking evolution really jumped the shark when the Boskops died out because Homo Sap apparently can’t think its way out of a paper bag.

This isn’t just an oldguy rant (that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it). It’s another attempt to generate a wakeup call to me/we/you/us, before they just cancel elections as irrelevant foregone conclusions, before they kill the internet and free, broadcast TV - that campaign has already started, didja know? Mind you, I wouldn’t be mad about that if they canceled all TV: as an information tool, it’s next to useless; as a propaganda delivery system it’s frighteningly effective.

We just had a primary and an election where massive cheating and illegal campaign tactics by the ‘winning’ candidate (both in delegate counts and in huge duplicitous campaign contributions), race baiting and palpable, outright lies were used to install an obviously incompetent candidate as president. Obama thugs and bully-boys – the same ones were seen in five separate states - threatening and intimidating caucus goers into voting for Obama. Women in the North Carolina primary wept because they wanted Hillary but they were pressured by friends, family and the entire black community into voting for Obama because he is black. The ‘intelligentsia’ of college faculty and ‘lefty intellectuals’ became instant sycophants because he is black and the masses of slackerclones woke momentarily from their fever dreams in mom’s basement (where the parents are the problem), to vote for him because: “he’s cool kewl!”. $200 million flowed into the Obama campaign coffers in the middle of September 2008 (when it looked like he would lose to McCain) does anyone really believe this money came from little Suzie's cookie jar? Really?

We’ve accepted so much that we should have resisted with blood in the streets: “free speech zones” - blocks away from the parade, behind chain link fences topped with concertina razor wire. Congressmen and Senators whose corporate sponsorship should be tattooed on their foreheads, awash in money and privilege telling us that the only thing we can hope for is that your government will now force you to pay a private insurance company for a policy that has no value whatsoever. Regulatory agencies that will “go to the mattresses” to prevent any corporate regulation whatsoever. Corporate propaganda channels masquerading as ‘news’ programs pouring pre-digested pablum down our throats and calling it information.

Obama is not the problem – we are.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it!” you say, so what's your point? What are you/us supposed to do about it?

Stay tuned for Part 3