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Entries in fourth estate (12)

Monday
May262008

Compassion Day

To honor whatever it is that one honors on Memorial Day, I chose to watch the film Why We Fight (Wikipedia). Of course, as my earlier Memorial Day missives will reflect, I am not precious about the day and its typical rituals of nationalistic bullshit. The documentary features a multifaceted look at the military-industrial-corporate-thinktank complex and questions civilians, politicians, and military alike what motivates this nation to go to war. There is a lot of talk about how Ike predicted (rightly) the massive system which now must be fed our billions of dollars, our young men and women, and helped along by a cheerleading media. What disturbs most is that it is allowed to take over by a public that is lulled to sleep by sensational news, bullshit "reality" TV, working two jobs to get by, and the host of other distractions we face in daily life.

But I also heard a rebroadcast of an episode of Fresh Air (NPR) featuring a Marine and a journalist who have written a book about fallen soldiers and how the Marines dispatch such officers to not only break the news of a combat death, but to help look after the family for as long as it takes for grief to work itself out. The officer told gripping stories of how ritualized the whole thing is in the Corps. It was hard to not choke up and get a bit teared up at some of the things he said. The point was made at how the Corps was trained to be utmost efficient and good at being a killing machine, but this story demonstrated a great deal of mercy and steadfastness in taking care of the family, and indeed a fallen brother or sister, even past the burial. It was genuinely touching to hear. War, terrible though it is, at least doesn't eclipse all the best parts of a man, or even the potential for the human image to shine through what is inherently a dehumanizing institution—the military.

But I like to reach deeper. Jesus taught to love one's enemies. He didn't say this so that they might trample upon you time and time again as you prove your weakness and vulnerability, but that they might be rendered as non-enemies. I heard of a Hasidic tale that had two men talking about love. One said, 'do you love me?' The other said, 'sure I do.' The first asked, 'what hurts me?' to which the second said, 'I don't know what hurts you.' The first came back, saying, 'how can you say you love me if you don't know what hurts me?'

America has done a good job of wrapping itself in the flag for a good while, but none so much as since 9/11. And it all seems so packaged and contrived. It has to be. If we ever had to confront the real reasons for 9/11, our heads would explode. So the easier way is to just declare that "they hate us for our freedom" and other such nonsense. We are cavalier like this in a time when the world grows ever more complex and daunting. But just give us the snappy soundbite reasoning. What is not pleasant to remember is that the world is hurting, and that too often, it is hurting not just because nature can deal some blows—earthquakes, storms, tsunamis, etc. —but that there is plenty of shit that comes down because of man made social constructs—economics, politics, and their dirty-deed-doing comrade, war. The world is mostly hurt today by a corrupt economic model which America champions but one that ultimately is a shameful, destructive thing. So I posit that America has forgotten how to hurt in sympathy with the rest of the world, and because we have forgotten how to hurt, we can remain blind to the real suffering that exists, in part due to our success. As long as we can remain ignorant of this hurt, we can never say that we love the world enough to bring our precious democratic values, our liberty, and all that other jibberish talk.

America has not these values to offer another land because they do not exist here like we think they do. What we have is a military that will aid big business in its expansion into other territories, intruding into the political workings of other nations, and a media that will turn enough of a blind eye so that people here don't really know what is going on. In that vacuum, people feel of no consequence in relation to the system. But the rest of the world isn't so duped. So why are we so surprised that a 9/11 happens? Maybe because so many Americans are without clue as to what really is going on in the world and that contemporary events don't just happen out of the blue? Americans don't like to admit what effects our way of life has in the world. That blindness has earned us 9/11. People argue that our way of life 'must be great because people flock to it.' Shallow argument, I think. Our way of life is hitting the dead end that was inevitable. A world in uproar is part of the sign that the party is coming to an end. And what has been clearer to us that something is wrong than 9/11?

Yet here we are, throwing completely unconscionable amounts of money at the problem with nary a clue to what is really the problem.

It's the economy, stupid.

The world is not willing to be our factory forever. Or our slaves forever. Or our doormats forever. But somehow, all attempts are made to cling to the status quo of easy motoring (as Kunstler says), endless mall shopping, and all this other consumption-based activity, no matter what price the nation must really pay in money, blood, international goodwill, etc. Yet our economists talk about how the consumer activity constitutes 2/3 of our economic activity. They talk about how the consumer feels good or bad, almost as if to scare people into consuming so the economy doesn't falter. I think that is a form of mental slavery, quite unbecoming a nation that fancies itself free and democratic. It is certainly a form of manipulation.

Our economy is founded on serving the needs of others in one great economic circle jerk-slash-merry-go-round from which hardly anyone can escape. Who knows what to do to break out of that? We're trained to produce and consume so that we might be good citizens—er, consumers (the new patriotism it seems). There is a sort of fear instilled in people so that we won't try to avoid our responsibility to the system. It really is the religion of the land. But this economy is different from the one based on real self-sufficiency in an earlier America, or in many parts of the world even now, and certainly in pre-industrial societies where there was no factory to make goods for ready consumption. And, since much of the world is enjoying a growing trend toward industrialism, the social strains are there the same as they were when Britain, the US, and Europe were confronted with the stress of abandoning rural life for urban-industrial settings. America forgot, that is what it is. We were there, experiencing the dislocation from rural, isolated people who were pressed (or drawn) into the cities.

America forgot what it was to have that upheaval. Now we are on the other side of the equation, and we can't understand how the rest of the world feels. I'll bet it feels rather the same as when early industrialists started in on their radical social transformation in the name of progress. Not every farmer who was lured from the farm, or forced off the farm embraced the urban-industrial lifestyle. So it is with other peasants around the world who see change as threatening and not altogether necessary if it means their land or resources will be taken away without real compensation. This is where America has failed to understand what hurts people and nations. This is where America has failed to show compassion in the real sense of the word—suffering with. This is where America cannot say it loves other people or places enough to bring them democracy or liberty of any of that. This is also where America cannot think of itself as a Christian nation. (This is a jab at those righty evangelicals and fundamentalists who say such nonsense.) America cannot foist any more economic injustice upon the world and expect cooperation. September 11 was the wakeup call for that. This means that everything must change or it will be changed for us.

Jesus of Nazareth was essentially a nobody from no place worth mentioning. But, as theologian Marcus Borg emphasizes, he was a man defined by and who defined compassion—suffering with. I think to be Christ-like is to understand suffering of another; to know what hurts a person. I will repeat again that you and me don't have enemies in Iraq or Afghanistan. But what we do have is a problem of thinking we are separated from one another—as if they haven't suffered the same (and worse) as we've suffered. I can't find it in my heart to hate another peasant in a far off land, or even in Mexico, about 20 miles from here. I've been told by my "leadership" that I have enemies out there, and that people are out to get what is mine, and I have to fight them before they attack me. That is the rhetoric these days, and it works as well as in any time and place. But who are our enemies but for other humans who hurt and feel just like you and me, and frankly, have been pushed into more desperate places in their souls than we have? If humans are our enemies, then we'd better get busy killing people, because there sure are plenty of them out there! But if they aren't, maybe killing gets us nowhere, and maybe on a day like Memorial Day we need to realize what a colossally stupid thing we do when we march off to war and engage in a fruitless pursuit that has proven itself to be that time and time again, and no amount of spending and media hype will ever prove anything to the contrary.

I frankly don't know what to think of vets now, seeing how most of them fought wars that were dubious, and a couple wars now were fought with so-called "volunteers." Part of me thinks these volunteers are blind fools, but really I just have to have pity on the poor souls who think that the military is a good place to be in this day and age. Touching as it was to hear how the Marines look after their dead, I still think that sort of ritualistic care should be put into avoiding the whole franchise of war in the first place. One day, let us hope that Memorial Day would be able to actually memorialize ALL the war dead, because there would be no more coming home draped in flags.

Thursday
Apr102008

The UCC Ad For NY Times

The following is an ad that the United Church of Christ posted in the New York Times in the wake of the flap about Barack Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright at Trinity UCC in Chicago.

Much has been said about the United Church of Christ in recent weeks, much of it hurtful for many in our country, including members of Trinity UCC in Chicago. That is why we are eager to share the broad and diverse story of the United Church of Christ, one that we celebrate.

With all Christians, we rest in God’s amazing grace and hear God’s voice in the words of Scripture. Yet, the UCC is unique to some because we do not require uniformity of belief. We are a church of open ideas, extravagant welcome and evangelical courage. Our passion for democracy extends to both government and church, where decision-making rests within each congregation. We support liberty in our pulpits, just as we affirm the individual conscience of our 1.2-million members to agree, disagree and wrestle with life’s biggest questions in a spirit of love.

Our story is this nation’s story. We are the people of the Mayflower. More than 600 of our 5,700 congregations were formed before 1776. Eleven signers of the Declaration of Independence were members of UCC predecessor bodies.

As early abolitionists, we came to the aid of the Amistad captives and founded hundreds of schools across the South after the Civil War. We were the first mainline church to ordain an African-American (1785), a woman (1853) and an openly gay pastor (1972). We were also the first to form a foreign mission society (1810). Our multi-ethnic membership includes persons from every immigrant group, as well as native peoples and descendants of freed slaves.

Our unity is not dependent upon uniform agreement, but in our shared allegiance to Jesus Christ. Ours is a risk-taking church, because ours is a risk-taking God.

God is still speaking, ®

Tuesday
Oct112005

What A Difference A Decade And A Half Makes

Fascistfest!

An event that used to be the high point of my year in the mid-late 80s is now seen by the present me to be a fascist freeforall. I'm a little surprised and maybe saddened for it to taken me this long to figure it out. Sometimes I'm a little slow.

Ah, Miramar Air Show! There are big billboards along the freeways that surround Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. They offer businesses the chance to watch their business "take off" if these businesses want to get a booth at the show right in the midst of the F-18s, C-130s and whatever helicopters they have up there right now. Finally, this week, it hit me! Duh! Fascism is the mingling of state and corporate power. Duh. And here it was right in front of all our eyes!

When I was a kid, I idolized the Blue Angels. As a display of flying prowess, they are still at the top of their league, and taken solely as a superhuman feat of coordination and technology, I still get shivers watching them from my dad's rooftop. (He is within a few miles of regular ops at Miramar, but gets some good flyovers during airshow season.) But I've come to assess airshows differently than when I was 12. Especially now that we are at and about to pass peak oil. One has to wonder, while the rest of us are paying unheard of prices to get to work and the grocery store, the government can still fly a half dozen F-18s for show??? While our government can't be bothered to help people in New Orleans, it can afford to not only fly these jets to the show, do three or four shows in a weekend (one strictly for press and VIPs), but it can also get all the other planes and hardware to the same show—all from scattered bases in the region, across the 5 services. Multiply times the number of shows of this sort, all for show!

No redeeming value except to give companies a place to advertise, and to glorify the machines and methods of war. And it's a good thing, because you know, Americans are getting a little fed up with this war business, so it's time to kick the PR machine into overdrive. Americans are forgetting how to love war, so the air shows are here to remind them of what a great thing we've got going.

Just think—in one weekend, Americans will have these things happen so cleverly to them that they might never know it.

First, they will be oooohing and aaaaahhhhing over machines they paid for which are used to kill people with utmost efficiency. Somehow the speed, turning radius, paintjobs, and other distinguishing features will help people forget their government really is out to suck the money from their pockets while taking their liberties and getting other nations to submit or die. Or, as Ray Charles would have said, the government is "pissing in their face and calling it spring rain." They will also forget that every gallon of fuel used to fly all those planes and copters, and to move the armored vehicles and tanks is another gallon of petrofuel that won't be coming back. It won't be available for their ride to work, or to take their children to school, hospital, or on vacation to New York. Or, every gallon of fuel used for tha air show is one less gallon that can be used to save a victim of a Gulf Coast hurricane. Gone. And the government positively doesn't give a flying fuck because they decided they needed this air show more than any one of us need to live our lives. Let's not forget the amazing waste of fuel it is for all those people to drive their SUVs and trucks to the show, often in stop and go traffic, with the line going for a mile or more out to and sometimes well beyond the front gates of the base.

From the Blue Angels FAQ page:

How far can the F/A-18 fly on a full load of fuel or with external fuel tanks?

The F/A-18 can travel approximately 1,000 miles on a full load of fuel without external tanks. Adding the external tanks extends the range to approximately 1,200 miles.

How much fuel does an F/A-18 Hornet use in a show?

On the average, one F/A-18 uses approximately 8,000 pounds or 1,300 gallons of JP-5 jet fuel at a cost of roughly $1,378.

How much fuel is used over the course of a year, including transportation, training, etc.?

Over a one-year period, the squadron, including Fat Albert, burns approximately 3.1 million gallons of fuel.

Do we have that kind of fuel to just chuck away on this shit?

Second, they will be advertised to while more or less captive. As if Clear Channel did not have enough advertising under its control, their radio stations will be out in force along the tarmac, vying for listeners with their gimmicky prize giveaways. Banners for home improvement, banks, cycles, cars, mortgages, and who knows, maybe even Viagra! Like we need to go to a fucking air show to be exposed to this? Well, what could be better? You make the public flock to a closed perimeter military base and while they are getting the sunburn of their lives, you pummel them with the same garbage that already adorns the sides of buses, billboards, magazine ads, and is plastered all over parts of the internet! Ah, the genius of advertising.

Third, the young men and women will be approached by recruiters. For recruiters, it's like shooting fish in a barrel! Hell, I've been to airshows before. It's all PR. That much I understood years ago, but I didn't understand the layers of what was behind the appeal. Once upon a time I wanted nothing more than to be an F-14 pilot. Good thing I have poor vision and a bad attitude which pretty much blew my qualifications by the end of ninth grade. (Now I get to serve my country by being a polemical watchdog.) But another generation of young men are turning up for the war machine, their options limited by their ethnicity, geography, income (or lack of). They will certainly be oooohed and ahhhhed by the gear on display. Too many (even if it's only one) will be in the recruiters office by Monday to give their lives over to the world's most dangerous job. Sad.

Well, so much for government regulating business. Hell, now it's in the business of helping business. Just think, the businesses get consumer dollars when they get back to the shop, and later on they get a nice break from the government too. The airshow is one big circus to extract money from the unsuspecting public so that government and business can get in the back room and suck each other off and then trade hi fives with cigars in their mouths.

Sunday
Jun052005

The End Of Suburbia, pt. 1

Today has been quite a day for The Activist Presently Known As Ed.

my peak oil letter to the editor of the UT, june 2005.Union Tribune letter to the editor, 6/5/05Of course, today was the day that I have worked a month to realize—my End of Suburbia showing and speech was held at my church tonight, but even before that, as I walked into church earlier in the day for the service, Kelli had already gotten a clipping from the newspaper with a letter to the editor that I penned in the last week in response to last week’s rather surprising and pretty detailed look at the early implications of the oil crisis. This is the first time I have been printed as an activist, though there some signs of print on TAPKAE the musician scattered over the last few years of the late 90s. The evening’s show was announced from the pulpit and in the bulletin for the day, and I was asked after the pulpit announcement if I had anything to add— “please come.” It was good for a laugh throughout the building. I saved my wordiness for later.

Then after church, I did the first part of the setup in the downstairs, set up the big screen TV that was so graciously lent to me. I spent the afternoon making up the various bits that I was going to hand out, gathering stuff together, and rehearsing my speech. I got to the church at 5 pm and spent that time doing more setup and arranging things, posting info sheets, and scribbling stuff on a chalk board, and rehearsing. Kelli brought me some tasty food-flavored product from a local fried-meat shack, and I chowed. Before long, my two hour buffer was all over.

There were about 26 in attendence, which for a first time out isn’t too bad at all. Most of it was made up from my congregation, but there was a notable group of four folks who piled into a Prius and drove down from Carlsbad. Hey, they didn’t need me, did they? I delivered my speech which officially began the public mission of EONSNOW.org. It ran for 22 minutes which admittedly was a little long, though it happened that somehow, I lost my digital copy of the speech and was left with a printout from last week which I worked out the most, but up till the last hour or so, I didn’t know if I should read it or just go down a list of talking points. I went with the speech, and while it was well regarded, I feel funny about the way it sounds on recording, though I was keen to edit it right away when I got home. It was almost a moot point. I got a few lines into the speech proper and realized I hadn’t started the CD recorder, so I restarted while only a few lines were lost. I will probably post the speech as an mp3 on EONSNOW.org. Look for it.

The movie took up the next 80 minutes and then we got into a group discussion and Q&A. This is something I had done before, so I was better prepared to field some specific questions, and felt better about that because by now I have pretty much memorized the movie, even from about 5 viewings. There are two hold outs in the bunch, who both are very smart. Both are scientists, essentially, and do in fact know their shit far better than I. But one of the things that still doesn’t seem to reach them, as far as where I am coming from, is that whether or not we can power cars and homes with other fuels, we are still left with the matter of car culture being a destructive thing, and suburban layouts being a disaster zone. The scientists rattle off plans of high tech solutions and other developments, but I still feel that the real issue is a humanitarian one that can’t be addressed solely with number crunching and new gizmos.

And, there was the usual comments from the crowd at large that this was all too dismal a thing to think about, and that is something that is always hard to deal with. Because, really, none of us has the real answers of what to do, and helplessness is rampant in the face of this. I come at it more and more that there is virtue and sense in the decay of the suburban system because its failure will ring in a new era in human history, which gives us all a new chance to get it right. So if super technology is the ticket, fine, but I really think a key part of any solution has to be sacrifice on a personal level, because we simply can’t do this forever, and in some cases, I ask, why would we want to, given the damage is has already done.

I’d say it was a good day, all around. I got some delightful praise from people, and that helps keep a good spin on the topic at large. I feel very different about peak oil as an activist and educator than I did as a guy who most every week uncovered more and more utterly scary stuff about the possible consequences of all this. Putting all this doom to a better use has been a lot easier for me.

For now though, I have to crash out. I've been up for 20 hours already. Yow. It hasn’t been this driving a day since my wedding. Yow.

Wednesday
May182005

Man, They Just Don't Fucking Get It, Do They?

jeep liberty. limited edition.Neurosis in America: Liberty, Limited edition (a Jeep SUV)I was watching Nightline tonight. No scratch that. I was watching the local news at 11 tonight and in the half hour or so, I saw ads for three popular consumer items that are in part to blame for terrorism of the September 11 sort. Yes, among all the other sports car ads, there were three SUV ads that snuck in only in the 20 minutes or so that I watched. There were Expeditions, Escalades, and Tahoes being pitched. In fact, Kelli and I watched the ads more closely and probably 3/4 of them were for cars. Okay, you've read my jabs at car culture before, so I won't bore you. But let's take it to the next stage.

On Nightline just following the SUV ads, er, the local news, the show was about loose nukes and the possible disaster they pose to America and the world. They were talking primarily about a movie partially underwritten by billionaire Warren Buffett. The movie was called Last Best Chance and was a low budget thing that went straight to DVD, because there was no damned commercial potential to it. It was a project spearheaded by Senator Sam Nunn and the Nuclear Threat Initiative group.

You gotta love it. There are car ads out the wazoo, and some of the worst offenders are being sold to the public as the most desirable and prestigious vehicles. Then we cut to a news show about the nuke threat that could be at work right now, with groups of the al Qaeda sort being the leading suspects of trying to get ahold of old Soviet nuke technology and materiel. The good senator was talking about doing great things to protect us, and that we should stave off the threat in any way. There was a question asked that reasoned that if this was supposedly public enemy number one, why was Iraq getting the hundreds of billions of dollars, and this is a topic that is almost off the map? Certainly. Why?

I just could not bear another minute of this ridiculous tug of war within about 40 minutes of TV viewing. Do we want to fight terrorism and rogue violence or don't we? Fucking stop sending mixed fucking messages already!!! We obviously can't have it both ways. Drive big wasteful cars. Use energy like fools. Make bad policy. Anger disenfranchised Arabs. Get attacked. Yes! Better believe it goes that way. So the fucking networks are so fucking greedy and clueless they will sell "arms" to both sides of the conflict. They will give us a legitimately important topic that is not nearly where it should be in the national dialogue, but they will literally turn around and give time to the very things that got us the terrorism in the first place! Fuck. Fuck! Fuck! What a bunch of soulless bastards. (Sorry to any bastards I may have offended.)

If this is not a clear message of how media is fucking us over, I don't know what is. Really. What side of the fence do they want to fall on? Their original raison de etre was to serve as a counterbalance to the government. Now they are arming both camps: giving us public service announcements of dire threats of apocalyptic significance, and also feeding the monster that will bring it on.

Thursday
May122005

Hijacking Adagio

I just got the Leonard Slatkin recording of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings and some other tracks that I am not familiar with yet. This morning, I put it on and within a few notes of the Adagio, I actually teared up some. This stuff got all up inside me with no warning, despite having heard it a few times in my mp3 collection, whatever scattered versions I may have collected. I knew only a little about the Adagio, but the stuff that stuck for me was knowing that it was sort of the unofficial compostion of national mourning. It was the soundtrack to the funerals of Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy. Not a bad association to have, especially for Barber who wrote the thing when he was about 23 or so. Man, I remember what I did when I was 23 and it wasn't even worthy of the tape I recorded it to.

But this last week has been one of working hard on getting my peak oil presentation together, and making the website and some promo stuff for it. And whenever I am involved in reading about that stuff, sometimes it is very hard to do that and not hurt. I mean, who wants to envision a world in tatters, especially the sort that we have now, with all our needs met and all our desires ready to be fulfilled? Who wants to envision population crashes and sustained warfare against anyone who has something we haven't (and vice versa)? Who wants to think of getting our drinking water out of a river or lake into which a factory pumped effluent for 30 years? The images in my head about the overlapping and reinforcing clusterfucks that might lie ahead are disturbing.

A few weeks ago at my church, our minister Jerry Lawritson gave a very comprehensive lecture (sort of an extracirricular thing he offers once a year) on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was willing to give up his right to consider himself a Christian once he committed himself to working with a conspiracy group with an aim to kill Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer was a model Christian, despite entering into a plot which was designed to fulfill what under normal conditions was definitely not a Christian act. But Hitler was not your normal man, and the WW2 years were not normal conditions. Anyhow, the lecture was really stirring on its own merits, but the music I was asked to play before hand (I am the dude who records various church events, and does other vaguely technical stuff) was Anton Bruckner's 7th Symphony in E, but only one part: the adagio. The notes that came with the lecture are as follows:

On April 30, 1945 as news of Hitler's death traveled across Berlin, even as the Russian army entered the heart of the city, Berlin radio played this very music by this same conductor [Wilhelm Furtwangler] to mourn the fuehrer. Bruckner would have been appalled. Incidentally, the last recording made by Herbert von Karajan was Bruckner's 7th as he conducted the Vienna Philharmonic. Karajan had been the darling of Field Marshall Hermann Goering and a member of the Nazi party. It was a fact he never recanted. The corruption of talented people and culture was a Nazi specialty. This music reminds us that the demonic often wears a nice face.

Indeed. What part of Hitler's contribution to history earned him the right to have beautiful music played at his funeral? You know, the Church even allowed him a "Christian" burial, and not a summary execution by the side of an open pit grave, which would be more fitting for a man of his station. How does this happen and not go unpunished?

By many accounts, FDR and JFK were good presidents. Good enough to have Barber's Adagio For Strings played at their funerals, anyhow. And a damned fine piece it is. In fact, it is one of the best things I have ever heard, anywhere, at any time. It is just passion put to music. It is not dissonant or upsetting. It is not happy and gay. It is not overly long or too short. It is not particularly virtuosic, but it is not without musical merit. It is just good human emotion conveyed through four types of string instruments. And as an elegy, it certainly makes sense. It does have that slow moving graceful sort of presentation about it.

When I think of it, the images come to mind: mostly the stark and disturbing images of the 20th century come to mind, but also the images that I see when I read about peak oil and the possible things to come along with that. It's a lot of sadness, disaster, doom, and pain. But more than that—it's mourning the loss of a whole chunk of humanity and its progress, as for the first time in centuries, I think we are about to take steps backwards, de-evolving. Being de-evolved is not as bad as going through the process of de-evolving. When I think of de-evolution, I see sights of people mourning the loss of the material items they surrounded themselves to keep themselves "happy." I could see them mourning the loss of the environment, and their latent shame and regret in handing over their God-given rights and freedoms to a government that promised doing so was for their best interest. I see people in America huddled around an oil barrel fire pit in downtown squares and industrial parks. People living in slums where they need to recycle scraps from the industrial age to survive. I see people making odd use of cars and appliances as they end up disintegrating into little more than parts and containers. I see people beaten down when they realize they had money but no wealth, and all the while with their own fervent support of the system. I see people wandering almost like zombies in search of food, and having to settle for some rather dire solutions to get by (robbery, assault on others, prostitution, etc.) I see young people born after the oil crash who still hear their parents and grandparents talking about planes, cars, rock concerts with lighting, NASCAR racing, and rockets going into space. The young people have no way to relate to all that and all they can do is express anger and hatred toward anyone who was to blame for ruining the world for them while still being regaled with stories about the "good old days." Some of these people might just want to kill old people for ruining the world for their own greedy pursuits, or maybe even total indifference toward the older folks, leaving them with little option but to curl up and die. I see a reversion to the days when women are little more than chattle, and are the subject of a lot of misdirected anger and aggression. I see illiteracy as a pretty widespread thing because even today, literacy is in a perilous spot. I see a broken education system that will never return to the good old days in the mid 20th century when education came within reach of more people than ever. I see people having to do a lot more physical work for no money but instead having to settle for the satisfaction of knowing that they are alive (if people still have the ability to consider that a good thing). I see people having to use family planning methods we consider barbaric (abortion, infanticide, selling children, whatever) only so that they can allow the already born to survive. I see the compassionate people having abortions to save people unneeded suffering at least while things sort themselves out. After all what sort of world will we turn over to the next two generations in particular? Toxic, dysfunctional, warring, colder, more disease-ridden, broken, corrupt. What will the next two generations think of you and I if we sit by and let history steamroll over us without raising a finger because it was more important to watch American Idol or The Nanny, or to go cruising the boulevard in search of easy pussy, or whatever garbage passes for culture and recreation now? How will we look our grandchildren in the eyes and not expect them to spit in our faces or to kill us in our sleep while we are diabetic, unfit old farts who only sit around and bemoan the loss of all our luxuries while they have to eat out of the trash and drink toxic stew?

Part of my response to the Barber Adagio this morning was a whole string of these images flooding my head, along with the realization that if Hitler (or anyone misguided enough to carry on his program after he died) could give himself a pat on the back with the Bruckner adagio, then some fuckhead such as Bush, Delay, Frist, or any of these other assholes could do the same. I mean, we are dealing with sick people. Absolutely pathetically and pathologically sick people. They are somehow under the impression that their shit doesn't stink, or that we have been lulled into complacency and olfactory fatigue so that we can't tell that it does, or blinded so that we can't even see they are shitting at all. Or maybe they are confident that since shitting did not appear in the Bible, it therefore did not exist, and that anyone who is convinced otherwise is a God hating athiest scientist or liberal. There are increasingly blurring lines between what Hitler was doing and what our present administration are doing. Piece by piece, they are hijacking this once great nation, a work of art in the pantheon of governmental systems. Hijacking. That is the word. It was not given to them, and even still we are not really turning it over willingly. They are playing peoples fears, the same as National Socialists did in the 20s and 30s in Germany. They are catering to people's existing insecurites and neurosis that they are somehow in danger of losing their dignity if they can't be in a position of sheer power and self delusion. They are driving it like they stole it, because steal it is just what they did. They have no plans for the future—a situation which made Bill Moyers ask, what business do these people with no vision for a future have governing this country? Indeed. Why are they holding the reins? We are governed essentially by nihilistic fascists. They have no desire to preserve the world, or to enhance cultural or scientific development except to further very narrow agendas. They have no interest in the future. They believe the world is so wretched and broken that it must all be flushed down the toilet.

They aren't speaking for me. And I would wager a guess they aren't speaking for you either. In fact, the nutcases who the Bush party can claim "voted" for this madness amounts to about one percent of the GLOBAL population, and only a little over 1/6th of the national population! So where is this mandate they supposedly have? Or have they just hijacked the place for their own business? When will they steal Barber's Adagio For Strings and defile that piece of humanistic greatness the same as the Nazis defiled Bruckner? After they remove a few more civil liberties, and convince people that science and secular humanism is what is bringing ruin upon our nation? Recently I read about a Baptist minister that excommunicated a church member who did not vote for Bush. WTF? Sorry, but some things just are not for sale, and some things are not for hijacking. Some things are too precious or sacred to let fall into the hands of bad men. In fact, I might venture to say the entire world is too precious and sacred to let fall to the hands of bad men.

Man, I am so glad I keep my TVMINDPOISONING to a minimum. It frees up a lot of mental space so I can get down and do some real thinking.

Thursday
Jan062005

Never Trust A Poor Economist

The other morning, I was listening to These Days on KPBS. It was a show dedicated to the state of the economy in 2005, an idea which itself is optimistic. Anyhow, there were two economists on. One had a deeper historical perspective and was a professor at SDSU or something. The thing about economists, I have come to learn, is that they hardly ever entertain ideas of economies moving backwards for more than a few years, and even then, they still paint rosy pictures. The failures of the world of economists seems to be the very thing that gives them a job at all; they see everything in monetary terms. Abstract things like time and space are turned into money. Economists like to break everything down into units that are used like little blocks that a child would toy with. The biggest fallacy that I have come to find plagues the discipline of economics and the profession of economists is that energy is boundless. In fact, I've read enough times that among economists, there is a belief that not only is it not boundless, but that more consumption by a bigger population will lead to more energy! Apparently, these clowns must think that more people can leverage more brain power to find more sources of energy to facilitate more economic activity which in turn would make more people better off. Or something.

Ahem. Economists don't really make a point of studying the laws of thermodynamics. The first of two laws of thermodynamics says that all energy exists courtesy of the sun and cannot be created or destroyed. It can only ever change form. It's a pretty firm rule that humans can't live outside of. We can't mine the sun for energy, so we have to use what falls on our planet and is preserved in the form of decayed organic material, sugars, etc. We can't make the stuff. But economists tell us most often that the sky is the limit, and all the time, paint nice rosy pictures of prosperity. Well, all economic activity uses energy, and increased economic activity of the sort we pursue uses even more energy. And jokers like Bush Sr. tell Americans and the world that the American Way of Life is not negotiable—that we should to use all the energy we need to use in order to live at some ridiculously indulgent standard of living.

I called the radio station to see about getting a question off to the "experts." I wanted to know what economists say to the notion of reversals in economic activity—reversals of a permanent kind due to the peak and decline of oil production. The call screener sort of stammered when she tried to understand the nature of my question. She asked me again what this was about. 'Well, economists tend to always offer optimism, but we seem to be looking at an irreversible decline in energy resources that will undermine our way of life..." She got close enough to understand then put me on hold to be put on the air.

Ten minutes later, she came on, still with ten minutes of the show to do on this topic, and announced that they really weren't going to have time to get to my sort of topic. Either someone totally didn't understand the concept, or maybe economists don't want to be faced with a looming crisis that makes all their predictions meaningless? Earlier in the show, one of the guests admitted a common question of economists was "if you know so much, why aren't you rich?"

Um, could it be because their business is basically a pseudoscience like reading bumps on people's heads?

Tuesday
Oct122004

Fahrenheit 9/11 redux

For my birthday, Kelli got me the F911 DVD and I watched the movie again tonight for the 4th time. This of course has an extra hour and a half of footage from various sources that were collected by Moore but didn't make the film, or were filmed since the movie's release. There is an extended part of the additional material that was shot by a Swedish journalist who was embedded in an Army unit. He got some Abu Ghraib footage and was offering it to the media in Sweden and in the USA three months before it hit the news here in May. The footage in the movie was taken from this footage, and in the DVD we get to see a lot more of it, plus a good deal of interview time and testimonial from the man who shot it himself. This is just another example of the media simply rolling over and taking it up the ass from the government.

Every one of the films I have seen this year about the status quo in America and the world has taken a justified stab at the media. The films I have paid for and seen this summer contain the very information that should be on front pages and all over evening news broadcasts everywhere—if the media were doing their job, that is. There are a lot of these films made today that you need to see. I have seen a handful of them and urge you to see them too. I listed them before, but here they are again:

Fahrenheit 9/11, The Corporation, The End of Suburbia, Outfoxed, Orwell Rolls in His Grave, Uncovered, Unconstitutional, Yes Men, Bush Family Fortunes (The Best Democracy Money Can Buy).

These are the movies that men of power don't want you to see.

But Fahrenheit takes on a special place for me. It has a certain flair that the others don't have, for the most part. It has a dose of compassion in it. The others have a certain dose of humor or some other approach, but none of the ones I have seen have a central figure associated with them, and none with the clout that Mike Moore carries. But I get a good feeling about Moore in the films. I got that feeling in Bowling for Columbine when he comforted the teacher at the school where the six year old boy killed a little girl. I know that is sort of not the objective journalism that some need to see, and that is fine to expect that, but really, Michael Moore is a man who obviously wants to see people expect more from their world, and he shows compassion for these people. He stands in solidarity with victims of gun violence, or he stands with black leaders denouncing voter disenfranchisement, or laid off auto workers, or with soldiers who want to know they won't be sent into harm's way without genuine need. He stands with the mothers of dead soldiers and 9/11 widows.

And people call him un-American. Sick. Let that reflect how much some people have been lied to. My favorite Republican nitwit who likes to argue with me just loves to say how Moore is in it for the money. Oh, sure. The fact he is making money I believe shows how much his commodity is in demand. People are itching to get a dose of the truth, or at least a look at something that isn't so damned sanitized and hyped. About the only viable critique I have heard of Moore is that he is too liberal with his editing and storytelling. Well, the same could be said for anyone who puts a film together. The creative process is by definition a process of shaping things to suit the sense of the creator. But his facts are pretty damned solid, and verifiable by outside sources. Indeed, that's where he gets most of his material. And, as I read more and more, I find even more stuff that I wish he would bring out. Moore is not as radical as they come, but he is enough for most people. He carries with him a certain charisma and enthusiasm for what he does that is infectious. I think if he just wakes people up from their deep slumber he is doing the best job anyone can do now. But people have been put to sleep and have forgotten to pay attention to the world around them.

I happen to think Michael Moore is a prophet. Yes, a prophet. Martin Luther King Jr. was a prophet too. They are both visionaries of a nation that has yet to reach its potential. They both rubbed people the wrong way, but also made people go out and do great things. Michael Moore will be responsible for a new generation of Americans who will become the shapers of the future. He may be the one who lets people know its cool to play a part in civic life. But why should it be cool to do that? It only amounts to the basis on which our whole society is built; cool or not, people need to pay attention to shit like this. We can't fall for the same failures of imagination that made the CIA and FBI and other "intelligence" agencies utterly useless in the hour when they were needed most. As I have migrated leftward in my political leanings, I have sometimes entertained conspiracy theories. I don't really go for them wholeheartedly, but the value of considering such theories is that it not only allows but encourages the sort of out-of-the-box thinking that we need to stay alive. If Michael Moore's movies keep people thinking, then he has done us the best service he could, for today and for ever.

Saturday
Sep252004

Orwells That Ends Well

I just saw a movie called Orwell Rolls In His Grave. It is quite a lot like some of the other movies I have seen this year: Outfoxed, The Corporation, The End of Suburbia, Fahrenheit 9/11. This movie, as you may be able to tell, is about the realization of the Orwellian state in modern America. The website says "1984 is no longer a date in the future." The thing about this movie and the others I mentioned is that they all sort of have one thread that runs through them. Each movie cites the media as the ultimate co-conspirator in just about anything that is reported as news. The megaconglomerates of the media world are literally ruining our democratic institutions. They have not just fallen asleep at the wheel, they have drugged themselves before getting into the car! But what matters to you and I is that the car is about to go careening off a cliff.

The media is supposed to be our protector. Their job is to give us information we need so that we can make informed decisions. Period. These informed decisions are what makes our country run. Notice today our country is barely running anymore. Entropy has set in. Every day, we hear about corporate scandal and bankruptcy, mismanagement, morally corrupt warmongering, negative political ad swipes, depression, partisanship, fundamentalism, corporate/political buddy system (aka fascism), cover ups. You name it, we got it. Not all of it will make it to the news. And that which does make it to the news is bound to be watered down and nearly useless under any current popular outlet, and at worst, it would be slanderous or outright lying.

Someone in this movie said that Josef Goebbels would be proud of the mind control we have established here in America through the collusion of politicians and media outlets. Wait a minute. Since when did the Nazis become our role models? Or since when did we eclipse even their elaborate and overt political propagandizing? Some would say that was a bad thing. There is this saying I see in these liberally-biased circles of which I find myself a part: "if you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention." Bingo. It's more than just a bumper sticker slogan. Like I said, any of these movies I listed have a common thread. In fact, you could slice and dice parts of them into a single film and make a real convincing film that way. They are all telling a similar story. The media and the politicians are in bed with each other, sucking each others' dicks. And the people pay. They don't just pay money. They lose the nation they cherish. And the irony? They get behind it! All this Orwellian shit plays on patriotism. You can tell a lot of lies to people and they will believe you if your wrap yourself in the flag. As Goebbels said, tell a lie often enough and it will become truth. There are people who believe some really lame but disproven shit. Stuff like Bush "winning" the 2000 election, or thinking there was a connection between Al-qaeda and Iraq. These things simply just are false, but people actually like to believe it because believing otherwise would somehow signify their failure as an American, and what could be more un-American than not believing your president?

Well, ever since my brain turned on a few years ago, I have been outraged. Kelli and I were reflecting on the state of things. All this collusion between media and corporations and politicians has been around since about the time we were born. And we marveled at how we have never really known a world where this wasn't the case. It makes it really hard to reflect back on critical times in our lives, as we would then question everything we were told. Not that that is a bad thing; this sort of stuff needs to be done all the time. I had a fourth grade teacher who was reading "1984" in my classroom. This was in 1982-83. I was nine. I had no idea what the book was about. Of course, had I known and maybe even read it, I may have been more awake for the last 20 years or so. For me now, even reading things about what happened while I was a 25 year old is a risky proposal. History can get rewritten. Well, you know what the official story will be when it comes to telling the 2000 election story. I was 27 then. The facts are already skewed in favor of the liars and cheats. What do you think has been changed since I was a boy? Shit, before all this history of mine goes missing or rewritten by fascists and totalitarianists, I had better get a grip on it. You too. This is one reason why I am glad I work with/for old timers. It is one of the last opportunities to talk to Americans from an age when this stuff was not the standard MO.

I think I actually want to smash my television. I have already gone seven years without really relying on it for entertainment or news. Some cable will suit me, but I refuse to pay for it. The TV really is mind control, pure and simple. It requires no imagination or response (except to go buy stuff). It only wants you to worship it. It's a one way deal. People ask me why I don't just lighten up and chill out and get off my high horse about all this political shit. Well, to do so would be to cave in. And that is exactly what Big Media wants. People who stop thinking are easy to make into drones. And, since TV is so damned alluring with all its series and cliffhangers, people give into it all too willingly while real life slips on by. You want to see reality TV? Go watch all these movies I listed (and a few more). That is the state of things. That is how life is really being lived. The content in these movies is exactly the stuff you and I should be seeing on the nightly news. This is the true journalism of today. It's a bummer that we need to pay to see it, but see it we must. The newspapers, TV, movies, and even some parts of the internet have totally rolled over. They are failing us big time. Don't take the bait. Don't settle for the censorship and revisionism. Democracy is only possible when informed citizens take part. There is a lot of stuff that you or I didn't vote for because we didn't know about it.

Sunday
Aug082004

Republican Loyalty Test

Here are some things you need to agree to in order to be a loyal Republican today.

  • Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.
  • Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.
  • The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.
  • A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.
  • Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.
  • The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.
  • If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.
  • A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money.
  • Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.
  • HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.
  • Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.
  • A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense.
  • A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.
  • Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.
  • The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.
  • Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness, and you need our prayers for your recovery.
  • You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have the right to adopt.
  • What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.
  • If you don't send this to at least 10 other people, we're likely to be stuck with Bush for 4 more years.
  • Friends don't let friends vote Republican.