Saturday, February 25, 2006

fractal 1024 Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love."

Jonathan Swift
The 08 Fantasies

Assuming there is a presidential election in 2008, and that it isn't rigged or manipulated as the last two were, it's still too early to talk about it---unless you're in the business of raising money. It's fantasy at this point. But we know we can't lose this one, if there's any hope left. So when some glimmer of possibility arises, you perk up a bit.

So this is in the nature of a perked up a bit report. Right now the most likely race is Hillary Clinton v. John McCain, and McCain probably wins that one. McCain is the strongest candidate in either party.

The Democrats don't seem to have anybody to get excited about, that would bring together the party base with the rapidly developing "net roots." The net root analysis is the party has been weakened and self-defeated by corporate collusion and especially by a group of political consultants who keep getting employed to run campaigns and campaign strategy, even with a record of losing most if not all the important races they run.

So given all that there is some cheer in a poll showing that without doing a thing or raising a cent to run, Al Gore is second to Hillary. Dick Morris , who is very much hit or miss on politics, does point out an interesting historical fact (if it's true): presidential candidates who won the popular vote but lost the electoral all came back to win the presidency.

Gore not only won the popular vote, he won the election. There's a lot of voter remorse right now, and particularly in Florida, where Katherine Harris is catching the brunt of it in her doomed attempt to run for Senator based on her performance as vote-killer in 2000.

And Gore in 2006 is not Gore in 2000. He has transformed himself as a communicator. His speech recently on Bush's imperial presidency was rivetting and memorable. It was very dramatic and effective. But perhaps even better, he seems to have distanced himself from the political consultants and party strategists who screwed up his past two campaigns for the presidency. After the first---a run in the primaries in 1988--he wrote in his book, Earth in the Balance , that he'd gotten into the race to alert everyone to the issue of global warming, but at the behest of consultants, didn't push it forward. He wouldn't make that mistake again, he wrote. And then he did. His 2000 campaign didn't stress it. And the Clinton administration did not do the job making it an important issue to the public that they had 8 years to accomplish.

So if he has finally learned this lesson, I'm all for him. He's been out there on his own on this issue the past several years---as a new documentary apparently shows---and that says something. Plus he's been a steadfast opponent of the Bushwar and the Smirk's approach to terrorism. Not having been in office, he doesn't have any votes to defend.

Despite John Kerry's efforts to build an Internet base, his campaign in 2004, rightly or wrongly, has made him very controversial among the netroot Dems. Gore's 2000 campaign is evidently far enough in the past to be forgotten. He's got a lot of potential netroots support.

When I think of that speech, I realize that this was the only time in recent memory I felt that there was something special going on. There may not be a Lincoln or an FDR out there to save us this time. But I don't see any other candidates for a 2008 equivalent but Al Gore.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Northwest British Columbia. David Blevins photo. Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last."

Charlotte Bronte
Don't Buy Dubai?

Why Dubai? journalists are asking. Why are the Bushites so intent on this deal to turn over significant elements of key U.S. ports to a Dubai corporation owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates?

Meanwhile, Bushites and even some on the left are hinting---or coming right out and saying---that the opposition to this deal is not only misguided but racist, or at least xenophobic.

Are they right? Sure, some of it is racist and xenophobic. And some of it is just wanting to take care of your own. For there are distinctions to be made here. Seeing the world as Us versus Them is often destructive, self-destructive and perhaps above all, inaccurate. It's most dangerous when unconscious, but also when irrational. It leads to hate, fear and violence, and the fevers of war.

But there is something real here. First of all, the impulse to protect American ports in a time of supposed particular danger by keeping them under American control is common sense---the sense of the commons. While the practical effects of such a deal can be debated, this impulse leads to another.

In discussing this the other day, a friend told me how he had just gotten a new American Express card and had a question about one of its benefits. He called American Express to ask about it, and was answered from India. It made him angry.

Is this irrational? Not exactly. Because the export of jobs to other countries is having a big effect on Americans, particularly young people just graduating from college with loads of loan debt, who can't find the kind of entry level tech world jobs that have gone to India and elsewhere. New statistics show that the U.S. average family income declined 2.3% from 2001 to 2004; even though the already rich did better, the lower 40% brought the average down. Wages went down an average of 6% in the period. From 1998-2001 income went up 17.5%.

Certainly the export of jobs is not solely responsible. But neither is it irrelevant. So is Dubai a symbolic expression of this kind of dissatisfaction? Maybe, maybe not, but at least one analyst believes it is related in the real world.

David Sirota says the Dubai deal is part of a Bushite attempt to establish free trade agreements with UAE---in talks ongoing right now-- like they have with China. Sirota points out that the government pushed for a loan to allow Brits to sell nuclear technology to China, despite security concerns, with help from Congressional free traders who "made sure the loan went through so as to preserve the US-China free trade relationship that is allowing lawmakers' corporate campaign contributors export so many US jobs."

Others who may or may not support so-called free trade recognize that Dubya hearts Dubai because they're his kind of people--super-rich global corporations, that is--and that trumps national security any old time. But it is worth everyone considering that others are connecting the dots a little differently, and however the Beltway crowd rationalizes it, they're dealing with more and more people living elsewhere with the jobs that used to go to their children, spouses, neighbors and friends. And themselves.

Fearing unreal threats, and reacting irrationally and unconsciously to difference is one thing. But taking care of your own is another. It's the survival reason, and it's powerful. So powerful that it can get out of control and become xenophobia and racism. But let's not confuse them.

UPDATE: Rassmussen's poll shows overwhelming opposition to the Dubai deal. All of 17% of those surveyed thought the deal should be completed.
The Brink (U.S.)

I recall a lot of paranoid conversations in 1967 and early 1968: about how the FBI and CIA were spying on dissidents, antiwar demonstrators were being bugged, and even that LBJ was preparing to declare martial law in the U.S. and cancel the 1968 elections.

Some of it turned out to be true---the FBI and police not only spying on antiwar and other dissident groups but becoming undercover members and even provocateurs urging these groups to commit violent acts.

But as hard-headed as LBJ was, and as willing to lie and twist arms, he wasn't going to turn the U.S. into a totalitarian dictatorship. When Eugene McCarthy started getting votes in primaries, and RFK got into the race, he didn't send tanks into the streets. He even got out of the way of what was to come, which unfortunately was Nixon.

And even though Nixon subverted the Constitution and was reportedly willing to have his political enemies killed, when his back was against the wall he didn't arrest Congress and send out the troops; he resigned.

Now it all seems like paranoia, although it can also be argued that at least in Nixon's case, if he'd thought the military would follow his orders anymore, he might have done it. But with the Bushites now in power, none of this seems beyond the pale. There are just too many signs that the Bushites are gearing up for a real assault on constitutional government, and the cancellation of the 2008 elections fits right into the apparent timetable. So much of what they've done was unthinkable that this seems just the next unthinkable step.

So far they have gotten away with their pilot project in Guantanamo without getting burned in Congress or at or in the polls. They've taken away basic civil and human rights, and developed their techniques for torture and isolation. Hitler did this as well with early concentration camps, and nobody protested very much. Later they were afraid to. But even the extermination camps for the Jews were partly a test of the technologies involved; the ultimate goal was to eradicate all the races that Hitlerites declared undesirable--the Slovaks were next.

We're seeing signs. Nat Parry reminds us of these news stories that escaped wide notice:

...there was that curious development in January when the Army Corps of Engineers awarded Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root a $385 million contract to construct detention centers somewhere in the United States, to deal with "an emergency influx of immigrants into the US, or to support the rapid development of new programs," KBR said. [Market Watch, Jan. 26, 2006]

Later, the New York Times reported that "KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space." [Feb. 4, 2006]

Parry points out that nobody, including the Times, asked what those "new programs" could possibly be. Read the rest of his report, and decide how much is paranoia, and how much possibility.

He also points out that Senator Lindsay Graham has been talking about the President's powers to hunt down "Fifth Columnists," a designation almost as arcane as "sedition," which was heard last week when the Bureau of Veteran's Affairs accused one of its employees of it when she wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper critical of Bush.

Readers here may recall posts noting that Smirk was talking an awful lot about new uses for the military within the U.S. It was his answer to hurricane relief (echoed today in response to Congressional criticism of Katrina response. FEMA is fine and Homeland Security is dandy--what we need are troops and mercenaries.) It was his answer to a possible pandemic. (Instead of a better, or just less neglected and politicized public health system.)

And as big a stink as has been raised about at least three programs that spy on American citizens, two of them through the White House, it hasn't done real damage. The clamor has been inconsistent and unfocused. The Bushites still act as if no one can stop them--they are the Smirk's smirk writ large. And so far, they may well be right.

Paranoids are good at patterns. And there are patterns to be made of how the Bushites are transforming the government and its relationship to corporations, media, etc. that leads logically to the final step of dictatorship. Maybe that's why none of the Bushites seems to care who the 2008 nominee will be. Maybe that's why Karl Rove no longer cowers from subpoena from Fitzgerald, or why the White House doesn't fear more revelations of corruption. Because they've got a plan to make all that irrelevant?

There's plenty that's different today than in 1968, or in other more apparent great crises in the U.S. past. A lot of it favors the ability to impose a dictatorship and smother dissent. Some of it doesn't. We got through the last few crises without a single leader emerging, like FDR or Lincoln, but with notable leadership in the Congress (Watergate) or in the streets (Vietnam.) Where's it going to come from now? That is not at all clear.

Has the luck of this Republic run out? I would have said it will be tested, along with the luck and plunk of the human race, over the next decade as the Climate Crisis becomes unignorable. But the fateful point may be coming sooner. Much sooner. This may be the Big Brink of 2006-08.
The Brink (Iraq)

The destruction of the Golden Mosque in Samarra may well have signalled an all-out civil war in Iraq. It is the kind of act that not only enrages a large segment of the population but it unsettles everyone in the region---it severs a connection to history and culture. It creates a sense of chaos, of tremendous anxiety, of panic.

Events are moving fast, but as of this report more than a hundred Iraqis and 7 American soldiers have been killed in the aftermath, and the Sunni representatives have left the Iraqi government, which may doom the formation of any central government.

If the Bushites were holding on until the government was formed and U.S. forces could be drawn down (though it seems likely their plan was to maintain a military base in Iraq), their plan may be swiftly overtaken by events now. The civil war that many said would erupt as soon as U.S. forces left---and that others say has been ongoing in the guise of "insurgency" for some time---may become a very obvious wildfire that consumes the country. Then what happens?

That's one brink that may affect the other.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

N44 Superbubble Complex Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"... the primary commitment of politicians is not to religion, but the use of religion for political purposes."

Huston Smith
Court V. Women

It didn't take long. Yesterday the Supreme Court jumped at the chance to review the federal law banning late term abortions that was struck down by lower courts because it provides no exception for endangering the woman's life or health.

Anti-choice forces were jubilant, literally smelling blood--the blood of women who could be permanently damaged or have their lives threatened by this law. And with good reason, because it's unlikely the court would have jumped at the first chance it got unless there were enough votes to overturn lower court rulings.

The difference the last time was Sandra Day O'Connor. Replaced about five minutes ago by Scalito the Silent, and with a new chief justice in John Roberts (whose bio was mistitled "Bob Roberts" when Tim Robbins made it into a movie), the bloodthirsty rabid right can't wait for the raw meat to be thrown their way at last.
Congress V. Bush

Wow---the Bushite contempt for any opposition whatever has finally made enemies of its own Repub leaders in Congress, on the issue of the Dubai takeover of key U.S. ports. Both the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader are questioning the deal, and threatening legislation to at least delay it. The Big Smirk promptly threatened to veto such a bill, proposed by his congressional allies. It would be his very first veto.

According to the NY Times, the White House was shocked by the outcry, partly because 30% of U.S. ports are already run by companies in other countries, including China. But do people know that?

The deal stinks. It's the Bushite version of globalism at its worst--corporations transcend all else. The Bush family's cozy relationship with Saudi state officials and related corporations is well known. Now apparently the person Bush nominated to oversee the ports just left his job with the same Dubai company that is taking over the ports' management.

Is this where even conservatives finally get it?--That what Bush and Cheney are about is rampant cronyism and corporate greed---creating threats and wars to make money for their favored businesses? If the Bushites really believe there is a substantial terrorist threat, why would they let any port out of complete U.S. control?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Andy Everson "Metamorphosis" at Posted by Picasa
The Late News---Very Late

This Sunday the San Francisco Chronicle Insight section published three related essays under the headline of THE WAR ON HYPE. Ben Friedman's began:

Conventional wisdom says that none of us is safe from terrorism. The truth is that almost all of us are.

The rest is just as succinct and pointed. He continues:

U.S. homeland security policy conjures up a flawless enemy that could strike at any moment, in any place. That policy institutionalizes the fears terrorists created and harms liberal values. Most homeland security experts say that Hurricane Katrina's flooding of New Orleans shows how vulnerable we are to terrorists. In fact, it shows that most Americans have better things to worry about.

Friedman points out that the supposedly massive spending on homeland security "pales in comparison to increases" in U.S. military spending, mostly for Iraq. But Congress has appropriated some $207 billion to fight terrorism, according to Veronique de Rugy and Nick Gillespie's piece, with homeland security dispersing some $50 billion just this year. And on what? Their piece begins:

Rest easy, America. As a response to the Sept. 11 attacks, the Princeton, N.J., Fire Department now owns Nautilus exercise equipment, free weights and a Bowflex machine. The police dogs of Columbus, Ohio, are protected by Kevlar vests, thank God. Mason County, Wash., is the proud owner of a half-dozen state-of-the-art emergency radios (never mind that they are incompatible with existing county radios).

All of these crucial purchases -- and many more like them -- were paid for with homeland security grants. Doesn't it make you feel more secure that $100,000 in such money went to fund the federal Child Pornography Tipline? That $38 million went to cover fire claims related to the April 2001 Cerro Grande fire in New Mexico?

Their conclusion:

Indeed, as the above examples suggest, states and cities are spending federal homeland security grants on pet projects that have little or nothing to do with security. State and local officials fight over who will get the biggest share of the money, regardless of whether they have a legitimate claim to it. Hence, of the top 10 grant recipients, only the District of Columbia also appears on a list of the 10 places most at risk of attack... And don't think high-risk cities necessarily spend their money wisely...

This of course is in addition to the utterly dumbfounding news of the past few days--that the Bushites turned over operation of major U.S. commercial ports to Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates, with the state in question implicated in supporting terrorists (including 9-11 highjackers) and facilitating Iran's nuclear program.

But the stupidity is even more widespread than the pork:

When Congress isn't doling out cash indiscriminately, it's overreacting to yesterday's attacks instead of concentrating on cost-effective defenses against the most likely current threats.

The third article, by James A. Lewis, concludes that even these threats are way overblown.
Americans receive a steady stream of warnings and alarms about new and horrific perils that await them. Pandemics, dirty bombs, cyber attacks, bioterror and other exotic threats are always on the verge of being unleashed onto a shamefully unprepared republic. Yet, judging from statistics on life expectancy, violent deaths and war, we live in much less perilous times than any generation before us.

Or as Ben Friedman put it:

By any statistical measure, the terrorist threat to America has always been low. As political scientist John Mueller notes, in most years allergic reactions to peanuts, deer in the road and lightning have all killed about the same number of Americans as terrorism.

But of course, you don't scare the shit out of an apparently cowardly nation by declaring a war on allergic reactions to peanuts.

The fact that Insight put this page together is laudable. (I say this with the pride of a contributor, to a similiar Insight thematic section on the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima.) But that this might still be considered a daring act is ultimately very depressing.

There is nothing about the terrorist threat said here that could not have been said in late 2001--and essentially it was said in blogs like this one. There is nothing about the forms of threats and the scandal of homeland security spending that couldn't have been said three years ago.

To decide on the right course of action to protect America required a correct assessment of the threat, not to mention some glimmer of an idea of the causes of terrorism, a bit more to the point than "they hate our freedom." But we were steered into blind fear, and like trembling sheep we followed, uttering pieties for our brave leaders.

By diverting us from understanding the real problems and devising and implementing real solutions, with real scrutiny of the results, while addressing other problems with the proportionate seriousness they deserve, panic has made us far less safe. Not just from terrorism. From every conceivable threat--from a Climate Crisis storm, from a flu epidemic, from dying because we don't have health insurance, you name it.

And so for nearly five years our media has apparently been paralyzed by the same gutlessness with which we as a society faced an unfamiliar (but hardly new) threat to our denial more than our lives. Or maybe it was because at least some in the media knew what would not be heard. We said it here then; no one listened. Maybe no one could hear, until now. And the sad thing is, how many even now can hear it?
Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

Cheney shooting quail at a Texas ranch---we've got the picture in our minds: Dead-Eye Dickhead Cheney is clear, but what about that ranch? And the ranch owner, Katharine Armstrong, the person who told a member of the local press about Cheney shooting somebody. How do we picture her? Annie Oakley of the 21st century? Or one of the old Dallas babes on horseback? Or maybe just a hard-working Texas businesswoman making a go of her big old ranch, seeing that the old farts from the city get a good lunch before she rides off to supervise the new fences on the north forty?

Well, not exactly. Sidney Blumethal in Salon described her and her powerful family(emphasis added):

Both the vice president and the deputy chief of staff[Karl Rove], as it happens, owed their previous, lucrative jobs in the private sector to their relationships with the Armstrong family. Anne Armstrong, Katharine's mother, was on the board of Halliburton that made Dick Cheney its chief executive officer. Tobin Armstrong, Katharine's father, had financed Karl Rove & Co., Rove's political consulting firm. Katharine herself is a lobbyist for Houston law firm Baker Botts, a major Texas power broker since it was founded in the 19th century by the family of James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and close associate of George H.W. Bush's.

Katharine Armstrong took up lobbying after her recent divorce. Her contracts include Parsons, a construction firm that has done work in Iraq, among others. Her business partner, Karen Johnson, a close friend of Rove's, does extensive business with the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and defense contractors.

So Katharine Armstrong, universally described as the ranch owner, is a lobbyist. So her calling a local acquaintance to tell the story wasn't just the account of an innocent and untutored semi-witness. Especially since, Blumenthal surmises, her story was crafted with the help of Karl "Blame the Victim" Rove.

In all the subsequent hoo-haw, which apparently continues in the major media, I missed these most pertinent facts. Maybe you did, too.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Weep not for me... Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Are we to be one of those bizarre civilizations that is on the way to its downfall without ever reaching its zenith?"

Edward Albee
Call It Treason

The Bushite administration has committed numerous crimes against humanity, by torturing and bombing. It is in the process of committing murder on the largest scale imaginable: it is murdering the planet with its obstinate refusal to act on, or even recognize the reality of the Climate Crisis which unchecked will likely mean the end of the living earth as we know it.

It has committed numerous crimes against many if not most Americans, in deference to the uber-wealthy few. It has shown its non-election-year contempt for the least powerful in its blithe ignoring of New Orleans during Katrina.

It lied the nation into a war, spilling blood and bleeding treasure, transforming the largest federal surplus into the largest federal debt, which turns over the fate of present and future generations to foreign powers to whom the nation now owes incredible sums. In the process it has given away taxpayers' money to a select group of cronies and crony corporations, while failing to deliver the results promised for the American people.

It has shown no mercy or even decency, Christian or otherwise, in attacks on opponents, using vicious lies even on people who were allies a blink of an eye before.

It has defied the Constitution and the laws of the land with impunity in ways both large and small. It has attempted to justify or at least worm out of every evil it has perpetrated, large and small, including the illegal outing of a CIA agent.

Now it is becoming clearer that the consequences of this particular act, the outing of agent Valerie Plame for a pique of sheer political revenge, has endangered national security and a region of the world long the most likely place where major warfare would begin that could engulf the globe.

It's well known now that Valerie Plame was working for the CIA on investigating nuclear weapons proliferation. It is now being reported that she and her team were looking into the nuclear program in Iran, and that her outing seriously disrupted the ability of American intelligence to learn what Iran is actually up to. This is being reported just as crisis is approaching, and the Bushites seem incredibly to be pushing for another war.

At the moment it is the alternative Raw Story that carries this story, but if it erupts into the pages of a major newspaper---either through investigative reporting or because, as some have been saying, Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation has led him to this finding---it becomes no longer a technical violation of statutes, but a measurable act of treason, with real world consequences.

This act of treason could wind up costing many lives. This act implicates many people in the Bushite White House, up to and including vice president Cheney, with the culpability of the president unknown at this time.

For all of their crimes and errors, and despite the very low standing the Big Smirk and Dead-Eye Dickhead have in the polls, the Bushites have survived by dint of congressional majorities and news media more interested in maintaining their profit margins from huge campaign spending (which Republicans support) than anything else. They may even survive the Fitzgerald investigation---Karl Rove for one is acting increasingly like he knows he is not going to be indicted.

But there may yet be a reckoning, and it could come as swiftly as lightning. But it must be a legitimate and legal fall, for cause. If there is not, the future doesn't have a chance. Not even the slim one it has if the Bushites are stopped before they do further damage.

MONDAY UPDATE: Celebrate President's Day with this post from Jane Smiley, on the next step in the Bushite dictatorship: going naked.

And for a cogent update on the unfolding NSA spy story, and efforts in Congress to investigate/justify it.