Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Delightfully Racist Holiday

Yes, I did say "racist." I mean, I simply say out loud what O'Rielly and his ilk are thinking, on the days when they are smart enough to not actually say "Kwanzaa is racist." They are correct in the narrow sense, as it's intended to boost the spirits and pride of an entire race of people; it's a black holiday with decidedly black roots and celebrating it is to buy into a set of values intended to improve and empower black people. But I'm not saying it as if it's a bad thing.

Any time any group of people wants to get together and collectively improve themselves, to earn respect from others and (often much harder) improve their own self-respect, I'm all for people "gettin' above themselves." It's generally not all that hard, either, considering the sort of folks that set that bar.

I think everyone of every sort should look through these principles and consider if they, their communities and their race are actually doing anything positive to improve the lot of others of their own community, their race, their country and their family.

Celebrating Kwanzaa

Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination )
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and
sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.
Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to
profit from them together.
Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community
in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kuumba (Creativity)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our
community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Imani (Faith)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Sabbath was made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath.

Tip of the hat to Disinformation for this (via the title link).

The Guardian story illustrates a point I've believed since I was - oh, 14 or 15 years of age, when I stopped attending Church with my mother. The following was a large part of the reason why.

A rotten year for Jesus Christ, American - The Guardian

They say the devil has all the best tunes. It's been a rotten year for Jesus at the movies, too.

Used to be you could depend on the Church for great art, but not any more. The evangelical movement is also the bedrock of American philistinism and the anti-intellectualism diagnosed by the historian Richard Hofstadter. The De Medicis and the Renaissance popes were no less corrupt and hypocritical than this crew, but at least they had taste. At one extreme, there's Titian, Michelangelo, Tiepolo. At the other are the paintings that adorn the walls of Reverend Ted Haggard's mega-church in Colorado Springs: sub-heavy-metal album-cover art by way of some fascistically devout Aryan brotherhood prison tattoo parlour. All the paintings - of warriors for God in their ripped T-shirts, of chesty virgins bearing gourds of massage oil to soothe the toiler's aching bones - seem wildly, cluelessly homoerotic, no matter how many coyly half-exposed DD-cup breasts are depicted. In a subculture whose "artists", like LaHaye, can style themselves without irony as "salespeople for the Gospel", the battle for good art is already lost, and their Willy Loman will never arrive.
I was born an artist, much to the distress of my parents. This, aside from everything else, the autism that while nameless was surely visible, the multiple personality that probably became visible in bits and pieces, had they only looked; worst of all, I was an artist, and thus doomed to live and die in poverty, unable to support my parents in their old age, due to my inherent appreciation of symmetry, balance, composition, and the accurate perception and portrayal of reality.

The above sounds as if it were written tongue in cheek. But indeed, all these things - and the imagination that drives it - were anathema to the culture of the day. It doesn't capture the visceral fear and resentment my mother and father respectively held for me, as advised by rather a lot of perfectly respectable books on the subject of raising children. In both cases, they tried in every way possible to interfere with, distract and discourage any "impractical" pursuits and "sinful, willful" interests. An imagination, a sense of proportion, the ability and willingness to question authority in expectation of a sensible answer is all that was condemned during my childhood as the worst combination of beatnik and hippie culture.

Being a good son, in my way, I did try; but I'm as unsuited for being other that what I am as a porpoise is to sprinting.

But before coming to that conclusion, I tried everything I could to become "normal," and of course the single greatest bastion of social conformity and unquestioning obedience to authority that is "normalcy" in our culture is Christianity.

If only they could agree on which sort of normal would allow one to avoid Hell, eh?

But Mother covered all the bases; I was raised Episcopal, went to Catholic school and was dragged every Sunday to a series of increasingly wacky Fundamentalist, Evangelical and Charismatic churches, sects, movements and outright cults; the weirdest and most obviously heretical being the "Name it, Claim it" churches.

- As the name "Positive Confession"/"Word-Faith" implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts. The term "positive confession" refers to the teaching that words have creative power. What you say, Word-Faith teachers claim, determines everything that happens to you. Your "confessions," that is, the things you say -- especially the favors you demand of God -- must all be stated positively and without wavering. Then God is required to answer. Word-Faith believers view their positive confessions as an incantation by which they can conjure up anything they desire: "Believe it in your heart; say it with your mouth. That is the principle of faith. You can have what you say" (Charismatic Chaos, pp. 281, 285).
I had yet to deeply study the occult, but I had read my Andre Norton - "Witch World" was the Harry Potter of my day - and I recognised ritual magic when I saw it. And when the spirits started moving and tried to climb into my ears and up my pants legs, I found out that the shielding rituals mentioned in Norton's stories actually worked.

I'm rather surprised that I thought to try them, but when you have a congregation babbling in "tongues" in a rented hall that is neither consecrated nor shielded in anyway against spiritual contamination, you will find yourself up to your elbows in members of the spiritual ecology - all of them some variety of "hungry." Given the ability to notice, it's not so surprising as it seems. Turns out that Andre Norton cribbed heavily from Diane Fortune and other respected occult writers current to her time, such as Gardener and perhaps even Crowley.

Like all good SF writers, she based her work on known technology and extrapolated from there, so of course they worked.

I'm a big fan of pragmatism. I can't think of a single serious engineer or occultist who is not. It's only the theorists and theologians that trip over doctrine.

I was not poking under those rocks to find a new religion - by that time, I was getting pretty cynical about any human religion as having any deeper significance than "coffee hour." It's only been of late that I've realized that is indeed the primary significance - an hour a week with friends and family, not talking about work, or sports, but of spiritual matters, or of worldly things from a spiritual viewpoint. That is what was meant when it was said, "The Sabbath was Made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath." If it's not a useful means of fulfilling your own, individual spiritual needs, you should be looking elsewhere.

What I did not realize at the time is that my own peculiarities, my own unique wetware, would always keep my communions down to "two or three." At most. At the root, even before my rational objections based on obvious hypocrisy, mindless babbling in "tongues," the evident presence of spirits other than anything I'd recognizes as God-Like, the sheer, eye-glazing banality that was and is the American Protestant movement in general; all of these objections were in fact my rationalizations for my neurological aversion to being forced to be in loud, echoing caverns filled with strangers and badly-tuned sound systems.

So I decided I would be a heathen.
It was far easier to be a heathen in my mother's eyes than it was to try and explain my as-yet nebulous and under-founded objections to the expression of faith that is American Christianity. If you have ever tried to explain such concerns to anyone who faithfully watches the 700 Club and who considers Robert Schuyler to be a Really Deep Thinker, you probably understand my choice.

Of course, if you faithfully watch the 700 Club, and consider any Televangelist to have the last word on the meaning of Scripture - you probably stopped reading four paragraphs ago. The reason for that is simple - there ain't any preachers on the 700 Club who's message much resembles the red letters in the Bible.

Now me, being Aspie and therefore somewhat literal-minded, was told as a child that the red letters in the Bible were the words that Christ supposedly spoke, and all else was other folks trying to explain them or tell us how He got from, say, Jerusalem to Sardis.

So I never paid all that much attention to Peter, much less Paul. After all, you could almost feel the triple rap of Himself's knuckles on Peter's Saintly Noggin when He said, "upon this rock, I shall build My Church."

It may not have been an unmixed complement, any more than His references to the people as "sheep" and his disciples as "Shepherds."

Anyway, in my own clandestinely stubborn and willful way, I set out to find Christ for myself; I'd already found that anyone willing to point the way for me, all altruistic-like, was holding a pair of shears behind their back with an eye toward fleecing me.

I came to admire the relative skill of Jesuits compared, say, to Pat Roberson. With Jesuits, you can be fairly sure that you are considered a renewable resource, and that a superior mastery of the flock is a mastery that appears to be mere advice and influence.

One thing about aspies that can and does make us socially insufferable upon occasion is that we do not see things in emotional terms. During this entire time, I was getting a high-resolution, brutally vivid view of the hidden motivations behind all the convenient alterations and re-interpretations of The Word. I had absolutely no insight at all into the why of it; I considered it in my own private arrogance to be some combination of gullibility and stupidity.

Of course, that arrogance led me right into my own ten years of enforced humility; Aspies have emotions, they just have little or no connection to the verbal parts of our brains. But we can be as easily manipulated with them as anyone else; more so, really, as we tend to think we are above all that, and are therefore emotionally vulnerable to appeals to very good opinions of our own inherent, superior-minded objectivity.

It took me ten years to see through that one, and it took some particularly blatant lapses on the part of my "guru" to realize that preaching and practice had diverged to the point that they were out of bow-shot of one another.

One can almost hear the angels snicker at moments like that.

But along the way, I realized something else. You see, as a side-effect to that ten-year purgatory and a series of emotional mishaps that would make for a very implausible reality show, I ended up in mental health triage and was diagnosed with profound clinical depression, a depression that was either somewhat cyclic, or which had predated my cultic diversion.

One of the most important characteristics of clinical depression and it's bastard cousin, anxiety disorder, is a complete inability to think in terms other than black and white, off and on, good and evil, Hatfield and McCoy, Cowboy and Indian, Christian and Islam.

If one is Good, the other is Bad. If what I am is "normal," than everything different than me is "abnormal," and dangerous. Here's where Anxiety comes in - Anxiety makes you obsess about the dangerous "other" while clinical depression makes you cling to your own idea of normalcy, no matter how objectively insane and potentially dangerous it is. Anxiety is no relation at all to Prudence or Caution.

Once I got some antidepressants into my system, I realized very quickly how very stupid I had been, and how impossible it would have been for me to realize that, short of hitting that wall.

So I don't make fun of people who see the world that way. I do consider them very, very dangerous, for I know what sort of excesses I would have accepted and committed in the name of maintaining my comfortable, if somewhat bizarre sort of "normal." I thank Goddess every day for the blessing of an unambitious cult leader. Consider the extent to which the followers of Jim Jones went to prove their own righteousness to themselves - they poured cyanide-laced kool-aide down their children's throats before taking their own lives.

I should point out that if you were to take all the followers of Jim Jones before their mass suicide and give them a battery of psychological tests, the vast majority would have tested "normal." This tells us something about our cultural ideas of what "normal" is, and perhaps something about the need for better testing.

At any rate, I had a mess of conflicts from that period that I needed to resolve. First, I had less trust for Authority than ever, both self-proclaimed spiritual authorities, and temporal authorities claiming the mantle of God. I considered both to be deceptive and dangerous by definition - and still do. Now I admit there are some of each who are quite sincere. Those I consider even more dangerous than the the unrepentant Marjoe Gortners of the world. Marjoe was quite happy taking your cash - the sincere want your soul, and will cheerfully crush your spirit or even kill you to "save" it.

Now, I should know; because of my peculiar blessings, it takes a lot more crushing to put a really permanent dent in me. While I did not think of my life as man and child as being any more remarkable than anyone else, I was forced to revise that opinion when it's exceptional negativity was brought to my attention during an emotional abuse assay that likened it to physical abuse on the level of frequent broken bones.

I can say that based on what I now understand of my parenting, my schooling and my later life, I should be a paragon of apparent normalcy. Or at least, should have been until a probable breakdown at or about the same time. I know a fair bit about the predictable courses of both legitimate and illegitimate psychological influence and pressure and I should have grown up as externally "normal" as, say, Donald Rumsfeld, had I taken my father's example or at least Al Gore had I taken more after my Mother's side.

Instead, I withstood far more stress without ever entirely losing at least a compass pointer toward the direction of reason and right action; being aspie and a multiple personality, I'm very resistant to pressure, and at the same time adept at avoiding it.

I speak of that as a blessing, as it's very difficult to take credit for being either dissociative or autistic; both are probably genetic to a large degree and if you happen to have both, whether it's a blessing or an affliction is pretty much a question of choice. I view it as a different mental toolkit and figure that it's better to explore what I can do with the relatively rare tools I have lucked into than try to compete at a disadvantage in areas I'm poorly equipped to handle.

But one thing I will say is that aside from the ability to mentally evade and ignore the worst pressures set against me by the people in my life, mostly with with the best of intentions, there is one thing that has sustained me since I was a very little child who took Sunday School very seriously:

My faith.

You see, I've always somehow always known that there is a God, a God who is somehow much larger and more pervasive than most commonly think, a God who is both compassionate and practical, loving and yet sometimes moved to outright schadenfreude by our misadventures, or at least, more than willing to let us suffer our bruises for as long as it takes us to get a clue.

I know this in a tangible sense, as surely as I know that I'm typing. It's something I consider to be so obvious as to be self-evident, and I believe that would be true of more people if they were willing to be less religious and more spiritual.

The key phrase for me was one that leapt out of the Bible at my face, years and years ago. "God made the Sabbath for Man, not Man for the Sabbath."

I'm constantly surprised that that phrase has survived accidents of translation, for you will not find the concept enshrined in any church or at the root of any mainstream doctrine; quite the opposite. Indeed, the Catholic church goes even further, to trump the entire Bible and any individual ethical collywobbles by stating with authoritarian arrogance that "church tradition is a superior guide than scripture or conscience."

Now, the only intelligent response to that is "g'wan with ye, ya heathen." No doubt the priests of B'all and the Quezaquatl human sacrifice cult would have said much the same thing - and for much the same reasons. It's the priests what live off the leftovers of sacrifice, you see, with an evident reluctance to do much sacrificing of their own.

Well, those particular red letters, "The Sabbath was made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath" was aimed straight at their bottom line. THAT sort of teaching was why He was crucified, and that is why the same thing will happen today, unless and until we laugh the greedy bastards out of our Churches, our Mosques, our Temples and our Groves.

Religion is for OUR benefit, not God's. We seek out particular religions and flavors of religions because they speak to us, not because one is superior to one or another. Being created first for the benefit of people, and then controlled for the benefit of those in charge, religions are imperfect by definition, and not to be taken any more seriously than they should be, as a means to an end. They are merely a means of structuring a time and a place where you can be spiritual in company better than you could if you stayed home, and if that costs a bit, and a priest or a preacher is good at bringing you to a place where you can be spiritual, well, then; "The worker is worthy of their hire."

Just so long as they don't get too uppity about their place in the grand scheme of things.

If you can do it better staying home, you should. If you are at all like me and find that groups of people and personal spiritual awareness are directly incompatible, you'd have to be some variety of stupid to put up with it. It's not just uncomfortable, it's BAD for you.

If you find that you are subjecting yourself and your children to the cold, judgmental stares of the dour and humorless, adjusting your daily life and routine to meet their approval, choosing your friends and your interests to avoid scandal, shopping and interacting only under the Sign of the Fish, - you would do better to dive head-first into a river of Triple-X porn. At least you might gain some insight into some pretty basic human motivations, that's never a wasted exercise. It's also never a wasted exercise to peek behind the Curtain that hides the Great and Terrible Oz.

Aside from that, a good orgasm is a more spiritually productive than an hour of feeding your anxieties with hellfire and your delusions with "pie in the sky."

There is a Jewish teaching that says that it is a Mitzvah, a Good Deed, to give your partner an orgasm, because it is the closest a person can come to seeing the face of God.

I'm sure that's a metaphor - but it certainly does have a profoundly liberating effect; it literally takes you out of your mind and body; the very opposite experience that those fearful Augustinian types would suggest.

Makes you wonder why they keep trying to paint white as the new black, doesn't it?

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Iraq: Forget winning. Forget losing. Let's beat the spread.

The Blog | Sen. Harry Reid: The Clock is Ticking, Mr. President | The Huffington Post

From Sen. Harry Reid's Blog:

Frankly, I don't believe that more troops is the answer for Iraq. It's a civil war and America should not be policing a Sunni-Shia conflict. In addition, we don't have the additional forces to put in there. We obviously want to support what commanders in the field say they need, but apparently even the Joint Chiefs do not support increased combat forces for Baghdad.

There's an even simpler reason, Harry. It's wrong. Going in was wrong, the people who planned the war were wrong, the administrators sent there are wrong, the ideas were wrong, the priorities were wrong, the money went to the wrong people; everything about this war was and is comprehensively wrong.

And now, after Cheney gets bitch-slapped by the Saudis, we are supposed to be their proxy army in a religious civil war between Islamist factions? We don't OWN a dog in this hunt, Senator. Not even our Islamic citizens do; as with all religious wars, it has almost nothing at all to do with the religions in question - and looked at it that way, we have neither laudable nor illegitimate reasons for trying to pick a winner.

Senator, I remind you that you represent a state of Casinos, and in the parlance of the casinos, it's not whether you win or lose; it's whether you beat the spread.

The House of Saud has lots of money, let them train and equip their own cannon fodder. Hell, let them hire mercenaries from Blackwater at the going rate.

I see no reason why we should be expending lives and treasure to protect Saudi interests. If Americans must die in this war, at least they should die very far in the black, with robust survivor insurance and pre-paid disability coverage.

We do need to increase recruitment of Regular Forces people so that the Guard and Reserves can go home, to replace casualties and to replace those who leave as soon as stop-loss measures expire. We need money to deal with the long term health care costs of the wounded and and their post-traumatic stress. And we clearly need to have a new generation of general officers, which means there must be larger classes of cadets, at least for the next few years.

Meanwhile, Sir, I suggest that research into more practical crops for bio-fuel generation than corn (ones that will grow as well or better in cornfields) and a much higher priority for both bio-fuel production and nuclear energy. We need a realistic way of dealing with nuclear waste. That's not Yucca Mountain - we need fuel reprocessing, ideally on-site.

We also need to look into sustainable crops for paper and fiber. That would be hemp, and hemp could further reduce our dependency on petrochemicals for fiber. It takes less fuel to harvest and process for paper. It makes better jeans than imported third=world cotton and you can't smoke it, unless you like migraine headaches, so lets get rid of that dumb law. Hemp is a not bad crop for stabilizing a clear-cut, so the timber companies might not scream as much as one might think, especially as the waste foliage and residue from fiber extraction could be feedstock for bio-fuel production. Oh, and giving the Mexican textile industry a huge boost wouldn't hurt our border issues any much.

Here's another suggestion for you; the deregulation of ethanol production for individuals. So long as they are using a properly designed, factory-inspected automated distillation apparatus, they may produce as much as they like for private use or sale.

At one stroke, you've made it possible for many small businesses to turn their waste streams into fuel for their business operations, for households to generate an additional revenue stream in poor areas and all without a single tax dollar being spent. Of course, a fuel still would not make drinkable ethanol from organic kitchen and yard waste with the occasional dog turd thrown into the mix. At best, one could hope for "relatively non-toxic."

But, yes, it is predictable that this will result in a proliferation of private distillation for consumption. Whether this is a problem depends mostly on how we chose to react to that reality. If nothing else, ethanol stills are a lot less toxic than meth labs, and sketchy folk can make money brewing 'shine, maybe they won't blow themselves up or poison their kids with toxic methamphetamine fumes. At the very least, alcohol is somewhat less personally destructive. Certainly it would be possible to create an infrastructure for reliable testing and grading of potable alcohols, and that gives you the ability to place a tax upon it, if you care to. If a tax stamp on a bottle of shine means "assured to be non-lethal," I think that's likely a tax paid for a useful service.

We need to start thinking seriously about simple and incremental means to soften the blow of a fuel crunch in case of a general middle east conflict and we need to free ourselves from being caught up in that dynamic. Driving down the world price of crude oil will definitely suck a lot of energy out of various terrorist campaigns and some very unfriendly regimes. Every barrel conserved or replaced is tiny victory in preventing widespread warfare over dwindling oil supplies as well as a significant boost to our economy and every individual bottom line.

Being addicted to mid-east oil makes it impossible for us to be an honest broker. Furthermore, it's a low cost way of developing a technology that could dissipate the looming Chinese energy crunch, forestalling a nasty resource crisis, and one that cannot be seen by the Chinese as "meddling," which almost any other approach could be. I'd much rather sell them a solution than be on the wrong side of their problem, and I feel I'm on firm Yankee ground when I say that.

Democrats - and indeed, Republicans and every stripe Independents need to start thinking outside of the box. We cannot afford to prop up current energy conglomerates to keep them doing what they are doing. We have already lost six critical years due to the Cheney "energy plan," and clearly sustainability was not part any part of that. It's time to throw wide the doors,and redirect the tax breaks and grants to sustainable energy. Let the market sort things out. After years of windfall profits, they have the resource to do very well by themselves if they choose to do well by us. They DO need to be reminded who is in charge of this nation, every bit as much as every other special interest who has been on the Iraqi Gravy Train to Hell.

Them what caused the mess outta be on the front lines of cleaning up the mess - or paying for it. But it would be wrong to think that the Iraqi clusterfuck was the result of malice. Had it been just that, we would not be in such an intractable mess. No, we have been ill-used and ill-advised by a generation of Neocon idealists, people who wanted to change the world for the better, in the very worst way. And lo, they were half-way successful. They did change the world, and they did it in the worst way.

But the fault was not in their lack of compassion, or of foresight; it certainly was not for a lack of sheer brainpower. It was due to the though that you could actually set off vast changes in how we do everything and predict a particular outcome.

Nope. You can initiate vast changes and influence a positive outcome by spotting and amplifying positive trends while damping negative ones. OR, you can aim toward a particular future with some reliability by focusing very narrowly and influencing change toward that particular end while accepting random fluctuations. You cannot do both at once on a massive scale and get anything you particularly want.

When things go to badly wrong, when the friction and stress levels in a particular area get too bad, you get rising levels of violence and even open warfare. Warfare is a symptom of large, systemic problems, so starting a war as a matter of foreign policy is akin to curing a cold with a syringe full of live rubella. Yes, you can then cure the rubella and when you have done so, if the patient survives, likely the cold will have passed as well. But they weren't cured of one disease; they simply survived two.

Their planning did not account for people who did not use their economic and social models as a basis for their own thoughts. It did not account for people who did not think in classical western terms, or with the biases built into English or the assumptions about the cultural roles of religion Americans take in with the mass-market formula we are given in place of that nasty pornographic breast milk. There was no place in their plans for chaos, for randomness, for sheer human perversity - and that is what you are dealing with in nearly pure form in the theatre of war.

Overwhelming firepower will overcome a large amount of chaos - but only by means of paradoxical destroying the remaining traces of order. And armies just plain suck at creating conditions suited for orderly civilian life; people who understand that don't do well in armies. Hell, that's one of the most persuasive reason we HAVE a large army; expensive as it is, it's both more useful and far cheaper than the prisons it would need to be replaced with.

The problem was not so much that the Bushes hadn't done sufficient planning; oh no. The problem is that they had far too many plans, far too many ideas, far too many people who were sure they knew how to get the job done! Not one of them would stray from their ideological purity to accept the plans or the input of the people who grew up there, knew the culture and had an idea of what would work and what was doomed to failure.

So we have the Neocon pattern of Faith-Based Failure, the folly of creating chaos and then trying to mold that chaotic mess as if it were wet sand at the beach. It's an apt analogy, for even if it had worked, it could only have worked to that extent; a superficial appearance of a vast and intricate order at the mercy of the first wave, rainstorm or passing spaniel.

But we are left with a big pile of chaos, and we must make the best of it. The best thing to do with chaos is to treat it like a big old murky pond filled with old tires, catfish and crawdads. You bait a line, throw it in and let your mind wander to your granny and her famous gumbo.

The worst possible mistake would be to attempt to plan a new energy infrastructure. That could take decades and we certainly do not have twenty or thirty years to piss away on this. The best way is to encourage as many potential solutions as possible so that competition and experience can narrow things down. Arguments over which fuel-stocks congress should support are dumb, just as arguments over whether we should emphasise wind, solar, nuclear or geothermal research and development. In all cases, the answer should be "yes." I'd say the idea would be to think in terms of tax breaks or subsidies contingent on units of energy delivered, with an eye toward making start-ups possible, and real dollars dependant on engineering and production efficiencies.

In other words, make it possible for as many people to try as many different approaches to this problem as possible. Start an energy rush!

This is not cause for panic or despair. Yes, it is the end of an era; we must change the way we do things because we are well past the point of diminishing returns. We certainly must take global warming seriously, and I think it prudent to prepare as well as we can for potential worst cases, not because I think the worst case predictions are that likely to come true, but because we will be prepared for the shocks, disasters and dislocations that we cannot possibly have anticipated.

I absolutely do not think there's any need to consider it as the likely end of civilization. It does mean a change in how we go about obtaining our needs and our comforts, it certainly implies rethinking how we upholster our caves - but a huge amount of the necessary thinking and prototyping has been done, is well understood and is already creeping into use. Some judicious tweaking of building codes could turn that into a wholesale rush.

The great advantage of a combination of passive conservation and diffuse technologies such as ethanol and bio-diesel produced in useful quantities close to or even by the end user is that aside from the obvious advantages, it's another layer of disaster-proofing that requires no central co-ordination or management.

It means that if mass energy distribution is disrupted by some disaster, there is in place a nearby capacity to brew up needed fuel, and a great deal of fuel in individual hands. The sheer advantage, for instance, of a higher percentage of people having a full tank of fuel in a time of evacuation is obvious - as is the advantage of having a large and distributed excess capacity for fuel generation from whatever biomass is at hand.

In national security terms, it means that nobody can hold us hostage - cutting off petrochemical supplies would be an inconvenience, not a disaster.

In cultural terms, it should mean a gradual drift toward sustainable living at or above the level of comfort we have become accustomed to and with the degree of mobility a free people require. I do not see this as an either-or, I see it as a range of choices; there are urban dwellers that wouldn't bother with cars if they had viable alternatives and could rent a car any time they felt the need. Enough people do this now that it's clearly both practical and cost-effective. More urban rapid transit would make this more possible.

But there is no way that people can be forced to change their whole way of life overnight as many radical greens would like. The only way a society changes is because it's to the advantage of individuals to change where they go, what they do and how they go about doing it; what they choose to buy and what they consider valuable to them. From that perspective, there is no single magical solution. There are many millions of tiny improvements that can add up to a magical result, if we go about things intelligently. It's possible, even easy to generate huge multiples of effect by tossing regulatory and incentive snowballs downhill - so long as you don't try to predefine who's yard the huge snowball lands in. Toss enough snowballs, and the "right" people will have more than enough to keep them fat, rich and busy for the next hundred years.

As I said, we need an energy rush. This will inevitably lead to a glut, because all of the parallel efforts to reduce energy dependence. So then you are left with all the things you could do if there were cheap enough energy to throw around... and the really smart folks are thinking about that opportunity already.

A lot of our problems could solve each other if we simply introduced them to one another. You put your hog farm together with a co2 emitting power plant and bio-reactor producing oil rich algae from hog waste and co2-rich stack gas. Suddenly your two waste streams are raw material for a whole new industrial process with nearly zero additional footprint and the operation costs covered by now-absent disposal overhead.

Instead of emissions and waste, you have a new raw product which can be used in the power plant, and the compressed, energy rich residue that can be animal feed. That smells green to me - as in greenbacks.

We have to step away from a culture that spends far too much time and effort trying to keep people from doing things we think they shouldn't outta do and start thinking about how to get folks actively exercising their perversity bumps for profit. The people who are generating the solutions, who are doing the non-linear thinking, the very people who support the progressive politics that swept you into the Majority Leader's suite are the very people the other guys have been pandering to, with their obsessions about social conformity and their willingness to create a living hell on earth for others in the name of forestalling hell for themselves.

Now, I learned in Sunday School that human sacrifice was a bad thing. Is that still taught in Sunday School, Senator? I think it's an important question to ask of your particularly Christian colleagues to your right.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Penis size, estrogen levels linked to Authoritarian Family Values

World Net Daily never fails to entertain. This excerpt provided by Right-Wing Watch, who were content to show what sort of bizarre and alleged thinking leads to ultraconservative christian posturing. Amusing as it is to point out the particular panic button the author is trying to push, I will point out that context makes this paragraph seem to be almost reasonable.

The real absurdities, as I point out below, are the unreasonable assumptions that are assumed by implication.

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because "I can't remember a time when I wasn't homosexual." No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can't remember a time when excess estrogen wasn't influencing them.

The fun thing here is that the premise is reversible. A diet rich in testosterone, taurine and other hormone analogues that enhance aggressive alpha-male posturing are just as anomalous as a diet rich in estrogen-enhancers. (Aside from the observation that generations of Samurai argue that the effect high soy-protein consumption cannot be all that profound.)

If the above argument is to be taken seriously, it must therefore be seen as a potential cure for behavior that can be linked to Testosterone Poisoning, a terrible affliction that can lead to absurd public posturing and an irrational obsession with penis size.

Taking the above argument seriously as evidence of doctrinal soundness is also quite entertaining. Note the argument from authority. "Homosexuality is always deviant." Alas, neither the Bible NOR the DSM-IV are reliable supports for this argument, homosexuality has been eliminated from the DSM as a disorder or deviance, although a recognition of clinical homophobia may well be on it's way toward inclusion. In regard to the Bible, serious study of the bible in the original texts and in relation to what we know about the relevant cultures they were speaking to, we find little evidence that there was any widespread concern about homosexuality outside of the context of Levitical ritual purity laws.

In order for the Bible to support this argument, we must accept that the Sin of Sodom was unbridled homosexual lust, instead of willful violation of cultural norms regarding the rights of guests, while also supporting that the Centurion and his Companion, who he loved enough to petition Christ for a miracle had a completely platonic relationship.

In historical context it would be surprising - almost astonishing, actually - had the relationship not been sexual. This behavior was something that did very much get up the noses of the religious Jews of the day; an added cause of friction and resentment between the cultures that Jesus could not have been ignorant of.

Odd that He said nothing. He was not noted for his ability to remain silent in the face of clear, systemic immorality, even when the consequences were potentially dangerous for him. Most spiritual leaders would have refrained from flogging the money changers and dove-sellers from the Temple. Indeed, most spiritual leaders would have wanted their own piece of the action.

But, having said that, I have to say that diet does profoundly effect human behavior, maturation rates, intelligence and health. It's not insane or indeed even particularly radical to be concerned about the individual changes in sexual development that a diet rich in soy might bring about.

What is bizarre is what is assumed - that our current diet is not affecting our socio-sexual development equally strongly; that high per-capita beef consumption has nothing to do with some of the more obviously failed cultural imperatives - such as the idea that pre-emtive aggression would solve the problem of terrorism.

By way of contrast, Gandhi's diet consisted largely of rice. We know that starch-laden diets tend to suppress aggressive tendencies and going to the extreme of a macrobiotic diet seriously impairs critical thinking, which is why diet is such an important issue to most cult leaders; it's possible to select the mindset you wish by restricting and/or mandating certain food items.

It is matter of undisputed fact that consuming large amounts of soy as an infant will have effects both immediate and long term. This is also true of diets generally high in protein (height), carbohydrate (width) and male hormones (aggressive behavior, possibly ADHD, binary thought processes associated with fight/flight hunter-killer reasoning.)

Thing is, whether these changes are good or bad are a matter of context, and the judgment as to what things you and your children should eat is generally based on what sorts of behaviors and thought processes any particular advocate or disadvocate finds distasteful.

The essential message here is "High levels of testosterone in boys is good. High levels of estrogen in anyone are bad." I'm not at all sure that's a defensible assumption.

For myself, I rely on my gut for decisions of this sort and my gut has eclectic, even catholic tastes.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Give a Clue this Christmas!

My Latest Autism Designs and what they mean.

People who are neurotypical tend to think in boxes. One problem with being on the Autistic Spectrum is that you tend to not think in boxes. As far as I can tell, our thought process is highly relational. We tend to not even SEE the boxes and we don't think in a binary way at all.

A great number of problems come from the inability to understand that different people can have starkly different ways of understanding the world around them.

We tend to assume that people who came up with a functional solution for a problem came to it in the same way; indeed, by way of the same initial perceptions. Autistics and Aspies are as guilty of this as anyone; indeed, it's been studied within the AS population. The reason it's not been studied within the NT population is simple; in the case of NT's, the assumption that another person has a thought process that works like yours does is statistically likely to be correct.

So, when an autistic person makes this unwarranted assumption, it's called "mind blindness" and the autistic is gently handed a clue in the form of "social stories." When an NT does it, it's in the form of an organization called "Cure Autism Now."

If "autistic thought" were not valuable, there would not be such a roster of famous thinkers, such as Einstein and Newton now thought to have been probably autistic to some degree. By the same token, it should be a profound clue that there are courses to teach neurotypicals to "think outside of the box," and almost all higher education is aimed at rooting out simplistic, either-or thinking and to over-ride fear and submission responses when you have to communicate about or defend your work.

The ability to think and function outside of the box is an asset of significant value; recognising that is especially important if you are planning to "do something for autistics." Their ability to function in 'in an appropriate way' is limited, but that does not imply their ability to function, given an appropriate context is as limited as it appears. The trick is to find that context; and in that context they will not have so much difficulty "being appropriate."

There's no area where this insight is more critical than in regards to the parents of autistics themselves.

Make no mistake; autism can be a crippling condition, and it's made worse by being a condition where you absolutely must depend upon others to accommodate your needs and accept limitations that those without the condition cannot easily see or understand. But even the most obviously disabled "autist" is as severely affected by presumptions of how their disability affects them and even more by refusal of others to accept our word for the accommodations we need.

This following paragraph is emblematic of the crippling parental fears that the 800-lb gorilla of the pro-cure movement exploits for funding and validation:
You are never prepared for a child with autism. You will gradually come to believe it, but never fully accept it, get used to it, or get over it. You put away the hopes and dreams you had for that child - the high school graduation, the June wedding. Small victories are cause for celebration - a word mastered, a dry bed, a hug given freely. - FAQs about Autism: Cure Autism Now
Those of us who object to such fear, panic and the pervasive bigotry that exists with in the pro-cure movement - as well as it's seemingly obvious ethical deficits are pretty soundly attacked, with all kinds of terrible motives assigned us. (Theory of Mind, eh?)

A great deal of the work on the support groups that accept AS persons as contributors - something of a rarity - is to get non-AS people to accept that our "inability to cultivate friendships" is not a crippling condition to us. Once we have our one or two friends - friends as geeky and weird as us, generally speaking, we are done. My personal limit is two, and what NT's call "friendships," I now interpret as "Acquaintances." Yes, of course that has profound effects in terms of my ability to sustain a social network, and that has cost me many opportunities; indeed even jobs. I try and work things so that one of my two has the social skills I lack and the willingness to use them on my behalf.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of very bad advice out there and some very bizarre ideas as to what will be helpful to people such as I, who are on the spectrum and who are nonetheless potentially articulate and intelligent beings. Mostly this revolves around the idea that a bad job of conforming to the expectations of others is superior to a good job of being me. Here's Lennie Schafer on the topic of "fake autistics" like me.

(What about "high functioning autism" and how does that fit in? Simply put, it doesn't fit in anywhere. High functioning autism is not clinically defined and is not in the DSM-IV, and for good reason. High functioning autism is an oxymoron. If one meets the criteria for a diagnosis of autism, by definition one cannot be high-functioning. It would be as silly as the term sharp-eyed blindness.) (1)

So why would a handful of people, amongst a few others, who apparently are for the most part Aspergers, if anything, want to identify themselves autistic? Perhaps because autism is a profound disability and Aspergers is a disorder that is mostly not. Autism thus carries more moral weight than Aspergers and therefore has more moral clout for self-esteem building political and social agendas. "We autistics don't want to be cured" carries much more punch than "We Aspergers don't want to be cured", especially given the reality that there is no movement anywhere that seeks to "cure" those with Aspergers into being anything else.(2)

Aspergers-labeled alone, they would be ignored by the press and would be denied the juicy sense of empowerment that would come with a high-profile "oppressed minority" movement article like the one in the liberal New York Times. (3) (4)

The New York Times reporter failed to do a journalist's most basic homework. She failed to check the credentials of those doing the complaining, despite my urging. Anyone can call themselves autistic and write cranky letters to the editor. So how does someone determine if a person is truly autistic,or is an autism imposter with Aspergers? Ask to see their diagnosis. If someone claims to have autism for purposes of making some political statement, ask them to prove it. In any of the correspondence I have had with the autism "imposters", not one has ever supplied such documentation. (5) Of course, it is highly unlikely to ever see it. The irony here is that if someone has enough language skills to effectively complain about the treatment of autistics, then they themselves cannot be autistic.(6) Apparently more than one big city newspaper has failed to see through this deception, so eager are they to get an unusual victim story into print. Can we afford to allow the interests of our autistic children and everyone else "on the spectrum" to be pushed out of the public eye and displaced by a handful of imposters crying a contrived victimhood? Who speaks for autism? Not this bunch.

Note that he, and those like him don't like being quoted, even under "fair use" constraints.

//Disable select-text script (IE4+, NS6+)- By Andy Scott
//Exclusive permission granted to Dynamic Drive to feature script
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Of course, if I committed so many foolish rhetorical errors in public, I'd prefer not to be used as a hideous example either.

  1. Argument from Authority. Of course, the process of determining what goes into the DSM-IV is pure and objective science .
  2. Aspergers is, in fact an autistic spectrum disorder and has quite a range of effects. As a step-parent of a diagnosed Aspie, I'm very aware of the fact that there are very significant issues involved. They are not so inconvenient to US, as parents. They are going to affect HIM quite significantly unless we find some adaptive strategies that work for him.
  3. As opposed to the entirely legitimate empowerment that comes from suffering the hideous, horrendous burden that is Autism.
  4. Of course, it's a liberal thing to be concerned about the civil rights of children being abused and neglected for the sake of the convenience and social comfort of their conservative parents. This is the root host for "Autism, A Debilitating Disease, not a Culture," a page that links to both Free Republic and Free Dominion, while telling Canadians they a vaccilating, unpatriotic fools for not joining the "Coalition of the Willing." Snark aside, the fact that this site, is associated with Authoritarian Right Wingers explains a lot about the entire, very authoritarian "curebie" movement.
  5. For myself, I want to see Lennie's MENSA results, his HIV status and full financials proving he's not unduly profiting from his activism before I deign to speak with him. I suspect he's unworthy of my attention, but if he proves otherwise, I will of course listen.
  6. Factually untrue.

Unpuzzled is my most militant anti-curebie design, with the slogan, "help find a clue."

I know, it's rude and confrontational, but I've found that sometimes you need to swat people with a clue-by-four in order to startle them enough so they actually listen.

Those "seeking a cure" tend to ignore everything from those of us who ARE on the spectrum because it doesn't fit into to their mindsets, just as they reject "inappropriate" responses to communications from their autie and aspie children.

This is especially true of issues about communication style, reasonable accommodation and most importantly, the concept that a difference need not be AS disabling as it seems from an "NT" perspective. And, speaking as someone who's gone round and round on this at various times and under various circumstances, those who most boldly wave the "puzzle ribbon" seem at times to be making a point of their puzzlement, and their inability to understand to be the issue of auties and aspies.

See point above about how many friends and relationships an autie or aspie needs in an emotional sense. We do not absolutely require a relationship with the biological parental units. It's a nice thing to have, but we cannot and some quantity of will not be as easily coerced by family emotional ties as neurotypicals can be. This is not just because we have a "faulty" connection between emotions and reasoning. Our reasoning is not emotional, and our emotional responses seem to be quite different - across the board. Put two aspies in the same room and they will communicate quite well indeed - but their body language, topic choices and intuitive negotiations of "status" will be starkly different - and one of the greatest differences is the relative lack of huge tooth-bearing grins with full eye-contact.

To an aspie, to most sensible primates and all cats I've ever met, bare teeth and a full-on gaze is, at the very least, a statement of territorial or situational dominance, inviting a ritual contest of wills to determine who will be in charge and who will submit. Your typical aspie doesn't wish to play that game, having no need or real desire to join your pack, so if you do see them bare their teeth - it's probably in the context of a genuine, non-ritualized warning that Bad Things Will Suddenly Occur If You Do Not Go Away NOW.

What part of "Agggh! [flap flap flap] [throw object] LEAVE ME ALONE" is unclear to you people?

The Chrome Unsmily FaceThe "Unsmily" design honors the "aspie smile," a neutral expression that essentially means "hailing frequencies open." That look of slightly blank attention is a sign that an aspie or autistic is willing to let you talk at them for a while. Indeed, oft-times we are listening so hard that we are not thinking about what we will say next.

No pointless social noises please! Talk about something that is both objectively important and something within the realm of my interest and ability to have an opinion on. Make a full statement, then shut up and let me talk at YOU for a while. Then it's your turn.

Appalling, isn't it?

Well, that is the way aspies and auties communicate best - asynchronously. The full give and take of an NT conversation is difficult for us, and those of us that can manage it are doing it because we realize that style of communication is important to our NT friends all out of proportion to anything actually communicated. Mostly we grunt and make what experience has taught us to be socially appropriate noises at the expected times.

We are quite unlikely to put up with attempts to get us to conform to your expectations of what people like you should be. We are not 'like you,' and while we do very clearly appreciate that you have social advantages we do not, and we all understand that any parent would wish their child to have every possible advantage - we also know that many of those "advantages" come with a price. Some of those prices are ones we cannot pay - and for many of us, compromising who we are or being less than honest about what we know to be true is a price we will not pay - no matter how politically incorrect it may be to point out that the emperor has no clue.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Now we know who the terrorists are.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) (S.3880) defines as "terrorism" causing any business classified as an "animal enterprise" (e.g., factory farms, fur farms, vivisection labs, rodeos, zoos and circuses) to suffer a profit loss and is punishable by a long prison sentence -- even if the company's financial decline is caused by peaceful protests, boycotts, media campaigns or leafleting. Defining non-viol
ent activist tactics that cause exploitive corporations to lose profit but don't physically hurt anyone as "terrorism" is both a deceptive misapplication of a serious termand a completely unacceptable violation of our Constitutionally-granted First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. Industry groups pushed the AETA through Congress quickly and with little public scrutiny.

The AETA was unanimously passed in the Senate on September 29th and on November 13th it was passed in the House with only 5 Representatives voting. President Bush signed the AETA into law on November 27th.

Read the full text of the bill

Clearly, the lame duck congress is trying to cause as much mischief and pay off debts to various industry supporters as possible before being turfed.

It also clearly illustrates who is really running this country and what sorts of people terrify them. Al-Queda it ain't. It's you, it's me, it's anyone who might be concerned about our food supply, the labor practices within the food chain, the standards and practices of the busnesses running that food chain, the ethics involved, related to people, animals and consumers...

In other words, you are the terrorist. As am I. Osama Bin Ladin - not so much.

This bill does nothing whatsoever to combat terrorism; instead it sweepingly defines any number of actions that are commonly considered to be first-amendment protected speech as terrorist acts. Expect it to be enforced selectively and convenienently.

If you were wondering if the "war on terror" might just be a cynical contrivance to get you to surrender your rights without protest, you need wonder a lot less. At the very least, this bill is a cynical attempt to use the war on terror to suppress your rights for the benefit of corporate agrabiz giants.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

My favorite Social Transgressive.

As long-time readers may know, ana voog is one of my favorite online people, and she's pregnant. Like most starving artists, she's short on margin for unexpected expenses. So am I, or I'd simply send her some money via her website. I'm sure that a lot of her lj and Myspace friends are in the same place on this and I'm sure there's a bunch of us that have stuff we make or do, so I was thinking, maybe an auction? I've got this astonishing bit of art that I did when I heard the good news.

I'm thinking I could put up some signed prints. Who's in?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

PSA : Code Amber Stick

The Amber stick (tm) is the next generation of Child Id software. It is
fully contained on a USB Flash drive so there is no software to download
and install.

The software on the USB drive is password protected and the data is
completely encrypted to ensure your privacy. If the USB device is lost
the data is unreadable without the password which you set when you
first use the software (the password can be changed at anytime).

Simply plug the USB drive into your computer (all computers made in
the last 10 years have at least one USB port) and the software automatically
starts and prompts for the password. Enter your data and up to three
photographs of each child, pet or person you want to protect and done.
The Amber stick will hold information on up to 100 individuals.

If a child or person goes missing you simply hand the USB device to
the police officer and give them the password to the software. Almost
all police cars now have an onboard laptop computer which is connected
to the police station over a wireless network so the critical information
is available to the entire department within minutes. No more searching
for a photograph to scan or the need for the officer to take critical
descriptive information by hand.

Missing persons and Missing pets flyers can be printed at the click of
the mouse as well.

For more information on the Amber stick (tm), and to order through Code
Amber, please visit

All sales help to fund the daily operation of Code Amber.

Volume discounts are available. Please contact us for details at .

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Populist Libertarian

Adam Ash cites Populism's Revival -- by James Lardner/ San Francisco Chronicle[PDF] and Lardner has many interesting things to say, which, I might add, nicely verify my own gut-check on this issue.

If cheap imports (or, for that matter, low-wage immigrants) could explain a long, sharp increase in inequality, France, the Netherlands and much of Europe would be going through the same experience; they're not. If skill was the crucial factor, the long-term winners would be the top 20 or 30 percent of Americans. Instead, they've been the top 5, 2, or 1 percent -- the 1 percent who now pocket almost a fifth of all personal income, roughly twice what their share was during the 1960s and '70s.

The data suggests a story of power rather than skill -- rule-making power. The trail of evidence leads into the arcane world of economic policy; and if you look back over the past few decades, ignoring the catchy labels ("deregulation," "personal responsibility" and the rest), you'll find a pattern of government action -- on taxes, trade and the minimum wage, among other things -- favoring corporate insiders and financial manipulators over the rest of us.

You'll also find inaction -- a wholesale abandonment of the tradition of public investment that, in earlier periods of our history, from the Louisiana Purchase to the G.I. Bill and the Higher Education Act of 1965, earned the United States the right to honestly call itself a land of opportunity.

I'm a Libertarian, but not a Libertarian that considers a "corporate individual" the same as a person. Nor am I a Libertarian of the "devil take the hindmost" variety, which seems at times to be the majority of all Libertarians. I feel "the government who governs least governs best" as Jefferson put it, but there's an irreducible minium, and that minimum should neither advantage nor disadvantage any citizen or group of citizens more than any other, if for no other reason than the simplest and most obvious. Every time the government gets involved in deciding who "should" benefit, they invariably screw it up. This is because such value judgments are made by underpaid, overworked civil servants based on obsolete data and studies that were commissioned by interest groups.

I'm also very aware that whatever form of government I think ought to exist, the one that will exist will either constitutionally serve the will of the majority - or something much, much uglier will occur, in order to maintain and preserve the status quo. And I'm quite well aware that few people indeed would comfortably thrive within a Randian universe. On the other hand, true Randians seem well-equipped to manage well enough in most any tolerable system.

But the return to Populism this is not seemingly the result of an ongoing political debate among the members of the electorate; this is much more a dawning realization that there has been theft and chicanery at the highest levels. It is a wholesale disgust with corruption over a span of years that leaves neither party - or indeed any person associated with Washington in general - wholly free of taint. Add to this the outrage of the heartlands, who thought that in sending a wave of republican freshmen into congress in `94, they would be changing things for the better.

Instead, they were presented with the results of corruption and indifference to the needs and fates of ordinary folks that passes all understanding.

So a return to populist politics is both inevitable and refreshing - even though it is a fickle wind from a dangerous quarter. That is why I join with my liberal and progressive friends and allies in pointing out that whatever size and shape government is, it's critical that it be an ethical and Constitutional government in these Americas (and yes, I mean all of them) that is concerned with the well-being and prosperity of The People - as a whole.

Yes, folks, the Internet is global. These sea-changes are no longer confined to our shores, nor do our borders keep the tides from rising. Or do you think Vinchente Fox's populism has been without effect here?

But more to the point, social changes happen when they become possible and practical. When they are both possible, practical and widely desired, those who object tend to be swept rudely aside.

A government that is concerned with the welfare and well-being of all citizens need not be expressed as some form of kleoptocratic socialism. Aside from being wrong, such centralized arbiters of "fairness" end up with results not all that different than the ones we find ourselves in now.

But I'd like to see a government that was actually useful to me on a personal level, one that I could use to leverage my intelligence, promote my talents, enhance my knowledge and which would in turn draw upon the skills, knowledge and abilities of all citizens. I'm not speaking of a vast revolutionary change - I'm speaking of a simple shift in the practical means of getting things done. And here I am typing to you, using something very much like that.

Part of that would involve a more direct conversation with citizens. This last election has been an education to the practical power of our voices in that regard; an electronic roar of outrage that could all too easily translate into more direct and violent expression were it stifled or ignored. So while the mainstream media tries to discount and, when at all possible, completely ignore this paradigm shift, it's increasingly at the expense of their own relevance.

Now, if that seems like a liberal screed, forgive me, but as Steven Colbert observed, "Reality has a well-known Liberal bias." Or more to the point, far too many of us - and I include many of my more curmudgeonly libertarian fellows in this - are far too attached to their ideas of how things should be and how people should act to have a very good grasp of how things actually are, and what people are actually likely to do. Anyone pointing that out gets called filthy names, like "liberal."

No philosophy of culture, of morality, of governance or economics that is based on such voluntary delusions can long persist, though it's outward trappings may well persist as a fig-leaf to a stark and ugly contradiction.

Free markets: If it were a free market for goods, services and labor, there would be nowhere near such a concentration of wealth and power as exists now. Come to think of it, why don't you ask one of your entrepreneurial fellows how "free" a market it is when you try to start up a new business. Aside from minding your own business, you pretty much have to hire someone else to do the paperwork that will permit you (conditionally, subject to review) to do business.

And there's few of those forms that actually do a damn bit of good for you, your employees, your customers or your environment.

But there is one thing that should be obvious - it's a lot easier for a large business to absorb compliance costs than a small one. Furthermore, they can throw money around in ways that a mom and pop business cannot.

Net result - Mom and Pop go out of business and end up wearing blue smocks at Wal-Mart.

As for their employees... Wal-Mart probably doesn't need them.

But all of these things could and should be changed, can be easily addressed with technology we have now and moreover, improved a great deal in terms of addressing intent.

First, we need a truly fair and free market for labor. One way of doing that is to ensure that there is a built-in social safety net so that people can afford to say "take this job and shove it."

It also eliminates a great deal of need for legislation intended to protect people from being unjustly fired. And not just legislation - litigation!

Tort reform restricting awards largely to actual damages would be the next step. I'd think an additional reform would be a possibility that a judge or jury could direct that the standard for criminal negligence had been met, in which case criminal sanctions would apply to those found negligent in a civil trial.

Universal access to health care that is user paid, but is not conditional upon an employer or current health. Simply creating that system - which is no more than secure database and wide area network - would save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars. Note that I'm not suggesting anything socialistic - what I'm talking about is much more a system of leveraging bets.

Insurance companies continue to do what they do, but the government sets up a standard and regulates a market, an exchange for, say, blocks of health consumers and coverage packages. It will not be determine what you have to do in exchange for a lower rate, say, or rationing coverage, or dictating whether you smoke or not, for example. You may pay more, you may pay less, but the system will be set up so that you will be able to have coverage - and currently, it's quite possible to be in a situation where nobody will take the money you could pay.

Now, this approach life easier for everyone, I might add, and that is what a government exists for, to make living together easier, help share the load of collective responsibilities, to promote neighborliness and maintain 'the commons,' the infrastructures that make life and commerce possible.

Here's where I depart from the most doctrinaire sorts of Libertarians, who believe every road should be a toll-road and all property private. In that universe, we'd all be nickled and dimed to death just trying to cross the street to buy a sandwich - with competing forms of variably-accepted currency, no less!

I'm an anarchist in terms of personal issues and freedoms, where personal choices affect only those involved. I don't consider "being offended" to be much of a reason for taking away even a smidgen of Liberty. If you insist upon walking about naked with your genitalia painted in day-glow colors, I imagine the social consequences are consequence enough. Mocking laughter certainly has a chilling effect on me!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Um, Bill? It's not that we can't have a conversation with you..

You usefully point out that you can't carry on conversations with computer geeks. Indeed there has been speculation about whether the ability to focus so valuable for technology jobs correlates with Asperger's Syndrome, a light form of autism. Nice job, making fun of people who aren't the social butterfly that you are.
Who's she talking at? Why, none other than our amazingly idiotic Bill O'Rielly, who has said this - and in public, no less!

I don’t own an iPod. I would never wear an iPod… If this is your primary focus in life - the machines… it’s going to have a staggeringly negative effect, all of this, for America… did you ever talk to these computer geeks? I mean, can you carry on a conversation with them? …I really fear for the United States because, believe me, the jihadists? They’re not playing the video games. They’re killing real people over there.

-Bill O'Reilly

I wonder if he's capable of realizing the true irony of a radio host and frequent TV personality talking about how hard it is to talk to "these computer geeks." Yeah. Geeks like Marconi, Edison and Bell.

Of course, I find it hard to talk to someone so stupid as to speak in such a way as to suggest that it would be better for us geeks to be "killing real people" instead of playing video games.

So, Bill, the reality is this; the geeks that make it possible for you to bloviate on the air likely can't be bothered to have a conversation with you, but aren't quite aspie enough to just tell you that.

Of course, if you do find this posted somewhere at Fox, don't bother checking the printout for fingerprints. There won't be any. And the video surveillance will clearly show it was Albert Einstein who tacked up the note.

Why I am thankful for ana voog

i'm glad i got to see the earth when it was plentiful.
i'm both happy and sad that i got to experience living in america in the most gluttunous time in history.
when one could take a full bubble bath every 5 minutes if you wanted to, full of fresh clean water each time.

i have luxuriated in water, drank from the faucet when it was actually tasting ok to do so, i swam in pools of crystal clear springs in south dakota,
i washed my dishes and clothes in as much water as i wanted. hot or cold.
i have lived the life of a king on 5,000 a year.

Thank Goddess for friends who say the things we should have, better than we could have, if only we had rememberet that it's the time to do that.

I'd comment more, but everything I need to say, I've said there in the comments.

But make sure and linger a bit to learn more about ana voog.

Evolve - A graphictruth from someone else for a change...

Originally uploaded by progresswear.

And it's a damn pretty picture, too.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

In case you'd forgotten, the President is a lying' bastard.

Bush admits it right to their faces because he's been rankly lying about anything and everything ever since he ran for president and never, not once, paid a penalty for it. Think about it carefully--for anyone else a public admission of lying would be absolutely devastating on a professional and personal level.

Sorry, dear, I lied about sleeping with that perky admin half your age. No big, right? Yeah, boss, I said I delivered all those parts when I actually drank beer for two hours. So?

But for George Bush implacable rules of life just vanish, so he doesn't care, admit it right out loud on the record, why not? This horrifying national psychosis--words chosen with great attention--was very carefully and deliberately enabled by The Washington Post as they scrubbed their stories to hide the lying.


Now, it's a Bad Thing to lie to the American People and to Congress. Particularly to members of Congress who's campaigns were damaged with all the "stay the course" rhetoric and public defense of Rummy right up to the "Heave Ho" moment.

But, hey, such trivial considerations of consequence are beneath our "decider." I can't complain about the outcome, of course. I merely point out that trusting a known and famous liar ain't the path of prudence, as many Republicans found to their cost this past election.

And meanwhile, the WaPo is trying to revise history - unaware of the Google Cache and The Memory Hole, apparently. These days, revising web history is merely an amusing spectacle of futility, rather like a cat covering up on linoleum.

Feith-Based Politics and the Comedy that is Carville

I hate to be vulgar, but really, how far inside the beltway do you have to be before you fly up your own ass and disappear into a strange parallel universe?

Two of the more powerful second-string "Beltway Boys" have managed to prove that the only difference between Republican fuckups and Democratic ones is who's become most insulated from the consequences of their ideological isolationism.

Slate reports:

Douglas Feith: What has the Pentagon's third man done wrong? Everything.

Why is Feith involved with all these foul-ups? How could one man be so consistently in error? Nearly every critique of the Pentagon's plan for Iraq's occupation blames the blinkers imposed by ideology. For example, The New Yorker reported last fall that Feith intentionally excluded experts with experience in postwar nation-building, out of fear that their pessimistic, worst-case scenarios would leak and damage the case for war. In the Atlantic earlier this year, James Fallows told a similar story: The Pentagon did not participate in CIA war games about the occupation, because "it could be seen as an 'antiwar' undertaking" that "weakened the case for launching a 'war of choice.' " The State Department's Future of Iraq Project, an effort that accurately predicted some contingencies that the Pentagon overlooked, was dismissed by Feith and company out of hand.

And while the Pentagon's assumptions of an ecstatic, sweets-and-flowers-bearing populace that would welcome the occupiers as liberators may have been understandable in February 2003, Feith continued to let ideology rule his decisions long after the "major combat operations" ended. Last September, Knight Ridder reported that Paul Bremer's request for more than 220 employees for the occupation had yet to be approved. Guess who was to blame? "It is taking forever because Feith only wants true believers to get through the gate," a senior administration official said.

Well, we all know how well that worked out. Read the whole story, it's damning. By the by, though the story says nothing, it's difficult to read it without thinking that anyone above Feith should have noticed a difference between promise and payoff - somewhere around, oh, say, 2004. Why? Well, almost everyone outside of the beltway who wasn't sucking up to someone inside the beltway had some questions about performance, even some damn hawkish hawks. There were whole bunches of news items - like the looting, like the destruction of Iraqi Interior Ministry files - that were cause for alarm, that were indications of bad preparation.

The worst, of course, was the blatant failure to secure Iraqi munitions dumps, a failure that has cost thousands of lives, both civilian and military. That was a decision that caused me to wonder aloud to myself if someone in charge was smoking crack, as it seemed to me the exact opposite of any prudent decision based in sound military training.

Now, it seems likely that it was a decision made under the delusion that the Neocon Vision would prove true, there would be no insurgency, and democracy would flourish as predicted, so long as "nay-saying defeatists" were kept away.

But such delusional thought-processes are far from being unique to the Right Wing.

Fatcat politics links to the New York Daily News

Clinton tells Carville to sit down and shut up.

Ain't it rich... The mighty Carville (mighty wrong a lot) got shot down in flames for his remark about replacing Howard Dean at the DNC. I love it... He underestimated the importance of Dean's 50 state strategy along with a bunch of weeping wingnuts (Santorum at the top of the list) and had him a little hissy fit because he didn't get to be the guru that had it all figured out.

The beltway spinmeisters are all mad because they got bypassed in the groundswell of voters ire against the Republicans. They are still in denial of the netroots and the 'base' that Dean built in just two short years. They eagerly took credit for the tsunami when it was actually Dean who provided the earthquake that triggered it.

Hil's no dump Dean fan. Her camp sez Carville on his own in coup bid

The Clintonistas don't want an undeserved backlash from the activist wing of the party that overwhelmingly supports Dean, especially because some anti-Clinton Democrats have blamed Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) for the attack by Carville, a longtime Clinton insider. Those forces claimed Carville's motive was to topple Dean in favor of a chairman more favorable to Sen. Clinton's bid for President.

Carville's remarks last week came as House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) bungled the race for Democratic majority leader. Party operatives acknowledged the Carville and Pelosi sideshows were detracting from their election victories.


I have to be honest, I've always liked James Carveille - in the same way I've always had a soft spot for Magneto and The Joker. He has class, he has style, he's gloriously, unapologetically, flamboyantly villainous - and convinced that his Cause Is Just, of course, at least when colloquy is called for. But essentially, he just likes beating the crap out of the other side, and I think we saw him at his personal public best playing the Snake in Crossfire episodes with Tucker Carlson as the Mongoose.

I kind of wish John Stewart hadn't ruined that gig. It was a lot of fun and it kept both of them out of trouble for days at a time. Furthermore, some of us have an appreciation for the pure art of rhetoric. But I suppose that John did have a point; the people did deserve better.

The Beltway Boys - all of the Insiders - are more concerned about appearances than about real issues of real consequence. It's easier to spin issues if the issues themselves are framed as simple, black and white concepts that have a "republican" approach and a "democratic" approach.

In fact, there are a few approaches that will work and a very great many that will not, and if your major considerations are maintaining power while appearing to attempt to do something - only to be Thwarted by Evil Plotters On The Other Side - the odds of finding a program that will work is nil.

But this is politics in Washington, and it's worked with great success for a very long time - so well, in fact, that a lot of people involved forgot that it was a political tactic and came to embrace it as a reliable expression of reality.

And when people like that came into total control of the party and the nation - people who chose to believe in religious, economic and social fairy tales as being preferable to inconvenient realities; that's when the stark comedy of errors commenced.

It's fashionable to suggest that Democrats would have been no better. I tend to disagree. Democrats have different fairy tales, and while they certainly would have done no better implementing theirs if they were able to be so consistently deluded, working from the same ideological page - pardon me, I'm snickering too loudly.

The thing republicans see as the greatest weakness of Democrats in particular and people left of themselves in general is their lack of "team spirit," their inability or unwillingness to defer personal gratification for the "greater good," as defined by some schmuck with more clout in the party.

Nope, left of center folks tend also to be less willing to worship at the altar of Authority, and "Because I said so," is met with raspberries and overripe fruit. This is why Carville got shut down, frankly.

He may well be an authority - but he's an authority on old fashioned, bare knuckles dirty politics that depends on a small cadre of True Believers to do the bidding of their cynical and utterly amoral leadership.

The netroots - well, look around. Pick a blogroll, pretty much any blogroll that doesn't include Free Republic and you will find thinking people making very uncomfortably astute policy observations. Howard Dean is an example of a man who realizes that the netroots is a completely new phenomenon, one that demands a new era of leadership, one that's unafraid of meeting reality head on.

In many ways, Iraq and Vietnam are very comparable. Both wars of choice; both wars of ideological "necessity." Both wars required a great deal of contrivance and a huge amount of information control to sustain. Both collapsed when reality failed to support any conceivable version of "victory."

But it took decades for that point to arrive with Vietnam, with total casualties in the millions. With Iraq - there were far too many information leaks to plug. In fact, I think it likely that in the last year or so, information management has been fairly much all the White House and Pentagon has been doing, leaving them few resources to to actually achieve much of any meaning.


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