Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Well, that settles it, then!





It's official. US Conservatives have lost all touch with reality. Why? Well, according to "Mainstream Conservative," a Rasumssun POLL clearly establishes that climate change is a hoax.

He quotes the poll; I follow suit:

Forty-four percent (44%) of U.S. voters now say long-term planetary trends are the cause of global warming, compared to 41% who blame it on human activity.

Seven percent (7%) attribute global warming to some other reason, and nine percent (9%) are unsure in a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.
I find it bizarre that anyone who is NOT actually a climate scientist claims certainty on this matter. It's one reason I rarely remark on the matter, bu apparently silence breeds this level of stupidity. I can't imagine what William F. Buckley would have had to say, but it would not have been complementary to this brand of "Mainstream Conservatism."

Or Barry Goldwater, for that matter.

There is much that I would disagree with in terms of priorities in the statement illustrated above, but not a thing in terms of principle. And yet, while claiming the right to the legacy of "Mister Conservative," no single movement in modern politics has done more violence to Constitutional principles and individual liberty that the sort of "mainstream conservatism" that "Mainstream Conservative" advocates.

As far as I'm concerned, the proper role of a responsible conservative IS that of skeptic. It is about not being stampeded by social panics or losing one's brains in the face of crisis. And always, always, ALWAYS to ask, even when the need is indisputable, "what will this cost and how shall we pay for it?"

Nonetheless, let us remember that the most important matter to a genuine Conservative is value; an assessment of things that are of tangible and transcendent importance. Conservatives in their hearts know that one neither can nor should try to preserve everything; that indeed, not only is change inevitable, it's often desirable - so long as changes are implemented prudently and intelligently.

Prudence, caution and respect for intelligence was cast to the winds with the onslaught of Reganism; a triumph of feelgood populist appeals to nativist truisms and exceptionalist thought over the obvious, if sometimes inconvenient truths that arise from cause and effect. Clearly, cheerleading that twaddle for thirty or more years clearly leads to genetic damage. Crowing that public opinion PROVES that "global warming is a myth" proves just how utterly fucking consciously stupid you have to be to be a "Reagan-Thompson-Palin conservative."

It's an opinion poll! Even if the poll is scientifically valid in itself, all it measures is what people believe. It cannot and does not say anything as to whether that belief is accurate. To assert otherwise is the worst sort of cargo-cultic magical thinking, and that is without factoring in the depth of the bullshit we all have to wade through to get to the facts.

Even if it were that the result of an honest difference of INFORMED opinion, instead of the result of years upon years of bullshitting and propaganda, dating back to the seventies of "science" bought and paid for by the oil and coal industry - it still would not be worth a fart in a high wind. Why?

This is the sort of matter that is true or not regardless of what you, I or anyone believes.

It's true or not regardless of what your climate models say, or what data set you have, honest, cooked or falsified entirely. The only thing that will inform you what a prudent, conservative, rational response to any emergent issue is as many hard, cold facts as possible. Agitating against the people who are actually doing the science to get the facts we need is utterly criminal stupidity.

Right now, I state no solid opinion as to whether anthropogenic inputs are a significant factor in climate change. I state that because I understand something "Mainstream Conservative" does not: I have not the slightest qualification to HAVE such an opinion.

Indeed, the matter is of such mind-boggling complexity that no single scientist can possibly have a good enough handle on it to do more than contribute to a scientific consensus.

That scientific consensus exists and that scientific consensus states with very little equivocation that climate change is occurring - and that it is highly probable that our actions have contributed to it. In other words, we have a choice between the highly informed widespread consensus of thousands of experts using the best information and best simulations possible - as opposed to a few well paid "contrariness" and the "skeptical review" of people who also tend to believe The Rapture is immanent and that the fossil record is ALSO a hoax.

My opinion - for what it's worth - IS based on going to the the data to the degree that I can digest it at all - and seeking out as many different sources as possible. That leads me to assume that betting against the current scientific consensus is akin to trying to improve two pair on the draw. You might actually do it often enough to think it's worth betting on. If it's a small pot, it's worth the risk. But in case you haven't looked around, we are all in. And you don't go all in on two low pairs in the face of a possible straight flush.

The data persuades me that, for whatever reason, we ARE facing a significant global climate change, there WILL be much more severe weather, there WILL be significant changes in fertility, ocean currents and weather patterns may change and if we do not start planning and acting now, we will have a catastrophic situation on our hands within twenty years.

Of course, I could be wrong. So could all the climate scientists. There could be mechanisms at work that they have never observed or understood. No one understands that better than they do. But we are at a point now where we must act on what we now understand. We cannot wait to be certain, because that certainty will be established by the very events we need to be prepared for.

And, what's the worst case if the worst does not occur? We will have transformed our economy by massive investment in green or at least green-er tech, we will of necessity broken the monopoly on energy currently held by energy cartels and therefore made not just ourselves, but the entire world much more secure.

All wars are resource wars; any rumor to the contrary is bullshit for the plebes. For examples of what sort of bullshit - consult any statement by Donald Rumsfeld.

It's criminal if he was manipulating us and the pinnacle of incompetence if he believed what he said with a straight face; either way, it's pretty damn clear that confidently asserting something does not make it come true. And it doesn't matter how many "warbloggers" and "mainstream conservatives" believe your bullshit. Why? Because facts are facts, reality is reality, cause leads to effect and shit rolls downhill no matter WHAT your chief economist says.

We will also have to address the issue of a secure food supply and to do that, we will again have to restructure the way things are currently done. Again, concentrated control over monoculture food supplies are disasters waiting to happen - an observation of fact that should transcend any political viewpoint, and is certainly a compelling state interest of every state that wishes to REMAIN a sovereign state.

This situation is global, and we simply do not have the luxury to afford widespread pissing matches over water, oil or food. Not when we have the knowledge and technical ability to address these things for far less than such wars would cost.

And - fortunately - we have the knowledge to do this, if we can sweep distractions, denial and disaster capitalism aside. Because - let me be absolutely clear on this - while one may be legitimately and properly skeptical about the worst case scenario, it is absolutely bizarre to suggest that climate change is "a hoax." Climates change.

We have benefited from a long period of relatively stable climate, but that appears to be a somewhat uncommon thing. And there's rather a lot of evidence in the fossil record to suggest that not only do climates change, they can change rather rapidly. When they do change rapidly, those creatures that do not adapt - die. Rapidly.

It would be a shame to die from sheer ignorance and stupidity in the face of the inevitable - but that is often the way of things.

But, if you honestly believe that this is all a hoax with the sole intent of separating you from your jacked-up assholemobile - if you are certain enough to bet your life, your fortune and family - than I do encourage you to invest in waterfront property on the California or Gulf Coasts. Hey, once this hoax is busted, it's going to be worth a fortune!

Not just cute; Hedgehog Cute!

BEST SELLER --- Daisy Mae Calendar 2009 calendar
My usual practice is to post my own works as illustration for a post, but this one came through my fan club and I spent fifteen minutes of drooling idiocy going oo! Is so KUTE!

I pass it on in service of that. Because we all need fifteen minutes of that, and I can get to global warming and government corruption later.


BEST SELLER --- Daisy Mae Calendar 2009 by noodleli
Many more 2009 Calendars at www.zazzle.com
Browse other Other Mammals Calendars

Monday, January 19, 2009

Krispy Kreem; Mae West and Wingnuttery

Krispy Kreme to Give Out Inaugural Donuts; Right-Wingers Go Nuts | PEEK | AlterNet

"Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is honoring American's sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day, Jan. 20. By doing so, participating Krispy Kreme stores nationwide are making an oath to tasty goodies -- just another reminder of how oh-so-sweet 'free' can be."

Sounds good. A free-donut campaign to coincide with Inauguration Day celebrations seems like a tasty promotional gesture.

But Krispy Kreme used the "c" word, and the American Life League is outraged. "The unfortunate reality of a post-Roe v. Wade America is that 'choice' is synonymous with abortion access, and celebration of 'freedom of choice' is a tacit endorsement of abortion rights on demand," the group's president, Judie Brown said in a statement. ALL added, "President-elect Barack Obama promises to be the most virulently pro-abortion president in history. Millions more children will be endangered by his radical abortion agenda. Celebrating his inauguration with "'Freedom of Choice' doughnuts -- only two days before the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to decriminalize abortion -- is not only extremely tacky, it's disrespectful and insensitive and makes a mockery of a national tragedy."

There are many things one could say about this reaction. "Bizarre" springs to mind. "Contrived" is one other thought. But then something about the page itself struck me, and I realized it was truly a Mae West moment.



In these days of context-sensitive advertising engines, Mae West's observation about publicity is more true than ever:

"I don't care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right."

Actually, it's a gift from God, as far as I'm concerned - and no doubt to the good people at Krispy Kreem, who may well remember just how Florida Orange Juice (Due to spokescreature Anita Bryant's anti-Gay Crusade) became a touchstone for the Gay community in the 70's and 80's. It no doubt contributed to market share on the west coast. Gay activists credit her for inspiring the political activism of the gay movement today - in the same way as the Dredd Scott decision and various lynchings brought about the Civil Rights Movement in a direct line to Martin Luthor King and Barack Obama.

Well, now, thanks to Winguttia, Krispy Kreme may well be positioned to become an iconic snack of pro-choice voters, thanks to human perversity. But even if that doesn't happen, or is simply a passing ironic social comment, it's still worth noting - as a revelatory "tinky-winky moment."

That is to say, a moment wherein someones belief system - or more usually, their beliefs about someone else's beliefs - leads them to say something so utterly absurd that it provokes disbelief and reconsideration of that person's status as an authority about anything.

There's a precept I was taught long ago that can be summarized like this; "that which you accuse others of doing most frequently is what you are most guilty of yourself."

I think it extremely unlikely that Krispy Kreem would be so foolish to try and market their donuts just to "pro-choice" people. In this case it's pretty clear that the word is intended in the usual, English sense - of celebrating democracy and freedom of choice on inauguration day.

Likewise, I doubt very much they were trying to use "subliminal" or "coded language." That is much more the style of the right wing - who in condemning it as vile and deceptive when they see it in others, name it for the manipulative and dishonest practice that it is. Nonetheless, it's Right Wing - and particularly religious Right Wing people - who give the seminars on the practice. They may see it in the harsh light of day as being a little bit wrong - but not nearly so wrong as permitting the easily led to think for themselves! Nor am I being sarcastic in the slightest.

If you deeply, genuinely fear that people, given a choice, will always make the wrong choice because they are inherently evil, then "choice" is a very bad word indeed, and it makes perfect sense to associate that word with as many things you hold to be depraved as possible - if you believe that choice inherently leads to damnation.

This is, in fact, a fundamental tenant of many of the religions nearby or squarely within the Dominionist camp. All persons are evil, are saved only by coercion and self-denial. All things beautiful and pleasurable, interesting and fun are probably, if not definitely Tools of the Devil, particularly if they contain that most lethal of substances - "Ideas."

Speaking of books that contain ideas, you will not find that doctrine in the Bible. You have to do some pretty bizarre contortions and selective readings to come up with it. But it's accepted as Gospel - heh - within the Right Wing Church.

They believe that people, even children and particularly women are evil. By definition. (The Doctrine of Original Sin)

The only people who may not actually be working evil deliberately are your coreligionists. And of course, one of the greatest proofs of being Not Evil is discipline and Obedience to Proper Authority.

You know, people like Ted Haggard or Jerry Falwell. Nor are they exceptional, or "bad apples." They are both pretty typical examples of their sort - grifters, scam artists and profiteers.

The more that I've looked into it, the more I've come to realize that under the rhetoric, the issue of when life begins is immaterial; a mere tactical convenience that allows for visceral emotional, thought-stopping appeals. If that were actually the driving issue, it would imply certain other beliefs and calls to action which either do not exist at all, or do so with little or no support from the hard core "anti-choice" wing; social supports and mechanisms that would make it far easier for women to bring a pregnancy to term and support a child regardless of their personal circumstances.

Couple that to the same people objecting to the idea of birth control measures - even condoms and sex ed - and we realize what the real "choice" they object to is:

The issue is the right to choose to have sex at all, as opposed to an assumed duty to obey someone who's been issued a "fucking licence" by the dual authorities of Church and Male Parent; even when that obedience requires a sacrifice of one's own self interest and individuality.

The issue here is that people are not supposed to have the unquestioned right to choose. Sexual choice in particular; the early church fathers were obsessed with sex to a degree that would point to clinical disturbance in this day and age - but really, the idea of any individual choice is deemed frightening. Consider the practices of various religious orders that exist to make it possible to go through weeks and months, if not years without ever having to make a single, individual decision.

(Religous orders can be good or bad, of spiritual benefit or a system of brainwashing. Arguably, it's difficult to achieve the one without a degree of the other. But it will always turn out for the worse if the practice is accepted from authority as revealed without examination.)

At most, they may expect to have one or two permissible options, but never without the input of an Authority, for - and this is according to the doctrinal underpinnings of right-wing American Protestantism - people are literally incapable of making correct choices without the benefit of "grace," so, those who do not share that faith are obviously, consciously and clearly "of the devil."

By the way, from a theological standpoint, from any reasonable reading of the texts, it's complete nonsense. But it's terribly convenient nonsense, for it makes an authoritarian structure unquestionably necessary for salvation! Disobedience will, absolutely, lead to hell - if you believe the Authorities, who are more than willing to send you there, lest your arguments seem persuasive. Those who disbelieve are either freethinkers - such as myself - or members of various priesthoods. Which one becomes, after actually reading the Bible and the arguments for such silly doctrines really depends on one's ability to stomach hypocrisy in the name of personal advantage and/or "The Greater Good."

That's why it is so important to question authority, to provoke such authorities into making statements; to see if they actually ARE authoritative or are "just playing an authority on television."

As much as I pelt Augustine and Paul with bitter fruit from fallen trees, they had lots of good stuff to say as well. So long as you realize they were human, the products of their time and philosophical context and therefore limited in their ability to give absolutely correct guidance in all matters.

But first, you have to realize that even if the bible WERE the "Inerrant, Literal Word of God," it would still not support such constructs as Reconstruction Theology, Original Sin, Marionism, Calvinism or Augustine's views on the place of women within the Church.

Once you give up the Magic Fairy Dust Theory of Inspiration, the idea that despite centuries of translation, cultural shifts and linguistic difference, the King James Edition is absolutely and literally true, you find that the Bible is one of the more concentrated sources of wise and human advice known to mankind - and that the King James the most beautifully poetic way of expressing it - in the English Language, of course, and In My Humble Opinion.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ethics, Law and Torture



Glenn Greenwald sets it up.
Binding U.S. law requires prosecutions for those who authorize torture - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com:

International treaties which the U.S. signs and ratifies aren't cute little left-wing platitudes for tying the hands of America. They're binding law according to the explicit mandates of Article VI of our Constitution. Thus, there simply is no way to (a) argue against investigations and prosecutions for Bush officials and simultaneously (b) claim with a straight face to believe in the rule of law, that no one is above the law, and that the U.S. should adhere to the same rules and values it attempts to impose on the rest of the world. Last week, Paul Krugman stated about as clearly as possible why this is so:

I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.

It's just as simple as that. Once Eric Holder stated unequivocally that waterboarding is torture, and once a top Bush official used the word "torture" to describe what the U.S. did at Guantanamo using authorized techniques other than waterboarding, the "discretion" to investigate and prosecute disappeared-- at least for people who believe in the most basic precepts of the rule of law and equality under it, Western principles of justice established at Nuremberg, and the notion that the U.S. is bound by the treaties it signs. There simply is no way to argue against investigations and prosecutions (and no way to argue that we should use torture-obtained evidence against Guantanamo detainees) without fully rejecting all of those principles.

Precisely. And let us not fall into the trap of thinking this is a matter of political viewpoint, although, tragically, the breakdown is along political lines. But let us remember that if we leave these damnable precedents in place, if the international community does not demand an accounting in support of US "Leftists" such as Greenwald - then the precedent will stand that "It depends on who's doing it."

Here's the fundamental principle. Torture is an affront against human dignity. It is not just accidentally or coincidentally a form of terrorism, or a contributory factor to terrorism, it is and has always been a primary MEANS of state terrorism. It is always the first choice of oppressive states, and the fact that Saddam Hussein used torture was one of the favorite talking points for removing him from power.

Well, it was and remains a persuasive argument. And the fact that it is legally impermissible under law to NOT investigate and prosecute is a fortunate thing for the Obama administration, for if they present this fact to the American people, they can ensure that justice is done without undue political fallout.

Not that it should matter. Nor should it even be a question, any more than it should have ever occurred to the Bush Administration to USE torture in the first place.

But then, perhaps we should consider why it is so easy for the US to consider the use of torture and condone the abuse of authority in the first place. Perhaps citizens should consider why they condone domestic excesses that are not all that much different, save to degree, and factually much greater in scale.

But if the moral argument is insufficient, I point to a larger and very urgent concern: the economic argument.

As Kevin Phillips outlines in his book, Wealth and Democracy, a primary cause of the decline of the last three Western empires (Spain, Holland and Great Britain) has been bankruptcy through militarization.

As each of these empires became wealthy and powerful, it attempted to maintain its world position through military spending, each time imagining that its wealth and power were limitless. In each case, the vast military expenditures crippled the empire, leading directly to its decline. It should be obvious that the United States is well into this process of damaging itself with its own military expenditures. With a $10 trillion debt (much of it to countries that could easily use it against us) and an annual deficit that has been running close to $500 billion, the time is ripe to push for a maximum reduction in military spending (that could reduce the average deficit to zero). While our nation does not have moral right to forego those aspects of the military budget that pay for past wars (primarily veterans' benefits), transforming our military from an offensive weapon into an institution for national defense would be an affirmation of American principles stated in our founding documents, while saving our country from the historical course of all empires that turn toward militarism.

I am by no means a pacifist, nor do I discount the importance of a professional defense establishment. But it's utterly insane to devote more than half of one's economy to the miliatry. It's a stunning waste of money and human talent. The price of ignoring Eisenhower's advice to beware of the "Military-Industrial complex" has been high, and it's corrupted society to an extent that easily rivals the issues that faced the citizenry of the Eastern Roman Empire.

But the deeper problem, as David Hilfiker illustrates in the above-cited article, Now I Understand Why They Hate Us, is realizing that US culture has come to unquestioningly accept that force based approaches are the first and best way to deal with any issue, a mindset that expresses itself in everything from education to economics. The cultural cure for any complex problem is simply a bigger hammer.

And this leads to situations that are not merely made worse by the means of response, not merely more costly, not merely appalling from the viewpoint of honest ethical understanding, but which create situations which would allow Sun Tsu to kick the US and it's collective assets with a girl scout troop.

That is one significant reason why I have decided to return to Canada. While by no means a perfect nation, Canada is neither blind to the consequences of it's own action nor enslaved by a military-industrial fetish. It has a small, but extremely professional military and a government that has as it's primary ethos this motto: "Peace, Order and Good Government."

By contrast, the United States has not had peace, outside or inside it's borders, for more than fifty years. It certainly has no order. It cannot even make a pretense of good government. Yet these three things are things citizens of any government are entitled to, as a matter of obvious first principles; these are the things that make it desirable to have a government in the first place.

I'm fortunate in that I could choose to walk away. I decided that, while I have great hope that the United States will re-invent itself in a positive way, I could see many ways in which that process could fail, or take a great deal of time and cost much misery. I admit to being unwilling to be part of an army of change, particularly when I question the very oppositional paradigm that expresses.

I'm deeply concerned that the United States has become, in fact, two nations, at the very least, with entangled but uncommunicative populations that are unwilling to even consider, much less respect the viewpoints of others. I don't think it unfair to describe the culture of the United States as being violently insane.

I have come to the point where I doubt the utility of trying, even in my own small way, of resolving the difference between the various camps. Right now, I'm watching Barack Obama trying very hard to be seen as a president for all Americans. I'd advise him to make such an effort - but to expect it to be rejected and for his political and social enemies to emerge very quickly.

I would also advise him to see them as such - for in truth, the views generally described as Progressive and the views of the religiously-motivated Right Wing are antethetical. Actually, the views of the religiously motivated domininous right wing are antethetical to the Constitution, to the Enlightenment and to the very concept of individual liberty. I do not see this as a tension between Liberal and Conservative, but far more starkly; I see it as a matter of right and wrong.

Anyone who could even possibly consider the justification of torture, much less brag of it and promote it as something that enemies deserve should have no place within any rational political discourse, within any proper civilized society, regardless of political philosophy. Some things, some ideas are simply wrong and they are wrong for very concrete reasons - because these ideas always lead to the downfall of the civiliztions that employ them.

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