"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Way to go, kids

Mad magazine still has some spunk left. Here's a wonderfully high-production-value spoof on the current gulf war debacle. my favorite part is Condi's flowing hair!


Mad Magazine's Gulf War II: Clone of the Attack

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War Pigs

Fearmongering! This is from the front page of cnn.com today under the headline
Feds warn of 'spectacular attacks'
:

Amid rising fears of Al Qaeda resurgence, a federal law enforcement bulletin warns the group may be planning "spectacular attacks" in the U.S. that will cause "mass casualties" and "severe damage" to the economy. The warning is not specific and has not prompted an upgrade in the terror threat level. (emphasis mine)

I'm fond of the notion that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, and so I tend to look upon those who foster a paranoid or fear-filled environment with more than a little enmity. This is neither responsible law-enforcement or professional journalism. It's fearmongering. I'm simply astounding by the degree to which the major media seem to have embraced the President's tactic of using vauge threats to provoke fear and maintain support for his positions. Is it because the media execs and anchorperson superstars are just as scared, or is it because they're in on the plan?

I'm not positing some vast pro-fear conspiracy between the media and the government, but things like this lead me to believe in cynical news execs battling for market share, playing right into an organic system that developed over years of cold war, dormant for nearly a decade and now coming back to life. I've read accounts by people five to ten years older than I about their fear of nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Soviets, and it seems like the idea these days is to get that same thing rolling, but with Terrorists subbing for the USSR.

If this is the land of the free and the home of the brave, why are we letting ourselves be ruled by fear? Why is fear a reason for dropping freedom like a hot rock? I mean, really, there's not that much to be afraid of. I live in New York City, and the odds that I'll be killed by a terrorist attack are pretty slim. People in AnyTown USA have even less to be concerned with. We don't need to go to war over this. As a nation we're tough, we're big, we can take it. Even if they do hit us again, we're going to be ok.

Hawks will say, "That's just what you want them to do, hit us again. You're a do-nothing anti-American peacenik!" Nothing could be further from the truth. I have no desire to see more Americans die in fiery bombings, but I also have no desire to see hundreds of thousands of other souls extinguished so that we can curl up with an illusion of safety.

Make no mistake, illusion it will be should it ever come. My guess is that if we do Iraq, the fearmongering will only become all the more shrill. Anyone who thinks attacking Iraq will materially increase the safety of your average American in the short term is loony-toons. No one believes that. At best, the War Party sees Operation Smackdown Saddam as part of a long term plan to subdue the entire middle-east, by force if necessary. At worst, the Hawks are cought up in the rush of power, of remaking the world (and turning a tidy profit at that), and don't really give a flying fuck about the safety of their citizenry. In the first case, I would point to the discouraging legacy of colonialism, the lack of truly trustworthy leadership, and the likelyhood of increased attacks on the American homeland as caveats to prosecuting a war of regional domination. In the latter case I don't know what to say. In both cases, I see alternatives.

The Real Basis for Safety
Look, America works as a free country because there aren't enough people here who want badly enough to tear it down. The whole premise of basing our nation on freedom and democracy, if you go back to the founding fathers, is that these freedoms are stabilized by giving the free people a stake in the current order. That's why we took all the land away from the Natives, because we needed to give it to enough of our own poor and huddled masses so they'd have some interest in keeping the current order working. The French didn't follow that part of the American example (no piddly natives to steal land from, only landed aristocracy) and they've had revolution after revolution. America works because Americans have a vested interest in making it work. That's why the state can "trust" its citizens with all the freedoms they do, and that's why individuals who really want to cause trouble (e.g. the DC Sniper Duo) can pretty much do so at their will.

Today we're seeing the same revolutionary watershed process of burgeoning freeom play out, except on a world stage. You can argue that Terroriests hate us because we have freedom, because we know how to have fun, because American women can wear miniskirts, but those are all red herring arguments. Or rather, they all point back to one fundimental fact: we have power and they do not. Terrorists by their very definintion have no stake in the global order because their position has been marginalized in the extreme. Now, like it or not the example of American freedom is spreading around the globe, and suddenly you have the very dangerous reality of a lot of people with a lot of freedom (freedom to move around the world, to broadast their message, to purchase arms, etc) who have no vested interest in maintaining the current order. These free radicals are a real threat. In dealing with this threat, you have two choices: kill all the radicals, remove the freedom or find a way to infranchise more people into global society.

I'm not suggesting that we should bargan with terrorists to give Al-Qaida a seat at the UN. What I am suggesting is that reacting to terrorism by removing freedom is in the long run taking a step backwards, and it's unlikely that removing freedom will ever provide anywhere near the same amount of safety that infranchisement will. Going after criminal perpetrators of a crime and getting serious about watching your own back yard are logical short-term reactions to being attacked, but they are not a long term solution. If we don't see this, if we pump up our short-term solutions to cover for our lack of a long-term strategy, we're going to exacerbate the problem. Witness Israel and the Palestineans. The more checkpoints and fences they build, the more they restrict freedom and remove opportunity, the more suicide bombers they will confront.

What is needed now is a serious change of course for international policy and global capitalism. Today there are far too many virtual colonial states, nations like Saudi Arabia which does not have an economy without colonial patrons to purchase its natural resources. In the worst cases (again, think Saudi Arabia) the customer states are equally reliant upon some key export to drive their economy. These co-dependent relationships must be rehabilitated through policy and trade such that our collective economic activity becomes diversified, more bi-directional, less desperate. We can and must create opportunities for more people, especially those in developing parts of the world. This is the way to give people a stake in our shared success.

However, this is not the message that goes out, because this message would threaten the oligarchy of mega-corporations and cartels that currently skims the cream off the top of the global markets. Power has become concentrated into too few hands, and those hands are beginning to react (out of fear of loosing their opulent positions) by seeking yet more power to control and destroy what theatens them. They seek a fearful body politic, because a fearful public is easily controlled. They seek dependent client states, again because dependents are easily controlled. Our country's leadership is seeking to establish a new era of American dominance. They seek to gain our acquesence by appealing to fear rather than hope precisely because this vision of Pax Americana offers little to no advantages to the common people of this nation, to say nothing of the common people of the rest of the world. This ambition is contrary to the fundimental nature of this country, and it can't go on for too much longer.

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Casualties in Afghanistan

Interfax and der Spiegel are reporting that 16 americans have been killed in Afghanistan. Anyone who thought we were going to do a lot better there than the Soviets should take note. When they invaded, occupying and pacifying the major cities was no problem, it was gurilla warfare in the mountainous outlying regions that turned Afghanistan into their Vietnam.

I wonder if the American press will ask Rummy about this? Will the pesky old "War on Terror" distract the administration from their resolve to punish Iraq? Nothing so far on CNN...

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Remixed Propaganda

I'm not sure if this will ever catch on hugely, but it would be fun to see some of these around...

Remixed (anti)War Propaganda

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Anybody got a Platform?

It looks like I'm one step ahead of the pundits again. I knew the Dems would blow it in the election, and the Left itself will keep on blowing until we regain our rightful position as the party of progress, of justice, of big ideas. Frank Rich has
a bit in the Saturday's NYT
that makes this point with gut-curdling effectiveness:

The Bush administration has big ideas. It believes that toppling Saddam Hussein is the slam-dunk gambit that will remake the Arab world to our liking (and Israel's). It has codified a security strategy built on the notion of pre-emptive war. It believes in the partial privatization of Social Security, in rewarding the very wealthiest with a repeal of the estate tax, and in tailoring every conceivable policy, including those governing human, fiscal and environmental health, to the needs of its corporate sponsors. Many Democratic politicians are opposed to these ideas — or at least to those not supported by Mr. McAuliffe's high-rollers — but that's not the same as having big ideas of their own.

Zang. So where are our big ideas? I've made my start on things, and admittedly I'm not qualified as a policy wonk, but I don't think I'm tooting my own horn too loudly to say I've got more ideas than the current hurd of sheep we call the Democratic leadership.

As I've said before, we need strong leaders on the left. Against the odds, Dubya has turned out to do a pretty good John Wayne impersonation; he's got the base characteristics, and the circumstances, of a leader. When I watch him on TV and I give him half a chance I almost like the guy, until I realize that he's spouting only moderately adulterated BS; attack drones from Iraq, smoking gun mushroom clouds, a century of American dominion.

The Democrats seem stuck in the Al Gore quagmire of attempting to lead by opinion polls. Let me make a clear point: leaders are supposed to lead, not follow the pack. If you don't have better ideas than I do about what to do than get the hell out of my way. I understand that Congress is a "representative" body, but you can represent the best and brightest ideas of your constituancy, not just the lowest common denominator.

Where's the inspiration? We need more than tellegenic obiesity-friendly pap and "triangulated" appeals to the phantom center. We need principles, something to stand on, a damn platform, for God's sake.

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The Culture of Fear

I became animated and vehiment tonight in a discussion with Sam, who I am partners with in The Valhalla Theater Company. We were talking about Bowling for Columbine, which brought up the issue of gun control. Sam expressed that he was more apt to favor gun education over gun regulation. I don't disagree with the notion of mandatory education for gun owners (though the NRA does), but I was curious as to why he opposed regulation. After (beer) rambling a bit, he gave the following line:

"Given that September 11th happened and this sniper thing happened, which proves that people, based both on foreign soil and domestically, will attack Americans, imagine what else might happen, and don't people have the right to defend themselves?"

At which point I flew off the handle.

I owe the man an appology because I rhetorically beat him up a little bit. In the end we agreed that the "culture of fear" is a bad thing, and I refrained from pointing out that sighting terrorist attacks -- specifically ones in which gun ownership is not a preventative factor -- and then inviting people to "imagine what might happen" is in a sense promoting that culture. There's a point where you've got to let it drop for the sake of frienship. I know I'm an argumentative person. It's genetic. I tend to keep that part of me under wraps for lack of good opponents, so when it comes out people get a little spooked. Still, it bothers me when my friends express beliefs that I not only disagree with, but can riddle with logical holes with one hand tied behind my back.

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Another Bloodless Transfer of Power

Well we did it, moved the ruling set around a bit without killing anyone. But what a shitty election. I mean really: the GOP re-takes the Senate, progressive ballot measures get voted down all over the place, it looks like we're in for another two years (at least) of wealth-favoring fiscal policy and broad-shouldered unilateral foreign policy. Yippie, we're a nation of fat wealthy dunces with our little dunce king.

I apologize if I sound bitter, but I just don't like it when fear-mongernig war-talk trumps reality. The reality is that the GOP has no domestic agenda, no plan for America, and the only way they can maintain their grip on power is by scaring people with phantoms of unarmed Iraqi combate drones (pure FUD) and immanent mushroom clouds (the same).

George W Bush has presided over the greatest wave of corporate corruption and mismanagement of public funds (can you say "tax cuts that blatantly favor the wealthy?") since the 1920s, and there's no reason to think he'll make any but the most cursory motions to address the issue. After all, he's a child of wealth who essentially gained the most powerful position in the world by means of family connections. He's never generated an honest profit in his life and is an adherent to back-room crony capitalist deals. This is not the kind of person I want running the ship, yet it is undoubtedly his public favor that allowed his party to actually make mid-term election gains for the first time in decades.

I find this extremely depressing, because it tells me that I'm out of step with the nation, that this America really isn't my America. It tells me that people don't want universal health care, that people don't want to know when the food they eat has been genetically tinkered with. It tells me that people think the way the show is being run is all right, that what we need is more of the same. It's the kind of morning-after mood that makes me want to expatriate.

However, being the political animal that I am, I don't think that's likely to happen. I can't just walk away and let things crumble. It's going to have to get a whole lot worse before you can convince me it can't get better. I'm going to stay with it, keep putting my spin on events. I'm in for the long haul.

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Prelude to The Future

Non-Profit Infrastructure: a collective investment in empowerment
Look, the free market it well qualified at distributing things when people are making rational informed choices in their own self interest and there is strict oversight to prevent cheating. But there are certain things are better done on a not-for-profit basis. This post will briefly outline the reasons we need a serious re-investment in infrastructure and a strong vision for the future of humanity.

There are many things that cannot be abandoned to profit-motive (greed) to operate and which a country should run for the sake of its citizens. A great example of this, and a good comeback to any conservative who wants to call me a communist for making the above statement, is national defense. Nation states learned long ago that relying on a for-profit army (a.k.a. mercinary forces) is not a good idea. Nor is making the army literally try to pay for itself through pillaging and looting. Both of these tracks lead to widespread instability and uncertainty, which is bad for both business and the general quality of life.

What tends to work much better is a non-profit defense force. In the old days and on the local level, that meant a "well-regulated milita" ala the second amendment. In todays world of specialization and high-tech killing machinery, that means having people who we all collectively pay via taxes who cover that stuff for us. The army is an exercise in socialism, and while it's plagued with inefficency and waste like any beauraucracy, and while I might personally believe we spend a little too much money on it, it's far better than the "free market" alternative.

It seems like in red-blooded America, the only way we can do anything collectively is through national defense. That's how we got the interstate highway system -- originally designed to move tanks and ICBMs around the nation in the event of World War III -- which was a big part of the postwar economic boom. Don't believe me? Try and imagine modern American industry without efficent long and short-haul trucking. Think we could be the world's biggest economy if we still relied on our rail infrastructure? Think again. The non-profit operation of well-maintained (read: expensive) roads and highways allows enormous amounts of economic activity.

Likewise, the founding technology that allows you to read these words was authorized and paid for as a matter of national defence. The internet began as a means to link major research centers and millitary systems with a network that would survive over 50% destruction due to nuclear attack. No lie: we built the original internet backbones to outfox those ruskies, and now it's ushering our economy into the 21st century, all because of some non-profit work back in the '70s.

What's the point here? The point is that socializied infrastructure (collectively paying for their development, implementation and maintenance) can lead to greater opportunity for entrepreneurialism. By removing obstacles to economic innovation at no cost to the businessman, our taxbase is enlivened, broadened and strengthened. It's unfortunate that the only time we seem to be motivated enough to do this is when we're fearing for our lives. Think of how many more small businesses and sole-proprietorships there would be if we unhitched healthcare from employment. Think of how many new entertainment and information-services companies would spring up if we made a serious public investment in solving the "last-mile" internet connundrum. Large corporations create and breed mediocrity: they will not lead us into the future.

The Future is not IBM, it's you
If America is to remain a preeminent commercial zone in the 21st century (and catch up with the rest of the 1st world in terms of standards of living) we're going to need to reinvest in our infrastructure, in ourselves. It's time for the pendulum to swing away from institutionalized greed and crony caplitalism and back towards opportunity and principles. It's time for high caliber individuals to seek positions of leadership under a new movement for improvement, for the betterment of ourselves, our communities, our nation and the world around us. It's time to become once again a nation of dreamers, of people who see the possibilities of a future so bright it outshines the lure of simple luxury, a future full of purpose and promise , prosperity and possibility, where things like love and peace and justice are worth believing in and acting for.

We need to lift the veil from our eyes, wake up from the prepetual nightmare of the evening news fear-factory, and realize that there's a lot of meaningful constructive work to be done on this planet. We may not have much money, and we may not have the guns, but I believe a positive vision that embraces the grace of human possibility will always gather the numbers. Government can be a tool for the people, in fact is must for if it is not then it is a tool used against the people. I say to those of my generation, and to freethinking life-loving people everywhere, we must awake to the calling of the times. We must take action. We me must stand against corruption, greed, averice, cynicism and dissolusion and inspire ourselves and others to believe in the power of the possible. We must invision another world, and work to make it real. If not now when, and if not us who?

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Welcome

The first post with the blog-o-matic. To kick things off, how about some links:

- NY Says No To War
- International Answer
- Not In Our Name
- Church of Stop Bombing
- Artist's Network
- Stand Down: the left-right no-war blog

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