"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Go here, Dammit...

...and read! This is possibly the most comprehensive list of points against going to war that I've ever read. It's delightfully mainstream (praising Regan and the IMF), but resoundingly anti-war. It reveals the whole affair as the giant leap backward that it is.


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I've been traveling, and a bit out of touch in general for the past few weeks. But reality has come crashing back in, hard, stinking and unannounced. While bunking with Luke in portland I took in more television than I usually do in a month of Brooklyn dwelling, and in reading small-town newspapers and observing the world on parade before me I've been exposed to a much broader spectrum of the American experience than I usually have access to. My observations have been more than a little disquieting.

I've become fond lately of likening popular entertainment to a sewer, but I'm quite uncomfortable with finding out my denunciations are dead on rather than alarmist and ahead of their time. Lies and vugarity abound. The millitary is everywhere in popular culture, and insiduously so as well. I notice few outright recruitment ads -- fewer, anyway, than I remember as a youth -- but millitary personnel and themes are pervasive, working their way into the mainstream consciousness. Beyond that, crass commercialism and manipulative exploitation are more naked and open than I ever remember. Surely this is partly due to my own emerging consciousness, but I also believe it to be change in the environment as well; a trend, if you will. Have you ever seen so many goddamn ads for diamonds in your life?

The other night, my friend David showed me the videogame SOCOM, an online Navy Seal vs. Terrorists combat simulation for the Playstation 2. Thousands of people around the world were online and playing when we fired it up at 11pm PST. It's grand fun, chasing down people from the central timezone. You wear a little headset and can talk to your team-mates, and I realize that this -is- the future of entertainment. The addictive pull is strong for me after only a few minutes of play. I want to improve, develop tactics, gun down my distant real-live opponents. I am the cream of the target audience, and they've scored a direct hit.

I realize the Pentagon must have a huge hard-on just thinking about the confused pot-head teens who will grow up playing this game and others like it. Perhaps 80% will be too out of shape to make muster as combat troops, but many will surely qualify as remote drone operators. Even though the vast majority are unlikely to ever be sucessfully recruited, they will have become accustomed to the millitary paradigm. A great public ready for endless war.

At the same time, 9 out of 10 Americans already believe that conflict with Iraq is inevitable and 60% support the use of nuclear weapons in response to biological or chemical attacks. How did atomic bombs become equated with nerve gas I'd like to know? They're both horrible, but certainly not symmetrical in their destructive prowess or apocalyptic after-effects. It looks like a long, slow slide into battle is what's being planned. Take our time, do it right, make sure the Marines are still on the march when the election rolls around. As I type this I wonder if I'm becoming paranoid, but it's the only logical conclusion I can draw from the available evidence. It's no longer believable that the whole administration is frightened and confused and acting rashly to protect the American homeland. What is going on now is deliberate and calculated and at best misguided if not outright evil.

And the American left is nowhere. The anti-war resistance will continue to rally in large numbers, but with the continued ignorance/hostility of the mass media, and the inevitable internal power-struggles and enmity that all disorganized large groups breed, I don't see the coalitions that have been built as yet having even a faint hope of stopping the People In Charge from doing what they want. I'm rather pessimistic of our chances of success given the current situation and prevailing tactics. That doesn't mean I won't be there with bells on, but the personal cost for me to do so is quite low. Were this a war rather than a civil debate I would desert. We lack leadership, we lack vision, we lack a plan or a prayer for victory. We may be right -- and in the long run that is our (only?) ace in the hole -- but the right people have been vanquished many times in history.

All around me I see the profound failure of imagination and virtue. I see greed, hoarding, avarice and lies from all the aproved sources. Thankfully my family and friends are strong, and from them I draw no small amount of solidarity and comfort, but I cannot escape the sensation of mental persecution, the feeling of living in a hostile environment. Allowing myself to follow this well-worn line of thought, I begin to teeter between wanting to work to improve that environment and simply wanting to escape to a better place. It's a long-standing debate I have with myself, and I doubt it will be resolved any time soon. Currently I lean towards staying and trying to make a difference, cultural problems have cultural solutions, but the more I try the more fursterating it is. I begin to think that maybe the way to make a difference is to vacate the current environment and take enough people with me that it causes a stir. I'm not talking about cults or expatriation or mass-suicide, but a kind of cutural line in the sand, a way of saying "Enough. We will not do this anymore." What this really is I do not know, but I can feel -- we all can feel -- something slouching towards us to be born.

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Combat Semantics

Doing my usual news-consumption today, and I'm saddened to see that the Linguistics of War are making progress from the pools of online extreemism (e.g. LGF's comments section), through the "fair and balanced" filter of the NewsCorp networks and into the center of the journalistic zeitgeist. I've been seeing more and more words like "Islamist" appearing in the NYT and other publications usually considered to be on the upper-end of what passes for journalistic duty these days.

I find this sort of thing troubling because it signals that the propaganda of the War Party, their information warfare, is beginning to take hold. The first step to prosecuting a successful war is the demonization of the enemy. Pro-war people must avoid thinking of the Others as human beings at all costs, lest their zeal for their cause and their resolve to use brutal force in achieving their ends begin to waver. I believe ultimately that the adhesive nature of humanity is stronger than the corrupting nature of power. However, there are thousands of years worth of inequality to overcome, and calling each other names pushes us all in the wrong direction.

Why not use "angry, righteous, power-hungry strictly religious people who are sick and tired of being marginalized and are willing to support violence in the pursuit of what they think is right" instead of "islamist"? I realize the necessity of shorthand, but the process of creating these terms runs the risk of de-humanizing people, which paves the way for wontonly snuffing out their lives. So keep a close eye out for Combat Semantics.

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Batten Down, Pour the Wine

Well, it looks like the powers that be are still going to go through with this war thing. Bush is talking about how the inspections process isn't going well, in spite of press reports to the contrary. They're playing up conflicts in the no-fly zone and the Hawks who fly the Union Jack are releasing new reports that further villanize Saddam Husein, as if that were necessary.

Call me paranoid, but it looks like the final diplomatic bricks are being laid for an initiation of open hostilities. It's not very heartening.

As for myself, I'm feeling allright about things. I'm very upset that there's seemingly nothing that can cool the bellicose tone of my country's leadership, but taking a longer view on things I can already see the tide start to turn. People in the mainstream are beginning to mention that the emperor has no clothes, that 'fair and balanced' is anything but, that a century of Pax Americana maybe isn't the best idea in the world. If we can keep from doing anything super foolish in the next year or two, I think we'll turn this one around as well.

Maybe I'm becoming a little politically exhausted, but maybe I'm also returning to my long-held belief that the root problems in this country are cultural, and cultural problems have cultural solutions. Politics and law play a role in this, but far more important is the cultural component of Leadership, the marketing of ideas. I'm starting to get a sense of where my place might be in this great big taco.

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Same old Song

Confession of an active mind: I've been doing naught lately to advance my politics. In fairness, I've been under the weather (cold coming back) which tends to dampen ones ideological furvor. Yet as I read the news, all I see is the same old back and forth sniping and inevitable march towards destruction. In the moment, it really feels like there's not a lot that can be done by me or anyone to stay our path from bloody conflict with Iraq.

Part of me hopes that Bush is more shrewd that I think and will back off on the march to war now that he's got the Senate in his corner. The tactics of fear and jingoism have worked and maybe now is the time to consolidate power, what with that new homeland security deal and all. Yeah, tell me this isn't ready made to set off the conspiracy theorists. But it passed, and pretty soon mom and pop will have Admiral Poindexter reading their keystokes verbatim.

Hell in a handbasket. Rationality in retreat. There's so much bullshit parading around as fact that I just can't be bothered to point it all out any more. There's no one who's listening who matters anyway. I mean, what the hell are we doing here? Have you watched fox news lately? That's what passes for mainstream journalism! CNN isn't any better, and the local news is just a lot of urban paranoia with the high notes from the international scene. Where's a respectable journalist when you need one? Where's the willful investigation? Where's the motherfucking truth in all of this?

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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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