Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

Archive for the ‘Society & Politics’ Category

Authentic Frontier Gibberish

In Society & Politics, Superintelligent sea cucumbers on December 12, 2007 at 5:17 am

Last year, I was out at a State Department conference at the Meridian House in D.C. When I went down the wrong set of stairs trying to find the bathroom, I tripped over a water-damaged cardboard document box. One of the documents I knocked out of the box was the following, written on a fax form marked with the seal of the Department of the Interior.

Bush chugs brews
and laughs at dying children
In Sheridan, Wyoming President Bush shoots Pabst “as prayer for the victims” of the hurricane in New Orleans.
President George Bush took a break from his vacation to address criticism of his administration’s actions. At a go-cart track outside of Sheridan, Wyoming, Bush drilled a small hole in a can of Pabst, gingerly fastened lips around and gave thumbs up sign. Vice President Dick Cheney cracked the tab and within a couple of seconds the cold frosty one had rocketed down the President’s gullet. He smacked his lips.

They should relax and have a sweet fucking brew — Bush
“That’s fuckin’ sweet,” he said.
When asked why he had called the press conference in the capital of this western state, several thousand miles from the devastation, he burped.
“Look, even this is too fucking close. Heh-heh. Fuckin’ A,” said Bush (Bush)
The President reached down his slacks and fetched up a handful of what appeared to be corned beef hash. Speaking as he ate, he indicated that everything negative that had ever been said about him, his cabinet, his administration, his political party, was nonsense.

The President was eating trouser hash. I think he’s fucking retarded.

Shambol Johnson
Emergency response head
“There’s never been a hurricane,” said Vice-President Cheney. “Certainly not in New Orleans. If you say there is one, the terrorists win.
“Also, we’ll kill you.”
“Heh-heh,” added the president.
Everyone from Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to the editorial pages of the conservative Washington Times have taken the President to task for his inaction.
“Everything is fine,” said the President. “You’re stupid.”

It is the light-bending frontier gibberish from H.P. Lovecraft’s “beyond.” Merely gazing on this hedgehog- fucking gnome will pull your soul out of your pants and stuff it in a talking pumpkin.

Pope Benedict
Now, everyone dies.

Anyone who’s dying is a fucking liar, according to the President

Presidential Twittering

In Society & Politics on August 17, 2007 at 7:29 pm

I did a survey of the major 2008 U.S. presidential candidates, in terms of who uses Twitter. The tendency I noted in a January post for Republicans to ignore social media continues.

In an 8-to-10 (D-to-R) field, the Dems win 4-to-1

My “methodology” is as follows: If a candidate has “Haven’t updated yet” (HUY) on their account or has clearly abandoned the account (1P), then that counts as a no, as does “My updates are protected” (MUAP) if they do not respond. If the site is clearly not run by the candidate, that is also a no, of course.

If you believe I’ve missed anyone, let me know in the comments.

Dems
Joe Biden-yes
Hillary Rodham Clinton-no
Chris Dodd-yes
John Edwards-yes
Mike Gravel-no
Dennis Kucinich-no (HUY)
Barack Obama-yes
Bill Richardson-no (1P)

Reps
Sam Brownback-no (NHS)
Rudy Giuliani-no (MUAP)
Mike Huckabee-no (HUY)
Duncan Hunter-no
John McCain-no (HUY)
Ron Paul-no (1P)
Mitt Romney-no (HUY)
Tom Tancredo-no (HUY)
Fred Thompson-yes
Tommy Thompson-no (HUY)

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Open Source Israel-Palestine Peace Plan

In Social media, Society & Politics on July 24, 2007 at 1:34 am

Michael and the Wikinomics crew covered this plan here on page 28 of the 2008 “Wikinomics Playbook” (.pdf) and online here on the Wikinomics website.

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I have accused others of being Pollyannas for their prophesying of ahistorical sea-changes in human nature based on innovations in communications technologies. (“E-commerce will eliminate poverty,” “Blogging will replace journalism,” etc.) But I have to admit to a certain amount of it myself. At one point I conceived the following project.

The Open Source Israel-Palestine Peace Plan

Since the “professionals” in Israel/Palestine are having a continuing lack of success at creating a workable peace plan that both will follow, why not give it to the people themselves, on both sides of the divide?

What I mean is, we create an “The Open Source Israel-Palestine Peace Plan.”

We set up a wiki and invite people (emphasizing Israelis and Palestinians) to create their own collaborative peace plan. Different people could work on various issues like borders, trade, right of return, etc. We could invite some scholars and academics with specialties to augment the citizen involvement.

We can get Socialtext or Wikipedia to host it. We can get buy in from groups like Global Voices Online, Jordan Planet, the Palestine Blogs Aggregator, Bitter Lemons and so forth. We can secure sponsorship from different companies and media organizations. That sponsorship could be used to stage three events: a launch conference, a mid-point conference for working groups and a public unveiling of the finished plan.

Would it produce a workable peace plan? I doubt it, but who knows? At any rate, it would be an interesting discussion. It might provide new ideas that would solve specific problems in creating a workable peace. It would certainly exert a strong pressure on both Palestinian and Israeli leaders to revisit the issues. They could hardly fail to respond to the implicit accusation that a bunch of mere citizens was able to craft a peace plan where they could not.

Nothing came of it, unfortunately, except for Ross Mayfield donating an account. (The Israeli and Palestinian I tried to press into service had other things to do, shockingly enough.) But I remain, I guess, a little bit of a gullible idealist because I still think it’s an awfully good idea.

Easy Answers to Complicated Questions

In America, Society & Politics on November 21, 2004 at 10:49 pm

The recent election showed a citizenry split almost equally down the middle between two apparent sets of approaches to domestic and international issues. But it’s not just the citizens of the United States who are polarized. It is also the world as a whole.

According to common wisdom Americans are supposed to fall into one of two camps.

Camp one: I believe in the use of unilateral force by the U.S. I believe Iraq was invaded to bring it freedom. I believe in fundamentalist Christianity. I believe in absolute truth. I believe in the U.S. as world boss. I believe in global capitalism. I am conservative. I am from a “red state.”

Camp two: I believe in multilateralism. I am an atheistic humanist. I believe globalism is evil. I believe Iraq was invaded for its oil. I believe the Europeans the source of the shining light of reason. I believe in relativism. I am a liberal. I am from a “blue state.”

Well here’s a shock to the whole world: I do not fit nicely into either of these camps. And I can’t possibly be the only one. But all around the country and the world, people are people. They like tidy answers, straight lines and easy answers:

The U.S. is evil.

The U.S. is good.

Europe is indecisive.

Europe is enlightened.

Honestly. That’s full-on retarded.

The only mental algorithm available today is apparently: if A, then B.

To wit:

If I don’t believe that unilateral action should never be an option, then I must believe in U.S. hegemony.

If I believe in the necessity of individual responsibility, then I must believe Affirmative Action should be abolished.

Who made up these rules? Who decided to divide the world into two columns and then act as though those columns were logical absolutes? Well, as I said, people like easy answers and newspapers and television news editors and programmers are happy to provide them.

Here’s what I believe:

Prosecuting a war in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban was the right thing to do.

The prosecution of the war in Afghanistan was dropped when it became difficult.

The Administration was looking for a reason to invade Iraq. Bush had a family score to settle and his neo-con cronies were looking for a test case for their theories on U.S. power.

The Administration ignored any information that ran counter to their justifications for making war against Iraq.

The desire to find “cheap oil” was demonstrably no part of the equation. Anyone who thinks so is incapable of doing simple math. This was an ideological war, not an economic one, and certainly not one waged out of national self-interest.

The war was not waged with a good faith desire to bring freedom to the Iraqi people. If that had been the case, long-term plans, realistic logistics and sacrifice would have been part of the planning. It was waged to prove that the unilateral use of U.S. military force would be more effective in changing the world for the better and making it safer and that the U.S. alone was responsible for, and had the right to, determine which actions to take and which changes to make.

The avowed reasons for waging war against Iraq were obviously false: no weapons, no terrorists. Even if the Administration had been sincere about the “second-string” reasons for waging the war — freedom, self-determination, stability — this group of people was incapable of producing those results. This Adminstration is duplicitous, self-justifying, drunk on the entitlements of wealth and position, unused to sacrifice, incapable of long-term thinking, poor at organization and unsubtle.

Bombing the living daylights out of anyone who looks at us cross-eyed is not going to make the world safer. It is far more likely to scare the shit out of Americans than their enemies. (This fear is what allowed the Patriot Act to pass and, in part, what allowed Bush to be – barely – reelected.)

“Democracy” consists not just of mob rule but of checks on power and guarantees of the rights of minorities. Neither of which the Administration has the patience or vision to assist in creating.

Real economic freedom consists not simply of unregulated markets but also of guarantees to protect all the participants in it and to protect the environment and thereby the resources necessary to grow a functioning economy that not only accumulates wealth but also distributes it.

Short-sighted pro-globalists are attempting to foist all on developing countries around the world a kind of democracy the U.S. has never tolerated (mob rule) and a kind of capitalism we got rid of over a hundred years ago (unregulated). Globalism has become a kind of pseudo-religious faith. It is not incidental to the kinds of people who support it that it creates new markets, provides cheap labor and cheap resources.

Short-sighted anti-globalists’ gauzy dreams of Oaxacan shamans gathering herbs in the forest and everyone living in the middle of an Henri Rousseau painting is just that, a dream. “Indigenous” agriculture and handicrafts cannot take care of the burgeoning needs of the population of the developing world.

Europe, the font of international violence for two millennia, did not suddenly get religion and see the error of its ways. It exhausted itself. It’s like a smoker who gets hospitalized, quits out of necessity, then starts telling everyone else how they should stop and denying they ever smoked in the first place. Maybe nobody remembers, but when England and France and Germany were working their enlightened will behind the scenes in the Middle East before, during and after World War I, they laughingly dismissed Americans as sentimental for their “immature” moralizing on the rights of the oppressed to self-determination. Congratulations Europe, we learned how to play ball. We’re now doing things in the European manner so kindly shut the fuck up you hypocrites.

However powerful the U.S. is, for reasons of international amity, not to mention economics, as well as in the interest of building peace that lasts, our government needs to make every effort, all the time, to make as many of its moves as possible – not just military ones – in concert with the nations of the world.

Diplomacy and dialogue are not tools to be lightly dismissed when attempting to create a safe world. The threat of violence alone is not a threat, it’s terrorism.

The U.S. should not rule out all unilateral action in all situations. We’re a sovereign country and we have our own interests. Not to mention, under some circumstances, waiting for Europe, in particular, to coalesce around an emergency would be foolish, considering their response to the death camps in Bosnia and the current situation in the Sudan.

That while all violence is evil, not all war is avoidable. There have been times in the past when a war’s evil was less than peace’s. Left in peace, Germany could have finished its program to exterminate every single Jew, Gypsy, homosexual, communist, modern artist and physically and mentally handicapped person from the face of Europe.

That a government has a responsibility to shape the society as an instrument of the collective will of the governed. That opportunities should be guaranteed and safety and rights assured by the government.

That everyone has their own personal responsibility.

My point is simply this: You beggar the truth when you yield to the impulse to reduce it. Don’t let some hen-witted talking head, some thumbtack-dicked politician, some European blowhard or some home-grown hillbilly preacher delude you into thinking the unnerving but beautiful complexity of our world can be solved by a prefabricated slogan or one-size-fits-all posture.

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The Easiest Virtue

In Society & Politics on November 19, 2004 at 1:58 am

As far as money goes, if the mere not-having of it were a virtue, every trailer park would be a light unto the world and every silly hippy with food stamps a Martin Luther King, Jr. I just can’t muster anymore that special blend of self-deception, self-justifying crackpot sociology and nervous energy necessary to produce art in the face of the extensive empiric experience of disinterest. If you can find a way to do it, I’ll be the first one out of my seat for a standing ovation when they call your name at the Booker Prize banquet.

But for me, my nightmare image: a 22-year-old, would-be poet at my feet adoring me for my sacrifice at the altar of poetry. “You’re life is so pure, Curt, you kept doing it even though you never got published — you did it all for Art.” *boom* “Oh, my God, he’s dead! Why! Why!? Oh, me! Oh, life!… He was a great man, though the world never knew him. You see he lived in a tiny apartment urinating into his long underwear and writing poems on the back of stolen Denny’s menus and the dry parts of adult diapers. He died happy, because he didn’t mistake the point of life for accumulation of material possessions like pants and stereo equipment and SUVs and potatoes. He died happy because he wasn’t a Yuppie!”

The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Book Peddlers

In Society & Politics on November 19, 2004 at 1:56 am

So-called “independent” bookstore owners have far more in common with the large chain stores and online booksellers they denigrate than they have differences. Small bookstore owners have as little respect for both writers and readers as do the chains, they exploit both the writers’ work and the readers’ money with as much avarice and single-mindedness as the chains.

What they do differently is a matter of marketing. They use language that glorifies their own situation and belittles the chains, pseudo-political language which attempts to rhetorically frame the issue of competition in terms of morality. Patronize the chains, they say, and you support exploitation, you support global cultural homogenization, you support limitation of free speech. These are the same people who treat their customers like cattle, who staff their businesses with glib, half-educated, self-satisfied bureaucrats who have as much in common with the writers whose books they sell as do the CFOs of the book chains, and who candy-coat the gouging they inflict on their customers.

So instead of the spreadsheet-driven homogeneity of the chains, we get the petty tyrannies and nepotistic clubhouses of the book peddlers. Because the “independent bookseller” and the corporate chain are different only in size, I go to whichever source – book peddler, corporate chain, corporate website, “independent” website – offering the book I want at the lowest price.