In a time where we celebrate an Amerika governed by a motley assortment of thieves, torturers, petty criminals, robber barons, and outright perverts, perhaps it may help to recall where we all come from—even the worst and the weakest of us.
On the left is the cell of a mouse brain; on the right is a computer-aided image of the universe (you can get a closer look and description here).
Well, are they "the same"? No, but they are one. It is a matter of connection rather than identity; or, in quasi-scientific terms, relativism rather than absolutism. How you conceptualize it means less than how you feel it.
That said, the concepts do matter. The right thought arises from a true sensing within the heart of consciousness. If the latter is real and unimpeded, undistorted by religious folly, then the idea finds its shape in a perfection of peace. It all happens within your body—the very same aggregation of cells and systems that you have been taught is a soulless lump of dirt and ash, the stuff of shame and guilt.
I would wager that Representative Foley has been steeped deeply in such a course of demagoguery. And so he became a pervert.
The same is true of Catholic priests and anyone who allows sin to be projected into his core nature, who makes his own body into a pit of vile repression.
As I have said before about Rush Limbaugh, Mel Gibson, Ann Coulter, and others: these people need treatment, not publicity. They must be allowed access to the therapy and the medicines they will need to heal, and the rest of us must provide them the understanding and the privacy necessary for that healing. But we must also work to ensure that such diseased people are not allowed to become leaders in our government, our media, or our culture.
Cunningham, Abramoff, DeLay, Ney, Foley: what, do you think, do they all have in common? They have all aligned themselves with an ideology whose core values are human oppression, demonization of Nature, deceit to the public, and, perhaps worst of all, falsehood to themselves.
Before we can even speak of progress or healing in this demented society of ours, we have to return to some common understanding of what we are. Look again at the picture: if the universe is recaptiulated in a nerve cell, what does that say about your body as a whole? What does it say about the body of a community, a nation, an entire planet?
The universe—what some would call god—is not a distant, external entity in a faroff place called Heaven, Nirvana, or Paradise. Rep. Foley is in desperate need of this realization; and it wouldn't hurt the rest of us to look within and rediscover it as well. For wherever there is understanding of the self, there is acceptance of the self. Wherever there is acceptance of the self, there is respect for the self. Wherever there is respect, there is Love, and the tyranny of religion is overthrown.
Thanks to my good friend Rekha C. for the link and graphic.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Friday, September 29, 2006
Before we go to our review of current events from a fellow who lived about 1,950 years ago, watch Stewart demonstrate how "information, entering the brain, confuses it."
This week's banner quote comes not from last week's New Yorker, nor from Digby, Alterman, or Daily Kos. It only seems that way.
Our author is the ancient Roman historian, and arguably the greatest historian of all time (perhaps alongside Greece's Thucydides)—Tacitus. Our quote is from Book XVI of his masterpiece, The Annals.
Now I would invite the interested citizen to perform the following experiment: go and stand outside any high school in the nation one afternoon, as the kids are being released from their day's studies, and ask a number of the children who Tacitus is or was. If you find one in ten who has any idea who this guy was, then consider yourself lucky.
One reason why our society seems trapped in a mournful repetition compulsion of tyranny, incompetence, war, and disaster, is that we have stopped reading the likes of Tacitus. This week, today, in this very moment, he has so much to teach us.
I find it personally surprising that Tacitus is so neglected, because the stories he has to tell us would make your hair curl, far more than anything you might see on Desperate Housewives or 24. He is brutally unsentimental in his portrayal of the decadance, depravity, and prurience of power; and he undresses the incompetence of tyranny with florid rigor.
We are beholden to Tacitus for our knowledge of the reign of Claudius, a story which in our time has been retold in one of the few great moments of television, PBS's series I Claudius. Tacitus also delivered one of the earliest (and probably most truthful) accounts of the execution of the leader of an occult sect of a formative religion from the early centuries of the Roman Empire. His recounting of this curious incident sheds a lot of light (or could, if anyone paid attention) on the likely result of branding certain insurgent groups of an obscure desert land with the title "Islamo-fascists." To institutionalize madmen with sectarian names only gives them power; to subject them to a program of mass extermination only gives them resolve. Here is the account of Tacitus in this vein (he is describing the Neronian government's efforts to deflect blame for a domestic disaster, the fires in Rome of 64 A.D.):
But all human efforts...did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed.
Tacitus recounts how Nero (and others, too) silenced the wealthy of his state with further enrichments and other blandishments of power; randomly tortured and murdered both the innocent and the guilty; deflected blame (as in the quote above) for domestic disasters (and their mishandling in his government's response) onto foreign and domestic enemies; engaged in lavish displays of self-aggrandizement and pompous ceremony; and claimed credit and glory for others' accomplishments, even as he disenfranchised, exiled, or murdered the true authors of those successes.
If this is beginning to sound familiar, then I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Tacitus' works and start reading. You will not be disappointed.
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/29/2006 12:01:00 AM
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Today we welcome back Mr. S.R. Algernon to the blog, who offers an excellent piece on the recent fad of "Crying Hitler". Check it out—it directly follows our review of another day amid lunatic tyrants. Or, better than that, how about links to a few signs of awareness? As President Chavez said at the UN last week, "dawn is breaking out all over." Everywhere, in fact, except Washington.
Dawn in Wonkland:Foreign Policy Magazine leads off today with the results of a survey (conducted with the Center for American Progress) of 100 policy experts. The numbers are shocking, though hardly surprising.
Dawn in Science:The Union of Concerned Scientists is calling upon us to join them in demanding that Congress act on the issue of global warming now, and seriously. Click the link to join this campaign.
Dawn in Congress: Russ Feingold and others speak for a revolutionary agenda of free and fair voting, rational and responsible politics, and a people-centered government. You know, democracy, again. Watch the speeches and then make some calls to your own reps in DC. After all, we're still nowhere near the end of this tunnel: in fact, the more Bush is revealed as the tyrant he is, the more Congress wants to make him King.
Dawn in the darkness of poverty: Oxfam is one of those organizations that works for real change while powerful governments sputter away in rhetoric while bombing innocents. Money alone won't solve the world's problems, but it is one of the lights that will guide us out of the current darkness. If you've got it, give it—click the link and do what you can.
Tomorrow, we'll reveal the author of the banner quote, along with a lesson he can offer us on the fate of tyrants. Right now, our correspondent S.R. Algernon has a similar message.
The Boys who cried ‘Hitler’ by S. R. Algernon
If you pay any attention to political discourse nowadays, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that we are awash in Hitlers. Leaders as diverse as Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadenijad and Saddam Hussein, to say nothing of non-state contenders like bin Laden and Nasrallah have been compared to Adolf Hitler. On the other side of the coin, others are just as ready to liken U.S. leadership to the Austrian demagogue, pointing out his fondness for secret trials, concentration camps, sham elections, ‘shock and awe’ tactics, and preventive war. They could also bring up Hitler’s babbling in 1939 how negotiations were pointless and war was the only way to protect Germany from the grave threat of Polish attack. Ward Churchill called the World Trade Center employees ‘Little Eichmanns.’ Without spilling any ink over the validity of these claims, does crying Hitler accomplish anything?
To be sure, crying Hitler (or Stalin or Judas or anyone else of similar repute) can help rally people to your cause. The Nazis themselves were masters of the trumped-up threat. It was so successful that millions of Germans put their lives on the line in the service of total war. It was so successful… that Hitler ended his life in the ruins of his capital with the barrel of a pistol in his mouth. Crying Hitler can help rally the people, but does it win wars? Does it solve problems? Does it keep you safe? A glance at 20th century history reveals the dangers of crying Hitler or following people who do.
1. Crying Hitler can cause a narrowness of focus: This is evident in the hype over al-Qaeda’s #2 man of the week, but also in the belief, in some liberal circles, that the U.S. would suddenly adopt their policies if only Bush, Rove and Rummy were perp-walked out of power. Hitler himself met disaster when he focused on Moscow and forgot about the Russian winter that surrounded it.
2. Crying Hitler can cause an over-widening of focus: If your enemy is Supreme Evil, clearly he or she must be manipulating anyone who opposes your righteous mission. Bush’s willingness to conflate Ba’athism with Wahhabism and his predecessors’ confusion of Vietnamese nationalism with Stalinism have proved only slightly less disastrous than Hitler’s willful conflation of Judaism and Bolshevism. This does not necessarily contradict point 1.
3. Crying Hitler takes negotiation off the table: Rationally, it shouldn’t, since we negotiate with dictators all the time, and people like Schindler negotiated with actual Nazis with good results. However, because handing over territory willy-nilly in 1938 didn’t work, we’re not supposed to negotiate for anything, even when refusal to negotiate weakens our position. As for Hitler, it is interesting to wonder what a more rational German leader might have coaxed out of the notoriously conciliatory governments of Western Europe in the 1930s.
4. Crying Hitler makes it difficult to rebuild: If the U.S. had gone into Iraq with the idea that it was reforming the government of a diverse nation, it might have been able to cobble together a smooth transition of power. Because the U.S. was there to fight Evil, it wound up ignoring crucial infrastructure, and disenfranchising the Sunnis and irritating the Shiites by propping up its anointed Good Guys and refusing to negotiate (see point 3) with the designated Bad Guys. Both Hitler and Stalin were well known for liquidating many of their most talented countrymen, to the detriment of their ultimate goals.
5. Crying Hitler makes it hard to judge the actual intention of your enemy: If your enemy is Supreme Evil, it makes no sense to ask why he or she is fighting you or to suppose that anything but his or her eradication will get him or her to stop.
6. Crying Hitler makes it hard to understand others who don’t share your zeal: If you assume that anyone who doesn’t buy into your anti-Hitler campaign must be evil or cowardly (as opposed to having a different understanding of the situation), you lose potential allies. This goes for both sides of the political spectrum.
7. Crying Hitler can make one feel good about ineffective tactics: Since Hitler lost in the end, it can lead to the idea that your opponent is destined to fail if you keep at it long enough. After all, you’re standing up to Hitler! Thus, the Bush administration brushes off any criticism of its scattershot militaristic approach, and I’ve not yet seen the left address the fact that sign-waving and chanting did very little to bring down the Nazis. Real tyrants are usually brought down either by their own incompetence or enemies with a sound grasp of strategy and tactics.
8. Crying Hitler makes it harder to respond to a truly immediate crisis. If you constantly hype vague or distant threats, will people respond quickly when a madman brings a nuke into Manhattan? If you continually call the President a Nazi, will people trust your judgment when he does something really sinister?
With apologies to Santayana, if we keep repeating the past, how are we to learn from the present? Throughout the cold war, our leaders strove for a WWII showdown. With the Cold War over, they take on Islamists with proxy wars and domino logic.
Yet the Nazi metaphor has the strongest pull. It’s no accident that Americans dust off Hitler so often. Beating Hitler ushered in a fabled era of American prosperity when cars were big, gas was cheap, and rock ‘n’ roll was born. Conservatives look back to giddy consumerism and Donna Reed Show propriety, while liberals look back to the time when a host of rising idealists began to change the world. On one level, we aren’t trying to get back to life before 9/11. We want to party like it's 1945.
At the risk of jumping on the Hitler bandwagon, the idea that a pitched battle against evildoers can bring back some starry-eyed view of the past is exactly what the Axis powers were peddling some seventy years ago. Germans bought a Wagnerian idea of Nordic supermen. The Japanese leadership promised a strange amalgam of ancient legends and modern technology. Mussolini tried to sell the glories of ancient Rome. If only, they said, the Empires of Europe and the Bolsheviks and the Americans were gone, we could reclaim our destiny. It was hogwash then, and it is hogwash now. No amount of righteous struggle will bring back a simpler past. For one thing, the past wasn’t really as simple as we like to imagine. For another, we can’t change the present, even to escape it, without taking a clear look at reality. As Zarathustra might put it, Hitler is dead.
So, when you look back to the America of 2001 or 1945 or 1776, remember that what good there was in our past didn’t come from George W. and Osama didn’t take it away. Somewhere along the line, Americans, and others around the world created it, and they did it not just with spin or slogans or noble fantasies but by facing reality and tackling real-world problems. If the threats we face are real, all the more reason to see them for what they are, no matter how comforting or inspiring illusions might be. Perhaps a man who really did take on Hitler said it best: ‘We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.’
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/28/2006 12:03:00 AM
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Geek Wednesday today, but first here is your Daily Rev Tyranny and Corruption Update:
NIE not NICE: The (only partially) declassified National Intelligence Estimate is out, and it alone constitutes grounds for impeachment of both Bush and Cheney. Here's a quote, and read and see more at the TP link above:
The Iraq conflict has become the ’cause celebre’ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.
The Crawford Caligula Declares: No Science Allowed:
The Bush administration has blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday.
Mind you, this comes to us not via some lefty version of National Enquirer—we're hearing this from one of the most prestigious science journals out there, Nature. The tyrants of the Bush administration continue to suppress information on matters that will affect our childrens' ability to survive on this planet. And we're supposed to fall right in line with the mainstream media, which bends over and cries "Hail to the Chief!" as the hot poker is rectally inserted.
Torture is still US: This note came to me from Larry Cox of AI-USA:
Last week, President Bush on national television defended cruel and humiliating treatment of detainees and proposed legislation that would legalize the sham military commissions that the Supreme Court has repudiated. Equally outrageous, he wants to grant immunity from prosecution to administration officials who sanctioned the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. And furthermore, he aims to prohibit the Federal courts from intervening on these crucial human rights issues.
With this brazen move, President Bush has launched an all-out assault on human rights and the rule of law. Torture? Secret prisons? Unfair trials? Impunity for law breakers? This is not the America we believe in.
Click the link above to go to AI's action page and register your opinion on the treatment of detainees.
The Country Club Congress: Someone has been keeping a Fortune 500-style list of the richest members of Congress. The findings are alarming (click the link), and reveal a bipartisan litter of fat cats. These are public servants, each of whom is valued in the hundreds of millions. Can we reasonably expect to see any positive change in the legislation coming out of a government run by cash-drunk, corrupt, bloated millionaires?
Now plutocrats are not always bad: I happen to live in a city that is being governed fairly well by a benign plutocrat, and a Republican at that (hey Mike, you're definitely better than Rudy). But plutocracy as a system, as a domineering trend, as a malign habit—this is the social equivalent of brushing your teeth with a razor blade. Later this week, when we reveal the source of our banner quote, we will be offered a history lesson in what inevitably happens to a civilization that turns its government over to the glutted corpse of wealth.
The MSM Bites Back at Bubba: Just click the graphic and watch. Also compare the neocon media's bloviating over Bubba's anger (which, by the way, considering the provocation, was, to my mind, of very moderate measure) with their benign ignorance over Bush's "comma" quote, here.
A Macabre Tale of Our Time: Passwords that are taken to the grave. This could open up a whole new industry: cyber-seances—learn the password to that bank account or the mysterious private online journal that poor Uncle Bob left behind. It's mine—I called it.
And as Professor Dumbledore told Harry, "to the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." Here's a geek who has the odds down, and his graphic is straight out of the John Ashcroft playbook.
Mini-Review: iLife '06 (and its alternatives)
As great as my admiration is for Linux and the Open Source Society in general, not everyone has the bandwidth in their life for learning this stuff in a weekend or two. So while I'm still doing my own study of Ubuntu Linux and its possibilities, let's stop to offer a glance at what is still the best consumer OS for people who don't think in binary code and just need computers to do things for them, Mac OS X, and its companion suite of vanity applications, iLife.
I picked up the latest version of iLife last month, and have had a look at its components. Well, some of them. But since I lack a video camera, I can't very well offer any view of iMovie and iDvD, the apps that Apple says transform home movie making into a kind of art (I'll take them at their word on that one, with the proviso that most home movies I've seen are the kind of art you'd find in Rod Serling's Night Gallery (remember the episode with the young punk who winds up in the Pit with the old couple out of Reader's Digest?).
Anyway, let's look at iPhoto, which is really exemplary for its ability to perform complex tasks while demanding hardly anything of the user's intellect or patience. Even on my old G4 1GHz dome machine, iPhoto opens effortlessly, loads its files, and recognizes my camera with barely a blink. Even the slideshow feature works well, and quick-edit and enhancement functions are just enough to help without becoming an annoyance.
The problems with iPhoto come with any attempt to use its more advanced features—especially its interface with iWeb, the new member of the iLife family. iWeb is another instance of Apple's recent predilection toward soaking its customers; because to work properly, it requires that you have a dot-mac account ($99 a year for email, 1GB of storage, and the now-obsolete web page creator). Every time I've tried to make iWeb publish to a privately hosted web account, it has failed or been maddeningly slow on the uptake.
iPhoto has a feature whereby you can publish a picture album via iWeb online. The effort to do so made my processor groan, created a lot of spinning beach balls (the Mac equivalent of Windows' hourglass), and generally locked up the machine. Clearly, these kinds of features are another example of what Windows users would instantly recognize as the "software bloat" phenomenon. It's the geek catch-22: you can't have the benefits of the latest, coolest software unless you're running it on the latest, hottest hardware. And in the Mac universe, that hardware will run you at least $700 for a reasonably configured Mac Mini. Not bad, mind you, but still...
The same applies to GarageBand, the remarkable sound synthesizing/Midi interfacing/music playing application that has been so impressive in previous versions. Unfortunately, it simply wouldn't do very much on this machine before the hardware was simply overwhelmed by GarageBand's demands. I set every preference that Apple recommends to minimize processor taxation in GB, but it didn't help very much.
Bottom line here is: if you have an older Mac with a previous version of iLife, keep it that way. If you have a G5 or a new Intel machine (preferably with Core Duo in the latter), then it's worth a go, as long as you have at least 1GB of RAM on the box. As for iWeb, Apple is simply going to have to either:
(a) make it simpler and more efficient to publish to non-.mac accounts; or
(b) do what Google has done, and make the services free.
Google's Picasa photo management software, while not quite up to the Mac's graphical perfection (most likely due to the fact that it runs in Windows), easily equals iPhoto in ease of use and far surpasses it for economy. Picasa is free, and all its services are, too. You can upload a photo album in Picasa of up to 250MB to a web page that it creates for you, and either make it publicly available to everyone or to selected friends and family who are given access to a password-protected page. For a fee, Google will provide additional storage space beyond the free limit—$25 a year for 6GB of space.
So if you're made of money and don't mind spending $100 a year for a .mac account and have the necessary cojones in your Mac hardware to run iLife '06 efficiently while taking advantage of all its features, then you are likely to prefer iLife on the Mac. Or if you're a home movie hobbyist or a musician, then maybe iMovie and/or GarageBand will be worth the $73 you'll need to shell out for iLife.
But if you're a normal human like me who has a rather tight budget, then Google's Picasa is your choice for photo management, with its generous upload features. Google, by the way, would also be your choice for simple website creations: if you have a Gmail account (free), then you get access to Google Pages, with its 100MB of storage capacity and simple GUI web editor. My 12-year old daughter made her own website on Google Pages, with virtually no help from Poppy.
In terms of price points, Apple's headed in a lot of good directions lately: the Mac Pro compares favorably with a comparably-equipped and configured Dell machine; the Intel Mini's are real bargains by any measure; and the iMacs are splendid machines at a very fair price. Even their low-end laptop, the MacBook, sits strongly beside any Wintel portable for performance and price. We've also noticed that the new iPods offer more storage capacity at competitive prices. But before they can really take hold in the consumer market, they're going to have to trim the gouging costs out of the extras they offer—$100 a year for an email service is positively ridiculous in this day and age; and they'll have to be more generous with software offerings in general, and upgrade options in particular (iWork 2 came out less than a year after I had purchased the first version, and I saw no offer of an upgrade discount). Maybe the recent addition of Google's CEO to Apple's Board may help bring about some changes on this score. We'll be watching.
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/27/2006 12:01:00 AM
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Psychiatric question of the week: what is the greater, more morbid delusion--denying history or denying reality?
President Ahmadinejad of Iran has justifiably come in for the lunatic label for his denial of history. I tend to agree with former AIG CEO Maurice Greenberg on this point: anyone who denies the overwhelming historical evidence of the Nazi holocaust is revealing a certain disconnect with reason (but note that Mr. Greenberg added that Ahmadinejad is "crazy like a fox").*
But that (as Greenberg suggests) does not necessarily mean that Mr. A. has lost his grip on current reality. In fact, a close reading of his UN speech indicates that this guy has more of a geopolitical grip than our own delusional denizen of the West Wing (which, as we shall see, is not saying a great deal). Let's look at some portions of the man's speech (full text here), and see what lies beyond the spin.
Occupation of countries, including Iraq, has continued for the last three years. Not a day goes by without hundreds of people getting killed in cold blood. The occupiers are incapable of establishing security in Iraq. Despite the establishment of the lawful Government and National Assembly of Iraq, there are covert and overt efforts to heighten insecurity, magnify and aggravate differences within Iraqi society, and instigate civil strife...It seems that intensification of hostilities and terrorism serves as a pretext for the continued presence of foreign forces in Iraq.
People are being bombarded in their own homes and their children murdered in their own streets and alleys. But no authority, not even the Security Council, can afford them any support or protection. Why? At the same time, a government is formed democratically and through the free choice of the electorate in a part of Palestinian territory. But instead of receiving the support of the so-called champions of democracy, its ministers and members of parliament are illegally abducted and incarcerated in full view of the international community.
On Iranian nuclear development:
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a member of the IAEA and is committed to the NPT. All our nuclear activities are transparent, peaceful and under the watchful eyes of IAEA inspectors. Why then are there objections to our legally recognized rights? Which governments object to these rights? Governments that themselves benefit from nuclear energy and the fuel cycle. Some of them have abused nuclear technology for non-peaceful ends, including the production of nuclear bombs, and some even have a bleak record of using them against humanity.
So, is this the speech of a leader who's lost contact with reality—that is, current reality? It sure doesn't seem like it. Now if you're asking, "is the guy telling the truth about his opinions and motivations?" you might have some grounds for further inquiry, no doubt about that. He is a politician, after all. But before I would place my trust in what Rush, O'Reilly, or the New York Post have to say about him, I'd seek some analysis from someone who knows the game and has been on the playing field himself—someone, for example, like Akbar Ganji, the distinguished Iranian dissident.
Let's now compare this with the words of our own demonstrably demented ideologue:
America and our coalition partners will continue to stand with the democratic government you elected. We will continue to help you secure the international assistance and investment you need to create jobs and opportunity, working with the United Nations and through the International Compact with Iraq endorsed here in New York yesterday. We will continue to train those of you who stepped forward to fight the enemies of freedom. We will not yield the future of your country to terrorists and extremists.
Earlier this year, the Palestinian people voted in a free election. The leaders of Hamas campaigned on a platform of ending corruption and improving the lives of the Palestinian people, and they prevailed. The world is waiting to see whether the Hamas government will follow through on its promises, or pursue an extremist agenda.
Despite what the regime tells you, we have no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program. We're working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis. And as we do, we look to the day when you can live in freedom -- and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.
As bizarre a nexus of delusion as you will meet in the most high-security psychiatric facility. The man is fundamentally undermining the overwhelming opinion of his own intelligence community; he is telling the people of Lebanon that their democracy will be rebuilt through the mass murder of their civilian population and the destruction of their country's infrastructure; and he is seeking a diplomatic solution with a nation whose leader he can't even look in the face, though they're in the same building at the same time.
So we have one leader with a grasp on geopolitical reality but not historical reality; another with an ever-broadening delusion that encompasses both current reality and history—both remote and recent history. Did another alternative appear at the UN last week?
Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of.
Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world.
I think we could call a psychiatrist to analyze yesterday's statement made by the president of the United States. As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums, to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world.
They say they want to impose a democratic model. But that's their democratic model. It's the false democracy of elites, and, I would say, a very original democracy that's imposed by weapons and bombs and firing weapons.
What a strange democracy. Aristotle might not recognize it or others who are at the root of democracy.
What type of democracy do you impose with marines and bombs?
The president of the United States, yesterday, said to us, right here, in this room, and I'm quoting, "Anywhere you look, you hear extremists telling you can escape from poverty and recover your dignity through violence, terror and martyrdom."
Wherever he looks, he sees extremists. And you, my brother -- he looks at your color, and he says, oh, there's an extremist. Evo Morales, the worthy president of Bolivia, looks like an extremist to him.
The imperialists see extremists everywhere. It's not that we are extremists. It's that the world is waking up. It's waking up all over. And people are standing up.
I have the feeling, dear world dictator, that you are going to live the rest of your days as a nightmare because the rest of us are standing up, all those who are rising up against American imperialism, who are shouting for equality, for respect, for the sovereignty of nations.
If we walk in the streets of the Bronx, if we walk around New York, Washington, San Diego, in any city, San Antonio, San Francisco, and we ask individuals, the citizens of the United States, what does this country want? Does it want peace? They'll say yes.
But the government doesn't want peace. The government of the United States doesn't want peace. It wants to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war.
It wants peace. But what's happening in Iraq? What happened in Lebanon? In Palestine? What's happening? What's happened over the last 100 years in Latin America and in the world? And now threatening Venezuela -- new threats against Venezuela, against Iran?
He spoke to the people of Lebanon. Many of you, he said, have seen how your homes and communities were caught in the crossfire. How cynical can you get? What a capacity to lie shamefacedly. The bombs in Beirut with millimetric precision?
What we now have to do is define the future of the world. Dawn is breaking out all over. You can see it in Africa and Europe and Latin America and Oceanea. I want to emphasize that optimistic vision.
We have to strengthen ourselves, our will to do battle, our awareness. We have to build a new and better world.
Those are the words of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was branded "El Lefty Loco" (the New York Post); "the firebrand" (Washington Post); and here's how the "poll" at townhall.com spins it (perhaps many readers would be puzzled over the choice between A and B).
Well, who's the lunatic among these three? Which one is the best candidate for commitment? Before you decide, here's an excerpt from the DSM-IV, the diagnostic manual of western psychiatry:
Psychosocial functioning is variable. Some individuals may appear to be relatively unimpaired in their interpersonal and occupational roles. In others, the impairment may be substantial and include low or absent occupational functioning and social isolation. When poor psychosocial functioning is present in Delusional Disorder, it arises directly from the delusional beliefs themselves.
Now, take a look at Bob Herbert's column from Monday's New York Times:
Until five months ago, Bilal Hussein was part of a team of Associated Press photographers that had won a Pulitzer Prize for photos documenting the fighting and carnage in Iraq.Now he’s a prisoner, having been seized by the U.S. government.
You might ask: What’s he been charged with?
The answer: Nothing.
Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi hired by The A.P., was taken into custody by U.S. forces in Ramadi last April 12. As in many similar cases, U.S. officials have been saying — without disclosing evidence to back up their comments — that he had improper ties to the insurgents.
But neither the Americans nor the Iraqis have officially charged Mr. Hussein with anything.American officials were telling reporters, without offering any evidence, that Mr. Hussein had been collaborating with insurgents. He hadn’t been. It turned out he was completely innocent. In fact, he was a kind of timid guy who was less than thrilled about having a job that required him to shoot combat footage.
This is a spooky time in history. It’s one thing for tyrannical regimes like the old Soviet Union and Communist China to bulldoze the very idea of human rights and human decency by engaging in such atrocities as detention without trial, torture and other forms of state terror. It’s something else completely when the United States, the greatest symbol of liberty that the world has ever known, begins to head down that hellish road.
Now also recall who among our three rhetorical gladiators had to deny threatening the head of the Pakistani government with a bombing "back to the stone age." (By the way, do you believe that this threat was never made?)
So now, I ask again: who exactly, among the three speakers at last week's UN shoutfest, is delusional?
*My astute co-blogger, Terry McKenna, sent me this comment: "I disagree about holocaust deniers who are not westerners. For in a world where millions have beern slaughtered, the jewish slaughter probably does not seem remarkable. The holocaust is our sin, not theirs." Clearly, Terry's point must be well taken, especially where we are sorting out issues of madness from what is merely a cultural context (psychiatric professionals know that it's a common mistake to impute mental illness where there is only cultural variation). Still, I think that people everywhere know mass murder when they see it: after 9/11, thousands of ordinary Iranians massed in the streets of Teheran in candlelight vigils, in recognition of the horror that had befallen America. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the Bush years is that from a single point in history where the entire world—even our so-called enemies—was with us, our despicable government inexorably turned them all against us.
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/26/2006 12:01:00 AM
Monday, September 25, 2006
New mystery quote: This week, one of the true greats speaks to us from the banner, across the ages and right unto our own time and place. As we will see later this week, he might as well have been writing from Washington somewhere over the past five years. As always, you are welcome to enter your guesses into the Comments.
The incompetence of tyranny, example no. 1,793: so you deliver an anti-American speech at the UN; and by a strange coincidence, the no. 2 man in your government is then detained and nearly sent to Gitmo. Whoops, we didn't mean anything by it. Sure we didn't.
The incompetence of tyranny, example no. 1,794: your intel agency is only about three years and a hundred miles behind those left-wing idiots in the blogosphere. Thanks for telling us everything we've been telling you all this time. Is it finally official now, that the Iraq war has exponentially compounded the threat of terrorism, and will continue to do so as long as we keep it up? Now, what might this tell us about possible next steps? Think carefully before you answer, now: maybe a few hundred more meetings and another thousand page report will get you there. Meanwhile, soliders and civilians keep dying, while terrorist insurgents multiply like bunnies.
I can't wait to see how the neocon press spins (or more likely ignores) this one. In fact, they're likely to follow their usual reaction pattern, which Mr. Terry McKenna has been studying. Here he comes now with his own report.
Today my subject is political writing and the thinking behind it. Most political statements are bundles of mush that at their best are poorly written and at their worst, deceitful. This doesn’t have to be so. One of the best writers of English prose was George Orwell. He was foremost a literary critic but he also was a committed political thinker. He is, of course, famous for two political novels: ANIMAL FARM and 1984.
George Orwell admired writing that said something in an original way with imaginative imagery. His essay on writing should be studied by all of us who labor in the Blogosphere.
I thought I would critique a few sample political phrases to see how well they are written. This may seem counter to our purpose here; most might think that we are more interested in the thought than in its sloppy expression. But I disagree. We have reached the point where much of what is said is purposely constructed to hide the meager thinking behind it. Thus, words, phrases and paragraphs are strung together to form the appearance of an argument where none exists.
As you read each passage ask yourself these two questions: 1) what is the writer trying to say? and 2) does he accomplish it?
I went to the GOP’s website for my samples. Although both parties avoid genuine ideas in favor of misleading verbiage, I selected the Republican Party because they have made so much of their being the party of ideas. Even mainstream news writers will routinely describe Republican ideas as forward thinking and optimistic – and focused on an agenda (is Agenda the buzz word for this decade?). That the current Republican agenda is to screw the rest of us seems not to matter.
The three paragraphs selected were carefully designed to be used as starting points for letters to the editor. If you’ve never been involved in partisan activities, you may not know it, but political parties and interest groups are constantly circulating talking points (or even whole letters) to their followers and urging them to send the proposed letter to their local newspaper. My assumption in regard to the three paragraphs is that they were very carefully drafted – and so deserving of careful scrutiny.
The first paragraph is about the war in Iraq - “Victory Plan in Iraq”
President Bush has a clear plan for victory in Iraq that begins with training Iraqi forces so they can defend their country and fight the terrorists. We are making tremendous progress towards this objective. Earlier this year, Iraqi forces led the fight in clearing out terrorists during the crucial battle of Tal Afar, with U.S. troops in a supporting role, and every day, Iraqis are taking more control of the situation on the ground. Withdrawing from Iraq, as some Democrats in Washington propose, would send a dangerous signal to our enemies that we cut and run when the going gets tough. President Bush is offering a clear strategy to win, not a political quick fix.
Based on the title, you would have thought that the writer would offer an insight into how the US might turn the war around – but this didn’t happen. Instead, we got a string of sentences that included keywords and phrases but came to no conclusion except that the Democrats will cut and run. The purpose of this sort of prose is to erect a cloud of distraction. By the end of the 115 words, you almost forget that there is no plan. Or perhaps the president’s plan is to keep repeating a failed strategy until—until what?
The second one deals with the economy. It’s title: “Build a better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren”
America's growing economy requires a flexible, highly skilled workforce, and the President is committed to providing American workers with the training that they need to succeed. President Bush has put forth an ambitious agenda to ensure that America's economy remains the most prosperous in the world and believes we must ensure every adult can access the training necessary to close the skills gap in America.
But how? What skills gap has the president identified? For example, should we train more machinists? or computer programmers? And what are we doing for workers who lose their jobs – especially in the mid-west as our remaining manufacturers close or move off shore? Again there is no answer. Of course, the federal government has only a small part to play in education, but why pretend to accomplishments that don’t exist?
Here is the last one on Homeland Security: “Protect the Homeland”
President Bush is committed to keeping the nation strong and secure through strengthening our military, deploying a missile defense, strengthening the NATO alliance and supporting military families and veterans. The President is committed to promoting an independent and democratic Iraq to ensure further stability in the Middle East and the world on the whole.
Again, what question is being answered? If a strong military is enough to protect us from terrorists (and we know that it is not), then we are in big trouble now, since our military is far overextended. And what do we make of the reference to missile defense – does this help, and does it work? No: missile defense does not stop terrorism, and No, the system as it exists doesn’t really work either. Again, we have a collection of unrelated concepts that are strung together into one paragraph with the hope that the reader would forget that they don’t come near to answering how the Republicans intend to counter the terrorist threat.
It is election season. The Republicans are intent upon delivering the impression that they have something to say. As we can see, they do not. My only wish is that the Democrats did!
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/25/2006 12:01:00 AM
Friday, September 22, 2006
This week's quote (no guesses at all this time) comes from one of the quiet revolutionaries of the 20th century, a man who could have reinvented the way we educate our children--if only we had been paying attention. His name is Jiddu Krishnamurti, and, just as we do here at Daily Rev, he taught independence and the infinite paths to it--though admittedly with far greater eloquence and insight than you will find amidst these pages.
Our quote: "it is only those who are in constant revolt that discover what is true, not the man who conforms, who follows some tradition" comes from Think on These Things, a collection of his teachings on education. Krishnamurti was a genuine, cut-the-crap type of spiritual teacher in the same vein as Lao Tzu, Emerson, Rilke, Rumi, Basho, and William Sloane Coffin. You can look through some of his books at amazon; you can also sample his work at The Krishnamurti Foundation; and even see him in action at Google Video. Before we leave him for now, let's read a little more of his teaching on "revolt," because it says a lot about what we are trying to do here at a blog called "daily revolution:"
Listen to the question first, because it is very important to understand the question and not just wait for an answer. The question is: if all individuals were in revolt, would not the world be in chaos? But is the present society in such perfect order that chaos would result if everyone revolted against it? Is there not chaos now? Is everything beautiful, uncorrupted? Is everyone living happily, fully, richly? Is man not against man? Is there not ambition, ruthless competition? So the world is already in chaos, that is the first thing to realize. Don't take it for granted that this is an orderly society; don't mesmerize yourself with words...The world is in a process of decay. If you see the decay, you have a challenge: you are challenged to find a way of solving this urgent problem. And how you respond to the challenge is important, is it not? If you respond as a Hindu or a Buddhist, a Christian, or a communist, then your response is very limited--which is no response at all. You can respond fully, adequately, only if there is no fear in you, only if you don't think as a Hindu, a communist, or a capitalist, but as a total human being who is trying to solve this problem; and you cannot solve it unless you yourself are in revolt against the whole thing, against the ambitious acquisitiveness on which society is based. When you yourself are not ambitious, not acquisitive, not clinging to your own security--only then can you respond to the challenge and create a new world.
In this vein, we're giving the Friday Reflection space over to a man who left us a comment in yesterday's post (if you haven't read it, check it out--just click "Comments" in the footer of the post).
Jay McGinley is a man who has dedicated himself to an urgent human cause. Curiously, he has gotten virtually no notice in the MSM for doing essentially the same thing for Darfur as Cindy Sheehan and the Code Pink crew have for Iraq. Their chosen means of civil disobedience has been the hunger strike. But while Sheehan has garnered regular coverage (though much of it negative) from the MSM and a daily presence at Michael Moore's website and truthout, McGinley's protest has gone--like the genocide in Darfur itself--largely ignored (and I'm betting that Cindy Sheehan would be among the first and the loudest to deplore the media ignorance of McGinley and his cause). I searched google news and truthout's archives and found nothing there beyond a piece in an Ithaca College campus newspaper. But then again, George Clooney went to appear in Congress on the same topic, and he didn't get much ink, either.
Obviously, McGinley is not trying to win converts to the practice of starving on behalf of a cause. He is simply asking for vocal support for the innocents of Darfur. How you choose to deliver that support--with money, letters to the editor, calls to politicians, joining protest marches and rallies, or another means of making your voice heard amidst one of the most terrifying holocausts in human history--well, that's the choice you are free to make. But you will need to make a pest of yourself--this is not one of those issues where an email or a donation is sufficient. This is one of those get-in-the-face-of-power moments of human history.
Here, then, is an excerpt from Mr. McGinley's piece at Passion of the Present:
Who can stop this slaughter? ONLY ME AND OR YOU CAN STOP THE GENOCIDE. “Never think that a small group of committed people can't change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has,” wrote Margaret Mead.
I think that a corollary to this is: NEVER THINK THAT A COMMITTED INDIVIDUAL CAN'T CHANGE THE WORLD. IN FACT, IT IS THE ONLY THING THAT EVER HAS.
Many, many, many people are involved already, but how many of us are committed? Never Again depends on me and you, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.
How hard will it be to stop the extermination now? MUCH HARDER THAN WE HAVE FACED. Isn't it self serving, to think that to Rescue and Restore Darfur will take less than the commitment seen in the Antiapartheid, Civil Rights, or similar struggles? Yes, it is self serving to deny that the cost to me and you must be very dear. Ten years ago the cost was too high for me and you to rescue Rwanda.
What can stop the Genocide? ONLY OUR HUMANITY RADICALLY UNLEASHED, A CRUSADE OF NONVIOLENT ACTION, CAN STOP THE GENOCIDE, CAN RESCUE AND RESTORE DARFUR. It is not our intelligence, methods, computers, political skills, connections, military or the Internet that can stop the Genocide. It is not our hoped-for Generals (Bush, Kofi, UN, Senate, Congress, France, Nato, Germany, China….) who will Rescue and Restore.
They will NEVER be the army needed.
When will the time be right for us to stand up? THE TIME WILL NEVER BE RIGHT. You and I are WAITING for the right plan, the right strategy, the right time, the right leadership, the right resources… There is no such thing.
There is no safety, comfort or certainty in battle. Our choice is not to wait for the right opportunity. Our choice is whether to enter the battle or not. We must enter the battle now, alone and unsure.
What Spirit and Tactics are required? THE SPIRIT OF LOVE AND FAITH, THE TACTICS OF FASTING, DEMONSTRATIONS AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE. Whenever there have been campaigns that led to mass Rescue and Restoration, the Spirit was one of selflessness, love, courage, justness and faith; faith that if we embody the will of our Father to the extreme, He will use us to move the mountain.
And the TACTICS WERE EXTREME, MATCHING THE EXTREME FORCES OF DESTRUCTION. If we do not aggressively employ these tactics we have chosen to let the Genocide extermination prevail.
Save Darfur Action Link
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/22/2006 12:05:00 AM
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Every so often, we'll be putting up a list of currently topical action links for you to choose from, as we collect them (and as always we welcome suggestions from Commenters). I know it may not seem like much to send an email, sign a petition, or even participate in one of those letters-to-the-editor features that some sites have. But guess what—sometimes it works. Sites like Moveon and American Progress have made a kind of art form of them, and several have proven very effective in actually influencing decision-making on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.
An excellent example is Save the Internet's email and petition campaigns on net neutrality. The petition drive has generated over 1.1 million signatures, and more than 15,000 blogs have signed on to support the campaign (DR is among them). It went from a drop-kick corporate victory to a stalemate in the Senate, and the fur is still flying on Cap Hill. What these campaigns do more than anything is to keep the politicians nervous, and I personally like that. I do not want the fat cats to ever feel satiated and comfy; they all make six figure salaries and get about 8 weeks' paid vacation every year—let them squirm a little, the lying, self-serving, imperious, cloying, shifty, corrupt bastards.
Here's some recommended action links for this week:
Oxfam: Tell Josten's to repudiate the practice of mining "dirty gold". We all know about Josten's: they made a fortune selling those class rings that most of us got in high school and college. This campaign is about reminding them that fortunes can still be made while also ensuring that miners, their families, and the environment are treated with respect and dignity. So what if the fortune's a little smaller as a result? To me, success and prosperity are defined by my ability to go to sleep at night and look in the mirror in the morning. How about you, Josten's?
Consumers' Union: Tell the FCC to stop the evidence-tampering on corporate media mergers. The Bush FCC has destroyed evidence that contradicts their assumption that giving giant media corporations wiggle room on univocal news hegemony would be a benign tilting of the playing field. The fact is that when there's only one voice audible in the room, there is then only one truth (see my essay below for more on that problem, and an individually-oriented solution).
Progress: Time for a real minimum wage increase that's not tied to more tax breaks to support the lifestyles of the rich and infamous. And if you'd like to get a feel for how crucial this is, check out Ehrenreich's post at Huffington. You may also want to check out her books.
The Pen: Congress must uphold the War Crimes Act and firmly let the Bushies know that torture is no longer an element of foreign policy.
Progress: Genocide IS news. This goes to CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, and CBS, and tells them that what's happening in Darfur deserves more attention than what's floating beside the space shuttle. While you're at it, you can also use FAIR's extensive media contact listings to get your voice heard both globally and locally.
Yesterday, we pointed to the vast potential of an open-source model in our technological and personal lives toward restoring some sense of what democracy feels like. After all, given what we have endured these past six years, it is understandable, if unacceptable, that many of us might have forgotten.
Democracy is what happens when individuals in a society are given the freedom and capacity of choice. Having the freedom to choose political parties, candidates, lifestyles, sexual orientation, family planning options, jobs, careers, schools, friends, partners, businesses, and associations is the essence of democracy; no sane person would disagree with that sort of a statement, no matter their political orientation.
This points to why America has become less democratic, more restrictive and oppressive, and less free over recent years. It's not that our traditions have been lost or our values weakened, or our institutions corrupted—it's that our choices, and our ability to choose, have been progressively, insidiously limited by a tyrannical government and a corporate hegemony in both politics and business. These toxic influences have been supported and smokescreened by a bought, prejudiced mainstream media, which is in turn ruled by the same corporate culture of competition, the insider trading of money and ideas, and a lockstep org-chart hierarchy of class. Think about your movements and actions during the course of a normal day, and see how many of them are pre-determined by the corruptions of our current culture. Think of the images and information that is made available to you in the media, and how much of it is the same old swill.
So the argument for social change should not be about which of two political parties; which group or institution can best protect or enrich us as a collective. No: the argument should properly point to how we might restore the vibrancy and variety of choice to our nation and the individuals that comprise its living body.
We need a third, fourth, and fifth political party that can easily gain media attention and a place at the table of the national debate (but Ralph, you don't start by running for President, damn it). We need alternatives to the corporate capitalist model of doing business—not replacements, but alternatives; one of which we have identified here as the "open source" approach to the sharing of material and intellectual capital. In our spiritual lives, we could use a more personal, less group-centric approach as well. We need a renewal of the kind of inner independence taught by Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman—in which, as one of them said (I think), "the only true church has a congregation of one." We need to break the leash of group affiliation and the arrogant chains of the moral perfection of priests, imams, rabbis, roshis, and popes. We have seen, only this week, the terrible cost of assuming omniscience in any of these or their demagoguery-clubs.
We need, above all, to make choices on behalf of the Earth that supports and nourishes our lives. It is time to put planet ahead of patriotism, so that both are served. Your country will benefit from the nurturing of a healthy, vibrant planet whose nations are all equally strong and free. But every nation will be ruined by the cult of planetary murder that is currently being perpetrated by the leaders of the so-called free world.
Make individual choice the daily touchstone of your life, and you will be doing more to promote and nurture democracy in your country than all the flagrant flag-waving patriots in Washington combined. Do this, and you will also be contributing toward the renewal of the planet you live on, and to its preservation for your children and the generations to come.
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/21/2006 12:05:00 AM
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
We have a lot of stuff for Geek Wednesday today, but first a few valuable informational links on the theme we've been pursuing so far this week—the arrogance of our government and its paid media.
First up is Jon Stewart, who pleads with Robert Novak for understanding. Hilarious.
And yes, I know I said I'd stay away from MSNBC because of what they did to Alterman, but who can stop watching Keith Olbermann and his eloquence to Power?
And speaking of Alterman, he's just as relevant, sane, and topical in his new home at Media Matters as he was at MSNBC. The following is his preface to a truly bizarre WSJ union-bashing editorial:
One of the many afflictions facing American political life is the lack of an honest conservative intellectual cadre. The leading voices of the movement, The Weekly Standard and The Wall Street Journal editorial page, routinely voice statements that they, themselves, are too intelligent to believe. But they know that if they throw it out there, it will be picked up by the idiots on cable TV and talk radio and will control the discourse.
And just in case you think there's nothing happening in the world except the mysterious debris that's following the space shuttle around, there's more trouble and unrest in the world (aside from Iraq, that is): a military coup in Thailand and a spate of public rioting in Hungary. To know what's happening all over the planet, and to obtain a reasonably journalistic perspective on it, never mind the American MSM—point your TV remote or your browser to the BBC.
Microsoft sez: nobody can be big or successful but US! YouTube, you're goin' down, because you're too much like US. You see, it's that old chicken-and-the-egg thing: does arrogance begin with government or with corporations?
AOL, makers of the world's worst browser (I've had a recent chance to confirm this, since I downloaded it after they started giving the pitiful thing away), is fighting worms; while IE has lifted its dress for porno malware writers. Yep, you guessed it: IE and AOL use the same engine. If you're still stuck in Windows hell, Firefox and/or Opera should be your choices; on the Mac, Safari is still king for speed and reliability, with Mozilla's Camino, Firefox, Opera, and Omnigroup's remarkable Ominweb in close pursuit. For some other options, see our Linux review below.
Ken Fisher of Ars Technica has spent some time with RC1 of Vista (that's "release candidate," not "Royal Crown"). He says it's not a bad piece of late beta, and concludes, "my greatest praise for RC1 so far: no fatal crashes, no shell crashes, and only the occasional Internet Explorer barf. In other words, it's a lot like working on Windows XP. Take that as you may."
Ubuntu Linux: The Dapper Drake
Over the weekend, I installed the newest version of Ubuntu Linux, codenamed "Dapper Drake" onto the Wintel machine here; and I was even more impressed with this than I had been with the earlier version ("Hoary Hedgehog"). As you can see, the OS delivers visually (the Earth shot is of Picasa for Linux, from Google's Labs); and I found out that there's more to it than meets the eye.
Ubuntu's installation disk contains a fully functioning "live" version of the OS, which you can use while in Windows. If you like it well enough to install it, it comes with a helpful partition manager, so you can create a partition for Ubuntu without harming your Windows installation. The installation went smoothly for me, and the machine now starts with a black screen that gives me ten seconds to choose whether to boot to Ubuntu or Windows.
After logging in, the GNOME desktop opens. It is a refreshing change from the puffy garish blue of XP, and offers warm, earth-toned tawny oranges, golds, and browns instead. The OS required only one download, install, and restart from its built-in upgrade manager (as opposed to the half-dozen or so you'll have to endure during a Windows installation).
Once that was done, I was presented with a fully functioning Office suite, OpenOffice; a browser (Firefox for Linux) to which I later added Opera for Linux and Konqueror, both from the Synaptic Package Manager application. The SPM contains hundreds of offerings, from the mega-geeky database and developer tools to productivity tools, performance enhancers, games, and graphical/multimedia applications. Every single one of these is free: that's the beauty of the open source world.
Now if you're unfamiliar with this seemingly communistic computing realm, let me explain what's behind it, because it is no different than what I and my partner do in this space right here. At Daily Rev, we research and write about what we think matters to freethinking people. We don't get a dime for it (I assure you, the advertising has done nothing for us, I have scarcely sold but a few copies of my books, and the donation link is treated as if it were infested with plague), but we keep doing it anyway. The work itself is regenerative, instructional, and often even entertaining. In other words, we do this from a sense of love for the work and its content.
Same thing with geeks: they work at jobs where they probably write code for projects that really don't fulfill them, so they come home and write code for a community of users, in an environment where they're doing something valuable, invigorating, and restorative. This is why I have written, time and again, of the vast potential contained in the "open source" model for government, politics, culture, the arts, and society in general.
So what's the trade-off? What do you have to give up if you're leaving the expensive, dangerous, but vaguely reassuring, nipple-sucking realm of Microsoft's XP or even (the less dangerous, somewhat cheaper) Apple Mac OS X?
As far as I can see, not a lot. But you do have to put something into the project: you have to make the effort to learn a few things; you may even have to re-familiarize yourself with the command line again here and there (though far less than you might fear). Remember, if you've been around computers since the '80's or early '90's, we all started out on the DOS command prompt. I can recall gratefully returning to C:\ after a bout with repeated crashes of Windows 3.1. So many of us have it in our backgrounds to learn a little command line action again, and the payoff is considerable.
The most obvious benefit is cost: Linux, and everything that runs on it, is free. Think of how much money you've spent on software, whether for a Wintel box or an Apple machine: my conservative guess for myself would be something on the order of five grand over the 20-odd years I've owned computers. Now, with the advent of web-based productivity software, the move to a platform like Linux makes even more sense. What do I need a $300 OS for if I'm going to use my PC to write documents in writely.com (Google's word processor) or spreadsheets in OpenOffice or Google Spreadsheets? A copy of Apple's iPhoto, which comes with the iLife suite, costs $75 (unless you're buying a new Mac); but Picasa for Linux is free.
One area where you'll find both a little frustration and a refreshing taste of human ingenuity is in video and multimedia processing. Quicktime, Windows Media, Real Audio, and iTunes currently lack Linux flavoring. But geeks are an endlessly resourceful lot: they find workarounds and alternatives to the corporate squeeze at every turn. I've just downloaded "mplayer," an open-source adapter for reading QT files on the web. There are a number of music players for Linux, and again, I've been very impressed by the graphics handling of Ubuntu Linux. Dedicated geeks can write drivers, codecs, translators, and converters for just about anything that runs on silicon, so your job as a user is merely to do the necessary research to find out who's developed the thing you're after.
The overarching point to all this is right in line with everything else we talk about here at Daily Rev. We have entered a time in human history when respect—for each other, for differing values and purposes, and most of all for the living planet we inhabit—will be paramount to our survival, both as individuals and as a species. The corporate, capitalist model has failed us—not because it's inherently flawed (it might be, but I'm not sure I can make that judgment); but more because it's been allowed such destructive dominance. We need alternatives, and we need to see them practiced widely. If the dominance of the corporate model is weakened, then business will be strengthened, and corporations will start behaving better, too.
So, as I have mentioned many times here, capital is not the culprit. You can have everything you need to live comfortably and happily without falling into the pit of belief that lies beneath the thin, slick floor of the cult of competition. You can be recognized for your gifts, your talents, your capacity to create change for the betterment of the whole, without your succumbing to the delusory allure of fame. You can fulfill the heart of uniqueness that beats within you, and you won't have to sell yourself out in doing it—in fact, you're more likely to realize your true destiny if you avoid shilling yourself.
That's what The Open Source Society is all about—contributing to the whole by fulfilling the individual. Now think about how large or significant a place in your life is touched by technology (you're reading this blog, for one thing). Linux, BeOS, Mozilla, Wikipedia, Mambo, and any other open-source, shared technological environment or product is the geek embodiment of The Open Source Society. Give it a try by ordering a free (truly free—not even any shipping costs) Ubuntu Linux disk.
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/20/2006 12:01:00 AM
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Hey everybody...Night the Cat here. While my human messes around with the banner again, I thought I'd drop a few pennies into the well here.
You see, I've figured out something about you humans: you're all what I would call...um...how to put this correctly?...Assholes.
Yep, that sums it up. Take this President of yours: he wants America to be a beacon for the world. Well, most creatures, whether or not they've been given the dubious gift of human language, would guess that in order to be a beacon, you have to give off some light. So since when did light come from wrapping yourself in darkness?
But you hear him use the expression all the time: "a beacon of freedom." He makes that by doing every foul and illegitimate thing possible to subvert human freedom—and then finally dogging Congress into writing his crimes into law. With freedom like this, who needs Gitmo?
Another favorite saying of this guy is "beacon of hope." Now I've never seen a more hopeless creature this side of a dog pound, but maybe that's just me. The only hope I see this guy beaconing is in the boardroom of Halliburton. But if you're looking for hope in Anbar province, Afghanistan, Baghdad, or New Orleans; well, happy hunting.
Who's running your country, after all? Why, it's Mr. Knuckles!
Hey, look at the bright side, people: you've got your own Pope there in Washington. You see, he's infallible, too. Two peas in a pod, these guys—or you might say, two nuts in a scrotum. The Vatican King's handlers are saying that it's "unprecedented" for him to apologize for anything—he's never wrong, you see; and when you're never wrong, you don't have to apologize. Tyranny means never having to say you're sorry.
Sound familiar? Yep, whether the Texas Tongue Step is done in Crawford, Washington, Italy, or somewhere in Bavaria, it's all the same thing: these guys talk trash like the planet's too clean or there's no tomorrow, and then their leash-holders get all in a huff when the crazies that they're insulting start spitting and growling for jihad.
Oops, here's my human...I guess he's done with his geek stuff for now. Meow.
"Night, you're right...you were always right...us people are a bunch of blithering, barking, raving morons, and we're getting stupider by the second!"
Hmm...not bad, human; I couldn't have said it better myself. See ya around, folks.
Let Congress know that if they dare to legitimize Bush's war crimes, they do so at their own electoral peril. Complete the short action form at the link and follow it up with a phone call to your local rep's office.
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/19/2006 12:01:00 PM
Monday, September 18, 2006
Links and Downloads: Media Matters, the great site that keelhauls the neocon American mass media, has now added Eric Alterman to its stable of writers. Click the graphic to be sent to Eric's first post at MM. And while you're at it, you might take a moment to write MSNBC and let them know how you feel about their cowardly firing of Alterman.
Here at Daily Rev, we have Monday with McKenna as a download today (Word doc, 668kb). Terry offers his personal reflections on 9/11, with graphics and links that are well worth a look. It's the sort of document that a blog's space cannot do justice.
Terry has also done today's cartoon—click to enlarge.
Frank Rich's column is available to Times Select readers (even if you don't want to pay for it, just get a trial subscription); and his new book is also out: The Greatest Story Ever Sold. The opening of Rich's column points up an alarming coincidence of deception:
RARELY has a television network presented a more perfectly matched double feature. President Bush’s 9/11 address on Monday night interrupted ABC’s “Path to 9/11” so seamlessly that a single network disclaimer served them both: “For dramatic and narrative purposes, the movie contains fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue, as well as time compression.”
No kidding: “The Path to 9/11” was false from the opening scene, when it put Mohamed Atta both in the wrong airport (Boston instead of Portland, Me.) and on the wrong airline (American instead of USAirways). It took Mr. Bush but a few paragraphs to warm up to his first fictionalization for dramatic purposes: his renewed pledge that “we would not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor or support them.” Only days earlier the White House sat idly by while our ally Pakistan surrendered to Islamic militants in its northwest frontier, signing a “truce” and releasing Al Qaeda prisoners. Not only will Pakistan continue to harbor terrorists, Osama bin Laden probably among them, but it will do so without a peep from Mr. Bush.
If you're beginning to see a theme here, it is no accident: the American mass media have not progressed a single step toward the practice of actual journalism since the exposure of Jeff Gannon. In fact, it's gotten worse—a daily diet of spin, lies, and unabashed deception, from the very people who are paid and trusted to uncover the truth. That's why we carry Media Matters' daily feed in our sidebar; why we recommend that you visit Alterman's blog and bookmark it; why Terry drew that cartoon as he did; and why Frank Rich's book and column must deal at such length with the lies of this administration and the mass media's zomboid repetition of same. After all, there's a lot to cover—a quotidian stream of lazy deception.
Finally, on the same topic, Jon Stewart weighs in with a little piece about how to turn a question into an accusation. Watch it.
Fortunately, millions of people around the world weren't watching the news this weekend...they were asking the leaders of this benighted world to finally show some leadership, and act to end the slaughter in Darfur.
Here are a few more links on the most urgent human disaster facing us now:
The dismal reality of Darfur
How to help
Let your Congressman know that you want Darfur to be a top-priority issue for this government.
Finally, demand that the media do their job and report the truth, every day, about what is happening in Africa.
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/18/2006 12:01:00 AM
Saturday, September 16, 2006
God. He's so damned sensitive—have you ever noticed?
In case you haven't, here's your update: when it comes to institutional religions, God has a really bad attitude and an even worse temper. He always seems to be walking around in Heaven with a massive chip on his shoulder, ready to strike out violently at the mildest offense. You know, a cartoon in a newspaper or an action movie set in a French museum.
Or a few words in a speech by a former member of the Nazi youth who thinks the Harry Potter novels are the work of the Demon. Yeah, that guy, the Pope.
So the pundits of Islam are now slinging knives of resentment at the Pope, and the rest of us are sitting ringside, amazed anew at how easily God takes offense. You diss God, and he'll draw his T-bolts of retribution on you faster than a street druglord. If you dare say or suggest publicly that God's prophet or other designated spokesman might have been a tad too violent than is appropriate for a spiritual teacher, then you're gonna pay, homeboy.
An old black book with gilt letters on the cover; a saint or a prophet who's been dead for centuries; a stone monument or two carved with the laws of a primitive age and culture—diss any of these in the blandest, most circumspect terms, and you are one with Satan. No punishment is too severe for you; no Crusade, no jihad, too violent a response to your crime. Deal with it, G: that's justice on The Holy Street.
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/16/2006 04:00:00 PM
Friday, September 15, 2006
Time now to reveal the source of our banner quote for this week (surprisingly, no one guessed it). It is Shakespeare—specifically, Hamlet, Act II, Sc. 2. The speaker is the character Polonius, one of literature's quintessential figures of the political center. He lives his life teetering about under the weight of other men's ideas, constantly struggling to maintain an Aristotelian point of perfect, linear centeredness. In doing so, he is led from one self-deceit to another, until he is led inexorably to death. In our government, he would be Colin Powell or Condi or John McCain; in the media, he would be David Broder or Thomas Friedman; in religion, perhaps Billy Graham.
Polonius is the fellow who aligns himself with Power and spends his entire life and energy in rationalizing that alliance. In the end, of course, he is revealed as the petty, banal, common courtier he has always been; a man who buys position with the coin of deceit, and inevitably pays the ultimate price for the bargain.
How we strive and compete to gain and defend The Holy Center! With what a furious and squalid pedantry do we spill lies from that hallowed midpoint of the line! In what exalted and self-indulgent tones of punditry do we cry out from the sacred median that splits left and right!
But what if there were an alternative to this walk on the balance beam of political linearity? Might it be worth a try? Could it be that, in a scientific age of quantum mechanics, relativity, and nonlinear mathematics, we are still stuck in Aristotle's ancient, bipolar, duoplaned reality? I have offered an answer to these questions before, during the first post in this blog, two years ago. Perhaps we can revisit that experiment soon.
Treasure everything you have, and be prepared to lose it all. Accept all that comes to you and be ready to give it back. But ownership is a distortion of nature: in the real universe, no one owns, and nothing is owned. You can have all you need; but you cannot own a single thing.
Live this principle; understand it in every cell of your being, and you will never want for anything.
To grasp a thing is to lose it; to clutch at a person is to repel her. To own something or someone is to become its slave. Seek ownership of things or people, and you will find despair. Defend your possessions, and you will always be at war. Live for consumption, and you will always be consumed.
Ownership splits the self—rends it into pieces labeled "Mine" and "Not-Yet-Mine". The compulsion of accumulation will turn you into an object as well; the more you own, the more life will you waste in defending it, with scarcely a moment left to love it as a gift.
The more gilded the robe, the more rotten the soul beneath it; the more gleaming the shrine, the darker is its basement.
Ten thousand years of civilization, and we have yet to learn a thing.
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/15/2006 12:01:00 AM
Thursday, September 14, 2006
We have an announcement to make tonight, but first a few fun links:
Lysistrata in Colombia: The ladies brandish what may be the most effective weapon in the war on terror. May this inspiration soon spread to the Middle East...
Stewart Sings: C & Dubya music.
Strip Poker Super Bowl Does a Janet Jackson: SI's John Rolfe gets the sports stories that others miss.
The Flaming Assholes From Down Under: To what depths of idiocy can grief drive men? How about a vendetta against those evil stingrays—a stingray ethnic cleansing?
Daily Revolution Turns Two
I didn't want to make a big deal of this—first because, as Tony Snow would say, "it's just a number"; and second out of respect for the other anniversary that has come upon us this week. But yes, it is true, and you can check the archives to corroborate it: Daily Rev is now 2 years old. Our first formal post was September 13, 2004, although I had been blogging for well over a month before then (I deleted those earlier posts during a moment of lucidity, because they were nearly all of them the most abysmally lame drivel).
DR began as an unabashed shill for the candidacy of Mr. John Kerry. When that failed, the blog became a personal coping strategy, and a place where I scribbled notes for various book projects, all in the near-complete anonymity of a newbie amid the blogosphere.
Somehow, and through no conscious intervention of my own, the blog eventually found a voice; and people actually started to read it. This was an alarming development, since it seemed to demand a broader perspective and a more inclusive tone than DR had started with. Fortunately, the arrival of Terry McKenna amid these pages, in the spring of '05, added much-needed depth and scope to the blog. His knowledge of history, and his ability to apply its lessons to the events from the front pages of each week's news, have provided the context for our stream-of-consciousness vents on the dangers of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist politics.
Terry's GOP roots also taught me a lesson about enmity that is constantly reinforced on me. It happened again yesterday: we joked about the confusion arising from the help that America received from Syria the other day, when its military forces stopped an attempted car-bombing of the American embassy there. To paraphrase the famous Pink Floyd song, the question arose: is Syria "us" or "them"?
Those of us on the portside of the political ship might ask a similar question about the effect of division and enmity in the national discourse. Our government has missed opportunity after opportunity for growth, accord, and international progress in the past five years, mainly because of its lockstep fundamentalism, which is defined by the Us-vs.-Them system of belief. If every dialogue and every difference is to be defined in the terms of an armaggedon-style battle for civilization (the spin that Bush himself repeated on Monday evening), then we will be drawn inexorably into deeper divisions of polarization and darker regions of tyranny, both here at home and internationally.
This goes for the left, the right, and every point in between on the narrow line of discord. If Democrats wish to regain power through division and isolation, they will be going down the same road that the Bushies have taken us these past six years. Because we globally conflated Syria with "Islamo-fascism", we allowed some significant potential for growth through diplomacy in that region to slide through our fingers. The era of white hats and black, if it ever really existed, is over; deal with it. More than that: welcome it: this is the first step in the dance of truth.
So to my friends on the left, I urge you to listen to Republicans, and engage them as if they were your allies in the quest for peace and freedom. Because, for the vast majority, they are. Question them, pester them, needle them, challenge them, yes—but do not abandon or isolate them. This, in essence, is the "daily revolution" that we attempt to foster here: a turning-away, from the cult of opposition and the slavery of a narrow group affiliation. If what we write here, even with all its many flaws and errors, contributes to that revolt upon the foundation of tyranny, then its purpose will have been achieved.
Thanks as always to everyone who has visited these pages over the past two years.
Ann Richards, 1933-2006
It is rare, but not unheard of, for a politician to care, and to make a commitment to the true and original purpose of government, which is to serve and support the people of a society, a community, or a nation. Ann Richards, the great Democrat from Texas, was such a politician. She will be missed, but, we hope, never forgotten. After all, she still has plenty to teach us.
Posted by Brian Donohue at 9/14/2006 12:29:00 AM