Friday, March 31, 2006

In Class: Defense Against the Dark Arts

Note: the picture is from an actual course catalog for a technology school. Below is a scene from a visit I made to see how that class is taught. (Thanks to Nearly Redmond Nick for finding this).

PROF. MOODY: When it comes to the Dark Arts, I believe in a practical approach. You've got to know what you're dealing with…CONSTANT CYBERVIGILANCE!!! So I've decided to let you see firsthand what you're up against. Now the Ministry of Technomagic thinks you shouldn't see any of this…that you aren't ready. I say different. I say you need to know…Now, who can tell me the three unforgivable hacks? You in the back…your pocket protector is leaking inside your robes.

KID IN BACK: The old geezer can see through stuff…wonder if he could look inside this laptop...

MOODY: Yeah, and you've got a malware attack from all that porn you've been downloading, Mr. shut up. All right, who can tell me one of the three hacks that will land you a life sentence in Redmond? Yeah, you, with the nerdy glasses, you look like a geek…Potter's the name? Give me one, Potter.

HARRY: Well, there's the Imperius hack…

MOODY: Yes, the Imperius hack. Gave the Ministry a fair bit of trouble in its day…let's see it. (takes worm out of glass jar on teacher's desk; takes sliderule out of pocket protector, points at worm) Microsmio. (worm shrinks to invisibility in his hand) Imperio. (slithery silver substance floats out of his hand, toward a kid's PC on his desk). What's happening, son—your name's Malfoy, right?

MALFOY: (in terror, pressing buttons on his keyboard) Windows is crashing…my hard drive's doing an auto-format. My data--Help!

MOODY: (waves sliderule, silvery stuff floats out of PC toward another one nearby) Yes, too bad…hope you backed it up this morning. CONSTANT VIGILANCE. Now, shall I make it wipe out your email? Send you five million copies of "How to Make Your Penis Ten Inches Longer"? Clear the history files on your browser? Hmm? Potter…let's see you try it…(silvery stuff floats into Harry's PC). Well, what's happening?

HARRY: Nothing, sir. My data's fine, all my apps are up and running…

MOODY: (his CG-Eye shoots out of his head toward Harry's PC) Ehh, look people, he's fighting it! He's got a Macintosh! Ah, but wait…is your Safari downloading anything now?

HARRY: (disgusted) Yes…it's a picture of Professor McGonnigal, naked…and it's reproducing—tiling itself all over the desktop…stop it Professor Moody, please stop it!

MOODY: (pulls a bottle of Jolt out of his robes, sucks down half of it in one gulp) Repair your permissions and you'll be fine, Potter—and fix that download setting. CONSTANT, UNCEASING, PERPETUAL VIGILANCE. Are you people ever gonna be geeks—or do you want to be nerds all your life?


Note to J.K. Rowling's and Warner Bros.' lawyers: I never really went to take that class. I've never even been to Boston—honest. And I have $55.67 in my bank account right now, and I own nothing of value except an iMac dome desktop and the entire six volume set of Harry Potter books in hardcover, which I purchased with my own money.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Below the Tip of the Iceberg

This revelation might have blown right past you on Monday morning; I see it as just another view of the depths to which this Bushian iceberg of crime, murder, and deceit truly reaches. I'm sure we haven't even seen a fraction of the evidence yet; but enough has been uncovered to fully justify Eric Alterman's conclusion:

While George Bush and company were out invading countries that did not threaten us in any way, wasting trillions, killing tens of thousands, destroying functioning infrastructure, torturing innocents, inspiring hatred, and portraying America as a nation of incompetent, lying, torturing, illegal phone-tapping hypocrites to the entire world, what else was happening?

Well, unless you count minor details like Katrina; homeland insecurity; further increases in the poverty rate of the world's most affluent nation; neocon corruption, thievery, and (in a few cases) indictment; Scooter in the White House and Jack in the Lobby; the attempted rape of Social Security, the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, Medicare, and student loan programs; or the game of three-card-monte with the Supreme Court (which is turning out a little less pliable than was intended)—why, nothing happened.

But by god, the Crawford Cashew has been a very, very busy man. Today, he welcomed the President of the sixth largest oil producing nation in the world to the White House. He must have spent the entire month just learning the guy's name. Now he'll have to ask Karl or his new chief of staff to do something about glossing over those rumblings we've heard about President Olusegun Obasanjo's desire to keep his job for life—you know, like a dictator...maybe even one that would harbor a known war criminal.

Then again, what the hell? How far can it be from Iraq to Nigeria? And tell me again, Karl, how much oil do they have?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Geek Wednesday: One Fruit, Three Decades

So what do you do when you turn 30? I can't remember, but if you're Apple Computer, to court. Then, you do a quick fix on your flagship product to forestall more unpleasant legal action.

The celebration, it would appear, is left for others. C-Net has an excellent display of Apple memorabilia, MacWorld looks back at the first fruits of techno-innovation, and if you're a real Mac whack, then you can spend a whole day poring through the links here.

If you've read some of my previous entries, then you're already aware that I tend to favor the Mac in the practice of the binary arts. Mind you, I spend all day working with Windows, and I have come to appreciate it: you see, I work in QA, which means the more foul-ups and bugs and architectural snafus there are, the more secure is my job.

Here at home, I have a windows box and a 3-year old iMac dome desktop. When I'm here, the Mac's always on; the Windows machine is the ugly stepsister here. The Mac OS (now up to 10.4.5 Tiger) has never crashed; though MS Office for Mac has a few times. I'd love to get a new one, but this one's not even paid for yet.

So why would someone supposedly in his senses spend two grand on a Mac when a Wal-Mart wintel can be had for a tenth of that? To me, there are two factors at work in this seeming irrationality. The first is TCO, total cost of ownership. The Mac is an investment that takes a chunk out of you at the top, but then stops. Windows never stops nibbling. I work with high-powered geeks who spend hours on a weekend defragging, fighting malware, installing patches for dealing with security flaws and new worms (and then fixing the ancillary problems the patches inevitably bring with them), struggling with device driver conflicts and assorted techno-mayhem. I tell them to multiply the hours they spend on that by the hourly rate they get at work, then add that to the cost of the computer (none of them, I must add, would think of even sniffing at a $200 Wal-Mart box).

Another draw for the Mac is, for the technophile, a matter of pure aesthetics. The Mac offers elegance melded to functionality; it pushes processor-intensive code with ease and grace. OS X is a wonder of design and durability; it just does everything Apple says it can and will do, without making you feel like you're lucky it's working at all today. I like the single menu bar for the active application; the ability to search at will from anyplace in the system and get instant results; the see-through Dock and glassy, 3D desktop graphics and brushed-stainless toolbars (which Redmond is shamelessly copying for Vista); and the shimmeringly smooth handling of multimedia and graphics.

I am definitely not a geek, so I gain no pleasure from writing a piece of code (even if I could); and I find nothing redeeming in XP's puffy, swollen title bars and its ability to have 379 windows open at once. I approach technology at the same pace I experience other aspects of life: with a preference for a rounded, unhurried encounter. So if you like ALT-tabbing through 27 windows while you're multi-tasking like a person possessed, then stick with the Windows box; but if you're in a place in life where speed is a bonus, not a raison-d'etre, then you may be ready for the Mac.

I simply hope that Steve Jobs and his company do not become fat and arrogant with success, as happened to the $50B man from Redmond and his inner circle. As the old Apple commercial shows (just click the Einstein graphic above to see it), innovation does not come from muscle, size, power, or wealth. It comes from the heart.


For another view of Win vs. Mac, see this recent article from the New York Times.

On a Holiday to Hell

Things are not always, or even often, what they seem: so before you see a victory for humanism in today's action at the Senate regarding immigration reform, remember: this has to make it all the way through both houses and their various committees, paper mills, spin shops, and bureaucracies, before anything can be deemed final. You might say that it's time to wait for all the Cards to fall. Sorry, couldn't help that.

Meanwhile, have you ever wondered why nothing seems to get done in government, especially Congress? Here's Arlen Specter on the urgent need for reform of judiciary review of NSA-style domestic spying: “I’m going to bring it up as the priority item when we come back after the Easter break,” Specter said.

Now hold your egg baskets there a moment: these people just returned from a week off for Spring Break. Now see if you can swallow this, from a recent article in USA Today (click the graphic above for the full text):

Through Friday, the House was in session for 19 days, compared with 33 for the Senate. If they stick to their current schedule — including two weeks off in April, a week in May and July, plus all of August — House members will spend 97 days in Washington this year.

That's compared to the 250 or so days per year that the rest of us spend at work. By the way, the least of them make $165,000 for their 97 days of work per year. That's a hundred and sixty five grand. $1,700 per day worked. Add benefits and other perks and that's about triple my salary (I'm a consultant, so I get exactly zero paid days off per year).

So to my mind, the wonder is not that half a million people descended on L.A. this past weekend to defend their rights to basic human dignity and the chance to work; what I'm baffled about is why millions of us aren't descending on Washington to take back our government from these wheedling, contemptible slackers that are stealing our money—another stack of it in about two weeks' time (unless you're making half a million a year or so). This is beyond repulsive—these people are so incompetent, their system so locked in corruption, that they've stopped bothering to show up for work!

Now, in case I haven't made myself clear enough so far, I want there to be no mistake on my position here: this goes for both Democrats and Republicans. The only difference between them, to my mind, is that Democrats are full of shit, while Republicans are made of it. And just so you know I'm not just pissing on America, the same is true over in England, where the Labor Party impoverishes its people while sending its youth to die in a war built on lies.

So while I'm busy throwing up my Ramen noodles dinner, my good buddy Red Hook Red will continue the venting of spleen. I got this note from him today:

Sheez, if you wanna get depressed, read the new issue of Time – all about global warming and the ecological disaster that is already in progress while our noble mealy-mouthed leaders can’t find the cojones to act. Meanwhile, the suicidal jihadis are on the verge of getting The Bomb and using it to hasten the return of a 12th century prophet who vanished into a cave (probably to take a leak) and never came back…The human race is certifiably insane. I can see all these fat ass corporate muckety mucks floating through the Hamptons in their Lincoln Navigators while Long Island disappears under the waves…I have no idea what planet they and our illustrious, intrepid leaders, those proud defenders of “values”, are planning to flee to, or even which one they came from; but as Roger Waters would say, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

Here's why I read Alterman every day: the man often shoots out gems like this one. Bookmark it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Wretched Refuse Huddle Up

Last week, I wrote a note to a good friend of mine, in which I mentioned how circumstances sometimes happen to take us beyond the reach of fear (and how they may yet do so again). I had no idea at the time that I'd see this reflection illustrated with such intensity as it was over the weekend in L.A. and elsewhere across the nation.

Psychologically, the situation is very simple—so simple that the wonder is that anyone was even mildly surprised at the overwhelming mass of these demonstrations. Of course, in the message I wrote, I was talking about a near future in which the planet itself was under attack from a strange, self-invading force. But the inner dimension of what happened this weekend resonates clearly with I was describing: people driven to a point of desperation where they had nothing more to lose—nothing.

Where does fear go when it has no further objects for its trembling heat? Where does the fixation with appearances, with one's social image go, when the mask lies shattered beside a crumbling wall in the desert sun? How can any fat cat in Washington or elsewhere be astonished that hundreds of thousands who have already been condemned to a lifetime of despair now join as one in a final cry of human feeling, naked animal urgency?

I felt the tone of these questions in The Poor Man's profanity-laced paragraphs this morning (read it, it's very good). His shock was at the supreme ignorance of these fat, banal old men and women in Congress and the White House, who could have been so blind amid their self-indulgence and petty political bickering.

Another voice of sanity, Paul Krugman, reminded us of the roots of this mayhem: they can be found on a poem written on a copper green statue in New York Harbor of a woman in a robe, holding a book and a lamp. The history of America is a story of people coming from afar—servants, bondsmen, the down-and-out, the cast-offs of other nations, and the most unwilling of immigrants, the slaves—who had made a final, desperate choice at a moment when they had nothing left to live for, nothing left to hope for, nothing left to fear.

They are your ancestors, my fellow Americans. These others around us now are the progenitors, perhaps, of another America—one that may sense the dangers of globalization and its penchant for creating overwhelmingly vast generations of "huddled masses" through the international guest-worker game of geopolitical slavery. I suspect that these folks who clogged the streets of L.A., Chicago, and Washington this weekend know damned well what a "guest worker" is, without having to be told the truth outright. They know slavery when they see it, when they hear it, no matter what rhetorical or advertising dress it happens to be wearing today.

How, after all, could they not recognize it? They have lived with it all their lives; it is what has brought them to this last moment of desperate resolve. As Mr. Krugman pointed out, we cannot possibly accommodate all, or even most of them; but we ignore their voices, their urgent message born of desolation, at our own peril, and at the peril of our nation's future.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Madison Ave. Presidency: Style over Substance

Here's a question for everyone who works for a living: what's the worst possible combination of traits you can encounter in a colleague—or worse still, a boss?

If you came up with "clueless and arrogant," then you already know why we call this Bush administration "the corporate presidency." Which brings us to the topic of Monday with McKenna. Terry, take it away...

We kid ourselves that we have the best of everything; the best universities, the best housing, the most productive agriculture, the best government. We attribute this to our freedom and unrestrained commerce. But for all of our effort to generate plenty, we have ended up with way too much of some things and too little of others. Thus we live in ever larger houses, entertain in ever more opulent great rooms and pass quiet evenings at home by watching huge flat screens TV’s. Our processed food and ever-present snacks are highly flavored and inexpensive – also highly caloric. We pay for our bounty with ever longer commutes to longer work weeks. And we have gotten fatter and fatter – and prone to the diseases of plenty: heart disease and diabetes. Our civil society is impoverished. Many of the better off are isolated from the rest by gated communities; we in the middle class live in suburban islands; both are far removed from the alienated urban poor.

But enough of that. Today I want to focus my dismay at news and policy – for my thesis is that our culture of plenty has impoverished the reporting of news. And with no news, there is no genuine debate on policy.

Thus, where 40 years ago, families felt they were well off with a portable black and white TV for the kids and maybe one color TV in the living room; and where after supper we were content to sit down to a brief half hour of national news (available from one of three networks) - we now have an endless supply of news – available 24/7 on our TV’s, via the Internet on our PC’s and even on our phones. But the plethora of news is really just empty calories – all sound bytes and photo opps.

Where we would benefit from analysis, instead we get matched sets of talking heads, set against each other in constant argument. Yet despite the argument, truth is buried. For example, the strange transition where estate taxes became death taxes was noticed only after the damage to our tax system was complete. And in the run up to Iraq the nightly news became a cheer leading section for American might – with little thought about the now obvious consequences. No, the news is very much like a buffet filled with potato chips and similar snacks. Filling, but none of it real food.

The consequence of news reduced to tidbits, is a public policy debate centered on mere slogans. I was struck by this when I looked at news coverage of George Bush defending (again) his Iraq failure. Instead of hearing his thoughts, we were treated to just enough to know what he was talking about… and he was shown standing in front of placards announcing his “PLAN FOR VICTORY.” I then went to the White House website, and lo and behold, for nearly every topic, a picture of the president with a placard. It’s as if his words are so lame that the message is all in the title. I’ve collected a few into a little photo montage (above right).

If you don’t know the truth, the pictures make it appears as if we have a presidency of real accomplishment - but when you consider the results it’s anything but.

Let’s take time out to examine the pictures. Have we done anything to reorder America’s priorities? And are they the right ones? Have we started to improve healthcare? Not really. The president’s focus is solely on tax breaks that allow entrepreneurs to purchase private insurance; for those on Medicaid – the Bush plan is to help states abandon the poor. And what about so called Medicare reform - it turns out that the program is a confusing mess for old folks – the only beneficiaries are the drug companies.

And how about that plan for victory? Do we believe that until now there was no plan? Maybe the correct placard should have been Plan for Victory II. And like most sequels, not as compelling as the first.

But night after night, we hear almost nothing.

—T. McKenna

Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday Reflection: Heart, Brain, Infinity

Regular visitors will recall that every so often I break off from the news, give the Bushies a respite from my vitriol, and offer what little I have of personal insight into what I call "the way of inner growth." Today, I have another one of these pieces, which I hope is of some benefit. By the way, if you click on the infinity graphic, you'll be directed to a medical news story that ties in with the reflection that follows.

Thought is not unipolar—that is, it doesn't flow fully formed from a single point in the body or an isolated bundle of nerve cells in the cranium. Thought is not the lonely function of one organ, but works more along the lines of a relationship—a marriage, if you will.

Look within yourself, and feel: there is an active, working relationship among the parts of the self that we abnormally imagine as disjointed or even opposing organs and functions. The heart sits at the top of the thoracic cavity, sounding the rhythm of Nature, sending nourishment throughout the body, and sharing information along electrochemical pathways with the brain and the rest of the central nervous system.

The heart is the primary feeling organ of the self: like a woman breathing into her lover's ear, it feeds inspiration to the brain, which then transforms that inspiration into the expression of insight and invention. When you let this happen, it is bliss beyond comparison—something like sex on warm, moonlit sand, moistened by an evening ebb tide.

So visualize, if you will, a continuous current of energy that begins in the heart, rises and flows upward, emanating like light from a windblown candle along the upper spinal column and into the brainstem. From there it glows onward, diffusing across the seemingly infinite neural pathways of the midbrain and forebrain, awakening and inspiring everything in its luminous path. It curls, like jasmine smoke, over the forebrain, along the face downward, through the mouth and the throat, back toward the origin and destination of this infinite loop of perception and expression, the heart.

Now consider the shape made by this pathway: it is the symbol for infinity. That is who you are; it is the simple essence, the core of your uniqueness. Discover it.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Justice on Spring Break

Today, news from the world of Justice: one of the dog-handler torturers of Abu Ghraib was sentenced today to prison. For six months.

Yep. Six months.

Same as what Martha got for insider stock trading. But hey, it's twice as long as what Judy Miller got. Jesus, you can get one to five (years, that is) for smoking a joint...this guy tortures actual human beings and gets six months. He'll be home by Xmas, and if he plays his cards right, with a book deal and an advertising contract with Alpo.

No word on what sentence the dog involved will be facing. No Scooby Snax for a month, I suppose.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the country that our soldiers fought and died to make free, justice has a new life. A man there is facing a death sentence for converting from Islam to Christianity. I couldn't help but wonder what Yann Martel's fictional character Pi would get—but he was a Hindu who decided to convert to all three religions at once. Well, I guess he got his, after all: hard labor in a boat with Richard Parker (I won't tell you who Richard Parker is—if you haven't read the book, check it out).

Sliding over to India, we find that the old blind virgin Justice is alive and well there: a six year old girl is being charged with assault on not-one-not-two-but-three grown police officers. And proving once again that children are wiser than adults, the little girl had this comment on her predicament: "I am scared to go to school. I fear the police and the courts."

Meanwhile, back in good old Washington, where Justice hangs that sleek, sexy robe of hers, in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal(s), Congress is forging ahead with ethics reform. Well, sort of. All right, they'll get around to it—right now they're on spring break until next week.

Yep. Spring break. Hey, you're fifty or sixty-something, you don't get any at home from the old lady (or old man), and those hormones start jumping around this time of year for everybody. OK kids, have fun—but Ted, best leave the car in the garage.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A New Diagnostic Entry, and Geek Wednesday

Geopolitical Psychosis: a chronic and socially debilitating mental illness characterized by derealization, delusions of supremacy, sporadic and politically convenient paranoia, flight of ideas, word salad, isolationism, institutional dependent personality disorder, and gross incompetence and disruption of the following abilities of the PNS (Political Nervous System): speech, motor activity, executive and planning functions, and capacity for reality testing.

Patients with GP may exhibit delusions of grandeur, perseverative or redundant speech patterns, Extremely Short Term Memory (ESTM), obsessively self-referential ideation, usually involving a bizarre delusion (as in the belief in a liberal media that is residing within the national or governmental body), and most frequently, a surreal view of events that is often manifested in "rose-colored-glasses syndrome". Visual hallucinations, often inciting bizarre violent behavior, have also been observed in patients with GP, as in one victim who saw his best friend's face turn into a bird of prey, and filled it with buckshot.

Psychosocial Warning Signs of a Possible Sufferer of GP: Large bank accounts, multiple homes in exclusive neighborhoods, ownership of stock in multinational corporations conducting business in war-torn foreign countries, golf handicap below 15, may hold a high position in government, has difficulty with balance on bicycles or in swallowing popcorn, reads children's books in times of international crisis, will speak only to employees of FOX News.

Rx: Treatment for GP: Extract of Im-prunus persica, followed by an extended commitment or incarceration. To ensure a full recovery, it is recommended that patients have all their assets and income taken away and given to the poor. Dramatic recoveries have been observed from shock therapy treatments such as waterboarding, though patients may resist treatment based on their prior use of same against others. Removal to the warmer edges of the Antarctic ice shelf has also been seen to produce significant symptomatic improvement.

I sent the text for this new diagnostic entry to one of the docs overseeing the preparation of DSM-V, which is to be the next major upgrade of the diagnostic manual used by Western psychiatrists. The DSM is a lot like Microsoft's Windows operating system: it's a project that's continually in beta mode (but not in a good, google-beta way), whose new editions are always running behind schedule. Which brings us to...

Geek Wednesday

What do you mean, "not until 2007" Bill? I wasn't counting on seeing Vista until just after the next Presidential election. Oh well, whatever: what counts is that you're a lover of mankind, a friend to children—except, of course, when the kids are using Linux as their OS.

Freedom Fries now being served in Cupertino. Search requests for "Marseilleaise" at the iTunes Music Store are being met with "denial of service" notices.

Geek Tip of the Week: Looking for a printer? Consider a monochrome laser printer. After enduring years of frustration with inkjets that are slow, unreliable, and eat toner faster than a Hummer consumes Exxon Super Premo (at an equivalent level of expense), I made the jump to a cheap, fast, and versatile monochrome laser printer. With less than $100 to spend, I chose the Samsung ML-2010; but if you have more cash than that to play with, you can get a higher end or multifunction laser printer—even with color.

The payoff with laser: speed (22 ppm on the Samsung vs. less than half that speed on the fastest inkjets); versatility (runs on all major OS's—Windows, Mac, and Linux); crisp resolution (1200 X 600 dpi); and long-term savings on toner (a 3,000-page capacity cartridge costs $60, while a 700 page inkjet toner setup runs roughly $40—do the math). Especially if you're a student or writer whose main need is text printing, the laser printer is a no-brainer, in addition to a money-saver.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mark Morford on Violence

For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Mark Morford is a columnist for SF Gate. Twice a week, he rips a new anal fissure in the concrete butts of power, fundamentalism, accumulation, and government by violence. He regularly deposits gems of insight into that column of his—you can check for yourself by hitting the link at the top of my blogroll and perusing his archives. All I can say is that when a writer of Morford's quality casts pearls, you don't mind being the swine.

Recently, he wrote a piece on violence. It's 800 words of pure, effortless, intense perception; it deserves to be read and re-read. If all goes well with our world in the coming generations, I'm betting that people—especially the young—will be reading and quoting this column for a long time. Here's an excerpt:

Violence no longer informs me. It no longer has the power to teach. It is a one-note song I've heard so many times it has lost its power to stun or impress or delve deep. It now merely tears at the fabric of the soul, punches holes in the anima, scrapes its knuckles on the pavement of hate, and you can shrug and roll your eyes and go watch "The Hills Have Eyes" or "Saw II" or even play some hi-res shockingly ultraviolent video game and enjoy the brutal escapism and wallow in the bloodshed while pretending it's not slowly, quietly blackening your world view like a smoker sucking down another carton of Marlboro Reds, but deep down, where the meanings are, I think maybe, just maybe, you might be seriously mistaken.

Maybe, deeper down, you can also choose to try and cultivate that seemingly impossible Buddha-blessed, Christlike ideal so completely forgotten by the rabid pseudo-Christians of this country: Forgiveness. Wisdom. Turning the other cheek. Rejecting the Bush-fed all-American kill-'em-all, eye-for-an-eye thug mentality in favor of actual ... I don't know what. Subtlety of mind? Nuance of intellect? Elevation of spirit? I know, it's completely crazy.

Completely crazy indeed. If the world could just breed more lunatics like Mark Morford, then I think we might have a chance of seeing ourselves and this planet survive the current century. Tomorrow at Daily Rev, we'll get back to examining the real psychotics of our world—the ones who are leading its nations and institutions.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Impeachment: Can it Wait Any Longer?

Like many of you, I came home tonight to find this story on MSNBC's front page. Perhaps by the time you read this, the round of whitewash denials ("Congress/the media/John Q. Public had access to the same intel as us") may be resounding from the White House. Just read the story over carefullly, in the context of everything else you know about these decadent fools who govern us; and remember that Mr. Tenet still has the Presidential Medal of Freedom in his trophy case.

Then, once you're done cleaning up your vomit, the next thing to do is to call, write, or jab your finger in the chest of your local elected reps in Congress, and demand that articles of impeachment be drawn today, as in NOW.

They didn't have an excuse for avoiding this task before (it is, after all, part of their job); they have even less of an excuse now.

"I am Here to Protect You" (Run!)

Well, it seems as if there will be no need for me to further develop my case for geopolitical psychosis (see yesterday's post). You see, Dick Cheney has done it for me. So let's move on directly to our Monday with McKenna section.

Yesterday while eating supper, I watched a news clip of our fearless leader (George Bush) speaking about his domestic surveillance program. I wasn’t paying strict attention, but my ears pricked up when I heard the president say: “I have to protect you” … the emphasis on YOU (and not us) said it all.

This is not a man of the people (of course we knew that already), but it also signifies the larger disconnect between the American people and the right wing cabal who run the country today.

George Bush is not leading us in the manner of democrats (small D); he’s imposing his will. He has more in common with strongmen and dictators (or Sheiks) than with the run of the mill democratic head of state. And like a lot of eventual strongmen, he probably believed in the earnestness of his mission when he started running for president in the late 1990’s. But at this point it’s all about maintaining power; thus the secrecy and continual self-justification.

American leadership has not always been like this; in fact, the current tyranny is rather new to the Presidency—at least we can credit the Bushies with a spirit of novelty. Recently, I looked into the past, at the texts of a few of FDR’s Fireside Chats. Here's a sampling of what I found—this one's from February, 1942, when the war was not going well.

We are calling for new plants and additions — additions to old plants. We are calling for plant conversion to war needs. We are seeking more men and more women to run them. We are working longer hours. We are coming to realize that one extra plane or extra tank or extra gun or extra ship completed tomorrow may, in a few months, turn the tide on some distant battlefield; it may make the difference between life and death for some of our own fighting men. We know now that if we lose this war it will be generations or even centuries before our conception of democracy can live again. And we can lose this war only if use slow up our effort or if we waste our ammunition sniping at each other.

Here are three high purposes for every American:
1. We shall not stop work for a single day. If any dispute arises we shall keep on working while the dispute is solved by mediation, or conciliation or arbitration -- until the war is won.
2. We shall not demand special gains or special privileges or special advantages for any one group or occupation.
3. We shall give up conveniences and modify the routine of our lives if our country asks us to do so. We will do it cheerfully, remembering that the common enemy seeks to destroy every home and every freedom in every part of our land.

Doesn’t that sound stirring? Of course, FDR was wealthy, and of course he was not himself going to suffer from the war (though he was profoundly affected by disability) – but throughout we have a stirring call to shared effort and even more important, shared sacrifice. And the sons and daughters of the well to do served and even died.

So when we think of the legacy of the past 5 years: tax cuts for the well to do, tax breaks for industry, lack of enforcement of environmental and safety laws, and a failed foreign policy that forsakes negotiation in favor of bullying, I hope we all know what to do this November, and in 2008 – turn the bums out.

--T. McKenna

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Retreat From Reality: Unhappy Anniversary

Americans are not, as many around this benighted world have surely been wondering these past three years, stupid or blind or inherently arrogant. Read the polls, talk to your co-workers and neighbors, and decide for yourself.

But Don Rumsfeld hasn't been willing to try this experiment: his head remains firmly in the sand of denial, the concrete of cynicism. This is a man who is pathologically divorced from reality. Yes, I am saying that he is psychotic. Not schizophrenic, but clearly psychotic, according to the definition thereof in the DSM-IV, Western psychiatry's diagnostic manual. I'll be developing this further during the week, but for now, let's see how the delusion is manifesting itself today.

Today, in the Washington Post, Rumsfeld has gotten himself a byline over an op-ed piece. At the same time, Iyad Allawi, former PM of Iraq, has clearly stated that his country is in the midst of a civil war.

Rumsfeld says that everything is wonderful in Iraq—free, democratic, and dangerous only to the terrorists, who are just about to throw up their hands, admit defeat, and quit. He adds that if it weren't for the evil ones on this side of the planet—the bloggers, the liberal media (another sign of delusion, for there is no such thing), and those carping websites that are more obsessed with current events than with the penumbral glow that history will inevitably cast over this great war—then the polls wouldn't be so one-sided and the American people would be foursquare behind this grand old war.

The Iraqi politician, however, sees things a little differently:

We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is.

Tomorrow, Terry McKenna will be here to offer further perspective; but the number, size, and scope of the events, marches, and protests around the world this weekend should be enough to tell us that Donny's deluded hopes for a favorable judgment from the goddess of History are as disconnected from reality as is the concept of a "known unknown."

Don doesn't want us to retreat from Iraq: he tells us that to cut and run now would be disastrous. Here's my message for him: I and most of the people I know who have opposed this war from day one are not asking our troops to cut and run—we are demanding that Don Rumsfeld, George Bush, and Dick Cheney cut and run. If you demented tyrants would just get out of the way of progress, then nobody would bother you anymore, I promise. Just go off to wherever wealthy psychotics go to die—retire to some quail farm and shoot each other's faces off, I don't care. Just get out of the halls of power, now, and let saner women and men clean up the horrible mess you've left behind.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bombs Away, Baby

If this doesn't get your blood boiling, then you'd better check your pulse. And god, thank you again for bringing us Jon Stewart.

Now we return to the blander world of print media, where Newsweek is finally waving the $1 Trillion red flag that others of us have been raging about for roughly a year.

And this is for all you Pink Panther fans (no, not that one, the Peter Sellers Clouseau). "It is all a ploy." This is just another page out of the book of solipsistic diplomacy that Karl Rove and his buddies wrote. In plainer terms, it is called the tactical circle jerk: we will talk only to those we know are our friends; we will talk only to ourselves.

28 Eiffel Towers or 9 Buckingham Palaces—take your pick. Make up another Xmas song about it, to sing while you're walking the subway catching stray coins in a paper coffee cup.

But fear not—your tax dollars are hard at work. On bomb-sniffing butterflies. Yep, I'm not making it up.

Finally, this, from Navy pilot Joseph W. DuRocher, who returned his wings and bars to his commander-in-choke, er, chief, along with these words:

I return enclosed the symbols of my years of service: the shoulder boards of my rank and my Naval Aviator's wings on moral grounds…. Until your administration, I believed it was inconceivable that the United States would ever initiate an aggressive and preemptive war against a country that posed no threat to us. Until your administration, I thought it was impossible for our nation to take hundreds of persons into custody without provable charges of any kind, and to 'disappear' them into holes like Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram. Until your administration, in my wildest legal fantasy I could not imagine a US Attorney General seeking to justify torture or a President first stating his intent to veto an anti-torture law, and then adding a 'signing statement' that he intends to ignore such law as he sees fit. I do not want these things done in my name…. to remain silent is to let you think I approve or support your actions. I do not.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Leaving America, Entering Police State USA

Police State Politics: Click the picture of Mr. Hackett and then watch the video—it needs no commentary. It's hilarious, and it tells you all you need to know about what's wrong with this nation in decline and its minority political party. And it reconfirms Jon Stewart as the Mark Twain of our era. Also see Wonkette's take on this.

Police State Media: Yep, it's no longer America as you once knew it, or as your Pappy or your Grandma knew it. It's machinery at work, wherever you look—even (or perhaps especially) in the matter of media control. Today, CBS's appeal of the Janet Jackson fines was rejected, even as a new one was piled on for a scene in an episode of Without a Trace. Even Fox came in for censure with the FCC, though they, of course, avoided a fine—thus forestalling an unsightly clash between the Thought Police and Bill O'Reilly's Fox Security.

Police State Rules & Regs: if you're not one of us, you're with them. Sen. Russ Feingold was accused of "siding with the terrorists" for introducing into Congress motions of censure against President Bush.

Police State Spin: attack anyone who dares to practice journalism (see FAIR's expose of the real reasons behind Dubya's attack on the L.A. Times' story on anti-IED devices).

Police State Psychology 101: anyone who would walk in the shoes of the poor and middle classes and then publicly (and eloquently) write about their plight and defend their rights is a shrill Marxist-Lesbian-loving-baby-killing monster—see how this happened to Barbara Ehrenreich, who, in a better nation, would be our Press Secretary; and in the best of nations, the Press Secretary's boss.

Police State Economics: deficits are positives; fiscal restraint is negative (except when applied to any spending that would benefit the poor and middle classes); and the wealthy are needy.

Police State Diplomacy: isolation is supremacy; if you're alone in the world then you always know who your friends are (note the one "no" vote against the U.N.'s human rights body).

Police State Technology: Google this, Stanford: if we say we need to know, trust us—we need to know.

Police State Mathematics (or the 3 per cent solution): if 97% of the people won't buy your truth, it's time to invent another one (note carefully the reversal of cause and effect).

Police State Legislation: if you broke the law, change it. If the ball's not rolling your way, shuffle the shells a little.

Any questions, class? Good. Now, your bookmark to will now be deleted and you will be redirected to


Quote of the day, from Bob Herbert, that clarion voice of sanity at The New York Times (and if you have the money, a year's worth of this kind of insight is well worth $50):

"Everyone who thought this war was a good idea was wrong and ought to admit it. Those who still think it's a good idea should get therapy...Most of the people who thought this war was a good idea also thought that the best way to fight it was with other people's children. That in itself is a form of depravity."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Incompetence of Tyranny, Redux

Quote of the day, from Judge Brinkema, addressing the federal government's prosecutors at the Moussaoui sentencing trial: “I don’t think in the annals of criminal law there has ever been a case with this many significant problems.”

This relates back to a theme that I have written about before, in the context of the federal non-response to the Katrina disaster. This time, it's about the amateurish bumbling of government lawyers (a recurring theme with them—see Progress' history of this phenomenon). But no matter the outer form or particular personalities involved, it's about the incompetence of tyranny. Six months ago, I described it this way:

A theme that is often overlooked by both historians and newspeople is that of the fundamental incompetence of tyrants, such as those currently in power in Washington. Yet from Nero and Caligula, all the way to the various Communist emperors of the 20th century and the Saddams and Bushes of the 21st, the defining mark of tyranny—its solipsistic arrogance—has made for bumbling, stupid, destructive, and inevitably self-destructive, government.

Industrial age and contemporary corporations bear the same mark: the incompetence that derives from the petty self-absorption of imperialists. Their obsession with the veneer of self-imagery and the drab array of the superficial creates a myopia that increasingly blinds itself, until there is only vision for what is no longer there. Thus, tyrants will always miss the sickening effects of their depredations, until some event or combination of events so disrupts the tower of ashes upon which their power rests, that even they will be forced to take notice.

For George W. Bush, the moment has come. To borrow a metaphor from a wonderful parable on tyranny by Dr. Seuss, Yertle the Turtle, the little fellow at the bottom—after years of patient support and groaning oppression—has burped.

And the rest of us are ready to throw up.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fundamentalist Regression is US, Part 2

Terry McKenna returns today to complete his tour of the Bush administration's campaign against reason. And just in case you imagine that there are more moderate Republicans out there who might inspire hope for a more rational and genuinely compassionate conservatism, just check out Paul Krugman's review of the speeches, voting record, and hypocrisy of one man who is held up as the very symbol of a GOP renewal (Times Select—$$$ or trial subscription required). Now, to Mr. McKenna, who answers the question posed yesterday: are we at or near a tipping point in the crusade of fundamentalist regressive thought?

You won’t find a discussion of the Bush administration's war on science in the local papers, nor in our national news weeklies (Time, Newsweek etc.). TV news – if it asks the question at all, does so via softball interviews with Bushies like the now-disgraced Gale Norton. This editorial from Sunday's New York Times sums up her career as ideologue and shill for western mining and energy interests.

It takes the patience of a magazine like The New Yorker to effectively treat complex issues like this one. They have a wonderful piece in their print edition (week of March 12, 2006), written by Michael Specter and titled "Political Science". Their online edition doesn't give access to the full article, but does present the highlights via an interview with the author.

Here are just a few of the science/technology issues:

Condoms: the consensus among public health experts is that only condoms provide effective protection against HIV/AIDS . The Bush administration wants an emphasis on abstinence instead. The data: abstinence fails for 2 reasons: people eventually stop abstaining, and for those who live where HIV/AIDS is the major public health issue, innocent wives become infected after having sex with their infected husbands. The Bush policy is a sop to fundamentalists and the Catholic Church.

Birth Control: medicine has developed an effective morning after pill. This pill should be available over the counter (and would be a great help to couples who have abstained till one night when the passions overtake them). But the FDA, yielding to fundamentalist Christians and the Catholic Church, has so far stopped this one.

Cancer: we now have an effective vaccine against HPV (the primary cause of cervical cancer) – but to be effective, girls would need to be vaccinated before they become sexually active. This one is still in the pipeline for approval, but the same mix of fundamentalist Christians and the Catholic Church are lobbying against mandatory vaccinations – with the notion that the vaccine is not needed (because kids should abstain from sex, of course).

Global Warming: climatologists have no doubt that the earth is warming primarily as a result of our use of fossil fuels. Relying on support from the likes of Exxon, the Bushies have used selected scientists as debunkers – presenting a wait and see approach. The bottom line: so far, the US is taking no ACTION to stop the increase in CO2 emissions.

Intelligent Design vs. Evolution: in fields from geology to genetics, science follows the line of inquiry begun by Charles Darwin. Of course Darwin is “wrong” about the details – the techniques and sciences needed to guide him did not then exist – but like Isaac Newton in physics, all who come after him stand on his giant shoulders. Yet the president wishes American educators to present alternatives to evolution. This is another sop to fundamentalists (even the Catholics are staying out of this one).

Are we at a tipping point? It’s hard to know for sure. To begin with, if Bush is replaced in 2008 by a Democrat, we will see a reversal. But if we have “tipped” we won’t really know it for years – for much the same reason that it took decades to spot the trend now understood as global warming.

Americans are beginning to notice that we are not graduating enough engineers and scientists. Who knows why – but efforts to stifle science surely can’t help.

—T. McKenna

Monday, March 13, 2006

Fundamentalist Regression is US

Today and tomorrow, Terry McKenna is going to pick up the thread laid out here over the weekend, to show us exactly where the fundamentalist assault on science and wisdom is taking us, our nation, and our planet. In the meantime, I'm going to be working on a response to Billy Graham's latest rant on God, Satan, and Katrina; it will be appearing later in the week. A free discussion of these issues is crucial to an independent understanding of our moment in time, but even more critically, to a vision for our future. Mr. McKenna, take us forward:

Today, I'm going to build on Brian’s posting Bushland: No Experts Permitted.

If you look at any of a number of issues, it is clear that the Bush administration wants to force experts to bend their ideas to administration policy. This includes all manner of professionals from economists to professional soldiers. This is probably all for the bad, but what might be the most damaging is how they want to stifle science. It is my thesis that we could be creating a tipping point such that the US’s overall lead in science and technology is ended, sacrificed for political (and religious) ideology.

Tipping points have happened in the past. In the Renaissance, Italy was the leader in all spheres of western thought and art. But then the Catholic Church tried Galileo for challenging the Biblical creation myth. The consequence of the trial was a suppression of Italian thought for at least two centuries. Control of Western philosophy and science moved on to Northern Europe.

A less distinct tipping point occurred in the Middle East. For those who don’t know the history, it was Arab scholars in places like Baghdad, starting around the year 800 who perfected the modern numbering system, created “zero,” and founded algebra. They also translated Greek texts and kept western philosophy alive. But sometime after 1400 their mathematics stopped progressing. The end result is the present-day Middle East with its legions of frustrated young men who dream of blowing themselves to smithereens all in the service of Allah.

Medieval China was also wealthy and was possibly the world’s leader in practical technology (having invented both paper and gunpowder) – but it walled itself off from progress by walling itself off from the rest of the world.

Could we be reaching our own, similar, tipping point? Tomorrow, we'll see if and how that question can be answered.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Bushland: No Experts Permitted

Here we have a letter that appeared in one of the most prestigious and professional journals of medicine in the world, The Lancet, from 260 doctors from 7 countries, including the United States. That is, physicians—you know, medical professionals who have been educated in their science, experienced in their art, and bound to their professional ethical code, exemplified in the Hippocratic Oath. This is what they have to say:

Fundamental to doctors' responsibilities in attending a hunger striker is the recognition that prisoners have a right to refuse treatment. The UK government has respected this right even under very difficult circumstances and allowed Irish hunger strikers to die. Physicians do not have to agree with the prisoner, but they must respect their informed decision. Those breaching such guidelines should be held to account by their professional bodies...We urge the US government to ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians and that techniques such as forcefeeding and restraint chairs are abandoned forthwith in accordance with internationally agreed standards.

The only major media outlets I found covering this story were Reuters and BBC World. Where the big networks have been on this is anyone's guess. Have any questions been raised to Scott McLellan, Donald Rumsfeld, or any of the Bushies, about this issue? Not that I can find. The only official response obtained from the American government is mentioned in the Reuters story noted above: it's from a Pentagon mouthpiece who basically said, "we don't listen to experts, and codes of ethics mean nothing to us." In fact, they put it in writing:

In a written response to questions, the Pentagon said, "Professional organization declarations by doctors, lawyers, dentists, etc. are not international treaties, therefore are nonbinding and not applicable to sovereign nation-states."

But let's be fair: experts and professionals have never fared well with the Bushies. That climate scientist who tried to warn Dubya in a pre-Katrina meeting about the potential for the destruction of the levees; the near-universal voice of scientists on the matter of teaching Intelligent Design in science classes; the 2,000 plus climate scientists around the world who authored the Millennial Assessment, a study of global climate changes resulting from human factors such as the burning of fossil fuels and the attendant dangers of global warming; military experts—four star generals and the like—who spoke out about the lunacy of attempting to secure a vast and unstable country like Iraq with insufficient force; the economists around the country who warned of the likely consequences of tax cuts and runaway spending; the atomic experts who have repeatedly stated that Iran is roughly a decade away from having an actual nuclear weapon and therefore does not pose "a grave national security concern" (Bush's words today) that must be dealt with via threat of force (Cheney's words yesterday).

The fact is, experts with professional background and knowledge need not apply in Bushland. In fact, the greater your expertise, the less you are likely to be heard and, if you happen to be working for the government, the more likely you are to be fired (ask former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill or General Shinseki).

Once again, our mainstream media have failed us as well as our government has. Great, we're orbiting Mars; cool, the Dubai ports deal got snuffed; and how ducky it is that all three major networks are claiming it as an "exclusive" that the FBI is onto the terrorist plot to blow up March Madness (though just past the red headlines it will say: "The FBI said Friday there is no specific, credible threat of a terror attack aimed at college basketball arenas or other sports stadiums, but acknowledged alerting law enforcement to a recent Internet posting discussing such attacks." In other words, there is no credible justification for whipping up fear, but what the hell, a little fear never hurt anybody and it makes nice headlines).

Oh, and Slobo is dead.

So they've got those big stories all covered up for us. But what about the worst and longest-running travesty of international justice to occur on an American government's watch in recent memory, and a penetrating comment on that travesty from an allied group of international professionals—physicians? Nothing. Not a single word.

Well then, it's up to us again—the blogosphere, the alternative press, and freethinking individuals around this country—to pick up the ball that the mass media has once again dropped (or buried). Frankly, I think it's disgusting that it should be so: but the mainstream press of this nation has become our great cultural emetic.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Assault of the Have-Mores

Maybe you can recall
Dubya's famous words to "the haves and the have-mores": "some call you the elite; I call you my base."

Well, the base has just gotten a little broader. By about a hundred and two.

Now I believe in up-front, truth-in-advertising style blogging; so let me clearly show where I stand on this. I am not a billionaire. Never have been, never will be. In fact, after the rent's paid, I'm not even a thousandaire. Currently, I am worth $104.22, not counting the value of my trusty iMac here and my collection of books. So, as you can see, I'm not poor—I'm just stagnant. Maybe you're a lot like that: running in place, making the next paycheck so you can keep your ass out of the street. Maybe this explains why so many of us are so short-sighted in our lives: How is it possible to have vision for the future when you can't see clearly past the next pay cycle?

But these folks that were listed in Forbes' annual report on the world's billionaires don't have that problem, bless them. They have the wherewithal to look far ahead, into a future that us mutts groveling under the porch can't possibly envision. They can lead the next generation forward to new levels of human progress and growth.

What, you don't think so? But Uncle Bill—you know, the guy responsible for the world's worst computer operating system (now available on a little slab with a stick)—why, he's giving millions to curing malaria and improving our nation's schools. Doesn't that count for anything? He's a philanthropist (that means, in Greek, a lover of humankind, as in "Fatal Error—all applications will now close and the system will shut down—your work will not be saved, but we love you").

So you think that maybe those millions are as farthings to Scrooge; that all this tax-deductible largesse is a drop in a $50 billion ocean?

All right, maybe so. Maybe the problem with billionaires is not that Bill or Oprah or J.K. has got it, but that anyone has. Maybe there's something wrong with the fact that the biggest increase in non-U.S. billionaires last year came from India, where half a billion (people, that is) live at or below the poverty line (a pretty low bar to get under in India). As one of these newest members of the billionaires' club might say, Let them drink Kingfisher.

Accumulation: I call it "the rabbit impulse" because it breeds faster than anything in the emotional barnyard, with the possible exceptions of its siblings, fear and guilt. Why can't these people stop? What makes them pile it higher and higher and higher? (Did you know that if you stacked $100 bills until you reached a million bucks, you'd have a pile roughly two feet high, but to reach a billion you'd have to keep stacking until you were about two hundred feet above the top of the Empire State Building?).

So what makes this rabbit keep fucking, even past the point where its offspring have desolated the meadow? What makes a person want to have more when he already has more than enough? What makes someone want two billion when he already has one?

We might as well ask what it is that makes a cell decide to become a cancer, because it's pretty much the same thing. I've written about this before, but it's a point that appears to deserve repetition, even if (as appears to be the case) no one is listening. When you define your life by a cult of competition—a formative belief that Nature is ordered in a rat-race-law-of-the-jungle-dog-eat-dog fashion—well, that belief is going to power your every thought, word, and deed. You can tell these people bromides like "you can't take it with you" and the other one about putting a camel through a needle's eye until you're blue in the face and they'll just look at you as if your face just turned blue.

Of course they will listen neither to reason nor to insight: they are ill. They are infected with a belief that has darkened every corner of their being, and so they will continue to rake it in, to accumulate, to hoard, and above all, to compete. So it is with all obsessions.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Terrorists in Collars

No complaints from any Catholics about yesterday's post, so far (the Domino's pizza king who wants to build Godtown is a devout Catholic—no morning-after pills at Godtown Pharmacy). But let's face it, the transubstantiation crowd is facing some rough times: more pedophile priests are coming out of the woodwork, this time in Ireland. For my dough, these people are as foul, vile, and loathsome as any Bush, Osama, or other institutional murderer; because they are institutional rapists.

The old Chinese oracle, the I Ching, has a description of what happens when an icy, restrictive, and pain-driven ideology infects the human soul. It's from Hexagram 29, titled "The Abyss", and it says, "bound with cords and ropes, shut in between thorn-hedged prison walls, one does not find the way." When your so-called spiritual path denies the body its rightful place in Nature, then the heart is "bound with cords and ropes" and the demons of perversion, murder, and torture arise. How can the body and mind work naturally—that is, in love and health—when the heart is blackened with the inner poison of a religion defined by hatred, self-abasement, violence and contempt?

Right now, I'm reading, once more, one of the truly great books of our time, Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. If you're familiar with this shimmeringly lucid work, then you know that its opening chapter is a history of the depredations of Columbus and his ilk—men who engaged in genocide and every form of murder, torture, enslavement, and sexual perversion imaginable; all under the blessing hand of Catholic priests and done in the name of God and Jesus.

Today, more than 500 years after those terrorists crawled upon the Earth; the Catholics have given us a new breed of silent terrorists—men who murder the souls of children, through assaults on their bodies, all in the name of God the Father. I would sooner take my Sunday sermon from Satan himself, or my religion from a colony of vermin, than from these walking dead who call themselves men of God.

I checked four Catholic websites tonight and found that the spin machines of this vile ideology have not a word to say about the revelations coming out of Dublin. But they sure have a lot to warn us about concerning condoms, abortion, birth control, women clergy, gays, and an upcoming movie based on a Dan Brown novel! But the fact that scores, perhaps even hundreds, of perverts and pedophiles are loose in the ranks of their clergy means nothing to these people—that's something to be handled internally, quietly, through the legal system where necessary, and with settlements paid straight out of the Offertory collection plate.

You ignorant fools—go into your fetid basement of inner death and clear out the cockroaches that you call "priest" and "father"—then come upstairs into the light of reality and tell me what's wrong with trying to stop the spread of AIDS or preventing the human race from overrunning this planet and destroying its resources or watching a movie that suggests the possibility that Jesus had a human body and enjoyed it, too. Until then, I will call your foul ideology out for what it is—a doctrine of hypocrisy, perversion and death.


Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Welcome to Godtown

Come to Godtown country—where the men are men, and the sheep are nervous. Just bring your family, your SUV, your AAA credit rating, your clean-shaven, bliss-grinning morality, and your King James Bible, and settle down with us here in Godtown.

And if, like me, you're a fellow who likes plenty of artificial mozzarella on his Martyr, don't forget to bring along an appetite for cheap pizza that tastes like FD&C Red No. 376 over hot, wet cardboard. If Mel Gibson can turn the fish into whole pies with extra anchovies delivered to your door by an adolescent kid whose face looks exactly like dinner, then we here at Godtown can make it in this dangerous world of turbanized bombers and blood-guzzling Iranians.

Godtown: a place where you can get fat and holy. A place where you can have your Christian family and your Mate1 mistress on the side. A place where the communion wafers come with two free toppings. A place where God and Government are one.

Jesus wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Madness is US

Give these Bushies the credit they're due: they can violate reason, common sense, and inuition, all in a few mighty blows. First, try this rule: nuke up and be legitimate; but pay the price if you dare honor international agreements. Even the media's starting to catch up on this one, though.

Next, if you don't like the law, kill it. And here's the sanest possible response, for the short term, at least.

Next, if it's dark, paint it bright (happy face optional).

And here's one I've tried myself, I'm afraid (note to the neocons: it doesn't work—believe me, I know): if you run out of credit, just sign up for another card.

Finally, if the ball ain't rolling your way, just rearrange the shells.

Welcome to the United States of Lunacy.

Times Op-Ed, Foreseen

Today, Terry McKenna continues his weird (and frankly rather eerie) habit of anticipating Paul Krugman columns. I will swear on a stack of Qurans (or satiric cartoons, whichever you prefer) that McKenna sends me these posts well ahead of the appearance of the Krugman columns (in this case, he was two days ahead of Krugman). Now this is about the third time this has happened, so unless Terry is (a) psychic or (b) friends with Paul Krugman, something is happening that surpasses the normal grasp of serendipity. I've just got to do a better job of getting these online as soon as I get them.

So if you have access to Times Select, check out the Krugman piece here, and then follow Terry as he explores the same conceptual territory as the Professor from Princeton. Mr. McKenna, the blog is yours.

Outsourcing is a familiar topic, but since the president brought it up during his trip to Asia, I thought I’d have a go at it as well. Speaking to a group of Asian students, George Bush warned us that we can either wall ourselves off from foreign competition, or we can protect ourselves from the pitfalls by our getting the education necessary for us to compete in a global economy.

As usual, it’s a bit more complicated than that. The sad fact of the matter is that even with the best education, a job seeker in the modern world can be done in by e-technology. Thus in my own part of the financial services industry, the maintenance programming necessary for our legacy systems is often outsourced, and in some cases, so is routine transaction processing. High dollar value transactions are still managed by various home offices, but as web technology and imaging (replacing paper) become the rule, it will be possible to farm out all of our work to the lowest bidder. Thus, there are no guarantees of a livelihood unless your career demands your physical presence in your own locale. Hmm, better to be a carpenter than an accountant? Maybe.

Is this a better world?

The president favors a simplistic yes answer. But his yes is based upon a fear that any economic restraints become shackles similar to those of planned economies (the sort that failed under communism). But it has never been that simple. Vigorous economies can exist despite many layers of taxes, labor regulations and import controls. (Thus we see prosperous Europe with high taxes and generous social welfare benefits*). Furthermore, opening ourselves up to all manner of competition only works if our competitors are playing the same game – but they clearly are not. Thus, China, for one example, takes our raw materials, but only buys the finished goods that it is not yet prepared to make. And if an American merchant wants in, he or she must find a local partner. Trade with Japan is similarly impacted by business practices that are illegal but allowed. Thus industry cartels control bidding on lucrative contracts, and the share that goes to foreigners is as little as the cartel can get away with. (Japan has promised to change – but don’t hold your breath.)

So over the past 40 years, in the US, we have encouraged manufacturing to all but disappear - for the false promise that the beneficiaries would buy more from us. They do buy more, but not enough to offset the mess that job losses have made to regional economies from the Great Lakes to the American South.

And no, I’m not saying that most of these losses were not inevitable, but had we developed a more nuanced trade policy with residual protective tariffs, the pace of change might have slowed. And surely, more manufacturers might have remained afloat (for one example, read this).

And to think, it started not because of economics, but because of foreign policy. America sacrificed its economic advantage after WW2 in favor of Japan and Europe – especially Japan. By the late 1950’s, the US needed Japan as an ally against the “communist menace.” The federal government ignored the dumping that was going on, and gradually our consumer electronics industry disappeared. Over time, we also lost fine printing, machine tools and even shoe manufacturing. Four decade later, we are even losing furniture to the Chinese – who have almost no wood.

Go figure.

—T. McKenna
- - - - - - - -
* Regarding Europe: there is some indication that European labor laws are so restrictive that they inhibit hiring; thus Europe’s high unemployment. But any discussion of the difference between US and European unemployment must include an understanding that US figures do not include discouraged nor part timers – so may be falsely low.

Monday, March 6, 2006

How Much is That Dogma in the Window?

Maybe you're in a similar economic position to mine right now: tax time's bearing down and I'm not even in cell phone range of the top 1% of wage earners—those folks who can look forward to tax cuts, rebates, and other gestures of financial genital-licking on the part of the government of the United Snakes of America.

What me, bitter? Nah. So the cost of the war is about to hit the quarter-trillion dollar mark, and according to most estimates, runs something in the range of $150-200 million per day. So maybe there's been a slight under-estimation of certain ancillary costs for defending freedom (Don Rumsfeld's freedom, that is); but look at what our tax dollars are buying us now—another historic Presidential mission to the far corners of the Earth, aboard Air Force One—a bargain at a mere $57,000 per hour. Here's a sampling of the statesmanship and the leadership that we're paying for:

Mr Bush said: "We discussed the civilian nuclear programme and I explained to him that Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories."

So, in terms of air travel alone—let's leave out lodging, security (the guy needed a battalion around him just to get around, though the fact that Air Force One landed in Pakistan with the lights out and windows drawn must have saved some money), and other expenses—we're talking about (at a conservative estimate) 30 hours in the air, or $1.7 million.

That's about 25 years' salary for me. 25 years of work.

And one day of the Iraq War? 2,000 years of salary. One month of the War? 80,000 years. A year? Try a million years' worth of work.

But am I bitter? Just because in about five weeks from now I'll be staring down the barrel of a shotgun called bankruptcy, all because of my government's demands that I finance their global depredations and inveterate self-indulgence?

Maybe a little, but I'll get over it: I'm just going to keep repeating to myself: "the President and I are different people with different needs and different histories." And thank god for that.


Note to Hillary: sit down, shut up, and listen to a real Democrat. Murtha '08.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Ego's Smallest Tricks

Maybe it is sometimes confusing to read this blog, I don't know for sure. Is the primary author of this thing a political observer, some kind of New Age psychologist, or just a tree-hugging fruitcake with shit for brains? Or a little of all three?

My other site deals with taking a holistic approach to psychological stress, conflict, and difficulties in relationships. I have written a book on the same topic, with an emphasis on enduring the psychological turmoil of a post-9/11 America. But working on Daily Rev has taught me that there's plenty of crossover between the realms of psychological exploration and political insight. The following, scribbled this morning on the subway after I had gotten my faceful of the daily news, is representative.

Ego's smallest tricks betray us. A Hallmark-card sentiment belies the complacency that will threaten to corrupt a court of law (Harriet Miers) or destroy the lives of millions (Katrina). A simple, grand-old-flag patriotism conceals and supports the blood-stained prejudice of the tyrant, whose malignant order will fill the cemeteries of a nation with young, blackened bodies and their grief-ravaged families. The playful passion for accumulation, better known as shopping, will turn the nameless, numberless poor around the planet into slaves. The softly-spoken words of a priest or a pedant will make drones of children; and grown men will become armed robots under the spell of that stinking breath of conditioned belief.

This is why I encourage you to hunt ego down within yourself, every day. When you find it, do not be merciful or compromising: slice its throat and watch Ego choke on its own blood as it struggles to make one last deal with your soul. This is the kind of killing that will renew your life, and extend its loving influence to the world.

No one needs to teach you who you truly are; you already know that, you already are that. Just do what the dead men in Washington have forgotten to do for themselves: kill the ego every day. For when ego is dead, the person is free.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

To the Land of Gandhi: Apologies From America

On behalf of 66 per cent of the American people, I would like to extend my apologies to the people of India for the fact that our resident tyrant must see fit to despoil their beautiful land with his murderous, demonic presence. But be assured: you only have him for a week; the people of Iraq and residents of New Orleans must suffer the effects of his depredations for years to come.

As a gift to you, people of India, for relieving us of his grueling presence for a week, I offer another in my Life Lessons in a Time of War series, here.

Meanwhile, Terry McKenna, after his rigorous fashion, will return us for a moment to reality, to remind us of what horrors we have permitted to be perpetrated among us. My personal message from this is simple: defeat fear in yourself, and it will be defeated in the nation. Succeed in that, and we can be assured that this nightmare will never happen again. And now, Mr. McKenna:

Paul Bremmer has just released his memoir of his failed mission to Iraq, titled appropriately: My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope. It’s already been reviewed in the Sunday New York Times, and in the NY Review of Books. And no, I haven’t read it, but I am familiar with the reviews, which tell me more than enough.

None of it is a surprise, but it should be to those on the Right who have consistently apologized for a President who went to war based upon a lie, and then bungled the job.

Some key points:

When Paul Bremmer embarked on his mission, he was accompanied by senior staff, none of whom spoke Arabic, and none of whom had any relevant expertise in dealing with the region; it became apparent early on that we needed maybe 40,000 more soldiers to protect Baghdad and the border; but none of the military commanders would go on record asking for more troops; and,if they had, we didn’t have more troops to spare.

And that’s it. Bremmer knew the game was over before the 2004 election. Most Democrats did too. And yes, Saddam Hussein is no longer a threat, but with the threat of Iraq gone, Iran is almost unstoppable.

Now to my own conclusion: the United States is weaker than ever. Our vaunted military cannot defend us against terror. And George Bush doesn’t know how to. (He’s so afraid to make businesses spend any money, that he can’t even make cargo carriers pay for the cost of a full fledged inspection program – done overseas, before the goods are even shipped).

—T. McKenna

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The Middle Class: Death By Division

The American middle class is dying, quickly. Well, let's not put too fine a point on this: the American middle class is being murdered. The killers are George W. Bush and his Circus of Murderers, better known as his cabinet, the neocon Congress, and the mainstream media (case in point: did anyone see this on any of the MSM TV news shows? did we really have to wait until Letterman got hold of it?).

Let's start with some basic statistics. First, this, which I found in the text of a recent Bill Moyers speech (I recommend you read the whole thing, it's outstanding):

In 1960 the gap between the top 20% and the bottom 20% was 30 fold. Now it is 75 fold. Thirty years ago the average annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives in the country was 30 times the pay of the average worker. Today it is 1000 times the pay of the average worker.

Now this, from Paul Krugman's Monday column in the New York Times:

Between 1972 and 2001 the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 percent per year. So being in the top 10 percent of the income distribution, like being a college graduate, wasn't a ticket to big income gains....Income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that's not a misprint. Just to give you a sense of who we're talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726. The center doesn't give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it's probably well over $6 million a year.

Yes, I know: the statistics cover a period of over 30 years, which includes three Democratic presidential terms and a number of years in which the Dems held a majority in Congress. But let's give credit where it's due: everything that the Bushies are doing, everything they have done, has been designed and executed, with a surgical precision, to exacerbate the trend of the bipolar economy, and widen that statistical division.

Case in point: the ports deal with the Dubai company of the UAE. Most of the focus of the bipartisan outcry over this debacle has been on security issues: three of the 9/11 terrorists came from the UAE, and the idea of turning over the stewardship of our major ports to a company owned by an Arab monarchy leaves no one feeling warm and fuzzy. But there is a deeper and, I think, a more pervasive threat posed by this handover of economic and logistical control of our shipping routes and ports to a foreign power, and that is the economic threat that we should all be familiar with by now.

When you hand over your national economy to a group of foreign plutocrats, you are creating a geopolitical mafia. That's what we have now: the Chinese government is America's banker, and they are doing the same thing to our government that the credit card companies do to us and our families—they hand us the economic shovel with which we continue to dig a deeper and deeper hole for ourselves. Once that hole has reached the appropriate depth, you can be sure that the dirt will be piled back in with a backhoe-style rapidity, and we will be buried alive. And now we are turning over our ports and critical shipping centers to another tyrannical and plutocratic government that not only represses free speech and the principles of human equality, but endorses the most predatory of oppressors (the UAE is one of three nations that recognized the Taliban government of Afghanistan).

So, let's set aside the security concerns for a moment, valid as they may be; and tell me: what do you think will be the economic effect of this deal? Is it not likely to become another gift of graft for that 99.99th percentile that Mr. Krugman mentioned? Is it not likely to reinforce America's dependence on foreign oil and the filthy-rich desert despots who control its flow and movement? Is it not likely to widen the gap through which the middle class is falling? Is it not likely, in fact, to become yet another nail in the coffin of democracy? How will a corporation of Arabian plutocrats, given their track record, deal with unions, do you think? Or with women in the workforce, or gays? How are they likely to treat their workers across the board, in terms of salary, incentives, vacation time, bonuses, and the like?

But there is a far more palpable and convincing metric than mere statistics or geopolitical speculation to assess the state of the American middle class, and it is known as experience. Consult your own experience, ask yourself some of those core questions that the opposition party candidates always urge us to ask at election time: are you better off than you were last year or five years ago, or ten? Are you living, or just surviving?


The Department of the Surreal-But-All-Too-Real:

I found this on one of my favorite blogs, which I'd recommend you bookmark, Deficient Brain:

Look sorry, this isn't a very long story because I only caught the end of an interview with Richard Perle that took place just a moment ago on BBC Worldservice radio - Newshour. But the news from Perle concerning Iraq is SO GOOD I feel compelled to post it anyway: "It's not as bad as Rwanda"