Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday with McKenna: President Lab Rat

I have two links for everyone who watched the Bill Moyers special last Wednesday, Buying the War (viewable here). Moyers featured the work of two young journalists whose work went largely ignored by the MSM. These two journalists, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel of Knight-Ridder's Washington bureau, set out to critically examine the deceptions that were being advanced as truth, the lies that were packaged and bought by the rest of the media establishment. You can keep up on the work of these two men by adding their RSS feeds to your news reader:

  • Warren Strobel

  • Jonathan Landay

  • For another example of Landay's truth-seeking-missile approach to journalism, see this post of ours from January, 2006. And now, here's Terry, to explain what a lab rat and the leader of the free world have in common.


    Is there anything left to say about Iraq? Troop surge or no, we’re getting nowhere fast! Surely, even the president knows this. Or does he?

    It's easy to say that George Bush doesn’t know this, or much of anything – that he’s stupid. We’ve said it in this blog, and it’s a belief that has wide currency. But let’s get serious for a minute. It’s hard to imagine anyone being as stupid as George Bush would have to be to not understand what’s going on with the war.

    But if he’s not stupid, then what? One alternative might be that he possesses a unique mix of arrogance, intellectual mediocrity, and stubbornness. In any case, even lab rats can change their behavior when their actions don’t yield results, and certainly George Bush is at least as smart as a lab rat – so he too can’t fail to recognize that however hard we try, we remain stuck in the same Iraqi quagmire.

    So yes, George Bush knows.

    If there is no chance of winning, then why does he urge America to pour more men and money onto the pile? And here, I must state for the record that it usually is not a good idea to speculate about anyone else’s motives. If someone does something, it’s best to judge the action by its results. With most people, failure begets change, but with George Bush and Iraq, failure begets nothing but a series of repeated failures*. So just this once, let’s try to find out what motivates the decider.

    One reason to continue our war effort is that if we leave, Iraq will devolve into complete chaos (as if it hasn’t already). This is in fact one of George Bush’s public explanations for fighting on. It’s also John McCain’s (in McCain’s case, I think he’s in earnest). It could be true, but it’s hard to imagine an even more urgent level of chaos. Still, let’s accept that it is not an unreasonable point of view. But if that’s the concern, then why not begin a regional conference on Iraq’s future? To do so, the US would have to go hat in hand to the Iranians and Syrians, but it is we who are losing lives, not they. To the Democrats' credit, those who fear even more chaos do support a regional conference. But Bush and his allies do not.

    If Bush doesn’t want a peace conference, what other reason could he have for staying the course? (Staying the course has suddenly disappeared from the Bush talking points, but that’s what the troop surge is - staying the course).

    I believe the reason is pure (and malicious) politics. And here, please remember the old saw that politics stops at the water’s edge, that when it comes to foreign policy, we are Americans first. Republicans keep reminding us about this when Democrats bring up the War’s failure. But it turns out, in this case, Republicans are the worst offenders. Here is the plan: Bush knows he can’t win; he also fears the long-term political damage to the Republican cause, and especially to conservatism if the US leaves Iraq while he is in power. As much as the American people have given up on Iraq, when we leave, the final exit will remain as a stain upon whomever presides over the last days. (Remember the picture of our last days in Saigon). George Bush is stalling for time – hoping to push the sting of his defeat onto his likely Democratic successor. If anyone believes that politics stops at the water’s edge, nonsense. George Bush plans to sacrifice maybe 2000 more Americans lives and spend as much as $200 Billion for what amounts to a small political advantage for his party. Shame on him!

    Of course, there is another reason to stay, and that is that Bush never intended for the US to leave Iraq. Iraq was to be the new permanent base for future US military operations in the Middle East (the defense of our vital interests, which are oil and Israel). This is the thesis of Chalmers Johnson, a renowned foreign policy specialist. His notion is simple (not simplistic): US power depends on massive amounts of fuel, which is to say, oil. It takes millions of gallons of jet fuel to provide the air supremacy that allows us to create shock and awe. And our navy also gulps millions of gallons of diesel fuel (think of how much oil it takes to keeps an aircraft carrier group in the Persian Gulf. With the US having been thrown out of Saudi Arabia, we decided to construct permanent air bases in Iraq (we keep saying that we aren’t doing this, but what we build there has every appearance of permanence). Read this article, written before the Iraq war started. It’s not all that Mr. Johnson has to say on the subject, but it’s a good start. You can also check out his Blowback piece.

    Here at Daily revolution, we are often reminded that human folly is not new. If we are conversant with our art and history, we have a chance of avoiding the repetition of human tragedy. George Bush may be closest to Shakespeare’s King Lear. Like Lear, he is pretty much alone now – note how few defenders he has in Congress. Of course, the Bush presidency hasn’t quite devolved into madness, but who knows how the next 19 months will go?

    *To all those who urge us to fight on, and remind us that America has fought much harder wars than Iraq; I agree. But if we look at our other difficult wars, in each case, the commander in chief made lots of changes AND admitted mistakes when they occurred. In our revolutionary war, George Washington started out being aggressive, but after a series of disasters in New York, he learned never to jeopardize his army – that his job was to preserve the army and buy time. During our civil war, Lincoln admitted the many failures in the Eastern theater, and as a result, he replaced generals regularly until after three years he put Grant in charge. In WW2, Roosevelt was frank about our early difficulties. He too replaced all the early commanders and by the end of the war, the senior commander in Europe was a man who was a mere colonel when the war started. Bush has neither admitted problems (till way too late) nor made effective changes (also till way too late).

    --T. McKenna

    Sunday, April 29, 2007

    Neocon Love: "Like Ordering Pizza"

    TP today has a story on neocon Washington's ready reliance on politics' oldest profession, in which a Bush official compares ordering sex to calling Domino's. It would be a yawner of a story ("huh, there's prostitution in Washington? OK, now give me some news..."), except as it further reveals the hypocrisy that has defined these Bushies from day one. Remember, this is the abstinence-only bunch we're talking about. As we wrote here:

    But porn, like online gambling, is a driving force in technology, as well as being a powerful lobbying force in Washington. If you're a Congressman or a member of the press corps at the White House or Capitol Hill, and you're looking for a good time, the porn industry is there to help.

    But anchovies...

    Saturday, April 28, 2007

    A Soldier Rebuts His Tyrant Bosses

    This article, by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, has been getting a lot of attention lately—particularly from lefty sites such as Truthout and Think Progress. It richly deserves all the attention it can get: it is a crisply written, orderly, and eminently sane exposure, from an officer who has served in Iraq, of all the managerial incompetence that has defined this war's corporate conduct.

    My blogging partner Terry McKenna reminded me of something that helped to put Lt. Col. Yingling's message into context: before the war started, the Army held war games, which were meant to test the military's prevailing combat strategy against an enemy that lacked our resources and firepower. The commander of the "insurgency" in these tactical war games quit before they could conclude, because, once his forces started "winning," the Army told him to stop and play by its rules (Marquis of Queensbury, anyone?). Here's an excerpt; the whole expose—from August, 2002, mind you—is here:

    The most elaborate war game the U.S. military has ever held was rigged so that it appeared to validate the modern, joint-service war-fighting concepts it was supposed to be testing, according to the retired Marine lieutenant general who commanded the game’s Opposing Force.
    That general, Paul Van Riper, said he worries the United States will send troops into combat using doctrine and weapons systems based on false conclusions from the recently concluded Millennium Challenge 02. He was so frustrated with the rigged exercise that he said he quit midway through the game.

    Friday, April 27, 2007

    Friday Reflection: The Ravages of Ego

    The star Gliese, the "sun" around which an Earth-like and possibly habitable planet was recently found revolving (click graphic to learn more)

    It was great to see Moyers back on the air Wednesday night, wasn't it? (if you missed it, you can watch it here). Yes, it was very painful to watch, but that's because it was so thoroughly and masterfully done. I thought the scenes with Beinart were particularly compelling: the old teacher, the Socrates of modern journalism, gently but firmly exposing and correcting the peach-faced stripling, one that the I Ching would refer to as "The Young Fool" (Hexagram 4):

    Youthful Folly has success.
    It is not I who seek the young fool;
    The young fool seeks me.
    At the first oracle I inform him.
    If he asks two or three times, it is importunity.
    If he importunes, I give him no information.
    Perseverance furthers.

    But let's turn off the TV, put down the newspaper and leave the knotted ball of conflict that the neocon tyrants have visited upon our world behind for a little. Congress will (one hopes) go on fighting the President; Condi will go on fighting her subpoena; Cheney will go on fighting himself; and McCain will continue to tell jokes and sing songs about the carnage that he helped to bring into the dawn of the 21st century. Let them go on; they are old men (most of them) being dissolved by time and dying further within, every day.

    Or is it really time that kills us? Here's an alternative, from my supply of cheap, dime-store New Age fizzdom:

    Time does not ravage us. Time is just a cosmic dimension, doing its job. Time does not degrade or destroy life; only ego does that. So if you would like to remain young and beautiful until the day comes for your transformation beyond time, then turn within regularly and kill ego. Kill it, and then discard its corpse, with the help of the cosmic presences (time included). Once you have focused upon your true enemy, then time becomes your friend, your ally in the life of form and the life to come, beyond form.

    Everyday elimination:
    Your body does it—
    Why not your mind?

    If you can feel falsehood and expel it,
    Your thoughts will ring true.
    If you can clear the code of hatred
    That was written on your heart
    Amid childhood ambivalence,
    Then the quantum breath of love
    Will fill you, extending outward.

    Diderot told us that we will never be truly free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. I would suggest now, that for each of us who turns within and rips the bowel of belief from the dead body of ego, and with it, chokes the voice of authority into stillness, and finally expels it—for each of us who does that within himself, we will more nearly approach the day of true freedom for all.

    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    Swastika Season in Washington

    It's spring, so it must be time to start slinging the swastikas again.

    First up, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who compared some European witnesses who were testifying against the supposed value of extreme Adolf Eichmann. That jackboot may be on the other foot, don't you think?

    Next, our own beloved New York Post, for labeling an Iranian religious leader a "dresstapo" for his punishment of unveiled women. Presumably, this means we can now nuke the bastards. And I bet you didn't know the Post was a feminist rag, did you?

    Next in line is Michael Savage, who compared Hillary with Goebbels. Why? Because she dared to question where the Roberts neocon-5 of the Supreme Court might have gotten their medical degrees.

    Brownie's former boss steps up to warn us that Iraq and al-Qaeda are as powerful a force as Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and assorted totalitarian regimes.

    Finally, a well-known lefty news source is being threatened with a law suit from the Vatican for creating a photo-montage of the Pope as a Nazi. The only problem with that one is was.

    There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: and that's just the tip of the swastika—an ancient Sanskrit symbol, by the way, of good fortune, now degraded into the mud of hatred, slung at random by anyone who wishes to kill with words. If you question the reality haze of someone like Rep. Rohrabacher (hmmm....that's an awfully German sounding name you have there, Ms. R), you are a traitor.

    In fact, we live in a culture where questions are not permitted. Is it any wonder, then, that science is suppressed or ignored?

    The government says, "to question is treason;" the corporation says, "to question is insubordination;" the media tell us, "questions make a bad circus—only conflict delivers profit."

    So science—an activity of the human mind based on questioning experience—is moribund today. It is stagnant in our schools, distorted in our think tanks, twisted or suppressed in our research facilities, cherry-picked by our corporations, and blithely ignored in our personal lives, where we most desperately need its guiding hand.

    But these are choices that have been made for us, not by us. If we can remember that, and demand of our leaders that we recover the capacity for science, the ability to ask questions of experience, then we have a chance at recovering our democracy.

    For once we stop asking questions, we start dying.

    Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    Geek Wednesday: Are Geeks Atheists?

    The arch from the Japanese garden at Brooklyn Botanic Gardens (click to enlarge)

    Are geeks atheists? That's one of the topics for discussion at Helium, an interesting, if rather poorly edited Wiki-style site for amateur punditry. If you like to read, and especially if you like to write, I'd encourage you to go there and explore. You can set up an account, rate others' work on specified topics, and contribute your own. If your work rises to the higher echelons in the rankings (thus the site's name), then you can even get a little cash.

    By the way, you'll find my own spout on the geek-atheism question in there. I've also posted over a dozen other pieces (most of them recycled from my books and this blog), and done at least two hours' worth of rating at Helium. And here's my advice to the site's owners: you've got a great idea and a very good interface; now you need some rules for your writers, and some damned good content editors (I'm available). The problem you have right now is that there's a lot of schlock in there—people scribbling posts into the site as if they're texting their friends. If you don't tighten up your editorial policies and practices a little, I'm afraid Helium could turn into a Hindenburg.

    Update: I received the following note this morning from Barbara Whitlock, an editor at Helium: should check out the boards (give us a couple of days to restore this after the board crash two days ago). We have a rich Writing Workshop section that helps educate writers on how to improve their content. Helium is a user-generated site, with an editorial staff that provides minimal filters. The model empowers the community to rank quality and flag inappropriate and meaningless articles. New writing standard guidelines have recently been published; and I'm working on an article today to advertise this more on the site.

    That's encouraging, but I'd still suggest a more Wikipedia-style approach to content editing here. For, despite its occasional troubles with misreporting and shoddy fact-checking, Wiki has an excellent record for accuracy, given its enormous size. This comes from well-defined editorial policies and warm, expert bodies in the editors' seats. You can't program good judgment, and you can't have faith in writers to universally honor guidelines. Wikipedia is successful because it monitors its content for journalistic qualities such as fact-checking and professional standards of presentation. This, combined with its open-source, community-driven approach to knowledge, is why Wiki reporting is usually more credible and interesting than the mass media's. Helium would do well to study that model.

    That slapping sound you hear is of spontaneous high fives in Redmond. For the Apple stockdating chickens have come home to roost, and an ex-CFO is pointing a finger of complicity at none other than Saint Steve.

    Ah well, at least things could scarcely be better on the product side right now. Yeah, there was a delay to the release of OS X Leopard, but guess what, Tiger remains the most reliable, efficient, and fun OS out there. And their hardware is second to none (see below for the tale of how easily I installed Ubuntu Linux onto the MacBook). Apple now offers an 8-core Mac Pro sporting Adobe CS3 and Final Cut Studio 2. The ballyhooed iPhone is less than two months away, and the Beatles look like they're ready to walk down the long and iTuned road.

    Tough break, Steve: do they take iCards in prison? I'll ask Martha...

    The G's Have IT: We haven't had much to say about Google lately. Maybe it's because there isn't anything to complain about, really. After its usual fashion, Google continues to add and improve, add and improve. What has always been remarkable about them is their ability to actually respond to the needs of their user community, and this has not changed. A few months ago, after the release of Blogger 2, I had some choice words for its performance and overall buginess. Google quietly fixed everything I'd complained about, and then added a few features to boot.

    Meanwhile, they've become the number one brand in terms of overall recognition, and positively buried Yahoo on the earnings front. I think I know why, and it has to do with discerning substance from appearance. For while Yahoo continues to obsess over cuteness and glitz, Google focuses on features and performance. Your personalized Google page won't be as pretty or cool-looking as My Yahoo, but it's packed with as much stuff as you'd want to put in there, and it works. Gmail sports one of the plainest-looking interfaces around, but for speed, storage capacity, POP-friendliness (you can run it in almost any desktop client app), and searchability, Gmail kicks Yahoo Mail's butt. When it comes to advertising, Google's text-oriented, clunky-looking approach continues to win, even as Yahoo trips over its own shoelaces with Overture. And for search—well, what do you use?

    "Me-Two": And as for Microsoft, who can tell it better today than Charlie Demerjian, in this very funny (and, I think, accurate) analysis of the fate of Vista, courtesy of The Inquirer, which is a frequent must-read for all geeks and technophiles.

    Getting Feisty on the Mac

    Ubuntu Linux released version 7.04 (that's Y / MM, for those of you who care) last Thursday, so I decided to give it a spin on the MacBook, since I already have a solid Linux setup on the Wintel box in MEPIS.

    First, you should be aware that not everyone's applauding. There have been reports of the dreaded "grub error 18" on Feisty installations, and problems with DHCP setups and third-party drivers continue to pester Ubuntu.

    But let's focus on the positives, shall we? I downloaded the installation cd onto the MacBook (note for Intel Mac users: you have to take the ISO disk image and drag it over to Disk Utility and burn it there, for Boot Camp to recognize it as a valid bootable disk). Here's what you need to start, if you'd like to try this at home:

  • the Feisty Fawn cd, burned as per above

  • rEFIt installed on your Mac. rEFIt is a great utility that's free to download. It works with Boot Camp and your Mac's EFI BIOS to provide the user a gateway at bootup. It manages the various OS installations and allows you to select from them, right at startup.

  • and of course, a working Intel Mac with the latest firmware drivers installed and Boot Camp enabled. I didn't try this in Parallels or VMware Fusion, so if you'd like to give it a shot there, swing away, but don't blame me if it locks up your Mac.

  • So once you have rEFIt installed, you need to open Boot Camp (Applications / Utilities / Boot Camp Assistant) and go through its user-friendly guided partitioning steps. Set the "Windows" partition that you'll use for Ubuntu to 10GB, let Boot Camp do its stuff, put the Feisty Fawn disk into the media drive, and restart your Mac. rEFIt will show you the Linux penguin and let you start Ubuntu. Once it's in live cd mode, the Feisty Fawn's desktop will appear, and you can use the handy desktop icon to begin the installation.

    The installation of Feisty Fawn, soup to nuts, took less than 45 minutes, and I did do some manual partitioning, more out of choice than compulsion. If you try the auto-partitioning option, just make sure the Fawn isn't wiping out your entire Mac HD (thanks to rEFIt, it should only touch the "Windows" partition that Boot Camp made for you). Manual partitioning is safer, to my mind, and it allows you to specify the sizes for your root and swap partitions (I made my root 9GB and the swap 1GB). The G-Part utility in Ubuntu makes it all easy enough even for a non-geek like me to handle.

    Once that was done, the rest was cake. Feisty installed and allowed me to switch over to the KDE desktop from the command line, without even asking for a restart. Everything is there and runs nicely; the OS recognized my Apple keyboard and trackpad; instantly connected via the Ethernet port to my cable modem; and even offered me access to my Mac HD and all the files in it (you may have to change some permissions on the Mac side to get full access). That Open Office window in the graphic above is a Word document I opened from the Mac HD within Linux. Astonishing.

    Now, the problems (hey, it's a new release): I tried finding a driver for the Atheros 802.11n WiFi card, but no luck. Then I attempted a command-line setup to the card, which also didn't work. So for now, I have no Wifi access via Linux on the MacBook.

    Another problem is the power management, which I suspect can be fixed as soon as I have the time. When I left the MacBook in Ubuntu in sleep mode (power on, lid shut) overnight, I woke up to find its battery exhausted. This never happens with OS X running: sleep in OS X is more like a coma. I can leave it like that all night and lose less than 5% of the battery life.

    And the old problems with browser plugin configurations remain in Feisty. This is where MEPIS really shines, because when you install it and open a Firefox window, all your plugins (Shockwave, Flash, Quicktime over M-Player or Kaffeine) are right there, up and running. For this and other usability reasons, I'd still recommend MEPIS for Windows users migrating to Linux and wanting an easy, smooth transition. That said, Feisty Fawn shows considerable improvement over its predecessors for display flexibility (I can get it up to 1280 X 800 now, which wasn't possible in previous versions of Ubuntu), desktop design, file management, and overall performance. On a scale of ten, I'd give Feisty a 7.5, with MEPIS registering an 8.0 by comparison (I'd add that Mac OS X rates a solid 9, and Windows XP a 7—don't even ask me about Vista).

    Before we leave that story, one final tip of the cap to San Quentin Steve: the Apple MacBook is a laptop you can love. What a marvelous piece of hardware: ingenious design at both the technical and user-interface levels, and an operating system that takes virtually anything you throw at it. And that Boot Camp was able to recognize, accept, and work with an OS that was released a year after it speaks to the versatility and integrity of these UNIX-based machines. Take a bow, Steve: you'll look great in stripes.

    Before we go, a program note for this evening: 9:00 PM, PBS, don't miss it. Bill Moyers tells the truth about the media and the selling of the Iraq War.

    Tuesday, April 24, 2007

    Working Out, and Other Media-Fed Delusions

    If you live here in New York, you've seen them all over, on subway trains and bus stops. They're Reebok's commercials for their "run easy" campaign. There's one showing a runner in mid-projectile vomit; another making fun of the sponsor's main competition ("watch what you're 'just doing'"); and many more of runners who have punished themselves into misery. The message is truly developmental: run as if you like it. It reminded me of something I wrote nearly two years ago, after a stroll through Prospect Park:

    I was walking through Prospect Park this afternoon, amid a sprinkle of rain from a light gray sky, and I began watching the joggers (I don't think they like being called that anymore, preferring the term "runners," but I'm not sure, and I don't really care). One in particular caught my attention: yes, she was young and attractive, but that's not what I'm talking about right now. She was jogging with her dog (maybe the dog was "dogging"), and I lightly examined them both as they approached along the path. The woman's face was set in an open-mouthed frown; she was panting slightly, and obviously struggling.

    The dog, however, was smiling. Maybe even laughing--I'm not sure. But she definitely was having fun as she gandered alongside her huffing-and-puffing human pet. The contrast between their expressions, their demeanors, was a reminder to me to smile to my own body as I completed my walk.

    This is something that the best teachers of physical exercise practice and recommend to their students. One of my personal favorites among such instructors is Wong Kiew Kit. He's a Chi Kung teacher whose books and courses have become popular in the West; I have a copy of his Chi Kung for Health and Vitality. He teaches that before we begin any physical exercise such as the Chi Kung movements he practices, we need to smile to our bodies, our internal organs, and our psyche—in other words, he is saying that we best benefit from exercise when we smile with our whole being.

    It sounds pretty goofy--the sort of thing that many of us would scoff at. That is, it sounds dumb—but only until you try it. In fact, it's perhaps the most crucial component of enduring success in the exercise of the body (or anything else, for that matter). That dog I saw today was having a wonderful time, running without effort and enjoying everything she came into contact with along her way (she even had time to give me a sniff as she passed by). But her human was clearly suffering: her face was as grimly set as if she were pulling a train behind her. As they passed by, I quietly predicted that this woman would give up running after a while, and the dog would be consigned to a sullen restiveness.

    So, if you would like to be able to exercise your body (or to meditate, or work more successfully), and have some endurance to your practice, why not try what Wong Kiew Kit recommends? Before you start a "workout", try this:

    Give yourself a few seconds to feel relaxed. Then smile from your heart. Don't worry how you do it; just do it. Just smile from your heart and feel, really feel, how relaxed, cheerful, and happy you are. It is a big mistake to think I am being farcical. But I can tell you, in my capacity as a chi kung grandmaster, that this feeling of relaxation and cheerfulness from your heart may possibly be the best benefit of this exercise. (Chi Kung for Health and Vitality, p. 23)

    The fact is that we people still have a lot to learn from the animals. Maybe that's why folks like Wong Kiew Kit are referred to as "grandmasters." They know the secret that the dog I met in the park today knows. It's all about listening to Nature, and knowing how to smile.

    Morrell Wine

    Now, a follow-up to yesterday's piece about the culture and language of excess, which actually ties in with our exercise theme. For just as the Run Easy folks are recommending that we rid ourselves of the bloat of imagery and excess from our physical exercise, my message is along the same lines, to our mass media.

    George Stephanopoulos, what are you thinking, having a kook on your show to spout some psychotic drivel about the liberals being responsible for the Virginia Tech shootings? What do you think you are accomplishing; what does this moron's babble add to the national debate? Why not a psychiatrist or a social worker or someone with the sanity and the expertise to promote healing? Why this idiot and his word salad reminiscent of Pat and Jerry blaming gays for 9/11?

    Ah, because it sells. I see. Anything loud, nasty, fulminating, and excessive sells. War sells, too, doesn't it, George? Wednesday night, we're going to see just how well war sells, and how it sold, and was sold. But the journalist presenting the story won't be so polite, he won't be cuddling up to the cowards from the chickenhawk media tent. Bill Moyers is going to get in these people's faces and ask them, "what were you thinking?" Don't miss it folks.

    I'd also ask you to note the chickenhawk pundits who refused to face Moyers:

    Thomas Friedman
    Bill Kristol
    Roger Ailes
    Charles Krauthammer
    Judith Miller
    William Safire

    Make sure you let their respective media outlets know exactly what brave warriors you think they are for running away from a 75 year old man with a microphone. You can use FAIR's convenient contact list.

    Cherry blossom, Prospect Park, Brooklyn (click to enlarge)

    Monday, April 23, 2007

    Reach Out and Slap Someone

    Cherry blossom season in Brooklyn's Prospect Park

    Tyranny survives on excess. When there is so much decadence as to overflow consciousness and the sense of right action, there tends to be stasis in response. Who can possibly keep up with this stream of corruption, this endless line of neocon criminals, without a scorecard and a very strong stomach? How many more neocon Congressmen are facing indictment or investigation now? How many more are already in jail or been forced out of their cozy offices to sit on the sidelines, covered in lucre? How much longer can we assume that the poor dumb brushcutter and the clueless quailshooter and the vapidly smiling sycophant general were mere ignorant bureaucrats amidst all this?

    Indeed, who can possibly keep up with it all? How can we possibly fend off the dreary resignation of apathy amid this storm of corruption? The President and his cronies all say they know nothing, did nothing, and that we can't prove anything against them. Who could possibly sort through it all to make a case that couldn't be riddled with the man-made holes of reasonable doubt?

    So John Q's natural reaction is to fold up the newspaper with a shudder and turn to his one certainty in life, the in-tray or the next meeting or the round of tasks facing him amid his Monday mental haze. Or else he might simply turn the paper over and check the ball scores and the latest sports rumors, about which a safe and sure opinion may be held. That Barry Bonds, at 740: does he even deserve to sniff Hank Aaron's jockstrap, let alone break his records? The Commissioner must do something, put dark asterisks next to all those 'roided up HRs. Oh, but Bonds has lawyers, too, just like the Bushies—he could use threats and the media in his favor, just like they do in Washington...ugh, doesn't anything make simple sense anymore?

    This excess, the profusion of folly and deceit, which distorts vision and frustrates every attempt at redress through its mere overwhelming and ever-expanding insanity, is a daily corporate reality for many of us. Our corporate speech is laden with symbols of excess: we brain-storm a situation for which a brain-shower would be amply sufficient (and, in fact, more appropriate). We try to hit the proverbial home-run with our presentation, when our audience would actually be most comfortable with a mere single. We "get all over" a problem that really calls for more of a gentle brush.

    Even our warm and fuzzy, touch-someone metaphors are riven with excess. Consider one of the more currently popular phrases, "reach out." I had the following conversation with an office manager last year, as I was starting a new consulting gig.

    ME: Do you think they might get a laptop to me by the end of the week? I'm supposed to be on a conference call Saturday that will require a VPN hookup.

    MGR: Don't worry, I think you'll be fine. I've reached out to our IT Manager, and cc'd my boss and his VP on the email. Now he knows that if the order's not done by Friday, it's going over his head. Sometimes you just have to scare people, y'know?

    Wow, now that's "reaching out", huh? With a set of brass knuckles, that is.

    Friday, April 20, 2007

    Going, Going, Gonzo

    The more I experience of leadership in America, the better the anarchists look.

    The fact is, though, that the whole problem with our current leadership is that it is an equal blending of anarchism and arrogance. Consider, for example, the Gonzo appearance before Congress yesterday. A protester at the event kept count of the incidence of the phrase "I don't recall," and came up with 60-odd repetitions of it in about 4 hours of testimony.

    It was a typically corporate moment for one of the principal exponents of corporate government. I don't remember what happened, I have no comment on what happened, I don't even know, nor did I ever know, what happened. But whatever did happen, it sure wasn't my fault.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I assure you: if I could have a hundred bucks for every time I've heard that line out of a corporate manager's mouth, I'd be able to retire comfortably. In short, for both corporations per se and our current corporate government, accountability is a myth; a tale told by an idiot (that is, the MSM), signifying nothing. In other words, anarchy.

    Friday Reflection: For the Living and the Dead

    Mother Jones knew that when you "fight like hell for the living," you do the greatest honor to the dead. Specifically, we need to advocate for the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginal (and today that includes what's left of the middle class), and all those who lack a voice in the halls and boardrooms of Power. The more nameless they are to the masters of corporate government and their media hounds, the more vigorously must we speak for them.

    Today, we know the names and a little of the stories of the dead in Blacksburg, Va. These were victims of terrorism. Our media are not quite so rigorous in reporting the names and stories of the victims of terrorism in Iraq. But this week, hundreds more such victims have been sent to death or a living hell on Earth. Thousands more, in the Gulf Coast and other parts of our own country, suffer and die from the state-sponsored terrorism of neglect and gross economic disparity. These are the people—here and around the world—who have no advocate but you.

    Let us speak for them together, in the resolution made by anguish; with the strength created when we have become so saturated with fear and projected hatred that we expel them both from within and enter the realm of fearlessness.

  • Contact Congress

  • Contact the Media

  • Speak out for peace

  • Join the Global Days for Darfur

  • Join AI in condemning murder as a pretense of justice.

  • And if you live in or near New York City, join us in crashing Hillary's soiree:

    Monday April 23, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
    Tell Hillary Clinton: DON'T BUY BUSH'S WAR!!
    Pier 94, 755 12th Ave between 54th and 55th Streets, Manhattan
    Party on the Pier fundraiser with Hillary and Bill Clinton
    Tell Hillary Cilnton that we want our troops to come home NOW!!
    Sponsored by CodePink NYC; endorsed by BPFP

    Thursday, April 19, 2007

    Liviu Librescu: A Natural Hero

    While the world watches the pictures and videos that the Va. Tech killer sent to NBC, Terry McKenna offers the following tribute to one of his victims. Then click the graphic to hear some music* in memory of Prof. Librescu and all the victims of this tragedy.

    We just witnessed another of those oh so American events, a lone gunman with an automatic weapon commits mass murder at a school.  And to those who remind us that guns don’t kill people, people kill people – it turns out, the victims would have stood a much better chance “mano e mano” than against a man armed with an automatic weapon that can shoot 25 bullets in 11 seconds.  The governor of Virginia was asked about the role that gun laws might have played, and he complained about anyone daring to make political hay over this gun tragedy.  Well, if we can’t complain about our gun laws in the aftermath of such a tragedy, when can we?
    And by the way, Virginia’s are among the weakest gun laws in the nation.  The gun lobby tries to tell us that America has too many gun laws on the books right now – and look, it doesn’t stop this sort of crime.  But the problem in not the number but the effectiveness of laws.  We need one good gun law – nation wide. 
    Out of the tragedy one hero has emerged: 75 year old engineering professor and researcher: Liviu Librescu.  He was in class, delivering a lecture when he heard the sound of gunfire.   The enemy was at the gates, as it were, but he knew what to do.  He reportedly held his classroom door shut, allowing his students time to flee; thus he gave his life to save others. 
    It is early in the investigation, and often the first reports don’t pan out.  But this story has been fairly widely reported, and he’s such an otherwise unlikely candidate for heroism, that it has to be true. 

    The back story is that the professor was a holocaust survivor, thus his youth was filled with horror.  From the university’s website, he appears to have been prominent in his field, so he reaped professional success.  He also had at least two boys.  So it appears the personally and professionally, his life was marked by achievement. 
    When I was a teenager, the Viet Nam war was the next big thing.  The older boys were already going to war, and a few had already been killed.  Sometimes we boys (thinking about the inevitable face of war) wondered how we would react when our time came.  I know I did.  And I wasn’t confident in my response.  Later on in early adulthood, I was held up at gun point on three occasions; twice a gun was actually held to my head.  I didn’t panic, but lets just say that the gunman got what he was after.
    But for Liviu, his time came, and his brave death stands as a simple reminder of genuine virtue that stands on its own.  I’m, sure his family is crushed right now.  But perhaps the knowledge that he did indeed have a full life, and that his death came while engaged in defending others will make the sadness just a little more bearable.

    —T. McKenna

    "As long as guns are easier to get than mental health care, we will continue to have tragedies like this."
    Cameron Scott, Mother Jones

    Also read this—all of it—from a real soldier. Pretty good stuff.

    And Bob Herbert has this on the American history of mass murder and the cultural elements that fuel psychosis.


    *The music, by the way, is from a group you've probably never heard of, but may want to hear more of. They call themselves the Illustrious Theater Orchestra. Their website is here, and their only extant cd is here.

    Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    Geek Wednesday: "The Dog Ate My Email"

    Watch Sen. Patrick Leahy demand the truth on the deleted emails

    As promised, today we are offering some technical perspective on exactly what might be required to perform a complete and total deletion of email in the volume being discussed by the Karl Rove leaf of the executive branch. We begin our discussion with the view of our own Nearly Redmond Nick, who in his day job is a fully-qualified systems architect. This means he knows intricately how a large network is set up to store, transmit, and protect data, including email. As we will see, the system is actually planned and configured to be "delete-proof" rather than "delete-friendly." First, though, here's NR Nick:

    From what I understand, it wasn't even selective cleaning - it was all of Rove's emails over 4 years. Unfortunately for prosecutors, there are many ways this could happen. Settings on his account could be changed to not save sent emails (or received for that matter) for more than 90 days. Our company actually used to have a policy like that. They would periodically remind you to backup your emails, or move them to a folder other than the inbox. Anything older than 90 days in the inbox got deleted. But all that means to say is that the user couldn't access the email any more.

    But wherever I've been in corporate America there was a process to retrieve "deleted" emails from tape backup. This is why so many Dems are crying foul, saying that in this day and age, you can't simply delete an email. To have these missing messages be totally unrecoverable would require a good deal of effort. First, Rove would have to clean out all his local copies of his email, and delete any messages stored on the server. Then the admins would have to wipe all the logs, since all inbound and outbound messages are usually recorded. Then all the backup tapes would have to be cleansed. Not a small amount of effort.

    The worst part of all, is that on top of the 1978 act you mentioned, Rove had some other special "subpoena", for lack of a better word, on his emails. Supposedly, he was supposed to be watched more closely than most, and all emails saved (if I read the article right). Again, I have to dig into this a little more, but in sum, this was not a "whoops, I pressed the delete key" kind of action, but a much larger proect—you might even call it a conspiracy, for the effort and teams required to really make it happen.

    .Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely the point: in order to wipe a network of servers, backup drives, and client machines totally clean of any trace of some five million emails would be an enormous effort of planning, execution, follow-up, and testing. Again, modern IT systems are designed in every respect to preserve data rather than destroy it. A large network like the RNC's would presumably be very much like a corporation's: there would be central servers with backup, and then there might even be additional backup, known as DR, or disaster recovery servers—usually in a remote location, so that if the main servers were lost, the DR servers would be unaffected.

    And as Nick points out, log files would have to be searched and scoured on all the servers and backups mentioned. It would, in short, be an enormous effort involving multiple teams of system architects, developers (who might write the scripts used to automate such a large and complex deleting effort), testers who would verify that the desired data had been in fact wiped clean, and systems administrators who would ensure that no trace of system logs or other technical residue remained of the data to be erased. And we won't even go into a discussion of the differences among the varying levels of deletion, which also must be taken into account at a technical level.

    So if I were a betting man, my money would be with Sen. Leahy: those emails are out there, magnetically alive and retrievable via any of the means mentioned above. Think of it as if you had thrown a pile of letters into a fireplace: they would burn, indeed; but they could also be recovered and read with the right technology and expertise.

    What is required now is a full-fledged geek-body-right on this thing. It will have to start with Congressional subpoenas, maybe even an independent prosecutor to watchdog the affair, and most importantly, a team of system architects who know what to look for and where to find it. Given the time and the freedom to do so, they will—I'd bet my MacBook on it.


    Blame the phone: As you might have heard, the release of Apple's OS X Leopard has been delayed by 4 months, until October. An Apple philosopher pointed out that "Life often presents tradeoffs," and the company has opted for diverting all its resources into delivering the iPhone on time, since it is such a "revolutionary and magical product." As for that dull, conformist, and thoroughly Muggle operating system, it will simply have to wait. When I posted a comment on Macworld's boards, wondering how a corporate behemoth like Apple couldn't afford engineers and QA resources for both products, I was treated with the appropriate condescension. How could anyone imagine that an OS poised to take a bite out of the Windows hegemony--in both the consumer and enterprise markets--might be as important as a telephone that plays music and does widgets? The very idea's enough to make a sane person pop his lorgnette!

    Linux Update: So if you're looking for a new OS that has a chance at not making you blow lunch all over your keyboard, and you don't want to wait until Autumn, there's big news in Penguin-land. Tomorrow, Ubuntu releases version 7.04, The Feisty Fawn. It will feature advanced virtualization features, including the ability to use a technology called KVM to run guest OS's within Linux. There will be a fresh design of the UI in both the Gnome and KDE desktop environments (yeah, you do get to choose from alternate desktop styles), and more advanced compatibility with third-party drivers and software for peripherals and other devices. I'll be downloading it and will have a full report next week right here on GW.

    World Bank, Local Dick: And finally our site of the week, BankSwirled*, an Onion-style sendup produced by anonymous World Bank employees as a tribute to their own boss, the war-starting, passion-playing Paul Wolfowitz. As the tattoo on the inside of Shaha Ali Riza's thighs says, "I greet you as a liberator."

    *We're linking to the pdf version of the site, just in case its html counterpart is mysteriously shut down by a geo-financial wind of globalization.

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Thoughts on Madness and Healing

    When I was a graduate student in clinical psychology, one of the more frequently recurring questions among the students, which you might hear in any class, was: "what makes a man snap?"

    The question was understood to contain a thousand other and more urgent questions, such as: "how can you tell when a man is at or near that breaking point of sanity?" and "what are the signs that would show me when a man has passed from a slow burn and is now ready to explode?"

    We didn't care about the Oedipus Complex or the anima or post-Freudian theories of self and other. We just wanted to know how to tell when a man might be moved to become a mass murderer, and how we could as psychologists prevent it from occurring.

    Our questions were never answered, and they remain unanswered. And every war that is fought, every bomb dropped, every dollar spent on destruction rather than on understanding, takes us further and further away from an answer.

    But perhaps you think I am pointlessly conflating a mass murder at a university with disconnected geopolitical events; perhaps you do not believe that these things—global war, tyranny at home, and the mass murdering of children—are in any way related.

    Well, I would not dare to ask for belief, on this or any other point. Belief, as we have repeated quite often here, is largely responsible for where we are now as a nation, and for what our society has become: rootless, violent, insular, superficially grandiose, and hate-driven at the very highest levels of influence and power.

    Today, we watched our news and saw a story of terrorism: an insane freak, no longer human, killing randomly until there was not a trace left of his former self. Then he was able to complete the annihilation by turning his own face into a pool of goo.

    What revenge can be had, if we wanted it? Could we find out who he was, where he was from, and then go drop bombs and cruise missiles on his hometown? Could we round up anyone who looks like him, wears the same clothes, or belongs to the same club or organization in which he had membership, and put them all into a detainment camp without charge or trial, and then torture them?

    Or could we respond in the only natural way possible, via the slow and agonizing process of healing? The choice is not up to our leaders or our media; it is up to us.


    Tomorrow for Geek Wednesday, we're going to present a scenario that reveals exactly what would have to happen for all those thousands of Karl Rove emails to have truly disappeared. We'll be joined by a professional systems architect whose voice has been heard here before, and I think you'll find his discussion fascinating, both in itself and as a demonstration of why we have a geek column on a political weblog. Please be sure to check in for that tomorrow on Geek Wednesday.

    Monday, April 16, 2007

    Monday with McKenna: Inside the Artist's Brain

    Monday with McKenna today features a trip inside the mind of an artist, but first let's take a tour of the brain of neocon ignorance. The graphic here is the front page of this town's leading tabloid, a Rupert Murdoch property that lives to offend. And what can be more offensive than this cover insult to a man who's in the hospital, and was still listed in critical condition at the time this moronic Photoshop smut was created? And if Mr. Corzine was a good Bush Republican, do you think we'd have seen this? I think this crap makes Imus look like a choir boy by comparison. Kicking a man when he's down is one thing; kicking him when half the bones in his body have been broken and he's breathing through a's journalistic dementia.

    And while I have you thinking about sick, psychotic institutions, check this out: the U.S. Army now has an insurance claims department. They examine claims arising from our military's incidental murders of innocent Iraqi civilians, and pay or deny based on the most randomly corrupt judgment imaginable. Read some of the examples from Greg Mitchell's column at E&P, and see whether your blood pressure hasn't gone up by a factor of two by the time you're done. Incidentally, it was the ACLU that got these files on military killings of civilians; so purchasing a membership would not be a waste of $35, if you ask me.

    So this isn't just a troop surge, ladies and gentlemen; it's a bureaucracy surge. But according to Clueless from Crawford, the Dems are "handing victory to our enemies" because they refuse to fund this shit without a timeline for ending it all. Click the graphic for Stewart's roundup, which includes the "airing of the platitudes."

    Ah, god, if there's anybody from Norway reading this: how's the job market there, and could I get a green card? Will it help me if I tell you that my kid's playing Grieg on the piano these days?

    Never mind, let's all just escape from it for a few minutes, to go inside the mind of my artist co-blogger. So while I go onto my ISP's servers and delete a few thousand emails (for more on that, join us on Geek Wednesday), here's Monday with McKenna...

    Wolfgang's Vault - Exclusive Beatles Memorabilia

    Where does artistic inspiration come from? And I don’t mean this to be an abstract question. If we are to discover the poetry within ourselves, we’ll need to know how to muster the force of artistic inspiration.

    This week I’ll review inspiration from the initial flicker to the finished work of art. In my example, I’ll use inspiration from this past week. The finished work is also mine, though from a long time ago. And by the way, if I haven’t made it clear in past essays, I am a trained fine artist; so, while I earn my living in business, I still paint from time to time.

    Artistic inspiration varies a little bit with the specific art involved. The same flicker may tickle the painter or poet, and both may pick up a notebook to memorialize their ideas, but then their courses diverge. The visual artist works with line and tone. If words are included at all, they supplement a sketch. On the other hand, the poet works exclusively with words. And we include a musician, who would compose by setting down notes on a staff.

    This week, my inspiration came from the return of Spring. And despite our being solidly into April, Spring did not seem all that present for those of us in the New York City area. Our weather was cold and blustery, and as of this writing, we await a Nor’easter and possibly snow. Still, it was Spring that aroused me from my drowsy train ride home. My daily commute starts in dank Penn Station; we spend the first 10 minutes in a dark tunnel. After we emerge into the light, we pass through the dreary salt marsh known as the Jersey Meadows. Newark is our first city. As we move past, the towns get progressively smaller, the lawns get larger and the people whiter. My ride ends more than an hour later in suburban Morris County.

    On a typical day, I read and slumber. Last Tuesday, I suddenly noticed a flicker of bright colors and movement. In the middle distance, on a playing field, a group of girls were arrayed in a circle practicing wheeling motions with their arms. They were led by an adult (their coach?) stationed in the center. I guessed they were junior high school girls, and were practicing cheerleading.

    As I said, I was dozing, but the late-afternoon raking sunlight and the bright colors on the girls clothes sparked my interest, so I opened up my notebook and scrawled the following scribble.

    The scene vanished before I finished. On the same ride home, I made a few more sketches for later use. But as far as getting a second shot at drawing the scene again, I was never able to. I had my pad and pencil at the ready the rest of the week, but the girls and their teacher never reappeared. Still, I had my inspiration.

    But how do I turn a brief notion into a finished painting?

    In the days of the “academy,” artists went to great lengths to reassemble a scene. They would dress models in the correct garb, and sometimes recreate an entire battlefield or similar large scale backdrop. Contemporary artists by and large shun such practices. For myself, I will make lots of preparatory sketches, but that’s as far as I go.

    Then it’s on to the grunt work of artistic composition. And as much as the several arts differ each from the other, there remain lots of similarities. Painters cover their canvas once and then re-paint again and again. So too, writers make a first draft and rewrite obsessively. From what I’ve heard, Ernest Hemingway’s first drafts were remarkably pedestrian. Each draft tries to push closer to the original spark. Countless re-paintings or redrafts eventually reach a conclusion (or a stalemate, when a work is abandoned). The key is to be unafraid to destroy (tear up – paint over) your previous hard work, even if a particular passage seems a great success. Finish occurs when the work clicks.

    Works that fail may be picked up again after months or years.

    And that’s it. An obsessive process of rewriting or repainting until the work is done.

    So… how do you keep reaction fresh when you’ve had a work of art in front of you for months?

    For painters, we can re-assess several times a day. After each break, your return to the studio gives you a brief moment for a fresh reaction. But for writers of novels, re-engagement comes slowly. Nonetheless, the artistic quest remains the same: did I get what I was after? If not, keep trying.

    The what you are after is much less solid matter. Unvoiced, the artist tries to keep it alive in mind’s eye while continuing to prune and refine. But the specific “what” is never explicitly stated. Eventually, a work is finished. Even then, you may give yourself a time off, and one more look. Did you get what you wanted? If yes, then you are done.

    So… what about my finished work. This one was finished some 34 Springs ago after a month of daily painting. I no longer have my original studies, but I can remember what I saw and what I was after. It was late March, and I was home from art school (I was sick for about eight days… a rare experience for me). I passed a local park and watched two boys take turns with a basketball. I can’t say what it was about the scene inspired me, and the work changed a lot as I painted. After a month of painting, I stopped with the following entitled the Rites of Spring.

    By the way, if you pay for Showtime, you ought to watch the new series: This American Life. In an episode entitled ‘God’s Close-Up’ a young Mormon painter is shown selecting his models, posing them in an elaborate crucifixion scene, and photographing the scene to use are reference for a finished work. The links won’t allow you to see all that much, but if you have access to Showtime, watch this interesting episode. The art itself is relentlessly pedestrian. And no, I don’t know the artists name, nor do I have a link for him.

    —T. McKenna

    Friday, April 13, 2007

    Friday Reflection: A Concrete World Full of Souls

    Fare thee well, American bard (click graphic to view)

    Shock and awe.

    What are the conservatives doing with all the money and power that used to belong to all of us? They are telling us to be absolutely terrified, and to run around in circles like chickens with their heads cut off. But they will save us. They are making us take off our shoes at airports. Can anybody here think of a more hilarious practical joke than that one?

    --Kurt Vonnegut Jr., 1922 - 2007

    Friday Reflection: Three Angels

    Three angels up above the street,
    Each one playing a horn,
    Dressed in green robes with wings that stick out,
    They've been there since Christmas morn.
    The wildest cat from Montana passes by in a flash,
    Then a lady in a bright orange dress,
    One U-Haul trailer, a truck with no wheels,
    The Tenth Avenue bus going west.
    The dogs and pigeons fly up and they flutter around,
    A man with a badge skips by,
    Three fellas crawlin' on their way back to work,
    Nobody stops to ask why.
    The bakery truck stops outside of that fence
    Where the angels stand high on their poles,
    The driver peeks out, trying to find one face
    In this concrete world full of souls.
    The angels play on their horns all day,
    The whole earth in progression seems to pass by.
    But does anyone hear the music they play,
    Does anyone even try?

    Can anyone guess the author of that poem? I found it in an anthology called The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, edited by James Hillman, Michael Meade, and my personal favorite among living poets, Robert Bly.

    This is National Poetry Month, and not everyone in the bard shop is excited. I think that Bernstein's point is well taken: when you confine Christmas to one day a year, it's pretty easy to forget the true message of the fellow from Nazareth, whether you consider him to have been a very wise man or merely a god. When you celebrate poetry four weeks out of the year, the other 48 can become plastic and stagnant.

    Here, we're always celebrating poetry, because I think our culture and our politics need poetry more than ever before. As I said last month in our piece on Frost, we need poets in corporate cubicles, on American Idol, in the dull, prosaic and hygienic halls of Washington, on Madison Avenue, and on Wall Street.

    The poet quoted above seems to think so, too. He sees living souls in this corporate, concrete world. He hears the songs of the poets, "playing on their horns all day." But he worries that we've become deaf to their music, to their living message of truth and beauty.

    Another question we might add to the last one the poet asks ("does anyone hear the music they play / does anyone even try?"), is something we've brought up in our discussion of the iPod culture. I see the people wired to their little drives every day on the subway; often I can hear the tinny fuzz of sound coming from their heads. Yet I wonder: how much are they listening to the songs, and how much are they just tuning out of what's around them?

    Poetry—real poetry, that is, not the Hallmark-card pabulum of our age—has always been meant to awaken us to the living present; to reveal to one another the souls still alive in the concrete jungle. It is never about blinding the eye or deadening the senses. If we are to have a true awakening in this era of genocide and global war and crushing poverty and medieval disparities of economy and environmental destruction, then we had better rediscover the poetry that still lives, repressed and caked over with conditioning, within us, and celebrate it—every day and month of the year.

    Oh, the poet quoted above is a fellow named Bob Dylan. Pretty good musician, too.

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Making Darfur Matter

    click the graphic to listen to an audio file of today's feature articles (m4a audio file, 12MB)

    From the United For Peace and Justice National Steering Committee (Daily rEvolution is a supporting member group of UFPJ):

    UFPJ Statement on Impeachment

    George Bush, Dick Cheney and other top administration officials have committed impeachable offenses.

    These include leading the country into war under false pretenses, ordering violations of the Geneva Conventions, the U.N Charter and International law; violating the civil liberties of U.S. people in an unconstitutional manner; lying to the people of the U.S. and the world; and other high crimes and misdemeanors.

    There is growing awareness of these facts among the U.S. people. From across the country there are demands that the Congress act on the principle that this is a government of laws, not of individuals. There is a grassroots movement demanding that Bush and Cheney and others be impeached.

    Since its formation, UFPJ’s central mission has been working to end the war in Iraq and other wars of which George Bush is Commander in Chief. We welcome the growing movement to impeach him and others in his administration who have aided and abetted his crimes.

    Some of our member groups and friends are already active in Impeach07, an umbrella forum in the impeachment movement. Others may see ways to incorporate impeachment efforts into their antiwar agendas, and we encourage them to do so.

    "More Americans agree with the assessment that 'today it's really true that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer.' Today, 73% feel that way, up from 65% five years ago." (from a recent survey cited in Mother Jones magazine)

    About Darfur: Is this a hopeless situation, merely because the U.S. can't do its shock-and-awe thing on Sudan or spare 100 (let alone 100,000) troops? Save Darfur is asking Bush to pull out "Plan B," and that's one viable strategy. They're also organizing Global Days for Darfur, a series of protests and demonstrations later this month across the country, to awaken the government and media about the need for international action.

    Another potential strategy on easing the humanitarian crisis is to use some economic strong-arm tactics that the U.S. government has used before, but to far less salubrious ends. I was reminded of this possibility by watching this video of John Perkins, the "economic hit man," which was sent to me by our good friends at World Wide Renaissance. If those tactics can be used to help fatten the bank accounts of corporate executives and shareholders, why can't they be used to help the innocent and ease injustice? Just a thought.

    In any event, neither resignation nor apathy are acceptable responses when it comes to genocide. Use the links above to get involved in a worldwide No to group slaughter and institutional madness, and if you can afford it, give the folks who are organizing these things some money.

    And in case you're wondering how bad it really is in Darfur, the geeks at Google Earth have some stuff for you to see.


    What follows is a brief excerpt from the book I'm working on, which is to be a guide for people working in corporate America on how to hold onto one's individual dignity in a time where the pallid corporate values of economic disparity, ad-driven superficiality, and a narrow, punitive group morality are ascendant. Keep in mind, this is first-draft material, so if you have suggestions or criticism, by all means post them to the comments; I'll be very grateful.

    The natural society is built upon the individual, and the relationships between individuals. So it is also natural that the individual's interests should lead, and the group should follow. No corporate entity should determine what the individual chooses, how he lives, or what he thinks or feels.

    It is the same with national or regional affiliation. Patriotism must be toward the planet we live on and share with all the creatures and things of Nature; we have no other. After and subsidiary to that patriotism comes our love of country, state, region, community, or what have you. There can be no other practical ordering of patriotism, because to put a national in-group's interests ahead of the planet's would be to endanger the lives of our children and theirs.

    This is a platform that we will all have to agree upon, if we are to build a viable future for our kids, and give them a chance at a safe and sustainable world in which to live and create their own new generation of youth. How it might be realized or what forms it might take in the fields of action and innovation are as unpredictable as they are diverse. This is fine, because when we allow the individual some primacy in the culture, and put love of planet ahead of love of country, then people will naturally find ways of creating and connecting that will deliver the solutions we need for our world. We would find that the mail room guy has as much (if not more) to offer as the CEO; that there is invention in the heart of the local car mechanic or the construction worker that could help deliver us from the dangers of global warming or poverty.

    But the corporate model of society prevents all of this beneficial movement: its strain of elitism tells us that only a few elect people—the "alphas" of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World—can conceive, plan, or recognize the innovations and creations that will best move society forward. It tells us that the vast majority of people are useful only in the role of mechanical parts that move in a forced synchrony to implement the corporate vision for the enrichment and comfort of the few—the executives and stockholders who control the purse strings and hold the power over the organization, which in turn controls the government.

    The problem with this corporate model and the elitism that fuels it is that it is impractical—that is to say, it fails, time and again. Indeed, it has been failing for thousands of years, virtually as long as the time for which we have historical records. And it isn't hard to figure out why. Elitism has failed, and continues to fail, because it excludes a vast array of potential resources. In fact, it would be a conservative estimate to say that 90% of the potential for growth and innovation in our culture is suppressed—structurally removed from the creativity-development cycle of social progress—by the very corporate model that claims to have been designed for the good of all.

    Imagine if you decided one day that your body would best be served if you appointed one or two of its parts—say the right arm and left leg—to hold supreme power over all the other components of your body. These two parts would make decisions about what the others should do, how much, and how little, to serve what the primary two saw as the good of the whole. This is in fact what we tend to do in our culture, but we usually appoint the brain—specifically the forebrain intellect and left brain verbal mind—to perform the role of the CEO of the psyche. The other organs and functions of the body—heart, lungs, digestive tract, muscles, even the spine—are given supporting roles and clear, limited directives on what they are to do and how much.

    The corporate model fails not because it asks people to do too much, but because it allows them to do so little.

    The Wine Messenger

    The Lesson of 500 Posts

    Yesterday, we briefly noted that we'd made it to 500 posts here. The truth is that there are plenty more than that, but when we moved the site over to Blogger in 2005, we could only manually convert, so a lot of the archives from the old home site got left behind.

    That said, there is a lesson of sorts in this steady flow of content. Blogging, I have found, is the surest cure for writer's block. I recommend that every writer take up a blog, even if you don't mean to work on it seriously or regularly. I started mine just as a place to keep notes for essays and books, and it evolved by itself to whatever it is now.

    One of the personal lessons for me of keeping this blog going these past two and a half years has been about the true source of any creative endeavor. It doesn't matter if the work produced is often of a rather undistinguished artistic quality or questionable social utility (that certainly is true here). What matters is that something gets done at all. A famous novelist whose name I can't recall once said that everyone wants to have written a novel, but very, very few want to actually go through the process of writing one.

    I rarely know what is going to go on tomorrow's DR post, because I'm usually too busy during the day with earning my bread in corporate America to think much about it. But I have learned to have a certain confidence, based on recurrent experience, in the invisible, guiding hands that prompt me at just the right time to produce whatever is right for the moment and my admittedly mediocre ability. Briefly put, nothing has to be forced.

    One of the things I teach in my counseling practice and my books is that there are unseen cosmic energies that, if allowed, can guide, teach, and heal better than any purely human or mechanical energy can. In the I Ching, where I learned a great deal of this, they are called "helpers." Think of quantum energy with a specific purpose or sub-atomic spirit guides that know what they're doing, usually better than you do. It's not that I believe in them (or anything else, in fact); it's that I have experienced their presence, time and again.

    That said, I don't go in for the "Footprints" stuff: helpers are our equals, not our gods. Whenever we make the effort to follow, they will lead; where we put in our share of the work of change, they will guide us in transformation. But if you're expecting to be carried around through life by a spirit, a god, a lover, or a spouse, then I think you're dealing in one of the most destructive delusions of our culture. So I would encourage you to call for help from those invisible energies of progress, protection, and transformation. But be sure that your footprints, too, are left there in the sand.

    Yesterday, we had a little fun with the notion of a Blogger's Code of Conduct. Experience has taught me that the code of conduct is built into the very act of creating and presenting content for the public. A blogger is not a journalist, not a scholar, not an accepted member of any social in-group; bloggers are more like voices in the wilderness, feeding on the freedom and the frequent anonymity of their profession and their position in society.

    That carries with it, if anything, even more responsibility than the stiff ethical codes of a profession like journalism or broadcasting; because the blogger can't just ask himself, "is what I am doing legal and within the limits defined for me in the code of conduct?" No: the blogger must go a little deeper than that and ask "am I truly serving the natural audience for my message? and am I following the voice of a living truth, or trapping my feet (not to mention my readers) in the concrete of a fixed belief?"

    Here, I have definitely found that invisible helping energies make all the difference, and have the capacity to lead us out of the dangerous swamp of belief, whenever we stray into its murky edges. In a darkness such as we have experienced these past six years or so, it is relatively easy to be infected with the demons--thus, we see the shit-slinging and pissing contests that so define our mainstream media (more than they do the blogosphere, by the way).

    Coulter, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Robertson, Savage, and Imus are all within the grip of the mainstream broadcast and publishing media. Their feast of hatred is made possible by media giants in cable TV and radio, or the Rupert Murdoch publishing machine. None of these unfortunate people could blog their way out of a wet paper bag. That is because they are showmen first--of the most odious, P.T. Barnum variety--actors second, and demagogues third. Journalists? Please, don't make me puke.

    Much of the reason why the work of these people is as dead in its quality as it is shrill in its voice is that they imagine that they are the source of truth and insight. This, of course, is a self-limiting falsehood which actually kills truth faster than a George Bush press conference.

    Creativity of any stripe or quality is a three-way relationship between the author of the content, his or her audience, and those unseen presences that I spoke of earlier. The absence of any of these will cause the quality of the content to suffer, often irremediably.

    So if you are a writer (and even if you're not), I would invite you to try an experiment for yourself, to test these ideas in the crucible of your own experience. Try writing a blog post or an essay or a short story or a book "by yourself"--with no thought of your audience or the quantum source of the energy that makes creativity possible. Then do it again another time, while you consciously call for help from the invisible world and ask that you be brought into an inner connection with the natural audience for your material. Compare those two experiences, and see which you would prefer as an ongoing approach to the creative process. Let me know what you find out.

    And once again, thanks as always to our extraordinary readers, without whom this blog would be a pale and solipsistic endeavor.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    Geek Wednesday: Mind Your Manners

    Atlas and St. Patrick's, Rockefeller Center, New York (click to enlarge)

    Before we get to another rollicking—er, excuse me, staid and polite edition of Geek Wednesday, a couple of notes about what's to come this week.

  • I'll have some suggestions on what can be done about Darfur, and how. Contrary to what my esteemed co-blogger suggested yesterday, I think there is a solution that does not involve Shock and Awe II or the redeployment of our depleted armed forces. We'll have more on that tomorrow.

  • April is National Poetry Month, for those of you who don't pay attention to such things. We'll be observing it the rest of this month, as we have since we began this blog. More on that Friday.

  • And as I've just turned 50, perhaps it is appropriate that we have today reached 500 posts at Daily rEvolution. Now, if someone would just drop $5,000 in our tip jar, I'd really be on a 5-roll! More on that 500 milestone tomorrow.

  • Geek Wednesday

    "The miscreants who need their meds aren't going to sign the code, let alone adhere to it."—Jeff Jarvis, professor of journalism at CUNY, reacting to Tim O'Reilly's call for a Blogger Code of Conduct

    I think I've made myself fairly clear about where I stand with regard to corporate codes of conduct. But now comes along one of the principal voices of all geekdom, Mr. Web 2.0 himself, the head of the company that produces those excellent geek reference tomes with the critters on the covers—and he's calling for a Blogger's Code of Conduct.

    So, does that make it different? Is this supposed to be aimed at preventing folks from writing death threats into comments? If so, then I agree with Jeff Jarvis: there's already laws against making death threats against people, and the nuts who would do it won't check to see whether my blog is carrying the Good Blogkeeping seal of approval before they spout their hatred. Now if it's meant to keep Coulter from broadcasting death-wishes upon New York Times op-ed writers, well then, we may have something to talk about.

    Just kidding; I'm against it, soup to nuts. Bloggers who can't keep their own house in order will lose readers, and that's the most effective punishment there is for the likes of us. I've been called everything from a Nazi to a terrorist-lover to a Chicken Little (by a member of the "global warming is a left-wing conspiracy hoax" club). Everyone is allowed their rant until they cross a line that you don't have to be a psychotherapist to recognize. Then they get blocked. But the question is: do I have to sign into some club and carry a badge on my home page to do what I already do, what I already know is right? Mr. O'Reilly, keep publishing those great geek books; but leave us alone with the etiquette club.

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    100 Million iPods, and how many of them still work? As Donny Rumsfeld would say, it's only a number. But still, an ambivalence-inducing number at that.

  • The Good: These tiny little music-playing drives dragged Apple right out of the grave, at a time when Michael Dell, Bill Gates, and others had already started gleefully throwing in the dirt. The financial resurrection that the iPod brought to Apple made OS X, the Intel Macs, iLife, and the other great Apple computer products of the past six years possible. As for the utility and pleasure afforded by the iPods, given their lousy record for endurance, I will leave that to each individual to decide for him and her self. For all I know, maybe it's worth paying two or three hundred for a little machine that starts to crap out after a year, for the daily pleasure it brings.

  • The Bad: The environmental toll that these little monsters are taking has already been discussed here. Disposable diapers may be a necessary evil in our times (I bought them); disposable electronics with hard drives and lithium ion batts are a different story. Also of concern is an issue we've brought up again and again here, the odious alliance with the oppressive labor machine, Nike. Apple needs to dissolve that offensive marriage, and then come up with a truly progressive and planet-friendly plan for the proper handling of iWaste.

  • Overall, the iPod has been another example of our culture's absorption with the superficial. As I've said before, we have generally forgotten how to make music; but we sure know how to consume it. This consumptiveness has become reflected in the throwaway culture of image and ignorance that surrounds the iPod. I remember once posting a comment (and a very polite one, Mr. O'Reilly) to an Apple blog at the time of the Nike announcement, noting that an alliance with a company responsible for turning 10 year old Vietnamese kids into slaves was not the best move that Apple could have made. One of the responders to the comment (it might have been the author of the post) blandly reminded me that injustice and evil are everywhere, they're a part of human nature, but that doesn't mean you stop doing business. And that was considered a fit answer to my challenge. It's not our problem, we're Americans—we will buy what we want when we want it, no matter who suffers as a result.

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    Spotlight Rules, Google Drools: But while we're Apple-mashing, let's be nice (in the spirit of the Blogging Code of Conduct): Spotlight is still the desktop search par excellence in the computing world. This week, Google came out with a Mac version of its Desktop Search program. I tried it, and allowed it to fully index my MacBook's drive. After a restart to ensure that the G-Desktop was up and running, I compared it with Spotlight, Mac OS X's onboard desktop search utility. The G-Desktop window opened nicely (with two taps of the Command/Apple key), but the beach balls started spinning once I'd put in a search term. Mind you, a browser window opened almost immediately to show me web results for my inquiry, but Google had some trouble looking over my hard drive. So while it was looking, I opened Spotlight and entered the same term. Instant gratification, organized neatly by file type and category.

    Google will eventually get it right, as they always do with their products. But for right now, Spotlight is still secure in its throne as the desktop search king (don't even mention the topic, you Vista users).

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    Webby Awards Update: The finalists for the Webby Awards have been announced; you can view them here; and you can also vote for the "People's Voice" winners here. The awards show will be in June.

    Which brings us to our site of the week, Amy Goodman's marvelous Democracy Now!. Go check out the current issue, and see whether you find anything about Imus or Anna Nicole's love child or the pictures in the love-astronaut's car (all of these are actual headline stories in the MSM today). Nope: Amy Goodman likes to focus on Iraq, Darfur, Somalia, and the ongoing struggle against corporate corruption (don't worry, the Imus story is in there, too, but a ways down). By the way, if you're in the Boston area next week, you might want to see Goodman and Zinn together.

    Finally today, a graphic depicting the love triangle among MS, Apple, and Linux, from this site. Make of it what you will (click it for an enlarged view).

    Next week, we should have an update on our experiment with MEPIS Linux, which seems very promising indeed; along with a review of Apple's dotmac service, which I am revisiting (they offer a 60 day free trial). You can have a look at my early efforts with iWeb and dot-Mac: I made a version of my I Ching site with Apple's toys.

    And if there's anything you'd like to see reviewed or discussed at Geek Wednesday, just post a comment. But remember, be polite.