Friday, September 09, 2011

A Grand Slam

Barack knocked one out of the park last night with the bases loaded. It's hard to see the GOP standing up in the face of his brutal assault on their elitism.

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) 9/11 Changed Everything.
I spent the dinner hour last night investigating gyms around my neighborhood.
All my life, I've been an on-and-off gym rat. A body like mine takes a lot of hard work, a combination of intense training and hard-core drinking and eating, to develop this perfect set of mushy but bulky muscles. I can lift a Buick but look ridiculous in a Speedo. That sort of thing.
I haven't been to a gym regularly since I spent eighteen months with a personal trainer in the early '00s, and I've been suffering injury after injury, even just walking down the block. The final straw was curtailing my bike riding this summer, a real passion, because of a bout of severe tendinitis.
I was walking home from what will likely become my new gym and I started to let my mind wander (realize that I had no clue about this story perking in the background, altho it's conceivable that subliminally I heard it being discussed on one of the ubiquitous TV sets around the gym.)
I started to think about this weekend. see, I got a guest pass from the gym and I wanted to find a way to use it that simulates how I'd regularly use the facilities. After all, if it's packed on Monday nights, that's something I need to know.
It's 9/11/11, after all. I determined to try to avoid the television as much as possible that day. And I started to think about how the world has changed.
Not your world. Not the world world. My world.
I've changed a lot since 9/11. That event was a catalyst in my life, created a whole new dynamic for me.
I guess I realized that security was an illusion, that the very people in charge of protecting us couldn't, or wouldn't, or more likely, couldn't be bothered. The oceans no longer protected us from our enemies, and all the duck-and-cover drills we learned as kids were meaningless when the building itself was about to collapse. You get a little scared (first post. I'll get to that in a minute.)
If security is an illusion, then why was I protecting myself, my thinking went? If enemies foreign could smite me, surely enemies domestic could do it, and for far less incentive. So why was I sitting in an office, making gobs of money for someone else, all for the crumbs of recognition I was getting? Sure, I was making good money (still am, just not quite as good,) and the people were nice and the perks of the job were enjoyable, but it was all an illusion.
Ten years later, the job isn't as fun, the perks have been culled to the bare minimum, I haven't had a raise of any note in eight years (9/11 changed things there, too,) the people around me are antsy, and the illusion has been damped down. I still work where I worked on that fateful day when the plane tore past my office window, but the man who worked here that day is gone. And soon, the man he evolved into will likely leave as well.
Part of it is, I'm sure, just the normal aging process. But some of it is because of the realization that the illusion is incomplete.
In the 1990s, I would have been content with working, then going out with buddies after work, getting drunk and staggering home to my family (that's changed, too.) That's an illusion too, and it's an illusion designed to feed the illusion that a job matters to your life.
The money does, its true, but the job itself is pretty meaningless. Unless you can find a real meaning in it. Making someone else richer is not a meaning. It's an excuse.
My attitude towards life changed, mostly. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when most people were pondering how to protect themselves-- duct tape, plastic sheets, first aid kit, cell phone-- I took up SCUBA diving. I always wanted to do it, and realized that buildings fall but achievements last. I may as well do the bucket list thing now.
I was careening towards fifty at the time. I knew I'd have fewer days ahead than behind shortly. Time is a companion that guides us through life, gently reminding us that we don't have as much of its companionship left as we hope. Diving meant dive vacations, which meant travel. I never traveled much as a kid/man. Now I travel regularly. There's too much of the world to see, both above and below the water, and I need to see it, to record it for posterity, and to have stories to tell in heaven or hell.
That was the first psychotic break from my previous life. I started looking through the lens and into the world, shooting pictures. Again, to record what I saw, how I saw it. I took cameras below the water because I realize 99% of the people around me (including you, my readers, but I'll get to that in a second) will never see the undersea world up close and personal, the way I can shoot it.
The final break from what I will euphemistically call "reality" came on August 4, 2005. A friend and co-blogger (if she ever stops playing with her kittens and iPad), Katrina, persuaded me that my voice needed to be heard. I was too intelligent and too passionate to sit around on blogs and websites commenting. So I did. Timidly, at first. This was, after all, the height of the frustration the nation was having with then-President Bush the Younger, and a lot of vitriol was flying in both directions. I really didn't know how I'd stomach taking responsibility for my own words at my own blog.
It took a while. A year and a month, almost precisely, for me to reconcile myself to the fact that I was going to have to strip away a few layers of undergarments if I was to communicate my message, and make an impact. I've tried to make this a personal blog even as I've talked about world events and made connections between disparate things. I know my hit count it way below where it could be. I know other blogs that have started the same time as mine and through a combination of fortune, harder work, and more likeable personality, those blogs have flown high.
But I'm proud of the work I've done here, and prouder still that my small corner of the world has not contained my barbaric "YAWP!" I'm proud to have been quoted, prouder still to have won awards for my blogging (sheesh...I forgot to include those when I switched to the new format!)
But more, I'm proud of the friends I've made blogging.
9/11 changed the world, but it changed me even more and for the far better. It made me look at myself and take a hold of my life and start doing something to make a difference in my own world, and I hope, in yours.
Even so, I'd give all that good that has happened back to see the world the way it was at 8:45 AM, September 11, 2001.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Errr, A Better Headline Next Time?

This article is about how gold came to earth in meteorites.
Yup. He went there.

Well, Now, This Is Interesting

Apparently, you can report on Texas football games and interview Texans, so long as you're not with Al Jazeera.

God, I Hope Not!

It's seems almost empirical that they do. It strikes me that intelligence manifests itself in constant communication.
Oh. Wait. It's about the mechanics of speech, that they have "vocal chord" like structures...

Klein Boggle

As Ezra points out, if this doesn't make you mad as hell, then nothing will. All your raises and bonuses? Gone to HMOs and doctors.

Ecce Homo, Ergo Elk

Fat, drunk and antlered is no way to go through life, son.

The Train Is Rolling Down The Track

I don't mean the Burlington train, I mean the labor train.
People are getting pissed. Rightly so.

He Cantor Be Serious!

Eric Cantor might have rendered himself irrelevant, between the debt debacle and the emergency storm aid controversy.

Looser Regulations Are Not The Answer

Letting the environment suffer so polluters can make more money is not going to create jobs. Companies are making gobs of money, and stuffing mattresses with it.

Hungry Hungry HIPPO

Well, the results are in, they are not pretty and the atmospheric study of greenhouse gases is being curtailed.
Tents are folding up, the animals are being packed into train cars, and the only thing left behind will be the clowns to distract the rubes from the truth.
We're doomed.

Another Day, Another Speech

Let's hope this time, he actually comes out a-speakin'.

Contracting Perry Perry

Rick Perry really believes SocSec is a Ponzi scheme.
I have a newsflash for him: If the top 1% of people own 90+% of the wealth, then "capitalism*" itself is by definition a Ponzi scheme. Welcome to the party, pal!
*America is about as capitalist as Yad Vashem is Nazi Germany. It is the very antithesis.

Tech Noir

This might end up being a "tl;dr" essay, so please forgive me in advance. I'll try to be brief, but some of the concepts need exploring.
I woke up this morning at 3AM to the sound of garbage cans being emptied by the sanitation collectors. I couldn't get back to sleep, partly from the startle, partly because I just don't sleep so well anymore.
Mostly, because I started to think about Glenn Beck.
Well, sort of. His name came up in the monologue.
See, I started to think about the past twenty years of hatred and intolerance...really, fifty years, but liberal thought had managed to mask the undercurrent in American society and like mushrooms in a dank basement, hated took root and spored.
It's not that hatred is a new concept in America. Ask a turn-of-the-century Italian, or Catholic. Ask any black man from any era, frankly. Ask a woman. Ask someone gay.
It's that hatred has become mainstream. That's a novel situation in America, to be honest. Yes, there have been strands of hatred that seemed mainstream, but they've been beaten back and repudiated. I'm not sure that can happen this time, at least not for a while. Let me get into why.
To sum it up in a word: technology.
Human history suggests that advances in technology have mostly paced human development. I think that's because technology has been accessible to the layperson almost right away. (There are exceptions, and I'm getting to that.)
Some caveman smacked a flint rock and started a fire. It's not an unlikely scenario to suggest that happened on more than one occasion accidentally. The technology of fire rarely needed to be transferred or communicated. Another sharpened a rock into a knife. Similarly, it seems like an event that transcended special knowledge.
Smelting metal, hammering brass, working with iron and steel, all seem to be accessible technologies. Even if you couldn't figure it out for yourself, once it was taught to you, it wasn't hard to replicate. You could study it, adapt it, improve it. Moreover, you understood the dynamics, even if the underlying physics or chemistry was completely unknown to you. Fire hot, rock melt, glowing stuff hammer: sword.
Naturally, with technology came applications. Nothing is invented in a vacuum because inventions come about through need. Or opportunity. Usually, the first applications of any technology, from rock knives to fire to swords to gun powder and so on, is warfare.
Whether it's killing your neighbor or wiping out the next kingdom, you're going to use the latest technology because either your opponent doesn't have it, or more, because he does. Rare is the occurence where a lighter-technology overcomes a more advanced technology, and usually that comes down to incompetent application of the more advanced technology.
Side note: You might think 9/11 was such a case, but spot on, you'd be wrong. I'll demonstrate momentarily.
Even as late as the invention of the automobile, we obtained a technology that the average educated person could fathom. I mean, really, think about it: you turn a key or press a button, which completes an electrical circuit that sends an impulse down a wire that jumps a gap that's in a closed cylinder filled with explosive vapor that creates a pressure wave forcing a piston downward, which is connected to and impels motion in a wheel.
That's your basic car engine, in a nutshell. And among the first widespread uses of the automobile was warfare. It allowed information...key word move faster, weaponry to be deployed farther and faster, and troops to be repositioned.
Ultimately, however, technology becomes deployed for more benign purposes to the general population. Fire becomes cooking, knives become utensils, swords become...well, letter openers, gunpowder becomes fireworks, guns get used for hunting food, and engines become the family station wagon.
The 20th century saw a phenomenon unheard of in past milennia. We started to see the rise of technology that was limited in access to the general population. Airplanes, for example. Yes, the physics of flight is fairly simple: you have to generate lift that overcomes the weight of an object. How many people have driver's licenses versus how many have pilot's licenses?
There's a reason for that: piloting a plane requires a mastery of three dimensional thinking, a specialized training that, because of the hazards and conditions, is not available to everyone who walks up to a plane. Indeed, we pay good money (and often, pretty lousy money) to people with that special knowledge to get us from point A to point B safely. How many of us have chauffeurs, tho?
You can go down the list of technologies invented in the 20th century and find any number of instances where technology has exceeded human ken and evolution. Biotechnologies, genetic engineering, computers, atomic energy.
Software. And here's where we start to get into the rant.
Now, let me preface this by saying I'm no Luddite. I've studied computer science with experts. I can program in BASIC, Fortran, COBOL, and compile assembly code. I've used PCs since the early 80s. Even today, I can still crack my knuckles and write a simple Visual BASIC program for Excel or a macro for Word.
When I learned to use computers, we had to write our own programming. Conditional commands, root calls, subroutines...we understood by looking what a program was supposed to do-- usually because we were scratching our heads trying to figure out why it wasn't working. We got our hands dirty from start to finish. I've written ten punch card programs to add two numbers and print the answer out.
There was a time when MicroSoft held the patent for the most complex single piece of human engineering in history: Windows NT. Software had become so complex that no one person would ever again write a complete program. If you needed to splice in the time into a program, you could buy an off-the-shelf piece of component software. You'd work on one small part of a program, while a group of programmers were dedicated to melding your facet into the larger whole, comprised of hundreds of other facets and calls.
It became a religious ritual, frankly. A scriptorium of monks from the Middle Ages would feel at home, as each worked on a separate page of the Bible, illuminating passages, scribing chapters and verses. 
And like those religious rituals, it was shrouded in mystery from hoi polloi. 
Do you understand how blogging software works? Could you explain it in a sentence? And that's relatively simple word-processing/database management stuff! Imagine a CAD program. 
But wait, there's more to this analogy.
Information from the Bible was passed along in ritual fashion, designed primarily to manipulate the populace through propaganda, and a faith in the purveyors of that information: the priests, the bishops, the Pope. Similarly, in this great information age, where nominally anything should be available to anyone, we are so inundated with data that we rely on others to sort it all out for us (myself included, and by reading this, you too.)
Now...marry the two concepts in your head for a moment: technology is used first and foremost in warfare, and information is shrouded in mystery and parceled out in easily digestible bits and bytes.
And now you know why I was awake at three AM, thinking of Glenn Beck. The right wing, the folks who own much of the infrastructure-- radio networks, computer software companies, internet providers, media firms-- to declare technowar on the world, have declared war not on Iran or Al Qaeda (altho they too have been targeted) but on the American people.
That's the bummer. The good news is...well, anyone know how the church lost its stranglehold on the Bible?
That's right: someone common invented the printing press and a new way for information to be distributed came of age.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


A video game for the rest of us!

UPDATE: KO had a point last night: It's wrong to wish death on people like Sarah Palin or Mickey Mouse Bachmann, mostly because some right wing nutcase might use it as an excuse to shoot liberals, and so I've rethought this post.

A little. I think any nutcase will find an excuse (ask Jared Loughner) so I'm still thinking about buying this game.

The Author's Right

If only we could feel it.

Two For Two

Looks like I was spot on again yesterday, this time over Rick Perry's firefighting funding.

Maine Is Now Whoreless

No. Really!

Follow Up

My piece yesterday was pretty timely, it appears. People are starting to get really fed up.

Dennis Miller?


Trig Palin Is A Liberal

And his own mom endorses the idea.

This Is A Bit Surprising

Considering the munchies and all that.

Color Me Surprised

Normally, I don't really get into sports stories, but this was a bit surprising. The New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles baseball teams played a game last night that was interrupted with a four hour rain delay, ending a little after 2AM.
In the grand scheme of baseball, this is unusual but not unheard of. In 1986, the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves battled until nearly 5AM, no rain delay...and then the stadium had a Fourth of July fireworks display, which annoyed the neighbors.
What's curious to me is, today the Yankees and Orioles have a scheduled game at 1:05 this afternoon.
I'm shocked the players union hasn't been up in arms about this, considering that day games on Thursday are an outgrowth of a union insistence in the last collective bargaining agreement that any games on Thursday where either team has to travel X miles to their weekend series must start before 4PM, in order to provide appropriate rest to the players and give them at least 24 hours between games.


Any candidate who can shoot sparks out of his butt has earned my vote!
Wait. What?

Shoes For Industry!

It looks like homeland security will stop making you take off your shoes at the airport.
This was one of the more ludicrous security measures taken in the wake of the September 11 attacks, and to be honest, there were few things I dreaded more about flying than unshoeing in an airport on a cold snowy winter morning.
Maybe the meals. Maybe.

Dire Straits

Think you had it rough during the recent spate of bad weather?
At least you won't have to live on an oil rig.

School's In. Lie Carefully

Welp, I think this pretty much is the swan song for News International, or at least Jim Murdoch.

Tom Crone, News Group's former legal manager, and Colin Myler, former News of the World editor, told MPs on Tuesday that Mr Murdoch was told of the email, in which a junior reporter transcribed hacked messages from Mr Taylor's voicemail, in a 15-minute meeting in 2008.

Mr Crone said Mr Murdoch had to be told of the email as it was the reason the company had to settle rather than fight Mr Taylor's claim. Mr Murdoch's authorisation was needed for that, he said.

Mr Myler told MPs it was ''inconceivable'' that Mr Murdoch was unaware that the email indicated hacking was more widespread. ''I think everybody perfectly understood the seriousness and significance of what we were discussing. There was no ambiguity about the significance of that document,'' he said.

Buh-bye! Don't let the door hit you on the way out.


Meh. It's A Start

$300 billion for jobs, is what Obama seeks from Congress.
Or about one-fourth of what Congress has gladly handed over since the beginning of hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq.
You know, when we could afford frivolities like wars of choice.

Diacritical Marx

I'm often struck by how the hyperbolic loons of the right wing of this nation operate. There's a deep dissonance to much of what passes for "thinking" over there, to the point I want to quote Inigo Montoya endlessly: "You keep using that word... I do not think it means what you think it means."
In this case, the word is science.
For instance, the sciences of global climate change & evolution are suspect "theories" (blithely ignoring the textbook definition of theory, by the way) mentioned in snarling, mocking tones. Despite the fact that there is more proof, for the theory of evolution and more evidence for the theory of climate change than there is for the theory of electricity, these folks still manage to believe if they turn on a switch, the lights will go on.
But neither evolution nor climate change is "settled science" in their view.
Ahhhh, but meanwhile, in economics, lowering taxes and freeing the markets creates jobs and growth. That's science.
Even though every shred of evidence contradicts these theorems and consign them to the junk heap of pseudo-fact, these know-nothings will swear up and down that lowering taxes is good for you and me and getting rid of regulations makes us stronger.
So wholly provable science is wrong, and wholly disproven science is truth.

Yet some of our top university professors, winners of Nobel prizes, and central bankers who are the subjects of adoring books, still preach the hyper-efficiency of self-correcting markets. They demonize the actions of policy makers who try to intervene to help offset demand contractions (as in the Recovery Act), impose regulatory structure on key markets (financial regulatory reform), strengthen social insurance (health care reform), invest in public goods (infrastructure spending), or pursue industrial policies to better position our national economy (President Obama's clean energy agenda).

The intellectual actions of these extreme free marketeers do not take place in a vacuum. They interact with a political structure comprised of lobbies and pseudo think-tanks to promote policies that, while wrapped in the cloak of promoting free markets, ultimately serve to redistribute growth to the top of the wealth scale. "Efficient market hypotheses" and "rational expectations"--the idea that absent government interference, market participants will make optimally efficient decisions--leads directly to supply-side tax cuts, deregulation of financial markets, the formation of financial bubbles, the acceptance of income stagnation, and disinvestment in public goods. And these measures, in turn, have delivered levels of income and wealth inequality not seen since the late 1920s, along with policy handcuffs that today have us arguing about how to reduce, rather than strengthen, regulations.

Shorter Jared Bernstein: "Braaaaaaaaaaaaaanes bad but good food."

Economics has been called "the dismal science" for good reason. It's bad science and usually gets the answer wrong (I'm aware of Carlyle's original meaning.) Economics, because it is so intertwined in the human experience, cannot make accurate predictions on its own. For example, it presupposes conditions that simply do not exist: rationality, perfect knowledge, perfect elasticity, free markets (or not.)

You can't theoretically test economics the way you can, say, physics or global environmental science. You can make limited predictions that might demonstrate some useful bits of information, but the application of that information becomes unwieldly, inaccurate, and ultimately self-defeating.

In many ways, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle applies first and foremost to the science of economics. Observing the phenomenon immediately voids the theoretical constructs involved.

This is not to suggest the economics has no value. For example, it's very good at helping us get a general understanding of how the world works from a commercial point of view. If you pull back the lens to a wide focus, you see a general application of principles, and they work pretty well: demand for a product does drive the price of the product up until supply catches up. Run a surplus of production and you have to lower prices to sell off the inventory.

Even socialism has value, as one of the few economic theories that tries to incorporate the human factor (it fails on other merits, to-wit the quality of that human factor. At least capitalism acknowledges greed as a motivator.) To each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities, that makes a lot of sense. On a limited scale, it works rather nicely, too.

But I digress.

The simple fact is, economics has become so divorced from the real world mechanics its supposed to describe, as Bernstein points out, that we cannot rely on it to be accurate. For example, it's not unusual for a stock market to go into decline when the economy is bad. It is unusual for the market to go into decline when companies are reporting record profits and projecting decent growth into the future.

That's a disconnect. There's something manipulating either the market or the economy, or both. Bernstein points out the intransigence of the "marketeers" which explains a lot. Even gravity will be suspended if you flap your arms fast enough. The trouble is, eventually, gravity sucks.


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

More Moore, More

During the 2008 election run-up, Michael Moore was avidly pro-Obama.
I mention that because I am considered by many to be even more liberal than Moore (I don't own a gun, for example) and supported Hillary Clinton, a fact I get reminded of from time to time.
On Labor Day (in what has to be a beautiful piece of programming), one of the movie channels played Capitalism: A Love Story, which got me thinking: How does Moore feel about Obama now?
“I don’t understand why he’s chosen the path he’s chosen, why he did not come in fighting for the working people of this country,” Moore tells Newsweek. “He could have been a great president. He could have pulled us back from the abyss.” Instead, “he came in more as Neville Chamberlain, wanting to appease Republicans.” Moore hasn’t even decided whether he’ll vote for Obama again in 2012; he likes Jon Huntsman on the Republican side, saying “it’s crazy time over there” and Huntsman is the only “sane candidate.” “If the Republicans were smart, they would nominate [him].”
Wow. Maybe it is surprising.

Torn By A Huntsman's Pack

Essentially, next February is either the end of John Huntsman or the flickering ember of an insurgency campaign.
He's hanging his hopes on the reasonable and rational folks in New Hampshire.
His best strategy for the primary is to forge a coalition of people who are terrified by the prospects of losing the general election with the nomination of either Rick Perry or Mickey Mouse, I mean, Bachmann and the anti-Mitt sentiment that runs strong in states that border Massachussetts, where Romney performed most of his "wolf in liberal clothing" antics.
He could conceivably place a strong second and become a factor at the convention. If he wins outright, it would make the race very interesting. See, I think he's the GOP best hope against Obama, after Mitt. Beating Mitt would send a loud message to the rest of the party at such an early date.
He has his work cut out for him to be sure. A strong second place automatically positions him at the top of the Veep short list as someone who can win moderate votes, crucial in the general election (remember how Palin effectively moved McCain to the right when he needed to move to the center.)
But....I doubt he has the sand to do it.

I Bet It Gets Great Gas Mileage

The world's smallest motor: one molecule.

That's a LOT Of Fapping!

Sperm donor conceived 150 children.
Bet he has a blog....

Fab Jive, Freddie

Freddie Mercury would have turned 65 yesterday. If you haven't seen the Google Doodle commemorating this, hurry.

Ripe For A Gaffe

As sad as it is to say in a race for Senate, I fully expect the Wisconsin race to replace retiring Democratic Senator Herb Kohl to come down to whether the Republicans can keep their mouths shut about Tammy Baldwin's sexual orientation. One nasty gaffe, and a close race will explode.

M-I-C...See You Real Soon! K-E-Y...Why?

Because it was a crappy idea from the get-go and obviously, Ed Rollins couldn't get a raise.

Between His Rock And A Hot Place

While I'm reluctant to gloat much, because people's lives and homes are on the line, the schadenfreude is a little sweet. Here's to the photo op of Rick Perry, hat in hand, heading up the White House driveway.

A New Hope?

If Obama's finally ready to hold the GOP feet to the fires, something he has shown great reluctance to do in the past, then maybe we can start moving forward here.



The Lost Decade

I'm going to make a concerted effort to get my 9/11 rants out of the way early this week. The tragedy still has too much emotion tied up in it for me to want to dwell until the last minute, when my maudlin streak will rear its ugly head.
You know what has me most upset heading into this ten year memorial?
What could have been.
I've written often over the past seven years...has it really only been seven years?...of my frustration of a nation on the precipice of a new century, a budget surplus and the hope of a brand new age of progress. Yes, we were in the middle of a recession, but it was a relatively mild one, a shake out of the fat in the dot-com boom. We've come back strong from those kinds of recessions before.
And yes, we had a moron for President, but morons generally don't do that much damage to a nation in four (or worst case, eight) years. There's inter- and intraparty squabbling, and factions form, and politicians jockey for positions. Bush certainly looked like he'd be a one-term President, lost in the office, popularity dangling in the 40s in not even his first full year in office (and that's without the albatross Obama entered office with.)
We'd have a debt of closer to $10 trillion now, instead of $14 trillion. There would have been no wars to speak of (as far as we can tell. Bush foreign policy was more focused on Russia and China.) The tax cuts probably would have passed, at least the first round, but there's no guarantee rounds two and three, the really economically devastating ones, would have been anything but a non-starter. Remember the attempt to privatize Social Security.
But 9/11 happened. It's hard to say what else we might have saved. To be sure, however, there are plenty of things we would not have.
We wouldn't have Alan Greenspan artificially surpressing interest rates, and Bush encouraging already debt-laden middle Americans from loading up on even more debt in an effort to be patriotic.
One reason I believe the stimulus package of $780 billion should have been primarily for mortgage holders is that it would be akin to a veteran's benefit: after all, we shopped and mortgaged to the hilt because our President asked us to, insisting we were an "ownership society."
We wouldn't have been bullied and cowed into submission by a government that believed to dissent is to commit treason, even if we could see the emperor had no clothes. There'd be no PATRIOT Act. Torture would be a thing for television programs, and at the end of the day, there'd be no using the protagonist as an argument to legtimize what we all know to be illegal, immoral, and sinful behavior.
We wouldn't have the logical end of thirty years of raping the American worker, stripping him and her of union representation against goliaths and behemoths that can stomp a mudhole in our own government. After all, the stimulus package had zero accountability, precisely because that was the term bankstahs dictated to Congress and President Bush. We wouldn't have jobs just folded up in the dead of night and exported, not to Mexico or Central America (which might make sense, if you're fighting an immigration battle,) but to India and Asia and China.
All because this quarter's profit was pennies less than last quarter's and woebetide the company that doesn't pay attention to the software that can pick up that nuance and short the stock and make it crash!
We wouldn't have Glenn Beck, the modern-day Father Coughlin hate-mongerer, railing about them. Sarah Palin would be sitting on someone's lap, taking dictation. Michele Bachmann would be trying to cure her husband of teh gay.
We'd be a better nation. A more secure nation, not just physically but psychically. We wouldn't see bogeymen behind every beard and under every turban. A mosque at Ground Zero wouldn't even catch the blink of an eye in the national attention span. We wouldn't have endless terror scares coinciding with the re-election of a President who was terrified of his own shadow.
You know what has me most hopeful heading into this ten year memorial?
What still may come to pass.
See, there was some good to come out of 9/11 and while I would not thank Al Qaeda from bringing it out in the mix, we ought to acknowledge the wake-up call we got.
I think the foremost good to have come out of the past decade is this: the politics of fear, so amplified and echoed, has been shown to be a hollow barrel after all. Eight years into the Bush administration and no succuessful terror attack was even attempted in the US. One could claim that was the outgrowth of the policies of Bush the Younger, but the American people saw through this and disagree, firmly.
Else, John McCain would be President now. Simply put, the US was shown to be a terrified little child, led by terrifying children. We were The Lord of the Flies writ large.
It is this focus of the people now that has me most hopeful for our future, for as much as I rail against the tyranny of the idiocracy, I see a slow (painfully slow) evolution in the American mindset.
9/11 woke the people up to the hubris of American society, of American culture, of American hegemony. Our belief that oceans protected us from harm was stripped away not by an ICBM, but by a Boeing 757 (or 767).
We were woken by the quintessential American transportation: the transcontinental flight that anyone of us could have been on that morning. 
If we could be attacked so savagely with such ease and familiarity, my thinking goes, then the very fabric of our society, the glue that holds this culture together, has to come under question. How could it not? It's not unlike finding your son or daughter smoking out of the nickle bag you hid in the back of your fetish porn collection. Clearly, you're going to wonder how things got that out of control. 
We questioned the need for war, even as we stood up as the patriots we were demanded to be and supported the troops. We saw the horrors that war did to our economy, masked as it was for the eight years of Bush by being placed off-budget, like how jobs were not being created, yet enormous wealth was trickling upwards. It had to bother us on some level that companies were snapping each other up like potato chips, yet each of us saw no raises or bonuses for ten years. Meanwhile, our taxes would go up, while those on the rich kept slipping lower.
And when the neutron bomb that was the mortgage crisis exploded, the anger that had been bubbling up since 9/11 finally was directed to the proper parties: the businessmen and cronies who had taken from us our God-given destiny of freedom and happiness. Remember how the American people flooded Congress when the first stimulus package failed in a late-night vote?
We elected Barack Obama, arguably the least-likely President since Harry Truman. He spoke of hope and change, and we responded to this. That's not a coincidence, even if in application neither has truly come to pass in a recognizable form (I won't debate the merits of Obama here expect to say that, on the whole, he's done a really good job, all things considered. It's this last condition that concerns me.)
In short, we've begun to reject the old schools of thought: the free markets will provide (they structurally cannot), lower taxes create an economy (they don't), Republicans are strong on defense (who got Osma bin Laden again, while the other guy fiddled?).
Indeed, even the old shibboleths, like the first rule of Socialism is you can't talk about Socialism, have gone out the window, slowly.
Yes, there is a significant percentage of yahoos and asshats and failed PoliSci assprofs who profess the end of socialism and progressivism, but they are winnowing out. We hear them only because they have megaphones, and the American people are rolling up their windows.
Fret not, my friends, my readers. This is a time for hope. This is a time for optimism.
This is a time for America.