Friday, June 18, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But....

1) Walking (back) the dinosaur. While it still can be used as a campaign tool this year to tar Republicans in general, it's going to be very very hard to make it stick as a charge against a specific candidate. Pity. I was hoping Barton had a real spine.
2) All that whinging you hear about BP being the victim? Fuggedaboutit. They are a prime takeover target and BP investors will make out like bandits.
5) South Carolina, the state best known for weird politics, just got weirder.
6) Interesting. NJ passed a medical marijuana law just before John Corzine left office. I was expecting the new governor, Chris Christie, to seek to overturn it. Surprise, surprise, altho there are strings attached. I wonder...there might be an "I didn't inhale" moment coming.
7) Let she who is without sin cast the first softball. Do the right wingers even know about women's softball? Maybe they should ask Elena Kagan...I don't think she's about to tell.
8) Really! Was the breathalyzer even necessary???
9) Maybe they should have hired these guys to scare the slick away from the shores? Just a thought.
10) Finally, the most exclusive restaurant in the world. So exclusive, it's not even IN a building!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Rational Explanation For Teabagging

Astounding article in the Times the other day: a think piece on the underlying psychology of Teabaggers. While it's true the movement is an astroturfed phenomenon, it caught fire for an unexpected reason, one that ultimately will backfire on Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and the Republican party:
Tea Party anger is, at bottom, metaphysical, not political: what has been undone by the economic crisis is the belief that each individual is metaphysically self-sufficient, that  one’s very standing and being as a rational agent owes nothing to other individuals or institutions.
In other words, what happened under the Bush administration was the dismantling of the illusion that we are all self-sufficient, that we can get by on our own, that we can, ultimately, make it on merit.
Who would get angriest at this causation? Not the reality-based community, who have known all along that each of us relies heavily on an unseen network of peers and support from people wholly unrelated to your capacity as a citizen in your community. Yes, the teachers you grew up listening to, but also the auto mechanic who built your car, the utility person who repairs your phone lines before you even know they're out, the fisherman who lands that net of shrimp that contains your dinner.
Warren Buffett's Responsible Wealth does yeoman work trying to remind people of this every day.
Who would get angriest at this causation? The very people who enabled the dismantling, which is why you see fervent Bush accolytes suddenly grumble about how "liberal" he really was. Ironic, isn't it, that the prophet of the Ownership Society would see it crumble under his very feet, his name now mud on both sides of the aisle.
The Teabaggers want to see the budget balanced but no taxes raised and they certainly don't want to see spending cut on things they like, such as defense, highways, water, farm subsidies, infrastructure that serves them, ad nauseum, ad infinitum. They want the government to stay away from the people but please leave Medicare alone, don't regulate Wall Street, but banks ought to be able to lend to small businesses on demand. 
A little paranoid schizophrenia, in other words.
Here's the thing: as J. M. Bernstein points out, the notion of self-sufficiency is an artifice, a creation of society, an institution. It is no different than marriage or a corporation, no different than being Republican or Democrat. It is granted by mutual consent and can be taken away unilaterally if one party to the agreement holds power over the other. 
And society, far and away, holds power over the individual. This was the whole raison d'etre of unions, if you recall. They are a way to give individuals power and influence in an wholly unbalanced equation of at-will employment.
Events of the first decade of this century proved that this artifice is in need of some adjustment. We saw a growing threat of international terror, coupled with the climax of a long term degradation of that thing that makes it all worthwhile to get up in the morning and head to work: a paycheck. Housing values became wildly unstable, creating a game of musical chairs that saw you land in a house you could afford when the music stopped, or in deep, desperate trouble. And finally, we saw a government, now two, confront a crisis that it was unprepared and ill-equipped to handle.
Mostly because politicians pandered to our baser instincts of giving us mo' money each week in our paycheck, and damn the debt the government was running up! 
The bill is coming due, and people are angry. They can't be angry at themselves, no, so they take it out on the most visible icon of this mess, the government. And this anger comes at a moment when, indeed, any rational person can only see that MORE government intervention in the world is needed, not less. We need the government to step into the markets and protect consumers and we need the government to intervene and help homeowners and banks work out their differences and we need the government to create work for those who are long-term unemployed and we need the government to protect us from the predations of corporations who gamble not only their economic futures but the very lives of American citizens on a short-term profit. 
And we need it now, but a significant portion of this nation hasn't woken up to smell the tea.     

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

If Man Can Walk On The Moon...

The famed scientist, David Suzuki, tells the parable of a test-tube of bacteria, starting with a single cell that doubles in population every minute, so that by the end of an hour, it has filled the test tube and exhausted its food supply and air. He points out that, at 59 minutes, the test tube is only half full, and at 58 minutes, just 25% full.
He imagines the debate the bacteria at 55 minutes:
"We're running out of space, we're running out of time, we're running out of air and food."
"Nonsense! Look! We have nearly all the tube left. There's plenty for all of us!"
This was the image that popped into my head while watching Obama's speech last night, particularly at this passage:

"Time and again, the path forward has been blocked -- not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor," Obama said. "The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight."

"We cannot consign our children to this future," he added. "The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America's innovation and seize control of our own destiny."

Indeed, the time may be past to salvage any chance of a future as we've imagined it. When just one oil company spends more on drilling in the US-- one of the less promising resources for oil-- than the nation spends on energy research, we've got a major problem.

In the past, I've pointed out an optimal solution to train the guns of America and the world on renewable energy, and it's one I still haven't seen a serious "player" suggest, so I'm throwing it out there again: offer a government stipend, a grant of one billion dollars with no strings attached beyond the competition. If you can develop a truly renewable energy resource, one that doesn't pollute and can be harnessed with minimal environmental footprint, and have it produce BTUs at the rate of fossil fuels, you win the prize.

But I digress...
Obama termed the oil spill an "epidemic" and this is an excellent analogy. It's not a devastating attack like 9/11 was. It's not an act of God that swept through the Gulf, like Katrina was. This was foreseeable, preventable, and once unleashed, should have been containable.
That it wasn't contained is the real story here, one the media refuses to tell honestly. Obama's popularity has wrongly taken a hit here. It was the Bush administration that approved the license, it was the Bush administration cronies that allowed BP to dummy up inspections and set their own rules, and it was the Bush administration that, yet again, killed that region of the nation. BP, and if the testimony before Congress is any indication no oil company, should not have been allowed to drill without a massive contingency plan for the worst case scenario.
We have a chance now to set in motion not only our energy policy for the next few years, but for decades to come. We can wean the nation off oil and onto something healthier and safer for us all. We've done this before, heck, we've done it often, from whale oil to coal to crude, and from CFCs in the atmosphere to even better propellants and refrigerants. We've beaten back challenges. We will continue to do so.
Geology is the study of pressure, and time. Right now, epochal forces are acting on the American people. We can crumble into dust, or we can turn into diamonds.

Monday, June 14, 2010


This might be a little hard to process on a Monday morning, especially if you haven't had coffee yet.

What happens when we die? Do we rot into the ground, or do we go to heaven (or hell, if we've been bad)? Experiments suggest the answer is simpler than anyone thought. Without the glue of consciousness, time essentially reboots.

Let me try to suss out what the good Dr Lanza is saying: if you saw the movie "Star Trek:Generations", you've been made aware of a plot device called the Nexus, which you reach by slipping through a tear in space-time and where a part of your consciousness remains, even if you manage to escape.

Now, in this Nexus, your consciousness can visit anyplace, at any time. Not in our reality, of course, but in a parallel universe that can be created and destroyed in an instant by your consciousness. Want to be married to that girl you knew in high school? Think it and you get to live it.

So here's the question Lanza is posing and fumblingto answer: at death, what happens to your consciousness?

In life, consciousness seems to be stored in the brain, presumably holographically, since it's not just your memories, but also consists of your dreams, ideas, fantasies, and beliefs.

I'm careful here to divorce the actual way information is stored in our brains and used by our minds with the New Age concept of the holographic universe. There's pretty good evidence for a sub-quantum effect that allows for the immediate transfer of information between widely spaced quantum particles, but there is zero factual evidence for this operating on a human scale, or that human's can consciously alter the universe.

What Lanza proposes is that your consciousness enters or even creates a "blank slate," a brand new universe that allows you to be in control of its initial state and all outcomes, based strictly on your mind. Time goes back to zero, and you get a brand new clock.

It's not impossible. Indeed, chaos theory demands a probability be assigned to it, however low, since by the simple act of imagining it you presume the possibility of its reality. And now we have the paradox: if consciousness cannot create a universe at death, then how can this be a possible outcome, but it must be a possible outcome since our consciousness can create the idea.

Like I said, go have a cup of coffee. Ponder that for a while.

Apparently, you have an eternity.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

An Open Letter to Chuck Schumer

Dear Senator Schumer:

First of all, as Think Progress points out, what you said isn't true. I'm beginning to think that people who are most militantly opposed to the two-state solution are rightwing Israelis and their supporters. Which, you know, makes sense, since Israelis have a shit-ton more power than Palestinians and can do anything with our blessing other than actively, explicitly ethnically cleansing a region. Why would they settle for a two-state solution when they seem to be able to take it all? At the very least, in light of statements like this, why would we be surprised that Palestinians might be wary of promises to establish two states?

To echo what you said, I also think that countries should have boycotted trade with the US the second time we elected Bush. Maybe China should have called in their debts. Hey, maybe Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern states should have stopped selling us oil. Wait, what? Only we're allowed to elect violent, incompetent assholes and sociopaths without retaliation from other states? Democracy (tm) is fucking great!

Finally, although I'm sure you meant that Palestinians oppose Zionism because it's not part of their religion, when you say "they don't believe in the Torah," it almost sounds as if you're saying they won't support peace because they're subhuman unbelievers who will always be prone to violence. As a member of a group of people who have been historically ostracized, oppressed, and murdered for their beliefs, maybe you should learn from Helen Thomas and think about what you say before you fucking say it.

Yours truly,

Truculent A. Unreliable

PS: I'm aware that the majority of Israelis support a two-state solution, as well, but just as in the case of Islamic extremism, those voices aren't always loudest in the room. Hell, you don't sound like you're a fan of the two-state solution, yourself.

PPS: Fuck you. No, really. As a seasoned politician, how hard is it for you to avoid saying something so inflammatory at a time like this? I suppose it's safe to assume that any Islamic militants who might possibly use your statement as a recruiting tool don't have TVs or newspapers or internet access?