Monday, February 28, 2005

 

Turn Right to Go East?

There have been some troubling signs in the Orient lately, notably in Japan, America’s outpost in the East. Most notably, there is a major new drive to write a new constitution.

Of special interest for his involvement in this effort is right-wing former Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro, who was on good terms with Ronald Reagan, and once described Japan as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” a remark that made him into a lightning rod for criticism.

A drafting committee of the dominant Liberal Democratic Party (which, despite its name, is actually quite conservative) has come up with some pretty disturbing ideas that would curb basic freedoms and steer Japan on to the same rightward course as the US. For example, it would be possible to ban the publication of certain books that are “harmful to young people.” While this supposedly refers to pornography, in reality nearly any book could be termed “harmful to young people,” and therefore banned. Other proposals are for restrictions on the freedom of association if an association is deemed a grave danger to the state or social order, bringing Shinto under state purview, and obligating citizens to serve their country even if it means sacrificing their individual freedoms. There are ideas here that would make Bush salivate.

Also on the table is a proposal to make Japan’s military force legal. Article 9 of the current constitution, which was drafted by the US occupation, specifically forbids Japan from having a military force, making its “Self-Defense Forces” patently unconstitutional, and seriously hampering overseas activity by the Japanese military, which is already the world’s second-best-equipped.

But this might not be so easy, given the mixed feelings of many Japanese toward having a military force. Nevertheless, the Japanese populace might be “softened up” and made more amenable to such a constitutional provision through various stratagems such the recent “2+2” talks between Japan and the US, a new hard-line stance by Japan on the Takeshima issue, a hard line against North Korea, making a big deal out of the discovery of a Chinese submarine in Japanese waters (peculiar, because Chinese submarines are not hard for Japan’s navy to discover), and generally whipping up hysteria over the “Chinese threat.”

You can see what’s happening. It’s the old boogeyman trick. Strain relations with nearby countries, jack up the fear level, and the people will readily vote to legalize the military. Further, a legal and beefed-up Japanese military would allow the US to move many, or maybe even all, of its troops out of Japan and use them for attacking Middle Eastern countries.

Turn right to go east... or west.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

 

Starbucks Stalled in Britain

Starbucks is making little headway in Britain, having lost £50 million in its seven years there. In addition to being regarded as a symbol of rampant globalization, a survey found that British consumers see the chain as “arrogant, intrusive and self-centred.”

Reminds me of a government I know.

Friday, February 25, 2005

 

Medical Bills Bankrupt People

We don’t need no danged Social Security in this country... or national health insurance, either, because all that stuff is socialism, right? Along with frills like public schools!

A Harvard University study found that half of all Americans who filed for bankruptcy did so because of out-of-pocket medical expenses — and many of them already had health insurance! So you can see how serious the situation is for the many Americans with no health insurance at all.

One wonders what will happen to all the down-at-heel Americans who voted for Bush. Perhaps they don’t need health insurance or social security because they will be taken up in the Rapture. They’d better hope it happens soon.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

 

Is Cheap Oil Good?

Cheap energy is seen as a good thing. Without it, we’re told, we can’t have economic growth (whether continuing economic growth is a good thing or not is another matter), and our politicians and economists and business types tell us that continuing economic growth is the only way to lift the have-nots out of poverty. Cheap oil in particular is considered necessary and good.

But is cheap energy (especially cheap oil) really a good thing? Hasn’t it proved itself a bane? There is no need to go into the deleterious environmental impacts of cheap energy because they are so obvious. But there are other very harmful impacts as well. For example, cheap oil allows lots of illegal dumping, and even legitimate waste hauling is not good because it creates huge waste dumps. If hauling waste away was not possible, we would have had to do something about our waste problem long ago. Thanks to cheap oil, we’ll make future generations pay.

How about hauling raw materials and products long distances? Cheap oil has made it possible to extract huge quantities of raw materials from one side of the globe, take them to the other side, and make them into products that are sent around the world. Sounds good, but globalization also fosters destructive exploitation and destroys local economies that have long sustained human communities. How many countries are not self-sufficient in food because of cheap oil?

Cheap oil means long commutes. Are all those people really happy sitting in cars and trains for hours?

Cheap oil means waste. Too much lighting and no dark skies at night. Vehicles are too numerous and too large. More and more land paved is over for roads, parking lots, and malls. Noise. People leaving their TVs and other appliances on all the time. When energy and resources are too cheap, people waste them.

But now we are confronted with the reality of peak oil. Of course there are some people who believe that peak oil is just a ruse by elites to hoard the oil, drive up the price, and make a killing. There is always a possibility they are right, but in either case, the scenario is that fuel gets more expensive for the masses.

And from the Earth’s point of view, that is a good thing. If the elites are making a fast buck at our expense that is not good, but it’s good for the Earth if fossil fuel consumption declines.

I’ve seen supposed environmentalists and liberals/progressives complain that the oil companies are trying to make Americans pay European and Japanese prices for gas, as if that were a bad thing. In my opinion, even the Europeans and Japanese don’t pay enough. People who complain about elites hoarding oil and driving up the price ought to change the focus of their argument. If they can expose the elites’ plot (assuming that peak oil is a scam), that’s fine, but if their purpose is to keep gas cheap, they ought to have their heads examined.

There is no need for all this energy consumption. Human needs can be met with substantially less energy by cutting waste and — call me “socialist” if you want — the equitable redistribution of energy and resources.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

 

Enraptured

Can you believe that the gay-opposed Pope is listed among Antichrist candidates?

It just shows that you can’t be too careful!

 

Chutzpah Unlimited

Can you believe it? The White House website still has this page, which lists the WMD that Saddam Hussein didn’t have. I guess it is a case of the more monstrous lies you tell, the more people are deceived.

Normal people, having been demonstrated to be completely wrong, would feel shamed and at the very least quietly remove such a page. But the neocon White House is different. Apparently these people have no sense of shame. It’s all chutzpah.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

 

The State of Journalism, Redux

New York Times Executive Director Bill Keller gave a recent talk that appears to be yet another lame defense of the lapdog media.

Just a couple of points.

Keller says that Americans expect the media to support their viewpoints. True or not, that is not what the mainstream media are supposed to be doing, except on the op-ed pages. They are supposed to be engaging in investigative journalism and asking hardball questions to get at the truth. Instead, they have become propaganda mouthpieces of the US government, the two political parties, and the corporations. They should be pointing out that Bush regime policy is just an extension of what’s come before. Instead, they largely ignore the sordid history of US foreign policy.

While recognizing the contribution of blogs, he says that they blur news and commentary, that they are “a view of the world through a pinhole,” and that they can descend into being a “one man circle jerk.”

Of course it is easy for a blog to become a self-satisfying masturbatory experience in which the writer flames on and on until achieving catharsis. It is a real danger that bloggers must be aware of. But the lapdog media are giving us a world viewed through a highly prejudiced propaganda lens; the “news” is information chosen so as not to be too damaging to those in power, and then run through corporate-approved acceptability filters. Do you call that a free press?

In fact, all this recent defending of the mainstream media is an indication of their sense of crisis. People who are sick of being spoon fed intelligence-insulting pap by the lapdog-media propaganda mill are finding that the Web offers bold reporting, hard questions, and even daring speculation (which is also needed). These are all the hallmarks of a truly free press, and necessary to the functioning of a democracy.

Yes, there is a lot of chaff, but that too is the price of democracy. But I know that if I want news and commentary that are written by people who are more interested in getting at the truth than in satisfying their corporate sponsors, I’ll sooner find it on the Web than in the NYT or its ilk.

Monday, February 21, 2005

 

The Apotheosis of Chutzpah

Dubya’s ludicrous statement that Russia “must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law” is just one of the many sleazy and insincere comments that Europeans are disgustingly lapping up during the latest US charm offensive. The irony is devastating, as the Bush regime’s contempt for democracy and the rule of law is already legendary. But don’t count on the lapdog media or sycophantic European leaders to point out that the invasion of Iraq, the mass murder of innocent people, brutal torture and mistreatment of prisoners, stolen elections, ignoring international conventions, using depleted uranium ordnance, shredding of the US Constitution, the repression of free speech, and other heinous crimes and illegal acts run counter to democracy and the rule of law. Dubya’s speeches can be seen as the apotheosis of chutzpah.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

 

Reality Bites Back

In the 1976 movie Logan’s Run, the computer that runs an enclosed, captive human society creates its own reality through control of the society, and is convinced it also has a handle on “reality” outside that little world. But when it turns out that the computer’s reality and real reality don’t match, it precipitates the cataclysmic undoing of the computer’s world. In the end, reality catches up, as it has a tendency to do.

According to neocon empire-builders, they also create their own reality. The rest of us study and analyze their reality, and just when we think we’ve got it figured out, they create yet another reality. Or so the explanation goes.

According to their reality, everything is hunky-dory at home, we’ve got the terr’rists on the run, Americans enjoy free speech and a free press (are you laughing yet?), Iraqis have been blessed with democracy, etc. etc. Create your own reality.

There’s nothing wrong with social security that taxing the rich wouldn’t fix, but it faces a “crisis.” Create your own reality.

A rag-tag bunch of guys who couldn’t fly planes and who were led by another guy hiding in a cave did 9/11. Create your own reality.

The US military is stretched thin and not even properly supplied, even while the administration publicly maintains (while instituting a backdoor draft) there will be no draft, and that there is no need for one. Create your own reality.

As Hegel said, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” And the American leadership is showing once again that it does not learn from history, which is the real reality. Specifically, empires don’t last. Can you name one that has? They all try to create their own reality, but none lasts. Invariably, every empire comes crashing down in a great heap of ignominy, with the terrible price paid for building and maintaining itself all wasted. Homes, families, lives, the environment — all destroyed. The resources that could have been used to build caring, healthy societies and to create beauty are instead squandered on war, devastation, suffering, and ugliness — all for the greed of a handful. In the end, all the self-justification about doing good rings hollow. Just as the Romans claimed to be bringing the Light of Rome to the benighted masses in barbarian lands, the US empire claims to be bringing freedom and democracy. But of course weapons and war bring only darkness, death, and destruction.

The Greeks called it “hubris” — the overweening pride that brings the arrogant down in the end. And hubris oozes from Washington these days. Dubya and many of his followers seem to believe that God is on their side and making America invincible, but they should recall the ancient saying, “Those whom the gods would destroy they first make all-powerful.” In the end, this terribly misguided adventure has got to end in the same way that all imperial adventures do: in shameful ruin. All we can do now is hope that — like the new Germany rising out of the ashes of the Third Reich, or the new Japan rising out of its nuked ruins — a new America will rise phoenix-like out of the neocon wreckage.

 

The State of Journalism

The “Jeff Gannon” story has been instructive not just because of what the lapdog media have been telling us (is it the whole story?), but because those same lapdog media have the audacity to express outrage over the Bush administration’s fake news and propaganda. It is as if they have been giving us the whole unvarnished truth. From the moment Bush took office, the lickspittle mainstream media have been more interested in toeing the political line than in challenging those in power to be truthful.

Over at the International Herald Tribute, NYT man Frank Rich tells us that “real news” is debunking fake news. I’m relieved. How fortunate we are to have these bastions of journalistic integrity watching out for us.

Don’t let all this unctuous hand-wringing fool you. Of course the mainstream media are going to milk the Jeff Gannon story for all it’s worth because it makes them look all the more dependable and upright.

These days the lapdogs have to work harder to keep up with the blogosphere and other online independent news sources, which are leaner, meaner, and on to stories sooner. Disparaging remarks like “That’s just an internet theory” and the power of the bloggers show that the non-corporate online news world has developed into a threat to both the lapdog media and to those in power.

Friday, February 18, 2005

 

Signs of the Times

In addition to plans to market a “consumer” Taser (see previous posting), we have another interesting sign of the times: Ford has unveiled a new concept vehicle called the SynUS, which will have us “vaulting into the urban future.”

And what is that urban future? Judging by this vehicle’s description, the cities of America will be dark and dangerous places, indeed. Bulletproof and with deadbolt door latching, it even closes shutters over the windshield when in “secure mode.”

Now how should we take this? We could, of course, criticize Ford. But on the other hand, automakers are just giving consumers what they want in order to make a profit, right? It’s the business of businesses to spot trends and create products to scratch consumer itches. In that sense, another way to see this concept car is that the trend-watchers are giving us a glimpse at what, in their very studied opinion, our cities will be like in the future.

 

More Pooh-Pooh on 9/11

John Kaminski has observed that more and more Americans are wising up to 9/11, and that this awakening is leading to a second wave of awareness on this issue. It seems to me as well that there is renewed skepticism about the Bush regime’s official account.

As I’ve noted in a couple of recent entries, this has a lot of people worried, and so they’re making new efforts to keep us from thinking about it too much, or at least to instill “right thinking” in the citizens on this subject. One attempt is the Clarke memo and report, which I suspect have been released at this time not because the election is long past, but because the growing skepticism and suspicion among the populace require further reinforcement of the official story, and further confirmation of the “terrorist threat.” The second is the Popular Mechanics article.

And close on the heels of these comes the venerable David Corn, whose claim to credibility is that he’s written a book dissing Dubya (Dubya has provided so much good material that this can’t be that hard to do). I have no idea if Corn is a CIA plant or not, and frankly I couldn’t care less. But does he really believe that our leaders — especially the neocons — couldn’t or wouldn’t do something like 9/11? Supposedly Corn, like many other journalists, is of above-average intelligence, so doesn’t he think the Bush administration’s explanation of 9/11 is just a little leaky here and there? And why would a supposedly progressive website like Tom Paine try to discourage people from thinking critically about 9/11?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

 

Madrid Building Stands

After burning for two days, the Windsor building in Madrid still stands. Yet both World Trade Center towers were reduced to a pile of rubble in a matter of hours. Go figure.

 

Churchill’s Company

If Ward Churchill did a no-no by stating the obvious, then so are lots of other people. For example, just a few days ago on Meet the Press, none other than Pat Buchanan (debating with Natan Sharansky) made the same point. And Bill Christison, in a speech titled “US Foreign Policy Dangerously Slanted Toward Israel,” very clearly said the same thing. Although Churchill’s language is more provocative, he is certainly not alone in claiming that hatred of and attacks on the US are a backlash against American foreign policy and actions abroad.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

 

Farewell to a Nation

Take a look at these photos, which show the country of Tuvalu slowly disappearing beneath the waves. I wonder if President Dubya has seen these. Or even cares.

Monday, February 14, 2005

 

Do You Feel Safer?

America will be a more secure nation soon if Taser goes through with plans to market stun guns for home use. No doubt Americans will think of many imaginative ways to boost their security by using the products at home, school, and the office. Now you can stop terrorists dead in their tracks! Of course no one would ever think of using them to commit crimes...

Needless to say, if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns, and that is why we can also be thankful that the assault weapons ban expired last year. Thanks to such farsighted and security-minded action on the part of our politicians, a young man was able to go on a shooting spree in a crowded New York State mall with an assault weapon.

So tell me: Do you feel safer?

 

Missing the Point

The New Yorker has published a long, rambling defense, full of seemingly pointless anecdotes, of the supine American mainstream media. I can’t believe I slogged through this whole maudlin screed, whose point is — what else? — that everybody’s criticizing the mainstream media, but we’re really doing a great job. Please.

Conservatives say that the media have a liberal bias, and liberals say they have a conservative bias. The media favor the Democrats. No, they favor the Republicans. The media are caught between the two sides. Damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The media can’t win. Pity the poor media.

But all this is just a red herring. The crucial issue is not whether the media are liberal or conservative, it is whether the media aggressively go after the truth or not, whether they question what politicos tell them, try to see through lies, and do some investigative reporting (come to think of it, shouldn’t all journalism be “investigative”?).

Why are the mainstream media reluctant to tell the public about the horrible crimes committed by our politicians, both Republican and Democrat? How come they don’t dig into 9/11 instead of merely peddling the nonsensical Bush administration account? How come the NYT didn’t run its story on Bush’s earpiece, and likely cheating in the debates? If it’s the truth, the media have a duty to report it. The truth hurts for people at all points on the political spectrum.

Truth isn’t right or left, or good or bad. It’s just the truth. Too bad that the media — even “liberal media” — often decline to be truthful.

 

Kyoto Protocol

The Independent has an article telling us that China is putting the brakes on 22 major energy projects because of climate concerns. The article says that China’s move “calls the bluff of President George Bush, who has cited growing pollution in China as justification for refusing to join the Kyoto Protocol.” Whether that is true or not, the US government would use just about anything as an excuse. As George H. W. Bush said at the 1992 Earth Summit, “The American way of life is not negotiable.” And since the American way of life entails the profligate use of energy and resources, we shouldn’t count on the US to voluntarily initiate conservation or belt-tightening.

In fact, since President Dubya took over, the US has been downright hostile to the idea of cutting energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. An acquaintance of mine who attended COP 10 got the impression that the only reason the US sent a delegation was to disrupt the proceedings and obstruct progress.

With the Kyoto Protocol about to enter into force, I suppose we should rejoice, but many scientists and activists are of the opinion that it’s too little, too late.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

 

Attack of the Mechanics

The propaganda mill is cranking out more stuff to pooh-pooh the 9/11 truth movement. Along with the latest Clarke memo “revelation,” which attempts to reinforce the story about “intelligence failures,” the magazine Popular Mechanics has recently published a debunking article to “refute the most persistent conspiracy theories of September 11.” But 9/11 researchers have already pointed out many problems with what they term the magazine’s “straw man” argument.

The continuing appearance of such media broadsides suggests that there are concerns in the corridors of power about the growing number of people who are skeptical of the dubious official story.

Friday, February 11, 2005

 

New Disinformation Campaign?

Heads up! We now have some new “revelations” on 9/11. The media are telling us that — gasp! — Bush ignored a memo about the AQ threat eight months before 9/11, and that the FAA had ignored warnings about what UBL and his crew were up to.

Meanwhile, Henry A. Waxman (you have to admire this guy’s doggedness) and Carolyn B. Maloney are requesting the release of intelligence reports and other materials.

Why this, now? Are we to believe that official channels are really going to achieve a breakthrough on 9/11? Whatever they do, it will only serve to further cement in place the Bush administration’s flimsy and quite unbelievable explanation about 9/11.

At best, this flurry of “damning evidence” is another limited hangout to confirm that 9/11 happened because of “intelligence failures” and “procedural glitches.” Take it with a grain of salt.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

 

Churchill, Again

The criticism of Ward Churchill by the mainstream media and the Rabid Right continues unabated, but it is heartening to see some in the progressive community standing up for him.

Meanwhile, the pusillanimous regents at the University of Colorado, instead of defending a faculty member who has the courage to challenge lies, have knuckled under to the calls for repression by announcing a “review” of Churchill’s work. Clearly, this will very likely lead to Churchill’s dismissal for the crime of pointing out that the emperor wears no clothes. Of course they will say it is because he spoke irresponsibly.

Yet, over the past week or so, journalists and bloggers have been busy digging up shocking quotes and monstrous statements by our cultural and political icons showing clearly that the people our leaders, media, and education system lionize and teach us to adore are in many cases elitists, racists, and callous mass murderers. Will the mainstream press, the U. of Colorado regents, and the American academic community — whose job is ahem! the pursuit of truth — see fit to point out the egregious and disgusting statements made by our cultural and political celebrities? Is the moon made of green cheese? Further, Churchill’s rhetoric is tame in comparison with the toxic vitriol and even threats that are issued by rightists, yet the regents’ statement made no mention of that.

Much of the Rabid Right’s criticism of Churchill has predictably consisted in character assassination, such as in claiming that he actually has no Native American blood. Frankly, I personally couldn’t care. Even if he doesn’t, that should not disqualify him from speaking out for the cause of Native Americans, any more than it disqualifies decent white Americans from advocating the rights of non-white Americans. We must not let critics get away with cheap ad hominem attacks to avoid squarely addressing the questions that Churchill is raising.

When I went through the American educational system, I was told that open debate and freedom of speech are vital to democracy, and that these set America apart from countries that don’t tolerate them. You could have fooled me.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

 

Iraq News

If you want more realistic and dependable news about Iraq than the propaganda diarrhea from the mainstream American media, a good place to start is Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches. You will wonder if the media are talking about the same country, or even the same planet.

 

Bush: Working Three Jobs Is ‘Fantastic’!

After a woman told President Dubya that she works three jobs to support her kids, he sensitively responds by saying, “You work three jobs? That's uniquely American. That's fantastic.”

And that’s from a man who’s never worked a day in his life. A man born with a silver spoon in his mouth. A man who got out of Vietnam through a special favor, and even skipped out on that. And a man who reportedly said, “Poor people are poor because they’re lazy.”

Yes, I suppose it might be “uniquely American” to have to work three jobs to scrape by. But just imagine being told this by a man who doesn’t even know what it’s like to work, what it’s like to wonder where your next meal is coming from, to wonder if you’ll still have your job tomorrow (assuming you have a job), or to wonder if you can pay this month’s rent.

The man most uniquely unqualified to talk about “work” says it’s “fantastic” to have three jobs. That’s my quota of irony for today.

Monday, February 07, 2005

 

You Call This Progress?

It’s great when women and minorities get into positions of responsibility and help run the country. And when I see something like that I feel that maybe America really is making a little progress in that direction. I can regard it as a hopeful sign, at least.

But what has the Bush Regime given us? The mendacious Mushroom-Cloud Lady, for one. And now they are trying to get Alberto Gonzales, a man who’s demonstrated his casual contempt for the rule of law, to be the person responsible for... the rule of law. That’s what I call deadly irony.

What possible good can come of this? Even if women and minorities are elevated to high offices and powerful positions, it represents no progress at all if they stand for the same system of death, destruction, and exploitation, tell the same lies, and take America down the same path. It just goes to show that, as Black Commentator perceptively observed, “Evil comes in all colors.”

People like Rice and Gonzales have turned their backs not only on women and minorities, but on America itself. Bush submits a screw-the-poor budget proposal with billions for death and destruction but still less for vital social programs, and these disgusting minions help him sell it.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

 

Uncomfortable Truths

The Ward Churchill brouhaha is another instructive event on the course being taken by the United States. For pointing out the American double standard and contempt for the rule of law in relation to 9/11, Churchill has been pilloried by the corporate-controlled US media, and even slapped on the wrist by some liberal news sources.

It’s no surprise, especially in Bush America, that when someone makes a statement that is shockingly close to the truth, as Churchill has, he or she is excoriated. Churchill is being made to pay for his “crime” of breaking a taboo: We are not supposed to point out the American double standard, America’s contempt for the rule of law, slaughter for self-aggrandizement, or any of the other uncomfortable and distasteful truths about the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. Isn’t it ironic that Rummy has to carefully consider whether to enter Germany for fear of arrest for war crimes? Bear in mind that this is the same man who suggested that Saddam Hussein’s regime violated the Geneva Conventions by showing captured American soldiers on TV — and that was when the US was illegally invading Iraq. There’s the old double standard, dripping with irony.

Although many consider that Churchill made his point in a too-provocative manner, he is just pointing out that terrorist attacks on the US are the inevitable result of US policy. An uncomfortable truth, and a taboo.

Meanwhile, the American double standard is alive and well in “journalism,” too. While rabid right-wingers foam at the mouth because Churchill pointed out an axiomatic truth about how the world works, even supposedly “liberal” publications like The New Republic are getting their feet wet by venturing into the wave of fanatical right-wing journalism that is washing over America like a tsunami, by publishing a piece calling for physical attacks against progressives. But in today’s America, that’s OK.

 

Killing Is Fun?

Lt. Gen. James Mattis, a Marine apparently in charge of developing better ways to train other Marines, apparently thinks it’s fun to kill some people. According to reports, he stated his twisted rationale as follows.

“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

Here again we see good old American racism and cultural insensitivity at work. But even worse is the good old American double standard. If Muslims in Afghanistan slap women around, they have no manhood, and that makes it a good thing (and fun!) to shoot them. Well then, General, what about all the macho American men who beat their wives and girlfriends? If we apply the same standard, these American men also have no manhood (perhaps some of them don’t), making it “a hell of a lot of fun” to shoot them! While Muslims are frequently accused of wife beating, the serious issue of battered women has long been a staple of American society.

Or perhaps the situation is different because American women don’t wear veils, or because American men aren’t Muslim. Is that it, General? Please advise. Anyway, I’m sure you have a good explanation of why it’s not fun to kill American men who beat their wives or girlfriends.

Just one more thing: Can you believe this guy is in charge of developing better ways to train Marines?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

 

Powering Down

The petroleum civilization is in crisis. America’s neocons know this, and that’s why the US has gone to war for oil. Americans are happy that gas is still relatively cheap so they can continue to fuel their SUVs, heat their homes to shirt-sleeve temperatures in midwinter, and keep 5% of the world’s population consuming 25% of the world’s energy. But they don’t notice that they are actually paying far higher costs for their energy because energy costs are subsidized through military spending. America maintains garrisons around the world to protect and maintain the flow of resources and energy to feed the industrial machine. American taxpayers are subsidizing those resources and energy by maintaining hundreds of bases, troops, ships, aircraft, and their support infrastructure.

Lately it has become clear — to everyone else on the planet if not President Dubya — that robbing other countries of their oil isn’t as easy or cheap as thought. So now there is more talk about the hydrogen economy. While using hydrogen is basically better than oil, the problem is that people think a hydrogen economy will maintain the economic system that oil has built. Well, it ain’t gonna happen.

Barring a miracle, beginning very soon we are going to have to lower our expectations. People in the developed nations will have to tighten their belts considerably. Of course they will do everything possible to maintain their lifestyles, and Dubya’s wars are a prelude to that.

Developing renewable sources of energy is necessary, but putting them all together simply doesn’t add up to oil. And energy gurus who make a living selling books on such wishful thinking should stop telling the public that it can be done. Instead of trying to do the impossible, governments must immediately start thinking about how they are going to “power down” their economies and make do with a lot less. Whole economies must be restructured to assume that people and goods will not be moving long distances as they now do. And you can bet there will be fewer goods, too. People must develop more self-sufficient lifestyles, and they must also build mutually supportive communities with their neighbors because in the market society we are all isolated from one another, even those who live next door.

But now is the time to start. Don’t wait for our irresponsible politicians to ruin everything before you take action. Make preparations now, so that you can power down your own lifestyle when it becomes inevitable.

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