Former Senator and twice-presidential candidate Gary Hart has launched a blog.
I posted a comment to his opening post, which I'll share with you below. I've fixed a couple typos since.
I applaud your effort to engage with people via your blog, and I am excited to read many of your refreshing ideas here on your website. I'm even more excited to hear that you're considering a run for president.
In at least one way, you and I are peers, in that we're both presidential candidates with blogs. I'm running for the 2008 race, and I started blogging last year. (Check it out here: http://freedom2008.com )
My question ties into what a few people have alluded to here: how can someone as cool and principled as you clearly are hope to achieve positive change through the Democratic Party? I submit that the substantial reforms needed in this country can not be accomplished through the Bipartisan political machine. There is simply too much pressure for constant compromise.
Please consider running as an Independent instead of a Democrat. Even having to go through the meat grinder of a 9-candidate primary process will be harmful toward your effectiveness as a real reformer. Bill Clinton is a perfect case in point. His real vision was diluted week by week, and by the time he became President he gained the nickname "the waffler".
Rise above that fray. Of course, it will impact your fundraising capabilities, but that's almost part of the point, too. The media will follow your campaign whether you're a Democrat, a Green, a Libertarian, or and Independent. If you were any of the last three, you'd get yourself elected -- for the right reasons. If you go the first route -- the road more traveled, if you will -- I fear you'll end up like a Bill Clinton or an Al Gore...campaigning (and then leading) in a box. Instead of what our country really needs -- a true, unbridled visionary.
I wish you the very best in your campaign, but I won't be able to vote for you if you run as a Democrat. I vowed in 1994 to never vote for a Democrat or Republican again, and I haven't seen anything since to make me believe I chose unwisely.
I don't mean to cast any aspersions on you at all, Senator Hart. I practically idolized you back when I was a teenager -- I was convinced you were the "next John F. Kennedy". I'm willing to believe that you may still be that -- but I don't think even JFK could make it through the current Bipartisan rise-to-power machine with his ideals intact. And I don't think my cynicism regarding those two parties is unusual at all. over 50% of eligible voters are *not* registered Democrat or Republican.
Best of luck in your campaign, and I look forward to reading more of what you have to say.
I'm looking to put the brakes on the Project for the New American Century. If you haven't heard about this disturbing "project", and their agenda for America and the world, you'd be well-advised to get up to speed. Here's an in-depth, if a bit cynical, look at it in Asia Times. Here's the PNAC's Global Empire grand plan, Rebuilding America's Defenses (PDF file, 853 Kbytes). (Look at the list of contributor/signatories on page 90 -- it's like a Who's Who of the Bush Administration.)
I bring it up now because I'm starting a website called PNAC.info, for the purposes of informing the American people about the bigger plan that's behind the Mess in Mesopotamia. (That plan being, in short, permanent global dominance for the U.S.. Your tax dollars hard at work!)
I think focusing attention on the PNAC grand plan will help erase the "liberation" myth behind this war, potentially eroding American support for it to a level which will make George Bush fear non-re-election, and get him to reverse course. I'm all for getting Saddam out of Iraq, but I don't think having empire-hungry megalomaniacs do it is a good idea for America or the world.
You will be hearing more about the PNAC from me...you can bet on it.
(Update: I have since started PNAC.info -- dedicated to exposing the Project for the New American Century, and its plan for a "unipolar" world.)
I just posted something at PeoplesForum.com, and I'm going to go out on a limb and post it here. There's a pretty active and intelligent politics thread there, and one of the posters just posted a message asking if the peace protestors really would want the war in Iraq to stop right now. You can read the whole message here (you may need to sign up for PeoplesForum.com to do it -- it's free and easy). What follows is the relevant excerpt from his message, followed by my reply.
C'mon, Lance...you're the President. You can stop this war right now by lifting your finger. Or you can do your best to see it to a quick victory. Whatcha gonna do? I know what your answer will be, "If I were President this war wouldn't have started in the first place," but it's too late for that now, once the fight's started you either run away or duke it out.
My answer would not be as you said. My answer is that I would stop the war right now. I do not believe this war is going to bring a positive result, and I don't think going further along into a monstrous future-damning mistake just because it's already been made is wise foreign policy, or any other kind of policy. I'd rather stop when there is a slim chance of repairing the situation then decide I need to stop way later, when it's all the more infeasible.
I would withdraw the troops, spend several billion dollars in settlement payments to those who've suffered from it, issue an apology to the world and its people, vigorously campaign for rigid ethics-based economic control of the world's oppressive regimes, and spend the rest of my term working to erase the myth and the reality of U.S. imperialism. I would say "85 years of Anglo-American governmental manipulation of the peoples and nations of the Middle East ends today." I would send open letters out to all anti-American terrorist organizations to the same effect, emphasizing that this is not a concession to their immoral tactics, but simply the way I wish it had been all along. I would issue an unequivocal, firm, and heartfelt apology for every wrong thing the U.S. government has done that I can compile (not to the terrorists -- to the world and those affected by those wrongs.)
World opinion and credibility of the U.S. would turn around in short order, and would continue to rise with each passing week. I would work to send out tens thousands of private "people diplomats" and "economic diplomats" to all the corners of the globe to establish our place in the world's heart as a benign, compassionate, and generous people who are interested in peaceful prosperity. I would relentlessly pound the pulpit for private international aid and cooperation, using our recent international conflicts as the poster child for why we all need to better understand the peoples and the forces in the world. I would hold global town hall meetings. I would get together with an Arab pop superstar and do a video version of "Don't Call Me Raghead, Yankee". I would be out in the streets of different countries constantly, doing informal "Around the World with Lance" documentary tours of places which are only stereotypes for most Americans. I would bring back tons of cool stuff from there and hold a press conference upon my return discussing the items that can be found there, their customs, etc. I'd work in rice paddies in China, and sweatshops in Malaysia, and oil rigs in Russia, and cheese shops in France, and so on. I would arrange town hall meetings between towns in America and towns around the globe. I would tell all the U.S. Embassadors to do the same thing. I would make it a short-term mission to replace (and then some) U.S. government aid with private aid and economic growth.
And some other stuff probably. Heading as quickly and smoothly as possible toward "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations -- entangling alliances with none." And encouraging other nations to adopt a similar outlook.
And in case I haven't given you enough fodder for critique, I would offer 25 (or maybe 50 or 100, I'm not sure what's reasonable) billion dollars to the first company that could develop a proven working missile defense shield, and then offer the technology and the equipment for it to every country on earth for the cost of materials. I would encourage a world scholarship fund for nations that could not afford such a defense system.
Oh, and if I were President, this war wouldn't have started in the first place.
As it is now, I'm beginning to factor in a massive amount of world touring for myself between now and 2008, trying to develop clean relationships with people in as many countries as I can going into the race. Offering the world a different kind of America.
Note: I just posted an addendum message that says this:
It's worth saying that I would also be touring around the U.S. during all that stuff above, working to explain to Americans why we need a major change in our foreign policy (and why I pulled us out of the war).
It's that time of year again...time for Carla Howell's song, "How Could I Live Without Filing Taxes?" It's a funny and fun song. Kinda cheesy, but good for a few worthy chuckles. If you've ever been frustrated by filing for and paying taxes (which would be, I dunno, everyone?), give it a spin. If you're the enterprising type, burn it on a CD and send it into your local radio stations.
Here's a snippet:
I love doing my taxes
When springtime comes
Instead of garden walks and ballgames
I get to work my weekends too!
How could I live without filing taxes?
What would I do with my free time?
Where would I go on a beautiful Sunday?
Good thing I won't have to make up my mind
Carla is a prominent Libertarian who has run for Senator and Governor in Massachusetts, and recently ran a ballot initiative campaign that came fairly close to eliminating the income tax in my old home state (it lost 55/45% or so, faring much better than anyone expected.) I've never met her, but I've been following her for years. She's considered to be a likely 2004 LP presidential candidate. There's a good chance she could run in 2008 as well.
Hi, this is Lance Brown, candidate for president in 2008.
This is the first message I'm sending out to those who have signed up for the e-mail notifications list. I've been divided about how to deal with the two lists-- the old e-mail list from before I set up the blog, and the folks who have signed on for the blog notifications.
Also, MovableType (my blog software) doesn't appear to have a way to set it so notifications go out with each post. It's an extra step that I have to do afterward, if I want to. So for a while I was divided on how to choose what to send out, or if I should just send one for each post.
What I've decided is that I'm going to send out notifications for every message, at least for starters. And I'm going to continue to have two lists -- one list that I mail to monthly, with an overall summary, and one that gets updates every time I post a new message.
If you're receiving this, you're on the latter list, and you'll be getting notifications like this (though generally much more interesting) regularly . I'm assuming there will be unsubscribe instructions in this e-mail. I've never sent one of these, so I'm not sure.
If you want to subscribe to the monthly summary e-mail list, send a message with "subscribe" in the subject line to email@example.com .
Thanks for signing on! Sorry it's taken me so long to get this process going. I hope you'll stay along for the ride. Please let me know if you have any comments about the type or frequency of these messages. I aim to please. :-)
Long-time readers (if I have any) know that I've been vying for placement on the Top 25 Libertarian Sites list over at WhatTheHeck.com for a while now, and all-but begging folks to click and help me out. Well, it's been five months, but we finally made it-- entering at #25 today.
It's been a little silly of me to be so concerned and excited about this, but I feel like it confers (or at least symbolizes) a certain amount of legitimacy for the campaign. I don't even know how much traffic that page gets, and I don't expect it to generate a massive flood of visits or anything, but assuming all goes well it will be a steady source of well-targeted visitors for years to come. And that adds up.
I'm looking forward to seeing the site claw its way to the top as time goes on. It will be a long climb -- I currently have 459 clicks, and #1 site Liberty For All has 4223. But it's not like I can't dream big about grand and far-away goals. You wouldn't be reading this right now if I didn't possess that ability. ;-)
I commented last night about the "WAR FOR OIL" news titling that Iran news uses for its war broadcast. And though I didn't come right out and say it, the subtext was that I kinda thought they had a clearer picture of what it is that's really going on over there.
Enter the BBC, with their take on things. The BBC's war title? "BATTLE FOR CONTROL". So they're fairly up front about it.
And leading off this morning's BBC-TV financial news? A piece about how Iraq's oil supply has been interrupted by the war, and how 60% of Iraq's supply is in the south. (The report said they're the 7th biggest supplier in the world.) The Western coalition supposedly has control of those oil fields, and it's been predicted that they will be back up and running in 3 months. So, says the BBC, oil prices will go down substantially when that happens.
"WAR FOR OIL"
"BATTLE FOR CONTROL"
"OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM"
(Which one of these is not like the others?)
The Onion brought together two opinionmakers to break down the arguments for and against the war in Iraq.
It boils down to something like this:
This war will not put an end to anti-Americanism; it will fan the flames of hatred even higher. It will not end the threat of weapons of mass destruction; it will make possible their further proliferation. And it will not lay the groundwork for the flourishing of democracy throughout the Mideast; it will harden the resolve of Arab states to drive out all Western (i.e. U.S.) influence.
No it won't.
It just won't. None of that will happen.
You're getting worked up over nothing. Everything is going to be fine. So just relax, okay? You're really overreacting.
It's funny how I was just talking about being starving for foreign-based news...this article about Al-Jazeera's websites (both the Arabic one and the brand-new English one) were taken down by what's presumed to be a denial-of-service attack had a couple of items which seem to indicate that I'm not alone in my hunger. The first is the fact that Al-Jazeera is the number 1 search term at Lycos, and the second is that Aljazeera.net gets more hits than any other Arabic web site.
It's pretty sad that someone decided to purposely shut down a news resource that's obviously of importance to a great number of people.
Here are a couple more stories on Al-Jazeera's website woes:
good one: Al-Jazeera Web site suffers hits (ZDNet Aus.)
just O.K. one: Headaches as Al Jazeera launches English website (ABCNews Aus.)
I'm watching "Mosaic: News from the Middle East" on WorldLinkTV, which is quick becoming one of my favorite stations. I am starving for non-U.S. News coverage on TV. I'm sure I'll rage about the U.S. media's coverage of this war soon enough -- it's pissing me off big time -- but the purpose of this post is just a small note about the Iranian news coverage that comprised 1/5th of the half-hour medley of Middle-East-based news reports. Unfortunately I didn't see the whole half-hour -- I surfed in just in time to see a piece of one other broadcast, and then this Iran one.
Which is a pretty big lead-in for what's really a small thing I guess. But a very interesting one.
You know how with the big news networks there's the title area at the top of the bottom of the screen -- where most U.S. networks currently have "OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM" written? On Iran's IRIB News, the title for the war coverage is "WAR FOR OIL".
I'll leave it up to you to determine which country's media has the more accurate picture of this war.
WorldLink has increased their schedule of news coverage in response to the war, but it's not primarily a news network per se. It's more of a documentary television/cultural showcase deal. Plenty of current events from the Middle East area, but not news-current, more like recent-current. Which means not about the war, generally. Which means I'm writing to WorldLink and asking them to show more foreign-based news. I'm feeling more and more like the U.S. coverage is 90% war commercial and 10% war news.
I know I can go read the foreign press all I want on the Web, but somehow reading war coverage doesn't feel quite complete. Like right now I'm watching Iraq Satellite Television news on C-Span, a press conference that one of their generals or something is holding, and I feel like I wouldn't be able to get the same sense of things at all from reading a written version of this news. I mean, they're largely saying the same stuff most of the rest of the world is saying, plus tons of morale-boosting efforts and confidence-having, but seeing them saying it adds a lot. And seeing their setting, and hearing their tone of voice, and all that good stuff. Iraq Satellite TV news shifted next to a military leader of some sort who was apparently in Umm Q'asr, the port city that I guess the U.S. does not have control of yet. At least not as far as this guy is concerned. It's one of the few times I've seen on-the-ground living people coverage from the Iraqi side.
Now C-Span has switched to Washington Journal with columnist Thomas Friedman saying that if you watch too much TV news coverage you can lose the forest for the trees, and get media whiplash from the hourly ups and downs. He also says now that we have lemons, let's make lemonade. Maybe it's time to turn off the TV. ;-)
Got any good links to decent-quality non-gung-ho TV coverage of the war? Post a comment and let me know. I'm not quite as starving for it as I was at the beginning of writing this, but I'm still pretty hungry.
This site has a page of printable snapshots of Iraqis -- just regular-people Iraqis, having a good time and hamming for the camera. The people who set up the site intend for people to print out the photos and post them around wherever, just to provide people a picture of Iraq that they don't normally get, and to, as they say, "show the world the people who will get both liberty and death in one fatal blow if this war begins."
"If this war begins..." It sounds sad now.
Anyway, even if you don't print the pictures out and post them, at least go take a look and put a human face on the war for yourself for a minute.
(I had a little gap in posting here, mostly because I've been busy posting at PeoplesForum.com about various topics -- the war, and the Libertarian non-intervention principle, and the drug war, and the Constitution. I plan to post some of that stuff here, but I'll have to do a bunch of piecing together and providing context so it'll make sense -- which means it's going to take a little time. So I'm not sure if I'll get to it tonight, or even tomorrow necessarily.)
I just made some changes to the page design here. I think I like it about a million times better. The cluttered collage of pictures of me is gone, as is the grainy "Lance M. Brown for President Year 2008" graphic. Also gone is the inspecific tagline, "If you are disillusioned by politics today, and concerned about the future of the United States, then you have come to the right place."
Slimmed, trimmed, and clean.
All that has been replaced by a photo of me speaking at the Million Marijuana March in San Francisco a few years ago. Much more flattering and evocative than its predecessor, I think. And word-wise, all the above stuff has been sorta replaced by a description line under the blog title: "Opinions, news, interesting links, and campaign information from 2008 presidential candidate Lance M. Brown."
I made a couple other little tweaks, too, but they're minor in comparison. The tux pic from the old collage is down in the left column over "Classic Lance" (for now), and I moved the Top 25 Libertarian Sites image up to the top of the right column. Partly because I'm jonesing to get on their list (I'm only 15 clicks away from showing up as #25), and partly because it helped to visually balance the new image on the top left.
P.S. - Help my Top 25 Libertarian Sites rating by clicking here. Every day. ;-)
This guy "Salam Pax" is a daily blogger who apparently lives in Baghdad. There's also apparently some theorizing that he's a hoax. I couldn't say either way, but if his blog is the real deal, then it's pretty intense. If it's not real, someone will figure out proof and word will get around, I'm sure. I'll be tuning in until then.
September 11 group condemns Iraq war
Thursday, March 20, 2003 Posted: 1848 GMT ( 2:48 AM HKT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A group representing family members of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks Thursday condemned the U.S. strikes against Iraq.
Quoting late civil rights leader The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the group -- called the "September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows" -- described the attacks as "illegal, immoral, and unjustified" in a statement sent to the media and families of September 11 victims.
The group said it was speaking out because members know how it feels to experience "shock and awe," and it does not want "other innocent families to suffer the trauma and grief that we have endured."
This map from The Guardian is pretty neat, though it's not nearly as user-friendly as it could be. Still, you can zoom in or out and all around, and display battle targets and attack progress and civilian facilities. Maybe they'll make it easier to use over the next few days. If it was easy to use, it'd be a pretty decent tool for understanding the impact of the war on the city. It helped me a little in my attempt to get some perspective on the booms and fires I'm seeing on TV.
Now I see that they have a whole gallery of interactive Flash maps and war stuff.
Here's a better regular map of Baghdad.
I'm working on a big post about the intense peace demonstration today in Nevada City, but I don't want to rush it. I've got audio, video, and pictures from it, and it's a story worth telling right. North Korea grabbed my attention in mid-stream, and there's no way I'm going to try and finish the post-in-progress at this late hour.
I just saw an excellent special on Frontline/World about North and South Korea called "Suspicious Minds". BBC reporter Ben Anderson went to South Korea and toured around and then went to North Korea (undercover, as a tourist) and did the same. I didn't see all of the South Korea bit, but the North Korea part was fascinating. It was really sad -- not like sick-kids-and-rubble-in-Iraq-sad, or Ground-Zero-sad -- more like pitiful-sad. There wasn't as much starvation talk and bleakness as I normally see in North Korea stories, and so even they pity was a different kind than normal. One of the things was my realization that the mainstream North Korean mindset is that they are constantly on alert for American aggression, invasion, or interference. They're still hung up on how we tried to, well, take them over 50-odd years ago. And they see our aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Bush's stated mission of taking out the "Axis of Evil" (co-starring North Korea), as signs that we might look to start military trouble with them at any time in the future.
Now, no doubt they are hung up on propaganda and rhetoric and a truly ill amount of leader-worship and indoctrination, but their concern that the U.S. might try to take control of North Korea seems pretty well matched up with reality. And due to the indoctrination factor, they would apparently all fight to the death to stop anyone from taking over their country. Which isn't all that crazy either if you think about it. We'd do the same thing here in the U.S., and I bet there are plenty of countries whose people would do the same too.
Now they're a pretty small country in comparison to us, and given that our military greatly overshadows almost every other country's, it's safe to assume that they are also pretty small militarily compared to us. So, thinking/knowing that the U.S. ("the U.S. imperialists", they say) wants to take them over, and being utterly opposed to that occuring, and knowing they are militarily outmatched, what do they do? They train and prepare and drill and have 10% of their population in uniform...and they try to build nukes that can reach here. All pretty logical steps to take when you get right down to it, given their perspective. And they resist "Americanization" with all of their will. (Did you know they possess the only captured U.S. ship in the world? It's a museum -- like a glorious trophy to them.)
And we look at them and see a freaky backwards cult nation which is hell-bent on war. But what was sad about that special was not that North Korea is a paranoid isolationist creepy place, but that the U.S. is their enabler.
I can't speak for whatever human rights abuses the government might engage in to achieve their dream, but it's not like that's a big rarity on the globe. I don't mean to wave it away, but when you think about it, the U.S. was engaged in pretty nasty human rights abuses for most of its history -- the country was built on them -- and it makes the human rights bad guy lists still for the drug war and record-breaking incarceration rates. Tell some guy in prison for life for LSD that he's lucky he doesn't live in horrible North Korea and see what he says. For that matter, think about what the phrase "be all you can be" has come to universally mean, or think about the "Pledge", and tell me the U.S. doesn't do the indoctrination thing too. Thinking back to my school days, and picturing the room of murmuring children pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth (and to the republic for which it stands), the little North Korean girl singing about the Great Leader being the sun doesn't seem quite as creepy. Or the Pledge seems more creepy. Anyway...
The leaders in North Korea have a cultural vision that they want to pursue and preserve -- not strange for any country, and even more commonplace in "old world"-style countries. I doubt they pursue human rights violations just for kicks -- they probably justify it in terms of pursuing and preserving their cultural vision. Kinda like our drug war, where people are locked in cells in pursuit of a misguided plan to stop the use of 10 or 11 particular drugs. The people of North Korea are apparently largely on board with the plan of the leaders, in spite of how horrible it (reportedly) is there. This may be entirely the result of the constant indoctrination by the state, but one, it's a little hypocritical for the U.S. to be judging a country for having propaganda and compulsory state-controlled education, and two, plenty of peoples in heavily-indoctrinated countries have woken up and taken things into their own hands. North Korea's literacy rate is reportedly near 100%, and you'd have a hard time convincing me that 22 million literate people can be bamboozled indefinitely -- particularly in the 21st century.
I just get a looming feeling that the U.S. is going to go beyond enabling NK's paranoid isolationism, and on to fulfilling their prophecy. We've set a stage where having nukes (and building up their capabilities) is the only way they see to protect themselves from us. And that is an accurate viewpoint, as I see it. Nukes are the one "magic weapon" which gives the U.S. pause when dealing with a country. In the end, North Korea's possession of nukes may be the one thing that prevents them from getting treated like Iraq. Which is another thing that's sad. And the result is that instead of having a nutty repressive regime taking over South Korea and being nutty repressive isolationist Korea -- a weird egg that would eventually be cracked by the market, like China has been, or by people's revolt like Yugoslavia under Milosevic, or by a combination of revolt and diplomacy like most of Eastern Europe, or by economic pressure like South Africa...well you get the idea -- instead of that we have a still-nutty repressive regime still sitting up in North Korea, with 50 years of largely justified paranoia and resentment toward the U.S. under their belt -- and nukes. Nukes in case we decide to mess with them again. 50 years of "in case we decide to mess with them again." That's what was saddest about the Frontline thing I saw.
Now as I find the website for it, I see that it was an encore showing which originally played in January. So it's stale, but still cool. :-) Be sure to check out the interview with Ben Anderson about his experiences in making the piece.
The last part of the segment was accompanied by a soundtrack of the Elvis song "Suspicious Minds", and it was just perfect. Funny at first, when I realized what it was, but ultimately really touching in the context of the piece and the closing interactions between the reporter and his government "minders". Ben Anderson seems to be a really genial guy, and they had all become pretty friendly over the course of the week he was there, and...well, it was just very touching. You kinda had to be there.
One other thing that came up in the segment was how North Korea, in its Glorious North Korea pageant or whatever it was, portrayed South Korea as a long-parted sibling that they wish they could have back in the family. (Which they could, the story goes, if not prevented from doing so by the U.S. Imperialists). That subtext was another reason the Elvis song hit the mark.
We're caught in a trap
I can't walk out
Because I love you too much baby
Why can't you see
What you're doing to me
When you don't believe a word I say?
We can't go on together
With suspicious minds
And we can't build our dreams
On suspicious minds.
I've had a soft spot for that song for a while I suppose. It's so metaphorically useful! I mean, relationships are relationships, whether between people or between peoples. And we certainly can't build our dreams on suspicious minds.
(Hey, do me a favor and let me know if reading this was worth your time. Post a comment if you have a minute. Was it sucky and rambling, or interesting and useful? I write posts like this a fair amount, and I'd like a little feedback. Feel free to be blunt-- even rude, if it'll help. :-))
So the war has started, with the attempted assassination of the guy who allegedly attempted to assassinate our President's father. A fittingly ironic way to end the drumroll which began months ago with that moving ode to vengeance,
"This is the guy who tried to kill my dad."
At least the news stations have something to play with. Lots, in fact-- apparently 1000 soldiers are raiding Osama in Afghanistan as well. And there's a worldwide high terror alert for Americans. This is looking to be a media-government orgy of the highest magnitude.
The government has set up a website where we can submit comments on how we should be controlled by any number of federal agencies.
Or, as they put it: "On this site, you can find, review, and submit comments on Federal documents that are open for comment and published in the Federal Register, the Government’s legal newspaper."
6 of one, half-dozen of the other. Either way, it's a tool with which to make some noise. I haven't checked it out too deeply yet.
I'm watching CNN do a full-on weather report on the Middle East. It's kinda surreal...I've seen U.S. weather people make glancing references to global weather conditions when there's a major action somewhere, but hardly even to the extent that countries are delineated -- more usually, it's reported on from a global map viewpoint. This report I just saw was entirely like a local weather report -- a map with temperatures of major cities, discussion of cold fronts in Kuwait, etc. The report was generally centered on a sand storm in Kuwait, which has obvious strategic military implications and thus is newsworthy, but the weather guy gave the area the full weather guy treatment. He didn't even talk about the weather anywhere else (like the U.S., or other parts of the world). It was the Middle East local weather report, from the U.S.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this -- on the contrary, I think it's very humanizing to lay a familiar template over a region that is numbingly distant from us. It was just weird. I don't think I've encountered anything quite like it before on mainstream U.S. TV news. And it really was humanizing-- it's one thing to have a weatherperson wave at some picture of the globe and hear about floods here or drought there. It's another thing entirely to see it brought down to the level we've grown used to seeing for so long. Honestly, it was a little disorienting, simply because usually when I'm seeing the weather at that level, I'm in the place that's on the screen.
I'm going on about this more than is probably justified, and who knows if this will become common enough so you other U.S. media watchers will see something on the order of what I saw. This probably should be filed under "you had to be there". Anyway, it struck me, and so you get to hear about it. Lucky you.
On a related note, CNN is far too excited about this war for my taste. I half-expect to see actual foam coming from the mouths of the anchorpeople. Or froth, at least. What a sad position to be in.
"Today's news: Ohboyohboyohboyohboy! It's finally gonna happen!"
I mentioned at the beginning of this month that some Republican campus clubs were holding "Affirmative Action Bake Sales" -- a very creative demonstration idea, IMHO. College Libertarian clubs are running with the idea now too. Good deal -- I'm a big fan of copycatting smart activist events. No need to reinvent the wheel if the wheel will get you where you need to go. These bake sales seem to get notable press each time they happen. Make a note of it if you run a local libertarian-leaning (or, I suppose, Republican) organization.
This is from independent paper Red and Black at the University of Georgia:
By KATIE REETZ
Published , March 11, 2003, 12:00:01 PM EDT
A group of University students is taking a sweeter approach to fighting affirmative action.
The University Libertarians sponsored a protest bake sale Monday afternoon and charged students different prices based on their gender and ethnicity.
University Libertarian Chris Leonard, a freshman from Suwanee, said the purpose of the bake sale was to show the fundamental flaws of affirmative action.
Prices for the bake sale started at $.25 for blacks and Hispanics, $.50 for Indians and Asians, $.75 for white women and $1 for white males.Reaction to the bake sale was mixed, with some students voicing support and others eager to debate the merits of affirmative action, Leonard said.
The translation could use a little work, but this interview has some interesting strategic info about the upcoming dreadful war, as well as much ominous portending.
Colonel-General Valery Manilov thinks that the outcome of the war in Iraq is not obvious
This was said by the former first deputy chief of the Russian Headquarters, a member of the Federation Council, Colonel-General Valery Manilov. He is certain: if the American administration launches the ground operation, America's supremacy in arms and defense technologies will be brought to nothing with the Iraqi climate. Valery Manilov believes that the outcome of the war is not obvious at the moment.
There's a growing student organization devoted to ending genital mutilation of all types-- be it females in Africa or males in America. I applaud their efforts, but I'm not sure I would have mentioned this article if not for this picture, which speaks a thousand words, as the legend goes. Not to disparage the article itself, which is a fine bit of journalism...but check out that picture! Yikes!
I mentioned last night that Chris Ashley mistook me for a Republican over at his place, and that I had dropped him a line to set the record straight. In return he said some very kind words about me on his blog-- and to top it off, he bought a T-shirt! He thanks me for my "humor and gentle messages", and gives me good marks for quoting Utah and my recent 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action. It really looks like I made a good impression on him, which is, for lack of a better word, neato. ;-)
So remember kids -- be nice to people. They like it! I'm going to add Chris' place to the blogroll, because he's against the war, and he posts these strange block pictures, which is unique (and unique is good).
In related news, solarbean at Midnight Factory gave me kudos recently too. He wrote a mostly lighthearted message about possible presidential candidates, which included a quick positive comment about my blog:
How about Lance M. Brown in 2008 (Be sure to check out his thought provoking essays).
"Thought provoking" is one of the best compliments I could hope to get. It's great to know I'm provoking thought. :-)
I'll just let this one speak for itself.
PENTAGON THREATENS TO KILL INDEPENDENT REPORTERS IN IRAQ
The Pentagon has threatened to fire on the satellite uplink positions of independent journalists in Iraq, according to veteran BBC war correspondent, Kate Adie. In an interview with Irish radio, Ms. Adie said that questioned about the consequences of such potentially fatal actions, a senior Pentagon officer had said: "Who cares.. ..They've been warned."
According to Ms. Adie, who twelve years ago covered the last Gulf War, the Pentagon attitude is: "entirely hostile to the the free spread of information."
"I am enormously pessimistic of the chance of decent on-the-spot reporting, as the war occurs," she told Irish national broadcaster, Tom McGurk on the RTE1 Radio "Sunday Show."
(from GuluFuture.com, an interesting-looking news site I've never seen before. They call themselves a "4Dimensional News Ezine". Another interesting story from them: Solar flares may hinder Iraq war. )
This op-ed piece by James Pinkerton is over a month old, and I'm not even sure how it ended up on my desktop. I have about 55 different web pages open in my browser right now. Every now and then multi-tasking gets the best of me, and it's kinda like quicksand-- the more you struggle, the more you get sucked in.
Anyway, back to Pinkerton's piece. It's a fairly disturbing read -- a fictional letter from Osama bin Laden about how well his plan is shaping up. It seems all the more fitting now, on the near-eve of this maddening war. At this point, it looks like the only way to stop the war would be for the Pope to go to Baghdad as a human shield. Or, in other words, a miracle.
I wrote to him to clear it up. Can't be having myself associated with either of the Two Parties. No thanks.
Here's a great little story about how taking action can make a difference:
Our local K-Mart was selling Easter baskets with a "G.I." theme, including soldier dolls, toy guns, "Warheads" candy, etc.. Apparently lots of retailers around the nation sell these things, which are distributed as part of a bigger package from a company called MegaToys.
Well, people around here don't take the militarization of children lightly, and Joanna Robinson (wife of the much-lauded Utah Phillips) caused a ruckus in K-Mart when she discovered these baskets. Despite pleas from store management and police to leave peacefully, she stood her ground and got arrested for trespassing and disturbing business.
Word about something like that travels quick through peace-laden Nevada County, and there were major protests at K-Mart the next day.
And K-Mart felt the pressure and declared that they wouldn't restock the G.I. Easter baskets.
It's that simple folks. Action works. Try it yourself sometime.
I must admit, I spent a fair amount of time playing with toy guns and soldiers when I was a kid, and it didn't turn me into a shooter or warmonger, but Utah made the case against the baskets pretty well I think:
"The biggest oxymoron going on now is war toys," folksinger Utah Philipps said. "What is war? War is sticking a bayonnet into people, we've been through all of this. It's the most awful thing that can happen. And what is a toy? A toy is to have fun with, to amuse yourself. Why are we telling our children that you can have fun with war? It's not a game. We have to pull these two words apart, hang on to the toys and no more war."
For more information on the G.I. Bunny controversy, read Full Metal Bonnet in the Village Voice.
I have no idea what this image is connected to, but it's apparently from the CIA, since it's on their web site.
Is that who I should be keeping an eye out for in my anti-terrorist vigilance? And is that a classic "arab"-style curved knife functioning as the bayonet?
Below is the table of contents of Gene Sharp’s book The Methods of Nonviolent Action (1973). It makes a handy list if you're looking for something to do. ;-)
THE METHODS OF NONVIOLENT PROTEST AND PERSUASION
1. Public speeches
2. Letters of opposition or support
3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
4. Signed public declarations
5. Declarations of indictment and intention
6. Group or mass petitions
COMMUNICATIONS WITH A WIDER AUDIENCE
7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications
9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
10. Newspapers and journals
11. Records, radio, and television
12. Skywriting and earthwriting
14. Mock awards
15. Group lobbying
17. Mock elections
SYMBOLIC PUBLIC ACTS
18. Displays of flags and symbolic colours
19. Wearing of symbols
20. Prayer and worship
21. Delivering symbolic objects
22. Protest disrobings
23. Destruction of own property
24. Symbolic lights
25. Displays of portraits
26. Paint as protest
27. New signs and names
28. Symbolic sounds
29. Symbolic reclamations
30. Rude gestures
PRESSURES ON INDIVIDUALS
31. "Haunting" officials
32. Taunting officials
DRAMA AND MUSIC
35. Humourous skits and pranks
36. Performances of plays and music
40. Religious processions
HONOURING THE DEAD
43. Political mourning
44. Mock funerals
45. Demonstrative funerals
46. Homage at burial places
47. Assemblies of protest or support
48. Protest meetings
49. Camouflaged meetings of protest
WITHDRAWAL AND RENUNCIATION
53. Renouncing honours
54. Turning one's back
THE METHODS OF SOCIAL NONCOOPERATION
OSTRACISM OF PERSONS
55. Social boycott
56. Selective social boycott
57. Lysistratic nonaction
NONCOOPERATION WITH SOCIAL EVENTS, CUSTOMS, AND INSTITUTIONS
60. Suspension of social and sports activities
61. Boycott of social affairs
62. Student strike
63. Social disobedience
64. Withdrawal from social institutions
WITHDRAWAL FROM THE SOCIAL SYSTEM
66. Total personal noncooperation
67. "Flight" of workers
69. Collective disappearance
70. Protest emigration (hijrat)
THE METHODS OF ECONOMIC NONCOOPERATION: ECONOMIC BOYCOTTS
ACTION BY CONSUMERS
71. Consumers' boycott
72. Nonconsumption of boycotted goods
73. Policy of austerity
74. Rent withholding
75. Refusal to rent
76. National consumers' boycott
77. International consumers' boycott
ACTION BY WORKERS AND PRODUCERS
78. Workers' boycott
79. Producers' boycott
ACTION BY MIDDLEMEN
80. Suppliers' and handlers' boycott
ACTION BY OWNERS AND MANAGEMENT
81. Traders' boycott
82. Refusal to let or sell property
84. Refusal of industrial assistance
85. Merchants' "general strike"
ACTION BY HOLDERS OF FINANCIAL RESOURCES
86. Withdrawal of bank deposits
87. Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments
88. Refusal to pay debts or interest
89. Severance of funds and credit
90. Revenue refusal
91. Refusal of a government's money
ACTION BY GOVERNMENTS
92. Domestic embargo
93. Blacklisting of traders
94. International sellers' embargo
95. International buyers' embargo
96. International trade embargo
THE METHODS OF ECONOMIC NONCOOOPERATION: THE STRIKE
97. Protest strike
98. Quickie walkout (lightning strike)
99. Peasant strike
100. Farm workers' strike
STRIKES BY SPECIAL GROUPS
101. Refusal of impressed labour
102. Prisoners' strike
103. Craft strike
104. Professional strike
ORDINARY INDUSTRIAL STRIKES
105. Establishment strike
106. Industry strike
107. Sympathy strike
108. Detailed strike
109. Bumper strike
110. Slowdown strike
111. Working-to-rule strike
112. Reporting "sick" (sick-in)
113. Strike by resignation
114. Limited strike
115. Selective strike
116. Generalised strike
117. General strike
COMBINATION OF STRIKES AND ECONOMIC CLOSURES
119. Economic shutdown
THE METHODS OF POLITICAL NONCOOPERATION
REJECTION OF AUTHORITY
120. Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance
121. Refusal of public support
122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance
CITIZENS' NONCOOPERATION WITH GOVERNMENT
123. Boycott of legislative bodies
124. Boycott of elections
125. Boycott of government employment and positions
126. Boycott of government departments, agencies, and other bodies
127. Withdrawal from governmental educational institutions
128. Boycott of government-supported institutions
129. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents
130. Removal of own signs and placemarks
131. Refusal to accept appointed officials
132. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions
CITIZENS' ALTERNATIVES TO OBEDIENCE
133. Reluctant and slow compliance
134. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision
135. Popular nonobedience
136. Disguised disobedience
137. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse
139. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation
140. Hiding, escape, and false identities
141. Civil disobedience of "illegitimate" laws
ACTION BY GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL
142. Selective refusal of assistance by government aides
143. Blocking of lines of command and information
144. Stalling and obstruction
145. General administrative noncooperation
146. Judicial noncooperation
147. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by
DOMESTIC GOVERNMENTAL ACTION
149. Quasi-legal evasions and delays
150. Noncooperation by constituent governmental units
INTERNATIONAL GOVERNMENTAL ACTION
151. Changes in diplomatic and other representation
152. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events
153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition
154. Severance of diplomatic relations
155. Withdrawal from international organisations
156. Refusal of membership in international bodies
157. Expulsion from international organisations
THE METHODS OF NONVIOLENT INTERVENTION
158. Self-exposure to the elements
159. The fast
a) Fast of moral pressure
b) Hunger strike
c) Satyagrahic fast
160. Reverse trial
161. Nonviolent harassment
168. Nonviolent raids
169. Nonviolent air raids
170. Nonviolent invasion
171. Nonviolent interjection
172. Nonviolent obstruction
173. Nonviolent occupation
174. Establishing new social patterns
175. Overloading of facilities
178. Guerrilla theatre
179. Alternative social institutions
180. Alternative communication system
181. Reverse strike
182. Stay-in strike
183. Nonviolent land seizure
184. Defiance of blockades
185. Politically motivated counterfeiting
186. Preclusive purchasing
187. Seizure of assets
189. Selective patronage
190. Alternative markets
191. Alternative transportation systems
192. Alternative economic institutions
193. Overloading of administrative systems
194. Disclosing identities of secret agents
195. Seeking imprisonment
196. Civil disobedience of "neutral" laws
197. Work-on without collaboration
198. Dual sovereignty and parallel government
(This list is apparently posted all over the Internet, but thanks to Carol Moore for bringing it to my attention.)
It's almost just your average stupid "zero tolerance in schools" story -- 6-year old suspended for having a plastic knife -- but there's a funny twist at the end of the story that I got a kick out of. You see, the kid got the plastic knife at lunch at the school -- they hand them out. So here's the punch line:
And, if the school insists on upholding the suspension, his parents reportedly will seek criminal charges against the school for supplying weapons to children.
Ha! Zero tolerance for zero tolerance idiocy! I want to see that court case.
I've gotten drawn into what has become a pretty interesting discussion about the possible war (over at PeoplesForum.com, where I'm Executive V.P. of Community). I started it kinda...I was reading all sorts of France-bashing, which I think is really lame (pathetic, ridiculous, and juvenile are other terms I've used to describe it). So I went in and posted "GO FRANCE!!!" in big 'ol letters. Then I kept poking and prodding, though I still didn't want to get in-depth about it -- I have so many problems with the anti-France thing that I could really go on about it for a while...and plus, it automatically opens up a debate about the war itself.
But I couldn't pull away, and eventually I started replying to people's statements specifically, instead of just digging and grumbling. Over the next 75 posts it develops into a discussion of "why do they (the terrorists, the rest of the world) hate/oppose us?". I go back and forth with a number of different people, about how doing good doesn't clear us for doing bad, about how the war is all about imperialism and global dominance, and about how we don't need to take on that role just because we're the world's only "superpower". I make some good points I think.
Funny from The Onion:
Americans of every color will set aside their differences to celebrate White History Year.
"I think it's good to give people a closer look at a culture they usually don't even think about," said Gary, IN, realtor Willie Anderson, a respected member of the city's black community. "I mean, it's right in front of you every day. It's such a huge part of your life. You're surrounded by it from the day you're born until the day you die, so it's easy to take for granted that you already know just about everything there is to know about it."
Here's an article about libertarian Republican Rep. Ron Paul and how he's finding alliances with leftie anti-war groups, and fans in European media, due to his firm stand against Bush's war. Ron Paul's cool, but I think he should switch over to the Libertarian Party. He's got a loyal voter base, and everyone knows how he votes (which is more libertarian than Republican), and he could make it so the LP had a Congressman in office just by filling out a couple forms. The amount of positive attention it would bring the party would be amazing, and it would open the door for other congresspeople to think about making the jump. He's still cool, though. Two of the folks on my local LP executive board have known him personally for a long time.
(He's popularly called "Dr. No" because he's a doctor by trade and he votes "no" on more bills than anyone -- often as the sole "no" vote.)
Here's the story that was in the local paper today about the public forum I held last night. I'll post comments on the article and more about the forum shortly. Pictures, audio and video should follow.
Though the times have changed since Sept. 11, people's civil liberties aren't being threatened, area law enforcement officials stressed at a public forum Tuesday.
"A lot of what you fear is not tied to what our reality is," said Michael Mason, special agent in charge of the FBI's Sacramento division.
But some are concerned that new laws like the Patriot Act indeed have the potential to erode civil liberties.
"We do consider the USA Patriot Act as something passed too quickly, under duress," said Nevada County Librarian Steve Fjeldsted, who is concerned about the confidentiality of library information.
A civil liberties attorney, a librarian and law enforcement officials came together Tuesday night at a "Law Enforcement and the War on Terror in Nevada County" forum put together by local Libertarian Lance Brown.
Close to 100 people showed up at the Center for the Arts to hear the panel guests, which included Mason, Fjeldsted, Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal, Lt. Commander Ed Michalkiewicz, of the California Highway Patrol; Grass Valley Police Chief John Foster, Nevada City Police Chief Lou Travato, Truckee Police Chief Dan Boone, and Graham Noyes, a Nevada City civil liberties lawyer. The forum was moderated by Rich Somerville, editor of The Union.
Noyes said citizens need to consider government policies, including the massive increase in powers for surveillance, the changes to immigration policy, the increases in security, and some of the lessening of restrictions on law enforcement authority.
"We need to look at both the impacts on citizens on these changes and also the effectiveness of these policies," said Noyes.
Noyes warned that Patriot II is in the works - a piece of legislation that, unlike the Patriot Act, does not have an expiration date.
Mason said he is operating on a single, guiding principal in deciding which terrorism cases get opened.
"I tell my people that we are to focus on acts and not on who or mere association, but rather on criminal bad acts," said Mason. "That way we're not looking at people based on their ethnicity, not looking at people based on their culture, or the manner in which they're practicing their religion. I have no interest in suppressing constitutionally protected acts."
Mason said the agency's challenge is intelligently deploying limited resources.
Though the agency can, for example, read e-mails through a program called "Carnivore," it is not designed to read e-mails randomly.
"It's not set up so we can just flip it on and just listen to or read e-mails randomly," said Mason. "In a society where 27 million people watch 'Am I Hot?', can you imagine listening or reading random e-mails as your sole duty? I think I'd rather shoot myself."
Royal said the county has had minimal costs in fighting terrorism, mostly limited to 30 reports of possible anthrax after Sept. 11, 2001, all of which were unfounded.
"In general, law enforcement practices have not changed; but we are more sensitive to national incidents," said Royal.
Phew! I'm just now done settling back in after the big public forum tonight. It was really great. For the past two months or so, I've been putting together a public forum called "Law Enforcement and the War On Terror in Nevada County". And, like the Funeral for The Bill of Rights, it put a lot of my skills to the test. Not such a wide range of skills as the funeral, which involved a lot of craftwork and protest elements, but many instances of a smaller set of skills. Communication skills mostly -- writing, persuading, meetings, and phone calls.
This event involved a LOT of phone calls -- probably somewhere near 200 -- and it involved a lot of diplomacy. As someone who has always felt at odds with authority (just look at yesterday's post), it was quite a twist to be bringing together the top officers from 6 different law enforcement agencies. I met, on very friendly terms, with 7 different major law enforcement agents and officers tonight, and it was pretty cool. 3 police chiefs, a sheriff, a CHP Lieutenant Commander, and two FBI agents, including the head agent of the Sacramento Division of the FBI-- who, incidentally, seems like a really nice and earnest guy. They all seemed nice enough, some more than others. It was really refreshing that they were all eager to help share what they know with our community. Nevada County is really a great community, and the kind of community that can really do a public forum when we set our minds to it-- or in this case, when I set their minds to it. ;-)
I'll post a lot more about this event -- there will be a couple news stories tomorrow to link to, and I'll give a breakdown of how to put something like this together -- or at least how I put this one together. It wasn't all that hard really, but it did involve a ton of work. I'll lay it all out soon in case anyone else wants to try puttin' on a shindig like this. It was really worthwhile -- it wasn't perfect, but it was pretty damn sweet.
I'm going to cheat again today and just post another quote from Utah Phillips. I've been busy organizing a meeting tonight and my big law enforcement forum tomorrow night.
The quote is actually a song, and I'm not positive that Utah was the original author of it, but I think so. I'll get back to you on that. It's a little abstract, and much better heard than read, but it's still worth posting.
Note: Utah Phillips identifies himself as an anarchist, which makes him more extreme than me. He's strongly influenced by the drama of the early labor movement, and he's basically a pacifist revolutionary. (He's a fascinating person-- buy one of the albums Ani DiFranco made with him, and you'll hear what I mean. He tells engrossing stories about figures and events from the beginning of last century -- the labor organizers and activists on the front lines of hard times and tough struggles.)
Anyway, his views are not necessarily my own is what I'm getting at. But it's still a cool song, and I'm down with most of the sentiments in it. It's meant to be caterwauled, not sung. On the Fellow Workers album, it's accompanied by sparing, ominous music. I also have it on a solo album of Utah's where he does it a capella.
A picture of Utah follows the lyrics.
I Will Not Obey
The new ruling party is holding the aces
The rest of the cards are all missing faces
I'm sorry I can't know you today
What can one say?
"I will not obey!"
Give us your sons and give us your daughters
No one is safe or immune from the slaughter
How indifference makes them rage
What can one say?
"I will not obey!"
National Guard or freedom fighters
All houses belong to cigarette lighters
But who hides in the smoke?
What can one say?
"I will not obey!"
Better perhaps to perish outside of
The bunkers where our generals hide
I turn away and spit
What can one say?
"I will not obey!"
Give us the minds of your children to learn
The substance of books we have not yet burned
But can they read the sky for rain?
What can one say?
"I will not obey!"
Soon all tyrants will feel our impatience
We choose to create our own combinations
I was always willing to agree
What can one say?
"I will not obey!"
The essence of contract is agreement
Not coercion or obedience
And agreement is sacred
What can one say?
"I will not obey!"
There are so few wars of people's liberation, for the people have so seldom risen-- only the armed faction. Listen-- the armed faction lies; they recreate the state through their action. When the people rise, it is not they, but the state which dies.
I sing this song for the prisoner's release
Most of all now for the new State Police
You see the guns have changed hands -- again
What can one say?
"I will not obey!"
Photo from UtahPhillips.org
This isn't the last you'll hear from me about Utah. I'm on a Utah kick lately. I feel like he's someone everyone should listen to, saying things that not many people bother to say. Not in the song above particularly, but in general he tells the stories that don't otherwise get heard much, and in a truly engaging way. He's hard not to like, even if you think he's a wingnut. He gets immense respect from his (and my) local Nevada Countyfolk...he's one of this county's most honored residents, I'd say. And rightly so.
"There comes a time when the operation of the machine is so odious that you cannot even tacitly participate. You've got to place your bodies on the gears, the wheels, all the mechanism, and you've got to indicate to those who own it, and those who run it, that unless you are free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."
I've been buying a lot of domain names lately -- all future potential projects of various stripes. Here they are:
My entry into the discussion starts here, a few posts before my mega-message. You can read there for context. The folks in that thread had been discussing energy regulation, mostly in California. It sprang from a discussion about recalling Gray Davis, and his energy "deregulation" scheme.
In my mega-post, I make my general case against regulation, and monopoly "utilities". It starts with an italicized excerpt from "osage"'s reply to my first inquiry. I've edited it a bit so it's a little more essay-like. Here you go:
Thanks for your answer.
There simply isn't enough space in/above/under the public streets to allow for multiple distribution systems for the same service.
That may have been the case back in the day, but I would argue it's no longer the case, as you sort of acknowledged. Electricity can be gotten through solar or wind equipment, or via a generator. Advances in technology have made it so that small power stations could serve small areas, thus eliminating the need for much of the distribution infrastructure we use today. Gas is readily available in independent containers which can be filled up by trucks, effectively eliminating the need for in-ground gas lines. There is a growing array of options for phone service which don't involve traditional phone line distribution-- or any lines at all. Water is also transportable independent of infrastructure, perhaps the least practically of all so far, but it is feasible.
In each of these cases, the monopoly/utility framework has impeded (and continues to impede) the advancement of the new, competing methodologies-- at the same time instilling a dependency in the utility users, which further impedes the ability of new (or old) innovative technologies to take hold.
I submit the same thing would have taken place had our predecessors decided to treat food and clothing in the same way they've treated utilities. Where would rayon and other synthetics have fit in if the cotton industry had been granted monopoly control over the distribution channels and technologies? Presumably, less "essential" fabrics like silk and mohair and such would have been relegated to being second-class providers, using the distribution channels owned by the real "utilities"-- similiar to the dilemma faced by modern-day telephone providers and others who seek to compete now that they are allowed. They "compete" in a tightly restricted atmosphere over which they have almost no control (other than buying/controlling politicians, which is a double-edged sword, and in which they are still second in resources to the original resident provider).
In all the analyses I've seen, so-called "deregulation" of utilities would be more accurately described as re-regulation-- just a political-corporate shell game, a deal made to save face and keep the public calm, so that the politicians will get re-elected and the most politically powerful corporations will keep making the green. Any real benefit to consumers or the market is generally in spite of re-regulation, not due to it.
Meanwhile, there sure is a huge variety and supply of food readily available, eh? Even moreso with clothing. Coincidentally (or not), the clothing industry is far less regulated than the food industry. The last essential, shelter (aka housing) is almost as highly regulated as the utility industries, and the result is similar -- less choice, less variety, less innovation, higher costs, more dependence on the infrastructure.
on the other hand, look at two of the (as of yet) least-regulated industries, computers and the Internet. Innovation, choice, variety, independence, and low prices.
Look at Ebay for a hypothetical. As Ebay (and Internet auctioning in general) becomes a more essential part of the economy, the pressure will mount to regulate that industry. The probable consequences are easy to predict. Less sellers would be judged "qualified" (there would probably be mandatory licensing or certfication), so there would be less competition-- i.e., less choice, less variety, less quality, higher prices. Less places would qualify as approved "auction houses", and so there would be less competition on the macro level as well, with the resultant inevitable effect on that market. Those places that did qualify, and those sellers that were licensed, would have to spend significant resources understanding and complying with regulations, and would function with less choice and flexibility in their internal operations. The regulations would also impact the industries those folks do business with in a similar fashion-- restricting choice, flexibility and innovation, and driving up costs.
I understand the desire to control massive companies and industries, I just think that regulation as we know it is a very poor way to do so, with harmful effects that are incalculably vast. The wedding of industry and government can be found at the root of many of our country's (and our society's) problems, from overconsumption to environmental degradation to union busting to health care, and so on and so on. In almost all of those cases, the marriage took place as an effort to regulate and control so-called essential industries or resources, or just to generally protect the economy, to ensure the safe and sure provision of goods and services. In reality, regulation tends to end up serving corporations and the economy to the detriment of consumers.
Meanwhile, much more powerful mechanisms for control and consumer/employee empowerment are available in the free market, but they are hobbled by regulation, while at the same time the majority of the energy and resources devoted to control and empowerment are directed toward tinkering with the regulatory model. Consumers and workers get less and less powerful and more apathetic and lazy about being informed and proactive actors in the economy.
If all the people energy devoted to urging the government to do this or that to companies was devoted to boycotts, big industry would get cleaned up quick-like. And if all the energy devoted to protecting the environment was devoted to pollution lawsuits (which can't currently happen because pollution is "regulated", i.e. allowed, by legislation and the EPA), it would accelerate environmental improvement exponentially.
I share most of the broad, positive goals of the Green Party, but I think that further reliance on government management to control the provision of goods and services is unlikely to result in anything but the gradual strangling of the economy, and a continued lessening of consumer and employee power. Direct interaction between customer or employee and business is more effective, and much more healthy for society and the economy.
I can almost guarantee that if government had never gotten involved in the fuel, energy, and transportation industries, we would be infinitely better off right now. It would be a whole different world -- a much better one -- and most of what we consider negative about those industries would be a non-issue by now. I shudder (in a positive way) to think of what the free market could have come up with as solutions for us if it had been allowed.
Instead -- oil. Oil oil oil oil and highways. Since the late 1800's -- the first dawn of modern regulation.
A couple days ago I implored readers to get off your asses and make your voice heard in these "outrageous and powerful times". It's not the first time I've made such an appeal (or the second or third time, for that matter) -- and it won't be the last. In fact, I'm ready to go with some more imploring right now.
The times we're living in are really something else. It's like we've been simmering, socio-politically speaking, for the past 30 years-- and on 9-11 the heat got turned up just enough to bring us to a boil. Then we entered into a surreal new playing field, filled with lots of deep emotion, and fear, new rules, and a dangerous frantic urgency.
You know how when you boil a can of soup, there's a frothy foam of flavorings and additives on top? I always try to scoop that stuff off the top after I turn the burner off-- it just looks artificial and unhealthy. Mass-produced pre-made meals have too much flavoring and crap in them in general, and I figure that foam/goo that comes out when you boil it is probably the worst of the worst. Water rejects it, which strikes me as a nutritional warning sign.
That wasn't an off-topic drift -- it was a metaphor.
The artificial goo has risen to the top of our socio-political soup. It's unhealthy for our societal constitution, and it's as obvious and foreign-looking as the foam on the top of my Campbell's Select. It's mostly the oil of politicians combined with the artificial flavoring of corporations and special interests. You can eat it if you want, but all it'll do is jolt your system a bit, then come out the other end.
But what's happening now seems to be a massive effort to scoop, siphon, or otherwise remove the toxic foam on the surface of our national soup. Whether it's people seizing this moment to speak out, people reaching out and forming citizen coalitions of every stripe, bloggers digging and exposing and sharing the truths that aren't on the airwaves and the presses, people baring their all to protest for peace, millions worldwide coming out monthly to rally against the war, John Stewart mock-lunging over his desk on The Daily Show in frustration at the Administration's foreign policy logic, the Pope taking Bush to task on his claim that God would be with us in the war, the human shields, or innovative events like the Funeral for the Bill of Rights -- people are rallying to seize control of this moment, or at least to add their will to the shaping of it.
And to all of you who are engaged in this struggle, who are seizing your chance to shape the world-- good on ya, as the Australians would say.
To those who aren't -- you who are too busy fretting about the horrors to come to get anything done, and you who are fooling yourself into thinking there's no way to stop it or nothing that can be done, and you who are contendedly thinking "I got mine, so no worries", and you who are more focused on empty gratification than empowerment, challenge, change, and having an impact on the world -- I've got something for you to think about. It comes from Utah Phillips, a great storyteller/folk singer/activist/historian who lives near me. (He played a key role in my ending up in Nevada City, but that's a story for another time.) He tells a story on the album Fellow Workers (read about it here, buy it here-- way down the page in both cases), an album of stories about the ealy years of the labor movement accompanied by Ani Di Franco's music.
On one song, he tells the story of the Everett Massacre, a big confrontation back in 1916. A bunch of Wobblies (labor organizers) got arrested as a result of the confrontation. They were all put in a new all-steel jail, and they put together a protest in there wherein they broke the wall of the jail, by jumping and stomping in unison until the reverberations caused a fracture. It's a song about the power of organizing, and passion.
Utah knew Jack Miller, one of the main organizers of the workers in Everett. In the song, Utah tells us what Jack told him. He's big on passing down stories from our elders, and through him I've grown a greater appreciation for the same.
Anyway, Jack said:
(about breaking the jail wall)
"Thus proving, everlastingly, what a union is -- a way to get things done together that you can't get done alone."
"You know, we didn't have any intellectual lives. We lived in our emotions -- we were a passionate people. And we were comfortable in our emotions. We made commitments, to struggle, emotionally -- commitments for which there are no words. But those commitments carried us through 50, 60 years of struggle. You show me people who make the same commitments intellectually, and I don't know where they'll be next week."
Utah says, "Kinda stern, isn't it? Well..."
"Armed only with our sense of degradation as human beings, we came together, and organized, and changed the condition of our lives."
Utah: "Now this is the hard thing he said:"
Jack: "Why can't you young people, with all you've got, do the same thing?"
Well? You got an answer, all you couch potatoes and apathists?
Mark Morford of SFGate.com makes some good and interesting points here, couched in punchy, sarcastic, and fairly angry tones. The theme? The Lie Of The U.S. Military -- Tough gritty American soldiers protect freedom of liberal S.F. columnist? Or the other way around?
He's not saying the military or the soldiers are lying...he just talks about one of the top old-hat cliches that's chucked at "peaceniks" by, well, anti-peaceniks, I guess.
You know the one. I'll let Mark describe it. Pardon the harsh language -- apparently Mark Morford doesn't mince words:
I get this a lot: Hey Mark, you know what you should do, you pathetic piece of liberal S.F. scum? You should kneel down right now and thank our angry God there's a hard-ass non-pussified non-wimpy U.S. military out there protecting your pathetic little butt, baby. Isn't that thoughtful?
You should be damn grateful, they scowl, that these fine men and women are risking their lives to ensure your right of free speech, your contemptible ability to scribble these pansy liberal words, to call Shrub a smirking daddy's boy, to suggest that God doesn't exist or that Lynne Cheney frightens small children and makes paint peel, all while remaining safe and cozy in your little hippie-happy tofu-licking gay-friendly S.F. cocoon, all protected and insulated and smug.
The overall gist of what he's getting at is summed up fairly nicely in his last two paragraphs:
I understand and value the need for a strong military. I appreciate the necessity. But the war in Iraq does nothing but denigrate the value and integrity of our military. Note to conservatives: Those soldiers aren't out there dying for you, they're dying for strategic political power, for some oil exec's portfolio. They're protecting the American oligarchy. Does that make you feel proud?
This war, then, is a direct slap in the face, an insult not just to progressives and liberals but to the country, and to the very soldiers themselves. I hereby kneel down in my liberal hippie gay-friendly S.F. cocoon and pray to my godless tofu-lovin' universe that they don't die in oily vain.
(This is part of an attempt to try out posting more quick links with less comments, to see how I like it. I talked about that yesterday. I'm also curious to see if I get a substantially higher amount of traffic from the weblog aggregators (Weblogs.com, blo.gs, etc.) by posting many more times during the day. I generally only post once or twice, and almost always at night, when, I assume, those sites get -- and therefore generate -- less traffic.)
There's a lot I want to post about...my desktop is filling up with web pages waiting in the bullpen. I just like to post something thoughful with them when I can, and thought takes time. I could bust out headlines, excerpts and URLs by the dozens if I wanted to -- a ridiculous amount of news and links pass by me in any given day -- but I haven't generally thought of this blog as serving a newsfeed-type service, as much as a political window into my mind, or something like that. Maybe I should mix it up more-- pop out a few quick commentless worthy news items a day, and one substantive post. I think I'd lean on those quickies too much though, and let myself off the hook on posting something thoughtful more often-- and that's not cool. Hmm...
Maybe I could have two blogs here -- the newsfeed one and this one. That's something to think about. I do often have the impulse to pass on news items, but hold off because I want to make sure I make it clear what I think of the story -- and why -- in order to avoid misinterpretation.
If anyone has thoughts or suggestions, let me know.
Think there aren't still people out there with a disturbingly repressive mindset? Think again.
ABCNews (Reuters): Lawyer Arrested for Wearing a 'Peace' T-Shirt
According to the criminal complaint filed on Monday, Stephen Downs was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words "Give Peace A Chance" that he had just purchased from a vendor inside the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, near Albany.
"I was in the food court with my son when I was confronted by two security guards and ordered to either take off the T-shirt or leave the mall," said Downs.
He could face up to a year in prison if convicted.
Think protesting can't make a difference? Think again.
About 100 anti-war demonstrators marched through a mall Wednesday to protest the arrest of a shopper who wore a T-shirt that read "Peace on Earth" and "Give Peace a Chance."
Officials at a mall where a man was arrested for refusing to remove an anti-war T-shirt asked Wednesday that trespassing charges against him be dropped.
Downs' son, Roger, said dropping the charge would not rectify the arrest. "My father feels there's more to this. Crossgates hasn't examined what was wrong here," he said. "I think he'd like an apology."
These are outrageous and powerful times. I hope you're not just sitting on your ass complaining or being passive. If you've got something to add into the world dialogue, this is the time.
Speaking of which, I went to a great rally today, at Sierra College in Grass Valley. It was the group's first event ever (and as far as I know the first rally ever at this 7-year-old school), and it went swimmingly. There were at least a couple hundred people there. I may post more about it tomorrow-- it's been a way long day, and I can't stay up much longer tonight.
As if the world wasn't already fed up enough with our pushy foreign policy...
From The Observer (UK):
Secret document details American plan to bug phones and emails of key Security Council members
Martin Bright, Ed Vulliamy in New York and Peter Beaumont
Sunday March 2, 2003
The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.
Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.
The leaked memorandum makes clear that the target of the heightened surveillance efforts are the delegations from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, Guinea and Pakistan at the UN headquarters in New York - the so-called 'Middle Six' delegations whose votes are being fought over by the pro-war party, led by the US and Britain, and the party arguing for more time for UN inspections, led by France, China and Russia.
The memo is directed at senior NSA officials and advises them that the agency is 'mounting a surge' aimed at gleaning information not only on how delegations on the Security Council will vote on any second resolution on Iraq, but also 'policies', 'negotiating positions', 'alliances' and 'dependencies' - the 'whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises'.
Disclosure of the US operation comes in the week that Blix will make what many expect to be his final report to the Security Council.
It also comes amid increasingly threatening noises from the US towards undecided countries on the Security Council who have been warned of the unpleasant economic consequences of standing up to the US.
Sources in Washington familiar with the operation said last week that there had been a division among Bush administration officials over whether to pursue such a high-intensity surveillance campaign with some warning of the serious consequences of discovery.
The existence of the surveillance operation, understood to have been requested by President Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is deeply embarrassing to the Americans in the middle of their efforts to win over the undecided delegations.
While many diplomats at the UN assume they are being bugged, the memo reveals for the first time the scope and scale of US communications intercepts targeted against the New York-based missions.
The disclosure comes at a time when diplomats from the countries have been complaining about the outright 'hostility' of US tactics in recent days to persuade then to fall in line, including threats to economic and aid packages.
The casual reader might get the impression as of late that all I've been doing is surfing the news and ranting about it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Behind the scenes, I'm a regular busy beaver of activism. I've been meaning to post some update/summaries of what I'm doing on the ground here, but I know that I'll end up wanting to tell the stories fully, which would make each entry take a half-hour or so (and there's maybe 15 different stories).
For now, I'll post a quick list of the stuff I worked on in February. My next ten days are going to be hectic in terms of activism, and the next two weeks after that will be hectic in terms of work, so I can't say for sure when I'll be posting in-depth stories.
In February, I:
--Participated in a Nevada County Green Party meeting about the USA-PATRIOT Act and other threats to civil liberties (Feb 3)
--Hosted a planning meeting for the Nevada County Bill of Rights Defense Committee (Feb. 10th)
--Made a short presentation about the Nevada County Bill of Rights Defense Committee at the county Republican Central Committee's monthly meeting (Feb. 12th)
--Presented at an "Introduction to the NCLP" meeting hosted by a local restaurant owner (Feb. 13th)
--Took part in a meeting between the President of Sierra Students for CHANGE and the Provost of Sierra College's Grass Valley campus (Feb. 20th)
--Attended an organizing meeting for the Sierra Students for CHANGE's "Books Not Bombs" student strike and all-day rally, which is happening this Wednesday March 5th (Feb. 25th)
--Helped edit the March newsletter of the Nevada County Libertarian Party, which comes out tomorrow
On top of that, I've been doing lots of work in putting together a special "Law Enforcement and The War on Terror in Nevada County" forum, which is coming up on March 11th. This is a major event that I'm putting together as a private citizen (i.e., not under the rubric of an organization).
Some of the parts of organizing this have been:
--Arranging a venue-- the Center for the Arts, which is hosting the event for free (we'll take donations for it).
--Contacting local media-- the local newspaper (The Union) will be covering it, and one of the local radio stations (KVMR) will be broadcasting it live! This means it will also be broadcast live on the Internet. :-)
--Making contact with the following law enforcement agencies: California Dept. of Homeland Security, California Highway Patrol, the F.B.I. Sacramento Division, the Nevada County Sheriff's Office, the Grass Valley Police Dept., the Nevada City Police Dept., and the Truckee Police Dept.. This has gone really well so far -- the F.B.I. is sending the Special Agent In Charge of the Sacramento Division, which covers 34 counties in northern California; the County Sheriff is coming; and the Lieutenant Commander of the local CHP office is coming. I expect most of the rest of the agencies to confirm early this week. There will also be an attorney from the National Lawyer's Guild and/or the ACLU. Additionally, our County Librarian will be on the panel.
--Finding a moderator/facilitator. I made a major score here-- the editor of the local paper The Union is going to be the moderator. Not only is it great to have a major local figure as moderator, but I expect this will get the event put the event of the front of the plate in The Union's newsroom. :-)
This promises to be sort of a landmark event in our county, and I'm really excited at how well it's coming together.
There's more little details of what I've been doing, but that's a pretty good outline. So far, I have two events coming up in each of the next two weeks: tomorrow (later today) is a Green Party showing of the Bill Moyers NOW segment on the "Patriot Act II"; Wednesday is the Books not Bombs rally, at which I'll be staffing tables for the NCLP and the NCBORDC (as well as helping out Darlene, the organizer/MC); next Monday is our NCLP showing of "Hidden Wars of Desert Storm", and next Tuedsay is the law enforcement forum I mentioned above.
Phew! It feels good to get all that out! I'll try to give some more background when I find the time.
I've had a long-standing resolution to not put bumper stickers on my car. Not for the normal reasons-- I'm not worried about defacing my bumper, nor am I afraid to take a stance via that media, and I don't think bumper stickers are silly. The reason I've resisted is that I think once I open the gates, I won't be able to stop the flood. There are so many slogans and statements that I would like to make, if I were so inclined, that my car could quickly become a screaming radical.
Nevertheless, I've decided to take the plunge. My friend Edie just gave me a new bumpersticker, and it's just too sweet to resist. It says "Has anyone seen my constitutional rights?"
The floodgates open tomorrow, as I put on my first bumper sticker in years. (The last one was a "Lance Brown for President" one on my old Ford Van, may it rest in peace.)
I thought that was a pretty clever and smart activism effort. Definitely a little brash and controversial, but still a really clear and demonstrative way to illustrate the discrimination embedded in affirmative action.
The comments of one of the opponents of the event kinda cracked me up. From this article:
Hoku Jeffrey, a fourth-year Berkeley ethnic studies major and member of the pro-affirmative action group By Any Means Necessary, spoke in defense of the ethnic preference program to media in front of the BCR bake sale table.
"I thought it was ironic that what they thought they were doing was anti-affirmative action, when they only succeeded in bringing to light the need for affirmative action," Jeffrey said. "They were conceding that there is a racial disparity in pay. If people are getting paid differently, it's only fair that people pay different prices."
He stops at just a step away from saying that the Affirmative Action pricing scale the Republicans were using (25 cents for all minorty women but Asians, 50 cents for the males of those minorities, a dollar for white women, and two dollars for white males and Asians of both sexes-- a model apparently based on the UC system's own preferences system) would be a good model to carry out into the market.
Maybe he's rght...if we made it that blantantly clear that Affirmative Action equals racism, perhaps we would finally bring the system to a deserved end.