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Total number of comments: 38 (since 2013-11-28 15:36:18)

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  • Bahrain King forbids Protest Rallies
    • As someone who's read a lot of history, this doesn't sound good; not for Bahrainis, not for the region, not for American/oil sheikh relations, not for world socio-political evolution, not good for much of anything.

  • Candidates flee East Coast as Frankenstorm takes Revenge for their Ignoring Climate Change
    • Quote: "One of the many indexes of the failure of American democracy is that our candidates can’t even publicly say the name of our worst nemesis."

      Because our own worst nemesis is ourselves, and our appetites for comfort and leisure.

      This does not necessarily mean that we are "bad" people, or that we must live out our lives in shame while foraging food to be eaten cold. People get so hung up on their cultural/moral definitions of "good" and "bad" and their need to label everyone else with one or the other, it seriously impedes positive thought and action. Of course, people's need to label themselves as "good" in all circumstances also seriously impedes positive thought and action.

      If our appetites have been so huge, and our ability to deal with our waste-products has been so poor, that we end up killing prosperity, civilization and even life itself for our grandchildren, then, of course we have been very, very bad for our grandchildren (yet perhaps good to the ants, roaches and rats who will take over).

      We won't know the full answer to that for some years. It's now time to take all those confused feelings of shame and pride and greed, and apply them to seriously changing our political and economic environments in a less-dangerous direction. Luckily, changing our political and economic environments is something we humans do, willy-nilly in all incoherent directions simultaneously, all the time. We can't help it, we re-establish old political and economic patterns, and create new ones, with every thought and action of our lives.

      The trick is building a culture in which the positive elements outweigh the negative for a majority of people over a multi-year, multi-decade amount of time.

      Time to get busy, folks.

  • US must Pressure Bahrain on Human Rights (Strindberg)
    • Thank you, Anders Strindberg, for an excellent overview of the dirty details of America's imperial adventures in just one particular case, and a very sensitive case given a particular country's multi-year project to demand a war of the US against Iran.

      It is important in this time to have sound minds and stout hearts to re-elect President Obama -- he is by far the most progressive Presidential choice Americans have, who has a possibility of being elected.

      Yes, he is inadequate in many ways stemming from his acceptance of so many retrograde facets of the American Empire, yet we the progressives have notably failed to support him as he needed to produce any real change -- there were over 120 million voters in 2008 to get him in, but less than 80 million in 2010 to allow a toxic Republican party to take Congress hostage. And today, where are the 30 million who understand why we need to make peace with Iran, where are the 50 million who understand the cancer of the national security state? We're out there, however we haven't organized effectively to demand the change to imperial policies that will become ever more necessary -- ever more promptly -- as the atmosphere continues to heat up with our energy use by-products.

      It's time to begin more intelligent discussions. Whatever happens in 2 weeks -- and it is a crucial time, as it's close enough the GOP might be able to steal it -- we're going to need a new prospective progressive Presidential candidate in 2016. Are we going to continue to suffer with whatever Clintons and Bidens and Bayhs the mainstream wants to feed us, or can we build an effective politics of reform and change that will actually benefit our children and grandchildren?

  • The US & Pakistan: The Mr & Mrs Smith of Foreign Policy (Hiro)
    • Can you possibly imagine: the newly elected President, in his inauguration or first address to Congress, announces a policy of dropping BOTH Pakistan and Israel as major non-NATO allies, essentially because neither nuclear-armed power supports the USA, or world peace (as opposed to their own regressive, selfish nationalist ambitions), in any meaningful way.

      Here at the end of 2012, looking at one of two men as a newly elected President in 2013, this scenario is fairly impossible to imagine.

      Each and every one of us, however, has the power to become one of a small group of committed individuals who make such a policy possible in 2017 or 2021 -- and of course we will also need a very much larger group of citizens and voters who know the necessity of such policies, and who know how to demand and support politicians who will actually implement such policies, and reinforce these policies when they run into the inevitable difficulties.

      Here in 2012 in America, we can't even have realistic discussions of drones or civil liberties or the Fourth Amendment or drug prohibition or climate change or the god-awful Homeland Security administration.

      There is so very much that we as progressive, forward-looking people have to do to even begin to get towards a better country and a better world.

  • Romney's Five Wars
    • Thank you again, Juan, for a most clear and cogent analysis.

      We Americans who are concerned with long-term peace and civil liberties are not being well-served by either major party, yet as discussed in this space previously there are quantitative and qualitative reasons to work for and vote for Obama in this election.

      Nevertheless the continued growth of the military and the related security bureaucracy is in some not-small part our own fault as peace-seeking Americans, as we have yet to organize ourselves well enough to counter the pressures from the military-industrial complex. The occupy movement was a nice start, it would be shame if our young people's passionate belief in participatory democracy made it more difficult to build effective organization in an era that is theoretically more open than ever to effective self-organization.

  • Romney Jumps the Shark: Libya, Egypt and the Butterfly Effect
  • NASA Explains how We Caused the Hottest Decade and are generally screwing ourselves over (Video)
    • Thank you, Scarlett, for your creative and intelligent activism.

      You help prove that we make and re-make our culture every day, with our every thought and action (and omission). The analysis of the situation must be very dire, and that is precisely why it is so necessary to confront it with a positive and creative attitude, constantly seeking out ways to make this terrible situation somewhat better, to figure out ways to communicate an effective message, to organize ways to multiply individual energy.

      I work at a big retail space in a big West Coast city, we get all of America's lower and working class passing through. A lot of people do come off as being ignorant at first glance, a more charitable assessment comes from seeing a psychological self-centeredness and social isolation that becomes ingrained by a certain age (younger for some than for others).

      These "ignorant" folks do trend as older, most of the twenty-year-olds seem to be pursuing some sort of intelligence, in a cruel and confusing world. Post-modern irony goes a long way towards holding the world's problems at bay, but your cohort will be the ones to face the consequences in 20 years. Know your choices shape the world's outcomes, don't accept the cynics and pessimists, refuse to accept crap. Oh yeah, and understand you're adults now, get over the narcissism and poor social communication our culture has, unfortunately, tended to teach you, and get organized for optimistic, positive outcomes.

  • Top Green Energy Advances Mitt Romney doesn't Want to Hear About
    • I would be grateful to any one who could help me over my senior moment, of failing to see how ski-lifts can be used to store wind- or solar-genterated electricity.

  • Mitt Romney's coming War on Iran: A Tale of Two Conventions
    • Ironically, if the hate-Iran crowd could ever see it, to the extent that Iran may be trying to get nuclear weapons, they are trying to gain a status which will be a much more severe restraint on their political behavior than American/Western sanctions: the self-enforced detente of Mutually Assured Destruction.

      Once they have that one bomb (again, if indeed that is their goal) they can't use it -- without the threat of receiving Israel's hundreds of nuclear weapons and America's thousands of nuclear weapons! The behavior of the superpowers since 1949 gives many examples: the prospect of likely damage to one's own nation provides an extremely powerful reason to restrain one's own behavior and seek some sort of detente or armed truce with nuclear-armed adversaries (even though actual compromise and conflict resolution are still too much to ask of modern states).

      If Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon and is facing Western sanctions, that will tend to enrage it. If Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon and is facing Western sanctions, it will tend to respond with craftiness, guile and evasion. Yet once Iran actually has a nuclear weapon, their own self-interest in their own nation's survival becomes a very powerful impetus towards restraint in the geopolitical/military sphere of action.

      Those with an irrational fear of Iranian nuclear ambitions have to demonize Iranians as being not concerned with their own well-being, as being irrationally and uniquely capable of allowing ideological whims to overrule national self-interest. I can't buy it.

  • Plot to Provoke war with Iran thwarted by Navy analyst
    • Both candidates are parties to the power structure we all loath, however, with an Obama victory there is at least possibility -- yes, even the much derided promise of "hope."

      I don't expect Obama himself to suddenly change his very centrist career/personality, however the contrast between the situation of an Obama second term with the grassroots moving ahead on a wide variety of fronts, as disorganized yet fertile grass roots will do, and just the possibility that 350.org or someone like them will succeed in getting serious popular movement for change and reform of the worst of the tendencies towards climate disaster, and the prospect of a Romney term -- which in my opinion can only occur with serious vote suppression/fraud in the first place -- leading to retrogressive environmental policies, entrenchment of conservative dominance of the state and federal judiciary branches, the high likelihood of neocon wars, and the certainty of an institutionalization of voter suppression and vote fraud, so non-Republicans can never win again, is indeed a very great contrast.

      Dear JT McP - the situation does bring forth analyses of the direst pessimism. However, for the sake both of one's personal health and the health of positive cultures and subcultures, it is extremely important to maintain an attitude of optimism and constant calculation of how the situation might possibly be changed away from complete pessimism. If you expect only a few near-wolflike families to survive, you can't realistically expect your family to be one of them. Combine that with your expectation of no chance of reform, then why not just end it all now?

      I'd like to be of service to those who look at the dire prospects for disaster, and take the wisdom of Kropotkin in seeing how positive social action offers the best chance for survival.

    • May humanity go forward, just possibly? Or do we have to condemn our children to famine and war, as financial capitalism and petroleum-economy imperialism wreak havoc and ensure ocean death and severe climate crisis.

      Hopefully it's not quite that dire, I am the historian who emphasizes the role of "muddling through" in human progress. Every election is the most important election ever, since every election occurs in the context of real human lives happening NOW, nevertheless this election in the United States of America, on Nov. 6, 2012, is just about the final turning point in the petroleum economy/political power/climate crisis conundrum that ensnares and paralyzes us all. Can there be any possibility of goodness and reform at all, or are we condemned by our own stupidity to rot in our waste products?

  • Chinese telecoms giants are taking over the world. Should we be scared? (McClenaghan)
    • I have so far been impressed with the Bureau of Investigative Reporting, however, this was not their best product. (And I've had some substandard days lately too, however times are getting awfully warm to allow complacency or excuses.) Simply copying an Economist article, which like 98% of Economist articles ends with a "maybe good, maybe bad" is not quite enough.

      Some questions for someone who has the time to really investigate. What has been Huawei's role in domestic surveillance and repression? Does anyone know anything about that? What has been their role in Tibet, say, or how's their attitude about routing calls between Russia and Vietnam, or Japan to Burma, any evidence of Chinese state skullduggery there? How have they acted in Canada, have they hired Canadians, have they changed policies in any way, is there any evidence of Chinese "black ops" capability or action? IS the phone service better for Canadians? I'd love to hear the results of a deep investigation, in due time, wish I was younger and more free to do it myself.

  • The Collapse of the Climate Change Contrarians and the End of Coal
    • Unfortunately, money can buy "tactical" safety and relative comfort in the short term as the social environment dis-integrates, while you are quite correct that "strategically" in the long run there is no escaping the disaster if, as now seems likely, our industrial "civilization" has proved itself unable to escape its own waste products (CO2 and the resultant heating).

      So, unfortunately, we can expect the selfish to exacerbate all problems with their greed and arrogance as people -- our children and grandchildren -- begin to die from crop failure and as-yet-unforeseen catastrophes.

      As Kropotkin pointed out long ago, the most sane "survivalists" in crisis situations look to the strengths of society and social networks, not to their individual stockpiles of canned tuna fish, gold and guns.

      As the situation looks ever more dire, it becomes ever more important, at the personal level, that we maintain our supplies of optimism, hope, and willingness to work for change -- no matter how bleak the battle. Whatever it takes to get you there, sisters and brothers, this world is too nice to let it go down without one heck of a fight.

      Coming to an understanding of how our own thoughts and actions create all science and all religion, all economics and all politics -- which of course has been my intellectual hobbyhorse for 30 years and has helped me become so radical I can't get published -- might just be a crucial tipping point in helping us create a future that actually nurtures our children instead of condemning them to crisis, catastrophe and potential oblivion.

  • Aphorisms: Outrage
    • You want to get into aphorisms, OK. I can't pop them off every day anymore, but I'm good at this one. Let's go!

      I'm still getting mileage off my fave from 1997. "Which branch of American government is most corrupt? Executive, Legislative, or Judicial? Think about it, which branch of American government is most corrupt?"

  • Heartland Climate Scam Sinking, but so is Planet (McKibben)
    • McKibben puts it out there straight. Global warming does represent an intelligence test for humanity: can we organize, effectively enough and quickly enough, to change the conditions he accurately describes?

      If you believe in your computer, can yo make it a miracle-working machine to save your sorry planet?

      If, like me, you trust in people even more than in computers, can you get out and do that shoe leather organizing that will, for example, prevent any one climate-change-denialist Congressperson from continuing in office, in any district in America? Can we educate China and India to understand that their ability to produce and nurture future generations depends on their ability to control climate change?

      Again, it's the ultimate intelligence test for humanity. In my neighborhood, the ants are organized and hungry, they're just waiting for us to make a mistake for them to take over.

  • Syria: Famine and Civil War
    • We have heard, in this comments section, much of how the "right to protect" is essentially a smiley face upon the darker, more imperialist motives of more powerful nations.

      I would prefer to promote a long view. For over 300 years, international relations rested on the doctrine of absolute sovereignty (of the sovereign within its own territory) as defined and promoted in the Treaty of Westphalia. That was 1648. Three hundred plus years later, it is increasingly apparent that we have too many people on a (psychologically and philosophically) "shrinking" globe. The business of Syria is our business, the business of China is the business of Burma and Tibet and so on. Everybody is going to be, increasingly in our ultra-fast 21st Century, everybody else's business.

      If the Assad regime's latest massacre helps create new philosophical and political ideas among the past supporters of the regime, it may in time be seen as a crucial step in the extremely difficult business of building a new paradigm of international relations (which, of course, depends on new psychologies, new philosophies, new political conceptions and probably also some new economic relationships taking place within the minds of existing human beings).

  • The Great Fracking Catastrophe in Rural America (Cantarow)
    • A completely excellent article, illustrating well how high-tech innovations under crony-regulated capitalism can quickly become disasters of the highest order.

      It was back in 1996 that I wrote how "Throughout modern history, the worst murders and robberies have been committed by governments and their close allies, the economically dominant corporations." In assessing governmental crimes in America over the previous decade and a half, I ranked "The political-legal wars of the rich against the poor at home under Reagan, Bush and Clinton" as the #1 American governmental crime of those times.

      I see no reason to change those assessments at this time. That the sand-mining industry permanently destroys the physical landscape in addition to destroying local society, the local economy, and the local politics, makes this an especially reprehensible by-product of the plutocracy.

      We the 99% really need to consider all of our personalities and personality structures, all of our philosophical, scientific and religious explanations of why things are the way they are, all of our judgements giving honor, status and rank to other human beings in our societies, which forms the basis of our politics, and to consider all of our giving of value to physical goods and services, which forms the basis of our economics, as we make an effort to change this bad road we're on.

  • How the people's rights are abridged (James Madison Poster)
    • Yes indeed, James, I believe you are correct in this.

      Two centuries after James Madison's time, it is now time for those of us alive in this marvelous, mysterious and maddening 21st Century of the common/Christian era, to accept and understand how each and every one of our thoughts and actions, in every minute of every day, helps create the philosophical, political, economic and psychological elements of our cultures, which either facilitate or resist "the gradual and silent encroachments" on liberty (and all other aspects of life).

      We are creating our times. We are approaching the time (especially considering America's National Security Agency's records of every global phone call and internet activity over the last decade or so, if these could ever be studied by historians) when we can scientifically analyze how we are creating our times, how our every thought and action creates the sciences of History, Psychology, Philosophy (or as I prefer to say, Philosophy/Science/Religion), Politics and Economics, how our every thought and action creates our futures.

      It really is time for us to take responsibility for creating more intelligent individual psychologies and philosophies, so that we may create more intelligent cultures and subcultures, so that we can have some slight chance of meeting the many challenges that are sure to rush upon us in the coming days and years.

  • A man's duty to understand his world (Hemingway Poster)
  • Earth Day means nothing if We Don't Limit Carbon Emissions
    • The obvious intellectual conclusion, which no one will touch, is that human beings are not actually that intelligent.

      And further, that Anglo-American white bread Big Oil Big Media civilization, which did win World War II and build the interstate highways and put a man on the moon and which did provide a modicum of stability in overall global political relations since 1945 (except in those unlucky places and times where it was convenient, profitable or advantageous to some local client to allow armed political conflicts to develop or continue), is not very civilized overall and is not worthy of the worshipful over-respect it receives from American Big Media and the American Republican Party and its followers.

      I'm one of us, but I gotta call it like I see it, folks.

  • Afghanistan Massacre: Unstable Soldiers, Untreated Brain Injuries, PTSD
    • Thank you very much, Juan, for speaking up for the real interests of the ordinary soldiers in this terrible affair.

      Previous generations of generals, who truly were America's greatest, only wanted a shell of a professional military in peacetime, and considered the wave of volunteers that would enlist in a war that seemed necessary and patriotic, to be a basic strength of American strategy and policy. They worried about the problems of training such waves of humanity, and given the differing cultural attitudes of mid-Century America, came pretty close to achieving "industrial success" in mass manpower training in WWII. And their curriculum had a section on respect for local populations.

      How far we've come, and sadly, mostly in directions that we need to reverse.

  • Big Coal and Big Oil Wipe Kiribati off the Face of the Map
    • Dear Steve,

      Your analysis of how the American-led global fossil fuel economy may lead to the destruction of global civilization, in the next 20 years, is indeed a clear reading of a looming, very possible future. And that must be a spur to our intelligence.

      Back in the 90's, political activists in Portland OR organized two annual conferences with dozens of presentations on the theme "End Corporate Dominance." At the 2nd conference, I was privileged to co-sponsor a presentation with audience participation, on "Avoiding Burn-Out in Political Activism." So I'm just stating my credentials here, IMHO it is always very necessary to maintain an optimistic frame of mind in the minute-to-minute, day-to-day operations of living one's life, and the worse the desperation of the fight and the despair of the scientific analysis of the situation, the more necessary the optimistic attitude.

  • Khamenei Takes Control, Forbids Nuclear Bomb
    • The indirect evidence is very strong. The major American Media networks work very closely with the worst elements of our "secret government," to choose to highlight certain aspects of the news (especially to present negative stories against chosen enemies, such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq under Saddam), and to avoid ever mentioning American open government and secret government activities in places like Angola, Congo, Honduras, etc., or the fact that all American telephone calls and internet activity (based on phone lines) are still being monitored by the NSA.

  • Ring of Iranian Bases Threatens US
    • We, who wish a relatively sustainable environment for our grandchildren -- a goal that is looking incredibly optimistic unless we have a mass outbreak of human, social, political and economic intelligence -- have to be very strong.

      If the retrograde forces are allowed to accomplish the war crime of an Israeli and/or American attack on Iranian sites, it will show the complete degeneracy of American political institutions. Perhaps we can make some green movement forward with creative responses to the sudden collapse of most major economies with gasoline at $8. a gallon, not to mention a host of other less-than-optimal aftereffects of yet another Mideast war -- whether in or shortly after an American election year.

  • The Dilemma over Syria
    • The problem of the victors of World War II continues it's merry reign at the center of world geopolitics.

      I would recommend to all the collected letters of George C. Marshall, I've only read the first 2 volumes up to 1941 myself, I must admit, yet it gives great light on the challenges and compromises that he, Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower faced. They all knew they needed to keep the ideals of democracy alive. Yet Roosevelt and Truman allowed a little secret conflict of right-leaning and left-leaning intelligence circles within the American and allied defense establishment, through WWII and the first years of the Cold War, and it was around 1949 with the Berlin Blockade and the fall of China that Truman and Marshall, and later Eisenhower, allowed the cessation of the left-leaning intelligence circles and the triumph of the right-leaning circles (which were even then highly involved with the petroleum industry). This was the beginning of "the dark side" within the American Empire which surfaced into the shameful use of outright torture, and advocacy of torture, in Bush Administration circles in the early 2000's.

      I am the radical American historian of my generation, yet I am loath to outright condemn three Presidents and a Great Army Chief of Staff/Secretary of State who did get America out of a tremendous jam, mostly with very positive vision and action, go back and read the postwar documents, they would have been appalled at what American government has become. Yet they did set the seed, somewhere around 1949.

      Since I am a historian, I can say it's still too early to judge. Surely we need to get a global change of attitudes to make a transition into a less-known future without the pollution and climate-change-disaster-potential of the petroleum economy.

      We Americans also need to organize better and think better, in order to actually be able to organize within our own country with what's left of our democratic republic, to once again become a democratic republic providing something better to the international global reality, than the current elite-owned-and-managed, big-media-mediated political "marketplace" of American imperial corruption. IMHO, Obama is far from progressive, yet he is by far the most progressive Presidential option we can get right now. If you have energy, occupy your own local electoral marketplace, there's still time to find better candidates than sold-out conventional Democrats in all local, state, and Congressional races.

      I'm on the record for 30 years now, global democratic government is our future, and I'm for it -- although I do wish for thorough reforms to nearly all existing national governments first. Three decades ago, I could say we needed a 3 or 4-generation process of education and reform before we go to world government (which includes a global governmental monopoly of violence over all other challengers). Now we see the challenges (brought on by our globally-poor environmental stewardship, and our American-poor political stewardship) shoving the question of a global monopoly of violence closer to our faces, while the very urgency of challenges empowers the retrograde forces to make any global cooperation more difficult than ever.

      The ultimate transformations that may save us will be personal and cultural, yet that's no excuse for failing to work and push the small political activism every day. The life and the civilization you may save, may be your own.

  • The Generals try to stop an Iran War
    • It was back in 1971, that my father, who had started off working for Chevron after WW2 and built a business as a specialized supplier to refineries and cement plants, told me "tighten your belt," that a huge increase in the price of oil was coming.

      Calculate the worldwide opportunity cost of gasoline at $6. a gallon. In one way it might provide good effects, as a lot of manufacturing of metal and heavy items moved back to the USA and provided jobs here, because the cost of bringing in pottery and furniture from Vietnam and metal gadgets from China in freight charges alone would act as a tariff. But the many people in America and worldwide who couldn't bear the transport cost to their jobs, the costs of transport to our current food industries, the global 99% couldn't bear the cutbacks in everything else to keep up their transport, food & heating comforts, this would be an immense social and developmental cost. A whole bunch of "frothy" social software and game-playing internet-type investments and dreams could suffer just because of the pressure on all "non-basic" activities.

      And progressive American political junkies would go nuts, we would see if America's middle and lower classes are smart enough to tough out a radical-Republican-involved crisis no matter how much it hurt, and keep the faith of (relative) democracy and hopefulness against the flaming rhetoric and hatred of the even-more-enraged conservatives.

      Eventually, one of these crises will be bad enough to convince us to get off the petroleum economy for our own sustainability and peace of mind. I hope.

  • GOP Candidates Harm Israeli Security by Pushing for Impractical "Greater Israel"
    • It was back in the early 80's that I got paid to study & report on the Israel-Palestine problem, I remember the client had already received the first chapters when we had the August '82 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

      In all of the "opportunities for peace" that the Palestinians have supposedly missed, from '78-80 to the mid-'90's to the Clintonian final push of 2000, there has been one constant in the position of Israel and it's primary backer: no deal could have any movement on the question of Jerusalem (the expanded territory of which would continue to be Israel's capital).

      This deal has always been unacceptable to the Arab world (or at least so far to the most consistent financial backer of things Arabic in this world, the royal circles of $$$ in Saudi Arabia). Presumably the expansion of people power in the Arab world will not lessen the unacceptability of this demand for continued Israeli government over the vastly expanded territory of the old municipality of Jerusalem, when it is precisely the Dome of the Rock, in the center of Jerusalem, which was the focus of the Arab community that still lives n East Jerusalem, despite squeezing from the their Israeli neighbors.

      On their side, any question of movement away from their position on Jerusalem seems completely unsellable to the current base of pro-Israeli opinion worldwide. With the Republican party and something like 500 out of 535 members of Congress firmly on Israel's side, and segments of Likudist demanding war against Iran over nuclear weapons, we are really are set up for all sorts of apocalyptic oil-crisis Mideast war scenarios. (And no long term settlement of the Israel-Palestine issue can be envisioned, if these terms remain the postulates.) No apocalyptic senario, few consipiracy theories can be realistically denied, if Israel wants to bring down Obama before next November, all they have to do is attack Iran and the $10/gallon gasoline in America will bring down Obama.

      This is, of course, the general situation of humankind in the modern era. We face terrors on all fronts, despair looks us in the face, and that's all the more reason to be optimistic, confident, and ready to do better to fight harder to make your own personal part of the reformation come true. This time around it looks really serious: the continuation of the petroleum economy may already have doomed us to ecological crisis starting anytime now. To have the Israel-Palestine issue also promise immanent socio-military-economic catastrophe any month now, is very depressing. The ultimate judgement may be that mankind is not very smart after all. All the more reason, I say, to keep faith and work for something better.

  • Iraq, Iran and the Nuclear Phantasm: We've Seen this Picture
    • Israel probably has 100-200 nuclear weapons. Why are they so afraid of Iran getting just one?
      What makes the fear even more crazy, is that Israel probably has superior means of delivering a nuclear weeapon, in all major types of delivery, than Iran. Now I have two jobs, my wife is my boss inthe 2nd, shje's been pouring it on the last weeks. I am not the one who's going to be looking up the types of aircraft and types of missiles in the Jane's and the other standard reference sources on this sort of thing. But it's out there, and you can look it up. And I am willing to bet, without doing the research, that Israel will turn our to have superior aircraft, superior land-based missiles, better ship- and air-launched missile capacity, superior submarine resources, and while none of us who are not in the intelligence industries can be sure, Israel probably also has much superior capabilities for covert insertion of a suitcase bomb in Iran, than Iran has such capabilities against Israel.

      Why are they so paranoid? Is it all about fund-raising in the USA ??

  • Did Columbus Cause Climate Change?
    • We create and distribute our philosophies, our explanations of the world we find around us, we create and distribute the explanations of science and religion we use to create our cultural worlds. If we create an ideology of "we die, but so what, it's fated to be so," it helps us take a big step in that direction, it helps us be passive in the teeth of the crisis.

      Yet we also create and distribute our systems of what we value, and we create the systems of goods and services we manufacture and provide to fulfill those economic values we have created. And further, we also create and distribute the systems of social honor, status and rank we use to prefer one set of persons over another; although the connection is fairly tenuous in modern post-industrial society, this is the root of the systems of state power and governance we have invented to rule "the politics" of our social order.

      We could, if we wished, totally re-invent ourselves and our mental and physical cultures over the next twenty years, and perhaps somehow evade the foreseeable crisis.

      By definition, if we remain stuck in our present explanations, our present systems of status and rank, our present set of economic values, we can't change. And thus we and all our children, all our marvelous (and our not-so-marvelous) culture and entertainments and feelings will die, forever.

      What a deal. Which side are you on?

  • A tale of two Afghan Leaders, before and after 9/11
    • An excellent demonstration of how, so often in History, small eddies of a larger whirlpool continue to have significant effects of their own right, whether the larger disturbance grows, declines or remains stable/stagnant.

      Every thought every person has, every action every person makes, is a part of human history. It's up to all of us, in our function of continually creating and distributing explanations, continually creating and distributing philosophy, science and religion, to decide which thoughts and actions may be more significant than others.

  • Qaddafi was a CIA Asset
    • News that Qaddafi was actively cooperating with the Bush/Cheney torture regime is hardly surprising, I'm sure that the Libyan regime had been doing a little "intensive interrogation" of its own on Chadian rebels, etc., etc., it didn't like, probably since the 1970's.

      It is sad that people considering themselves "leftists" in America have developed some dogmas of their own over the years. I noticed it back in the 1990's, when I may have shared some of the reflexive hatred of anything that seemed to be part of a government/corporate power structure. Yet even as I shared the delight of the Cockburn crowd in finding the most "radical" analyses of the problems, they made it clear that any attempt at patient activism to build something better was also, in their eyes, to be scorned. All they wanted was ever-more radical denunciations of the situation -- and only from themselves, no new writers were welcome -- and to find some sort of radical purity in refusing to help Americans organize for anything better. Not that they were building anything, apparently subscriptions to their publications was the only goal.

      Obama has been a huge disappointment on the torture front, as well as on many other situations, his failure to prosecute or even "truth commission" the torturers will allow any future conservative administrations to revive torture. Nevertheless, the tens of millions of Americans who want something better are going to have to learn to organize patiently, to work together, to have a time focus beyond the next headline and/or the next election, and to figure out how to push the corporate-owned Democratic elected officials to actually serve positive ends. If well-meaning Americans allow themselves to become so disgusted with Obama that they permit Republicans to achieve any kind of victories in 2012, it's just about "game over" for any hope of future for our children and grandchildren. The temptation to sit back and curse Obama is very great, yet it would be a supreme world-historical mistake on our part. Please, Get Organized Now to get real Democrats in office in 2014 and 2016 !!

  • Jordan Plans Green Star Trek Theme Park
    • I was a 14-year old desperately trying to date the daughter of a supposed Star Trek writer, sixty miles away on the other side of LA, I had met her thru church groups. But his name wasn't in the credits of the first episode, and I never could get together with her. I watched most of the first five episodes, and could see the appeal of the actors/characters, but never got into it, even as I continued to read sci-fi novels and really got into them later.

      The point here is that the topic of cultural fragmentation (through new cultural phenomena such as transnational cult TV shows) and cultural unification (much hoped for yet seldom experienced) is one of the historical topics discussed most thoroughly by yours truly, most extensively in my 1980 book. (Search my screen-name for more information.)

      As I predicted there, cultural fragmentation has remained a burning-hot trend in recent years, every new fragment that emerges has new separations and particularities attached. The Trekkie + Green Energy theme of this effort is a cute gesture towards linking (an explicitly forward-looking cultural segment) with a conscious effort to change economic culture (because of a forward-looking concern with needed change). A gesture towards cultural unification in the midst of near-universal fragmentation.

  • Our News and their News
    • If you think mere military power, which we can't afford as a society, is the measure of imperial greatness, I suppose you may be correct.

      I was thinking of the totality of civilizational excellence in things like sustainable, citizen-powered (and citizen-empowering) political, economic and social cultures. Not to mention sustainable relationships with the rest of the world.

    • Your commentary is so refreshingly and consistently excellent, thank you so much for your work here.

      The U.S. is clearly in some sort of late imperial decline. Have you noticed Steve Coll's article in the June 6th New Yorker, the billions in aid we have given to Pakistan has fueled support for the Taliban and adventurism versus India, plus the Paki military's burrowing into the civilian economy.

      The only questions are how deep the rot has already gone, and how quickly the slide may accelerate. We're surely over 20% down from some sort of 1945-55 peak of relative power, but is it really 39% down or 61% down? Hard to tell. And the slide does seem to be accelerating with the increasing idiocy of the major media and the political class.

  • Syrian Security fires on Protesters, Kills 90
    • In response to pragmatic realist's questions.

      A. The situation in Syria has not yet evolved to the level of civil conflict found in Libya in mid-March, when world opinion and the major powers found their will to intervention. Yeah, another two weeks, Syria could get there, but so far it hasn't happened.

      B. The element of military mutiny and intra-military conflict which appeared in Libya prior to mid-March. Syria still has a functioning military under central regime command. And while I'm not a military analyst and do not play one on TV, I would assume that the Syrian military has always been at least one order of magnitude more formidable than Libya's.

      C. The state in the locality with the most concern for future Syrian aggression, a state which also has very effective methods of changing opinion in Washington DC, has so far not been vocal on Syrian regime change. Again, I don't pretend to know their inner debates, but Israel may be having its greatest attack yet of "the devil you know" syndrome at a crucial moment in Arab political evolution; they fear Syria, they hate Syria and all its leaders, yet for reasons of general familiarity, secret contacts and arrangements that may be in place, and general fear of the unknown, they believe that they would be even worse off with a genuinely populist Syrian regime and the attendant chaos, uncertainties, and new internal political dynamics that such a development would entail.

      D. And finally, even American neo-cons may realize we are broke and over-extended? The lack of noise from any and all factions on the American right would have to change before America would take serious action on the Syrian front.

      In conclusion, I am not your typical political realist who takes a sort of "of course your ideals will be crushed, little boy" sort of stance; but it is because I love and honor political ideals that I study the distance between such ideals and actual human realities. In nearly all cases, in all lands and times, that distance is very great.

      Our mission needs to be to create better political ideals, and better political realities, over time and through all channels and means at our disposal, to bring human ideals and realities into closer alignment.

  • War is Theft: Pentagon cannot account for $8.6 Billion of Iraq's Reconstruction Funds
    • Correction, in the first paragraph, that would be $42,500 per electrified individual Afghani citizen, not Afghani household, again assuming all these numbers I've checked a few times now are correct.

    • Think about those statistics. Approximately 30 million Afghans, spending $51 billion of giving them electricity and succeeding in increasing electrification from 6% to 10%, in other words from about 1.8 million to 3 million, or an increase of 1.2 million for $51 billion. I don't know where my calculator went, but I can work by hand too, and unless I really screwed up that's $42,500 per electrified Afghani household. How many hands were in there, importing high-priced Western goods, adding bribes and profits on top of real shipping expenses, hiring relatives of government officials or other well-connected smoothies as "consultants" or "advisers," and what percentage of those hands were from the NATO allies? A few Afghan hands got in there, I'm sure, but Juan is correct, northern Virginia is the location of a lot very respectable old retired people with very nice homes who have committed horrendous thefts and murders in lands outside the USA.

      I have generally been pro-foreign-aid in my writings, the climate change crisis is forcing me to re-think my long-held belief that we need international progressives to unite behind a 3-to-4-generation education campaign ending in a global, de-centralized, federal governmental structure. Maybe the crisis accelerates the desperate need to get there, maybe it's just a goal too far for us stupid apes, we could never do it well enough. I say all this to reinforce my credentials as an internationalist, I haven't stressed it on my website but it's in my collected writings.

      Nevertheless, do you think America in 2008-10 couldn't have used a well-targeted $51 billion more? How about $5 billion for budget support for each state, or a Civilian Conservation Corps (even with expenses nineteen times an average wage of $25 grand, equals $500,000 per worker) that employed 102,000 of the unemployed for a year? Even a straight giveaway or rebate of $167 to each citizen would have approximately doubled the annual tax reduction that the Democrats have enacted in recent budgets, might have made it tangible to the average citizen.

      Considering American public opinion, I think it's safe to say that less than half would voluntarily offer to pay $167 a year for electrifying 1.2 million Afghans if asked; if it was put to a vote and the Republicans were allowed any lying TV ads at all it, the proposition would fail by an 80 or 90-percent vote opposed.

      So the whole thing is very depressing to those of us who actually have hopes that human beings can use rational thought or intelligent diplomacy to solve actual problems. Afghan poverty and lack of electricity is there on the list of global problems, not the highest perhaps yet also not the lowest, but the American security-state-empire's way of dealing with them is clearly unsustainable, undesirable to the American taxpayers if they were actually given a choice in it, and un-supportable by clear-thinking friends of any kind of positive internationalism in humanity's future.

  • Big Oil's Predations are not Your Fault
    • Excellent article, Juan, Please keep up the good work.

      There are two things Americans can start doing now: organizing, and doing political work. "doing political work" does NOT mean commenting on websites that are already favorable to your own views; doing political work means getting out on streetcorners, knocking on doors, making cold phone calls, and otherwise engaging with your fellow citizens whom you otherwise wouldn't have met.

      Moveon.org is a good model for organizing, they just need to get a little more radical and understand that 70% or so of all Democratic party office-holders, at all levels throughout the country, are essentially corporate-owned, and are not the people we need in office. I see an organization which consciously organizes to have both a "moderate" and a "radical" wing, the first working politely through the Democratic Party to get rid of corporate Democrats, the second working more noisily outside the Democratic party to 3rd party candidates on the ballot against the worst of these corporate Democrats, and having organization members change party registrations as often as state laws and tactical maneuvers may dictate. It is also necessary to organize around goals, not ideologies: the goals are a reformed (non-petroleum-addicted) economy, a Constitutional Amendment ending corporate personhood, and major reforms in election finance and lobbying regulations. A lot of people share these goals, or can be convinced to share these goals, not nearly as many will ever share the same ideologies.

      I discuss this further in the "political ron" page of my website, http://www.philosophical-ron.com . The 12-page article on the "philosophical ron" page of that website is primarily concerned with outlining the democratic revolution of the social sciences that we need for the internet age, however the "politics" sub-section of that article has more on the deep roots of our political behavior and how those roots have become 'twisted' in our American political institutional structures, which may also be helpful for Americans and others seeking positive changes to prevent our civilization from choking on its own waste products.

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