You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Politics’ category.

Much as I would like to indulge in witty and ironic commentary about the results of the 2016 general election, it would be yet another steaming load of pathetic word paste gumming up the internet. There are no words or sentences you could construct that would make a meaningful difference in the direction our wobbling American culture seems headed for.

I’m left with the conclusion that only civil disobedience can disrupt the unholy congress of corporate media, banking, energy and the foetid red-light district of governmental-industrial conjugation. After all, aren’t the B-school gurus always going on about disruption? It’s good, right?

Could it be that donors and lobbyists amount to a 3rd house of Congress?

Enormous corporations, it seems, no longer have need of our democratic republic. Fortunes are stashed abroad, sheltered in tax havens lest a slice finds its way into public kitty. Thanks for the use of American infrastructure- you know, public education, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, FBI, FDA, NIH, NASA, NSF, public highways, airways, NOAA, etc., etc. Deregulation is creeping forward. We live in a period of reconstruction. Neoliberal doctrines have taken hold and may be near a critical mass in state legislatures, perhaps to bring a modern constitutional convention.

America has become a big barrel of fish, stunned by the high voltage of short life-cycle electronic marvels and easily harvested. We’ve become increasingly compliant with the tightening harness of ever advancing complexity and the cloying whispers of big data.

Neoliberalism has its flying leathers on and wants to take flight. There are minerals to extract, civic institutions to suffocate and public lands to privatize. Like the quivering desire of a lusty 18 year old, capitalism knows only one thing- that it wants more. Always more and in bigger gulps. The second derivative dollars over time must be greater than zero in perpetuity. Our brains soon grow tired of static luxury and comfort. Satisfaction, like our lives, is only transient.

The invisible hand of the market, we’re told, will surely trickle down a baptism of unexpected benefits to the masses, if only the rotten buggers would let the acquisitive have their way. After all, if your taxes are lower, the first thing a business owner will do is to add hirelings. Yes?

Wait a minute … if business is flat, why add staff? Why not keep the premium handed to you by the 99%?  Hmmm.

The gospel of laissez-faire is practically physics, you know. A force of nature both inevitable and irreducible.

Taking to the streets is a form of persuasion that has rewarded many movements here and abroad. In thermodynamics, power is the rate at which work is done through the transfer of energy resources. Anthropological power lies in the ability to allocate and focus resources on a need or desire. Money is power because for a price, you can persuade someone to get most anything done. There is no shortage of those who would step up to the challenge or sell their souls or accept any spiritual disfigurement for the hefty feel of lucre in their hands.

If the tin ear of corporate media are deaf to the reasoned voices of those who don’t buy advertising, then what is left for us to do? Elect a businessmen? This general election cycle a species of disrupter was elected president. This charismatic fellow can work a crowd like Castro or Hugo Chavez or Mussolini or (add your own dictator)? A large crowd in the spell of a colorful and grandiose orator seeking high office meets the show business definition of “compelling.” If the event results in fisticuffs or tempers flaring like Roman candles, so much the better.

Electronic news broadcasting is really just show business. A key element of a good story is conflict. Look at any movie. The writers take a sympathetic character and do terrible things to them. There is a chase, violence and intrigue, reconciliation and a twisty ending. Sound familiar? TV is made to do this and they are good at it. And it sells. Watch Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.

Civil disobedience, as opposed to picketing, makes meaty footage because there is the possibility of imminent violent conflict. It is compelling. As an exercise in power, though, immediate resolution rarely happens. The power aspect comes to play when and if the establishment is forced to confront awkward questions. Often establishment authority is refractory to public scrutiny. Other times it folds like a lawn chair.

 

 

 

Over the last few decades the notion of political correctness has been held, particularly by conservative and conservative protestant evangelical elements in the electronic media, as evidence of moral decay or wrong-headed concern for frivolous sensibilities. Political correctness has been hailed as a form of speech expressing hypersensitive and exaggerated deference to the sensibilities of groups or to certain political beliefs. The words “political correctness” and “liberal” themselves have become epithets through repeated accusatory statements attempting to poison the well of progressive credibility.

Born in 1957, my growth and schooling has been coincident in time with a good deal of what is now called political correctness (PC). My perception of what lead to PC is not hard to describe. Over these years, especially in the 1960’s, there was a conscious attempt by progressive, fair-minded people to remedy the effects of centuries of bias and oppression of minority groups by the caucasian dominated power structure under the heading of Affirmative Action. The civil rights act of 1964, the voting rights act of 1965, the Stonewall riots, assassinations, counterculture, expanding feminism, and a controversial land war in Asia lead to a large scale pushback of the establishment.

During 1960’s the threat of nuclear annihilation and the domino theory of communist aggression had already been in the popular conscious mind since the early 1950’s or before. Add to this the internal upheavals listed above and you have a period of great anxiety and turmoil. For many young people like myself, the notion of equality and fairness to all was imprinted by television, teachers, and a few adults. But especially, seeing the growing integration of black Americans on television programs gave way to a strong normalizing effect on myself and others in lily white Iowa. I began to suspect an essential arbitrariness of racial discrimination.

By the time I moved west and entered high school in 1972 the notion of racial equality was openly embraced by many of my fellow students and found in a few readings assigned in school. Busing desegregation was in full swing and news of controversy filled the airwaves. That is, when the Watergate congressional investigation was not playing.

I have come to think that the origins of PC has evolved from this era. In my view, PC is an attempt to level the playing field for diverse groups seeking equal treatment and opportunity. It was manifested in law by way of operational practices in hiring and equal protection in general. The military embraced racial equality in a large way through recruitment and promotion. But perhaps the most obvious form of PC is in language. The use of epithets and slang that demeaned a person’s race or religion gradually became taboo in many parts of the country. Since the 1970’s this taboo on demeaning language and treatment has broadened and institutionalized to include gender, sex, and sexual preference.

In my college years a ban on epithets and belittling or demeaning language was part of the institution’s mission statement and policy. When I eventually taught at the college level, we were expected to speak and treat everyone in a fair and civil manner, respecting the individual and their rights to their beliefs and speech.

Research has shown that the nuances of grammar in a language affect the way the speaker perceives people and objects (see Boroditsky below).

The fact that even quirks of grammar, such as grammatical gender, can affect our thinking is profound. Such quirks are pervasive in language; gender, for example, applies to all nouns, which means that it is affecting how people think about anything that can be designated by a noun. How Does Language Shape the Way We Think?  Lera Boroditsky [6.11.09].

If, as Boroditsky argues, the subtleties of language can affect perception of the world around you, then it follows that caution must be applied in the nouns and verbs we use in reference to one another lest we infer meanings that are offensive, unintended or slanderous. Plainly we do this all the time with people we know and care for. In regard to those we do not know, is it defensible to make broad assertions that are demeaning or belittling? It will be defended by the meek and the bellicose if bystanders do nothing. And that is what has been happening over the last few decades over conservative talk radio, TV, and even religious broadcasting. These broadcasters repetitively spew divisive rhetoric meant to drum up anger and frustration in it’s listeners. It has worked well. If this kind of rhetoric didn’t work, do you think they would use it anyway? Anger and conflict attract audiences and audiences attract advertisers. Ad revenue encourages purveyors of truculent and intransigent rhetoric to continue. Witness the popularity of Rush Limbaugh with his golden voice and vitriolic diatribes.

If a child grows up hearing and using language asserting that skin color defines people as “other” or “lesser” or “lazy”, this distinction as other or lesser or lazy can become normalized in the child’s thinking.

So, what is wrong with the language of political correctness if it is the attempt to promote fairness and equality? Like any aspect of language, it inevitably undergoes meaning-creep. PC may devolve into ridiculous conflicts when people overreact to a perceived slight and claim that they have suffered some mental trauma. Likewise, PC may cause institutions to enact policy overreach in an effort to avoid perceived threats based on a breach of PC.  Like any social meme, PC can be taken too far. But that doesn’t mean that the concept is without merit.

If we truly want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then it must apply to everyone. Why wouldn’t we clean up our language a bit, if for no other reason than to enjoy reciprocity?

 

Thus began Mr. Toad’s wild ride.

An article by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters writing for News Week reports that the North Carolina Senate will introduce a bill called “Energy Modernization Act. SENATE DRS25123-RIxz (01/22)”. A part of this bill will enact the extraordinary authority to make disclosure of fracking fluid information without permission a felony- i.e., a criminal act. Normally, cases of disclosure of commercial confidential information is a civil matter leading to injunction and/or monetary awards.

A quick look at bill shows the following language:

SECTION 7.(a) Article 27 of Chapter 113 of the General Statutes is amended by 26 adding a new section to read: 27

Sponsors: Senators Rucho, Newton, and Brock (Primary Sponsors).

§ 113-391A. Trade secret and confidential information determination; protection; 28 retention; disclosure to emergency personnel.

… [refer to page 11, line 39]

(d) Penalties for Unlawful Disclosure. – Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section or as otherwise provided by law, any person who has access to confidential information pursuant to this section and who discloses it knowing it to be confidential information to any person not authorized to receive it shall be guilty of a Class I felony, and if knowingly or negligently disclosed to any person not authorized, shall be subject to civil action for damages and injunction by the owner of the confidential information, including, without limitation, actions under Article 24 of Chapter 66 of the General Statutes. [italics by Gaussling]

There are numerous exceptions for government officials who have a need to know this information in the course of their responsibilities as well as emergency medical personnel who demonstrate a need to know.

One has to ask why the Senators wrote law to render disclosure of commercial information relating to fracking fluids a Class I felony as well as an act being subject to civil litigation. Do they believe this is in the public interest? This act will make it difficult for people to monitor ground water for tell-tale components of drilling or fracking fluids because the composition of the injected fluid is confidential. If you are not allowed to identify the input fluids, how can you claim that contaminants found are related to fracking?

Does this law also mean that being in possession of a material safety data sheet (MSDS), a shipping document required by law, could constitute a violation? Oh, even better, will the MSDS contain enough information to be useful to workers, emergency responders, or fire inspectors on the scene and without delay? Or will the material be listed as a mixture of Stuff A, Stuff B, and Stuff C? And by the way, don’t get this shit in your eyes.

So, Senators Rucho, Newton, and Brock. What about the Class I felony G.S. 95-197? Doesn’t that contradict some language in your law?

I    G.S. 95-197 Withholding hazardous substance trade secret information.

It seems like the sponsors are helping someone render future litigation and recovery of damages much more expensive and complex. Does this help your constituents? I mean, you know, the ones who are not corporate entities.

 

 

Here is an idea for debate. Why not pitch our flawed constitution overboard? Replace it with one that supports a parliamentary form of government rather than the fractious, unworkable presidential system we have now. Who else in the world uses this system of government? Why is it that most other forms of government in the world are parliamentary in structure?

Make the US government more responsive to the citizenry by rendering the election cycle time dependent on confidence in the leadership.

The US constitution needs a rewrite. Among the distortions in the constitution-

  1. The metaphysical equation of money with speech.
  2. The foggy language of the 2nd amendment that engenders armed fanaticism
  3. The indistinct barrier between the secular and theocratic civic influences. Keep religion and other magical thinking out of governance. Preserve freedom from religion.
  4. The near impossibility of getting a bad president or governor out of office.
  5. Clearer language is needed on what is actually meant by the right to petition congress. Currently this has lead to an intractable cancer of corruption between government and the movers of wealth. (Consider the F-35 strike fighter or the lack of tight control over Wall Street investment banks)
  6. Apparently the rules for the waging of foreign wars are indistinct because current constitution or presidential structure seems to allow the US much flexibility and low accountability with invasions and sending ordinance across borders.

There are more problems with the constitution. Maybe the reader has thoughts on this? The problems of presidential systems have been studied and this Slate article summarizing the issues is worth reading.

In the news there are reports of pending action by the US in Syria. Maybe I have a blind spot. Maybe there is some fundamental principle I am missing here. But how is it that a mass killing by gas elicits a response from the US when a larger mass killing by bullets and high explosives does not? Where are sympathetic Arabs in the region? How are they exempt from delivering bombardment as justice for the dead?

Obviously, gas attacks lie across a firebreak of some kind. What is the Syrian death toll now- 90,000 + by bullets and bombs? And that does not trigger international action? Apparently, grisliness is not a deciding factor.

This isn’t about justice at all. It is a smack down on setting a precedent with NBC warfare- nuclear, biological, and chemical. It is a genie we cannot allow out of the bottle … in the land of the genie.

So, here is the scenario-  the US will begin a strike at 3 am with cruise missiles to soften up the target area and air defenses. Stealth fighters will fly in to attack everything that flies. Penetrator missiles will demolish air, missile, and command and control bases. But what to do about the nerve gas armaments? Are they bombed or isolated? Who recovers them right after the attack? Al Qaeda? Let’s hope not.

This whole thing is a troubling moral discontinuity. By policy we watch many tens of thousands murdered by bullets and high explosives, but act on policy that triggers when gas is used. There may not be an answer, but there certainly is a smell. The smell of death.

I have to say that I am tickled to death over what young Edward Snowdon has done in regard to his leaking of the NSA PRISM project. Funding and compelling otherwise well intentioned civil servants to sift through the transmissions of US citizens and allies under the false idol of “national security” represents a sort of cancer of civil society. The future is not for the faint hearted. Unfortunately, the faint hearted are in charge.

The assertion that X number of terrorist attacks were prevented by internal espionage activity is patronizing rhetoric uttered by functionaries who are powerless to actually prove it. Obviously we have enemies. We’ve earned it. The US is not a target simply because “we love freedom”, a slogan so infantile that it is a wonder that Bush II was able to utter it with a straight face. We are a target because of decades of foreign policy overreach.

The US federal government and allied corporations are so brain addled over Middle Eastern politics and security that congress is deadlocked over what amounts to a new form of the guns v. butter problem.  Congressional members, I’ll say Republicans in particular, live in another world distorted by wealthy patrons.  In their view, civilization is something that markets do rather than the other way around. This is a natural viewpoint if you control a lot of wealth- or hope to.

Simplistically, we input defense dollars into the military machine and privately owned petroleum comes out the other side. So, the stockholders of Exxon, Chevron, etc., are protected from risk on foreign territories by the US armed forces. US taxpayers pay for this but petroleum companies seem to carry little of the burden.

What we have gotten in return for our foreign petroleum adventures is pushback in the form of guerrilla warfare, commonly called terrorism. The term “terrorist” has been transmogrified into some form of supernatural evil. Really, a terrorist is a criminal. Killing people and destroying property is a crime and it is immoral. It is not evil incarnate. We are not in a supernatural battle between good and evil or God and Satan.

If Snowdon’s action was to shine a little light on how the government commits espionage on its citizens, then I say good for him. In doing so he broke the law. He violated contractual agreements on disclosure and should pay a price for that. But in regard to accusations of treason based on what facts are available, I cannot agree with that charge.

I am torn on the matter of Defense Secretary Panetta lifting restrictions on combat duties for women. I understand the rationale for greater upward mobility for women in the military. And I grasp that women are already operating in combat areas.

The point I want to offer is this:  rather than broadening the range of the population who may be exposed to combat, perhaps we should put as much energy into demilitarizing just a little bit. If bringing women fully into combat is a solution, then maybe we do not understand the problem.

As an advanced society the USA should be striving to avoid the production of disabled combat veterans. Could it be that we should engage in less combat? Isn’t that the solution we should be seeking?

Right now the USA is so heavily armed with kill-at-a-distance lethality that we have become at ease with radio-controlled diplomacy.  When you have the US arsenal in your pocket, everything looks like a helicopter landing zone.

There is so much money to be made in plundering petroleum resources abroad and in military armaments and materiel that a persistent and refractory global sub-economy of state-protected mineral extraction has frozen in place. With every kilowatt of new load connected to the power grid and with every clever new military toy that is invented we tighten the spiral toward a global energy war.

Where does this new load come from? All of the microprocessed consumer devices certainly contribute. All of the wall-wart chargers for cell phones, iPads, laptops, etc., put stress on the power distribution system and in due course create demand for fossil fuels. This demand is manifested in several ways- 1) electric current to power the devices, and 2) all of the upstream power needed from mine or wellhead to produce ultrapure gallium, arsenic, tellurium, silicon, aluminum, titanium, boron, polyethylene, polypropylene, organic semiconductor materials, etc.

If we take the view that exposing women in our volunteer military to the horrors of combat represents some kind of progress, then I beg to differ. I would like to suggest that the folks in the DoD, the administration, and the congress have salved over a civil service inequity in exchange for equal opportunity for a spectrum of life altering traumas. In regard to military matters, our government and military elites are swept up in a food web of moral corruption so systematically ossified that I do not see how we can steer civilization away from a Malthusian step change.

Why does Russia vote the way it does in the Security Council of the United Nations in relation to Syria?  Could it be that they are anxious to protect their only Mediterranean naval base located in Tartus? I’m sure this fact plus a great many skeletons in the closet from past activities based in Syria or in support of Syria over the decades contributes to their position.  The total collapse of Syrian society would likely have an adverse effect on their naval operations in Tartus as well as the loss of a significant diplomatic investment accumulated over time. Of course they are reticent to back the overthrow of the al-Assad regime.

China is nothing if not consistent. They seem to vote against all measures critical of existing governments, irrespective of the atrocities in play. This is pure self interest and I’m guessing it is to telegraph the notion to an internal audience that rebellion is never acceptable. Pretty obvious, I suppose.

Lets give a big Bronx cheer for Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Technologies (UTC), for illegally providing turbine engine technology to China.  And, while we’re at it, lets give a toot for Hamilton Standard for providing the control software.

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, the Canadian division of Pratt & Whitney provided engines for the production of the Chinese Z10 attack helicopter. It is worth the read.

The Chinese helicopter that benefited from Pratt’s engines and related computer software, now in production, comes outfitted with 30 mm cannons, anti-tank guided missiles, air-to-air missiles and unguided rockets. “This case is a clear example of how the illegal export of sensitive technology reduces the advantages our military currently possesses,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said in a statement released on June 28.  The Atlantic, July 6, 2012.

According to the Federal Contractor Misconduct Database of the top 100 offending corporations, UTC ranked number seven.

OK. I’ll state the obvious. This is a very eggregious crime.  If an individual did this, the outcome for such a person might be considerably more punitive. But an amoral corporate being like UTS and it’s wayward subsidiary Pratt & Whitney, the consequences are more abstract. A $75 million hit to the bank account for aiding a nation who’s military influence in the eastern Pacific rim is increasingly in conflict with US interests.  Not a trivial consequence, but nonetheless a consequence that does not match the transfer of sensitive technology to a country with values antithetical to US policy.

Archives

Blog Stats

  • 496,417 hits