John Perry Barlow: "But, according to the big media, Dean's 'yee-haaa' was the sound of political hara-kari. You would have thought they'd caught Dean in bed with either a live man or a dead woman. They belabored him for his shout as though he'd done something truly heinous, like, say, leading America into a major war under false pretenses, or robbing the poor to feed the rich, or dramatically curtailing civil liberties."
Dave doesn't hold much back in his retrospective on the primaries:
He doesn’t look so electable now, does he you spineless elitist fuckface pussywhimp maggots? Yes, you, the Deaniacs who think the American People are too stupid and backward to support a real progressive or know what is good for them, so you push another DLC-style centrist (and sadly, convince yourself he’s a progressive) because you’ve determined in your infinite wisdom that this is what the American People will accept. I mean, the whole “electability” thing reeks of both elitism and insecurity. Not standing up for what you believe in because you’re not sure if its popular is something I outgrew in the eighth grade… so how come so many Democrats still act like that?
Micah: "People keep asking me why I haven't added anything here for some time, and I point out that this isn't blogneglect, I was with full intention creating a silent space on the Internet for people to come and not have to read something new."
The Body and Soul weblog sums up the Dean fiasco:
It's pretty clear he's responding to the excitement in the crowd, and while it might not be a good idea to respond quite that vociferously when you're running for president, sports wouldn't be very popular if a whole lot of perfectly sane people didn't tend to get a little hyper in crowds. If it had been Bush, we'd be hearing about how much he has in common with football and hockey fans. Isn't he great? Just one of the guys. (emphasis added)
I've tasted one too many batches of vegetarian chili that leave me wanting the "real thing"--chili powder, meat, and beans. It may be that I've stopped eating meat except on holidays (for ethical, financial, and environmental impact reasons), but I think I actually prefer the following recipe to the ground muscle version.
I made this up last year, and have been refining it for a while. The refined version has been pretty popular among flatmates and dinner guests, so I thought I'd spread the love.
Have a more descriptive name? Suggestions are welcome.
1 can corn
2 big cans (800mL) diced tomatoes
2 medium cans (500mL) red kidney beans
4 stalks celery
3 heaping tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 big piece of ginger root
1 big onion
5 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch cilantro
10 oz spinach
In a large pot, heat corn, tomatoes, beans (drain 'em) and chopped celery. Heat until it starts to bubble, reduce to medium heat. Add cumin, mustard, curry, salt and cayenne. Stir frequently in order to keep the thicker part from settling on the bottom of the pot and burning.
In a small pot, heat 1/4 cups olive oil (a bit more if the pot has a large base). Peel the ginger with a spoon or the back of a knife, chop finely and add to the oil, which should be hot. While the ginger sautées, chop up the onion, add it to the oil, and then chop the garlic and add it as well. Stir occasionally, sautée the whole mix until it starts to brown. Add it to the main pot.
Wash cilantro, chop thoroughly, add to the mix. Cook for an additional 30 minutes; ideally, let it cook over low heat for an additional hour or two, to let the flavours blend. Serve over rice, with garlic bread, or both.
I've been advocating for years for someone to create a hypertext notepad (see notespace), but it seemed that my pleas for such a simple program were falling on deaf ears--or at least ears that were busy with other things.
VoodooPad, which is exactly what I was hoping for. You're presented with a straightforward, bare bones note pad interface, but you can type a bit of text, click on a 'link' button, and you've got a new page, automatically linked from the first one. Like a wiki, except without the clunkiness of the web interface.
If that wasn't cool enough (yes, it's dead simple, but no one did it for so long!), it appears to be capable of exporting any collection of hypertext pages as html, xml, word, or whatever, and even promises to get along with actual wikis.
Now, whenever I come across a scrap of text that I want to store, I don't have to create a new file (cumbersome), post it to the weblog (slow), or use stickies (argh!)... I can just type a title into VoodooPad, click on 'link', and paste.
A new level of fulfillment of my personal hypertext needs has arrived. Now, if I can avoid reading about politics for a few more hours, it'll be a great day.
Update: in my giddy enthusiasm, I didn't even notice that VoodooPad can interface directly with VPWiki (a wiki set up to be used with VP), and it plays well with the MacOS X file system: drag a file or folder onto the pad, and it creates a link that opens that file. Excuse me while my mind explodes while contemplating the massive expanse of things that were possible to do before, but never so obviously easy.
Download the poster [100k, pdf]
Wow, there's no North American mainstream coverage to speak of at the World Social Forum, which starts today. For those who hadn't heard, 80,000 people are expected to gather in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, to discuss ways to build social movements and more just ways of organizing society. Communists, anarchists, environmentalists, farmers, unionists, architects, fair trade advocates, and everyone else will hold hundreds of sessions discussing and sharing experiences, stories, techniques and skills.
I wish I was there.
One of the most interesting things about the forum this year is that it's set in India, which is in Asia. People in the west know very little about Asia, because the news coverage is about economics, a big disaster, or some war.
Le Monde picked up on this, titling their main article "A Leap Into the Unknown". A leap, that is, for all the European activists who are going to Mumbai. Who knows, for example, that All India Democratic Women, a women's rights group, has seven million members. Le Monde cites several other groups that have similar memberships bases.
This is interesting first of all because we seldom hear about Asian social movements in the west. The closest thing to mainstream coverage is the coverage of Falun Dafa, and its various problems with the Chinese government. As far as we know, the one billion people in India are helpless masses, participating from time to time in politics in the same status quo way that, say, most Americans do.
I can imagine that for each name on a map, there are hundreds of people (or thousands, or millions) working to improve things on a structural level. But it's something altogether different to see them in person, on their terms, in their place. (Or in my case, to read interviews with them online, and look at photos taken by people who are there.)
The other interesting thing is scale. Hearing about a country with a population of 1 billion, it's easy to imagine them as some homogenous mass, if only because understanding them each individually, or even in groups of 200,000, is a mental strain. Experiencing this anonymous mass as a series of individuals, with singular beliefs, practices, and experiences must be mind-blowing on some level.
That's not to say that the same thing doesn't happen while walking down the street in, say, New York. Living in NYC for a month one summer, I quickly developed mental mechanisms to block out having to deal with the shear magnitude of humanity around me.
The difference is that New York is here, a 13 hour car ride or a push of a TV power button away, constantly demanding to be reckoned with.
So long after the influx of thousands of westerners into Mumbai ceases to be mind-blowing, it will be important.
I personally look forward to the social connections that will be established between western activists and various movements in Asia (many countries are sending delegations to the Forum). At the very least, this will allow me--principally through the Dominion--to establish the connections to allow people in Asia to represent themselves to Canada without the intermediary of wire services or the rare correspondent who is not writing for the travel section.
The Nation: "The Republicans have adapted their Southern strategy to the new terms of sexual politics. What they once did with race, they are doing today with gender."
Bush does spent a lot of time talking about the "chainsaw work" (known to laypersons as "clearing brush", though not everyone has Bush's need to emphasize the involvement of a power tool). That, along with gratuitous references to getting to bed early (wink wink), is clearly a central part of Bush's political strategy/image.
The Nation article takes that line of thought quite a bit farther.
"My job, as commander-in-chief, will never be to send our brothers and sisters, our children and grandchildren, to fight in a foreign country without first telling them the truth about why they are fighting." --Howard Dean
Dean, it should be said, is not anti-war. His objection to a particular war in Iraq was specific; he doesn't, for instance, have any problem supporting the occupation of Palestine. It's also important to point out that he's no lefty. He's hardly even a "liberal".. Indeed, he shows every indication of being a standard business Democrat once elected. (He's going to help the rich merely get insanely rich, rather than unbelievably rich. How compelling.)
Hey, what do I expect? Anyone who opposes killing tens of thousands of people for corporate interests in principle is unelectable. And if they're not unelectable, then they will be by the time the pundit army gets through with them.
Despite all this, he apparently is a "really good guy", has a compelling presence, knows how to work a crowd, gives a good speech, has a ridiculous amount of fundraising capacity, and inspires lots of young idealists.
Gee, where do I sign up?
The real action, Wolf says, is at the edges of the network, where people who support Dean even while disagreeing with him on major policies meet together to share ideas, speechify, get riled up, and win people over to Dean's camp.
I don't have any objection to this, save perhaps for my belief that civic participation shouldn't begin and end with a personality cult. Maybe there are people who are meeting and talking to each other about substantial things outside of the guise of fooling themselves into believing that the Democrats stand for something progressive. That's great, but I'm not holding my breath.
On the other hand, I hold out naive hope that the establishment of networks both face-to-face and digital could, at some point, facilitate a sharing of information that is to some degree independent of the corporate media various structures of propaganda-repetition.
For now, though, the vast majority of Americans seem to be impervious to thoughts like "killing 10,000 people is wrong and fundamentally evil in every conceivable scenario. Period."
As an American citizen, I'll be voting for the Democrats in the next election, based on their record of fiscal responsibility and clear-eyed pragmatism.
When the Democrats decide to kill hundreds of thousands of people, they do it cheaply and efficiently. Using CIA-funded death squads, "smart sanctions", military aid to dictators, and surgical strikes, the Democrats have perfected the delicate art of global terrorism. The Republican emphasis on overblown budgets, deficit spending, troop-intensive campaigns, and fancy logistics is, by contrast, rather distasteful.
When you want to terrorize multiple populations of millions around the world, you can count on Democratic administrations to come in on time and under-budget.
This is deeply preferable to the spending debacles of Bush II and Reagan (not to mention the unnecessary deaths of fine young Americans). Indeed, there's an argument to be made that Clinton suceeded in killing more people and effectively terrorizing much larger populations than Bush has, at a fraction of the budget.
Most importantly, the likes of Clinton, Carter and Kennedy acheived a degree of subtlety in their killing campaigns. Bush's invasion of Iraq provoked worldwide resistance unprecedented in the history of the planet, but Democrats have managed to kill at least as many people, while maintaining solid reputations as moderates, even humanitarians.
As an example, take the differing approaches to Iraq. GW Bush and his father launched expensive and high-profile invasions that proved to be unsuccessful even granting the most charitable standards available. By contrast, Clinton starved over a million Iraqis to death, kept crucial medical supplies from entering the country, and bombed new targets every three days. Despite the awesome cumulative destructive power of this attack, Clinton's campaign was almost never in the news, spread out as it was over both of his terms.
In other cases, Clinton was even more efficient: by levelling a Sudanese factory that supplied most of Africa (as well as Iraq) with cheap pharmaceuticals with one cruise missile, he was able to lower the quality of life for an entire continent a relatively low cost. Meanwhile, the attack was off the news before its true effects could be felt.
The Democrats: more bang for your buck, and less backlash. After all: what are people going to do, vote Republican?
[The NDP just sent out an email announcing a new ad campaign against Martin's likely support of National Missile Defense, Star Wars, or whatever you want to call it. Here's my response...]
The NDP's reasons for opposing National Missile Defense/Star Wars:
1. Star Wars is expensive Star Wars could costs as much as $1 trillion. If Canada is asked to pay even 1/100th of the bill - it will mean $10 billion less for medicare, cities, and the environment. (Source: Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation)
2. Star Wars won't make Canada safer Starting the next arms race will do nothing to promote security. Canada's Department of National Defence warns Bush's missile defence plan paves the way for putting weapons into orbit (Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 9, 2004).
3. Star Wars doesn't work Star Wars technology has never worked. Last year the New York Times reported that one test missed its target 'by hundreds of miles'. In contrast, there's lots of technology to keep us safe from climate change. Where's the leadership for that?
With all due respect, these aren't the reasons that Star Wars is wrong. In fact, they share many of the assumptions that lead people to think that Star Wars is in fact a good idea.
If Star Wars was not expensive, did make Canada safer, and worked, would it be a good thing? No.
The reason is that, despite its name, NMD is an offensive weapon. Don't take my word for it; read the words of the Project for the New American Century (of which Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Jeb Bush are members). Quoting from "Rebuilding America's Defenses", a PNAC report:
Effective ballistic missile defenses will be the central element in the exercise of American power and the projection of U.S. military forces abroad. Without it, weak states operating small arsenals of crude ballistic missiles, armed with basic nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction, will be a in a strong position to deter the United States from using conventional force, no matter the technological or other advantages we may enjoy. Even if such enemies are merely able to threaten American allies rather than the United States homeland itself, America's ability to project power will be deeply compromised.
If you condemn NMD for the right reasons--that American Empire, global military dominance, or whatever you want to call it are wrong, and to be resisted instead of helped--then I'll support the NDP's fancy new politics a la Wired magazine.
A debate isn't worth starting unless it's based on all of the reality we have available to us.
dru oja jay
The New Republic: "Fundamentally, the Dean campaign equates Democratic support for the Iraq war with appeasement of President Bush. But the fight against Saddam Hussein falls within a hawkish liberal tradition that stretches through the Balkan wars, the Gulf war, and, indeed, the cold war itself. Lieberman is not the only candidate who stands in that tradition--Wesley Clark promoted it courageously in Kosovo, as did Richard Gephardt when he defied the polls to vote for $87 billion to rebuild Iraq. But Lieberman is its most steadfast advocate, not only in the current field but in the entire Democratic Party."
OK, so I also say that there is broad consensus among the ruling elite in the US that dropping bombs and maintaining global military dominance is A Good Thing. But it's important to note that this isn't a fringe view.
(On a more snipey note, how the hell is advocating dropping bombs and sending other people's kids to die "courageous"?)
On other topics, it's deeply strange to read TNR (and almost everyone else in the US and Canadian mainstream) saying that "average voters" are all for free trade and empire. This kind of imputing of values is as bizarre as it is sick. As if these people hang out with "average voters" and have any sense of how the cherished policies of the elite are affecting them.
If you replace: "average voters" with "my boss, or some other authority I aspire to emulate without understanding", then the analysis starts to be truly insightful.
In a recent speech, Michael Crichton calls environmentalism a religion based on lies.
It's not really to his credit that much of the speech consists of straw man arguments. He names specific names approximately twice.
His main point is that environmentalism needs to be based on scientific facts, which are checked and rechecked by multiple independent scientific studies.
Fair enough; there is, no doubt, room for improvement in the way environmental science is carried out.
But he also makes a number of radical claims. Two examples:
"Second hand smoke is not a health hazard to anyone and never was, and the EPA has always known it.
"Environmentalism has already killed somewhere between 10-30 million people since the 1970s."
He doesn't bother to cite a source or justification for these claims. Nothing but one vague reference to a few magazines, no date or issue number provided. The version of the speech on his web site cites no sources. There is simply no substance to the argument that is available to the listener or reader.
And the categorical nature of his claims are hardly scientific. "Not a health hazard to anyone and never was"? Such a claim is so easily refuted: a person suffering from asthma walks into a room filled with second hand smoke. We can categorically say that this person is not experiencing a health hazard?
Ok, so Crichton just misworded his speech. But it is a basic principle of science that there can be no ultimate certainty about any such claims, much less something as broad as all second hand smoke in all environments, given any possible person. To say that something like that is provable beyond doubt, even if it is true, is unscientific.
In the best of cases, it's like saying that under any conditions, gravity will exist on Earth. In actuality, we can only ever conclude that under the conditions present while we have conducted experiments, there has been something we refer to as gravity on Earth. Maybe there are conditions under which gravity does not exist on Earth. All we can say with certainty is that as far as we have experienced, it is a consistent presence.
If Crichton knows this--which is among the most elementary principles of science--then he doesn't let on.
Instead, there's this:
I can, with a lot of time, give you the factual basis for these views, and I can cite the appropriate journal articles not in whacko magazines, but in the most prestigeous science journals, such as Science and Nature. But such references probably won't impact more than a handful of you, because the beliefs of a religion are not dependant on facts, but rather are matters of faith. Unshakeable belief.Translation: I'm not making unsubstantiated claims, you are. And if you'd only listen, I would give you the evidence. But you won't listen, so I don't have to. QED!
I am willing to entertain the possibility that some of these claims might be true. Certainly some of the less flamboyant claims are true. But is it not shamefully hypocritical to advocate scientific rigour, only to flout it in obvious ways when it is convenient to do so?
Crichton accomplishes one thing: he introduces a great deal of doubt. This can be very useful, scientifically. But my guess is that, in the current political climate, the take-home message for anyone who hears it is "environmentalists are full of shit -- don't believe them." That, or they just shut Crichton out, and keep believing, despite his preemptive admonitions.
Neither option is desireable.
There's plenty more that Crichton didn't do, or even hint at. Like encourage his listeners to be more scientifically inquisitive. He didn't bother to explain one simple way in which they could be productively skeptical in relation to specific scientific claims. He just said: it's all a religion, based on huge, massive lies.
He doesn't even mention that there are a large number of environmentalists out there who are serious about science. No: they're all wrong, except for Crichton.
How about citing the work of one or two of the thousands of environmentalists whose view of nature and science is in many ways close to sentiments expressed by Crichton in the more lucid (if painfully obvious) moments of his speech?
Why does Crichton not spend so much as a single sentence offering an explanation for the massive obfuscation of scientific fact that he accuses "environmentalists" (who are, apparently, all the same) of perpetuating? One hypothesis I could venture based on these preliminary findings is that his ego is big enough to keep him believing that he's the only one with acess to the real truth. Another might be that he spends far less time (read: approaching none) practicing science than he does talking about science.
In the same breath that he says that the environment and politics are so complex that we need to be "deeply humble", he reduces all of environmentalism to one set of oversimplified beliefs.
If there's a way to start a rational debate about environmentalism as a whole, this isn't it. Crichton tears down far more than he builds, and contradicts himself so much in the process that he sacrifices his credibility before he gets to his important points.
My good friend Matt Brennan is doing a PhD about music criticism and various other interdisciplinary ways of understanding music in its social contexts.
Apparently, doing a PhD literally means you spend a full year reading a lot of books about things you're interested in. Matt tells me that he keeps asking whether he should be writing essays or something, but his advisors just tell him to go read more books.
So I thought that a good Christmas present for someone who reads books for a living would be a website, so that he might share the love and wisdom that he derives from his metier, the lucky bastard. (Though: from what I hear from other people who have completed or quit PhDs midway, this may not be the case after the year is done.)
In any case, Matt's musings (and possibly music -- he's also a musician) can be found at MattBrennan.ca.