Thursday, November 25, 2004

Do conservative politicians need liberals?

So now that the Republicans have full control of the government for another four years, what can we expect? I suppose we're all betting on different things, but I hear a lot of talking about how the conservative Republicans are going to bust up the liberal crap that corrupts and pollutes America. This is the kind of talk that's been powering what Thomas Frank calls the 'Great Backlash' since the the 1968 Nixon campaign. The culture war on the counter-culture, the AM Radio assault on Godless liberal elites, communist college professors, leftist media and anything that remotely sounds socialist.

Over time, this culture war has won the voting hearts of more and more middle Americans from the lowest tax brackets to the highest and it's not that unreasonable to suspect that the Republicans have this culture dispute to thank for their victory in 2004. So here's an interesting question... Will the GOP really bust up the liberal crap if they need it to fuel the Culture War? I mean, wouldn't that be like a super-hero that puts away all the criminals? Or the Cancer Society that cures cancer? Wouldn't they exterminate their own validity? If all the immoral, pornographic liberal structures are knocked down and everyone converted to upstanding moral Christian conservatives, then what would AM radio have to gripe about? What would happen to the culture war?

I'm betting that we're going to see a lot of changes, but I bet the bulk of the culture war targets will remain in tact. Especially abortion. That's a huge issue in the culture war right there. Election after election the issue comes up and the nation rallies to one side or the other. It's always seemed to me that the pro-life camp is the loudest, camp with more bumper stickers and more anger generating strong resolve to vote the liberals out. And even though the conservatives have had more control over the government since the Roe/Wade decision than the liberals, the practice still remains legal. Of course the Supreme Court can always be blamed for this, but today, as the conservatives control the Legislative and Executive branches, the Judicial branch is only one vote away from over turning the decision... Think it'll happen?

After all, how concerned can the conservative lawmakers really be when underneath all the hype the abortion rate has actually increased since Bush took office, largely due to his economic policies?

(see 'Bush = More Abortions')

 

 

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Who are the Insurgents?

Have you ever noticed that the White House tells us that the Iraqis are fighting on our side against foreign insurgents? Are the insurgents really foreign or are they simply the Iraqis that don't agree with our solution? If the later case is true then why are we referring to them as if they aren't Iraqis at all?

Roughly 37% of the Iraqi people are Sunni Muslim and 60% are Shia Muslim. The media seems to produce enough evidence to suggest that the Sunnis, in particular, are not happy with what we've done and are fighting back. Nevertheless, the Bush administration seems to push such evidence aside while emphasizing reports that some insurgents from neighboring countries are coming in to join the fight. Then there is the selective use of terms.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the conflict in Iraq qualifies as a civil war, but civil wars tend to have a neutralizing effect on public opinion. So I'm sure for the purpose of generating public support for a 'just' war, it's better to portray the mostly Sunni Iraqi's that we are fighting as non-Iraqis. So what do you call them? Well, we could call them 'rebels' but that term has a close association with our own history and is often seen in our popular language in a positive light. The term 'insurgents' seems to fit the purpose... It's a word that describes people that rise up against authority and has no association with anything in American popular language that can be held in a positive light. But to really complete the illusion it may be better to simply call the Iraqi's that agree with us, 'Iraqis' and the Iraqis that disagree with us, 'foreigners'. Ah, there we go... So we have liberated Iraq from an evil dictatorship and are now protecting Iraq from foreign invasion.

Our politicians have always been able to rely on the flexibility of language to achieve desired illusions.

 

Friday, November 12, 2004

Election Cartograms

I've always been intrigued with conceptual maps. These cartograms provide an interesting look at how evenly balanced America is between Republican and Democratic votes in the 2004 Election. They were briefly showcased on CNN and I immediately searched the web for them. The map below represents the nation, with the size of the states proportional to their population and of course red representing electoral votes in favor of Bush and blue representing electoral votes in favor of Kerry.

Diving even further into the details, the creators of these cartograms developed another view of the nation, this time county by county where the size of each county is proportional to their population. Another difference is that instead of dismissing the popular votes that did not win the electorial votes, all the votes are accounted for providing a more accurate picture of how America voted. This is done by blending the red and blue for each county according to the relative voter stregnth of both sides.


Source = Maps and cartograms of the 2004 US presidential election results.

Another web site developed by Robert J. Vanderbei at Princeton provides some interesting maps for visualizing similar patterns.
 


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Noteworthy:

* Current Post
* Inside the Patriot Act
* Luminosity of a Future City
* Arctic Drilling
* Human Decline
* Wealth Inequality
* Bush Sells Our Forests
* Healthcare and Terrorism
* Chemical Assault
* The Cuban Medical Industry
* The Endless War
* Do the Rich Need Tax Breaks?
* A Collapse of Some Kind
* Guantanimo Bay

* About the Picture
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Books That I am Reading:


The World Is Flat
A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Thomas Friedman

In this book Thomas Friedman continues his exploration of globalization and how the playing feild is leveling out.

War on the Middle Class
How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back

Lou Dobbs

This book is pretty much a print version of his TV program. This is what I call good investigative journalism


Books That I've Read Lately:


Catcher in the Rye


J.D.Salinger

My daughter is an avid J.D.Salinger fan and turned me on to this book. I'm glad she did. I read the first half on one airplane trip and finished the next half on the return flight. Salinger's naration is wonderful, his vivid style reminds me of Steinbeck.

Crash Proof
How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse

Peter D. Schiff

I've been reading the writing on the wall for some time now about the comming economic collapse and this book is one of those messages. I highly recomend this book for anyone interested in an easy to understand explanation of what is causing the crises and basic strategy for how to weather the storm.

A Peoples History of the United States: 1492 - Present


Howard Zinn

This book seems to draw a lot of criticism from people who point out that Zinn fails to present the complete picture, but I think that's the point. Zinn is simply filling in the gaps intentionally left by "politically correct" historians and in so doing, he sheds light on some of the real American heros who continue the "politically incorrect" American Revolution to this day. These heros are not the celebrated leaders and soldiers of the American Establishment who took the reins of exploitation from the British Establishment but the working class people who continued to stand up to exploitation regardless of what banner they wave. It's these working class people who continue to fight for liberty and justice and it's these unsung heros that we need to thank for our way of life and we can thank Howard Zinn for pointing them out, especially now that patriotism has somehow come to mean loyalty to a flag rather than to a principal.

Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less


Barry Schwartz

An interesting counter-view to the ever-so-popular notion that our vast array of options improves our culture.

Why I Am A Reagan Conservative


Edited By: Michael K. Deaver

I'm reading this book because I don't consider myself to be conservative. I suppose this is because I've been focused for so long on issues around which conservatives hold positions that I disagree with. But recently I've been looking beyond these issues in search of what I might agree are valid conservative positions and it seems the more I look the less I find, which is alarming to me considering the influence that conservatives have over the policies that effect our lives. Hopefully this book will provide me with some insight.

The Ayn Rand Reader


Ayn Rand: Edited by Gary Hull

I know, I know... what is Ayn Rand doing on this booklist? Answer: I read from as many perspectives as possible. Being a free thinker, I refuse to submit myself to a reading diet. Besides, I want to understand what it is that Ayn Rand fans are raving about and what institutes like ARI are pushing into our education systems.

A Thousand Barrels a Second
The Coming Oil Breakpoint and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependant World

Peter Tertzakian

I've been trying to understand as much as I can about the coming oil crises. The author is Chief Energy Economist of ARC Financial, one of the world's leading private equity firms focused on energy. As far as I can tell so far, his book isn't a crack on politics or doom and gloom but a straightforward analysis of the realities of energy that so many people are ignoring.

TechGnosis
Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information

Erik Davis

I've actually been reading the hardback version of this book, on and off, for long time now. The problem I have with this book is it's depth. Davis presents so many interesting ideas and references that I wind up placing a book mark and taking excursions into related materials. It can take me days to digest what Davis is saying in one sentence. Eventually, I always come back to the book, drawn in my Davis' poetic language of intellect. This book represents a true frontier for my mind.

The Moon Is Down


John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is always an easy read for me. His characters and scenes are so vivid. But this book in particular has the added significance of having had an extraordinary impact as Allied propoganda in Nazi-occupied Europe. Despite Axis efforts to supress it (in Fascist Italy, mere possession of a copy of the book was punishable by death) hundreds of thousands of copies were secretly translated into numerous languages, printed on unnaccounted paper and smuggled across borders. This story, a triumph of ideas in the face of cold steel and brute force, offered hope for the "unconquered" people under foreign occupation and celebrated the unbreakable spirit of free people. I feel like I should be sending copies to Iraqis currently under US occupation, but that could easily be construed as an act of terrorism.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman


John Perkins

I've been able to put two and two together for some time, so nothing in this book astounds me but it does bring the workings of the international banks and corporations as well as the US government out of the speculations of so-called conspiracy theories and into the matter-of-fact narration of one man's career path as an economic hitman.

Collapse:
How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed
Jared Diamond

Facinating book. Jared Diamond's name is what caught my attention as I was killing time at the bookstore at the airport. I was very impressed with his documentary "Guns, Germs and Steel" and figured he would make this study of societal destinies equally interesting. I was 100% correct. I especially enjoyed the chapters on the collapse of the Polynesian societies, realizing the scale-relativity with the evolution of our global society.

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Of course... the third book in my dystopian trilogy.

The United States of Europe:
The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy
T.R.Reid

An excellent perspective on the power that's rising in Europe as we Americans continue to sleep with visions of our own glory in our heads.

Imperial Ambitions:
Conversations with Noam Chomsky on the Post-9/11 World
Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian

As always, Professor Chomsky presents that calm and collected voice of logic that cuts through all the noisy rhetoric, half-truths, corporate funded media hype and emotionally driven spin sessions. Barsamian's interviews with Chomsky are clear, crisp and sober conversations.

Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

Figured I'd continue my journey through "negative-utopia" that I started with 1984. It does seem appropriate given the current state of America from which I found much more connection with Bradbury's vision than I did with Orwell's, especially the way in which the real source of oppression is not the government but the people themselves.

Cuba
A New History

Richard Gott

Just a straight forward history book, but Cuba has a facinating history that reaches back to the days of Columbus and offers everything from pirates to revolutions.

1984
George Orwell

It seemed like a good idea to refresh my memory of a mid-century perspective on where the world is headed. Although I found some relief in knowing that we have not followed the Stalinesque course to the letter, I nevertheless found much of Orwell's larger concepts ringing ever so true in 21st Century America, especially Orwell's concept of continuous war and Big Brother.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
Greg Palast

Easy read... Palast is a circus ring master showing us unbelievable things. Penetrating investigation with a sense of humor.

One Market Under God
Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

Thomas Frank

After reading the Lexus and the Olive Tree, I felt I needed a counter-balance view of globalization and how the liberated capitalism that I see everywhere around me, breaking the chains of regulation, is riding the globalization wave.

20:21 Vision
Twentieth-Century Lessons for the Twenty-First Century

Bill Emmott

The author, Economist cheif editor, tends to present very objective and slightly outside views of American economics/politics. I think this renders a more accurate assesment of how we fit in with the rest of the world. The book is a tour of the major forces of the 20th century with emphasis on how they are currently shaping the 21st century.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree


Thomas Freidman

Damned good book! Really opened up my eyes to what globalization is all about. Freidman's style of writing is engaging and his explainations are straightforward. I can see why people regard this book as the essential primer on the subject. I can also see why people think he is "pro-globalization" but I tend to think he's not so much promoting it as just pointing out the inevitability of it. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding globalization.

The Gnostic Gospels


Elain Pagles

I thought it was good. Explains a lot about the gnostic strain of Christain faith.

Consilience


Edward O. Wilson

Facinating. From the moment he starts decribing the Ionian enchantment on the first pages. This book describes the interrelation of seperate bodies of knowledge and how it all comes together.

The History of Money


Jack Weatherford

Human culture is possessed and these are some involving stories about the demon we call money.

Other material of interest:

Origins of the Federal Reserve (PDF) - Murray N. Rothbard

Excellent account of the monetary imperialism that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve.

The Elkhorn Manifesto
R. William Davis

This is an open letter to Americans that provides a historical perspective on the U.S. government's prohibition of Marijuana. Without stating any position on that particular issue, I have nevertheless saved a copy of the letter here because of what I think are some valueable and verifiable references to to what I call the "corporate priority over the better interests of the nation".