Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Knucklehead Constituency

You know, reading Charles Pierce is a pleasure for me--he has a wicked way with a phrase and I agree with him on a thing or two. So, I was interested in expanding upon a concern of his that touches on one of my own persistent puzzles--how it happens that people running for office are not called out when they seem to be dabbling--nay, professing, or at least out of one or more sides of their faces--in sheer and utter batshit. There are people who are by no means political neophytes who seem to have been delinquent on their reality bill--they are totally disconnected. I think it would be meaningful if objective reality could be entered into a political debate to actually determine who is more legitimately competent to deal with actual issues and not group hallucinations experienced by FOX News viewers and the WND readership, but I find myself altogether cynical about it.

I found myself not that long ago mourning the reality that there is no penalty for basically racist or conspiracy theorist views in some districts. (Hell, it seems to work, to some degree, to maneuver the "squeaky wheels" into higher profile positioning.) It bothers me to no end that theres a genuine likelihood that this mid-term election might even bring a bumper crop of "knuckleheads" into Congress that makes the 2010 freshmen look like fucking Solons.

But I get the reticence of Democratic challengers to call the whackadoodles out, I genuinely do. You take a contest like Tom Cotton vs incumbent AR Senator Pryor. Now, Cotton has a whole raft of signifying nonsense that has come out of him (blaming Obama for the Ukraine situation, carping on food stamps like they only started being part of farm bills since 2009--not since always), And he's down the line a social conservative--anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage. But he's kind of funky in that Rand Paul, not understanding social contracts kind of way. But you know why Pryor can't call him a whackadoodle, even if the name kind of fits?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Climate Tuesday: Like I was Saying, People are Missing All of the Points

So, the takeaway from Naomi Klein's book, if I just boiled it down to the simplest message is, "For crying out loud, not everything has to come down to the Almighty Buck!"

So here's another example of people who seem to be missing all of the points in the extractivist quest to mine for gold in...the dumbest places.  So here we go--West Virginia.

I like West Virginia, it's a beautiful state. The Ohio River is lovely, and its water serves the thirst requirements and more for over 3 million people. So, of course, oil companies are looking at that stream of liquid life and thinking,

"Hey, could there be natural gas under there?"

Yep. The state that just recently had water services to 300,000 residents interrupted by a chemical spill wants to play River Roulette. Sad to say, the governor there is a Democrat, albeit I guess a pitiful one. Which is a reminder that stupidity in the pursuit of petrodollars is not a partisan issue--it's a problem all over.  Fossil fuel royalties are no way to plug a budget hole if it's a stopgap at best and poses more serious clean-up problems down the road. This is the kind of short-term political thinking that makes things worse.

Monday, September 29, 2014

This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate (A Review)

I greatly looked forward to reading Naomi Klein's latest, This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate, and having read it, I'm pretty happy to recommend it. Klein's book approaches our fossil-fuel dependency as a cultural crisis and an economic fixation on the profit motive--an "extractivist" ethos that insists on exploitation of our natural resources for monetary gain. Her book is, in many ways, a wake-up call, viewing the echo chambers of the denialists and the pie-in-the-sky carbon-fixing schemers as needing to just face reality.

And the reality is grim. We are poisoning our planet with fuels that are not clean to burn in the first place and are increasingly more difficult to extract. We're dumping toxic chemicals into our air and our water, and the possibility that life as we know it right now is in any way sustainable is pretty much foolish.

Which might imply that this is an altogether grim book, but no. Along the way, we are introduced to pockets of resistance across the globe against the extractivist forces. Who, after all, may have the money, the propaganda, the hired security, the ability to purchase government officials by the job-lot and armies of lawyers at the ready--but might not actually be a match for a dedicated local resistance, which comes from, in some cases, even historically disadvantaged people--who are, let's be clear, often disproportionately screwed over by the forces of "progress".

What she shows is an alternative--maybe there's a sustainable future where companies don't make hand-over-fist profits, but people, working together, can discover old and tried methods for  insulating homes against heat and cold, irrigating and fertilizing crops, and mix those things with new technologies like solar panels to live just a bit lighter on the earth. Maybe there's something to the idea that the "quality of life" doesn't have a monetary value, but is precious and should be preserved just because.  Because it's the only way we--humans--even can go on. Maybe we need to see the connections between ourselves and the dying fish and dolphins and coral reefs and caribou and realize we, too, are a part of a chain of being on this planet, and what hurts any creature, weakens us all.

I found this book a wise and engaging read, by no means alarmist, but very clear-eyed and realistic. So if you were wondering whether you'd like this--I'd say if you care about the environment are skeptical of our Cash Rules Everything Around Me culture, you'd like it rather a lot. I did.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Values Voters 2014 is a Commentary on the 2016 GOP Goat Rodeo

It's probably no coincidence that the Value Voters Hootenany considers Sarah Palin as much of a draw as CPAC does. They adore prop comedy. (Since Dennis Miller hasn't made regular folks laugh since the 1990's, I really think wingnut welfare should at least comp him a rubber chicken. If he can't incorporate it into his act, maybe he can bite it.)  Once again, Senator Ted "Tailgunner" Cruz is the beneficiary of the Bible-based zeitgeist. (Nota bene: Christie was not invited and finished behind Biden. Even us big-time lefties aren't putting Biden in our "sure thing" column. If he's winning over Christie in the VV14 poll, that's kind of a message, you think?) But I can't pretend that I know. I don't speak "Values Voters" lingo fluently.

I will say, I think Palin is irrelevant, but everyone has known that since 2009. She's there for schtick, and I commend the right wing for keeping vaudeville alive. But Santorum and Huckabee and Rand Paul and Cruz all spoke (and Anne Laurie at Balloon-Juice gives great re-cap of all of them) and all kind of gave a hint into the ways they aren't serious 2016 candidates.

I see things as an internetizen first and foremost--if it is on Youtube, it cannot die. I don't know how anyone can drop red meat at a VV do, and then pretend it doesn't exist in a general election. So if, say, Bobby Jindal, wants to allege Barack Obama doesn't understand American exceptionalism in a week where "we" are bombing ISIL in Syria just because--he's out on a ridiculous limb. Ditto Rand Paul on "personhood", or Cruz on a lot of things.

I see easily a time when the Values Voters' do is a thing to avoid, because I don't see anyone selected by it in a straw poll as viable in any general election. But I do see the GOP probably pandering to that crowd for some time to come, anyway.

Climate Sunday: Oil Under Them Thar Ice Floes

Here's the sort of news story that makes one fairly certain that people in the oil industry are missing all of the points regarding climate change:

Russian energy giant Rosneft says it has discovered oil with its US project partner Exxon Mobil at a controversial well in the Arctic.

Drilling was completed in record time, it said, but questions remain about how quickly the well can be developed.

Exxon has said it will "wind down" the project following US sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.


Rosneft boss Igor Sechin, himself a target of US sanctions, said the well had produced "an astonishing sample of light oil".
Sure. They've got that nice, easy to drill, easy to refine stuff. Good for them. Still and all, is this where they seriously want to develop a drilling infrastructure and transport system? Because, I don't know. Light crude or not, it still seems a bit dear, you know?

"Astonishing samples' aside--is this the sustainable model? The Artic? Are petrocorps that much persuaded this is the future (especially as global warming reduces the ice in the area)? They are exploring an area they only can explore because the use of this kind of fuel has changed the geography to make it more accessible. Are they counting so much on the idea it won't change in less agreeable ways? Or are they just planning on selling gas-powered air conditioners to the polar bears?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why Would a A Sniper Wear Diapers in the Woods?

I know I've got basically no survivalist know-how at all--for me, "roughing it" means the local restaurants only have watery domestic beers on tap. But I am definitely puzzled by this news regarding the survivalist/cop shooter at large in the Pennsylvania woods:

The search has yielded an empty pack of Serbian cigarettes, Bivens said. Frein claims to have fought with Serbians in Africa and has studied Russian and Serbian languages, according to the FBI, which last week named him one of its 10 Most Wanted fugitives. Soiled adult diapers were also found, perhaps used by Frein to stay in a stationary position for long periods of time.

Yes, I can read "stay in a stationary position for long periods of time."  But he does have to stop, drop and take care of hygienic business with whatever is handy (I dunno, foliage?) when things get extra squidgy down there, which I am sure is even more jacked up than it would be if, being in the woods, he just did as the bears do. That's sure to slow him up.  And in the meantime, he's kind of leaving a trail.  And no doubt has a not-so-fresh feeling.

I think he's liable to get a rash.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Know Your Class War: What a Rising Tide Does

This chart has been going around lately, and basically sums up a tenet of the "Know Your Class War" philosophy:

A rising tide doesn't lift all boats--some boats just get washed away.

We've been told that benefits of growth would trickle down, but they do so less and less. Reminder: the best kind of profit-sharing if employees were really seen as partners in any business would be compensation for services rendered that contributed to the overall success of the enterprise. But workers are viewed as expenses. You know, except in banking and stuff like that.