Monday, January 31, 2005

Elections in Iraq


Juan Cole has a round-up regarding the elections in Iraq. I'm withholding judgment for the moment. I've opposed this war from the beginning just as I opposed Clinton's upholding of the sanctions throughout the 90s and the first war fought by daddy Bush. As I've often said, I am opposed to the intervention-based U.S. foreign policy of the past 50 years, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. Many people would like to pretend that this Iraq adventure was all about democracy. Not so. Time will show that this was just one more maneuver by empire to secure resources. Defending freedom and democracy is just the same old spin used for many years by many presidents. In any case I agree with what Cole wrote yesterday:


I'm just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday. I said on television last week that this event is a "political earthquake" and "a historical first step" for Iraq. It is an event of the utmost importance, for Iraq, the Middle East, and the world. All the boosterism has a kernel of truth to it, of course. Iraqis hadn't been able to choose their leaders at all in recent decades, even by some strange process where they chose unknown leaders. But this process is not a model for anything, and would not willingly be imitated by anyone else in the region. The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain and Pakistan. Moreover, as Swopa rightly reminds us all, the Bush administration opposed one-person, one-vote elections of this sort. First they were going to turn Iraq over to Chalabi within six months. Then Bremer was going to be MacArthur in Baghdad for years. Then on November 15, 2003, Bremer announced a plan to have council-based elections in May of 2004. The US and the UK had somehow massaged into being provincial and municipal governing councils, the members of which were pro-American. Bremer was going to restrict the electorate to this small, elite group.

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Living Simply: Bodycare


I've written before about my concern regarding our use of fossil fuels. It is a subject that I've been thinking about over the past 15 years and it weighs on my mind more with each passing year. Recently it occurred to me that I might start writing a bit about how I try to limit my use of fossil fuels and related resources. I think this will take the form of a short tip-like post once a week. Feel free to add any ideas you've implemented in your own life.


So, without further delay, tip number one. Bodycare schtuff. This is an easy one for me: Dr. Bronner's bar soap. It comes in various flavors and it is wrapped in paper. I've been using this for years and it seems to work fine. I don't use anything else on my hair or body. So, if you look in my bathroom all you'll see is bar soap, deodorant, toothpaste, and every now and then a razor. I tend to have a beard so the razor lasts forever. When I do shave I use the same bar of soap to soften my beard.


The benefits of such a simple bathroom supply are many. Ecologically, a bar of soap wrapped in paper requires far fewer resources in manufacture and transport than a typical plastic bottle of shampoo. Imagine the millions of plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner, gel, spray manufactured and consumed each year. That's alot of plastic. Not only do we have to account for the manufacture and transport but also the disposal. Also worth mentioning though less important to me would be the the financial savings. I'd estimate that I save at least $10 each year, possibly more.


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Weaving Community showing at National Conference on Organized Resistance


Sweet. My documentary, Weaving Community, will be showing at the upcoming National Conference on Organized Resistance (NCOR) - Films. A big thanks to Jeff Peel for setting that up! A brief description of the film:


A close look at what people are doing to create a different kind of world, Weaving Community is a window into the lives of activists in Memphis, TN. Weaving Community documents three projects at varying stages of their existence: Food Not Bombs, Revolutions Community Bicycle Innitiative, and the deCleyre Cooperative.


Always nice to hear of a showing somewhere!

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Podcast: Noam Chomsky Mix 1

Music mix by me, words by Noam Chomsky. In clip one he is speaking about the need for and potential of creative work when carried out by free people. In clip two he is speaking of the need to challenge unjustifiable authority and state capitalism. I'll be posting another Chomsky mix in a couple days. If folks like these I might do a series. Truth is they are really fun to put together... and as far as podcasts go I'm enjoying this more than hearing myself talk. I imagine that at some point I'll return to to that format but for now I'm just not... inspired... oh no, it's podcasters block!

For those that commented on the last podcast, hopefully the voice to music balance is good on this. I don't know because on my set-up the voice is clearly audible though I thought it was fine on the Grid Remix.

littlepod.jpg More via the Podcast which is also available as a direct mp3 download runtime: 3'59, 3.7 MB.

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Who is innocent?

Susan at Res Publica is obviously upset by Ward Churchill's comments about the innocence of the victims of 9/11: "True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break." Evidently, the day after the attacks Churchill wrote an article entitled Some People Push Back. I have not read that article but apparently he suggested that those working in the buildings were not innocent. I'll take that a step further: not a single one of us is innocent.

Susan has this to say about Churchill:
People who think like that are terrorists of another sort. They create waves of hate wherever they go. The fact that they are allowed to teach others while being paid public money for the privilege of insulting the everyday people of America, confusing our children and indoctrinating the next generation with hate is a crime calling out to heaven.


I've thought about this a good bit over the past 3 years and my response is the same as it was on 9/12/01 and it is perfectly reflected by the title of Churchill's article: Some people push back. Look, the U.S. is a fucking bully and has been for many years. Iraq is the most recent example of our aggression and our willingness to interfere in the affairs of other nations. I'm sure Americans are more comfortable believing that they are a force of good in the world just as they want to believe that they are the defender of freedom and democracy but that does not make it so. It seems to me that the vast majority of Americans do not have a clue as to what "their" government is doing in their name and I think this is generally true for most U.S. foreign policy of the past 50 years. Unfortunately ignorance is not excusable.

Even when the American people do have an inkling as to what is being done they choose to re-elect the man responsible and that sends a message to the world: approval. Of course Clinton also did his part to uphold the America as bully image and I have little doubt Kerry would have done the same so it's not just Bush though he is perhaps the most arrogant of the bunch and it's more obvious. So many Americans, like their current president, seem unwilling or unable to acknowledge wrong doing. Not only is this sad but it is, to be blunt, stupid. When another attack comes we cannot pretend we are innocent though I expect that is exactly what will happen. Americans will cry about how cruel and undeserved such violence is, conveniently forgetting or denying their own role in the cycle of violence.

As the saying goes, if you can dish it out...

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Are you cruel?

The Sorest Loser has an interesting post on vegetarianism. I rarely post about vegetarianism or the subject of animal cruelty and, in fact, I think this is only the third such post in nearly 2 years. I suppose I wanted to draw attention to this particular article because I thought it was powerful in its simplicity. In truth it is not an advocacy of vegetarianism but an argument against being cruel:

Technically, this is not an argument for vegetarianism. Rather, it's an argument against imposing pain and suffering on animals. If an animal doesn't suffer and is killed painlessly, nothing in this argument implies that it's wrong to eat it. The same goes for an animal that has died of natural causes. But it is an argument against the way that most of our meat is produced. And it does entail that most of us are living deeply immoral lives.


It seems to be an interesting human behavior that we are so easily able to ignore the pain and suffering we contribute to if it is not in our faces. I know people in my own family that have made brief efforts at becoming vegetarians but failed after a week. In these particular cases they made the decision to stop eating meat based upon a desire to be healthier as well as exposure to media that had, for a moment, alerted them to the suffering of animals in the factory farm system. But one week into the process the images of suffering had faded.

Of course this can be applied in a general way to the activities of our daily lives. Much that we do and consume is built upon a foundation of suffering that we do not see. We also play word games with ourselves. It's easier to skip over the details if we just think that the "goods" we purchase are the result of legitimate and sanctioned business exchanges. If we were to dive into the details of the larger context, the details of global capitalism, we might well decide that we don't like what's happening. We might decide that we're not purchasing "goods" at all, rather we are purchasing objects that represent a certain amount of pain and suffering.

Are we cruel? I think the answer is yes but perhaps the more important question is why are we able to so easily lie to ourselves.

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Ocean pictures



I'm on the beach for a winter holiday with my folks and the dogs so I'll be posting photos. Here's the first few: sunset, talula's first time to see the ocean, black sand. Taking Miss T out on the beach for her first experience of the ocean was a blast. She loved it and we had a so much fun running around. She even went in the water a wee bit. She is the most fantastical dog ever and truly is my best friend... and quite the snuggle bunny too. In fact, she's curled up next to me now. Sweet.

Also of note, this will be the first post to use "Talula" as a Technorati tag! Now isn't that special?



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The Grid Remix Podcast

First podcast in a good while and the first of the year. To be truthful I created this almost a year ago as my first experiment with GarageBand. The music mix is mine, spoken word is Tim "Speed" Levitch via the excellent documentary The Cruise, 1998. This clip was one of my favorite moments in the movie in which Levitch discusses the straight lines of city planning. Fantastic stuff. It's not a proper podcast in that I did not include my usual intro but that's okay. I'm hoping to get back into a regular podcast after 7 weeks away. I can't quite explain my podcast vacation so I won't try. Hope you enjoy.

littlepod.jpg More via the Podcast which is also available as a direct mp3 download runtime: 3'12, 2.9 MB.

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Four more years... bring 'em on

My good friend Sue over at born into this mess is obviously pissed... disgusted... hopeless:

I'm glad I don't have a television or I might have broken it if I had to sit through the Liar's speech. It was hard enough to maintain my composure just reading it.

I feel so incredibly hopeless and helpless. Bush and his supporters have made it clear enough to the world that they really just don't care what anyone else thinks. Voting doesn't help. Protesting doesn't help. Writing to senators and calling the White House doesn't help. The Forces of Evil have taken control of my country and there is nothing I can do.

The things this man has the balls to say make me shake. I firmly consider myself a pacifist, but I am going to be praying for Bush's removal from office, because it's obvious that nothing less than supernatural force will get him out.

This isn't a Buffy episode. The Assumption happened 4 years ago and the death and destruction have not stopped since then.

This man is a demon. That's the only explanation I can come up with. You know, I didn't use to believe in evil, but that's the only thing that can explain this man's actions. I really believe that we are on the brink of another fascist-led Holocaust.
I guess this time they're going after the Muslims.

I'm so afraid.


She's also created a stirring photo essay using images of Iraq and the words of King George during his inauguration (coronation).

What a bizarre world we live in eh? That so many could hate this man so much and yet there are those that love and support him. I hate Bush too and there are many millions more of course. I think it important to remember though that this man, his cronies, and all that they represent is a power structure that has been in place for many years and it is a structure that we enable year after year. We support it with our inaction and our ignorance. Day after day, year after year, we allow it to exist and we feed it with our tax dollars. We allow them to write the rules of the game and we obediently play along or, better put, we watch the game playout without us. Oh, and did I mention we feed the machine with our tax dollars?

A day will come that will bring an end to this monster. I don't think that day will be brought about by the desire of the american people and in fact I think they will suffer greatly... time will tell.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Which side are you on?


Earlier today I happened upon The Cranky Liberal Pages and one post in particular caught my eye: Bad Service - A Personal personnel Story. Essentially an experience at Target in which three Target employees could have helped a customer but did not. Instead they continued a conversation with one another. Being an advocate of class warfare I posted the following:

Well, I'm going to disagree somewhat. We do not know the wages of these women and while it may be $9 /hr or $15 /hr it is probably much closer to the minimum wage. I think that it is unrealistic to expect anyone working a minimum wage job (or something that is very close to that) to put in a great effort. Minimum wage = minimum effort.

If you ask me it's way past the time that all workers have a decent living wage... all workers. Those that run registers, empty trash, assemble burritos... all of them. until we, as a society, demand that all workers are treated with dignity and paid a decent wage I don't think we have a ground to complain about minimal service. You get what you pay for.

Now, that said, this does suck. Certainly the manager should have taken it upon herself to take the bag to the customer... truth is, I think many people just don't care and I think it's just one of countless small indicators that we as a society are increasingly alienated from each other and our work.

The Cranky Liberal responded:


See Denny, I'd agree with you excpet for one point -

These young ladies decided to go work for Target. Unlike some totalitarian regime in which the worker has no choice, they took the time and effort to fill out the application, interview and punch a clock. I'm sure they take the time and effort to cash the paycheck that they "earned." That check they cash is based upon the wage they agreed to when they were hired. I seriously doubt that Target said hey we will pay you $13.00 an hour and aftger they started said naaa just playin - you're making $6.25.

Because this is was a conscience and willful choice on the part of everyone involved, they had an obligation to serve the customer. When they decided they were to busy screwing off, they decided they no longer wanted to trade their services for Targets money. I would have been happy to make that decision permanent.

I'm all for a living wage. I think the data shows that a decent living does not cause hyper inflation, unemployment etc that certain people always yell loudy. However, whatever the wage, once you agree to it, do your job or find another. This is America afterall.

To which I responded:


Here's the problem as I see it. There are oodles of these minimum wage or very near to minimum wage jobs. We all participate in this economy and when we shop at stores that pay at the minimum wage are we not stamping our approval on its use? This is one reason we have bush and democrats are weak in the arena. we've forgotten solidarity and what side we're on.

Until we build solidarity and a movement that goes beyond electoral politics we will continue as wage slaves who's only conception of citizenship is voting. So yeah, it is america, but what does that really mean? I've always identified with that part of american history occupied by Mother Jones and Lucy Parsons, Joe Hill and Emma Goldman.

I'll accept poor service when i know it's being dished out by a fellow worker who may not have access to a college education and who is the subject of corporate exploitation.

I realize this is a generalization and it is based on my limited experience but I'll offer it anyway. This is a fundamental problem with liberals: they do not go far enough in their citizenship. This is something I've been very fond of pointing out because I think it is worth pointing out as often as is necessary. Liberals often talk about human rights but their understanding of human rights seems awfully limited. It's not just about voting folks. It's about Target workers, retail workers and all workers organizing and building a new movement, a new society. It is also about all of us supporting one another as we struggle for greater freedom and social justice. If we are going to be effective in this struggle we will need to develop an awareness of the impact of our economic activities because we are all workers, consumers, and citizens.

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Monday, January 17, 2005

CBS lies, Bush lies


There are plenty of folks that seem to think that the media is too liberal or too conservative. I think it's a bit more complicated. Ultimately I think that it more informative to look at who owns the media. In any case, this cartoon made me laugh and in these times that's good because if you don't laugh you will no doubt cry.



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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Protesting the inauguration... and the Democrats

Irregular times has a great post on the counter-inaugurals that will be happening all around the country on January 20. In particular I really enjoyed reading their take on the uselessness of the Democratic Party:

On January 20, The 48 percent of America that voted against George W. Bush is holding a counter-inaugural. Whereas the Presidential Inaugural will be held in just one city, is open to well-connected ticket holders only, and will need to be protected by unprecedented levels of security, the counter-inaugural will be much more democratic: Open to everybody, in cities and towns across the nation, no admission charged, and no formal wear required.

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At the same time that grassroots progressives groups are organizing counter-inaugural protests for January 20, what is the leadership of the Democratic Party doing? Well, last night I was contacted by Democratic leadership organizations three times. Wow! Unfortunately, not one of these organizations asked me for anything but money.

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Why in the world would any true progressive send any money to a political party that engages in such accomodation of the radical policies of the Republicans? I have supported the Democratic Party in the past, but since Election Day 2004, we have seen little but cowardly retreat from the Democratic leadership. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Democratic Party is devolving into little more than a parasite on the back of the grassroots progressive movement, asking for money, but refusing to stand up for progressive ideals when the going gets rough. The Democratic Party is on the verge of falling apart, and if it does, I say good riddance.

In a month, I’ll be moving into a new house in a new town. When I make this move complete, I will have to re-register to vote. Up until the last few weeks, I had planned on re-registering as a Democrat. Now, I can’t bring myself to register in any way than as a true independent - with no party at all. All across America, other Democrats are doing the same, leaving the ranks of the Democratic Party in search of a way to be true to their progressive ideals.

Participation in the nationwide protests of January 20 is a good first step in a declaration of independence by America’s liberals. If the Democratic Party won’t work for us, then we’ll do the work ourselves. Let James Carville sit in his comfy Washington D.C. office and write checks to do-nothing politicians. America needs leadership that doesn’t wait until an election year to speak up against injustice. The progressive grassroots will be on the streets no matter where we are in the election cycle, and we won’t give up until we get the job done.

Technorati tags

Corante has a write up on an interesting new development by Technorati for using tags:

Technorati, a site that indexes 4.5 million weblogs, is now enabling us to sort blog posts by tag. This is way way cool. In fact, it marks a next step in the rapid evolution of the tagging economy.

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The tags come from three sources. First, if you’ve uploaded a photo to Flickr and have tagged it (or if one of your pals has tagged it), it will show up under that tag at technorati. Second, if you’ve bookmarked a page using del.icio.us, it will show up under that tag at technorati. Third, if your blogging software supports categories, your blog posts will show up under the categories you’ve assigned; categories are now tags in the eyes of Technorati.

Even if your blogging software doesn’t know from categories, you can still tag a post with, say, “weasels” by inserting into it the following line:

Weasly stuff

It’s easy to imagine this become a part of the standard footer of blog entries.


Yeah, this is nifty. I think I'll be adding a footer with such tags. Why not? Only takes me a few seconds and it seems like this may well benefit how we organize and hravest information on the web. Time will tell. Go check out Technorati's tag page.

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Friday, January 14, 2005

George Bush: Arrogant liar and murderer

"Barbara Walters: This was our main reason for going in. So now when we read, 'Okay, the search is over,' what do you feel?

"President Bush: Well, like you, I felt like we'd find weapons of mass destruction. Or like many, many here in the United States, many around the world, the United Nations thought he had weapons of mass destruction, and so therefore, one, we need to find out what went wrong in the intelligence gathering. Saddam was dangerous. And . . . the world was safer without him in power.

"Walters: But was it worth it if there were no weapons of mass destruction? Now that we know that that was wrong? Was it worth it?

"Bush: Oh, absolutely."


In January of 2003 I, along with millions of others in the U.S. and around the world, protested the coming war against Iraq. I did not believe that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. My memory is that many in the UN did not believe that there were WMD. My memory is that many millions of the world believed Iraq to be a country greatly weakened by more than a decade of economic sanctions. Many millions believed that Iraq and Saddam posed no threat to America. Many millions did and do believe that George Bush lied repeatedly about evidence and that he waged a war of aggression against a country that could not defend itself.

In January 2003 I was fairly certain that Bush was lying about his evidence and that no weapons would be found. What do you know about the evidence? If you are certain Bush was telling the truth, I ask: What do you really know about the evidence? I want to know why anyone would support this man and his evidence. For those that may be new to this blog I'll add for a sense of context that I also protested Bill Clinton and many of his policies many times. I'm an equal opportunity anarchist. I detest not just the Republicans but the Democrats as well.

Quote via Juan Cole who had this to say:


When is someone going to call him on this inanity? The Belgians didn't have intelligence assets inside Iraq that could have given them an independent view of the question. Whatever the world believed, it mostly believed because the United States disseminated the information.

Moreover, it is not true that there were no dissenters. The State Department's own Intelligence and Research Division dissented. French military intelligence dissented. What Bush is saying is either untrue or meaningless.

As I have pointed out before, Saddam without weapons of mass destruction could not have been "dangerous" to the United States. Just parroting "dangerous" doesn't create real danger. Danger has to come from an intent and ability to strike the US. Saddam had neither. He wasn't dangerous to the US. It is absurd that this poor, weak, ramshackle 3rd world state should have been seen as "dangerous" to a superpower. That is just propaganda.

Calling Saddam "dangerous" as an existential element without regard to the evidence falls under the propaganda techniques of name-calling and stirring irrational fear.


I could not agree more.

A haunting end to hunt for WMD

The Virginia Pilot has an excellent story about the end of the search for WMD in Iraq:

This week's news that the Pentagon has officially ended its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was the quiet denouement to one of the most contentious issues in our nation's recent history.

While the beginning of the hunt for Saddam Hussein's rumored chemical, biological and nuclear weapons came in like a lion, it went out like a lamb.
--
The CIA’s head weapons inspector is back home. President Bush’s Iraq Survey Group has decided to call it a day.

And America is left with a seemingly endless war in Iraq, but without a rationale for it.

A senior intelligence official told The Washington Post that chief weapons hunter Charles Duelfer’s interim report to Congress, which contradicted nearly every prewar claim of the Bush administration, will stand as the group’s final conclusion.

While the official end to our hunt for weapons is a sad, significant milestone, almost more noteworthy is our — Americans’ and the media’s — muted reaction to that news.


As I've been writing here recently, the question on my mind is why are the American people so easily fooled? I've come to expect the majority of corporate media to go along for the ride so that's not a surprise. The corporate media has an agenda and generally speaking it is not seeking to be neutral, objective, or informative. It is designed to indoctrinate, not inform.

What is most disappointing is that in the year 2004 we humans are seemingly incapable of thoughtful and critical analysis of what is going on around us. Perhaps it is just an American phenomena and the product of a vast propaganda machine? I think there is some truth to that statement yet I also believe that most Americans have the common sense and resources to break through the indoctrination. Perhaps we should be asking: Do Americans want to know the truth in the first place?

What do I know? What are my sources? Have I corroborated my sources? Have I examined the sources of my sources? What about the social-economic background of my sources? Who funds my sources? Who owns the source? These are just a few of the questions I think we should be asking ourselves when we think we know something about something.

Bruce over at This is Class Warfare has added an excellent post on this discussion.

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Thursday, January 13, 2005

How do you know?

A question I've been pondering lately: How do I know? How do you know? Everyday we make claims about reality and what we know about it. I've claimed George Bush is a war criminal but how do I know? I believe that global warming is a real phenomena and that it is quickening because of human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels but how do I know? Further, I believe that this phenomena could endanger humans ability to survive on the planet. How have I formed this opinion or any other that I hold? How do you form your opinions? What are they based on? What are your informational sources? The internet, nightly news, magazines, word of mouth? Do you ever make a conscious effort to corroborate via multiple sources? Once you've formed an opinion on a topic do you remain open to the possibility that it may not be entirely accurate?

I suppose I'm suggesting that it is likely that many of us do not follow a rational process for information gathering and source checking when we form the opinions that we hold. Of course, how can I make that statement? How do I know?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Confession of an X Files addict

Okay, yet another non-political post and the second one in two days. This is something I've wanted to mention before but didn't.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday night I stay up till 3 or 4 am watching the X Files. On at least a couple of occasions I have stayed up till 5 am. Thankfully those are the only nights it is on because I simply cannot resist. I've just recently discovered that the Sci-Fi channel shows the X Files from 4-5pm every day so that's another hour per day. While I'm at it let me admit, if I happen to see that The Crow is on I'll watch that too. I've seen than movie 10 times in the past 10 months and yet I know I'll continue to watch it every time it is on.

In fact, I've become something of a sci-fi junkie. I can't help myself. Star Trek Next Generation? I'll watch it. Star Trek Original? I'll watch it. What worries me is that I'll start watching more. No. Must. Turn. Off. TV.

Just one more episode... this one is great... Mulder and Scully are trapped in an arctic research center and...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Republican Jesus


Patriotboy

The new Mac mini

It's been a while but I'm going to offer up a non-political post! Several months ago I set up a blog specifically for geek and Mac related info. Since then I've not posted that kind of content here. I thought I'd make an exception for the readers of this blog that may not read the other. If you've ever thought of buying a Mac but didn't because of the cost, this one may be for you.

The Mac mini is Apple's grand slam. Assuming that Apple can keep up with the demand I think it is a safe bet that the Mac mini will be the Mac that pushes Apple far beyond its historical level of market share. At $499 these little Macs are the least expensive Mac ever made and they are going to sell faster than any other Mac ever made. In fact, they'll sell far more of these than any previous model.



The Mac mini is, in essence, a portable Mac. 2 inches high and 6.5 inches on the four sides, weighing in at 2.9 pounds, this Mac can easily be transported room to room or even taken to work or along for vacation. Hook it up to any usb keyboard/mouse combo, add your monitor or TV, and you're set to go. Like all recent Macs, you can add wireless connectivity with a Airport Extreme Card or Bluetooth. It comes with a DVD/CDR with the possibility of upgrading to a SuperDrive that will also let you burn DVDs. A final thought, a wish really: I think it would be cool if Apple would include a battery for even easier mobility but that's just me and it's certainly not a complaint.

The mini Mac is not perfect though and I'll offer a bit of advice for those planning to buy one: add RAM! My main complaint with Apple's computers is insufficient RAM in the base configuration. OS X is an absolutely fantastic operating system but it really needs a minimum of 512 MB. You've been warned. If you go with the 256 MB you will likely be very frustrated if you try doing anything beyond web browsing and email. In general your Mac mini will run much slower and as you open up multiple apps it will crawl. Upgrade to 512 MB and you'll be fine and the machine will perform at the speed it is capable of even with 6 - 7 open apps. I regularly run my PowerBook (768 MB of RAM) with 8-12 open apps with no problem at all. Of course you can add more than 512 but I think most folks will be happy with that.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Salvador option and Iraq

According to Newsweek the Pentagon may put Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq:

What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called "the Salvador option"—and the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are," one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing." Last November’s operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking "the back" of the insurgency—as Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the time—than in spreading it out.


What, you may be asking, is the Salvador option? Well, let me tell you. First, in regards to the use of the name it is a rare acknowledgment of truths formerly covered up by the U.S. government regarding its role in El Salvador. Second, it is the method itself which was first exposed by Allan Nairn in a 1984 article(pdf) in The Progressive Magazine in which he detailed the CIA's role in the El Salvadore death squads. Democracy Now! covered the Salvador option in todays show:

Within the Pentagon, the tactic is named "The Salvador option" after the strategy that was secretly employed by Ronald Reagan's administration to combat the guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. The U.S.-backed death squads hunted down and assassinated rebel leaders and their supporters.

The current US ambassador in Iraq is John Negroponte. As ambassador to Honduras, Negroponte played a key role in coordinating US covert aid to the Contras who targeted civilians in Nicaragua and shoring up a CIA-backed death squad in Honduras.


It is important to note the word "supporters" in the above. The death squads did not target just the militants, it targeted activists of all kinds. We have created a mess in Iraq and few will deny that. The truth is that the mess we have created is a downward spiral that has resulted in the deaths of many thousands of civillians, possibly more than 100,000. This to supposedly bring them "freedom" and "democracy" though many would argue the truth is that we are murdering them for the oil their country sits on.

I wonder, what would Jesus say about the Salvador option and Iraq?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

January 6, 2005: Hey, hey Democracy, we never knew ya

Ray Beckerman over at Ohio Election Fraud has something to say about January 6, 2005:
I believe history will record January 6, 2005, as the day on which the United States of America completed a 4-year descent from democracy into dictatorship, by abandoning the rule of law in its electoral process, thus ensuring that the party in control cannot be removed.

I believe that when the history of these times is ultimately told, it will adjudge the above mentioned Senator and Representatives, who stood up to this coup d'etat, as patriots and heroes, and to those who did not, as cowards and traitors.


Democracy in America? What are you gonna do about it?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Alternative Energy Blog

We don't have to depend on oil or any other fossil fuel and if you want to learn more about the alternatives go check out the Alternative Energy Blog:

...news, views and strong opinions on alternative energy technology including wind power, solar power, wave power, geothermal & other renewable energy sources + news on other energy issues including peak oil, strong hybrid cars, hydrogen fuel cells, "clean" coal & nuclear power

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Conyers Report: What Went Wrong in Ohio

If you are one of those that voted for Kerry and one of those that believes that democracy actually exists as a meaningful system I ask, what will you do about this:

Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio
Status Report of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff

Wednesday 05 January 2005

Executive Summary

Representative John Conyers, Jr., the Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, asked the Democratic staff to conduct an investigation into irregularities reported in the Ohio presidential election and to prepare a Status Report concerning the same prior to the Joint Meeting of Congress scheduled for January 6, 2005, to receive and consider the votes of the electoral college for president. The following Report includes a brief chronology of the events; summarizes the relevant background law; provides detailed findings (including factual findings and legal analysis); and describes various recommendations for acting on this Report going forward.

We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election, which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters. Cumulatively, these irregularities, which affected hundreds of thousand of votes and voters in Ohio, raise grave doubts regarding whether it can be said the Ohio electors selected on December 13, 2004, were chosen in a manner that conforms to Ohio law, let alone federal requirements and constitutional standards.


Anyone that reads this blog regularly will already know my belief that American democracy is a big lie, a facade. By design it was a deception from inception (hey, that rhymes!) but that's another story altogether. My point here is that if you claim that electoral politics are a valid expression of the people's will, that the vote is a legitimate part of the "democratic" process, is it not your responsibility to defend it given evidence of fraud? Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, etc, will you look at and act upon evidence of fraud?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Thoughts on the development of a community economy

An essay written long ago... I thought I'd bring it back to address the liberals that have, in the weeks since the elections, been advocating "buying blue". Buy blue if you choose but I'd suggest that such a strategy does not go far enough. In fact, it never really gets started. The following was written in 1993 and is underdeveloped, poorly organized... it needs editing. Still, I think it is worth posting.

Imagine your community for a moment. What is it? What are the spaces of such community? What are its economics? What would an ecological and cooperative economics look like? How might confederalism and democracy play a part in the organization of community economics? How do we break the tight grip of capitalism which has so weakened local economy and self-reliance?

The rise of the capitalist nation-state has depended upon the decline of many interconnected aspects local community life. One of these is community economics. The centralization of wealth into fewer and fewer hands has given rise to an economics which is controlled by fewer and fewer people. Small, neighborhood businesses fail while huge multinationals thrive. We become "workers" who are alienated from our communities and our labor. As workers we go through job after job often unsatisfied with the kind of work we are doing and how little pay we are doing it for. We most often find jobs that exist outside of our own neighborhood with the result that we never actually contribute to our community in any way other than the payment of property taxes.

The hierarchies in the workplace become more manipulative and more oppressive. Often times large corporations move their "operations" overseas where they can exploit the people of other communities by paying them even less and then dumping industrial wastes into their water supply. Corporations become multinational corporations.

Decentralizing the Economy

To begin, it is essential that we completely break down the scale of economy. Corporations have gotten too big. In fact, they have become goliaths that wield awesome and destructive power in communities and ecosystems around the planet. A good first step towards creating an ecological and community-based economics might be to decentralize production. Decentralization is likely a step in the right direction in part because it is a step towards making economics a moral economics of direct, face-to-face human relationships which hinge on the interactions of those creating and exchanging goods.

This is not to say that "Small is Beautiful" alone is the answer. Hierarchy can still exist in small entities and small businesses may be just as unethical, manipulative, and profit oriented as any large corporation. It is often true that smaller businesses are worse in terms of pay and "benefits" because it is difficult for these businesses to "compete" with larger corporations. Let me illustrate with an example in which I was personally involved.

During my first year in Memphis I worked at the Squash Blossom Market which was a medium sized health food business of about 125 employees. The business was run like any other business, with a hierarchical system of management. What made Squash different was that it sold "green" products like organically grown foods, biodegradable cleaners, and "cruelty-free" cosmetics. The management of this business was little different from that of any other grocery store: it was capitalism no matter what color it tried to be. In fact, the control of employees and the manipulation of "consumers" may be worse in cases such as Squash Blossom because consumers do not expect it from such a "socially responsible business". In fact, democracy did not exist in any form as a part of the management at "Squash"--there were no department or store-wide meetings nor were there any other decision making channels open to employees.

It could be said that the business was really nothing more than an opportunistic enterprise which perpetuated "new-ageism" while it encouraged an individualistic approach to health. It is capitalism feeding upon itself in that the problems created by other capitalist enterprises are now being "solved" by others. For example, a large portion of Squash Blossom's products were vitamin and herbal supplements which they advertised as people's personal solution to new environmental hazards such as toxic chemicals and increased UV rays due to a thinning ozone layer, both problems created by other capitalist firms.

A Note About "Socially Responsible Consumption"

In the past 15 years a new movement towards "socially responsible" consumption and even investment has taken hold. This movement, which is spearheaded by groups such as Co-op America, consists mainly in the boycotting of corporations which have been targeted for human and animal rights violations, ecological destruction, and other specified reasons--I would agree that this type of action is completely necessary. The other aspect of this movement, and the major emphasis of Co-op America, is the creation of a radically different economy which is based on sustainability, cooperation, and democracy, and this too is necessary. While I support such a movement it is critical that it be explicitly against the capitalist system; if it is not it will likely evolve into a mere tactic of reform and regulation of a new, more insidious capitalism.

Socially responsible consumption and investment are not undertaken to radically recreate economic relations, but to adjust them to so that they become more tolerable. Just as a civil disobedient accepts the right of a particular system to exist but not a particular law in that system, socially responsible consumption, for many, means accepting capitalism but not certain products or business practices. Thus, if followed to its conclusion, such a reformist approach will only produce a more humane, ecological and just capitalism which appears to be an improvement but which is still hierarchical, manipulative, competitive and, fundamentally unjust.

Cooperative--Inside Workings and Outside Relationships

If we are going to create a free society an essential part of that society must be a cooperative and community-based economics. It is crucial that we begin to undermine the capitalist system while at the same time we support, and carefully create, democratic forms of community economics such as cooperatives, collectives, and bartering networks. Let us start with a beginning definition of community economics. Community economics is not just the supporting small local businesses. Nor is it enough that we just create new businesses that are organized cooperatively on the inside. While it is important that we do create these cooperatives it is essential that they not compete with one another in the capitalist system. They should be run democratically and cooperatively from the outside by the community of which they are a part. Indeed, they must not only be run by the community, but owned by the community. In the journal Society and Nature, Bookchin describes this community economics in terms of libertarian municipalism:

Minimally, a libertarian municipalist economics calls for the municipalization of the economy, not its centralization into state-owned 'nationalized' enterprises on the one hand or its reduction to 'worker-controlled' forms of collectivistic capitalism on the other... It proposes that land and enterprises be placed increasingly in the custody of the community- -more precisely, the custody of citizens in free assemblies and their deputies in confederal councils. How work should be planned, what technologies should be used, how goods should be distributed are questions that can only be resolved in practice.


This point cannot be emphasized too strongly. If our goal is to create a free society, then we cannot allow capitalism to persist in any form, including a cooperative one. Rather, we must struggle in our communities to create an alternative or dual power. Certainly, as with other aspects of community development, we can begin this work today, from the ground up. From the perspective of social ecology the development of a libertarian municipalist community economy must be a cooperative effort within the cooperative, between cooperatives, and finally working into the community and between communities.

The following study/scenario was created by the author in an attempt to further describe how a community owned and operated cooperative might begin:

A community business proposal

The Highland-Southern Community Cooperative (eventually realized as the Midtown Food Co-op) meant to contribute to its community in a variety of ways. The co-op seeks to provide people a place to eat healthy food, educate themselves as community citizens, meet to discuss neighborhood and city issues. The co-op also aims to invest 20% of its worker profits in Highland-Southern neighborhood projects such as the creation of a community cultural center, organic garden network, other cooperatives, and a neighborhood newsletter. The co-op is being planned with the needs of the Highland-Southern community as a focus.

Funds for Initial Start-up

There would initially consist of approximately 8-12 cooperators. These initial cooperators will each provide a part of the initial start-up capital: approximately $3000 each. This ensures that cooperators are serious about the project and will remain committed to its growth and elaboration as a community institution. Cooperators may need to invest more capital at a later date depending upon the success of the cooperative. As a supplement to this cooperator supplied capital the HSCC is seeking a community loan through the creation of "HSCC Dollars" which will be sold for $9 (U.S.) and then redeemed six months later for $10 (U.S.). If more funds are required the HSCC will seek a loan through a local Credit Union.

Initial costs: deposits on building, rent, furniture, cookware, silverware, equipment such as coffee machine, initial food stock, building clean-up and renovation, and necessary licenses.

Structure of HSCC

The HSCC is to be a democratically run and worker owned business and it is critical that its operating and decision making structure be rooted in the principals of democracy and community ownership. We understand democracy to be a participatory process of decision making in which every member of the cooperative and community is deemed to have the capability to equally help in directing the HSCC. As for community ownership, we believe that all businesses should continuously work to strengthen the communities of which they are a part and should, in turn, be nourished by those communities. This can be done by reinvesting the "profits" of a cooperative business back into the immediate community in the form of neighborhood projects which further support self-reliance, democracy, and cooperation.... the HSCC will reinvest 20% of its worker profits back into the Highland-Southern community.

The HSCC will be directed by policy which is created during bi-monthly meetings attended by every working cooperator and community citizens. At this time community citizens will work through a community council but it is hoped that as other cooperatives are formed they will confederate and establish a relationship with neighborhood assemblies.

Philosophy and Mission of the HSCC

The Highland Southern Community Cooperative is being created so that its worker members (cooperators) and the surrounding community have an ethical alternative to the capitalist system. While the HSCC must operate within a capitalist system it will not engage in traditional capitalist goals and will, in fact, work to subvert and undermine this system. While capitalism is based on ever increasing growth, over- consumption, competition and coercion, the HSCC is based on voluntary cooperation, ecology, and sustainability through a constant search for and practice of equilibrium within the cooperative itself and within its community. Through the HSCC cooperators are making our work a social and community asset--we are empowering ourselves and our community. We are also engaging in a direct form of citizen and community activism through which we are trying to create, not just a new economics, but a new society based on a social ecological ethics of freedom.

As a part of its mission the HSCC will continuously work to establish a community network of cooperatives which will, in time, replace any need for capitalism. This network will work within the Highland-Southern neighborhood as well as with interested persons in other Memphis neighborhoods with a goal of creating a confederation of community cooperatives throughout the city......

LETS, Neighborhood Dollars, Outdoor Markets..

It must be stressed that the above "fantasy" cooperative is just one possibility. Other community cooperatives might include a CSA farm, housing, recycling and technology, small crafts production, energy, health, anarchist "deschooling", and the list goes on. But cooperatives are not the only possibilities. We can also begin to create community based bartering networks such as LETS, Local Economy/Exchange and Trading Systems and neighborhood dollars. Systems such as these are currently working in communities across canada and the united states as well as many other countries. One of the best examples is Ithaca Dollars of Ithaca, New York.

According to the Home Town Money Starter Kit
over $27,000 of HOURS (a labor currency valued at $10.00 per HOUR, the average of wages in Tompkins County New York) are being traded by over "550 businesses and individuals who place classified and display ads in Ithaca Money, our skills and goods list. Each advertiser agrees to accept Ithaca HOURS as part or full payment for goods or services. Advertisers seek regular barter partners, to reduce their need for money."


In analyzing many LETS systems including Ithaca HOURS the underlying reasoning is not always an anti-capitalist one but more of a push for small-scale, local capitalism:

The Ithaca HOUR intends to provide a currency which becomes a mainstay of local commerce, keeping wealth in the community, promoting local ownership and ecological responsibility, encouraging local pride, raising the minimum wage, and helping people get paid for doing what they like to do.


This may be a step in the right direction but there is also the possibility that it may lead only to a reform, delaying any radical challenge to capitalism. It is crucial that as we develop alternatives to capitalism such as LETS, local money and time dollars that they be creations and practices that unabashedly confront and seek to undermine capitalism. A LETS or similar system must be a community based institution which offers not just an alternative to capitalism, but a dual power to capitalism. This dual power will, over time, completely replace capitalism as that immoral system is slowly eroded and abandoned.

Another possibility for community economic development are outdoor street markets. Such markets could provide public space for the direct trading of goods between people as well as community festivities and the development of a community culture which includes a participatory politics. The need for communities to reclaim and create public spaces for direct human interactions is a crucial one. These kinds of public spaces will provide the place for a public sphere of life. How these public spaces will look depends upon the communities which create them. A vacant lot may be transformed into a community plaza for a weekend market, festivals, or a meeting place; even an unused parking lot could initially serve as a public space. Street corners and sidewalks could be utilized. Thus a community economics integrates community space, culture, and participatory politics.

The Mondragon Experiment

While what I have described above is, in some ways, theoretical, it is also very real. It is vital in this day, when we seem to be losing our knowledge of history, that we remember that economics, as well as all other aspects of life, have up until very recent times been based in the community. It is also helpful to look at recent examples of community based and cooperative economics. There are many examples of these and they can be found all over the world. I would like to mention perhaps one of the most well known of these and that is the Mondragon cooperatives.

The Mondragon experiment was started in the 1940's in the Basque region of Spain and began with the work of Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, a Catholic priest. In his book We Build the Road as We Travel Roy Morrison writes that the experiment began with a simple apprentice school and was soon followed by the League of Education and Culture which served to "encourage and coordinate educational efforts on all levels for children and adults." From this the Mondragon cooperative system was slowly and carefully crafted into a tough network of more than 160 worker-owned and directed cooperatives including a large bank which is also worker owned/controlled. As of 1988 the cooperatives( which include a chain of department stores, appliance manufactures, machine shops...) were serving well over 100,00 people with over 21,000 cooperators directing the system.

How was such a cooperative system able to expand and be so successfull in a capitalist market? Why and how did the system work? Mondragon's success is due, in great part, to the commitment of its workers to their guiding principal of "equilibrio" which, simply put, means a search for balance. Every action that the cooperatives have taken from early on has been carefully thought out and directed through a participatory, democratic process. But this is their philisophical base. Another key to their success has been their development of a cooperative bank and their wise reinvestment of cooperative profits back into this bank so that other cooperatives could be formed. They have sought, from the beginning, to create a whole network, or ecosystem, of cooperatives which compliment and help one another.

A third important ingredient in the sustainability of the cooperatives is their process of creating new cooperatives, which they undertake with great care and planning so as to ensure success. In fact, of all the cooperatives started, only three have failed and two of these were converted capitalist firms. The process usually begins with the forming of a group of potential cooperators who are interested in undertaking a particular project. They work with a cooperative development division of the Caja Laboral Popular (the coop bank) to develop a clear and concise plan and if all goes well they are given a loan by the CLP which is added to the start-up capital that each cooperator has her/himself already provided(all cooperators are required to put in an equal share of this capital investment because they are also the owners).

While we must remember that Mondragon is far from perfect, it is a meaningful experiment and an ongoing work towards a democratic community economics. The main problem of the cooperatives is the size to which some of them have grown individually, the geographical distance which the system tries to encompass, and the centralization that has been a result of the tremendous growth in the systems size. Indeed, in many ways Mondragon has far out grown the communities in which it exists. This growth in size is due in large part due to the pressures of competing in the capitalist system. But, like any ecosystem, we should expect growing pains.

Perhaps Mondragon will eventually fail but that does not mean that it was not, in many ways, a success. Many people, within the system and those of us far away, have learned a great deal from the Mondragon experiment. And it is still very possible that Mondragon will continue and retain or regain its revolutionary core. As Morrison notes " This is 'revolution' construed as a revolutionary kernel within an evolutionary and participatory historical process, something far different from a sudden seizure of power."

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