Wild Green Yonder
Friday, November 29, 2002
Crimes Against Humanity, the Lighter Side of
Get Your War On does Henry Kissinger. Funny:
"There's something so precious about a young child's first encounter with Henry Kissinger... 'Mommeeee! Who's that scary old man in the bad suit standing at the podium with President Bush? And why is there a huge pile of skulls and dead bodies all around hime?"
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Doing Your Part by Doing Nothing
Friday is Buy Nothing Day, the easiest protest you'll ever take part it: just stay home.
Window on a Life
I truly enjoy Caterina Fake's blog. It's more in the school of blog as online diary, and thus has its moments of cloying sentimentality (like when she talks about her dog), but it's saved by the writing. Today's entry:
My fluctuating intelligence is at a low ebb right now, and though I seem to be carrying off a reasonable facsimile of the chit-chat required for daily call-and-response interactions with salespeople, desk clerks and telephone solicitors, I'm barely able to experience my own sentience. My knuckles have been drooping floorward, my hairline has been creeping down to my eyebrows, and I've been noticing comfy perches up in branches. Ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny in reverse. Next stop, tadpole.
Monday, November 25, 2002
The Other Rupblican Agenda
The police state which the Bush Administration has been busily erecting has rightly captured much of our group attention recently. The wag-the-dog war on Iraq has captured much of what's left. But if you believe that environmental sustainability is important, the Republican's anti-environmental agenda is just as shocking. Over the next two years, we are going to be seeing moves to cut more old growth forest, drive roads into more wilderness, build more coal-fired power plants, drill for oil on our nation's coastlines and in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve, and allow for more dangerous toxic releases by corporations.
This is not a drill, folks. The Right Wing is going all out. We need to do the same, and begin ot only turning back their tide, but creating that other world people keep chanting about at the protests.
Sunday, November 24, 2002
The Bush Junta Has the Russians Freaked
The Moscow Times ran a powerful editorial Friday on the Bush Administration's grab for tyrannical authority. You know things have gone too far when the Russians start calling your government a dictatorship:
What we are witnessing is the mutation of a democratic republic into a military autocracy: Bush bases his claim of arbitrary power on the president's constitutional role as commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces. Although there is nothing in the constitution that warrants the extension of military command to cover arbitrary rule over the entire citizenry, and certainly nothing that countenances the abrogation of basic rights and liberties on the unchallengeable say-so of an all-powerful leader, the "commander-in-chief" argument nevertheless serves a useful purpose for the autocrat, creating the illusion of a limited and temporary suspension of liberties -- a drastic but necessary "wartime" measure.
But Bush and his officials have already warned us that this "wartime emergency" might never end. A direct quote from the commander-in-chief: "There's no telling how many wars it will take to secure freedom in the homeland."....
These changes are meant to be permanent -- and they are meant to remain under the control of the Bush Regime and like-minded successors. It is absurd to believe that Bush, Cheney and the rest of the junta are constructing this vast machinery of dominance only to risk turning it over to any political adversary who genuinely opposed empire, plutocracy and rule by a privileged elite.
It is equally absurd to believe that these new, unconstrained powers will not be abused. The very fact of their assertion is itself an abuse, a perversion of the freedoms that Bush has sworn -- falsely -- to uphold. They are a far greater threat to the foundations of American liberty than even the most horrendous attack by murderous criminals....
Saturday, November 23, 2002
David Brooks - a writer I increasingly dislike - has a piece on the Sims in this week's NYT magazine. It bites, not least because Brooks decides to try to use the Sims as another exhibit for his defense of sprawl, but also because the things he points gleefully to (the materialism and suburban decor-mania of Sim life) are not the point of the Sims world, they're the window dressing. What's exciting about the Sims is the idea of massively multiplayer virtual interaction, or collective creativity, not that fact that the form it takes is usually decorating a split-level ranch.
Which brings me to a larger point about Sims creator Will Wright's games in general. Despite being a self-proclaimed fan of Christopher Alexander and Jane Jacobs, Wright's games consistently lack any real understanding of urbanity, of community and its uses. I remember years ago playing the original SimCity and being appalled that while one could build railways, without roads and lots of them, your city died (not to mention the model of urban development encoded in the games - a model which required, for instance, you as Mayor to finance a sports stadium and to chose between coal-fired and nuclear powerplants). You're free, in Wright's worlds, to build any society you want, as long as its structural underpinnings resemble the most conventional ones currently available... and you buy the right kind of barbeque.
Friday, November 22, 2002
America's So-Called Meritocracy
Another great Paul Krugman essay in the NYT this morning, this time on the increasingly inherited nature of privilage. It's long been an open secret that America has a ruling class (sometimes best seen in the nature of the admissions processes of our elite universities, where family legacy and having gone to the right school are still dominating factors). What Krugman points out is that - because of the cash-out mentality of the nation's CEOs and investor class and public policy shifts like the destruction of the inheritance tax - "there's more privilage to pass on."
This sort of thing has dire consequences for our democracy, it hardly needs to be pointed out.
What might bear repeating, though, is just how rich and powerful this elite actually is - and that, even if you're a member of the upper-middle class, you're not one of them, and unlikely ever to be. People who make even, say, $150,000 a year and identify with the ruling class are victims of what the Marxists used to call "false consciousness." They aren't you. You aren't them. And your kids are unlikely to be them either.
When the ship goes down, you'll be waiting for a lifeboat with the rest of us.
Thursday, November 21, 2002
Sequencing the Wide Sargasso Sea
Craig Venter, who's certainly not my hero, as he's been on the frontlines of the effort to privatize our common genetic resources, has a new effort underway: the sequencing of the genomes of 100 million microbes a year in order to provide a pool of genetic resources for industrial biotech (in this case, assembling critters that can eat the CO2 coming out of smokestacks).
I keep saying, and will say it here again, that yes, the debate over GMO food is important, and yes, the medical advances arising from the understanding of our own genes will be profound, but the real action is in industrial biotech. In engineered organisms that provide our power, filter our water, eat our pollution, clean up contaminated land, and create new resouces. That's not a century away, it's a decade away, if that.
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Progressives in a Defensive Crouch, #396
Today's Bay Guardian has some decent articles about the amazingly rapid growth of the anti-war movement.
It goes and spoils the effect, though, by headlining the issue "Resistance Is Not Futile!", which seems to me to be precisely the kind of thing one says when trying to convince oneself that resistance isn't, in fact, as you deeply suspect, totally futile after all.
It's like the slogan "Another World Is Possible!" which I rather like, but which is still a vision with the schmutz of defeat in its eyes; like, another world is possible, but we're probably not going to get it. (I just mistyped that slogan as Another World is Practical, which I actually find much more subversive...)
Back when I was doing more media consulting with nonprofit groups, I used to sometimes ask clients "What's your win scenario? If you win, if you get what you want, how will the world be a different place?" I was consistantly shocked by how many of them had never seriously considered the idea of actually winning.
So, peoples, what are our win scenarios? If we win, what next?
Game Over? Not Yet.
A great NYT piece on how to prevent asteroids from hitting the Earth. It appears this is a problem we can solve. (One interesting candidate strategy would simply be to paint an incoming asteroid black, changing how much heat it absorbs and altering its path.)
The truly interesting thing about all this, though, is its larger meaning: that we are in the process of discovering how to control the small portion of the cosmos through which we are hurtling. We are managing our airspace, so to speak, or at least starting to. This is a small, unacknowledged miracle.
It's too early in the morning for this sort of thing
Across the street from my apartment, a female clown is setting up the gear for a photo shoot.
Emerson once wrote that if you wish to truly do good, and know that you have done good, you must do it in the "minute particulars."
The Adopt-A-Minefield campaign has a very specific, particular goal: to clear minefields in developing countries. 45 to 50 million landmines are scattered about the war-torn parts of the world, and at least 10,000 people (many of them children) are killed or maimed every year when they explode. And poor countries have no funds for landmine clearance, therefore, if those minefields are to be swept, we in the rich quarter of the world need to help.
Or We Could Change the Government...
John Gilmore calls for us all to begin encrypting everything in a bid to make totalitarianism more difficult for the US government:
The US government's moves to impose totalitarian control in the last
year (secret trials, enemies lists, massive domestic surveillance) are
what some of the more paranoid among us have been expecting for years.
I was particularly amused by last week's comments from the
Administration that it'll be too hard to retrain the moral FBI agents
who are so careful of our civil rights -- so we'll need a new
domestic-spying agency that will have no compunctions about violating
our civil rights and wasting our money by spying on innocent people.
While there's plenty of fodder for argument among the details, the
overall thrust of the effort seems pretty clear.
Now's a great time to deploy good working encryption, everywhere you
can. Next month or next year may be too late.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
GPS 3-D art
34 North 118 West is a really cool project - a sort of interactive art party where the venue is the street and the audience retains cohesion through the tracking of participants' locations using GPS systems. Wish I could go.
Monday, November 11, 2002
Democrats Need Some Spine
One of the best pieces of post-election analysis, or at least invective, is this Nick Penniman piece from the American Prospect:
"The "vital center" strategy has landed the party in the mushy middle, pitifully trolling around for illusive suburbanites, astonished that its subtle rhetorical dance wasn't enchanting busy voters. The middle should never be a destination for a political party. The middle is a byproduct of the tug-of-war of ideas. Politics has been trending conservative because the right has been tugging harder than the left. Political territory has to be created through argument and combat. It's not static space. Civil rights activists understood this when they started out in the 1940s. The founders of the modern environmental movement did, too, in the late 1960s, just as America's founders did almost 300 years ago."