Wild Green Yonder
Friday, December 27, 2002
The Defense of the Indefensible
Orwell's classic essay, Politics and the English Language, is available online. My good friend Nic pointed it out to me, and rereading it, I think it's even more brilliant than I'd remembered.
"In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:
"While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.
"The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia...."
Friday, December 20, 2002
Lott Goes, Time to Clean House
Now that Trent Lott is stepping down from leadership, maybe it's time to drag out from the closet the skeletons of other Republican leaders. The Republicans have been getting away with their little winking game for far too long. You know the one: the one where, when the camera's on and the public's watching, they scream about how unfairly they're stereotyped in the liberal media, and about how they're really the party of fairness, inclusion and sound government; but the minute they're talking only amongst themselves, they bust out the racism, bring out the homophobia, attack the very basis of our secular government, openly declare class warfare and generally pander to every bigot, fundamentalist Christian freak and corporate criminal they can find. And tehy get away with it.
Well, time for that to stop. We need to start outing the Republicans when they pull this little fascist-in-sheep's-clothing bit.
Krugman - they ought to give that guy a job, like at the Times or something
Another great piece from Paul Krugman today, this time on the Mayberry Machiavellis of the Bush-Rove Administration and how they will do anything to gain power, but have no idea how to use it, except to undermine needed regulations and cut taxes for the wealthiest 1% of Americans. Krugman's been hitting the mark an awful lot recently - boy's on a roll.
Thursday, December 19, 2002
A Minor Paine
Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo is fast becoming a bit of my essential daily reading: he takes particular delight in skewering hypocricy through the use of a well-timed hyperlink. Check it out.
'Tis the Season for Wild Political Bile
This Buffalo newspaper has compiled a list of the most loathsome people in America. It's damn funny.
Misdeeds: Is short; is vengefully unprincipled; seems like the kind of person who out of all of the people solemnly hanging their heads at a funeral would be most likely to be thinking about calling his pollster. Wishes he weren't Jewish, so that he could be John McCain. The poster boy of the Democratic Party drowning in its own vacuity, frantically discharging political ballast in order to reach the surface.
Aggravating Factor: Makes Al Gore seem human.
Aesthetic: A high-school principal who gives taller kids twice the usual amount of detention.
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
"It's just embarrassing..."
Technical Difficulties, a funny litle ad apologizing to the rest of the world for the difficulties we're having with our democracy.
Sunday, December 08, 2002
And the farmer who feeds us, each and all...
We're used to thinking of poverty as an urban problem, mostly afflicting people of color. The largest single group in poverty, however, is rural and white. The poorest places in America are almost all rural places. "Of the 25 poorest counties in the nation, 5 are in Nebraska, 5 are in Texas and 4 are in South Dakota," reports the New York Times. Large swathes of the high plains (over 400 counties) are now so depopulated that they fit the 1893 definition of "frontier." This compounds the problems of poverty, as the use of services - even basic, fundamental commercial services, like access to a supermaket or a drug store or a feed-and-seed, much less a hospital, a good school or a social worker - comes to mean hours of driving on lonely, poorly-maintained roads. Rural ghettos, though vast in their distances and frequently picturesque, are even more terrible than urban ones.
In fact, rural decline has gotten so bad in the heartland states that Byron Dorgan and Chuck Hagel have introduced in the Senate a "New Homestead Economic Opportunity Act." Doesn't seem to go far enought to seriously do much to turn around a decades-long tide of farm consolidations and expanding agribusiness monopolies, government underinvestment in health care and education, drug use and cultural destruction, but at least it's a start.
There is, however, another course we could chart with our rural compatriots: a Buffalo Commons.
At the heart of the idea, first proposed by Deb and Frank Popper, would be a vast ecological reserve, perhaps as large as twenty million acres -- running from Eastern Montana and Wyoming to Western Minnesota and from the Dakotas to North Texas -- on which native plant communities would be largely restored,and herds of bison, wolves and other native animals reintroduced. It could be managed sustainably for game and native plant harvest, and in appropriate and economically viable pockets for sustainable agriculture.
At the same time, the Buffalo Commons would sprout numerous wind farms. It's already been estimated that the capacity for wind energy in the five states of Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and North and South Dakota is 75% of total current US energy use. Extending the wind farms throughout the entire high plains, while siting them in a restored grasslands ecosystem, would provide many more jobs, help alleviate global warming, help protect endangered species, and save a way of life.
That would be a real vision for the heartland.
Thursday, December 05, 2002
Stop, Listen, What's That Sound?
John Perry Barlow, has a great piece over on Boing Boing about the current onslaught of repressive laws and governmental terrorism:
"Thomas Pynchon on bad acid couldn't dream up the paranoid nightmares now pouring out of Washington.
"Today we learn that the CIA has been given authority to kill any American citizen who is *suspected* of terrorism. Say again? You mean they *all* have a license to kill? And not just the other, but us. Summarily. Without trial. Yikes.
"Then there is John Poindexter's new Information Awareness Office... which is being extended authorization to combine and data-mine every database, commercial or public, in a massive search for evil-doers and behavioral patterns that match up with evil-doing. Records of your buying habits, your medical problems, the books you take out of the library, your driving skills, your telephone calls are all available to the Government without a warrant or a suspect. ...The Homeland Security Administration is being given a 150 billion dollars, 170,000 employees and few legal constraints....
"Meanwhile, the Content Industry is working on redesigning the architecture of both the Internet and your computer so that they - and anyone else who might be interested - will be able to see what's on your computer and control what can pass between it and any other digital devices.
"Fair use, the ability to share information with your friends, indeed - the very right to know - is being criminalized. With these legally ordained control methods, it becomes trivially easy to stop the flow of dissent since it might contain copyrighted material.
"The bats of Facism have left the cave...."
Why I'm a Dog-Person
"Cats, for example, do poorly on many animal I.Q. tests simply because it's almost impossible to devise a reward that cats care enough about to work for." (From a NYT story on how we'reDog's Best Friend.