Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monsters from The Id

A video released by Jewish Americans for Obama may help the guy win Florida, and that may be well and good. Its stresses that Obama's values and concepts are close to core ones in Jewish culture such as tikkun olam.

But the id rears its head too in footage of Obama emphasising before the swelling massed ranks of AIPAC, again and again, that he will do everything -- EVERYTHING -- in his power to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

Obama must surely have understood that the message as heard by that audience was clear: he is ready to bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran.

It is to be hoped that, if elected, Obama will stick to what he has said are his core values. This would translate into, among other things, respect for Iran's right to be secure and achieve political and social change on its own terms, the elimination of the threat of nuclear attack by ALL regional powers, and real justice and restitution for the Palestinians.

Boom boom

"How much do we need to get know a people before we bomb them?" John Stewart asks Hooman Majd.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Peter Galbraith on 'victory' in Iraq.


The chaos that is engulfing Pakistan appears to represent an especially frightening case of strategic blowback, one that has now begun to seriously undermine the American effort in Afghanistan.
-- Dexter Filkins

Man on fire

Obama caught fire in Fredericksburg. Let's hope this is a battle that the Union doesn't lose.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The race

An out of the way place for the Obama campaign.

Palin's judgement: one and two.

Reality check

The rise in global carbon dioxide emissions last year outpaced international researchers' most dire projections...In 2007, carbon released from burning fossil fuels and producing cement increased 2.9 percent over that released in 2006, to a total of 8.47 gigatons, or billions of metric tons, according to the Australia-based Global Carbon Project...More.


This from the same administration that wants more nuclear power stations.


Spot the difference

Judith Warner writes:
Frankly, I’ve come to think, post-Kissinger, post-Katie-Couric, that Palin’s nomination isn’t just an insult to the women (and men) of America. It’s an act of cruelty toward her as well.

P.S. The above two have been spliced together here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Positive and negative thinking

From different, er, "spheres of discourse", but these two may be worth looking at side by side:
* Damien G Walter says Science fiction doesn't have to be gloomy, does it?

* Barbara Ehrenreich on The Power of Negative Thinking.
But Ehrenreich concludes:
When it comes to how we think, “negative” is not the only alternative to “positive.” As the case histories of depressives show, consistent pessimism can be just as baseless and deluded as its opposite. The alternative to both is realism — seeing the risks, having the courage to bear bad news and being prepared for famine as well as plenty. We ought to give it a try.

Palin is crap: proof

You can see why they are reluctant to allow her to talk to the press. Part 1 and Part 2.

Irregular Times.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Whoops, apocalipstick

It’s hard to imagine that John McCain and Sarah Palin still want advice from the Unwise Man Kissinger. It’s sort of like villagers in those old movies who bring in the wizened witch doctor to shake a stick over them.
-- Maureen Dowd

Your Urgent Help Needed

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.
I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transaction is 100% safe.

New nuke of the North

Somebody - Gore Vidal, perhaps - once said "everything changes except the avant garde." Something similar could be said of much of the debate about nuclear power. This was illustrated in an exchange this morning on the Today programme between Mark Lynas, now an advocate of nuclear power, and Caroline Lucas of the Green party.

Mark Lynas, repeating the arguments put forward by the nuclear industry for years, neglected in my view the central importance of devolved generation and efficiency (among other things). Caroline Lucas could have made more play of the potential for rapid development to be a game changer in favour of renewables such as new solar and 'smarter' energy use (where innovation and production cycles are likely to be more rapid than in nuclear power.)

I am still pretty much where I was on this issue when I edited Heat and Light for the New Statesman (see intro and contents) and blogged for the Institute of Physics. Plus ├ža change, as they probably don't say at the EDF film club.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Real men, and hockey moms, go to Tehran

Andrew Sullivan reminds us of the agenda.

I actually disagree that there is a 'tiny' chance of the U.S. not going to war with Iran if Obama and Biden are elected.

Anyway, put some lipstick on those bunker busters!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hot, flat and a bit crap

Tom Friedman has some strengths, but his blind spots continue to make my jaw hit the floor. In channeling the thoughts he would like John McCain to have, he writes:
"we’re not going to baby-sit Iraqi politicians who don’t have the will or the courage to reconcile their differences — unless they want to pay us for that. In America, baby sitters get paid.”
Has he really not noticed the ethnic cleansing that, as Andrew Sullivan rightly says, the U.S. has presided over in Iraq. What kind of mind uses the baby sitter analogy in such circumstances? I could get as angry as Jed Bartlet.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Not time's fool

It's a summer night, my son is two. I wake up to footsteps running through the house and then the slam of the back door. I leap out of bed and follow. In the backyard he's dancing and whirling under the stars, arms reaching up to them. He looks at me, ecstatic. 'I can see stars, I can see the moon!' he cries.

Fast forward. My son is nine. We've just received news that his uncle in England has died. We haven't seen Derek for six years. My husband, whose brother it is, doesn't know how to feel; they were not close. The rest of us are awkwardly silent. I pick my son up from his friend's place and deliver the news. When we arrive home he flings himself into his father's arms and weeps. He gives his father permission to grieve.

Fast forward. My son is in his late teens and in a very dark and uncommunicative phase. I phone to tell him that the mother of his oldest friend has cancer. He is silent, and then he says simply, 'Tell her. She's been another mother to me. Tell her.' And in those few words I can see him again.
-- Jeanette Kennett of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the Australian National University in The Philosophers Zone. She says that what she saw vividly on those occasions was her son "as a valuer."

Kennett continues with an anecdote from Tell me I'm here, an account by Anne Deveson of her schizophrenic son Jonathan, who took his own life at the age of 24. Deveson's last encounter seems to have something of the "abysmal elation" of which Michael Greenberg writes in Hurry Down Sunshine, an account of his daughter's illness, reviewed here by Oliver Sachs. She writes:
I took him to the couch and held him in my arms and stroked his head and kissed his head, and all the while his body was heaving with sobs while he shuddered out disconnected statements like, "I can't go on, the pain in my head. Terrible. Terrible. Look at me. Look at what I've fucking become. Oh God."...

...Jonathan talked for a long time, and I listened. Then there was silence even though the music was frolicking and the crowds chattering. Jonathan's phrasing may have been eccentric, but if you spent time with him and felt your way into what he was saying, it was almost always possible to understand him. I looked up, Jonathan was grinning, with his head on one side. He looked quite old and wise."It was a good try, wasn't it? Thank you for listening, that was very brave of you. People have to learn that underlying business, the message of everything is love. Which is why society sticks together. You and I have love."

The tough guys

If they could do this with Bush as a cipher, [imagine] what they could do with Palin.
-- AS

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

'The end of capitalism'

Is the reality of the modern, transactions-oriented model of financial capitalism indeed that large private firms make enormous private profits when the going is good and get bailed out and taken into temporary public ownership when the going gets bad, with the tax payer taking the risk and the losses? If so, then why not keep these activities in permanent public ownership?
-- asks Willem Buiter in the FT

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

We are the turkeys

says Nicholas Taleb:

Fig. 1: A Turkey is fed for a 1000 days—every days confirms to its statistical department that the human race cares about its welfare "with increased statistical significance". On the 1001st day, the turkey has a surprise.

Fig. 2: Shows the fate of close to 1000 financial institutions (includes busts such as FNMA, Bear Stearns, Northern Rock, Lehman Brothers, etc.). The banking system (betting AGAINST rare events) just lost > 1 Trillion dollars (so far) on a single error, more than was ever earned in the history of banking. Yet bankers kept their previous bonuses and it looks like citizens have to foot the bills. And one Professor Ben Bernanke pronounced right before the blowup that we live in an era of stability and "great moderation" (he is now piloting a plane and we all are passengers on it).

P.S. Michael Lewitt on A.I.G.

Raw with Akpistan/Kapistan

American liberals can't quite face the fact that if [Obama] does win in November, and if he has meant a single serious word he's ever said, it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that—not less.
-- Christopher Hitchens.

See also Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thankyou, 24

So America's peers in the fight against torture, in terms of public opinion are Azerbaijan, Egypt, Russia, and Iran. This is what America now is: a country with the moral values of countries that routinely torture and abuse prisoners, like Egypt and Iran. Even the Chinese, living in a neo-fascist market state, oppose torture in all circumstances by 66 percent, compared to Americans where only 53 percent do! More horrifying: a higher percentage of Americans - 13 percent - believe that torture should generally be allowed than in any other country save China, Turkey and Nigeria. And in the last two years, as the American president celebrates and authorizes the torture of people who have not been allowed a fair trail, support for torturing terror suspects has increased from 36 percent to 44 percent.
-- from America, global pioneer of torture by Andrew Sullivan.
Have we actually become so selfish and scared that we don’t even want to consider whether some things trump safety? What kind of future does that augur?
-- from Just Asking by David Foster Wallace.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ignorance, madam

James Fallows has Sarah Palin's number.

Idiots ruled by liars

I have family and friends in the US, have spent more time there than any other country besides the UK and continue to find it fascinating (as well as infuriating). What happens in US politics concerns me directly because I live in a client state that is likely to be dragooned into McCainRovePalinCheney wars and other disasters.

I hope the many Americans I admire and respect will prove the header of this post wrong, but right now it doesn't look good.

P Z Myers (from 2006) on a culture of idiocy. Sullivan on minimal thought. Krugman on the lies.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Pursuit of the Millennium

What you see in Iraq, basically, is a manifestation of what’s going on in this unseen world called the spirit world...I believe that Jesus himself operated from that position of war mode.
-- Ed Kalnins, the senior pastor of Wasilla Assembly of God (Mudflats via AS)

Caucasian chess circle

Putin's Ruthless Gambit by Michael Klare on TomDispatch (Hat tip DP).

Useful, too, to re-read Stephen F. Cohen's The New American Cold War (to which TE refers in his intro to MK's article) - even if not to agree with every word of it (was it really a bad idea, for example, to include the Baltics and the Central European states in the EU?). Bear in mind also Mary Kaldor on Sovereignty, status and the humanitarian perspective and a great report from the ground in South Ossetia by Tanya Lokshina:
...Everyone is so pathetic. The Ossetian volunteers, who were teenagers just yesterday, and the Georgian student reservists (some soldiers they are - a few weeks of training, sing-alongs with a guitar, and then off to battle). Those corpses... Sure I saw them. This is August, and the temperature is over 30 degrees. The Ossetians buried their own, of course, but the Georgians were lying all over the city, naked and rotting...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Shifting baselines

"I used to think that this work was really nasty," [says Mohammed Harun]. "But I'm used to it now, its just my job, and it brings me money."
-- from Living off the sewers of gold in Bangladesh.

Palin Tarantino

P.S. 10am: not to forget Vlad the Impaler: