Saturday, September 30, 2006

Meet your nation's elite...and weep for your nation

Via Digby, here is a list of the top 100 pairs of guests at Washington, DC parties. Digby notes the article's entry about US Senator George Allen and its backhanded defense of Allen's racism (and note the two entries for black Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. (no. 34) and US Senator Barack Obama (no. 69), if anyone thinks the writers don't have at least an insensitivity to darker-skinned people).

For me, I noticed the in-breeding and inherited wealth--and the fact that the ambassadors from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are in the top 5 of who to invite to the swank affairs.

The people on this list include the same people who wring their hands about supposedly growing "illiteracy" among college students with reference to history and politics. Yet, these same people, with the exception of David Gregory (no. 38), fell--no, swooned--for the lies from the Bush administration.

I also found it revealing that Christopher Hitchens (no. 43) is on this list. Before Hitchens became stupid with neo-con fantasies, he was only on the hidden list of who not to invite. But when he became stupid, he became part of the coquettish in-crowd who do not think legalizing torture is a bad thing, but are outraged when they receive a few obscenity-laden emails from a few largely justified and irate people who live outside the Washington, DC bubble who call them on their delusions and misstatements, or worse, ignoring of factual information.

As Michael Berube describes with a very arched sarcasm, the illiteracy of the elite class in our nation is the true scandal.

But, if it makes readers feel any better, here is Chomsky on the ignorance of the educated classes during the Vietnam War and the intelligence of the regular folks as to that terrible and tragic war:

"During the Vietnam War, the U.S. propaganda system did its job partially but not entirely. Among educated people it worked very well. Studies show that among the more educated parts of the population, the government's propaganda about the war is now accepted unquestioningly. One reason that propaganda often works better on the educated than on the uneducated is that educated people read more, so they receive more propaganda. Another is that they have jobs in management, media, and academia and therefore work in some capacity as agents of the propaganda system--and they believe what the system expects them to believe. By and large, they're part of the privileged elite, and share the interests and perceptions of those in power.

"On the other hand, the government had problems in controlling the opinions of the general population. According to some of the latest polls, over 70 percent of Americans still thought the war was, to quote the Gallup Poll, 'fundamentally wrong and immoral, not a mistake.' Due to the widespread opposition to the Vietnam War, the propaganda system lost its grip on the beliefs of many Americans. They grew skeptical about what they were told. In this case there's even a name for the erosion of belief. It's called the 'Vietnam Syndrome,' a grave disease in the eyes of America's elites because people understand too much."

One finding of the "illiteracy" study that may seem strange is how students at some of the top elite colleges showed a decline in knowledge of things historical or political from their freshman to senior years. That is consistent with Chomsky's point, where it is to one's economic and status-based advantage not to know information that would bar entry into--or cause one to be kicked out of--the in-crowd. Just as almost 65% of Americans want us to announce a withdrawal from Iraq or leave immediately, the elite continue to labor under delusions that we should wait yet another "six months" before making a too hasty decision. Meanwhile, the children, parents, and siblings of non-elite class loved ones come home in body bags or flag-draped caskets, and more and more Iraqis die for the hubris and mendacity of a president who cares very little about anyone except his cronies and his aggrandizing of power.

This is not new. However, it is less defensible when the information is more easily attainable in our Internet age and at a time when our nation is, in fact, ruled by people who are woefully without good faith toward their nation's best interests.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

One Nation Under Plutocracy

Nicholas von Hoffman, the Mencken of our time, analyzes the latest Forbes Top 400 and notes, first off, that it now contains only billionaires. Not even the centi-millionaires need apply any longer. And the implications and explications are worse than we may think...

I do wish von Hoffman was published in more "mainstream" journals, but his fundamental opposition to the corporate plutocracy makes him too "controversial," unlike say Ann Coulter, who is placed before our eyes on television because she is supposedly "controversial," as opposed to diversionary and vile.

It pays for Coulter to know what she knows. It doesn't pay von Hoffman to know what he knows. That is a singular lesson for the rest of us as to the composition of the elite coroporate-owned media in today's America.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Now THAT'S a great ad!

This ad, by the VoteVets PAC against Virginia incumbent Republican Senator George Allen, is outstanding. It's helping keep this race close by Democratic Party candidate Jim Webb against a well-financed incumbent Republican Senator.

Check out the site I linked to as well. It's called "Swing State Project" and is worth bookmarking for the next six weeks.

Most people don't even watch news anymore. The only way they are reached is through ads, particularly in larger States such as California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and yes, Virginia. If Democrats and their allies don't run tough, sharp ads, they will (as they mostly do) lose the narrative, or how people analyze and reach conclusions as to who is better for our national security, for example.

I am still fairly pessimistic about Democratic Party chances in November in terms of gaining back the House or Senate. However, there are specific races, such as Sherrod Brown's remarkable bid against Ohio Republican Senator Mike DeWine (Brown is ahead by several points and has momentum), where it shows the Dems will at least get closer to taking back both houses of Congress. Unless the Dems, as a political party, start getting tough in their positions--pull out of Iraq, save and rebuild America's manufacturing base, and fight the formal legalization of torture--not enough people will have incentive to throw out the Republican enablers of the worst presidency since at least Harding.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Can't catch him? He's dead! Um, well, he'll die eventually, anyway...

Back in the days of the Russian Revolution and Civil War (1917-1922), our elite and viciously anti-communist (and anti-labor, anti-socialist, anti-feminist, etc.) newspapers would periodically tell its readers that Lenin had died of illness, even though such reports were false (sorry, no links were found on the Web for this historical point). Eventually, in 1924, Lenin did die of illness--but Lenin's death occurred just under two years after the Bolsheviks completed consolidation of their rule over Russia and its immediate surrounding areas.

Similarly, Glenn Greenwald provides us an interesting record of pro-Republican commentators who have wrongly reported that bin Laden, the guy their guy, Bush, can't or won't catch*, has died of...illness. Maybe this last report is true, maybe not. Eventually, bin Laden will succumb. However, based upon the Republican political machine's continued ability to manufacture effective talking points with their enablers in corporate-owned mass media, we, as citizens, are forced to be skeptical of such pronouncements.

* If you scroll down in the linked article, you'll see this:

"On the videotape obtained by the CIA, bin Laden is seen confidently instructing his party how to dig holes in the ground to lie in undetected at night. A bomb dropped by a U.S. aircraft can be seen exploding in the distance. "We were there last night," bin Laden says without much concern in his voice. He was in or headed toward Pakistan, counterterrorism officials think.

"That was December 2001. Only two months later, Bush decided to pull out most of the special operations troops and their CIA counterparts in the paramilitary division that were leading the hunt for bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for war in Iraq, said Flynt L. Leverett, then an expert on the Middle East at the National Security Council.

"'I was appalled when I learned about it,' said Leverett, who has become an outspoken critic of the administration's counterterrorism policy. 'I don't know of anyone who thought it was a good idea. It's very likely that bin Laden would be dead or in American custody if we hadn't done that.'

"Several officers confirmed that the number of special operations troops was reduced in March 2002."

But, of course, according to FoxNews and ABC television (and its right wing talk show hosts on its radio network), it's Clinton's fault. Some things just don't change much, do they?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A video every American should watch

What makes this interview of FoxNews' Chris Wallace with Clinton so amazing is not merely Clinton's command of facts, but his exposure of the FoxNews structure and biases. It is how Democrats should respond to these Heathers and Republican lackey commentators on television and radio.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Being de-legitimized is a bitch, isn't it?

Poor Ronald Bailey, resident science guy at magazine, has published a semi-long article defending himself against the charge of being a paid agent of ExxonMobil. Bailey had long been a climate-change skeptic, but last year converted to Al Gore's general view on the subject. He seems so terribly offended and has to defend himself, all while admitting his involvement in groups that relied upon funding from Exxon or other oil company or other "suspect" groups. Bailey feels the dreaded taint and fights righteously against that taint.

All I can say is: Ron, welcome to the world that the so-called "left" (or people defined as "left") inhabit, where defending your integrity is something you have to do every time you open your mouth.

During the Cold War, those in the elite corridors of the media and government perfected and consistently used a nomenclature that delegitimized those who saw through the lies that went with propping up dictators who did American corporations' bidding, and also saw through the lies nearly every step of the way during the 25 year war in Vietnam. Two better known phrases, which ironically had their ultimate origins among Russian Bolsheviks at the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917-1921, were:

1. "fellow traveler", which meant someone who hung out with members of organizations that hung out with others who were not quite friendly to the American way; or

2. "useful idiot", which was used to denigrate an otherwise very intelligent person who happened to reach, independently, conclusions that paid hacks propogated.

The nomenclature proved so effective that it led to de-legitimizing of not merely the "left," but eventually a vast group of Americans then known as "liberals." Today, as we know, "liberal" is an epithet that carries with it a worse connotation than even "communist"--because at least people think commies are tough, whereas "everyone" knows "liberals" are weak.

A full read of Bailey's defense of himself reveals him to be both a "fellow traveler" of, and a "useful idiot" for the ExxonMobil public relations machine--if one was to use that nomenclature against libertarians or conservatives. The fact that he has repented after the latest climate data is like listening to Lillian Hellman tell us, "Oh, I didn't realize Stalin's trials in the 1930s were a hoax and lie until Krushchev told me in 1956."

How does that feel, Ron? Not too good, I bet. I know you can take it, but I'd love to see how it would feel if every time you and your friends at or those at the National Review opened your mouths, you not only had the burden of proof on the content of the subject of which you are about to opine, but also had to prove you are not traitors, hate America, or somehow lack legitimacy or integrity. This is the bane of those of us who doubted the Iraq War II from the start, seek a national health insurance plan for all Americans, want to reform union laws to help workers organize better at the workplace, etc.

I'd feel more sympathy for Bailey if he joined with some lefties to call out against this pernicious de-legitimization of people on important topics such as the environment or American foreign policy. Perhaps such a grouping would assist Americans in focusing more on the content of a public policy dispute than an all-too-easy assigning of labels that more often obscure than enlighten. Fat chance, I'd have to admit, but worth at least a discussion.


Hamas causes Palestinians to miss yet another opportunity

Hamas has failure. Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas says talks with Hamas about formally recognizing Israel are "back to zero."

It is time for Abbas to re-propose the referendum and place it on calendar for a specific date for a vote.

That's the only chance as, unfortunately, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert is not going to seek further negotiations. And I must say, on behalf of Olmert, it is hard to negotiate with someone who refuses to admit your nation even exists.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Chavez's speech reads better than it sounded

Here is Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's speech. I believe it is vital that it be read. From what I have heard about it--it was a midday speech and frankly, I've not been motivated enough to watch it on video since then--he sounded like a madman. But somehow reading it this morning, the speech didn't read anywhere near as bad. In fact, it was partially reasonable in terms of specifics, even if many of us may find much with which to disagree.*

The rhetoric about Bush being a "devil"--meaning evil--is a mirror image of how Bush and his supporters talk about Chavez. Contrary to those who may well have been reacting to Chavez's oral presentation of his speech, I thought this was interesting where Chavez said:

"The president then -- and this he said himself, he said: 'I have come to speak directly to the populations in the Middle East, to tell them that my country wants peace.'

"That's true. If we walk in the streets of the Bronx, if we walk around New York, Washington, San Diego, in any city, San Antonio, San Francisco, and we ask individuals, the citizens of the United States, what does this country want? Does it want peace? They'll say yes.

"But the government doesn't want peace. The government of the United States doesn't want peace. It wants to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war."

I also note Chavez was highly critical of the United Nations for being "ineffective" and "worthless." If we think that is overstating things, and here is a book by respected historian Paul Kennedy that explains why that is a terrible overstatement, here are some choice nuggets about the UN from the current US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. Bolton's statements are far more incendiary than what Chavez said. And, let's keep this in mind: If Chavez gains that temporary, revolving seat on the security council, which was after all, the occasion for his speech, his victory may well be related to Bolton's performance as UN ambassador.

Overall, I was very disappointed in Chavez's speech. Chavez had already lowered himself significantly in my eyes because of his oil deal with Iran, which will undermine the UN's ability to apply economic sanctions against Iran for its continuing nuclear program (note, though, that Bush's speech the other day said he supported the right of Iran to develop nuclear power plants--yuk!). Now, Chavez is aping the rhetoric of Bush and Bolton and has applied it in reverse. While such a rhetorical charge might be appropriate for a blog, it is not appropriate for a head of a sovereign state who owed the world and his own people a duty to not ratchet up the political temperature.

And while Chavez did Chomsky a favor in selling more books (Chomsky's book, "Hegemony or Survival", which Chavez waved around in the beginning of his speech, zoomed to #1 on Amazon last night and #11 as I write this), he did Chomsky no longer term favor because the elites who hate Chomsky will tie Chomsky to Chavez regardless of whether Chomsky endorses Chavez or not.

Let's also focus more directly as to the Bush administration's frantic and counterproductive attacks on Chavez, especially in the past year as Chavez announced his intention to seek the revolving, temporary seat on the Security Council. This, as much as anything, likely led Chavez to cut his oil deals with China, and even more menacing, Iran. I have long said Chavez has Peronist tendencies. He is proving that once again. However, a constructive engagement with Chavez by the US would improve things, perhaps dramatically for the better.

Further, contrary to the rhetoric we will all be hearing from our elite corporate owned media, Chavez remains an elected president, the opposition media in Venezuela remains strong and well funded, and Chavez is far less of a dictator than, say, the princes of Saudi Arabia or the militarists in Pakistan--both of which enjoy firm and unwavering support from most of the political and economic elite of the US.

So before the US political, economic and media elites decide that Chavez has to be overthrown, and start their hypocritical piety regarding their "love" of "democracy," one should be reminded that the people who most want to overthrow Chavez want to do so because they don't like the fact that Chavez has used oil revenues to bolster education, medical care, and land reform for the citizens of Venezuela.

* Chavez's one comment about the US enabling Israel in Lebanon was very reasonable; though his calling the US and Israeli actions in Lebanon "genocidal" (he used a string of words that included that word) was way over the top. I guess he needs Arab nation votes, like any politician. Sigh.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Dandelion break...again

Time for a dandelion break:

Billy tries to run the business when Steve is out of town.

And one more reason why Soap was one of the funniest shows ever.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The main point of the Pope's speech: Reason can be compatible with faith

It's a shame that Pope Benedict turned an interesting lecture into a controversy with an unneeded diversion that was a not-too-veiled attack on Islam. Yes, one can say he was attacking violence within the history of all religions, but his only example was of Islam in the 14th Century. Couldn't the Pope have at least raised the point that the Crusades were going on at that time--or noted the much earlier slaughter of Canannites by the so-called "chosen" people?

Here is what Pope Benedict said on this diverting subject involving violence and religion:

"In the seventh conversation ("diálesis" -- controversy) edited by professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the jihad (holy war). The emperor must have known that sura 2:256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion." It is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under [threat]. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Koran, concerning holy war.

"Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels," he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'

"The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. 'God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably ('syn logo') is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....'"

A little humility by the Pope as to the violent propensities in the other two major Western religions, for example, could have easily avoided the controversy that has developed.

Yet, the more important aspect of the speech, judging by the length to which Pope Benedict spoke about it in his speech, is the importance of reason to ground religious belief in terms of day to day living and how we treat each other and our planet. In this much larger portion of his speech, he is quite humble about late Middle Ages Christianity's focus on the mystery of God and its fighting against those who would seek God in reason. Note here:

"This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word -- a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance.

"The vision of St. Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (cf. Acts 16:6-10) -- this vision can be interpreted as a "distillation" of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between biblical faith and Greek inquiry.

"This inner rapprochement between biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history -- it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: This convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe."

Note something very remarkable here: Pope Benedict is engaging in an historical and cultural analysis of Christian philosophy being influenced by Greek philosophy, with the result that science took a stronger hold in Christian Europe than other parts of the world.

Why this aspect of the Pope's speech is not being debated is itself a mystery. It is again a shame that he went off on the tangent of violence and religion, which is itself an important subject--but one in which he approached too narrowly. Islam has plenty of adherents these days who espouse violence. But Christianity and Judaism have their share in their histories, with the Christian religion, due again to circumstances that are historical, cultural and political, having a very violent past.

And, if you doubt this analysis I offer, then what do we make of the title of the lecture, which was "Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections."


Electric vehicles 100 years ago

Here is a very enlightening interview regarding the growth of oil based motor vehicles starting approximately 100 years ago. Edwin Black, the author of this book, provides a very insightful sociological, political and economic analysis that ought to help us focus on reinvestigating and reinvesting in pure electric vehicles.

Funny, when he wrote books about one company and the Holocaust or about scientists and intellectuals who pushed the racist-based and phony science of "eugenics," he received lots of media coverage before and just after the books were released. Here, he writes about several industries acting in concert to provide inferior and ultimately harmful products--and, well, not much ink or, ahem, electricity has been generated. The book was just released almost 2 weeks ago, so perhaps the corporate media may start to look at this work. Or maybe not...


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Stalinist tone and style of modern Republican commentators and leaders

One thing I have long marveled about so-called "conservative" commentators is their Stalinist-like ability to change positions, never acknowledge the change, and still scream their new position with the same, attacking intensity as before the change. And they have a marvelous ability to project their own corruption, treasonous behavior onto everyone else, particularly those who might stand up and oppose them.

Here is the latest analysis of this phenomenon from Glenn Greenwald, this time dissecting the intellectual mess that is the editor of the National Review, Rich Lowry.

The often feeble Democratic leaders' response to such horrible people as Rich Lowry is also not a new human phenomenon. William Butler Yeats recognized it almost a hundred years ago:

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Too many modern American conservative commentators and leaders have the style and tone of Stalinist hacks. Watch it in action these next several weeks as the Republicans desparately move to hold onto their power in Congress.

This time, though, we may note that at least some Democrats are fighting back. Good for them--and good for our nation and our planet.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Hamas moves closer to recognizing Israel; Israel bombs Gaza

Just as we saw in the spring, Hamas (!) starts to take steps towards recognition of and maybe even reconciliation with Israel--and this is the Israeli government's response.

Some leaders never learn...I wonder who Israeli leaders remind me of?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Flip and flop

At the beginning of the year, Karl Rove announced that the Republicans would make national security the key issue for the 2006 mid-term Congressional elections.

But now, the Republicans have flipped. The Republican election strategists are now officially saying all politics is local. They even expressly admit they are going to go negative against Democratic Party candidates.


Meet flop.

I know everyone wants to talk about the House races, and the 15 seats the Democratic Party needs to take to re-gain control of the House. And yes, I think the Democratic Party has an outside chance of succeeding. However, I remain skeptical because of gerrymandered districts where party registration alone means enough Republican incumbents will win to maintain Republican control of the House.

My perhaps contrarian belief is that the US Senate, where the Republicans have a 56-44 advantage, is ironically more likely to end up in a 50-50 tie, thus largely neutralizing the Republican Party advantage in that legislative chamber. Here is a list of Senate Republicans who are now in trouble, per the latest polling data:

* Missouri: Sen. Jim Talent
* Montana: Sen. Conrad Burns
* Ohio: Sen. Mike DeWine
* Pennsylvania: Sen. Rick Santorum
* Rhode Island: Lincoln Chafee, who like Lieberman, may not survive his party primary
* Tennessee: OPEN (Sen. Bill Frist is retiring)
* Virginia: Sen. George Allen (1st term/52%)

Polling data from each of these States shows either (1) the Republican incumbent trailing or (2) the Republican incumbent ahead by the margin of error in polls. If 6 of the 7 on the above list go to the Democratic Party challenger, the Republicans would, for the next two years, at least, need unanimous support in order for the Worst Vice President Ever to come to the Senate to break a tie.

But what about Democratic Party Senators running for re-election, you may ask? Well, outside of Lieberman, none, except NJ's new incumbent, Bob Menendez, are in trouble. And Mendenez will win against Kean, Jr. as Republicans in NJ are still rather despondent. I also think enough Dems in Connecticut who voted for Lieberman in the primary are going to vote Lamont in a few weeks--because more than enough Democratic Party voters see these Congressional elections as national. That means that most, if not all Democratic Party voters will stick with their candidates, despite the amazing mud that will now be slinged against their party's candidates.

Therefore, where there is no gerrymandering of districts, as States are just States that don't change boundaries every decade, and population changes come rather slowly, the irony, again, is that, in about eight weeks, the Democrats may have a better chance to neutralize the Republican majority in the US Senate than take control of the House of Representatives.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Lopez Obrador, meet Andrew Jackson

Lopez Obrador, the "official" losing candidate to president-elect, Calderon, in Mexico, is doing the right thing: Lopez Obrador is continuing to challenge the legitimacy of an election where people were misled in very profound ways and in which there was at least some evidence of fraud in a close election. He is even considering setting up an unofficial, parallel government and keep the pressure on the new Calderon administration.

There is precedent for this in US history: In 1824, after John Quincy Adams won a close presidential election by horse-trading with Henry Clay in the US House of Representatives, but where Andrew Jackson had received more votes, Jackson's forces blocked nearly every proposal of the new Adams administration. The Jackson forces kept up a shadow government for four years, growing their party in the process and then won handily in the next election, which was in 1828. Sorry, no links as this is not very much spoken of on the web.

I should note, though, that I say this despite the fact that I am not much of a fan of Andrew Jackson and a major fan of JQA. Here is JQA's inaugural speech, which he prepared deep from within his mind and heart. JQA is one of our most underrated presidents. Instead of bemoaning his failed presidency, he should be cherished in posterity for his vision, intellect and concern for his nation.

If Calderon was JQA, I'd feel a lot better. Instead, Calderon is just another technocrat and corporate boot licker who will push for policies that benefit bankers and beggar workers in Mexico--just like his predecessor and mentor, Vicente Fox.

ADDENDUM: Atrios alerts me to this article on the election in Mexico by James K. Galbraith, and Galbraith's earlier article here.

Such important news, you know?

As soon as I saw this headline:

"Princess Kiko: It's a Boy"

I started singing this to myself:

It's a boy, Princess Kiko
It's a boy
It's a boy, Princess Kiko
It's a boy
A son! A son! A son!

With some apology to Pete Townsend and the Who...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Josh Marshall loses his Dad and tells a poignant story

My deepest sympathies go out to Josh and his siblings on the loss of their father. I also missed an earlier post of his as he recounted the tragic, early death of his mother. And gosh, if Josh's late mother doesn't look like a very pretty and Jewish Yoko Ono...Really.

As I read about his challenges, I developed even more respect for Josh's writing, as well as his confidence and fairly positive outlook on life.


Labor Day reading

Nathan Newman sets forth the much-needed agenda for those who are in positions where worker solidarity is vital as a brake on profits going only to the top--an agenda that will benefit our nation as a whole. And Harold Meyerson provides us a sociological snapshot as to what ails our nation's social contract.

For those of us thirsting for well-written and concise statistical policy analysis, here are competing views as to just how well or not so well the American working and middle classes are faring. I am partial to the second article by Lawrence Mishel. If one looks at income gains since 1973, one is struck by how much has gone to the top 1-5% and how little has gone to the workers--whose productivity rates are sky high compared to our forebears. Also, for something more concrete, just compare the costs and fees we pay as parents for our children relating to school that used to come without a direct charge--this understates the purchasing power of the money made by our parents in the post-WWII world (1950-1975). To suggest, as Stephen Rose does, that there is no reason for the anxiety of the American middle class is to miss the point in a profound way. There is class warfare going on: It is the warfare of the rich against everyone else.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

What the stabilizing ozone layer tells us...and doesn't

Ten years after the US and other industrialized nations phased out chloroflurocarbons (CFCs), the ozone layer is stabilizing. For those who have argued that manufactured CFCs did not contribute in any signficiant way to the depletion of the ozone layer, it appears those persons were--not a surprise--wrong.

Still, as the article notes, we're not close to solving ozone depletion and the ozone needs many more years to heal.

What this good news does not mean, however, is that we are on the way to solving climate change or what is commonly called "global warming." Here is a nice primer from the Union of Concerned Scientists who explain why the ozone problem is separate from the phenomenon of climate change. Their consise explanation also tells us how a ban on CFCs is good for repairing the ozone layer, but the replacement chemicals being used are actually increasing the separate problem of climate change:

"5. Is ozone depletion related to global warming?

"No. Ozone depletion and global warming are separate problems, though some agents contribute to both. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are the principle cause of ozone deletion, but they also happen to be potent heat-trapping gases. Still, CFCs are responsible for less than 10 percent of total atmospheric warming, far less than the 63 percent contribution of carbon dioxide. Thus, attention paid to CFCs has been on their ozone depletion role. This will change as CFCs are phased out and replaced by hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs such as R-134a). These chemicals have little or no effect on the ozone layer but are strong heat-trapping gases. As their concentration in the atmosphere is already rising, the likely net effect in the future is that reductions in the CFC-related contribution to global warming will be offset by the presence of HCFCs and HFCs.

"6. Are CFC-replacements really ozone friendly?

The chemicals that are currently replacing CFCs are either HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) or HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons such as R-134a). HCFCs have less chlorine in them and are less susceptible to the reactions that release chlorine in the stratosphere. But they are still ozone-depleting chemicals -- they just destroy far less ozone than CFCs.

For example, while CFC-12 has an ozone depleting potential rating of 1.0, HCFCs have ratings from 0.02 - 0.1. HCFCs will eventually be phased out by 2030, as stated in the Montreal Protocol. HFCs do not contain chlorine, so they don't contribute to ozone destruction at all. However, since both of these groups are potent heat-trapping gases, they are a stop-gap measure, the lesser of two evils. Eventually, we are going to need a permanent replacement for all these kinds of chemicals."

Too bad there is no enlightening discussion of these sorts of issues on television. Our nation's television political commentary remains mired in "horserace analysis" about elections, chatter about the latest polling data, and discussions about "perceptions" (This, I believe, comes from having too many bubble-head commentators who majored in "communications", as opposed to history, economics or political science). Such structure of commentary leaves very little room, if any, for any discussion--let alone analysis--of the most important public issues, whether such issues concern labor and capital, the health of our environment, or the structure of our economy (manufacturing base, tax policy and the distribution of wealth).

Still, at least there is some hopeful news for the ozone. As for too many other things, not much hopeful news right now. I will, though, feel better if the Democrats take back one or both houses of Congress.