The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Daily Kos: Andrew Sullivan Gets Buyers Remorse

Andrew Sullivan Gets Buyers Remorse
by Benito
Fri Sep 16th, 2005 at 13:27:03 PDT

Poor Sully. It's like he just realized his hero is just a mere mortal.

Maybe the fact that I once truly did buy into this makes me more jaundiced today. I really wanted the man to succeed; believed he could; and, given the stakes, I felt it was almost irresponsible not to support him in the war and defend him from his worst and least principled critics (most of whom still make me retch). If so, filter my current negativism through the prism of my previous enthusiasm. Maybe I'm over-reacting. But please don't ignore the facts: the biggest increase in federal government spending, debt and power since LBJ. Here's one tiny example of what we're seeing: hugely expensive trailer parks to create new federal ghettoes for evacuees. If that's why you're a conservative, fine. If you back this because the alternative is so awful, fine. Harry Reid's call for a Marshall Plan for the South was a healthy reminder that many Democrats are still even worse than this profligate crew. But please don't ask me to be enthusiastic about this. Buying popularity by spending billions was not why I originally became a conservative. Increasing the welfare state, burdening the future generations with mountainous debt, confusing politics with faith, failing to impose basic law and order as a primary reponsibility for government: these things I thought were characteristics of the left. They now define the Bush administration. I became a conservative because I saw in my native country what a terrible, incompetent, soul-destroying thing big government socialism is. It breaks my heart to see much of it now being implemented in America - by Republicans.


Here is my reply:

Andrew,

I had to chuckle when I read online today your disillusion with Bush and, by association, the GOP. Frankly, you remind me of an SUV driver who is angry at "big oil" for driving up the price of gasoline. You see the effect, but not the cause.

As an intelligent individual, I'm surprised you believe politicians, whether they be Republicans or Democrats, have any motivation beyond acquiring and maintaining power. Let us, for example, examine the GOP coalition. It is comprised of three broad groups:

1. High Finance/Large Corporations
2. Nationalists
3. Social Conservatives

The Bush policy of radical christo-fascist social policy, militant nationalism abroad, and an almost religious devotion to tax cuts for the wealthy and the associated corporate cronyism represents a deal between these three groups to each vote for what they want most while placing the costs of these policies onto the backs of those individuals and groups not in the winning GOP coalition. Conservative ideology is merely a patina that makes what is otherwise naked self-interest morally legitimate.

Similarly, Liberal ideology does the same thing -- it masks the naked self-interest of the members of liberal coalitions. This should be obvious. Are there true ideologues? Sure, I would consider you a true classical liberal. But true ideologues don't create or manage political coalitions. Moreover, people don't often do things because it is the "right" thing to do. They do so because it is in their self-interest to do so. As a classical liberal, I expected you to realize that. Appeals to ideology are simply tools these operators use to get opinion-makers like you to go along with their plans for self-enrichment. Remember, it is the Stalins that achieve and wield power, not the Trotskys.

At any rate, why would you expect Bush to be "responsible" now that the GOP controls all levels of the federal government? What are the constraints on his actions? The system of checks and balances? That's worked well in the face of de facto one-party rule, has it not? What incentive does he have to respond well in a crisis? To appoint professionals and not political hacks? To not indulge in pork-barrel waste and the looting of the treasury by corporate America? None. None because there are no forces compelling him to do so -- much as there were no constraining elements or effective checks on the power of liberal democrats when they had what amounted to one-party rule earlier in the century.

You're a smart guy. Ideology is something smart guys like to think is important because it makes "ideas" somehow more important than the reality of what it takes to hold and maintain political power. There is a lot I happen to like in conservative ideology AND liberal ideology - but that doesn't mean I find those values enshrined in one party or the other because I know, as you've found out, that parties are simply vehicles for self-interested politicians to gain and hold political power, no more, no less. I'm sorry it's taken this long for you to figure that out.

David Mamet - Poker party

Poker party

In politics as in poker, the only way to win is to seize the initiative. The Democrats need to make bold wagers or risk being rolled over again.
By David Mamet

September 16, 2005

ONE NEEDS TO know but three words to play poker: call, raise or fold.

Fold means keep the money, I'm out of the hand; call means to match your opponents' bet. That leaves raise, which is the only way to win at poker. The raiser puts his opponent on the defensive, seizing the initiative. Initiative is only important if one wants to win.

The military axiom is "he who imposes the terms of the battle imposes the terms of the peace." The gambling equivalent is: "Don't call unless you could raise"; that is, to merely match one's opponent's bet is effective only if it makes the opponent question the caller's motives. And that can only occur if the caller has acted aggressively enough in the past to cause his opponents to wonder if the mere call is a ruse de guerre.

If you are branded as passive, the table will roll right over you — your opponents will steal antes without fear. Why? Because the addicted caller has never exhibited what, in the wider world, is known as courage.

In poker, one must have courage: the courage to bet, to back one's convictions, one's intuitions, one's understanding. There can be no victory without courage. The successful player must be willing to wager on likelihoods. Should he wait for absolutely risk-free certainty, he will win nothing, regardless of the cards he is dealt.

For example, take a player who has never acted with initiative — he has never raised, merely called. Now, at the end of the evening, he is dealt a royal flush. The hand, per se, is unbeatable, but the passive player has never acted aggressively; his current bet (on the sure thing) will signal to the other players that his hand is unbeatable, and they will fold.

His patient, passive quest for certainty has won nothing.

The Democrats, similarly, in their quest for a strategy that would alienate no voters, have given away the store, and they have given away the country.

Committed Democrats watched while Al Gore frittered away the sure-thing election of 2000. They watched, passively, while the Bush administration concocted a phony war; they, in the main, voted for the war knowing it was purposeless, out of fear of being thought weak. They then ran a candidate who refused to stand up to accusations of lack of patriotism.

The Republicans, like the perpetual raiser at the poker table, became increasingly bold as the Democrats signaled their absolute reluctance to seize the initiative.

John Kerry lost the 2004 election combating an indictment of his Vietnam War record. A decorated war hero muddled himself in merely "calling" the attacks of a man with, curiously, a vanishing record of military attendance. Even if the Democrats and Kerry had prevailed (that is, succeeded in nullifying the Republicans arguably absurd accusations), they would have been back only where they started before the accusations began.

Control of the initiative is control of the battle. In the alley, at the poker table or in politics. One must raise. The American public chose Bush over Kerry in 2004. How, the undecided electorate rightly wondered, could one believe that Kerry would stand up for America when he could not stand up to Bush? A possible response to the Swift boat veterans would have been: "I served. He didn't. I didn't bring up the subject, but, if all George Bush has to show for his time in the Guard is a scrap of paper with some doodling on it, I say the man was a deserter."

This would have been a raise. Here the initiative has been seized, and the opponent must now fume and bluster and scream unfair. In combat, in politics, in poker, there is no certainty; there is only likelihood, and the likelihood is that aggression will prevail.

The press, quiescent during five years of aggressive behavior by the White House, has, perhaps, begun to recover its pride. In speaking of Karl Rove, Scott McClellan and the White House's Valerie Plame disgrace, they have begun to use words such as "other than true," "fabricated." The word that they circle, still, is "lie." The word the Democratic constituency, heartsick over the behavior of its party leaders, has been forced to consider applying to them is "coward."

One may sit at the poker table all night and never bet and still go home broke, having anted away one's stake.

The Democrats are anteing away their time at the table. They may be bold and risk defeat, or be passive and ensure it.

DAVID MAMET is a screenwriter, novelist and the author of award-winning plays, including "Glengarry Glen Ross."

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-oe-mamet16sep16,1,2522995,print.story

I think they're all Bozos on that Bush

I think they're all Bozos on that Bush:

You're just in time to help me check ou this new model government. They just brought it down and they say it explains everything.
It sure is big

Let's see what it does with this boxcar of fine industrial coke.

Look over there on the left hand- that's where you work in the bureau of Western Mythology...
Listen to 'er

teaches ya, huh?

See- half a watt goes in here
must go out there

Pumped from the Veteran's Tapdance Administration,
to the Assistant Secretary of Leftovers,
Flip-flop down to the Secretary of Covers,
Around the Department of Spies,
Into the office of the Secretary of Failure Himself

Wouldn't ya know
That's Shoes for Industry

It's food for thought, y'know Mr. Brown?
We're talking about power Chucko
Well I know you are or you wouldn't be here.
It heard power and it responded, just like we do...."



http://www.smirkingchimp.com/article.php?sid=22654

Chip Ward - Left Behind: Bush's Holy War on Nature

Left Behind: Bush's Holy War on Nature
By Chip Ward
TomDispatch.com

Thursday 15 September 2005

Hurricane Katrina showed us how difficult it has become to distinguish between natural disasters and man-made ones. First, the Army Corp of Engineers decides it can build a better river than Mother Nature and in the process deprives the delta of storm-absorbing wetlands and barrier islands while allowing the ground under New Orleans to subside into a suicidal bowl. Then a storm hits and... well, you know the rest of the story. The lesson is simple: we are embedded in natural systems and whether we acknowledge that or not can be a matter of life and death.

What follows next you've heard a hundred times: the Bush administration's environmental record is lousy. More than lousy, it is potentially disastrous. But why? At first glance, it's easy enough to understand. Philosophically, Republicans believe in the power of the marketplace to shape behavior. Their animosity toward government regulation is long-standing. They emphasize the rights of private-property owners over any notion of the commons, and so are comfortable letting corporations pursue profit at the expense of air or water quality. Obviously, a Texas oilman like George W. Bush and a former Halliburton CEO like Dick Cheney aren't about to object to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Caribou, they certainly believe, are expendable if they get in the way of our urge for faster-bigger-more.

The Bush administration's assault on environmental quality has, however, been so deliberate, destructive, and hostile that the usual explanations - while not wrong - are hardly adequate. During their time in power, Bush's officials have worked systematically and energetically to undo half a century of environmental law and policy based on hard-learned lessons about how to sustain healthy environments. Strikingly, they have failed to protect the environment even when they could have done so without repercussions from special-interest campaign contributors. Something more is going on.

The notion that the environment matters is ingrained in Americans, even those of us who do not think of ourselves as environmentally inclined or sympathetic. Democrats and Republican alike have learned the hard way that the decisions we make about what we allow into our air, water, and soil get translated into our blood and bones. As polls regularly indicate, most Americans agree that it is wise and prudent to collectively practice restraint and precaution when making environmental decisions. This is one of the great accomplishments of the environmental movement. We are no more likely to hear someone question the importance of a healthy and functioning environment than we are to hear someone question the wisdom of child labor laws or the ending of racial segregation. The environmental policies of the Bush administration are hard to fathom exactly because they fly in the face of these shared values and beliefs.

To Hell with Public Health

Just consider the Bush record. Take toxins, for instance. Most of us already carry "body burdens" of mercury, dioxins, and lead that are close to or above what sound science considers safe. Today, one in six American women has so much mercury in her womb that a child she carries is at risk for a grim inventory of afflictions, including blindness, mental retardation, kidney disease, and possibly even autism. These are expensive problems to treat and we all share the costs.

All fish in 19 states are now unsafe to eat because of mercury contamination and at least some fish in 48 states are unsafe. We know where most of the mercury comes from - coal-fired power plants - and we know how to clean it up. The technology is available and affordable. But the first thing Bush did when he entered office was to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency's mercury-emissions rules.

As with mercury, so it goes with a long list of other environmental toxins. Bush-appointed bureaucrats now allow into our drinking water: higher levels of arsenic; 20 times the levels of perchlorates that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends using the best science available; and 12 times the levels of contamination allowed by law for the herbicide atrazine. The chemical captan, which is typically found in household pesticides and fungicides, has been downgraded from a "probable" human carcinogen to "not likely" - without any new evidence being produced. Standards have been relaxed for the release of selenium, which we know causes massive deformities and deaths in waterfowl. Fertilizers that grow our food can now contain much higher levels of toxic residues. Likewise, the EPA has used a 3-fold safety standard rather than the typical 10-fold test to determine that organo-phosphorous pesticides pose no danger for children. By rewriting the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act, the Bush administration has permitted industrial polluters to pump additional ozone and particulates into the air that aggravate millions of cases of asthma and cause thousands of deaths each year.

Creative environmental regulators have become an endangered species under this President. Federal watchdogs have turned into lapdogs, so superfund sites - lands contaminated by enough hazardous waste to pose a risk to human health - no longer get cleaned up; old coal-fired power plants are not fixed; SUVs belch smog; and polluters cheat. New environmental problems are not identified, researched, or targeted. The best example of this is global climate disruption. In the West, erratic, quick melting snow pack results in record spring floods that are becoming as common as the massive wildfires we now expect during our increasingly parched summers.

The Wilderness Goes to Hell

Human health isn't the only vital asset to suffer under the onslaught. In my home state of Utah, whole landscapes and ecosystems have been attacked and degraded by oil and gas speculators, road builders, lumber and mining companies, hordes of off-road vehicle drivers, and nuclear utilities that want to dump their wastes in America's deserts. All of this is being done under a regime of Orwellian labels: Policies that invite havoc into our lungs are shamelessly labeled the Clear Skies Initiative; policies that degrade the land, protecting trees from the ravages of nature by sending them to lumber yards and paper mills, go under the rubric of "healthy forests."

Under Bush, the Bureau of Land Management, charged with the management of millions of acres of public land, has been told that issuing new leases for oil and gas exploration is its highest - often its only - priority. A boom of damaging speculation is underway from which even rare wilderness study areas and national parks are not exempt. In western Colorado, ranchers have had their gates bulldozed away by oil drillers for corporations that own surface mining rights and now feel free to take their heavy equipment into privately operated ranches without permission or notification. Many of our last untouched landscapes will soon be covered with a patchwork of crude roads leading to dry holes and temporary wells - none of which will significantly affect our increasing dependency on foreign oil.

Bush's "leave no road-builder behind" policy is especially evident in the Forest Service's 2005 rescission of its "roadless rule," a Clinton-era regulation that protected federally owned forests not - like most of our public forests - already crisscrossed by more miles of roads than are included in the Interstate highway system. When enacted by Clinton, the roadless rule got more public support - over a million supportive messages came in to the Forest Service - than any regulation in history. Now it's gone and, in Utah at least, 4 million acres of roadless forest are open to road-building, clearing the way for lumber, energy, and mining corporations to get in and take what they want. The impact is even greater in the wilds of the Northwest where new roads are sure to aggravate the silting up of streams and rivers in which depleted stocks of salmon are struggling to hang on.

Everywhere you look, the Bush administration's war on the environment defies public opinion. Utah is home to such beloved national treasures as the Bryce, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef national parks and the new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Its southern half, arid and isolated country with little potential for energy resources, mining, timber, or grazing, is nonetheless a red rock wonderland. Nine million acres of publicly owned land there have been identified as meeting the legal criteria for formal wilderness designation and protection; and it already draws millions of awed visitors each year. The recreational dollars generated are more of an economic engine than its extractive industries ever were, yet its status is now in play and hotly contested.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Interventions

Under cover of the weekend in March, 2003 when we invaded Iraq, Bush's Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Utah's then-Governor Mike Leavitt (who went on to head the EPA and is now Secretary of Health). It allowed the state to claim that thousands of dirt tracks and paths through public lands were actually "highways" under an obscure law - RS2477 - designed in the nineteenth century to allow prospectors access to mining claims. The agreement validates delusional maps drawn up by Utah's rural county commissioners that show roads running up cliff faces and down the middle of rivers. Any faint rut where a jeep so much as backfired or a horse farted is now imagined as a future paved road by rural politicians who fantasize a world where mines, oil wells, and pastures of lowing cattle replace "useless" red rock wild lands.

The out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit, signed that same weekend by Norton and Leavitt, stripped millions of acres of public lands throughout the West of safeguards that helped maintain their pristine character pending congressional action to designate them wilderness areas. In Utah alone, 6 million acres of land that meet all the criteria for wilderness designation and protection can no longer be managed that way. Established by the Wilderness Act of 1964, the very concept of "wilderness," the most popular and important conservation tool ever created, has now been stripped of its meaning and power.

The acts of Norton and Leavitt proved typical of Bush-era strategies meant to skirt otherwise unpopular decisions that could not stand up to public scrutiny or involvement - or survive legal challenges, even in courts packed with Bush-friendly judges. Industry has learned that if you bring a suit, however legally laughable, you can count on Bush's bureaucratic facilitators to settle quickly out of court for whatever you want; or you can just get your lobbyists to write a memorandum that will be signed on a Friday night when the public isn't watching the television news. The latest move: The administration is working hard to eliminate provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act that facilitate public participation in environmental decisions.

It was no surprise, then, that the Bush administration opened public lands to a frenzy of oil and gas drilling that respects no limits. Its willingness to turn public lands into Off Road Vehicle theme parks has been a bit harder to understand. Although the emerging ORV threat is far below the radar screen of most Americans, many conservationists now consider the detrimental impacts of ORVs to be equal to the more traditional threats of resource-extracting industries.

ORV ownership in Utah alone, for instance, has grown from under 10,000 vehicles in 1979 to more than 150,000 today - and the ORVs are bigger, ever more supercharged, and often driven by aggressive, barely regulated drivers unmindful of the destruction they wreak in the remote corners of our public lands they can now reach. Their vehicles cause erosion, destroy delicate nitrogen-fixing soils, and spread invasive species like cheat grass that crowd out native plants and fuel wildfires. The scarring they have caused to pristine landscapes has rightly been called the public-land equivalent of covering the Statue of Liberty with gang graffiti.

The ORV lobby, made up of manufacturers, retailers, and riders, is nowhere near as powerful as the hired guns of oil and gas. Bush is not beholden to them. The conservation of public lands as parks and wilderness is very popular. (Even in Utah, notorious for its conservatism, polls show overwhelming support.) Yet the critical Resource Management Plans that the federal Bureau of Land Management use to govern our wild landscapes are being revised in ways that allow the ORV hordes to inflict their wounds at will.

Perhaps the most lasting legacy of the Bush administration will be its undermining of environmental and conservation science itself. Cases of silenced government scientists and experts, censored reports, disbanded scientific advisory panels, and withheld evidence abound. (The National Resources Defense Council has listed dozens of examples on its website.) No administration has ever shown such levels of contempt for science as a means for informing and guiding policy and law.

And You Can Go to Hell, Too

Elected on the premise that government is ineffective, incompetent, and wasteful, the Bush administration has devoted its time in office to proving its own point - something Hurricane Katrina brought home to Americans with a resounding bang. But the Bush record on the environment is in a category all its own. Only when we begin to grasp that those who are driving Bush environmental policies do not share the most basic values and beliefs that have guided such policy-making for over half a century, does their behavior start to make sense.

This much is clear: The Bush administration does not respect a broad American consensus that the quality of our lives is directly linked to the integrity and health of the environment. Differences in philosophy about property rights, the role of government, and the best means to change self-destructive behaviors will translate into different approaches to environmental policy - for example, whether to curb pollution by creating market incentives or by passing tough laws. But until now Republicans did not reject the need for environmental policy altogether. What happened?

The answer is a familiar one: Bush's righteous base, the rightwing fundamentalist Christians, are having their way - the zealots who think Revelations is the only guide to foreign policy and that Nature is a mere stage for their personal salvation drama - men like Majority Leader Tom DeLay who have publicly proclaimed that they do not believe in evolution, or other Republican congressional leaders who got 100% ratings from the powerful Christian Coalition, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, presidential hopeful Bill Frist, Policy Chair Christopher Cox, National Leadership Chair Rob Portman, powerful senators like Mitch McConnell, Kay Hutchinson, Rick Santorum, George Allen, and many more who are, environmentally speaking, the American Taliban.

Our President himself recently declared "the jury is still out" on evolution. The administration's push to satisfy its base by devaluing and discrediting evolutionary theory has profound implications for environmental policy and law. If you don't believe in the evolutionary sciences, chances are you also don't heed or trust the ecological sciences that underlie environmental law and policy. When conservation biologists talk about keystone (or endangered) species, fundamentalists are far more likely than most Americans to listen skeptically. The value of biodiversity as a measure of ecosystem health is going to be of little concern to those who do not understand or accept the critical role that species interaction plays in keeping ecosystems resilient in the face of disturbance and stress.

In fact, fundamentalist Christians often have only contempt for ecological science, which they view as nothing more than the cover Pagans use to push a godless, nature-worshiping agenda. To many fundamentalists, enviros are the new commies. Utah's righteous patriarchal politicians cannot even utter the term "environmentalist" (usually pronounced environ-MENTAL-ist, as if it were a psychological disorder) without attaching the adjective "extreme" to the term.

If you believe that God made the world for you and instructed you to dominate it and be fruitful, then you are likely to see yourself as above and beyond the natural world. If you are God's chosen, then how can you fear that he will not provide for you no matter how large your numbers grow or what you do to your surroundings? God, after all, can change nature's laws, which are part of his "intelligent design" in the first place. So you are unlikely to fret about practicing environmental restraint or worry about environmental toxins - righteousness being the best prophylactic against disease in a world where God's will is done.

If you believe that the world's end is imminent, then why not use it before you lose it? If you believe that when the world-ending moment arrives, you will be "raptured" away and Christ will return to rule at last, then, hey, bring it on! Those who are "left behind," as fundamentalist Tim Lehaye describes it in his best-selling novels, deserve to suffer because they failed to accept Christ as their personal savior. So the President's fundamentalist base favors the present over a future they disown.

Perhaps the greatest gap between the belief systems of fundamentalists and environmentalists is the difference between hubris and humility. Fundamentalists have a death grip on truth and do not entertain doubt; while one of the key insights of the ecological sciences is that nature may not only be more complex than we thought, but more complex than we can think. Conservation biologists respect the intricate and reciprocal nature of living systems and realize that even the most seemingly insignificant species may turn out to play an unexpected and important role in them. Such insights underlie precautionary approaches.

According to Bush's political base, the future is theirs; nature was put here for us to use as we please; God will provide; and foolish unbelievers will be abandoned, like those desperate refugees at the New Orleans Super Dome, in a trashed and shredded world. We had our chance, but decided to listen to scientists, believe in dinosaurs, hug trees, and wring our hands over pupfish, spotted owls, and the odd centipede or two. While our jaws drop at their arrogant and reckless behaviors, they just shake their heads and chuckle condescendingly at all of our "liberal whining." It's a holy war, after all, and they are most righteous.

Bush's assault on the environment makes perfect sense once you see the bargains that drive it. The fundamentalists give Bush political power; his corporate cronies get free reign to plunder the land for their profit; and the fundamentalists get the heads of nature-worshipping enviros on an arsenic platter. The rest of us, of course, get left behind.

Chip Ward, assistant director of the Salt Lake City Public Library System, is a political activist and leader in the struggle to keep the Great Basin Desert from becoming a nuclear waste dumping ground. He is the author of Hope's Horizon: Three Visions for Healing the American Land (Island Press).

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Global warming 'past the point of no return'

Global warming 'past the point of no return'
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 16 September 2005

A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

They believe global warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that the region is beginning to absorb more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further and so reinforcing a vicious cycle of melting and heating.

The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a "tipping point" beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically.

Satellites monitoring the Arctic have found that the extent of the sea ice this August has reached its lowest monthly point on record, dipping an unprecedented 18.2 per cent below the long-term average.

Experts believe that such a loss of Arctic sea ice in summer has not occurred in hundreds and possibly thousands of years. It is the fourth year in a row that the sea ice in August has fallen below the monthly downward trend - a clear sign that melting has accelerated.

Scientists are now preparing to report a record loss of Arctic sea ice for September, when the surface area covered by the ice traditionally reaches its minimum extent at the end of the summer melting period.

Sea ice naturally melts in summer and reforms in winter but for the first time on record this annual rebound did not occur last winter when the ice of the Arctic failed to recover significantly.

Arctic specialists at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University, who have documented the gradual loss of polar sea ice since 1978, believe that a more dramatic melt began about four years ago.

In September 2002 the sea ice coverage of the Arctic reached its lowest level in recorded history. Such lows have normally been followed the next year by a rebound to more normal levels, but this did not occur in the summers of either 2003 or 2004. This summer has been even worse. The surface area covered by sea ice was at a record monthly minimum for each of the summer months - June, July and now August.

Scientists analysing the latest satellite data for September - the traditional minimum extent for each summer - are preparing to announce a significant shift in the stability of the Arctic sea ice, the northern hemisphere's major "heat sink" that moderates climatic extremes.

"The changes we've seen in the Arctic over the past few decades are nothing short of remarkable," said Mark Serreze, one of the scientists at the Snow and Ice Data Centre who monitor Arctic sea ice.

Scientists at the data centre are bracing themselves for the 2005 annual minimum, which is expected to be reached in mid-September, when another record loss is forecast. A major announcement is scheduled for 20 September. "It looks like we're going to exceed it or be real close one way or the other. It is probably going to be at least as comparable to September 2002," Dr Serreze said.

"This will be four Septembers in a row that we've seen a downward trend. The feeling is we are reaching a tipping point or threshold beyond which sea ice will not recover."

The extent of the sea ice in September is the most valuable indicator of its health. This year's record melt means that more of the long-term ice formed over many winters - so called multi-year ice - has disappeared than at any time in recorded history.

Sea ice floats on the surface of the Arctic Ocean and its neighbouring seas and normally covers an area of some 7 million square kilometres (2.4 million square miles) during September - about the size of Australia. However, in September 2002, this dwindled to about 2 million square miles - 16 per cent below average.

Sea ice data for August closely mirrors that for September and last month's record low - 18.2 per cent below the monthly average - strongly suggests that this September will see the smallest coverage of Arctic sea ice ever recorded.

As more and more sea ice is lost during the summer, greater expanses of open ocean are exposed to the sun which increases the rate at which heat is absorbed in the Arctic region, Dr Serreze said.

Sea ice reflects up to 80 per cent of sunlight hitting it but this "albedo effect" is mostly lost when the sea is uncovered. "We've exposed all this dark ocean to the sun's heat so that the overall heat content increases," he explained.

Current computer models suggest that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free during summer by the year 2070 but some scientists now believe that even this dire prediction may be over-optimistic, said Professor Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice specialist at Cambridge University.

"When the ice becomes so thin it breaks up mechanically rather than thermodynamically. So these predictions may well be on the over-optimistic side," he said.

As the sea ice melts, and more of the sun's energy is absorbed by the exposed ocean, a positive feedback is created leading to the loss of yet more ice, Professor Wadhams said.

"If anything we may be underestimating the dangers. The computer models may not take into account collaborative positive feedback," he said.

Sea ice keeps a cap on frigid water, keeping it cold and protecting it from heating up. Losing the sea ice of the Arctic is likely to have major repercussions for the climate, he said. "There could be dramatic changes to the climate of the northern region due to the creation of a vast expanse of open water where there was once effectively land," Professor Wadhams said. "You're essentially changing land into ocean and the creation of a huge area of open ocean where there was once land will have a very big impact on other climate parameters," he said.

A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

They believe global warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that the region is beginning to absorb more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further and so reinforcing a vicious cycle of melting and heating.

The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a "tipping point" beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically.

Satellites monitoring the Arctic have found that the extent of the sea ice this August has reached its lowest monthly point on record, dipping an unprecedented 18.2 per cent below the long-term average.

Experts believe that such a loss of Arctic sea ice in summer has not occurred in hundreds and possibly thousands of years. It is the fourth year in a row that the sea ice in August has fallen below the monthly downward trend - a clear sign that melting has accelerated.

Scientists are now preparing to report a record loss of Arctic sea ice for September, when the surface area covered by the ice traditionally reaches its minimum extent at the end of the summer melting period.

Sea ice naturally melts in summer and reforms in winter but for the first time on record this annual rebound did not occur last winter when the ice of the Arctic failed to recover significantly.

Arctic specialists at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre at Colorado University, who have documented the gradual loss of polar sea ice since 1978, believe that a more dramatic melt began about four years ago.

In September 2002 the sea ice coverage of the Arctic reached its lowest level in recorded history. Such lows have normally been followed the next year by a rebound to more normal levels, but this did not occur in the summers of either 2003 or 2004. This summer has been even worse. The surface area covered by sea ice was at a record monthly minimum for each of the summer months - June, July and now August.

Scientists analysing the latest satellite data for September - the traditional minimum extent for each summer - are preparing to announce a significant shift in the stability of the Arctic sea ice, the northern hemisphere's major "heat sink" that moderates climatic extremes.

"The changes we've seen in the Arctic over the past few decades are nothing short of remarkable," said Mark Serreze, one of the scientists at the Snow and Ice Data Centre who monitor Arctic sea ice.

Scientists at the data centre are bracing themselves for the 2005 annual minimum, which is expected to be reached in mid-September, when another record loss is forecast. A major announcement is scheduled for 20 September. "It looks like we're going to exceed it or be real close one way or the other. It is probably going to be at least as comparable to September 2002," Dr Serreze said.

"This will be four Septembers in a row that we've seen a downward trend. The feeling is we are reaching a tipping point or threshold beyond which sea ice will not recover."

The extent of the sea ice in September is the most valuable indicator of its health. This year's record melt means that more of the long-term ice formed over many winters - so called multi-year ice - has disappeared than at any time in recorded history.

Sea ice floats on the surface of the Arctic Ocean and its neighbouring seas and normally covers an area of some 7 million square kilometres (2.4 million square miles) during September - about the size of Australia. However, in September 2002, this dwindled to about 2 million square miles - 16 per cent below average.

Sea ice data for August closely mirrors that for September and last month's record low - 18.2 per cent below the monthly average - strongly suggests that this September will see the smallest coverage of Arctic sea ice ever recorded.

As more and more sea ice is lost during the summer, greater expanses of open ocean are exposed to the sun which increases the rate at which heat is absorbed in the Arctic region, Dr Serreze said.

Sea ice reflects up to 80 per cent of sunlight hitting it but this "albedo effect" is mostly lost when the sea is uncovered. "We've exposed all this dark ocean to the sun's heat so that the overall heat content increases," he explained.

Current computer models suggest that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free during summer by the year 2070 but some scientists now believe that even this dire prediction may be over-optimistic, said Professor Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice specialist at Cambridge University.

"When the ice becomes so thin it breaks up mechanically rather than thermodynamically. So these predictions may well be on the over-optimistic side," he said.

As the sea ice melts, and more of the sun's energy is absorbed by the exposed ocean, a positive feedback is created leading to the loss of yet more ice, Professor Wadhams said.

"If anything we may be underestimating the dangers. The computer models may not take into account collaborative positive feedback," he said.

Sea ice keeps a cap on frigid water, keeping it cold and protecting it from heating up. Losing the sea ice of the Arctic is likely to have major repercussions for the climate, he said. "There could be dramatic changes to the climate of the northern region due to the creation of a vast expanse of open water where there was once effectively land," Professor Wadhams said. "You're essentially changing land into ocean and the creation of a huge area of open ocean where there was once land will have a very big impact on other climate parameters," he said.


http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_technology/article312997.ece

New York Times - Mr. Bush in New Orleans

Mr. Bush in New Orleans
Published: September 16, 2005

President Bush said three things last night that desperately needed to be said. He forthrightly acknowledged his responsibility for the egregious mishandling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He spoke clearly and candidly about race and poverty. And finally, he was clear about what would be needed to bring back the Gulf Coast and said the federal government would have to lead and pay for that effort.

Once again, as he did after 9/11, Mr. Bush has responded to disaster with disconcerting uncertainty, then risen to the occasion later. Once again, he has delivered a speech that will reassure many Americans that he understands the enormity of the event and the demands of leadership to come.

But there are plenty of reasons for concern. After 9/11, Mr. Bush responded not only with a stirring speech at the ruins of the World Trade Center and a principled response to the Taliban in Afghanistan. He also decided to invade Iraq, and he tried to do it on the cheap - with disastrous results, for which the country continues to pay every day.

This time, Mr. Bush must come up with a more coherent and well-organized follow-through.

Clearly chastened by the outcry over his slow response to the disaster and his administration's bumbling performance, Mr. Bush said last night that he was prepared to undertake "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen." If he is sincere about his commitment to New Orleans and the other damaged localities, and to the displaced residents, he may have a fight on his hands in persuading Congress to support such an ambitious and necessary effort. Obviously, any official with even a minimal sense of responsibility would understand that this work will have to begin with a promise to give up on any more of the Republican Party's cherished tax cuts.

The speech, as good as it was, marks only a moment of clarity. Mr. Bush's problem in dealing with Katrina has been, at bottom, the same one that has bedeviled the administration since 9/11. The president came to office with a deep antipathy toward big government that has turned out to be utterly inappropriate for the world he inherited. The result has not been less government, but it has definitely been inept government.

We have already seen what happened to the Federal Emergency Management Agency when it was taken over by an administration that didn't like large federal agencies with sweeping mandates. For Iraq, the White House asserted that open-ended and no-bid contracts doled out to big corporations run by people known to government officials would mean swifter, more efficient operations. What we got was gross inefficiency, which has run up costs while failing in many cases to do the jobs required.

Given this history, it's impossible not to worry about what will happen to the billions of dollars being committed to New Orleans, especially since the Army Corps of Engineers' top man in the reclamation effort was once the corps' top man overseeing contracts in Iraq.

The administration is staffed several levels deep with officials who share their leader's distrust of large, expensive federal undertakings. But it is now faced with an unprecedented task: housing hundreds of thousands of homeless people, making sure their children are educated over the short term and eventually getting them a start on a new life. There is no way to do that without a focused federal effort.

Last night, the president was particularly strong when discussing the nation's shocking lack of preparedness for disaster, and the stark fact - obvious to every television viewer around the globe - that the people left homeless and endangered by Katrina were in the main poor and black.

The entire nation, he said, saw the poverty that "has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America." Polls show that black Americans are far angrier and more skeptical than whites about the administration's actions since the storm. Mr. Bush's words could begin a much-needed healing process. But that will happen only if they are followed by deeds that are as principled, disciplined and ambitious as Mr. Bush's speech.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/16/opinion/16fri1.html?hp


Kos - Can I get an "Amen"?

Can I get an "Amen"?
by kos
Thu Sep 15th, 2005 at 20:10:16 PDT

I agree with this 800%.

Mark Schmidtt, American Prospect

Interest-group pluralism has always had its critics, who note that issues affecting the disorganized and disenfranchised would never be well-represented and that interest-group pluralism, with its incremental victories, could never confront big structural problems and imbalances of power. But for many decades, interest-group pluralism was what we had, and it worked reasonably well as a way for liberals with some share of power to allocate resources. And for particular issues, the environment in particular, interest-group pluralism gave that movement a broad base of support -- from voters who are conservative on other issues and from politicians as far to the right as the first President Bush -- that would not have been possible had environmentalism been defined in broader progressive terms.

But the politics of today's moment, of the situation defined in "The Death of Environmentalism" as "the radical right's control of all three branches of government," brings interest-group pluralism to its knees. Pluralism is a strategy for making improvements while holding governing power; it is not a strategy to save the world from those with unchecked power. And the radical right understands that it can maintain power by exploiting the weaknesses in interest-group pluralism, delivering to the strongest claimants the incremental achievements they and their lobbyists demand (a pro-industry Medicare prescription-drug program, for example) while undermining the very foundation of those demands -- an active, responsible, fair government. Washington is filled with organizations and lobbyists who consider themselves "public-interest" activists, who celebrate the 4-percent increase they won in appropriations for their pet program or the three new co-sponsors who have signed on to their innovative bill but who remain numb or indifferent to the fact that under current policies, those programs will soon cease to exist entirely.


Stellar. Defenders of certain groups will be quick to charge, "Kos attacks NARAL, so he's 'anti-woman'", or "Kos attacks HRC, so he hates gays". Fact is, those groups were created for a governing system where progressives had some measure of power, and those constituency groups could lobby for their causes in the halls of government. If I hated choice and gays and the environment and every other progressive constituency group I would applaud the status quo, because it is surely and inexorably leading to their demise.

That formula doesn't work in today's political environment. And we won't have a governing majority until the energy expended in pursuing pet interests gets redirected toward getting Republicans out of power and getting Democrats -- even some of the imperfect ones -- elected to replace them.

BTW, here's a link to "Death of Environmentalism", perhaps the essay that has most influenced my thinking in the past couple of years.

Our thesis is this: the environmental community's narrow definition of its self-interest leads to a kind of policy literalism that undermines its power. When you look at the long string of global warming defeats under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, it is hard not to conclude that the environmental movement's approach to problems and policies hasn't worked particularly well. And yet there is nothing about the behavior of environmental groups, and nothing in our interviews with environmental leaders, that indicates that we as a community are ready to think differently about our work.

That same argument, with minor modifications, can apply to just about every single issue group in the Democratic Party coalition.

Whereas neocons make proposals using their core values as a strategy for building a political majority, liberals, especially environmentalists, try to win on one issue at a time. We come together only around elections when our candidates run on our issue lists and technical policy solutions. The problem, of course, isn't just that environmentalism has become a special interest. The problem is that all liberal politics have become special interests. And whether or not you agree that Apollo [an environmentalism/labor project] is a step in the right direction, it has, we believed, challenged old ways of thinking about the problem.


There is a clear generational divide between people who came of political age in the 60s and 70s, and those of us who came of age after the Republican takeover of government (the last 10 years or so). As I've written before, take a look at the new progressive organizations arising the past few years -- MoveOn, the blogs, Democracy for America, National Political Hip Hop Conference, etc -- all of them movement-based multi-issue organizations. That is the future of the American progressive movement. Not the single-issue groups that continue to hold their narrow interests above those of the broader movement.

United they stand, divided we fall. They learned their lesson years ago. We still haven't.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/9/15/231016/221

Paul Krugman - Not the New Deal

The New York Times
September 16, 2005
Not the New Deal
By PAUL KRUGMAN

Now it begins: America's biggest relief and recovery program since the New Deal. And the omens aren't good.

It's a given that the Bush administration, which tried to turn Iraq into a laboratory for conservative economic policies, will try the same thing on the Gulf Coast. The Heritage Foundation, which has surely been helping Karl Rove develop the administration's recovery plan, has already published a manifesto on post-Katrina policy. It calls for waivers on environmental rules, the elimination of capital gains taxes and the private ownership of public school buildings in the disaster areas. And if any of the people killed by Katrina, most of them poor, had a net worth of more than $1.5 million, Heritage wants to exempt their heirs from the estate tax.

Still, even conservatives admit that deregulation, tax cuts and privatization won't be enough. Recovery will require a lot of federal spending. And aside from the effect on the deficit - we're about to see the spectacle of tax cuts in the face of both a war and a huge reconstruction effort - this raises another question: how can discretionary government spending take place on that scale without creating equally large-scale corruption?

It's possible to spend large sums honestly, as Franklin D. Roosevelt demonstrated in the 1930's. F.D.R. presided over a huge expansion of federal spending, including a lot of discretionary spending by the Works Progress Administration. Yet the image of public relief, widely regarded as corrupt before the New Deal, actually improved markedly.

How did that happen? The answer is that the New Deal made almost a fetish out of policing its own programs against potential corruption. In particular, F.D.R. created a powerful "division of progress investigation" to look into complaints of malfeasance in the W.P.A. That division proved so effective that a later Congressional investigation couldn't find a single serious irregularity it had missed.

This commitment to honest government wasn't a sign of Roosevelt's personal virtue; it reflected a political imperative. F.D.R.'s mission in office was to show that government activism works. To maintain that mission's credibility, he needed to keep his administration's record clean.

But George W. Bush isn't F.D.R. Indeed, in crucial respects he's the anti-F.D.R.

President Bush subscribes to a political philosophy that opposes government activism - that's why he has tried to downsize and privatize programs wherever he can. (He still hopes to privatize Social Security, F.D.R.'s biggest legacy.) So even his policy failures don't bother his strongest supporters: many conservatives view the inept response to Katrina as a vindication of their lack of faith in government, rather than as a reason to reconsider their faith in Mr. Bush.

And to date the Bush administration, which has no stake in showing that good government is possible, has been averse to investigating itself. On the contrary, it has consistently stonewalled corruption investigations and punished its own investigators if they try to do their jobs.

That's why Mr. Bush's promise last night that he will have "a team of inspectors general reviewing all expenditures" rings hollow. Whoever these inspectors general are, they'll be mindful of the fate of Bunnatine Greenhouse, a highly regarded auditor at the Army Corps of Engineers who suddenly got poor performance reviews after she raised questions about Halliburton's contracts in Iraq. She was demoted late last month.

Turning the funds over to state and local governments isn't the answer, either. F.D.R. actually made a point of taking control away from local politicians; then as now, patronage played a big role in local politics.

And our sympathy for the people of Mississippi and Louisiana shouldn't blind us to the realities of their states' political cultures. Last year the newsletter Corporate Crime Reporter ranked the states according to the number of federal public-corruption convictions per capita. Mississippi came in first, and Louisiana came in third.

Is there any way Mr. Bush could ensure an honest recovery program? Yes - he could insulate decisions about reconstruction spending from politics by placing them in the hands of an autonomous agency headed by a political independent, or, if no such person can be found, a Democrat (as a sign of good faith).

He didn't do that last night, and probably won't. There's every reason to believe the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, like the failed reconstruction of Iraq, will be deeply marred by cronyism and corruption.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/16/opinion/16krugman.html?hp=&pagewanted=print

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Latte Defense

With “Last Throes” Debunked, Rice Unveils “The Latte Defense”

On the “deadliest day of violence in Baghdad since the U.S. invasion more than two years ago,” Bill O’Reilly sat down with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to examine the real issues in Iraq: It’s all about the lattes:

O’Reilly: The truth of the matter is our correspondents at Fox News can’t go out for a cup of coffee in Baghdad.

Rice: Bill, that’s tough. It’s tough. But what — would they have wanted to have gone out for a cup of coffee when Saddam Hussein was in power?

Sidney Blumenthal - Breach of a myth

Breach of a myth
After Katrina, the country no longer believes in Bush the protector. His presidency is ruined.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Sidney Blumenthal


Sept. 15, 2005 | Bush's America is gone with the wind. It lasted just short of four years, from Sept. 11, 2001, to Aug. 29, 2005. The devastation of New Orleans was the watery equivalent of a dirty bomb, but Hurricane Katrina approached the homeland with advance warnings, scientific anticipation and a personal briefing of the president by the director of the National Hurricane Center, alerting him about a possible breaching of the levees. It was as predictable as though Osama bin Laden had phoned in every detail to the television networks. No future terrorist attack would or could be as completely foreseen as Katrina.

Bush's entire presidency and reelection campaign were organized around one master idea: He stood as the protector and savior of the American people under siege. On this mystique he built his persona as a decisive man of conviction and action. In the 2004 election, a critical mass of voters believed that because of his unabashed patriotism and unembarrassed religiosity he would do more to protect the country. They also believed that his fervor must be strength. The criticism of Bush that he was overzealous, simplistic and single-minded only served to reinforce his image.

The deepest wound is not that he was incapable of defending the country but that he has shown he lacks the will to do so. In Bush's own evangelical language, he revealed his heart.

Overnight, the press disclosed a petulant, vacillating president it had not noticed before. It was as if there were a new man in the White House. Time magazine described a "rigid and top-down" White House where aides are petrified to deliver bad news to a "yelling" president. Newsweek reported that two days after the hurricane, top White House aides, who "cringe" before the "cold and snappish" president, met to decide which of them would be assigned the miserable task of telling Bush he would have to cut short his summer vacation. "The [hurricane's] reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night."

With each of his three trips (so far) to survey the toxic floodwaters of New Orleans, Bush drifted farther out to sea. On his most recent voyage on Monday, asked about his earlier statement -- "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" -- he said, "When that storm came through at first, people said, Whew. There was a sense of relaxation." In fact, the levees began to be breached even before the eye of the storm hit the city. Queried about the sudden resignation that day of Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael "Brownie, You've Done a Heck of a Job" Brown, Bush told the press, "Maybe you know something I don't know." On Tuesday, all else having failed, he tried a novel tactic to deflect the "blame game," as he called it. "To the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right," he declared, "I take responsibility." "Extent" was the loophole allowing his magnanimity to be bestowed on the distant abstraction of government.

It was easier for Bush to renounce alcohol at age 40 than ideology at almost 60. Bush had radicalized Ronald Reagan's conservatism, but never has Reagan's credo from his first inaugural rung so hollow: "Government is not the solution to our problem." Yet social Darwinism cannot protect the homeland. That 20,000 mostly poor blacks were locked in the New Orleans Convention Center without food and water for several days without the knowledge of federal officials is not an urban legend.

Poverty, previously unmentionable, has increased about 9 percent since Bush assumed office. The disparity between the superpower's evangelical mission to democratize the world and its indifference at home is a foreign policy crisis of new dimension. Can Iraq be saved if Louisiana is lost? Bush's credibility gap is a geopolitical problem without a geopolitical solution. Assuming a new mission, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wears her racial identity to witness for Bush's purity of heart. So long as Bush could wrap himself in 9/11 his image was shielded; he could even justify Iraq by flashing the non sequitur to his base. But once another event of magnitude thundered over his central claim as national defender, the Bush myth crumbled. It would take another event of this scale to begin to restore it. But it would also require a different set of responses from Bush. Now his evocation of 9/11 only reminds the public of his failed promise.

The rest of the Bush presidency will consist of his strained efforts to cobble his myth together again while others cope with the consequences of his damage. The hurricane has tossed and turned the country but will not deposit it on firm ground for at least the three and half years remaining of the ruined Bush presidency.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/blumenthal/2005/09/15/bush_myth/print.html

Now They Tell Us

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, September 12, 2005; 1:33 PM

Amid a slew of stories this weekend about the embattled presidency and the blundering government response to the drowning of New Orleans, some journalists who are long-time observers of the White House are suddenly sharing scathing observations about President Bush that may be new to many of their readers.

Is Bush the commanding, decisive, jovial president you've been hearing about for years in so much of the mainstream press?

Maybe not so much.

Judging from the blistering analyses in Time, Newsweek, and elsewhere these past few days, it turns out that Bush is in fact fidgety, cold and snappish in private. He yells at those who dare give him bad news and is therefore not surprisingly surrounded by an echo chamber of terrified sycophants. He is slow to comprehend concepts that don't emerge from his gut. He is uncomprehending of the speeches that he is given to read. And oh yes, one of his most significant legacies -- the immense post-Sept. 11 reorganization of the federal government which created the Homeland Security Department -- has failed a big test.

Maybe it's Bush's sinking poll numbers -- he is, after all, undeniably an unpopular president now. Maybe it's the way that the federal response to the flood has cut so deeply against Bush's most compelling claim to greatness: His resoluteness when it comes to protecting Americans.

But for whatever reason, critical observations and insights that for so long have been zealously guarded by mainstream journalists, and only doled out in teaspoons if at all, now seem to be flooding into the public sphere.

An emperor-has-no-clothes moment seems upon us.
Read All About It

The two seminal reads are from Newsweek and Time.

Evan Thomas's story in Newsweek is headlined: "How Bush Blew It."

"It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States," Thomas writes.

In this sort of environment, Bush apparently didn't fathom the extent of the catastrophe in the Gulf Coast for more than three days after the levees of New Orleans were breached.

"The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

"How this could be -- how the president of the United States could have even less 'situational awareness,' as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century -- is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace."

Among Thomas's disclosures: "Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. . . .

"Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as 'strangely surreal and almost detached.' At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Life inside a bunker can be strange, especially in defeat."

Mike Allen writes in Time: "Longtime Bush watchers say they are not shocked that he missed his moment -- one of his most trusted confidants calls him 'a better third- and fourth-quarter player,' who focuses and delivers when he sees the stakes. What surprised them was that he still appeared to be stutter-stepping in the second week of the crisis, struggling to make up for past lapses instead of taking control with a grand gesture. Just as Katrina exposed the lurking problems of race and poverty, it also revealed the limitations of Bush's rigid, top-down approach to the presidency. . . .

"Bush's bubble has grown more hermetic in the second term, they say, with fewer people willing or able to bring him bad news -- or tell him when he's wrong. Bush has never been adroit about this. A youngish aide who is a Bush favorite described the perils of correcting the boss. 'The first time I told him he was wrong, he started yelling at me,' the aide recalled about a session during the first term. 'Then I showed him where he was wrong, and he said, "All right. I understand. Good job." He patted me on the shoulder. I went and had dry heaves in the bathroom.' . . .

"The result is a kind of echo chamber in which good news can prevail over bad -- even when there is a surfeit of evidence to the contrary. For example, a source tells Time that four days after Katrina struck, Bush himself briefed his father and former President Clinton in a way that left too rosy an impression of the progress made. 'It bore no resemblance to what was actually happening,' said someone familiar with the presentation."

Allen has an exclusive look at the administration's "three-part comeback plan."

Part one: "Spend freely, and worry about the tab and the consequences later."

Part two: "Don't look back."

Part three: "Develop a new set of goals to announce after Katrina fades. Advisers are proceeding with plans to gin up base-conservative voters for next year's congressional midterm elections with a platform that probably will be focused around tax reform."

Allen also has this tidbit: "And as if the West Wing were suddenly snakebit, his franchise player, senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, was on the disabled list for part of last week, working from home after being briefly hospitalized with painful kidney stones."

And remember the storyline of the CEO president who cut red tape and streamlined government?

John Dickerson writes in Slate how the much-celebrated creation of the Homeland Security Department, the embodiment of Bush's management style, is suddenly an epic tale of failure.

"They built an enormous agency from scratch, vowing to create the kind of shiny, swiftly clicking apparatus they envisioned for the government as a whole. Judging by the DHS response to Katrina, we can breathe a sigh of relief that they didn't expand their bureaucracy vendetta further."

Dickerson describes an interview in which White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who masterminded the reorganization, "described the process of creation with delight: He leaned off the sofa and grinned as he spoke, giddy at having been able to pedal so quickly past the usual government roadblocks. The defenders of the bureaucracy were so virulent, he had to put together a small team and they took their blueprints and drafting tools into the secure bunker underneath the White House."

Dickerson concludes: "We now know the solution has failed. In the coming months we'll have a chance to learn just how, and in how many different ways, that bureaucracy-free, executive-authority-channeling machine sprang its wires, and whether the architects share the blame with the operators."
Poll Watch

Howard Fineman writes for Newsweek: "Katrina's winds have unspun the spin of the Bush machine, particularly the crucial idea that he is a commanding commander in chief. In the Newsweek Poll, only 17 percent of Americans say that he deserves the most blame for the botched early response to Katrina. But, for the first time, less than a majority -- 49 percent -- say he has 'strong leadership qualities,' down from 63 percent last year. That weakness, in turn, dragged down his job-approval rating -- now at 38 percent, his lowest ever -- as well as voters' sense of where the country is headed. By a 66-28 margin, they say they are 'dissatisfied,' by far the gloomiest view in the Bush years, and among the worst in recent decades."

Marcus Mabry has more from the Newsweek poll. "[M]ost Americans, 52 percent, say they do not trust the president 'to make the right decisions during a domestic crisis' (45 percent do). The numbers are exactly the same when the subject is trust of the president to make the right decisions during an international crisis. . . .

"The president and the GOP's greatest hope may be, ironically, how deeply divided the nation remains, even after national tragedy. The president's Republican base, in particular, remains extremely loyal. For instance, 53 percent of Democrats say the federal government did a poor job in getting help to people in New Orleans after Katrina. But just 19 percent of Republicans feel that way. In fact, almost half of Republicans (48 percent) either believes the federal government did a good job (37 percent) or an excellent job (11 percent) helping those stuck in New Orleans."

A new Time poll finds Bush at an all time low 42 percent approval rating, with 52 percent disapproving.

Time's poll is the second one recently to chart a significant drop in presidential approval among Republicans. (See Friday's column about Bush losing his base.)

Accord to Time, since January, Republican approval has dropped from 91 percent to 81 percent; Democratic approval from 25 to 13; and indpendent approval from 46 to 36.

And 61 percent of those polled favor paying for hurricane relief by cutting back spending in Iraq.
The Breakdown

Anna Mulrine writes in U.S. News: "Who screwed up?

"The president's spinners dubbed it the blame game, but given the loss of life, the staggering incompetence at nearly every level of government, and the increasingly dire economic implications for the nation, much more than the usual political one-upmanship is in the offing."

Susan B. Glasser and Michael Grunwald write in The Washington Post: "As the floodwaters recede and the dead are counted, what went wrong during a terrible week that would render a modern American metropolis of nearly half a million people uninhabitable and set off the largest exodus of people since the Civil War, is starting to become clear. Federal, state and local officials failed to heed forecasts of disaster from hurricane experts. Evacuation plans, never practical, were scrapped entirely for New Orleans's poorest and least able. And once floodwaters rose, as had been long predicted, the rescue teams, medical personnel and emergency power necessary to fight back were nowhere to be found."

Eric Lipton, Christopher Drew, Scott Shane and David Rohde all write in the New York Times that " an initial examination of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath demonstrates the extent to which the federal government failed to fulfill the pledge it made after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to face domestic threats as a unified, seamless force.

"Instead, the crisis in New Orleans deepened because of a virtual standoff between hesitant federal officials and besieged authorities in Louisiana, interviews with dozens of officials show. . . .

"Richard A. Falkenrath, a former homeland security adviser in the Bush White House, said the chief federal failure was not anticipating that the city and state would be so compromised. He said the response exposed 'false advertising' about how the government has been transformed four years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."

The Los Angeles Times reports: "Ultimately, the National Response Plan says the president is in charge during a national emergency, but it leaves it up to the White House to decide how to fulfill that duty. 'The president leads the nation in responding effectively and ensuring the necessary resources are applied quickly and efficiently,' the plan says."

And here's a telling anecdote from the LA Times: "On Friday, Sept. 2, four days after the storm, Bush headed for the disaster area on a presidential trip designed to show leadership and concern.

"At a meeting that morning, one aide said, the president expressed anger about the convention center. Say that in public, one aide reportedly urged. So Bush went out to the Rose Garden and grimly acknowledged for the first time that all was not well. 'The results are not acceptable,' he said.

"But the president appeared uncomfortable even with that much self-criticism. A few hours later, in Biloxi, he softened the message. . . .

" 'I am satisfied with the [federal] response,' Bush said. 'I'm not satisfied with all the results. . . . I'm certainly not denigrating the efforts of anybody. But the results can be better.'

"And Bush, who instinctively defends any aide who has been criticized in the media, made a point of praising FEMA chief Brown.

" 'Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job,' he said."

Time magazine concludes: "Leaders were afraid to actually lead, reluctant to cost businesses money, break jurisdictional rules or spawn lawsuits. They were afraid, in other words, of ending up in an article just like this one."
Advancing Republican Goals

Edmund L. Andrews writes in the New York Times: "Republican leaders in Congress and some White House officials see opportunities in Hurricane Katrina to advance longstanding conservative goals like giving students vouchers to pay for private schools, paying churches to help with temporary housing and scaling back business regulation."

Jonathan Weisman and Amy Goldstein write in The Washington Post: "After the political tidal wave of 1994 swept conservatives into control of Congress, Republicans doggedly tried -- and repeatedly failed -- to repeal a Depression-era law that requires federal contractors to pay workers the prevailing wages in their communities. Eleven days after the deluge of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush banished the requirement, at least temporarily, with the stroke of his pen. . . .

"In another gain for the administration, a $51.8 billion relief bill that Congress passed on Thursday included a significant change to federal contracting regulations. Holders of government-issued credit cards will be allowed to spend up to $250,000 on Katrina-related contracts and purchases, without requiring them to seek competitive bids or to patronize small businesses or companies owned by minorities and women. Before Thursday, only purchases of up to $2,500 in normal circumstances or $15,000 in emergencies were exempt."
The Spoils of Disaster

Yochi J. Dreazen writes in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "The Bush administration is importing many of the contracting practices blamed for spending abuses in Iraq as it begins the largest and costliest rebuilding effort in U.S. history.

"The first large-scale contracts related to Hurricane Katrina, as in Iraq, were awarded without competitive bidding, and using so-called cost-plus provisions that guarantee contractors a certain profit regardless of how much they spend."

Reuters reports: "Companies with ties to the Bush White House and the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President George W. Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast."
Bush's Trip

Bush is wrapping up a two-day "fact finding" trip to the Gulf Coast today. I'll have more about it tomorrow.

The big question: Will Bush risk an encounter with any angry storm victims?

As Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the New York Times: "One prominent African-American supporter of Mr. Bush who is close to Karl Rove, the White House political chief, said the president did not go into the heart of New Orleans and meet with black victims on his first trip there, last Friday, because he knew that White House officials were 'scared to death' of the reaction.

" 'If I'm Karl, do I want the visual of black people hollering at the president as if we're living in Rwanda?' said the supporter, who spoke only anonymously because he did not want to antagonize Mr. Rove."

One quick note from pool reporter Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune: While Bush spent last night aboard the USS Iwo Jima, "poolers were assigned to bunks aboard luxury Prevost touring buses. Men in one, women in another. The men's bus is fresh off The Anger Management Tour, which had featured Fifty Cent and Eminem."
Brownie Watch

David E. Sanger writes in the New York Times about just how it happened that White House spokesman Scott McClellan was still praising the work of Michael D. Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, hours after Brown's removal from day-to-day management of the hurricane was pretty much a done deal.

Sanger writes that "how the White House moved, in a matter of days, from the president's praise of a man he nicknamed 'Brownie' to a rare public reassignment explains much about fears within the administration that its delayed response to the disaster could do lasting damage to both Mr. Bush's power and his legacy. But more important to some members of the administration, it dented the administration's aura of competence. . . .

"Mr. Bush, his aides acknowledge, is loath to fire members of his administration or to take public actions that are tantamount to an admission of a major mistake. But the hurricane was different, they say: the delayed response was playing out every day on television, and Mr. Brown, fairly or unfairly, seemed unaware of crucial events, particularly the scenes of chaos and death in the New Orleans convention center."
Race and Poverty

Michael A. Fletcher writes in The Washington Post: "Hurricane Katrina has thrust the twin issues of race and poverty at President Bush, who faces steep challenges in dealing with both because of a domestic agenda that envisions deep cuts in long-standing anti-poverty programs and relationships with many black leaders frayed by years of mutual suspicion."

Bumiller writes in the New York Times: "From the political perspective of the White House, Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than an enormous swath of the Gulf Coast. The storm also appears to have damaged the carefully laid plans of Karl Rove, President Bush's political adviser, to make inroads among black voters and expand the reach of the Republican Party for decades to come. . . .

"But behind the scenes in the West Wing, there has been anxiety and scrambling -- after an initial misunderstanding, some of the president's advocates say, of the racial dimension to the crisis."
What the President Meant to Say

At another contentious briefing on Friday, McClellan addressed Bush's infamous declaration on a live television interview Thursday that "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."

"What the President was referring to is that you had Hurricane Katrina hit, and then it passed New Orleans. And if you'll remember, all the media reports, or a number of media reports at that time, that Monday -- even all the way to the Tuesday papers, were talking to people and saying that New Orleans had dodged a bullet. So I think that's what the President is referring to, is that people weren't anticipating those levees, after the hurricane had passed New Orleans, breaching. Many people weren't. And you can go back and look at the news coverage at that time."
Internet Humor

Robin Abcarian writes in the Los Angeles Times: "In the picture , residents of New Orleans make their way through waist-deep water as President Bush stands next to his father, grinning and displaying a striped bass that he's just caught. 'Bush's vacation' is the caption of the photographic gag that has made its way around the Internet this week.

"In another doctored photo , the president strums a guitar and appears to be serenading a weeping African American woman holding a baby in front of the Louisiana Superdome.

"Perverse though it might seem, the juxtaposition of Hurricane Katrina's human costs with the perceived sluggishness of the federal government's response has proved to be a boon for political humorists -- particularly those operating in cyberspace, where dissemination is instantaneous."
© 2005 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2005/09/12/BL2005091200806_pf.html

Dangerous delusion

Dangerous delusion

From Jonathan Simon:

He yells at those who dare give him bad news and is therefore not surprisingly surrounded by an echo chamber of terrified sycophants. He is slow to comprehend concepts that don't emerge from his gut. He is uncomprehending of the speeches that he is given to read.

Mark--

There you have it. An authoritarian structure is very successful at taking power, because there is great cohesiveness to the zeal and everybody storms the hill together without pause for looking back or questioning.

Wielding power, governing, though, is an altogether different matter: it depends upon the unfettered sharing of truthful information and therefore success comes to depend almost entirely upon the character of the authority figure at the top. Hitler promised a 1000-year Reich but twelve years later, as he held out in his underground Berlin bunker and the Russians closed in, he remained convinced to virtually his dying day that nonexistent German forces were mounting counterattacks, because no one in his circle would dare to tell him the truth.

The authoritarian regimes that have goverened well (or at least long) all feature leaders strong enough in themselves that they could bear to hear the truth and act upon it. Bush is the weakest of the weak in this regard and the governing of his regime has been a progressing disaster from Day One. Without the extraordinary intervention of fear-based events (whether staged or simply played for all their worth) and without computer-assisted election rigging, the disaster would have been unconcealable long ago and the hold on power would have been very short-lived.

At this point though, however out of touch with reality, the Bush regime will do whatever it takes to hold and strengthen its grip on power. It will attempt to "make its own reality," a truly terrifying aggression for which it has been oddly praised by quite a few uncomprehending souls in the media. I am afraid our democracy will be unable to rescue itself from the marauders by ordinary political means, no matter how disaffected or alarmed the public becomes. It will require some element of revolution (general strikes come first to mind) and that in turn will force the regime to show its hand (we've seen a finger of that hand in New Orleans) in force. It will be ugly in America, but at least the storm that we've all felt building and that has filled so many of our waking and sleeping hours with dread, will at last have broken.

http://markcrispinmiller.blogspot.com/2005/09/dangerous-delusion.html

Stirling Newberry - Energy

Energy
by Stirling Newberry

Thu Sep 15th, 2005 at 05:48:35 PDT
I know, I am supposed to be on blog break. But Jerome challenges on the question of energy policy. Since I've written on how America can Implement a national energy directive, it seems time to revisit the matter.

Solving energy as problem is impossible. Energy is one of the fundamental inputs to society, and one of the bottlenecks. Human beings will expand until they begin to reach a bottleneck, and it is entirely possible, at any given time, that energy will be the first one they reach. There is an energy crisis now, because peace and prosperity - outside of Africa we are not in a particularly conflict ridden era - have brought a rapid expansion in population, and the end of the Cold War has brought a vast wave of people who want to enter the global affluent economy.

This has happened before - namely in the transition of the coal age to the oil age - and the attempt was made by various parties to keep others out of the circle of affluence. At the time there was far from sufficient technology to do otherwise. The result was the most brutal upheaval in history, and one comparable to the great migrations that brought an end to the ancient world. As Keynes noted, without hyperbole, "failure has a precedent, it was called 'the Dark Ages'."

Energy, then, is going to be an on going project in society. It will not be "solved". The right wing wants to frame this as a problem that can be solved, because then they can get a great deal of money to "solve it", until the next time it needs to be "solved".

The answer to energy as a crisis is a simple triangle:




Supply

Demand

Money


To deal with the problem requires a realization that that supply, demand and political economy must all be addressed in a balanced fashion. We must increase the supply of energy, we must reduce the demand for energy, and we must alter the balance between energy and economic choices. All three must be approached, because if one is addressed and not the others, the energy added, or saved, will simply be dropped into more converting of distance for land. In short, saving a barrel of oil/day will simply outsource one more job to China.

Supply

In economics, supply doesn't simply mean "more". It is an increase in supply if you find a substitute. The reactionaries are proposing more extraction to deal with supply problems. Because of two problems - peak oil and global warming - extraction of hydrocarbons will not work. In fact, they have a feedback loop: the more optimistic your projections of peak oil are, the sooner global warming gets bad. Considered together, the basic mathematics of peak oil and global warming almost rule out extraction as a solution, except under conditions of massive austerity, and the Katrinafication of a large number of coastal cities.

Demand

Demand again doesn't simply mean reducing the amount of energy that people use. Demand can also be substituted. Engage in an activity that makes you just as happy, but uses less energy, and "demand" has been reduced.

The other way to reduce demand is "recession rationing". This has been the American policy for the last 30 years. Just let energy get expensive, and people will be destroyed by the resulting recession, and use less energy. In the US, energy outputs go down only in response to recessions. The last wave of conservation was 30 years ago.

This is tied with racism. Racism is the means of enforcing recession rationing without making a large number of people willing to rebel. If only a small class of easily identifiable people bears the brunt of being outside the affluent sphere of the economy, the people who are not in this class will breath a great deal easier. There is economic utility in having a visually simple system for determining who is "in" and who is "out". Hence "race".

The Kennedy-Johnson years saw a vast drop in poverty and in racial imbalance in access to the basics of affluent life. It was no longer possible to simple "keep the niggers out". The Republican Party became the home to the people who could never quite accept this.

There is a complex economic discontinuity argument for why this works in practice that I won't bore people with the details of here.

Thus there will be a long political conflict between those who want to spread the pain equally, and those who want to focus it on an easily identifiable group of people, of which they are not members.

The ugly reality of this problem is that it is not about "the corporations" or "the rich". Energy demand problems are, overwhelmingly, problems of economic peer competition, or "class civil war". While a rich person uses more energy personally than you do, the energy density of his consumption actually goes down.

However...

Money

The underlying engine of the supply and demand problems, however, is not the technical problem of supply itself, nor the problem of demand, it is that in any policy there will be those who expend money to increase supply or decrease demand. There will be those who benefit from those increases in supply and decreases in demand. Under our current economic system, these two groups of people are, largely, not the same.

In a market economy, people naturally do what they can recapture the rewards of. However, if the political economy doesn't for a closed loop - that is, the rewards don't go to the people who do the work - then people don't do it. The extractive economy is not the most efficient answer to our problems, but it is the one where the winners know who they are. Because oil is a physical good, with a physical chain of progression, it is easy to recapture the profits of it. I have the oil, I sell it and you pay me money or I keep the oil. However, release an open source software project to the world which saves people days of work - energy saved - and you recapture little/none of that value. There's no chain of possession, and no one is ever put in the position of "make a choice".

::

The solution is also three fold.

Capital Energy

Right now we extract energy. We find energy rich "stuff", we dig it up, and we sell it. Even some seemingly "renewable" sources are extractive. Water for example. What you are consuming is concentrations of gravity driven water. In the 18th and 19th century they ran around Europe and the United States, looking for "inches of head", or distance that water fell and therefore could be damed or milled appropriately. There were also a series of inventions to wring even more energy out of the same drop. The ancestor of the turbine was one of them.

We must rapidly move to a system where the focus of energy supply is using capital - technology, systems and organization of activity - rather than on extraction. It is this, and not "alternative" or any other buzzword, which should be the focus of thinking: how to we create capital for creation of energy. As I've noted before this requires moving to a five phase energy system.

The next fifty years are going to see a massive rebuilding of the energy system. However, what is the point of doing this if the result is simply to move production to nations that still use cheap extractive energy?

A New International Monetary Order

This is the part that has to be re-explained over and over again, because people grasp it intuitively, but not in theory.

Much of energy demand is not really demand. It isn't being done because it makes anyone happy. It's being done because it is cheaper than renting land close to where you want to be. There isn't a demand to commute an hour each way in heavy traffic. Almost no one wants this. However, the jobs are concentrated, and housing near them is expensive. Thus people drive farther to get cheaper houses. Producers do the same thing. It is less energy efficient to have "just in time" inventory control. However, land near where people buy things is expensive, so it is cheaper to store things far away, and have only small supplies on site.

The problem with crude means of correcting this - say $9/gallon gasoline - is that the trade of energy for land price is the most inelastic of demand. That is an econogeek for "people won't stop doing this". In order to get at the land/energy trade off you have to bury just about all regular consumption in the cold cold ground. This will make people unhappy. Unhappy people vote for a change in government.

The correct solution is alter the basis of the monetary system so that this trade off is far less attractive than currently. This is a complex change, so it is harder to explain, but the essence of it is that the weight of land prices are strangling the economy.

And this is something that is economically populist, because it is an issue of "haves" and "have nots". This is where the current monetary order is, in fact, designed to produce a great deal less prosperity, as people fight over who gets to fund right wing think tanks. A wealthy person doesn't use a great deal more energy than a merely well off person, but he does warp the market a great deal more. This was noted by Adam Smith back in 1776 - that as soon as the market asserts itself, there will be a conspiracy to buy the market, and that conspiracy will manifest itself in government. If you want to know what Smith's warnings out government were about, look at George W. Bush.

The Sphere

Over and over again I have written how it is essential to change the way our society flows and not merely attempt to take out a club of regulation, or a carrot of tax cuts. There is a change in world view which is as fundamental as the shift from the Victorian to the Modern - it will change cloths, manners, literary and artistic norms, social organization and tastes - as much as the dry details of policy. To live in a post-extractive world will mean a fundamental shift on what "looks right". As Christopher Lydon puts it "there is a shift in consciousness coming".

At the root of this is understanding that there are three mechanisms for storing economic information - the government, the market and the society. The 20th century reduced the last to an outgrowth of the first two. This meant that culture became a means to motivate people towards government, or towards consumption. It also meant that rather bizarre kinds of culture could arise, since it was no longer seen as connected to the whole of society. I am speaking particularly of the death cults that have arisen in the Islamic world and in America. Cults which hate the very technological basis of the society that they live in. While some of these are luddite cults of the left - the vast bulk, and the most dangerous politically and socially, are on the right.

The restoration of society as a coequal means of transmitting information is made possible by digital means. Let me take an example. A musical score is a series of instructions, they have to be played. Once upon a time, you had to move a lot of protons around to get that information out, and you had to move even more to deal with the layers of filtering. Digital signal processing makes it possible to create the sound and disseminate it. Community makes it possible to filter it, and amplify it. This system replaces the pyramid system of picking someone out of the hat, pushing protons around to make the music, shipping it physically, and then bribing people to put it on the radio, and put the posters in the music store. In short, community makes it possible to perform the role that a record company had, at a fraction of the price.

However, the problem is that presently both the creators and community members in such a system do not get very much of that savings. Instead it is internet service providers, computer manufacturers, Microsoft and other "gate keepers". This is because one can "recapture" the computer value: no computer, no community. No one person can charge for the community, and even if they can get funding to do it, this is much less than the recapture of hardware. Gates makes more money a day than Markos makes a year.

Summary

The problem of energy is a manifestation of the end of extraction and enforced scarcity. There will be others to follow it, as the world of extraction reaches its limits and the era where prosperity was a small bubble ends. This is a good thing - the 20th century killed probably a billion people in pursuit of maintaining that system, and kept many more in misery. However, this is not a case where some evil person is preventing utopia - it is that we have set up society to encourage it. Energy policy is going to have to pursue three prongs - reduction in demand, increase in supply, and a change in political economy so that efforts are rewarded.

The three major prongs of attack are to move to a capital rather than extractive energy system, realizing that we are going to have to replace components of it as time goes on - create a new monetary order which is based on sustainable, scaleable and accessible system - and changing the structure of society so that people will live within the new shape of how will will support continued human existence.

The alternative is temporary prosperity for some - we have perhaps half a generation left - and then a series of ever escalating cataclysmic conflicts over extraction, of which Iraq is merely the Boer War to the coming First World War.


http://stirling-newberry.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/9/15/84835/9148