Archive for October, 2004

Origins of suicide bombing

Sunday, October 31st, 2004

Bin Laden gives motives for his crimes in recent tape

BBC photo: Beirut 1982

Everyone like me who will vote Kerry/Edwards in this election must understand what we will be getting if they win. The Cowboy Letters provide some glimpses into the violence underlying our politics — and the perceived justifiability of that violence. Justice depends on perspective.

Note in particular the position outline of Kerry/Edwards from National Jewish Democratic Council. This is tough, reactionary stuff attributed to our candidates. Also recall the debates. In one post I quote John Edwards at length around his justification for Israel’s response to violence perpetrated against them. “What are the Israeli people supposed to do?” Edwards said in the veep debate.

Now Juan Cole has a post on the Towers of Beirut that looks at the origins of modern Mideast violence from an entirely different perspective. The scene — the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. If you don’t care to pick up Chomsky’s Fateful Triangle and try to plow through the chapter on “Peace for Galilee”, Cole provides an excellent primer on this ruthless Israeli action. Cole writes,

The invasion killed some 18,000 persons, half of them innocent civilians. During this period Sharon turned the task of guarding the disarmed and helpless Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps over to his allies, the fascist Phalangist paramilitary. The latter promptly murdered hundreds of defenseless Palestinians.

One of the 9/11 hijackers, Ziad Jarrah, was a Lebanese Sunni who was 8 when the Israelis invaded his country and wrought so much destruction. He obviously was deeply traumatized by the experience.

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was a wanton act of aggression and destruction that ended up radicalizing the Lebanese Shiites and leading them to develop the technique of suicide bombing. A majority of Israelis was disgusted with the war, and in the aftermath Sharon was politically marginalized for two decades. Somehow he has managed to rehabilitate himself and now pursues his agenda of killing without any let or hindrance.

Cole describes how the latest bin Laden tape has revealed the early conception of the 911 attacks stem from these times. Pictures of Beirut under Israeli bombardment (as seen above) ought to be eerily familiar to Americans saturated with 911 images.

No, the 911 attacks were not justified and did not bring justice for those harmed in the brutal Israeli and American occupations of Arab lands that have continued and escalated over the years since 1982. But at least for a moment should we not try to see the effects of US/Israel policy from the eyes of those underneath it? Why should Americans and Israelis be even the least bit surprised when those they attack choose to respond with violence? America does so just about as the first resort.

Is it too much to ask of Kerry & Edwards, or Bush & Cheney for that matter, to consider that the most belligerent actions are those most likely to be returned in kind? If we want to be “safer”, we ought to recognize this simple truth.

Edwards rally in Bangor

Saturday, October 30th, 2004

Veep candidate stirs enthusiastic waterfront crowd

The North Carolina Democrat running for Vice President of the United States animates a point while his parents flank Maine Governor John Baldacci on the stage.

Kerry running mate John Edwards first promised to “hunt down and hold accountable” Osama bin Laden for “what he did on September the eleventh”.

My friend Jonathan is right in an earlier post. That candidates must remind everyone about their toughness in the Terror War, rather than try to set forth ways to lessen the chance terrorism confirm part of Jonathan’s thesis.

From there, Edwards launched into a well-perfected Democratic message — George W. Bush does not care about or even see the economic suffering all around him. Prices for essential commodities like fuel and essential services like health care are skyrocketing while millions of decent jobs are lost. Bush’s answer is more tax cutting for the rich.

It’s interesting that we’d get a candidate visit at this late stage. That one electoral vote our Congressional District (Maine’s 2nd) controls on its own must look important — the race is a dead even up here, though Kerry/Edwards is firmly ahead in Maine as a whole. Maine and Nebraska are the only states that elect presidential elector slates by Congressional district.

I for one cannot stand another minute of Bush. Despite my deep concern about the conduct of the Terror War, the Iraq war, and dubious prospects for peace under Kerry, John Edwards delivered for me today a flicker of hope that a range of issues will improve when a new administration enters the Whitehouse.

ELECTION 2004

Thursday, October 28th, 2004

We believe what follows is unique in the blog world. It is a cooperative guest post on election 2004 around the theme “There is a Choice”. This effort was organized by our friend Bob Whitson, a Colorado environmental news blogger who performs an extraordinarily valuable service by tracking the Bush Administration’s assault on the environment in Howling At A Waning Moon.

Deep Blade Journal endorses Kerry.

Most of us favor John Kerry in this election. Read on for eloquent expressions of vital perspectives on this election you will find only in these blogs….

There is a Choice

Eleven bloggers from around the world agreed to write a short piece and post all the contributions on each of our blogs. You could call it a WWB (world wide blog.) I’m Bob Whitson from Howling At A Waning Moon.

My blog tracks the Bush administration and what it is doing to our environment. There has never been a time in my life when working together was more important. One quote you will read in this post says it all, “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” — Mark Vonnegut.

For me the choice this November 2nd is as clear as the lakes in the Minnesota Boundary Waters; where 20 years ago my son and I did our coming of age trip. We still talk about that canoe trip as if it were last weekend. That’s what the wilderness can do; it can create a touchstone for your life.

I first learned about taking care of this earth from my dad. In the 1950’s, growing up in west Texas, my dad worked for the Texas Highway Department. He designed and built the highway system throughout that part of the world. To this day there is a long curve in an otherwise straight four lane lonesome highway that permits the highway to avoid a grove of rare trees and a small patch of wetland. There’s also a bridge in the curve that allows for the passage of wildlife. My dad did that, in 1950! Always having known about that curve in the highway [He was placing the environment first.] is enough for me–50 years later–to see the clear choice we have this November 2nd. I can tell you without a moment’s hesitation that President Bush is not taking care of our environment.

Now, if you will, let me introduce just a few of the ideas you will find in this cooperative post:

From England an American talks about how the “rest of the world is counting on you” this November 2nd.

One blogger is nervous and even talks about moving to “Mexico, land of fresh, hot tortillas; town squares and mariachis” but that in the end she “won’t do that; the country needs changing.”

Another Blogger quotes an American folk song:

You’ve got to prime the pump.

You must have faith and believe.

You’ve got to give of yourself ‘fore you’re worthy to receive.

Drink all the water you can hold. Wash your face, cool your feet.

But leave the bottle full for others. Thank you kindly, Desert Pete.

One frustrated Blogger talks about the need for Robert Redford and Paul Newman to hold a press conference standing in the middle of the Brazos River (in Texas) while wearing haz-mat suits. 

Another says with determination, “So for me, now is the time: Time to plumb our fundamental values; time to re-evaluate our lives, our time, our energies, and the money we spend doing the things we do; time to connect with others and to re-connect with those left by.”

From all the blogs there seems to be an underlying comment that “Our work does not end when Kerry is elected.”

There’s much much more in this post. Take your time and read it all and think of the others that will come after you–and leave the bottle full. Do what is in your heart this November 2nd.

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1. ::The Thought Offering:”We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” — Mark Vonnegut

Maybe you’re not all that impressed with either candidate. Maybe you are disdainful of a process that gives so little choice, where you must vote for the lesser of two evils – where a candidate with your values doesn’t stand a chance. Yes, maybe so.

But… I am an American citizen living in England. Once in a while I e-mail my grandfather in Phoenix an article about the U.S. from The Guardian newspaper over here. The last time I did, he wrote back and said, ‘They sure do spend a lot of time writing about the U.S.!’ And I replied, ‘Grandpa, the U.S. is the most powerful country in the world and the decisions made there affect the lives of everyone all over the world. People are always watching.’ Yes, the whole world really is watching. It’s so cliché, just as it would be cliché for me to add that this cliché has never been more true than it is now. It’s not fair that the rest of the world doesn’t get to vote on who the next world leader will be. It’s not democratic at all, really. Which, I think, does place a large burden on the American people. There are an estimated 195 million eligible U.S. voters in the world – and over 6.3 billion people in the world. So when you place your vote in the ballot box, you are doing so on behalf of over 321 people. You are one of the lucky ones.

The rest of the world does see a difference between the two candidates and they do think Americans have the power to decide who becomes the next president. So a high voter turnout alone will send a strong message to the rest of the world – that we *do*care. We know what is at stake and we care. Hey: the rest of the world is counting on you.

http://www.thoughtoffering.org

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2. From: nervous…marked by strength of thought, feeling, or style

As November 2, 2004 approaches, I am beset with anxiety. What if? What if? I can’t even bring myself to speak my fear.

What would I do were the unthinkable to happen? I’m torn. As Mark Morford in: pointed out in a recent column, geologically speaking, this is a mere blip on the radar. I could do nothing and live in lala happyland (http://www.popcap.com) and try to never pick up another newspaper, turn on the television or heaven forbid, read blogs about anything besides knitting. Xanax is another option.

Or I could move to Mexico, land of fresh, hot tortillas; town squares and mariachis. Or perhaps I will put on my best suit and join the Republican Party. I could live out every Jane Bond fantasy that I’ve ever had.

I won’t do any of those things.

The country needs changing, folks, regardless of the outcome of this election. We have choices about how we will go about doing that. My hope for the future is that after the election, people don’t throw down their hats, and say “Th-th-that’s all folks.” Let’s keep on with our agitating and advocating, and perhaps, just maybe, something wonderful will happen.

http://nervous.typepad.com

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3. From: Will Kirkland at The Ruth Group

Why Am I Doing This?

A friend of mine asked me: Why are you doing this? — meaning blogging and all the hours spent, looking, writing and posting.  He asked me if I would share the answer with others. I will.

The election or non election of John Kerry would not have been enough for me to have given over a major part of my waking hours to do this work.  The motivator is much stronger.

When the bombs are falling it is too late to cry out No War!  The time to stop a war has long gone.  The time to stop Hitler was in 1932 when he was elected, or ‘33 or ‘34.  By August 1939 it was too late.

The time to stop the massacre of over 7,000 Muslims at Srebrenica in the summer of 1975 may have been during Tito’s time, but certainly began two years before the massacres when the city was declared a safe haven.

The time to stop the Rwandan massacres of 1994 was when hate radio began filling the air with their cries of “cockroach” and “vermin” about their Tutsi neighbors.

So it is now for us.  All the markers are in place; the future is predictable. Hate radio fills the air.  Our public forums have turned to public spectacles.  A small war in Iraq is preparing many, many for war, on many sides.  The gun and scimitar is reached for before a word is heard.  Fear is in the air and yes, the delicious thrill of sacrifice and killing. 

The Republican Party, the party of isolationism, of fiscal probity, of order enough to pursue accumulation of wealth, has been taken over by the party of intolerance, of rock-bottom beliefs, of moral certainty, of Our God and Our Empire.  [I didn’t make these phases up. You can hear them from appalled Republicans.] 

We have been told and we have been shown what lies ahead for foreigner and citizen alike.

The Republican Party defeated or not in the coming election, will continue its present course, like a terrible gathering river of mud, sweeping people into it, destroying those who oppose it.  If the GOP presidential candidate is defeated on November 2 it will be harder for it to pick up speed.   If he is victorious it will gather more force.

Now is the time for all of us who see these things.  Now is the time when our twigs in the stream can alter the flow of the gathering river of mud, more than a stream but less than it seems;  in four years, or eight,  it  may be a mighty flow, with disaster its end.

Now is the time.

Now is the time to block up, divide and divert this river of mud.   The election of John Kerry would be a good log, around which some will be able to gather.   That victory deserves all our attention. Now. But win or lose, the river of mud will continue its downward course.  So for me, now is the time:   Time to plumb our fundamental values; time to re-evaluate our lives, our time, our energies, and the money we spend doing the things we do; time to connect with others and to re-connect with those left by.  We cannot defeat disaster. We can only turn it aside by working with the tools, the intelligence, the passion that we have.  We can build a better way.

Will Kirkland

http://www.cpe-sf.com/ruthgroup/

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4. From: How to Save the World

There’s an old American folk song called Desert Pete, written by Billy Edd Wheeler and made famous by the Kingston Trio in the early 1960s. The song tells the story of a thirsty traveler in the desert who comes upon a water pump with a note from “Desert Pete”, and a jar of water. The note warns that if the finder drinks the water instead of using it to prime the pump, the pump won’t work and from then on everyone who comes upon the pump will be left thirsty. The Chorus goes like this:

You’ve got to prime the pump. You must have faith and believe.

You’ve got to give of yourself ‘fore you’re worthy to receive.

Drink all the water you can hold. Wash your face, cool your feet.

But leave the bottle full for others. Thank you kindly, Desert Pete.

This is the choice we face today, and how America votes on November 2nd will tell a lot about our character, and how we would have responded if we came upon Desert Pete’s note. George Bush is an advocate of privatizing, developing and commercializing our environment for all it’s worth, without care or consideration for the consequence or the legacy he is leaving for our children and grandchildren. As a result, we are running out of everything, including water: wilderness, biodiversity, old growth forests, wetlands, oil, stratospheric ozone, clean air and water and food, and thousands of species of animals and birds. George Bush’s answer is to drink from the bottle now. John Kerry has a strong record of environmental protection, and cares deeply about the natural legacy we will leave for future generations. John Kerry will leave the bottle full for others, for our children. When you vote, please think of your children, and remember Desert Pete’s note. You have a choice.

Dave Pollard

http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/; dave.pollard@sympatico.ca

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5. From:MakesMeRalph

There is a choice and it is quite simple. It isn’t really about John Kerry. This election is a referendum on George Bush’s presidency.Economically, it is a disaster. From a foreign policy perspective, it is a disaster.From a civil liberties perspective, it is a disaster. Fewer jobs, more uninsured, higher tuition, more abortions, higher deficits, more dead children, less international respect, more maimed soldiers. The only measure by which this presidency can be judged a success is Halliburton’s stock value, which has more than doubled since September 11th. If you judge your vote on only one issue, let it be the success of this administration over the last four years.

http://makesmeralph.typepad.com/

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6. From: Coyote Gulch A weblog for the dazed and confused

I’m asking all registered voters to vote this election. You have the choice to do so or not.

Quoting Donna Redwing:

“I know that most or all of you would not dream of not voting.  However, I am sending this to you in the hopes that you might pass it along -particularly to young women who may not realize fully how difficult getting the right to vote was for our mothers and grandmothers.” I think we need the wisdom you can bring to the election. Please, if you’re registered and haven’t already voted, you can still vote early for a couple of days. After that get to your polling place on Tuesday. Email me if you need a ride.”

John Orr

http://radio.weblogs.com/0101170/

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7. From: two fish

Jake Gittes: “Why do you need it? You’ve got enough money.”

Noah Cross: “The future, Mr. Gittes. The future.” [Chinatown]

The root of democracy is demos which means “common people:” that’s us. We are each uncommon, unique individuals, with one thing in common: our democracy, which is based upon our active citizenship. Please vote this November, to influence our common will. I’ve been contemplating the costs of the Iraq war, considering whether it was just. There are now some 15,000 Iraqi civilian casualties and over 1000 dead and 7,000 injured American troops, of which 4,194 have been wounded so seriously they cannot return to active duty.

Kofi Annan has said that the Coalition’s war in Iraq “was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.” The reputation of the United States for fairness and justice has been defamed by recent events in the eyes of the international community. And we’ve been losing our most precious democratic commodity: citizen’s rights, as Amnesty International recently reported.

As well, the issue of global warming is not being confronted by the current administration. As was reported recently, “The planet’s getting hotter, ecosystems are going haywire, government scientists know it – and still the president denies there’s a problem.”

I don’t know about you, but it feels good to act as a citizen–to make one’s will known, in public concert. Although my vote may be more of a “no” to the present administration than a “yes” to the next, the sense of fresh air is hard to miss.

http://iyume.com/blog/

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8. From: For the Record, Reality-based information, opinion, and activism concerning national and international affairs

Bush’s holding on to power for another term would seal the corporate takeover of the US. A long-established Republican goal is to destroy the federal government. The strategy is to destroy Social Security and Medicare. To most people, these programs exhaust the happy face of the government, and a government with all unhappy face would have no legitimacy, and therefore no power. Corporations would be the only powerful institutions remaining, and would run amok. Suskind’s Times Magazine article reported Bush’s declaration that “privatizing” (that is, destroying) Social Security would be the first move of the next term, and there’s no reason to suppose anything would block him. Checkmate. While electing Kerry won’t win the game, it will have the significant virtue of keeping the game going.

http://wilsonhellie.typepad.com/

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9. From: winding road in urban area “What you find hateful do not do to another. This is the whole of the Law. Everything else is commentary.”

Speaking from the gutter that is our political world, Tom DeLay said this week, “I’ve never had a campaign where the entire nation has tried to destroy my name. They are going after me in the most personal and vindictive way. It’s gutter politics.”

“I am effective and that’s why they are after me,” DeLay said. “I am passionate and aggressive about what I do.”

They can’t do it alone. Are you passionately, aggressively doing your part to destroy the political career of Tom DeLay & George W. Bush?

According to the Houston Chronicle, “In recent weeks, the House ethics committee admonished DeLay for offering a political favor to a fellow Republican lawmaker if he voted for a Medicare prescription drug bill; for perceived links of political donations to legislation; and for asking federal aviation officials to help search for Democratic Texas state representatives who fled Austin last year during the redistricting fight.

Three of his political associates were recently indicted on charges of illegal political fund raising. DeLay called those charges laughable.”

What is tragic is DeLay, like George W. Bush, considers much of the solid science on global warming and the use of pesticides like DDT laughable. He thinks that his degree from the University of Houston and his career as a pest control businessman puts him in a position to criticize Nobel Prize laureates.

Like Bush who deeply believes that if one is “resolute” in the face of reality, reality will yield, and science will not matter.

This thinking is best exemplified by the word “Truth” encased by the plastic silhouette of a fish eating the plastic silhouette of a fish encasing the word “Darwin” on the bumpers of thousands of Bush and DeLay constituents in Texas.

If John Kerry is able to out-macho George W. Bush and is elected in November, he will have to contend with a House of Representatives led by Tom DeLay. DeLay isn’t going down for his crimes. Not in Texas, not with any jury impaneled here. He must be seen as such a liability that his own party rejects him as their majority leader.

The only way to defeat DeLay is by a national effort to marginalize him. Running a well financed credible candidate who can capitalize off of DeLay’s own maniacal egomania without allowing the press to characterize his candidacy as some romantic lost cause would be nice, but isn’t going to happen in the world of Texas, Inc. Robert Redford and Paul Newman could do advertisements for DeLay’s opponent and it would not defeat DeLay unless Redford or Newman moved to Sugar Land, Texas, ran against DeLay, registered and drove to the polls every unregistered voter in the district and held press conferences wearing haz-mat suits standing in the middle of the Brazos River.  It is going to take more than politics. It is going to take passion about the environment and corporate greed. Until we take back our right to clean air, clean water, and the right to control what we ingest, the Tom DeLay’s and the George W. Bush’s are going to win. Until we demand media coverage of their environmental atrocities, we lose.

http://windingroad.typepad.com/columns/

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10. From: Deep Blade Journal

Kerry for President: More than a dime’s worth of difference

In both 1996 and 2000, I voted for Ralph Nader. I do not regret either of these votes one bit. They were true acts of conscience. This time it’s different…

Long ago, I was a Democratic Party activist, Chair of the largest City Democratic Committee in Maine, and a committed volunteer for progressive Democratic Congressman Tom Andrews who served in the US House of Representatives from 1991 to 1995.  Under Bill Clinton, however, I became severely disaffected from the Democratic administration. A myriad of environmental and human rights insults disguised in a mix of genuine and disingenuous positive actions marked this period. Perhaps the worst are the neo-liberal economic policies, including NAFTA, where worker and environmental protection have been trumped by the needs of wealthy investors.

But this time I do not support Nader. I am back in the Democratic fold. There will be more than a dime’s worth of difference between an election result awarding George Bush another four-year term versus one turning the U.S. presidency over to John Kerry. Foremost is the incredible harm Bush will do with a perceived mandate. Ratification of the last four years of lies, war, and terror-inspiring atrocities committed against detainees will usher in unimaginable horrors on multiple fronts. The Bush regime will rule with monarchical zeal and false religion previously unknown in US history. To see what’s ahead on the environmental front, one need only look as far as the brazen Bush cancellation of Clinton-era rules for cleaning up highly toxic mercury emissions from aging power plants — along with his audacity to tell the total lie that the air and water are cleaner now than four years ago. That is but one example among thousands. The only way to deny him ratification is to vote for John Kerry.

Is this an "anybody-but-Bush" (ABB) position? Sort of. Unlike Ralph Nader and some other Kerry critics, I feel that ABB is totally justified.

Furthermore, I am not nearly as pessimistic about Kerry as are some of these critics. I hold some reasons to hope that a Kerry Administration will be humane and progressive in a way unseen in America for a long time. Kerry/Edwards wants to preserve and strengthen international law, re-enter the Kyoto negotiation process, regulate greenhouse gas emissions, enact big changes in the Patriot Act, protect American jobs, promote a higher minimum wage, reduce corporate welfare, halt media consolidation, and a put a true emphasis on energy conservation, energy efficiency, and alternative energy. I am still very, very concerned about how Kerry would conduct the Terror War — I have written frequently that he has promised to kill, and kill, and kill. But my hope is that once he gets past the reactionary politics Bush has inspired, his Terror War positions will moderate. Maybe I dream, but along with this I see in him a desire to back the United States out of Iraq.

Kerry promises never again to commit US troops in a Mideast war over oil. Of all he says, this position I like most. There are reasons to question whether he will stay true to this position. But for now I take him at his word. Deep Blade Journal will work hard to hold him to this promise. Our work does not end when Kerry is elected.

Cowboy letters continued…

Thursday, October 28th, 2004

My friend Jonathan has produced another entry for the cowboy letters. This one’s a tour de force. It’s too long for the commenting system, so I will post it below. Everyone in America with the slightest inclination to search our souls about who we are and what we’re doing ought to read this.

And I want to refer to a couple of related items I’ve read in the last few days that seem to be related to what Jonathan says, especially so since in a post to come, Deep Blade Journal will be endorsing the “imperfect” messenger of peace, John Kerry, for president.

The first is Alexander Cockburn’s excoriation of “Kerrycrats” deluded into thinking electing Kerry would be a move toward world peace. Cockburn writes,

voting for John Kerry now is like voting for LBJ in 1964 with full precognition of what he was going to do in Vietnam for the next four years. By all means vote for the guy if you think your ballot will really count in keeping Ralph Nader out of the White House, but don’t do so with the notion that all along John Kerry has been holding a secret withdrawal plan close to his chest and that his first three months in office will see the US Marines haul down the colors from the US embassy in Baghdad, scoop Ambassador Negroponte off the roof and head for home.

That’s not what Democrats do when they get into office. When they settle down in the White House and put up the portraits of Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman in the Oval Office, they settle down to fight the usual good fight of all Democratic presidents, which is battling the slur that they are wimps, and less than real men.

The other is an item from The Angry Arab highlighting an endorsement of John Kerry by the National Jewish Democratic Council. Please read through the endorsement and tell me you don’t think Jonathan has some really good points about treatment of Arabs as something less than human — as violent insects worthy of summary squashing. (“FACT: John Kerry has clearly supported Israel’s right to target Hamas leadership for assassination.”) Might as well call them “cockroaches”, as the truculent, extreme-right AM-radio host Michael Savage regularly does.

Along with that, we who endorse Kerry as the only way to prevent ratification of the horrors of Bush — which is the main reason Deep Blade endorses Kerry — must heed what Cockburn says and afford no honeymoon for Kerry by assuming a new administration will immediately begin working for peace, or ever begin so, without strong pressure. Jonathan implies that this kind of pressure is weak in our society, and that most middle Americans actually react with quite the opposite impulse. Yes. Can’t argue with that for now. But we don’t stop trying.

Despite what Jonathan says, we should hope that some moderation becomes possible if we can enter a Kerry era. We have to have that hope at this moment, don’t we? Most Americans, for all their reactive jingoism, deep down have decent hearts that usually are reachable with the right communication. The media fog makes this very, very difficult. That’s why people with a peace orientation need to continue expanding the excellent alternative media that we already have right now! Look at the left pane of this blog. All is not hopeless!

We know moderation never will be possible with Bush in office. This is where Cockburn fails. “Bush” does not appear anywhere in his piece, and he writes as if Kerry offers nothing redeeming, no peace perspective, and no progressive values. This clearly is false, as Rodger Payne well articulates.

So, we know what we are doing with Kerry. As Jonathan writes, we know the picture is not pretty. Relations and conditions on this planet hang by fine threads that may or may not into the future continue supporting civilization itself. Maybe people do not understand just how tenuous these threads are, how solutions other than violent ones are possible, or even the true results and backlashes of the violent solutions now being pursued.

Thomas Friedman recently wrote about the perceptions of “JIA” in the Arab/Muslim world:

Our communications in Iraq have been so inept since we arrived, many Iraqis still don’t know who America is or why it came. But such talk is also indicative of a trend in the Arab media, after a century of Arab-Jewish strife, where if you want to brand someone as illegitimate, just call him a “Jew.” Indeed, this trend has widened since 9/11. Now you find a steadily rising perception across the Arab-Muslim world that the great enemy of Islam is JIA – “Jews, Israel and America,” all lumped together in a single threat.

This wider trend has been fanned by Arab satellite TV stations, which deliberately show split-screen images of Israelis bashing Palestinians and U.S. forces bashing the Iraqi insurgents.

While Friedman reduces this to a communication problem, Jonathan tells us that something much deeper is happening. Americans have images of aircraft striking buildings in our minds, while Muslims see JIA crushing their children with bullets and aerial-launched 500-lb bombs. Everybody’s perception of what it means to be human is under assault, and vengeance becomes the dominant motive behind all action.

These are tough issues. Surprises are in store for us, as escalation is sure to occur in the context of increased competition for global resources, especially oil. Jonathan’s letter follows…

Date: Wed, 27 Oct 2004 14:55 -0500
From: Jonathan
Subject: Re: Cowboys continued

Hi Jeff and Eric,

Thanks for your long, thoughtful reply. As I re-read my original comments to you, I realized that they too were written in a Sox-induced haze. I don’t know that I have the time to totally re-write them — I too have papers to grade, and also a presentation to prepare, and Game 4 is tonight. But I would like to clarify a few things.

I didn’t mean to go as far as you seem to have thought I did in implying a takeover by fundamentalists in the Islamic world – although it is interesting listening to Ben talk about what his Islamic Studies prof has to say about the internal dynamics of discussion right now in the Islamic world, even the intellectual community. US actions appear to make it very difficult for moderates to have any credibility. But let’s keep going there. Exactly the same dynamic is at play in the US — “terrorists” or freedom fighters or radical islamists or whatever you care to call them (and we can’t call them all the same thing) undermine US “moderates” by their actions. I call for understanding them as people and then they behead someone and, for most Americans, all discussion is off.

Or, more properly understood, our response to their actions undermines the discussion of moderates. First, it needs to be recognized that the American public’s response to what is happening is first and foremost an emotional one, not a policy response, a logical response, whatever. It is anger, which is a mask for fear and confusion. Even Kerry, if his publicists are to be believed, first reacted with anger to 9/11. And for the most part we have stayed in that state ever since. (There is a fascinating song by John Farrell, who was biking across New England on 9/11 and the aftermath, who says that at first people reacted with profound sadness and a joining together in grief, and it was the politicians who surfaced, and then channeled the anger. But wherever it came from, it’s what we’ve got now.) This anger has been the defining characteristic of the public response ever since and has framed the debate and frames our policy choices.

But we must go a step further. The anger led to a very particular conclusion — that the people who did these acts (and who continue to do acts that leave most Americans horrified, confused, and fearful) are “evil,” that they live to kill, that they have, in essence, no human soul. Now, this is interesting considering Bush’s theology – hate the sin, love the sinner doesn’t seem to apply here. But the consequence is that the “enemy” is less than human. Non-human. Perhaps even anti-human. Listen to Bush talk about the “terrorists.” Listen to the words he uses to describe them, and how often he does so. Now, we can argue about lots of elements of Iraq policy, but his portrayal of them as being unhuman is not on the table as negotiable – it is widely accepted by all sides, not directly, but implicitly. Some additional evidence. Remember back to post-9/11 and the cartoon portrayals of Al Qaeda and the Taliban as vermin? Around here anyway, the going political cartoon image was that of a rat in a cave. What do we do with rats? Or remember Susan Sontag’s attempt to think about why this might have happened in the pages of the New Yorker? Never have I seen any essay so roundly, so violently, condemned. These are not people whose motives we need to think about. These are vermin, anti-life, what is it Bush says, “they love death.”

Now I don’t know a lot about the Islamic world so I’m not going to say much about that side of things. But my limited information suggests that our actions are becoming widely seen there as being as despicable as we see whoever the hell the opposition is in Iraq. And at least among Al Qaeda, we are as much caricatures of human beings as we make of them.

So what are the consequences of this? Here is where I turn to the Israel-Palestinian example. In both lands the possibility of peacemaking seems to have been destroyed, for various reasons perhaps. But they are locked into place by a belief that the other is some sort of vermin. I don’t know if they use that imagery. However, each action by the other both re-confirms that anti-human portrayal of the opposition and justifies the next atrocity by their own side, which of course confirms for the other side how they’re nonhuman and justifies their atrocity. A never-ending spiral of violence and, and, a never-ending spiral of confirmations of their own rightness and the other’s implacable evil. In this perception of the situation, the only ways out would appear to be to kill all the others, or perhaps to build a really, really big wall.

Note also that both sides in the “global war on terror” or the “jihad” or whatever identify very strongly with their counterpart in that struggle – many Americans say we should be like the Israelis, and many in the Middle East appear to be coming to see themselves as “we are all Palestinians.”

This is the “death dance” of which I wrote. It’s not just about Iraq, it’s the whole dynamic of the actors and the persuadables in each region. Is that a “clash of civilizations?” I don’t know about that – although I would say that Lewis and Hitchens and Huntington’s portrayals of the dynamics of that clash are laughably racist. But it is two societies, each very complex, but each being driven by an intertwining and self-perpetuating dynamic towards greater and greater caricaturization of the other , and thereby greater and greater willingness to use the most horrific ends towards each other. Look at what the Israelis and Palestinians are able to do to each other now. And look what we’re able to do to “terrorists/vermin.” The scariest thing about Abu Ghraib is not that it happened, it is the acceptance of it. Why was it so possible to accept it? Partly because we are living in fear, and people will do damn near anything to keep themselves alive. But partly because the other side has been dehumanized.

It is classic conflict escalation. Go to Civil Disobedience Training 101 and learn about how conflict escalates. That’s exactly where we are.

So here I place [this] quote from Aaron Miller about the current state of degradation between Israelis and Palestinians: “He who is wet is not afraid of the rain.” Both sides are ready to dish out and subsequently absorb as much pain and suffering as need be because that is that state in which they are already living.

Are we headed there?

And until somehow this living out of anger and dehumanization is either soothed or challenged, the policy options will be few. Notice that Kerry can’t even say that we need to improve relations with the Islamic world. Sucking up to terrorists? You pointed this out too Jeff.

Jeff, by the way, I have absolutely no disagreement with your argument in support of Kerry. I’ll vote for him, I’m working for him, we’re … out canvassing the streets of St Cloud.

But let’s go back to what Kerry can and can’t say. This is not just an electoral politics problem. This same dynamic will constrain his choices if/when he gets elected. His actions will be constrained by this world of perceptions. He must know that there’s no resolution to any of this as long as we are blind adherents to the Israeli Likkud line. But he also knows that he can’t sustain any other policy politically, and not just because of the Jewish lobby in the US. ALso because Americans have come to identify themselves with the Israelis, that the Israelis wear the white hats and those dirty Palestinians wear the black hats. How can you not be on the good guys’ side? THere are real policy consequences to this stunted, deformed intellectual terrain.

And one other thing — if I gave the impression that we need to stay the course in Iraq, I didn’t mean to. Frankly, I don’t know what the hell to do, and here’s why: Morally, no question in my mind that we have a responsibility to the people of Iraq to clean up our mess. Geostrategically, an Iraq in the kind of chaos we’re seeing now is actually much worse than stability under Saddam. So on some level yes, it makes sense to stay.

However, that assumes that by staying we can achieve a better outcome than we can achieve by leaving. I don’t know if that’s true. The dynamic in Iraq appears to be that we are the major trigger of the violence. Geez, I heard an Iraqi feminist a couple of weeks ago on the radio who was appalled by terrorism but insisted on calling the “insurgents” “freedom fighters.” That suggests that as long as we stay, the violence will get worse. Militarily, the only answer to this is actually to escalate, to, say, triple the number of troops. Now I don’t think that’s even militarily possible given the current force structure. But even if it were, I think it’s an open question as to whether we can kill and imprison our way to stability in Iraq. I think the dynamic may be that each of our “successes” breeds at least as many new opponents as we killed. Let’s not even discuss the morality of that option. 40 years ago we tried to destroy villages in order to save them. It doesn’t sit very well.

So in reality the choices are to leave or to see what happens if we escalate. I expect whoever gets elected to escalate — we’ve just seen the start of the killing — because the costs of leaving are clearly incredibly large so “failure is not an option” We might as well try escalating because we don’t know for sure that we’ll lose if we go that route. But I don’t really expect escalating to succeed.

My analysis, for what it’s worth, is that the choice is merely how we want to lose, not whether we lose or not. I have not heard anyone suggest a strategy that actually leads to winning, except that somehow elections in January will be a silver bullet. We’re hoping that if we hang on long enough, stability will come. Where is the sign that this is happening? Will elections in January actually transform things? Will the new government have credibility and power? We’ll kill like hell from Nov. 3 to the Iraqi elections and hope that they transform the landscape. If the elections don’t, we’re sunk. Nobody has any other viable strategy.

So I think it’s entirely possible that we’ll end up leaving just because nothing we do works. Hope I’m wrong, for the sake of the people of Iraq. Will that be a disaster for the people of Iraq, for the Middle East, for America geostrategically? Yes, perhaps even the greatest foreign policy disaster ever to befall this country. But will it be less of a disaster to stay in Iraq until the last Iraqi who isn’t on the CIA payroll is slaughtered?

Cowboy letters

Wednesday, October 27th, 2004

How deep is the jingoist consensus?

A friend (Jonathan) sent an email saying: “Okay, got this from my brother. I think we do well to remember that for each self-satisfied leftist e-mail making the rounds there is at least one of these”. (Please use your back button to return here after viewing the cowboy email.)

A series of exchanges I found fascinating ensued. I emerge as the optimist in this group.

The original email is one that circulates amongst the God & country crowd. It’s basically a tribute to the cowboy images and old-west, white-hat justice of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The justice meted out throughout the world by the sheriffs led by these men rarely is just. Yet that does not prevent a mythology of justice from holding with a death grip on some quarters of our population. The question is, how strong is that grip? Does September 11 cinch the eventuality of a spiral of death in a struggle with the new bear, er, wolf of “Islamic fanaticism”??

Clearly, Deep Blade Journal sees the US administration with the same concern that is palpable in 80% of the world’s population. The Mad Cowboy has become an international symbol of Bush-inspired fear. Let us vote down that symbol next Tuesday November 2! That act, for at least a moment, will help us show the world that the American people are a good people with good hearts. It is a small yet powerful minority in our country that makes peace impossible.

Removal of Bush will hint at an emergence of an alternate power within the American public that Patrick Tyler writing in the New York Times described as the “the second superpower” — a global protest against war.

Tyler wrote: “…the huge anti-war demonstrations around the world [February 15, 2003] are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.”

John Kerry is an imperfect carrier of the message. But the Mad Cowboy must go before any further peace can be achieved. I hope that the American voters see fit to make this choice.

Here are our exchanges on the Cowboy meme:

Date: Sun, 24 Oct 2004 22:16:14 -0400

From: Jeff

Subject: Re: WE NEED MORE COWBOYS!!

I think I know where your letter was going. I know I keep making a pest out of myself by saying “I told you so,” but the sooner we leftists really understand the unflinching desire to win that is held by the right wingers, the sooner we can begin to grapple with it. The right sees communism in the hearts of Clinton (both Clintons), Gore, Kerry, even Lieberman and Clark and others.

Nader is right about one thing — his actions in the last two elections will undermine the Democrats by keeping them out of power and forcing them to redesign the party. He hopes it will bring about a more liberal party that will unite the people of this country. I think he’s on crack. The more I look at this country and the electorate the more I see a very conservative thinking people who are having trouble with Kerry let alone the real radicals of the left. God love them, the people of this country do love their cowboys …. however stupid they happen to be.

Jeff

Date: Mon, 25 Oct 2004 00:13:15 -0400

From: Eric

Subject: Re: WE NEED MORE COWBOYS!!

I think the problem is with mad cowboys, not cowboys in general. And it has to be diseased, not a healthy cowboy.

Furthermore, did you guys see the “reality-based election” polling report that came out. Given beliefs of Bush supporters concerning Bush’s positions, about 60% of ’em ought to be voting for Kerry, or Nader if they couldn’t stomach that. Check this out.

The really reactionary stuff your brother distributes clearly is out there. But the political engagement here is along emotional lines. A lot of the people who might connect with this for a moment emotionally would be a lot more liberal if they had more information about the issues and a way to act on that information. Both the Republican and Democratic top echelons would be in trouble if they did. We preach to a choir, one that’s getting bigger all the time.

Oh, and on “freedom isn’t free”; yeah right, that supposed to be comfort to those who die for a lie? The left knows the true struggle for freedom a whole lot better than the right does.

Eric

Date: Mon, 25 Oct 2004 09:30:17 -0400

From: Jeff

Subject: Re: WE NEED MORE COWBOYS!!

Hi Guys,

I’m not so sure about all this. Most people in this country are conservative for several legitimate reasons. Many–see the recent article in the Nation about Missouri — are religious people who won’t vote for a pro-choice candidate no mater what. Most Midwesterners, Southerners, and Blacks are religious people who are honestly concerned with the idea of gay marriage — that issue can only hurt us in the short run — abortion, and liberal education policies that have not brought about quality schools. I know there are very good arguments against all of these positions and I hold those feelings myself, but these concerns are not — if we can say this about religion — irrational or misguided.

Jonathan wrote yesterday that liberals are helping many working class people but they are not supporting liberal causes. He’s right, of course. But we only want to help working class people on our terms. We want to help blacks live without discrimination but won’t help them get public funds for private schools, something polls show over and over again many want. We want to help factory workers — the proletariat — keep their high-paying jobs but we don’t want them to make gas-guzzling cars, dirty coal, or denuded forests to keep those jobs.

The liberal coalition is so weak that the only way to keep it viable in the presidential election is to ignore liberals publicly and hope they stay on board anyway. Republicans are able to do this — Bush almost never has to throw DeLay a bone to keep his minions marching in line — but Democrats have troubles doing it. That is why I think we have to assume Kerry will look out for our interests even when he says otherwise.

Jeff

Date: Date: Mon, 25 Oct 2004 15:41 -0400

From: Eric

Subject: Re: WE NEED MORE COWBOYS!!

Jeff, your points are well taken. But I’d propose that on issue after issue, from regulation of clean air/water, to neo-liberal trade agreements, to support for international law, the public, to the extent they know enough about how to answer, are to the left of either major party. Now, the Thomas Frank thing is very interesting. For insight, I’d recommend an installment of WBEZ/Chicago’s This American Life, Ep. 272, 9/10/2004 “Big Tent”. Go to http://www.thislife.org/ and scroll through the 2004 archive and listen to it.

The basic finding in this report is that the Democrats do NOT welcome dissenting views! That turns away the Kansans who want at least to be heard on pro-life, prayer in schools, other “conservative” hot buttons. I don’t know how you solve this, but I think that in the south at least, the Democrats have collapsed over it. Partly, it’s taking more than four or five decades for civil rights to become a settled facet of society, especially with the Limbaugh-esque provocateers out there. The jobs picture does not help this one bit.

I think there is a better politics that gets beyond all this and starts uniting people with common interests, while letting debates on these social issues rage. Ironically, I think Bush makes this all the more possible, because the “un-reality” required to support him is tenuous and is breaking down all over the place.

Eric

Date: Date: Mon, 25 Oct 2004 22:37 -0500

From: Jonathan

Subject: Cowboys continued

Okay, guys, the part of this exchange I find most interesting is the part that you didn’t comment on. What I thought was the most important section in my notes was my description of the death dance between us and the Islamic fundamentalists. I’ll put it back in here for emphasis. Actually, I’m notsure if I forwarded it to Eric.

The scary thing though is that the damn cowboy mentality is totally non-functional for this world, if it ever really was. It’s a myth, and it is not one that serves us well now. The black hat-white hat stuff will have us end up just like the Israelis and Palestinians – total war, forever. Bush seems to understand that, hence his recent comments about never really winning, and he’s actually okay with it. He’s just fine with us going on like this forever. I am enough of a romantic to hope that many Americans would turn their backs on what he proposes if they realized the cost. But in reality I doubt it. The lack of reaction to Abu Ghirab tells me that we have our white hats pulled down so tightly over our foreheads that we can’t see.

I fear that we are in a death dance with the Islamic fundamentalists. Middle America is just as ignorant, and now just as filled with hate and fear. Just like the Israeilis and Palestinians, each fresh atrocity justifies us being that much worse. Look how terrible they are, we must exterminate them. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so pessimistic about the future. I see perpetual war as far as the eye can see. We spiral down with each other into the black pit of hell.

The choices in Iraq are to leave or escalate. Which will it be? To tell truth, I’m not at all sure which is worse. They are both terrible options. From where I sit, we’ve already lost in Iraq. It’s only a matter of what shape that loss takes. But unlike Vietnam, we can’t just call it quits and go home, game over. This loss has deep consequences we will be paying for for perhaps generations, both geostrategically and in the psyche of this country.

Date: Date: Tue 26 Oct 2004 01:50 -0400

From: Eric

Subject: Cowboys continued

Was watching CSPAN yesterday. Sometimes they show these focus groups run by public opinion analyst Peter Hart. One woman said she knew she could not vote for Bush after she saw a film showing children injured by US bombs. (Guess: It may have been Hijacking Catastrophe, a fine film that’s been making the rounds lately.)

Jonathan, the existence of jingoism, even to the extent it’s a jingoist concensus, is not indicative of a death spiral just yet. Okay, there exists a victim mentality that is a mark of protofascism. Our leaders have trashed international law and conquered another country. We may eventually totally lose our country and the world to these impulses. But we’re not even at the Vietnam-era level yet. We are far more civilized with many, many more tools of peace than existed then.

The war against Islam is promoted to the hilt, but despite 911, it’s still a hard long-term sell. These are invisible stateless actors! Despite Wolfie’s efforts for transference of NSC-68 to an anti-Islam Cold War, the public is not yet biting that the threat in the Terror War is the same as the Soviet threat.

There’s a hell of a lot we can do right now — go get a copy of Hijacking Catastrophe and show it to as many people as you can, for example.

————————————————————————-

I reserved the last word in the post body for myself, but I’d sure like to hear what anyone else has to say. Please click on Comments to continue the discussion….

SF Chronicle: Campaigns fail on energy

Tuesday, October 26th, 2004

Via Howlings (thanks, Bob), I see that the San Francisco Chronicle has a one-, two-, three-part series on energy and America’s future.

The first part of the Chronicle series is entitled “Campaigns fail to focus on energy”, a point Deep Blade has made in one two separate postings. According to Robert Collier, series author, in part one:

Kerry promises “energy independence from the Middle East in 10 years,” yet he has not detailed how he would bring about such a colossal shift in the way America gets its energy in such a short period of time.

Bush makes brief mentions of his energy plan, which seeks to increase domestic oil and natural gas production but has been blocked in Congress for two years because of bipartisan concerns about environmental damage.

Meanwhile, consensus is emerging among experts that the country’s reliance on foreign oil — a key driver of American foreign policy — endangers national security. It also forces Washington to rely increasingly on undemocratic nations like Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer, whose role in the war on terrorism remains controversial and which is facing increasing attacks from terrorist groups allied with al Qaeda. The United States is becoming more dependent on Persian Gulf oil, not less, and the trend is virtually guaranteed to continue no matter which candidate wins the White House.

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan took note of these concerns earlier this month when he warned in a speech that high oil prices could severely damage America’s “competitive edge” and even suggested that the effects could be as bad as those following the skyrocketing prices of the 1970s.

Yes, it’s a tall promise Kerry is making without showing specific figures how efficiency, alternatives, or even domestic drilling can replace a 12 million barrel per day US foreign oil habit.

Kerry has stuck to a position calling for a 50% fuel efficiency increase by 2015. But Michigan, a key swing state, is particularly reactive on this issue. Hence Kerry makes little of it on the campaign trail. It’s a little hard to promote policies the other side will portray as job crushers. Detroit finds the gas guzzlers (SUVs and giant pickups) to be their most critical profit center.

However, Kerry has on occasion during the campaign, attacked Bush for being insensitive to the pocketbook problem soaring energy prices cause for average Americans. He offered the most in this major energy speech October 11 in Santa Fe:

Right now, oil prices are at an all-time high, with no end in sight. In most parts of the country, a gallon of gas costs nearly $2 – up 30 percent since George Bush took office. In the last four years, the cost of heating the average home with heating oil has gone up 91 percent. And high energy costs have pushed up prices across the board – from the food you put on your table to the clothes your children wear.

A thirty percent increase in gas prices means a lot more profit for this President’s friends in the oil industry. But for most middle class Americans, the Bush gas tax is a tax increase they can’t afford. The funny thing is, George Bush is trying to scare you into thinking that I’m going to raise your taxes. But to borrow a saying, when it comes to George Bush’s record on gas prices, he can run but he can’t hide. Facts are stubborn things, Mr. President.

Also in this speech, Kerry does outline an ambitious 5-point plan to erase America’s foreign oil dependence:

First, as President, I will speed up investment in technologies that save energy and create alternative fuels. Through a new Energy Security and Conservation Trust Fund, Americans will have a guaranteed commitment to reducing our dependence on oil. We only have three percent of the world’s oil reserves. There is no way for us to drill our way out of this crisis. We have to invent our way out of it. American creativity has to drive the process – and new American jobs, good jobs here at home, will be our reward.

Today, the funding for our energy security is sporadic, uncertain, and insufficient. We may not have the greatest oil reserves on Earth, but we do have great resources of intellect and invention to find new fuels and to conserve and optimize traditional ones. So the trust fund I propose will take existing royalties that corporations now pay for the right to drill on public lands and dedicate that money to Research and Development so that we can have cleaner and more abundant energy sources.

We know that the road to more energy independence depends on making our cars and trucks more energy efficient. One out of every seven barrels of oil in the world is consumed on America’s highways. That’s why my plan contains economic incentives to build the energy-efficient cars, trucks, SUVs, and buses of the future. And I am determined that by the year 2020, 20 percent of America’s energy will come from domestically produced alternative fuels like ethanol.

Second, my plan reduces energy bills for American consumers. Under the Bush Administration, many Americans will be spending $500 more this winter to heat their homes. My plan will rein in out-of-control gas prices for families, farmers and businesses by restoring American leadership abroad, simplifying gasoline rules, deploying our Strategic Petroleum Reserve when appropriate, ensuring fair competition in the energy marketplace and helping industry, schools and homes increase energy efficiency and cut their energy bills. To begin with, my administration will enact efficiency standards to cut the federal energy bill by 20% — saving $2 billion a year. We will help states, municipalities, businesses, and consumers do the same.

Third, we will diversify sources of energy. For four years, this administration has sat by while our dependence on foreign oil has increased. My plan will focus on finding new sources of energy. We will make clean coal a real part of our energy future. We will ensure that by the year 2020, twenty percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources like wind and solar. We will seek new sources of oil in non-OPEC countries. We will increase the supply of natural gas by developing domestic natural gas sources that are already open for leasing and drilling. And we will enhance our ability to move natural gas from Alaska and Canada.

Fourth, our energy grid is vulnerable; it can and must be strengthened. The August 14, 2003 blackout resulted in the loss of electricity for more than 50 million people and cost our economy $6 billion. The footprint of the blackout on both sides of the US-Canadian border included great urban areas that are heavily industrialized and important financial centers. More than a year after the August 14th blackout, George Bush hasn’t taken any action to ensure that the lights don’t go out again. We will.

Fifth, we will create 500,000 new clean energy jobs in America by providing incentives to invest in clean energy technologies and encourage job creation. Here in New Mexico, in places like the new wind farm in Quay County, you’ve seen how investments in renewable energy protect the environment while they also produce new jobs.

Later in the speech, he likens his plan to a “Manhattan Project” to make “America independent of Mideast oil”.

Kerry’s plan a bromide?

Okay, John Kerry. I’ll vote for you on this one. But doubts remain. Collier quotes analysts who say things like, “American consumers may not like high gas prices, but there’s nothing in the short term that the White House can do…And for the long term, there is no chance in the current political climate of doing what is necessary by curbing demand, through a large gasoline tax, for example. Have any of the candidates talked about higher (fuel- efficiency) standards in specific numbers? Are Americans prepared to pay a 50- cent-per-gallon gas tax, as an incentive to drive less? No.”, and, “There is no chance that the United States will stop buying Persian Gulf oil”.

If the depletion picture painted by ASPO is correct, what these analysts say is most certainly true, and the world supply picture will be restricted so as to insure very high prices for the foreseeable future. It seems to me that a Kerry presidency would be far, far better in emphasizing what needs to be done to deal with this ugly image. The politics will be very bad. But this is pain the American people, with their extreme energy habits, inevitably will have to face.

Part two of the Chronicle series considers the natural gas picture, also not pretty, and the domestic environmental strains gas drilling is causing in certain parts of the mountain west. Part three has much additional analysis of the automobile fuel efficiency issue.

Oil price rocket

Saturday, October 23rd, 2004

The crude oil price has doubled in just over a year

After posting the last item on peak oil, I decided to look into the energy price picture a little deeper. A few days ago in the Bangor Daily News I saw a graphic very much like the one shown above. Plotted is the closing value of a NYMEX spot contract for a barrel of crude oil each day from October 1, 2003 to October 22, 2003. The last close, yesterday, set another all-time record beyond $55 per barrel. The price is more than double what it was just after the Iraq invasion in April 2003.

Striking, isn’t it? Bush invades an oil country, followed by horrendous, arrogant mismanagement so bad that the oil markets double! I guess it was predictable given Mr. Bush’s history of running oil ventures into the ground.

Some news stories on the subject are now careful to point out that when oil averaged $35 in 1981, the equivalent value today adjusted for inflation was about $75 per barrel. (There were brief periods early in 1979 around the Iranian revolution when the inflation-adjusted price was near $100 per barrel in today’s dollars.)

Below is a graph showing both the nominal and inflation-adjusted (current dollars) crude oil prices.

Source for oil price data is the Energy Information Administration; source for price index data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Through 2003, the data points are whole-year averages. The rightmost point is the current price, $55, the Friday NYMEX closing value. If the levels remains anywhere near the current nominal price, we will bust through the all-time yearly record average price in 2005. Is the all-time inflation-adjusted mark in jeopardy next year as well? Only time will tell.

In a Friday Bloomberg story, a trader is quoted,

“Momentum is the best word to describe this market,” said Marshall Steeves, an energy analyst with Refco Group Inc. in New York. “We’re still on a trajectory for $60 oil”.

It looks to me that this trajectory is comparable to the 1979-81 rise, with no end until high price dampens demand enough that stocks begin to build again. As was discussed in the previous post, additional supply is tenuous at best, with depletion just about eating up new supply. There is little room for error. The market reflects this when it moves sharply in response to any bit of negative news anywhere in the oil-producing world. This is an early mark of peak oil. Volatility — including some sharp downward price swings — will continue to exist, but oil consumers should prepare for upward price momentum to be a long-term feature of the energy markets.

Kerry’s angle against Bush on high oil prices

Presidential candidate John Kerry has issued a statement pointing out that President Bush is doing his best to ignore this whole new realm of economic pain the American people are now beginning to suffer with respect to oil prices. Kerry spokesman Phil Singer said Friday:

George Bush must think that if he ignores the fact that energy prices are setting new records, they will go away. Americans are now paying top dollar for heating oil while the President does nothing as his friends in the big oil companies rake in the cash. We need a White House that puts the needs of everyday Americans first. It’s time for a fresh start….

Low Heating Oil Supplies Threaten an Expensive Winter. Heating oil supplies are at low levels, threatening to make this winter an expensive one for millions of families. “U.S. supplies of heating oil fell last week to stand 12 percent below this time in 2003, a gap that traders fear refiners will not be able to close if the heavy consuming Northeast is hit with an early or severe winter.” (Reuters, 10/22/04)

My supposition from early August that if oil prices did not “ease into the fall ahead of the election…then it’s really clear that the oil markets are beyond any significant influence of President Bush and his friend Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan” seems to be true. The question is, does it matter if oil is rocketing? Will people blame Bush and will Kerry be able to gain any ground on the issue?

World oil peak now?

Saturday, October 23rd, 2004

ASPO October newsletter gives mounting evidence peaking is imminent

Based on the June 2004 Statistical Review of World Energy issued by BP Corporation, John Attarian, writing in the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO) October 2004 Newsletter (No. 46), presents an analysis (Item no. 429) that suggests peaking of the world production rate of conventional oil may be imminent.

Attarian writes,

the BP data point strongly to an imminent global peak. Statements in August by OPEC President Purnomo Yusgiantoro and Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez that OPEC had reached the limit of its production capacity support this interpretation. We might even be passing through the peak this year.

The figures Attarian cites come straight out of the horse’s mouth and present quite a compelling argument. He also refers to statements by OPEC President Purnomo Yusgiantoro and Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez “that OPEC had reached the limit of its production capacity” which “support this interpretation”. Deep Blade Journal included an entry on these statements last August.

All okay today

Thursday, October 21st, 2004

The US presidential campaign is a sham of misdirected attention and failure of engagement on critical issues; America is directing a campaign of mayhem in Iraq; the US puppet government in Haiti is collaborating with a UN force to harass, shoot, arrest, and destroy a pro-democracy movement (mainstream news is totally unreliable for learning anything about this); and oil is peaking around $55 per barrel while the presidential campaign seems oblivious.

But for just a short while, please let me celebrate with all the Red Sox partisans up here in New England. Let us savor the moment!

The Red Sox beat the Yankees!!

I love this photo that ran above the fold in the Bangor Daily News this morning, partly because two players I greatly admire who once were members of my hometown Minnesota Twins are featured in the photo. One is ace defensive infielder Dougie Mientkiewicz, the other is Señor Octubre aka David Ortiz. Oritz destroyed the Yankees with two consecutive walk-off hits in games 4 and 5 of the 7-game series, 3 home runs and 11 rbis. Go home Yankees and your a-rod — it’s gonna be a long, cold winter for you! Good Luck to the Sox in the World Series.

Paul Nitze dead at 97

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

Bath Iron Works launched the U.S.S. Paul Nitze destroyer in April

Nitze’s legacy is a handy tool used by Wolfowitz, Bush, and others to support the Terror War and Iraq conquest

Rarely do I recognize deaths here, but this one is special. Few people know it, but Nitze was in the early 1950s a principle architect of the Cold War. Late in his career, he provided intellectual and diplomatic support in US relations with the Soviet Union during the Reagan Administration.

According to an editorial tribute in the Washington Post,

Mr. Nitze may be best known by some for a particularly daring act of diplomacy: the 1982 “walk in the woods” near Geneva with his Soviet counterpart that yielded a concept for defusing a confrontation over intermediate-range missiles in Europe. Although the initiative ultimately didn’t succeed, it was typical of Mr. Nitze’s innovative and independent thinking, which over the years led him from the Democratic Party to the beginnings of the neo-conservative movement and back again.

The “walk in the woods” may have been Nitze’s one popularized chapter. But the Cold-War foundations laid by Nitze in a top-secret memorandum known as NSC-68 altered the course of American history in complex ways almost completely unknown to the public. Here is how current Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz highlighted Nitze’s contributions in remarks entitled Paul Nitze’s Legacy: For a New World and delivered to an Aspen Institute luncheon in Washington, DC on April 15, 2004.

As every student of security policy must know, NSC-68 which was signed by President Truman in 1950, was Nitze’s strategic blueprint for the Cold War. Although written before North Korea rolled south, it was a document that people quickly took up in the wake of the Korean invasion. It is a document that has been read and reread over the course of 50 years. It is a model of long-term strategic planning. NSC-68 addressed not only importance of a nuclear armed Soviet Union, but also the importance of the ideological orientation of the Soviet Union. Paul recognized the Soviet ideology as an inherent evil. And when combined with a formidable military capability, that ideology became an existential threat.

In its opening analysis, NSC-68 says this, quote: “The Soviet Union, unlike previous aspirants to hegemony, is animated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own, and seeks to impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world.” As we reflect on these words, it is striking how similar they are to what we face today. Although it is called religious, the fanaticism that we are dealing with has roots that stem much more from the ideological zealotry of the 20th century than from the religious origins on which it claims to draw.

Secular or religious, the adversaries we face today are ultimately animated by their own will to power, not by any altruism. While there are important differences between the challenge of our time and the one that Nitze and these other wise men faced 50 years ago, there are striking similarities in the character of the enemy–a similarity summarized, perhaps, with a single word: evil.

Wolfowitz seemlessly weaves the NSC-68 legacy — a legacy of relentless dumping of public resources into endless production of weapons of planetary destruction in order to stave off the perceived power of the Soviet state — into the new world evil of Islamic terrorism conducted at random by mostly invisible stateless actors, also requiring an endless American garrison economy. Wolfowitz must be congratulated for skill in conflating and amplifying the current perceived threats from this ragtag tapestry of disaffected people into a new NSC-68-inspired foundation for permanent war.

Author Larry Everest in a marvelous May 2004 talk spoke of how interpretations of history and US-world relations like the ones Wolfowitz conveys may be turned around 180 degrees. This gives a much different outlook towards the Nitze legacy as appropriated by Wolfowitz with respect to “the fanaticism that we are dealing with”.

I’ll quote Everest below. I think you’ll see in the Bush references the hand of Wolfowitz and his modern interpretation of NSC-68:

When [Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz and so on] condemn their adversaries, usually their condemnations apply 1000-fold to themselves….Quoting George Bush’s recent speech [Army War College, Carlisle, PA, May 25, 2004]….

Bush said, “Our terrorist enemies have a vision that guides and explains all their varied acts of murder”. Well, so does the US government.

Bush said, “They seek to impose Taliban-like rule, country by country, across the greater Middle East”. Wow, that’s precisely the US agenda in the Middle East.

Bush said, “They seek the total control of every person, and mind, and soul, a harsh society in which women are voiceless and brutalized”. What’s the PATRIOT Act? What’s “your with us or against us”?

Bush said, “They seek bases of operation to train more killers and export more violence”. Well, who’s gotten more military bases across the Middle East [and South Asia] than any other power in the world since September 11?

Bush said, “They commit dramatic acts of murder to shock, frighten and demoralize civilized nations, hoping we will retreat from the world and give them free rein. They seek weapons of mass destruction, to impose their will through blackmail and catastrophic attacks. None of this is the expression of a religion. It is a totalitarian political ideology, pursued with consuming zeal, and without conscience.” Who’s strategy was “shock and awe”?

Very late in his life, Nitze became something of a gadfly, supporting international institutions and the US role in them, distinct from the contempt of such by the current administration. He would violently disagree with the hegemonic interpretations of American actions suggested by Everest. This was his blind spot, a failure to consider the view of US policy from the perspective of those who suffer its consequences. Rest in peace, Paul Nitze.