Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My addiction to blogging and America's addiction to cheap oil

OK; so I said I was walking away from blogging--well it's damn hard to break a habit that is so deeply ingrained into your daily routine. I've done this for over two years and frankly, I've found the habit intoxicating. Honestly, my recent post was not a ploy to get people to laud my miniscule contribution to the blogosphere--I was genuinely burnt out and feeling tapped out.

Basically, I guess I'll probably continue to post at least weekly, here at Words Matter, but I'm not going to freak out if I don't. I have alot on my plate with the non-fiction anthology in progress, part-time job that continues to require more of my energies than I care to think about, etc. However, there is alot going on in the world and obviously, some people do read my posts. I guess I just need to be a big boy and not be all wounded because I don't have the amount of traffic that other bloggers do.

Having said that, there is much to stay abreast of, particularly pertaining to the price of gasoline and the utter delusional approaches Americans are taking in dealing with the beginning of what I believe to be Jim Kunstler's scenario laid out in last summer's, The Long Emergency. He has an excellent post at his blog, about Americans and our inability to come to terms with the peak oil issue, using Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's well-known sequence of emotional reactions, which humans go through, when facing certain death. Personally, I enjoy reading the myriad of comments his posting elicits. If you can overlook some of the carping, there are some bright folks who have some interesting contributions to add to the discussion. His blog certainly has much more diversity than the recent stories flooding the news about rising gas prices and the empty comments coming from the usual, "man-on-the-street" interviews.

A site called LiberalRapture.com has this post about how most will try to rationalize the current situation and how few recognize that it might an indication we've reached our global peak of production.

As I wrote last summer, reading Kunstler's book, as well as some of the other books on the market about peak oil might be helpful. Also, check out this list of 30 thesis, for a look into what a post-carbon world might look like.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Prison-Industrial Complex

Back in 2003, while still working for "the man" and plotting my escape, I'd wake up early to write and throw a tape in the tape player, to record The Jeff Rense Program. Later, listening to my tape during my 35 minute commute allowed me to bypass the usual drivel passing for commercial radio and catch up on some cutting edge news, Jeff's prescriptions for better health, as well as the assorted conspiracy fodder and UFO stories.

For the uninitiated, Rense's program runs the gamut of tinfoil hat topics, but what sets him apart from other conspiricy peddlars, is Rense's great interview style and mixture of topics that could best be called prescient. Plus, it was more provocative and entertaining than the usual corporate hacks reading their infomercials passed off as news and journalism.

Interestingly, the topic of the U.S. building detention centers/prisons always intrigued me, but three years ago, it seemed alarmist to think bad thoughts about the issue.

But, directly from the Halliburton corporate website, we have this press release, indicating that these friends of George and Dick have been awarded an IDIQ contract for building U.S. detention facilities, in support of the Department of Homeland Security.

Three years later, only to the truly deluded and those in denial would stories like this and this seen far-fetched and beyond the pale.

The current crew in power, with their veil of secrecy, are plotting our nation's demise, as I type this.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Neil Young is sick of living with war (and I am too!)

At his age, Neil Young should be kicking back and enjoying the latter years of his life. Hell, Prairie Wind seemed to be the type of record that indicated that this rock icon might be nearing the age where he put away the Crazy Horse-style electric stuff and became mellow Neil. As always, Young confounds us, at least the pre-release buzz seems to indicate so.

I've got more about the upcoming broadside against Bush over at the other site.

Monday, April 17, 2006

An end, of sorts

Back in November, 2004, I began Words Matter. At that point, I’d been blogging for nine months at my own website. Thinking that some of my more personal and political posts were hurting my marketability as a writer, I decided to migrate my political, cultural and other observations to another place; hence, Words Matter was born.

I’ve enjoyed blogging for much of the past 17 months. During that time, I’ve remained passionate in my opinions and felt I had something to say. However, I’ve reached the point where I’m currently blogging more because I feel I have to, in order to maintain some consistent content, rather than being driven by the urge to express my thoughts. I’ve always attempted to be a blogger who tried to have something to say and by and large, I’ve avoided resorting to rehashing the content of others. Of late, I’ve lost that urgency to state my thoughts and opinions and to weigh in on the matters of the day. Because of this, I’ve decided the time has come to pull the plug on this type of writing.

I’ve had a handful of consistent readers (who’ve graciously shared comments along the way) and I’m grateful for your support. I’ll continue to check out some of my favorite bloggers, many of whom are listed as links on this site.

I’m not abandoning blogging entirely, as I’ll still keep my hand in the medium, at Write in Maine, but it will be sporadic and given mostly to the subject of writing and publishing.

I leave the door ajar, for my return at some later date, particularly if some issue or event warrants it. However, I'm tired to tilting at the same windmills and riding the same horse time and time again, with little or nothing to show for it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Politics and its strange bedfellows

You won't find two more polar opposites than U.S. Representative, Bob Barr (R-GA), and Vermont Congressman, Bernie Sanders, the iconoclastic former socialist mayor of Burlington, and registered Independent.

While Barr and Sanders might disagree on a veritable hodge podge of political issues, one area where they've found common ground is their concern about the erosion of civil liberties, under the current administration's utilization of the USA Patriot Act.

Barr, who inhabits the opposite end of the political spectrum, tilting rightward, to Sanders' obvious leftward leanings, has been a vocal critic of USAPA. With its creepy nods to secrecy, the legalization of torture and the building of clandestine prisons, USAPA gives even a hardcore conservative, like Barr, reason for concern and some might even say, cause for alarm.

Meeting in Montpelier, Vermont, an oasis of democracy in a roiling sea of totalitarian power grabs by an administration, which has no respect for the rule of law--at least when it comes to their own indescretions--Barr and Sanders were members on a panel of civil libertarians, discussing concerns pertaining to USAPA and the current administration's flippant disregard for the U.S. Constitution.

In a press conference, the two men stood together, dressed in blue suits and blue shirts, Barr with a red tie; Sanders in a blue one - advocating a change in leadership based on a perceived erosion of civil liberties.

Vermont has been a hotbed of anti-USAPA organizing, at the grass-roots level. For the uninitiated, here is some background on USAPA, from the EPIC website.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Prepare to meet your maker

Jello Biafra and the crew at Alternative Tentacles are at it once again--or are they? Could this be Biafra's own way of turning the tables on the religious right and his own unique way of poking fun at Xian rock, with the ultimate concept band/parody? Or maybe, he's just being open-minded and tolerant of divergent viewpoints? You be the judge. Either way, you 'gotta love Knights of the New Crusade.

I have to say this is one hilarious concept, either way. Check out the discussion on Buzzgrinder and this letter in HM, which bills itself as a "Christian" music magazine, replete with bible studies. (you mean this isn't a parody?).

This is where we find ourselves, in 2006. I find it illustrative of the nature of the "black and white" polarization in our culture, around various issues and how this band is able to push a multitude of buttons and elicit some of the reactions I've linked to. LMFAO!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Positive news from the war front

Here's a slightly dated post from Baghdad Burning, winner of a Bloggie for best Middle East and Africa Blog. Written by a 25-year-old Iraqi woman who goes by the name of Riverbend for obvious reasons of remaining anonymous, the blog offers up an unsanitized version of how swimmingly our little experiment in nation building is doing.

Three Years...

It has been three years since the beginning of the war that marked the end of Iraq’s independence. Three years of occupation and bloodshed.

Spring should be about renewal and rebirth. For Iraqis, spring has been about reliving painful memories and preparing for future disasters. In many ways, this year is like 2003 prior to the war when we were stocking up on fuel, water, food and first aid supplies and medications. We're doing it again this year but now we don't discuss what we're stocking up for. Bombs and B-52's are so much easier to face than other possibilities.

I don’t think anyone imagined three years ago that things could be quite this bad today. The last few weeks have been ridden with tension. I’m so tired of it all- we’re all tired.

Three years and the electricity is worse than ever. The security situation has gone from bad to worse. The country feels like it’s on the brink of chaos once more- but a pre-planned, pre-fabricated chaos being led by religious militias and zealots.

School, college and work have been on again, off again affairs. It seems for every two days of work/school, there are five days of sitting at home waiting for the situation to improve. Right now college and school are on hold because the “arba3eeniya” or the “40th Day” is coming up- more black and green flags, mobs of men in black and latmiyas. We were told the children should try going back to school next Wednesday. I say “try” because prior to the much-awaited parliamentary meeting a couple of days ago, schools were out. After the Samarra mosque bombing, schools were out. The children have been at home this year more than they’ve been in school.

I’m especially worried about the Arba3eeniya this year. I’m worried we’ll see more of what happened to the Askari mosque in Samarra. Most Iraqis seem to agree that the whole thing was set up by those who had most to gain by driving Iraqis apart.

I’m sitting here trying to think what makes this year, 2006, so much worse than 2005 or 2004. It’s not the outward differences- things such as electricity, water, dilapidated buildings, broken streets and ugly concrete security walls. Those things are disturbing, but they are fixable. Iraqis have proved again and again that countries can be rebuilt. No- it’s not the obvious that fills us with foreboding.

The real fear is the mentality of so many people lately- the rift that seems to have worked it’s way through the very heart of the country, dividing people. It’s disheartening to talk to acquaintances- sophisticated, civilized people- and hear how Sunnis are like this, and Shia are like that… To watch people pick up their things to move to “Sunni neighborhoods” or “Shia neighborhoods”. How did this happen?

I read constantly analyses mostly written by foreigners or Iraqis who’ve been abroad for decades talking about how there was always a divide between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq (which, ironically, only becomes apparent when you're not actually living amongst Iraqis they claim)… but how under a dictator, nobody saw it or nobody wanted to see it. That is simply not true- if there was a divide, it was between the fanatics on both ends. The extreme Shia and extreme Sunnis. Most people simply didn’t go around making friends or socializing with neighbors based on their sect. People didn't care- you could ask that question, but everyone would look at you like you were silly and rude.

I remember as a child, during a visit, I was playing outside with one of the neighbors children. Amal was exactly my age- we were even born in the same month, only three days apart. We were laughing at a silly joke and suddenly she turned and asked coyly, “Are you Sanafir or Shanakil?” I stood there, puzzled. ‘Sanafir’ is the Arabic word for “Smurfs” and ‘Shanakil” is the Arabic word for “Snorks”. I didn’t understand why she was asking me if I was a Smurf or a Snork. Apparently, it was an indirect way to ask whether I was Sunni (Sanafir) or Shia (Shanakil).

“What???” I asked, half smiling. She laughed and asked me whether I prayed with my hands to my sides or folded against my stomach. I shrugged, not very interested and a little bit ashamed to admit that I still didn’t really know how to pray properly, at the tender age of 10.

Later that evening, I sat at my aunt’s house and remember to ask my mother whether we were Smurfs or Snorks. She gave me the same blank look I had given Amal. “Mama- do we pray like THIS or like THIS?!” I got up and did both prayer positions. My mother’s eyes cleared and she shook her head and rolled her eyes at my aunt, “Why are you asking? Who wants to know?” I explained how Amal, our Shanakil neighbor, had asked me earlier that day. “Well tell Amal we’re not Shanakil and we’re not Sanafir- we’re Muslims- there’s no difference.”

It was years later before I learned that half the family were Sanafir, and the other half were Shanakil, but nobody cared. We didn’t sit around during family reunions or family dinners and argue Sunni Islam or Shia Islam. The family didn’t care about how this cousin prayed with his hands at his side and that one prayed with her hands folded across her stomach. Many Iraqis of my generation have that attitude. We were brought up to believe that people who discriminated in any way- positively or negatively- based on sect or ethnicity were backward, uneducated and uncivilized.

The thing most worrisome about the situation now, is that discrimination based on sect has become so commonplace. For the average educated Iraqi in Baghdad, there is still scorn for all the Sunni/Shia talk. Sadly though, people are being pushed into claiming to be this or that because political parties are promoting it with every speech and every newspaper- the whole ‘us’ / ‘them’. We read constantly about how ‘We Sunnis should unite with our Shia brothers…’ or how ‘We Shia should forgive our Sunni brothers…’ (note how us Sunni and Shia sisters don’t really fit into either equation at this point). Politicians and religious figures seem to forget at the end of the day that we’re all simply Iraqis.

And what role are the occupiers playing in all of this? It’s very convenient for them, I believe. It’s all very good if Iraqis are abducting and killing each other- then they can be the neutral foreign party trying to promote peace and understanding between people who, up until the occupation, were very peaceful and understanding.

Three years after the war, and we’ve managed to move backwards in a visible way, and in a not so visible way.

In the last weeks alone, thousands have died in senseless violence and the American and Iraqi army bomb Samarra as I write this. The sad thing isn’t the air raid, which is one of hundreds of air raids we’ve seen in three years- it’s the resignation in the people. They sit in their homes in Samarra because there’s no where to go. Before, we’d get refugees in Baghdad and surrounding areas… Now, Baghdadis themselves are looking for ways out of the city… out of the country. The typical Iraqi dream has become to find some safe haven abroad.

Three years later and the nightmares of bombings and of shock and awe have evolved into another sort of nightmare. The difference between now and then was that three years ago, we were still worrying about material things- possessions, houses, cars, electricity, water, fuel… It’s difficult to define what worries us most now. Even the most cynical war critics couldn't imagine the country being this bad three years after the war... Allah yistur min il rab3a (God protect us from the fourth year).

Security freaks love kiddie porn

Apparently spying on fellow U.S. citizens isn't time consuming enough, as the fourth-ranking official in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had ample time to engage his predilections in kiddie porn.

In a twist with Foucaldian ramifications, an agency assigned the role of protecting Americans from terrorism, is staffed by individuals who don't see the harm in violating the sanctum of childhood.

Brian Doyle, Homeland Security's spokesperson, was put on administrative leave with pay, as investigations began into allegations that he solicited a minor on line. Authorities indicated that Doyle sent pornographic movie clips, as well as non-sexual photos of himself, to a 14-year-old female.

Apparently, one of the photos, released by the sheriff's office, shows Doyle in what appears to be DHS headquarters. He is wearing a Homeland Security pin on his lapel and a lanyard that says "

We all should be asking hard questions of our rulers, particularly when they arrogantly assume they have some G-d-given right to rule over us. What human frailty are they lacking that makes them worthy to spy on us, confiscate civil liberties and run roughshod over us.

Obviously, men like Doyle are no better than you and I and I make the case that he and his fellow perverts and twisted lot fall far short of most of the citizens that they think they need to keep an eye on.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Can baseball saves us?

Some days, you've just got to forget about the war on terror, domestic spying, the Bush presidency, and falling SAT scores.

It's opening day across America and despite ESPN crashing the party with it's stupid Sunday night opener, baseball was meant to be played in the daytime, with Cincinnati usually doing the honors.

In honor of the special place that baseball holds in my life, I've weighed in on opening day, over at Write in Maine.

And yes, there is joy in Mudville, tonight (as well as Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, and a few other places)!

In honor of the day, here is some collected opening day highlights and interesting feats.