Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fascist America, in 10 easy steps

"It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps." The article details 10 steps to turn a free society into a dictatorship. These steps have been taken over and over in countries around the world and have been demonstrated to work. Most recently they were taken following the Coup in Thailand that overthrew the Democracy there.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Media Matters for America


Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

Launched in May 2004, Media Matters for America put in place, for the first time, the means to systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation — news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda — every day, in real time.

CBS news getting into sliming Obama

It's been awhile since I posted anything about Obama. It's clear the sliming of him by the mainstream news media is continuing. In the linked article they show a clip of Katie Couric, the controversial CBS Evening News anchor. Controversial? She comes from the fluffy-entertainment side of the industry, not the real journalism side, and this news clip is a good example of the problem.

She repeats an accusation which has been thoroughly discredited .. that during Obama's childhood his mother sent him to a Madrassa school. During that time he and his mother lived in Indonesia, and as that country is heavily Islamic there were plenty of Islamic oriented schools in the area. He was sent to a Christian oriented school for some time, and for another time to an Islamic oriented school. However it's been proved the school in question was emphatically not a Madrassa. The Madrassa's being a specific sort of Islamic school which teaches fundamentalist Islam.

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Monday, April 9, 2007

Making Sweden an OIL-FREE Society


The Swedish Commission on Oil Independence propose a number of far-reaching, concrete measures that can end dependence on oil by the year 2020 and tangibly reduce the use of oil products.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, located in Richland, on the sunny eastern side of Washington state. PNNL is one of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) ten national laboratories, managed by DOE's Office of Science. PNNL also performs research for other DOE offices as well as government agencies, universities, and industry to deliver breakthrough science and technology to meet today's key national needs.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Devolving Empires and the rise of Empires

This article, The Once and Future Republic of Vermont, reminds me of a story I read once about the devolution of European countries. It was published during the 1980's in CoEvolution Quarterly magazine (which later became Whole Earth Review). The article discussed various of the old regions of Europe which have their own language, culture, memories and aspirations, and they suggested these were the chief characteristics of what we call a "nation". The map was published in 1982 and I've had it in storage for a long time, though looking at it now it's very interesting because of the changes Europe has undergone during that time.

The map shows the then-current national boundaries of European countries, and the regions within each where local independence movements were active. Some of these independence movements are quite well known and have had a history of bloodshed, while others have been very much less known. The modern countries of Europe were an artificial creation following the French Revolution where local cultures were thrown together to form larger countries.

In what was then Yugoslavia they show flags for Slovenija (Slovenia), Hrvatska (Croatia) and Kosovo as well as the names Serbia, Bosnia, Hercegovina and Montenegro. These names should bring back some memories due to the wars during the 1990's which split apart Yugoslavia into several independent countries.

The map shows Alba (Scotland) which recently established its own Parliament to give itself a little distance from the Parliament of England. It shows Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and other regions of the former Soviet Union which are now devolved into separate countries. It shows Euskadi, the Basque Lands, which have been in revolt against Spain, and which were probably responsible for the train bombings in Madrid a couple years ago. It shows Wallonia and Flanders, the two regions which together make the modern state of Belgium. It shows Ulster, popularly known today as Northern Ireland, which was colonized in the 1600's by Protestant English and has for over 300 years been an English "garrison" against the "defiant Irish". I'm sure the Irish probably see this differently.

I recently visited Brussels Belgium and the first thing I learned was how Belgium is actually two countries. The Taxi driver taking me from the airport to my hotel was a Wallon, from the southern half of Belgium, and very proud of his ancient Celtic roots.

In the Middle East similar nation-building processes led to local cultures being torn asunder through the creation of modern countries. Consider the Kurdish peoples, who had formerly been Kurdistan, a region spread over land now divided between at least Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Iraq and Syria were artificially formed by the French and British following the dissolving of the Ottoman Empire following World War I.

The current problems in the Middle East likely stems as much from the artificial creation of those modern countries as from any other effect. The local cultures are not able to have their own significance. The Kurds are just one example of this, where Kurdistan is split among several countries leaving the Kurds themselves a minority in each of the countries who occupy the land from which Kurdistan might be created.

Are, on the other hand, these regional cultures occupying truly distinct blocks of land? For example consider Tibet, which China claimed as a region of China. Tibet was attacked by China in the 1950's, its government deposed, the leader of that government now living in exile, and the Chinese government has been encouraging the immigration of ethnic Chinese into the land that was Tibet. The same pattern happened in the old Soviet Union where ethnic Russians immigrated into each of the Republics of the Soviet Union such that Russians became significant minorities in each region. In other words it seems each of these regional cultures actually lives in a land of mixed cultures.

One of my spiritual teachers talked about this process of the global culture.

In the past a given local culture might be isolated enough from its neighboring cultures that the people "over there" might seem foreign or strange etc. More primitive transportation technology, such as horses or other livestock, makes it difficult to visit your neighbors. Especially when geographical boundaries like rivers or mountain ranges get in the way. Vermont, for example, was divided from the rest of the U.S.A. by the Green Mountains which let them be independent enough to form their own Republic for a few years. The difficulty of going from place to place meant each local region had an opportunity to create culture differently from their neighbors.

Today transportation technology has progressed such that we can travel around the world in a few hours, and the improvements of communication technologies has meant instantaneous global communications.

This means that we are in each others laps on a global scale. In the past separate cultures could evolve in relative isolation, they could develop cultural practices that might seem strange (or worse) to their neighbors. The differences could be enough to cause conflict. But those differences wouldn't matter too much because transportation and communication was difficult enough that the cultures might not come into contact often enough for the differences to be seen often enough to inflame the potential conflict to any great degree. Still, these differences have led to massive wars all throughout human history.

Today everybody can see everybody else in a depth that we cannot ignore the cultural differences between each of these local regions. Those cultural differences are causing conflicts all over the globe.

I wonder if the rise of large-scale regional governments such as the European Union gives an opportunity for local regional governments to reassert themselves. For example with a strong European Union what value is there for Spain to continue as an independent country, why shouldn't it dissolve into Catalonia, Andalusia, the Basque Lands (Euskadi) etc? Similarly with France, Germany, England, etc? Each were formed by gluing together local cultures which are to this day proud of their individual heritages even after centuries of being ruled by other governments. Perhaps the European Union can be an overall governing authority for Europe as a whole, erase the individual nation-states, and give each local region its own local authority.

Perhaps the same could occur across the globe since each geopolitical region has its own process happening. The European Union began over 50 years ago as a trade zone for Europe, and has grown to become a sort of European government. In the Americas is the NAFTA, and there are other regional trade organizations such as APAC. The United Nations is perhaps being positioned as a global government down the road.

And at the same time as these global organizations are being built there are reactionary movements resisting them. In Scotland, which I visited in 2006, they proudly use the Scottish Pound for their currency, eschewing both the English Pound and the Euro. There are many American Conservatives who have been disdaining the movements towards globalized governments. Just think of the negative reaction to various National Parks having been named United Nations World Heritage sites.

The Once and Future Republic of Vermont

Ian Baldwin and Frank Bryan, a pair of Vermonters, have written an Op-Ed piece for the Washington Post describing a growing secessionist movement in Vermont. They start by relating some history which I didn't know, and then going to the current desire to for Vermont to leave the Union of the United States of America. I find this an interesting reaction to the current global politics trends.

Vermont was an independent Republic for 14 years, until 1791 when it joined the Union. They had their own military, postal service, foreign relations, etc, and governed themselves more thoroughly and for longer than any other U.S. State. Even Texas who has made themselves famous for also having been an independent Republic split from Mexico before they, too, joined the U.S.A.

It's valuable, perhaps, to remember the U.S.A. was meant to be a joining together of semi independent States. There has long been a tension in the United States between States Rights and the desire for a strong central government. The Op-Ed piece quotes from the U.S. Constitution in this way:

The United States has destroyed the 10th Amendment, which says that "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

You can see in the way they discuss this, they are in the States Rights camp. That camp believes the individual states of the U.S.A. should be stronger than the central government. My understanding is that Conservatives traditionally have been in favor of strong States Rights, and find it puzzling that the current President George W. Bush has done so much to erode States Rights while having been elected as a strong Conservative.

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Sunday, April 1, 2007

U.S. Climate Change Science Program


The Climate Change Science Program integrates federal research on climate and global change, as sponsored by thirteen federal agencies and overseen by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Council on Environmental Quality, the National Economic Council and the Office of
Management and Budget.

During the past thirteen years the United States, through the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), has made the world's largest scientific investment in the areas of climate change and global change research -- a total investment of almost $20 billion. The USGCRP, in collaboration with several other national and international science programs, has documented and characterized several important aspects of the sources, abundances and lifetimes of greenhouse gases; has mounted extensive space-based monitoring systems for global-wide monitoring of climate and ecosystem parameters; has begun to address the complex issues of various aerosol species that may significantly influence climate parameters; has advanced our understanding of the global water and carbon cycles (but with major remaining uncertainties); and has developed several approaches to computer modeling of the global climate.