Plaid Adder's Journal - Archives
...while, all along the top of the picture, there are dozens of people with cameras taking pictures of what his colleagues are doing, and probably hundreds of those images were somewhere on the web before the arrest was over.
This is what the people who are giving these orders have failed to grasp: you can no longer hide your approach to 'crowd control,' because everyone in that crowd will have a camera and many of those cameras have the capability to immediately disseminate the images. Used to be you could grab the cameras and pull the film out. In today's modern world, by the time you've grabbed the cameras, the images are out there on the Web already.
Guns, night sticks, pepper spray, mace, and so on are pretty fearsome when you confront them in the actual situation. As far as what happens around about and *after* the actual situation, the cameras matter a lot more. Along with all the other things this picture represents, it is a picture of a whole lot of FAIL.
The Plaid Adder
Driving home yesterday I heard--alas, several times--a CBS TV ad parodying the Occupy movement. Stirring patriotic music, rhetoric about freedom, exhortation to stand up for your rights as an American and "occupy your couch" while watching CBS's evening lineup.
Congratulations, OWS! You have reached Stage 2!
(You know. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.)
Seriously. I went on a lot of anti-war marches. Nobody ever parodied us in a banal little radio ad for a general audience. This shows that the occupy movement has become part of the public consciousness in a way that all those International ANSWER-led things we all did back in the oughts never did and were never going to.
Good luck with Stage 3,
The Plaid Adder
That's about all I've got this morning. We had a good run; but we've definitively lost our economic dominance, which means a shitload more in today's brave new world than military dominance ever will. Domestically, our economy will probably remain a shambles for some time to come.
I'm so glad we killed ourselves doing that debt ceiling bill. Seeing as we got our credit downgraded anyway, and now we are locked into doing more bogus financial 'reform' that will only make matters worse. And seeing as even the stock market hates it. And how fun that we are now in the position of being publicly rebuked by China for our fiscal irresponsibility. How awesome it will be, in the coming years, as we really find out what it means to be pwned.
Thanks, Tea Party. I hope you all enjoy living in a former world power just about as much as I expect you will.
The Plaid Adder
Is this constitutional?
It seems unconstitutional to me. But I am not a lawyer.
The Plaid Adder
Since crazy is apparently what gets things done in Washington.
It is a simple enough principle. Everyone who has raised a small child learns it. When the charming and lovable but undeniably also unreasonable and immature being in your care throws a tantrum, you do not, under any circumstances, give that child what he is demanding. Doing so merely ensures that you will see another tantrum really soon, probably at a moment when you are under tremendous social pressure to give in to the child and thus spare those around you the earsplitting howls. Give in often enough and you see a situation where the child is in charge and you the parent are merely trying to placate him. This is always bad for both parent and child because the child has no idea how to run its own life and the parents no longer have the power to implement their much more reasonable ideas about same. This scenario leads to something which is actually called, in the parenting books, "tyrannical behavior" on the part of the child. They don't have a phrase for the parental counterpart to this, but I suppose we could dub it "Congressional Democrat behavior."
The problem with this analogy, of course, is that a child does not have the power to crash the national economy.
This is why we go on caving in. The howling children who either don't understand the consequences of their own actions, or don't care who suffer because of those consequences, are willing to bring the country down in order to get what they want, and so they have to be soothed and rocked and given candy and boy am I sick of seeing it happen.
But of course there is another principle that all this demonstrates, which is that "compromise" is driven by fear of extremism. We're all supposed to be happy with this deal because it doesn't cut Social Security (yet) and because it promises "50/50" defense and non-defense spending cuts if the "trigger" has to be activated. We're supposed to be happy with this because what the Tea Party would have demanded is so much worse. And by Christ am I tired of that scenario too. Because it means that as the extreme wing of the Republican party has gotten more extreme, what counts as "reasonable" has been moving farther and farther right.
50/50. A bipartisan supercommittee. Sounds fair. Until you stop and think about the fact that this "trigger" mechanism institutionalizes the idea that everything has to be split "down the middle" and that each party is somehow now entitled to half of the budget. Regardless of which party is actually in power, or which party is supported by a larger section of the American people, or indeed which party wants what is good for the country as a whole or for the people living in it and which party merely wants to feed more cash to its cronies or to gratify its ideological itches.
We need more than two parties. This has been obvious for a long time. But the two-party system appears to have an unbreakable lock on the federal government. Other parties do exist, all along the ideological spectrum; but none of them have an effective presence in Congress.
Except, of course, the Tea Party. Which is not, technically, its own party--but which, during this past debacle, certainly functioned as a self-contained radical conclave whose support the Republican leadership could not take for granted and who were intransigent and unreasonable and had to be catered to. And they got--not everything they wanted, but way too much of it.
The right, in other words, has found a new way to work the two-party system. You sneak an extreme mini-party into on eof the big ones, and then it gets to work the levers and pull the strings and make shit happen.
All right. Well. Surely we on the left are crazy enough to do this. We've got plenty of crazy people who believe in crazy things like national health care and taxing the rich and reforming the school system in such a way that it would actually serve all the people who rely on it. What's to stop us from creating our own crazy party? Maybe instead of the Tea Party we could call it the Latte Party. And they could all run on this platform: We will fight for our ideological principles whether they're practical, reasonable, and feasible or not! We will refuse to negotiate! When asked to compromise for the sake of the greater good, we will instead throw gigantic super-destructive tantrums until we get our way!
It's so crazy it just might work.
It's not an attractive picture, is it. And indeed, this is the problem: most of us on the 'left' don't have much of a stomach for antics of this kind. But goddamn it, something has to be done, because I am tired of seeing everything go the way of the tantrum-throwers. And it is apparently too much to ask for the Democrats to stand up to tyrannical behavior. We could, for instance, have gone back at some point and said: We will put up a bill for raising the debt limit which does not link it to anything. This has to be done for the economy to keep functioning. You can vote for it or not vote for it. And if you do not vote for it, well, you can be the ones running next year with the slogan, "I Helped Destroy The Federal Government."
We could, in other words, have called their bluff. The results might not have been good, but it would be an interesting experiment to try.
Ah well. Another bipartisan "compromise" in which we lose a little more of the ground we are most half-heartedly holding. Hooray.
The Plaid Adder
I mean, not that more damage can't be done. Certainly it's better for everyone involved (except these Tea Party idiots, but anyway) if we can avoid defaulting. My personal hope is that the Aug 2 deadline is fake and that in fact if we pass it it will turn out that we have another couple weeks before the shit really hits the fan. And that would be fun, because then we'd all know which Congressional persons were willing to push the button and unleash financial armageddon, but it won't have actually happened.
It could happen.
But anyway, my point is: Apart from, you know, making payroll, the main thing this thing is about is making sure we can continue paying our debts. Because once you become a credit risk, nobody wants to lend you money any more.
Whether we raise the debt ceiling before Aug 2 or not, I think the circus up on Capitol Hill has pretty much convinced many of our international creditors that their money is not safe with us.
Well, that's gonna keep me up tonight.
The Plaid Adder
I get it that the lying is the real problem. That actually is the part that breaks my heart for all y'all who were out there proving he'd been framed. I was perfectly ready to believe that, but I guess it doesn't surprise me that it turned out not to be true.
I don't personally understand what makes a guy want to send pictures of his dick to strangers. It seems to me like it should be real easy to avoid doing shit like that. Then again, a lot of people find it real easy to avoid eating cheese, and I don't, even though I know it's not good for me. Nobody can always follow all the rules they should be following all the time. It ought to be good enough for our elected representatives to follow the rules about 1) not hurting other people 2) not breaking the law 3) not being corrupt and 4) doing what they honestly think is the best thing for their constituents and for the country. Whether a guy wants to maintain some kind of virtual sexting harem doesn't bother me as much as it would have bothered me, say, 20 years ago--unless the harem starts to involve minors.
(I know, y'all are going to tell me that Weiner violated #4. Yes. But only because we live in a world where people are made to care about crap like this. The standards for what counts as "poor judgment" are becoming so low that soon it will be impossible for any human being in elected office to exercise 'good judgment' all the time.)
Not sure what's made the difference, except that I'm older and I guess I have come around to the opinion there are no heroes any more. It's not just that nobody's perfect. The heroes we were able to believe in back in the days of yesteryear were made possible by our strategic ignorance of their personal flaws. Martin Luther King Jr. himself could not have become a hero in today's environment. Oh, sure, he's changing the world by leading one of the most succesful nonviolent civil rights movements in history; but did you see that email he sent to that staffer? CREE-PY!
Some kind of rational balance has to be reached with all this. I mean, I am faithful to my wife. I do not have a Twitter account. I have never taken a picture of myself in my underwear, nor do I flirt with women half my age. According to media logic, I would be a perfect Congressional representative, or even, dare I say, president. And yet I know that I would be a disaster in either job, because you know what, whether you can avoid putting yourself in embarrassing sexual situations doesn't really have a whole lot of bearing on whether you can get a @#$! law passed, which is actually Rep. Weiner's job.
Perhaps this doesn't seem as serious to me as it does to some of you guys because I'm still mourning the loss to the party of John "let's father a child on someone and then corrupt ourselves in order to keep it under wraps" Edwards. I kind of wish he had just stuck to sending out humiliating pictuers on Twitter.
The only silver lining here is that I am sure there will be some good Daily Shows out of this. I only wish it were still marching band season.
The Plaid Adder
extramarital sex. Right?
I know this whole thing must be intensely frustrating for many of you because I saw you all working so hard to prove that Weiner was telling the truth and his Twitter account had been hacked. And now all of a sudden, whoops, turns out that really was him.
And I thought what you all are thinking: what a MORON. Does this idiot really think that any "tweet" is a private communication? Does this guy not understand about how in our digital world today any image you put into the series of tubes can be duplicated infinitely in less time than it takes to change your underwear?
But the fact is that many of us put stuff out on the 'net that we don't necessarily want coming back to us. Most of us don't get burned only because nobody out there cares enough to burn us. To have a meaningful internet life means making yourself vulnerable, to some extent, to total strangers. I understand how, believing that he really needs this internet life, a guy might talk himself into believing in more confidentiality and privacy than his internet self can actually have.
It's also quite likely that Weiner was using these "illicit" cyber-encounters as a substitute for actually having sex, figuring that it was less risky. More chance of discovery, but the crime itself is less severe. Embarassing, sure, but not career-ending material.
And the crazy thing is, he'd have been wrong. It now costs, apparently, just as much if you send someone an inappropriate image as it does if you are literally having hot torrid extramarital sex with someone.
I find this very strange. One can make the argument, and I have, that as long as this hot torrid extramarital sex is between two adults free to consent to relations with each other, then the only person who ought to be truly concerned about this is the injured spouse and any children who may be facing an infidelity-related parental divorce. Still, I guess I am old fashioned enough to believe that there is a difference in kind, and not just in degree, between cheating on your spouse with a flesh and blood being and cheating on her with pixels.
Every time something like this happens (*cough* Edwards *cough*) I go on this internal rant about why people can't "keep it in their pants." But we don't (yet) have any evidence that Weiner _didn't_ keep it in his pants. I mean I suppose he had to take his pants off to take the photo of his underwear (oy gevalt). But my point is that the internet age has, apparently, lowered the bar for infidelity. Now you don't have to have had inappropriate sexual relations with an intern to be keelhauled. It is enough that you caused an inappropriate image to materialize on the monitor of someone you've never met and may well (indeed, after this, probably will) never see in person.
Sure, it's creepy. I would certainly freak out if I found such a thing in my inbox, and probably want nothing further to do with whoever sent it. But to me, anyway, doing such a thing in person is whole googleplexes creepier. And yet, in conversations I see about this, the distinction between virtual and sexual misbehavior seems to have evaporated.
I'm not standing up for Weiner. I have nothing personally invested in him and my patience for the antics of straight men who think that strange women are dying to see their dicks is short. I'm just noting what appears to be a seismic shift in our understanding of what counts as a sex scandal. And it does make me almost feel bad for the guy. I mean if you are going to go down in flames, do it over something that's gonna matter to you--not over some tweet you sent that maybe made you chuckle in a creepy kind of way for a couple seconds and that was about it.
The Plaid Adder
this is in response to a comment on the "Habemus Corpus" post
I've been thinking about this, because when I heard they had buried him at sea, my first thought was, "Oh shit, the birthers will go nuts."
But then I thought, you know what, there is no way for any of us to 'prove' any of this to ourselves. Even if they had put him in a mausoleum, how would we know it wasn't empty? Or say they had him put on display in a glass casket like Lenin, how would anyone who went to see him know that was REALLY him? As for film and video, we all know all of that can be photoshopped. Short of issuing us each individual tissue samples with a home DNA testing kit, I don't know how they could 'prove' to us that they got him.
I have a one-line response for anyone who tries to tell me this didn't really happen: "If all it takes is making shit up, how come the Bush administration never 'killed' Bin Laden?"
The Plaid Adder
When we heard about the announcement we were sure that it wasn't going to be good news. My partner's first speculation was that maybe poor Joe Biden had had a heart attack. I'm glad it was leaked early, because if I'd had to sit and watch the NBC News crew blather and speculate for an hour the stress might have made my head explode.
So. We have Osama Bin Laden's body.
It is kind of hard to believe; it's also kind of hard to feel. The jubilation with which the news has been greeted is not something resounding in our household, where we are more worried about what to do if PJ winds up hearing about this. She's only 3, and we haven't told her yet about 9/11. But mainly what impresses me as I sit here trying to write about this is: This is not really the news that I have been waiting for, these past 10 years.
What I have been waiting for is the news that the war is over. By "the war" I mean the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, the war on terror, the war, the war, the war that George W. Bush announced in his first address to Congress after 9/11, the war that has become so much a part of American life that we have forgotten what it was like before.
It is possible that now that we have our corpse and our trophy and our bragging rights and all the rest of it, it will be politically easier to end the war in Afghanistan. About that, I would be glad. About this...well, after all that's been destroyed in the past ten years in the name of getting Bin Laden, just about anything would be an anticlimax.
Obviously it's good for our side that it was Obama who made that announcement and not George W. Bush or, God help us all, President Trump. I would feel more joy about that if I felt better about "our side" these days. Nevertheless, I will say that it's quite possible that the reason this happened on Obama's watch and not Bush's is that Obama actually thought getting Bin Laden was important, whereas for Bush's team and their priorities it was really better if Bin Laden was at large, because that gave them the excuse they needed to get their war on.
The NBC talking heads seem very convinced that Bin Laden's death marks the end of an era, even as they reassure us that the war on terror will continue. I hope it does mean the end of an era--an era that I have to say, I could barely stand living through. I hope that symbolically this will make some things possible that were not considered possible up to now. I hope that maybe we will actually see the war end now.
I have not much more to say about it, really, except that I'm glad to be still here to post about it on DU, which sustained me through the worst of the post-9/11 years. I hope that good will come of this. We'll see what happens.
The Plaid Adder
So DU has been around for 10 years now. God damn we are getting old.
I haven't been here since the *very* beginning; the earliest thing of mine that I can find that was posted here was from July of 2001. At first, I didn't spend much time in the forums; I saw DU as an outlet for all the writing I couldn't stop myself from doing about how bad things were. So when I wrote up a particularly long thing I would submit it to EarlG's email address and it would either go up on the front page eventually or it wouldn't. As I spent more time on the site I began getting into conversations with people and eventually people started to recognize me when I showed up, and then it started to feel like home.
Skinner talked in his interview about how much DU has changed since the 2008 election. It has changed--a lot--and so has the country. In fact, as I was going over some of my old journals and columns and whatnot, I was really shocked to see just how much I had forgotten about how bad things really were during Bush's presidency.
For instance, here is a partial list of individual Republican politicians or political operatives who were involved in what at the time seemed like major scandals during those years. See how many you can even remember:
For so long we waited for the scandal that would FINALLY reveal the corruption at the heart of that regime to all and sundry...and it never happened. Remember how eagerly we all awaited Fitzmas? Do you even remember what Fitzmas was?
No, the scandals never led to the grand juries and the impeachments and the jail time that so many of us were really hoping for. And yet, all the same, the exposure did happen: by the time Bush left office, all the shit that we'd always known about him and his cronies had been verified many times over in the national media. It's just they never got busted for it. They were instead allowed to slink ignominiously off-camera. You barely ever hear from George W. Bush now. Cheney haunted the margins for a while but even he has disappeared.
It's so weird to see how huge a part of my life George W. and his maelstrom of destruction were while he was in office...and how fast, and how completely, I and a lot of his other erstwhile subjects seem to have forgotten what it was like to live with him.
It's clear, for instance, from a lot of the posts I was looking at that I really did believe for a while that we might never have another real election in this country--that they had gotten so powerful that they had engineered permanent one-party rule. YOu can look at what's going on now and say, well, it is one part rule because the Democrats are also owned by the corporations...but that's very different from what I was worrying about. It really felt, for a really long time, as if we were living under a fascist regime. Who knows, maybe we were. It's just that it was a phenomenally clumsy and STUPID fascist regime, and that eventually became so apparent that it turned out to be possible to turn the tables on them after all.
And the years I spent following all the news I could find coming out of the Iraq war, and just getting sick to my stomach over and over again. I wrote up a whole journal entry on a massacre of civilians at a place called Haditha...I had forgotten that ever happened. The razing of Fallujah I remember. Now, I hear the reports about who got killed by what bomb there today, and it's like it doesn't even register. I hated that war so much--even before it got started. But as bad as I thought it was going to be when I was protesting it before it broke out...it was SO UNIMAGINABLY MUCH MORE WORSE once it actually started to happen. I eventually had to stop trying to keep up with it. My writing about it didn't make any material difference and it certainly didn't seem as important as keeping up with PJ was.
I'm not as active here as I used to be. But DU is still incredibly valuable to me--not just as a community but as an archive. It's a record of the first crazy decade of the 21st century, and not just of the events but of the feelings and perceptions they inspired in us. It really matters to me to be able to look back at all that stuff and realize how much we've all lived through, and how it's all probably still inside us somewhere.
The Giffords shooting, for instance. For all the talk about Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and the new right wing voices and whatnot, I think people--including, until recently, me--have forgotten that before their stars ascended the heavens we had eight years of the Bush presidency working overtime to make violence something that so pervasively saturated American public discourse that people would stop noticing that they were bathing in it. In Bush's public comments about America's adversaries, for example, he often reveled in fantasies of assassination, and chortled over assassinations that had actually happened. Now, this was all in the context of assassinating hostile foreigners...but still, he made it OK to fantasize in public about assassination as a solution to ideological conflict. All that "wanted dead or alive" bullshit. And Bush, remember pioneered the "Bush doctrine" of preemptive war, which is basically the doctrine of shooting first and asking questions later or maybe never. They were the ones who made torture patriotic, and who made human life cheap not just here but around the globe. They were the ones after us 24/7 to idolize "the troops" and all their weapons. And...oh yeah. You remember? That time Cheney shot his friend in the face and it was two days before anyone else heard about it? Great Daily Show material that arose from all that but...really. Years later, you still have to stop and think about that incident and ask yourself: WTF? W T F? W, by God, W T F?
Anyway. What a crazy fucking time that was. A time of real danger, a time when we didn't really know for sure that America was going to survive this "presidency." And I'm really glad I had DU to go to during that crazy time--especially in the early years, when only lunatics like us realized that this Bush guy was Really Extremely Very Bad For Us.
The problem of how to make things better now that there's a Democrat in the White House is complex and perhaps more demoralizing and difficult to solve. Maybe that's why I don't post here as much as I used to. But damn, I would not wish those first 8 years back. Except for the community I found here on DU.
I will always remember going to Khephra's funeral. It was the first time I met other DUers in person; first and only, now that I think about it. DU, in addition to being a "liberal website" or whatever we are, was a place that welcomed the whole person. Out of the tens of thousands of people here, individuals somehow managed to find each other and to forge real connections. It was unbelievably touching to see all that materialize in that funeral home in Indiana. Khephra was a huge loss to this place but we were all right about one thing--his legacy survives. All the stuff he built here on DU is still standing, and still growing. And so are we all, each of us adding our little strand to whatever it is that we're weaving.
It gets ugly in here sometimes; perhaps more often now than it did during the crisis years. But for what this place meant to me then, I will always love DU. For those of you who were here for the beginning, thanks for helping me survive all that, and congratulations on making it through yourself. For those who have joined since 2008, welcome aboard. It's a good place. It is the kind of place that cannot be made in a day or a year. It is a real community, and it matters. I hope it will be good to you like it was to me all those years.
Happy birthday, DU,
The Plaid Adder
At the beginning of Terry Gilliam's film The Fisher King, a radio "shock jock" named Jack (and more or less modeled on then-celebrity Howard Stern) takes a call from a guy who complains that a woman he's fascinated by is ignoring him. After leading the caller on to ever crazier expressions of his obsession and his anger toward this woman, Jack gives him some "advice" about how to deal with the woman who is causing him all this pain. Obviously enjoying the sound of his own voice, and tickled at the thought of how edgy and "politically incorrect" he's being, Jack winds up his response by telling the caller to just "blow her away." A few scenes later, Jack is startled to hear on the news that in fact, the caller took his advice and went on a homicidal shooting spree in a local bar. When we next see him, Jack has lost his job and his apartment; he's sponging off his girlfriend, who works at a video rental store, and is pretty much ready to hit bottom. Back in 1991, when this film was made, Gilliam assumed that viewers would hold Jack responsible for the deaths committed by the lunatic whose delusions he fed for the sake of his ratings. Jack's guilt is taken for granted; the real question driving the film is whether or how Jack will find redemption.
How times change.
The film, of course, being a work of fiction, makes the connection clear by putting the media celebrity who spouts the violent rhetoric in direct contact with the lunatic who then goes and takes out a half-dozen people. In real life it is not often that clear-cut. No doubt Jared Lee Loughner never spoke to Sarah Palin. But she spoke to him--and so did Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan and all the other purveyors of violent right-wing rhetoric who have filled the public sphere with this poison. And if she is not responsible for the fact of Loughner's insanity, she and her ilk do bear some responsibility for the content of his delusions.
This is something that the GBLT community learned a long time ago: When you are designated by legitimate--or at least legitimized--politicians, religious leaders, and media celebrities as an acceptable target for hateful and violent rhetoric, that makes you a target for hateful and violent action. When you are repeatedly held up by supposedly rational indviduals as the root cause of every evil thing that afflicts this country, then people start to believe that they have a right--nay, even a duty--to kill you.
Sure, many of these people are mentally ill. It is in fact forseeable that a fair number of people who are legitimately mentally ill will in fact be drawn to this kind of "political" discourse--because it is itself fundamentally irrational. Whether it's directed at gay people specifically or at "liberals" in general, the kind of rhetoric that Palin, Beck et al. are now frantically erasing from their websites now is based not on logic but on fear and anger; and it often expresses itself in the form of insane conspiracy theories or the obsessive scapegoating of a particular group of people.
Of course one cannot be held responsible for the delusions of those people who choose to follow one. Unless, that is, one is cynically feeding those delusions because they happen to serve one's own political purposes.
I would not go so far as to say that the death of six people and the wounding of 14 was the *desired* result of Sarah Palin's little foray into the rhetoric of the bullet. But it is absolutely forseeable. The same way it is forseeable that right-wing frothery about "activist judges" has made them the targets of this kind of violence--again, often perpetrated by the mentally ill, but condoned and legitimized by our elected representatives. The same way that it was forseeable that the kind of anti-gay bigotry spewed by right-wing commentators throughout the Clinton years might create a climate in which beating up Matthew Shepard and leaving him for dead would seem to two guys in Wyoming like the right thing to do on a cold night in 1998.
These right wing mouthpieces will themselves never admit the connection, but that doesn't mean a thing. They're the party of the supernaturally autonomous individual. They never acknowledge the validity of this kind of indirect connection--unless, that is, they are engaged in constructing webs of craziness that link all evil everywhere to the passage of Obama's health care bill.
Someone forwarded me a piece months ago about the political threat Sarah Palin represented to the American public. I read it, and I said, this guy is wrong. Palin is still viable as a celebrity, but if you look at the results of the midterm elections, the candidates she actually promoted by and large didn't do too well. I think America has decided that they find her entertaining but that they don't want her governing, or determining who governs. Which, I said at the time, is fine with me.
Except that if she and her confederates are successful in creating a climate in which people are afraid to run for office against right-wing candidates because they are afraid of being shot, then she doesn't have to care what the American people think of her ability to govern. The bullet may do for her what the ballot didn't. We saw it happen with the shootings at abortion clinics. Roe v. Wade is safe--for now--but the number of doctors willing to put themselves at risk in order to perform abortions has gone down. It doesn't matter too much that you have a legal right to something if the people with guns have made it impossible for you to exercise it.
This has to stop. This shooting is one step on a path that leads to a very bad place. I don't know how we do that, exactly. My instinct is to say that the best approach is to render this kind of violence unprofitable to the political figures whose voices promote it. Media boycotts against particularly egregious commentators have had mixed results; but perhaps with this incident as a motivator something could finally be done to separate Palin et al. from their sponsors. All I know is that we need to make it impossible for one group of people in this country to declare it open season on another.
The Plaid Adder
And these words are:
OK, that was only two words. Here are some more:
This is the end--AT LAST!--of a process launched in 1993 within months after Clinton took office. Even back then I could not believe anyone could stand up and say with a straight face the crap that Sam Nunn and all the other ban-fans were spewing about why letting gay men serve openly in the military would lead to the Apocalypse. All the arguments against lifting the ban were patently ridiculous *in 1993.* Unit cohesion my...well anyway.
Instead of lifting the ban, which is what Clinton had promised us during the campaign, we wound up with the first of many Clinton compromises: Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Seventeen fucking years later, everyone's finally figured out that this particular 'compromise' was only making things worse. Well, hooray for them finally figuring that out. Here is another thing the party powerful could maybe work on figuring out: why it is that those of us who watched this particular bit of Clinton magic back in 1993 start to break out in hives when we hear the words "bipartisan compromise."
It is great to see something positive come out of this Congress's final days. It will be great to see Obama sign it. AT LAST.
Congratulations to everyone who lobbied for this and to all those whose lives will be better because of it. AT @#$! LAST.
The Plaid Adder
More than ten years ago, I pulled into a Chevron station to fill up. A guy who worked there spotted my "Boycott Shell" bumpersticker and asked me about it.
I gave him the shortest explanation I could craft. It's a complicated story. The catalyzing incident for the boycott of Shell was the execution by the Nigerian government of writer Ken Saro-Wiwa. He, along with eight others, was hanged by the Nigerian government in 1995. The charges against them were widely considered to be trumped-up, the real motivation for their execution being their involvement in environmental activism in the Niger Delta, where Royal Dutch Shell was drilling for oil. Saro-Wiwa was part of a group called MOSOP, or Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People. The Ogoni were the people who had the misfortune to be living in the area where Shell began extracting oil in 1958. They are a minority group within Nigeria, and being underrepresented in a federal government which was corrup to the core anyway, the Ogoni were left to fend for themselves while Shell's drilling operations destroyed their environment. They got none of the oil money, which was all going either to Shell or to the big shots in the government that allowed them to operate. Instead, fish died, water was contaminated, acid rain fell, oil flooded their fields and killed their crops, and their entire way of life, based as it was on farming and fishing, became impossible.
This naturally provoked some resistance from the local community. With financial support from Shell, the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force took on the job of suppressing it. MOSOP emerged in 1995 in response to this. Shortly afterward, Saro-Wiwa and eight other leaders of MOSOP were convicted of murder in a highly questionable trial by a special military tribunal and then executed. This brought enough international attention to the issue of environmental destruction in the Niger Delta to make a boycott feasible.
Despite all that, the Shell boycott remained one of those causes that only the the most politically engaged Americans even knew about. Nobody knew who the Ogoni were. Nigeria was far away. (It had not even yet become famous for its wire transfer spam scams.) Ken Saro-Wiwa was not even as much of a household name as Chinua Achebe and most Americans had never heard of Achebe either. And most of all, the horrific exploitation of an African landscape for the profit of a European corporation was an old, old, old story. It was one of those things that just kept happening to the third world. The combination of corrupt post-independence governments, Cold War politicking, and international capitalism typically worked out very, very badly for the people who happened to be living on top of one of the world's most profitable natural resources. It stood to reason that if a major multinational corporation wanted oil, and a third world government was willing and eager to be paid for delivering it, that the people whose lives and environment were laid waste by the drilling process were just going to be screwed.
So, I summarized this for the Chevron attendant, and went and fueled up my car, and later that day sent an email to a friend of mine who had worked on Ken Saro-Wiwa, explaining how I was fighting the good fight one fill-up at a time. She wrote back and said, "I hate to break it to you...but Chevron drills in the Niger Delta too."
So, I stopped using Chevron and continued avoiding Shell. Still doing it. And now it's 2010. And off our own coast, British Petroleum has created an environmental catastrophe that may well make what happened to the Niger Delta pale in comparison. And while everyone in the media is scrambling to figure out whether/how to blame Obama for this, and making idiotic comparisons to Katrina (both are bad things that have happened to the Gulf Coast in recent years...beyond that, they have nothing in common), and BP keeps coming up with more and more desperate ideas about how to manage a disaster that is clearly beyond their control, I'm basically thinking one thing: We're all gonna die.
When I can get past thinking that thing, the #2 thing that occurs to me is: What's happening now is the kind of thing that an oil company *used* to be able to get away with only when it was operating in an impoverished country in an undeveloped region with no international clout and a government too corrupt and dysfunctional to protect the interests of its own people. You look at Shell vs. The Ogoni People, and you think well, that sucks, but no wonder the Ogoni lose. Who's going to stick up for them? This has been going on since 1958 and basically the only people fighting for the indigenous peoples of the Niger Delta are themselves. And they're still doing it--every once in a while you read about the occupation by local activists of an oil well, and so on.
You might expect different results when a multinational corporation goes up against the US. But it does still appear, so far, that in the US vs. British Petroleum, the US loses. Forget this whole first/second/third world thing. It's the oil companies' world now. We're just soaking in it. And choking on the fumes.
I do occasionally think back to the Bush years and recalling how much the Bush government always reminded me of a corrupt third world regime. It's clear enough to me that the conditions that led to this disaster were created long before Obama took office, and that allowing oil companies to operate without let or hindrance was totally a Bush administration thing. But we always knew that while Obama's election would fix a lot of problems, there were others it wouldn't solve. Our government's impotence in the face of gigantic oil companies with gobs of cash to pay lobbyists with would appear to be one of them.
I really, at this point, don't want to know who to blame--apart from British Petroleum, Transocean, and Halliburton, which would seem to be where to start. I'd like to know how the fucking thing can be stopped. I'd like to know THAT the fucking thing can be stopped. In my nightmares I worry that it can't, and that we have unleashed some chthonic thing that will resist our feeble attempts to shove it back in the bottle, and will continue poisoning the oceans until they all turn black.
I'd also like to know what we can do--independent of our still very slow-moving, money-loving, and ineffective government--to punish BP for this. Because assuming that we don't all die, I would like to see BP made an example of. So they've offered to pay for the cleanup. How very big of them. Rich as they are, they do not have enough money to restore what they've destroyed.
The Shell example suggests that boycotting doesn't necessarily get the job done. What finally got to Shell, apparently, was a lawsuit charging them with complicity in Saro-Wiwa's death and other human rights abuses filed under the Alien Claims Tort Act. They settled that one for $15.5 million--still denying they'd had anything to do with it. If BP ever is made to feel any of our pain, it'll probably be through massive class action lawsuits--if the cap on damages is ever done away with.
And the Chevron gas station story reminds me that there is no such thing as a clean tank of gas. You cannot fill up without contributing to environmental devastation *somewhere.* Nobody has yet come up with a safe, gentle, or pretty way of getting that stuff out of the ground; and when you burn it, you're contributing to global warming anyway.
And then I'm kind of back to, "Well, fuck." Followed by, "We're all gonna die."
I hope that I'll be wrong about that last part, as I have so often been wrong before. Meanwhile, I've been thinking for a while about the fact that a significant chunk of my monthly paycheck goes on gas, and that just about all of that dough has been going to BP--because they own nearly all the gas stations in my neighborhood and apparently have a monopoly on gas stations along the highway I spend most of my time driving. And I've decided, to hell with political effectiveness. I'm going to boycott BP purely because I am just too pissed off to give those assholes my money. Why let the completely putrid be the enemy of the merely inadequate?
The Plaid Adder
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