Once again the Patriot finds himself in
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Once again the Patriot finds himself in
Monday, July 23, 2007
That quote comes at the beginning of the best article/essay I have ever read on what is wrong with America in the 21st Century:
Here's a sample:
"Joe Bageant's little inner voice is like everyone else's. Whenever I shudder at the condition of the republic, whenever I feel its utter absence of community, it scolds me and tells me I am crazy: Nothing is wrong. This is merely the way things are. It has always been this way. You cannot change that. You expect too much. Look at your wife. She's not upset. She wonders why you cannot just go ahead and be happy. What you see around you is normalcy. Take care of your own family. Relax. Buy something. And I do too. Which is why I own nine guitars, though I can only play one at a time, and even then not very well. The voice made me do it. I was bored.
Bored plus anxious. Hell, I could lose my job. I could lose everything. And if I lost my job I would indeed lose everything. Social status, family, the accumulated net worth of a lifetime. Which, believe me, ain't much after two divorces and a run-in with cocaine.
Adding to the anxiety is the lack of evidence that the world needs you or me at all. In this totally commoditized life we are dispensable. Everything is standardized. It really doesn't matter who grows our food or makes our clothing. If we don't make it, it someone else will. If we don't buy it, someone else will. Some other faceless person will step forward to fill in our place. The same goes for the engineers who created this computer and the same goes for your own job. The machine rolls on. With us or without us. "
Pretty tame stuff, but more than anyone else on the left side of the isle is suggesting. I guess if there are historians sifting through the Congressional Record 100 years from now they’d duly note that Congress at least put up some sort of a fight before it was completely neutered as a body by unrestrained executive power. One would think at the very least the Democratic leadership would want to go on record as opposing warrantless surveillance of American citizens. One would think. Yet the response from Pelosi and Reid has been muted, to say the least. Reid said he wouldn’t support the resolution because the Senate “has better things to do”. I’d love to know what Senate business is so important that it trumps saving the Republic. More changes to the bankruptcy law? Creating debtors prisons, perhaps? Digby, posting in the War Room on Salon notes that, “In case anyone's wondering, the latest poll on the question of impeachment had 46 percent in favor of impeaching President Bush and 54 percent in favor of impeaching Vice President Cheney.” Why is Reid so resistant to passing a resolution when it appears that almost ½ the country would send Bush and Cheney to jail if they had half a chance? The easy answer is that he is in the pocket of his corporate masters just like the rest of them.
In related political news, Cindy Sheehan has reappeared on the scene, throwing down the gauntlet squarely at the feet of Nancy Pelosi and challenging Pelosi to either begin impeachment proceedings or run the risk of losing her seat to, well, Sheehan. The mass media predictably ridiculed Sheehan’s plans but the bloggers as usual had the correct take on things. This past Sunday, in an article titled "Impeachment Question Divides Democrats," the Politico's Dan Gerstein analyzed the Sheehan/Pelosi clash, calling it indicative of an "existential conflict within the Democratic Party.” He continues: "Many progressive activists are incredulous at the inability of the congressional leadership to end the war, move big pieces of their agenda and (not least of all) defenestrate The Decider. Their frustration is starting to boil over." If you ask me it ain’t boiling over fast enough. It’s time to turn up the heat.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
“We have all assembled our identities from the prepackaged and highly processed consumer media spectacle that now constitutes the American experience, mixed and matched personality ensembles from synthetic experiences and products, all of it purchased at the same globally franchised company store, all of it within the context of our own particular tribe of consumer cultism and commodity fetishes. It's vapid, it's absurd. But it's all we've had to work with from the birth, consumer culture derivatives of consumer culture derivatives. It's a long way back to the Greek classics or even de Toqueville from the Da Vinci Code and Oprah. And an even longer way back to pre air conditioned life and black and white TV, if you know what I mean. Our estrangement from such things as an entire afternoon of quiet reflection or even the most common discomforts or simpler amusements has not been chronological. Thanks to technology, it has been quantum and exponential, developing in all directions simultaneously. Bondage though it is, nobody wants out. Not really. It's like sex. It feels good as along as you don't do too much thinking about it. In fact, few of us can conceive of an "outside." And the miniscule number of people who can imagine there being something beyond "society of the spectacle" find it a fearsome thing. They worry about possibly living without HBO while half the world wipes their asses with their fingers.”
Great writing! Americans have become so complacent and lazy that they are easily manipulated by shiny trinkets. Consumer cultism is pervasive and the urge to consume is overpowering. How else to explain the proliferation of Hummers on the highways during the middle of a war in the middle east ? How else to explain that people believe that they are supporting the troops by placing a yellow magnet on the back of their SUV, a magnet which was probably made in China in a factory that used to be in America? How else to explain why Americans have rolled over and let their country be jacked by crypto fascists with nary a whimper. We don’t care, as long as we have enough stuff to keep us endlessly distracted.
Friday, July 13, 2007
While one has (in theory) the constitutional right to be secure in one’s person and things from warrantless search or seizure, the Courts have ruled that there is no expectation of privacy when one is traversing public streets. Anything you do on those streets can be videotaped and used against you in any subsequent criminal prosecution. Of course if you are looking for that camera footage to exculpate a client or bolster an alibi, good luck. The NYPD usually refuses to release that information without a subpoena, and even then evidence has a mysterious way of disappearing inside the monolithic One Police Plaza.
In a somewhat related matter, I was watching a documentary the other night called Commune. With the slogan “Free Land for Free People,” the founders of the Black Bear Commune in Northern California cajoled money from rock stars and movie idols (James Coburn was a big contributor) and bought a rural, abandoned gold mine in Siskiyou County where they set about creating a utopian community.
Of course the group soon discovered that although they all agreed that American society, mired in materialism and consumerism was toxic, each person had a totally different idea of what utopia might look like. Despite some very rocky years Black Bear flourished and is still in existence.
I was watching this movie against the background of a lot of recent thinking about how it is possible to raise a child with values in a society that has completely abandoned the very principles upon which it was founded. The paranoia that has crept across this country since 911 is something that I never thought I would see. Fascist governments everywhere quickly learn the lesson that people who are afraid become docile and are easily manipulated. The government has become quite adept at keeping the citizenry in a constant low grade state of fear. When the people are afraid they are a lot more likely to accept surveillance cameras, not to mention the disappearance of their civil liberties.
So to have a child to whom the post 911 mindset seems normal is an odd thing. My first thought is to find my own Black Bear Commune and wait until the shit storm blows over before he internalizes all of the negativity. But the government is distrustful of communes because there are no televisions there. No easy answers.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Monday, July 09, 2007
Bush has consistently invoked the doctrine of executive privilege to circumvent Congress and he has faced few if any repercussions. The best the Democrats could come up with was a moderately worded letter that was sent to Bush’s counsel Fred Fielding complaining that the President was acting in bad faith. Fielding rejected the letter in his own statement expressed concern that the Democrats were overstepping Congressional authority (!). Pat Leahy continued the cascade of Democratic mediocrity with his own weakly worded statement: “I hope the White House stops this stonewalling.” You hope the White House stops this stonewalling? Why on earth would they do that? They know that there is no day of reckoning in their future. They know that Congress is basically incapable of acting on anything other than its donor’s interests.
The Republicans may have stripped the people of the protections afforded by the Constitution and they will be remembered for it. The Democrats will be judged more harshly by history because they had opportunities galore to take action to stop this runaway administration and they did nothing. The Iraq war, the “Patriot” Act, domestic surveillance, indefinite detention without legal recourse, the suspension of habeas corpus, the evisceration off environmental standards, the nomination and confirmation of Alito and Roberts, all presented our so-called opposition party with opportunities to engage the administration. And…nothing.
Assuming the American experiment survives the next 50 years, I wonder what our Chinese speaking grandchildren will make of the fact that at the turn of the 21st century our government was taken over by fascists and oligarchs and we did nothing to stop it.
Monday, July 02, 2007
The Iberia is a popular dive site because of its inshore location and relatively easy depth. (About 65 feet) Visibility, however, tends to be poor, as it was yesterday, and can drop to zero if you or another diver are careless and stir up the silty bottom. We were careless and stirred up the silty bottom. Visibility was, at best, six feet. A light was essential, although for the most part completely useless. Also no matter what you were taught in your first scuba class, clearing your mask with 52 degree water is an invitation to a complete ice cream headache brain freeze freak-out. That shit is COLD.
Before embarking on the dive I was somewhat concerned about something called “task overloading.” This occurs when a diver has too much new or unfamiliar equipment to occupy their attention which leads to a loss of focus and lead the diver to make mistakes. For example, yesterday I was diving with a pony bottle for the first time (a redundant air system involving a second tank and regulator) and it was my first dive of the year in cold water in my 7mm wetsuit. My dive light was also new as was the way I had it rigged to my buoyancy compensator. This doesn’t seem too complicated on the surface but believe me it is a lot to concentrate on at once when you are actually in the water and depending on your gear for survival. Task overloading is not such a concern in the warm water of the tropics where the sun still streams brightly into the depths and you can see 100’ in every direction. However, the murky cold waters of the North Atlantic are much less forgiving; mistakes can easily be made and those mistakes can be fatal rather quickly.
Conditions for yesterday’s dive were less than ideal. The water was cold, the wreck is festooned with old fishhooks and fishing line that can easily snag a fin or tank, the visibility was atrocious and the wreck was encrusted with very sharp coral. It was also fairly dark; every time a cloud passed over the sun on the surface, it became impossible to see more than three feet without a light. I was diving with two other divers I met on my Key Largo trip; both are relatively experienced and have no real issues with their buoyancy or equipment. Unfortunately, none of us brought a wreck reel so we had to navigate along the wreck without any reference to the location of the anchor line besides our compasses which are not dependable on a metal wreck. (A wreck reel holds a spool of nylon line that you tie to the anchor line of the dive boat where it connects to the wreck. You then unspool the line as you explore the wreck, and reel it in to find your way back to the anchor line.) The absence of a reel meant that we were all a bit nervous about venturing too far from the anchor line, even though we did it anyway.
In general yesterday’s dives were a great learning experience and I am hoping to do quite a bit more wreck diving this summer. Next time I’ll bring a reel and seriously consider purchasing a dry suit to ward off the onset of hypothermia. Believe me this sport is more fun than it sounds.