A Freeway in Hell

My thoughts on the nature of our late capitalist society. The title should give some clue what I think of that! US 101 or I-80 as metaphor for our imperatives. Besides worrying about what sort of black hole we are speeding into, I like airships. One reason being the almost inescapble desire to have one to get out of a traffic jam!

Location: Sonoma County, California

Grew up a military brat, Californian-in-exile, reactionary libertarian-essentially spent the 70s on Mars, for I am hearing impaired and I did not know what the music was saying. Generally still don't unless I listen to it over and over or find the words captioned on a movie or somewhere on line. Came "back" to California to begin my adult life, have not lived elsewhere since. No regrets there despite our problems here. Have studied physics, more math than most human beings will ever need, worked on spaceship projects (well, one) at JPL. Lived with a wonderful disabled person who lives no more--L Natasha Littletree RIP October 2004. I have a life plan, just kind of vague on some of the short-term stuff.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Cum Granum Salum

Well I hope I got the Latin right.

And I checked off perfectly true claims to like all the old traditional carols too.

What Christmas Carol are you?

You are 'Christmas Time is Here, by Golly!', by Tom Lehrer. Hmm, you really don't like Christmas, do you? From the moment they start playing carols in the shops in October to the appearance of the first Easter Eggs in the shops on New Years Eve, the rampant hypocrisy of the Christmas spirit sets your teeth on edge. You know just how many family fights start over Christmas dinner, how many people are injured in the Boxing Day sales, and how few people actually find Christmas even remotely merry. You liked Scrooge far better before those ghosts got to him, and you are only doing this quiz because you are bored at work and anything is better than listening to everyone else discuss their Christmas shopping. Still, it is two days off work, which does count for something... Enjoy the break.
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Saturday, December 23, 2006

I've been looking for years for this quote...

...and a mere aside about one of Bill O'Reilly's many asinine remarks in a BadTux post finally motivated me to track it down.

The shrewd analysis of "Mr Dooley" of the nature of whiteness in America.
You just can't state it more clearly than that.

God rest you, Finley Peter Dunne.

And thanks, BadTux the Pragmatically Ethical Penguin!

"The Postwar Dream"

Kactus has a vision

Which I share, though like her I'm kind of cynical about ever seeing it.

And before I got into actually reading Marx or any of that I owe it to Pink Floyd; they put in in words in "The Gunner's Dream":

A place to stay"Oi! A real one ...?"
Enough to eat
Somewhere old heroes shuffle safely down the street
Where you can speak out loud
About your doubts and fears
And what's more no-one ever disappears
You never hear their standard issue
Kicking in your door.
You can relax
On both sides of the tracks
And maniacs
Don't blow holes
In bandsmen by remote control
And everyone has recourse to the law
And no-one
Kills the children anymore.
And no one kills
The children

Is it our dream that is insane?

Well, some of us feel guilty enough

("And so this is Christmas...and what have you done?"

"Was it you, was it me, did I watch too much TV--is that a hint of accusation in your eyes?")

About not working hard enough toward it.

But I'm still here.

That's something. A joyous Yuletide, wassail to all, and don't forget to Keep the "X" in Xmas!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My Best Case Scenario for Iraq as it is Today

The USA must get out now. We must prevent the Saudis from making good on their promise to intervene in the absence of the USA on behalf of the Sunni minority. I doubt the Saudi regime really wants to do this anyway, and I suppose it would result in a quick debacle and collapse should they be so foolish to attempt it.

And then await the quick and inevitable ascendency of Iranian hegemony over Iraq--either the outright incorporation of Iraq into the Iranian Islamic Republic, or the alignment of a Shia-dominated Iraq into a satellite relationship with Iran.

Honest to God, that's the best outcome I could foresee at this point. It has the following possible virtues--

1) The Iranians have shown themselves to be rather savvy and restrained as Islamic fundamentalists go, and might very well restrain their Iraqi co-religionists from vindicative acts against the Sunni minority, once it is established that the Shia/Iranian coalition is going to call the shots in Iraq.

2) It would reduce rather than multiply the number of power players in the region.

3) Iranian ambition is checked by the fact that they are Shi'ites, and that with the incorporation of Iraq into their system, they would have taken about all the territory they could reasonably expect to hold, unless they prove to be Solomonic indeed in their wisdom and restraint in governing Sunnis, which I doubt. Enough to hold a minority in sullen alligence perhaps, but enough to persuade Sunni-majority nations to submit to their "heretical" hegemony? I don't think so. Elsewhere in the Muslim world, Shi'ites are a small minority, except in Syria where they are a fairly large one, and in Lebanon and perhaps Israeli-ruled territory--where they are one small faction among many. But there is little likelihood that a Shi'ite-based hegemony could grow much beyond an Iran-Iraq coalition.

4) It does correspond to the will of the majority in Iraq, and is the only one-state solution I see short of some kind of dictatorship, which would only breed ongoing violence. It also corresponds to the regional balance of power.

5) As for Balkanizing Iraq, that hardly seems like a brilliant solution to me. The Sunni territories would have essentially no economic basis save funds extorted from the oil-bearing Shia and Kurdish territories. A loose confederation of mutually hostile regions is a recipie for ongoing regional war, by proxy or by direct confrontation once the charade breaks down. The Shia territory would almost certainly affiliate directly to Iran unless forcibly restrained, and it would contain most of the current population of Iraq and a lot of the oil.

I don't know what is to become of the Kurds no matter what. On their own they could probably maintain a state, but unfortunately for them, both Turkey and Iran have large Kurdish minorities in their territories. Turkey has certainly said repeatedly they will not tolerate an independent Kurdistan or even Kurdish autonomy within an Iraqi confederation; right now only US patronage is restraining them from attempting invasion. If we go and the Turks try it I suppose they might be sorry, many tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths and yet another ongoing bloodbath later. I wouldn't be surprised if the Iranians, gaining unrestrained influence over Iraq, would gratuitiously let Kurdistan go, perhaps even throwing in their own chunk of Kurdish territory (if Iranian Kurds are Sunni as I suspect they are) just to throw a monkey wrench into the works, to either give the Turks a loose cannon on their borders to worry about or draw them into a Vietnam/Afghanistan situation of their own, and consolidate their own hold on a reconfigured Greater Shiastan Islamic Republic. But there is oil in Kurdistan. And it is a potential willing ally and base for future US adventures, so I suppose that would not be too smart. Perhaps they would concentrate on trying to win the Kurds over to accepting Iranian rule, on the same basis they've kept their own Kurds quiet hitherto.

And that's a monkey wrench in the neat scheme I've outlined for peace by consolidation of sectarian lines--the temptation to add the Turkish-ruled Kurds to the set. Along with the grievances of any Sunni Arabs the Iranians or their Iraqi co-religionists seek to dominate, it seems that no matter where one draws the lines, the Middle East is a powder keg.

And of course nothing I've outlined is good news for the USA as a great imperial power. Nor is it likely to be anything but ugly from a human rights point of view, though I do think it would be less awful than the realistic alternatives--Western-backed puppet dictators, perhaps even Saddam himself, versus Islamic dictatorships to the liking of the simultaneously corrupt and whacko-zealous Wahabi Saudis. Either of these would make (and have made) the ayatollahs look like Oliver Wendell Holmes in comparison. But only in comparison. Iraq is not likely to be worse off under the kind of Shi'ite regime that has developed in Iran than it was under Saddam's nominally secular but corrupt rule, and they have been worse off still under ours. But make no mistake, it will be ugly, just, I hope, somewhat less so. And were it not for the ambitions of Iranian extremists to make political hay of the situation in Israel and Palestine, I'd be confident it would be more peaceful for them. But Israel is another mess entirely, and despite bluster Iran is some distance away.

Face it, we have blown it in the Middle East. We have abused the rights and legitimate interests of its natives for generations, and we can hardly expect a pleasant outcome at this point. In Iraq in particular, our policy has consistently sown misery and death.

I have outlined before my reasons for opposing the invasion in 2003, boiling down to my correct prediction that the Bush crew could not possibly be expected to do anything but make things worse. And we had no principled grounds for invasion by any consideration. But let's take it as given that we were going to invade in 2003--could we have done better?

Perhaps, if we had followed the recommendations of the numerous security and military experts the Bush regime chose to silence or fire instead, we could, with far more troops, have secured the place immediately, and then, if and only if we had in good faith set out to rebuild the devastated country with American money freely given, and Iraqi labor hired without prejudice and organized in a collective effort of the US military--no contractors!--and all factions of the Iraqi people working together, we just might have capitalized on the universal hatred of Saddam and goodwill earned by good work to form the secular, democratic, tolerant, liberal Iraq Bush told us fairy tales about.

And perhaps not, even with the best will in the world. Because morality has a certain integrity to it, and no amount of good deeds could paper over the fact that we had no moral call to high-handedly invade there in the first place. The strongest claim we had to invade was that we had created Iraq's mess and we had to therefore clean it up. But any attempt to profit from that obligation negates all credit for such intentions. And the fact that the operation was at every stage corrupt and malicious shows that whatever illusions we may have willfully clung to, in the matter of deeds we had no good intentions.

So this nightmare was perfectly predictable and predicted by many, and the best we can do is get out now, and let the chips fall where they may.

And if God is merciful, it will be nothing worse than the foundation of Iranian hegemony in the region. It would be bad, but we can do far worse.

And the Bush Administration stands ready as always to show us how.