Thursday, August 30, 2007

Another view of Tuesday's eclipse, from San
Francisco. Courtesy SF Chronicle and
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Clear and Present Danger

UPDATE: Suggestions in the blogosphere that Cheney is orchestrating an early September sales campaign for war on Iran.

The noise is killing us in more ways than one. We keep missing the important stories. Sometimes because they're deliberately hidden and those whose job it is to discover and tell these stories just aren't doing it. When the Bushites sneaked a provision into the huge Defense Authorization Act last October that allows the President to declare martial law--to override state and local officials and use the military as domestic police in response to unspecified "emergencies"-- virtually no one reported it. It remains what it was supposed to be, a secret.

In this case, one which potentially makes dictatorship legal. For the entire history of the Republic, every President could declare martial law only if threatened with an armed insurrection. That's how seriously this nation's founders considered it, and not in the most perilous times in our history has this law changed, until last October.

But right now we're missing a crucial story that's totally public, that in fact President Bush announced in a media-covered speech. Even most of the lefty blogs, currently feasting on the Idahomosexual story, ignored it.

Fortunately one of the more respected bloggers, Glenn Greenwald, didn't. Perhaps Bush's threat against Iran sounded like the same old. Greenwald calls it "the most disturbing speech of his presidency." It sounded to me when I heard just the soundbite that it was tantamount to an announcement that this administration is going to militarily attack Iran, very soon.

Nobody wants to believe Bush will do it. It's too much of an utter nightmare. The military is overstretched to the breaking point in Iraq. There's some question as to whether orders would be followed, although Bush--or should we say Cheney--is likely to depend on the Air Force and Navy who have paid less of a price and may want more of the action. And nobody wants to contemplate what a disaster it could very well begin.

It seems in fact like madness. Apart from the rising guilt over needless death in Iraq, the Washington and media establishments are apparently willing to tolerate a crazy President and an insane Vice-President for a year and a half more, assuming they will confine their looniness to surreal speeches and delusional press conferences. We wish. But it seems increasingly like we're not going to get off that easy.

So far the human price of Iraq has been paid (at least directly) by a relative few, and the bulk of the cost has been pushed into the future. Bush's design in Iraq seems to be to push obvious failure past the expiration of his term, so Republicans can blame Democrats should they win the White House and retain Congress. But a sustained bombing of Iran would likely begin a sequence of events that would make Iraq pale by comparison. The calculation might be that an even greater war, a regional war with global reach, would force voters to support the war party and its candidate, Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson.

Such an attack and such a war have endless possibilities for catastrophe that might transform the country, and could very well destroy it. A wrecked domestic economy, energy rationing, a military draft--it could well end up with the realization of that first untold story: martial law in America, brought to you by Halliburton and Blackwater.

And don't forget, the plans for attacking Iran as initially revealed involved the U.S. using tactical nuclear weapons. It is a particularly dangerous moment, when the fundamentalist neocon ideology still drives the Bush-Cheney government, and when that government has little power beyond blackmailing Congress to continue the Iraq war and using military power against anyone it chooses. The dirty secret of declining American power in the world under Bush is that this government is forced more and more to consider, if not rely on, its trump: the world's most obscenely powerful stockpile of nuclear bombs.

But even without nuclear weapons, a sustained air campaign against Iran could turn the tinderbox of the Middle East into a raging fire of regional war, with consequences too long-lasting and too extensive and damaging to contemplate.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This photo of the moon's eclipse early Tuesday
is from Japan, but it was pretty amazing here, too.
I first saw the totality with a reddish orange orb
and coppery interior. But the changes over the
hours were spectacular, especially as the left rim
turned yellow, then the silvery white began at the
upper left edge like a light shining on the moon.
Then the quick movement of the earth's shadow,
darkness to light with a faint red rim underneath.
The moon was full and whole again, just in time
to yield to the sun. Magnificent. (Photo courtesy
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Monday, August 27, 2007

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This is Not A Blog

A lot has changed in what is now called the blogosphere since I started "blogging" five years ago or so. The bloom is off the rose in many respects. While there are zillions more blogs, the buzz has moved on to newer activities (posting and networking on MySpace and Facebook, videos on YouTube, photos on Flickr etc.) In the political blogosphere, a lot of individual blogs are folding, and even the middle sized community blogs are having trouble surviving. It seems to be true for blogs specializing in other subject areas for a global audience: the big blogs get bigger, while the small ones fade away. Those who made their names with their own blogs are joining with others in group or community blogs, so that together they can reliably attract a sufficient audience, and maintain or enhance their influence: their buzz. (The big blog is also the only one that attracts enough advertising so you can, you know, get paid.)

The success of individual blogs is increasingly measured by numbers of "hits" and readers, and by the number of "comments," and the energy of the dialogue in the comments to each post. That became very evident to me with a local blog called The Buhne Tribune. It was comprised of fairly short posts with lots of visuals, witty in a way that became characteristic, almost always on local topics. The comments became the locus for--let's say "intense"--discussion, often about local media, particularly the newspapers. That seems to be largely because many of the people making the comments worked for one or another of these newspapers.

For awhile, the Buhne Tribune was the one "must read" of the local blogosphere. The person who created it was known only as "Captain Buhne," and there was much speculation on his identity, expressed on his blog and elsewhere. Eventually his name became known. Shortly afterwards, apparently in the face of declining comments, he closed his blog, saying it had no function anymore, now that his identity was known.

I always knew that most of my blogs are local only in that I live here (on the North Coast of CA) and occasionally write about it. But other aspects of the Buhne Tribune situation were sort of revealing to me. That the interest was so dependent on the gimmick of the blogger's real identity was mystifying. (While I keep this Captain Future persona, I don't hide my non-screen name.) But I was especially stunned by the violence and viciousness of the comments there. Each thread was a separate snakepit. And it was a kind of community, in that the commenters seemed to know the other commenters, although they seemed to mostly insult each other.

On selected community blogs I like to engage commenters to my posts, and to comment on others'. But comments on a lot of blogs are the same polarized arguments from the same easily identifiable ideologies. For me, it's mostly a waste of time and energy, and I learn little except what each subgroup's position is. And I'm certainly not interested in engaging in petty warfare, and especially not in providing the battlefield.

So while I understand that comments reflect the number and engagement of readers, and I wish my posts on my blogs got more, if it means hosting prefab arguments and general nastiness, I guess I'm happier without the hassle.

Which is probably further evidence that this is not really a blog. My basic reason for blogging has not changed from five years ago, as I expressed it in a North Coast Journal
story: "Once I got past the name ("blog" sounded like something you might need medicine for) I saw immediately that the web log format would allow me to do what hadn't been possible before: To publish on the Internet easily, without limit and for free."

As I got familiar with the evolving tools available to me, I also got hooked on using the links, photos, tags and other elements to create a visual as well as verbal equivalent to making up my own little newspaper, as I used to do in grade school. And I do mean hooked, because the pleasure of doing it was the reward, not very often the response.

This blog and its predecessors and cousins did get me in touch with old school friends and distant relatives. But in blog terms, my most successful is Soul of Star Trek, which got me readers within the Star Trek and sci-fi communities (including a few stars of Star Trek series') and seems to be leading to a larger audience through a Trek community blog. But even this blog gets few readers in Internet terms.

In fact, it's clear from links to my blogs that most of their readers are not blog readers per se, the people who check in every day or so for whatever you've posted recently, but people doing searches on particular subjects. Again, though I'd love to have scads more regular readers--and I still write for that mythical reader--I've come to terms with reality. The truth is there are few blogs that I read regularly. They are either on topics that don't interest me that much, or reference items on the Internet that I've already seen with commentary that doesn't reveal anything new to me. So how can I blame others who feel the same way about my blogs?

And even when I don't quite understand why a particular blog doesn't seem to have the audience I'm writing it for, in the end I don't have to understand it to recognize it. Again, there's a certain freedom in this, in that I'm doing it for my own pleasure and satisfaction, and perhaps also for those individuals from everywhere in the world who are looking for something specific that I can offer them. The comments I get from such searchers who stick around to read more are among the most gratifying, though they are few.

I've had the chance to practice my fantasy by being an editor and an on-deadline writer for newspapers, but the control and the opportunities for experiment and plain old playfulness that the blogs provide remain way too seductive. I hope I don't wake up one day and realize I've got nothing to show for my life than time lost in cyberspace that should have gone into writing books or something. Though in fact I have that thought about every other day.

Still, I feel a responsibility to my few and/or non-existent regular readers to say that I may show up relatively often as I have in the past, or not. I sense the futility of trying to be Climate Crisis Central on this blog, though I don't know of another blog that treats the topic or the more general theme of the future quite the way I do. Nor have I found a better blog on topics of some of my other blogs. But it is what it is. Some days (or let's face it, nights) I'm going to waste time doing this anyway, because I feel the need to, or for the fun of it, to cheer myself up, or to tell the world the truth no one else will tell you! And other nights (and days) I will listen to my more responsible voices and work on something else.

But even then I suppose I'll blog about it.