Friday, October 12, 2007

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"We have to quickly find a way to change the world's consciousness about exactly what we're facing...It is the most dangerous challenge we've ever faced but it is also the greatest opportunity that we have ever had to make changes that we should be making for other reasons anyway."

Al Gore
upon winning the Nobel Peace Prize
October 12, 2007

Nobel Prize for Peace

I learned that Al Gore had won the 2007 Nobel Peace
Prize (together with the UN Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change) from an email from Al
Gore, that began "Dear Bill." One of the sometimes
silly, sometimes breathtaking features of the Internet.
(It was of course a bulk email, basically to say that the
prize money would be going in total to the Alliance for
Climate Protection.) The award confirms Gore's tenacity
and foresight on the Climate Crisis, and his status as
(according to the Washington Post) the most effective
advocate for addressing it. It also confirms the dangers
of the crisis, which the Nobel committee recognize,
could very well include war. As for Gore, he told journalists,
"I'm going back to work on this right now. This is just the beginning."

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Nobel for Literature

Yesterday it was announced that Doris Lessing is the 2007 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Here's an article about her career but this brief interview in Newday (from which this photo comes) is an even better suggestion of her work and her approach. Throughout a long career she has refused to be categorized or stereotyped, and she was a pioneer in working in "genre" forms, notably science fiction, paving the way not only for other women writers but other women writers like Margaret Atwood (my favorite for the award, but who can begrudge it for the elder Lessing) who found resonance in science fiction and fantasy settings.
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Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Dreaming Up Daily Image

Sculptures by Emily Young.
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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and the shortest means to accomplish it."

Alexis de Tocqueville
Democracy in America

Who are the Terrorists?

Terrorists use fear and intimidation for their political ends. It's not necessary to kill and physically maim to spread terror. It can be done, for example, with torture that creates physical pain and psychological maiming. Or it can be done, as it is being done, in other ways.

When the government sows fear as its official position, it sanctions intimidation. We've all seen it at the airport, all the useless humiliations, the no-fly lists created by unknown and unaccountable people for unknown reasons, and a police state atmosphere that leads to abuses like this --the death of a white upper middle class wife and mother who's last known words were, "I am not a terrorist!"

There are the radio talk show and right wing blog terrorists who know no boundaries of truth or decency in attacking those they disagree with, even if it involves terrorizing children. Right wing terrorists seek to frighten and destroy and otherwise silence anyone who dissents from their assertions.

They started in the 90s and they continue with unrestrained ferocity: the cultural/political terrorists, so that a high school band playing Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" gets a visit from the Secret Service, and fifty years after a court ruled it not obscene and it has become an American classic, a New York public radio station quakes in fear and won't allow Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" on the air. They help to create an atmosphere in which intimidation once again comes to the fore in expressing racial hatred.

And when the Supreme Court fails to defend Constitutional rights to free speech when it doesn't conform with the dogma of those right wingers in power, and fails to defend basic legal rights established by the Magna Carta, it too has become a terrorist institution.

The Bush White House uses fear for political purposes so often that it isn't even news anymore, but unfortunately, it is often still effective. They're trying it again now by using a supposed new terrorist threat to use fear both in Congress and in voters to help defeat a bill limiting its spying powers--though its opposition now is mostly to protect its crony corporations and its own individuals from paying fines or going to jail--because there is very good evidence that they all have violated specific laws with these penalties numerous times.

The Bushites didn't invent the technique--many despots and dictators have used it before--but they've mostly gotten away with it. But by using fear of terrorists to terrorize Congress, voters and American men, women and children into supporting the policies and beliefs the White House and its cronies want and which will benefit them, while silencing dissent with intimidation--the question by now should be painfully clear: just which terrorists threaten us the most?

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Dreaming Up Daily Image on image to be dazzled.
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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men."

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Guided Missiles, Misguided Men

Norman Solomon uses the above Martin Luther King quote in his essay published in the San Francisco Chronicle Insight section yesterday, in one of the more apropos and insightful pieces I've seen during this Sputnik 50th anniversary week.

He links the science and technology that got a big boost from the fears generated by Sputnik to a military-industial complex that has grown ever more powerful:

Sputnik accelerated a process that was already well under way 50 years ago. Schools were to produce America's intellectual pistons for the space race and the broader arms race. As the atomic physicist Philip Morrison had predicted in 1946, federal largesse would deftly hook the nation's colleges into active compliance. "The now amicable contracts will tighten up and the fine print will start to contain talk about results and specific weapon problems," he said. "And science itself will have been bought by war on the installment plan."

We saw this trend accelerate in the late 1960s, during Vietnam: the overt addition of the university to this miltary-industrial complex. Since then it has gotten worse--and so normal nobody seems to notice. Solomon charges:

Today, no educational institution more symbolizes the magnitude of that moral corruption than the University of California. The UC system avidly continues to provide key management functions - serving as a prestigious air-freshener for the stench of annihilation technology - at the Livermore and Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratories.

On the broader disconnection of technology and moral values, Solomon points out that even though liberals are correctly championing the scientific evidence for the causes and solutions to the Climate Crisis, they should not deify science, for science does not in itself make the correct policy or moral decisions, and scientists work for harm and destruction as efficiently as for good:

For instance, the technical and ecological advantages of mass transit have long been clear; yet foremost engineering minds are deployed to the task of building better SUVs. And there has never been any question that nuclear weapons are bad for the Earth and the human future, but no one ever condemns the continuing development of nuclear weapons as a bipartisan assault on science. On the contrary, America's nonstop R&D efforts for thermonuclear weapons are all about science.

He concludes:

Fifty years after Sputnik, the American love affair with cutting-edge technology has never been more torrid. Everyday digital achievements are so fantastic that they fill our horizons and often seem to define our futures. The emphasis on speed, convenience and technical capacity keeps us fixated on the latest new frontiers. But technology cannot help with the most distinctly human and vital of endeavors - deciding what we truly care about most.

I would add one thought and a clarification. The thought is this: today's amazing technology will mean little or nothing, and the even more amazing technologies of the future that some say can transform human life, will never happen, if the world is thrown into chaos, with uncertain and unavailable energy, crippled infrastructure and more and more resources devoted to simple survival. Which all could happen if we continue to dither over the Climate Crisis.

The clarification is this: most of us would say we know very well what 'we truly care about most.' But we cannot begin to talk out a consensus on how best to preserve, protect and make those things better, or just make them happen, until we learn how to recognize and resist the lies and distortions thrown at us by the powerful who act in their own temporary self-interest, and not in the interest of anyone or anything else. For that they will destroy the future of most of humanity and of the planet itself. They are doing so now, with ever accelerating success.