Friday, January 11, 2008

The Dreaming Up Daily Image

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It Does Happen Here

It was late in that awful day, September 11, 2001, and as media mouths were speculating what terrorist attacks we might expect next, I said (and have a witness who remembers this) that whatever this terrorist group would try to do, it wouldn't again involve boarding airplanes and turning them into missiles aimed at particular targets. The success of that intention required surprise, which was effectively over when the passengers, having learned of the Twin Towers, brought down their hijacked airliner over Pennsylvania.

But for the next six years ordinary airline passengers were forced to take off their shoes and (more recently) turn over their shampoo, and undergo various other humiliations and inconveniences beyond sane screening and precautions. And to question any of this--especially on the spot--could get you arrested, blacklisted on a no-fly list, and might even get you disappeared.

So it took six years plus for the truth to quietly emerge in a study: that none of this has made any damn difference in making flying safer or it catching terrorists. "Can you hide anything in your shoes that you can't hide in your underwear?" is one of the pertinent questions.

A week or so after this study was reported in December, an oped by a commercial pilot (and now a writer for Salon) appeared in the New York Times, laying out the reasons why these actions and restrictions are folly, and have always been. He has no new data--all this was known at the time each idiocy was instituted.

But no one wanted to hear this, just as for years they didn't want to hear how improbable being the victim of a terrorist attack in the U.S. would be, compared with much more common ways we get hurt and/or die. Easing fears may have been part of the intent of these "make work" procedures, but they also institutionalized Fear. So we got Bushwhacked in 2004, and Rudy would like to repeat it in 08.

Humiliating people, stripping them of their clothes in public, where have we seen this before? Making people vulnerable makes them passive. It's one step towards a police state. It trains citizens to be docile and authorities/police/soldiers to be aggressive, and pretty soon arrogant in the use of power, the threat of force and force itself. And I believe there are powerful people in this country who know this, and intend this.

But we sheep don't even bleat. That study, quietly issued a few days before Christmas, changed nothing for passengers. Big companies got big contracts to do all this, and the ease with which news organizations have smuggled devices onto airplanes that could have been bombs, or the vulnerabilities of our ports and shipping, means nothing. As long as we the people take off our shoes and bow before the great authority of the state, and leave our nail clippers at home.

Why Obama

It's long been my contention and belief that the Climate Crisis is the most significant set of problems to face humanity, and therefore the core issue in electing the next U.S. President.

So I read with interest a Kos diary by JohnnyRook that expresses some of my sentiments about why I support Barack Obama, even though the apparent policy differences on this issue with Hillary Clinton (or John Edwards) seem small. Like JohnnyRook, I am not happy with Obama's apparent support for ethanol and clean coal, nor am I happy with his willingness to allow nuclear power into the mix, although in that case his caveats are significant: provided safety is proven and the nuclear waste problem is solved (and we're nowhere close to that.)

But there are overriding issues, and JohnnyRock expresses one for me in this paragraph, which for clarity I've divided into a couple of graphs, and I've added my own emphasis:

Policy differences (over coal, ethanol) are less significant in my calculation than the ability to inspire and motivate. Clearly, any of the Democratic candidates, if elected, will take action on global warming, but I believe that Obama is uniquely suited to the task, because of his ability to inspire a vision in people.

Without that vision, I believe, there will be far greater resistance to the policies that we must of necessity adopt to halt the heating of the planet. I see in Obama and his rhetorical, motivational and organizational skills an American leader who can turn global warming in the public consciousness from an important issue into the defining issue of our age (which is what it truly is), giving us a genuine sense of national purpose (as opposed to the shoddy imitation of purpose that Bush has tried to make of the Iraq War.

And while I'm trying to keep my political obsessions under control, I do revert occasionally, at American Dash.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Dreaming Up Daily Image

We're sending beams of love to Valjean
who is undergoing chemo and radiation
treatments this week in Chicago.
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After New Hampshire

Hillary Clinton's surprise 2 point victory over Barack Obama throws this election season into complete chaos. Everything that seemed to be revealed by Iowa is called into question, probably until the final results on Tsunami Tuesday on February 5, and maybe not even then.

The Democratic race itself now has no shape, except as a two person contest, at least for the next month. If Obama had won by even 5 points, the endorsements would have started to roll in, and the wave would keep building. Now the Culinary workers in Nevada, set to endorse him, are scratching their heads again. They are said to be a key to the Nevada caucus.

Hillary won her base constituency that Iowa said she'd lost: women and party Dems. The Obama organization lost out to the establishment party organization. The youth vote slipped back to its usual unpredictability--even whether it will show up at all.

The polls were spectacularly wrong, indicating a last minute surge, or more troubling, the race gap problem in which voters say they will vote for an African American candidate, but don't. The polls were not so wrong predicting John McCain's GOPer victory (though his margin decreased through the night to about 5 points) so race may be a factor. Ugly.

The questions that the New Hampshire results open up will not necessarily be answered in Nevada (close) and South Carolina, where Obama still has to be favored. The possibility that Hillary got traction with her last minute negative campaigning, and that of husband Bill and her usually negative staff, may make the next month Uglier.

In concession, Obama was eloquent, though adding only new phrases (Yes, we can) and emphasis (a New Majority) to his Iowa victory speech. In victory, Hillary's speech was great in tone and substance for its first half ("I have found my voice") and mostly meandering thereafter, stealing liberally from Obama.

As chaotic as the Dem contest is, the GOPers are in even greater confusion. They've had 3 state contests with 3 different winners, and may get yet another in South Carolina and another in Florida. Whereas the Democrats had record turnout in New Hampshire, the GOPers didn't even match 2004, when there was no actual contest.

I hope I can pull back from this electoral obsession--I really don't want to have to wallow in the muck and mire of the next month. On Feb. 5, I'm voting for Obama. I never thought we'd get the chance for the transformative, inspirational leader we will require to have a chance to save the world from the worst of the Climate Crisis. He is that hope. I don't see another.

Monday, January 07, 2008


Lots of New Hampshire stuff ongoing at American Dash, plus the latest on Doctor Who and Star Trek at Soul of Star Trek.