Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Elite conflict as pointless politics

I've been too busy to post much here, but I thought that Feinstein's speech on the CIA was well worth reading.

I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.

And now this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of congressional staff—the same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers—including the acting general counsel himself—provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.

So Feinstein is finding out that being a Senator doesn't protect her from having her documents read and seized and her people threatened with media leaks and trumped up legal action, just like anyone else.

Does this matter to anyone not in the elite? I don't see how it does. Feinstein herself is horrible on these issues and has voted repeatedly to inflict this kind of regime on everyone else. If she wins, she wins protection for herself and for her cronies only. It's important to her, and it's important to the legal advisor for torture at the CIA, but there's no real public policy as such involved in this presumptive Constitutional crisis, only a question of whether one set of elites is going to guard their privilege against another.

It's a perfect illustration of the pointlessness of formal American politics at this time. No important problems can be addressed -- even now some other Senators are concluding a climate change talkathon and being congratulated for bravely bringing up the issue. But they couldn't propose actual legislation to do anything about it, because everyone knows that a U.S. Senator is as helpless to do anything involving legislation as anyone else.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Greenhouse 100

The latest project that I've worked on, PERI's Greenhouse 100, is here. It's a publicly accessible EPA database of greenhouse gas polluting facilities, summed up by parent company. I think that it's the first list of its kind that includes both power plants and other industries.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Today's poetry draft: Landscape


Pink age, blue
Twisted limbs fight
Perched on plastic
Who are you?
That first light
Stretch elastic
Trajectories in air
Always land somewhere

Green age, brown
Growing schemes
Until the hoped-for second
Drive out of town
School clocks redeemed
Coin clicks reckoned
Moment of panic
Machines are organic

Red age, gray
Heart pounding still
Potential gone kinetic
Accumulate the day
Do what you will
All apologetic
Just three days more
This is what you're for

Age of gleaming white
One fourth less
Starting to stammer
Was that right?
Ordinary mess
Waiting for a hammer
Goes fast and slow
Hard to let go

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Occupy series

I wrote a 5-part series on the life and death of the Occupy movement, as seen through my small-town experience. Links to it are:

I. What did Occupy want?

II. The encampments

III. The clash

IV. Homelessness

V. The post-encampment phase

I plan on writing a sixth part, about ideology and organization, at some point.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Lesser evil won

Today the liberal blogosphere is full of everything that annoyed me about it ever since Obama made it clear that he'd continue Bush's most objectionable Presidential policies. We won a great victory, apparently, because the GOP would always be worse. And those reality-denying Republicans fooled themselves, unlike us, and we can contentedly laugh about that, while of course not expecting any actual political progress beyond Obamacare because " with Republican control of the House an ambitious agenda is moot".

At least the orc rogue won.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Good for Mitt

From: David Atkins:
Mitt Romney may be the most dishonest politician I've ever had the misfortune of watching. This is a man who seems to literally believe that there is no consequence at all for shamelessly contradicting himself from one week to the next.

Those who believe that Mitt "won" the first debate hands down seem to believe that Romney is justified in his complete cynicism about the process and the electorate. Those who believe, as David Axelrod and I do, that Romney mortgaged long-term political pain for a 24-hour news cycle win, have just a little more faith in this creaky old electoral system.

American democracy is broken. But it's not that broken.

Mitt was losing. So he decided to win. And everyone agrees that he won the debate. So far there have indeed been no consequences for him shamelessly contradicting himself from one week to the next. And why should there be, among the small pool of voters who have not yet made up their minds?

Meanwhile, why didn't Obama talk about Romney's 47% comments in the debate? From here: "'It just didn’t come up in the debate,' Messina said. 'It wasn’t a deliberate decision.'” I guess that no one in the Democratic Party has ever heard of bringing up talking points about one's opponent in a debate, to define them. They didn't think about it so hard that it wasn't even deliberate that they didn't think about it. After all, the basic attitude is this: We must be bipartisan -- above the fray -- and work together on a Grand Bargain to destroy Social Security. And those 47% are sort of shameful, aren't they? Why would anyone speak up about them when they don't have to?

American democracy is that broken.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

That's not how it works

More about voting, or not voting, in the upcoming U.S. election. I know that I should just let this go, but it beats writing the last few posts about Occupy that I feel like I should finish.

Jim Henley suggests individual trade-offs here, of the form "If [loyalist progressive] wants [disgruntled anti-militarist] to vote for the Democrats, then [loyalist progressive] should trade that person something they want, like a letter to a politician." The basic problem with that is that signatures on petitions, letters to politicians, and so on are valueless. We've already determined that -- that's a major reason why movements like Occupy spring up. Petitions, letters, one-day protests and so on don't cause anyone to do anything. So trading a valueless political action for a valueless vote is like some kids pretending to play poker but they can't really keep track of whether one red chip is worth 5 black or vice versa.

Let's consider the disgruntled anti-militarists as a bloc, at least in potential. They're not negotiating with individual Democrats. They're negotiating with the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has the power to give them at least some of what they want, in the form of actual changed policies. And the anti-militarists, at least in potential, would have the power to give the Democratic Party what it wants, in the form of won elections.

In fact, the disgruntled anti-militarists are not a bloc, and do not have the power to make a difference in elections, mostly because most people in America like war, assassination, and torture, or at least don't see why anyone but a nut would object very strongly. So we have a trading situation going through supposed middlemen (i.e. the individual voters or letter-writers) in which none of the middlemen have the power to carry out the deal. I don't think you need to have a libertarian background to see why this may not be a good idea. "Here, kid, I'll give you 5 black chips for your red one. Aren't you happy now?" You might equally well object that the red chip is valueless too, so if there is condescension or futility it's going both ways. But.

But the important part of not voting is to say that you're not playing the game. People want the reassurance of knowing that settled, middle-class people with young children, like me, are still dutifully going through the motions, and are not seriously saying that maybe it's time that we just stopped supporting the whole American political system. That's what you lose if you trade the red chips for the black chips. And that's why I don't expect there to be a lot of people taking this deal.