Sunday, October 31, 2010

voluntary extinction, anyone?

It's kind of taboo to discuss it, but too many humans and too many more coming in the future is at the root of most of our trouble. What to do? Have fewer babies.

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement goes beyond what I'd advocate, but they are interesting! And amusing, too, with a light and humorous tone.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Cartoonist Lloyd Dangle puts his finger on what some Americans have upside-down.

The word fascism gets tossed around a lot. What people often miss when they use the word is that economic interests partner with government in a fascist society. While we may be slowly headed in the direction of fascism, it's not the same direction that Beck University students believe we're headed in.

When the epithet of fascism gets lobbed today, it's usually in reference to a belief that there is an incipient hostile takeover of individual rights and of the economy by the federal government. In this sense, it would probably be better to stick with socialism as a label, though autocracy fits better.

What is actually happening is that corporations, specific economic interests and wealthy individuals are corrupting, and to a limited extent taking over, government. Angry populism is being enlisted, perhaps unwittingly, in this effort. And this picture more fully resembles historical fascism.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

why this liberal is hopeful

Americans are angry. We're upset, confused and frightened. I understand it. We're living through economic dislocation, terror, war, cultural anxiety, and environmental threat.

Indications are that state and federal elections will see a strong rightward shift. Short term, I think this will be a disaster. More income inequality, increased corporate power, more punitive treatment of the poor, and the dismantling of the social safety net are all on the agenda of the right. On social policy, international policy... Back to the Future. A significant number of crazies may be elected. Xenophobia, conspiratorial thinking, belligerence. All on the menu.

But. We've been here before. Eventually, we ended up in a good place.

The anger, anxiety and reactionary mood is something like what happened in the 1930's. We had a financial bubble, large inequality in wealth, a financial crash, followed by governmental belt tightening, blame for the poor, and anti-immigrant sentiment. There was the better part of a decade between the Crash of 1929 and the New Deal successes and Keynesian war spending of the mid-to-late 30's. Though the country headed in the wrong direction during the first years of the Great Depression, eventually we had a progressive tax system, a burgeoning middle class, robust financial regulation, smart public investments, etc. The false starts we made from (roughly) 1929-1934 actually set the stage for decades of prosperity from the 40's to the 60's.

Invoking Winston Churchill: "Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing... after they have exhausted all other possibilities."

That's why I'm hopeful. Though anger and confusion rule today, we may eventually do the right thing.

Hope for America

...this week's Troubletown cartoon is our ray of hope...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

new Proposition 23 slogans

The campaign to pass the California ballot proposition 23 got me thinking about how I could help.

Recall that Prop 23 is the initiative that suspends the greenhouse gas emission regulation in CA called AB32. AB 32 is the comprehensive landmark law signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger controlling CO2 emissions. AB32 could, quite literally, save the world if other governments follow suit.

Prop 23 halts any AB32 regulations on CO2 emission reductions until the CA jobless rate (now at 12%) falls to 5.5% for four consecutive quarters. It's a cynical plan, backed by oil interests and designed to appeal to economically distressed Californians. That level of unemployment is years away, if it is ever reached again in CA. In other words, Prop 23 would more or less permanently halt AB32.

So, I dreamed up some slogans for the Prop 23 folks:

"The truth is, it's a little inconvenient for us to stop global warming just now."
"The People! United! Will someday get around to climate!"
"Carbon, schmarbon."
"Carbon emissions don't kill planets, people do."
"I'll give up my tailpipe when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers!"
"A state without climate regulations is like a fish without a bicycle. (If the fish is a dead salmon, and the bicycle has been washed out to sea.)"

Saturday, October 9, 2010

better angels

I'm not a fan of military might. War might be necessary, and sometimes right, but mostly it's the workhorse of national power. Death, waste, hubris, money, petroleum, nationalism. These are not some of my favorite things.

So, when Fleet Week comes to San Francisco, you might think I'd be dismissive. Displays of giant naval ships? Lumbering bombers? Why not simulate Predator drone assassinations? Or show how cluster bombs main little kids?

Mostly I ignore Fleet Week. It's just a part of our San Francisco summer (October, that is.) But when the Blue Angels streak over my hilltop, I forget everything I think about war and armies and navies.

Metallic blue enamel. Insectoid shapes moving faster than seems possible. They rip the air with a sound like a giant burlap bag that keeps tearing for minutes at a time. Machines that are alien but somehow also all mine the moment I see them.

Going about my business through the city, everything stops for a moment when a jet streaks overhead. People stop in mid-sentence, hesitate crossing the street, look up. For a minute, all of us different people feel the same thing with no other thought in our heads. Tuning forks resonating to the same hammer strike.

Riding my bike up my steep hill in the afternoon heat, I'm woozy and wobbly. I swivel my head at a weird angle to follow the jet now suddenly overhead, itself moving at an even weirder angle. I imagine I will keeping following it, my body following my ever-twisting neck. In my vision, I end up turtled, spine on the pavement, pedaling towards the sky.

Later, I stand on the hill behind my house, where I have a panoramic view. Watching them roll, race, climb, fall. An eleven-year-old pounding on the inside of my chest. The thrilling questions of a boy: What's the fastest can I go? How fast can anyone go? Could I take that g-force? Stand that sound? What's the strongest power that there is?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to win friends and influenza people

Walgreen's has a tiny temporary cubicle they set up for immunizations. I sat in a folding chair there today, knees kissing the cubicle fabric, facing away from the pharmacist, who was squeezed in tight with me in the little gray cube. I can't watch the needle go in my arm. I thought she was about to stick me, when I felt a breeze on my exposed arm. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the pharmacist waving at me with a binder. "Have to dry the alcohol before I stick you." We both laughed at the awkwardness of it. Then she stuck me, quick as a whistle. H1N1, Influenza B and H3N2 all at once. Doing my part to keep up the herd immunity to the flu. You're welcome, People of Earth.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thompson series

This weeklong series by cartoonist Mike Thompson frames our present political moment with a sharp eye.