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L is for Luddite

August 18, 2010

Poor Ray Bradbury.

Recently this unfortunate and rather poorly written post about him appeared in an LA Times blog. The 90 year-old anachronism who has the temerity to continue using a manual typewriter decries the explosion of modern technology –

“We have too many cellphones. We’ve got too many Internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.”

– but here’s the part that really piqued my interest:

The man who wrote “Fahrenheit 451,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” “The Martian Chronicles,” “Dandelion Wine”and “The Illustrated Man” has been called one of America’s great dreamers, but his imagination takes him to some dark places when it comes to contemporary politics.

“I think our country is in need of a revolution,” Bradbury said. “There is too much government today. We’ve got to remember the government should be by the people, of the people and for the people.”

What was so “dark” about those particular comments I wondered? Sounded to me that he was reminding us of the words of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and echoing the thoughts of people of all political stripes who are beginning to realize that something is desperately wrong with this country of ours, although they have a very difficult time agreeing on exactly what. I wondered if there was something more sinister that Bradbury had mentioned that didn’t make it into the blog post. Maybe he wanted the Chinese to take over, maybe he thought the president was a fascist socialist, or perhaps more threatening, maybe he wanted universal single payer health care (gasp!). So I did a quick search on Bradbury’s thoughts on politics and found nothing of the sort. I did however find lots of commentary on the LA Times post and it appears that the man who arguably brought the space age into the public consciousness more than any other single person is either being tarred and feathered by technophiles who didn’t appreciate the dandy lion’s whine (maybe he isn’t actually a “dandy” [although he does regularly sport a jack ‘o lantern tie], but hey, I’m working a theme here) or embraced as one of their own by the Teabagger crowd who, despite several hundred years of privilege, see something wicked coming from every dark corner (although the corners lit with a white light don’t seem to strike the fear into them nearly as much).

There was a rush to either praise or bury the man based on a few sound bites from a post that was not well thought out to begin with, with little in between. Those who would adopt Bradbury as a mascot for their cause didn’t seem to have nearly such a problem with “big government” when it was W adding the chillingly named Department of Homeland Security, hundreds of new “intelligence” agencies, and using new technologies to listen or look in on our every communication. Those who would prematurely inter Bradbury for his Luddite tendencies seemed to have missed this part:

“He should be announcing that we should go back to the moon,” says the iconic author, whose 90th birthday on Aug. 22 will be marked in Los Angeles with more than week’s worth of Bradbury film and TV screenings, tributes and other events. “We should never have left there. We should go to the moon and prepare a base to fire a rocket off to Mars and then go to Mars and colonize Mars. Then when we do that, we will live forever.”

Calling for more research on the moon is hardly an outright dismissal of technology since we aren’t going to travel the stars in dirigibles any time soon, and his reasons are based in sound science. If you’re going to explore what’s out there, it makes much more sense to use the moon with it’s lighter gravity than the earth as a base to launch ships. And I believe what he’s getting at with the last comment is that as a species we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket in case our misuse of technology screws up the one planet we’ve got and renders it largely uninhabitable (anyone looked at the Gulf of Mexico lately??), a sentiment recently echoed by Steven Hawking.

At the risk of putting words into Bradbury’s mouth, I believe what he’s getting at is that we simply have developed too much technology too fast without the wisdom to implement it wisely, and much of what we have developed is either redundant or completely unnecessary. Many of the gadgets we suddenly can’t live without are just a mish-mash of older models and are designed for near-term obsolescence so that everyone must buy more more more every year or two or risk being labeled an out-of-touch crank . We often forget that all of these widgets come at a high cost, and not just the $199 it takes to get one into your hands. We were reminded recently in an effort to drum up more support for one of the US’ less popular imperial adventures that Afghanistan has big deposits of exactly what we need to keep the new doodads coming so we can continue get the latest tweet from some dumbass celebrity and not think too much about all the dead brown people that were required to get our gizmos to us .

Regarding redundancy, recently I became aware of something called a smart board that is basically just an oversized touch screen used by educators to replace a blackboard, which has supposedly been a great boon for teaching the basics to the youngsters and comes in at a few thousand dollars a pop. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I have to wonder if this contraption really helps children to learn to read and write better than more traditional methods or if it simply teaches them how to use a smart board. Sure is a hell of a lot more expensive than a chalkboard but hey, it practically erases itself, saving pedagogues and alike from any unnecessary physical exertion! I can only assume that in a culture whose general obesity proves that not many are willing to get off their asses for much of anything (who was the jackass who invented the leafblower by the way?), it won’t be long before there’s an electronic device to wipe our asses with too.

I did find one post willing to allow someone else to defend Bradbury. An LA Weekly writer contests contests the sentiments of this post in the update:

…to be honest anything Ray said I have heard him say before. Nothing was new. Not a damn thing. He’s been bitching about machines for his entire career (he wrote everything on a manual typewriter). He’s always hated being called a science fiction writer. His government views have changed little. The moon stuff is not surprising…we’ve fallen decades behind schedule on that one compared to what was expected in the sixties, and he’s frustrated not to have witnessed a mars landing. Hard to blame the man on that one. And even his plural internet is pefectly [sic] valid unless one pretends that all the intranets, some of them truly vast, are not actually internets…and of course Google is working on its own internet–not intranet–as we speak. He’s hip enough to know that.

And that pic the Times used was not the beaming, laughing old gent who I watched on Sunday.

Alas, that badly written and edited blog entry in the LA Times has now become part of his legacy. The man is being trashed all over the web–like you have done–based strictly upon that little story. There’s no turning back now. He’ll be dead soon enough, and that bullshit story will long survive him, and will become him to many people. After all, they saw it on the internet, it has to be true.

Thx much….

Looking back a little further to get some context, Bradbury mentions in this 2007 interview that his book Fahrenheit 451 wasn’t about censorship in general at all, but about his fear that technology would eventually do away with books:

Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands.

~snip~

Bradbury, a man living in the creative and industrial center of reality TV and one-hour dramas, says it is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature.

“Television gives you the dates of Napoleon, but not who he was,” Bradbury says, summarizing TV’s content with a single word that he spits out as an epithet: “factoids.”

So the guy just really loves books. And what’s not to like?

…the book — the printed one, wood pulp and ink, glue and sweat and blood — remains a nearly perfect product.

Think about it. It hasn’t been fundamentally improved upon for 1,000 years. Few other products in the world match it for reach and purity of function. It’s cheap, transportable, sharable. It’s immersive, transformative, offers universal and timeless appeal across all nationalities, religions, races, creeds, politics, classes, education levels. No other product you can name matches the book across the efficiency/cost/intimacy/experience matrix. It’s flawless.

~snip~

…books are unique in how, for just a few bucks and a handful of hours, you can have your entire worldview flipped over, gutted, slapped asunder. Or not. They are, in any case, a kind of magic.

So put down your Blackberry and pick up a book. Or don’t and go tweet, flattr, digg, or F******k yourself instead. But give the old man a break.

UPDATE: Since I began writing this post a couple days ago, it appears the LA Times has taken down their post about Bradbury and the link is no longer operative. Most of the original post is either in the first three blockquotes or can be found at the other links in the post. Bradbury did also request that Yahoo! go to hell.

UPDATE II: Now I see that the original LA Times post is back up. Thought they’d taken it down but evidently they were having technical difficulties or something. Maybe they just couldn’t make up their minds. Who knows. Ain’t technology great!

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51 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    August 18, 2010 2:27 pm

    Not long ago Hugo Chavez made nice with Colombia’s new head of state after being at odds with Uribe for allowing US access to military bases on the Venezuelan border, among other things.

    Now Colombian courts have just ruled the Colombia/US base deal unconstitutional.

    Coinkydink? Whether it is or not, I bet it pisses Gates and Shillary off to no end. Woohoo!

  2. cometman permalink*
    August 18, 2010 2:29 pm

    Been dealing with the American Express company today which is always an excruciating and completely unproductive ordeal. This one’s for you AMEX-

  3. artemis54 permalink
    August 19, 2010 2:33 am

    At 90 with that bibliography I’d say Bradbury has earned the right to say anything he wants, but there is something about him being so willfully misunderstood that seems like it could come from one of his own stories – The Other Foot, maybe.

    Plus, there are a number of reasons that I don’t own a cell phone for instance. One is that I wish to be left alone much of the time. The easiest way is to make oneself unavailable.

    You set me off on a whole chain of remembrance. The Illustrated Man was one of the first paperback scifis I devoured. It is easy to carp about various literary qualities of the stories. But to a ten year old! (the real Golden Age, as Asimov pointed out)

    It was given to me by an old bird who lived in a plywood shack built around a delapidated little camper trailer. Wherever there was room between the dirty dishes and ashtrays there were piles of books. They were also piled on the floor, outside under tarps, and in the barn.

    Her two main preoccupations besides Lucky Strikes and whiskey were scifi and the civil war. (She also thought Bruce Catton’s Stillness at Appomattox a quite appropriate gift for a ten year old. My hardback copy came complete with her annotations in ink remarking on Catton’s errors. It horrified me, and I only pretended to be interested in the civil war for the next six years or so until her death.)

    And chickens. She had twenty or so hens at any given time, and they lived as they wished, where they wished. Collecting their eggs was my favorite task, and not always so easy as some had taken to the trees.

    I loved my Illustrated Woman.

    • cometman permalink*
      August 19, 2010 9:27 am

      Luckies! Mmmmmmmm. They were my smoke of choice for several years until they stopped being widely available sometime in the mid-90s. At least the filter kind did.

      When I was little I wanted to be an astronomer (and I guess I still would like that) because of some kids books about the stars and planets my parents got for me. I remember devouring non-fiction books by Asimov in the elementary school library. Sometime around junior high or early high school we had The Martian Chronicles as an assignment and I think that’s what really turned me on to the scifi which in turn really shaped the way I looked at the world. I read everything by Bradbury I could get my hands on, more Asimov, and Clarke too and eventually made my way to Stanislaw Lem who has long been one of my favorites. Didn’t read scifi again much until a few years ago when somebody suggested Stephen Baxter to me (who collaborated on a few books with Clarke). Probably read or re-read close to a hundred scifi books since then, mostly more recent authors.

      Now I’m running out of books from the newer authors I like and I’ve been going back to some older ones I missed, picking them off the Scifi Masterworks list. Since I liked Margaret Atwood so much I gave Ursula Le Guin a try too and read The Dispossessed which explains why we’re not likely to ever create a utopia. That human nature is a pesky thing. Excellent book.

      Also picked up Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. I noticed that Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, which had been out of print for many years, started being talked about widely and reappearing in bookstores during the Bush administration and I’m thinking something similar may happen with The Forever War too as it’s message is still very relevant today. A new edition came out just last year. It was originally published in 1974 and the author had recently returned from Vietnam and it discusses the utter uselessness of war in general. But it is also very relevant to the debate about DADT and gays in the military currently going on. The main character doesn’t age much as the book’s war progresses due to time dilation factors. When he comes to 1000 years into the war, he finds out that his more recent fellow soldiers are all homosexuals and he’s about the only straight person left alive. In order to keep population down, world government encouraged homosexuality and straights are the ones regarded as deviant. Somebody ought to hand out copies of this book to all the political Beltway retards who refuse to do what’s right because some knuckle dragger (who wouldn’t vote for them anyway) might not vote for them again.

      Anyhoo, I definitely have Bradbury to thank for opening my eyes to all sorts of things I likely would never have considered otherwise.

      • artemis54 permalink
        August 19, 2010 9:44 am

        Odd about the Luckies: they were the chainsmoke of choice for both my first Greek teacher and the proprietor of a bookstore where I worked for a couple years during college. Well, the co-proprietor, the other being an ancient White Russian woman, almost totally blind.

        I didn’t get around to Brunner’s Sheep Look Up and Stand on Zanzibar until the mid seventies. After that I mostly gave it up. Scifi couldn’t really seem to keep up any more.

        One of these days i’m going to read Brunner again pencil in hand and tick off all the accurate predictions.

        • cometman permalink*
          August 19, 2010 10:35 am

          Brunner hadn’t crossed my radar yet but I just looked up Stand on Zanzibar and he hit at least one pretty accurately-

          The primary engine of the novel’s story is overpopulation and its projected consequences, and the title refers to an early twentieth century claim that the world’s population could fit onto the Isle of Wight (area 381 km²) if they were all standing upright. Brunner remarked that the growing world population now required a larger island – the 3.5 billion people living in 1968 could stand together on the Isle of Man (area 572 km²), while the 7 billion people who he projected would be alive in 2010 would need to stand on Zanzibar (area 1554 km²)

          I’ll have to add that one to the list.

          I stopped reading scifi for similar reasons – after reading a bunch it just didn’t do it for me anymore either. It was actually a discussion on Klub Kumquat in one of the “What are you reading” diaries that got me reading it again. I kind of dismissed the poor quality writing of scifi in general (even the best of them aren’t going to be compared to Tolstoy) and somebody suggested I try Baxter. His writing isn’t the greatest either but it was the ideas in the book that got me hooked. I’d been reading some science books about string theory and other recent developments in physics and I found that the newer scifi authors incorporated a lot of these ideas into their stories. Now I’m hooked again. A lot has changed since Hubble went up in the early 90s and the hard scifi authors who incorporate a lot of science into their books not only tell a good yarn but help to understand the science too.

          • artemis54 permalink
            August 19, 2010 11:13 am

            SoZ also featured “berserkers.” People who suddenly opened fire in shopping malls, schools for no reason anyone could ever find. Also, more or less, sufficient technology for same sex couples to blend their dna, conceive, and birth their own children with virtually no assist.

  4. artemis54 permalink
    August 19, 2010 2:43 am

    One thinks of Orwell, disowned in life but claimed in death by the right, the left, the center, and probably the Obama administration one of these days.

    All of whom he would cordially tell to fuck off.

  5. artemis54 permalink
    August 19, 2010 12:49 pm

    Anchor beaver?

    Scots glimpse native-born beaver for the first time in 400 years (w/ slideshow) Strangely, none of the end of the world scenarios envisioned by Scotland’s Palins and Inhofes have materialized. Some of these people are so stupid they predicted that beavers would destroy Scotland’s salmon population – by eating it.

    On to Wales!

    • cometman permalink*
      August 20, 2010 9:37 am

      Maybe they thought the beavers were going to get all hopped up on Glenfiddich and go on a salmon eating rampage to settle old scores, never mind the fact that the beavers didn’t wipe out the salmon when they coexisted peacefully for thousands of years. Or the fact that beavers eat plants. Or that as far as I can tell a beaver doesn’t seem capable of capturing and eating a salmon even if they suddenly wanted to.

      • artemis54 permalink
        August 20, 2010 10:07 am

        Sigh. I started a diary post once about the Scottish Beaver Trial. For some reason it spun out of control into an enormous and utterly unmanageable set of notepad pages – the Beaver Monologues – wandering from Martinez CA to Tierra del Fuego to the Ebro River.

        It began

        On the northwest coast of North America, the Haida say that Beaver not only preserved Salmon in his hideaway, and eventually gave them to the people, but also taught them how to jump. This is a lyrical way of stating the fact, a nontrivial one for purposes of ecological restoration, that these two boreal icons evolved together.

  6. cometman permalink*
    August 19, 2010 12:59 pm

    Some unrelated links-

    In recent years I’ve dealt with several large US businesses who outsourced some of their departments to India, much to my annoyance as it greatly impeded getting anything done. I was surprised recently to call up a couple places and be directed to their new call centers not in India, but in Arizona, and wondered why. Evidently due to the pervasive race to the bottom in the US and some Indian workers being given raises (anyone in the US had one of those lately?), labor in India isn’t as comparatively cheap as it used to be. Don’t think Arizona should be celebrating the fact that they now have enough poor people willing to work for peanuts to staff these places.

    Good article describing the environmental catastrophe unfolding in Australia and the reluctance of politicians to do a damn thing about it – On the frontline of climate change.

    So the US is ceasing combat operations in Iraq. Riiiiiight. Except for the tens of thousands who will stay there and all the mercenaries who are going in, just in case. And what if further hostilities break out (not that they’ve ever stopped)?

    “The administration does not want to touch this question right now,” said one administration official involved in Iraq issues, adding that military officers had suggested that 5,000 to 10,000 troops might be needed. “It runs counter to their political argument that we are getting out of these messy places,” the official, speaking only on condition of anonymity, added. “And it would be quite counterproductive to talk this way in front of the Iraqis. If the Iraqis want us, they should be the demandeur.”

    Of course, I imagine some of these assassins will probably be sticking around .

    That, and the US is planning to send the Iraqis their own tanks, jets, and artillery too! What could possibly go wrong?

    Not surprisingly at all, the austerity measures imposed on Greece are going over like a lead balloon. The deficits are shrinking but now nobody has any money.

    “They only organize strikes to serve their own interests!” shouts one man, whose name is Panayiotis Peretridis. “The only thing that interests me anymore is my daily wage. A loaf of bread is my political party. I want to help my country — give me work and I’ll pay taxes! But our honor as first-class skilled workers, as heads of families, as Greeks, is being dragged through the dirt!”

    “If you take away my family’s bread, I’ll take you down — the government needs to know that,” Meletis says. “And don’t call us anarchists if that happens! We’re heads of our families and we’re desperate.”

    He predicts the situation will only become more heated. “Things are starting to simmer here,” he says. “And at some point they’re going to explode.”

    How long before we see a 21st century “Oxi” day in Greece where they tell the EU to fuck off?

    And on a note related to the main post, Barnes and Noble is about to go tits up. No tears here. The author wonders why they went down so fast. Maybe if the sold a book somebody actually wanted to read instead of celebrity written “best sellers” aimed at the lowest common denominator in malls and airports….

    • cometman permalink*
      August 19, 2010 1:57 pm

      And on the subject of the US’ perpetual war, Chris-Floyd had a nice catch about a recent hiring by the <O administration – Release the Kagan: Neocon Nabob Hired by Team Obama.

      That’s right; Frederick Kagan, the neocon architect of the Iraq “surge,” the epitome of the armchair warriors who have sent thousands of human beings (including their fellow Americans) to needless death and plunged millions more into needless suffering, has been hired by the Peace Laureate Administration to serve as guide and counsel to the Laureate’s newly appointed military supremo.

      ~snip~

      And so here, at last, is the true “mission accomplished”: the establishment of a permanent American military presence in Iraq — which was one of the stated aims of PNAC’s 2000 blueprint for an expanded militarist empire. Although America’s “combat role” in Iraq was declared over this month, 50,000 troops (and an equal number of Washington-paid privateers) remain in the conquered land, carrying out the same missions as before. Meanwhile, the State Department is now amassing its own armed force of up to 50,000, which will be a massive, permanent military presence, even if the Pentagon ever decides to move its troops elsewhere. (Which is highly unlikely, with the American-installed local leaders currently saying that US troops will be needed “at least” until 2020.)

      No doubt Kagan’s paymasters, Obama and Petraeus, are hoping they can pull off the same trick in Afghanistan, which at the moment is in roughly the same “narrative” frame as Iraq was in 2007: a five-alarm, full-scale FUBAR. And who knows? They may do it. If they can get the death counts down a bit — and keep St. David the Unquestionable out there awing the ever-credulous media and political establishments — perhaps they can entrench the American military presence, in all those “supersize me” bases they are now building, for years and years to come.

  7. cometman permalink*
    August 20, 2010 12:27 pm

    More on <O's "mission accomplished" from about the only Democrat worth a damn – Orwell in charge? Kucinich compares Iraq ‘exit’ to Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’. Part of Kucinich’s statement:

    “Who is in charge of our operations in Iraq , now? George Orwell? A war based on lies continues to be a war based on lies. Today, we have a war that is not a war, with combat troops who are not combat troops. In 2003, President Bush said ‘ Mission Accomplished ‘ . In 2010, the White House says combat operations are over in Iraq , but will leave 50,000 troops, many of whom will inevitably be involved in combat-related activities.

    “Just seven days ago, General Babaker Shawkat Zebari, the commander of Iraq ’s military, said that Iraq ’s security forces will not be trained and ready to take over security for another 10 years. One story is being told to the military on the ground in Iraq and another story is being told to their families back home.

    “You can’t be in and out at the same time.

    “This is not the end of the war; this is simply a new stage in the campaign to lull the American people into accepting an open-ended presence in Iraq . This is not an honest accounting to the American people and it diminishes the role of the troops who will put their lives on the line. This is not fair to the troops, their families or the American people.”

    Meanwhile it looks as if Barry has turned to NBC to catapult his propaganda – NBC boasts Iraq coverage is an official Pentagon announcement. That article seems a little over the top to me, but not by much. At least NBC publicly admitted it was doing the Pentagon’s bidding, unlike much of Faux News’ coverage, but that’s a small consolation as it’s still propaganda when they’re telling the Pentagon’s story and not the whole story.

    • artemis54 permalink
      August 20, 2010 1:24 pm

      That oughta get him stripped of his pom poms, if he were ever so foolish as to post there again.

  8. cometman permalink*
    August 20, 2010 12:44 pm

    Some links of interest.

    Greenwald continues his excellent coverage of the Wikileaks story and seems to have caught the Pentagon and the media which carries water for them in a little contradiction – Why won’t the Pentagon help WikiLeaks redact documents?.

    [NYT reporter]Schmitt, wanting to side with his Pentagon friends, publicly suggested that Assange was lying when he claimed that he offered to allow the Government to suggest redcations, even as Schmitt himself acknowledged that “Assange wrote that WikiLeaks would consider recommendations made by the International Security Assistance Force ‘on the identification of innocents for this material if it is willing to provide reviewers’,” an offer Schmitt says he conveyed to the White House. In other words, Schmitt defended the Pentagon’s denials that Assange made this offer even as he himself described the very events which proved Assange was telling the truth. At the very least, WikiLeaks clearly indicated its willingness to have government officials review the documents and make recommendations about redactions — something those officials refused to do so.

    Thousands of rave kids can’t be wrong. Soon we may all be able to start our day with a little Special K – Study touts horse tranquilizer Ketamine as ‘magic’ anti-depressant. What with all the unrest building, why not pump it straight into the water supply?

    Lunar researchers find that the moon may be shrinking.

    The moon cooled off as it aged, and scientists have long thought the moon shrank over time as it cooled, especially in its early history. The new research reveals relatively recent tectonic activity connected to the long-lived cooling and associated contraction of the lunar interior.

    Although the article doesn’t address it, I wonder if this may lead to some new theories about the moon. We’ve been bouncing lasers off it for a few decades now and the current wisdom is that the moon is receding from the earth by about 3.8 centimeters per year and will eventually just drift away. But maybe it just seems further away because it’s actually still shrinking, and will eventually stop once the cooling process is over.

    And lastly I was going to include some stuff about the bullshit BP and the US government have been feeding us, but this gets to the point just as well – Thank God global warming is a hoax. A snippet:

    I am delighted to remember that hardcore science has lied, misguided, misnomered and whatever else weird science does to confuse the world about the real impact humanity has had on global ecosystems. All those thousands of highly trained scientists educated at the finest universities, learning the most difficult and fraught information of our age, all in universal agreement that humankind’s actions directly affect climate change, and they are all totally full of it because they are clearly in cahoots with Nazi Liberal Jesus, the solar panel manufacturers and the hippies who want me to compost my KFC Double Down wrapper.

  9. artemis54 permalink
    August 21, 2010 8:27 am

    Stray thoughts on my way off to search for lost dogs, lost kids, my whole lost world:

    The media has suddenly discovered the oil plumes discussed at great length in Nature’s blog back in May.

    Gillard goes down more or less. Greens gain. Maybe there’s a lesson somewhere in the lack of enthusiasm for the two major parties that both campaigned on more severe detention for asylum seekers, opposition to gay equality, and differed only on climate change: the coalition plans on doing nothing, and Gillard planned on doing something, maybe, someday, but certainly not any time soon.

    And Assange is wanted on two counts of rape? I wonder if they are nuns or twelve year old boys. Color me none too surprised.

    • cometman permalink*
      August 23, 2010 6:11 am

      “New” Labour’s out, Gilliard mostly out, and the Dems in the US on the way out. When are these clowns going to figure out that trying to go douchebag lite isn’t going to help them? Or anybody else for that matter.

      Where’d that rape story come from? Breitbart? Next up from wikileaks – when did the Pentagon stop beating its wife.

  10. sisdevore permalink
    August 21, 2010 9:15 am

    Assange warrant canceled:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11049316

    but we know rumors last forever.

    • artemis54 permalink
      August 21, 2010 11:06 am

      I can hear it already: “Socialists protect rapist.”

    • cometman permalink*
      August 23, 2010 6:13 am

      This is one of the strangest stories I’ve seen in a while. I wonder who put the Swedes up to issuing the warrant in the first place? Curiouser and curiouser.

    • cometman permalink*
      August 23, 2010 8:08 am

      Very odd interview with a spokesperson for the Swedish Prosecution Authority-

  11. artemis54 permalink
    August 21, 2010 10:49 pm

    154 tiehnerhaF

    Fire department forbids book burning

    • cometman permalink*
      August 23, 2010 6:15 am

      Time to send in the strippers to protest!

  12. triv33 permalink
    August 22, 2010 6:33 am

    We lost a stargazer, C-man. Jack Horkheimer. My PBS used to put him on right before they went off the air. http://themoderatevoice.com/83635/83635/ I had a soft spot for the guy.

    • cometman permalink*
      August 23, 2010 6:17 am

      I liked that guy too. Used to catch him once in a while when flipping through channels or when I watched something that ended late on PBS. RIP. And nice to see you triv!

      • triv33 permalink
        August 23, 2010 10:03 am

        Thanks, C-man. I know I’ve been AWOL, this summer has had me up to my ass in alligators. I hope once the little guy is in school all day I can start making my rounds again. Don’t feel obligated to read that link…I may have even messed it up, it’s been a while.

        • cometman permalink*
          August 23, 2010 10:55 am

          Sounds like you’ve had a lot on your plate lately – that’s really tough. But you’re doing right by her which is a wonderful thing and something that doesn’t always happen. Dementia really sucks – one of my inlaws is going through it right now and it saddens me to no end that I never got to know this person very well before it started.

          There’s a song on this subject that is very sad but also one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Don’t know if it would make you feel better or not so I won’t post it, but just search for “Chocolate Genius” and “My Mom” on youtube if you want to listen to it. Can’t explain why very well but for whatever reason I always feel happy after hearing it, maybe just because it’s something I’ll likely face myself someday and it lets you know you aren’t alone.

  13. cometman permalink*
    August 23, 2010 6:22 am

    After further research, I found that not everybody has been bashing Bradbury lately. Some of the kids still have a great amount of respect for the man. F is for….

    Ha!

  14. cometman permalink*
    August 23, 2010 9:40 am

    Some links related to the current economic situation and the Empire in decline.

    David Michael Green as always is worth reading in full. His latest – The Tiger Woods of Nations. Hard to disagree here –

    Obama’s greatest crimes involve the destruction of viable solutions at a time of national crisis, and the betrayal of what remained of a well-intentioned national spirit when he came to office. It is, in many ways, the worst imaginable scenario – worse even than another four years of the Bush administration would have been. He has succeeded in discrediting progressive policy solutions by implementing regressive ones and allowing himself to be labeled as a liberal and a socialist, effectively defaming those ideologies. He has not only allowed, but in fact abetted the revival of the near-dead Republican Party and its policies of national annihilation. He has promised Americans a better country and a break from the destruction of the prior decade while delivering neither. He has mobilized a whole huge sector of the public – including, especially, hordes of young people – in Kennedyesque fashion, to believe in the power of renewal and the rejuvenation of the democratic process, only to deliver the comatose Eisenhower administration of gray business suits and diminished expectations, instead.

    To me that is the worst part of the whole mess this country and the world are in – the solutions to many of the problems are right there and often it’s nothing more complicated than simply stopping the actions that caused the problems in the first place. But the oligarchy simply will not admit that the problems are systemic and their policies are to blame.

    Here’s Eliot Spitzer who stood up to the oligarchs and found himself brought low (pay attention Mr. Assange!), trying to get somebody to listen – They Still Don’t Get It. The article decries the attempts of the WSJ and others to rewrite the history of what happened with AIG and the lack of will to prosecute those most responsible. Near the end he writes –

    Maybe we are still living in the remaining hours of a fading regime, still addled by the warped perspective of too many who have done perhaps too well over the past decade or two.

    There’s no “maybe” or “perhaps” about it, this tub is headed to the bottom.

    This post discusses the financial “reform” legislation that gives regulatory agencies the ability to regulate financial firms (didn’t they already have that????) but no direction whatsoever in how to do it, leaving it up to the captured agencies, industry lobbyists, and craven politicos to decide. In this case he’s talking about derivatives and how the trades will be cleared. Somewhat technical, but he finishes with –

    Congress and Obama have given regulatory agencies the authority to lead the industry, but no map to show them where to go. The blunder potential is huge. The cacaphony of voices, reflecting differences in information, interest, and motivation, will make it difficult to avoid such blunders. Last week’s meeting gives just an inkling of the conflicts to come.

    But I’m sure it will all turn out well. It always does, doesn’t it?

    You don’t have to answer that.

    The simple solution would have been to ban most of them since they really serve no beneficial purpose to anybody, but that option was never “on the table”.

    Meanwhile, if you still have two nickels to rub together the credit card companies continue to make sure you won’t for long. Credit card interest rates continue to rise even as the prime rate plummets. Congress could simply have capped interest rates at a certain level above prime (kind of like it used to be before deregulation of that industry) but once again, they declined to even put that simple solution on the table and decided to allow usury to flourish instead. I guess not having to pay off unfairly expanding interest debt forever would have been “socialism”.

  15. cometman permalink*
    August 23, 2010 10:15 am

    So Barry says that the oil is mostly gone, Gulf seafood is safe, and fishing can start up again. Absolutely unconscionable in light of the massive plume of oil still floating beneath the surface, the fact that the FDA admits it hasn’t tested for any heavy metals because they “don’t expect an increase”, and sea creatures are trying to climb out of the water to escape toxins. That last link quotes this Bloomberg piece about fish running aground which does get to the point but I didn’t like this highlighted bit at all:

    Called “jubilees” by locals because of the opportunity to scoop up seafood in buckets, they typically appear during the summer along the Gulf Coast. This year, scientists say jubilees have occurred in open water for the first time, raising concern that low-oxygen areas are expanding because of the more than 4 million barrels of oil BP’s Macondo well leaked into the Gulf.

    ~snip~

    “Most of us believe it had something to do with the oil,” said Robert Shipp, 67, chairman of the Marine Sciences Department at the University of South Alabama. There was a “consensus” among faculty at the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab that oil played a part in the event, which was “quite different” from the naturally occurring jubilees in the Gulf’s Mobile Bay, Shipp said.

    Naturally occurring?!?!?!?!?!? Maybe I’m wrong here, but I don’t think fish have been washing up on shore in large quantities in the Gulf since time immemorial. I believe this is a fairly recent event caused by the Gulf Dead Zone created by massive fertilizer run-off, something that is discussed later in this same article. There’s nothing “natural” about it as far as I can tell.

    And on top of all that, some are trying to hold fishermen responsible for any toxic fish they may catch.

    Louisiana fishermen’s activist Kindra Arnesen says dock owners are asking fishermen to sign waivers that put the full responsibility for toxins found in the catch on the fishermen themselves.

    WTF? How is that even remotely fair?

    This isn’t a problem that can be fixed as the damage has been done. But there were a lot of fairly simple things that could have been done differently and yet none of them were even considered. Just lie, dump dispersants, lie some more and hope not too many people die as a result. Anything else might have cost a rich guy a nickel somewhere.

  16. artemis54 permalink
    August 23, 2010 11:06 am

    TNR: Disgrace

    Obama appears to be saying that it is fine to prohibit gay people from getting married, as long as the vehicle for doing so is not a constitution. Presumably, then, he supports the numerous states that have banned same-sex marriage through other means, without resorting to a constitutional amendment? If so, he might be the only person in the country to occupy this narrow, and frankly absurd, slice of intellectual terrain.

    . . . . .

    But, while he may not realize it, Obama is already leading on gay marriage; he is just leading in the wrong direction.

    • cometman permalink*
      August 23, 2010 12:25 pm

      Wrong direction indeed. Looking to scapegoat gays or muslims or liberals or whatever group is next as the country continues to go down the drain is quite chilling to me. Not seeing a whole lot of others shivering yet though, just a lot of people tossing up their hands feeling powerless to stop it all as the jackboots get louder.

      • artemis54 permalink
        August 23, 2010 1:11 pm

        The ignorant mob in Manhattan terrifies me. We are already at book burnings and one step away from defenestration. A couple more degrees and they could have killed that black guy – who happened to be a construction worker at the wtc site.

  17. artemis54 permalink
    August 23, 2010 11:59 am

    Why won’t one public figure step forward and say outright to hell with opinion polls, the constitution trumps them and the opinions of demagogues like Gingrich and Palin?

    Well, one did.

    Ron Paul to Sunshine Patriots: Stop Your Demagogy About The NYC Mosque!

    The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a perfect example of how the right to own property also protects the 1st Amendment rights of assembly and religion by supporting the building of the mosque.

    Instead, we hear lip service given to the property rights position while demanding that the need to be “sensitive” requires an all-out assault on the building of a mosque, several blocks from “ground zero.”

    . . .

    The justification to ban the mosque is no more rational than banning a soccer field in the same place because all the suicide bombers loved to play soccer.

    . . .

    It is repeatedly said that 64% of the people, after listening to the political demagogues, don’t want the mosque to be built. What would we do if 75% of the people insist that no more Catholic churches be built in New York City? The point being is that majorities can become oppressors of minority rights as well as individual dictators. Statistics of support is irrelevant when it comes to the purpose of government in a free society—protecting liberty.

    • cometman permalink*
      August 23, 2010 12:28 pm

      And how many will be banned today at the Tangerine Dream for pointing out that Paul spoke more accurately and with more courage than any Democrat that comes to mind?

      • artemis54 permalink
        August 23, 2010 12:43 pm

        Actually Grover Norquist is right there with him, as is Bloomberg. The Dems as usual are cowering behind their shower curtains and it will do them as much good as it did Janet Leigh.

  18. cometman permalink*
    August 23, 2010 12:32 pm

    Isn’t just the US that allows multinationals to call all the shots. Now the UN has determined after using a “study” funded by Shell that Shell is not responsible for the vast majority of the damage its oil drilling has caused in Nigeria.

    The $10m (£6.5m) investigation by the UN environment programme (UNEP), paid for by Shell, will say that only 10% of oil pollution in Ogoniland has been caused by equipment failures and company negligence, and concludes that the rest has come from local people illegally stealing oil and sabotaging company pipelines.

    The locals, after been shat on for decades by Shell and their own government, seem to have expected it –

    Ben Ikari, an Ogoni activist, said: “Nobody from Ogoniland would be surprised, because the federal government of Nigeria and Shell are the same cabal that killed Ken Saro-Wiwa and others.”

    I’m sure the ruling has lifted BP’s spirits tremendously. Perhaps BP can fund a “study” to prove all the oil it let loose would have been cleaned up completely if the damned sea life hadn’t started ingesting it.

    • artemis54 permalink
      August 23, 2010 12:46 pm

      Jesus. The locals fault. Ever hear of the term “attractive nuisance?” If a kid wanders in and drowns in my pool in the 110 degree heat guess what? It’s my fault for making it possible. Make that making it certain.

      No standards apply to corporations. I leave it to your imagination what this new order bodes for Madagascar.

  19. artemis54 permalink
    August 23, 2010 3:42 pm

    Whoa! It turns out that

    Salmon feedlots in the Broughton Archipelago are operating on Crown Land tenures that have been expired for years.

    You get three guesses who has filed to snatch up those licenses.

    • cometman permalink*
      August 24, 2010 8:49 am

      Woo hoo! Quite similar to a little fantasy I have about winning the lottery (Suppose I’d have to buy a ticket first) and buying up a bunch of commercially zoned but as yet untouched land and just letting it sit there and grow trees. Go get ’em Alex!

  20. artemis54 permalink
    August 24, 2010 11:47 am

    Congratultations to the climate activists in Edinburgh who succeeded yesterday in completely shutting down the Royal Bank of Scotland’s global hq in protest of RBS funding of oil drilling off the coast of Greenland (!), the Tar Sands nightmare, and general felonious behavior with regard to the climate.

    photos, etc including a very nice pic up top with a certain medieval quality. (Get a load of the vibrantly healthy Gunnera growing under the footbridge.)

    video of the final rehearsal:

    RBS branches around Eburgh were disrupted as well.

    My fave? The banner hung over the A8 motorway. I admire the plain candor common in Scotland:

    RBS: using our money to fuck the planet

    • cometman permalink*
      August 24, 2010 12:26 pm

      Very nice! More please! A little of that around these parts would be welcome. Just reading this article earlier about the lack of resistance compared to days gone by – What’s missing is Solidarity. Check it out – the author mentions some environmental activists in the US who have been detained with little notice. Hadn’t heard of them at all before that I remember.

      • artemis54 permalink
        August 24, 2010 12:48 pm

        The memory hole.

        Everyone has been afraid of getting caught in an ELF dragnet (I know I am) and these are people for the most part without much of a voice.

  21. cometman permalink*
    August 24, 2010 1:24 pm

    More on problems with fairly obvious solutions currently being ignored.

    Fannie and Freddie have cost taxpayers billions but at one time they did actually serve a useful purpose. Dean Baker suggests returning them to their traditional role

    These mortgage giants have played an important role in making housing more affordable in the United States. Fannie Mae created the secondary market in mortgages when it was established as a government-owned company during the New Deal. Its willingness to buy mortgages from banks essentially created the basis for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage that is the standard today.

    -or, failing that, simply allow them to go under over a period of years. The thing that should NOT be done is to create a mortgage entity where the bankers decide which mortgages go to Fannie and Freddie and which they keep for themselves so profits and accompanying bonuses can be privatized and any losses get sloughed off onto the taxpayer.

    Guess which of the three options Barry and his cadre of hacks are leaning towards?

    We’ve seen oil and mining companies break hundreds of laws and regulations and rather than be shut down as a public safety risk, be given the go ahead to continue operating. Shouldn’t come as a surprise that the same goes for the food industry. One of those involved in the recent salmonella scare has been breaking the rules for years – The Man Behind the Egg Scandal .

    As the salmonella egg scandal spreads, authorities say they are having a hard time tracing the egg industry’s “distribution chain” of which DeCoster is such a major part. That’s because when it only harmed animals, workers and the environment they let it run unregulated.

    • artemis54 permalink
      August 24, 2010 1:45 pm

      Well as long as it’s just destroying the environment that doesn’t affect us.

      Another thing Obama Does Not Get.

      It ain’t easy being green and living between Hanford and the Umatilla nerve gas dump. I find one line of argument profitable with those who dismiss all concerns about the vanishing natural world as bleeding heart treehugging animal cutesieness: How do you expect your grandchildren to thrive in a world that is literally unfit for animals?

  22. artemis54 permalink
    August 24, 2010 1:40 pm

    PZ Myers is undergoing heart surgery

    Please hold him in the warm embrace of your spiritual tentacles. You could even pray for him. That might piss him off enough to jump up out of his hospital bed.

    • cometman permalink*
      August 24, 2010 2:01 pm

      Ha! In light of the video he posted, I hope the cranky bastard gets his fucked-up ticker fixed soon. If I can’t have my daily dose of Jeebus mockery I’ll have to hunt him down and cornhole him with a particularly stiff mitre until he gets his sorry ass out of bed.

  23. cometman permalink*
    August 24, 2010 1:40 pm

    Some unrelated links.

    In the “duh” department, here’s one that looks like it got by the people at ScienceDaily again. Some are evidently surprised to find out that water, like anything with mass, enters the stomach after drinking and makes people feel fuller and less hungry – Drink Water to Curb Weight Gain? Clinical Trial Confirms Effectiveness of Simple Appetite Control Method.

    Davy said water may be so effective simply because it fills up the stomach with a substance that has zero calories.

    Well slap my ass and call me Nancy! Who woulda thunk it!

    Naomi Wolf describes yet another way banks knowingly profit from fraud. Hadn’t heard of this one before, however I do have quite a bit of experience with another fraudulent practice that nets banks millions of dollars which i”ll repeat again in the hopes that somebody may notice. Say you run a business and a $100 purchase is made by credit card. The credit card company doesn’t put the whole $100 in your bank account, they subtract a fee of 2-3% first, so you only get let’s say $98. As egregious as that practice is (why are they allowed a percentage of every sale rather than a set amount per transaction???), that isn’t the fraud. That comes in if it turns out that $100 purchase was made with a stolen credit card. In that case, the credit card company yanks out not the $98 it put in, but the whole $100 from your bank account, credits the customer’s account whose card was stolen $100, and keeps the $2 it charged for a transaction it later found out to be fraudulent.

    And for later reading, an article on the secretive Koch brothers who bankroll all kinds of wingnut causes –Covert Operations.

    New post soon if I can get to it.

    • artemis54 permalink
      August 24, 2010 1:48 pm

      I saw that water thing and was dumbstruck. A staple of dieting forever is to drink a couple glasses of water in the morning and an hour or so before you typically get hungry. And low/no cal snacks: celery, etc.

      • cometman permalink*
        August 24, 2010 2:07 pm

        Wish I knew how that site operated. Looks like different science organizations simply send out press releases to them. I’d like to think somebody at least gave them a quick once over to make sure they were legitimate before posting them, but every so often they do let a real clunker get through. One of the posts I most enjoyed writing was a funny one taking apart one of the articles on “dolphin language” that appeared on ScienceDaily a couple years ago. I checked out the “scientists” involved and found an affiliation with the woman who channels Ramtha, among other unscientific things. Checked back a couple days later and ScienceDaily had pulled the article.

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