Radically Inept
Saturday, November 20, 2004
  A post of random thoughts?

Well, not really random thoughts, just disjointed thoughts.

So, what is the goal of this offensive?

I guess I will start with the our Fallujah offensive, Fallujah 101: A history lesson about the town we are currently destroying. -- In These Times. What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Really. I do not understand the purpose of this offensive, especially in light of how we are conducting it from a military or political perspective.

If we are trying to destroy the town - we're not doing so well.
If we are trying to destroy the 'insurgents' - we're not doing so well.

Further, I am not sure I understand the purpose. As I alluded to above, if the idea is to destroy resistance to our occupation in the city of Fallujah, than militarily, we should destroy the city, or at least every single resident, or at least turn them all into slaves, and then kill them by working them to death.

If all we do is fight our way from one side of the city to the other, we will miss many of the enemy, and they will still be there when we've reached the other side. Further, once we are there, are we staying? Are we going to commit 20,000 or so troops to holding and occupying the city? If so, that's 20,000 troops that cannot be used elsewhere.

If we are not staying, what happens when we leave? Well, surely the insurgents who fled will return, and we will have created more insurgents.

Anyway, the point is that I don't understand the purpose of the US offensive in light of how it is being conducted. I fail to see what is accomplished by marching from one side of the city to the other, killing as many insurgents as we find on the way, only to leave the city unoccuppied when we're finished, and yet, I don't believe we can spare the troops to hold the city. Either that, or we need to raize the city to the ground; which of course, does not play well politically.

So, what is the goal of this offensive?

When I read the AJC (I won't bother to link to them - they want to much information to access their info) last Sunday, I was struck by the number of articles on conflict that resulted from religion. I didn't do an actual count, but between the front section, the follow on 'world' section, the metro section and the issue section, I'm sure that 70% of the articles concerning some type of conflict involved religious conflict or resulted from religious differences. Everything from Cobb County's textbook stickers stating that evolution is a theory (wsbradio.com: News Cobb Evolution Stickers Face Court Challenge via ThirdDay.com Message Boards [this could be a strange place, I'm not sure]) and should be considered critically, to the usual reports on Israel/Palestine and the divisions in Iraq. In fact, religion, a belief in the unknowable, is the source of most of mankind's conflicts. Or at least based on a review of newspaper articles. Remember, it was religious values that got Baby Bush re-elected, and has all of us haters of the US and atheists in an up roar.

Jesus would be proud. Mohammad would be proud. Hell, the Aztecs would be proud. So much death and destruction in the names of Gods, I feel like I'm living in the (name your prior century/age here).

What's the point of capitalism if not materialism?

Well, that's where my head is going. For years I've said I was trying to figure out a way to improve our economic system, but that I thought 'capitalism' had a value in the incentives it gave in promoting individual productivity.

I now realize that I was framing the question within the frame. If I wasn't living in a capitalist society, who cares about the incentives for individual productivity? I mean let's face it - free ridership (no Wikipedia info - might be worth a contribution by some of you economists) is not going to play well in a society just trying to survive, or many other societies. In fact, I'll bet many societies find mechanism to deal with free-ridership more effectively than we do. I mean, what has Baby Bush been for most of his adult life? Answer: a free rider. He had accomplished nothing on his own prior to his recent (and maybe not even that) election. And all he is doing, now that he is in a position of power, is squandering and looting the wealth of the nation. Okay, not just by himself, but truly, the wealth our nation is being looted like Vikings on a raid, or hell, so as not to come across racist, the Huns during their expansion.

Anyway, I guess where I am trying to go with this, is, well, 'what is so good about capitalism? And really, we haven't practiced true capitalism since the rise of the rail barons in the late 19th century.

And at the heart of capitalism is materialism, private property, ownership...All things that many other societies did not have, but we taught them.

Okay, one of the impetuses for this section, was watching the Antiques Roadshow on PBS the other night, and wondering why a painting, toy or piece of furniture is worth thousands of dollars? I know, the capitalist response to this question is that an item has the value that the market will bear. But, why does the market value the item in the first place?

Take a painting for example - what is the value of the painting to the viewer vs the owner? If I can view the painting, do I get as much value, non-financial, out of the viewership as the owner? And if I buy said painting, do I pay much attention to it after I have hung it on my wall? Or do I just walk by it on a daily basis on a daily basis, taking no joy in it? I argue for the later, in most cases. Many of the items I have bought in the past for purely aesthetic purposes, I no longer take the time to appreciate the very aesthetic value that I bought. I don't pause on a daily, weekly, monthly or even on an annual basis to derive the pleasure the aesthetics of the object in question are supposed to provide. So, why do I own it? What is its value? Is the value only to be recoupled when I sell it to the next person who derives pleasure from the item, or, more probably, I derive pleasure from you not owning it. Really. The value is in denying you ownership of something that gives you aesthetic pleasure, not any aesthetic pleasure I derive from the object.

In fact, the more I wandered down this line of thinking, the more I realized just how dependent our economy is on me buying something purely so you will admire me for owning it. So you will admire my tastes, and respect my financial capability to own something you can't. Materialism seems to me to be the ultimate system of insecurity. I am not valuable in my own right, so I buy 'valuable' objects in hopes that the objects' values pass on to me the individual. No wonder our society is fucked up.

So, What's the point of capitalism if not materialism?

Enough for now...

Admin Note: I am going through the sites of the people who have linked to me via http://www.truthlaidbear.com. I figure, the people who have found my stuff valuable enough to take the trouble to link to, must be deserving of my attention above those sites that don't. Self-serving I guess, but what other standard whould I base my surfing on?
  The 'wikki' of the history of American interventions?

Denny from Where We're Bound has come up with this idea: Having readers contribute to a history of US interventions abroad over at in our name.

I think it's a great idea, really. Most Americans were never taught US history in any real fashion; just the glossed over crap presented in our high school text books. These text books do nothing but promote national myths with no basis in reality, and can in fact be dangerous. One of my favorite lines on the subject of US myths concerns the 'American Revolution', and came via an old high school buddy (not sure where he got it) who pointed out that saying, "We (the US) beat the British with France's help", is like a three year old saying, "Me and daddy killed a bear". If you caught the Benjamin Franklin bio on PBS, you saw a far more accurate representation of the importance of France vs colonial military might; in fact, France's involvement bankrupted them, and led to their revolution.

Well, I have a whole sheaf of history on Afghanistan, though it is not written specifically from the point of a US intervention as it was more of an attempt to collect and present the history and current desires/goals of the various factions and countries and industries involved in the conflict. I may submit it as a starting point for developing a section on Afghanistan.

If you have an an expertise, or are willing to put in the effort to develop the expertise, this might turn into a fun and valuable project - time will tell. 
Friday, November 19, 2004
  Lies, more lies and damn lies

Via my amigo, Drunken Monkey Style Blogging, comes this link George W. Bush : Mistaken - probably the best video summation of this administration I have found. 
  Just a couple of questions

These questions have been going through my mind for the past few days, and I thought I'd look to you for the answers:

1) Does there exist a cause that most Americans would support; in fact, does there exist a cause, outside of national security/defense, which the majority of Americans would unite behind?

2) Does there exist in our society an individual or group of individuals with the stature, credibility and 'authority' (authority used as trusted source or expert) that could deliver this message/cause to the American people?

I ask these questions because I a) watched the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation hearing on Global Climate Change, and McCain's last reference to the fact that the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) was already being derided as shoddy science. Albeit, the accusers have no study to cite, they just lambast, but the point being that there will of course be people who believe the report, and those that believe the detractors of said report. So I was wondering - is there a cause or message that people would unite behind on any subject? Something that might calvanize and unite us into action in support of a common cause?

b) I watched the movie Gandhi (1982), and wondered is/are there a person(s) of such stature in this country that he/she/they could deliver the message/cause that is the answer to question 1 above and have people 'believe' him/her/them? I've discounted Walter Cronkite, not for a perceived lack of integrity, but I don't think most Americans know who he is, or if they do, it is in that vague sense of "Oh, yeah. I remember him. Is he still alive?" So, what I'm wondering, is there anybody today that possesses the kind of stature that he earned?

I have other stuff I will post, but I thought I would ask these questions of you, and I'm interested to see what, if any topics/people are suggested to fill the bill. One point, when I say majority of the American people, I mean a true majority - say above 60-65% of the population. 
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
  Excellent C-Span program - "Blogs & Knowledge'

I meant to let everyone know this was coming on yesterday, but I got wrapped up in a book, and almost missed it myself. Anyway, it's worth your time (maybe not if streaming video doesn't stream), an hour and a half, to watch this - C-SPAN: DIGITAL FUTURE.

Quick point: I currently cannot access the program from the link provided: "rtsp://video.c-span.org/project/digital/digitalfuture111504.rm". I receive a "rtsp is not a registered protocol" when using Mozilla, and Explorer states "the page cannot be displayed". I have notified C-Span.
David Weinberger, former senior internet adviser to the Howard Dean campaign, discussed how Weblogs work & their value in gathering knowledge...
David Weinberger, one of North America's best known experts on "blogging" and coauthor of the bestselling book, "The Cluetrain Manifesto" (2000). Weinberger is also author of "Small pieces, loosely joined: a unified theory of the web" (2002), a frequent commentator on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and "Here and Now," and has been published in many magazines including Wired and the Harvard Business Review.
While he was the primary speaker and did bring out some excellent points, the other members of the panel also provided some fascinating insights, and the question and answer session was pretty enlightening as well.

I guess I really enjoyed it because so much time was spent on the ideas of 'knowledge' and 'authority', their forms, and whether or not they are changing. One point made by one of the panelists (I'd provide the name, but as I stated above, I'm experiencing tech difficulties and can't review the program at this time) which I found very interesting, is that 'authority' has changed over time. Authority used to reside in the 'voice' of the person transmitting the knowledge, but when the printing press came into use, 'authority' shifted to the text. Apparently now 'authority' is shifting again - away from the 'text' and to a shared social authority like Wikipedia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and even the blogging community.

There was also a great deal on 'objective' vs 'subjective' knowledge.

Another Note: Problem with viewing the video was on my on my end. You must have RealPlayer 10, with 'rtsp' protocol enabled. See C-SPAN page and click on "Problems with video? >>" for instructions. It also provides instructions for Mac users.

I have some things to do around the house, now. I'll try to post more later, but it might be tomorrow. I want to talk about The Mayan Prophecies, which I just finished, and I want to get a feel for the rash of resignations from Baby Bush's administration and what it might portend. So, later... 
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