Friday, June 02, 2006

Season Finale: It Was All Just a Dream!



Just Say It

Although some of us have been saying it for a long time (too many things to link to, folks - choose your own), the idea that the correct and true campaign rhetoric for the Democrats is that this administration has actively, positively, surely made the country weaker, not stronger; more vulnerable, not safer - is now more or less mainstream. Michael Hirsh in Newsweek:

Talk to any responsible official or officer in the military, intelligence or diplomatic community. Most will tell you that Bush got most of the war on terror wrong (at least after the Taliban fell), that he invented a war of choice in Iraq and failed to finish the war of necessity against Al Qaeda. The toughest hombres in the country—not least some recently retired generals—are saying the “war president” has no clothes, that he has been, in effect, a disastrous war president. This is what I hear every week now as a reporter, from officials who identify themselves as Republican, Democrat or independent. It is what the facts, sadly, bear out: look at where the precipitous war in Iraq has brought us, and the new violence that is arising out of the unfinished business against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yet the vast majority of Democratic leaders cannot bring themselves to say this—Hillary most prominently of all.

Add fiscal destruction and incompetence on the domestic (Ja, der 'Homeland') security front, and cook on low heat until thick. Do not by any means use passive language such as 'he's failed to make us safer'; use 'he's made us more vulnerable'. Democrats: please don't be the last to cross the rubicon. It's no longer a 'rubicon' when you're last.

..and Make Believe You Love Me One More Time: For The Good Times

Chad Harbach, over at the under-read n+1, has a rather sober essay about climate change and its, well, global (in every sense of the word) implications. First, the props:

Of all the crimes committed by our current administration—institutionalized torture, pursuit of war under false pretenses, et cetera—its ecological crimes are the most damaging and regrettable. George W. Bush has dismantled decades’ worth of environmental legislation, but his worst offense has been to take the oil companies’ despicable campaign of disinformation about global warming and make it national policy. Even in the not-so-likely event that our next administration fully understands the scope of the danger, the costs of these eight years of paralysis will prove incalculable.

Hold your warm and tender body close to mine...

It’s become possible to glimpse the disappearance of so many things, not just glaciers and species but ideas and institutions too. Things may never be so easy or orderly again. Our way of life that used to seem so durable takes on a sad, valedictory aspect, the way life does for any 19th-century protagonist on his way to a duel that began as a petty misunderstanding. The sunrise looks like fire, the flowers bloom, the morning air dances against his cheeks. It’s so incongruous, so unfair! He’s healthy, he’s young, he’s alive—but he’s passing from the world. And so are we, healthy and alive—but our world is passing from us.

He notes that the DOD, that nest of tree-huggers and leftists...

....has begun scenario-planning for abrupt climate change. A DoD-commissioned report from 2003 begins by noting that “there is substantial evidence to indicate that significant global warming will occur during the 21st century” and goes on to envision the consequences of one abrupt-change scenario that has increasingly captured the attention of scientists—the shutdown of the Gulf Stream, which could plunge most of Europe into a deep chill while the rest of the world continues warming. The report isn’t terribly imaginative or grammatical, but it is based on sound fundamentals: “With at least eight abrupt climate change events documented in the geological record, it seems that the questions to ask are: When will this happen? What will the impacts be? And, how can we best prepare for it? Rather than: Will this really happen?”

He goes on to take all this to its logical political conclusion:

If such a thing as a literary/political/intellectual left exists, it is defined by its capacity for imaginative and sympathetic reach—by its willingness to surmount barriers of difference (class, distance, nationality) and agitate for a more equitable distribution of the goods and goodnesses that make up our idea of human (and nonhuman) well-being. To be able to imagine what it might be like to be tortured, or to live in abject poverty, or under the watchful eyes of US Predator drones—this capacity is crucial to the project of any political left in a wealthy country. But in the case of global warming, our collective imagination has failed us utterly.

There seems to be a persistent if unstated resistance on the part of the left to the precepts of ecology. Environmental causes haven’t captured the attention of our subtlest thinkers and writers, but remain cordoned off to be pursued by nature lovers and nonprofiteers.


The most powerful and cogent critique that can currently be leveled against our mode of capitalism is that markets fail to account for ecological costs. In a crowded world of finite size, our political economy values only acceleration and expansion. Scarce natural resources like clean air and water, not to mention more complex systems like rainforests or coral reefs, are either held at nothing or seriously undervalued. Corporations could clear-cut all our forests, reduce croplands to swirling dust, turn rivers to conveyors of toxic sludge, deplete supplies of minerals and metals, double and redouble carbon emissions—and all our economic indicators would show nothing but robust growth until the very moment the pyramid scheme collapsed. Indeed, most of these things are happening, with only scattered opposition. When our math improves, when the costs of our products fully reflect the resources used and the wastes produced—especially CO2: then and only then can capitalism begin to become a viable and humane economic system.

Armageddo-capitalism. Feels like a comfy old shoe, doesn't it?

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