Friday, February 27, 2009

A Note From MeanMesa

I wanted to send this note to all the visitors to MeanMesa. I have been writing obsessively on the ribosome paper. Projects such as this one seem to elicit either writers' block or the opposite. The past couple of weeks have been the opposite! Short Current Essays will be returning in another week or so.

Until then, check out the archives or just wait patiently. I appreciate all the visitors here -- even the ones who take time to send hateful notes. I'm thinking about all of you every day, and I will be "back on line" pretty quickly!

Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Visitor to MeanMesa! Enjoy!

A quick note of introduction from MeanMesa: The following is an absolutely delightful comment posted on Thom Hartmann's web by my respected friend "antifascist." That avatar is highly suitable once one gets to know him. He provides a link to the website of the material's initial origin and its author.

It is included here because it is simply too thought provoking to just abandon, leaving it where I encountered it.

“Facts Are Stupid Things” (
February 21, 2009Text Color

The title above is a quote from Ronald Reagan at the 1988 Republican National Convention. He was trying to access a John Adams quote, “Facts are stubborn things,” but something more appropriate to the man and the occasion popped out.

The essay below is from my neighbor Jim, more of whose stuff can be seen here (at the site in the link).

Compare and contrast:

1980 may seem kind of arbitrary as the jump off for the end of empire, but the economics bear it out. Under Reagan, government disbursements and revenues, as a share of GDP, jumped a full six percentage points. More, if you include his unfunded moral hygiene mandates.

All the Republicans talked Rand, Friedman, inter alia, but they acted like straightforward right wing military Keynesians. Military Keynesianism is of course nothing new in the US. But prior to 1980 there was a dominant Bismarckian consensus (have I dropped enough names yet?) that it had to be matched by social spending, otherwise the exercise of hard power would eventually become financially unsustainable.

You cannot extract surplus value — i.e. have capitalism — in great heaping bushel baskets unless you have a government willing to exercise single payer monopsony power over basic human needs, basic scientific research and renewable sources of the energy needed to drive all this. Lo and behold, the exercise of hard power is now done on credit, with only the threat of mutually assured destruction holding our creditors at bay.

I suppose one could point to a cultural shift in the eighties, as there certainly was one, but I prefer a bit more systemic determinism.

The political economy of capitalism is easiest to manage through psychological terrorism. It’s a cheap and effective way of outsourcing the quotidian enforcement of corporate feudalism to vigilante moral panic artists. There’s no shortage of people willing to enforce for free. Hell, they’ll even pay for the dubious privilege.

People become inured to this, querulous and rebellious, and the terrorism has to be stepped up. Red scares have to be coupled with ethnic scares, drug scares, satanic child care scares and so forth. Going against that, as Carter did in an achingly minuscule way, is a positive step for capitalism and a negative step for capitalists. Their enforcement costs look to climb. People who aren’t constantly depressed and frightened get a little feisty.

Under Reagan, the “clever” work-around was burgeoning unfunded mandates to make the states take on domestic psychological terrorism, and yanking the social safety net away, while the central government threw surplus value to the cretinous capitalists, hand over fist. It’s been down hill ever since.

I can’t see why anyone would want to be president after Bush. It’s not a sane thing to do. I thought, and still think, that the Democrats would have been better off throwing the election. McCain would probably not have lasted four years and right wing military Keynesianism would have been discredited for a good long time. Getting stuck with cradling the appalling, ghoulish offspring that are roving mindlessly over a dying empire would have ruined him, and the most cretinous of the cretinous capitalists.

The Democrats could have trotted out old social democratic wine in new bottles and enjoyed thirty or forty years of crowing from the top of the DC shit hill. So it goes, I guess. And my goodness, doesn’t Carter look like a saint in comparison to every asshole that’s come since.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Two State Solution: From Vapor to Concrete


Ditch the diplomats, start with philosophy, then let the engineers solve it.
When the parties are so stuck on the “little” they can’t get started on the “big,” much less figure out the rest of it, it's time to change the game.


First, what exactly does that word mean?

Well, this awkward term implies a new synergy between the three tools already in our kit when it comes to finally making headway with the Palestinian-Israel debacle. The idea here is to create a new, three pronged approach with components from our great, Twenty-First Century strengths: new philosophy, new diplomacy and new engineering.

Don’t quit now. We promise not to use that troubling term too often. However, the idea behind it is important.

The Three Legged Stool:

The stalemate in the middle eastern matter seems to have a different obstacle in each of those three areas.

First, the philosophical problem. The thinking to date has been one seeking a “fantastic breakthrough” originating from an astonishingly simple, painless tweeking of minute details. Should anyone of the parties have stumbled on that sort of solution, such a statesman or diplomat would have been instantly heralded as a “great modern thinker,” or even, “a 21st Century Gandhi.”

All those with the ambition of being heralded as such, well, haven’t been. None of those astonishingly brilliant solutions has materialized into anything more compelling than an ongoing toothache. We can’t say for certain that no fantastic solution exists, but history suggests that maybe we need to move on. The longer the thing remains static, the more hopeless it seems to be.

The First Leg: Philosophy

The premise here is that the promise of solving the dilemma won’t come from something “tweeky” and clever, but rather from something philosophical and shocking. There is already a landfill full of blood and misery from attempts in the past. Everything previously discarded is there -- except any progress.

The “philosophical component” is the adoption of a new realism. The inter party enmity is nothing superficial. The consequences are intolerably perpetual and serious. The cost in both money and almost everything else is outrageously extravagant. (Disagree? Throw in Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, the US economy...)

Cheap little attempts at solutions, attractive because they are cost effective, painless, unilateral or for some other specious reason, amount to little more than, of course, “lipstick on a pig.” This toothache needs a big, bold, confident kind of philosophical turning point to get things moving. The system needs a good shock.

The Second Leg: Diplomacy

The proposal submitted here considers diplomacy as a different priority than its present “lantern leader” status of the moment. The philosophical quandary has continued to shove diplomats into tantrum parties so intense that not even their proffered details can so much as catch the attention of the screamers. There have been a few exceptions, but those were more the product of exhaustion than any particular interest in moving toward a bright new day.

The diplomats need to stay at the ready, but in a back room for the moment. Their craft might actually, finally produce some startlingly tangible results in this scenario, but only when applied at the right time in the process. There are plenty of astonishing successes on the table, or, at least, there will be soon enough.

The Third Leg: Engineering

All engineering projects are a dutifully cautious mix of money and technology, two great strengths of modern culture which have been entirely omitted from any solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli question. Most operative money matters have amounted to relief shipments, illegal weapons business and naval blockades. The technology in play so far has been limited to homemade rockets, the formidable Israeli military machine and Masad’s equally formidable intelligence penetration capabilities.

Hardly the best and highest use of modern economic or technological assets.

Could modern engineering and a reallocation of costs already committed suggest a more positive approach? You bet! Could that application ever extend itself to an actual, compelling, on-the-ground, political, philosophical, diplomatic engineering solution?

The stage is set for a, you guessed it, NEOPHILODIPLONEERING PLAN!

A Quick Recap of the Present Dilemma:

One of the reasons that the “two state” idea has never generated much traction deals precisely with what the two states would look like if there ever were, actually, two states. Peace isn’t too likely so long as one of the two states is a perpetually isolated basket case where ships cannot dock and citizens cannot come and go as they please -- conditions which would be required for any sort of successful economy and culture.

Gaza is essentially a Warsaw ghetto with one side wet in the Mediterranean. The West Bank is a scrappy little spot hemmed in by Israel and Jordan, another ghetto with one side wet in the nearly dry Jordan River. Does Israel really intend to set the price of peace so high that its preconditions are that all its partners be desperate urchins surviving only by UN food relief? No paranoia can be great enough to ever propose that such a solution could eventually foster a calm, productive neighbor.

Philosophically, this may present an “unexamined maxim.” Philosophically, it’s time to reattach all thoughts to a solution, leaving old style minutia such as history and vengeance behind. Diplomatically, a cessation of rocket fire and uninterrupted relief shipments are hardly ambitions which are foundations of real accomplishments ten years from now. Too small, low return, too temporary. They may look appealing at the moment, but the situation calls for more. Much, much more. As for economic and technological efforts, well, no one has seemed very interested in the proposition that poor, starving, hopeless people almost automatically get desperate enough to fight.

The thing has gone on long enough that most observers simply conclude that the will for better days isn’t even there anymore with either party. To complicate matters, there are some really unpleasant players with a “dog in the fight.” Those with a “dog in the fight” continually try to convince the reasonable people in the world that everything is so complicated that no comprehensive or comprehensible solution is even imaginable, much less possible.

Who has a “dog in the fight?”

American politics, historically overweight already with Jewish lobby pac money, has always been able to “jump the polls” a point or two with chest beating epithets about defending Israel. Wing nut fundamentalists who are counting on a final explosion to signal the end of the world incessantly pump biblical evangelical drama into the mess. Oil companies and other resource extractors who yearn for an entirely controllable oil field along with various other bottom feeders who, for example, sell real estate to the Saudis seem to think that they appear a little more stable when they can be compared to Hezbollah, although the differences fade a bit in the larger picture of ruthlessness, greed and power avarice.

It seems that current efforts at resolving the conflict are “targeted” at overwhelming the violent factions. However, bombings and incursions appear to make little lasting difference. It is becoming dismally clear that these approaches will probably never produce the calm, prosperous results everyone claims to seek when they start them. Any effective new plan will need some other, more persuasive mechanism at its heart. Mature states in modern times realize that the Law of Threefoldness seriously questions the exclusive ideas of either dominating or surviving. With or without the philosophy, the ongoing record of such a pathetic, self-defeating mindset may be evidence enough.


The Israelis have already, for whatever reasons, done some serious “heavy lifting” on the philosophical shock side of the affair. Relinquishing control of Gaza, no matter how incomplete, was a shocking philosophical accommodation. One executed at a very high price.

This solution will require another such action, possibly at a lesser but still shocking price. One more contribution on the part of the Jewish state will be required.

In challenging moments all through history an interesting gambit of rulers and governments continues to reappear. When things started to get tough, they built roads! Following along those historical lines, this answer has more to do with civil engineering than numbed out, moribund philosophy or arcane, breakthrough style, ineffective diplomacy. It’s time for the State of Israel to build a road! One which will carry at its core a new philosophy and a new diplomacy, all mounted on the back of some great new 21st Century technology!

Details of Some New, Shocking Possibilities:

The new highway will run from the West Bank to Gaza, across Israel. The right of way territory, perhaps a mile wide, will be perpetually ceded to the United Nations. Somewhere along the route will be provisions for a city where Arabs and Jews can peacefully trade everything except offensive weapons. The Corridor Zone will be permanently manned by peace keeping troops with the authority to defend UN territory and monitor the goods transiting through the new territory.

We would be copying at least the more constructive parts of that old Soviet idea from Germany. The new arrangement wouldn’t be too dissimilar to the Berlin Corridor we had so much fun with during Eisenhower’s airlift. After everything is in place, the now isolated Palestinian states would be connected.

The new, unified Palestinian state would have a Mediterranean sea port in Gaza and a UN supervised trading city to share with Israel. The beginning of a viable Palestinian state would be at hand. The misery inducing hodgepodge of what presently exists there might seem less desirable to Palestinian nationalists. At least in the beginning, other Arab states in the region would find the new road an opportunity to reintegrate the Gaza population economically and socially.

Such a freeway would almost certainly separate Israel into northern and southern sections. Yet, having already “kissed the girlfriend” by embracing technology for the West Bank -- Gaza Corridor, the Israelis, never bashful about innovative progress, could certainly solve the problem with tunnels or some other approach.

Three Cross Country Alignments:

Where should the new Corridor Zone be placed? There are some general suggestions, but those involved will inevitably resolve all the exact details. One feature of the system acting in favor of the proposal is the proximity of everything. The length of the Corridor Zone, measured in actual miles, will probably be less than the distance from San Diego to Lahoya.

Route One: The Southern Border with Egypt

If this location were selected, Egypt might be willing to contribute half of the right of way. The international zone of the Corridor would begin its life as territory ceded over to UN sponsorship from two separate countries!

Running along the southern most part of the state of Israel would also place the new Corridor in territory with less than optimally valuable agricultural or industrial value.

Route Two: The Shortest Path Between Two Points

This route would be located at the shortest path between the West Bank and Gaza, of course, manipulated here and there when advantageous to Israel. This selection would consume some seriously valuable Israeli territory, but the limited length of the route might compensate for that. If this approach is chosen, the Palestinian - Israeli trade site might be a new city, one built in some favorable spot along the new highway.

Route Three: Include Jerusalem

Although unquestionably the most complicated choice, this approach really does solve several problems at once. Jerusalem would be ceded to the UN with the perpetual charter of open access to all. That holy city would become the new Berlin of the West Bank - Gaza Corridor Zone. It would also be the official site for Israeli Palestinian contact and commerce.

What a promising prospect! Maybe such a choice could end the wars fought over that place for good. All the religious people wishing to visit there would find the place much more civil under strict UN supervision. The International City status wouldn’t have to encompass the whole, sprawling place, either. So long as the principal religious areas and a suitable commercial facility were included, other matters could be worked out gradually.

Amazingly, maybe the best way to edge crazy, violent religion out of the mix is to inject it directly into the mix! Since zealot nut cases don’t want to cede Jerusalem to Jews or Palestinians (depending on which side they are standing...), maybe they can be persuaded to cede it to the UN. That is the job of the UN, working toward peace and prosperity without mindlessly creating new hordes of victims.

New Diplomacy After Solving the Incentive Problem:

Time to trot out all those diplomats who’ve been waiting in the back room. How could all this possibly work? Here is where the “shocking new philosophy” really comes home for dinner.

The diplomatic efforts to date have been misdirected. These diplomats have been sent into the maelstrom to negotiate with partners who lack the motivation to actually move forward. In Palestine, Hamas and Fatah constantly scrap about the destruction of the “800 pound gorilla” next door. In Israel progressives and conservatives are deadlocked over whether or not they should ever trust the Palestinians, even a little. All the outside players from the United States to Syria have been spending way too much time feeding the “dog they have in the fight.”

Diplomatic efforts have run into a brick wall. Unresolved philosophical problems have been able to sabotage every approach. “Small thinking” and violence has left the entire matter in constant turmoil. The fact is simple. People are much more likely to trust motivations than they are to trust people.

If the Corridor idea is immediately turned over to the diplomats, we can assume that they will immediately begin frenzied work on all the wrong things. In no time, the whole affair will probably start looking like aging dynamite in the parking lot of a firecracker factory again. That approach need not be taken.

Nope. It’s time for Israel to act unilaterally. Without any diplomatic consultation, thrash out the selected route, purchase the right of way and build the road bed. Of course, everyone will be watching.

Once that is completed, certainly amid all sorts of speculation as to the final purpose of such a giant undertaking, offer the whole works to the UN on the provision that some concrete “two state” solution progress be offered in return. The crazy appeal of Hamas might begin to fade rather quickly along with the sticks and stones chant of death to Israel. Mischievous Iran might find its trouble making ambitions staggered by a lack of interest. Motivations for peace and prosperity might start popping up all over the place. Even al Quaeda’s successful energy and recruitment parasitism might run into marketing problems.

Israel might find that the project has created sufficient incentive to barter for a real calm down in the region. When things taper off to an acceptable level of threat, lift the sea embargo. Put it all on the table. See if there isn’t enough incentive to work out the details once there is a real possibility of having a lasting arrangement of some kind. This is the proper use of diplomats.

A Much Brighter Future

Once things begin to take a turn for the better, all sorts of regional problems become solvable. The new, demilitarized Corridor will be wide enough for a high speed train. If West Bank commercial air carriers request it, a UN sponsored air corridor could be added above the highway route. Cooperation with this project might lead to advances in the relentless water and power problems in the region.

The cost, although substantial, would amount to far less than the recent wars with Hamas and Hezbollah. Maybe the United States could contribute now that we have a functioning State Department again. Israel’s public relation problem would certainly be laid aside once the plan gained traction.

Obama said it all. Governments are judged by what they build, not what they destroy.

For a comprehensive look at the Palestinian West Bank encompassing both history of current developments and an overview, Wiki is a good first choice:
For a similar look at the Gaza:
For a rundown on a few of the typical "dogs in the fight," take a look at the CIA Fact Book:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Republican Senators Enforce Nominee Tax Purity?

The Republican Senators "strike back" against stimulus spending waste! Right. The quiet words of the "new Sheriff" in town. The latest from the meanmesa "Hypocrisy Hunters" series. 80

In the last couple of weeks the television news watching crowd -- I’m one of them -- has watched as Obama nominations “crashed and burned” on revelations about tax audits. There seem to be some interesting details worthy of a touch of “Common Sense from the Desert’s” treatment.

Daschle was by far the most unlikely of these nominating victims. For another administration at another time, this man would have survived the usual Senatorial meat grinder, suffered a little “road rash,” and finally been sworn in as H.S.S. Secretary. This time, however, Daschle, the nominee, encountered a cruel twist of fate, at least a cruel fateful moment.

Our first inclination, possibly one powered forward with an unbending admiration for the Mr. Clean approach of our new President, is to assume that Mr. Daschle was simply too injured to ever meet the “purity” test which we all like to think Barack Obama promised us during his campaign. Those who accept this nice, simple explanation of the nomination’s failure are gobbling up a very lazy account of the reasons driving the affair.

That may be both convenient and comfortable, perhaps even something abstract which can inspire material hope, but it may also miss the more important fact mushing around a few inches below the surface of the Earth like some political gopher.

Although President Obama is quietly rehabilitating his implied character of being permanently above the filth of Washington’s “business as usual crowd,” this retraction of the Daschle nomination carries an even more interesting message. The President’s striking admission of poor judgment, repeated an embarrassing number of times as he “danced the week away” with every pundit who could still walk after the election, presents an impressive reinforcement of that alternate explanation.

The alternate explanation?

It has everything to do with the momentary political climate. To quote Mark Shields (PBS: Jim Lehrer News Hour), “The voters of this country are furious.” In the past, such a comment would have required a following phrase, a specific insult or mismanaged calamity of some sort, that is, “furious about -- something or other...” Mr. Shield’s remark, however, stopped cold. No contemporary target was offered to explain the “fury.”

His view, and mine, is simply what he said. “The voters of this country are furious.”

The hackneyed pundits charged with selling their expertise on such matters cosmetically disguised as “commercial media news” are stumbling all over themselves. Each one of these high paid, allegedly believable celebrity news hawkers has trotted out one explanation after another for the astonishing nihilistic monster loose out here in the hinterlands of public opinion.

The single conclusion they have either overlooked or disregarded as “not salable as important breaking news” is that all the folks on this end of the national 1040’s are furious. We have been lied to, tricked, insulted, ignored and, finally, financially gang raped by a group of previously unknown nobodies who managed to constipate every seat of power in the country under the cover of a President just as crooked as they were. Thanks to the surreptitious hijacking of the main media by this same bunch, we still have no idea what is actually going on.

We only know it hurts. We only know it gets worse from here.

Obama has accurately evaluated this phenomenon as it revealed itself day by day in the start of his Presidency. Folks in the heartland of this country have their quivering fingers on the trigger. They may not know who exactly they should aim at, but they are damned ready to “kick ass and take names.” This political climate cannot be explained away with deliciously attractive narcotic cause and effect drivel by any pundit presently in front of a microphone. (The News Hour has, very judiciously, simply declined that risky editorial adventure, instead concentrating on its typical good quality news reporting.)

Of course Daschle’s tax problem ejected him from his moment of glory. Of course Nancy Killefer, the nominee for the new post of Chief Performance Officer, withdrew from nomination over a $1,000 tax error. $1,000? Low level Bush cronies wouldn’t have missed a $1,000 lost in a weekday booze binge! The voters in this country are at the point of lynching someone for kicking a dog.

The thread of this thought runs even further into our national psyche. Obama stands before us fully armed with sufficient facts to incite a riot (Romanian revolution style: “Drag the smoldering corpse behind the truck, comrade!”) outside the gates of the new Bush mansion in Dallas, but he carefully skirts much direct comment. He doesn’t need to say much more than he is saying now. Everyone here knows. Even the guy who is still trying to watch the commercial media news knows. Everyone.

The President’s comments are designed to calm us down a bit. Not even his political genius, although formidable, has any foolish appetite to harness the whirlwind of where this state of mind could lead. There are no allocations for guillotines in the stimulus bill.

So, the nominations will have to be cleaned, purified. He’s done that.

But when he responded to the gigantic $18 billion for bonuses, the $800,000 super bowl tent and the $40 million dollar corporate jet, all paid for with bail out money, he crept an inch or two closer to where the rest of us already are. We saw only one, lightening quick glimpse -- probably revealed only by his premeditation -- in his comments, then his stoic magnanimity resurfaced.

He was communicating. He was communicating at a high level we are not accustomed to seeing.

I assume half the looters on Wall street, the more clever ones of the bunch, burped in their martinis at that moment. The IRS audits have been so much fun so far, why not the Captains of Industry who are signing those bail out checks? Why not the ultra-smug Republican Senators who were "just outraged" by these dirty tax dodgers? Have we forgotten that neo-cons are allergic to leadership?

Yeah. Let's add a nice big auditing allocation to that stimulus bill. These hypocritical parasites extract all their comforts from us anyway, why not care for them in a nice, warm Federal Prison?

Google News offers a comprehensive account of the withdrawn nominations: