Saturday, January 30, 2010

Technology and the Geezer: A New Life Form?

A MeanMesa post in our "Beyond Science" series

MeanMesa calls to point the astonishing -- and accelerating -- extent that our modern society confronts us with such an overwhelming flow of new technology. Although relaxing in the slower pace of life after too many decades of being on the mindless rush of younger days, and, while meticulously attempting to avoid the all too frequent phenomenon of "endlessly arguing with the air through a overly long white mustache," it occurs that perhaps we have failed to pause a moment to smell the, uh, transistors.

Ranting and raving? Hardly. MeanMesa unabashedly refers here to the constant "Prime Directive" which has traveled so nobly with the intrepid crew of the starship Enterprise through every kind of Kirk and Piccard episode.

This is, in no means, a promotion of the idea that we earthlings should adopt such a strenuous discipline ourselves. We can hardly resist the being impulse for massive and apparently endless episodes of reciprocal mass destruction against each other -- and, we already grudgingly accept that all the bodies left on the fields of battle were, once, sentient beings. We should probably work on that before we introduce some new, innovative concept as demanding as the Prime Directive.

However, being so insanely busy with our modern lives, we may have inadvertently missed a bit of the Prime Directive's instruction to recognize forms of unexpected sentient life when we see it. It is precisely this matter of recognition which is the topic of this MeanMesa posting. The premise here is that we are amid the seminal origin of a new life form at this minute! Further, we are ostensibly its creators, and its nature is suspiciously similar to our own.

We're talking about every sort of computer, and we attempt to view all these devices in a larger "big picture" frame than we are normally prone to pursue in the bustle of our daily lives. Now, MeanMesa was almost too enthralled by IBM Selectric typewriters to, frequently, even sensibly compose. We can recall sitting and quietly staring in astonishment at an old IBM 1130 which could fill an entire kitchen churning away through the night. Now, these modern things have evolved remarkably to even further amazing qualities.

Let's consider a few examples, all preparation for a final question later.

1. The computer aboard a Mars Rover: The device launched out on a roaming exploration of Mars. An astonishing number of the day to day decisions of the creature resulted from questions it posed to itself and answered -- by itself. It was designed to ruthlessly mimic human curiosity, even when it was millions of miles from its home world and pretty much on its own.

2.  Google in China: This powerful system, designed by a corporation with the motto: "Do no evil," precipitated a crisis of honor, the ideal nobility of which might be enviable to its human creators. The "big picture" includes all those it touched, but the challenge to its Prime Directive was finally and unavoidably revealed almost by the system itself. It had illuminated the "evil" in which it was forced to cooperate too brightly for its "masters" to ignore any longer.

3. Twitter and the Islamic Republic: Even when the medieval thugs of the Iranian government were slaughtering those citizens demanding legitimacy, this brave little program stood its ground boldly. That government tried to suppress this vital life blood of the uprising's communication, temporarily succeeding. Then, in a surprise to all participants, this software once again found its legs, returned to service and stood squarely with those who were depending on it. It was not designed to do so. It did so because of its nature.

4. Skype and the children of divorce: It was on the news this very day. Quite removed from all the scratching, yelling and gun fights on the front porches of homes split by divorce, children denied access to their parents can now Skype mom or dad, alive and real time, for a special "good night visit." Skype was not particularly designed as a comfort to families torn by divorce, but it serves and serves well. It is its nature.

The question: To an alien visitor, one with only the sketchiest understanding of what, exactly, is human and what is not, wouldn't these human-behaving devices seem rather human? Perhaps, just as we might be seen, sentient creatures as defined by the Prime Directive?

It's easy to class these remarkable things -- and many others -- as originating from human designs, being built in human factories with human hands (at least when they were not built by other devices just as suspiciously human as the hands might be...) and as meeting human needs. The point here is all about the boundary between things which actually are constructed of flesh and blood and things that seem to act as if they were.

MeanMesa hardly sees any of this as a threat.  Rather, it may be an invitation to cling more bravely to what is best in ourselves -- just as we see it in them.

Obama in Baltimore

For MeanMesa visitors who might have missed the opportunity to see President Obama addressing the Republicans at their retreat in Baltimore, the OFA "Recap" of what he said there can be seen here.

Notable among the observations by MeanMesa is the fact that, after the President spoke (rather directly) about moving the discussion between parties to a more civil basis, one Republican Senator stood up and called the Obama tax cuts to 95% of Americans "boutique tax cuts."

This suggests that Republicans cannot even depart from the Limbaugh - Hannity - Beck "talking points" long enough to discuss the Limbaugh - Hannity - Beck talking points!  Ech-h-h-h-h!  Yew-w-w-w-w!  Pooey!

Rest easy, MeanMesa visitors. The GOP is convinced that this gaseous, cranial vacuum will be sucking voters over the Party of No in droves by the time Congressional races start in November.  We must all keep our powder dry and our campaign duds pressed and ready to go.  Yup.

Check out the OFA note from Mitch Stewart below:

Organizing for America 
Chad --

Yesterday, the President stood in front of a gathering of House Republicans and took questions for more than an hour, urging them to put aside partisanship and work together for the good of the country. MSNBC described it as going straight into "the lion's den."

He was inspiring.

We've highlighted some of the key moments and trust me, it's worth checking out.

Watch the video

Once you do, please pass this along to everyone you know.

This is the sort of honest dialogue and political courage that we all need to move our country forward.

Let's do it together,


Mitch Stewart
Organizing for America

P.S. -- There's our own Q&A session for OFA supporters with President Obama coming up on Thursday, February 4th. Click here to submit a question now:

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Monday Morning With the Chief Justice

A short and bitter fiction of the true tale behind the doors of the Chief Justice

The receptionist knocked at the Chief Justice's door very quietly, peering nervously into the chambers to see if his employer was busy or otherwise occupied.

"What!" the Chief Justice boomed without turning away from his desk. "Why are you bothering me? You know the drill around here!"

His gaze locked on the floor at his feet, the office aide sheepishly mumbled "I'm sorry to bother you, sir. Mr. Ezra Baggadough and Mr. Fetid Scurvy are here again. They said they need to see you right away."

"Do they have an appointment? There's nothing on my schedule." The Chief Justice grumbled back.

"They're, uh, very insistent, sir. They seem upset." The aide offered sheepishly.

"Oh, alright. Show them in." Roberts snapped, rising from his chair.

A moment later an entourage from the outer office made its way through the Chief Justice's doorway. At the front of the procession were two poorly disguised men in dark sun glasses dressed as Arabs. Following closely behind this pair of cranky billionaires were the now almost hysterically nervous receptionist and an aging, over weight Federal guard. The guard's face was puzzled, alert and suspicious.

Chief Justice Roberts, turning abruptly toward his guests, waved his hand, silently dismissing his staff. "Leave us and close the door behind you."

The "Arab" robes were quickly set aside along with the sun glasses, revealing two very rotund men in their late middle age, both over dressed in expensive suits.  These were two of the grotesque "success stories" which had emerged during the W's autocracy.  Now, facing the timid restoration of democracy in the Congress, they found themselves painfully addicted to the rush of their ill gotten fortunes, yet frighteningly unable to compete in a more open economy.

The Chief Justice, still piqued by the sudden interruption, attempted to be a bit more social. "Mr. Baggadough and Mr. Scurvy. Why are you wearing those robes?"

Mr. Scurvy breathlessly answered, "We 'guised ersevs so's none of them libberel photographers culd snap a pitcher o' us commin' in here ta see ya."

"So what's so important? I thought we addressed everything in our, ah, last meeting." the Chief Justice answered.

Mr. Baggadough, obviously upset, leaned forward, locking his eyes on their host. "We want ya to stop this damned heth kyar thang afor it gets out'ta hand, thet's whut. Whah, them Congrissmen is goin' suck us drah, yew hear?" Drawing his breath, he repeated emphatically, "They's tri'an ta suck us drah!"

Mr. Scurvy quickly joined in, "Yew got'ta dew somthun! Them poor people's jest 'lectin' all sorts of commies 'n passin laws 'n stuff. Every tahm they turn 'round, they's suckin' more cash raht out'ta our, uh, yew know, hard earned profits."

Baggadough added yet another of his own complaints, "Whah, we's jest barely squeakin' bah on a skimpy lil' 30% profit from Scurvy Baggadough Gigantus Health Inshoorance Corpyeration's, uh, hard earned premium money! Yew got'ta stop 'em!"

The Chief Justice sighed patiently, then attempted to calm his guests. "I told you last time that the Supreme Court can't really do much about your problem. What you're facing is a matter for the Senate. Haven't you taken steps to put the right people in there? That's the way you get something like this taken care of."

Baggadough exploded. "Look here, college boy! Us 'n ahr friends greased the wheels on thet outfit mahtily to git your nomination 'aproov'd, yew know,  t' git them snakes in thu Senate ta look thu otha way 'bout thet conflict of interest bizness. Granted, they was 'publicans suckin' thu toes o' thet Connettikut idiot in thu Whaht Hass, but all o' thet ain't heppin us t'all raht now!  Not'tall!  We want 'ya ta dew somthun!"

Pausing for a moment, the Chief Justice finally answered thoughtfully, "Well, there is one thing I can do to help. I can throw this latest decision so folks like you will be able to spend all you want to un-elect those Senators who are making such a problem for you. Would that satisfy you? Could you two work with something like that?"

Almost in unison, the two guests chimed in, "Wahll, thet maht hep us out. Mebbe we culd jest throw a coupl'a 'lections 'n set the odds back  'n favor fer real 'mericans, yew know, fer honest, hard working folk -- lahk us."

Mr. Scurvy, now somewhat more relaxed, added, "D'yew thank we shuld git back into them Arab outfits 'fore we walk out'ta here?  We cain't be too keerful.  No siree!  Wuldn't want them poor people t'know who was a screwin' with thar 'lections"

MeanMesa says to the Supreme Court:  "Thanks a lot.  It isn't like we don't have anything else to do beside fiddle around with crap like this..."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Musical Journey to the Dark Neo-Con Under World

MeanMesa very much prefers to post material originating with, well, MeanMesa. However, after coursing through the daily "homework" assignment issued by the Randi Rhodes News Letter (The Randi Rhodes Show, 1 - 4 PM, KABQ 1350 AM Albuquerque) for January 27, 2010, this innocent, naive little blog encountered a story beyond the wildest limits of conspiracy paranoia!

We have already discussed the scandal of the "de-governoring" of Alabama's Don Siegelman.  Elected in a state election to the post of governor, Siegalman encountered an illegal conspiracy by employees and other cronies of Carl Rove (a ruthless criminal henchman for the unelected autocrat, Bush Jr.) who suddenly "discovered" -- in the middle of the night after all the election officials had gone home -- enough votes to sway the election to a neo-con patsy.

Governor Seigalman's complaints about the "irregularity" landed him in a Federal Prison within a few days.  He is presently still embroiled in his defense in the case.

Silly MeanMesa!  We foolishly thought that all the Southern crackers rolling around in the region might take note of just how amateurish this scheme was, deciding to "cool their heels" for a while until the stink died down.

Not the case.  In fact, not the case at all!

They've been at it again!  And this time the stink of illegality "can be seen from Sarah Palin's porch" in Wasilla, Alaska.  Whew!  This time it's Louisiana -- right next door to those crooks in Alabama.  The faces have changed, but the stench of the story is sickeningly familiar.

Now, MeanMesa had the rather ambitious idea of trying to recap all this stuff, jazz it up a bit then spew it all out as just another post here on the blog.  That meant all sorts of material was being copied or emailed "home," etc.  Unhappily, MeanMesa's geriatric grip on the computer technology involved proved to be too flimsy, so another means had to be taken.

There was no way that MeanMesa visitors would be denied a chance to gobble this whole thing up like a meatloaf sandwich without the ketchup, so the plan became to just post Randi's "Homework Assignment" here on the blog and let everyone track through the links.

Now, reading through all this material will take around 30 minutes, but don't cheat yourself!  Every word in all these stories is totally yummy!  Get a cup of your favorite tea, slam the cell phone on vibrate and settle down in your easy chair.  You won't regret the investment of time.

Here it is:

The Randi Rhodes Homework Assignment -- GREAT READING!


A Bridge Too Far For ACORN-Hunter O’Keefe
What We Know About the Young Republican Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight
Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence (ICCAE)ICCAE Scholars ProgramApplication Form

Central Intelligence Agency Program




President Obama Nominates Finley for U.S. Attorney in Western District

What is the Pelican Institute?

Beck, Hannity Silent on O'Keefe
Motive Still Unclear After Man Behind ACORN Wideos, 3 Others Arrested

An Interview With Andrew Breitbart About The O'Keefe Arrest
Brietbart: I Pay Salary to O'Keefe

Some of the head neo-con zombies are noted in bold.  So, read it and weep, visitors.  It is one of the most outrageous stories you will ever find!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Finally, Quotes From the Decision

Sorry for the delay.  MeanMesa became entangled in extraordinary difficulties, imposed by the wrathful hand of the Supreme Court's PDF approach to presenting the decision's content on their web site.  Not to worry.  Everything got much better with a few chuckling "sweeps of the hand" by our Very Saintly, MeanMesa IT GUY, Dave.  So, here it is!

Now, typically we find the language of even the most emotional dissent to be remarkably stuffy. If the "cordiality of the Senate" is troubling, one might conclude that the same "cordiality" of the Supreme Court, expressed as the Justices disagree with each other, is utterly suffocating. However, this is not the case in the January 21 decisions. In fact, those decisions represent a startling departure, given their notable passion and clarity.

MeanMesa has discussed this ruling in a previous blog, but -- thanks to the dismal curse of our geriatric computer skills -- we were unable to cite specific examples of the outrage. Here, a day or two later, we remedy this defect. What material is noted below represents just a smattering of the decision, that is, quotations taken directly from the content of the dissent, in this case, written by Justice Stevens.

So, sample what is provided. If your interest is piqued, the following link will lead to a full reading of this disastrous ruling.

Justice Stevens: 
Certain Quotations from The Dissent
(the emphasis in bold letters is added here...)

The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.

In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process.

Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races. The majority’s approach to corporate electioneering marks a dramatic break from our past.

Setting the case for reargument was a constructive step, but it did not cure this fundamental problem. Essentially, five Justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.

This is not merely a technical defect in the Court’s decision. The unnecessary resort to a facial inquiry “run[s] contrary to the fundamental principle of judicial restraint that courts should neither anticipate a question of constitutional law in advance of the necessity of deciding it nor formulate a rule of constitutional law broader than is required by the precise facts to which it is to be applied.” Washington State Grange, 552 U. S., at 450 (internal quotation marks omitted). Scanting that principle “threaten[s] to short circuit the democratic process by preventing laws embodying the will of the people from being implemented in a manner consistent with the Constitution.” Id., at 451. These concerns are heightened when judges overrule settled doctrine upon which the legislature has relied. The Court operates with a sledge hammer rather than a scalpel when it strikes down one of Congress’ most significant efforts to regulate the role that corporations and unions play in electoral politics. It compounds the offense by implicitly striking down a great many state laws as well.

By removing one of its central components, today’s ruling makes a hash out of BCRA’s “delicate and interconnected regulatory scheme.” McConnell, 540 U. S., at 172. Consider just one example of the distortions that will follow: Political parties are barred under BCRA from soliciting or spending “soft money,” funds that are not subject to the statute’s disclosure requirements or its source and amount limitations. 2 U. S. C. ž441i; McConnell, 540 U. S., at 122–126. Going forward, corporations and unions will be free to spend as much general treasury money as they wish on ads that support or attack specific candidates, whereas national parties will not be able to spend a dime of soft money on ads of any kind. The Court’s ruling thus dramatically enhances the role of corporations and unions—and the narrow interests they represent—vis-Ó-vis the role of political parties—and the broad coalitions they represent—in determining who will hold public office.

As we have unanimously observed, legislatures are entitled to decide “that the special characteristics of the corporate structure require particularly careful regulation” in an electoral context. NRWC, 459 U. S., at 209–210.50  Not only has the distinctive potential of corporations to corrupt the electoral process long been recognized, but within the area of campaign finance, corporate spending is also “furthest from the core of political expression, since corporations’ First Amendment speech and association interests are derived largely from those of their members and of the public in receiving information,” Beaumont, 539 U. S., at 161, n. 8 (citation omitted). Campaign finance distinctions based on corporate identity tend to be less worrisome, in other words, because the “speakers” are not natural persons, much less members of our political community, and the governmental interests are of the highest order. 
Furthermore, when corporations, as a class, are distinguished from noncorporations, as a class, there is a lesser risk that regulatory distinctions will reflect invidious discrimination or political favoritism. If taken seriously, our colleagues’ assumption that the identity of a speaker has no relevance to the Government’s ability to regulate political speech would lead to some remarkable conclusions. Such an assumption would have accorded the propaganda broadcasts to our troops by Tokyo Rose” during World War II the same protection as speech by Allied commanders. More pertinently, it would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans: To do otherwise, after all, could “‘enhance the relative voice’” of some (i.e., humans) over others (i.e., nonhumans). 

Under the majority’s view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting is, among other things, a form of speech. In short, the Court dramatically overstates its critique of identity-based distinctions, without ever explaining why corporate identity demands the same treatment as individual identity. Only the most wooden approach to the First Amendment could justify the unprecedented line it seeks to draw.

Let us start from the beginning. The Court invokes “ancient First Amendment principles,” ante, at 1 (internal quotation marks omitted), and original understandings, ante, at 37–38, to defend today’s ruling, yet it makes only a perfunctory attempt to ground its analysis in the principles or understandings of those who drafted and ratified the Amendment. Perhaps this is because there is not a scintilla of evidence to support the notion that anyone believed it would preclude regulatory distinctions based on the corporate form. To the extent that the Framers’ views are discernible and relevant to the disposition of this case, they would appear to cut strongly against the majority’s position.

This is not only because the Framers and their contemporaries conceived of speech more narrowly than we now think of it, see Bork, Neutral Principles and Some First Amendment Problems, 47 Ind. L. J. 1, 22 (1971), but also because they held very different views about the nature of the First Amendment right and the role of corporations in society. Those few corporations that existed at the founding were authorized by grant of a special legislative charter. Corporate sponsors would petition the legislature, and the legislature, if amenable, would issue a charter that specified the corporation’s powers and purposes and “authoritatively fixed the scope and content of corporate organization,” including “the internal structure of the corporation.” J. Hurst, The Legitimacy of the Business Corporation in the Law of the United States 1780–1970, pp. 15–16 (1970) (reprint 2004). Corporations were created, supervised, and conceptualized as quasi-public entities, “designed to serve a social function for the state.” Handlin & Handlin, Origin of the American Business Corporation, 5 J. Econ. Hist. 1, 22 (1945). It was “assumed that [they] were legally privileged organizations that had to be closely scrutinized by the legislature because their purposes had to be made consistent with public welfare.” R. Seavoy, Origins of the American Business Corporation, 1784–1855, p. 5 (1982).

MeanMesa encourages all of our visitors to "delve a little more deeply" into this particular decision.  The grave damage it has completed against our democracy will become a permanent feature of your future lives.

And Who Shall Bear These Colors?

Join MeanMesa for a moment of waxing prose...

MeanMesa is challenged by the darkness which has descended upon our progressive cause. Massachusetts, a dead health care bill, a legion of lobbyist mercenaries gleefully preparing to defeat us again in our limp, gutless assault on the banksters and gangsters who have wrecked our homeland, wounded her more deeply than all the terrorists in the world might have.

We have an army, but we have no voice, no leader. The neo-con monkeys in the Congress humiliate us with every puerile outrage their small, tragic minds can imagine, and all the while, we stand there and take it. Our Democrats, like little girls agape as they watch the bully shove one friend after another, silent, look not one moment for anything akin to victory or honor -- only for a place to hide.

Day after day, the Republicans twist our words and our world ever further toward their tormented dream while we only retreat farther and farther from the contest. We have sent Obama, but we have left him standing alone. Without us, he applies his formidable intellect to minimize the disaster, but he cannot hold that lonely line too much longer. We have sent him no aid, no relief column -- not even a torn scrap of a flag we might have all agreed serves to show our colors, our will.

Instead, we have filled our mouths with oatmeal, hoping against hope that the fearful conservatives might, out of some unexpected altruism, reward us with less punishment than otherwise for not having spoken so loudly against them when they have fully taken the field for a victory we have not challenged.

Here and now, while defeats and insults surround us, we see them dance, singing the shallow song of foolhardy arrogance to an audience of the uninterested. These soldiers whom we fear so much are but crones, dusty mannequins acting out what seems to be a life. They have no blood for in their veins a saddened greed fills them far too full of bile to leave a space for life's red kiss. We can find them by their blinders, all aglitter with cheap dull stones of suspicious quality and unknown origin.

Meantimes, both our own bright goals and our own strong souls are tarnished by a long forsaken courage. Dreams we have must be poorly sold away. No one speaks for us. No words arise from the fires in our hearts. Only the dismal gray of defeat and gloom are proffered forth for the brave, hopeful message we once bore. Hope is shrouded in dark veils of reasons. Reasons! We are paralyzed by reasons!

Oh, we lament. Nothing can be done. Our dim tomorrow is lit only by memories of long distant days when our song might still have breathed. Now, we sit, surrendered to the wind storm, snared amid the remnant of a gossamer web long ago abandoned by a desert spider now dead for seasons. Hopeless. Our milky eyes are no longer wet by those last tears. We cannot now so much as recall those last tender drops in our forlorn, frightened memory. We know only fear and cowardice, a wretched mating organized by despair.

A soul wrenching, carefully crafted, yet, totally unfounded despair.  We remain, in fact, as we might see ourselves with clearer eyes.  We are still an army, numbered far beyond our adversary,  We stand ever ready, armed with our temporarily hidden spirit, our carelessly set aside, trustworthy decency and our indomitable conviction of our unconquerable vision.

We cry out for the last of our champions. Lead us back to the fight! We can still walk, and we can still stand! Better death in glory than by rust of spirit!  Our Captains are cowards and crooks!  We have chafed under their "leadership" long enough!  While we bleed and retreat, they only stumble, crazed by a toxic brew of fear and avarice, guarding themselves.

Yet, there are indeed champions remaining for us, brave, bold and ready to step to the line. Why, one strong, sincere word will sound the trumpet for our return to the field of battle! But, just now, that golden horn is suffocated in our reasons. Reasons for our caution. Reasons for our fright. Reasons for our despair. Reasons for our surrender. Reasons for our defeat.

Who would MeanMesa send into the fray? Who would MeanMesa follow to the edge of Hell itself? There may be more than two, but heroes we have!

In the House, Alan Grayson has shown his mettle and his bravado. He has spoken to the wretches and not apologized, stood firmly on his ground. His voice is one of intellect, but more important, one with spirit! While his fellows hide away behind their reasons, Grayson speaks for us, to us. His timeless message?

"I am not afraid. Here's how you do it."

In the Senate we have bemoaned the sickly odor of the sub-humans, but not risen to stop them. The Liebermanns, Baucuses and Nelsons -- both the timid and the corrupt -- deserve to be as frightened and discouraged as they have made us. But who will speak for us?  We have words of fire, but we have yet to find voice!

MeanMesa, its hopes founded only on intuition, says Al Franken. We all know he has a voice just as formidable now as before. We know he has an intellect more than a match for the task. But more than anything, we know he has the spirit to lead us. We have seen it.

The miscreants should shudder in despair when they think of their petty schemes enduring what these two spokesman will effortlessly discharge once the contest is joined.

MeanMesa, already inebriated by the sprite of Shelley, recalls Ozymandias. It will be cast in the same words as those solitary, ancient steles under old Assyria's desert sands.

 I met a traveler from an antique land
 Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
 Stand in the desert...Near them, on the sand,
 half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
 And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
 Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
 Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
 The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
 And on the pedestal these words appear:
 "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
 Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
 Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
 Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
 The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Percy Bysshe Shelley 

After all that we have endured and overcome to reach this moment of our history, will we fade into the night or make real what we have dreamt? 
will we fade into the night or make real what we have dreamt?

PS:  What could be a better place than this to post a copy of a recent email from Congressman Alan Grayson?  

Coming Soon: "The Distinguished Senator from Saudi Arabia"

Dear Chad,
Thanks to so many of you for contacting Chairman Conyers Friday and thanking him for helping to save our democracy. His office was overwhelmed with calls and e-mails. One of his staffers said that it was "like working the phones at a telethon."
I've been thinking a little more about the Supreme Court's decision. This ruling gives foreign powers more rights than U.S. citizens. Imagine that! Aramco, a corporation owned by the Saudi Arabian government, will have enormously more influence in choosing your senator than you will. That's one thing that I meant when I said that "if we do nothing, you can kiss this country goodbye."
This will not stand. It cannot stand. There are too many Americans who love this country and won't allow it to happen. And you are one of them.
We are making a movement. If you have a moment, please forward this email to five of your friends, and ask them to sign our petition at And then a mighty voice will rise up from the land.
Alan Grayson
Member of Congress

Remember, Ozymandias.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Supreme Court Addresses THE WRONG PROBLEM!

Does anyone else notice a certain "light headed" sensation after the Supreme Court decision announced today? (January 21, 2009) You should. Another seriously major foundation stone of your civil liberties has been painlessly extracted by the neo-con monkeys masquerading as Supreme Court Justices.

Has good old MeanMesa careened off the road again? Hardly. During the autocracy, the W's fear campaign persuaded the Congress to dump the centuries old habeas corpus idea in favor the would-be-dictator's unending appetite for total domination of the country. In that case, since most of the hill billies and bigots who comprised his mindless base couldn't even begin to understand the change, the W was able to herd his evil scheme through -- completely under the head lamps of a discredited corporate media entirely complicit with his plan.

However, this latest outrage by the Supreme Court Neo-Cons is so stinky that not even an uninterested citizenry and an utterly corrupted media can provide much cover. Let's get to some specifics.

The Original Court Case

The whole affair emerged from a bit of a tantrum from a group named Citizens United. This unimaginative piglet was the unholy progeny of a bunch of neo-con corporatist dollars and a dismally unsuccessful clutch of "film folk," perhaps the remnants of an ersatz company of hymn writers for late night, dirty shirt preachers. Citizens United made an almost entirely fallacious film about Hillary Clinton to be broadcast during the 2008 primary campaign which, they hoped, would keep the W's half witted base on fire a little longer.

The Election Commission ruled that the film was so much an amateur political contrivance that it amounted to a campaign contribution. As such it was, they argued, subject to the campaign rule that required a disclosure of the funding sources which had sponsored the thing. Citizen United's corporate masters, already embarrassed by the incredibly meat handed "bad craftsmanship" of the piece, ordered that the names of the film's "money people" remain secret.

They claimed that it was a First Amendment, free speech matter.

Long story short, the case made the perilous journey to the neo-con Supreme Court. The specific decision being sought was whether the film was to be protected as "free speech" or if it were so outrageously corporatist  and political that it had to be considered a "campaign contribution."

As one might expect, the neo-cons on the Court expanded the question so it then came to focus on whether there was any limit whatsoever to the amount of money that corporations could spend -- not as direct gifts to a candidate's campaign -- but to create "side show" "public service" material such as the Hillary Clinton film and broadcast it, paying the costs outside the regulations of the election laws.

The Decision

Naturally, the five neo-con ideologues -- activist judges of the lowest calibre, appointed by Republicans -- voted in favor of the corporate interests. The extremely unsettling ramification of the decision was that corporations are people, enjoying the entire Bill of Rights protection to freedom of speech as defined in the First Amendment to our Constitution.

Although the traditional limit on campaign contributions ($2,300 for an individual, natural PERSON) remained in place, the decision made legal absolutely any amount of money spent on the "side show" material by anyone with the ambition to spend money in such a manner to overwhelm an otherwise democratic election. Any otherwise democratic election.

What exactly does this mean? If you, an idealistic MeanMesa visitor, canvass door to door among your neighbors to raise money for your favorite candidate, and, as a result, you are able to proudly deposit $200 in his campaign war chest for the purchase of a few television ads, it is entirely legal for the Acme Chinese Crap and Trinket Corporation to show up with a nice check for $100 million and launch its own campaign for your candidate's sleazy, neo-con competitor.

If anyone complains, the Acme Chinese Crap and Trinket Corporation can simply chuckle, saying "Because our corporation is actually a person, it enjoys the absolute protection of the First Amendment's free speech clause. We can do whatever the hell we wish. So screw off."

Further, it now -- after this decision -- no longer matters if the Acme Chinese Crap and Trinket Corporation is, quietly, a joint venture between some greasy little neo-con puppet company in Delaware and General Xang, the Peoples Liberation Army's torture, execution and penitentiary organ removal program's military supervisor -- the man who actually authorized the $100 million dollar check. General Xang intends to "take down" your candidate, and this Supreme Court thinks that's just fine.

The neo-fascists in the Supreme Court have decided, once and for all, that this is precisely what the founding fathers had in mind for our Constitution and our country. Nice, huh?

Benito Mussolini was the last famous example of such a decision that corporations were people and that they had just as much business directing the course of government that ordinary citizens, actual people, did. The idea sucked swamp water then, and this crappy decision sucks swamp water now.

However, General Xang and Mussolini aside, we can frame this threat in more readable terms. Let's say that there is a Congressional candidate who says big banks should pay back their TARP money. He has raised $200,000 for his campaign, and it looks good for him to win.

Then the Hugeolicus Bank and Risk Everything Group decides that it will finance 1,000 television ads and six full length, exciting Hollywood movies about what a jerk he is. Total cost? Say the bill runs $100 million dollars. This sounds like a lot of money, but should this candidate actually become a Congressman, his insistence on collecting the TARP account will amount to $20 BILLION dollars. Hugeolicus, very reasonably, sees the $100 million as an excellent investment.

It is yet another outrage inflicted on Americans by the W's autocracy -- especially the nasty Supreme Court Justices he slithered through the Senate. What a joke. We all thought that they had "paid back" for the favor in full when they appointed him President in 2000!

The Dissent

Rather than rehash all the comments made about the decision, MeanMesa will offer the following links to some fairly balanced, immediate responses to the ruling. The entire majority and dissenting opinions are also on the web for MeanMesa visitors who would like to take a look at them. Most rational Americans -- conservatives and liberals alike -- are so freaked out about this that they are jumping out of their boxer shorts.

An Voice of America article offered some of the text of the ruling. Here are a few samples of what both neo-con and more progressive voices had to say.

Conservative and libertarian groups welcomed the Supreme Court decision, including Steve Simpson with the Institute for Justice.  He spoke to reporters in front of the Supreme Court.

"The Supreme Court recognized today that the purpose of the First Amendment is to allow individuals and Americans to speak out as loudly and as robustly as they please," he said. "That applies whether an individual chooses to speak out alone or whether he chooses to associate with others and speak out as a group."

The court's liberal four-member minority opposed the change.  In his written dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said the ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation.

A written statement from President Obama at the White House said the high court's decision opens the way to a stampede of special interest money in American politics.

Among those speaking out in opposition was Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York.

"Today's ruling, decided by the slimmest of majorities, guts our system of free and fair elections," he said. "The bottom line is this.  The Supreme Court has just predetermined the winners of next November's elections.  It won't be Republicans.  It won't be Democrats.  It will be corporate America."


Bob Edgar is president of the monitoring group Common Cause: 

"We need to recognize that money has influenced the debate here in Washington for too long," said Edgar.  "All you have to do is look at the housing crisis, the investment crisis, the banking crisis.  Even this health care debate was already tainted by how much money had flooded into the system.  The elected officials in the House and Senate are going to end up serving special interests even more than they do today and not the public's interest."

For additional information, MeanMesa encourages interested visitors to also review the following commentary.

From Forbes:
From the Wall Street Journal:
From the Christian Science Monitor:
For a complete text of the ruling:

The Mistaken Certainty

Now, all of this might be seen as little more than a fundamental disagreement between authoritarian neo-cons and progressive liberals, but MeanMesa sees a foundational difficulty with the entire debate. Perhaps the flash and fury of the different views obscures this rather troubling foundation. It is upon this foundational question -- the reliance upon an accepted, yet unacceptable axiom -- that the discussion should be addressed.

What, exactly,  is the mistaken certainty?

It seems that all parties offering opinions about the decision have already jumped over an otherwise strikingly difficult conclusion. It is that conclusion, not the superficial arguments about the legitimacy of various ways to pursue it which reaches the status of a MeanMesa Mistaken Certainty.

All these positions are based on the idea that having enough money will win any election.

Once this idea is accepted as fact, the Supreme Court's ruling heralds a political environment where corporations, entities which, by definition, have both extravagant and available money and utterly self-serving ideas, are empowered to dependably deliver whatever candidates they wish into the government. The ugly proposition has a strong and convincing basis in fact when we look at the results of corporate money already.

The health care reform debate is an excellent example. Health insurance corporate money has hosted all those ambitious to be obstacles. The up and coming struggle for banking regulation will be the next case of corporate interests against everybody else's interests. Beyond that, legislation to limit carbon emissions will follow along the same path of combat.

However, are we -- or should we -- be willing to accept the idea that the ideas expressed by a politician during a campaign have such little value? Perhaps we should.  Perhaps we have to! In fact, campaigns present very little in the way of actual ideas, and the resulting competition of ideas between them seems to have far less to do with the outcome than what we could derive from the size of their respective campaign war chests.

If we want to know who will win, we look at how much cash he has raised. In fact, when we wish to know which is the better candidate, we measure him by how much money he has to spend of his campaign, not on the quality of ideas which direct his politics. We have begun to settle for campaigns where actual ideas are rather rare, accepting instead drifty generalities about "liberty," freedom," "security," "hope," "change" and "progress."

Good ideas should "trump" lots of money when it comes to winning a political campaign. However, this simple equation disintegrates when the voters participating in that campaign don't demand ideas or even know or realize whether any have been presented.

Then the corporate money -- which should already stink from the beginning -- becomes as good as gold.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sorry for the Inconvenience or Missed Opportunity


MeanMesa's post "Introducing Senator Brown:  Sarah Palin's "Ken Doll" With a Penis" was accidentally destroyed by mismanagement (our own) of standard Blogger editing functions.  There is no other copy available to restore the post, and more immediate events seem to over ride spending too much time on the matter.

If you missed seeing it before its return to internet gas, our apologies.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

MeanMesa: A Winter's Afternoon

Of course we can all stand shocked, mouths agape, as we listen to some dirty shirt preacher tell us that the Haiti earthquake disaster -- and the poverty and despair there already -- is the result of the country's close association with voodoo. Egad. Just what we need.

Didn't hear it on The Randi Show?

So, stepping away from MeanMesa's usual ranting session, we'll just move on to a little something more local -- an account of this winter's afternoon in New Mexico.

We began with a nice winter's bike ride to visit a grad student friend to help out with a few recipes. He's just recently moved in with his girlfriend and, although he is now officially a Latin teacher at UNM, he's a bit rough on good recipes for home cooked meals.

Upon returning home, Randi Rhodes shared the audio of the creepy christian preacher on her afternoon radio show. After that, MeanMesa changed the schedule a little.

Haiti: 20,000 or more dead in the streets.

The pot roast went back into the freezer. We will get by just fine with a nice rice and vegetable casserole for our dinner entre this evening. After adjusting the weekly menu and the grocery list a little, a $10 "surplus" suddenly surfaced. After all, the roast can get added back later.

So, MeanMesa will get aboard the old bicycle and ride down the few blocks to the American Red Cross headquarters. They will be able to work wonders with just a few dollars more! Plus, they are all so nice when MeanMesa drops in with a skinny little (Social Security funded) check for $10!

You'd think that just this little dab of extra cash was going to correct all the social ills in the entire continent.

Hey, MeanMesa visitors! Getting any ideas?

Just in case anyone is interested in the recipe for the vegetable souffle, here is a copy for it -- lifted right out of Laurel's Kitchen.

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup diced celery
1 cup grated carrots
2 tablespoons minced onions
a few cloves of whole garlic
1 cup vegetable stock (we use chicken broth)
4 tablespoons margarine
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of milk
3 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
2 teaspoons brown sugar


Cook carrots, celery and onion in 1 tablespoon of margarine and 1/2 cup of stock for 10 minutes. (MeanMesa saute's this mix in olive oil first.)
Make a cream sauce with the remaining 3 tablespoons of margarine, the flour, the remaining 1/2 cup of stock and the milk.
Preheat oven to 375.
Mix vegetables, rice, seasonings, sauce and egg yolks together. (MeanMesa adds grated mozzerella and a small can of mushrooms.) Beat egg whites until stiff and gently fold into the mixture. Pour into a deep, well greased (sprayed) baking dish and bake for 30 or 40 minutes. Serve at once.
Serves 6.

(Laurel's Kitchen. Nilgiri Press. Petaluma California. 1976 ISBN: 0-915132-25-7)

Sit down and enjoy a nice, sensible cold weather dinner. Think about the people in Haiti who are having such a bad time. Think about joining in to try to help them out.

So, Pat Baby, here's MeanMesa's call. Our ten bucks against your medieval voodoo. Happy Holy, buddy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Format for MeanMesa!

The New Year of 2010 brings all sorts of changes -- one change among many is the selection of an alternate format for the Short Current Essays. MeanMesa hopes all our visitors approve!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Climate Change: This Country, This Decade

A MeanMesa "after dinner snack" to quell that post holiday optimism...

As if there weren't enough volumes of climate change prognostications already, MeanMesa has decided that one more couldn't hurt all that much. We'll keep it short.

The national media has not hesitated to show a literal, graphic flood of the more picturesque sides of the matter. There are striking videos of Greenland's glaciers dripping and sliding, polar bears hunting with wet feet and aerial maps of major parts of Antarctica slipping into the South Pacific. There are shocking videos of drought parched livestock corpses and distressed locals across sub-Saharan Africa. However, even so much as a quick glimpse of what we -- here in the United States -- might expect has been a bit lacking.

So, although we don't particularly expect to become listless, desolated desert tribesmen wandering aimlessly through parched wastelands, the actual reality of exactly what sort of impact we might experience here may remain distant, that is, too distant, too comfortably removed. For MeanMesa visitors wishing to really delve into the details of this issue, there is always "Managing Global Warming Solutions," but that paper, posted on this blogspot, is rather comprehensive (and long -- ).

For a shorter view, we can consider the very lightly treated details of this post. Here, we will attempt to hit a few of the highlights of just a bit of exploration of the net. Further, although what is offered can be extraordinarily well documented, laced with massive charts, graphs and extrapolations, we will strive to limit MeanMesa's presentation to just a few more immediate predictions.

All the rest of it is out there for, uh, inquiring minds.

MeanMesa's Predictions for Local Impacts of Climate Change 2010 - 2020

1. Rising sea levels:

Now, this old planet has experienced some incredible, catastrophic sea level changes in the past. During the Pleistocene period when much of the water which had been in oceans was extracted and frozen into ice caps and massive glaciers, the oceans experienced a sea level lowering of roughly 130 meters. Earlier, what is now the Arctic Ocean actually extended through the center of the United States, separating what are now the east and west coasts. The good news is that we probably don't need to the seriously expect such immense changes any time soon.

However, we should expect some changes. Interestingly, such changes at the coast lines will impact some of the most valuable real estate in the country. Take a look at a map of the United States, paying close attention to just how many major cities -- New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington D.C., Seattle, New Orleans, etc. -- are located on coastal regions.

The map in the diagram above shows two conservative scenarios of coastal inundation, one (the red) is the lesser of the two, mapping inundated regions resulting from a sea level rise of 1.5 meters, the other (the blue) shows the same information for a sea level rise of 3.5 meters.

Now, it's pretty easy to say, that little bit of territory doesn't really amount to very much of the whole country at all! So, what's the big deal?

That view of the changes is what we might call a "global outlook." If, on the other hand, we were to take the outlook of a real estate agent, the same view is somewhat different. From that perspective, the land marked by those scrappy little colored areas includes some of the highest priced territory in the country, mansions, estates, ocean front vacation suburbs, not to mention such expensive edifices as well industrialized harbors, warehouses and military bases.

MeanMesa estimates the rough real estate value of such tiny little colored areas at around $1.5 trillion dollars. That would be the amount of real estate equity which will simply vanish under the surf. When we add the replacement costs required to build all new stuff a few miles inland, that figure could easily jump upward to include another $3-4 trillion.

Much of the initial loss would land squarely on rich old Republicans who have had those fancy houses for generations, but an even larger amount would land on local and state governments who would be shilling out massive cash in public projects to mitigate the effects. (Also, note that the map above is really only the southern portion of the eastern coastal areas.)

We have just watched what happens to the national economy when the bankster-gangsters took their $5 trillion dollars worth of unregulated "bubble money." We have heard the President explain how serious is the economic impact of unregulated health insurance gangsters extracting $2-3 trillion per year for their illegal schemes. The unstoppable loss of coastal real estate equity should catch our attention -- even if we live in New Mexico!

2. Changes in Food Production:

The strength of the United States, although certainly the product of all sorts of things, has always rested on the idea that we could produce food here in amounts previously unimaginable in the history of the world. Our agriculture is highly developed. Our national economic prosperity has allowed massive investments in the food industry. Advantages such as irrigation, fertilizer, pretty good weather and lots of room for crops have provided us with plenty of cheap food through our entire history.

We not only eat well -- and cheaply -- here at home, we have found that all those full grain silos offer us an ability to extend our political influence around the world with rather painless aid projects where millions of tons of grain and other commodities can be sent to those in need. Especially if we like them, or wish for them to like us. (Or, of course, if they have more oil and less food than they need at the moment.)

Well, that food production success has depended heavily on the kind of weather we have in our crop growing regions. Especially, how much annual rain we have there. We have to accept the idea that our "food growing weather" is very likely to change in the coming decade.

The map in the diagram above actually represents a sort of middle of the road assessment of what this might look like. (If you visit the link, you will see seven different, alternate scenarios -- some worse and some better...)

Of course, we look first at the effects of the CO2 increases on food production in our own country. For the "graphically challenged," green is good and brown is bad. We see that the main food production areas of the United States, that is, roughly the center third, will experience a production decline beginning in the next decade. Given the astonishing amounts of "extra ingredients" we habitually add to all of our food, we will, at first, probably replace a lot of the diminishing food production with "extras" such as preservatives, fillers, "extra fiber" and the like.

However, although we like to limit this discussion to abstractions such as CO2 levels, coastal inundation and food production, MeanMesa visitors can probably not avoid noticing that major parts of the rest of the world will be developing a serious "brown" condition. The "Managing Global Warming" approach characterizes this as a Malthusian Correction.

It suggests that the planetary population, facing grave food and water shortages, will "adjust" from the current seven billion to around five billion folks. (Uh, two billion of the remaining five billion will still be desperately hungry and thirsty, and, at least in the beginning of the "adjustment," they will be buying rifles, not food.) Here in the United States (remember, the W done told us thet our oceans no longer pertect us...), not only will your grandchildren be less obese, they will probably become nice, healthy, skinny soldiers. Although this unpleasant prediction will be a few years in the making, our apparent comfort of facing it with a dysfunctional government is beginning now.

3. The Western Hemisphere:

Our glum predictions and protestations over frivolous matters such as NAFTA will become nothing more than memories of a better past. With the retraction in planetary prosperity -- including ours -- our "climate changed winters" will find fewer and fewer Chilean grapes buzzing into our country in the bellies of giant cargo jets. The South and Central American "brown" problem will become dangerously severe in a couple of decades.

Of course there will be major changes in the import export business -- and one not limited to the flow of food. MeanMesa suspects that the U.S. export of military (you know, crowd control...) equipment will increase as the import of seasonally adjusted food stuffs decreases.

It is probably a good time to introduce a generalized form of the social impacts of decreasing food production -- whether import export or not. It begins with increasing prices. Those lead to a sort of background, steady state hunger. That condition precipitates political unrest. From a frustrated, hungry point of view, political correction becomes oriented toward extreme forms of "getting even" with those who are causing the hunger. Bad choices will be made, and conditions will get worse. Within no time at all, the country will drift into a chaotic nightmare energized by desperate, hungry people looking for solutions which no longer exist for them.

We can assume that, no matter what changes have been imposed on our diets here at home, the ideas which presently inspire terrorists will be replaced with some serious jealousy about food. We will have some. They won't. Immigration problems will explode.

4. Energy:

We will probably look back upon the current energy debacle as "the good old days." Of course, our air conditioning requirements will increase with the changes in climate. From the evidence we have seen so far with respect to unusually severe winters, our heating bills will probably also go higher. Energy prices will ascend to meet the shortages.

There will almost certainly be significantly less travel, and that includes everything that uses energy -- especially cars and airplanes. We will most likely drift toward an increased reliance on railroads and the transportation energy efficiency they offer. Public transportation will grow more and more popular.

The reduction of the "luxurious" surplus of money and fuel we now enjoy will impact the rate of political possibilities for environmental corrections. What is currently a "snit fight" of ideology between ecologists and coal mine owners will become too expensive for a continuing dispute. Progress with such issues as CO2 emissions, pollution and irresponsible resource extraction processes will become too expensive to continue at even their present "snail's pace."

5. Social Impacts:

Under the onslaught of the waves of desperate, illegal immigration and the descending global economic conditions, we can anticipate increases in police enforcement costs, use of National Guard resources for environmental catastrophes and the scope of social "safety net" costs. International conditions will, most likely, result in higher military expenses and larger numbers of citizens being moved from productive domestic labor forces to military assignments.

All such developments will impact the amount of tax dollars available to mitigate domestic climate impacts, and redirecting tax dollars will, inevitably, change the social expectations of the country.

6. The Government:

In our current state of ideological division, we see the government of the United States in a gravely dysfunctional state. The separation between the public will and the special interests has left the body in a state of indecision and serious distrust. Even the most popular ideas meet incredible obstacles when it comes time to act on them with federal clout.

Many -- or, at least, some -- of the difficulties mentioned in this post could be solved or mitigated by no more than the simplest governmental commitment. However, MeanMesa sees the United States government paralyzed by the carefully crafted ideological divides which have recently grown to a national security concern. The idea of using our collective will and resources -- through the lens of an effective democratic government -- to solve our problems and face our challenges is fading. Even the expectation of that happening is fading.

Our best tool for facing our collective problems grows more and more dull by the day. If we would chose not to go to work on climate change, perhaps we could still go to work on the government.