Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Katrina and the Federal Flood

Graphic from New Orleans blogger Suspect Device.

No, Bush didn't cause the hurricane and NOBODY IS SAYING THAT he did, except right-wingers throwing up strawmen. But the major damage in New Orleans was from the Federal Flood. The ACOE has admitted their culpability. I'd like to see that included in ever story this week.

As the magical El Gato Negro reminds us, Scout Prime at First Draft has been on top of this story since the beginning.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Great SF Book: Soon I Will Be Invincible

I just finished Austin Grossman's book "Soon I Will Be Invincible" and I think it's wonderful. It was so much fun I was going around telling folks like Eli and Dr. Zaius that they really should check it out.

(More after the Jump)

Okay I really don't know how to do that jump thing, but I wanted to let people know that they could stop after the simple recommendation if they don't want to read an analysis yet.

Action! and "Turn of The Century"
The last time that I stopped in the middle of watching or reading something to tell people to check out a work of fiction was the brilliant TV series Action. I remember calling a friend in the middle of one of the early episodes of Action and saying, "Turn on your TV! You HAVE to watch this show Action it is soooo funny." Of course like almost all brilliant things on network TV it was canceled after 6 episodes.

The last time I enjoyed a book this much was reading "Turn of the Century" by Kurt Andersen. Invincible has that same laugh out loud insights into our popular culture that Andersen achieved with Turn of the Century; only this book takes place in world of comic book super heroes and villains. Like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay Invincible slips in some insights about the real world. And that is what makes this book really satisfying. It is one of the things I love most about science fiction, when it tells us some thing about us in a format that allows us to understand the human mind/heart and the world we are living in.

From Star Trek, with its characters representing intellect, emotion and will to the Vorkosigan series by Bujold, which deals with duty, family and the clash between the worlds of science and political power; great SF gives us a window into ourselves. Battlestar Galactica can deal in one episode with torture, abortion, family loyalty, election fraud and religion in a way that non-fiction can't without dragging in all the baggage of the real world and people's pre-developed ideas.

Grossman, in Soon I Will Be Invincible, takes us to the fictional world of super heroes and super villains but because there is also baggage in the made up world of comic book super heroes, he transforms them to represent the classic heroes and villains in the DC and Marvel universe. (It also has the handy benefit of avoiding any character copyright infringements. Smart move Austin, clearly you have learned from your genius characters as well as having fun with the Evil overlord list. see #24 )

One thing that takes this beyond a graphic novel transmuted into prose is his interior monologues of the evil genius Dr. Impossible and the new superhero Fatale. And this is the part of the story that adds the deeper dimension that makes the book thought provoking.

Since Dr. Impossible didn't read all the "Rules for Evil Overlords" he makes some of the same mistakes they all make. Sometimes Grossman plays these just short of the expected payoff for comic effect and to show that all super villains are not the idiots that they play in the movies. But he also digs into the REASONS why someone would do what they do. Both on the villain and the hero side. And that is what I appreciate about the book. Dr. Impossible is blind to some of his mistakes and you can see why. Although he appears to have insight at times, just having the insights doesn't really satisfy him.

Grossman lays out a lot of seemingly pedestrian reasons for people's behavior as they work to take over the world, and you see how much of it comes from their childhood. "If only the cool kids would accept me!" You wonder, "Is that it? He wants to take over the world because some guy dissed him growing up? Would someone really kill thousands, spend billions and destroy ecosystems because he craved respect from the person who treated him like an outcast and barely knew he existed? Could he be defeated and satisfied if at one point this authority figure said, 'We respect you. Yes, we are sorry we treated you poorly. You are in fact, smarter than us, you have proved it. Please, join us and hang out with us?'" But would that heal them? Make them stop? Or is the desire to rule the world now such a part of their persona that they can never admit their mistakes?

Invisible Women and Power

What I also appreciate about this story is something that Echidne of the Snakes pointed out to me the other day and what Digby and Jane Hamsher pointed out about women in the world after the Yearly Kos convention. How often women are invisible to the world of powerful men (and in this case one important hero really IS almost invisible.) Yet they understand the motivations behind actions of the men and woman in power and they can and do wield real power in the world. One way that evil is beaten is when they underestimate women.
"Where did SHE come from?" She was always right in front of you guys, that is what you get for your hubris of ignoring them.

I think that looking at and understanding the family history and dynamics of the people who abuse their power can help defeat them, it is also useful to see where they go off the rails again and again because of their lack of self knowledge.

We may hope that they will do right thing but when they fail to act as decent humans time and time again we realize that they will never be healed and that the heroes will have to keep coming for them.

In this book the character, Dr. Impossible, wonders why he is a super villain so at least he is that self aware. Unlike some of the people in power, he doesn't fool himself into seeing himself as a good guy who is doing what is right. He doesn't pretend that his goal of destroying others is really about helping. He doesn't hide his anger and hate for proper public consumption. He's a super villain and is proud of it. He knows he is a villain that he will probably be defeated. He senses that there really IS something different between him and the heroes. It just appears to be physical strength. In the end it is a often other "super powers" that become his undoing.

They say that no one thinks that they are evil, we say that because we imagine that if people knew that they were evil they would stop. Yet their motivations (and even actions) are seen by themselves and others as good, noble even. What if the motivation really is as straight forward as, "I want my Dad to respect me and be proud of me". Would they drag the rest of the world through their own family drama? Yes. Why? Because they can and because it lines up with the goals of others. Family abandonment issues can lead to behavior that can destroy lives on a scale writ large. (I've always wanted to use writ large in a sentence; that and comeuppance, one down one to go.)

Read this book about super heroes and super villains. Enjoy its humor. Think about how this applies to powerful people in this world. Look at and compare it to countries with super powers and the tragic legacy of the humans directing those super powers. I'd love to hear your thoughts after you have read it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The War Photos that Reconfigure our Brains

I've written before about the subtle and not so subtle methods this administration uses to control the media. These methods also extend to their supporters in the right-wing radio and cable world. They will use any and all means at their disposal to not only push their message, but to prevent other messages from getting traction.

They co-opt the media by including them in the process and, when they can't include them, they intimidate them. They don't do just one one side of the equation. They use both big sticks and big candy bars ('cause nobody wants a carrot)

Big Stick: If you go against us you might die
Candy Bar: If you go with us you will get protection AND the story/photo

Which would you rather have?

1) Candy Bar: "You will have total access to our troops in the field, living along side them day to day as they try and bring democracy to a troubled nation." or

2) Big Stick: "You are on your own in Iraq, we can't guarantee your safety, you will be shot at, terrorists will think you are one of us even if you aren't and all the good photos/interviews will be given to the embedded folks from the 'real media' who have access."

So the media can "chose" to be vulnerable and get killed or can get embedded with the troops, get the story, get the photo and come home alive--their decision.

Heck, when you put it that way, who won't go for the embedded option? Probably crazy people who hate America! And for the brave people who DO go it alone? I honor you. Hope aren't one of the 33 journalists or media workers killed so far this year.

Jurassicpork over at Welcome to Pottersville has a sharp essay on the topic titled:

Matthew Brady is Dead and Gone: Check it out

One of the lessons, perhaps the only one, that the Bush administration successfully learned from the Vietnam war was to not give the media a free hand. Lyndon Johnson, with a naivety that still seems astonishing, thought that he could count on the complicity of the press and allowed them free reign in Vietnam. What LBJ didn’t count on was all the images that were regularly packaged and beamed into our living rooms by 6 o’clock every night as we sat in front of our TV’s eating off our dinner trays, images of dead, mutilated and grievously wounded American troops to accompany the daily casualty statistics. For the first time in American history, we were given an up close and personal account of the Vietnam war practically in real time.

Click on the warning image above to see a horrific photo from

Is the kind of photo Matthew Brady would have taken?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

He Left His Ashes in SF

I stopped by the Columbarium in SF today. It's San Francisco's only cemetery for cremated remains. It's a beautiful building (see photo of the dome above). Do you want to know the most interesting thing about it? I got a genuine happy feeling from being there. That kind of surprised me. Maybe it was because the friend who I visited was one of the funniest, most interesting larger- than-life people I've ever known.

(BTW, Mary, the Family Service Counselor for the Neptune Society was great. After the tour she talked about people we knew in common and an upcoming live musical event there. I thought, "Yes, given the beautiful space and the uplifting music it makes great sense to hold a concert there, churches do it all the time.")

I learned a lot from my friend, and showing up was part of my reconnecting the my past as I move into my future. ( Tagline, "Spocko's Brain: Looking backward, towards the Future, Today!")

I haven't been blogging much lately, but I've been busy. I'll probably write about all the great people I met in Chicago (Mrs. Robinson! Shayera! TeddySF! David Neiwert! Glenn Greenwald! Digby! Mike! Larry! John! Occam's Hatchet! Lisa!) and all the interesting ideas they gave me. I've been breaking all the blogger rules by not cranking out 3 blog posts a day ("No more than three paragraphs! Include a graphic too!"). I'm sure for new readers it looks like I'm working my way back to obscurity, but my first 19+ readers know that although my blog pace is slow, my brain doesn't stop between posts.

Be assured I'll be doing some of my painfully long "think pieces" (which Rich dislikes, but Athenae says aren't really too long) and maybe I'll put up some videos since El Gato Negro liked my last one.

A couple of topics that I really want to dig into is reputation in the real world and blogosphere. Especially the power of right-wing talk radio and cable tv hosts to destroy reputations and how that is picked up from as well as mirrored by the right-wing blogosphere. I attended a brilliant panel where this was discussed and I'd like to share with others what I learned there.

I also will want to talk about the death of journalists and media workers (2007 confirmed total dead? 31.) I got an invitation to the Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Awards Dinner on November 20, 2007 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. I'm glad that they are honoring the work of courageous journalists from around the world.

The neo-cons in the US don't attack journalists with RPGs. But their continued attacks on them are devastating none the less. It isn't in the job description of most journalists to challenge the people who relentlessly attack them, but I would like to see more push back from their bosses and from the public who rely on good journalism to stay informed.
I would suggest that Rush Limbaugh buy two leadership tables for the awards dinner and attend. Then the next time he insults journalists and "the drive-by media" he might pause and reflect on just how wrong he is. (HA! I amuse myself envisioning Rush actually reflecting on the damage he does with his vicious word play and slurs toward journalists.)

We need journalists to do their jobs and when we on the left criticize them it's because we want them to be better. On the right they want them dead. Be sure you all note the difference.

Monday, August 06, 2007

6 Years ago Today.....Bin Laden determined to strike in US

My good friend Ripley at Zen Cabin reminds us that 8/06/2001 is the day that Bush got his PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) titled bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside US.

I created the video below back in 2004 (Real Video Link 93 seconds), and I created it BEFORE Dr. Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor testified about this in congress where she dismissed it as 'historical'. I got all the info from a great site called Cooperative Research. Here is a link to the Aug 06, 2001 section of the time line.
Windows video link

For the science fiction fans who will disagree with Ms. Rice's assertion (which I believe she finally retracted years later) "I don't think that any one could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center,... ''even in retrospect' that there was 'nothing' to suggest that." -Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice 5/16/2002

On March 4, 2001 a short-lived Fox television program called The Lone Gunmen airs a pilot episode in which militants try to fly an airplane into the WTC. If only Ms. Rice was a science fiction fan!

(BTW, you can donate to the Center for Cooperative Research here, it will soon be called the “Center for Grassroots Oversight"]

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