Monday, December 06, 2010


hasta la victoria..., originally uploaded by confusoefelice.

The Revolution has been Postponed Indefinitely

John Michael Greer illustrates how political reform movements tend to be corralled in the US. While Greer's comments are in the context of the Peak Oil Movement going mainstream, I think his observation is more generally applicable.

The most common source of trouble when a social movement succeeds in entering the collective conversation of politics is the lack of any constructive plan... [upon gaining] access to the halls of power, [the movement] lowers its sights to target only that set of goals it can reach consensus on, and thinks it can get from whichever subset of the political class is currently in charge.

That’s a fatal mistake, in two mutually reinforcing ways. First, it allows the... political class that’s currently in charge to turn the movement into a wholly owned subsidiary, by giving just enough scraps to the movement to keep it hankering for more, while dangling the whole package just out of reach before the movement’s eager eyes.

That’s how the Democrats turned the environmental movement (among others) into one of their captive constituencies, for example, and it’s also how the Republicans turned gun owners (among others) into one of their captive constituencies – and you’ll notice that neither movement, nor any of the other movements thus co-opted, have ever managed to get more than a few token scraps of its shopping list out of the process.

The second difficulty is the natural result of the first. Once a movement is turned into a wholly owned subsidiary of one end of the political class, it can count on losing any chance of getting anything once the other end of the political class gets into power, as will inevitably happen.

The result is an elegant good cop-bad cop routine; each party can reliably panic its captive constituencies every four years by saying, in effect, “Well, granted, we haven’t done a thing for you in years, but think of how much worse it will be if those awful (fill in the blank)s get into power!”

Those who swallow this line can count on watching their movement sink into a kind of political zombiehood in which, whatever its official goals, the only real function remaining to it is to get out the vote for one or the other set of mutually interchangeable candidates come Election Day.

Combine these two difficulties and you get the graveyard that’s swallowed most movements for change in America in the last half century. |In the Wake of Victory - Archdruid Report| (emphasis added)

Another mechanism used to tame revolutionary movements is the tax code. Reformers set up 501(c)(3) organizations so donations are deductible and to get access to benefit plans (like medical, dental and retirement) and to obtain grants.

Oddly, the grants tend to dry up as the political winds shift and promising reform programs fold, sometimes the entire non-profit folds as well.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Stop the War On Drugs

The Guardian's recent article on the UK's drug policy starts with a nice bit of sarcasm:

If the purpose of drug policy is to make toxic substances available to anyone who wants them in a flourishing market economy controlled by murderous criminal gangs, the current arrangements are working well. |Guardian|

Sad but true. The law enforcement approach to the war on drugs has been an abject failure. The health care model might prove more useful.

As the article cited above concludes:

The Swiss policy of treating heroin addiction as a health issue rather than a moral or criminal one has been a resounding success with, among other indicators, a 60% reduction in criminal activity among participating addicts. When Portugal legalised the possession of all drugs, it experienced a decade of sharp declines in overall drug use, especially among the young. In Amsterdam, where over-the-counter marijuana sales have been tolerated for decades, rates of use among teenagers are much lower than they are in the US, where harsh penalties abound.

Latin America is advancing the debate, but even in the US there are efforts to undo the damage of prohibition, the most prominent being California's effort to legalise marijuana.

Hopefully, the thousands of Mexicans, Brazilians and people from other parts of the world who have been killed in the insane "war on drugs" will not have died in vain. Their deaths are already showing that it is time to put an end to all the pain and harms caused by drug prohibition; it is time to legalise and regulate the production, the supply and the consumption of all drugs. |Guardian|

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jerry Mander on Global Economics Destroying the World

Jerry Mander has an interesting name, but I think he's eloquently described how the United States and western economics destroyed resilient communities around the world in the name of progress, by which I mean corporate profiteering.

[A] basic part of the free trade ideology which is that all economies should shift from ... the import substitution model, that is to say the model where small countries decided they didn’t want any longer to be dependent upon large colonial powers, and they wanted to establish self-sufficiency in food and necessities, and not have to buy necessities on the open market, where everything, variable prices, and so on.

Some countries were doing very well by that but the World Bank came along, especially under the leadership of Robert McNamara, who did, by the way, more harm at the World Bank, I think, than he did in Vietnam, and said all countries have to shift to export production and we no longer can have the self-sufficient models. And that is simply because there’s profits, global corporate profits can only really be made [when] there’s no profit in self-sufficiency.

If people are producing food and eating it and sharing it with their communities there’s no opportunity for profit. So what they really wanted to do was open access to these big corporations to come in, create giant monocultures, drive people off their land who were self-sufficient farmers and other kinds of self-sufficient artisanal producers, turn everything into an export orientation – small industry plus agriculture – ship everything back and forth across the oceans and in that shipping was where there was the greatest opportunity for corporate profit.

Because of that, that’s brought on one of the greatest environmental crises. Just that shift has created an environmental crisis of staggering proportions because the increase in shipping since the shift to export oriented economics, since the Bretton Woods, since the mid 1900’s has brought with it tremendous – you can’t increase transport activity without also increasing infrastructure everywhere in the world enormously -new pipelines, new roads, new dams, new seaports, new airports.

All that list of things that I did at the beginning, half or 70% of those battles that are going on with native peoples are about transport infrastructure construction, causing tremendous environmental havoc, tremendous social havoc.
Aside from just the increase in fossil fuel, the increase in ocean and air pollution, the increase in bio-invasions which may be one of the great environmental catastrophes of our time. These bacteria and viruses and nematodes and bugs of all kinds, and animals are walking around on peoples’ shoes and in cargo ballast and shipping back and forth across the oceans are great threats to environmental stability in every country of the world. All of that is because of increased shipping.

So if you are going to have an export-oriented economy you are going to have these horrific environmental results. There’s no way around it. It goes hand-in-glove. But they need to have that because that’s where the profits are. There’s no profits in economic self-sufficiency for global corporations. So they have to destroy that – put everybody into shipping their stuff back and forth and make profits that way. And in agriculture, it’s particularly a problem, of course, because it drives people off their lands. People who used to grow food to eat are no longer on their lands; they’re in this mono-cultural agricultural production with these global agricultural corporations. There are very few jobs because they are all pesticide and machine intensive.

People have to leave their communities. They don’t get jobs; they are cashless; and hunger actually increases from that model. They claim that this is the way to solve hunger but we know that there is tremendous increase in hunger as the industrial, mono-cultural model increases for an export oriented production. |Lannan Foundation interview - emphasis added|

Friday, May 07, 2010

Why we need resilient communities

Alex Steffen's rant at WorldChanging points out just how desperate the future will probably be for our children and grandchildren.

[Environmentalists] have been warning for decades about the need to prevent catastrophe, coloring everything on the other side of catastrophe "unthinkable."

Welcome to unthinkable. It's now where we live. Climate catastrophe is now a given: it's only the degree and flavor of catastrophe that's still (hopefully) within our control. Our kids are going to spend their entire lives dealing with unfolding ecological crises. They're going to live their whole lives in a world without untouched nature, with a vast inheritance of trouble, surrounded by systems that are breaking one after another and demand large-scale aggressive interventions.

We've spent so much time working to prevent this future, that most of our established leader have spent almost no time thinking about how to live in it. Live in it we must, though: life goes on (assuming we can muster the small flicker of planetary responsibility demanded to not completely bleach the oceans or burn off the biosphere with runaway climate change; I feel confident we will, and if we don't, that's not so much an unthinkable future as a terminal one). We live in a world that's soon to have nine billion people, almost all of them urban or living close by cities, in societies that're significantly more stressed than they are now, pressing hard against planetary boundaries. |Wordlchanging|

Steffen suggests dense cities are key to decreasing humanity's footprint, which is true, although I hate (most) big cities myself.

I like the suggestions over at the Oil Drum's Campfire about Decentralization, Localization, and Scale-Free Self-Sufficiency as a way to build resilient communities.

I think networking together is our best hope for salvation in the face of the oncoming storm.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An End to Violence?

This semester I've been auditing a course in Public Health Law and it has caused me to research the differences between the law enforcement model for dealing with crime and violence with the model that health care professionals use.

A publication by the National Institute of Justice compared the two models and their approach to violence. The most clear striking difference is the law enforcement focus on punishing offenders and making victims serve as witnesses. Public health professionals see both offender and victim as in need of services, medical and psychological.

Clearly, the modern policing and public health responses to violence have much in common. They both emphasize preventing the occurrence of violence over responding after violence occurs. They emphasize community involvement in identifying violence problems, setting priorities among them, and devising solutions. Both approaches suggest the possibility that carving up the general violence problem into component parts may reveal solutions that would otherwise remain concealed; just as skin cancer and lung cancer call for different preventive strategies, so might drive-by shootings, convenience store robberies, and spouse assaults.

Both approaches recognize that violence or its consequences may be preventable not only by changing individuals' behavior but by changing their physical or social environments--for example, by isolating illegal firearms, alcohol, drug markets, or lone employees who handle cash from places where unemployed young men congregate. Finally, both approaches begin with the notion that a community's violence level may be reducible in either of two ways: through a relatively sweeping intervention, such as reducing media violence, or by accumulating small reductions in violence, each achieved by finding and solving some specific problem that underlies a cluster of violent events occurring at one location, involving one set of perpetrators and victims, or arising from one kind of situation. In short, both approaches seek significant reductions in overall violence by solving one underlying problem at a time.

Agreement on these shared principles by no means ensures that practitioners of public health and law enforcement will approach a concrete urban violence problem in the same way. Comparative analyses have suggested that some subtle differences in priorities may have important operational implications. For example, the criminal justice models, both traditional and new, retain a commitment to punishing perpetrators of violence -- as both a matter of justice and a means of demonstrating to children and youths that society condemns violence. In contrast, the writings of public health practitioners rarely discuss the moral implications of intentionally injuring another person. Public health practitioners tend to view victims of violence primarily as persons in potential need of psychological and other services, whereas law enforcement practitioners often think first of victims' roles as witnesses. Both approaches view communities as important players in violence prevention. However, community policing practitioners tend to view officers as problem solvers on behalf of a community, whereas public health professionals stress empowering communities to solve their own problems, with or without police help. |Reducing Violent Crimes and Intentional Injuries - NIJ Research in Action|(emphasis added, citations omitted)

These views are also reflected in the fact that public health relies on research a more scientific approach, while law enforcement uses a political and moral approach.

As I'm deeply mired in the legal and law enforcement view, I find the public health perspective interesting.

Update: One reader wrote in to suggest that there is a regrettable lack of understanding and trust between the health and law enforcement communities.

Perhaps that is why it can be so challenging to work on a multi-disciplinary team.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Skye Mountain Rescue team in action, originally uploaded by B℮n.

First Aid: Head to Toe Assessments

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)website has a new video up about checking a victim from head to toe for injury. Now, the check in this video would take place AFTER you've checked for breathing and a clear airway.

Here's the video link: CERT head to toe first aid assessment video.

Here's the video homepage generally.

This video was very helpful to me because checking the head and neck for injuries without aggravating any existing injuries is a concern of mine. I hope you found it helpful too.

For a first aid checklist, I use the following mnemonic.

ABCD: Airway - Breathing - Circulation - Damage

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Collateral Murder & the Tragedy of War

Wikileaks production at Collateral Murder of the massacre of a dozen civilians in Iraq is tragic.

Watching the footage, I can understand how the aircrew could think the camera was an RPG in the stress of the moment and their reaction was swift. Listening to the audio commentary of the gunner and pilot is chilling.

But the callousness of these actors as revealed on the audio track shouldn't distract us from the larger issues raised by this episode. James Fallows makes an excellent observation when he writes:

[A]s with Abu Ghraib, there will be a strong temptation just to blame (or exonerate) the lower-level people who pulled the triggers, but that deflects us from real questions of responsibility.

There will be lot of those "real questions" to consider, from rules of engagement to the apparent cover up of the footage. But the threshold point I meant to start with is this: The very high likelihood of such "tragedies" occurring is a very strong reason not to get into wars of this sort.

By "of this sort" I mean: twilight-zone urban warfare, not to mention "discretionary" or "preventive" wars, and situations in which a heavily armed-and-amored occupying force of foreigners tries uneasily to mix with a population overwhelmingly of a different race and religion and language. For their own survival, the occupiers need to be hyper-suspicious and ever alert -- even though today's prevalent Counter Insurgency doctrine ("COIN") warns of the self-defeating consequences of behaving this way. (Indeed, a mounting debate about the COIN approach in Afghanistan is whether the effort not to seem distant from the local population is exposing US soldiers to too much risk.) It is a situation with enormous potential for miscalculation, misunderstanding, and tragedy. And therefore one to avoid if you have any choice at all....

We could not know that [the episode depicted in the Wikileaks video] would occur. But we could be sure that something like it would. It's not even a matter of "To will the end is to will the means." Rather the point is: You enter these circumstances, sooner or later you get these results.

A failure of tragic imagination is what I most criticized in war supporters in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, and it was much of the reason I opposed the war.

|Atlantic Online (emphasis in original)|

Mr. Fallows is far too diplomatic to say that George W. Bush and most of his ill-fated administration were warmongering fools, so please let me.

Wars are always tragic and often contain crimes against humanity such as systemic rape, genocide as well as chemical and biological warfare.

I'm not idealistic enough to think that we can easily abolish war... the end of war shall require significant human evolution. Not unimaginable, but not on the horizon either.

But this shouldn't cause us to sugarcoat the nature of war either. Major General William Tecumseh Sherman once wrote:

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.... You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable...|Letter to the Mayor and Councilmen of Atlanta|

I recall marching in LA against the invasion of Iraq, part of the largest anti-war protests the world have ever seen. But the dye was cast, Bush sent in the Marines... and what happened on the Wikileaks video in July, 2007 is certainly the type of crimes that happen when the Marines (and the Army and the insurgents) come to town.

The fact that Wikileaks broke this video is news in itself. Phil Bronstein observes how the Internet makes all of part of the discussion of this video and participants in the outcome.

I've seen a fair number of people killed in countries at war, including combatants, journalists and civilians. Even at ground level, though, in the midst of bone and blood spray, sorting things out is near impossible.

I am sure of one thing: tragedy aside, this is all good for us in the bigger sense, starting with the video release. Transparency is the victor here. More information and even more yelling back and forth gives everyone more data and opportunity to make up their own minds. And it keeps life-and-death topics like war fully in the bull's-eye heat of aggressive social interaction.

That's what's really changed since my war correspondent days. No one today has to be a passive non-combatant in the important moments of our culture. |The Wikileaks Incident: How Social Media has Changed Warfare Coverage - SF Gate|

I hope Congress holds hearings on this matter and all of the civilians killed in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which some estimates believe could be as high as 100,000 souls.

Monday, March 29, 2010


oxbow @ grand teton, originally uploaded by jars of clay.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wyoming Firearms Freedom Act criminalizes ATF

A law student sent me a New York Times article about new gun laws designed to evade the commerce clause for locally produced guns.

Doing some searching I found this law student blawg post that points out that Wisconsin provides criminal penalties for Feds enforcing laws in contravention of their local statute.

I pulled up the Wyoming law (HB 95) at their legislative website, and the student is correct.

World Net Daily has some coverage, I never trust WND totally, but if this is true, things could get interesting in Wyoming.

According to the Casper, Wyo., Star-Tribune, the law takes effect in July and consumers could purchase guns immediately under the exemption from the state's sole firearms manufacturer, Freedom Arms, which makes revolvers in the $2,000 price range.

The newspaper reported authorities already have discussed the possible scenario of a local Wyoming sheriff
arresting a U.S. marshal.

"That's a question we've sort of asked ourselves," John Powell, a spokesman with the U.S. attorney's office in Cheyenne, told the paper. "We're not exactly sure how this is going to play out."

State Rep. Alan Jaggi, R-Lyman, told the newspaper there could be confrontations.

"I think it could be a possibility if we had some overzealous – do I want to say bureaucrat? – that would just say, 'Hey, we're going to show these states we have all the authority,'" Jaggi said. "States' rights – I'm willing to say that's important enough to us to do it." |WND|

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Way Biathalon Should Be

Monday, February 15, 2010

Torture is Bad, Um'kay?

I cannot believe there are still dipshits out there who contend that torture is a good thing, such as this piece in the UK's Independent by Bruce Anderson.

Henry Porter points out why many of his arguments are bad in the Guardian.

I have to admit to Torture Fatigue. Like David Schaengold, I cannot believe we are still having this argument.

Wintermute and the War for Cyberspace

A recent Defense Tech article about cyber-warfare suggests that the US needs a national strategy to "close the gaps in policies, regulations and definitions that currently exist between military, law enforcement, the federal government, civilian authorities and private organizations."

Could homeland cyber-security be the impetus for overarching regulations of virtual worlds?

Back in 2007, U.S. Air Force officials openly stated that cyberspace as a war-​​fighting domain. At that time the statement attracted little attention. Today, cyberspace has rapidly evolved into a key domain similar context to land, air, and sea for military conflict. This evolution has occurred at a pace few had anticipated....

The question for U.S. military and government leaders is: How to update current operational policies and doctrine? ...

Operations and warfare in cyberspace encompass a substantial number of elements in technology and society as well as in the government and private sector.... The unique modalities of operations in [cyberspace] make this the most difficult domain in which to resolve international disputes and conflict....

Given the nature of the Internet, an international doctrine [and] vetting process must be employed so that a common understanding and decision framework covering what it means to [be attacked and launch a legal counterattack and then] conduct war in [cyberspace].

Finally there is a tendency to evaluate and create cyber warfare doctrine in isolation.
The [cyberspace] domain enables military action in the other domains of land, sea, air and space and therefore the doctrines must be fully integrated.

Offensive [cyberspace] operations can be conducted at all levels of conflict and across the conflict spectrum including counter terrorism operations to achieve established objectives. A few years ago U. S. Strategic Command began to develop tactics, techniques, and procedures as well as other operational concepts designed to integrate offensive, defensive and intelligence [cyberspace] capabilities into cross-​​mission strike plans. The development and integration of cyber warfare doctrine should be considered as an opportunity to drive tactics, processes and procedures to coordinate the employment of cyber weapons as a mechanism of support across all domains of conflict.

We don’t have much time for research on this topic. There are already tension between military objectives, intelligence-​​gathering requirements and law enforcement efforts. A formal doctrine must be in place given the increase in cyber attack frequency, complexity and impact that we have seen over the last few months. |Defense Tech|

I agree that this is an international problem, but I despair at the thought of trying to get an international agreement on what constitutes an attack and what is an appropriate response.

I also think that counter-attacks and defensive responses will literally take place at the speed of light and any international vetting will be after the fact, not prior to a response.

Still, a provocative piece that makes excellent points.

In case you don't catch the literary allusion in the title, Wintermute was an artificial intelligence in William Gibson's novel Neuromancer |Wikipedia| that forecast the creation of the Internet and vividly described it as a battlefield.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Honor among Thieves?

Vice magazine has an article about a Baltimore stick-up artist Donnie Andrews who was (largely) the inspiration for The Wire's character Omar Little.

Omar Little is an interesting example of a likable but violent thief.

Criminals form their own ecologies and in prisons it's common for inmates to dominate and rob each other based on power and physical force.

Australians use the word toe-cutter to describe thieves who rob other thieves.

It's strikes me as reasonable that criminals might develop their own "codes" but if there is no enforcement mechanism and no method to enforce these rules, then I think they're more whimsical than anything else.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


1000 Palmtrees on Molokai , originally uploaded by steffenbinke.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Distracted Walking

The New York Times has an interesting piece documenting the public health risks of walking while texting or talking on one's phone.

Pedestrians, like drivers, have long been distracted by myriad tasks, like snacking or reading on the go. But the constant interaction with electronic devices has made single-tasking seem boring or even unproductive.

Cognitive psychologists, neurologists and other researchers are beginning to study the impact of constant multitasking, whether behind a desk or the wheel or on foot. It might stand to reason that someone looking at a phone to read a message would misstep, but the researchers are finding that just talking on a phone takes its own considerable toll on cognition and awareness. |Driven to Distraction: Forget Gum. Walking and Using Phone Is Risky - NYT|

The article is fascinating but doesn't discuss my concern about use of phones or Ipods while walking, which is that it makes you easy prey for anyone wishing to do you harm.

According to this article, most people didn't even notice a clown riding a unicycle while talking on their phones and walking... this suggests to me they are likely to miss a suspicious man with a knife as well!

I try to keep my head on a swivel while out in public and be aware of my surroundings, I guess that's what makes me hyper-vigilant in the eyes of some...

Friday, January 08, 2010

New Taser Precedent May Change All the Rules

The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a decision that may change all the rules when it comes to the use of Tasers in Bryan v. McPherson. |PDF|

Orin Kerr makes some excellent points at the Volokh Conspiracy
about the odd narrative quality of the decision as well as its overreaching based on a summary judgment motion.

We'll have to wait and see if this opinion heralds things to come or is just a case of a sympathetic plaintiff getting a break from the court.

It does make me cringe to read about the plaintiff breaking his teeth when he slammed into the concrete after being tasered.

I think the total lack of any warning from the officer is a rather unusual fact that may have impacted the court's decision.